After a year without any minor-league baseball, we finally get the full seasons underway next week, with all four schedules starting on Tuesday. It’s going to be exciting after so much time without it, and the Red Sox have some interesting prospects at the top of their organizational rankings, but there are some others lower in the system as well. They are the topic of this week’s staff roundtable. The question this week was: Which prospect outside of our community top 20 are you most looking forward to following this year?
Besides having an 80-grade name, Brainer Bonaci 55-grade tools aplenty already as an 18-year-old. Billed as a bat-first infielder, Bonaci performed really well in his 2019 DSL debut slashing .279/.356/.397 with three bombs and 18 steals in 61 games. An on-base machine with excellent speed and projectable power, though not a lot just enough to make him interesting, who can be a lot of fo fun on the field and while he still hasn’t made a debut stateside and has a distant ETA, I am looking forward to following Bonaci’s progress this season.
I’m most excited to follow Jeisson Rosario as MiLB action returns. He came over in the Mitch Moreland trade and in my opinion, is one of the most exciting Red Sox prospects. Rosario might be the best athlete in the Sox’ farm system, and his speed and arm strength help him grade out as a plus defender. He also has a great feel for the strike zone and excels at drawing walks - his BB% was up over 16% at the A+ level in 2019. Lack of power is his main drawback, but at just 21 years old he has time to add strength and refine that aspect of his game. Rosario’s excellent defense and knack for getting on base already gives him value, and I’m looking forward to seeing whether he’s made improvements in the power department this year.
For players outside of our top 20, the player I am most interested in seeing is probably Matthew Lugo, with Miguel Bleis being a close second for me.
There’s a lot of chatter around the Red Sox and potential draft pick Marcelo Mayer, largely due to his skill set, and what he can offer the team from a ceiling standpoint. All the things you can say about Mayer can also be said (albeit to a much lesser extent) about Lugo. Lugo has been noted to be a potential five-tool short stop, but needs to focus on a lot of different things to get there. It gets overlooked, but thanks to the pandemic, Lugo has only had one season to really stand out as a player, and that was all of 40 games mostly in the GCL. Do I think he’s a fantastic prospect? No. But I do think he is being written off by a lot of people for no real good reason. He has a big difference between his ceiling and his floor, but that’s why we need to watch the games.
On Bleis, we just know very little about him outside of him being our top international addition in the last year. The Red Sox have done a great job in this market, with the current lineup being anchored by international signees Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts. Can they strike it rich a third time?
The prospect that I am most excited to see that did not land on the community Top 20 list is Brainer Bonaci. He performed extremely well in his first taste of professional ball during the 2019 DSL season. At the young age of 17, Bonaci slashed .279/.356/.397 and shown great bat to ball skills. He should begin the season in Low-A Salem, playing alongside Nick Yorke, Nick Decker, and Aldo Ramirez, which should be an extremely fun team to watch this year!
I’m looking forward to seeing what Josh Winckowski can provide. A newcomer to the Sox system who arrived in the Andrew Benintendi trade, he’s close to being an option in the bullpen and can potentially make his way into a rotation spot should the need arise. Winckowski pitched at two levels of A-Ball in 2019 was holding his own. Starting 2021 with the Portland Sea Dogs is another promotion for the righthander and a chance for the still-just-22-year-old to show any adjustments he’s been able to make. With the pitching staff up in the air, short 2020 workloads for everyone, and E-Rod missing all of year with illness, depth can chip in 4-5 innings at a time could be huge come August and September, no matter what the Sox place in the standings.
Jorge Rodriguez is a left-handed pitcher who struck out 58 batters in 47 innings of work (11 games, six starts) while posting a 1.91 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in the Gulf Coast League during the 2019 season. That’s the kind of stat line that should make anyone pay attention. He could be an effective starter or reliever, especially since he doesn’t walk many batters. He’s probably still a long way from making the MLB club, but I’d like to see what his next step is.
My two picks for top prospect outside of the 20 top are Shane Drohan and Brainer Bonaci. Does this have to do with the fact I’m not sure I know another Sox prospect outside of the top 20 outside of these two? Well, yes. Drohan is a 2020 draft pick with some potential, and Bonaci is young with oodles of potential, plus if you mention him on Twitter his family with find and like your tweet. That’s enough to get him in the door here. Family is important!
The player outside of our community top 20 that I am most looking forward to seeing is Josh Winckowski, who recently came over as part of the Andrew Benintendi trade. The 6’4” righty is likely to start at Portland this year and have a very intriguing mix of pitches. His fastball/sinker combination has mid to high 90’s velo when he wants it, however, scouting reports say fastball command remains an issue. His slider and changeup are both average offerings right now but what is intriguing is that he is learning a new pitch—my favorite, the split fingered fastball. If he can dial in his command a bit and show some mastery over the split he could become a weapon in the back end of the bullpen.
I was planning on saying Lugo here, as I think he is definitely the player I am highest on relative to general consensus. Jake covered that though, so I’ll switch paths and go with Durbin Feltman. I am somewhat optimistic of him regaining some of his potential for a major-league impact this year, but I think we’re going to know either way pretty early in the year. I’m excited to see especially how his first few outings go. If they’re good, him being up this year would be in play for me. If he struggles, he’ll be on the path to just being written off for the most part.