The Boston Red Sox enter 2022 with a strengthened feeling of optimism and motivation. 2020 saw the firing of Alex Cora, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a poor 24-36 record that ranked last in the AL East. However, the team brought back Cora last season, drafted Marcelo Mayer with the fourth pick in the draft, and made it to the ALCS. Any year where a team thrives in the draft and the regular season should be considered a success, and Boston will look to build on this in 2022.
With that said, the Red Sox prospect corps isn’t ferocious by any means. Let’s break down Boston’s farm system ahead of the 2022 campaign.
Make sure to check out all of our other Top Prospect Articles.
1. Marcelo Mayer, Shortstop
Many viewed Mayer as the top prospect in the 2021 draft, so the Red Sox were surely ecstatic when he fell to them at No. 4 overall. He is equally talented in the field and at the plate, possessing slick glovework, a solid arm, and phenomenal vision at the plate. In addition to being able to put the ball in play, Mayer has respectable power, too. Speed was his biggest concern coming out of high school, though he did manage to steal seven bases through 26 rookie-level games in the second half of 2021.
Mayer might find himself back in rookie ball when the upcoming season kicks off, but it should be a short stay. All signs indicate the 19-year-old will progress to Single-A this year, and Double-A might not be out of the picture. With that said, the Red Sox are not a team that rushes its prospects, so even though Mayer has the profile of someone who will develop quickly, don’t expect to see him in the majors for the next couple of seasons.
2. Triston Casas, First Baseman
Without a doubt, Casas is a bat-first player. He’s okay in the field and boasted an impressive arm while pitching in college, but his size will certainly limit him to first base once he reaches the majors. That’s okay, though. The Red Sox are surely salivating at the idea of getting his bat in their lineup. Casas, a lefty, produces hard, loud contact while limiting strikeouts. I watched him in-person at Double-A Portland last year and was blown away by his approach and progressions in the box. Assuming this translates to the major-league level (admittedly, that is easier said than done), he should find success.
Casas’s 2021 season concluded with a nine-game stint at Triple-A. He went just 8-for-33 with one homer in Worcester but did post eight walks and eight strikeouts. Through a larger sample size (77 games) in Double-A, he slashed .284/.395/.484 with 13 homers, 49 walks, and 63 strikeouts. He’ll open 2022 in Triple-A, but don’t be surprised to see him in the majors by midseason.
3. Nick Yorke, Second Baseman
Thus far, Yorke’s claim to fame is that the Red Sox drafted him out of nowhere in 2020. Soon, he might just prove them right for “reaching” on him with the 17th pick. The second baseman split his first pro season between Single-A and High-A, slashing .325/.412/.516 with 14 homers, 62 RBI, 52 walks, 69 strikeouts, and 13 stolen bases through 97 games. His offensive output was impressive for a relatively lesser-known prospect drafted out of high school. It’s worth noting that offense will be Yorke’s selling point going forward. At best, he’s an average fielder, and his subpar arm and speed will definitely restrict him to second base long-term.
It’s safe to predict that Yorke will open 2022 in High-A and finish in Double-A. Just 19 years old, the second baseman is still a few years away from getting big-league consideration. Still, it has been exciting to see his development through one season, and he should continue to impress during his second campaign in the Red Sox’ system.
4. Jeter Downs, Middle Infielder
Acquired in 2020’s Mookie Betts trade, Downs debuted in the Red Sox’ system last year. He spent the whole season in Triple-A and was relatively disappointing as he posted a .190/.272/.333 slash line with 14 homers, 38 walks, and 131 strikeouts. He also swiped 18 bags. Obviously, the high strikeout total is alarming for the infielder as he continues to develop in the uppermost level of the minors.
Downs will open 2022 in Triple-A with a plethora of eyes monitoring his development. The million-dollar question persists: will he show positive progress this season? If so, he has a shot at making his MLB debut as a candidate to be the Red Sox’ everyday second baseman. If not, his chances of being anything more than a middle-infield option off the bench will diminish. It would be utterly foolish to lose hope after one poor season, but Boston definitely needs Downs to take a step forward in 2022.
5. Bryan Mata, Right-Handed Pitcher
Tommy John surgery sidelined Mata, 22, last spring, meaning he hasn’t pitched in a live game since pre-COVID, back in 2019. That year, he went 7-7 with a 3.43 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and .237 OBA through 21 starts between High- and Double-A. He also tallied 42 walks and an impressive 111 strikeouts along the way. Signed out of Venezuela in 2016, Mata’s repertoire is headlined by a mid-90s two-seamer that generates an impressively high rate of ground balls. His four-seamer can hit triple-digits, too. The right-hander complements his heater with an impressive changeup and slider. According to MLB Pipeline, Mata also throws a curveball but has “never had much feel” for the offering.
Mata was long viewed as a talented, up-and-coming hurler with eye-opening velocity. That may remain true after he recovers from Tommy John surgery, but the two-year hiatus from game action has still hurt his status. 2022 will be an important year for Mata as he returns to a normal workload and looks to find his groove on the mound again, likely in Double-A. Mata is at least one-and-a-half seasons out from the majors, and a 2024 debut isn’t out of the question.
What Does the Future Hold?
The top three names in the Red Sox’ farm system are quite impressive. The trio of first-round picks boast high offensive ceilings and should accelerate to impact roles within the next few years. However, there is a significant drop-off after Yorke. Downs’s high-end status as a prospect has worsened after his poor 2021 while Mata hasn’t provided any game action to analyze since 2019. Questions will continue to circulate surrounding these two players, and we likely won’t have any answers until midseason at the earliest.
Follow Andersen Pickard on Twitter @AndersenPickard
Main Image Credit: