Red Sox

Top prospect Triston Casas is quite literally growing on the Red Sox

Top prospect Triston Casas is quite literally growing on the Red Sox

The Red Sox drafted Triston Casas as the rare high schooler who already possessed big-league size at an imposing 6-foot-4, 238 pounds.

It turns out he's still growing.

The team's top prospect recently stopped by Fenway Park, and the team's first order of business should be updating his bio.

Not only has Casas added bulk, but he's taller, too. A week after his 20th birthday, Casas now stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 255 pounds. To put this in perspective, he's only an inch shorter and already 10 pounds heavier than Yankees behemoth Giancarlo Stanton. If he's got any growing left in him, he could rival Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, all 6-foot-7 and 282 pounds of him.

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"I just turned 20, so I'm still growing into my body," Casas said. "I'm not putting any limits on my size. I'm not sure how much more I might grow. It's been weight training, nutrition, a combination of a lot of things. It's mostly natural. It's my genes. There's no secret formula for it."

Casas noted that his father is also 6-5 — "he's a little bigger than me in terms of roundness" — and that his mom stands about 5-9, "so she's not tiny."

Good genes are only half the battle, though, and Casas is proving himself to be the team's most exciting prospect. The first baseman recently checked in at No. 70 on Baseball America's top 100 list, making him the highest-ranked Red Sox farmhand, five spots ahead of Bobby Dalbec.

He put up numbers at two levels of A ball last year that certainly jump off the page for a 19-year-old, hitting .256 with 20 homers and 81 RBIs in what was effectively his pro debut. Drafted 26th overall in the first round of the 2018 draft out of Plantation, Fla., Casas tore a thumb ligament just two games into his career at short-season Lowell, necessitating season-ending surgery.

He returned in 2019 and got off to a slow start at Low-A Greenville before taking flight. Hitting just .208 through April with 31 strikeouts and only two homers in 22 games, Casas hit. 267 with 18 homers and an .870 OPS thereafter, striking out a more manageable 87 times in 98 games.

"Once you get in that 450-500 at-bat level of the season, it starts to get a little comfortable," Casas said. "I felt like I was having my best at-bats in August, and when the season ended, I was a little disappointed that we didn't have another month left. I'm looking to build on that momentum and bring it into the season."

Casas finished third in the South Atlantic League with 19 homers (he added his 20th during a September cameo with High-A Salem), and no other teenager cracked the top 10. He joined Xander Bogaerts and Tony Conigliaro as the only Red Sox teenagers to hit 20 homers at any level since 1960.

All of that slugging made him the unanimous No. 1 prospect in the organization, with his smooth left-handed swing drawing comparisons to Braves All-Star Freddie Freeman.

"I'm more on the side of ignoring all of it," Casas said of the plaudits. "I try to live with the satisfaction that I'm happy with myself, and the numbers I'm putting up are a product of the work I'm putting in. I feel like there are a lot of improvements that need to be done, because I don't feel like I had my best season."

He was lucky enough to grow up near Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer, a fellow graduate of Heritage High School. Hosmer has served as a mentor for years, though Casas likes the idea of closing the student-teacher gap as he gets closer to the big leagues himself.

"I've talked to him a couple of times this offseason, a little more often now that I've signed, just because we have a little bit more compatibility and we're a little more relatable to each other," Casas said. "He's a really good mentor. He's kind of like the first big leaguer I've ever talked to, growing up, he's in the area and I don't know if he's always felt the need to take me under his wing, but same high school, same area, he's been really beneficial to my career."

If there's a player Casas admires, it's Reds first baseman Joey Votto. Despite his natural power, Casas chokes up like Votto, especially with two strikes, "where I'm way up on the pine tar."

"I emulate Joey Votto as much as I can," Casas said. "He's my favorite player."

He won't be Votto until he limits the strikeouts. He ruefully noted that he recorded more K's (116) than hits (107) in 2019.

