Boston Red Sox 2020 Top 10 MLB Prospects Chat

Image credit: Noah Song (Photo by Mike Janes/Four Seam Images)



KB (NY):

     Bobby Dalbec… the next Polar Bear?

Alex Speier: This question presumably does not refer to the occasional rebranding of the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox as the Osos Polares. Dalbec’s power is certainly top of the scales, and permits him to drive the ball out to all fields. That said, Alonso had far better contact rates and K/BB ratios coming up through the minors than Dalbec, so I think it’d be a stretch to say Dalbec will be up next year and hit 50. That said, I do think Dalbec is a smart hitter who figures out how to get better as he adjusts to different levels. He’s got some mechanical issues that the Sox wanted to clean up with him at the end of the year, but he profiles as a corner bat who even with below-average averages could still be really valuable for perhaps league-average or better OBPs and major pop.

Jeb (Hudson, MA):

     While Gilberto Jimenez certainly is an exciting talent, after a summer of watching him in Lowell I have questions about if he can hit the ball hard enough to succeed. When researching him did anyone have similar concerns?

Alex Speier: Yes, that concern certainly exists. Jimenez has electrifying tools and his speed allowed him to turn a lot of grounders into hits, but that will be harder to do as he moves up the ladder. Still, every now and again, he’d lean into pitches as a LHH — a side from which he only started batting a couple years ago — and driving them. So, yes: if he doesn’t get harder contact, he profiles as an outfield reserve. But he’s young (age 18 season this year) and has the strength and physicality to start making harder contact as he continues to learn.

Bill (Boston, MA):

     Always appreciate your coverage of the Red Sox, Alex. Without going too in depth to talk top 30 for the Handbook, what Red Sox prospects were in the fringes and in discussion for the #10 spot? Any sleepers you like outside the top 10 to potentially make a jump in 2020 and beyond? Thanks again, Alex. Keep up the great work!

Alex Speier: Hi Bill, I was having a tough debate on the No. 10 spot before realizing that Darwinzon Hernandez fell one big league appearance short of ineligibility. There was a lot of enthusiasm for either CJ Chatham or LHP Chris Murphy at the back of the top 10. There are a lot of guys with a chance to leap into the top 10 after spending this year in the lower levels, with Brayan Bello and Matthew Lugo as two who stood out in conversations.

Ryan (Clinton):

     You wrote about how the Red Sox had Durbin Feltman change how he pitched, now working fastballs up, breaking balls down… and the results were frankly bad. Did they allow him to go back to pitching how he did in college at any point? Will they?

Alex Speier: No, this is one where the transition is necessary to be successful — four-seamers down in the zone get crushed now, especially if the spin kind of carries the pitches up into the middle of the zone. There were a lot of transitions — the pitch mix, the routine/frequency of pitching, getting professionalized — but the Sox hope that after a pretty big speed bump this season, the guy with two plus pitches shows back up next year.

Reggie (Dakota, MA):

     It seems like all the excitement over Jarren Duran died when he got to AA and when prospect writers got to watch him at the Futures Game. His low minors success was BABIP driven, which evaporates as you move up the ladder, is he more of a 4th outfielder prospect now?

Alex Speier: It’s pretty common for college players in their first full pro season to endure regression once they get to Double-A — both due to higher level of competition and fatigue of a player’s first season of that length. Evaluators are split over whether he’s an everyday guy or 4th OF, but based on the Salem performance — in which there were plenty of hard line drives, and in which his power numbers were suppressed by a giant ballpark and a league with more of the same — it would be premature to say that he can’t be an everyday guy.

Mike (Virginia):

     Thanks for the chat, Alex! Seems like the Red Sox employed a different strategy last year for J2 signings and now have a bunch of interesting players that could come state-side this year. Outside of Eduardo Lopez, who’s generating the most buzz?

Alex Speier: They did spread the chips in the 2018-19 signing class for guys like Lopez. Lopez showed a solid hit tool and offensive approach – perhaps not quite as explosive as anticipated – in his DSL debut, while Bryan Gonzalez turned some heads while hitting 9 HRs and showing corner OF power.

Alex (Miami):

     Thank you for taking my question, did Mexicans pitchers Aldo Ramirez and Jorge Rodriguez made your top 30 list?

Alex Speier: Still wrapping up the list, but both are in the conversation towards the back end – not clear if they’ll fall on or off.

Triston Casas (Sticking at 3rd?):

     Thanks for chatting with us today! What is the likelihood that I can actually stay at 3rd? Am I seen as a 1st base only at this point?

