March 9, 2021

Red Sox's Top 10 Prospects (According To Keith Law)

Keith Law lists the Red Sox's Top 20 Prospects in 2021:

The Red Sox are rebuilding, as peculiar as that sounds, but the system is clearly on the upswing, boosted by some strong player development work and a couple of productive trades. Their drafts have been very productive the last half-dozen years . . .

1. Jeter Downs, 2B/SS (Top 100 rank: No. 56)

From the Top 100: Downs has been traded twice now, with the second deal bringing him to the Red Sox as part of the return for Mookie Betts, just in time for the second base job in Boston to open up right in front of him. Downs is an advanced hitter for his age, making hard contact with a line drive-oriented swing that helped him lead the High-A California League in doubles in 2019 while he had the league's 11th-lowest strikeout rate. He's played primarily shortstop, but he's going to end up at another position, most likely second base, where he should be above average. He may not have the huge upside of other prospects on this list, but he has a pretty high floor as someone who'll hit around .300 with a ton of doubles, a strong OBP, and some added value on defense at second or third.

2. Triston Casas, 1B (Top 100 rank: No. 87)

From the Top 100: Casas was the Red Sox's first-round pick in 2018 based on their belief that he was an advanced bat with power potential who would play even at first base. Casas lets the ball travel deep at the plate, helping him control the zone, and worked on handling hard stuff on the inner half over the summer at Boston's alternate site. When he rotates his hips, he can show big power, especially to his pull side, although he showed vulnerability on fastballs up in the zone in 2019, something he worked on over the summer. He has a clear two-strike approach, unusual for a teenage hitter and even more so for hitters today, where he gets very wide and shortens up to put the ball in play at the expense of some power. The Red Sox have tinkered with him at third base, but that's a longshot to be more than an emergency option. If his bat is what they think it is, and he can continue to hit for power and draw walks as he did in 2019, he'll profile just fine over at first.

3. Jarren Duran, OF (Top 100 rank: No. 93)

From the Top 100: Duran changed his swing in 2020 to drive the ball more in the air, addressing what I thought was the big issue with his outlook: He struck out too much for a guy who wasn't hitting for power or making consistent hard contact. Duran is a 70 runner who is a plus defender in center and might end up a 70 out there as well, while at the plate he has been a good singles hitter so far in pro ball, but with an isolated power of just .105 in 2019 between High A and Double A at age 22. Now that he's lofting the ball more, and has gotten stronger, he should at least see double digits in homers and more doubles (and triples, thanks to his speed) that will balance out any swing and miss he's likely to have. We'll see how well it carries over into games, but it's enough to change his outlook from someone outside the top 100 in 2020 to on the list now.

4. Jay Groome, LHP
5. Thad Ward, RHP
6. Gilberto Jimenez, OF
7. Bryan Mata, RHP
8. Bobby Dalbec, 3B/1B
9. Tanner Houck, RHP
10. Chris Murphy, LHP . . .

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