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Red Sox Top Prospect Voting: Another year in the books

And we end with the story of spring.

Ryan Fitzgerald
Kelly O’Connor

And with this, another year of top prospect voting is in the books. The Red Sox farm system is on the way up, and I think we’ve seen that with this list, with the bottom portion looking much stronger than other lists in the recent past. We are back to the position player well with our final player on the list, and he’s also been the best story in Red Sox camp down in Fort Myers this spring. That would be the spring home run king, Ryan Fitzgerald, who comes in at number 20 on our community top prospects list.

Fitzgerald is probably the best pure story in the entire Red Sox system, at least in terms of his baseball trajectory. He did play Division I ball at Creighton, but he was not drafted after that time. But despite going undrafted, the infielder stuck with the game, heading to the Gary SouthShore Railcats, a team in the independent American Association of Professional Baseball. He played a full season on that team before the Red Sox purchased his contract shortly before his 2018 season was set to begin, and that began his climb up Boston’s organizational ladder.

Signed in May of that 2018 season, Fitzgerald joined in the middle of the season, being placed in Greenville for that season. The left-handed swinger hit .274/.337/.396 in that first season, hitting eight homers over roughly a half season of ball. He was still able to get pushed up to High-A Salem in the following season. There, he played closer to a full season with 127 games, and ended the year hitting .271/.345/.375. That year may have been the first where he was really put on Red Sox fans’ radars as he was given an award for being the organization’s best defensive player.

The following season was, of course, a wash with the minor-league season being cancelled, but based on what happened in 2021 it seems that Fitzgerald put the requisite work in during the cancelled season as he had his best professional campaign to date. As a 27-year-old in Double-A Portland, Fitzgerald filled in all around the infield and showed off some newfound power, hitting .271/.351/.505 with a career-high 13 homers over just 95 games. He was able to parlay that performance into a late-season promotion up to Triple-A Worcester, where he hit .262/.340/.571 over a short 13-game sample.

I think it’s easy to dismiss this latest voting result as getting too caught up in an exciting and easy-to-root-for spring training story, and that is undoubtedly part of it. It’s also, however, dismissive of a player who has a legitimate claim to being in this tier of the system. Really, it comes down to your preference for how you evaluate prospects. If you’re someone who leans mostly on ceiling, this is not going to be the result for you. Fitzgerald is entering his age-28 season, only a year younger than guys like Trevor Story and Xander Bogaerts. There’s not really a carrying tool that would help him project even as a future starter, never mind a potential star.

On the other hand, Fitzgerald is right on the cusp of the majors, and in fact it wasn’t ridiculous to think he could maybe have a shot at making the roster out of camp given how that bench looks right now. He has a pretty decent shot at getting a chance to be a major-league utility player, and to do so pretty quickly. The power he showed off this spring with his four homers backs up the power gains he made last season, and it’s now something of an average tool. He’s also got a solid hit tool, and he can play defensively all over the infield while also getting some outfield experience as well. In this era of shorter benches, that kind of versatility is extremely valuable. When you throw in the work ethic that it certainly takes to go from undrafted to on the cusp of the majors, it’s hard not to be confident of him reaching something close to his ceiling, even if that ceiling isn’t quite as high as the other names on this list, and some off of it.

Fitzgerald will get his chance to prove we’re not just getting caught up in a great story this year, as he’ll start the season back at Triple-A, likely bouncing all around the diamond once again to show off his versatility. In Worcester’s home park, he should also get a good chance at showing off those power gains, and continuing the momentum from spring training. It was enough to make him the last name on our top prospect list, and time will tell if it’ll be enough to get him up to the majors.

Here is our final list:

  1. Triston Casas, 1B
  2. Marcelo Mayer, SS
  3. Nick Yorke, 2B
  4. Jarren Duran, OF
  5. Brayan Bello, RHP
  6. Bryan Mata, RHP
  7. Jeter Downs, 2B/SS
  8. Blaze Jordan, 3B/1B
  9. Jay Groome, LHP
  10. Gilberto Jimenez, OF
  11. Wilkelman Gonzalez, RHP
  12. Connor Seabold, RHP
  13. Brandon Walter, LHP
  14. Josh Winckowski, RHP
  15. Noah Song, RHP
  16. Miguel Bleis, OF
  17. Alex Binelas, 3B
  18. Ronaldo Hernández, C
  19. Thaddeus Ward, RHP
  20. Ryan Fitzgerald, UTIL