By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
Well, so much for the Jalen Beeks experiment: four innings, seven hits, six runs, three walks, one home run. And yet another reason to look at the Red Sox’ once-vaunted player development operation and wonder what the heck has happened to it.
In case you missed it, the Red Sox called up Beeks, a soon-to-be 25-year-old left-hander, to make his debut on Thursday night against the Detroit Tigers. Independent of the pitching line, the results were less-than-impressive. Beeks looked extremely ordinary, which wouldn’t be a big deal if the Red Sox had a player development operation that was inspiring more confidence these days.
But they don’t.
All of this brings us back to Dave Dombrowski, the Red Sox president of baseball operations whose worlds collided over the last three days at Fenway Park. Dombrowski joined the Red Sox after being fired by the Tigers, who visited Fenway this week. The series subsequently featured two of the worst farm systems in baseball right now, according to Baseball America – which is essentially to baseball what the Central Scouting Bureau is to hockey.
Here is what Baseball America said about both organizations at the beginning of the season – and please note that we’ve outlined the organization’s rankings in recent years leading up to this one:
As you can see, the Tigers rank 21st, which, incredibly, is their highest ranking since 2007. The Red Sox have slipped to 24th, continuing a precipitous drop over the last two years.
The common thread in both: Dombrowski.
Now look, Dombrowski’s role here was clear when the Red Sox brought him here: they wanted to get back to annual World Series contender status. But if you read the above “Skinny” on the Red Sox, you should be holding your breath. According to Baseball America, Jay Groome and Michael Chavis were the only potential everyday regulars in the Boston system entering this year. The former has since undergone season-ending elbow surgery (and wasn’t pitching well long before it) and the latter has been suspended for PED use. In Chavis’ case, his minor league career had been a bust before an eyebrow-raising 2017 season, after which he got popped.
So last night, someone like Beeks had the chance to be, for the Red Sox, a winning scratch ticket. The result? No dice. (For what it’s worth, I asked one longtime major league evaluator for a scouting report on Beeks before Thursday’s game and he indicated to me that he’d never heard of the lefty.)
Now look, many of the young players whom Dombrowski has traded out of the Boston farm system in recent years – with the exception of Travis Shaw – have not panned out in other organizations. But that’s not the point. The point is that Dombrowski really hasn’t replaced them in the Boston organization. Last year’s first-round pick, pitcher Tanner Houck, has been a bust thus far in the minors. Groome, who has also failed to live up to his potential, was the first pick made under Dombrowski’s watch. Before Dombrowski’s arrival, the Red Sox whiffed on Trey Ball (selected under Ben Cherington, No. 7 overall in 2013) and on Chavis, who was selected in the first round in 2015.
You just can’t miss on that many consecutive first-round picks and expect to have a decent farm system.
Now, in the Red Sox’ defense, it hasn’t been all bad and they have had some bad luck. Andrew Benintendi was their first-round pick in 2015 and looks like a budding star. (The smallish Benintendi homered again last night and packs more punch than a shot of tequila.) There was also the tragic story of prospect Daniel Flores, a highly regarded Venezuelan catcher who unexpectedly and rapidly deteriorated late last fall before passing away from a rare form of testicular cancer.
Just the same, Dombrowski’s track record this week was impossible to ignore. The Tigers are on the way back, according to Baseball America, but only after restocking their system with drafts and trades (like the one of Justin Verlander to Houston) made after Dombrowski’s departure. And the Red Sox seem to have sunk into player development oblivion.
Meanwhile, the annual trading deadline is approaching. The Red Sox have needs, as do the New York Yankees and Houston Astros, Boston’s primary competitors in the American League. Those teams will be contending with one another off the field, too, angling for the best available talent before July 31.
Which brings us to the question:
How are the Red Sox going to help themselves when they seemingly don’t have anything to deal?