Contrary to the belief of some, the Red Sox are in a strong position for both the present-day and the future. It’s true that their farm system no longer ranks among the best in all of baseball, but that’s because they’ve graduated a tremendous amount of talent in recent years. Guys like Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Christian Vazquez and Eduardo Rodriguez should and could be around for the next eight-to-ten years. When you add in in-their-prime stars like Chris Sale, Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz and David Price, you have a team that should win now, and should continue to win for the foreseeable future.
With all of that being said, well, it never hurts to have a better farm system. While I think the current crop of Red Sox prospects might actually be a little underrated (if that’s even possible), they are lacking some high-end names and some position player depth. Enter: The Atlanta Braves. As you may or may not know, the Braves have been part of a massive scandal involving the signings of some of their recent international amateur signings. The result of the scandal, along with their former general manager John Coppolella being banned for life, was that a handful of their prospects have been declared free agents.
This is a unique opportunity for Dave Dombrowski and the rest of the Red Sox front office. Generally speaking, for a team in win-now mode like Boston, the only way to improve the farm system is in June during the draft and July at the start of the new international signing period. Now, they have a chance to sign some high-upside prospects in December, and they also happen to have a little bit of experience in the minors, too. These players, it should be noted, are subject to the international signing cap. However, teams can use next year’s money this winter to sign these players as well, with the only stipulation being that teams don’t combine money from both signing periods. Otherwise, the Red Sox would be out of luck since they have very little money left in the 2017-2018 period. With all of this in mind, let’s take a quick look at a few of the prospects available.
Kevin Maitan, SS/3B
Although there were a number of prospects released into free agency from the Braves system, none are as heralded and hyped as Maitan. When he was signed in 2016 he was among the most exciting international prospects in recent memory, receiving comparisons to hitters like Miguel Cabrera. He was a consensus top-100 prospect heading into the 2017 season despite not having played as a pro to that point. Maitan ended up having a rough go of it in his professional debut in Advanced Rookie Ball as a 17-year-old. The performance, combined with some weight issues and problems with his swing, have resulted in scouts being less enamored with the infielder. There probably won’t be as many teams in on the top prospect as one may think, because there will be teams that no longer believe in the talent. However, if there is even a slight chance of unlocking the potential so many saw just two summers ago, every team should be in on what could be a generational talent. That includes the Red Sox.
Yunior Severino, 2B
It’s not clear whether or not Severino, another prize from the summer of 2016, will stick in the middle infield. Like most 17 years old, there is a wide variety of the way his career will go. His bat, however, is why so many teams will be interested. Severino is a switch hitter who looked solid in the GCL for his first taste of pro ball this past summer. There’s some swing and miss that needs to be sorted out, but the power potential is real.
Livan Soto, SS
Whereas Severino is a prospect whose bat makes scouts salivate, Soto is on the other end of the spectrum with a strong glove at shortstop. At 17 years old, it can be rare to see such polished players up the middle, but Soto can certainly field the position. His bat has some questions, but he has a high floor built in with his glove.
These are just the top three former Braves prospects available in free agency, and you can read about the others here with a Baseball America subscription. It should be noted that there are some other exciting prospects, most of whom are on the position player side of things. The Red Sox are currently suffering from a lack of high-upside position players on the farm, particularly in the lower levels. This is a rare opportunity to sign some talented players who could immediately be placed in Lowell or Greenville. Maitan is certainly the headliner, but any of the former Atlanta players would help a Red Sox farm system that is seeking a boost. It’s up to Dombrowski to decide whether or not he would rather spend his money on these players or the class coming next July 2, but he and the rest of the league will certainly at least consider this group led by Maitan.