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The 2019 All-Prospect Team: The hitters

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Putting together a lineup and pitching staff of the top performing prospects in the organization from 2019.

Triston Casas
Kelly O’Connor; https://sittingstill.smugmug.com

The minor-league season ended a while before the major-league season and the dust has mostly settled on that portion of the year. Of course, a lot of prospects are playing in high-profile baseball pretty much all year round with the Arizona Fall League happening right now and winter leagues in Latin America starting up soon themselves. That said, games affiliated specifically with the Red Sox have been over for some time. With that time behind us to give us a breather to step back and look at what we’ve seen this year, it’s time to put out the All-Star roster for Red Sox prospects.

A couple of notes before we begin. We will have a main player and an honorable mention for each position. There is a DH, but this will be the best (in my mind, of course) would-be honorable mention who I think deserves a greater spotlight. Also, this is based on 2019 performance not prospect status. With all of that out of the way, let’s get it going.

Catcher

Kole Cottam

Cottam was Boston’s fourth round pick out of the University of Kentucky in the 2018 draft and he flew a bit under the radar this past summer. Spending most of the year in Greenville with a taste of Salem at the end of the season, he hit .255/.363/.424 on the year. He got better as the year went along, too, kind of just chugging along in the first two months before putting up an .891 OPS in Jue and a .985 mark in July. The bat is certainly there for him to more than hold his own given his position, but there are questions about his defense which could make him move a bit slower than one would think based on the bat. Expect him to start next year in Salem with a chance at a later-year promotion to Portland if things progress as hoped.

Honorable Mention: Jhon Nunez

Nunez kind of flies under the radar but he had a solid year before getting hurt in Portland, hitting .280/.333/.412 in 64 games with good defense.

First Base

Triston Casas

I mean, duh, right? There isn’t a whole lot more to say about Casas than has already been said, as he is the top prospect in the organization and separated himself as such in 2019. The team named him their offensive prospect of the season, and he earned himself a very late-season call-up to Salem in his first full year out of high school. On the season the 2018 first round pick hit .256/.350/.480. That is especially impressive when you consider he had an OPS of just .648 after the first month of the season. Casas will be in consideration on many, if not all, top 100 lists this winter and will start next season in Salem. I’m really curious to see how aggressive they’d be if he smashes that level in the first half. He doesn’t turn 20 until after the new year.

Honorable Mention: Josh Ockimey

Ockimey was, well, exactly what we thought he was as a low-average, high-walk power hitter who destroys right-handed pitching and struggles against lefties. He did finish the year with a strong .811 OPS.

Brett Netzer
Kelly O’Connor; https://sittingstill.smugmug.com

Second Base

Brett Netzer

This was probably the hardest position to choose as the Red Sox just didn’t have a true stand out here. Chris Owings was really good, but that was a fairly short run in Pawtucket. The same can be said for Marco Hernández while he was getting back into shape coming off his injuries. So, we go with Netzer, a former third round pick who hit .247/.320/.357 on the year. That doesn’t sound super impressive, but Fangraphs does have that as an average line (101 wRC+) in the Eastern League. Netzer isn’t a very exciting player, but he has the potential to sneak up on some people as a potential bench option down the road. Sox Prospects has him projected to repeat Portland next season, at least to start the year.

Honorable Mention: Daniel Bakst

Bakst is a really interesting player as a former top high school prospect who went to Stanford then took the 2019 college season off from baseball after missing much of 2018 with injury. The Red Sox still drafted him in the 28th round and he put up an .866 OPS in the GCL.

Ed. Note: A previous version of this story said Bakst sat out the 2018 season rather than the 2019 season.

Third Base

Bobby Dalbec

This one was just as obvious as the other corner infield spot, albeit with a prospect who is a little closer to the majors. Dalbec has more glaring holes than Casas does in his swing, though it’s impossible to overlook the strides the former two-way University of Arizona star made in 2019. While maintaining his big power, Dalbec cut his strikeout rate down from over 30 percent to just 25 percent in 2019. If he can maintain that in Triple-A and the majors, that should be enough for his power to really play up and to make an impact at the highest level. He did struggle to draw walks after a promotion to Pawtucket, but that was a sample of only 30 games so I wouldn’t worry too much about that. Dalbec will be in big league camp next season and whether it’s right away or later in the year, will be competing for a major-league role at some point in 2020.

