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 finish up with Triple-A Worcester.
Top Position Player Prospect
Triston Casas, 1B
There was little internal debate (as in, in my brain) as to who would be the top position player prospect on this list, as Casas is arguably the best prospect in the organization regardless of level or position. The former first round pick has progressed about as well as anyone could have imagined when he first turned pro back in 2018 coming out of high school. Despite having just turned 22 at the start of this year, he’s already handled with relative ease every level with which he has been presented, reached Triple-A for a cup of coffee, and even stood out at the Olympics.
We of course have to mention the fact that he is a first base only kind of player, and thus does not have a ton of margin for error at the plate given that relative lack of defensive value. That being said, for one thing he has the makings of a good defensive first baseman, and while that may not be as valuable as some other positions it also should not be tossed aside as nothing. And more importantly, everything about his profile at the plate suggests that the man will hit. Casas is an intimidating presence in the batter’s box just due to his size, and his power matches that well. He also has perhaps the best approach at the plate, allowing him to hide some minor hit tool concerns and tap into his power on a more regular basis. He’s going to make his debut this season barring injury, and he has all of the makings of a consistent All-Star at first base for years to come.
Top Starting Pitching Prospect
Josh Winckowski, RHP
There were a couple of different options for this one, and I suspect some people would opt for Connor Seabold, but I’m going with Winckowski. He’s a little bit further behind developmentally having just gotten up to Triple-A at the end of last season, but he’s also got a bit more upside. That’s not to say he’s a future ace, of course, but his stuff is a few ticks above what they get from Seabold, and in today’s game that’s a very important thing. It’s still unclear that Winckowski will be able to stick as a starter long-term, but he’s got a nice three-pitch arsenal with each of those offerings coming in at least average. It’ll just be a matter of whether or not he can consistently command the stuff to be able to pitch full starts every five days. Like Casas, he should make his debut at some point this season, though in the short-term he’s certainly a better fit as a multi-inning reliever.
Top Relief Pitching Prospect
Eduard Bazardo, RHP
This Worcester roster has been stuffed with a whole lot of major-league-ready relievers, which makes sense given the need for pitching depth this season, but even if we include non-prospects here Bazardo may well be the most exciting name on the list. The righty appeared to be a sleeper last season to eventually carve out a legitimate role in the major-league bullpen, but injuries kept him off the mound for most of the year. He’s healthy again now, and while he probably doesn’t have late-inning upside he pairs a big fastball with a really impressive breaking ball that should play in middle relief. He has a chance to break camp with the active roster, but even if he doesn’t I wouldn’t expect him to spent too much time in Worcester before getting his first shot in the bigs in 2022.
Frank German, RHP
On a Triple-A roster that is filled mostly with top prospects and major-league veterans, it’s hard to identify a sleeper, but I think German fits that description. He was the prospect who came along with Adam Ottavino in last winter’s trade, and on the surface his numbers from last season look pretty rough with a 5.12 ERA. However, a lot of that damage came in the earlier parts of the season while he was a starter, a role in which he just is not a great fit. The righty, though, has a good fastball/changeup combination that fits better in relief, and after converting to a bullpen role he allowed just one run over 11 innings, striking out 11 and walking only a single batter. We should mention that was at Double-A, but if German gets off to a good start in Worcester he should be on the major-league depth radar in relatively short order.
Other Prospects of Note
- I’m not really sure if Jarren Duran should be included here because, frankly, I’m confused about his prospect status — he’s ranked on Sox Prospects and plenty of other sites, but Baseball-Reference indicates that his rookie status went away last year — but either way he’s perhaps the most interesting player on this roster. After a first half in which his hype just continued to balloon, it came crashing down in the second half with a rough major-league debut. He needs to show early that he’s made some adjustments to make more contact, even if the newfound power comes back a couple ticks in the process.
- Jeter Downs is another top prospect who trended in the wrong direction last year and is looking to prove that he is still a name to remember in this system. He has similar issues to Duran in that he needs to make more contact, but the all-around skillset here is still one that can stick in the majors for a long time. I think he has a real chance to surprise some people in 2022.
- Connor Seabold was mentioned above, and while he’s not a super exciting prospect he’s also the kind of player every team wants to have. He’s on the 40-man, has options, and can give you some serviceable innings even if the ceiling is not very high. He’ll be up and down making spot starts and long relief appearances this season.
- Kutter Crawford is another sleeper to make the Opening Day roster as someone who can provide some length out of the bullpen, He probably fits best in that role long-term, too, though he’ll get his chance to start in Worcester an show that his arsenal is enough to work in that role moving forward.
- Connor Wong should start the season as the team’s third catcher, though he’ll be pushed by the next guy we talk about. Wong has big power, but his swing-and-miss issues prevent him from tapping into that as often as he’d like. That said, he’s the better defensive option here and he has some versatility with the ability to play a little infield as well.
- Ronaldo Hernández is the other catcher competing for the third catcher role with Wong. Defensively, it’s not really clear he can be relied upon consistently behind the plate, but as a bat-first back up he will provide more punch than Wong would with good contact ability and above-average power, though also with an approach that needs to be reined in.
- Durbin Feltman didn’t make it to the majors as quickly as some would have hoped after he was drafted in 2018, but he’s on the cusp now after a big bounce back last season. The late-inning ceiling is probably less likely to be reached than we thought when he was first drafted, but he showed enough last season to believe he can be a good middle reliever as soon as this season.
- Zack Kelly is not as well known as some other relievers in this bullpen, but he’s coming off a great season in 2021 split between Double-A and Triple-A in which he pitched to a 2.18 ERA over 45 1⁄3 innings, striking out 69 and walking 18. That alone should put him on the radar for this season.