The Red Sox prospects currently generating the most buzz are Jarren Duran, Triston Casas and Jeter Downs — and deservedly so.
Just keep an eye on Ronaldo Hernández.
Boston acquired the Colombian backstop from the Tampa Bay Rays in an offseason trade that has a chance to go down as one of the great heists of the Chaim Bloom era. Hernández, 23, is the top catching prospect in the system — No. 14 overall on SoxProspects.com — although Connor Wong, a product of the Mookie Betts trade, isn’t far behind.
Hernández began the season by hitting just .214 over his first four games with zero extra-base hits, but has hit .316 in the five games since, including his first two home runs for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs.
Here’s the first homer, which he hit last Thursday against the Hartford Yard Goats:
Here’s the second blast, hit Sunday afternoon in Hartford:
As for when Hernández could ascend to the majors, don’t bet on seeing a promotion anytime soon.
He possesses enviable tools — above-average power and a rocket arm — but needs to further develop the finer points of his game, both offensively and defensively. In particular, Hernández needs to work on the most important of all catcher skills: calling a game.
“If it remains as is, with humans calling balls and strikes, he’s gonna have to do a lot of work behind the plate,” SoxProspects.com director of scouting Ian Cundall told NESN.com in March. “But I do think that one thing the Red Sox have done a good job with is developing catch-and-throw guys. They have some really good catching instructors in the system, guys that have been there a while, who have helped the catchers that they have take a step forward. Because they haven’t really developed guys who can hit at the catching position, but the catch-and-throw guys they have, that they’ve been able to work with, have been good.
” ? So if they can help Hernandez with that, he’s got those two loud tools that you look for in a catching prospect. And so it’s definitely a gamble worth taking for them.”
The Red Sox currently are set at the major league level with Christian Vázquez, one of the best catchers in baseball, and Kevin Plawecki, a more-than-capable backup. So, they don’t need to rush Hernández and Wong.
Nevertheless, either player developing into a starting-caliber backstop would be a welcome sight for an organization that has struggled to develop catching talent since Vázquez debuted in 2014.