The current state of the first base position is a bit of a toss-up for the Red Sox at the moment. The expectation is that Bobby Dalbec will be manning the position for 2021, with potential help from Michael Chavis and/or a veteran lefty brought in through free agency. Either way, long term the position should be Triston Casas’s. The question is how long term that really is, and more specifically here: Is there a path for him to be fast-tracked and up at some point in the coming year?
One thing certainly working in his favor is that the Red Sox have not been shy about promoting top position player prospects in recent years. Before being promoted to Boston for his debut, Rafael Devers had only 77 games under his belt at Double-A and only nine at Triple-A. Andrew Benintendi skipped Triple-A altogether after playing in only 63 games at Double-A. Likewise, Yoán Moncada skipped Triple-A and landed in Boston after only 45 games at Double-A, though there is certainly a case that was over-aggressive.
So the fact Casas hasn’t had any at-bats over A-ball isn’t much of a concern, and it’s made less of a concern by the fact he was at the Red Sox Alternate Site for some of the summer, and he held his own while he was there as well. Based on that, it’s not out of the question to expect Casas to begin 2021 at Double-A, and based on recent history that would add him to the group of top prospects who moved quickly through the minors.
A potential roadblock in Casas’s triumphant ascent is that the current state of the position could be more stable than it appears at this moment. Chavis’s deficiencies are well documented so I don’t feel I need to rehash those. Dalbec shares a lot of those same issues, though. Although Dalbec’s debut last season was electric at times, his strikeout issue was on full display, striking out over 40 percent of his at-bats. It’s easier to write this off with Dalbec, however, as his approach is better and his ability to draw walks is significantly better than Chavis. If Dalbec is able to reel in the strikeouts to some extent, then there would be no urgency to rush Casas and make sure he sees enough time at each level before landing in Boston.
Lastly, there’s also Casas’s performance itself that could either push the Red Sox hand or keep him down until 2022. As a 19-year-old in 2019, Cases was young for his level at A-Ball and performed very well, posting a .254/.349/.472 slash with 19 homers. However, with essentially taking a year off from competitive play and just exhibitions at the Alternate Site, we don’t really know what that will do to players' development. Casas clearly has the skills to push for a call up at some point in 2021 if everything goes smoothly, but ramping back up to competitive play at an much more difficult level than he last saw could prove a tall task.
If I had to make a guess, I actually think it’s more likely than not Casas gets at bats in Boston in 2021. I don’t expect the Red Sox with their current to be in the mix for the playoffs, making the last month of games or so relatively meaningless and perfect for a Casas debut. I also would not be shocked if he pushed his way to the majors before that because the raw talent here is the real deal and, although there was no minor league season, getting a season of instruction from higher level coaches could be just as good for his development, if not better. Either way, Casas is on his way sooner rather than later, whether that’s on the fast track or not.