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2021 Boston Red Sox: Top 10 Promising Prospects

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There once was a time not so long ago when the Boston Red Sox ranked, according to MLB Pipeline, as the number two farm system in all of Major League Baseball. That was, of course, before Dave Dombrowski took over as President of Baseball Operations in August of 2015. Dombrowski, known inside the baseball world as a “dealing man”, someone that can take a team to the promised land, but at the price of the farm system. Before being let go from the Red Sox Organization in 2019, Dombrowski built through trades and free-agent signings the most winning Red Sox team in franchise history.

In 2018, a group of men hoisted “a piece of metal” high above their heads, as they road Duck Boats through the streets of Boston as World Series Champions. That team is now just forever a memory. The 2021 Boston Red Sox are now the focus, and on the surface, they look rather ugly, especially compared to their American League foes. Cher Horowitz, a character from the 1995 movie Clueless, described a Monet painting as, “from far away, it’s ok, but up close, it’s a big old mess.” Did Dave Dombrowski hand over, to Chaim Bloom, a “full-on Monet?”

On the surface, the Red Sox appear ugly, yet when you begin to peel back the layers, actual beauty begins to emerge. The Red Sox could very well be built to defy the odds in 2021. The talent in the farm system could be far greater than anyone could have imagined. The Red Sox unequivocally have young men worth fan excitement.

Do the 2021 Boston Red Sox Have What It Takes to Be Anything Like the 2013 Ballclub?

2021 Boston Red Sox: The Prospect Headliners

Triston Casas

Age: 21

Acquired: 2018 Draft, 1st Round, 26th Overall by Boston

School: American Heritage (Florida)

Highest Level: High-A

ETA: Mid 2022

Position: First Base

Scouting Report

Triston Casas is the name every Red Sox fan should familiarize. He’s the large-framed, lefty-swinging, plus-plus powered, future first baseman of the Boston Red Sox. Casas was taken, out of high school, with the first Red Sox pick in the 2018 draft. Bad luck began his career, as in just his second game of professional baseball, he injured his thumb, requiring season-ending surgery. In 2019, at the age of 19, Casas split time between Class A Greenville and High-A Salem. In 118 games at Greenville Casas slashed .254/.472/.820, and was promoted, near the end of the season to Salem.

Casas was primed to enter 2020 at High-A, with the hopes of ascension to Double-A Portland. Had it not been for the canceled 2020 minor league season, there is no reason to believe Casas might have started the 2021 season at Triple-A Worcester. Casas impressed at the 2020 Red Sox Alternate Site in Pawtucket, where he was constantly hitting light-tower blasts.

With the makeup of a perennial All-Star, one that can hit for average, get on base, and field his position competently, the future seems nothing but bright for the young sweet swinging lefty. Look for Casas to be the everyday first baseman by 2023, helping to anchor the next great Red Sox team. It’s also fun to note the Casas looks up to Reds first baseman Joey Votto, and emulates his game. The Red Sox can only hope to have the next Joey Votto in Triston Casas.

Jeter Downs

Age: 22

Acquired: 2020 Trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers

School: Edward Pace (Florida)

Highest Level: AA

ETA: Late 2021

Position: Second Base

Scouting Report

Jeter is a name synonymous with the New York Yankees and a name Red Sox fans often villainize. Get ready Fenway Faithful, Jeter is coming. If the name Jeter doesn’t bring added pressure to the soft-spoken second baseman, whom he was traded for sure will. That’s right, Jeter Downs was the centerpiece in the trade that saw Mookie Betts head out west to be amongst the rich and famous of La La Land.

Jeter Downs was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds as their competitive-balance pick, 32nd overall in 2017. Downs was traded in 2018 to the Los Angeles Dodgers, for Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, Matt Kemp, and Kyle Farmer. An offseason later, Downs found himself heading to Boston along with Alex Verdugo and Connor Wong, for Mookie Betts and David Price.

