Along with Opening Day for the Red Sox taking place on April 7, less than two weeks from today, the minor-league season will also be getting going for the four full-season levels that week as well. With that in mind, this week we will be previewing those four levels for Boston, using the projected rosters from our friends at Sox Prospects. For each projected roster we’ll cover the top prospects for position players, starters, and relievers, as well as a sleeper and other notables from the roster. Today we kick things off with Low-A Salem.
Top Position Player Prospect
Marcelo Mayer, SS
There was very little doubt about who would top this list. Mayer is one of the top two prospects in the view of every evaluator, with some having him in the top spot above Triston Casas. It’s not hard to see where that love comes from, either. While he was certainly not viewed as generational heading into last summer’s draft, he was ranked atop the draft board by many public evaluators, and the Red Sox caught a big break with him falling to them at number four. Mayer projects to stick at shortstop thanks to strong baseball instincts and plenty of athleticism, and the offense projects to be All-Star level as well, of course assuming development goes to plan. He’s got a plus hit tool, good power, and an approach on the plate well beyond his years. You never know how players will make the adjustment to the grueling full-season schedule, not to mention other adjustments like wooden bats, but based on what we saw from his high school career Mayer is early on the path to being Boston’s next elite position player prospect.
Top Starting Pitching Prospect
Wilkelman Gonzalez, RHP
From this time last year to here today, Gonzalez has taken as big of a leap in this Red Sox system as anyone else on the farm. The right-handed pitcher spent the beginning of last season at extended spring training, ultimately starting the year on the complex. There, he dominated, and looked outstanding in four starts to end the season in Salem. With that experience already coming in Low-A, there’s a chance he can get to High-A by midseason with good performances. He’s still very young, having just turned 20 last week, but he’s got a complete starter’s arsenal, with his changeup really standing out among the secondaries. He needs to refine his command, and his mechanics could maybe use some cleaning up, but there isn’t a more exciting pitching prospect in the lower portions of this farm system.
Top Relief Pitching Prospect
Christopher Troye, RHP
There is always the necessary caveat that relief prospects are hard to view as true prospects, especially down in these levels of the system, because many great relievers are failed starters. I do think that’s changing a bit, though, and Troye is an intriguing arm. A 12th round pick in last summer’s draft, he was injured for a lot of his college career which leaves the profile quite raw, but the stuff is good enough to move relatively quickly if he can get his command and control in check. It’s an extremely volatile profile, but it’s not hard to squint and see an impact reliever in there somewhere.
Juan Encarnacion, RHP
We’re defining sleeper as anyone who was never in consideration for our top prospect voting series, and Encarnacion qualifies. He’s never really been a focal point in the system, first entering as an international signing for a relatively small $40,000 bonus. But the performances have always been there. The righty looked solid in 2019 in his pro debut in the DSL, pitching to a 3.86 ERA in a league that can often skew heavily towards offense. That led him stateside last year where he spent the entire season on the complex in the FCL. He was awesome there, finishing with a 2.96 ERA with 56 strikeouts and 11 walks over 45 2⁄3 innings. It’s not really clear that the stuff is there for those strikeout numbers to remain as he moves up the ladder, but he’s certainly a someone to keep in mind as the season goes along, and he could quickly gain more relevance in this system if he performs well over the first half of the season.
Other Prospects of Note
- Blaze Jordan is the clear number two prospect on this system. The 2020 draftee has something of a boom-or-bust profile with big power and plenty of swing and miss, and he missed a lot of time last year. But when he got on the field, the early returns were good and he can have a big breakout in terms of national prominence this season.
- Nathan Hickey was a 2021 draftee in the fifth round, giving the Red Sox another bat-first catcher in the system. There’s not a huge ceiling here, but the base of talent is enough that he could move up the system and carve out a big-league career if things break right.
- Niko Kavadas was a fan favorite from last year’s draft class, with a big body that limits him to first base, but power to match.
- Brainer Bonaci has the kind of athleticism that makes for an intriguing prospect, and he did get a taste of Salem late last season. He needs to show he can hit enough to use his versatility and athleticism to carve out a utility role.
- Eddinson Paulino was another sleeper candidate who is a sum-of-the-parts kind of player who is good at a lot of things but not really great at anything. If he can find a half grade increase in power, the future will look a lot more intriguing. But even as is, he’s an interesting player to monitor.
- Wyatt Olds was the team’s seventh round pick last summer, and while he profiles as a reliever they are going to give him a chance to start, at least at the beginning of the season. I’d look for that bullpen transition to come at some point this year, and he could move quickly once that happens.
- Luis De La Rosa is one of the newer prospects in the system, coming to Boston last summer as one of the players to be named later in the Andrew Benintendi trade. He’s got a good arsenal and solid command, but the stuff needs to take a tick up if he’s going to move up the organizational rankings.
- Michael Gettys isn’t exactly a prospect, but he’s a fascinating player to follow. You may remember him as a former minor-league signing, at which point he was an outfielder. He’s now making the shift to pitching full-time, and while he’s got a big arm it’s not yet clear if he’ll be able to command that stuff well enough to make this transition work. He just started pitching in games last summer.