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Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox continue to rebuild their minor league system through trades, the draft, and the international market.  They are far from a Top 10 system in baseball, but they are much improved from just two years ago.  Jeter Downs is their top-ranked player and has the upside of a full-time regular and could be a big fantasy contributor as he will likely slot into second base.  Noah Song is a year closer to working off his Navy commitment and assuming he is keeping his arm in shape, has the chance to be at least a number three starter, if not more.

While the Red Sox spend freely in free agency, they have always won by having a core of young, mostly homegrown players.  Many of them are still on the Red Sox and with Downs, Song, and a few others, they have a group of players that could complement their existing core.

Prospect Quick Shot

  • Top Prospect: Jeter Downs
  • Biggest Mover: Noah Song
  • Emerging Prospect: Miguel Bleis

1. Jeter Downs (SS/2B)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 5 2B
  • Tools Summary: Power and speed with a feel for hitting. 

When young players get traded multiple times, it always raises a flag.  However, I can’t find much wrong with Jeter Downs.  He was originally drafted by the Reds, traded to the Dodgers in the Yaisel Puig deal, and then to the Red Sox in the big Mookie Betts transaction.  He has plus bat speed that is already translating into in-game power (slugged .530 in 2019), is a plus runner (69 stolen bases in 289 games) and can hit.  He makes solid contact and isn’t overly aggressive at the plate.  Plus, for fantasy players, he’s likely a second baseman which just adds even more goodness to the profile.  He’s a Top 50 prospect for me.

2. Triston Casas (1B)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 1B
  • Tools Summary: Double-plus power but it will come with a ton of strikeouts.  A classic three-true-outcome player.

Triston Casas is your classic three-true-outcome player.  He has at least 70-grade power, he’ll work a walk but strikeout in bunches.  Drafted as a third baseman, he’s already moved to first and that is where I see him staying. I struggle with rostering players like Casas in fantasy leagues.  He’ll be a real drag on your batting average if that is a category, but on the other hand, he could be a neutral performer in OBP Leagues.  He could hit 30 plus home runs with plenty of RBIs, but just understand the risk with his average and OBP.  So much will depend on his BABIP, which is always a risky component to count on.

3. Jarren Duran (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2021 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’s carrying tool is his double-plus speed that he demonstrated by stealing 46 bases in 2019.  While he has below-average power, he has enough bat speed and strength to rap plenty of double and even hit a handful of 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.

4. Noah Song (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP
  • Tools Summary: Quality arsenal with makeup and leadership ability.  Two-year Navy commitment adds complexity

The Red Sox took a 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.  With 2020 burned from a commitment standpoint (perfect year to burn a year), we are now only one year removed from seeing Song playing baseball again.  I have his ETA in 2024, but it’s more of a guess as we don’t know how long it will take him to knock the rust off.  What we do know is that he has the size and arsenal you want in a front-of-the-rotation arm.

5. Bobby Dalbec (3B)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2020 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.

Bobby Dalbec was promoted to Boston in late August and did what he does best.  He hit loud home runs – eight in 23 games.  If you love advanced metrics to evaluate players, Statcast lists him as #21 in baseball in Barrels per plate appearance and the top 30% in launch angle and exit velocity.   That’s big boy power.  He also struck out 42% of the time.  And therein lies the problem.  The swing is long, and he expands the strike zone.  In 2019, he had cut down his strikeouts considerably but wasn’t able to duplicate that in 2020.  There is 30 home run power, but it could come with a .220 batting average.  Fantasy owners must understand the risk-reward.

6. Gilberto Jimenez (OF)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 OF with risk
  • Tools Summary: Toolsy young player with a feel to hit

Gilberto Jimenez is one of the more intriguing players on this list. He has a compact swing with good bat speed and projects to be at least an average future hitter.  He’s an aggressive hitter but that could change as he matures.  His best tool is his speed but he’s 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, should be able to hit for some power.

7. Jay Groome (LHP)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site 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. 

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.  Public reports out of the Alternate Site were fine, but for me, he’s become a lottery pick, albeit one with huge upside.

8. Thad Ward (RHP)

  • Highest Level: DNP 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 showed swing and miss stuff in his professional debut. 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.

9. Bryan Mata (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2021 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 saw Bryan Mata in the 2019 Fall League and he came in as a late-inning reliever.  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 hard curve.  The three pitches together got some ugly swings, but he also had trouble throwing them for consistent strikes.  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.

10. Nick Yorke (2B)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 2B
  • Tools Summary: Surprise first-round draft pick by the Red Sox last June.  A solid hit tool but speed and power are modest

A lot of evaluators didn’t agree that Nick Yorke was a first-round draft talent. He has a nice swing that is made for contact and if he can develop a patient approach could one day hit .300.  However, the swing lacks loft and he doesn’t have great bat speed.  As a runner, he’s average at best.  As a fantasy asset, he’s a pass for me in the first three rounds of a Dynasty League rookie draft.

11. Tanner Houck (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Major Leagues 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.

Tanner Houck had his Major League debut in 2020 and pitched well.  He started three games, winning all three, and posted a sub 1.00 ERA in the process.  He also struck out 21 in 17 innings.  Based on those three starts, I’ve received comments on whether he can be a top-of-the-rotation starter?  The data suggest no.  The data suggest he would work better in the bullpen.  He pitches from a lower three-quarters delivery and his control will likely never be great.  While he has a double-plus slider, his fastball is average (both velo and active spin), and his change-up/splitter grades out average as well.    But in shorter bursts, his fastball should take a step-up making his slider that much better.  Additionally, his delivery will be difficult for arm-side batters to pick up.

12. Matthew Lugo (SS)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 SS with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary: Nephew of Carlos Beltran.  Raw but with plenty of tools.

While raw, Matthew Lugo 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. 

13. Jeisson Rosario (OF)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 OF
  • Tools Summary: Athletic with good speed and bat speed. Swing needs work

Jeisson Rosario was traded along with Hudson Potts in August for Mitch Moreland. Rosario is athletic with great plate patience which he demonstrated in 2019 by walking 17% of the time in High-A.  He has plenty of bat speed but the power has yet to show up in games (.314 SLG and .074 ISO in 2019).  He’s also a plus runner.  So, there are tools, but the swing needs work as there are a lot of moving parts.  In fact, in reviewing it, I’m not sure he’ll ever hit for much power as he’s not always moving forward.  The result is more of a swing that is all arms.

14. Hudson Potts (3B)

Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling:  Corner Infielder

Tools Summary: Good power but inability to control the strike zone is catching up with him

Hudson Potts was acquired in the package that sent Mitch Moreland to the San Diego Padres. A former first round pick in 2016, Potts stock has dipped as the hit tool has just not developed. He’s still striking out too much and the walk rate is not high enough to push him to an acceptable on-base percentage. There’s still a chance he becomes a full-time regular as he’s only 22, but a low average player with some pop is what we are looking at.

15. Miguel Bleis (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Int’l player expect to sign ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 OF
  • Tools Summary: Athletic with double-plus speed with plenty of bat speed

The Red Sox are projected to sign Miguel Bleis on January 15th.  He’s a good athlete who runs extremely well with great bat speed.  He’s a bet for Dynasty League owners but just know, I have no knowledge of his bat-to-ball skills and if it all comes together, it will take him at least four years, likely more to make it to the Major Leagues.

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