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 finish things up by looking at the Salem Red Sox roster down in Low-A.
Top Position Player Prospect
The talent down in Salem in Low-A isn’t quite on par with the other three levels of the system, at least as we look at things right now. There is a real chance we look at some of these players very differently even just a few months from now, and at the top of the list is surely Nick Yorke. The Red Sox certainly surprised the entire baseball world by taking him with their first-round pick last summer, and while some of that was for financial reasons to have more money to spend later in the draft, it was also because of the player.
In the time since, Yorke hasn’t really had too much of a chance to show off his skills since there was no minor-league season last year, but the team clearly thinks highly of him. He got a chance to play for a brief time at the Alternate Site last summer, and he got some time in big-league camp this year. In neither instance did he look like a guy who was in high school at this time last year. A second baseman, he plays solid defense up the middle and he has a tremendous approach for his age at the plate to go with a good hit tool. I’m not sure there’s a massive ceiling here, but he looks like a really solid player on whom the organization is clearly high. Despite his age, he could be a quick mover through the system.
Top Pitching Prospect
This projected Salem rotation doesn’t have a ton of top-end talent that you will see consistently in top ten organizational lists, but there are a few names who could see big jumps as the year goes on. None of them have as good of a chance at doing just that as Aldo Ramirez. A righty who signed out of Mexico in 2018, he doesn’t have the big-time prospect pedigree of some other international players in the organization, but he’s just continued to pitch well since entering the organization. Last we saw him in 2019, he was in Lowell pitching to a 3.94 ERA with over a strikeout per inning.
Ramirez doesn’t really project to land in the top of any major-league rotation, but he does look like he should be a solid contributor at the highest level. He works off a fastball that can get up to the mid-90s when he needs it to and generally sits in the 93 range with movement. He also throws a good changeup and a solid breaking ball, giving him a legitimate starter’s arsenal. I’ll be curious to see how his stuff settles in as he throws his first full season as a pro, and particularly later in the year. But he’s a guy who could become a unanimous top ten name in the organization by next spring.
There was another name I’ll mention in the next section who I wanted to put here, but I wasn’t sure if he was deep enough for a sleeper. So I’ll go with Drohan instead, who is at the very least the player I am most excited to see on this roster. Yorke is the best player from last summer’s draft class, and Blaze Jordan (who will likely be kept on the complex to start the year) is the biggest name, which leaves Drohan as something of a forgotten man. He was the fifth-round pick last year, but he has more upside than you’d typically expect from a college pitcher selected in that range.
Coming out of Florida State, the southpaw was a two-sport star in high school, also playing quarterback for the football team. As such, he didn’t start to solely focus on baseball until the last few years, leaving him a bit more raw than your typical high-end college arm. Drohan needs to work on his command, but he has a good fastball already and the potential for a couple of solid secondaries with a changeup and a curveball. The bullpen could very well be in his future, but he’ll get every chance to start this year and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he pitches above expectations.
Others of Note
- Matthew Lugo was the other potential sleeper I was mentioning, and relative to consensus he might be the player on whom I am highest in the system. He doesn’t have a standout tool which holds him back, but I love up-the-middle players who are at least solid across the board. That’s Lugo in a nutshell.
- Jorge Rodriguez is a pretty similar talent to Ramirez above in this rotation, and both have the potential to breakout in a Thad Ward-type way, although maybe not to quite the same extent. Rodriguez throws from the left side with three solid pitches and good command.
- Nick Decker gets kind of lost in the shuffle after being selected after Triston Casas, but he’s a cold-weather prospect which means his development often comes a bit more delayed. There are swing and miss issues here, but he has real power potential.
- Ceddanne Rafaela is something of a super-utility player with no real defensive home, but he has a ton of athleticism and a solid hit tool to go with it. Expect to see him playing all over the place in 2021.
- Jeremy Wu-Yelland was the fourth Red Sox draftee last summer, at least in terms of bonus size. He’s an interesting lefty with intriguing stuff, though he’s likely not long for the rotation and should be in the bullpen sooner than later.
- Brendan Cellucci is already in the bullpen and is a name to keep in mind out there. He has a big fastball from the left side and the potential for a good slider as well.
- Chih-Jung Liu was a relatively big signing from Taiwan a couple of years ago but COVID has prevented him from making his debut. That should change this year as the righty with good stuff should be eased into a swingman role this summer.
- Nicholas Northcut entered the organization in the 2018 draft with some hype as a big-bonus prep draftee, but he’s struggled to make enough contact to make good on his power since becoming a pro.
This is certainly the weakest of the four full-season rosters, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t reason to be excited. Beyond Yorke there isn’t a whole lot going on with the position player side of things, at least on paper, but the pitching staff will be one to watch with a handful of legitimate breakout candidates in the rotation and in the bullpen.