2023 Boston Red Sox Top 10 Prospects Chat
- Thanks for the chat! Why the snub on Niko Kavadas? Surely he struggled in a short stint with Portland, but the 102 walks overall to go along with the power should place him in the top 10.
Alex Speier: Niko is no snub! Kavadas dominated the lower levels but that didn't come as a surprise given his age and college experience/performance. He was too advanced for those levels. The general consensus was/is that his prospect stock will be proven with his performance in the upper levels -- with an enormous amount of pressure on his bat to be one of the best in the minors if he's going to really soar up prospect lists given that he's only a 1B/DH whose defensive value runs negative. He hasn't shown that yet, but certainly, if he destroys AA/AAA next year, he will make a considerable jump.
SCJH (Denver, CO):
- Was Brainer Bonaci in consideration for top-10? Seems like an interesting prospect with elite plate discipline whose power started showing up late in the year.
Alex Speier: Bonaci did get some mention as a potential top-10 candidate based on his strong showing at the end of the year, but there are enough questions about the bat-to-ball strength that he was generally viewed as being behind Paulino, even though Bonaci has superior defense. Still, the gap between them -- at least in the eyes of some -- isn't huge.
William (Boston, MA):
- What are the chances Bleis develops into an elite prospect along the likes of previous tooled up IFA guys ie Acuna, Tatis? How much does his plate approach need to improve to get him there. Thanks!
Alex Speier: There's going to be a need for considerable growth against breaking stuff. His chase and whiff rates against breaking balls were very high. But that's not a shock for an 18-year-old in the FCL. You shouldn't ever bet on someone in short-season ball hitting the Acuña/Tatis jackpot - if it could be projected with any kind of certainty, then Bleis would be No. 1, not 4 - but there is at least a chance of a five-tool star.
GA Blood (Philadelphia):
- David Hamilton ended the season on a tear and was added to the 40-man yesterday. What's his outlook for 2023? Do the Sox plan on having him spend more time in the grass?
Alex Speier: Hamilton spent a couple of games in the outfield at the end of the year and I'd certainly expect them to continue to add more OF versatility to his repertoire in 2023, particularly because there's no question that he has the speed for it. As for outlook - open the year in Triple-A, where he'll loom as a depth option at a number of positions. If he commits to a line drive approach, there's a chance he could emerge as a versatile role player in the big leagues by the end of the year.
Warren (New London):
- Did Brainer Bonaci do enough this year to make the 30? I like the speed and the 89 walks. It seemed like the Red Sox were emphasizing walks in their system more this year, e.g. trading for Wilyer Abreu.
Alex Speier: Definitely top 30, and the team has put a much greater emphasis on swing decisions in both its scouting and player development processes, and the growing number of players willing to take some walks is a reflection of that.
- Do the Red Sox have a starting pitcher in their system who profiles as a future number one or number two in the majors? Given the recent track record of organizations like the Yankees, Astros, mariners, and guardians in terms of developing impactful cost controlled pitchers, is it possible that the Red Sox pitching program is behind the curve?
Alex Speier: Bello is the best bet in that regard - and a pretty good one at that. Behind him, it's hard to see a top-of-the-rotation candidate, though there's a chance (low probability) that a Wikelman Gonzalez or Luis Perales could explode. As for the pitching pipeline, the Sox are certainly behind the elite orgs - Dodgers, Guardians, Rays, Astros, etc. - but trying to make up for lost time. They've made meaningful strides over the last handful of years (Bello, Kutter Crawford, Houck, etc., are good development stories), but they haven't invested top picks or intl signing bonuses in pitchers in recent years.
- Thank you for taking my Question. Alex very surprised that you don't have Luis Perales on your top 10, as I have him as the #6 prospect in the system.
Alex Speier: Just too far away and with too few professional innings under his belt to say with confidence what he can be. His fastball overwhelmed hitters in the FCL to the point where he barely used his breaking ball until the team intervened and told him he had to. Once he got to A-ball, there were a lot of walks. We'll know a lot more about him in a year or two.
Evan (New York):
- Exciting to see Miguel Bleis rank so highly this year. Would you consider Bleis as a candidate to make the top 100 at some point next year? Could we be talking about him in the same vein as some of the other superstar names that have signed from the Dominican Republic?