If the 2020 minor league season had been played, Jeter Downs would likely have found himself ending his season at Triple-A Pawtucket primed potentially to be the 2021 Boston Red Sox everyday second baseman. Downs spent his 2019 season split between High-A and Double-A. He had a line of .269/.354/.507/.861 in 107 games at high-A, and .333/.429/.688/1.117 in 12 games at Double-A. Downs has the workings of an everyday major league talent and his bat is pretty much major league ready, but he’ll spend most of 2021 at Triple-A Worcester to work on his defensive skills at second base.

Noah Song

Age: 23

Acquired: 2019 Draft, 4th Round, 137th Overall by Boston

School: United States Naval Academy

Highest Level: Low-A

ETA: 2023

Position: Starting Pitcher

Scouting Report

Noah Song is an unreal talent, first-round draft level talent. A righty with a fastball that sits at 97 mph, to go along with an 86 mph slider. Song finished his senior season third in NCAA Division I baseball, with 161 strikeouts in 97 innings. His 15.41 strikeouts per nine innings was the best mark since 2009 and the sixth-best all-time in Division I history. How does someone with that type of pedigree fall to the Red Sox at the 137th overall pick? The simple answer: The Navy.

Song graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2019 with a degree in engineering, and a commitment to serve his country. Before entering into his Navy commitment, Song pitched in seven games at Low-A Lowell in 2019, where he had a 1.07 ERA in 5.1 innings pitched, a WHIP of 0.56, and six strikeouts.

The ceiling is potentially lowered for someone in Song’s position, with a higher probability that he never pitches for the Red Sox, or that when he does, his stuff will have diminished. Having pitched at an elite level in college, and when his two-year Navy commitment is complete, there is also the off chance Song moves through the ranks of the Red Sox minor leagues at an accelerated rate. If Song does move quickly, look for him to make an impact on the major league ballclub by 2023.

Tanner Houck

Age: 24

Acquired: 2017 Draft, 1st Round, 24th Overall by Boston

School: University of Missouri

Highest Level: MLB

ETA: Late 2021

Position: Starting Pitcher

Scouting Report

Tanner Houck is the most familiar name on this list. That’s entirely because he is the only one on this list that has reached the major league level. Houck absolutely dazzled over three starts at the end of 2020, going 3-0, with a 0.53 ERA, and ERA+ of 895, in 17 innings against the playoff bound Braves, Yankees and Marlins. It’s amazing what the 2020 Red Sox were capable of doing when they received quality starting pitching.

As great as Houck looked in the starting role in 2020, he will need to spend time at AAA Worcester, to work on a third pitch, to go along with his wipeout slider, and fastball. The development of third pitch will be crucial for Houck if he’s to become a centerpiece in the Red Sox rotation. There is no reason to rush Houck, not with the added depth Chaim Bloom has created at the major league level for 2021.

Houck’s slider, and Chris Sale-esque delivery is hard to ignore, and hard not to just totally salivate over. Just remember, development takes time. Imagine, just imagine, what Houck could develop into as a starter. The Red Sox could have their very own Chris Sale 2.0.

Jarren Duran

Age: 24

Acquired: 2018 Draft, 7th Round, 220th Overall by Boston

School: California State University Long Beach

Highest Level: AA

ETA: Late 2021

Position: Outfield

Scouting Report

Jarren Duran is the Heir apparent in center field. Red Sox fans had been spoiled since 2013 when they first caught a glimpse of what Jackie Bradley Jr. was capable of doing with his glove. Have you seen what Bradley is capable of doing with his right arm? No? Yes? Either way, watch down below.

Getting back on the topic… Duran’s speed is his best tool, as he’s been compared to Jacoby Ellsbury as a player with a nice mix of speed on the base paths and in center field. He can turn a triple into an inside-the-park home run in 15 seconds flat, as shown above. Duran has the ability to get on base, with his highest OBP being .456 at High-A Salem in 2019. And with his speed, a single could easily be turned into a double with a steal.

