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Hit: 55. Power: 65. Run: 40. Fielding: 55. Arm: 50
Track Record: Casas combined elite power in high school with a surprisingly mature approach that became evident against advanced competition in showcase events and playing for USA Baseball’s 18U National Team. The Red Sox drafted Casas 26th overall in 2018 and signed him for just over $2.5 million. After most of his 2018 pro debut was wiped out following a strained thumb ligament, his 2019 minor league season didn’t disappoint. He joined Xander Bogaerts as the only Red Sox teenagers in more than half a century to hit 20 or more homers in one year and ranked as the top infield prospect in the low Class A South Atlantic League. Casas was set to open 2020 in high Class A before the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the minor league season, and he joined the team’s alternate training site in late August. He arrived in tremendous shape and ready to hit against more experienced pitchers.
Scouting Report: Casas already has the size and strength to launch moonshots from left-center to right field. He has some swing-and-miss to his game, like most big power hitters, but he’s shown the self-awareness and aptitude to cover holes. That trait was evident at the alternate site, where he showed an improved ability to turn on and backspin velocity on the inner half, while continuing to drive pitches away to the opposite field. That all-fields approach is evidence of a player committed to being more than an all-or-nothing hitter. Casas, who considers Joey Votto a model, spreads out his stance and chokes up with two strikes. His strike-zone awareness ranks among the best in the system. While Casas was drafted as a third baseman, his future is at first base, where he has a chance to be at least an above-average defender given his wingspan and solid arm strength. Casas is uncommonly mature, showing both an interest in feedback while also having the self-understanding to filter what works for him. He has worked out with big leaguers in South Florida for years, something that helped him remain unfazed against older competition.
The Future: Casas made a compelling case to open 2021 at Double-A with his performance at the alternate site. Some in the organization believe he is sufficiently advanced to fast track to the majors by the end of the season. Even if Casas travels a more conservative time frame, team officials believe he will become a middle-of-the-lineup staple for years to come. In an era where first basemen are rarely considered top prospects, Casas has an offensive ceiling that allows him to fit the bill.
Hit: 55. Power: 55. Run: 50. Fielding: 50. Arm: 50.
Track Record: Unlike the eponymous Yankees superstar for whom he’s named, Downs already has become accustomed to changing teams. The Reds traded Downs to the Dodgers before the 2019 season, and when the Red Sox pivoted away from Brusdar Graterol in the Mookie Betts blockbuster, Los Angeles shipped him to Boston prior to spring training in 2020. Downs made his Red Sox debut at the alternate training site and was one of the team’s top performers in Pawtucket.
Scouting Report: Downs has an efficient swing with impressive whip, driving the ball from gap to gap for doubles and homers. His bat speed buys time for good pitch recognition, allowing him both to manage the strike zone and identify pitches to drive. Downs has crushed lefthanders while doing enough against righties to suggest a potential regular. While he’s mainly spent time at shortstop, his solid but unspectacular range suggests a future at second base. Downs features average speed that plays up with his excellent baseball IQ and strong feel for the game.
The Future: Downs could open 2021 in Triple-A with a solid spring and will be part of Boston’s depth equation. With offense down at second base across the majors in recent years, Downs projects as an above-average regular at the position with a chance to be an all-star.
Hit: 40. Power: 70. Run: 45. Fielding: 50. Arm: 70.
Track Record: Dalbec’s elite power made him first-round candidate in the 2016 draft, but his struggles as a junior caused him to slip to the fourth round. The Red Sox signed the two-way standout for $650,000. He made that slide look misguided in pro ball with a combined 59 home runs in 2018 and ’19, sixth-most in the minors. He continued that power display with eight home runs in 19 games in his big league debut.
Scouting Report: Dalbec has massive all-fields power with enough strength and leverage to allow even some mis-hits to leave the yard to right field. He also has sizable holes for big league pitchers to exploit, both on elevated fastballs as well as breaking balls and offspeed pitches below the zone. The cerebral Dalbec posted a 42.4 percent strikeout rate in the big leagues but has shown the ability to adjust and lower his strikeout rate throughout his pro career. While Dalbec spent most of his time at first base in Boston, he continues to be somewhat stiff there and remains a work in progress. He is more natural at third base, where he is a solid defender and his arm plays as double-plus—but he’s blocked by Rafael Devers.
