It’s now been about a week since the lockout was officially implemented by the league and transactions involving 40-man players were put on freeze. That also means it’s been about a week since the Boston Red Sox and Milwaukee Brewers snuck a final trade in right at the buzzer before the freeze went into place. We’ve talked a bit about the major-league side of that draft, both in terms of trading away Hunter Renfroe and what that might mean for the outfield going forward.
What we haven’t really focused a ton on besides a few passing comments on the prospects who came back in return with Alex Binelas and David Hamilton. While to me the most exciting part of the trade was what it may mean for the outfield next season and a potential splash after the lockout is lifted, just looking at this deal in a vacuum it was essentially Boston buying slightly better prospects than they’d get had they just traded Renfroe straight up. By taking on Jackie Bradley Jr., who was perhaps baseball’s worst hitter in 2021, the Red Sox got a couple of interesting, albeit non-elite, prospects. Today we will take a look at Binelas, and we’ll examine what the Red Sox have in Hamilton over the weekend.
Alex Binelas, 3B
Binelas was drafted out of high school back in 2018 by the Nationals as a 35th round pick, but opted not to sign at that point and instead head to college to play at Louisville. After putting together an impressive career there, he was draft-eligible again this past season and was a third round selection. A left-handed bat and a right-handed thrower, he’s a big presence on the diamond coming in listed at 6’3”, 225 pounds. Next season will be his age-22 season.
Making his home on a corner defensively, Binelas’ profile does rely fairly heavily on the development of his bat. As far as the hit tool goes, there are some concerns about whether or not he’ll be able to make enough contact to be a plus bat at the highest level. He does have a good understanding of the strike zone and will draw more than his share of walks, but his batting averages may not open eyes. That said, FanGraphs does give him a potential future hit tool grade of 60, which is above-average, so any concerns here are not unanimous.
But he doesn’t need to be an elite contact hitter, because the calling card here is the power. Binelas was seen as one of the best power hitters coming out of college this summer, and there is real potential for plus power to develop, and plus power that can play to all fields. When you put it all together you get a pretty solid modern hitter, someone who can hit the ball a long way and draw a walk, though while not peppering in a ton of singles to go with the other production.
In his first taste of pro ball, he showed off some impressive skill at the plate in the lower minors. He started his career on the complex, hitting .286/.444/.286 in just a seven-game sample. The bulk of his professional debut was spent in A-Ball, where he hit .314/.379/.636 with nine homers over 29 games. That’s a 50-homer pace over 162 games.
The bat is really intriguing, which is a good thing because the defense does leave a bit more to be desired. He is listed as a third baseman and that is indeed where he spent most of his time in 2021, but many see a position change in Binelas’ future. He does have the arm to be able to stick at the hot corner, but as we mentioned above this is a big kid we’re talking about, and he’s still 21 years old. The athleticism and may force a move. He does have some experience at first base both from his college days and a bit in A-Ball in 2021, but even the reports there weren’t great. Don’t be surprised to see some time in left field this year as they look for the best home.
Farm System Ranking
Sox Prospects has initially ranked Binelas at number 18 in the system, sandwiched between Brandon Walter and Noah Song. That sounds about right to me, at least in terms of the range. I might quibble with the ranking a bit, actually moving him a little higher up above both Walter and Connor Wong. Miguel Bleis is the first player on the Sox Prospects ranking who I would not move below Binelas. With all that being said, at least with Walter and Wong we’re talking about movement within a single tier, which at a certain point is picking nits. Somewhere in the 16-20 range seems right to me, with the potential for quick movement in either direction as we get more exposure to his ability at the plate moving up the ladder against more advanced pitching.
Binelas will presumably head to Greenville to start out his 2022 in High-A, though given the fact that he’s entering his age-22 season he should have a chance to get to Double-A if things go well. He’s not so old that they should feel like they have to force that particular issue, but it’s in play. The Drive’s expected roster should leave Binelas plenty of time at third base, but first base and left field may be a little more crowded. I’d expect him to start the season playing mostly at the hot corner as the team tries to evaluate if it’s worth letting him develop there or if time should be spent getting experience elsewhere.