Duran, like Houck, is someone to be excited about, but not to be rushed. Much like fellow late-round draft pick Mookie Betts, Duran transitioned from second base to the outfield while in the minors. Duran would benefit from at-bats and development in the outfield at Triple-A. Duran also changed his swing between 2019 and 2020, adding more power, which he displayed at the 2020 Alternate Site in Pawtucket in 2020.

Bryan Mata

Age: 21

Acquired: 2016, International Free Agency

School: Not Listed

Highest Level: AA

ETA: 2022

Position: Starting Pitcher

Scouting Report

There have been quite a bit of conflicting reports on Bryan Mata. Some view Mata as a mid-rotation type piece, with the potential to be a star in the bullpen. Others see him as the future ace of the Boston Red Sox. Mata has worked diligently on his slider, his delivery mechanics, and four-pitch mix, which could easily solidify his role as a starter.

Mata’s transition from high-A to Double-A in 2019 was a bit rocky. While at high-A Salem Mata had a 1.75 ERA, a WHIP of 1.45 and 9.89 strikeouts per nine innings, in 51.1 innings. Mata was then a promoted to AA Portland, where he did not fair as well, as he pitched to a 5.03 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, and his strikeouts per nine went down to 8.71 in 53.2 innings. Mata will likely begin 2021 in Triple-A Worcester. Mata is still very young, at 21-years-old, and a full season of minor league pitching will do wonders for his development.

Jay Groome

Age: 22

Acquired: 2016 Draft, 1st Round, 12th Overall by Boston

School: Barnegat (New Jersey)

Highest Level: Low-A

ETA: 2023

Position: Starting Pitcher

The Skinny

Life as a baseball professional hasn’t been an easy go for Jay Groome. Coming out of high school, Jay Groome was highly regarded. We’re talking MLB Pipeline top-rated prospect for the 2016 draft, Clayton Kershaw comparisons kind of regard. It was makeup and signability concerns that had Groome fall to the Red Sox with the 12th overall pick. Groome’s issue hasn’t been his makeup, but rather his inability to stay healthy. In four years as a Red Sox prospect, he’s pitched in just 66 innings. He missed significant time to strain and forearm soreness during his first professional season and lost his entire second full season to Tommy John Surgery.

The 2020 season would have been huge for Groome. He’s regained his fastball that tops out at 96 mph and a curveball that scouts referred to as the best in the 2016 draft. Groome’s six-foot-six, 220-pound frame, and repaired elbow will most likely enter 2021 at Double-A Portland. It’s hard to give up on someone with this amount of talent and is only still 22-years-old. Groome has front-of-the-rotation type stuff, and could be the starting pitcher the Red Sox have so desperately been searching for since Clay Buchholz.

Gilberto Jimenez

Age: 20

Acquired: 2017, International Free Agency

School: Not Listed

Highest Level: Low-A

ETA: Late 2023

Position: Outfield

Scouting Report

Gilberto Jimenez was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2017 for $10,000 and quickly began to shine in professional baseball. His pure tools are some of the better in the Red Sox farm system and he’s ranked as the organization’s best overall athlete. His speed is on the same level as Jarren Duran, and his arm strength is pristine. He hit .359 at Low-A Lowell, winning the batting title, and he finished the 2019 season with a .393 OBP, .470 SLG, and a .873 OPS in 59 games.

Jimenez, still only 20 years old, and having never played above low-A still has a great deal more development left before he’s major league ready. It’s not hard to imagine a future outfield anchored by the likes of Jarren Duran and Gilberto Jimenez.

