The Red Sox took a glimpse into the future on Monday in Dunedin, Fla., and teenager Miguel Bleis showed them both what he's capable of, and how far he yet has to go.
Making his spring training debut vs. Blue Jays All-Star right-hander Alek Manoah, Bleis ripped a two-run single to right field in one at-bat, and struck out in another. He threw out a runner at home plate, but also overran a single for a two-base error.
Welcome to the world of 19-year-old prospects. Bleis has yet to appear in a full-season minor league game, but he already has Red Sox fans buzzing that he could one day be a star.
"There's a passion about this kid, but at the same time, I played with guys that were the second coming of whoever and didn't pan out," manager Alex Cora told reporters, including Alex Speier of The Boston Globe. "There's a process. Obviously these kids are learning."
While shortstop Marcelo Mayer rightly commands headlines as the best prospect in the system and a potential franchise player, Bleis has already emerged as the next best thing, generating the kind of murmurs that accompanied Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers at similar stages of their careers.
Bleis told Speier that he models his game after Braves All-Star Ronald Acuña Jr., who is a five-tool superstar. Bleis has all the tools as well. He just turned 19 and already stands 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds, with plenty of room to fill out his frame.
He debuted stateside last year and was named Baseball America's No. 1 prospect in the Florida Complex League, where he hit .301 with an .896 OPS and 18 steals in 40 games.
Bleis has the speed and arm to remain in center field and the power potential to hit in the middle of a lineup. He hasn't even taken a swing at Single-A yet, so the rosy projections right now remain just that. He must cut down on his strikeout rate (nearly 27 percent last year) and learn to recognize off-speed pitches while also continuing to add strength.
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"In my mind, I have to be the one who stays calm and keeps it neutral instead of getting too excited," Cora told reporters, including Joey Johnston of MLB.com. "When they become big leaguers, they're big leaguers. But there's a process. Just be patient. You're going to go through ups and downs. When you're up high, how will you act? When you're down, how will you act? Be patient.
"Tools-wise, he's impressive," Cora added.
For his part, Bleis sounded like someone taking it all in.
"You have very good emotions and that motivates you to keep working hard,'' Bleis told reporters through interpreter Carlos Villoria-Benitez. "I was very happy to get an opportunity to play here. They want to see me play and I just want to keep working hard.''
Bleis has goals befitting his idol. Acuña reached the big leagues with the Braves at age 20 and won the Rookie of the Year. Bleis, who signed at age 16 in 2021 for $ 1.5 million, is already a consensus top-100 prospect and is ready to show what he can do against a higher caliber of competition.
"I have a goal," he told Speier. "In my mind, at the end of my 21-year-old season, that will be a nice thing to do if I make my debut in the big leagues. I'm going to play hard and show the team I'm getting ready in all the aspects they want me to."