When the Red Sox decided to hire Chaim Bloom as their new GM, they made a choice about the future. The minor league system had been depleted and was one of the worst in baseball under the previous leadership. The ownership wanted to reverse that pattern and build the system back up, while hopefully still putting a competitive product on the field. After a rough and odd 2020, the Red Sox were very competitive in 2021, reaching the ALCS while also taking care of the minor league system. In MLB’s system rankings released in December, the Red Sox jumped 12 spots, to the 12th best system in baseball.
The 12 spot jump from preseason to now was the largest of any team and is a true testament to Bloom and his staff. Bloom didn’t make the big trade deadline moves many wanted despite feeling the pressure to complete for a title this year. Instead, he made a few moves that didn’t dramatically impact the work being done to build the future pipeline within the organization. He proved that you can be competitive at the highest level while also focusing on the future. The breakout of Tristan Casas and Jaren Duran have boosted the system’s depth and have given the Red Sox something they haven’t had in awhile: prospect talent close to being major-league ready.
Assuming the 2022 season gets underway, it will be a pivotal campaign for the Red Sox. The rapid growth of prospects in the system is great, but the big question for me is whether they continue the upward trajectory or plateau after such a rapid rise? If the top 10 prospects continue to grow, then Bloom will either have some MLB talent to fill out the roster or some really strong trade bait to keep the Red Sox competitive at the trade deadline and even use the assets as needed to make a deep run into October. No matter how you look at the growth it is a positive rebuild from the Dave Dombrowski era of selling out for a title.
As I look at the top 25 prospects in the Red Sox system, the thing that jumps out at me is the middle infield depth at the top. The top pick this past year and the #1 or #2 rated prospect in the system (depending on the list), SS Marcelo Mayer, is an interesting unknown with such little professional experience. He was a high schooler when drafted #4 and many believed at the time of the draft that he had #1 talent. The left-handed bat is only 19 and will need to develop for a few years before having a look at the top level, but could be a huge asset in the infield in the future if he pans out. Both SS/2B Jeter Downs, who is closer to MLB ready, and 2B Nick Yorke provide some interesting future options in the infield as well, whether they end up at SS, 2B, or even 3B eventually. With some uncertainty around the future of Xander Bogaerts and his contract along with a long-term hole at 2nd base, this group could be critical to the future for the Red Sox.
The other obvious prospect to keep an eye on is 1B Triston Casas. He rose rapidly later in 2021 and proved he can play against solid competition by crushing the ball playing for Team USA at the Olympics. I wrote more about him in August, so don’t want to rehash my love for him, but by all accounts, he is close to MLB ready and could provide a nice left-handed power bat in the lineup. With Bobby Dalbec as a strong righty bat, a Casas/Dalbec platoon at first could be an incredibly powerful young tandem. While one starts, the other could get a few looks at 3B (both have experience at the hot corner), DH, or provide a strong pinch-hitter off the bench late in games. If Dalbec has a stretch during the season where he is struggling like in 2021, Casas can step in and carry the load.
Overall, Bloom has to be happy with the impressive turnaround of the Red Sox prospect system from a liability to an asset. The job is obviously not done, it never ends, but the upward trajectory of the system is exciting.