While we wait for the 2020 MLB season to get underway, it’s time to take a closer look at players who could one day be on opening day rosters. For the next month or two, we’ll be examining each team’s farm system, which will contain several prospects that will either one day be contributors for them, or could be used to acquire impact major leaguers.
Since we’ll be going in alphabetical order by city, our fourth farm system overview will be of the Boston Red Sox. We’ll rank their top ten prospects, discuss some of their other notable minor leaguers, and then analyze the overall state of the farm system.
#1: 1B Triston Casas
Height: 6’4″ Weight: 238 lbs
Drafted: 26th Overall- 2018
Hit: 55 Power: 60 Field: 55 Arm: 60 Speed: 30
Overall Grade: 56.3
First basemen have been devalued in today’s game, but still, elite hitters will always have a place in today’s game. Therefore, even if corner infielder Triston Casas has to move off of third base, he’ll be an impact contributor in the major leagues. The 19-year-old surprisingly fell to the 26th pick in the draft, but because of that, Boston was able to add the type of high-ceiling talent they desperately needed. Despite being a lefty slugger, Casas doesn’t have the same swing and miss concerns, and most importantly, he walks at a high rate. Therefore, he’ll get on-base at an above-average clip, and to top it off, he’s already tapping in to the extreme power he has. With a cannon for an arm, perhaps Casas can stick at third base, but his lackluster quickness and big frame mean he’ll probably end up at first base, where his soft hands should make him a plus defender. It’s obviously early in the process of development, but there are a lot of Matt Olson similarities here, which is a fringe 4-WAR player; Casas is just an absolute masher, and should move through the minors relatively quicky.
#2: 3B Bobby Dalbec
Height: 6’4″ Weight: 225 lbs
Drafted: 4th Round- 2016
Hit: 40 Power: 60 Field: 55 Arm: 67.5 Speed: 40
Overall Grade: 53.35
There isn’t a great track record of players with absurd strikeout rates succeeding at the big-league level (Mike Olt). However, if there is any time where that type of player could succeed, it’s in this era of baseball, and perhaps for Bobby Dalbec, that will eventually not be a concern. After all, the 24-year-old decreased his strikeout rate significantly between Double-A and Triple-A, and in the process, hit for both a high on-base percentage and for a lot of power. In fact, Dalbec’s power is strong enough to even rival Casas, and should he continue to walk at a 14-15% clip, his whiff issues may not matter. Plus, good hands and a potentially 70-grade arm give him a positive outlook defensively, so in the end, there’s a good chance he ends up as a solid player on both sides of the ball. Obviously, Rafael Devers is the Red Sox’ third baseman of the future, but if he can continue to produce at such a high level, Dalbec will find a place in Boston’s lineup very soon- there is no denying his upside, especially offensively.
#3: RHP Noah Song
Height: 6’4″ Weight: 200 lbs
Drafted: 4th Round- 2019
Fastball: 60 Breaking Ball: 55 Third Pitch: 47.5 Command: 50
Overall Grade: 53
If Noah Song was a typical prospect, he would’ve easily had been a first-round pick in this past year’s MLB draft. However, the 22-year-old has a two-year military commitment with the Naval Academy before he can pitch professionally, so he slipped to the fourth round, where Boston took a chance on him. After all, when he’s pitching, he flashes significant potential. His delivery is very repeatable, and he’s able to reach high 90s MPH easily with his fastball, which comes with plenty of late life. Additionally, he possesses to above-average breaking balls that generate plenty of whiffs, and although he hasn’t thrown his changeup much, he shows enough feel for it to become an average offering. Song may not be able to pitch until he’s 24-years-old, which means he’ll be significantly behind his development. Even then, he is talented enough to at least be a productive starting pitcher through his six pre-free agent years; Boston still has to feel great about their selection of Song in the fourth-round.
#4: SS Matthew Lugo
Height: 6’1″ Weight: 185 lbs
Drafted: 2nd Round- 2019
Hit: 55 Power: 50 Field: 50 Arm: 55 Speed: 55
Overall Grade: 52.5
The Red Sox didn’t make their first pick until pick #43 due to luxury tax penalties, but somehow, they managed to add multiple first-round caliber prospects to the farm system. Coming out of the Carlos Beltran Academy in Puerto Rico, Matthew Lugo was the 22nd ranked prospect on my draft board, yet he ended up being the 69th player selected, albeit for on an over-slot deal for $1.1 million. The 18-year-old is very projectable, as he should develop enough power with his athletic frame, and his approach and feel for contact is advanced for his age- he possesses a very smooth swing. Furthermore, he’s also a good athlete, and overall, there isn’t a clear weakness in his game. Now, he’s still a raw prospect, given his age, but when it’s all set and done, he should be an everyday shortstop, and has the chance to move quickly through the minors.
#5: RHP Bryan Mata
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 160 lbs
Signed: January 27, 2016
Fastball: 57.5 Breaking Ball: 55 Third Pitch: 55 Command: 47.5
Overall Grade: 51.875
With a power slider, a solid breaking ball, and a quality changeup, Bryan Mata has the pure pitching arsenal needed to be a front-line starting pitcher. However, I’d feel a lot better about his fastball if it wasn’t a sinker, as sinkers don’t generally fare well in the majors, though his ground ball rates have been excellent. Also, as expected for a young pitcher filling into his body, the 20-year-old still is refining his command, though that also improved this season. Obviously, Mata is clearly progressing well, and is on the right track to being a middle-of-the-rotation starter in the future. The key for the Red Sox is to continue to be patient with him, as with Song’s military commitment, Mata be their best pitching prospect by default.
