Red Sox

Triston Casas one potential gem in a rebuilding Red Sox farm system

Triston Casas one potential gem in a rebuilding Red Sox farm system

BOSTON -- The next generation of Red Sox prospects isn't nearly as deep or talented as the one that preceded it, with perhaps one exception -- Triston Casas.

The imposing slugger was just named Red Sox minor league player of the year by Baseball America after slamming 20 homers with 81 RBIs in 120 games, all but two of them at Low-A Greenville.

A first-round pick in 2018, Casas was limited to just two games last year by a thumb injury. The 6-foot-4, 238-pounder was drafted out of American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla. on his power potential, and on that front he certainly delivered in 2019.

Casas's 19 homers not only tied for third in the South Atlantic League (he added his 20th with High-A Salem), but the 19-year-old was the only teenager to crack the top 10. Such outstanding production at such a young age, against older, college-tested competition, bodes well for his future.

"I think it went really well," Casas said at Fenway Park on Thursday, where he was honored as the organization's minor league offensive player of the year. "I feel like I learned a lot in this first season and I'm looking forward to the next one."

Casas showed legitimate growth from the beginning of his full-season debut to the end. He opened the season by hitting just .180 (9 for 50) in his first 15 games before heating up in May. He finished at .256 with a .350 on base percentage and an .830 OPS. He credited the turnaround to tweaks.

"Not an overhaul or anything," he said. "As the information gets a little bit better and the hitting coaches are able to relay a little more to me, we tweaked a few things, but nothing too drastic. It was a lot of things. It was set up, positioning in the box, a little bit of swing path and changing my leg kick a little bit to try time up the pitching a little bit better.

"I feel like the adjustment I made from high school to where I am right now is pretty drastic, but so is the pitching. I feel like throughout the year I made a lot of adjustments. It's led me to where I am today. I'm pretty happy where I'm at, but I'd like to get into the offseason and try to perfect it."

And what might that mean? While Casas possesses advanced strike zone recognition, he also struck out 118 times and will need to increase his contact rate.

"Strikeouts are a part of the game," he said. "I had more strikeouts than hits this year, which is something I need to improve on, but it's something I'm not really concerned with. It's part of the game. I'll keep swinging and doing my game."

When the season started, Casas was only a year removed from his high school schedule, which -- even in baseball-intense Florida -- comes nowhere close to the demands of pro ball. But all things considered, he held up well.

"Man, definitely the quick turnarounds," he said. "Coming from high school, you play two or three times a week, maybe. It's pretty different from getting an off-day every two weeks. That's the biggest thing, understanding you get a lot of at-bats, quick turnarounds, an opportunity to fail. It's just a matter of coming out and putting yesterday behind you and putting your best foot forward the next day."

Drafted as a third baseman, Casas is built more like a first baseman already, and evaluators expect that's where he'll settle. The Red Sox seem to agree, which is why he played 94 games at first base and only eight at third.

The fact that he's already built like Red Sox All-Star J.D. Martinez makes it easy to envision him one day calling Fenway Park home. Thursday's visit reminded him of what the future might hold.

"This never gets old, coming to Fenway," he said. "After this year, it felt really good."

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In appreciation of Brock Holt, whose job with Red Sox might be gone, but whose legacy is secure

In appreciation of Brock Holt, whose job with Red Sox might be gone, but whose legacy is secure

The transactions came in quick succession as the winter meetings wrapped on Thursday in San Diego. First, the Red Sox selected infielder Jonathan Arauz from the Astros in the Rule 5 draft. A couple of hours later, they inked infielder Jose Peraza to a one-year, $3 million deal.

Both are utility infielders, and their arrivals increase the likelihood that we'll be saying goodbye to Brock Holt this winter. 

From a bottom-line perspective, it's hard to argue. Holt turns 32 in June, has battled injuries the past four years and should make more than $3 million annually on a multi-year deal. The Red Sox need to get younger and cheaper, and that includes the bench.

If this is it, though, Holt deserves more of a sendoff than a line in the transaction wire, because his impact on the field, in the clubhouse, and especially in the community far outstripped his modest 5-foot-10 frame.

