2022 In One Sentence
In the midst nursing a high ankle sprain, Triston Casas spent much of 2022 gaining fans in Worcester and, after being called up, he weathered growing pains at the plate to appear as a glimmer of hope at the position.
Bobby Dalbec. Franchy Cordero. Eric Hosmer. Christian Arroyo. Let’s not forget Christian Vazquez… or Travis Shaw. These are all players who some time in the last twelve months as the team’s first basemen, even if only for a game. Sure, Dalbec showed promise in 2021 with 25 home runs and a passable slash line, albeit with a few too many strikeouts. But that strikeout number grew exponentially to start 2022. Luckily, it was easy for fans to look directly past Dalbec — about an hour west into Worcester.
Triston Casas, the Red Sox’s 2018 1st round draft pick, was hitting absolute missiles in AAA. There were certainly concerns (there were times in the early going he was hitting right around .200), but his stocky 6’4”, 238-inch frame left a lot to like as a future power hitter. He was fundamentally sound at the position as well, at a time when nearly every other option the organization had was turning out to be a defensive liability.
After some troubles with his ankle, he continued to show his power down at Polar Park. By summertime, with every third strike Dalbec looked at, social media was set ablaze with “time for Casas!” messages, even though he was still coming back from that aforementioned injury. Sure enough, on September 4, after it was proven that Casas still swung a heavy bat after his return, the 22-year-old got the call to Fenway to face the Texas Rangers. He recorded his first hit that day, and his first home run two days later. When prompted to speak of the future, Alex Cora was quite committed, stating that Casas would get as much playing time as possible. Casas ended up with 5 home runs, one hell of a foul ball, and a 25% walk rate, which is more than we can say for his competitors… I mean, fellow first basemen.
Despite the early praise of fans everywhere because, in his case, the devil you didn’t know was better than the devil you did, he ended the season with a .197 batting average and struck out 23 times in 76 at-bats. That is… disheartening. It was also predictable given that contact was a struggle down in Worcester, too. But his on-base percentage did get better as September went on. And beyond that, I really have to be careful about how much downside I say this guy has, because he’s young with plenty of room for development. Everything negative you can say about him can be bookended with something positive. He’s slow? Well, he’s light on his feet for someone his size. He has no defensive versatility? He can still play third to a degree, and his fielding at first leaves no desire to play him anywhere else (just wait, though, we’ll find a way…) Even the chief complaint, his strikeouts, can be juxtaposed with how much patience he displayed.
Simply put, if Casas keeps performing to his expectations, or if he’s simply just better than his predecessors, he’ll have a spot in Boston.
September 4, first inning. This may be one of few recorded outs I pick as a Best Moment. In his first big league at-bat, he battled Dane Dunning, a formidable pitcher, to a full count, before finding a pitch he liked and sending it to the wall in right. Even though the ball was ultimately caught, it gave the Fenway fans some excitement. As I’ve referenced several times already, Casas’ fellow first basemen didn’t exactly conjure up good feelings in 2022. But Casas fitting into this lineup immediately — batting sixth, no less — and then registering a hit later in the game immediately injected hope into the bloodstream of every Red Sox fan who’d been cursing the so-called lack of depth or immediate answers in the farm system.
The Big Question
Boston falls into a pattern of hyping a prospect up and growing tired of them in the same year. It’s happened a few times this season, with varying success and accuracy. Exhibit A may be the man Casas is projected to replace at first base.
So the question is as follows:
Will Casas and his powerful — but more measured — bat be a flash in the pan? Or is this a case of a highly-touted prospect taking the time he needs to mature into the everyday player the team’s fanbase hopes he can be, as advertised?
The answer, my friends, is not one I’m authorized to give, though I get paid the big bucks to pontificate. Having seen the hysteria in Portland and Worcester, I can say Casas just feels larger than those parks. It’s also not common to see players his size hit missles like that and remain patient enough to draw as many walks as he does. It’s even less often that we see those types of players also be sound defenders. Which brings me to the final section…
2023 And Beyond
In theory, the esteemed Boston Red Sox First Baseman of the Future title is the 2020 Olympic Silver Medalist’s to lose. The team has Bobby Dalbec for now, but if there was any question about Casas’ ability or maturity and whether either was ready for the Major Leagues, Casas would probably have stayed down in Worcester during an inconsequential September. And when he was called up, it would not have been the struggling Dalbec that was exchanged for Casas.
Eric Hosmer is also an interesting mentor for Casas. As most Red Sox fans know, the two attended the same high school (though quite obviously not at the same time) and Hosmer is costing the team nothing above the veteran minimum in 2023, thanks to San Diego eating the remainder of his $12 million salary. However, as I’ll address in a later article (or in July when I might ultimately be right) Hosmer is a likely candidate to be traded, instating of staying in Boston for the remainder of his contract. And even if Hosmer does stick around, at 33, and with so many question marks surrounding 2023’s personnel, Casas will still have plenty of opportunity to get playing time.
Whether Casas is the answer or an answer is yet to be… well… answered, though it’s looking promising. But one thing is for sure, he’s making it fun to prospect-watch in a way not many prospects in recent memory have.