Jeter Downs, top Red Sox prospect, is a ‘workaholic,’ Alex Cora says; ‘His bat is going to play’

Jeter Downs collected his second home run of the spring in the Red Sox’ 7-3 loss to the Rays in Port Charlotte on Friday afternoon.

Starting at shortstop and batting out of the seven-hole, the 22-year-old infielder went 1-for-3 at the plate with a walk, a strikeout, and that aforementioned home run.

Downs’ homer came in the top half of the second, when with one out and a runner on first he took a 2-2 changeup at the bottom of the zone from Rays starter David Hess and clobbered it well over the left-center field wall.

Though the wind was blowing hard in that particular direction at Charlotte Sports Park, Downs’ display of power was impressive nonetheless.

“He does a good job of controlling the strike zone,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Downs’ plate discipline. “He knows what he wants to do at the plate. Even in the last at-bat when he chased a pitch up, he knew right away he was out of the zone. “That’s something that we’ve been impressed [by].

Following Friday’s showing, Downs is now slashing .357/.500/.786 with a pair of homers and five RBI through his first 15 games and 18 plate appearances of Grapefruit League play while primarily playing shortstop.

A bruise to his left side suffered during a game against the Twins on March 14 resulted in Downs being held out of in-game action for a little more than week, but the Colombian-born prospect returned to action this past Monday and has gotten back into the swing of things.

Throughout the spring, Cora has not shied away from commending some of the organization’s top prospects — like Downs, catcher Connor Wong, and infielder Nick Yorke — for their ability to seemingly slow down what’s going on around them. He did more of the same while praising Downs on Friday.

“The bat will play,” said the Sox skipper. “He’s a good defender. I know he had that tough game the second game of spring training, but he’s a workaholic. One thing is for sure: He has a very slow pulse, and that helps him out. People might see him and they’ll be like, ‘Oh, low-energy guy. He’s not into it.’ That’s not the case.

“Offensively, he understands what he wants to do,” Cora added. “He understands the strike zone, and that’s why his bat is going to play.”

Downs, who like Cora has connections to the city of Miami, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 2 prospect in the Sox’ farm system behind only Triston Casas.

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 193 pounds, the right-handed hitter was reassigned to the minor-leagues on March 12. He is projected to begin the year at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Worcester.

Downs, of course, was one of three players the Sox acquired from the Dodgers in the blockbuster trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles last February — with Wong and outfielder Alex Verdugo being the other two.

Verdugo, the only one of the three with any major-league experience to this point, seemed impressed with what he has seen from both Downs and Wong at camp thus far when speaking with reporters earlier this week.

“They’re great players. Obviously, Downs, a middle infielder, and I love his swing,” Verdugo said this past Tuesday. “I think his swing is really good. I think it’s going to play in the big leagues. The same goes with Wong. Wong is a really good catcher and has a really good arm back there. He can fire it and he can swing it, too.

“With those guys, it’s obviously tough because last year we didn’t have a minor leagues,” he added. “They weren’t able to go to Pawtucket and put up big numbers or whatever it may be. It kind of hurts them a little bit but these are guys who are professionals. They’re working in the cage, talking to guys and trying to learn more and more so in the next two years — maybe this year, we never know — we’ll start seeing them come up.”

(Picture of Jeter Downs: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Jeter Downs, top Red Sox prospect, ‘OK’ after leaving Sunday’s game with left side soreness, could be ready to get back into games by Wednesday

After being removed from Sunday’s game against the Twins due to left side soreness, Red Sox infield prospect Jeter Downs was evaluated by the team on Monday.

“He’s OK,” Sox manager Alex Cora said of Downs’ status following Monday afternoon’s 3-2 loss at the hands of the Rays. “We don’t feel it’s oblique-related. It was a bruise. So hopefully treatment tomorrow and be ready to play in two days.”

Downs, 22, landed hard on his left side after diving for a groundball in the bottom half of the seventh inning of Sunday’s contest against Minnesota at Hammond Stadium.

He was lifted at shortstop for Chad De La Guerra, and it now appears as though he won’t return to Grapefruit League action until Wednesday at the earliest.

The right-handed hitter — listed at 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds — is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 2 prospect in the Sox’ farm system behind only Triston Casas.

Through his first 11 games of the spring, Downs is 4-for-9 at the plate with one home run, three RBI, and two walks. He was reassigned to minor-league camp on Friday.