"That was a very concerning stat for me," he said. "That's something I got back in the cage and focused on. I feel like it has a lot to do with your mentality stepping into the box, being ready to hit right from the first pitch. But it's something that I learned from last year. Last year was a big learning experience, so I'll look to build on it this year."

Casas hopes to build, and maybe he'll continue to grow, too. Whatever happens, he knows this much: he's not in the game simply to be a highly regarded prospect.

"To be recognized by a lot of people as the Red Sox' best minor-league player or hitter, it's really nice," he said. "But at the end of the day, I don't want to be a minor league player."

Projecting Red Sox 26-man Opening Day roster includes many questions

Projecting Red Sox 26-man Opening Day roster includes many questions

Usually, the exercise of predicting the Red Sox opening day roster isn't particularly taxing. We could normally name about 24 spots in December.

Welcome to 2020, however, a most abnormal year. With the opener in Toronto barely a month away, we still have to answer some basic questions, like whether the team will employ a fifth starter, who'll be starting at second base, and how the outfield will align.

With Mookie Betts and David Price gone, and San Diego's Wil Myers possibly joining the fold this spring, the Red Sox remain in flux. It may just be their state of being all year.

In any event, here's our best guess at the expanded 26-man roster.

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Catchers (2): Christian Vazquez, Jonathan Lucroy

Vazquez emerged as a legit power threat, blasting a career-high 23 homers while compiling a .798 OPS. His defense was spotty, with too much emphasis on throwing out base stealers, and not enough on actually receiving the ball. He's in the middle of an affordable three-year, $13.5 million extension, but there's no guarantee new baseball boss Chaim Bloom will be as loyal to him as predecessor Dave Dombrowski was.

The backup spot looked like Kevin Plawecki's when camp opened, but the arrival of Lucroy, a two-time All-Star recovering from neck surgery, could change things. Lucroy played for interim manager Ron Roenicke in Milwaukee, and it's worth noting that on his first day in camp, he was catching ace Chris Sale.

Infielders (7): Mitch Moreland, Jose Peraza, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Michael Chavis, Jonathan Arauz, Bobby Dalbec

The infield includes two rocks and then varying pebbles. The left side isn't going anywhere, with Bogaerts and Devers anchoring what should be a strength of the team. The former is coming off an all-MLB season, while the latter was only a slow April away from making his first All-Star team. The Red Sox are counting on both to be at least as good as they were last year.

First baseman Mitch Moreland remained unsigned for most of the offseason before returning to Boston, and if the team is judicious with his usage, the oft-injured left-handed slugger could have some value. He may end up in a platoon with Chavis, who's unlikely to win a second base job that the team has pretty clearly earmarked for Peraza, a Reds non-tender with a decent pedigree as a former prospect.

In a perfect world, Peraza would probably play a little bit of everywhere, but with Dustin Pedroia effectively finished and Chavis more suited to a corner, he'll get a chance to win the job at second. That leaves the utility job for Arauz, a 21-year-old Rule 5 pick from the Astros with the ability to play second, third, and short.

We'll give the final spot to Dalbec, a slugging first baseman with an outstanding glove who could earn the call while outfielder Alex Verdugo rehabs a back injury.

Outfielders (3): Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Pillar

Eventually, this group will number four, once Verdugo joins the mix. The only question is who starts where. Roenicke has suggested that he's intrigued by the idea of Bradley in right field, where his arm plays and the unique configuration of Fenway Park calls for a defensive whiz like Betts. Normally, the club wouldn't consider moving the Gold Glover out of center field, but Roenicke has options, because Pillar is human highlight reel of his own. The newcomer has already vowed to play right, but Roenicke may have other ideas.

This will be a big season for Benintendi in left. He came to camp both leaner and stronger than last year, and he's the player most capable of picking up some of the slack left by Betts' departure. He needs to break through at age 25, because a repeat of last year's meh production (.266-13-68-.774) won't cut it, especially if he's batting leadoff.

Verdugo is the wild card. The stress fracture in his back is expected to heal, eventually, and the 23-year-old should become the starting right fielder with the potential to hit over .300 once he returns.

