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)

Examining Red Sox infield prospect Hudson Potts’ big-league potential

Hudson Potts’ first offseason as a member of the Red Sox organization has been a busy one to say the least.

Back in November, the 22-year-old was added to Boston’s 40-man roster in order to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft. That, in turn, led to Potts receiving his first invite from the Sox — and third invite overall — to big-league spring training.

The Texas native was originally acquired by the Red Sox along with outfield prospect Jeisson Rosario last August in a trade that sent veteran first baseman Mitch Moreland to the Padres.

At that time, Potts was regarded by MLB Pipeline as San Diego’s No. 16 prospect, and with the minor-league season having been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he was spending time at the club’s alternate training site at the University of San Diego.

He spent the rest of the year at the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket.

Even with no real in-game action in 2020, the former 2016 first-round draft pick was less than a full year removed from his age-20 season with Double-A Amarillo of the Texas League in which he slashed a modest .227/.290/.406 to go along with 16 home runs and 59 RBI across 107 games in 2019.

Those numbers — as well as a strikeout rate of 28.6% and a walk rate of 7.1% — might not jump off the page, but it is important to remember that Potts was doing this at a fairly young age for the level he was playing at. FanGraphs’ Ben Clemens noted as much when writing about Potts and other position player prospects on Tuesday.

“It’s so hard to play in Double-A at 20 years old,” Clemens wrote. “Potts wasn’t good, but he was able to tread water despite being three to four years young for the level, which is often a better sign than hitting well at an age-appropriate level. That said, don’t sleep on his 2018, when he was also quite young for Hi-A and put together a fearsome power season.”

In 2018 with High-A Lake Elsinore of the California League, the right-handed hitter posted a .281/.350/.498 clip in addition to clubbing 17 homers and driving in 58 runs over 106 games (453 plate appearances).

One of the things that has held Potts back, if you want to say that, to this point has been his inability to make contact on a consistent basis. Another dimension of his game that is shrouded in uncertainty pertains to his primary defensive position.

Both of those aspects could hinder the 6-foot-3, 220 lb. infielder’s long-term potential as a major-league-caliber player, according to Clemens.

Warning Signs: The big one is contact — that’s not the kind of thing you can paper over with other skills,” Clemens wrote of Potts. “He’ll also need to find a defensive home; he looks like a corner guy, though San Diego experimented with a Mike Moustakas-esque second base assignment before trading him. Corner-only sluggers with contact issues aren’t exactly in short supply, so that’s the worry here.”

In regards to the 20-80 scouting scale, FanGraphs‘ Eric Longenhagen has Potts’ hit tool at 30 in terms of present value and 35 in terms of future value, which ranks ninth and 19th among Red Sox position player prospects, respectively.

“If [Potts’ hit tool turns out lower than 40 FV], it might make his bat unplayable” due to all the swings-and-misses, Clemens wrote.

Despite those concerns, Clemens still seems optimistic about Potts’ outlook, opining that “the combination of his power and age are simply more enticing than the whiffs are worrisome.”

Currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s 19th-ranked prospect, Potts is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season — whenever it starts — with Double-A Portland and could seemingly see playing time at every infield position besides shortstop.

The Red Sox will host their first full squad spring training workout in Fort Myers this coming Monday, so that could be a good time to get our first glance at Potts since last year’s fall instructional league. Stay tuned for that.

(Picture of Hudson Potts: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstillsmugmug.com)

Red Sox pitching prospect Andrew Politi, a potential sleeper for 2021, receives invite to major-league spring training

Along with Durbin Feltman, fellow right-handed pitching prospect Andrew Politi was one of 22 Red Sox minor-leaguers to receive an invite to major-league spring training on Friday.

The 24-year-old was originally selected by Boston in the 15th round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Seton Hall University. He signed with the team for only $25,000 that June, and according to The Athletic’s Keith Law, he could be a major sleeper this year.

“Politi was Boston’s 15th-round pick in 2018, a senior signed out of Seton Hall,” Law, who ranked Politi as the No. 15 prospect in the Sox’ farm system, wrote on Thursday, “but his stuff picked up over the last two years and he’s now showing mid-90s velocity with a curveball and cutter — even as he moved from a relief role to the rotation. He needs better control and command, and he’s on the smaller side for a starter, but there’s some starter upside here.