Alex Speier: The move to first base this year on an almost full-time basis seems like a pretty clear harbinger. Never say never — Travis Shaw went back to third after primarily playing first coming through the system — but people love Casas at first. Some think he could be a plus or even Gold Glove defender there.

Mike (Albany):

     Does Mata actually project as a middle of the rotation starter? Or is it more realistic to see him as an elite back end of the bullpen guy?

Alex Speier: His development path is definitely in the rotation for now. His two-seamer and slider/cutter both project as plus pitches, and he has a feel for a four-seamer at the top of the zone as well as a changeup. (He also used to throw a curveball a lot, but the Sox want him to emphasize the slider, which is a better fit for his arm slot and plays well off the two-seamer.) There are enough components to suggestion a mid-rotation potential and the Sox will give him every opportunity to explore that — though I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s given a taste of the big leagues in the bullpen this year, part of the reason why he was sent to the AFL.

Ryan (Clinton):

     Did everyone just get way too excited about Antoni Flores’ 50 at-bats in the Dominican in 2018?

Alex Speier: It wasn’t just in the DSL — it was also as an amateur and in instructional league, but it would appear that the answer to that is yes. There were concerns about his performance in Lowell this year. It was an aggressive assignment for someone who hadn’t played before in the States, but there were questions not just about the offense but for some about the defensive profile and whether he can stick at SS. That’s the danger of a farm system whose best prospects are in short-season levels: There’s immense volatility.

Joey (CT):

     How close were Chris Murphy and Ryan Zeferjahn to the top 10, and what would their BA grades be?

Alex Speier: Murphy was a consideration for the top 10 until the end, and Zeferjahn wasn’t far behind in the teens. As a sixth-round find, Murphy really impressed as someone with the stuff and feel of a back-end starter, while Zeferjahn features an explosive fastball that will get him to the big leagues. He’s relatively raw, so it remains to be seen if he can develop the rest of his arsenal to emerge as a starter, but there’s certainly late-innings potential if he doesn’t stick in the rotation. Both will start next year.

Ed (Boston):

     What’s the ceiling on Andrew Politi? They moved him to a starters role and it seems like everything ticked up.

Alex Speier: He was ridiculously good and interesting in the rotation, and the stuff is legit — both his fastball and slider were swing/miss weapons in the Carolina League. He has a starter’s ceiling and now likely will develop in that capacity, but a pretty clear big league reliever’s floor if he doesn’t add to that fastball/slider mix.

Avery (Tupelo, MS):

     Why is Jay Groome listed at all on any team’s Top 10 prospect list? Since being drafted 3 years ago he’s been either Injured or inconsistent. What distinguishes him from fellow highly-drafted pitchers Riley Pint on the Rockies or Tyler Kolek on the Marlins? He’s accomplished very little. He’s like James Kaprelian, but at least Kaprelian started showing some results this past season.

Alex Speier: Groome is so hard to rank because of the relatively limited time he’s spent on the mound in pro ball. Shortly before he injured his elbow in spring 2018, I saw him working with an easy mid-90s four-seamer, a devastating curve, and a nice changeup when he got a bit deeper in at-bats. He stood out as a dude when he was last healthy. Given the track record coming back from TJ, it’s hard to dismiss that, and keeps him in the top 10 — though your caveat is a valid one. Some teams might still ask for him above any other Red Sox prospect in a trade. Some teams wouldn’t consider him at all. Everyone should have greater definition by the end of 2020.

Alex (Miami):

     Hi Alex, whats your opinion on Ceddane Rafaela?

Alex Speier: Really interesting – most people who see him believe that he’s a big leaguer, although at that size, most anticipate his likeliest future as that of a utility player. But he shows big league tools at the short-season level.

Shawn (Waltham, MA):

     What is the organizational plan for Tanner Houck moving forward? It seems like there has been a tug of war between the outlook for him being a reliever or a starter.

Alex Speier: Everything is on the table. Another reader (M from NY – not clear if it’s Peter Lorre?) asked if he could be the bulk guy after an opener. In his most recent Premier12 start, he was overthrowing in the first inning but then locked in and dominated for the next four innings. He’s probably always going to have issues with splits – crushing righties, struggling to put away lefties – unless he makes progress with his change. But his slider is good enough that if he can command it, it becomes a weapon against both righties and lefties and would give him a chance to be a 2x through the order starter (or opener follower? follower seems so undignified as a title). The Sox are still trying to figure all of that out, but he’ll be viewed as depth for both the rotation and bullpen to open next year, even as he most likely opens the season in Triple A.

Tom (Lakeville Ma):

     What do you think of thg he proposed reconfiguring of minor league baseball? Are Lowell’s days in organized ball numbered?

