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 Double-A Portland.
Top Position Player Prospect
David Hamilton, MIF
We talked yesterday about the projected roster for the Greenville Drive down in High-A, and we noted that the position player pool on that roster looks to be a lot more exciting prospect-wise than the pitching staff. Here in Portland, we have the opposite with the top position player prospect being outside the top 20 in the organization. Still, Hamilton is an interesting player and as someone who lives down the road from Portland I’m excited to see him. Coming over as one of the two prospects in the Hunter Renfroe deal, Hamilton is a high floor, low ceiling kind of player. The floor comes thanks to his non-offensive skills. He plays a good middle infield, and while he probably won’t win Gold Gloves there he’s a solid average defender. He also has elite speed which could, at the very least, make him a late-season add as a pinch runner.
At the plate, the upside is less exciting. The athleticism should help him leg out a few extra singles, and he’ll need them because he doesn’t really have much power to speak of. Hamilton’s bat probably profiles more as a bench player, but if he can continue to draw walks at a high clip as he has early in his pro career, perhaps he can get on base enough to profile as a second division starter.
Top Starting Pitching Prospect
Brayan Bello, RHP
While the lineup is lacking in big names among Red Sox prospects, the rotation looks excellent, and it’s headlined by Bello. The righty emerged last season and is now widely considered as the best pitching prospect in the system. His breakout 2021 led him to an appearance in the Futures Game at All-Star weekend. Bello is the kind of player who stands out as an excellent prospect pretty much immediately thanks to big stuff. The righty has a big fastball that sits in the high 90s and can approach triple digits, along with a nasty changeup and an improving slider.
The issue for him in his career has typically been consistency, and especially with command. Even back in 2019 he looked at times like he had the potential to be a borderline top 100 prospect like he is now, but he would alternate between those kinds of looks and then looking like he might top out in A-Ball. Last season, while he did hit a little bit of a bump after a mid-season promotion to Double-A, Bello was a lot more consistent. He still needs to better harness his stuff every time out to really reach his ceiling, but there’s a good number three prospect here if he takes the necessary step forwards this coming season.
Top Relief Pitching Prospects
Jacob Wallace, RHP
Towards the end of the shortened 2020 season, at the late-August trade deadline, the Red Sox traded Kevin Pillar to Colorado for a player to be named later. Ultimately we learned that would be reliever Jacob Wallace, a Methuen native and UConn standout who was coming home to New England. As a former pure college reliever, there was some expectation that he’d be able to move quickly through the system. Instead, he never really got his season off the ground in High-A in 2021, struggling with his command and pitching to a 5.92 ERA.
Even with that poor performance, though, there is still some excitement for a bounce back in a similar vein to Durbin Feltman. Even amid the struggles last season, Wallace struck out 76 batters in 48 2⁄3 innings. The righty very much has the stuff that you look for in a modern reliever, pairing an upper-90s fastball with a slider that is nasty when it’s on. Now, it’s just about finding more consistency with those pitches. This is the kind of profile that could totally fall off the radar by the end of the year, or could be pushing for a major-league role come September.
Christian Koss, INF
This was sort of a challenge finding this name, but Koss fits pretty well. Another former Rockies prospect, he came over to the Red Sox prior to last season in return for Yoán Aybar. Sort of like Hamilton above, there’s not a huge ceiling here, but Koss is probably more likely to have a solid career as a bench player than he gets credit for. He’s an average-ish player across the board and can play good defense all around the infield. If he can more consistently put his bat on the ball and refine his approach, he could be a valuable player off the bench.
Other Prospects of Note
- Jay Groome is arguably the most fascinating prospect in the system. The southpaw is, of course, a former top draft pick and once had a huge ceiling. Injuries have derailed much of his development, but he finally got in a full season last year. There was inconsistency, which is to be expected, but towards the end of the year he seemed to hit a groove. The Red Sox are likely hoping to get him up to Triple-A at some point around midseason if he earns it.
- Brandon Walter is a polarizing name in the system. On the one hand, he had little pedigree coming out of college and was 24 pitching in Low-A and High-A last season, older than most of the other top prospects he was facing. On the other hand, he was outstanding and the stuff looked sharp. If he comes out with a few good starts to begin this season, expect to see a ton of helium here.
- Chris Murphy is a guy whose stock has seemingly been falling this winter and spring. The stuff from the left side is impressive, but he needs to find a way to more consistently hit the strike zone or his time as a starting pitcher likely won’t last much longer.
- Kole Cottam fits in with the rest of the catchers in the organization as he doesn’t bring a ton of defensive value, but he can hit. The lack of glove probably gives him the ceiling of a backup, but he’s hit everywhere he’s been.
- Tyler Dearden was an intriguing upside play out of high school, but prior to last season he had never found his groove as a pro. However, in 2021, particularly in the second half, he exploded and showed off huge power in the outfield. I’m a bit skeptical the power will play enough as he moves up the ladder to be more than an emergency depth option, but he earned more of a look after last season.