“Politi could make a jump this year, at least into their top 10 if not the global list,” Law added.

Last time he saw any organized minor-league action, the New Jersey native posted a 3.55 ERA and 3.17 xFIP over 33 appearances (five starts) and 78 2/3 innings of work for High-A Salem in 2019.

Politi emerged as a regular starter for Salem towards the tail end of the 2019 campaign in late August, and he dazzled by yielding just three runs (two earned) on three hits, five walks, and 17 strikeouts over his final three starts (13 1/3 innings pitched) of the season.

While he was not included in the Sox’ 60-man player pool nor invited to the Sox’ alternate training site any point in 2020, the 6-foot, 191 lb. hurler did participate in the club’s fall instructional league.

There in Fort Myers, according to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, Politi put his diverse pitch mix on display for scouts to see.

“Though he worked his way into the Salem rotation at the end of 2019, scouts see right-hander Andrew Politi as a reliever all the way,” Cundall wrote back in November. “His delivery has a lot of effort, and his command was inconsistent at Instructs. His fastball sat 93-95 mph and he mixed in an average slider. He also showed a changeup and curveball, and seemed to be working on a cutter as well. “

What Cundall gathered about Politi seems to differ from what Law gathered, but one thing is clear: Politi has potential. Whether that be as a starter or reliever has yet to be determined, but that notion became clear on Friday when he received an invite to big-league camp.

Like Feltman, Politi is also eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this December, so it goes without saying that 2021 will be an important year for him.

Projected to begin the upcoming minor-league season with Double-A Portland, Politi, who turns 25 in June, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the organization’s 40th-ranked prospect.

(Picture of Andrew Politi: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

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)

Chaim Bloom on newest Red Sox prospect Frank German: ‘We’re excited to get him in here and keep molding him’

Right-handed pitching prospect Frank German may be the lesser-known of the two players the Red Sox acquired from the Yankees on Monday, but don’t let that fool you into believing he has little to offer his new club.

The 23-year-old was originally drafted by New York in the fourth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of North Florida, though he did also get looks from a few of the Yankees’ fiercest division rivals during the pre-draft process.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said as much himself when speaking with reporters on Monday.

“He’s an interesting prospect that I know this organization has had an eye on since he was in the draft,” Bloom said of German via Zoom. “I remember talking about him in our draft room when I was with the Rays. He was at North Florida and was kind of a pop-up guy that spring.”

Last time German saw any organized minor-league action (excluding rehab stints), he posted a 3.79 ERA and 3.56 xFIP over 16 outings (15 starts) and 76 innings pitched for the High-A Tampa Tarpons in 2019.

The native of Queens put up those numbers while working with a high-velocity four-seam fastball in addition to an evolving repertoire of secondary pitches that includes a changeup.

“He’s a power arm with a really good fastball that has good velo, good life,” said Bloom. “The secondaries are coming. The fastball is certainly the foundation right now, but that’s a great place to start. When a guy shows that he has a fastball that has the power and the life to be effective, and it’s a big-league fastball.

“A good body, athletic,” he continued. “A guy who improved a lot in a short period of time starting near the end of his college career. The type of guy that you would bet on to be able to make more improvement, so we’re excited to get him in here and keep molding him.”

One caveat that comes with the Red Sox acquiring a prospect such as German is the fact that there was no minor-league season last year.

On top of that, German was not included in the Yankees’ 60-man player pool, nor did he participate in a fall instructional league since New York did not have one. So, he was basically left to further his development with his own resources.

Having said all that, the Sox were essentially working with little to no new data and instead had to rely on information pertaining to German from 2019 and earlier, which can make these sorts of transactions a bit unnerving.

“This was one of the more interesting aspects of a trade like this, and frankly one of the more uncomfortable aspects of a trade like this is that there’s not as much information on his 2020,” Bloom stated. “This required a lot of legwork from a lot of different people in our organization, especially [vice president of professional scouting] Gus Quattlebaum and [director of professional scouting] Harrison Slutsky and their group.