Cora recently praised Downs for his ability to slow down what’s going on around him while on the field and at the plate.

“Just like I’ve been saying about Nick (Yorke) and (Connor) Wong, there’s something about them that the game doesn’t speed up on them,” the Sox skipper said. “He’s very calm. Sometimes, it looks like he’s too calm on the field. But that’s not bad.

“You can see the approach at the plate,” added Cora. “He makes great swing decisions. Defensively, he struggled (one) day but besides that, he has been solid and he has been good. He learned a lot last year working with (minor-league coach Bruce Crabbe) as far as defense, his set-up and his pre-pitch. He took all that into camp. I’m very happy with him. We just need him to keep working, keep getting stronger. I think that’s going to help him out. He’s a good, solid player.”

Downs, who turns 23 in July, is projected to start the 2021 minor-league season at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Worcester.

(Picture of Jeter Downs: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox top prospect Jeter Downs suffers injury to left side in Sunday’s game against Twins, will be evaluated on Monday

After coming on as a defensive replacement at shortstop for Marwin Gonzalez in the sixth inning of Sunday’s 5-5 draw against the Twins, Red Sox infield prospect Jeter Downs would have to leave the game an inning later.

Fielding a ground ball off the bat of Jose Miranda to lead off the bottom half of the seventh, the 22-year-old dove to his left, landed hard on his side, and as NESN’s Jerry Remy put it, “never got a handle on the baseball” as Miranda reached first base safely without a throw.

Upon getting back on his feet, it appeared that Downs was a bit shaken up as he crouched down in front of second base, leading to Red Sox manager Alex Cora and associate head athletic trainer Brandon Henry coming out to check up on the young infielder.

Following a brief conversation between the three, Downs exited the game and was replaced by Chad De La Guerra at shortstop while fellow top prospect Triston Casas took over at third base.

During his postgame media availability, Cora couldn’t get into the specifics about what was hampering Downs, only assuring that more information will be revealed on Monday.

“They checked him and it seems like he’s OK,” Cora said via Zoom. “They’re going to obviously wait for him tomorrow, see how he feels at night, and we’ll have more tomorrow.

“It was his left side,” he added. “We can’t say it’s an oblique injury or just a bruise. We’ll wait until tomorrow.”

Downs, who was one of three players the Red Sox acquired from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts/David Price trade last February, is currently regarded by Baseball America as Boston’s No. 2 prospect behind only Casas.

The right-handed hitting middle infielder out of Colombia was reassigned to minor-league camp on Friday and is projected to begin the 2021 season at the Sox’ alternate training site in Worcester.

(Picture of Alex Cora, Jeter Downs, and Brandon Henry: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Top prospects Jeter Downs, Gilberto Jimenez included in second round of Red Sox spring roster cuts

Following their 8-2 victory over the Rays at JetBlue Park on Friday afternoon, the Red Sox announced their second round of spring roster cuts, as the club optioned four players to their alternate training site and reassigned eight players to the minor-leagues.

Right-handed pitching prospect Connor Seabold, infield prospect Hudson Potts, and outfield prospects Jeisson Rosario and Marcus Wilson were optioned down to Boston’s alternate training site.

Left-handers Kyle Hart and Matt Hall, right-handers Caleb Simpson and Ryan Weber, catcher Jett Bandy, infielder Chad De La Guerra, infield prospect Jeter Downs, and outfield prospect Gilberto Jimenez, meanwhile, were all reassigned to the minors.

All four prospects who were optioned to the alternate site are currently on the Sox’ 40-man roster, while all eight players who were reassigned to the minors were taking part in major-league spring training as non-roster invitees.

Among those who were sent down to the alternate site, Baseball America ranks Potts as the No. 24 prospect, Rosario as the No. 20 prospect, and Seabold as the No. 11 prospect in Boston’s farm system heading into the 2021 season.

Among those who were reassigned to minor-league camp, Downs and Jimenez are regarded by Baseball America as the No. 2 and No. 7 prospects in the Red Sox farm system, respectively.

Following Friday’s flurry of moves, the Sox now have just 10 non-roster invitees at big-league camp, bringing the total size of their spring training roster down to approximately 53 players.