DH (1): J.D. Martinez

The best DH in baseball surprised a lot of us by opting in to his contract, but it turns out he had nowhere to go.

This will almost certainly be his last season in a Red Sox uniform, especially if the NL adds the DH in 2021. The slugger might be the most important player in the lineup, because he welcomes the pressure of being the focus of rival pitchers, and he allows everyone else to slot into their roles.

Starting pitchers (4): Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez

It's quite the statement on the state of the staff that there's not a (5) in that heading. The Red Sox are almost certainly headed towards an opener for their fifth spot, a result not just of the trade of David Price to the Dodgers, but also a lack of organizational depth that Bloom will need more time to address.

Even the settled spots contain question marks. Sale is coming off the worst season of his career, but arrived at spring training in a positive frame of mind following an elbow injury that cost him the final two months. Rodriguez is already battling a knee injury after slipping during a bullpen session -- though at least it's to his good knee and not the surgically repaired one -- and we still don't know if Eovaldi can last an entire season.

That leaves Perez and maybe an opener, though Roenicke has singled out junk-balling right-hander Ryan Weber as a potential fifth starter.

Relievers (9): Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Darwinzon Hernandez, Josh Taylor, Marcus Walden, Josh Osich, Ryan Weber, Chris Mazza

The Red Sox ended 2019 with a pretty good bullpen, particularly once rookie left-handers Hernandez and Taylor emerged as legit late-inning power arms. Given the year-over-year variance in reliever performance, it's hard to say if either will duplicate their success, but let's give them the benefit of the doubt for now.

Workman projects to close, based on an otherworldly 2019, even if some of the underlying numbers suggest a regression is in order. He'll be followed by Barnes, who pitches best when he's not being asked to go every other day, as he was last June. Hembree is healthy and has been surprisingly effective when relying on his 95 mph fastball, and Walden was a workhorse last year.

The rest of the pen is wide open. Weber could get a nod as the multi-inning guy who piggybacks off the opener, while Osich was the first signing of the Bloom era following an up-and-down season with the White Sox. Mazza could be a dark horse candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation after eight years in the minors.

That leaves Ryan Brasier, Austin Brice, Brian Johnson, Colten Brewer, Jeff Springs, and Matt Hall among the group fighting it out for a spot at the back of the pen.

Why Red Sox cited Spygate in response to sign-stealing scandal lawsuit

Why Red Sox cited Spygate in response to sign-stealing scandal lawsuit

New England fans may never escape Spygate. But this time, they have their baseball team to blame for bringing it back into the spotlight.

The Boston Red Sox referenced a New York Jets fan's 2010 lawsuit against the Patriots over New England's videotaping scandal while responding to lawsuits they face from daily fantasy sports players in the wake of MLB's sign-stealing scandal, according to The Athletic's Daniel Kaplan.

Here's the text of the Red Sox' response to one of those lawsuits, per Kaplan:

In Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223, 230 (3d Cir. 2010), a class action brought by an aggrieved New York Jets season ticket holder against the New England Patriots and the NFL based on the Patriots’ surreptitious use of videotape to capture their opponents’ signals, the court concluded that the plaintiff class did not have a cognizable legal interest in disclosure of anything about the methods of game play, even where they were in violation of NFL rules.

Translation: Fans can't sue teams based on alleged cheating, which is what the Third Circuit Court of Appeals argued in 2010 while dismissing that Jets fan's lawsuit.

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A handful of daily fantasy sports players have sued the Astros, Major League Baseball and the Red Sox, arguing that Houston and Boston's sign-stealing operations corrupted DFS games and created a non-level playing field.

The Astros already have been punished and universally condemned for an elaborate 2017 sign-stealing system that involved video monitors and trash cans. The 2018 Red Sox are currently under investigation for allegedly using video replay to illegally steal signs, although it appears they'll receive a much lighter discipline than Houston.

As for legal action? It sounds like the Astros, MLB and Red Sox have their best lawyers on the case: All three entities referenced Spygate in their responses, per Kaplan.