“And then, really marshalling different resources to get as much intel as we could,” he added. “There’s no question when you’re acquiring a prospect right now — especially one that didn’t participate in an instructional league — there’s more unknowns. Now, we don’t want to be scared off too much by that because those can play in both directions. We felt we had enough intel on his situation to be comfortable making the trade, but it was definitely something that we had to work through and we had to get comfortable with.”

With the start date of the minor-league season below the Triple-A level getting pushed back until later in the spring, where German will began his Red Sox career — likely Greenville or Portland — has yet to be discussed.

What is clear now, however, is that the flame-throwing, 6-foot-2, 195 lb. hurler will remain a starter for the time being even if his path to the next level involves a move to the bullpen somewhere down the line.

“As far as his role, I think generally speaking, when a guy has had success in a starting role, you don’t want to cut off the upside of him continuing to have that success, absent some critical, immediate need,” Bloom said. “There are exceptions, but a lot of those exceptions come from really knowing the person and the player, and obviously we need to get to know him better. But, I could see him doing either in the future. It really depends on where he goes. But, like I said, he’s got a really good foundation with the athleticism and the fastball that he has, and we want to keep him developing.”

German, who does not turn 24 until September, is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s No. 27 prospect. He will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this coming December, so he is probably someone you want to get familiar with between now and the November 20 deadline.

(Picture of Frank German: Jon Monaghan/Broken Bat Media)

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)

Why 2021 could prove to be pivotal year for Red Sox infield prospect Antoni Flores

In the summer of 2017, the Red Sox made infielder Antoni Flores one of their top priorities, as they signed the Venezuelan prospect for a hefty sum of $1,400,000 that July, which would go on to make him the third-highest paid international addition of that particular signing class for Boston.

Flores initially rewarded the Sox for their investment in him the following year in both the Dominican Summer League and Gulf Coast League.

Over 15 total games and 57 total plate appearances between the two affiliates, the young infielder, primarily playing shortstop, went 18-for-53 (.340) at the plate to go along with one home run and 14 RBI.

The reason Flores only managed to play in 15 games, in 2018 was due to the fact that he missed six weeks of action from mid-June until late July due to “general soreness.”

Upon returning and getting promoted from the DSL to GCL, Flores played in just two games before pulling his hamstring in early August, which wound wind up costing him the rest of the season.

The fact Flores was able to put on an impressive showing at the Red Sox’ fall instructional league that year in the wake of suffering that hamstring injury was certainly encouraging, but more red flags arose in 2019.

Entering the year regarded by SoxProspects.com as Boston’s No. 7 prospect, Flores struggled mightily in his first exposure to non-rookie-league baseball in the United States.

Playing in 55 games for the short-season Lowell Spinners, the then-18-year-old posted a dismal .193/.293/.227 slash line over 208 plate appearances while striking out 28.4% of the time. He also committed 10 errors in 410 defensive innings at shortstop, which would signal a transition to second base.

According to SoxProspects‘ director of scouting Ian Cundall, “scouts really soured on Flores” following his first full professional season, “as he showed a poor approach and limited offensive ability while simultaneously struggling in the field.”

Unfortunately, Flores would not get the chance to bounce back in a traditional manner in 2020, as the minor-league season was cancelled in June due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, Flores, like most other Red Sox minor-leaguers, had to wait until the 2020 installment of fall instructs to try to continue on with their development.

Alas, a long break from organized baseball did the right-handed hitter no favors, as he continued to underwhelm in Fort Myers this past fall.

Per Cundall, Flores, now 20 years old, “again struggled and now seems to have moved to second base primarily. The athleticism he showed in the Fall Instructional League in 2018 is gone, and his speed has regressed to the point where he was consistently timed at 4.6 seconds down the line, which is a 20 on the 20-80 scouting scale.”

FanGraphs‘ Eric Longenhagen added on to this, writing last month that though he wished Flores’ disappointing 2019 was more of an outlier, it may have very well been the start of a negative trend.

“Flores was generating Willy Adames comps during the Fall of 2018, and has since regressed physically and technically,” Longenhagen wrote. “He no longer looks athletically capable of playing the middle infield and has continued to struggle with the bat.”

While Longenhagen still has Flores as his No. 43 prospect in the Red Sox farm system, he notes that “he’s in danger of slipping off the list entirely next year unless he performs statistically and looks more athletic early in the year.” 

