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This is the year for the farm system to take a step forward

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The farm isn’t the focus of the organization, but it’s in a position to get on the upswing

Seattle Mariners v Boston Red Sox Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

The Red Sox are in a position where something close to their undivided attention should be paid to the major-league roster. Obviously, that’s an oversimplification of how front offices work and ignores that significant personnel is focused on the farm system at all times. Still, at least symbolically, the Red Sox are at a point on the win curve where maximizing the majors matters most. That is almost always the case for this franchise, but it’s even more true now coming off a historically great season with a legitimate chance to become the first team to repeat as champions in 19 years. You only have this kind of core with that kind of chance to make history once in a generation, and that is not a situation to take lightly. In that sense, the Red Sox have done exactly what they are supposed to do with their roster construction.

At the same time, it’s still not a positive to have a bad farm system, which Boston inarguably has at the moment. That’s not even a knock on any individual prospects — I am relatively high on a good handful of players in the Red Sox system right now — but just about every impartial national prospect evaluator agrees that this system is among the worst in the game. In an ideal world, the farm would always be good. Obviously that’s an unattainable goal, but even a team in the Red Sox position can use good prospects. Not only do they give a team consistent replacements for players who age out of their prime production, but more importantly they represent trade possibilities to add proven talent to the major-league roster.

Right now, the Red Sox don’t have a whole lot of possibilities on that front. As we talked about just yesterday, there are a lot of legitimate and understandable reasons for the system to be where it is right now. It is possible, if extremely difficult, to balance major-league and minor-league success, but it’s very hard right now to criticize Dombrowski too much for anything. All of that being said, there could be some good news on the horizon for those who are bummed out about the downturn the system has taken over the last couple of years as they are set up to start taking a step forward in 2019.

Of course there is no guarantee for any prospect, and that goes doubly for those with little-to-no professional experience. Still, the Red Sox had what looks like it could be a very strong draft class last summer. The big name who has emerged is Durbin Feltman, who could and possibly should contribute to the big-league squad as soon as the first half of this season. That’s certainly intriguing, but other players in last year’s draft class are exciting as well. Triston Casas was one of the top prep bats in the class, and while he didn’t get much of a chance to prove himself in 2018 he could shoot his way up in terms of national profile in 2019 if he performs up to his potential. Nick Decker has become somewhat forgotten, but he has big power potential in the corner outfield. Nicholas Northcut was an overslot sign who wasn’t expected to forgo college, and Brandon Howlett was one of the best performers in the GCL last year. There’s also Jarren Duran, who doesn’t have the ceiling of the high school players mentioned here but one who could be a quick mover and who had success in his first taste of professional ball.

Jarren Duran
Kelly O’Connor; sittingstill.smugmug.com

So, the most recent draft class will boost the system quite a bit if everything goes right, or even if just some of it goes right. That’s not all of the reason for excitement, though, as Boston has a few players on the international side that can boost the system as well. If you asked evaluators who in the entire system is most likely to take a massive leap forward in 2019, the most popular answer would likely be Antoni Flores. The shortstop prospect is very young and very raw, but he has the potential to be an all-around contributor at a premium position. If he turns that potential into on-field performance in 2019, expect him to headline the system at this point next year. Gilberto Jimenez is the guy most likely to go from a relative unknown to force in this system, as his makeup is off-the-charts and his athleticism gives him a chance to excel in the outfield. Danny Diaz was a big international signing a couple years ago, and while he hasn’t performed as consistently as we’d have liked to this point he is still only 18 years old.

Obviously, we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen with these players, and it’s always possible that none or very few of them work out. That’s the nature of prospects. That said, there’s a lot of talent among these players and it doesn’t even include guys like Tanner Houck, Bryan Mata and Alex Scherff who could take steps forward in 2019 as well. As I said a the top, the focus for the Red Sox has to be on the major-league squad right now, but for those who would like to see some more talent in the minors along with the major-league success that could start to arrive this year.