(Picture of Jeter Downs: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Ranking the top 37 prospects in the Red Sox farm system heading into the 2021 season

The Red Sox are heading into the 2021 season with the 20th-ranked farm system in baseball according to Baseball America. That’s the same ranking they received going into the 2020 campaign as well.

Despite finishing with the fourth-worst record in baseball last year at 24-36, the 2020 season did net some positives for the Sox in terms of producing new, young, and controllable talent.

Just in terms of prospects, Boston acquired the likes of right-hander Connor Seabold from the Phillies, right-hander Jacob Wallace from the Rockies, and infielder Hudson Potts and outfielder Jeisson Rosario from the Padres.

They also drafted infielders Nick Yorke and Blaze Jordan and righties Shane Drohan and Jeremy Wu-Yelland with their four picks in last year’s amateur draft.

From the time the 2021 season ended until now, the Sox have added the likes of catcher Ronaldo Hernandez, infielders Christian Koss and Nick Sogard, right-handers Garrett Whitlock, Frank German, Josh Winckowski, and Zach Bryant.

To put it simply, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has not only addressed his club’s depth at the major-league level; he’s done it on the minor-league side of things as well.

Taking that point into consideration, it would not be too shocking to see Boston rise through the farm system rankings this year, especially with someone like Yorke getting to play in actual, organized minor-league games at some point.

Having written all that, I would like to present to you who the experts believe are the top prospects in the Red Sox organization at the moment.

To compile this list of Boston’s brightest and youngest talent, I took prospect lists from four baseball or Red Sox-centered publications — Baseball America, SoxProspects.com, FanGraphs, MLB Pipeline — and took the averages of where each of these sites had particular prospects ranked.

For example, Triston Casas was regarded as the Sox’ top prospect by three sites, but the other had him as their No. 2 prospect in the system.

With those numbers in mind, I added 1+1+1+2 to get 5, then divided that number by the total number of sources (4) to get Casas’ average ranking: 1.25, which rounds down to 1.

I hope that makes sense, because here are the top 37 prospects in the Red Sox farm system based off that math heading into the 2021 season.

ProspectBaseball AmericaSoxProspectsFanGraphsMLB PipelineAverage Rank
Triston Casas11211
Jeter Downs22122
Bryan Mata43353
Jarren Duran54744
Bobby Dalbec36935
Gilberto Jimenez75466
Tanner Houck87677
Jay Groome6121288
Thaddeus Ward10813109
Noah Song121151410
Connor Seabold11981511
Nick Yorke91315912
Ronaldo HernandezN/A14N/A1213
Brainer Bonaci1815171614
Aldo Ramirez2210142015
Blaze Jordan1620211116
Matthew Lugo1417281317
Brayan Bello1923111918
Connor Wong1522191719
Jeisson Rosario2016162220
Hudson Potts2418182421
Eduard Bazardo2827102822
Chris Murphy1319431823
Jonathan Arauz2126N/AN/A24
Nick Decker2921242325
Jacob Wallace2524262926
Frank GermanN/A2825N/A27
Garrett Whitlock 1732303028
Chih-Jung Liu2334332129
Durbin FeltmanN/A3031N/A30
Cameron CannonN/A43232631
Ryan ZeferjahnN/A2538N/A32
Jorge RodriguezN/A2934N/A33
Juan ChaconN/A52222534
A.J. Politi2749372735
Ceddanne Rafaela2645N/AN/A36
Jeremy Wu-Yelland30N/A47N/A37
*The N/A you see next to some of these names means that that particular prospect was not included on a specific site’s list.

All in all, it’s not too shocking to see Casas, Jeter Downs, Bryan Mata, Jarren Duran, and Bobby Dalbec come in as the Red Sox’ top five prospects, though Dalbec is surely going to graduate from his prospect status this year.

The same can be said about right-hander Tanner Houck, who comes in at No. 7 on this list.

Other names worth mentioning include outfielder Gilberto Jimenez (No. 6), right-hander Noah Song (No. 10), infielder Brainer Bonaci (No. 14), catcher Connor Wong (No. 19), right-hander Eduard Bazardo (No. 22), right-hander Chih-Jung Liu (No. 29), and outfielder Juan Chacon (No. 34).

One notable snub on here would be 17-year-old outfielder Miguel Bleis, who the Red Sox recently signed out of the Dominican Republic for $1.5 million back in January.