Thaddeus Ward

Age: 24

Acquired: 2018 Draft, 5th Round, 160th Overall by Boston

School: University of Central Florida

Highest Level: High-A

ETA: Late 2022

Position: Starting Pitcher

Scouting Report

Thaddeus Ward is a Fort Myers kid, and former Red Sox Spring Training batboy. He is most likely just living the dream. Drafted out of Central Florida in 2018 as a reliever, Ward transitioned to a starting role once in the Red Sox system. Ward went 34.2 innings without allowing an earned run and posted a system-best 2.14 ERA and 157 strikeouts in his first full season as a minor leaguer in 2019. Not a bad transition into the rotation, not a bad one at all.

Ward is projected to be a back-end starter with an average sinker, cutter and slider mix, with the potential of the cutter and slider becoming plus pitchers. Ward is also projected to use his pitches to generate swinging strikes and weak contact. Ward will continue to develop as a starter, and if it does not work out in the long run he could easily transition back to his college roots and return to a high leverage relief role.

Nick Yorke

Age: 18

Acquired: 2020 Draft, 1st Round, 17th Overall by Boston

School: Archbishop Mitty (California)

Highest Level: High School

ETA: 2024

Position: Second Base

Scouting Report

The shock of the 2020 draft. Nick Yorke was Chaim Bloom’s first pick as the new leader of the Red Sox front office. Yorke was ranked 139th by MLB.com and number 96 by Baseball America coming into the 2020 draft, yet was taken 17th overall by the Red Sox. Ranked the best pure prepster hitter on the West Coast by scouts, Chaim Bloom and company felt a COVID cancelled senior season, and shoulder surgery his junior year hindered teams from regarding Yorke higher.

Yorke has the ability to become an elite hitter, as he possesses excellent bat speed, controls the strike zone, with the potential to be a .300, 20 home run hitter. Before Yorke’s shoulder surgery in 2019, he was an everyday shortstop, but now slots to become a future everyday second baseman.

2021 Boston Red Sox: Potent Notables

Connor Seabold, RHP. Aldo Ramirez, RHP. Jeisson Rosario, CF. Hudson Potts, 3B/2B. Matthew Lugo, SS. Nick Decker, OF. Chris Murphy, LHP. Brainer Bonaci, SS/3B. Connor Wong, C. Blaze Jordan, 1B/3B.

2021 Boston Red Sox: Final Thought

The Red Sox have struggled mightily to develop starting pitchers, with the last viable starter being Clay Buchholz who was drafted back in 2005. There won’t be a homegrown starter on the 2021 Boston Red Sox roster, as Houck will most likely begin 2021 at AAA Worcester. The last homegrown pitcher to start a ballgame for the Red Sox was Brian Johnson when he started seven games in 2019. Trey Ball, whom the Red Sox used their seventh overall selection on in the 2013 draft was amongst one of the club’s worst picks. Ball never made it above AA. The Red Sox also missed on starting pitcher picks with Henry Owens and Jalen Beeks.

The Red Sox built their 2018 World Champion rotation on trades and free agent signings. There wasn’t an early September surprise no-hitter from a top prospect, or a gutsy World Series outing from a 23-year-old promising starter. 2018 was built from outside, but maybe the next Red Sox World Series Champion rotation can be built from within. The promise of Houck, Groome, Mata, Song and Ward is something the Red Sox haven’t had since the likes of Lester and Buchholz.

*If you’re ever in need of some up to date, in depth Red Sox prospect information, look no further than SoxProspects.com. Truly one of the best prospect sites on the interweb!

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1 comment

  • Al says:

    Time to stop blaming Dombrowski’s trades, if you actually look at the deals he made, you’ll see that Yoan Moncada was obviously the best player traded, but after that, what? Probably Manny Margot or Mauricio Dubon? Kopech is still a lottery ticket at this point, but pretty much everyone else he traded hasn’t done much. A good many are already out of professional ball. The bigger problem has been the abysmal drafts, a problem that pre-dates Dombrowski. The 2011 draft was great, but since then Benintendi has been the only player since who’s performed well in MLB. 2016 is particularly glaring, they picked 2 players ahead of Pete Alonso, Bo Bichette and Bryan Reynolds. So fixing the scouting department should be the focus.

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