#6: SS Antoni Flores
Height: 6’1″ Weight: 190 lbs
Signed: July 2, 2017
Hit: 52.5 Power: 50 Field: 50 Arm: 60 Speed: 50
Overall Grade: 51.75
Another young prospect, Antoni Flores was brought in for $1.4 million in the 2017 international signing period out of Venezuela. Similar to Lugo, the 19-year-old is pretty advanced given his age; his approach is advanced, should have at least average power, and is adequate defensively. However, unlike Lugo, he doesn’t quite have the same type of ceiling, as there isn’t a specific tool that stands out- his arm strength is what stands out, yet that isn’t exactly the best standout skill. I could see him becoming an everyday shortstop, but ultimately, he should make a fine utility infielder, since he doesn’t possess a significant flaw.
#7: LHP Jay Groome
Height: 6’6″ Weight: 220 lbs
Drafted: 12th Overall- 2016
Fastball: 57.5 Breaking Ball: 60 Third Pitch: 50 Command: 45
Overall Grade: 50.875
If health wasn’t a factor, Jay Groome would have a case as the Red Sox’ best prospect. However, he dealt with multiple injuries in his first season in pro ball, and in his second season, he had to undergo Tommy John surgery. Therefore, he’s only recently built up his fastball velocity, and the development of his breaking ball (still a great offering) and changeup have lagged as well. Considering he’s only pitched 66 innings in this minor-league career, it’s very hard to judge Groome, who does still have a plus two-pitch mix, and his major league prospects. Still, considering his command isn’t expected to be ideal, it may make sense, if he’s not going to be able to pitch 100+ innings, for him to a high leverage reliever, where he could vault through the farm system and be an effective piece in the majors by 2021 or 2022. That may be unfortunate after Boston selected him with the 12th overall pick in the 2016 MLB draft, but we’ve seen relievers with a similar profile, such as Drew Pomeranz, cash in on multi-year contracts, so he is still definitely a valuable piece for the Red Sox.
#8: OF Nick Decker
Height: 6’0″ Weight: 200 lbs
Drafted: 2nd Round- 2018
Hit: 45 Power: 55 Field: 50 Arm: 55 Speed: 47.5
Overall Grade: 50.575
After selecting Casas in the first round of the 2018 MLB draft, the Red Sox double-dipped with prep lefty slugger prospects, drafting outfielder Nick Decker in the second round. Decker, 20, doesn’t have the contact skills that you would like, but he’s able to make up for it with a nice approach that should lead to solid walk rates, and he showcased his raw power with a .224 isolated power (ISO) in 197 plate appearances in Low-A this season. That’s his main tool, as defensively, he should be fine at a corner outfield spot, but nevertheless, his value will come from his power. It’s likely that he’s a fourth OF type who you look for to hit a home run off the bench, but still, he’s a young prospect, so Boston can hope that he can exceed those expectations.
#9: RHP Tanner Houck
Height: 6’4″ Weight: 210 lbs
Drafted: 24th Overall- 2017
Fastball: 55 Breaking Ball: 55 Third Pitch: 45 Command: 47.5
Overall Grade: 50.25
After dominating at the University of Missouri for three years, the Red Sox felt confident in Tanner Houck’s potential when they selected him in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft. While he hasn’t quite lived up to that ceiling so far, the 23-year-old is still trending towards being a major league contributor, whether as a starting pitcher or a reliever. This season appeared to be a breakthrough for him, as by utilizing a slightly higher arm slot and utilizing a four-seam fastball more often, his strikeout rate improved, though his command struggled a little as he got used to the new delivery. Plus, his slider has plenty of break to it, and if he needs it, he still has a sinker with a lot of late movement. With a crossfire delivery and a two-pitch mix, I live Houck’s ceiling as a multi-inning reliever more than as an average starting pitcher, which is what the Red Sox began to use him as in 2019. Now, with a new lead man in Chaim Bloom, we don’t know what Houck’s role will be, but if it’s in the bullpen, he could easily make his debut this season- similarly to Groome, he hasn’t been what the Red Sox thought he’d be, but nevertheless, he’s an important asset.
#10: 2B Cameron Cannon
Height: 5’10” Weight: 196 lbs
Drafted: 2nd Round- 2019
Hit: 55 Power: 45 Field: 47.5 Arm: 50 Speed: 47.5
Overall Grade: 49.125
Ironically, the Red Sox highest overall selection in the 2019 MLB draft is the third-best prospect from that draft class- Cameron Cannon wraps up this list at #10. The Arizona product hits for a lot of contact, as demonstrated by his .478 on-base percentage in his junior year in college. However, that’s about it for what the 21-year-old has to offer; power is below-average at best, and even when he gets on base, he’s not a great athlete. Whether it be at second base, shortstop, or third base, he’ll be a subpar defender with fringy arm strength, and if his hit tool isn’t quite elite, can he make up for that? He figures to be a nice bench bat with his pure hitting ability, but right now, I have a hard time imagining Cannon ever becoming an everyday player in the majors.
Best of The Rest
- Jarren Duran has had some major production and participated in the Futures Game this season, but most of that was due to a high batting average on balls in play (BABIP), and all he really brings to table is his 70-grade speed.
Farm System Overview
The Red Sox farm system was depleted by trades made by former President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski, but over the past few years, they’ve at least made some strides through the draft. Now, between injuries and Song’s predicament, there is a lot of uncertainty, though Casas is trending towards being a blue-chip prospect, and he and Dalbec should mash at the major-league level. They’re still a bottom-ten farm system, however, and with the major league roster aging, new Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom has his hands full.