Because I made this list myself, I cannot say with certainty that it is perfect. But, I enjoyed compiling the information to create it, and I hope it can serve as some use to those who find this sort of thing interesting.

(Picture of Jarren Duran: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Garrett Richards makes Red Sox debut as sloppy defense leads to 5-3 loss at hands of Braves

The Red Sox opened the home portion of their Grapefruit League schedule on Monday by falling to the Braves by a final score of 5-3 in seven innings at JetBlue Park.

Newcomer Garrett Richards, who signed a one-year, $10 million deal with Boston last month, made his first start of the spring for Boston in this one.

Working two “full” innings, the veteran right-hander surrendered two earned runs on three hits and two walks to go along with one strikeout on the afternoon.

Both of those Atlanta runs came in the top half of the first, when Richards managed to record just one out before the rest of the inning was called off for pitch count purposes.

The 32-year-old was able to rebound in the second inning, however, as he retired the Braves’ 7-8-9 hitters in order to end his day on a more positive note.

Ultimately hit with the losing decision in what was his Red Sox debut, Richards will look to pick up where he left off in his next time out, which should come against the Braves once again on Sunday.

In relief of Richards, left-hander Kyle Hart, a non-roster invitee, came on for the third and yielded two runs — both of which were unearned thanks to a Bobby Dalbec fielding error — on a pair of walks and a two-run single.

From there, right-hander Kevin McCarthy — another non-roster invitee — worked a scoreless top half of the fourth, while right-handed pitching prospects Thad Ward and Connor Seabold combined to toss a pair of shutout frames in the fifth and sixth innings.

Zac Grotz, a right-hander, was responsible for the seventh, and he gave up one unearned run before being injuring his elbow on a pitch that required him to leave the game immediately.

All in all, Sox pitchers allowed five total runs, but only two of those runs were earned due to sloppy defensive play that resulted in five errors being committed; one from Dalbec, one from Ward, one from Marwin Gonzalez, and two from Jeter Downs.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup featured the likes of Christian Arroyo, Gonzalez, J.D. Martinez, Dalbec, Michael Chavis, Yairo Munoz, Cesar Puello, Jeisson Rosario, and Jett Bandy.

Matched up against right-hander Huascar Ynoa — one of the top pitching prospects in Atlanta’s farm system — Bandy kicked off the scoring for his side by drawing a bases-loaded walk with two outs in the bottom of the second.

Fast forward to the fourth, and the bases were loaded once more. This time with one out as Rosario, one of the two prospects Boston acquired from the Padres in the Mitch Moreland trade, came to the plate to face Touki Toussaint.

Rosario managed to pick up an RBI, but only by dribbling a grounder to the right side of the infield that gave Chavis enough time to score from third and make it a 4-2 contest in favor of Atlanta.

In the seventh, a leadoff double off the bat of catching prospect Kole Cottam resulted in another Boston run crossing the plate when Jonathan Arauz grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.

That sequence cut the Sox’ deficit to two runs at 5-3, and it allowed the tyring run to come to the plate in the form of Roldani Baldwin, who stuck out against Jasseel De La Cruz to put this one to bed.

Some notes from this one:

Nick Yorke, the Red Sox’ first-round pick in the 2020 draft, made his spring debut on Monday. The 18-year-old infielder went 1-for-1 off the bench with a walk and a fifth-inning single off Braves reliever A.J. Minter.

Ward and Seabold, ranked by Baseball America as the No. 10 and No. 11 prospects in Boston’s farm system, were probably the two most impressive pitchers the Red Sox threw out there on Monday.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll host the reigning American League champion Tampa Bay Rays at JetBlue Park on Tuesday afternoon.

Left-hander Martin Perez will get the ball for Boston, and he will be opposed by veteran righty Michael Wacha.

Garrett Whitlock, Joel Payamps, Ryan Weber, Josh Winckowski and Andrew Politi are also expected to pitch for the Sox.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time on ESPN, which means we are in for nine innings of baseball since this will be a nationally-televised game.

(Picture of Garrett Richards: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Bobby Dalbec, Michael Chavis, and Jeter Downs all homer in Red Sox’ Grapefruit League opener against Twins

The Red Sox opened Grapefruit League play on Sunday by falling to the Twins by a final score of 7-6 in seven innings at Hammond Stadium.

