We are almost a month into the regular season on the major-league side, but it’s been a bit of a different kind of start to the season as the minor-league teams have not yet started up on their side of things. That will change next week, with the seasons down on the farm set to kick off next Tuesday on May 4. With this being the last full week of the schedule without minor-league action, over the next four days we’ll preview each of the four full-season squads, looking at their top prospect among both position players and pitchers, as well as a sleeper for each team, the rest of the notable players, and overall thoughts. A big shoutout to Sox Prospects here as well, as we’ll be basing our previews on their preseason rosters. Today we’re moving on to Double-A with the Portland Sea Dogs.
Top Position Player Prospect
Sometimes it’s hard to pick the top prospect for a given minor-league roster, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be exciting having two similarly talented players. It can also be exciting to have who many see as the clear-cut top prospect not only in Portland but in the entire system. That’s Casas, who will easily be the most-watched player on this Sea Dogs roster. Last we saw him in competitive action, he was getting a very brief cup of coffee in High-A, but his performance at the Alternate Site and then again at camp this spring suggests that it’s pretty much a no-brainer to push him up to Portland to start the season.
If you want to get into negatives with Casas, really the only one is that he is first base only at this point. He may play third base if needed here and there, but that won’t be the plan in the majors. All of the pressure on his bat. The good news is every indication points to his bat being able to live up to that pressure. Casas’s size will be the first thing to stand out to you if you see him in Portland, and with that size comes the power you’d expect. But what really puts him over the top is that he has an approach at the plate well beyond his 21 years. There will be a bit of swing and miss, but it shouldn’t be too extreme and the walks plus the power have a chance to not only make him a major leaguer, but potentially a consistent All-Star. The more likely timeline will have him up in 2022, but starting the year at Portland there is at least a chance he gets a call to the bigs at some point in the second half this year.
Top Pitcher Prospect
Last season was a strange one for all minor leaguers, as nobody got a chance to really show off their development besides those at the Alternate Site, and even they didn’t really get a typical environment to do so. But there were certainly some players who lost more than others, at least in terms of outside buzz. That stuff doesn’t really matter too much in the grand scheme of things, but it can put some players out of our consciousness who should remain. I would argue Thad Ward is among them, and he is a prospect who I think people may have forgotten about and they will be reminded this summer.
Part of the issue for Ward is that he really doesn’t have that kind of front-line pitcher upside, which tempers some excitement. But he does have the look of a consistent major-league starter, which is no small feat. After adding a cutter leading up to the 2019 season, the righty broke out in a big way over that summer, making it up to High-A Salem and not suffering in his performance from there. He’s now 24, and this is a big year for him. If he comes out firing in Portland, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him up in Worcester around midway through the year with an outside chance at making it up to the majors before the end of the season. As with Casas, it’s more likely 2022 will be his debut season, but this year is not out of the question.
Castellanos is a prospect that comes up for us in these “sleeper” prospects sections all the time, which is largely because I just find him to be an incredibly interesting prospect. He’s held back a bit this year strictly from being on the same roster as Triston Casas. Castellanos is another first base-only player, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets some time in left field. That would be less because they see him there long-term and more just as a way to get him some at bats.
It’s at the plate where we’ll really be concerned with Castellanos, though. The 23-year-old has some solid plate discipline and good bat-to-ball skills, but for most of his career he could not tap into his power. What was even stranger was that he showed off big-time power potential in batting practice. It just never translated into games. Then, down the stretch in 2019 he finally started to hit for power, hitting eight homers over his final 30 games after hitting just one in the first 87. This year will be his chance to prove that was no fluke and he actually found a way to tap into that power. If he does, he can be a second-division starter or a good bench bat for a contending roster.
Others of Note
- Josh Winckowski had a long offseason that saw him traded twice, but when the dust settled he ended up in Boston via the Andrew Benintendi trade. We saw him a bit in spring training, and he’ll be on a similar timeline as Ward in this Sea Dogs rotation. The thing to watch will be his stuff, particularly as the season goes on, after a big uptick last fall.
- Frank German was another winter addition in this rotation, having come over in the Adam Ottavino deal. He has interesting stuff and I expect him to start all year, but his real future is more likely in the bullpen.
- Ronaldo Hernández is already on the 40-man and could feasibly be on the Triple-A roster, but with Connor Wong already there it makes sense to get him at bats in Double-A. It’ll be all about contact and defense for Hernández, who has the power to at least provide enough offense for a backup catcher, though the ceiling is higher.
- Jeisson Rosario has seen his stock dip a bit since last summer, but he also hasn’t had any games to really make a strong statement. He doesn’t have any power which limits the ceiling, but he has a solid floor due to athleticism (though there’s some concern about dip in that area), defense and approach.
- Hudson Potts came over in the same Mitch Moreland trade as Rosario last summer. Potts is pretty much the opposite kind of player, relying almost entirely on his power with some contact issues to work out. Defensively, he’s best at third base but he can play second and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some corner outfield work at some point too.
- AJ Politi is another sleeper on this roster, but he’s had some helium bubbling up over the last few months and if he gets off to a big start I’d expect to see a ton of excitement build up quickly. He’s got a good fastball/slider combo, which leads me to believe he’ll end up in the bullpen at some point.
- Marcus Wilson is still on the 40-man and his path to the majors is a bit unclear, at least on this roster, but the talent is still there. He has to work out his contact issues, but he brings an intriguing athleticism/power combination to the table.
- Durbin Feltman was the most exciting pure reliever on the farm not too long ago, but he disappointed in his full-season debut back in 2019 and hasn’t had a chance to redeem himself. His stuff reportedly looked good last fall, which is a good sign, but really it’s going to come down to how well he commands his fastball. I’m cautiously optimistic at a post-hype breakout here.
As someone who lives in Portland, I’m excited about this roster. Casas is certainly the headliner and I’m stoked to see him this summer, but this is also a solid rotation that may be lacking star potential but has four solid names to watch. Then, the lineup has a good mix of power and contact alongside Casas.