Alex Speier: A second Bleis question! Frankly, his tools were so loud in the FCL that it isn't outlandish to have him as a top-100 consideration heading into 2023, and he could zoom up the list pretty quickly if he makes enough contact.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):
- Of the Florida Complex League Red Sox pitchers who are moving up to the Salem Red Sox, who are the most highly regarded in your opinion?
Alex Speier: If you count Perales (who was up in Salem by the end of the year), then certainly him. Behind him, Dalton Rogers is seen as a guy with nasty stuff and a database-breaker delivery.
- Romero over Yorke raises an eyebrow. Does it say more good about Romero or bad about Yorke?
Alex Speier: Both are viewed as being outstanding pure hitters. Romero has the advantage of lefthandedness (higher floor if there's platoon risk) along with certainty of staying at a middle-infield spot, while Yorke's future position remains a subject of debate and speculation.
- Did Casas do enough to make him the presumptive Opening Day 1B?
Alex Speier: The Sox seem to be leaning in that direction. GM Brian O'Halloran recently discussed that his performance in the big leagues accelerated his path to his future big league role. The team loved his discipline and at-bat management and could certainly use a guy with plus lefthanded thump.
- What’s the one tool to be most excited about for Mayer?
Alex Speier: That's probably thinking about it the wrong way -- the reason to be excited about Mayer is that *everything* he does is impressive. Older teammates in Salem were mesmerized by him -- by how gracefully he fields, throws, hits, drives the ball, handles all pitch types. But if you're going for one where he'll make the greatest impact... gotta be the hit tool, where he just screams of being a player who will almost effortlessly bang a ton of doubles off the Wall in left.
Owen (Rhode island):
- Hey Alex, Just wondering if you have heard about any prospect who the team or other teams value more then the pubic.
Alex Speier: I think David Hamilton is a good one. Some were surprised that he got added to the 40-man, but I'd gotten the sense that he'd clearly have gotten nabbed in the Rule 5 if the team hadn't protected him based on the value being put on speed and middle infield defense (as well as lefthandedness -- now unshiftable!) in advance of the 2023 rules changes. He's not a super high-ceiling guy but has a lot of attributes that are appealing in baseball right now.
Luis Perales (Dominican Complex):
- Was I far from the Top 10?
Alex Speier: Delightful of you to check in, Luis! I'm still working through the rest of the top-30 rankings, but for now, probably closer to 20 than 10 ... though I won't be surprised at all if you are top-five in the Sox system by this time next year.
- Given the positional depth at certain positions (ie, middle infield), do you think the organization will be ready to part with prospects in favor of big leaguers to fill the many holes at the top level? If so, who are your leading candidates to be dealt for, say, a #2 or #3 in the rotation?
Alex Speier: I do think the Sox are getting to the point where they need to start using up-the-middle position prospects to start pursuing roster holes that don't have clear homegrown solutions for the next few years (rotation and catcher are the most glaring positions of long-term need... depending on what happens with Devers and Bogaerts). Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox front office members have talked about the farm system being in a stronger position to open up trade avenues this offseason. The tricky part, however, is that if you presume that Bello, Casas, and Bleis are off limits, I'm not sure if there's a package to get a No. 2 or 3 starter. I guess it's possible that Rafaela could headline a deal -- the Bader-for-Montgomery and Siri three-way trade highlighted the value being placed on elite defensive CFs with big ranges of offensive outcomes. But my guess is that a) the Sox want to be an elite run-prevention team, and so might struggle with the idea of trading Rafaela until there's more certainty around Bleis and b) other teams would seek more than a glove-first up-the-middle player if dealing a No. 2-3 with multiple years of control.
Tom (Medfield, MA):
- What sort of role does Enmanuel Valdez end up in?
Alex Speier: Good question. The L/R splits this year suggest the bigger part of a platoon role while moving around between second, left, third, maybe first, and DH. There is real line-to-line thunder in his bat, especially against righties. But even though he made strides at second, the bar is going to get pretty high to stay there as an everyday 2B in the absence of shifts.
