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Minor-league Depth Check: First Base

A look at the cold corner in the organization.

Triston Casas
Kelly O’Connor;

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 go look at the crop of first basemen.

Top Prospect

Triston Casas

For most teams, the top prospect in a farm system either plays up the middle or they’re a starting pitcher. Some may argue that is the case for the Red Sox as well, with Jeter Downs number one on some lists. For my money, though, it’s at first base with Casas. There is obviously a lot more pressure on his bat than there would be if he played a more valuable defensive position, but I’m not overly concerned about him making good on that. Despite a relatively small sample in the minors and having limited experience above A-ball, Casas has shown every indication he is very much for real. There is big power and an approach to go with it. He has said he’s looked up to Joey Votto, which can only bode well for his approach. I’m still not really sure how much stock to put into performances at Alternate Sites this summer, but it’s worth noting he didn’t look out of place against pitchers that have pitched in the majors.

And while defense at first base isn’t seen as that valuable — that’s something I take some issue with, but that’s a tangent for another day — it doesn’t hurt to be good there. Casas has looked like he can be an above-average fielder to go along with that potential at the plate. Looking ahead, I’m very interested to see how aggressively they move Casas. I’m certainly not expecting him to be in the majors at all next year, but after spending most of the summer at the Alternate Site, will they push him to Portland to start 2021? There’s an argument for it, and from there he could move.

Sleeper Prospect

Pedro Castellanos

Every prospect has a reason for why not having a normal season in 2020 hurt their stock and development path, but among Red Sox prospects at least I think Castellanos is the one who could be most hurt. He has always been a bit of a flummoxing prospect, showing big power in batting practice but never bringing it into games. It’s never really made sense, but it’s held him back. Then, over the final six weeks or so in 2019, he exploded in the power department. With Salem, which is home to one of the more pitcher-friendly parks in the minors, Castellanos smashed eight homers in his final 30 games.

Building off that, 2020 was a chance for him to show that it was for real and really put himself on the prospect map. Instead, the season never happened and he wasn’t invited to Pawtucket, so he’s sort of fallen off said map. He will turn 23 before the end of this year, but if that power carries over into next season he will start to gain some buzz very quickly.

Others of Note

  • Bobby Dalbec is sort of not a prospect anymore after spending all of September in the majors, but he didn’t exhaust his rookie eligibility so he’s still here. Either way, he should get the bulk of the playing time at first in the majors next year and will have every chance to become a long-term part of this lineup. He’ll need to cut down on the strikeouts to do so, though.
  • Josh Ockimey has an extremely limited profile in that he can only play first base or DH and really shouldn’t ever hit against lefties, but he takes a ton of walks and can hit for power against righties, so a future bench role could be possible looking ahead.
  • Devlin Granberg was a senior draftee in 2018 who was selected largely to save slot money, but he’s produced as a pro. There’s not a huge ceiling here and there’s a good chance he’s not even a major-leaguer, but he’ll keep getting chances as long as the numbers are there. He can also play some in left field.
  • Stephen Scott was another senior draftee, though he came from a bigger program in Vanderbilt and was selected in 2019. Like Granberg, there’s not much of a ceiling and he’s most likely an organizational piece, but there are reasons for optimism. With Scott, it’s his power as well as his makeup, which people who know him rave about.
  • Albert Feliz was the other contender for my sleeper here and another guy who could have gotten more buzz with a 2020 season. He got a $400,000 bonus out of the Dominican Republic in 2018 and made his pro debut in the DSL in 2019. There, he showed big power that could carry him moving forward. He needs to sharpen up the contact skills, but he doesn’t turn 19 until next April so there is time for that to happen.

Note: A previous version of this story indicated that Bobby Dalbec did not accrue service time in September, but he did. H/T to Chris Hatfield for catching the mistake.