|Original Published Date: December 3, 2019|
Long gone is the system that produced Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Rafael Devers. But, when you trade away your system to produce a winner, it’s the price you must pay. The funny thing is, they got their World Series ring, but Dave Dombrowski lost his job in the process; partially because he traded away his young prospects.
After a lot of discussion and debate, Triston Casas leads our list. Since many fantasy owners read our site, Jarren Duran does garner a lot of support as the top dog, but in the end, Casas’ age, power potential and the growth in his hit tool, especially over the second half of the year, move him to top. But, we like Duran a lot. Not only does he have plus speed, but there are also enough bat-to-ball skills and pop to get full-time playing time at the highest level. That said, I do recognize there is a fourth outfielder risk.
Digging a little deeper is the most intriguing name in the system – Gilberto Jimenez. He only did it in Lowell of the New York Penn League, but he showed plus speed, good pop and the ability to hit. In the end, he might be the best prospect on the list.
Prospect Quick Shot
- Top Prospect: Triston Casas
- Biggest Mover: Gilberto Jimenez
- Emerging Prospect: Matthew Lugo
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1. Triston Casas (1B)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 1B
- Tools Summary: Double-plus power and growth in his strikeout rate in the second half, points to real promise he won’t just be a three-true-outcome player.
Triston Casas was drafted in the first round of the 2018 MLB Draft and missed all but one game with a thumb injury. The Red Sox started him in Low-A to begin the 2019 season and he had a productive year slashing .254/.349/.472 with 18 home runs. He did get a cup of coffee in High-A playing two games to close out the year.
Casas has at least 70-grade power, he’ll work a walk and while the swing will get long, he made changes to his swing that reduced his strikeouts in the second half. Drafted as a third baseman, he’s already moved to first and that is where I see him staying.
While I’m encouraged with the progress he’s made with making more contact, he’s still only done it in A-Ball. He’s a big kid, so he’ll never make Altuvian contact, but if he can keep his strikeout rate in the mid-’20s with a 10% plus walk rate, he’ll have a chance to be an impact performer at the highest level. He projects to hit 30 plus home runs with plenty of RBIs and runs scored. He’ll likely start 2020 back in High-A but assuming he hits, he could see Double-A sometime in the second half.
2. Jarren Duran (OF)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF
- Tools Summary: Double-plus speed with enough strength to be a full-time regular. I think he hits enough to get playing time in Boston as soon as 2021.
Jarren Duran was one of the biggest pop-up guys in 2019. You can argue that he should have been already well known in prospect circles as his 2018 season was pretty darn good. In 67 games, he hit .357 with 24 stolen bases. However, he turned it up a notch to begin the 2019 season when he hit .387 in 50 games in the Carolina League and quickly earned a promotion to Double-A. Unfortunately, the .480 BABIP didn’t stick and he hit a more pedestrian .250 the remainder of the season.
Duran’s carrying tool is his double-plus speed that he demonstrated by stealing 46 bases last season. While he has below-average power, he has enough bat speed and strength to rap plenty of double and even hit 5 to 10 home runs annually.
The key to whether he’s a full-time regular or a fourth outfielder will be his ability to get on base. He makes good contact but can expand the strike zone. Assuming he can post a .330 plus OBP, he could be a disruptive leadoff type hitter. With both Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. due to become free agents in 2021, he could provide an interesting option for fantasy owners as soon as 2021.
3. Bobby Dalbec (3B)
- Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 1B/3B
- Tools Summary: Improvement in his strikeout rate gives hope that he’ll hit enough to get to his double-plus power.
I labeled Bobby Dalbec as a three true outcome player last year based on his double-plus power, good walk rate, and big swing and miss. But in 2019, he cut down his strikeout rate substantially. In his three previous seasons, he never posted a strikeout rate of lower than 30%. However, in 135 games across Double and Triple-A, he posted a 25% strikeout rate. That’s not great, but assuming a reasonable BABIP, he might be able to hit enough to get to his 30 plus home run power.
Assuming his reduced strikeout rate is real, Dalbec becomes a much more interesting prospect for me. He’s got a cannon for an arm and enough athleticism to stay at third but played several games at first last season. Since he’s blocked at third, first could be the more likely path for him to playing time in the Majors. The ceiling is a 30 plus home runs with a .250 batting average and a .330 plus OBP.
4. Gilberto Jimenez (OF)
- Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF with risk
- Tools Summary: Toolsy young player with a nice swing.
If you play in a Dynasty League, Gilberto Jimenez would be the player that I would want to own from this list. First, he’s not yet famous as the Red Sox only spent $10,000 to sign him in 2017 and therefore, he’s running a little under the radar. Second, he’s done nothing but hit over the past two seasons. In 2018, he hit .319 in the DSL and followed that up last season by hitting .363 in the New York Penn League as one of the six 18-year-olds in the league.
