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FanGraphs unveils top Red Sox prospect list

There are a few surprises on the list.

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Jeter Downs
Kelly O’Connor

Right now, the focus for Red Sox fans is understandably on the Red Sox major-league roster. While things don’t look great for the 2021 season in that they certainly won’t be a championship favorite, they also don’t look bad enough that it’s a throwaway campaign. So with the offseason moving so slowly, the curiosity largely lies with what kinds of moves they are planning to make before the start of the season to mold the major-league roster for the upcoming year.

The farm system, however, is endlessly fascinating as well. That is decidedly not because they are an elite group. They are improving, but it is still in the bottom half of the league, and perhaps the bottom third depending on who you ask. But coming off a season in which most prospects didn’t get to play at all outside of some action at Fall Instructs, the rankings are as interesting as ever. On Monday, we got a new ranking, this time from Eric Longenhagen over at FanGraphs.

Longenhagen has long been one of my favorite prospect evaluators, both because of his ability to evaluate minor-league players but also because of the way he does his rankings. (He and Kiley McDaniel used to do this together as well before the latter moved on to ESPN.) Longehagen and FanGraphs don’t limit their list to a specific number consistent for each team, but instead go as deep as they need to to cover all players whose future value rating is at least 35+ on the 20-80 scouting scale. (They have a primer on that scale here, as well as an explanation on future value here.) I also appreciate that he includes all of the future value ratings on the list, making it much easier to put the prospects into buckets rather than acting like the gap between each prospect is equal.

With all of that said, I am not going to list out all 45 prospects listed for the Red Sox. You can follow the link above and check out all of that plus all of Longenhagen’s write ups yourself. I’ll throw the top ten below and then share some of my thoughts on a handful of the rankings that stood out to me, surprised me and/or I disagreed with.

Triston Casas
Kelly O’Connor
  1. Jeter Downs, 2B/SS
  2. Triston Casas, 1B
  3. Bryan Mata, RHP
  4. Gilberto Jimenez, OF
  5. Noah Song, RHP
  6. Tanner Houck, RHP
  7. Jarren Duran, OF
  8. Connor Seabold, RHP
  9. Bobby Dalbec, 1B/3B
  10. Eduard Bazardo, RHP
  • So I think we have to start at the top, which is where the first surprise comes in. For the first list I’ve seen so far this winter, it is Jeter Downs on top of this list rather than Triston Casas. While I certainly disagree with this and would have Casas at the top, it’s not crazy to me to have Downs first. If you’re a little lower on Casas and a little higher on Downs than myself, you almost have to order it this way given Downs plays a more premium position and is closer to the majors. It is worth noting, too, that each player is a 50 future value, meaning that although Downs is ahead in the rankings they are in the same tier of prospect, which sounds about right.
  • I wouldn’t say I’m exactly surprised and I think this will be more of a split opinion than the Downs versus Casas discussion, but I would have Jarren Duran over Gilberto Jimenez for the outfielders. In fact, I would probably have Duran number three in the system. Jimenez arguably has some higher upside as an uber athletic outfielder who will likely be better defensively, but Duran is on the cusp of the majors and has continually shown an ability to adjust in the majors. For me, it’s more of a case of really liking Duran than having much of anything negative to say about Jimenez.
  • This isn’t the highest ranking we’ve seen for Noah Song — Baseball Prospectus ranked the pitcher number three in the system — but it’s close. I’ve made no secret over the last year or so that I am extremely high on Song, so I have no problem with this ranking. In fact, if Song wasn’t on military leave and was able to have as normal a 2020/2021 as would be possible (nothing is normal right now) I would likely think long and hard about having him number one overall.
  • Probably the most jarring ranking on this list is seeing Eduard Bazardo in the top ten. The righty, who was added to the 40-man this winter ahead of the Rule 5 Draft, made a big splash at Instructs which boosted his ranking here. It’s still higher than I would have him, but it’s worth pointing again to the future value tiers. Bazardo is the first player ranked with a 40 future value, a tier that goes down to Jeisson Rosario at 16. If we think of all the players in that range as somewhat interchangeable it’s a little more understandable, though even still probably a tad higher than I’d have him. In this tier, I’d have Nick Yorke (15), Jay Groome (12) and Rosario higher.
  • I think my biggest disagreement on this list is with Matthew Lugo, who slides all the way down to 27 here. I suspect I’m higher than most on the young shortstop, as I’d have him right around the edge of the top 10. There’s not a true standout tool, but I believe he can stick at the position and develop into an average-ish player across the board otherwise, which is in theory a very valuable player. That said, he’s still quite a ways away.

With another list presented to us, that means we once again update our consensus top prospect rankings. As a reminder, we cover all players placed in the top 10 of at least one list, and if a player does not appear on any given list we rank them as one spot below the number of players they rank. For example, a player not appearing on Baseball America’s list is ranked number 11 because as of now their list only goes to 10. It’s not a perfect science, but it’s a nice, rough estimate.

2020-2021 Consensus Top Prospects

Prospect Sox Prospects Baseball America Baseball Prospectus FanGraphs Keith Law Average
Prospect Sox Prospects Baseball America Baseball Prospectus FanGraphs Keith Law Average
Triston Casas 1 1 1 2 2 1.40
Jeter Downs 2 2 2 1 1 1.60
Bryan Mata 3 4 5 3 7 4.40
Jarren Duran 4 5 4 7 3 4.60
Gilberto Jimenez 5 7 9 4 6 6.20
Bobby Dalbec 6 3 6 9 8 6.40
Tanner Houck 7 8 10 6 9 8.00
Noah Song 11 12 3 5 11 8.40
Jay Groome 12 6 11 12 4 9.00
Thad Ward 8 10 11 13 5 9.40
Nick Yorke 13 9 7 15 12 11.20
Connor Seabold 9 11 11 8 21 12.00
Matthew Lugo 14 14 8 27 13 15.20
Aldo Ramirez 10 22 11 14 21 15.60
Eduard Bazardo 26 28 11 10 16 18.20
Chris Murphy 18 13 11 43 10 19.00