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Boston Red Sox 2018 MLB Draft Grades

Image credit: 2018 first-round pick Triston Casas (right) with Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

BEST PURE HITTER: 3B Triston Casas (1) didn’t get much time to prove himself after enduring a season-ending injury in just his second game, but the Red Sox drafted him in the first round thanks to a very advanced lefthanded bat. OF/2B Jarren Duran (7) made a case for his hitting ability as well with a .357/.394/.516 line between the South Atlantic and New York Penn Leagues.

BEST POWER HITTER: Casas has a large, 6-foot-4, 238-pound frame and 70-grade raw power that stacked up with most players in the 2018 draft class—college or high school. He would routinely leave the park without squaring up pitches during his senior season of high school. His immense strength gives him a bigger margin for error than most hitters in finding the barrel and gives him tremendous offensive upside when paired with his feel to hit and professional approach.

FASTEST RUNNER: Duran’s loudest tool is his speed, as an 80-grade runner who has posted 3.95-second times from home-to-first. Duran stole 49 bags in 68 tries (72.1 percent) over three seasons with Long Beach State and went 24-for-34 (70.1 percent) in his pro debut this summer.

BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER: C Elih Marrero (8) was lauded for his defensive ability throughout his collegiate career, both at Mississippi State and as a junior with St. Thomas (Fla.). He’s athletic with reliable hands and an accurate arm, though he’s still figuring out the more intricate parts of the game like managing a full pitching staff and improving his receiving. He threw out 52 percent of base runners between two levels this summer, and also has his father, 10-year major leaguer Eli, to go to for pointers as well. 

BEST FASTBALL: RHP Durbin Feltman (3) touched the 98-99 mph range this spring and touched similar numbers this summer as a reliever across three different levels, getting as far as the Carolina League. He posted a 1.93 combined ERA over the three leagues and 23.1 innings, and could be a fast-moving reliever.

BEST SECONDARY PITCH: Feltman compliments his rising heater with a powerful, downer slider that has some depth and comes in in the mid-80s. It’s a unique pitch in that it’s thrown with typical slider velocity, but has a more traditional curveball shape with downer action than late, lateral tilt seen by most sliders. Whatever it’s classified as, it’s another weapon for Feltman.

BEST PRO DEBUT: A .910 OPS from Duran with 11 triples and 14 doubles is a good place to start, but how about 3B Brandon Howlett (21)? The Florida high school product seems to have put some vision issues that hampered him during the spring behind him, and hit .289/.402/.513 between the Gulf Coast and New York Penn Leagues with six home runs and 16 doubles.

BEST ATHLETE: Yes, fittingly, Duran is quite the runner, but he’s also got plenty of quick-twitch athleticism that shows up defensively at second base, in the outfield and in the box. He’s properly balanced and shifts his weight well, with repeatable swing mechanics and tremendous explosion and acceleration when he takes off. He probably fits best in the outfield long term because of that, but Boston hasn’t ruled out second base just yet. 

MOST INTRIGUING BACKGROUND: The previously mentioned Marrero following in the path of his father is a good choice, as is SS/3B Korby Batesole (26), whose father, Mike, has been the head coach at Fresno State for 15 years and won the College World Series in 2008—the first Division I national championship for any men’s sport at the university.

CLOSEST TO THE MAJORS: Having already reached high-Class A this year in his first taste of pro ball, it would be hard to see any player in the 2018 Red Sox draft class reaching the majors before Feltman.

BEST LATE-ROUND PICK: The Red Sox liked the tools that Howlett had as an amateur, but he exceeded the team’s expectations with how advanced he was at the plate, and with how frequently he’s already able to get to his power in-game. He could have plus productive power down the line with a strong, 6-foot-1, 205-pound frame that can continue packing on muscle. He and already looks like a steal for $185,000 in the 21st round.

THE ONE WHO GOT AWAY: Boston signed each of its draft picks through the 13th round before missing with 2B Nick Lucky (14), who will take a smooth, lefthanded bat to Coastal Carolina where he should make an impact right away. He’s also solid runner and defender, but the coaching staff at Coastal believes he’s one of the most advanced freshman hitters they’ve had in more than a decade.

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