He has a compact swing with good bat speed and projects to be at least an average future hitter. Last season he only struck out 15% of the time. He’s an aggressive hitter but that could change as he matures. His best tool is his speed but is currently a poor base stealer as he’s getting caught too much given his double-plus speed. Again, as he matures, I expect that to improve. Finally, he has enough bat speed and as he puts on weight, he should be able to hit for some power.
If you add it all up, he could be a 10-30 player who can hit .270 with a .320 to .330 OBP. That’s an everyday player and a helpful fantasy asset.
5. Jay Groome (LHP)
- Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 SP with extreme risk
- Tools Summary: Size and stuff but he has not been able to stay healthy. He’s returning from TJ Surgery and 2020 will hopefully tell us a lot.
I saw Jason Groome in his draft year and was duly impressed. He was a big, strong kid with a fastball that touched 97 from the left side. Sure, his mechanics needed work, but he was only 17 years old. He appeared to be everything you would want in a first-round pick. The Red Sox agreed and selected him with the twelve-overall pick.
Since drafted, he just has not pitched much and when he has, it’s not been good. He struggled with early injuries and some personal issues and finally started to look better when he felt a twinge in his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery. He missed all of 2018 and most of 2019 except for three outings late in the season.
If the stuff returns and he can stay on the mound, the upside is enormous. At this point, I wouldn’t say he has ace potential, but it could be a number two starter. For Dynasty League owners, it’s been frustrating to own Groome. But, 2020 should tell us a lot about his future potential. If the stuff looks back, regardless of the control, I would be investing.
6. Bryan Mata (RHP)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP or Closer
- Tools Summary: Max effort delivery with premium velocity. The package might work better as a bullpen arm.
I scouted Bryan Mata in the Fall League in September and he came in as a late-inning reliever for the Peoria Javelinas. While the Red Sox have been developing him as a starter, based on his arm action, control and arsenal, I think he would work better as a high-leveraged bullpen arm.
He threw hard with his fastball topping out at 98 MPH. His best pitch was a nasty 90 MPH cutter which he complemented with a pretty good hard curve. The three pitches together got some ugly swings, but he also had trouble throwing them for consistent strikes. In fact, he’s struggled throughout his career to throw consistent strikes as he loses his release point because it appears, he’s overthrowing. It’s a max effort delivery for sure.
If it all comes together as a starter, he has a chance to be a number three starter. However, from what I saw, he might work better in the bullpen.
7. Thad Ward (RHP)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP
- Tools Summary: Plus fastball with average secondary pitches. Mechanics are not ideal which is leading to control issues. Bullpen risk.
Signed in the fifth round of the 2018 MLB Draft, Thad Ward pitched well in 2019 splitting his time equally between Low and High-A. He showed swing and miss stuff striking out over 11 per nine. While he controlled his arsenal well in the Carolina League, he was a bit wilder after his promotion to High-A walking five per nine.
In reviewing his mechanics, he has a quick arm swing with effort in his delivery. He falls off hard to first base on his landing and consequently is losing his arm slot which is likely leading to his poor control. The stuff is solid with a fastball that sits 91 to 93 MPH topping out at 95 with a decent slider and a feel for a changeup.
With improved control, his ceiling is a number four starter. If his control does not improve, he’ll likely move to the bullpen.
8. Tanner Houck (RHP)
- Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Closer
- Tools Summary: The move to the bullpen should allow his fastball to play up and that combined with his plus slider gives him the potential to see save opportunities.
The Red Sox had Tanner Houck start the 2019 season in Double-A. As a starter, he pitched ok posting a 4.25 ERA striking out nearly a batter an inning and walking 3.5 per nine. The effort got him a promotion to Triple-A where he finished the season pitching out of the bullpen.
In analyzing his delivery, the bullpen is really the best role for him. He pitches from a lower three-quarters delivery and his control will likely never be great. He’ll have plenty of deception and in short burst, that will make his stuff very difficult to pick-up. Plus, pitching in relief should put another tick or two on his fastball and when he combines that with his plus slider, he has the makings of a high-leverage bullpen arm.
9. Marcus Wilson (OF)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 OF
- Tools Summary: Intriguing power-speed potential. However, he’s never hit enough to allow them to play.
After Marcus Wilson posted a solid .295 average with nine home runs and 15 stolen bases in 2017, I became intrigued with a potential 20-20 performer. However, 2018 was not a good year and the Diamondbacks traded him to Boston in the deal that sent Blake Swihart to the desert. They started him in Double-A and it went poorly. He hit .161 in 19 games with 13 strikeouts in 65 plate appearances.