Spring training rules were altered this year to allow for more flexibility, hence the reason why this game was limited to seven frames.

Nathan Eovaldi, as expected, made his first start of the spring for the Sox in this one.

Working 1 1/3 innings, the veteran right-hander yielded two runs — both earned — on two hits, one walk, and one hit batsman to go along with a pair of strikeouts on the afternoon before reaching his pitch limit in the bottom half of the second.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 38 (23 strikes), Eovaldi turned to his four-seam fastball approximately 18 times and averaged 98 mph while topping out at 99.5 mph with the pitch.

The 31-year-old hurler will likely make his next start of the spring against the Twins once again on Saturday, as Boston is going with a six-man rotation for the time being.

In relief of Eovaldi, non-roster invitee Caleb Simpson came on with one out and two runners on in the second, and he struggled mightily, as evidenced by the fact that he failed to record an out while allowing five runs — three charged to him, two to Eovaldi — before the bottom half of the inning came to an end.

From there, right-hander Eduard Bazardo, who was added to Boston’s 40-man roster in November, needed just eight pitches to work a perfect third inning, while Seth Blair and Stephen Gonsalves — two hurlers who spent a good chunk of time at the Sox’ alternate site last season — combined to toss a pair of scoreless frames in the fourth and fifth, respectively.

Former Oakland A’s righty Daniel Gossett then came on in the middle of the sixth of what was a 6-5 game in favor of Boston, but the 28-year-old was ultimately charged with both the loss and blown save after two Minnesota runs crossed the plate on his watch thanks to a Jonathan Arauz throwing error and sacrifice fly off the bat of Kyle Garlick.

And in the bottom of the seventh, which did not need to be played, right-hander Kaleb Ort, who the Sox selected from the Yankees in the minor-league phase of the 2020 Rule 5 Draft, stranded one base runner by inducing an inning-ending 4-3 double play to wrap up his side’s first exhibition game of the year.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox’ first starting lineup of the spring featured the likes of Enrique Hernandez, Jarren Duran, Hunter Renfroe, Rafael Devers, Christian Vazquez, Bobby Dalbec, Christian Arroyo, Michael Chavis, and Michael Gettys.

Dalbec got the scoring started in the second, when with two outs and the bases empty, the 25-year-old clubbed an 89 mph fastball at the top of the zone from Twins starter Devin Smeltzer and deposited it deep into right-center field for his first home run of the spring.

Two more of Boston’s young infielders picked up the slack scoring-wise later on in the fifth, with Michael Chavis leading the inning off by taking Tyler Duffey deep to right on the very first pitch he saw — a 78 mph curveball at the knees — and Jeter Downs following moments later with a two-run blast to right-center to score himself as well as Gettys.

An inning later, Downs struck once again, this time bringing in Josh Ockimey with two outs on a groundball RBI single back up the middle off of righty Cody Stashak.

Yairo Munoz, who performed well in limited action with the Red Sox last season, followed by plating Arauz on another RBI single. Just like that, Boston had themselves a 6-5 lead.

Six runs is all the Sox offense could manage though, as the Twins tacked on two more of their own in their half of the sixth and 7-6 would go on to be Sunday’s final score.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll take on the Braves in their home opener at JetBlue Park to kick off the month of March on Monday afternoon.

Right-hander Garrett Richards will make his 2021 debut for Boston and he will be opposed by fellow righty Huascar Ynoa, who is currently regarded by Baseball America as the 12th-ranked prospect in Atlanta’s farm system.

First pitch Monday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time. The game will be broadcast on NESN.

(Picture of Jeter Downs: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Alex Cora impressed by 18-year-old prospect Nick Yorke so far at spring training

When the Red Sox finalized their initial list of non-roster invitees that will be attending major-league spring training earlier this month, one name that stood out above the rest was infield prospect Nick Yorke.

Rarely do you see a player just months removed from being drafted receive an invite to big-league camp the following spring, but that was the case with Yorke.

Among the 70-plus players working out at the Fenway South complex right now, Yorke — who turns 19 in early April — is without a doubt the youngest of the bunch.

“It made me feel old,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Tuesday when asked about meeting Yorke for the first time. “[My daughter] Camila turns 18 in March. It’s like, ‘Wow, this is unreal.'”

Upon seeing the 2020 first-round draft pick at the batting cages the other day, Cora observed that Yorke had slimmed down a bit while still maintaining his strong, 6-foot frame.

