For the second vote in a row, we have a runaway despite being in a portion of the prospect pool that has a good amount of variance in national prospect rankings. That’s not a bad thing, of course, just surprising. Sometimes surprises are good! We do have another position player this time around, with Nick Decker coming in as our number 14 (13 without Jeter Downs, who came in after we started this process) prospect after getting 54 percent of the vote.
The 2018 draft class for the Red Sox is probably going to be remembered for Triston Casas, who was taken in the first round and has already developed into a near-consensus top 100 prospect in the game. In the second round of that draft, though, they took a somewhat similar prospect in Decker. The pedigree wasn’t as strong (obviously since, you know, he was taken a round later) but like Casas he was a high school bat and like Casas he had big power with some questions about his hit tool. Decker was different in that he was (and is) an outfielder and also that he came from New Jersey, a cold weather state where players are generally a bit more raw.
There was another similarity between Casas and Decker from after they signed as well, as both players didn’t really get a chance to show off their skills in that first summer after being drafted. Decker was only able to play in two games in the GCL in 2018 due to a fracture in his hand he suffered swinging at a pitch. So, he was basically an unknown as we headed into the 2019 season.
While Casas was pushed up to Greenville despite barely playing in that summer of 2018, Decker was held back. Again, that makes sense given the disparity in overall talent and the fact that the latter, as a cold weather draft prospect, just wasn’t as polished. Instead, Decker was held back for extended spring training before the short seasons started and he spent the entire season in Lowell. There was some good and some bad, but for the most part he held his own as a 19-year-old with barely any professional experience. The lefty ended up playing in 53 games and getting 195 plate appearances and he hit .247/.328/.471 with six homers, ten doubles and five triples. I would caution against reading too much into those five triples because New York Penn League defense aren’t the best, but there was a real ability to drive the ball shown there. On the other end of the spectrum, he was caught stealing more than he successfully stole a base and he also struck out 30 percent of the time.
On the scouting side, not a whole hell of a lot has changed since the draft. The power is still the carrying tool, and while the ball didn’t go over the fence a ton (his homer pace would be good for 18 in 600 plate appearances) it was a respectable mark and he had a .224 Isolated Power (SLG - AVG). The bigger question is the hit tool, though there are plenty of scouts who don’t think that 30 percent strikeout rate is necessarily representative of his true talent in that area. There are things to like, at least, and reason to believe he can develop into an average hit tool. That is the key to his eventual role at the plate. In the field, he was a center fielder in high school and played there a couple times last year, but he’s almost certainly destined for a corner. His athleticism is fringe for that spot right now and it won’t get better as he fills out moving up the ladder. Still, if the bat develops into an average hit, above-average power, it’ll play in right field.
Last year was sort of a test run for Decker as he was robbed of that first taste of professional ball in 2018, and now 2020 is going to be a really interesting test as he’s expected to start the year in Greenville. It will be his first full season as well as the best and most polished pitching he’s ever seen. The talent is there for him to succeed, but there’s plenty left to prove, too.
Here is our list so far:
1A. Jeter Downs
1B. Triston Casas
2. Bobby Dalbec
3. Bryan Mata
4. Noah Song
6. Jay Groome
7. Jarren Duran
8. Thad Ward
9. Tanner Houck
10. Matthew Lugo
11. C.J. Chatham
12. Connor Wong
13. Nick Decker
Now, you can head down into the comments and vote for the number two. As a reminder, to do this you go down below and find the comment from me corresponding with the player for whom you’d like to vote. When you find said player, just click the “rec” button, and that will count your vote. To do this, you will need to be logged in as a member of the site. If you’d like to vote for a player who is not listed, just leave a comment saying “Vote for ___ here” and I’ll rec the comment to count your vote. Until next time...