After a year without it, having minor-league baseball back in 2021 was an incredible joy. But now, seasons are coming to a close, with four Red Sox affiliates having their season end over the weekend. We will spend the next four days looking at the years that were for those levels, looking at a bunch of different categories. Each level will have top position players, starters, and relievers selected, along with some other miscellaneous categories to make sure we hit on the players that feel deserving. Keep in mind that for those three mentioned above, it is about production rather than scouting or prospect ranking. Along those same lines, playing time and time spent at the level does matter to us.
Top Position Player
Triston Casas, 1B
It was actually a surprise to me that Casas was the clear-cut pick here, because it seemed like a disappointing year that was cut up a bit due to his time with Team USA. But in part thanks to just a ridiculous performance down the stretch, he ended his time in Double-A hitting .284/.395/.484, which FanGraphs has as a 142 wRC+. His season isn’t over yet either, as he was promoted to Worcester for the end of their season. I could talk about Casas’ hitting all day, but he’s just good at everything. He got his strikeout rate under 20 percent for the year while maintaining big power (.200 ISO) and an overall great approach. I know it’s hard to be too high on first base-only players, but elite hitters are valuable no matter the position. Casas has that ceiling, and it’s a realistic possibility that he hits it. He’s the top prospect in the system for me, and while I like the potential for Mayer I don’t really have to think about it much.
Top Starting Pitcher
Victor Santos, RHP
It kind of flew under the radar, but the acquisition of Santos has really been one of the best moves Chaim Bloom and company have made for this farm system. Coming in as a player to be named later for C.J. Chatham, Santos was incredible for Portland. The sample isn’t huge, but over 45 2⁄3 innings he pitched to a 2.58 ERA, keeping his walk rate just barely over three percent to go with a solid 24 percent strikeout rate. There’s a relative lack of stuff here that limits his ceiling, but the 21-year-old should be at Worcester at some point next year and at that point you’re part of the pitching depth at the highest level. Getting that for Chatham is a huge win.
Top Relief Pitcher
Joan Martinez, RHP
Martinez has been a personal favorite of mine in the system for a few years now, and it was good to see him make good on his talent in Double-A. It certainly wasn’t always smooth and there are some kinks that need to be worked out, but Martinez is a sleeper in this system. The righty tossed 36 1⁄3 innings with Portland this season, pitching to a 2.48 ERA, striking out exactly a third of his opponents while walking a bit over 13 percent. That command absolutely needs to be reined in if he’s going to get a chance in the majors, but he has the stuff to get consideration. Martinez comes with a good fastball and a slider, and while most scouts haven’t really been high on him throughout his career, he’s put up numbers and flashes potential wherever he’s been.
Better late than never
Ronaldo Hernández, C
Hernández appeared to be a major steal this offseason when the Red Sox acquired him, along with infielder Nick Sogard (who had a nice season himself), for Chris Mazza and Jeffrey Springs. However, Hernández, who is a bat-first catcher, was rather lackluster at the plate for most of the season. But then he caught fire to end things. From the start of August on, the catcher hit .319/.350/.581. There are still some questions about the defense, and he could probably stand to take a few more walks, but he can impact the baseball. Boston’s catching situation next year is going to be an interesting one, and Connor Wong is also in the mix, but Hernández will factor in as well. Like Casas, he was promoted to Worcester to end his season.
Finally got to prove it
Pedro Castellanos, OF/1B
Castellanos has been a scout favorite for a while, and a guy who many had been waiting to pop (to some extent, anyway) for a few years now. His power finally started showing up in games down the stretch in 2019, and now he got to prove it was real in 2021. While learning a new position, forced to the outfield due to the presence of Casas, Castellanos showed a good bat again. He finished the year hitting .289/.364/.471, hitting 13 homers. A lack of defensive value limits the ceiling quite a bit, but if he reaches his peak outcome he can be a solid bench bat.
Is there another level?
Brayan Bello, RHP
For the first half of the season, there wasn’t a bigger story in the Red Sox farm than Bello. The righty took some flashes in 2019 and put it together consistently in High-A, earning a quick promotion to Portland. Things were a bit more uneven there, and he finished his time in Portland with a 4.66 ERA. The peripherals were much better than that, though, and his stuff played up in a big way even moving up the ladder. His stuff is good enough that I think he can be a Nick Pivetta-esque starter in a realistic but good outcome. The question he has to answer now is if there’s another level. He took a step forward this year, and if he does it again in 2022 to harness his command, the realistic outcomes can start to become legitimately exciting.
Jeisson Rosario, OF; Hudson Potts, 3B
Last summer was, in my opinion, the moment when Chaim Bloom really arrived. At the time, his deadline looked masterful, and personally I was particularly impressed that he was able to get Rosario and Potts for Mitch Moreland. I still think it was a good trade given the values at the time, but it was a rough year for both prospects. Rosario’s stock was starting to drop before games were even played, and he hit .232/.355/.307 on the year. With his lack of power, he simply can’t strike out anywhere near the 27 percent rate he finished with this year. Potts, meanwhile, hit .217/.264/.399. He gets a little more leeway from me because some injury issues stopped him from getting a real rhythm, but both are certainly viewed in a different light now, and they’re 40-man status will be interesting to monitor this winter.
Always left wanting more
Josh Winckowski, RHP
I think most would agree that Winckowski was probably the most intriguing player to come back in the package Boston received for Andrew Benintendi, and at times he showed why with Portland this year. But ultimately it always felt like he could do a little more, and he finished the year with a 4.14 ERA. That’s fine, which is basically how you can describe all of his pitching this year. There’s still starter potential here, I think, but it’s a back-end starter at best.
What’s your role?
Frank German, RHP
It’s easy to forget now, but the Yankees gave up a prospect in order for the Red Sox to take on Adam Ottavino, and that was German. He spent most of his year as a starter and really struggled, but even upon being acquired most saw him as a reliever. That’s where he finished his year, and he looked good in a small sample. German is a fastball/changeup guy, which is not usually my favorite package as a reliever, but he should get a full season to acclimate to that role in 2022.