On Friday, the Red Sox had some work to do with their roster as it was the deadline for teams across the league to protect eligible minor leaguers from the Rule 5 Draft by adding them to the 40-man roster. Although they waited until the literal last second, they got it done and ultimately added seven players while taking three off, pushing their 40-man to an even 40. You can read about the specific moves here.
We briefly touch on the players themselves in that linked post, but since these prospects — some of whom are among the best in the organization — are now officially on the 40-man roster, they probably deserve a deeper look. Today I want to look at what makes each of these seven players intriguing, what they still have to work on between now and their major-league debut, and what the path to that debut could look like. It’s that last part that’s particularly interesting to me following a season in which most of them did at least appear at the Alternate Site but none played in organized, affiliated games. We’ll lean heavily on the 2021 roster projections from our friends over at Sox Prospects.
Bryan Mata, RHP
Strengths: Mata has been one of the more intriguing arms in the system for a few years now, quickly bursting on the scene despite receiving a paltry $25,000 signing bonus out of Venezuela in 2016. He’s done very little but perform at each stop along the way, however, and made his way up to Double-A as a 20-year-old in 2019. It’s Mata’s stuff that jumps off the page, as he comes equipped with a fastball that can get up to the high 90s and sits in the mid 90s, along with a couple of solid breaking balls and a changeup that has flashed some potential. That hasn’t always resulted in big strikeout totals, though he did get his rate over a K per inning in 2019.
Weaknesses: While the stuff is certainly intriguing for Mata, as is the quick trajectory through the system, there are still some concerns. Chief among them would be his command, which has been inconsistent throughout his career. He’s been able to make up for that at the lower levels, but that becomes harder as he faces more advanced hitters. Especially as he’s gotten bigger and added that velocity, he’s had a harder time consistently commanding his pitches. Along with that, consistency with his delivery has been an issue that’s contributed to both the command issues as well as some injury issues throughout his career. All of that has combined to provide some pause that his ultimate future will be as a starter.
Path to the majors: Mata will turn 22 next May, so he still has time to develop. However, despite a 5.03 ERA over 11 starts in Portland in 2019, Sox Prospects still has him projected for Triple-A Worcester in 2021. That makes sense after he spent all of last summer at the Alternate Site and was mostly impressive there. Assuming he does start in Worcester, that puts a 2021 debut on the table, though that would have to come with a strong performance in the minors. My guess is he’ll get a shot towards the end of the year, but it’s no guarantee. Either way, I’d predict his first chance to make a real impact will come in 2022.
Jay Groome, LHP
Strengths: Groome is, to me, the most interesting player on this list as a former top prospect — at one point leading up to his draft year he was discussed as a potential 1-1 pick — who just hasn’t been able to stay healthy. He still flashes that potential, though, and he did so fairly consistently at the Alternate Site this summer. And while there are certainly concerns we’ll get to in a bit, Groome’s ceiling is still arguably as high as anyone in the system thanks to a potential for two plus pitches in his fastball and curveball to go with a solid changeup as well.
Weaknesses: Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to see that potential much at all, and a loss of development time is really the big weakness here. After being drafted in 2016, he has made only 20 starts as a professional and has made all of 11 as high as Greenville. And so now he is stuck in this weird place where he shouldn’t be rushed as the potential is too great, but also he is burning options on the 40-man. But for right now, he’s still only 22 and won’t turn 23 until the end of the 2021 minor-league system. He just needs to prove he can get through a season healthy, and we’ll worry about the rest once we cross that bridge.
Path to the majors: As I said, Groome is in a bit of a weird spot given his experience level. Sox Prospects has him projected for Salem, which makes sense, and I’d guess the hope is they’d be able to get him up to Portland for at least the last month or so of the season. They won’t rush him, but if things go well that’ll be ideal. The best-case scenario is likely a late-2022 debut, though 2023 is probably more likely.
Jeisson Rosario, CF
Strengths: Rosario came over from the Padres organization in the Mitch Moreland deal, and he provides some very obvious strengths just watching him. The first is his athleticism, as he covers a ton of ground in center field and puts an exclamation point on wins with a celebratory back flip. He’s not just a defense-only player, though, as he profiles as a potential leadoff man if things go right. Rosario boasts a tremendous approach at the plate that has led to sky-high walk rates throughout his time in the minors despite typically being young for whatever level he’s been at. Over his minor-league career he has a .376 OBP.
Weaknesses: While Rosario has that great approach, the ceiling is limited a bit by the fact that he just doesn’t have much power in his bat. He could use his athleticism to boost his numbers slightly with a few extra doubles and triples, but for the most part he’ll be an OBP-driven offensive player. His performance at Instructs also left some in the organization disappointed, as detailed here by Ian Cundall.
Path to the majors: Rosario spent all of 2019 at High-A as a 19-year-old, and while he did spend the summer at the Alternate Site both for the Padres and with the Red Sox, given his age Sox Prospects has him projected to start 2021 in Double-A. That makes sense for the age reason, but also because Jarren Duran is ahead of him in the system. Rosario is likely looking at a 2022 debut if things go well.
