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2016 Red Sox top prospect voting: Austin Rei's rough start (and high hopes)

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Austin Rei opened his Red Sox career with a whimper. But there's still plenty of hope for what he'll bring down the line.

MLB.com

How do you nearly guarantee an MLB debut as a prospect?

Crouch behind the plate, call a good came, and catch baseballs well.

This is what Austin Rei is said to do, and it's why the Red Sox chose to use a third round pick in last year's draft on the University of Washington product. Rei was billed as perhaps the best defensive catcher in the entire draft class, and not just because he can throw guys out. There were positive reports on his pitch framing as well, which has emerged as one of the most important aspects of catcher defense in recent years.

Oh, and he his .330/.445/.681 in 2015 after a pretty good 2014 season. It was only 91 at bats, as he missed time with a thumb injury, but seven homers in such a short stretch is no small feat, particularly in college ball.

But Rei is not necessarily going to be a huge threat at the plate. It could happen given his power if he refines his plate discipline and takes well to coaching, but he was not drafted as Swihart was, with a safety net in the outfield. Rei likely has to be what he was billed as behind the plate to cut it.

And so far...well, he might not be doing that. There's limited information on Rei since he was drafted, aside from a really bad .179/.285/.295 line in Lowell. But that can mostly be discarded because short-season ball is known to produce wonky lines for freshly drafted rookies. What's more concerning is SoxProspects' report that Rei looked like a disaster on defense when they saw him, going so far as to suggest he "might have the yips". There might be more to that than just a bad day. Rei was utilized as a DH when he returned from the aforementioned thumb injury, and may have still been shaking off the rust.

So it's a bad debut for Austin Rei, but with plenty of mitigating circumstances. The fact is that evaluators saw enough in him to name him one of the best catchers in the draft, and there's a lot to like about what he did at the plate in Washington. He got off to a rough start out there, as well, so this might just be history repeating.

Obviously there's a lot to prove for Rei, but that's true of any player at his level, and of any player coming in around here in the prospect voting. He's no Blake Swihart or Christian Vazquez yet, but he has the potential to earn attention and respect, and unlike many players who find their way into the back-end of top-20 lists, to be a long-term starter, perhaps even in Boston, though their current stock of young catchers makes that somewhat less likely.

  1. Yoan Moncada
  2. Andrew Benintendi
  3. Rafael Devers
  4. Anderson Espinoza
  5. Michael Kopech
  6. Brian Johnson
  7. Sam Travis
  8. Luis Alexander Basabe
  9. Deven Marrero
  10. Michael Chavis
  11. Pat Light
  12. Nick Longhi
  13. Marco Hernandez
  14. Teddy Stankiewicz
  15. Travis Lakins
  16. Christopher Acosta
  17. Mauricio Dubon
  18. Austin Rei
Two to go, and then it's Opening Day! Let's wrap it up!