Boston Red Sox 2020 Top-25 Prospects
This system got Dombrowskied over the last few seasons. Yes, that’s a word. No, don’t fact check it. Dombrowskied is a verb meaning to lose most or all of your notable prospects via trades for Major League talent. Listen, there’s nothing wrong with that. The Red Sox likely wouldn’t have won the 2018 World Series if it weren’t for the trades Dave Dombrowski made during his tenure as President of Baseball Operations. However, it does make an article highlighting the top Boston Red Sox prospects not as eventful as it was several years ago. Just reminisce back to the stacked farm system Boston had during the Ben Cherington era. Say what you want about him as a GM, but the man certainly knew how to build a farm system.
Now that the Dombrowski era in Beantown is over, there’s hope that this system can rise back up to one of the top systems in baseball once again. And with most of the Red Sox top prospects in the lower minors, the future does look bright for this system, or at least brighter than it looks now.
Overall System Grade: C
Minor League Affiliates
Triple-A: Pawtucket – International League
Double-A: Portland – Eastern League
Advanced Single-A: Salem – Carolina League
Low Single-A: Greenville – South Atlantic League
Short Single-A: Lowell- New York-Penn League
Rookie: Dominican Summer League (2), Gulf Coast League (1)
All other team top-25 prospect rankings can be found here.
If you aren’t playing your dynasty leagues on Fantrax, you’re missing out on the deepest player pool and most customization around. Just starting out in a dynasty league? Then check out Eric Cross’ Top-250 prospects, Top-300 Dynasty League Rankings, & 2019 FYPD/J2 Rankings.
Boston Red Sox Top-25 Prospects
1. Triston Casas, 1B
Imagine Bobby Dalbec with a better hit tool. Nice thought, isn’t it? Well, that’s Triston Casas in a nutshell. I’d still give the slight edge to Dalbec in power, but Casas is a big power bat in his own right with at least an average hit tool, which Dalbec cannot match. Casas was the 9th of 10 prep bats taken in the first round of the 2018 draft and I was ecstatic that he was still on the board for my Red Sox. And now here we are a year and a half later with Casas taking over the top spot after Michael Chavis graduated from the list earlier this season.
Extend hit streak: ☑️
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 24, 2019
Like I mentioned above, there’s a lot of power here. Casas possesses double-plus raw power that is already showing up regularly in games. Across 120 games this season, mostly in the Single-A South Atlantic League, Casas slugged 20 home run with 26 doubles, finishing with a .480 slugging. This is just the tip of the iceberg, my friends. Casas has a swing geared for power with solid bat speed and natural loft, but he doesn’t sell out for his power by any means. The contact skills here are 50 or maybe even 55-grade, which should lead him to hit in the .270-.280 range more often than not with 30-plus homers annually.
Although he was drafted as a third baseman and has the arm for the position, Casas transitioned over to first base this season starting 96 games there compared to only eight at the hot corner. Maybe the presence of a certain 23-year-old stud named Rafael Devers has a little something to do with that. Casas also isn’t the quickest guy around either which plays into it but he’s shown that he’s at least an adequate defender at both positions with the offensive upside to develop into a middle of the order offensive force at first base.
2. Jeter Downs, SS
Every time I look at my overall prospect rankings, Jeter Downs is a little higher. Am I doing it? Is it magic? One will never know, but the point is, Downs has been trending up for a while now and now finds himself firmly within my top-100 overall. But despite his upward trend, Downs still doesn’t get as much love as he should.
Sure, he doesn’t have one standout tool, but offensively, Downs is rock-solid across the board with the chance to become a 55-hit, 55-power, 55-speed shortstop with .280/25/25 upside. Those don’t just grow on trees you know. There’s a reason why the Dodgers acquired him along with Josiah Gray and Homer Bailey in the Yasiel Puig trade., and then acquired by the Red Sox in the Mookie Betts trade. He’s a damn good prospect.
From the right side, Downs starts with his hands above his shoulder pre-pitch, then comes set with them in front of his shoulder. Load is quick, directly back, and not too deep before driving forward with plus bat speed through the zone. While he possesses above-average raw power, that power didn’t really come out consistently in games until 2019. He’s always hit plenty of fly balls, but Downs really began driving the ball further in the air this season, increasing his estimate fly ball distance over 10 feet according to Prospects Live.
