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Keith Law places three Red Sox prospects on top 100 list

The top two in a reverse order, and a new name for the third spot.

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Jeter Downs
Kelly O’Connor

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story neglected to mention Jarren Duran’s spot on this list.

To this point in the offseason we have seen a pair of the major publications drop their top 100 lists, starting with Baseball America which was closely followed by Baseball Prospectus (which ranks 101 prospects). On the BA list, we saw three players ranked with Triston Casas coming in at number 47, Jeter Downs at number 71, and Bobby Dalbec at number 90. Then, over at BP, there was only one on their list with Casas coming in at number 85. Downs, for what it’s worth, did make their just missed list.

Today, we got a third major list, this one coming from Keith Law, formerly of ESPN but now over at The Athletic. Historically, Law’s lists, both organization-specific and league-wide, have tended to vary a bit from other publications. This, of course, is not an insult as prospect outcomes are often much more high variance than the relative consensus on many public rankings would suggest. But I do note that because unlike these other two lists, it is not Casas who is the top-ranked Red Sox prospect, and there is a third name who had not previously been mentioned on any top 100 list.

Number one among Red Sox prospects here by a fairly healthy margin is Downs, who comes in here at number 56 between Orioles pitcher Grayson Rodriguez and Cardinals third baseman Nolan Gorman. Next up for Boston was indeed Casas. The first baseman comes in at number 87 between Cleveland third baseman Nolan Jones and Reds third baseman Jonathan India. And then number three, making his first national prospect list appearance, was Jarren Duran, who comes in at number 93 between Blue Jays catcher Alejandro Kirk and Mets outfielder Peter Crow-Armstrong

This post is behind the paywall over The Athletic so I won’t share what he wrote about the players in his write up. You can follow the link above for that if you’re a subscriber. (I would recommend it if you’re on the fence, for whatever that’s worth.) I will, though, address the general idea of having Downs over Casas. First off, Law is the first to do so in a top 100 setting, but FanGraphs also had Downs over Casas on their team list so it’s not a total diversion from other rankers.

And while I personally would have Casas ahead, the argument for having that flipped is simple. Downs has a relatively high floor being solid at everything while playing a good middle infield. Casas certainly has the higher ceiling, particularly at the plate, but he’s also never played more than a handful of games above A-Ball and is first base only. For me, the approach being well beyond his years is enough for me to buy into something close to the ceiling, which puts him above Downs, but they are close enough in my mind that swapping them is perfectly reasonable.

And then as far as Duran goes, it’s quite surprising to me to see him on this list, though I don’t think it’s crazy. If you’ve read this site the last couple of years you know I’ve been among the higher ones on Duran, and I would also have him number three in the system. Whether or not I think he’s a top 100 prospect I can’t really say because I don’t have that kind of league-wide prospect knowledge, but in the context of this system it seems right to me.

There are questions about his defense (though not from Law), but the makeup and athleticism leads me to think he’ll be just fine in center field with more time there, taking a similar trajectory to that of early-career Jacoby Ellsbury. And then offensively, the fact that he’s been able to make multiple adjustments on the fly that have stuck is an extremely important thing to me. We’ll see how it works back in game action this summer, but what we’ve seen in non-affiliated settings like the Alternate Site and Puerto Rican Winter League is certainly encouraging.