“He’s in a better place physically. He’s a tall, strong kid. That was impressive,” said Cora. “I look and I’m like, ‘Who’s this kid?’ They told me and I was like, ‘Wow, he’s impressive.'”

Because he is at big-league camp, Yorke, a Southern California native, has the chance to absorb as much useful information as he can from the veterans he is sharing a clubhouse with for the time being.

“I asked him one question,” Cora recounted. “I go, ‘Who are you going to follow in spring training? Who’s the guy that you’re going to ask questions and follow?’ And he said, ‘Enrique Hernandez.’ I said, ‘That’s a good one. So, who else are you going to follow?’ He goes, ‘J.D. [Martinez].’ I said, ‘No, no, no. Don’t follow J.D. right now. Let’s keep it simple.’ And I said, ‘Just follow Xander. Follow Xander Bogaerts from 7 a.m. until whenever we’re done, and you’ll be in a good spot. That’s what we want from him.”

Cora acknowledged that while Yorke — the 17th overall pick in last year’s amateur draft — does have plenty of potential, he is mainly in Fort Myers right now to learn the ropes of what it takes to be a major-leaguer.

It’s a similar experience to what Bobby Dalbec did during one of the Sox’ homestands at the tail end of the 2019 season, well before the 25-year-old made his major-league debut.

Rather than getting called up to the team’s major-league roster, Dalbec spent time around the club at Fenway Park and familiarized himself with the Red Sox and the big-league environment, which surely helped him upon getting called up last August.

“It’s kind of like when Dalbec went to Fenway for a week in 2019,” the Sox skipper said when describing what Yorke is doing now. “He’s going to spend a lot of time with us, but that’s what I want him to do. Just learn, keep working, understand what it takes to be a big-leaguer, and he’ll be a big-leaguer. He’ll be a big-leaguer.”

A right-handed hitting, right-handed throwing second baseman out of Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, Yorke is currently regarded by Baseball America as the Sox’ No. 9 prospect.

Many were shocked that Boston took Yorke, who entered last year’s draft as BA’s 96th-ranked draft-eligible prospect, as high as they did, but chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom explained that process when speaking with Chris Hatfield and Ian Cundall of SoxProspects.com last month.

“We knew that it would come with some blowback because Nick wasn’t a hyped player,” Bloom said on the SoxProspects.com podcast. “We also had a lot of belief in the player and there was also belief that if we had had a normal spring, he would have been seen. A lot of things kind of conspired with him having been hurt the year before and not having played the infield the year before. And if you weren’t there really all over him those first few weekends, you did not have enough information on Nick Yorke to really think anything about him.”

Despite not having a minor-league season to work with in 2020, Yorke still impressed at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket and their fall instructional league in Fort Myers, which in turn led to him skyrocketing up the organization’s prospect rankings to the point where he may just be one of the best middle infield prospects in baseball heading into the 2021 campaign.

On that note, Yorke is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season with Low-A Salem, whose season begins on May 4.

Between then and now, though, it should be fascinating to see if Yorke finds his way into any Grapefruit League games over the next few weeks.

(Picture of Nick Yorke: Pawtucket Red S0x)

In Jeter Downs and Nick Yorke, Red Sox have two of the top middle infield prospects in baseball

At this time last year, infielders Jeter Downs and Nick Yorke were not yet members of the Red Sox organization.

Downs, now 22, was preparing for what was supposed to be his fourth (third full) season as a pro, while Yorke, now 18, was preparing for his senior season at Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, Calif.

Neither Downs’ nor Yorke’s 2020 went the way they likely expected, with the former getting dealt from the Dodgers to the Sox in February and the latter having his senior season halted due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Emerging as the top prospect in Boston’s farm system in wake of the trade that sent Mookie Betts to Los Angeles, Downs, who was born in Colombia, was at least able to salvage his minor-league season-less 2020 thanks to being included in the Sox’ 60-man player pool.

Yorke, meanwhile, was also able to salvage his year after somewhat surprisingly going 17th overall to the Red Sox in the 2020 first-year player draft. He was later added to the club’s 60-man player pool in mid-September.

Both players were able to spend time at the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket over the summer to further their development, though Downs understandably got there a whole lot earlier than Yorke did.

