For a few years now, the Red Sox have had one of the worst farm systems in baseball. This, of course, is not without explanation. They were one of the best teams in baseball for a three-year stretch in which they won one championship and three straight division titles, and therefore were more focused on the major-league roster than the farm system. That’s the way a contending team should act. When you throw in penalties in both the draft and the international market due to luxury tax penalties and rules violations, respectively, as well as one of their top recent international signees, Daniel Flores, tragically passing away, there were a lot of reasons for things to have gone downhill.
With all of that being said, things are trending back in the right direction and figure to continue that way with Boston holding the fourth overall pick in this summer’s draft. This week at Over the Monster, we will be starting our annual community prospect rankings, a process that will take place twice a week and run until the week before Opening Day (as it’s currently scheduled, anyway). We’ll have more in the way of explanation of that process on Tuesday when we kick things off, but for now I figured it was as good a time as any to more broadly look at the system as a whole before getting into more specifics over the next couple months.
The Red Sox have largely been able to inch their way up farm system rankings — those aren’t out yet, but they are still likely to be a bottom half, if not bottom third, system in the league — because of their depth. We’ll get to that part in a minute, but they lag behind other systems because they just don’t have the elite top-level talent that they had so often last decade. In Triston Casas and Jeter Downs, they likely have two top 100 prospects, but it’s unclear where on those top 100 lists they’ll be ranked. (Baseball America released their top 100 list after this was written, and Boston did have three on that list.)
Casas has the look of an elite hitter, but there’s not a lot of room for error with first base prospects and that plays a role in his standing. Downs, meanwhile, hasn’t really given much reason to think he’ll improve his standing substantially from last year, when he was typically in the back half of the top 100. Evenly distributed, all teams should have at least three top 100 prospects. The Red Sox probably only have two, and perhaps with both in the back half of many of those lists.
So that’s the bad news, and it’s not something to take lightly. Elite talent on the farm is an important quality for a system. That said, it’s also important to have prospects close to the majors who should be able to help relatively soon, and the Red Sox have a good amount of those kinds of guys. Bobby Dalbec will almost certainly start the year as the everyday first baseman. Tanner Houck may start in the rotation, and even if he doesn’t he’ll get a chance to run with a regular spot there sooner than later in the season. Jarren Duran has seemingly entered a fast track to the majors. Bryan Mata and Connor Seabold should both be ready at some point in 2021. Eduard Bazardo will get a chance too. Downs and Casas could both be 2021 call ups as well, though it’s less of a sure thing with them, Casas in particular. Most of these players aren’t future stars, but having that kind of depth is important for a long season, and it’s something the organization has lacked in recent years.
And then on the opposite end of the coin, there are some intriguing names to watch for that are a bit further away. Gilberto Jimenez would seem to be the most likely for a capital-B Breakout this year. Nick Yorke and Blaze Jordan both give us reasons to be excited about last year’s small draft class. Brainer Bonaci, Matthew Lugo and Ceddanne Rafaela, among others, will be sleepers to watch in their full-season debuts. Recent international signees like Eduardo Lopez and Juan Chacon should make their stateside debuts. The international signees from this past week, including Miguel Bleis, should be able to make their pro debuts this summer as well.
One of the big differences between the farm system as it stands now as compared to some more recent years is the pitching. It’s no secret that Boston has been utterly unable to develop pitching over the last 10-15 years, and while they still are not out of the woods in that respect they’re trending in a better direction. We saw Houck debut last year, and as mentioned Mata and Seabold should get their chance this summer. Not far behind them are guys like Thad Ward and Jay Groome. There’s some chance Noah Song gets his waiver to return to the organization this summer. Brayan Bello, Aldo Ramirez, Jorge Rodriguez, and others will get to prove themselves in the lower levels. On the relief side of things, Bazardo leads a sneaky deep group with guys like Durbin Feltman, Joan Martinez, Jacob Wallace and Brendan Cecllucci, among others.
And then offensively, which has been this organization’s bread and butter over the years, there are still plenty of names to be excited about. Center field in particular is an exciting position, with the top three levels likely to boast Duran at Triple-A, Jeisson Rosario at Double-A and Jimenez at High-A. There’s also a whole lot of power on the way up, with guys like Connor Wong, Dalbec, Jordan, Hudson Potts, Brandon Howlett, Nick Decker, and others, to go with some more athleticism and/or hit-tool oriented players like Yorke, Bonaci, Christian Koss, Rafaela, Lugo, and others.
At the end of the day, there is still work to do in getting his farm system to a top-tier level, but they are moving in the right direction. And certainly part of continuing this trend includes more acquisitions, whether it be in the draft, the international market or in trades, but that’s not everything. The best way to grow the farm right now is to have some of these good B- and C-tier prospects to break out. They have the right mix in place, it’s just a matter of getting players to reach new peaks.