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Players to know on the Red Sox Instructs Roster

There’s a lot!

Nick Yorke
Kelly O’Connor;

Among the many side effects of the pandemic for baseball teams was that the majority of their minor leaguers didn’t have a chance to play affiliated ball all summer, instead having to rely on local leagues if they were able to get into organized games at all. To go a little way towards making up for this lack of action, the Red Sox are holding an extended Instructional League this fall down in Fort Myers. It will get started next week and run through mid-November. While there were rumors that some Florida teams may play each other and that is the plan for the teams in Arizona, the Red Sox will not be playing other teams. Instead, it’ll be all intrasquad games as was the case in Pawtucket over the summer.

For this fall session, there will be 62 players, including many of the top prospects in the organization, invited. The full list can be found here from our friends at Sox Prospects. We won’t be going over every player on this list. That said, there are a lot of interesting players I do want to briefly look at we head into the offseason with the Red Sox farm system still towards the bottom of the pack but still certainly on the rise.

2020 Draftees

All four players selected by the Red Sox in this past summer’s draft will be in attendance down in Fort Myers.

  • Nick Yorke (2B/SS) was the team’s first-round pick, and while he was seen as a reach and was partially taken for financial reasons, there is real reason to be excited about his bat. He got a chance to play in Pawtucket at the end of the summer and held his own against much more experienced competition.
  • Blaze Jordan (3B/1B) got the money saved with the Yorke pick and was a phenom in high school for his prodigious power. There are questions with the hit tool, but be ready to hear about some mammoth shots from him this fall.
  • Jeremy Wu-Yelland (LHP) comes into the organization with the lowest profile of these draftees, but there’s sneaky upside here. I think the lefty is better suited for the fastball where his fastball plays up, but he’ll get a chance to start right away.
  • Shane Drohan (RHP) is another pitcher who could end up in the bullpen, but there’s reason to believe he has more growth ahead of him than a typical college selection as he didn’t really start focusing totally on baseball until college.

Trade Acquisitions

  • Hudson Potts (3B/1B) came over in the Mitch Moreland trade and brings with him big-time power. There are some questions with the hit tool and the defense, but if he maxes out his power and just makes enough contact for it to play he can start. That’s a big if, though.
  • Jeisson Rosario (CF) is, in my opinion, the better prospect who came over in the Moreland deal. Rosario is an uber-athletic center fielder who does backflips after wins and also gets on base and plays great defense. He’s held back by a lack of power, though.
  • Jacob Wallace (RHP) was the player to be named later in the Kevin Pillar trade. A local kid from Methuen who went to UConn, he’s a true reliever but one that could move quickly through the minors.
2020 Boston Baseball Writers Dinner
Triston Casas
Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Alternate Site Repeats

Not all players from Pawtucket are coming down to Fort Myers as well (more on them later), but there are a few repeats, not including the trade acquisitions named above.

  • Triston Casas (1B) is, for my nonexistent fortune, the best prospect in the system. He stood out in a big way in Pawtucket and now he’s going to be able to face guys who are worse and also haven’t pitched professionally in a year. So that should be cool.
  • Jay Groome (LHP) was robbed of a very important year, but by all accounts he looked good in Pawtucket and now he has a chance to solidify this year as being as positive as possible.
  • Bryan Mata (RHP) should make his major-league debut as soon as later in the 2021 season, and like Groome he’s just looking to get more work in and build off a solid performance in Pawtucket.
  • Connor Wong (C/3B/2B) is the top catching prospect in the system, though he plays some infield as well. At the plate, he has a ton of pop and not a whole lot of contact.

Other Top Prospects

Among top ten prospects in the system, this will be our first look at them this year.

  • Gilberto Jimenez (CF) has been a little bit forgotten amid the (justified, in my opinion) Jarren Duran hype, but some came into this year thinking Jimenez was the better prospect. He’s still raw and was still learning to switch hit in 2019, but there’s big upside with his athleticism, defense and potential hit tool.
  • Thad Ward (RHP) was a surprising omission from the Alternate Site in my eyes, and I’m excited to see where he’s at. The righty was a big breakout in 2019 after adding a cutter to his arsenal and looks like he can stick as a starter long-term.

Potential Breakouts

These are guys that could’ve broken out in 2020, and will be names to remember next summer.

