It is something of a prospect-themed week here at OTM. We started our annual community prospect ranking this week, with Triston Casas officially taking the top spot earlier this morning. We also got a couple of top 100 (or 101) lists from Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, respectively. So I figured with all of that, along with the continued inaction at the major-league level this week, it made sense to keep with that theme for the roundtable. The question for the staff this week was which prospect they were most excited about potentially seeing at the major-league level this year.
The prospect that I’m most excited to see in the major leagues in 2021 is Triston Casas. The number one prospect in the Red Sox system just celebrated his 21st birthday and had there been a season last year he likely would have finished it at Double-A Portland. Casas dominated at the Alternate Site and impressed at Instructs, and I expect that he will start the year in Portland with a chance to reach Boston by late summer. Xander Bogaerts made his debut at 20-years-old, as did Rafael Devers, both of whom were very advanced with the bat. Should Dalbec continue to struggle with his strikeout issues I could see Casas forcing the issue by August. He has the skill to be a true middle of the order threat for years to come and has much of the same polish that the aforementioned Red Sox stars had when they debuted.
The prospect I’m most excited to see in the majors in 2021 is Jeter Downs. Not only was Downs a huge piece in the Mookie Betts trade, he’s also currently the Red Sox’ number prospect on FanGraphs. It’s safe to say expectations for him are already through the roof. However, I think he has the potential to live up to these expectations. Downs doesn’t dominate in any one area, but he’s extremely versatile, potentially projecting to be above-average in all five tools. I’m guessing we won’t see Downs until late in 2021, but I believe he’s going to lock up the Red Sox second base situation for many years to come.
It is Jarren Duran SZN, baby. Memes and jokes aside, I actually do believe the prospect to watch on 2021 is Duran. If reports of his power increase are for real, Duran could be in the majors even quicker than we realize. While he and Jacoby Ellsbury are totally different players, I get a similar vibe of success from Duran that I did from the latter all those years ago. With the Red Sox outfield in such a sorry state, they could certainly use it. His speed will play regardless so I expected him up sometime in July or August. I hope he forces the issue earlier.
I would love to say Jarren Duran but I’m not sure if the team is willing to start the clock on him. So, I guess I’m most excited to see Connor Seabold or Bryan Mata. Sure, they are not the most flashy pitchers but after watching 2020, they have to be better, no?
I’m split between Jeter Downs and Bryan Mata. If I was asked this question a year ago, I would have said Mata without even needing to think about it, but with Downs now in the conversation, it’s a bit more difficult. I’m higher on Mata than some and think he could be a rotational mainstay, but Sox Prospects says he has the “ceiling of a mid-rotation starter.” On the other hand, Downs is a potential star for the Red Sox and would address a major positional need in the infield. Getting a look at Downs as the double play partner for Xander Bogaerts and a fixture in the Red Sox order is a bit more enticing than seeing if Mata can secure a rotation spot, even if the Red Sox need more pitchers than batters at the moment.
For me, it’s Jarren Duran for a couple of reasons. First, outfield depth is a need for this team that so far the Red Sox don’t seem to be filling via free agency or trade. This could also be made more important if Benintendi does get traded at some point too, not to mention that at the moment they don’t have a true center fielder. So not only outfield depth, but his specific skill set is needed at the major-league level. And second, the progress Duran reportedly made at the Alternate Site, changing his swing mechanics and stance, seemed to unlock more of his power making him a more well-rounded prospect and someone who could really do damage at the plate and in the field.
There are a few young players the Red Sox should promote over the course of the 2021 season if it looks anything like a normal year. The one I’m waiting for is Jeter Downs. Born on a off-day for the 1998 Red Sox, between wins in games started by Pedro Martinez and Tim Wakefield, Jeter is of course named after Mr. Re2pect himself. With Xander Bogaerts entrenched at shortstop and literally TBD penciled in for the keystone at the moment, it’s Downs’s job to lose once he shows he’s ready for a call-up — or at the very least a cup of coffee. The Red Sox are going a have some youth and excitement with Downs, Verdugo, and Devers (hey, the new DVD! Remember the DVD prospects? No? Bueller?). Anyway, Jeter Downs could be the keystone to this rebuild and he’s an exciting player to start watching.
First basemen get a bad wrap in our sphere, which is unfortunate because they’re awesome. Sure, they lack defensive utility and have high demands for offensive production, but a great first baseman is awesome. They’re not the most valuable commodities in baseball, but few things are more fun than an everyday first baseman with 40 home run power. Casas isn’t a sure thing by any means but he’s long, lanky, and has a ton of power. All of those things are great ingredients for a fun player, much more fun than the profiles of a dynamo like Jaren Duran or a short burst fireballer like Bryan Mata. I’ll throw my support behind a hoss with big power over a generic up the middle player ten times out of ten. Don’t confuse this for how I’d run a team or build a farm, though.
I am all aboard the Triston Casas train. He’s going to be crazy good, and I don’t care if he’s ultimately going to play first base. Jeter Downs will be fun and all but you know what I like above all else? Those sweet, sweet round-trippers. I also think that Casas being up could open up Bobby Dalbec for a trade, which could spin this whole three-to-five year operation forward in a way that’s not true of other call-ups. Even if we have a long way to go, Casas should be there for the full ride, and fun from the very start.
Anyone who has read me over the last few years knows my real answer here is Jarren Duran. But he’s been mentioned a few times and since I’m the only one here who gets to read the other submissions before writing mine, I can change it up a bit. So I’ll go off the board here and go with Durbin Feltman. I’ve recently decided my thing this year is going to be hyping up Feltman as a post-hype guy. Reports indicate his velocity was back up at Instructs this fall, which is a good thing. Command is still the bigger issue and we’ll see how that goes, but you can cover up command issues with stuff more easily in a relief role. His 2019 was terrrible, but he was also adjusting to his first year as a full-season pro. The Red Sox have enough pitching issues that a strong six weeks or so from Feltman could get him called up, and while it’s far from a sure thing he’ll provide that level of performance right away the potential is there. I’m getting on the bandwagon early.