In addition, Down’s ISO jumped from .147 to .254 in 2019. So it’s not surprising that he hit a career-best 24 dingers this past season. That 20-25 range should be where Downs settles in with the speed to match it. With his contact skills, advanced approach, power, and speed, Downs has the tools to become an above-average offensive middle infielder at the highest level. He was blocked by Gavin Lux and Corey Seager in Los Angeles, but not has a clearer path to playing time at second base now that he’s in Boston.
3. Bobby Dalbec, 3B/1B
You can describe Bobby Dalbec as a prospect using two words: Power and strikeouts. In his 383 minor league games, Dalbec has averaged 35 home runs per every 600 at-bats, but unfortunately, a 29.8% strikeout rate has gone along for the ride. But wait, is that a glimmer of hope I see? Maybe. Dalbec cut his strikeout rate from 32.4% in 2018 to 24.7% last season. You can live with a 25% strikeout rate from the Dalbino. A 32% K rate? Not so much.
— Eric Cross (@EricCross04) May 4, 2019
Even with the improved strikeout rate, Dalbec is not a hitter that projects to hit for a high average. High power, absolutely. His swing and 70-grade raw power are tailormade for Fenway Park. Dalbec generates plenty of loft due to his uppercut swing path and routinely pulled the ball between 40% and 50% of the time. I got to see a ton of Dalbec during his time in the Double-A Eastern League and when he did make contact it was usually hard. There were several absolute blasts mixed in as well. While the average will likely be in the .240-.250 range, this is a legit 35-plus homer bat that can contribute in Boston early in 2020.
4. Gilberto Jimenez, OF
Mark my words, by this time next year, Gilberto Jimenez will be pushing Triston Casas for the top spot in this system. Basically, he’s a younger Jarren Duran with higher upside. The 19-year-old Dominican outfielder possesses elite speed which he is still learning how to tap into effectively on the bases. After converting on just 53.3% of his stolen base attempts in the DSL in 2018, Jimenez improved that mark to an even 70% this past season in 20 attempts in the short-season New York-Penn League. While there’s still work to be done in this area, the speed upside is enticing with the potential for 30-plus steals annually.
At the plate, Jimenez is mostly a one-trick pony, with that trick being an above-average to plus hit tool with exceptional bat to ball skills from both sides of the plate. Which is impressive when you factor in that he only began switch-hitting in 2017. His hands start lower with moderate hand and leg load before exploding to the ball. The swing is direct and linear through the zone with quick wrists and plus bat speed. He should be able to hit for a high average thanks to his contact skills and all-fields approach, but there won’t be much power to go with it due to that swing path and below-average raw power. Any raw power he does have is mostly from the left side of the plate, but don’t expect more than a handful of home runs annually from Jimenez.
What’s great about Jimenez, besides what I said above, is that he knows his game and knows his strengths and weaknesses. He doesn’t try to hit for power, rather focusing on making contact and utilizing his speed. The Red Sox current outfield trio of Mookie, Benny, and JBJ won’t be around forever, and they could have a top of the order catalyst to fill an outfield spot in the next couple of years.
5. Jarren Duran, OF
The 2019 season was really two separate seasons molded into one for Jarren Duran. The 2018 7th rounder shredded the Carolina League for the first two months of the season, hitting .387 with 20 extra-base hits and 18 steals in 50 games. That scorching hot start put Duran on the map as a prospect getting some top-100 overall consideration. It also earned him a promotion to the Double-A Eastern League where he looked overmatched for most of the season. Duran hit only .250 in 82 Double-A games with a .634 OPS and just one home run. At least he was still running freely, swiping 28 bases to give him 46 total on the season.