  • Brayan Bello (RHP) had a really weird 2019 in which he started out great, then struggled mightily before finishing great. He has the stuff to be an impact process, and I’m curious how the lost year affected him.
  • Chih-Jung Liu (RHP) was a big signing after last season and was going to be a big name to watch this summer. Instead, this will be our first real look at the pitcher.
  • Aldo Ramirez (RHP) doesn’t have the ceiling that some others in this section may have, but he was sneakily really solid last season but flew a bit under the radar in Lowell thanks to some other bigger names on that roster.
  • Matthew Lugo (SS) was the second player picked by Boston in the 2019 draft but the most talented. I struggled with where to put him, but I landed here because while he has some profile he could take a huge leap next year given where he plays in the field and his all-around profile.
  • Brainer Bonaci (SS) has perhaps the best name in the system and he was also perhaps the fastest riser leading into spring training last winter. He’s very raw, but the infielder is athletic and has some sneaky pop.
  • Ceddanne Rafaela (3B) is another plus-athlete whose offense could take a big step forward to make him into a legitimate prospect rather than just someone to dream on, which is where he stands for now.
  • Juan Chacon (CF) was the top international signing of the 2019 signing period, but obviously couldn’t play this summer. There’s not a ton of information out there since he hasn’t played, but there’s a chance for a strong all-around player here.
  • Eduardo Lopez (CF) was the top signing the year before Chacon. He did get to play in the DSL in 2019, and while the ceiling isn’t as high his approach and reported makeup make him intriguing even at a young age.

Don’t Forget About Us

These players may have fallen off the radar after the lost season, but don’t write them off yet.

  • Eduard Bazardo (RHP) was surprisingly not protected from the Rule 5 Draft last year, but stuck in the organization. He’s not a future closer, but there’s a future big-league reliever in there.
  • Durbin Feltman (RHP) came into the organization with a ton of hype, but fell flat in his professional debut. He’s going to need a big 2021, and these Instructs could be a building block to get his confidence up for next season.
  • Kutter Crawford (RHP) was the among the biggest breakouts in 2018, but he went down with injury in 2019. He could be a post-hype name to watch in 2021.
  • Pedro Castellanos (1B) was, in my opinion, most impacted by the lost 2020 season. He finally showed the power we’ve long been looking for to end 2019, and this will be his first chance to show it was no fluke.
  • Antoni Flores (SS) was highly touted after being signed out of the Domincan Republic, but he’s taken major steps back since joining the organization and 2021 could be his last chance.
  • Brandon Howlett (3B) looked like the steal of the 2018 draft after he had a scorching summer that year, but he struggled with an aggressive placement in Greenville in 2019. I’m still a believer, but losing 2020 put him further off the radar.
Brandon Howlett
Kelly O’Connor;

I couldn’t figure out another category

I wanted to talk about these guys but couldn’t think of another category.

  • Yusniel Padron-Artilles (RHP) was, like Aldo Ramirez, a bit under the radar in Lowell. He made some headlines in their playoffs, though, striking out 12 consecutive batters.
  • Jorge Rodriguez (LHP) was yet another member of that frankly sneaky-stacked Lowell rotation. He has a solid three-pitch mix but his size could force him to the bullpen at some point.
  • Ryan Zeferjahn (RHP) has huge stuff, and it’s probably a matter of when not if he’s moved to the bullpen. That said, the stuff could make him valuable in that role.
  • Cameron Cannon (2B), the first pick the team made in the 2019 draft, is a low-ceiling infielder who probably can’t stick at shortstop. That said, the shortcomings have overshadowed that there is a solid bat here that could play its way into a future bench role.
  • Nick Decker (RF) is another one of those big-power, low-contact hitters in this system. There’s a wide range of outcomes, but the top end is exciting.

Not on the list

These players will not be there.

  • CJ Chatham (INF), Yoan Aybar (RHP) and Marcus Wilson (OF)are all on the 40-man roster, and the Players Union said players on 40-man rosters cannot be on Instruct rosters. Aybar in particular is hurt here as he also was not invited to Pawtucket.
  • Noah Song (RHP) is still serving his time in the US Navy.
  • Jarren Duran (CF), Jeter Downs (2B/SS) and Connor Seabold (RHP) all spent the entire summer at Alternate Sites. (Seabold spent half of his time with the Phillies). The organization apparently feels confident they got all the work in they needed.
  • Luis Perales (RHP) was the most surprising omission to me. The international signee didn’t enter the organization with a lot of hype but saw a huge spike in velocity after signing and had a ton of helium last spring. I’d be curious to hear the reasoning for not inviting him.