The Boston Red Sox had a quiet trade deadline, parting with just two prospects. Still, there has been some movement amidst the top tier of their pipeline ever since the 2021 MLB season began, as well as an addition thanks to their impressive draft position.
Let’s dive into an updated look at the five players who headline Boston’s farm system.
Make sure to check out all of our Updated Prospect Articles.
1. Triston Casas, First Baseman
Casas was selected in the first round of the 2018 MLB Draft and has descended through the minors at a respectable speed. Currently in Double-A, the 21-year-old is slashing .271/.354/.424 with six homers, 30 RBI, 22 walks, and 40 strikeouts over the course of 46 games. It would be nice to see a larger power output from him, especially at Double-A, but this isn’t a huge concern yet considering he has proven he can produce in the past. Casas has also made his presence felt on the national stage as he competes in the Olympics. He has shone both offensively and defensively in Tokyo and has been a true star for Team USA.
Looking forward, the Red Sox would like to see more offensive firepower from Casas before bringing him up to Triple-A. While Boston has a clear hole at first base in the majors, they don’t want to rush him through the minor league system too fast. Casas should finish the year at Triple-A but likely won’t make his MLB debut until next summer.
2. Marcelo Mayer, Shortstop
The Red Sox were surely thrilled when they selected Mayer with the fourth pick in the 2021 MLB Draft. Arguably the best and most well-rounded player in the draft, Mayer showed off an incredible hit tool in high school and has boasted solid fielding, too. While there are some concerns about his long-term projectability at shortstop—especially in a system that features Xander Bogaerts, Jeter Downs, and Matthew Lugo—he should have no trouble shifting to center field or second base if needed.
Just 18 years old, Mayer would be 22 at the start of the 2025 season, which seems like a fair ETA for the Eastlake product. While his exact role is far from set in stone, the bottom line is that Mayer can produce both offensively and defensively regardless of which position he plays. Chaim Bloom is certainly building a strong farm system that should be able to make a mark at the big-league level in four or five years.
3. Jarren Duran, Outfielder
A huge Triple-A performance forced the Red Sox’ hand, and they eventually called up Duran to the majors ahead of a series against the Yankees in July. He’s struggled at the big-league level so far, slashing .176/.204/.353 with two homers, two walks, and 21 strikeouts through 17 games. Still, that doesn’t take away from the fact that he has the tools needed to produce long-term. The 24-year-old’s best trait is his speed, which has caused him to draw comparisons to former Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. He also hit 15 homers through 46 games at Triple-A, so he’s certainly capable of putting a charge into the baseball.
Moving forward, the Red Sox will likely look to work with Duran on his development in the upcoming offseason. Calling up a player midseason can be challenging, so Boston will have to set its sights on 2022 and beyond in terms of getting maximum production out of the now-24-year-old.
4. Jeter Downs, Shortstop
A key piece in the Mookie Betts blockbuster, Downs has shown impressive development both in the field and at the plate since being drafted by the Reds in the second round of the 2017 MLB Draft. He hit an impressive .269 with 19 homers and 23 stolen bases through 107 games at High-A in 2019 but has struggled statistically since then. Over the course of 64 games in Triple-A this year, he is hitting just .191 with nine homers, 13 stolen bases, 61 wRC+, a 9.4 percent walk rate, and 31.6 percent strikeout rate. It doesn’t take an expert to realize that Downs currently lacks the hitting ability needed to make him a key offensive asset in the majors. Still, he has impressive baseball IQ and, in the past, boasted an ability to work counts and spray the ball to all parts of the field.
The Red Sox shouldn’t be in a rush to promote Downs, who will likely slot in at second base once he reaches the majors. The idea of calling him up in September has been floated around, but he would likely need to show more progress at the plate in order for that to happen. Instead, it would be wise for Boston to let him develop further in Spring Training next year and then decide in March whether or not he’s ready to be summoned to the majors.
5. Tanner Houck, Starting Pitcher
Drafted in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Houck is not far from being a mainstay on the major league roster. He has a solid two-seam fastball that checks in around the mid-90s, thought it could touch the 97 mph range if he ends up being a reliever. The pitch has late drop and good swing-and-miss stuff. His slider is also quite impressive, featuring a well-developed and very effective breaking movement. Houck is also in the final stages of developing a splitter. He hasn’t used it in the majors, though, so it currently grades as a 45 and restricts his overall grades. If he can develop this into a solid third pitch that he’s comfortable using at the MLB level, he can become a very talented pitcher who projects as a long-term starter.
The biggest question surrounding Houck is whether he can be a reliever or starter. If he goes to the bullpen, he’ll be a solid multi-inning pitcher with a bump in velocity and impressive stuff. However, if he starts, he’ll provide Boston with a solid arm at a position that benefits from youth. He’s seen time in both roles this season, amassing a 2.45 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and .229 OBA with five walks and 30 strikeouts through six games (four starts).
What Does the Future Hold?
The Red Sox are building a solid pipeline under the guidance of baseball mastermind Chaim Bloom. The club will have plenty of young talent to choose from by 2024, with players like Mayer, Bryan Mata, Nick Yorke, Blaze Jordan, Noah Song, and Gilberto Jimenez headlining the bunch. This gives Boston some freedom and flexibility when it comes to players like Xander Bogaerts, who has several critical contract decisions coming up in the next half-decade. All in all, the Sox’ farm system is in a good place.
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