That speed is the one area of Duran’s game that you can take to the bank. He’s a double-plus runner that has steadily improved as a basestealer, nearing an 80% success rate in 2019. His speed has been more prominent on the bases than in the outfield, but he’s still a solid defender in centerfield, albeit, with a weaker throwing arm. How much he hits will determine if he’s a fourth outfielder or a regular that can be a pest on the bases. With his clean mechanics, smooth swing, and plus bat speed, I’m leaning more towards the latter. Don’t expect much more than 5-10 homers annually, but if he’s stealing 30-plus and hitting for a respectable average, you’ll live with it.
6. Bryan Mata, RHP
Now we’re getting into some of the enticing arms in this system. Some might still have Jay Groome as the top Red Sox prospect arm, but not me. I’m going with a guy that has an equal or better overall arsenal, is a year younger, and much more experienced in professional baseball. That man is 20-year-old Venezuelan right-hander, Bryan Mata. After excelling in 10 Carolina League (A+) starts with a 1.75 ERA and around a strikeout per inning, Mata struggled in his 11 Double-A starts, posting an ERA north of 5.00 while giving up a hit per inning and one home run every nine innings. The strikeout rate did rise a bit from 9.1 to 9.9, but the walk rate also received a bit of a bump in the wrong direction. But this was an aggressive promotion for Mata and the upside was very obvious when watching his starts.
Watch as Bryan Mata seals a career day on the mound for @PortlandSeaDogs by picking up his ninth strikeout (most as a pro) to help finish out a career-best seventh inning of work.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 1, 2019
Mata works with a four-pitch mix out of a 3/4 arm slot and fairly clean mechanics. The arm is whippy, but the delivery overall is mostly low-effort. Three of his pitches project as above-average or better. He’ll sit in the mid-90’s with his fastball that features both run and sink, making it a very tough pitch for opposing batters to square up. Offsetting that is a trio of secondaries, with his mid-80’s slider and fading changeup being the best of the bunch. There’s also a seldom-used curveball that is more of a get-me-over offering and one that Mata hasn’t shown good feel for. If he can keep his command in check and cut back on the free passes some (4.00 B/9 in Double-A), Mata has the upside of a back-end #2 starter or high-end #3 with over a strikeout per inning.
7. Jay Groome, LHP
Where to begin? As a prep left-hander that was in the discussion for the top overall pick back in 2016, you know the upside is quite high with Jay Groome. But at this point, the risk vastly outweighs the reward due to all the injuries and extended time away from the field. Think of this as a see-saw with Bartolo Colon on one side (Groome’s risk) and Jose Altuve (Potential reward) on the other side. Obviously, the Colon side of this hypothetical see-saw is on the ground nowhere close to budging.
Before the injury, Groome had two plus pitches in his fastball and curve, along with a serviceable changeup as his third offering. He only made it back for a couple of innings at the end of the season, so it’s still too early to get a true read on how he looks post-injury in game action, especially as his command was already shaky to begin with. However, the pre-injury upside is enough to take a gamble on in deeper dynasty leagues that roster 250+ prospects. There’s also the chance that the arm woes force him to the bullpen down the road where he could be a solid late-inning weapon. Basically, Groome as a prospect is an open book. Do you dare read on as a dynasty owner?
8. Matthew Lugo, SS
The Red Sox didn’t have a first-round pick in the 2019 draft, but they did have two second-rounders, one of which they used on Matthew Lugo from the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico. Lugo also happens to be Beltran’s nephew so there are some nice baseball bloodlines here. When you watch Lugo, there’s not one standout tool. But what he does have, is the potential for 50 or 55-grades on all his tools when it’s all said and done.
Lugo is an adequate defender at shortstop and would fit nicely at second base as well. Because, you know, that Xander Bogaerts guy is kind of entrenched at shortstop. At the plate, Lugo has sound mechanics and the potential for above-average raw power with some natural loft to his swing as well. I’d to see him incorporate his lower half a tad more though. Ultimately, there’s 20/15 upside here with enough contact skills to hit .260 or higher.
9. Thad Ward, RHP
On the pitching side of things, Thad Ward was the big breakout prospect this year for Boston. A 2018 5th rounder, Ward dominated the Sally and Carolina Leagues this year, posting a 2.14 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, with well over a strikeout per inning. His plus fastball/slider combination and average changeup was a big reason for that success, however, Ward was also a little old for the levels at 22. The Double-A level will be a big test for Ward in 2020, and one I believe he can conquer. There are also some command and control concerns here that will need to be ironed out if he wants to reach his upside as a #4 starter.
