In the coming weeks, NESN.com will profile some of the more noteworthy prospects in the Red Sox system, utilizing insight and analysis from industry experts who know the players best. First up: 2018 first-round draft pick Triston Casas.
Triston Casas is the most exciting prospect to come through the Red Sox farm system since Mookie Betts.
Boston selected Casas in the first round of the 2018 Major League Baseball draft, and the Florida native only has increased his stock — dramatically so, in fact — in the two-plus years since. Perhaps most impressively, Casas appears to progressing, rather than maintaining, in his development despite the COVID-19 pandemic eliminating the 2020 Minor League Baseball season.
But what makes the 21-year-old such an intriguing prospect? When can Red Sox fans expect to see him at Fenway Park? What position will be play in the majors?
Here’s everything you need to know about Triston Casas, who just might be the best hitter in the Red Sox lineup, regardless of trades or free agency signings, five years from now:
Casas enjoyed a decorated amateur career before turning pro.
A product of American Heritage School in Plantation, Fla., Casas starred for the United States 18-and-under national team, leading the club in homers and RBIs in both 2016 and 2017. He was particularly great in 2017, winning 18-U World Cup MVP honors and the World Baseball Softball Confederation Player of the Year Award.
Initially scheduled to graduate in 2019, Casas instead reclassified and went 26th overall to the Red Sox in the 2018 draft before signing for $2,552,800.
He tore a thumb ligament two games into his professional career but returned in 2019 with a vengeance, hitting .256 with 20 homers and 81 RBIs across 120 combined games for Single-A Greenville and Single-A Salem. Most impressively, Casas showed advanced work ethic and plate discipline and approach for a then-teenager.
“For as young as he is, he has the mentality of a veteran,” Greenville Drive manager Iggy Suarez told NESN.com last August. ” … His preparation is something I haven’t seen in a player that young in a long time.”
Added Red Sox vice president of player development Ben Crockett: “He is really advanced. Very mature in terms of the way he approaches preparation and the way he approaches his own professional development.”
Casas starred last summer at Boston’s alternate spring training site, regularly showcasing why he is included on most publications’ top-100 MLB prospects list.
At 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, Casas is a physically imposing player. He also is someone who takes his fitness seriously.
“He’s in tremendous physical shape,” Crockett said in August after Casas arrived at the alternate spring training site. “I think the conditioning test, he would have beaten almost everyone in a normal spring training based on his performance on those tests.”
Drafted as a third baseman, Casas has spent time in the outfield but likely is ticketed for first base. Not a particularly fast runner, Casas nevertheless is viewed as an athletic, capable defender with good instincts.
Physical build, defense and preparation are great. However, it’s Casas’s abilities at the plate that make him such an intriguing prospect. Not only does Casas project as a player who will hit a bunch of home runs in the big leagues, he also is someone who could hit for a high average.
“With Casas, there’s a potential for a plus-hit tool, and you combine that with (grade 70) power … that’s why he’s someone who, even though he’s first base only, is considered one of the top 40-50 prospects in all of baseball,” SoxProspects.com director of scouting Ian Cundall recently told NESN.com.
Added Cundall: “He’s working at-bats, he has an idea of what he’s doing when he goes to the plate. He’s not gong up there hunting fastballs trying to hit home runs. He goes up there with an idea of, ‘I’m going to make hard contact up the middle.’ And if he gets a pitch he can turn on, he’s gonna turn on it. If he gets a pitch away, he’s going to go with the pitch. He’s not looking to hit home runs, he just happens to be 6-foot-5 with insane bat speed and power. He’s a hitter, not a power hitter. … The hit tool and the power both work together to make that complete profile at the plate.”
Most-likely outcome: Above-average first baseman, occasional All-Star.
Ultimately, Casas still has plenty to prove. He has just one full minor league season under his belt, plus some time at the alternate spring site facing Red Sox minor league pitchers. He’s looked great, but until he shows well against advanced competition, questions about whether the hype is justified will persist.
Here are some thoughts from The Athletic’s Keith Law, who put Casas at No. 87 in his latest top 100 prospect rankings:
“When he rotates his hips, he can show big power, especially to his pull side, although he showed vulnerability on fastballs up in the zone in 2019, something he worked on over the summer. He has a clear two-strike approach, unusual for a teenage hitter and even more so for hitters today, where he gets very wide and shortens up to put the ball in play at the expense of some power. The Red Sox have tinkered with him at third base, but that’s a longshot to be more than an emergency option. If his bat is what they think it is, and he can continue to hit for power and draw walks as he did in 2019, he’ll profile just fine over at first.”
Best-case scenario: Perennial All-Star
“Casas has the potential to be a true All-Star-type first baseman,” Cundall said.
Casas, whom some have compared to Atlanta Braves superstar Freddie Freeman, has identified Cincinnati Reds star and future Hall of Famer Joey Votto as a player he tries to emulate. Those are some aggressive comparisons, but Casas nevertheless has all of the tools necessary to be among the best first basemen in baseball.
SoxProspects ranking: No. 1
Here’s their summation:
“Potential everyday regular. Ceiling of an all-star capable of hitting for both average and significant power. Looks the part of a prototypical bat-first first baseman capable of anchoring a lineup. Projects to add some value defensively at first base. Hit tool still needs development and will have to ensure the swing-and-miss in his game does not impact his ability to tap into his power. Strong instincts and feel for the game.”
In all likelihood, we are at least a year away from seeing Casas at Fenway Park. However, don’t be shocked if you see him in Boston next fall.
“Casas I think is gonna start in Double-A this year,” Cundall said.
” … But I would not rule out him making it up to the big leagues at some point this year. I think it’s unlikely, but it’s a non-zero chance based on what I’ve heard.”