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Red Sox Draft Preview: Catchers and infielders

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We start our preview of possible draft targets with a look at players on the dirt.

2020 Boston Baseball Writers Dinner Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

We are still waiting to see whether or not there will be baseball this season, with the coming week being the big step in that process. Either way, though, the MLB Draft is still coming, and in fact is quickly approaching. Scheduled for June 10 and 11, we are less than two weeks away, so it seems like it’s time to turn our focus at least partially towards what the Red Sox will do. Of course, it’s not a normal draft with only five rounds this year, and Boston also missing their second rounder. Over the next four days, we will be looking at some players who could be available for the Red Sox’s first pick, starting today with catchers and infielders. This list was helped by the top draft prospect lists from Baseball America and FanGraphs.

Catchers

Tyler Soderstrom, Turlock HS (CA)

Soderstrom is ranked 18th on Baseball America’s top 500 and while he is committed to UCLA for next spring, BA gets the sense that he will be picked early enough to take him away from said commitment. Soderstrom is an offensively-oriented backstop, with big raw power and a solid approach at the plate to go with it, which is particularly intriguing for a prep player. The questions come with his defense, but as we’ve discussed before now may be the time to pounce on catchers with defense question marks because the likely implementation of robot umpires that are coming sooner than later could devalue catcher defense to a large degree.

Austin Wells, University of Arizona

Wells has been connected to the Red Sox already this draft season, with an earlier version of BA’s mock draft having Wells going to Boston. He is ranked 21st on BA’s top 500. The University of Arizona prospect was a teammate of last year’s top pick from the organization, Cameron Cannon, and was a Yankees draft pick out of high school. Instead choosing to go to college, Wells has a very similar profile to Soderstrom, albeit from a college prospect instead of a prep one. The power and approach are intriguing, but there are questions about his ability to stick behind the plate long-term.

Dillon Dingler, Ohio State University

Dingler is ranked 37th by BA and 29th by FanGraphs, so this could be a little aggressive for the 17th overall pick and a little optimistic for their third rounder. That said, Dingler is one of the players who had the potential to really boost their stock in 2020, which obviously couldn’t happen. He did hit extremely well in the 10 games OSU got in before the season was cancelled, though. A former outfielder, Dingler’s defense is looked at quite well given his arm and athleticism, with the bat being the bigger question. Scouts disagree about how much power potential is really in that bat.

Drew Romo, The Woodlands HS (TX)

Romo is a really interesting prospect who is ranked 38th by Baseball America, but is the type of player I could see rising or falling compared to that ranking. The prep catcher is known for his defense, and Baseball America notes that he’s been seen as perhaps the top defensive backstop in Texas for years now, even with Shea Langeliers in the state. Langeliers was a top ten pick last year who was also known for his glove. The bat is a bit more of a question, with intriguing power but questions with the hit tool. Ultimately, this one likely comes down to scouts being able to see a fixable issue to make the hit tool more workable long-term. Romo is committed to LSU.

Corner Infielders

Jordan Walker, Decatur HS (GA)

Walker is ranked 34th on BA’s list and 44 by FanGraphs and is committed to Duke for next season. The third baseman is a monster on the field in terms of sheer size, listed at 6’5”, 220 pounds according to BA. As you would expect with that kind of size, the power is on the plus side and he has the potential for a good hit tool as well, though obviously there’s some work to be done given his status as a prep player. On the other side of the ball, he’s shown solid tools at third base but his size still makes some think a move to first base or the outfield is in his future. BA indicates there is some polarization in opinions about Walker, though his makeup is looked at kindly by most.

Aaron Sabato, University of North Carolina

You don’t really draft for need in baseball, though it is worth noting that with Triston Casas already in the organization the Red Sox might be more hesitant than maybe they already would be by taking a first baseman early. That said, the draft-eligible sophomore, who is ranked 35th by BA and 37th by FanGraphs, had a monster freshman year in 2019 with UNC, leading the team in all three triple-slash categories. He doesn’t provide really any defensive value and there are some questions about his ability to make contact, but he is a modern prospect in that he hits for absolutely massive power and draws a ton of walks, a la Joey Gallo. (Though obviously I’m not making that comp based on talent level, but rather profile type.)

