Over the next week, we are going to take a journey around the diamond and examine where the Red Sox stand at catcher, in the infield and outfield, and with starters and relievers throughout their organization. For each positional group, we’ll break things down by starter, depth, top prospect, sleeper and other notable prospects. Today, we’re looking at the infielders up and down the organization.
Hanley Ramirez, Mitch Moreland, Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Nuñez, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers
You’ll notice that I have six starting infielders listed for the Red Sox, but that’s not because of some wild new defensive alignment that will be experimented with by Alex Cora. The Red Sox are going to rotate both Hanley Ramirez and Mitch Moreland in and out of first base. The exact split of playing time is unclear at this point, but both will play enough that they can be considered starters. I am a believer in Ramirez’ ability to bounce back at the plate and Moreland is fine to good depending on how often he hits lefties, if at all. Dustin Pedroia will start the year on the disabled list, but if he can stay healthy upon returning he’ll give Boston some much-needed help in the field along with good on base skills. Eduardo Nuñez will start the year as the starting second baseman and get something close to a starter’s workload in a super utility role upon Pedroia’s return. Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers will both play every day on the left side of the infield and both provide big upside at the plate with some questions in the field. Overall, this is a strong offensive infield that could cost the team some runs with the gloves.
Brock Holt, Deven Marrero, Tzu-Wei Lin, Blake Swihart, Marco Hernandez, Sam Travis, Esteban Quiroz, Ivan De Jesus Jr.
There’s a chance that Deven Marrero will not be a part of this group once the season actually starts, but right now he has a chance to be a defensive-oriented player off the bench for an infield that could use some help. Brock Holt is looking to prove he is still the quality utility player he’s been in the past with his concussion issues behind him, and Tzu-Wei Lin is out to prove he can be the next Red Sox player to serve that role and that 2017 wasn’t a fluke. Blake Swihart was also listed with the catchers, but he’ll get some time in the corner infield spots as well, assuming he makes the roster. Marco Hernandez is still recovering from last year’s shoulder injury, but he’s likely the best of this bunch and could make his way back to the majors shortly after he begins playing again. In Triple-A, Sam Travis is out to show he does have in-game power and can take over at first base when the job opens up again. Esteban Quiroz and Ivan De Jesus both have to perform in Triple-A to get a look at the majors, and Quiroz in particular is interesting as a former Mexican League star looking to prove he can translate that success to the majors. Overall, there is no real standout among this group but there is strength in numbers and the Red Sox should be happy with their infield depth heading into the year.
The Top Prospect
Although it’s not quite a consensus opinion, there are some outlets who consider Michael Chavis to be the top prospect in the organization regardless of position. Whether you have him one or two, there’s no denying that he’s someone to be excited about. The third baseman broke out in a huge way in 2017, showing off some of that raw power that made him a first round pick out of high school and enough contact skills to get by. There are certainly some questions about where he’ll ultimately play in the field — he’s not a great defensive third baseman and Rafael Devers figures to man the position for Boston for a long time — and whether his contact profile will allow him to fully blossom. That said, the power is Extremely Real and he’s going to get a chance in the majors at some point in the next couple of years. He’s not on the same level of some of the other top position player prospects the organization has produced in recent years, but Chavis has tools about which to be excited. He suffered an injury this spring and may not be ready for the start of the season, but when he does get his start he’ll likely start the year in Double-A Portland.
There are a handful of interesting infield prospects in the low minors, but the one who might have the best chance of going from under-the-radar to on-the-map is Pedro Castellanos. The first baseman has never really been a big name in the system, but all he’s done in his first two years with the organization is produce. He signed out of Venezuela for an undisclosed amount in 2015 and he hit extremely well in 2016 in the Dominican Summer League, eventually being named the Latin Program Player of the Year. He then was sent to the Gulf Coast League for his age-19 season and once again showed strong bat-to-ball skills. Castellanos still has a ton of work to do as he likely gets set for his full-season debut in 2018, but there’s a ton of raw power here and if he can improve his hit tool he can be someone who gets more and more interesting as he moves up the ladder.
- Chad De La Guerra has seemingly put himself on the map within the organization over the last year or so with a breakout 2017 that included a strong run in the Arizona Fall League. He’s not a future star, but he could be a useful infielder to have on a bench within the next couple of years, and perhaps as early as this summer if all goes well.
- Bobby Dalbec may be the most interesting non-Chavis infielder in the minor-league system. After bursting onto the scene in the summer of 2016, injuries and poor contact skills derailed his first full season and made his stock plummet. The raw power is still there, and if his coaches can find a way to rein in his strikeout rate just a bit, he could be back to climbing up the organizational list.
- C.J. Chatham is about to enter his age-23 season and was drafted two years ago, but he’s still a complete unknown. Injuries caused him to miss essentially all of 2017, and now he’s starting from square one and looking to prove he can still be a solid hitter with a strong glove at shortstop despite his lack of professional experience and a bigger frame than is typical for a big-league shortstop.
- Brett Netzer was one of the least exciting early draft picks from last summer’s Red Sox class, but the 2017 third rounder performed fairly well in Lowell last year and has a solid hit tool along with a solid profile at second base. He’s interesting for someone with a relatively low ceiling.
- Danny Diaz is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Diaz was given a $1.6 million signing bonus as part of last summer’s international free agent class and he has big power potential. He’s currently listed as a shortstop but is almost certain to eventually move to third base. He should make his professional debut in the DSL this summer.
- Antoni Flores was also part of last summer’s international free agent class, netting a $1.4 million signing bonus. Unlike Diaz, Flores is projected to stick at shortstop as a plus defensive player with raw offensive skills but the potential to develop the bat as he gets older. He’ll also start his professional career in 2018.