10. Chih-Jung Liu, RHP
When this top-25 initially was posted, the Boston Red Sox had just signed Chih-Jung Lui for $750K out of Taiwan. He wasn’t included in that initial list as I didn’t have much information about him and didn’t feel confident putting him in quite yet. I knew there was a good chance he would be well within my top-25 when I updated this list and after doing my research, Lui just cracks the top-10 here.
Although he played shortstop for a couple years while taking a break from pitching, there’s no doubt that his future in baseball is on the mound. Liu sits in the low to mid 90’s and can crank his heater up into the 97-98 mph range at times. Offsetting the fastball is a mid-80’s slider that flashes plus and a splitter that should be at least Major League average. With three average to plus offerings and solid command and control, Liu’s ceiling is a mid-rotation starter. He’s definitely one to monitor in 2020 and 2021 as he gets his first taste of professional ball in the United States.
11. Brainer Bonaci, SS
A diminutive 5’10 shortstop, Brainer Bonaci signed in the 2018 J2 period with the Red Sox for $290K out of Venezuela and impressed during his 2019 professional debut in the DSL. In 61 games, Bonaci slashed .279/.356/.379 with 18 steals across 261 plate appearances while posting a respectable 8.8% walk rate. As a switch hitter, Bonaci has displayed a solid feel for hitting from both sides of the plate with plus bat speed. His power projection currently is minimal with below-average raw power and more of a line-drive-oriented swing, but power isn’t why he’s a noteworthy prospect in this system.
Bonaci has the potential to develop into a 55-hit shortstop and has borderline plus speed to go along with it. He should be able to continue hitting in the .270-.290 range moving forward with his contact skills and approach with the upside for 20-plus steals if he can improve as a base stealer. If he’s able to add any bulk and power to his game, that would be gravy. Although, I can’t even see him reaching double-digit homers even with added bulk.
12. Noah Song, RHP
Noah Song just might be the most interesting man in the world. I mean, the most interesting prospect in this Red Sox farm system. Not just for his on the field skills either. Song currently has a two-year commitment with the Navy. I’m not 100% sure about the details of the commitment, but there’s at least a chance that baseball has to be put on hold at some point. (UPDATE: Song was not able to get out of that commitment and will be able to return to the Red Sox in two years.
On the mound, Song’s upside rivals Mata’s and he’d likely a couple of spots higher if it weren’t for all the uncertainty around him and the Navy commitment. He sits in the low to mid-90’s and features a plus slider and has flashed an above-average curve. The changeup currently lags behind and I’d love to see him develop that into an average offering.
My fellow prospect writer and New Englander, Ralph Lifshitz of Prospects Live, caught a Noah Song start in Lowell late this season and had this to say about the right-hander:
“His fastball sat 92-94 touching 95 on several occasions. The pitch showed tail and late life, making it a tough pitch to square up as he worked mostly low in the zone. His slider was sharp with two-plane break that ran off the plate to right-handers and he was able to backfoot it a few times to lefties. He mixed in one curveball late in the third. I don’t believe I saw any changeups, unless they were incredibly firm in the 91-92 range.
For more on that start from Song, check out Ralph’s full scouting report on Prospects Live. Here’s some video Ralph took from that start. Ultimately, there’s mid-rotation upside here.
13. Bryan Gonzalez, OF
Now here’s a name to keep an eye on that could be several spots higher by this time next year. The Red Sox signed Bryan Gonzalez out of the Dominican Republic in 2018 and got him into game action this year in the Dominican Summer League. During his time in the DSL, Gonzalez flashed an enticing power/speed blend. His plus raw power is Gonzalez’s most noteworthy tool and he gets plenty of power from his strong frame. The speed will likely decrease some as he matures, but there should still be enough speed to approach double-digit steals.
It’s all up to the hit tool to determine just how good Gonzalez can be. Like with most his age, there are some pitch recognition and swing and miss tendencies that need to be worked on, but if he can develop just an average hit tool, there’s some very intriguing upside here as an above-average offensive corner outfielder.
