Featured image courtesy of the Boston Globe
When talking about offensive weapons in the Boston Red Sox farm system, most of the focus typically lands on third basemen Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec. However, there’s another young slugger worthy of attention in first baseman Josh Ockimey. Ockimey is currently the 10th-ranked prospect in the organization and finished 2018 with the Pawtucket Red Sox. He’s just 22 years old and could challenge for a bench role as early as 2019. Let’s break down the young first baseman and see what makes him a top-10 prospect.
Josh Ockimey: Prospect Watch
What He Does Well
Ockimey’s biggest strength is definitely his bat, specifically his power. When Ockimey squares up just right, there aren’t many capable of launching one as far as he can. This raw power stands out in Ockimey’s slugging percentages and wRC+ numbers. Throughout his minor league career, Ockimey owns a .791 OPS and a 126 wRC+, both of which are well above average for a minor leaguer.
2018 has been yet another successful year for the 22-year old. Playing in Portland and Pawtucket, Ockimey has posted a combined .246/.365/.508 slash line with a 141 wRC+. He’s steadily rose through the system, never spending more than one season at any level of the minors. This shows that he’s always able to adapt to the increased difficulty in pitching and hasn’t been overwhelmed at any level. While the jump from minor league ball to major league ball is greater than any other jump, it’s encouraging to see that he typically doesn’t need an adjustment period.
Additionally, Ockimey is surprisingly good at drawing walks. Generally speaking, players like Ockimey struggle with strikeouts and earning free passes. While strikeouts are an issue (more on that later), Ockimey has an impressive walk rate, especially considering the type of hitter he is. Over his career, Ockimey has walked 15.5% of the time he steps up to the plate.
Where He Struggles
The biggest strike against Ockimey is his consistency. While he has the ability to hit the ball out of the park at any time, he doesn’t do it consistently. Ockimey is an all-or-nothing hitter, the type of player who either crushes the ball or strikes out swinging.
Batting average isn’t the be-all, end-all stat, but Ockimey’s career .249 average is telling. Additionally, Ockimey has a career .335 BABIP, which is slightly above the norm. Bad luck hasn’t adversely affected his batting average; if anything, it’s helped him out. If he wants to become a more complete hitter, he needs to work on hitting for average without sacrificing his power.
The best way to do that is by reducing his incredibly high strikeout rate. Throughout his career, Ockimey has an ugly 29.9% strikeout percentage. This is a bad number at any level, but it’s made worse because he’s never been to the majors. He’s never seen the best of the best, and yet he’s still striking out at an astronomical rate.
In the Field
Ockimey has always been a bat-first prospect, and his glove will never be the reason for a promotion. The 22-year old is a below average fielder and doesn’t do much to stick out defensively. While he’s not an outright train wreck at first base, he’ll never be a Gold Glover. Even asking him to be a league average defender might be asking too much.
Ockimey’s defense isn’t so bad that it would actively stop him from earning a spot on a major league roster. However, he’s probably better suited as a designated hitter than he is a first baseman, at least at this point in his career. Fortunately, first base is one of the “easier” positions to field. If he devoted all his time to fielding, he could probably develop into a serviceable defensive first baseman.
Ockimey is close to being major league ready, but he’s not there quite yet. While the first baseman will likely earn a trip to spring training in 2019, he’s still a long shot to make the 25-man roster. Another season in Pawtucket to work on minimizing strikeouts would be the best thing for him.
Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce are scheduled to hit free agency following the 2019 season. While Ockimey isn’t close to playing that level of defense, he could replicate Moreland’s offense. If Ockimey can impress in the minors during 2019, he could certainly earn the right to compete for the everyday first baseman’s position. However, right now it looks like his ceiling is serving as a platoon bat at first base/DH.