- Luis Perales have a chance to be a top 5 Red Sox prospect next year? With his potential plus the graduation of Casas and others
Alex Speier: I'll say yes, but guessing that you won't get to see him in Portland until 2024.
- Besides the usual big bonus signees, are you hearing anything about the group of DSL players that will make their state-side debut in 2023? Anyone that could vault into the rankings (or at least get consideration for your top 30)? Thanks!
Alex Speier: Besides the big bonus guys? Maybe some of the pitchers -- Yizreel Burnet and Willian Colmenares have stuff that could put them on the map. For now, I don't anticipate either in the 2023 top-30.
- Alex thank you for taking my question Whats your opinion on Matt Lugo, it seems like his future isnt as a SS anymore.
Alex Speier: I think the Sox' best-case with Lugo is a versatile guy who you can occasionally stick at a middle infield position but whose primary future will be either 3B or in the OF. This year was an interesting step forward for his power production, albeit chiefly in Greenville, where the ball flies. There's still talent and upside in his offensive profile, and he strikes me as the type of player whose growth was slowed by the lost pandemic season -- creating more upside than you'd typically associate with a player who was three "full" years into his professional career.
- Who is the Red Sox catcher of future Nathan Hickey, Brooks Brannon, JohnFran Garcia or Enderso lira?
Alex Speier: No idea! If Hickey can develop to be credible behind the dish, he'd be both the closest and likeliest given the solid offensive profile. It wouldn't shock me if he's regarded in a similar vein as Austin Wells (No. 5 Yankees prospect) at this time next year. But there's a lot of work to do defensively to stay at the position, and everyone else is so, so far away. It's almost fruitless to think about catcher development until they're right on the cusp of the big leagues. The developmental gap is absolutely huge.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):
- Thinking slugger 1st baseman Niko Kavadas must be in the list of top 30 Red Sox prospects, and likely in the 10-20 range - am I on target?
Alex Speier: I'd probably err on the lower side of that range, but he's clearly a top-30 guy.
- On the last year Perales, Wilkerman Gonzalez and Elmer Rodriguez has open eyes as RHPs, will Jedixon Paez, Angel Bastardo, Juan Encarnacion or Luis De la Rosa do the same in 2023?
Alex Speier: I think Juan Daniel Encarnacion already started to open eyes this year. Of the other three, I'd probably consider Paez the best bet to take a step forward in 2023.
- Alex, I’ve noticed a distinct pattern with the Red Sox since Bloom took over (and this is not intended as a criticism) that they seem disinclined to pay a high acquisition cost for pitching at all levels (draft, int’l FAs, MLB FAs and trades). One example is that Drohan is the only pitcher they’ve gone overslot for in 3 drafts. And at last year’s trade deadline, the Sox sent out 2 pitchers and 2 hitters and brought back 1 pitcher and SEVEN hitters. What do you make of this strategy? Is this just about the volatility of pitching, or are they zigging for a certain value when other teams might be zagging? Or am I making too much of it?
Alex Speier: I go back and forth on this. They were high on Jack Leiter in 2022 and would have considered taking him if he'd been on the board. But it's hard to overlook the fact that they haven't used one of their top two picks on pitchers since 2017 (!). I do think there's an element of the idea that good pitchers come from all over the amateur market -- Brandon Walter, Chris Murphy, and Kutter Crawford were all drafted outside of the top five rounds -- and so there's some randomness in play here. But ... actions speak to some degree, and you're right: They're not spending on amateur pitchers.
Backstop10 (South Jersey):
- Why was Andrew Politi not protected? He had as good a year as any reliever in the system and frankly earned a call-up last September.
Alex Speier: He did have a very good year that was right in line with the guys that got called up. But the Sox seemingly had him slightly behind the rest of that group, hence no call-up and no 40-man spot, given that there are a limited number of 40-man spots that they can dedicate to depth middle relievers.
- The Red So placed Wilyer Abreu on their 40nman roster whats your opinion on him.
Alex Speier: Don't have a great feel for him yet. The plate discipline seems to be real and the outfield defense is promising, so it's not outlandish that he was added, but the signs of power have occurred in very hitter-friendly parks (Asheville and Corpus Christi), so hard to say if it's real.
- Miguel Bleis is the most exciting complex league prospect since…?
Alex Speier: Devers.