Evaluating prospects is difficult.
It’s even more challenging during a global pandemic that forced the cancellation of an entire minor league season.
Yet these are the cards teams across Major League Baseball have been dealt as the world continues to wrestle with COVID-19, and progress shown in 2020 — at alternate training sites and elsewhere — still can serve as a valuable indicator of which farmhands might make the biggest impact at the next level.
Baseball America on Thursday released its rankings for the top 10 prospects in the Boston Red Sox organization ahead of the 2021 MLB campaign.
Triston Casas, the Red Sox’s first-round pick in 2018, sits atop the list, with Jeter Downs checking in at No. 2. Boston acquired Downs from the Los Angeles Dodgers last offseason in the trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the eventual World Series champions.
BA’s rankings also include two players who debuted with Boston in 2020: Bobby Dalbec and Tanner Houck.
Dalbec, ranked No. 3, launched eight home runs and posted a .959 OPS in 92 plate appearances across 23 major league games, showing the kind of power that could make him a middle-of-the-order presence for Boston moving forward.
Houck, ranked No. 8, offered reason to believe his future might reside in the starting rotation rather than the bullpen by posting a 0.53 ERA (one earned run in 17 innings) and 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings in three starts, all of which resulted in victories.
Who else cracked the top 10? Well, here’s the full list released Thursday by Baseball America:
1. Triston Casas, 1B
2. Jeter Downs, 2B/SS
3. Bobby Dalbec, 1B/3B
4. Bryan Mata, RHP
5. Jarren Duran, OF
6. Jay Groome, LHP
7. Gilberto Jimenez, OF
8. Tanner Houck, RHP
9. Nick Yorke, 2B
10. Thad Ward, RHP
The Red Sox don’t have the deepest farm system, due largely to their willingness in recent years to swap prospects for legitimate major league talent. They also lack the high-end prospect potential possessed by some other clubs across MLB.
But Boston’s pipeline is trending in the right direction, especially in wake of a few savvy moves made by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom before this past MLB trade deadline. And that’s enough to feel a little better about the Red Sox’s future as uncertainty abounds.