Connor Seabold, RHP
Strengths: Another trade acquisition from this past summer, Seabold was acquired from the Phillies in the deal that sent Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree out of town. Seabold, a former third rounder, just brings a solid across-the-board skillset. There’s not a ton that jumps off the page with him — his changeup is very good and is likely his best offering — but he just is pretty good at everything. He gets whiffs, he throws strikes, and he can stick as a starter.
Weaknesses: Really the biggest weakness here for Seabold is that he doesn’t really have that one quality that you look at that could elevate him to a top-of-the-rotation arm. The concern with this kind of profile as a guy with good-not-great offerings who throws strikes is that major-league hitters could hit him hard. But that is more of a theoretical concern at this point as he hasn’t been hurt to too great of an extent in the minors.
Path to the majors: Like Mata, Seabold is pegged to start 2021 in Worcester at Triple-A. The difference in age is fairly significant, though, with Seabold turning 25 before pitchers and catchers report. That, combined with a little more polish in his game, likely gives Seabold a chance to make his debut earlier. I’d expect to see him at some point next year.
Hudson Potts, INF
Strengths: Potts came over from the Padres along with Rosario in that Moreland trade, and spent the summer at the Alternate Sites for San Diego as well as Boston. And as far as strengths go, Potts resembles a lot of other recent position players who have entered this system in that he is a big power bat. That is his carrying tool, and that is what will likely provide him a role in the majors, whatever that role may end up being. It’s plus and he can hit for power to all fields.
Weaknesses: As is the case for a whole lot of power hitting prospects, however, Potts does not exactly have a refined hit tool. Since reaching full-season ball in 2017, he has carried a strikeout rate of at least 25 percent every stop along the way, striking out nearly 29 percent of the time in 2019 at Double-A. Power is great, but the extent to which you can tap into it depends largely on how often you can make contact, and that’s something Potts does need to work on. Defensively, Potts doesn’t provide a ton of value though you should be able to plug him in at third or second and be fine with it.
Path to the majors: I was a little surprised to see Sox Prospects peg Potts for a Double-A job in 2021, though the glut of infielders at Triple-A does explain that a bit. Potts spent all of 2019 at Double-A and the tail-end of 2018 there as well, but struggled to get going in both of those stints. If he does start in Portland, the goal would presumably be to get him to Worcester at some point next summer with an eye on a 2022 debut.
Connor Wong, C/INF
Strengths: I feel like I can just copy and paste the Potts section in here, as Wong is a similar type of player. He probably doesn’t have quite the power potential that Potts possesses, but Wong certainly has above-average raw power. I would also add his interesting defensive profile here. Wong is primarily a catcher, but he’s shown an ability to play at second and third as well. That’s not a super common skillset, and it opens up a lot of different possibilities with your roster if you’re able to carry a catcher who can also fill in around the diamond, whether that means carrying three catchers or perhaps an offensive-minded bat for the bench.
Weaknesses: Again, just like Potts, Wong combines the big power with a big inability to make contact, and as I said before it’s hard to tap into that power if you’re not first making contact with the baseball. Back in 2019, when he was with the Dodgers before coming over in the Mookie Betts deal, he struck out over 30 percent of the time at both High-A and Double-A. He also doesn’t project as a great defensive catcher, though he should be good enough there to stick.
Path to the majors: Sox Prospects projects him to start 2021 at Double-A, and as was the case with Rosario I think that has as much to do with Wong as it does the guy in front of him, in this case Deivy Grullón. What’s best for Wong at this point is consistent at bats and consistent time behind the plate. He won’t get that at Triple-A to start next season. Look for him to make his debut in 2022, though injuries ahead of him on the depth chart could certainly speed up that timeline.
Strengths: Bazardo was the biggest surprise to be added, though Cundall’s aforementioned reports from Instructs did kind of telegraph this move. According to that report, Bazardo upped the velocity on his fastball to get into the 93-97 range, which is up a few ticks from when we last saw him in 2019. To go with that fastball Bazardo has a really good curveball that works as his best pitch. As we’ve seen in recent years, the Red Sox love their fastball/curveball relievers.
Weaknesses: For all of the improvement he apparently made over the summer while working out on his own, Bazardo still doesn’t quite have that kind of back-end potential, with his ceiling at this point likely being something like the third best reliever in a good bullpen. Even with the improved fastball, it’s still not quite the elite level heat you see from the best relievers. Additionally, Bazardo has a bit of a small frame so it may not be possible to lean on him as heavily as would be ideal for a top relief option.
Path to the majors: While Bazardo has the lowest ceiling on this list, he’s also on track to be the first in the majors. Depending on what they do in the bullpen this winter, I don’t think it’s ridiculous to think of a scenario where he is pushing for a spot out of camp, though more likely is that he gets his chance in the middle of next season.