Such additions usually don’t generate a ton of buzz, as we’re talking about young players who, in most cases, are years away from sniffing the majors. But everyone starts somewhere, and the Red Sox’s initial wave of signings for 2022 reportedly included three players from MLB.com’s Top 50 International Prospects list: Freili Encarnacion (No. 19), Johanfran Garcia (No. 34) and Fraymi De Leon (No. 50).
Encarnacion, 16, and De Leon, 17, are shortstops from the Dominican Republic. Garcia, 17, is a catcher from Venezuela.
Here’s what MLB.com wrote about each player:
Freili Encarnacion, SS (turns 17 on Jan. 26)
Consistent and confident, Encarnacion is one of the best hitters on the international market.
The teen projects to have plus power and already shows the ability to hit high and deep home runs in games. It helps that he has a disciplined approach at the plate and a good feel for the strike zone. He has shown the ability to spray the ball across the outfield, and has a knack for squaring up the ball and driving it up the middle.
On defense, he shows good hands, a plus arm potential and will have a chance to stay at shortstop. He could still make the switch to third base if he outgrows the position.
Johanfran Garcia, C (turns 18 on Dec. 8)
Garcia is built like Yadier Molina. He’s husky, strong and extremely durable. And while he could eventually develop into an all-around defender like Yadier, Garcia is better known for his bat over his defense at this stage of his career.
The teen simply has a great feel for hitting and performs well at the plate in games and showcases. He has displayed the ability to spray the ball all over the field with authority and has what has been described as “sneaky” pull power to his pull side.
He’s no slouch on defense. He has average hands and projects to have an average arm. He moves well behind the plate and continues to work on his blocking and receiving skills.
Fraymi De Leon, SS (turns 18 on Sept. 28)
De Leon has the right mix of now tools and future projection to make him an interesting prospect and a player to watch for years to come.
At 5-foot-10, 160 pounds, there’s plenty of room to grow and add strength. And the belief is that the additional strength will impact all parts of his game, specifically his power at the plate and speed in the future. For now, De Leon has a line drive approach at the plate with gap-to-gap power. He’s already a fringe-to-average runner. On defense, the teen is a twitchy shortstop with solid defensive actions and a decent arm that should keep him at the position.
Again, one shouldn’t expect to see these players — or any other prospects signed this period — in Boston anytime soon, as plenty of minor league development awaits each upon joining the Red Sox system. And even then, there’s a chance they fizzle out before reaching The Show.
But the Red Sox definitely added some upside to their organization, which has seen a real influx of up-and-coming talent over the past couple of years with Chaim Bloom leading Boston’s baseball operations. Perhaps the newcomers someday will become household names while calling Fenway Park home.
After all, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers — arguably Boston’s best players — signed as 16-year-old international free agents in 2009 and 2013, respectively.
Like we said, everyone starts somewhere.