Red Sox’ Triston Casas ranked No. 2 first-base prospect in baseball by MLB.com

While the Red Sox continue to build up their farm system under chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, one of the club’s most highly-touted minor-leaguers was recently ranked by MLB.com as one of the best first base prospects in baseball

His name? Triston Casas.

According to MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, Casas is the No. 2 first base prospect in the game behind only the White Sox’ Andrew Vaughn, who’s more than a full year older than him, headed into the 2021 season.

Among the top-10 first base prospects Mayo listed — Vaughn, Casas, Aaron Sabato (MIN), Seth Beer (ARI), Lewin Diaz (MIA), Michael Toglia (COL), Bobby Bradley (CLE), Nick Pratto (KC), Pavin Smith (ARI), Mason Martin (PIT) — Casas has one of the best power and arm strength tools.

“The 6-foot-5 Casas has the perfect combination of strength, size, bat speed and leverage for plus power, with the advanced approach to get to it consistently,” Mayo wrote of the 21-year-old’s slugging abilities.

Last we saw Casas in any organized minor-league action, the 2018 first-round draft pick clubbed 20 home runs and drove in 81 RBI in 120 games and 500 plate appearances between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem in 2019. He also posted a solid .256/.350/.480 slash line en route to being named an organizational All-Star.

As for what he is capable of doing defensively, Mayo notes that Casas pitched and played third base as an amateur at American Heritage High School in South Florida, which therefore “allows him to do more with his arm” while playing first base.

Per FanGraphs, Casas logged 834 2/3 total innings at first base with Greenville and Salem in ’19 as opposed to just 67 innings at the hot corner in Greenville alone.

With the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled on account of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Casas, like so many other prospects, were forced to continue their development in an unfamiliar setting.

The Red Sox added the left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing infielder to their player pool in late August, allowing him to participate at the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket for the remainder of the major-league season.

While in Pawtucket for just over a month, Casas again showed off his power at the plate as well as the rest of his skillset. Many came away impressed with what he did, including Worcester Red Sox manager Billy McMillon.

Casas is very intriguing to me,” McMillon said when speaking with reporters back in October. “Can play both corner positions. I think he’s probably going to settle in at first base. His discipline at the plate is incredible. His approach was a little bit different than what you might see with some of the guys today. He spread out, he choked up. Wasn’t afraid to hit the ball the other way. He definitely has an idea at the plate. I really like how intelligent he was at the plate. He was a guy who really benefitted from coming up, facing Triple-A/Four-A type pitching. He held his own, had very good at-bats, walked a lot. Defense, I think he’s going to be solid. I think we’ve got a good one with Triston.”

When watching Casas go to work at the plate, you will likely notice that he takes a unique approach to doing things, especially with two strikes in the count, as McMillon alluded to in the above quote.

That would be the case because as a left-handed hitter, Casas tries to somewhat take after Cincinnati Reds star and fellow first baseman Joey Votto.

“Growing up, I loved watching Joey Votto,” Casas said via Zoom this past September. “I love his approach, I love his swing, I love the way he approaches the game, and the way he he takes his at-bats are second to none. The stats speak for themselves. He was one of the best hitters of the 2010s, and that’s when I was growing up watching baseball. Being a left-handed first baseman, Joey Votto’s not a bad guy to emulate. I don’t really try to copy everything that he does, but the other day I hit a home run in a sim game and looking back on it, I was like, ‘Wow, I actually do look like Joey Votto.’ So, growing up I really liked watching him play

“The choke-up on the bat and the two-strike approach, it was just something that I watched him do and I tried it out for myself and I liked the results that I was getting,” he added. “I liked the way it felt in the box. I liked the way I would compete when I did formulate a good two-strike approach, and I’m looking to keep hearing that because I’m feeling really comfortable right now.”

Following the conclusion of alternate training site workouts, Casas was one of about 63 minor-leaguers who were invited to take part in the Red Sox’ fall instructional league down in Fort Myers.

There, per SoxProspects.com’s Ian Cundall, the Florida native was arguably the best infielder at camp and the most impressive position player behind only outfield prospect Gilberto Jimenez.

Currently regarded by SoxProspects as Boston’s top-ranked prospect, the 6-foot-5, 250 lber is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season with Double-A Portland.