Alex Speier: Answering the first part would take too long. Any plan that would jeopardize Lowell seems problematic, though. That’s a good venue.

Zak (Boston):

     Do you think the Red Sox will protect Josh Ockimey from the rule 5 draft? Is he a potential platoon first baseman in the majors?

Alex Speier: They didn’t last year and so would be unlikely to do so this year. He most likely profiles as a platoon DH. There aren’t a lot of those jobs open. My guess is that he ends up being an up-and-down depth player — though his ability to mash against righties should get him a chance in the big leagues at some point.

Tyler S (Framingham, MA):

     For the 2023 projection why do you see Duran as the everyday CF over Gilberto Jimenez? Both seem to have 55 hit and 70 speed with below average power, but Gilberto seems to stand out more in the field especially with his arm.

Alex Speier: I anticipate a gradual development path for Jimenez. Long-term, Jimenez certainly could overtake him. Also, let’s be clear: Looking at the 2023 lineup projection is a bit of an exercise in throwing darts, since I’m still wrestling with the 2020 lineup!

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):

     Gilberto Jimenez had a great season – and he will be joined in Greenville with Anthoney Flores, Cameron Cannon, and Nick Decker. This should be a super team – true or false?

Alex Speier: Definitely think that Jimenez and Decker (really interesting pop vs righties) will be in Greenville. Cannon has a chance to go to Salem, though maybe after getting his bearings to start the year in Greenville. Flores might end up starting the year back in extended. But add in the possibility of Lugo being in Grenville and you’re right – there’s a number of interesting position players with potential.

Kellen (Lansing, MI):

     Do the Sox have any arms in their farm that have the potential to be big time difference makers? Either this year or anytime in the future, and either bullpen or rotation.

Alex Speier: I’m not sure what you consider a big-time difference maker, but they probably have a better ensemble of arms in their system than they’ve had in the last few years. Mata and Ward were really good, Groome (maybe) has top-of-the-rotation potential, and if Noah Song is allowed to pursue a pro baseball career, he’s a pitcher with a mid-rotation ceiling. Brayan Bello and Chris Murphy are further away but showed starter potential.

Andy (Washington DC):

     Hey Alex — first, please use this question as an excuse to plug the incredible HOMEGROWN. Second, which prospects do you think are most likely to be dealt this offseason in an attempt to upgrade the major league team (and how has that answer changed since the FO transition?)? Thanks!

Alex Speier: Andy, not all heroes wear capes… Thanks for the question and plug. I almost wonder if it’s more likely this offseason that the Sox will deal from their big league roster than their minor league roster while trying incredibly hard to build 40-man and organizational depth. The potential redundancy of Chavis and Dalbec always made it natural to think the Sox would trade one or the other, though with Chavis now playing 2B, the redundancy is less complete. There’s a part of me that wonders whether guys on the bubble for 40-man roster protection like Eduard Bazardo could be dealt within the next few days.

Ace (Miami, FL):

     Nick Decker showed patience and power, and was a top hitter in the NYPL, but struck out 29% of the time. Thoughts on him?

Alex Speier: The K rate was fueled in no small part by left-on-left whiffs. He looks at least like he could be a platoon OF.

Brandon (NEW JERSEY):

     The spinners were loaded with talent this year. Who stood out to you the most on the team?

Alex Speier: Jimenez and Song were the two standouts of that team, with Murphy getting honoroable mention.

Aaron (Kenosha):

     We’ve seen the Tristan Casas to Freddie Freeman comparisons as he was coming out of high school, but now that a full year is in the books, Freeman never had a year in the minors hitting in the .250s like Casas just did. Are those comparisons still fair?

Alex Speier: Tough to call it an apples-to-apples performance comp. Pitchers are soooo much nastier in A-ball now than they were when Freeman got drafted that you’d expect a pretty sizable hit in offensive numbers for Casas and his peers. And relative to his draft class, Casas did a lot of things that stood out – while also being a giant LHH with all-fields power and good defense at 1B. The idea isn’t so much that Casas will be Freeman as there are a lot of parts of his game that bear resemblance to that of Freeman, and I still think that’s true. If you wanted to downgrade the hit tool of Casas from Freeman, I’d say that’s reasonable — though Casas also showed a lot of intelligence and adaptability to give a bullish picture of his abilities.

General Top 10 Question (Remaining Dates):

     Hi Alex, this is a general question for the remaining top 10 lists. In years past, BA had dates for when each team’s top 10 list would be released. Do you know if BA will be doing that at some point with the remaining teams’ top 10s the rest of the winter? Thanks!

Alex Speier: Afraid I do not know that one. Apologies!

