For as much talk as there has been about what top Red Sox prospects Triston Casas and Nick Yorke have done since the start of the 2021 minor-league season, it’s easy to look past what another Sox infield prospect — Cam Cannon — is doing this month.
Like Casas and Yorke, Cannon was the first player the Red Sox selected in his respective draft. Unlike Casas and Yorke, though, Cannon was taken in the second round of the 2019 amateur draft, while Casas and Yorke were taken in the first rounds of the 2018 and 2020 amateur drafts.
The reason the Sox had to wait until the second round of the 2019 first-year player draft to make their first selection was due to the fact that they were penalized for exceeding the luxury tax threshold by more than $40 million the previous year.
Had they not incurred such a harsh penalty, Boston would have made their first pick in 2019 at No. 33 overall, but the luxury tax violation resulted in that pick falling 10 spots to No. 43 overall.
At that point, the Red Sox took Cannon, then a 21-year-old junior at the University of Arizona, off the board and ultimately signed him for $1.3 million that June.
After three games in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, Cannon was called up to short-season Lowell, where he slashed .205/.289/.335 with three home runs, 21 RBI, 17 runs scored, 12 walks, and 37 strikeouts over 42 games to close out his first summer as a pro.
Like all 2019 draft picks, the Arizona native’s ongoing development was suddenly halted when the 2020 minor-league season was cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
With no minor-league season and no invitation to the Sox’ alternate training site, Cannon was limited to the fall instructional league last year, where he “garnered generally tepid reviews from scouts who saw him” there, according to FanGraphs‘ Eric Longenhagen.
Coming into 2021, Cannon — unlike Casas and Yorke — also did not receive an invite to major-league spring training, so he had to wait until minor-league camp began in April to get back into the swing of things.
Despite the long layoff, the 23-year-old was assigned to High-A Greenville at the beginning of May and has gotten his 2021 campaign off to a strong start.
Through 17 games with the Drive, Cannon — who has primarily been batting out of the leadoff spot — is hitting a solid .313/.365/.552 to go along with three home runs, seven doubles, eight RBI, 12 runs scored, two stolen bases, five walks, and 12 strikeouts over 74 plate appearances thus far.
Among the top qualified hitters in the High-A East, the right-handed hitter ranks first in doubles, first in extra-base hits (10), third in total hits (21), 11th in runs scored, ninth in batting average, 24th in on-base percentage, eighth in slugging percentage, 10th in OPS (.917), 14th in weighted on-base average (.405), and 14th in wRC+ (158), per FanGraphs.
Defensively, Cannon was drafted as a shortstop. But questions about his arm strength have resulted in him making the shift over to the right side of the infield, as he has played 11 games at second base compared to just three at shortstop for Greenville so far this season.
In those 14 games between second base and shortstop, the 5-foot-10, 196 pound infielder has committed a total of two errors over 114 total defensive innings.
There also seems to be some speculation that he could see playing time in left field if he were to make the move to the outfield down the line.
Back in March, SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall wrote of Cannon: “Early returns from 2021 will tell a lot about where his development is going.”
Just under three weeks into the 2021 minor-league season, and early returns on Cannon’s performance in Greenville appear to indicate that the young infielder is trending in the right direction.
(Picture of Cam Cannon: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)