The calendar turns to late February in Fort Myers. The heat is brewing up to peak uncomfortable temperatures. The sweet sound of the bat to ball permeates the air at Fenway South. Live baseball is nearly upon eager fans. Fenway Park will be allowed to fill at 12% capacity for the foreseeable future of the 2021 season. Red Sox fans, downing overpriced Buds, stuffing your face full of all the Fenway Franks you can handle, and singing off-key with Neil Diamond is nearly back!
There is a cohort of fans out there, ones that are none too excited about the 2021 Boston Red Sox. Fans do have reason to be skeptical. The roster does not feature a flashy 2021 free agent name like Bauer, Springer, Realmuto, or Ozuna. Instead, Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom went with proven winners like Enrique Hernández and Marwin González and added low risk, high reward signings with players like Hunter Renfroe, Hirokazu Sawamura, Matt Andriese, and Garrett Richards.
The 2021 Boston Red Sox does not look anything like how they did during the 2018 Championship season, but that doesn’t mean they can’t and won’t compete in 2021. The Red Sox have quite a few non-roster invitees that fans should keep an eye on this spring.
2021 Boston Red Sox: Keep Your Eyes Peeled and Ears Open for These Guys
Taken by the Red Sox with the 100th selection in the 2018 Major League Baseball draft, Durbin Feltman, at the time, was considered to be quite the steal, having fallen to the third round. During his junior year at TCU, Feltman posted a 0.74 ERA, six saves, and 43 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings. Many believed that Feltman would ascend quickly to the majors, even debuting as early as 2018. Feltman excelled at low-A Lowell, not allowing a hit or walk in four innings, and had a quick promotion to class-A Greenville on July 10th, 2018, compiling a 2.57 ERA, walking one, and striking out 14 in seven innings of work. Feltman ended the 2018 season at Advanced-A Salem.
Feltman’s meteoric rise continued as he entered the 2019 season at Double-A Portland. It was at Portland when Feltman began to struggle. A 5.36 ERA over 43 relief appearances with 54 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings of work halted Feltman, and he did not finish above AA ball in 2019. The lost 2020 MiLB season proved detrimental to Feltman’s development as he was not one of the 60 invited players to be part of the Red Sox player pool. Feltman began to find his fastball again during the fall instructionals, regaining, thanks to a refined delivery of the 96 MPH zip on his fastball.
If Feltman performs to the capability promised out of college, he just might be the perfect late-inning reliever the 2021 Boston Red Sox have been looking for since Craig Kimbrel left after the 2018 season.
Since becoming a part of the Red Sox organization in 2018, Thaddeus Ward has done nothing but succeed as a pitcher. Ward spent the 2019 MiLB season between A and advanced A, where he posted a 2.14 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 157 strikeouts over 126 1/3 innings. If not for the canceled 2020 MiLB season, Ward likely would have begun at Double-A Portland with a likely ascension to Triple-A Pawtucket by the end of the season. The Red Sox have struggled to developed solid starting pitching, and Ward looks like he could be quite the bright spot. A four-pitch mix of an average curveball, fastball mix, and an above-average slider and cutter projects Ward as a back-end starter.
It’s not likely that Ward will be a part of the 2021 Boston Red Sox, at least not to open the season, and will most likely begin the 2021 MiLB season at Portland. It is not out of the realm of possibility that Ward could make the quick jump to Triple-A Worcester and find himself a part of the Red Sox pen by September.
Primed to be the future superstar first baseman of the Boston Red Sox, the expectations are sky high for Triston Casas. The ceiling for Casas is a perennial all-star type of high. Raw power and strong instincts project him not solely as a bat-first first baseman. Casas’ plus bat speed, above-average hit tool, and power to all fields are what give him superstar potential. Casas won’t be ready to join the 2021 Boston Red Sox right out of the gate, but he is the future of the franchise, someone that will be part of the next great Red Sox team.
Speaking of the next great Red Sox team, fans better recognize Jeter Downs. Arguably the centerpiece in the trade that sent Mookie Betts to La La Land, Downs might have a familiar first name to Red Sox fans, one they’re not too fond of, but they’re going to enjoy this kid. Can anyone replace a generational talent, MVP, and World Champion? No, and quite frankly it’s not fair to hold the trade against Downs.
Downs is the current number two prospect on the Red Sox system, projected with the ceiling of an everyday impact player at second base, a .280/20+ home run profile, with average-to better five tools. The future is bright for this Jeter. And yes, Red Sox fans should be very excited about shouting the name Jeter with joy at Fenway. Casas and Downs owning the right side of the infield for 2023 and beyond should excite even the most casual of Red Sox fans.
Duran, of any of the men listed in this article, is the one most likely to have an impact on the 2021 Boston Red Sox. While Duran hasn’t played above Double-A and his MiLB numbers aren’t eye-popping, he is easily one of the more impacted players for losing the 2020 season. Duran brought a swing change with him to the alternate site in Pawtucket during 2020 and showed impressive growth in power.
Longtime Red Sox centerfielder Jackie Bradly Jr. is still a free agent, and if the asking price comes down, a short-term deal with the fan-favorite would be a welcome bridge to Duran. Not to mention, learning centerfield from the best defensive centerfielder in the game could do wonders for Duran’s development.
Elite speed, an above-average hit tool, and a swing change add so much value to Duran’s overall value. Duran also played winter league baseball with Puerto Rico, winning MVP of the Winter League World Series, going 5-for-15 with two home runs, two doubles, six RBIs, and scoring seven runs. Duran should start the 2021 season at AAA Worcester but might make it to the 2021 Boston Red Sox outfield sooner rather than later.
The youngest guy on the list at just 18 years old, Nick Yorke was taken by the Red Sox with the 17th pick in the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft. To say the Red Sox taking Yorke at 17 was a surprise might be an understatement. Not a single person saw the Red Sox taking the Southern California prepster with their first pick.
What became an even bigger shock was when the Red Sox invited the recent high school graduate to the alternate site to begin his professional journey. The biggest of all the shocks was when Yorke was able to hold his own with more seasoned players. Yorke possesses an impressive amount of bat speed, allowing him to catch up to increased velocity quicker than others his age.
Yorke will probably begin the 2021 MiLB season with the Low-A Salem Red Sox, and if he plays well, will likely finish at High-A Greenville, setting up beginning 2022 at AA Portland. It will be a bit longer before Red Sox fans catch a glimpse of Yorke at the MLB level, as he most likely won’t debut until the 2024 season.
Spring Training for the 2021 Boston Red Sox should be quite a bit of fun to watch. There will be a youthful presence at Fenway South, the kind of youthful presence that fans should really get behind. While the 2021 Boston Red Sox is not favored to win the World Series, the future is bright. The Red Sox are building toward a sustainable winning model. The type of model that competes year in, year out for a championship. Jump on the bandwagon now, because it’s going to be one heck of a wild ride.
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