After a demotion to High-A, Wilson got his sea legs and performed well. In 47 games, he posted a 1.003 OPS. However, the strikeouts were still there and once he was promoted to Double-A, he hit .221. At 23, he’s still young but he needs to make better contact or the speed-power skills that he has will never be realized.
10. Matthew Lugo (SS)
- Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS with extreme risk
- Tools Summary: Nephew of Carlos Beltran. Raw but with plenty of tools.
Matthew Lugo was the first Puerto Rician player taken in the 2019 MLB Draft. While he’s raw, he has good athleticism that shows on both sides of the ball.
He spent most of 2019 in the GCL where in 40 games he slashed .252/.335/.324 striking out 23% of the time while walking 10% of the time. While he only stole three bases, he’s a plus runner with a good instinct on the base paths.
For Dynasty League owners, if you’re looking for young, high upside players with a baseball connection (he is Carlos Beltran’s nephew and attended his baseball academy), then Lugo should be considered. The upside is a Top 15 shortstop with power and speed. However, the blow-out rate is also high, so understand both the risk and reward.
11. Nick Decker (OF)
- Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 OF
- Tools Summary: Plus raw power but there is concern about whether he will hit enough.
Drafted in the second round of the 2018 MLB Draft, Nick Decker started the season at the Red Sox Complex before being sent to the NY Penn League to begin the 2019 season. Given his age, he played well slashing .247/.328/.471 with six home runs and four stolen bases. Strong and athletic with excellent bat speed, Decker has plus raw power that should eventually develop into in-game power. The question, as is many times the case, is will he hit.
While he showed patience at the plate (10.7 BB/9) he also struck out 30% of the time and that will not play. Granted, he was young for the league, but history is not kind to players with high strikeout rates in the lower levels of the minor leagues. We obviously need more data and should get that next season. He’ll likely start 2020 in the Sally League and that should be an excellent test for him.
12. Brandon Howlett (3B)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Corner Infielder
- Tools Summary: Could not build on his nice debut season and struggled in 2019. Good power and appears to understand the strike zone but needs to cut down on his strikeouts.
After a nice 2018 debut, Brandon Howlett started the 2019 season in Low-A and was clearly overwhelmed. He slashed .231/.341/.356 with eight home runs while striking out 31% of the time. He also walked 12% of the time which was consistent with what he did in 2018. The pop he also showed in 2018 was absent.
A lot of the issues he had was simply that of being young for the league. He does have good raw power and appears to have an approach at the plate. However, young players tend to expand the strike zone and struggle. It will be interesting to see if the Red Sox have him repeat Low-A or continue to push him through the system.
13. Cameron Cannon (SS)
- Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Streaming player
- Tools Summary: Good contact but with little power and speed.
The Red Sox drafted Cameron Cannon in the second round of the 2019 MLB Draft and assigned him to the New York Penn League after a quick three-game stop in the GCL. Perhaps he was just tired after a long college season, but he didn’t hit at all. In 42 games, he hit .205 but it did come with a .248 BABIP. He struck out 21% of the time while only walking 6.7% of the time. After hitting .347 in his three years at The University of Arizona with more walks than strikeouts, the performance was a little disappointing.
Cannon should be able to hit but he doesn’t have a lot of power or speed. He did hit eight home runs in each of his sophomore and junior year, but the swing is more contact-oriented. The fantasy appeal is therefore very limited. But, despite what he showed in his professional debut, he can hit, so therefore he is a name that owners should know.
14. C.J. Chatham (SS)
- Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Streaming player
- Tools Summary: Good contact but rarely walks with little power and speed.
C.J. Chatham seems to hit .300 wherever he plays, but it’s always come with a high BABIP, a low walk rate, and very little speed and power. In other words, he’s likely a utility player in the Brock Holt mold.
I had a chance to see him in the Fall League twice in September, including batting practice and my scouting notes match his production. The approach is very aggressive with average speed. He did show a little bit of pop in batting practice, but his swing in-game was more contact-oriented.
15. Noah Song (RHP)
- Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: Unknown Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
- Tools Summary: Quality arsenal with makeup and leadership ability. Two-year Navy commitment, perhaps more, adds complexity to the calculus on when, and if he will see the Major Leagues.
The Red Sox took a big flier on Noah Song when they drafted him in the fourth round last June. Oh, he has talent. In college, he pitched to a 2.37 ERA striking out over 11 per nine while walking just over three. The problem is that college, was the Naval Academy and Song must serve for two years before being able to focus on baseball full-time.
He has quality stuff with a fastball that sits in the mid-90s with a good slider and feel for a changeup. As a graduate of the Naval Academy, you must assume the make-up is present. The problem is he’s 22 already and will likely not pitch again competitively until he’s 24. I say likely as he has petitioned the Navy to delay his Naval commitment so he can play baseball. If that is granted, he moves to a Top 10 prospect in the Red Sox organization, perhaps a Top 5.