Middle Infielders

Ed Howard, Mount Carmel HS (IL)

Howard is the top high school shortstop in the class, and is ranked 20th by BA and 11th by FanGraphs. In a normal year, that type of player would go earlier than 17 where the Red Sox pick, but teams are going to be more hesitant on prep players this year. Howard is known mostly for his defense, as he is the top defensive shortstop in the class with basically no doubt he’ll be able to stick at the position long-term. The bat is more of a question mark and he’ll be a project on that side of the ball, but many scouts see the tools there for him to be a solid table-setter even if power’s not going to be a big part of his game. He’s committed to Oklahoma.

Casey Martin, University of Arkansas

Martin is ranked 27th by BA and 41st by FanGraphs and is a really interesting but perhaps risky kind of prospect. The tools are all there for the shortstop to be a top prospect sooner than later, as he has what you want to see on both sides of the ball. The issue is that he is extremely aggressive at the plate and whoever drafts him will need to find a way to rein him in a bit to get the most out of his loud tools. He also has the potential to be very good defensively, but a lack of polish lead some to believe he may need to move and use his athleticism in center field or second base instead.

Nick Loftin, Baylor University

Loftin is ranked 29th by BA, and he is not really the type of prospect who jumps off the page, particularly following a couple of particularly toolsy shortstops ahead of him on this list. While he might not be particularly flashy, though, the Baylor shortstop is seen to be good at pretty much everything and has shown some growth throughout his time at college, including a hot start this spring before the season was cancelled. He’d be more of a safe prospect rather than a high-upside one, though it seems silly to suggest an all-around shortstop wouldn’t have upside.

Alika Williams, Arizona State

Another college shortstop, Williams is ranked 31 by BA and 65th by FanGraphs. Interestingly for Red Sox fans, Williams gets compared to Deven Marrero in his write-up on Baseball America. Marrero was, of course, a first round pick by the Red Sox back in 2012 and another former Sun Devil. Williams is a very good defensive shortstop who should be able to stick at the position long-term, and he has a good approach at the plate. His power is more gap-to-gap than over-the-fence which limits his upside, but if he can get close to his maximum potential in other areas he’ll be a very good major leaguer for a long time.

Jordan Westburg, Mississippi State University

Ranked 39th by BA, Westburg is another college shortstop in a cluster of them at this point on BA’s list. He’s more on the toolsy side with a bit more of a raw profile than you’d like to see from a college prospect. That being said, he has big-time athleticism that could lead him to sticking at shortstop, though there is some more polish that needs to be added to his game if he’s truly going to make it there. Offensively, he can make hard contact and there is good raw power hidden in there, but issues making contact could hold him back in that respect. He’s probably a bit aggressive for this pick, but the Red Sox have been said by multiple people to be one of the teams who could be more aggressive in searching for upside in this draft.

Justin Foscue, Mississippi State University

Westburg’s teammate at MSU, Foscue is ranked at number 40 by BA and is currently a second baseman. I say currently because it’s not at all clear he’ll be able to stick at that spot, though there is potential too. Even if he has to move to the outfield, the bat is the carrying tool here. An adjustment to his mechanics at the plate could be in order, but he’s put up big numbers in college and has intriguing raw power.

Masyn Winn, Kingwood HS (TX)

This is almost certainly aggressive for the Red Sox at 17, with Winn being ranked 44 on BA and 39 by FanGraphs. I include him here because I think he’s interesting. Winn is a two-way player coming from Texas with a commitment to Arkansas. As a position player, he has the potential and tools to stick at shortstop and has potential for plus power at the plate. On the mound, he is a hard-throwing righty who has dialed it up to 98 mph along with a slider and a changeup. He’s probably too raw to be a true two-way player, with teams thinking he’ll need to focus on one or the other to reach his full potential, though there’s a split on whether hitting or pitching is the best path forward.