That said, it seems possible that the Sox would want to include Casas and some of their other top prospects in major-league spring training for MLB/Triple-A players starting next month with minor-league camp for Class-A/Double-A players being pushed back until later in the spring.

With that scenario in mind, prospects such as Casas and Jeter Downs, among others, could potentially start the year at Triple-A Worcester. @RedSoxStats was one of the first to put that possibility out there.

That scenario remains just a mere possibility at this point, though, and as most things have gone regarding minor-league baseball recently, we will have to wait and see how it all transpires before determining which player will go where.

(Picture of Triston Casas: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox feel top prospect Jeter Downs needs to gain more experience at second base in minors before getting big-league consideration

While the Red Sox continue to explore their options at second base this offseason, one thing is apparent: Don’t expect top prospect Jeter Downs to fill that gap next year, at least not right away.

This is the case because according to WEEI’s Rob Bradford, the Red Sox would like to see the 22-year-old infielder gain more experience at second base at the minor-league level.

“The organizational perception is that [Downs] needs to experience the ups and downs of a semi-normal Triple-A season at this new position,” Bradford wrote over the weekend.

One of the three players (two prospects) Boston got in return from the Dodgers in the blockbuster Mookie Betts trade back in February, Downs has accrued significant playing time as a middle infielder in the minors, but little of that playing time as come at second.

Since being selected by the Reds with the 32nd overall pick in the 2017 amateur draft out of Monsignor Pace High School (Fla.), the Colombia native has played 195 games (1,672 2/3 innings) at shortstop and just 84 games (698 1/3 innings) at second, with just one of those 84 coming above the High-A level in 2019.

FanGraphs does not get too in-depth with defensive metrics for minor-leaguers, but Downs recorded one error and helped turn seven double plays while patrolling second base for High-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Tulsa last year.

This year, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic prevented the minor-league season from taking place, so coveted prospects such as Downs were limited to working out at their club’s respective training sites, which in Downs’ case was in Pawtucket.

There, as noted by SoxProspects.com, the young infielder primarily focused on improving his defense with coach Bruce Crabbe.

“Crabby’s amazing,” Downs said via Zoom back in August. “Almost everyday now we go out there and we get a little work in with a couple other guys as well. It’s a good learning curve, everybody does extra hitting, so I felt like I wanted to do that same thing with my defense. As much as I hit, I also want to do the same amount of defense. I want to be elite at both sides of the ball, so that’s where I’m trying to get it to.”

As it turns out, Downs did put in the work at the alternate site to improve his defensive capabilities at both middle infield positions. At least that’s what Worcester Red Sox manager Billy McMillon said when speaking with reporters in October.

“He made tremendous strides defensively,” McMillon said of Downs. “There are some things he needs to work on, like his makeup and his confidence and things like that. I think those issues affected how he did offensively. As far as Jeter, I see tremendous upside. His track record of offensive performance indicates that at 7:05, when the lights are on, he shows up at the plate. I’m hopeful his track record offensively meshes well with the strides he made defensively. If that happens, I think you’ve got a pretty good player. I don’t want to give a comp or anything, but I think he would more than hold his own based on what he did defensively and how much better and more consistent he got.

“I think he would be a better second baseman longterm, but I do believe he could play shortstop,” added McMillon. “He made some plays that were just unbelievable at shortstop. I personally would see him a better fit at second base if we were talking about 162 games. I think his athleticism, his skills, would be a little better at second base. But he’s still young. I don’t want it to seem like he can’t play shortstop. I think he could do a fine job over there. In my eyes, I see second base when I see him.”

Depending on how the rest of the offseason pans out, Downs will presumably get the opportunity to play second base on an everyday basis with Triple-A Worcester in 2021.

There, as Bradford alluded to, the Red Sox will obviously be keeping a close eye on the right-handed hitter as he prepares to make the jump to the majors — or at least Boston’s 40-man roster — in the months leading up to him being eligible for the 2021 Rule 5 Draft.

In the meantime, The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier wrote earlier this month that while the plan is for Downs to continue to develop at Triple-A, the Sox could pursue free-agent second base options, like Kike Hernandez or Kolten Wong, who would sign one or two-year deals in order to “serve as a bridge to Downs.”