Honorable Mention: Jantzen Witte

Witte has never been a top prospect but with no clear options here I’ll give him a shoutout as a solid organizational piece in the high minors for the last few years. He’s a minor-league free agent and may not be back with the team in 2020.

Shortstop

C.J. Chatham

I came into the year as something of a C.J. Chatham skeptic, focusing on the lack of power and patience rather than appreciating him for what he is. If you’re expecting a star, or even really a guy who should be starting on a playoff team, I think your sights are set a little too high. However, he had a really solid year in Portland with a .297/.333/.403 line before a promotion to Pawtucket and showed off that hit tool that should carry him to some sort of major-league role. Between that and defense that can stick at shortstop as well as added versatility from playing second base this year as well, Chatham has all the makings of a good bench player for a playoff-type team or a potential starter on a bad team in the near future. He’ll be in Pawtucket to start next year but could be among the first options to be called up in case of injury.

Honorable Mention: Ryan Fitzgerald

Offensively, the former undrafted player and Indy League standout was great in the first half before falling off in the second, but he did take home the organization’s Defensive Player of the Year award on top of that.

Left Field

Cole Sturgeon

It makes sense that you don’t see a lot of top prospects patrolling left field. If you are really high on a guy and want them to have as much value as possible, you at least give them a shot playing a more valuable position before eventually moving to left field. That isn’t meant as a shot at Sturgeon, though, who wasn’t even great in 2019 but at a weak position gets a shoutout from me. After getting a big league invite in the spring, Sturgeon showed off his athleticism and solid hit tool, albeit with a lack of power that doesn’t really play in the corner outfield. He’ll be back in Pawtucket next year and has a very outside shot at a major-league call-up if the team is hurting for outfield help.

Honorable Mention: Dean Miller

Miller was the team’s 24th round pick this past summer and was selected largely because of his big power. He dominated GCL pitching to the tune of a .289/.370/508 line in 37 games this summer.

Center Field

Gilberto Jimenez

This was the team’s deepest position in 2019, with two big standouts and a third really solid player patrolling center field. Jimenez clearly stood out among the rest, though, with the one argument against him simply being that he did so in short-season ball. That’s not enough for me to not give him this, however. Jimenez dominated in Lowell as an 18-year-old playing Stateside for the first time. He hit .359/.393/.470 with good defense and baserunning, all while also learning to switch-hit for the first time. Jimenez has turned into one of the big-time helium prospects in the organization and could have a national-level breakout if he succeeds in Greenville next year as well.

Honorable Mention: Marcus Wilson

Wilson saw almost as much time in right field as center, but qualifies here. The return in the Blake Swihart deal, Wilson struggled upon first getting to the organization, but a demotion to Salem helped get him back on track and he hit well in his second try at Portland later in the year.

Right Field

Nick Decker

Decker was the team’s second round pick in 2018, and fit a similar mold to Casas, albeit with more risk and a lower ceiling. As another power-hitting corner player with some questions with his hit tool, he also missed basically all of his first professional season. So, we were a little blind coming into 2019, but Decker showed off his skills in Lowell. The right fielder hit for big-time power with a .224 Isolated Power and walked enough to overshadow his strikeout rate that climbed to 30 percent. He’ll need to cut down on his swing and miss a bit if his power is going to play at the upper levels, but this was a good all-around introduction to pro ball for Decker. He’ll get his first taste of full-season ball in 2020.

Honorable Mention: Edgar Corcina

Corcina was a 27-year-old in High-A, but in his lone year with the Red Sox (he’s a minor-league free agent again this winter) he crushed the ball with a 169 wRC+ in Salem.

Designated Hitter

Jarren Duran

Again, this is not an award going to a guy who played DH in the season but rather the best leftover option. Duran was the player in the organization in the first half with a performance that (along with a generally barren farm system at that point) earned him a spot on the Futures Game roster. The speedy outfielder slowed down a lot after getting to Portland, but he turned things around to end the year and has gotten off to a solid start in the Arizona Fall League. The ceiling isn’t massive for Duran, but he has a good hit tool and elite speed to help mask some of his other flaws. I think I’m among the higher people on Duran, but I see a guy who has real potential to turn into a solid major-league starter with a few fringy All-Star seasons when everything goes his way. He could be knocking on the door to the majors as soon as midway through next season.

Honorable Mention: Devlin Granberg

Granberg is an interesting guy who has moved around diamond and has hit very well in a year-and-a-half at lower levels. As a more polished college senior sign, that’s not entirely unexpected but he’s a guy to keep an eye on as he starts to get tested against better competition.