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Why Triston Casas likely won’t help the Red Sox this year despite a standout Olympics

Red Sox prospect Triston Casas has shown a sweet swing and power to all fields in the Olympics.Koji Watanabe/Getty

It’s hard not to connect the dots.

Red Sox prospect Triston Casas has been a force in the Olympics. As Team USA’s cleanup hitter, the 21-year-old first baseman is 5 for 19 in five games, leading the team with three homers and driving in eight.

The lefthanded slugger has had wonderfully disciplined at-bats, taking three walks and showing an ability to drive the ball to all fields. Team USA is in the gold medal game in no small part because of Casas’s steady excellence.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, look like a team in desperate need of a spark, with the potential for an immense upgrade at first base. They have gotten a .200 average (29th in MLB), .244 OBP (dead last), and .367 slugging mark (25th) from the position. Those marks fall to .193/.245/.324 against righties.


It’s hard to see the talent of Casas — who is hitting .271/.354/.424 with six homers in 46 games for Double A Portland this year — and not wonder whether he could give the Red Sox a lift down the stretch.

But it’s not that simple.

The Sox are elated about what the 2018 first-rounder has done so far in his career, and are excited to see what he’s doing in the Olympics.

Moreover, while playing in a setting where wins and losses matter more than at any other time in his life (the minor leagues typically are more focused on player development), a switch has flipped. Casas has played with a fiery intensity the Sox have not seen before.

Yet they do not believe it alters the timetable for his arrival in the big leagues.

“I guess it makes too much sense to not ask why he wouldn’t be playing first base for Boston because of his success,” Red Sox farm director Brian Abraham said, “but at the same time, as good as Triston is, I think he would probably tell you he has a ways to go.


“Obviously he’s done well in the Olympics. He’s had a solid season. But I think there’s a lot of improvement that has to happen before he’s an everyday big leaguer for us.”

The Olympics do not represent the level of competition that Casas would encounter in the big leagues — or in many cases, Triple A, where Casas has yet to set foot.

In the minors, Casas has shown an advanced offensive approach and a willingness to adapt. The fact that he chokes up and spreads out his stance with two strikes to avoid strikeouts suggests a striking maturity.

Still, he hasn’t dominated in Double A this year. The Sox want to see him further develop his approach, taking chances so he can drive the ball early in at-bats before getting to two strikes.

And they want him to get more experience against different pitch types, seeing how he responds when pitchers with big league-caliber stuff in Triple A attack him with refined game plans.

While the Sox made it a habit under Dave Dombrowski to jump players from Double A to the big leagues with little to no time in Triple A (Andrew Benintendi, Yoan Moncada, Rafael Devers), current chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has a different view. He comes from the Rays, an organization that tends to keep prospects in Triple A longer than nearly any other.


“When you’re in the best division in pro sports, in my opinion, the bar [for a callup] is really high,” Bloom said earlier this summer, speaking generally about prospects. “As much as we could, we felt like we owed it to them and to ourselves to make sure that they were as armed as we could reasonably help them be to take on that competition.”

The need to give players a grounding against advanced competition is particularly pronounced given what many see as a widening gap between the minors and big leagues this year. Many believed the Sox were being too conservative in their promotion schedule for Jarren Duran when he excelled for Worcester. But Duran’s early big league performance (.176/.204/.353) illustrates that even elite prospects face a turbulent adjustment to the majors right now.

Tampa Bay’s Wander Franco, the top prospect in the minors when he was called up this year after 39 Triple A games, needed roughly a month in the majors before he found his footing. Mariners prospect Jarred Kelenic — like Casas a first-rounder out of high school in 2018 — arrived in the big leagues after 51 games in the upper minors. In 42 big league games, he’s hitting .138/.229/.250.

Casas (right) has been leading the way for Team USA.Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

That is the sort of struggle the Sox do not want Casas to experience. As much promise as he’s shown, and as much as the team sees him as a middle-of-the-lineup anchor for years to come, his performance in the Olympics hasn’t altered their view of what he needs — and deserves — in his development.


“It’s so exciting to see the love and the purity of the Olympics, how those guys are playing,” Abraham said. “To be able to pull that out of him is a huge benefit for us and for him.

“I think [his performance] makes you feel a heck of a lot better than if he struggles. Some guys or some players are able to turn it on in big spots and when they have opportunities are able to take them and run with them. I think he’s one of those players. There’s not a stage that is too big for him.

“I don’t think that necessarily changes our path for development or our plan for him. But I think whenever that time does come, it’s much easier for us to feel that, hey, this guy is going to be able to handle the ups and the downs, the spotlight of Boston, everything we talk about with our players, the pennant race, all these types of things. We feel like he’s not only going to be able to get by but thrive.”

Alex Speier can be reached at alex.speier@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @alexspeier.