14. C.J. Chatham, SS
When you first see C.J. Chatham, you would think that there was some intriguing power in his bat. Not so much. At 6’3 and around 190 pounds, Chatham is a hit over power shortstop with more of a gap to gap approach. Kind of reminds me of the first time I saw D.J. LeMahieu who didn’t show a ton of power until he got a juicy baseball and cushy home ballpark.
While the power might never develop past 10-15 home runs a year, Chatham has displayed above-average to plus contact skills and a solid feel for the barrel. But that does come with some slight concerns. Firstly, he pulls the ball a little more than you’d like to see from somebody with his profile, although he did start going the other way more frequently this season. On top of that, the walk rate has never been great. Chatham doesn’t strike out too often but the lower OBP will keep him near the bottom of the order.
Due to his above-average defense and ability to hit for average, Chatham has a shot at becoming a big-league regular, just likely not with Boston. And it’s hard to get too excited about a .280/10-15 HR profile with minimal speed. Solid hitter? yes. Exciting? Meh.
15. Eduardo Lopez, OF
You’ll quickly notice an international flair as you get deeper and deeper into these rankings. Eduardo Lopez was the Red Sox biggest international signing in 2018 and was one of the top outfielders available last year. A lot of what I said about Lugo above can be used here. Lopez doesn’t project to have any plus tools, but doesn’t have any major holes in his game either.
As a switch-hitter, Lopez has shown a good feel for hitting from both sides with a sound plate approach for his age. As for his power and speed, there’s enough of each to slap 50-grades on each and maybe even above-average raw power if he adds some bulk. If you want to throw a 55-grade on any of his tools at present, it would be his hit tool. So all in all, Lopez’s all-around upside is definitely worth monitoring as he gets into full-season ball in 2020.
16. Connor Wong, C/2B
Here’s what I said about Connor Wong in my Los Angeles Dodgers article back in January:
“I’ve always had a hard time ranking Connor Wong. On one hand, Wong has shown average contact skills, above-average raw power, and double-digit steal potential. But on the other hand, he’s not a standout defender, has subpar plate discipline, and is behind 5.7 million people on the depth chart at both catcher and second base. If anyone could benefit from a change of scenery, it’s Wong. If he gets into a system where he has a clearer path to playing time, his all-around offensive profile would give him sneaky-good fantasy upside. But for now, he’s not a dynasty target unless your league rosters 500-plus prospects.”
Well, the fantasy gods apparently were listening. There’s still no clear path to playing time at second base in Boston, but outside of Christian Vazquez, the catcher position is pretty baron in this system. This move to Boston is a big boon to Wong’s value in dynasty.
17. Antoni Flores, SS
There are bad seasons and then there are seasons like the one Antoni Flores had in 2019. Flores teamed up with Gilberto Jimenez at Lowell but posted an OBP 100 points below Jimenez’s. No matter how you slice it, a .293 OBP isn’t going to cut the mustard. Cut the cheese maybe, but not the mustard.
But even with his rough 2019 season, there are still some nice tools here with Flores. I’d like to see him take a little length out of his swing, but once he gets going, there’s above-average bat speed and he’s shown above-average contact skills before with enough raw power to get into the 15-20 homer range at peak. As a shortstop, his foot speed and range isn’t great, but he’s an average runner and makes the plays necessary. His strong throwing arm can make up for mistakes as well. As a prospect, Flores is far from a finished product, but if he can right the ship at the plate, there’s a .280/20/10 ceiling down the road.
18. Tanner Houck, RHP
While the ceiling isn’t overly high with Tanner Houck, his floor is one of the highest in the system when it comes to pitching prospects. I could even see a best-case scenario being a Rick Porcello type. You’ll see why when I describe his arsenal. Houck works out of a lower 3/4 arm slot and throws a two-seamer in the low to mid-90’s. The run and sink on the pitch is downright unfair at times and can completely tie up right-handed batters.