Here’s what former PawSox and current Worcester Red Sox manager Billy McMillon had to say about each young infielder when speaking to reporters in early October, courtesy of MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

On Downs: “Jeter’s kind of interesting. We were introduced to him in Spring Training 1. We could see glimpses of defense and offense. I would say he did better offensively in the first spring training. I think people were thinking about him potentially being a second baseman, everyday, for the Red Sox. I think the strides he made defensively are going to sway some of those questions people had.

“He made tremendous strides defensively. 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 long-term, but I do believe he could play shortstop. 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.”

On Yorke: “His first professional at-bat, he gets a single off Bryan Mata. Worked the count full, hit a line drive to right field like it was nothng. That was really, really refreshing, just to see… I’m not saying he should have been intimidated or whatever, but he went up there, playing high school not too long ago, and just worked the count full and went the other way. There’s an approach there.

“One of the things I tried to tell him was, ‘Hey, look. There are going to be some professional guys around here who have approaches, who have work. You have to figure out who you are and don’t try to match what you see other guys do. Just be yourself.’ He kind of took that to heart. Really impressive with his at-bats. Limited action at second base but I watched some of the early work with (coach Bruce Crabbe) and he has got some good actions out there. His body is kind of stocky but he’s not big and he moves well. You can see why he was a high-round pick. He blended in well. He was joking with the guys, he was interacting. If somebody walked into the clubhouse or onto the bench, they wouldn’t have known that this guy was drafted in 2020. They would have thought he was one of the guys. That’s a testament to the scouts who saw something there. There’s a lot to like in a very small sample.”

Because he got to the alternate training site in July as opposed to later in the summer, Downs was not included in the Red Sox’ fall instructional league roster down in Fort Myers

Yorke, however, was, and that gave the right-handed hitter even more of an opportunity to shine in front of Red Sox coaches and scouts alike.

Per SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, Yorke “was the most impressive member of the 2020 draft/NDFA class, showing off his offensive ability, but questions about his long-term defensive profile remain an issue. Yorke got off to a strong start at the plate, but as the camp went along, he struggled to pull the ball and seemed to be just trying to push the ball to right field. Regardless of his struggles near the end of camp, scouts were consistent in saying they believe he can hit and they are high on his bat, enough so that even with a questionable defensive profile and below average speed, they still like him.”

After the Red Sox took him off the board with their top pick in the 2020 draft, Yorke ultimately signed with the club for $2.7 million last July. He is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s No. 11 prospect.

Downs, meanwhile, is regarded by MLB Pipeline as the Sox’ No. 1 prospect with a slight advantage over Triston Casas.

Recently, MLB Pipeline released lists for their top-10 prospects at each position, and Downs — listed as a shortstop — and Yorke — listed as a second baseman, both made their respective lists, coming in at No. 8 and No. 10, respectively.

Regarding Downs’ ranking, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo did not have any ‘top tools’ or ‘superlatives’ to give the 5-foot-11, 195 lb. infielder. He simply listed him as his eighth-best shortstop prospect.

Regarding Yorke’s ranking, MLB.com’s Jim Callis writes that the 6-foot, 200 lb. infielder was that particular position group’s ‘highest riser,’ though he also has the ‘most to prove.’

“Yorke had shoulder surgery before his high school junior season in 2019, which relegated him to DH duty that spring and curtailed him on the showcase circuit,” Callis wrote earlier this week. “A year later, the Red Sox made him a surprise first-round pick (17th overall) and signed him for $2.7 million.

“While the Red Sox fully believe in Yorke and some clubs regarded him as the best high school hitter on the West Coast, most teams evaluated him as more of a second- or third-rounder,” added Callis. “His arm hasn’t bounced all the way back from his shoulder surgery, so he also has to show he can handle second base.”

While Downs and Yorke are still both prospects under the age of 23, the future of the Red Sox’ middle infield may very well be in strong hands.

Downs could have the chance to put that to the test this coming season, as he’ll likely begin the year at Triple-A Worcester with the opportunity to get called up by the Red Sox if all goes accordingly for him.

Yorke, on the other hand, is still a long ways away from sniffing a major-league roster seeing how he only turns 19 years old in April. He is projected to start the 2021 minor-league season with Low-A Salem, though it is not yet known when the new season will begin for Class-A and Double-A minor-league affiliates.

(Picture of Jeter Downs: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

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)