The narrative surrounding the Boston Red Sox farm system is there’s a clear dearth of talent in the minor leagues for the defending World Series champions.
It’s not entirely unfair, either, as Boston’s farm system is trying to work its way back up after a downturn. Prior to the 2014 season, ESPN’s Keith Law put the Red Sox at No. 5 on his ranking of farm systems across baseball. Earlier this month, Law ranked the Red Sox No. 24 ahead of the 2019 season.
But that’s the way it works, to some extent. The prospects the Red Sox had in 2014 either graduated to the big leagues or were used in trades that netted All-Stars and helped the Red Sox win the 2018 World Series. Obviously, the Red Sox would rather have a farm system ripe for the picking again, especially as they’re reaching a crossroads in the Dave Dombrowski era, but there’s still reason to feel good about the future in Boston.
Or, at the very least, to feel good that all hope is not lost in the Red Sox minor leagues.
Through a week of spring training games (we know, it’s only spring training), the most encouraging signs are infielders Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec. Aside from Minnesota outfielder Byron Buxton, Chavis has been baseball’s most productive player so far this spring, hitting three three-run home runs in four games. Dalbec has been good, too, collecting a hit in three of six at-bats, which doesn’t include a home run he hit against Northeastern University in the spring training opener last week.
No one is saying a week of spring training production from two prospects means the Red Sox have an elite system, but it is at least encouraging to see young players with potential find success when they get a taste of the big leagues. That has to at least be seen as some sort of progress, which is all you can ask for from young players with eyes on the major leagues.
The Red Sox have to hope this early-spring production is a sign of things to come and not just a blip on the radar, but the ceilings for both Chavis and Dalbec are very high. The Athletic’s Peter Gammons wrote at length Wednesday about Boston’s organizational hitting philosophies, and how the collective coaching staff is imparting those guidelines on everyone in the organization. The hope is that helps players like Chavis and Dalbec unlock their true potential.
The potential for a player like Chavis, a Red Sox executive told Gammons, is 30- or 40-home run seasons. Dalbec, meanwhile, might have the floor of a player like Mark Reynolds, one coach told Gammons, while an unnamed National League scout told the longtime scribe Dalbec at least has power on the level of players like Joey Gallo or Aaron Judge.
Both have holes in their games and remain works in progress. But the Gammons story indicated the Red Sox wouldn’t be afraid to get aggressive with promotions — perhaps even a late-season call-up to Boston — if the players’ production warranted as much. Combine that with some other intriguing low-level players — Law indicated the 2017-18 draft and international classes were “strong” for the Red Sox — and maybe the future isn’t so bleak in the minor leagues, after all.
That certainly should be the hope of the Red Sox. With franchise cornerstones like Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts all nearing free agency, Boston will need to find supplementary talent somewhere. And developing a pitcher or two would certainly help. But at least talents like Chavis and Dalbec give something to hope on moving forward.
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