This type of fastball has been huge for Houck as is keeps hitters honest on the inner half and restricts them from crowding the plate to get to his pitches on the outer half. That has really helped his low-80’s frisbee slider become an above-average pitch that flashes plus at times. Houck will also mix in a curve and a changeup, both of which are fringy offerings at best.
One area that does need to improve is his command, which has been inconsistent for most of his minor league career. While the arm action is a little longer, there are no glaring concerns with his delivery to me, so the hope is that the command can improve some or at least not hinder him. Boston had him working out of the bullpen for the most part in Triple-A to finish out the season, but I’m still in the camp that sees Houck as a long-term starter. How the Red Sox handle him in 2020 will be very telling and Houck would lose value as a reliever due to him having more of a middle relief profile as opposed to closer stuff.
19. Ryan Zeferjahn, RHP
Taken ahead of both the #7 prospect on this list, Noah Song, and Chris Murphy (who you’ll see later on) in the 2019 draft was Ryan Zeferjahn, a big 6’5 right-hander out of the University of Kansas. There’s a lot to like here with Zeferjahn, but also a lot of certainty about his future role and ultimate upside. All three of his pitches (Fastball/Slider/Changeup) flash above-average to plus, but there are big command and control issues here. Those issues could force a move to the bullpen where he could thrive as a set-up man, but that also drops his value considerably in dynasty leagues.
You also can’t overlook the fact that his pitches are wildly inconsistent by themselves, some of which are command-based, but you like to see more consistent feel from Zeferjahn with his secondaries. If the three C’s (consistency, command, and control) improve, Zeferjahn could develop into a mid-rotation arm. Only time will tell.
20. Nick Decker, OF
Nick Decker has been a guy I’ve had a hard time ranking. On one hand, the 2018 2nd round pick has shown above-average to plus raw power and an average hit tool with a decent plate approach. But then at times, he looks more like a fourth outfielder than an everyday starting corner outfielder. Ultimately, I’m still leaning towards the former here with Decker developing into a .260/25 type, but he’s still very raw at the plate and several years away from Boston. One aspect that is encouraging is his patience at the plate and his ability to wait for a pitch to drive. As I project more power than average from him, that will be key in fully tapping into his raw power.
21. Danny Diaz, 3B
Speaking of raw at the plate, meet the Decker of the infield. Well, in terms of being raw. Like Decker, Diaz’s most notable offensive tool is his raw power, but he doesn’t nearly have the patience Decker has and his plate discipline has really limited his in-game power thus far in his minor league career. Luckily, it’s more of an approach issue than anything mechanically wrong with his swing. In fact, I do like his swing from a power standpoint and think he could at least be a .240-.250 hitter if he hones his overly aggressive approach and improves his pitch recognition. If he can, the raw power is legit with the upside for 30-homers annually. Diaz is still a long way from the happening, though.
22. Aldo Ramirez, RHP
Admittedly, I haven’t seen a ton of Aldo Ramirez, but from what I have seen, he needed to be included on this list. Working out of a high 3/4 arm slot, Ramirez will sit in the low to mid-90’s with both run and sink on his fastball and mixes in a curveball and a changeup. Both secondaries have flashed above-average or better at times and the curveball had solid depth to it. If he can continue to control his pitches and refine his command, we could be looking at a #4 starter down the road.
23. Cameron Cannon, INF
To be honest, I’m not a Cameron Cannon guy. Hate to say that as he was my favorite team’s top overall draft pick this year, but I can’t help but see a utility infielder when watching Cannon. Listen, he’s a fine player overall. He can play second base, third base, and shortstop, but isn’t a great defender at any of them and doesn’t really have the arm to stick of the left side of the infield.
Cameron Cannon strikes again!
— Arizona Baseball (@ArizonaBaseball) May 27, 2018
The one area of his game that I am a fan of is his swing and above-average hit tool. The swing itself is quick and smooth from the left side with an all-fields, gap to gap approach. He’s shown a good feel for the barrel and utilizes his quick wrists to generate plus bat speed through the zone. It’s easy to see him hitting around .280 or so over the course of a full season, but both his power and speed are capped around 15. Hey, maybe he’s Boston’s next Brock Holt.
