Nothing against Jeter Downs, who should have a nice career ahead of him as a starting second baseman, but if there's a Red Sox prospect worth getting excited about, it's Triston Casas.
The left-handed slugger still possesses a surprisingly thin resume, thanks to a thumb injury two games into his 2018 debut and then the pandemic that wiped out pretty much everyone's 2020. In between, Casas socked 20 homers between Low and High A in his only full season of competitive action.
Now 21, Casas is a non-roster invitee to Red Sox camp who has impressed with his approach in limited at-bats since attending to an undisclosed medical issue. On Monday, he lined out to deep right and worked a walk. On Tuesday, he drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.
He looks comfortable facing proven big-league pitching, with a calm demeanor that has helped keep him from expanding the strike zone when he's locked in at the plate.
"He's always in balance, always knows what he wants to do," manager Alex Cora said. "For such a young guy, his work ethic not only in the cage but on the field is amazing and he kept talking about that at-bat what he was looking for or what he did or didn't do. The good ones, they do that, so it's been fun to watch him perform. Obviously with the delay he had, you can see all the things people have been talking about with this kid. He's a good hitter."
Though he has drafted as a third baseman and has already made an appearance there this spring, Casas projects as a first baseman, thanks to his massive 6-foot-5, 255-pound frame. He has grown an inch since the Red Sox drafted him 26th overall in 2018 out of American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla., and by the time he's done, he could rival Yankees behemoths Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton for pure size.
That size produces natural power, but he takes a surprisingly nuanced approach at the plate, choking up with two strikes and modeling his game after former MVP Joey Votto of the Reds, even while acknowledging that, "I know my job in the box, and it's not really to get on base."
"Just trying to be engaged in every swing," Casas said. "That's really where it stems from. It's not too much of an approach, it's just a matter of being disciplined in my work. Everybody is working on something. And hitting, nothing is cookie cutter."
Casas opened eyes at the alternate site in Pawtucket last summer with a number of monstrous home runs, including a 414-foot shot off of big leaguer Marcus Walden. The Red Sox have been anxious to see him in game action, which is why he's in camp with the big club.
"The last couple of years, I haven't really been into any action in terms of Major League games and stuff so getting to be in the dugout around all the guys has been awesome," Casas said.
"I've been learning a lot and I'm looking forward to being in the dugout a little bit more but, yeah, it's been awesome, getting some ABs against some really quality pitching. I'm really liking the way my at-bats are turning out. I'm feeling really good."
He's been picking the brains of anyone who will listen, chief among them DH J.D. Martinez, a fellow Floridian who takes a cerebral approach to his craft.
"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."
Seeing as that Casas has yet to take a swing at Double A, it's safe to say he still requires more seasoning in the minor leagues. But he's putting no restrictions on where the 2021 season might take him. One day, maybe even soon, his destination will be Boston.
"I've always thought of expectations as limitations," he said. "I don't like to put any expectations on the season or my performance. In baseball, it could be anybody's game, anybody's day, so I'm just going to go out there and do my best and let the chips fall where they may.
"So, I don't have an idea where I could land level wise or where I could end up. I'm just going to go out there and try to play hard every day and see where it gets me."