Jace (Lancester, MA):

     Is Dalbec a better prospect than Chavis? It seems like Dalbec can be a top defensive 1B (Chavis no true position), with good plate discipline (Chavis stopped walking, hole in his swing up), and the power should be similar.

Alex Speier: I had Dalbec ahead of Chavis in last year’s rankings, and would probably have it the same way if Chavis were still prospect eligible. I would caution the assessment of plate discipline, though – note that Dalbec almost never walked once in Triple-A, a reminder that there’s a real transition when moving between levels. Chavis has a chance to close some holes with an offseason to reflect on what happened. In other words: Yes, I’d currently have Dalbec ahead of Chavis, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Chavis had a better career.

Jim (South Shore):

     Will the Red Sox re-sign Brock Holt in your opinion, or is there money to be saved in the utility role with Hernandez, Lin, Chatham, or a cheap FA?

Alex Speier: Yeah, you wonder if the 26-man roster might make a guy like Holt slightly less valuable (particularly given that his positional profile has narrowed over time). I don’t rule out a Holt reunion but would be slightly surprised if it happened.

Teddy (northeast):

     Good day, how close is Duran? When will there be clarity re Song’s status? Thanks!

Alex Speier: I think Duran probably starts next year back in Double-A. It’s possible he could be in the big leagues by the end of next year but that’s probably not the optimal development path based on his struggles to adjust this year. Song’s status is still unresolved. Right now, the start of flight school (December) is so close that you almost have to assume that he’s not going to be in the Sox farm system for the next couple of years.

Ryan (Clinton, MA):

     Should the Red Sox add Eduard Bazardo to the 40-man roster this week?

Alex Speier: I’m not a big fan of “should,” but I think there’s a decent chance he gets taken in the Rule 5 if he’s not protected. The pitch data on his breaking ball should light up some teams.

TFT (Boston):

     Who were the best Sox 2019 international signees? Any of them as promising as Devers was when he signed? What do you think of Chih-Jung Liu?

Alex Speier: Liu is certainly fascinating – the ability to touch triple digits with a potential four-pitch mix for a guy who’s new to pitching is hard to ignore. There’s no one who entered pro ball for the Sox this year with the regard conferred upon Devers, but … Devers was one of the best pure hitting prospects to come out of the DR this decade.

Alex (Bay Area):

     Triston Casas and Grant Lavigne were compared against each other as big bodied most likely 1st basemen who can hit for average and power during their draft year. Lavigne was seen has possibly having the edge on his hit tool while Casas had more power. After 2019, is Casas clearly ahead of Lavigne with both tools?

Alex Speier: Tricky for me to answer given my lack of detailed familiarity with Lavigne’s season, but I think that it’s fair to say that Casas is ahead at this moment in time – though also worth noting that Lavigne faced a more severe adjustment to pro ball given that he was coming from New Hampshire while Casas had several years vs high-level competition in FL.

Chris (Boston):

     Does Brayan Bello rank in your top 30

Alex Speier: Yes, and it was an easy call.

Zak (Boston):

     Do you think the new regime will put Houck in the bullpen full time or do you think they’ll have him make starts in the minors?

Alex Speier: The fact that he was starting in the AFL and Premier12 suggests the latter.

Austin (Cape Cod):

     Hi Alex. You’ve written about Ceddanne Rafaela being a lower minors player who impressed this season. What other players from either the DSL or GCL have the chance to breakout this coming season?

Alex Speier: Brainer Bonaci was interesting. Matthew Lugo, as a second-rounder, is an obvious one. Mentioned above: Bryan Gonzalez had an impressive year in the DSL, hitting nine homers – the most by a Red Sox at the level since at least 2006.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):

     Any comment on Logan Browning and his bizarre windup and extremely high leg kick before his pitch release?

Alex Speier: I will make a point of trying to see him and it in the spring!

coyote (eugene oregon):

     In your opinion, how is JJ Altobelli doing as one of the Southern California scouts for the BoSox? JJ was a student of mine at the U of O and a wonderful human being. I always thought of him as Coach/Managerial material. Wondering what your opinion is.

Alex Speier: He was the scout who put Chris Murphy on the team’s radar – a strong find that speaks well to his acumen.

Sean (Greenville):

     Who does the redsox protect from Rule-5 draft? Yoan aybar ?

Alex Speier: I would guess that Aybar gets protected. Others who are obvious: Dalbec, Chatham. Probably Marcus Wilson. Will be interested to see what happens with Bazardo and Kyle Hart.

Alex Speier: Thanks so much to everyone for the great questions! Enjoyed them. If you have any more, feel free to hit me on Twitter (@alexspeier).

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