RED SOX INSIDER

Tomase's Red Sox spring training prospect observations: The Hitters

RED SOX INSIDER

The Red Sox are trying to rebuild their farm system, which means we'll have one eye on Pawtucket, Portland, and points south this season.

Spring training has provided an early peek at a number of prospects, however, giving us an idea of what kind of talent chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has either inherited or imported, and there's been a lot to like.

We'll run through the position players who have opened eyes, followed by we'll examine the pitchers.

1. Triston Casas, 1B

The 2018 first-round pick briefly returned to Boston for testing on an undisclosed medical condition. He rejoined camp in time to go 1 for 9 in limited action, but has impressed manager Alex Cora with his professionalism and approach, which includes constant questions for All-Star DH J.D. Martinez.

"The approach, the swing, the thought process, you have to see him in the cage," Cora said. "We talk about J.D. and everything he does. This guy is right there with him. In a good way, in a good way. It's impressive." Casas arrives as advertised. He chokes up with two strikes and doesn't try to hit every ball to the moon. The Red Sox expect that his plan at the plate will one day translate to success in the big leagues.

2. Jeter Downs, 2B

The publications that don't rank Casas No. 1 in the farm system put Downs there. The prime prospect in the Mookie Betts trade started camp quickly with a home run and .400 average, but he injured his left side while trying to make a diving play a week and a half ago and was sidelined.

 

The Red Sox cleared him to return over the weekend, but even if he doesn't take another swing, he has already impressed the club with what Cora praises as "a slow heartbeat."

"It's a different pace, but it doesn't seem like it's going to be too fast for him," Cora said. "That's cool to see."

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3. Jarren Duran, OF

Duran started hitting the ball with authority in Puerto Rico over the winter, when he was named MVP of the World Series while leading Caguas to a title. He has continued hitting the ball with authority in Florida, hitting .314 with a pair of homers and a .980 OPS.

His breakout at the plate has helped contextualize why the Red Sox made no effort to keep free agent outfielder Jackie Bradley. In Duran, they believe they have his replacement.

The speedy center fielder is a physical freak who is still learning the outfield after converting from second base in college. Cora hesitates to call him a power hitter, but the potential is clearly there.

"No, he's not a power hitter, but he'll run into some of them," Cora said. "If you make a mistake in the zone, he can hit it out of the ballpark."

4. Nick Yorke, 2B

Last year's first-round pick has been treated aggressively, earning invites not only to the alternate site last year as a teenager, but to big league camp earlier this spring. He appeared in six games, going 1 for 8 with a run.

The Red Sox know Yorke was considered an over-draft in the first round, but they're exited about his potential to hit for average and some power. Yorke is comfortable with the entire experience, just a couple of weeks shy of his 19th birthday.

"I have a lot of confidence in myself," he said. "I believe I can hit off any pitcher there is."

5. Connor Wong, C

If there's one player who has very quietly opened eyes, it's Wong. The final piece of the Betts deal, he arrived as a potentially versatile jackknife capable of catching or playing second or third.

Now he looks more like a catcher of the future, with surprising power in his generously listed 6-foot-1, 179-pound frame, as well as solid defensive skills.

His lone home run of the spring was an opposite-field shot that carried more than 400 feet. He's 2 for 9 with an impressive five walks in limited action that has nonetheless made an impression.

"He controls the strike zone," Cora said. "Compact swing. Strong kid. I've been impressed with the way he swings the bat, the control of the at-bats."

6. Gilberto Jimenez, OF

Jimenez could be the team's No. 1 prospect in a year or two. He's extremely athletic and built like a running back. Drafted at 160 pounds, Jimenez now stands 5-11 and weighs 220 pounds.

He's hitting .375 with a pair of steals while also showing off a cannon arm in the outfield. The switch hitter could challenge Duran for fastest player in the system, but he's strong enough to become a home run hitter, too.

 

"He reminds me of Luis Castillo from the left side," said Cora of the former Marlins All-Star and stolen base champ. "A guy that flies and he hits the ball the other way. 'Try to throw me out at first. That's what he's doing.'"

Jimenez also remains very much a work in progress.

"You see the talent," Cora said. "But there's a lot of work. There's a lot of work to do from the left-handed swing to running the bases to making decisions in the outfield. But as far as like tools and talent, he's a good one."

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7. Jeisson Rosario, OF

And now we come to a disappointment. Rosario arrived to camp a little out of shape, which Cora partially chalked up to having a baby during the offseason. Acquired last season from the Padres for Mitch Moreland, Rosario is a fleet-footed center fielder with a solid eye at the plate and a calm approach.

In very limited action, he went 0-for-3 with a walk and two RBIs.

"We believe that there's more there," Cora said. "Physically, we need to get him in a better spot."

8. Hudson Potts, 3B

Potts, another piece of the Moreland trade, strained an oblique and hasn't appeared in a game. When healthy, he has shown the ability to hit 20 homers in the minors, though he needs to be more selective.

"We haven't seen him much, but he's athletic," Cora said. "It seems like all of these guys that are new in the organization, they're very athletic. Tall kid that is willing to work. Good defender. Looking forward to him keep growing in the summer and see where it takes him."

9. Michael Gettys, OF

A power hitter who slammed 31 homers at Triple A in 2019 before signing a minor league deal with the Red Sox this winter, Gettys needs to limit his strikeouts to have any chance of reaching the big leagues. He has struck out at least 160 times in his last three minor-league seasons, with a high of 191 in 2017.

That won't cut it in Boston, which is why both he and the team are encouraged to see him with seven walks and nine Ks through 27 plate appearances this Grapefruit League season. The Red Sox are willing to gamble that the 25-year-old can regain the form that made him a second-round pick in 2014 out Georgia, where he played high school baseball vs. Red Sox second baseman Michael Chavis.

"Very athletic. Good defender," Cora said. "Offensive-wise, a lot of power. Swing-and-miss, too. I just like the athletes."