SoxProspects projects Flores, who does not turn 21 until October, will start the 2021 minor-league season with Low-A Salem.

Before the 2021 season begins, though, there is still the minor-league portion of spring training — which will likely start later than usual this year — to look forward to.

Between the time fall instructs ended and the time in which minor-league spring training eventually starts up, it appears as though the Sox have given Flores some homework to do.

“Antoni has been working on his agility and quickness a lot this offseason,” Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero, who played a significant role in Flores signing with the organization, told BloggingtheRedSox.com via email. “He’s made a lot of strides in the past few months, so we’re looking forward to seeing him in spring training.”

On that note, 2021 could prove to be a monumental year for Flores in terms of development and career trajectory.

Not only is the 6-foot-1, 190 lb. infielder looking to buck the trend that has seen his stock take a hit in recent years, but he is also Rule 5 eligible for the first time come December.

If he were to make an impact with Salem, or whichever affiliate he played with this year, Flores could be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster if Boston believes in his potential enough to not want to see him scooped up by another club.

If Flores were not to be added, which does seem unlikely at this point given the fact that other prospects such as Jarren Duran, Jeter Downs, Thad Ward, and Gilberto Jimenez will be in need of protection, then as previously mentioned, an opposing team could pick him up if they felt he was ready to make an impact at the major-league level.

That, too, seems unlikely, but there’s a reason why Flores was once considered one of the top prospects in the Sox’ farm system. The talent is still there somewhere, and so is a relatively high ceiling given his age.

Having written all that, it’s fair to say that 2021 could be a ‘make-or-break’ type year for Flores. We will have to wait and see how he performs.

(Picture of Antoni Flores: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Right-hander Aldo Ramirez ‘most underrated’ prospect in Red Sox farm system, according to MLB front offices

In his most recent work for The Athletic, former Reds and Nationals general manager Jim Bowden writes that he reached out to all 30 major-league front offices “to  uncover the most underrated and undervalued prospects” in baseball for 2021.

By doing this, Bowden identified 30 under-the-radar prospects across the minor-leagues.

Who from the Red Sox’ minor-league pipeline made this exclusive list? None other than rising right-hander Aldo Ramirez.

“Ramirez performed well in the New York/Penn League in 2019 as an 18-year-old, as shown by his 63 strikeouts and 16 walks in 61.2 innings,” writes Bowden. “However, he was noticeably stronger this year in instructional league, with his fastball up to 96 mph with riding life. He’s a physical, athletic pitcher with a repeatable delivery and a three-pitch mix that includes a fastball, curveball and changeup. He profiles as a future mid-rotation-type starter.”

Regarded by SoxProspects.com as Boston’s No. 10 prospect (No. 5 among pitchers), Ramirez was one of the stars of the club’s fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

The 19-year-old hurler, originally signed out of the Mexican League for $550,000 in 2018, “was the consensus top pitcher at Red Sox Fall Instructs,” according to SoxProspects‘ director of scouting Ian Cundall.

“Ramirez sat 92-95 mph [with his fastball], with a potential plus changeup at 85-89 mph and average curveball at 77-81 mph,” Cundall wrote of the young righty last month. “His changeup is a potential weapon and could develop into a plus-to-better pitch given he already shows advanced feel for it and has a lot of confidence in it.”

Bowden gave the following scouting grades (20-80 scale) for each of Ramirez’s three pitches as well as his control and command:

Fastball: 60
Curveball: 55
Changeup: 50
Control: 50
Command: 45

After missing out on a minor-league season to further continue his development in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Ramirez — who is listed at 6-foot, 180 lbs. — is projected to begin the 2021 campaign with Low-A Salem as a member of their starting rotation.

A starting role is one the fiery right-hander could maintain for the foreseeable future, too.

“[Ramirez] has a very good chance to remain a starter and has already shown solid strike-throwing ability,” Cundall added. “[He] was on the younger side of the arms in camp but is remarkably polished for his age and gives the Red Sox someone to dream on as a back-end starter with a chance for more given his youth and constantly improving stuff.” 

