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Minor-league Depth Check: Right Field

The final offensive position in our look around the system.

Nick Decker
Kelly O’Connor; https://sittingstill.smugmug.com/

Among the weirdest parts of the 2020 season was that we didn’t get any minor-league season, and thus an entire season of development was lost for a whole lot of prospects. A few were able to participate in Pawtucket, but for the most part they were left on their own with just Zoom calls with coaches in the organization. Along with the lost development, players down on the farm have also fallen out of consciousness for some fans. That brings us to this series. Over the next two weeks, as we head into an offseason where the Red Sox may be looking to boost their farm system in some areas and trade out of it in others, we’re going to go position-by-position to reacclimate ourselves with the minor-leaguers all across the organization. Today, we look at the crop of right field.

Top Prospect

Nick Decker

Much like left field, a lot of top right fielders didn’t come up as right field prospects, although that is admittedly more of a thing here than it was in left. That said, while the Red Sox were relatively loaded in yesterday’s look at the center fielders (linked below), the right field crop isn’t quite as exciting. With Decker, though, there is at least some tools on which one can dream. The second round pick was taken after Triston Casas back in 2018, and he possesses a similar, albeit lesser, profile in that he is a power-first, contact-second corner bat out of high school. Decker had a little less polish to him entering the organization having come from a cold weather region in New Jersey.

Also like Casas, he got hurt early in that first summer with the organization, so he didn’t get a chance to show off in that first year. As a result, 2019 was the first taste of what Decker could really provide. He spent that entire summer at Lowell, and unsurprisingly had an uneven performance. When he was good, it was easy to dream on a future starter. He showed off easy power and enough contact for that power to play in-game. Defensively, he has played a little bit of center, but doesn’t profile there long-term. However, he showed off the range that can play in right field as well as the arm suited for that side of the field as well.

Unfortunately, we also saw the flaws, mostly with his contact. Decker, who just celebrated his 21st birthday earlier this month, has trouble with spin and struggles mightily against opposing southpaws. To be fair, none of this is terribly surprising and since, as mentioned above, he doesn’t come from a baseball hotbed more development is to be expected. The year off certainly doesn’t help someone like this, but 2021 will be a big year. Decker needs to show strides each and every year. More likely than not he’s going to be a power bat off the bench, but it’s far too early to write off the possibility of him reaching his ceiling of a starting outfielder.

Sleeper Prospect

Tyler Esplin

Esplin was drafted a year earlier than Decker, but as a young high schooler at the time he’s actually only a couple months older. And while he’s had more time in the organization, there’s just as much uncertainty with Esplin as the player ahead of him on this list. The former seventh round pick possesses a very similar profile to Decker as well, with his power leading the way and the hit took potentially getting in the way. Defensively, his arm is huge as a former pitcher, but his range may force him to left at some point. That, obviously, would negate that arm a bit.

He spent all of 2019 in Greenville as a 19-year-old, which is nothing to sneeze at, and held his own with a .701 OPS. That was his third season in the organization, though, and he’s yet to really show he can perform consistently. The flashes are there, but the approach needs to improve. If it does, look for him to creep into that Decker zone as a perceived future bench bat.

Others of note

  • Marcus Wilson was placed on the 40-man roster last winter to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, but didn’t get to participate in the workouts in Pawtucket until the very end of the summer. The return in the deal that sent Blake Swihart to Arizona, Wilson has a ton of athleticism and finally tapped into his power in 2019, but contact issues have the potential to prevent a long career.
  • Darel Belen was not a highly-touted signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2019 and he was signed as a 19-year-old when most players are signed at 16 or 17, but there are things to like. Most notably would be his power, but his athleticism is intriguing as well. He’s someone to watch as he faces more age-appropriate competition than what he saw in the Dominican Summer League in 2019.
  • Eduardo Vaughan got a $550,000 bonus in 2018 and made his professional debut in 2019. The tools are pretty exciting, though he struggled in the DSL that summer and obviously didn’t get to play this year.
  • Nick Longhi is probably not a prospect in the traditional sense, but he can hit for power against righties and could be a key Quad-A depth piece for the next year or two.