The Future: Dalbec’s first exposure to the majors validated the impression he can become a valuable power hitter and corner infielder. He’ll open 2021 back in Boston.
Fastball: 70. Curveball: 40. Slider: 60. Changeup: 50. Control: 45.
Track Record: Signed for just $25,000 during the 2015-16 international signing period, Mata quickly emerged as one of the organization’s top pitching prospects. After reaching Double-A in 2019, he made his way to the alternate training site in 2020 and solidified his standing as the pitcher with the best pure stuff in Boston’s system.
Scouting Report: Mata has a diverse arsenal of pitches anchored by a mid-to-high-90s two-seam fastball and a nasty slider that tunnels well off his two-seamer. His two-seamer and slider have the shape and power of plus offerings or better, eliciting bad contact and swings and misses. His four-seamer, changeup and curveball are inconsistent but create options to attack righties and lefties in different parts of the zone. Below-average control remains the focus of Mata’s development, but he has improved, dropping his walk rate from 7.3 per nine innings in 2018 to 3.6 per nine in 2019. To continue that progress, Mata adjusted his delivery at the alternate site in hopes that fewer moving parts will result in a more consistent attack on the strike zone.
The Future: Mata’s combination of big stuff but below-average control suggests a No. 3 or 4 starter. He has a chance to put himself on the radar as a major league depth option in 2021.
Hit: 55. Power: 45. Speed: 70. Fielding: 50. Arm: 45.
Track Record: In college, Duran was a second baseman whose speed and offensive performance pointed to bottom-of-the-order or utility skills. Area scout Justin Horowitz believed Duran had more potential based on his bat life and strength and that he could unlock greater defensive impact in the outfield. In his first full season, Duran raced to Double-A Portland, then made offseason swing adjustments that led to eight home runs at the alternate training site.
Scouting Report: Duran’s swing was originally calibrated to take advantage of his plus-plus speed with a flat bat path that resulted in grounders and liners to all fields. Duran has since lowered his hands in his stance, an alteration that allowed him to keep a clear path to turn on inside pitches. With more aggressive swings may come an uptick in strikeouts, but Duran’s plus-plus speed and ability to spray liners on two-strike counts should help sustain solid batting averages. Duran relies more on speed than route efficiency to track balls in the outfield but has shown enough improvement to convince the Red Sox that he has a future in center. His arm is below-average.
The Future: Duran’s speed gives him an avenue to the majors. If his swing adjustments hold, he could become a dynamic power-speed threat.
Fastball: 55. Curveball: 55. Slider: 50. Changeup: 50. Control: 55.
Track Record: One of the top high school talents in the 2016 draft, Groome has pitched just 66 minor league innings due to injuries, including having Tommy John surgery that wiped out his 2018 season and most of 2019. The Red Sox sent him to their alternate training site in 2020 to get innings, and he held his own against more advanced hitters while offering a reminder of why he’d been so highly-regarded as an amateur.
Scouting Report: Groome has the raw materials of a lefthanded starter, including a powerful build, a controlled, repeatable delivery and giant hands that allow him to manipulate the ball. He typically works at 92-94 mph with his four-seamer, and the deception in his delivery resulted in lots of whiffs on fastballs at the alternate site. The plus-plus curveball he featured pre-Tommy John has not come back, but still flashes above-average to plus. Groome emphasized his changeup while rehabbing, and the pitch projects as average. He’s also started experimenting with a slider, and could feature either that or a cutter as a fourth pitch.
The Future: Groome possesses mid-rotation potential but still has a lot to prove, including whether he can stay healthy over a full season. He’ll likely open 2021 in high Class A.
Hitting: 55 Power: 45 Run: 70 Fielding: 60 Arm: 70
Track Record: Jimenez signed for just $10,000 out of the Dominican Republic but quickly surpassed many players who signed for more. He began switch-hitting after signing with the Red Sox and was a standout in the college-heavy short-season New York-Penn League as an 18-year-old. The 2020 season, unfortunately, represented a lost year of development after he wasn’t invited to the alternate site camp.
