The 2022 season featured the most promising emergence of young talent in the Red Sox system in years. The arrival of Brayan Bello — their best pitching prospect in over a decade — and first baseman Triston Casas in the big leagues represented a landmark development, but there is impact to come behind that duo.
Ceddanne Rafaela, following a breakout offensive season, could join Casas in the big leagues by the end of 2023. Top shortstop prospect Marcelo Mayer lived up to every bit of the hype that accompanied his selection with the No. 4 pick in the 2021 draft, and he has a chance to fast-track to the big leagues by 2024. At just 18, outfielder Miguel Bleis captured scouting imaginations with a strong initial showing in the States.
The system’s strength lies in its position players. While the Sox have made strides in developing pitching in the upper levels, they don’t have the same sort of projected impact coming there as they do in position players, something that will force them to take a creative path to sustainable contention.
For the 10th year, I was in charge of ranking the top 10 Red Sox prospects for Baseball America. Here is a look at those rankings. (One note: With 57⅓ big league innings, Bello graduated from prospect status. Had he been eligible, he’d have landed at No. 2 or 3.)
1. Marcelo Mayer, SS
19 years old (turns 20 on Dec. 12)
Single A Salem (66 games): .286/.406/.504, 9 HR, 16 of 16 SB, 25.3 percent K rate, 16.6 percent BB rate.
High A Greenville (25 games): .265/.379/.449, 4 HR, 1 of 1 SB, 25.0 percent K rate, 14.4 percent BB rate.
Why he’s here: Mayer is the best teenage Red Sox prospect in years, a smooth two-way player whose combined abilities suggest the potential to emerge as an All-Star. His all-fields approach works well against pitches in all parts of the strike zone and should make the lefthanded hitter a Fenway force.
Key question: How quickly will the Red Sox let him move? While in the last decade they were very open to letting players reach the big leagues with little or no time in Triple A, they have taken a more deliberate approach under chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom. Mayer may challenge that.
2. Triston Casas, 1B
22 years old (turns 23 on Jan. 15)
Triple A Worcester (72 games): .273/.382/.481, 11 HR, 21.5 percent K rate, 14.5 percent BB rate.
MLB (27 games): .197/.358/.408, 5 HR, 24.2 percent K rate, 20.0 percent BB rate.
Why he’s here: Casas tapped into his considerable raw power with increased frequency while maintaining his outstanding plate discipline, suggesting a long future in the heart of the order.
Key question: Will the struggle to stay on the field be limited to 2022? The 6-foot-5-inch mountain missed two months with a high ankle sprain in Triple A, and a sore knee ended his winter ball stint after three games.
3. Ceddanne Rafaela, CF/SS
22 years old as of Sept. 18
High A Greenville (45 games): .330/.368/.594, 9 HR, 14 of 16 SB, 24.4 percent K rate, 4.8 percent BB rate.
Double A Portland (71 games): .278/.324/.500, 12 HR, 14 of 19 SB, 19.8 percent K rate, 5.1 percent BB rate.
Why he’s here: Rafaela shows Gold Glove potential in center. In 2022, he enjoyed a breakout offensive year, hitting the ball hard to all fields to elevate his profile from a glove-first utility player to a potential everyday option.
Key question: How much can plate discipline improve? He had one of the highest chase rates in Double A, suggesting a major vulnerability.
4. Miguel Bleis, CF
18 years old (turns 19 on March 1)
FCL Red Sox (40 games): .301/.353/543, 5 HR, 18 of 21 SB, 26.9 percent K rate, 6.0 percent BB rate.
Why he’s here: Bleis is a shoot-the-moon, five-tool talent who showed the ability to crush balls with exit velocities above 105 miles per hour as an 18-year-old.
Key question: While he demolished fastballs of any velocity, how will he fare against good breaking pitches? His strikeout rate was high for his level, though he’s young enough that anything — from a tightened approach to swing-at-everything vulnerability — is possible.
5. Mikey Romero, SS/2B
18 years old (turns 19 on Jan. 12)
FCL Red Sox (10 games): .250/.372/.417, 1 HR, 1 of 1 SB, 9.3 percent K rate, 16.3 percent BB rate.
