The Red Sox have made a concerted effort to improve their farm system since Chaim Bloom took over as Boston’s chief baseball officer in October 2019.
So far, so good.
The organization’s depth has greatly improved, both at the major league and minor league levels, and much of that progress stems from Bloom’s shrewd maneuvering. The Red Sox have infused plenty of new, young talent into their pipeline, which should help Boston down the road.
On top of that, several Red Sox prospects obtained prior to Bloom’s arrival have taken steps forward, creating an overall sense that the franchise definitely is heading in the right direction despite a couple of underwhelming big league seasons on the heels of Boston’s 2018 World Series victory.
So, which Red Sox prospects deserve your attention? Well, all over them, quite frankly. Even those flying under the radar.
But we recently profiled some of the most notable farmhands in Boston’s system as part of our extensive prospects series. And now, let’s tie everything together by ranking the top 10 Red Sox prospects ahead of the 2021 MLB season.
1. Triston Casas, 1B
Casas or Jeter Downs? It depends on who you ask, really. The two could flip spots in the coming months. We’re leaning toward Casas for the purpose of this exercise, though, because his offensive upside — an impressive blend of power and hit tool — gives him a higher ceiling.
“Casas has the potential to be a true All-Star-type, consistent first baseman,” Ian Cundall, director of scouting for SoxProspects.com, recently told NESN.com. ” … With him, you’re looking at someone who the bat profiles as elite. With Downs, it’s more of a bunch of really solid to above-average tools.
” … The total package with (Downs) is really nice, but when it comes to the potential to be a long-term impact player, I just have more faith in Casas’ bat than the overall kind of well-rounded game that Downs provides.”
Casas, a first-round pick in 2018, is a hulking presence at 6-foot-4, 252 pounds. He’ll likely report to Double-A Portland once the minor league season begins.
MLB ETA: Mid 2022
2. Jeter Downs, 2B/SS
Downs has a lower ceiling than Casas, but he also has a higher floor. The 22-year-old middle infielder, acquired last offseason from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Mookie Betts trade, simply is a really good all-around baseball player, showcasing solid bat-to-ball skills, above-average defense and decent speed. He’s someone who could hit .300 with 20 or so home runs and a handful of steals per season.
Downs, a first-round pick in 2017, might be the long-term heir apparent to Dustin Pedroia at second base, perhaps sooner rather than later depending on how things go at the major league level this season.
MLB ETA: Late 2021
3. Jarren Duran, OF
Speed. That’s Duran’s calling card.
“He’s the fastest human being I’ve seen in a long time,” Greenville Drive manager Iggy Suarez told NESN.com last summer.
It’s hardly Duran’s only redeeming quality, however, as his offensive approach continues to improve and a revamped swing has uncovered more power in his game. The 24-year-old has drawn comparisons to Jacoby Ellsbury and Grady Sizemore, lofty praise that highlights his dynamic skill set.
MLB ETA: Mid 2021
4. Gilberto Jimenez, OF
Jimenez probably is the second-fastest player in the Red Sox system behind Duran. And at age 20, Jimenez’s other tools could evolve to the point where he garners more national attention.
The switch-hitting outfielder already has begun to show extra power after bulking up. Jimenez is starting to impact the baseball with much more authority, potentially making him a five-tool threat as he continues in his development.
“When he signed, he was a twitchy, 160-pound athletic guy,” Cundall said. “And now he’s 218 pounds at 5-foot-11, and he’s literally built like a running back. He looks like an NFL player. He’s jacked, it’s just solid muscle.”
Jimenez, signed as an international free agent in 2017, has yet to play above Short-Season Lowell.
MLB ETA: 2023
5. Bobby Dalbec, 1B
Dalbec made such an emphatic debut with Boston in 2020 that it’s easy to forget he’s still technically a “prospect” with rookie eligibility. The 25-year-old launched eight home runs and posted a .959 OPS in 23 major league games (92 plate appearances) last season and is penciled in as Boston’s starting first baseman to begin 2021. His power is legit. He’ll just need to cut down on the strikeouts.
MLB ETA: Now
6. Noah Song, RHP
Song might be the most difficult prospect in the Red Sox system to evaluate, because it’s unclear if and when he’ll resume his baseball career. The 23-year-old reported to Navy Flight School last June and could miss most, if not all, of the 2021 season. And who knows where he’ll be at in his development if and when he finally returns?
That said, he has arguably the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the Red Sox system, hence the bullish ranking. His four-pitch arsenal — upper-90s fastball, above-average slider and changeup, developing curveball — and his makeup someday could make him an impact major league starter.
MLB ETA: 2023
7. Bryan Mata, RHP
Mata’s spring training was marred by a slight tear in his ulnar collateral ligament, causing the Red Sox to shut him down indefinitely. As such, the 21-year-old’s status is murky, a tough blow for one of the organization’s most talented pitching prospects who’s on the cusp of reaching the majors.
Nevertheless, as the Red Sox cross their fingers, we’ll focus on the positives: Mata, when healthy, has tremendous stuff, highlighted by a fastball that can reach triple digits and a good-looking slider. The development of his curveball and changeup, as well as improving his command and control, will be key in determining whether he’s a starter or reliever in the long run.
MLB ETA: 2022
8. Tanner Houck, RHP
Houck, like Dalbec, made a strong first impression in 2020. The 2017 first-round pick went 3-0 with a 0.53 ERA in three starts (17 innings) at the major league level, showing he deserves a more extended look as a starter before potentially transitioning to a relief role.
Houck, who turns 25 in June, will need to continue to develop his pitch mix, which is highlighted by a mid-90s fastball and a plus slider. His splitter and changeup are works in progress.
It’s long been debated whether he’ll end up in the bullpen, but Houck will receive another opportunity to start for Boston with Eduardo Rodriguez on the injured list to begin 2021.
MLB ETA: Now
9. Thaddeus Ward, RHP
Ward, a fifth-round pick in 2018, has done nothing but impress since joining the organization, yet we haven’t heard much about him when discussing Red Sox prospects.
Well, that could change in 2021.
Ward doesn’t have the jaw-dropping stuff that some other pitching prospects possess nowadays, and there are questions about his role — starter or reliever — moving forward, but the results nevertheless have been there and his repertoire is nothing to sneeze at.
“He throws five pitches,” Cundall said. “There are a lot of guys who, if they throw five pitches, you immediately tell them they need to get rid of one. He’s not someone like that. It’s actually five pitches that I think he can keep in his arsenal.”
A strong showing this season, which he’ll probably begin at Double-A, could put the 24-year-old more firmly on the major league radar, with a future as a back-end starter or a long reliever both possible.
MLB ETA: 2022
10. Connor Seabold, RHP
The Red Sox acquired Seabold, along with Nick Pivetta, from the Philadelphia Phillies last August in exchange for relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree. That trade could wind up being a steal for Boston, with Seabold now being among the most MLB-ready Red Sox prospects.
Although Seabold, 25, is overlooked on national top-100 lists, he’s a polished prospect who throws quality strikes and limits free passes. What he lacks in terms of electric stuff, he more than makes up for with impressive command and control. His fastball velocity has increased, and his changeup is nasty.
From Cundall: “It would not surprise me, based on just talking to sources around the game — not with the Red Sox, but with other teams who have said to me, ‘If Seabold comes up and plays a key role this year, don’t be surprised. He’s someone who could start in a major league rotation and pitch deep into games, even this season.’ “
Seabold could be among the first guys called up this season if another need arises in the rotation.
MLB ETA: Mid 2021