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 continue with High-A Greenville.
Top Position Player Prospect
Nick Yorke, 2B
Even for a Greenville roster that certainly looks to be skewed much more heavily towards position player talent than pitching, there is a clear top prospect on this side of the roster with Nick Yorke. After plenty of criticism after taking him in the first round in 2020, including some from yours truly, the Red Sox are certainly looking like geniuses after his first season as a pro as Yorke broke out in a major way last summer. The young infielder put up a .913 OPS in Low-A to start the season, earning him a little more than a cup of coffee over the final month or so of the year here in Greenville. Yorke’s defense is still a bit of a question, though I think the idea that he’s definitely going to move to the outfield is overblown. I don’t see any Gold Gloves in his future, but from people I’ve spoken with I think he can stick at second long-term.
But of course, it’s the offense that makes him not only the top prospect on this projected roster, and not only one of the top prospects in the Red Sox system, but a top prospect in all of baseball, with some evaluators having him safely in the top 50. Yorke has an impressive approach at the dish considering his age (he’ll turn 20 this coming weekend) and a solid swing that, in combination with the approach, leads to a ton of solid contact and a plus hit tool. The power probably projects to be more average, but that’s more due to the trajectory of the balls he hits than an indictment on his ability to square up baseballs. And even with that said, the power played well in-game last year, so he could even be better in that department than initially anticipated.
Top Starting Pitching Prospect
Shane Drohan, LHP
For as much as the Red Sox pitching prospect pool has been improving in recent years, there is still something of a gap at the system which leads to this being a bit of a shallower group than the other levels. Drohan is probably miscast as a top prospect starter on a roster, but that’s not to say he’s not a very intriguing pitcher. The 2020 draftee was a bit raw for a college pitcher at the time as he had just started focusing full-time on baseball in college. Last season we did see some flashes of a future major leaguer, and ultimately he ended the season with a 3.86 ERA over 23 starts. The southpaw has a solid three-pitch mix, but none of the offerings really stand out and the command is still lagging a bit. There’s a ceiling of a back-end starter in there somewhere, though he needs to take a leap this season for that to remain a realistic outcome.
Top Relief Pitching Prospect
Brendan Cellucci, LHP
Cellucci has been an interesting arm in this system for a few years now, originally having been drafted back in 2019. It’s not hard to see the potential for a future big league reliever here with a left-handed pitcher who can get up near triple digits fairly consistently who also has a good curveball, but the results just haven’t been there in the lower levels. Last season, Cellucci pitched to a 5.30 ERA here in Greenville, striking out more than a batter an inning but cancelling out a lot of that positive work with a lack of control. His delivery is a tough one to consistently repeat and that is a big reason why his command is so inconsistent. This is the type of profile that can break out in an instant and quickly move up the system, but it’s also one that can flame out just as rapidly.
Tyler McDonough, UTL
McDonough, who was Boston’s third round pick last summer, does not really have the kind of profile that a lot of people fall in love with, but it is one that could very well be in the majors, and perhaps more quickly than anyone else on this roster. Granted, it’s far from a sure thing, but he is a kind of high floor/low ceiling player that can stand out, especially in these lower levels. McDonough has played basically everywhere, including catcher, going back to his college days, and last year settled in for the Red Sox playing both center field and second base. He’s got more doubles power than over-the-fence, but the hit tool is enough to give him a solid future as a utility man, especially if he can continue to show off his versatility in the field.
Other Prospects of Note
- Alex Binelas was acquired by the Red Sox this winter in the Hunter Renfroe trade. The third baseman may have to move to the other side of the diamond at first base at some point, which puts a lot of pressure on his bat. That said, the bat contains big raw power, so if he can make enough contact he’ll hit enough to justify playing time at first.
- Matthew Lugo is a fascinating prospect to watch for this year. The former second round pick is still young, not turning 21 until May, but he struggled mightily for most of last season at Salem before turning things around a bit last year. He’s more of a sum-of-the-parts kind of player, and most notably I’ll be watching his defense at shortstop in 2022 as he made a whopping 38 errors a season ago.
- Joe Davis has become something of a legend in the system thanks to big raw power and a bigger personality. The ceiling isn’t very high here, but he’s a fun player to watch and he could hit enough to be a bat off the bench.
- Gilberto Jimenez was seen by many, including myself, as a big-time breakout candidate last summer. Instead, he was bothered by injuries for parts of the season and he never really got going. It wasn’t a disaster of a season, but given the questions about his bat even before the season he’s now entering a big prove-it season in 2022.
- Nick Decker fits a lot of what we see in modern hitting, with big power but also some contact issues. Right now the latter has overpowered the former, and if he can’t make more contact he just won’t be able to progress to the majors.
- Ceddanne Rafaela is one of the most interesting players in the system as a true super utility man with little power and a ton of speed. His defense is such that he doesn’t need to hit a ton to be a future bench player, but there do need to be some strides in his production at the plate to get where he wants to be.
- Chih-Jung Liu was a big international signing in the winter following the 2019 season, and he finally made his debut last summer. He’s still quite raw, but entering his age-23 season he needs to come out more refined this year.