The Red Sox have done an admirable job of cultivating their farm system in recent years, giving the organization both high-potential prospects and burgeoning minor-league depth that could pay dividends as Boston looks to build a sustainable contender.
Some prospects are closer to the majors than others, though, and opportunity might soon knock for a few up-and-coming farmhands. After all, while there was a ton of turnover on the Red Sox’s roster this offseason, there are a few areas where Boston could need additional reinforcements.
Here are seven Red Sox prospects who could debut in the majors with Boston in 2023.
Ceddanne Rafaela, CF/SS
Rafaela, the organization’s No. 4 prospect on SoxProspects.com, is a fascinating player whose stock soared in 2022 thanks to a breakout campaign split between High-A Greenville and Double-A Portland. The 22-year-old is a versatile defender capable of playing plus defense at multiple positions, including center field and shortstop, and his offensive strides last season certainly raised his ceiling. Further improvement to his plate discipline and approach in the batter’s box could put Rafaela on an All-Star trajectory, but he’s nevertheless someone who likely will debut with Boston this season and immediately provide speed, athleticism and excellent glove work.
Enmanuel Valdez, 2B/3B/LF
The Red Sox acquired Valdez from the Houston Astros in last season’s Christian Vázquez trade, and while there are questions about his defensive profile, few concerns exist about his ability to hit. The 24-year-old controls the strike zone well and boasts more power than you’d expect from his stocky, 5-foot-8 frame, evident by the 28 home runs and .918 OPS he posted last season in 126 games (572 plate appearances) split between Double-A and Triple-A. Valdez will begin 2023 at Triple-A Worcester, but he’ll probably be called upon to provide infield depth in Boston at some point this season.
Wilyer Abreu, OF
Speaking of the Vázquez trade, the Red Sox also acquired Abreu, a left-handed-hitting outfielder with a keen eye for the strike zone, evident by the 114 walks he drew last season in 579 Double-A plate appearances. Abreu, 23, probably won’t be the first reserve outfielder called upon in 2023, especially after suffering a hamstring injury in spring training, but he’s on the Red Sox’s 40-man roster, thereby eliminating one potential hurdle in him earning a midseason call-up. Abreu could be a solid depth piece.
David Hamilton, 2B/SS
Hamilton, acquired in the December 2021 Hunter Renfroe-Jackie Bradley Jr. trade, swiped 70 bases for Double-A Portland in 2022, a skill that could become even more valuable in 2023 based on MLB’s new rule changes. Will the 25-year-old hit enough to stick in the majors? That’s to be determined. But Hamilton’s speed alone makes him a potential asset at the highest level, especially as Boston looks to overcome the losses of Xander Bogaerts (free agency) and Trevor Story (elbow injury) in the middle of its infield. Hamilton also is on the Red Sox’s 40-man roster.
Bryan Mata, RHP
Mata, the top pitching prospect in the Red Sox system, has faced an arduous road to the majors, mostly due to injuries, including Tommy John surgery that wiped out his entire 2021 season. The 23-year-old is back healthy (knock on wood) and ready to burst onto the scene, though, featuring impressive raw stuff and a fastball that reaches triple digits. The Red Sox have groomed Mata as a starter to this point, but there’s a chance he eventually relocates to the bullpen, where his arsenal will play up. It could depend on his early season progress at Worcester and where Boston needs him most.
Brandon Walter, LHP
Walter, unlike Mata, doesn’t light up the radar gun, instead sitting between 89-92 mph with his fastball last season. But the 26-year-old lefty is an excellent strike thrower who can generate swing and misses and limit free passes. He has a deceptive delivery, attacking from a low arm slot, and definitely is among the Red Sox’s next wave of starting pitchers, with a 2023 call-up a near-certainty so long as he remains healthy and effective at Worcester.
Chris Murphy, LHP
Murphy, 24, isn’t flashy, by any means. He doesn’t have jaw-dropping velocity or a standout pitch, instead relying on the sum of his parts to keep hitters off balance. The repertoire might lead to a multi-inning relief role for Murphy, whereas Walter projects more favorably as a starter thanks to impeccable command. But he, too, is on the cusp of reaching the big leagues, joining both Mata and Walter on Boston’s 40-man roster to begin the 2023 season.