(Photo of Aldo Ramirez: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox pitching prospect Bradley Blalock reflects on unique 2020 for minor-leaguers, looks ahead to 2021

This year was supposed to serve as Bradley Blalock’s springboard into professional baseball.

After being selected by the Red Sox in the 32nd round of the 2019 amateur draft, the right-hander made just four appearances (three starts) in the Gulf Coast League on account of how much he had pitched earlier in the spring while still in high school.

2020 was going to be the year in which Blalock formally introduced himself as a legitimate pitching prospect, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic prevented that from fully happening.

Rather than pitch a full season at one or multiple minor-league levels, Blalock was limited to just the fall instructional league in terms of throwing in front of team officials.

The 20-year-old hurler recently spoke with BloggingtheRedSox.com about how this year has gone for him as well as a number of other topics.

“Once I got [to fall instructs], I definitely started working,” Blalock said. “Got to pitch in two intrasquad games. First one, just threw one inning but it was a little rough since I got hit around a little bit. In my second outing, I pitched six innings — went six up, six down — so it was definitely really exciting to do that in front of everyone that was there. And my third one, I was supposed to throw three innings on the last day, but it got rained out. But, I was able to throw a bullpen, so it was good.”

While fall instructs this year were certainly different from fall instructs the year before, Blalock has enjoyed his time with the Red Sox organization thus far. The Georgia native signed with the club for $250,000 last July as opposed to attending Kennesaw State University.

“It was a personal decision for me,” Blalock said of his choice to go pro out of high school. “Me and my family talked about it, and we thought that was the best decision because you don’t know if three years down the road, you’re ever going to get that opportunity [again]. You might get hurt or something, so we just took a chance and we love it so far. I do.”

As a 32nd round pick, Blalock could have signed with Boston for just $125,000, that round’s assigned slot value, but he actually managed to sign for double that amount last summer.

“We just did some negotiations and we found a price that worked for both of us: me and the Red Sox,” said Blalock. “So we definitely came to an easy deal, quick deal on that.”

Even before signing with the Sox, Blalock started to garner at least a little major-league interest starting his junior year of high school in Loganville, Ga. He provided some insight on what that whole process was like.

“I didn’t really talk to a lot of pro scouts my junior year,” Blalock said. “I talked to one [with the Minnesota Twins] and we built a close bond. My senior year, I definitely had a lot more attention. Had to fill out a couple questionnaires that I had to fill out from each team.”

One of those interested teams was obviously the Red Sox, and their interest in Blalock gave the righty the chance to get to know his eventual signing scout Brian Moehler, who covers Georgia and South Carolina for the team as an amateur scout.

“Once I met him, we built a close bond,” Blalock said of Moehler. “He was the one that was really talking to my dad, because I don’t have an agent right now so my dad’s really my agent. So, we built a close bond and we talk a couple times every month.”

The Red Sox viewed Blalock, who originally committed to Kennesaw State as a two-way player, as a pitcher from the get-go. That likely had something to do with his pitch selection, which the 6-foot-2, 190 lb. righty broke down in-depth.

“In high school, I threw a four-seam fastball, a slider, a changeup, and a knucklecurve,” he explained. “When I got to the GCL, I didn’t bring the slider along because my curveball was definitely my better offspeed pitch as the year advanced. So, I had my fastball, curveball, changeup — but my changeup wasn’t really there so I was really just a two-pitch guy.

“After instructs last year, they were like ‘Hey, let’s work on a changeup,'” Blalock continued. “So, all instructs and all offseason I worked on getting my changeup back to where it needed to be. I came into spring training with a four-seam fastball, a knucklecurve, and a changeup. And during spring training — during my bullpens — my curveball was always down for a strikeout pitch. It was like an 0-2 or 1-2 pitch, so we working on trying to get that and land it for a strike.

“But then I realized I need something better that I know I can land for a strike,” he added. “So I talked to [Lowell Spinners pitching coach Nick Green] and [performance pitching coordinator] Shawn Haviland about going back to my slider and figuring that back out. During quarantine, I worked on getting my feel back for my slider. They were excited, and I brought that into instructs with me.”

While he was able to hone his pitch mix in the weeks leading up to fall instructs thanks to tools such as video and Rapsodo, Blalock also continued to use training methods inspired by Driveline Baseball, which is something he has done since his freshman year of high school.

