The Boston Red Sox’s roster will look different a few months from now.
How different? That remains to be seen. But Major League Baseball teams rarely finish the way they start, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the grind associated with a 162-game schedule.
As such, it’s important to have reinforcements on standby. And the Red Sox have a handful of players who are nearing the majors and might be ready to make the jump at some point in 2022.
Here are seven Red Sox prospects who could debut with Boston this season.
Triston Casas, 1B
Casas is arguably the top prospect in the Red Sox system, thanks to both his upside and his proximity to the majors. The 22-year-old reached Triple-A in 2021 — a busy year that also saw him represent Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics — and almost certainly will debut with Boston in 2022, perhaps sooner rather than later if fellow first baseman Bobby Dalbec stumbles out of the gate at the big league level.
Jeter Downs, SS/2B
In hindsight, Downs, 23, probably could have used more seasoning at Double-A before progressing to Triple-A, where he struggled last season despite entering the year as a consensus top-100 prospect. Now, it’s on him to make the necessary offensive adjustments and restore his value. If he succeeds, it’s not hard to imagine Downs earning a promotion to Boston later this summer.
Brayan Bello, RHP
Bello’s stock soared in 2021, with his velocity increasing and his changeup drawing comparisons to that thrown back in the day by Red Sox legend Pedro Martinez. We might need to pump the brakes on the hype train a little bit, but Bello, 22, already is on the 40-man roster, meaning he’s just a phone call away if/when a need arises in Boston’s bullpen or rotation this season.
Jay Groome, LHP
Groome’s situation is similar to Bello’s in that he’ll start the season at Double-A Portland but already is on the Red Sox’s 40-man roster, not an insignificant logistical matter in projecting who could debut in the short term. The difference? Groome is left-handed and ultimately might have a lower ceiling after reworking his repertoire in wake of Tommy John surgery. The Red Sox probably would be OK with Groome spending all year in the minors, showing he can stay healthy and building on the career-high 97 1/3 innings he pitched in 2021. But a call-up isn’t out of the question.
Josh Winckowski, RHP
There’s some question as to whether Winckowski, acquired in last offseason’s Andrew Benintendi trade, will stick as a starter or move to the bullpen. The latter might expedite his big league arrival, but he’ll nevertheless open the season in Worcester’s rotation. And he, like Bello and Groome, already is on the 40-man. A 2022 call-up for Winckowski seems likely. We just don’t know in what capacity.
Frank German, RHP
The Red Sox acquired German from the New York Yankees in the trade that brought Adam Ottavino to Boston. He’s not as highly touted as the three aforementioned hurlers, but Red Sox manager Alex Cora pointed to the hard-throwing right-hander Sunday when asked which reliever besides Kutter Crawford has impressed him in spring training. German, 24, features a fastball that nears triple digits, a weapon the Red Sox might opt to call upon to bolster their bullpen later this season.
Ronaldo Hernández, C
The Red Sox acquired Hernández from the Rays before last season in the trade that sent Chris Mazza and Jeffrey Springs to Tampa Bay. He and Connor Wong — both on the 40-man — are next in line behind the plate if anything happens to Christian Vázquez or Kevin Plawecki.
Honorable mention: Bryan Mata, RHP
We’re hesitant to include Mata on the list, as he’s still recovering from Tommy John surgery he underwent last April. But when healthy, Mata just might be the Red Sox’s best pitching prospect. So, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention him somewhere, on the off chance he returns and forces the issue in 2022.