24. Brayan Bello, RHP
While this is still a bottom-10 system, the Red Sox have quietly done well on the international market over the last few years. Included in that is the 2017 signee out of the Dominican Republic, right-hander Brayan Bello. After dominating the DSL and GCL in 2018, Bello struggled to the tune of a 5.43 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in his first taste of full-season ball in the Single-A South Atlantic League.
This is the time when you ignore the numbers. I’m not going to fault a 20-year-old Dominican pitcher for experiencing some difficulties in his first full season. Rather, let’s focus on his plus low-90’s sinking fastball, above-average slider, serviceable changeup, and solid command. There’s still some projection left on his frame as well, which could lead to an added tick or two on his fastball. Bello could blossom into a top-10 prospect in this Boston system by 2021.
25. Darel Belen, OF
You know what? Let’s add a lottery ticket in here near the end, shall we? The Red Sox signed Belen earlier in 2019 as an International free agent and assigned him to the Dominican Summer League to start his career. Belen performed admirably there with an .800 OPS, 21 extra-base hits, and 14 steals in 64 games. However, you always need to take DSL numbers with a grain of salt. He was also a tad old for the level too which needs to be taken into consideration. Still, the tools are enticing, headlined by above-average speed and plus raw power. Write this name down and check back next year.
Others to Monitor
Marcus Wilson, OF: Marcus Wilson was drafted way back in 2014. That’s an eternity ago. Throughout his minor league career, Wilson has displayed above-average raw power and speed, but his below-average hit tool and strikeout woes have held him back and slowed his development. He’s still yet to get to Triple-A and has only played 74 games at the Double-A level. Most of those 74 games (62) came after he joined the Boston organization. During his time with Portland, Wilson was flailing away as much as ever, striking out in 34.5% of his plate appearances in the Eastern League. The power/speed profile is nice and all, but Wilson doesn’t project as a regular with this type of hit tool. It would be one thing if he was a great defender like Jackie Bradley Jr, but he’s not.
Ceddanne Rafaela, INF: He hasn’t impressed offensively yet, but Rafaela has the chance to develop into a 50-hit, 55-speed infielder that plays all around the infield. The most likely outcome right now is a utility player down the road.
Eduardo Vaughan, OF: Has shown impressive raw power and the potential for an average hit tool, but with below-average speed. Vaughan projects as a corner outfielder and will need to hit for power to provide any value.
Tyler Esplin, OF: Esplin has yet to impress on the stat sheet, but the big 6’4 corner outfielder has flashed plus raw power dating back to his days at IMG Academy and has posted solid walk rates. If he can begin driving the ball in the air more consistently, there could be something here. But even then, the contact skills are below average.
Chris Murphy, LHP: A 6th round selection this past June, Chris Murphy projects as a solid floor back-end starter. He’ll sit in the low-90’s with his fastball out of a 3/4 arm slot from the left side and has shown a feel for all three of his secondary offerings. As a college lefty with decent command/control, Murphy could move rather quickly through the Boston system.
Durbin Feltman, RHP: Alright, so the 2019 season didn’t quite go according to plan for Durbin Feltman. Entering the season, there was a chance we saw Feltman helping out in the Boston bullpen by the end of the season thanks to a plus fastball/slider combination and above-average command of both pitches. Well, the command regressed and Feltman got bit by walkitis quite a bit, posting a 5.4 BB/9 which was nearly triple his 1.9 mark in 2018. He’ll need to reign that command back in moving forward, and if he does, there’s still late-inning upside here.
Brandon Howlett, 3B: Howlett is a below-average defender at third and not overly fast in general. Longterm, I find it hard to project him as a third baseman, meaning he likely has to move to first or DH as he doesn’t have a strong arm either. That means Howlett will have to hit to profile at those positions and I have my doubts he does so. The raw power is above-average but Howlett hasn’t consistently tapped into it in games quite yet. There’s some natural loft to his swing, so I think he can blossom into a 20-25 homer bat, but at this point, he projects as a 40-hit to me.
Media Credit: Robert Robinson, Ralph Lifshitz, MLB Pipeline, Arizona Baseball, Minor Graphs.
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