FORT MYERS, Fla. — There are no absolute guarantees, but 22-year-old Triston Casas will play in the major leagues before too long and is likely to experience a great deal of success.
Casas is a tall, powerfully built first baseman with a well-refined work ethic and plate approach. He’s marched through the minor leagues since the Red Sox took him in the first round of the 2018 draft.
Prospects like Casas are part of the reason the major-league season won’t start on time. One of the battles being fought between Major League Baseball and the Players Association during the lockout is over how younger players should be compensated.
The union is seeking a higher minimum salary and a bonus pool that would reward the best young players.
MLB’s minimum of $570,500 lags behind the NBA ($925,258), NHL ($750,000), and NFL ($660,000). Under the current system, most players cannot negotiate for more until after their third season.
Casas is not yet a member of the Players Association, but could be a direct beneficiary of their actions. It’s an unusual position to be in.
“I absolutely appreciate what they’re doing,” Casas said Sunday. “I know they’re working diligently to make sure baseball is a fair game. I don’t know all the information, but they’re making a sacrifice to help younger players.”
Casas was one of approximately 140 players in uniform as the Red Sox officially opened minor-league spring training. Position players don’t officially report until Thursday, but Casas, Blaze Jordan, Marcelo Mayer, and Nick Yorke were among those already at work.
In some ways, it was a normal day. A group of pitchers threw live batting practice while others threw in the bullpen. There were infield drills and hitters working in the batting cages.
But beyond the occasional crack of a bat striking a ball, the atmosphere at Fenway South was oddly quiet. Fans were not allowed on the grounds to watch the workouts, and the stadium was empty with Grapefruit League games canceled until at least March 18. Manager Alex Cora and his coaches have been on site, but weren’t for this session.
There was an intrasquad game at noon that lasted 5½ innings. Nick Northcutt and Marcus Wilson homered, and you could hear birds chirping as they rounded the bases. Casas nearly joined them, but his fly ball to deep left field was caught on the warning track.
Ideally, Casas would be using this time to learn about his craft from Xander Bogaerts and the other big leaguers. But they’re scattered around the world, waiting for the lockout to end.
“There’s been a good vibe here,” Casas said. “The players and the coaches are working hard. I’ve enjoyed it. But it’s been different for sure.”
Casas had an eventful 2021. He opened the season with Double A Portland, then left in May for two weeks to play for Team USA in the Olympic qualifying tournament in Florida.
Casas returned to Portland, then joined Team USA again in July for nearly a month, first to train in North Carolina before traveling to Japan for the Olympics. Then came a late-September promotion to Triple A Worcester before an October assignment to the Arizona Fall League for 21 games.
In all, he played 117 games with an OPS of just over .900, 18 home runs, and 81 RBI.
“I was bouncing all over the place,” Casas said. “I did my best to take it one day at a time and I’m happy with the way I handled it. But hopefully I’ll be a little more settled this year.”
That’s likely to be with Worcester, with the possibility of a promotion to the majors during the season, but Casas didn’t concede that point.
“My goal is to make the major league team,” he said.
Casas spent the offseason in south Florida working out with college football players preparing for the NFL combine under trainer Adam Boily.
“I feel that’s how I get better,” Casas said. “I’ve been with him for the last 10 years. I hit at my old high school. I do what works for me.”
The minor-league season starts April 5 and won’t be affected by the lockout. So Casas and the other players on the field Sunday will have somewhere to go.
As for their major league counterparts, Fenway South is open and waiting.