Scouting Report: Jimenez represents one of the most intriguing talents in the Red Sox organization: a player with the athleticism, strength, hand-eye coordination and elite speed to perform well even while learning. He is still developing his swing path after a choppy approach to the ball resulted in a 64% percent groundball rate in 2019. Nonetheless, his sub-four seconds times to first base allows him to turn many of those grounders into hits, particularly from the left side. Jimenez is still learning to hit lefthanded but hit .374 against righties in 2019, and all three of his homers came while hitting lefthanded. His plus-plus speed and arm strength suggest impact potential both on the bases and in center or right field.
The Future: The 2021 season should offer Jimenez his first exposure to full-season ball. There’s a lot of development left, but he has a ceiling rivaled by few in the system.
Fastball: 60. Slider: 65. Splitter: 45. Control: 45.
Track Record: When the Red Sox drafted Houck with the 24th overall pick out of Missouri in 2017, they believed he had the athleticism and aptitude to add to his sinker/slider and emerge as a starter. In 2020, Houck made good on that belief as he refined his delivery and pitch mix over two months at the alternate training site and made a dazzling big league debut with one earned run over 17 innings while dominating three playoff teams.
Scouting Report: Houck quieted his crossfire delivery at the alternate site to establish better direction to home plate. He also raised his low three-quarters arm slot a tick, establishing a better release point for his 90-93 mph sinker, 92-94 four-seamer and low-80s slider. After struggling for much of his career to handle lefthanded hitters, Houck shelved his changeup in favor of a splitter, which he rarely used in the big leagues but shows potential as a viable third pitch. He demonstrated excellent poise in the majors and adapted well to whatever was working, alternately emphasizing his two- and four-seam fastballs while displaying a wipeout slider against which hitters were 0-for-15 with 10 strikeouts.
The Future: Houck put himself in position to open 2021 in the big league rotation with his debut performance. The development of his splitter will likely determine his career path.
Hitting: 60.Power: 45. Run: 40. Fielding: 50. Arm: 50.
Track Record: The Red Sox stunned the industry when they drafted Yorke with the 17th overall pick last June, but the team had years of familiarity that informed its willingness to buck consensus. Area scout Josh Labandeira believed Yorke’s ability to drive the ball to center and right-center at an early age harbored similarities to what he’d seen in the minors playing against David Wright. The Red Sox signed Yorke for a below-slot $2.7 million bonus and invited him to the alternate training site, where he reached base in seven of 10 plate appearances.
Scouting Report: There is an ease about Yorke in the batter’s box, where his quickly accelerating bat allows him an extra beat to recognize pitches and make smart swing decisions. He barrels balls to the entire field, creating the potential for high batting averages and on-base percentages with high extra-base hits totals. Yorke added 15 pounds of muscle his senior season to add more power to his game, but he always projects to hit for average over power. While Yorke will move off his high school position of shortstop, the Red Sox believe he can stay in the middle of the diamond at second base.
The Future: Yorke should open 2021 in low Class A. The Red Sox believe his advanced bat and uncommon maturity could allow him to jump on the fast track.
Fastball: 50. Slider: 60. Cutter: 50. Changeup: 45. Control: 45.
Track Record: Ward was largely overlooked as a swingman who worked chiefly out of the bullpen at Central Florida. The Red Sox thought he had the ability to emerge as at least a reliever and might be able to start, so they took a flier on him in the fifth round in 2018. Ward rewarded that decision with a standout 2019 season in which both his ERA (2.14) and strikeout rate (11.2 per nine innings) were among the best in the minors by any pitcher who threw at least 100 innings. He spent the canceled 2020 season working out on his own and developing a changeup.
Scouting Report: Thanks to strength gains in pro ball, Ward’s sinker ticked up from a low-90s offering to a 93-96 mph pitch in 2019. Both that pitch and a cutter he developed in 2019 allow him to miss barrels and generate bad contact early in counts. Ward’s mid-80s slider is his putaway pitch. While those three pitches are his primary options, Ward is willing to employ additional pitches—including a four-seamer and changeup—to further unbalance opponents and to give him game-planning options. He has an easy delivery but struggles with walks at times.
The Future: Ward likely will open 2021 in Double-A. He has back-of-the-rotation potential.
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