“At the facility I train at, it’s called Full Count Baseball, we do Driveline stuff,” he stated. “We have all the Driveline balls, shoulder tubes, wrist weights, and we have core velocity belts, which helps you get your core engaged.”

The use of Driveline’s weighted balls specifically seemed very important to Blalock, as he attributed them to his uptick in fastball velocity over the past few years.

“To think my freshman year, I was probably [sitting at] 75 mph,” Blalock said. Just to think that then I was like ‘Hey, I don’t even know if I’ll get to play college baseball.’ Just to continue to work, keep staying with the process, and using the weighted balls and the jaeger bands. It’s definitely been [something] I really like and I’m going to keep doing it.”

Blalock’s fastball, which today tops out at 95 mph, can be attributed to the proper use of weighted balls, weight lifting, and two to three long toss sessions per week. He still believes his four-seamer has room to grow, though.

“That still has room to grow,” Blalock said of his heater. “I’ve been working this offseason still trying to gain some velocity. I mean, it’s always good to try and get some more. One of the guys I work out with, he throws 99-100 mph, so I’m trying to get there with him.”

As for how Blalock will get there, the 2021 season serves as a good first step. Though it’s unclear which affiliate he will start the season with, Blalock does not necessarily care about which role — starter or reliever — he undertakes as long as it helps him contribute at the major-league level sooner.

“I just want to be able to help [the Red Sox] get to the World Series. Starter or reliever, I just want to be able to make it to the bigs and help the Red Sox get there, again.”

Blalock, who does not turn 21 until next December, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the organization’s No. 35 prospect. He is projected to begin the 2021 campaign with the GCL Red Sox, though he certainly would not mind getting called up to Salem, or even Greenville, either.

Red Sox outfield prospect Jarren Duran heating up in Puerto Rico

This offseason, Red Sox outfield prospect Jarren Duran has been playing for Criollos de Caguas of the Puerto Rican Winter League.

The 24-year-old got off to a slow start with his new team, accruing just three hits through his first 37 plate appearances, but has since picked things up.

Over the course of a three-game series against RA12 over the weekend, Duran went 7-for-13 (.538) at the plate with four RBI and five runs scored, raising his line on the season to a modest .250/.429/.278 through 11 games played. He also leads Caguas in stolen bases with six on the year thus far getting without getting caught.

Regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s No. 1 outfield prospect and No. 8 overall prospect, Duran is one of the fastest players in the Sox’ system.

FanGraphs grades the California native’s speed tool at a 70 out of 80, which trails only fellow outfielder Gilberto Jimenez for the best mark among Red Sox prospects.

In addition to his speed, Duran, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 187 lbs., made some adjustment to his swing last offseason and hit the ball further at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket over the summer as a result of said adjustments.

Portland Sea Dogs hitting coach Lance Zawadzki, among others, contributed to Duran’s swing evolution.

(For more on Zawadzki, check out this story from The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey)

“Working on my swing with Lance everyday here, Lance Zawadzki, and I worked with Doug Latta a little bit,” the Long Beach State product said back in August. “Just my swing path and cleaning things up, making things much simpler than they used to be, and just having a simple approach. I kind of owe it to those guys because I come here everyday and I grind it out with Lance everyday. Every day’s a struggle to find your swing. You can go home, not play baseball for a day, and it feels like you haven’t swung in two weeks.”

Though he is not yet on Boston’s 40-man roster, Duran very well could make his major-league debut at some point in 2021 given how close he already is.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom seemed impressed with what the former seventh-round draft pick did in 2020 when speaking with reporters last month.

“He had a tremendous 2020,” Bloom said of Duran. “He made strides hitting-wise and physically, didn’t lose any of his speed. He just had a really good year. I think for all players who didn’t play at the major league level, and even for some of those who did — because we had a shorter season — it’s tougher to feel confident in exactly what you know about them. He came into the year as someone who had spent some time in Double-A, but not with particularly distinguished performance, and then you see him put the year together that he had, and we have to try to figure out what that all means.”

For now, expect Duran to begin the 2021 campaign with Triple-A Worcester, though he will likely get plenty of time to shine once spring training begins in February.