From high school (where he barely broke 100 pounds as a freshman) to junior college to Rice University to the major leagues, Holt beat long odds each step of the way. That a throw-in acquired with Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan before the 2013 season could earn Rookie of the Year votes and then make an All-Star team defied reason. That the same player would hit for the cycle not once, but twice -- including in the postseason -- while winning two World Series and becoming a gritty heart-and-soul fan favorite, let's just say guys hit that lottery maybe once in a generation.

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"I know and I've kind of gotten a taste of it coming here that certain players just really seem to bond with the fan base," said new baseball boss Chaim Bloom. "He's certainly been one of those. That's not something that's lost on any of us."

Holt brought a fun-loving energy to a clubhouse that needed it in good times and bad. Boston can be a meat grinder even when things are going well, and supporting players who take the edge off are essential. Kevin Millar mastered that role in 2004, while Jonny Gomes followed suit in 2013. That was Holt's job, too, whether he was serving as Andrew Benintendi's All-Star publicist, re-christening the 10th month on the calendar as Brocktober, or wearing a Cobra Kai-inspired headband around the locker room that others soon copied.

Holt had a knack for cracking up his teammates. After Mitch Moreland's three-run homer delivered the team its first win of 2019 in Seattle, Holt sauntered past Moreland in the clubhouse with an ice cream cone, gave it a lick, and said, "Hey Mitch, my mom says, 'Way to go,'" and then just walked out. (His mom later confirmed this account on Twitter).

He famously asked a shorts-wearing Bill Belichick if he was, "going to put some pants on," before facing the Packers on a cold October night in 2018 when the Red Sox were honored by the Patriots as World Series champions.

The night he completed the first cycle in postseason history with a ninth-inning home run to complete a rout of the Yankees, the megawatt smile on Holt's face as he rounded third and returned to the dugout could've powered the sun.

Holt's joyful persona extended to his toddler son, Griff, a glasses-clad Instagram star who developed a cult following for giggling while raiding a box of Life Cereal in the pantry, or pointing at a billboard of David Ortiz and exclaiming, "Big Papi!" or hitting what he called, "Big bomb!" with an oversized whiffle ball bat.

Holt's many viral moments with his son became all the more poignant when viewed through the lens of his tireless devotion to children's causes. He's a four-time Roberto Clemente Award nominee for community service, and he routinely leads the Red Sox in charitable appearances. He served as Jimmy Fund captain for the past five years, and his Brock Stars ticket program brought a Jimmy Fund patient to every Tuesday home game for batting practice. Director of community relations Sarah Narracci has long referred to Holt as her "go-to guy" who never says no.

"He has a great heart," manager Alex Cora said when Holt was nominated for this year's Clemente award, and if this is indeed the end of Holt's Red Sox career, he'll leave an outsized legacy that "5-10, 180" doesn't begin to capture.

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MLB Rumors: These six teams pursued Martin Perez before Red Sox landed him

MLB Rumors: These six teams pursued Martin Perez before Red Sox landed him

Martin Perez is no Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. But the veteran left-hander reportedly drew a good amount of interest in free agency before the Boston Red Sox scooped him up.

A "handful" of MLB teams, including the American League East foe Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays, pursued Perez before the Red Sox agreed to terms with him Thursday night, MassLive's Chris Cotillo reported.

Perez's surface-level stats aren't very inspiring: The 28-year-old posted a 5.12 ERA with the Minnesota Twins last season after the worst campaign of his career with the Texas Rangers in 2018 (6.22 ERA, 1.78 WHIP).

But what Perez does provide is durability: He's appeared in at least 32 games in three of the last four seasons, topping 165 innings in each of those campaigns.

Durable left-handers aren't a dime a dozen in MLB, which explains why Perez drew interest from several clubs looking to fill out their rotations entering 2020.

The Venezuela native should be a rotation-filler in Boston, projecting as Boston's fifth starter behind Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi with Rick Porcello leaving to join the New York Mets in free agency.

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