Single A Salem (9 games): .349/.364/.581, 0 HR, 1 of 1 SB, 25.0 percent K rate, 2.3 percent BB rate.
Why he’s here: Romero has the sort of pure lefthanded swing that helped make Andrew Benintendi a captivating prospect, and evaluators believe he has a chance to stick at short with a fallback as an excellent defensive second baseman.
Key question: How much power does he have? Through most of his high school career, he hit for average with doubles power. Toward the end of his senior year, however, he started juicing balls without selling out his approach, creating an added sense of possibility.
6. Nick Yorke, 2B
20 years old (turns 21 on April 2)
High A Greenville (80 games): .232/.303/.365, 11 HR, 8 of 12 SB, 25.2 percent K rate, 8.8 percent BB rate.
Why he’s here: While Yorke endured an injury-filled 2022 campaign that eroded his excellent approach and savaged his numbers, he remains just one year removed from a standout age-19 campaign in which he looked like one of the best pure hitters in the lower minors. His strong Arizona Fall League (.342/.424/.526) offered a reminder of his ability.
Key question: Where is his position? He made just one error at second, but with the shift ban placing a premium on range, some evaluators wonder whether Yorke can stick there, and if not, does he have the arm for third or the offensive profile of a first baseman or left fielder?
7. Bryan Mata, RHP
23 years old (turns 24 on May 3)
Double A Portland (48⅔ IP): 5-2, 1.85 ERA, 29.4 percent K rate, 11.7 percent BB rate.
Triple A Worcester (23⅓ IP): 2-0, 3.47 ERA, 29.4 percent K rate, 14.7 percent BB rate.
Why he’s here: Mata’s stuff rebounded in his first season back from Tommy John surgery, as he threw his four-seamer over 100 m.p.h. while featuring a bread-and-butter high-90s sinker and slider that showed increasing swing-and-miss potential at the end of the year. He also has feel for a changeup and curveball, creating a possibility for a diverse power arsenal.
Key question: Will he throw enough strikes? Mata has a starter’s raw pitch mix, but if he can’t consistently work in the zone, he’ll end up as a power arm in the back end of the bullpen.
8. Roman Anthony, OF
18 years old (turns 19 on May 13)
FCL Red Sox (10 games): .429/.475/.486, 0 HR, 1 of 1 SB, 10.0 percent K rate, 10.0 percent BB rate.
Single A Salem (10 games): .189/.279/.243, 0 HR, 0 SB, 9.3 percent K rate, 11.6 percent BB rate.
Why he’s here: A 2022 second-rounder whom the Sox signed to a $2.5 million bonus, Anthony shows significant lefthanded power potential and good plate discipline for his age. He had excellent at-bats once he arrived in pro ball.
Key question: How will his defensive profile evolve? He moves well, and the Sox want to see him in center while believing that he can be a good right fielder in the likely case that he moves to a corner. But as with most young players, the size and strength gains he makes will play a huge role in determining where he fits.
9. Brandon Walter, LHP
26 years old as of Sept. 8
Double A Portland (50 IP): 2-2, 2.88 ERA, 34.7 percent K rate, 1.5 percent BB rate.
Triple A Worcester (7⅔ IP): 1-1, 8.22 ERA, 18.9 percent K rate, 10.8 percent BB rate.
Why he’s here: Walter forged an incredible 75-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio on the strength of a three-pitch mix (sinker, slider, changeup) with tremendous east-west movement, headlined by the best slider in the system.
Key question: Can he stay healthy as a starter? He didn’t pitch after June 7 because of a bulging disk, and his deceptive, crossfire delivery puts stress on his frame.
10. Eddinson Paulino, UTIL
20 years old (turns 21 on July 2)
Single A Salem (114 games): .266/.359/.469, 13 HR, 27 of 32 SB, 19.5 percent K rate, 11.9 percent BB rate.
Why he’s here: Paulino is a terrific athlete who is strong defensively at second and third while potentially serviceable at short and in the outfield. His 58 extra-base hits were the second-most of any teenager in affiliated baseball.
Key question: What’s the ultimate ceiling here? He is a well-rounded player with good bat life but doesn’t have a standout carrying tool. He may be a longtime big leaguer, but it remains to be seen whether he can carve out an everyday super-utility niche.
Alex Speier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @alexspeier.