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How baseball evaluators view the prospects the Red Sox acquired in the Jackie Bradley Jr. trade

Most of a half-dozen evaluators surveyed viewed Alex Binelas as the better prospect acquired by the Red Sox based on greater upside.Ben McKeown

Why did the Red Sox trade Hunter Renfroe after a career-best year and bring back Jackie Bradley Jr. — a more expensive player — after a career-worst year?

There are a few reasons. The Sox believe Bradley can rebound (“We all know that the ability that he has is better than what he showed this year,” said chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom) and that he can help upgrade what was a porous defense in 2022. Moreover, the Sox are likely to pursue another bat as a potential upgrade over Renfroe.

But a huge part of the move was the two prospects the Sox acquired from the Brewers: corner infielder Alex Binelas and middle infielder David Hamilton. In essence, the Sox used their financial clout to buy young talent.

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So, who are the young players the Red Sox acquired?

Alex Binelas — third base/first base, 21 years old, 6 feet 3 inches, 225 pounds, bats left, throws right

Most of a half-dozen evaluators surveyed viewed Binelas as the better prospect based on greater upside. The Wisconsin native showed huge power in his amateur career at Louisville, creating a sense that he might emerge as a 2021 first-round pick.

But he suffered a fractured hamate bone at the end of his freshman year that required surgery at the start of his sophomore season, the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. When he got back on the field in 2021, he looked rusty, with swing-and-miss issues prompting a fall from first-round consideration.

But he found his groove as the season progressed and posted huge numbers over the final 27 games (.286/.377/.762 with 15 homers). On a team with Henry Davis, who went No. 1 overall to the Pirates, Louisville hitting coach Eric Snider offered a striking assessment.

“After probably 25 games in, I just thought for me personally — I see a lot of video and a lot of guys in college baseball — I just thought [Binelas] was the best hitter in the draft,” said Snider. “I just think he has a really good feel of the strike zone. I like his bat path. I like his loading action when he lands and he’s in a position to hit.”

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Binelas showed the ability to launch long balls to all fields.

“He’s just scary, man,” said Boston College coach Mike Gambino.

While Binelas has good pitch recognition, his likely profile as a three-true-outcomes (home run, walk, strikeout) corner infielder (likely a first baseman) left him on the board for his hometown Brewers in the third round.

“I was shocked that he went in the third round,” said Snider. “I just always thought he was a first-rounder.”

Binelas had one of the best debuts of any 2021 draftee. After a brief stop in the Arizona Complex League, he went to the Low-A Carolina Mudcats, where he hit .309/.390/.583 with nine homers in 36 games.

While he has big league power, there’s a chance he’ll struggle to make contact against more advanced pitchers, in which case he’d struggle to forge a big league future. But he draws enough walks and remains sufficiently disciplined to convince many evaluators that he could become an everyday first baseman (perhaps with an occasional third base cameo) with power that scouts grade as a 60 or 70 on the 20-to-80 scale.

“Special power,” said Bloom.

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He may start 2022 in High-A Greenville.

David Hamilton — shortstop/second base, 24 years old, 5-10, 175, bats left, throws right

Hamilton was one of the fastest runners in college baseball at the University of Texas entering his junior season, but a ruptured Achilles’ suffered in a scooter accident wiped out that season. The Brewers nonetheless selected him in the eighth round based on the promise he’d shown.

But they had to wait to see if he could fulfill it. Hamilton couldn’t play in 2019 while rehabbing, and the pandemic wiped out the 2020 minor league season.

Hamilton knew he needed to play. He took advantage of 2020 rules allowing minor leaguers to play for independent league teams, joining Team Texas in the Constellation Energy League — a club featuring his college teammates Kody and Kacy Clemens, and managed by Roger and Koby Clemens.

First impressions?

“It’s stupid how fast he gets out of the box,” said Koby Clemens. “I played 10 years of professional ball. There’s not many guys that can steal bases and move like he does.”

Koby Clemens likened Hamilton’s gliding speed to that of Carlos Beltrán. Yet Hamilton was more than just a runner. Despite his layoff, he showed pitch recognition, the ability to make contact, and sneaky strength that resulted in hard line drives. In 27 games, he hit .296/.430/.370 with 20 steals.

“He hammered some baseballs,” said Koby Clemens. “Some guys would pump it up there at 94, 95, and try to sneak it by him. They couldn’t.”

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Hamilton made his pro debut this year, playing with the High-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and the Double A Biloxi Shuckers. He hit .258/.341/.419 with 52 steals (tied for fifth most in the minors) in 101 games.

Wisconsin manager Matt Erickson described Hamilton as a “throwback player” with what used to represent top-of-the-order traits — the ability to put the ball in play or take walks while creating havoc on the bases. That said, Erickson also noted that Hamilton, whom he also managed in the Arizona Fall League this year, showed the ability to drill liners into the gaps.

“I think you have an impact player there setting the table,” said Erickson. “I think he’s going to be a gap-to-gap doubles guy with the ability to get on base. You’re looking at, I think, a 55 hit tool. I think it’s definitely going to be better than your average big leaguer.”

Other evaluators are lighter on that assessment, viewing Hamilton as anywhere from a below-average to average hitter, mostly with well below-average power grades. Still, many give him a great chance of reaching the big leagues in at least some role based on his speed, ability to avoid striking out, and defense.

Hamilton played shortstop and second base this year. He has the range and fluidity for short but there are questions about his arm strength, though Erickson noted that Hamilton improved his mechanics to get a quicker release, sometimes winging the ball with above-average strength.

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“It’s in there,” said Erickson.

With more time on the field post-injury, those who know Hamilton believe he has more potential as he moves through the upper levels, likely beginning with Double A Portland in 2022.

“I love the way he plays,” said Erickson. “You go out and you watch David over a course of a few different games, you’re going to have a greater appreciation for his overall impact.”


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