Of course, as Speier points out, it’s not out of the question that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. could use Downs as a trade chip in order to acquire a bigger piece from another club.

That possibility likely depends on how the club views Downs, as well as its other second base candidates such as Jonathan Arauz, Christian Arroyo, and Michael Chavis, internally.

Red Sox Set To Kick off Fall Instructional League This Week With Bevy of Top Prospects in Attendance

The Red Sox are set to kick off their fall instructional league in Fort Myers on Monday. And according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, several of the club’s top prospects will take part in these offseason activities.

Among the 62 minor-leaguers who will report to Fenway South starting this week, several had just spent at least part of their summers at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket. Those names, per Speier, include pitchers Bryan Mata and Jay Groome, infielders Triston Casas, Nick Yorke, and Hudson Potts, and outfielder Jeisson Rosario.

As for the prospects who did not receive an invite to the alternate site this season, there are right-handers Brayan Bello and Thad Ward, left-hander Chris Murphy, infielders Brainer Bonaci and Matthew Lugo, and speedy outfielder Gilberto Jimenez.

On top of that group of players, infielder Blaze Jordan and pitchers Shane Drohan and Jeremy Wu-Yelland — the rest of Boston’s 2020 draft class — are also expected to attend this offseason program that will run until November 12.

Although it is not yet clear if teams will be allowed to play games against one another due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, these instructional leagues do allow the Red Sox, as well as the other 29 clubs, to get back in contact with the core of their minor-league talent.

Speaking of minor-league talent, as of September 1, the Sox had the No. 25 farm system in baseball according to MLB Pipeline.

As underwhelming as that ranking may be, there appears to be optimism from within the organization that things in that developmental area are steadily improving. PawSox manager Billy McMillon opined as much when speaking with reporters this past Friday via Zoom.

“I think it’s very promising right now,” McMillon said regarding the state of the Red Sox farm system. “Some of the returns that we got back in some of the various trades and offseason acquisitions, I think that’s going to raise the level of our minor-leagues. We saw some guys develop, get a little bit better. There’s encouraging news from guys that impressed on the mound to seeing how some of the position players developed. I think the cupboard is getting full again, and I think there’s reason for optimism with some of the guys that we saw in the alternate camp.”

Expect the full list of Red Sox minor-leaguers who will be attending fall instructs to be released relatively soon.

UPDATE: Here’s the full list of the 62 Red Sox minor-leaguers who will be at full instructs, courtesy of SoxProspects.

Red Sox Prospect Hudson Potts Made Positive First Impression in Pawtucket This Year, Has Chance To Be ‘Interesting’ Player in 2021

Infielder Hudson Potts was a late addition to the Red Sox’ player pool this season on account of the fact he was acquired from the Padres on August 30.

The 21-year-old arrived at the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket in early September and, unlike the majority of players and prospects who were already there, did not have a ton of time to get acclimated to a completely new environment.

Still, Potts impressed and showed glimpses of promises in his first go-around as a Red Sox prospect. PawSox manager Billy McMillon, who was one of the main authority figures at the alternate site these past two-plus months, made that much clear when speaking with reporters via Zoom on Friday.

“I was really, really impressed with his approach at the plate,” McMillon said of Potts. “He would hit a ball to the pull side 400 feet and then hit a line drive to right-center field. Big, strong kid. He showed a little bit of defensive versatility, too. We played him some at second base. The lion’s share of his work was at third base.”

Originally drafted by San Diego as a shortstop out of high school in the first round of the 2016 amateur draft, Potts is listed at 6-foot-3 and 218 lbs. Those measurements seemed to remind McMillon of a former Red Sox prospect who could play third base.

“If you look at him physically, body type, he kind of reminds you of a Will Middlebrooks,” the Pawtucket skipper added. “That’s the first person I thought about when I saw him. Good kid. Very, very hard worker. I like him. He’s going to be an interesting person when we try to slot him in next year with a full year of Double-A under his belt. We got something from San Diego with him.”

Potts, who along with outfielder Jeisson Rosario was dealt to Boston in the trade that saw Mitch Moreland go to the Padres, is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 20 prospect in the Sox’ farm system.

As McMillon mentioned, Potts played a full season’s worth of Double-A baseball last year. In 107 games for the Amarillo Sod Poodles, the Southlake, Texas native posted a .227/.290/.406 slash line to go along with 16 home runs and 59 RBI over 448 plate appearances.

Going back to 2017, Potts has clubbed at least 15 homers in each of his last three minor-league seasons, so he has rightfully earned the reputation of being a power-hitting prospect. On top of that, FanGraphs regards the young infielder’s power tool as one of the best in the organization.

Despite those accolades, Potts is striving to improve his approach at the plate to show that he is capable of being an all-around hitter opposed to just a power hitter.

“I know that’s probably one of the things that has been one of my better things throughout my career,” he said in regards to his slugging abilities back in September. “But, once I learn and make adjustments to my approach that I need to make, I feel like I can be a lot more than just a power guy. I feel like I can be a complete hitter and I just need to work on that and get to that spot I know I’m capable of doing. That’s what I’m striving to be, an all-around hitter, not just a power hitter.”

Because he signed with the Padres as a 17-year-old back in 2016, Potts is now eligible for this year’s Rule 5 Draft in December. In order to not expose him to that, the Red Sox will have to add Potts to their 40-man roster by late November.

Red Sox Top Draft Pick Nick Yorke Talks Alternate Training Site Life

At 18 years and 173 days old, Nick Yorke is by far the youngest player at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket. The 2020 first-round draft pick received an invite to the alternate site earlier this month and first reported to McCoy Stadium last Thursday.

Since then, Yorke has gone 3-for-4 at the plate with two doubles and two walks in simulated game action while also getting acclimated to a whole new level of baseball far different than what he had grown accustomed to at Archbishop Mitty High School out in San Jose.

In a brief period of time, Yorke, a west coaster, has seen his life essentially flip upside down after signing his first professional contract back in July. Even so, the right-handed hitting infielder is just glad to be playing baseball in some capacity in what has already been an unprecedented year.

“I’ve been having so much fun getting on the field again,” Yorke said when speaking with reporters via Zoom earlier Tuesday. “Competitiveness-wise, it’s just fun getting to be on the field against another pitcher and have some at-bats. So, I’ve been having a great time out here.”

One of those pitchers Yorke got the chance to face in his Pawtucket debut on Saturday was top prospect Bryan Mata, who wound up dazzling the youngster with his velocity a bit before eventually yielding an opposite-field single.

“I remember that first pitch he threw me,” Yorke said of his encounter with the 21-year-old Mata. “He threw it for a ball but I was like ‘I didn’t know a ball could move like that!’ So then I put on the batting gloves and it was time to compete, put a barrel on the ball, and let him do the work.”

While Yorke is still adjusting to this new level of baseball, he is also getting better familiarized with his peers, such as fellow prospect Triston Casas, veteran infielder Jose Peraza, and PawSox manager Billy McMillon.

“They’ve been really good about getting my feet wet,” the one-time University of Arizona commit added.” I took the first 2 – 2 1/2 days kind of just taking BP and working out with the guys. Triston Casas has been really good with me. I go and hit with him before we report everyday to come hit off the machine and get the [velocity] in before the games.”

Regarding Peraza, who was optioned to the alternate site on September 9, Yorke says the ex-Red was surprised about his age and has been one of several players with major-league experience who have doled out some wisdom or advice if needed.

“It’s amazing. I mean, they’re all so welcoming,” Yorke said of the veteran presence in Pawtucket. “I’ve tried to be a sponge. They’re really good about letting me in and showing me the ropes. I’ve had a great time with them.”

When discussing what his interactions with McMillon have been like, Yorke described the PawSox skipper as an ‘amazing’ individual.

“[McMillon’s] very funny,” he continued. “He always puts smiles on guys’ faces… and just makes transitions a lot easier, introducing myself to new guys through Billy and whatnot. He’s been great with me.”

Yorke, as well as the other 32 or so players in Pawtucket, will presumably continue their workouts at McCoy through the end of the 2020 major-league season this coming Sunday. From there, as noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Red Sox are planning to invite about 60 players to a fall training camp in Fort Myers. The California native could very well be one of those 60 players who receive an invite. We will have to wait and see on that.