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In Single A outfielder Roman Anthony, Red Sox look past the raw numbers and see a prospect

Roman Anthony has impressive physical traits and an approach at the plate that is advanced for his level, with a mind-set to develop and improve.Salem Red Sox

How much does production matter in identifying a top prospect who is years from the big leagues?

Roman Anthony is a 19-year-old playing his first full season of pro ball at Single A Salem. At 6 feet 2 inches and 200 pounds with room to keep growing, he looks the part of a future big leaguer. That’s long been the case.

Growing up in South Florida, Anthony identified with the game of then-Marlins standout Christian Yelich.

“He reminded me of myself: Tall, skinny outfielder, lefthanded bat, righthanded thrower,” said Anthony. “He just stuck out to me.

“I like watching a guy that’s a pure hitter, a Gold Glover, and plays the game the right way on both sides, really good base runner, steals bags. He’s a good guy to watch and good for the game of baseball.”


Anthony wanted to emerge as just such a player, particularly as a pure hitter who understands the strike zone and is willing to take walks. He cultivated those skills as an amateur in a way that convinced the Red Sox to draft him out of Stoneman Douglas High School in the second round last year. They signed him for $2.5 million, the largest bonus they gave to any player last year.

Anthony was drafted out of Stoneman Douglas High School in the second round last year.Carline Jean/South Florida Sun Sentinel/South Florida Sun Sentinel

Through 39 games this season, his surface numbers look unremarkable. He entered Thursday hitting .233 with a .389 on-base percentage, .329 slugging mark, and one homer.

At a level where pitchers struggle to throw strikes, he has been disciplined, walking more (20 percent rate) than he strikes out (17 percent rate). While holding his own as a teenager adjusting to pro ball, his slash line hardly jumps out.

And yet other numbers unrelated to the outcomes of his at-bats are far more intriguing. The top 10 percent of his batted balls have had exit velocities of 105 m.p.h. or higher — a huge jump from last year.


He rarely swings and misses at pitches in the strike zone (10 percent zone whiff rate) and he ranks in the top 2 percent of hitters at his level in lowest pre-two-strike chase percentage.

That combination — adapting to the count, not chasing, not swinging and missing in the zone, and hitting the ball hard, albeit with a high ground-ball rate — suggests the raw materials to be a very good prospect.

“He looks like he’s been in pro ball for multiple years versus a guy who’s getting his first full taste of full-season ball,” said Sox farm director Brian Abraham. “If you can have those foundational areas as a hitter and you hit the ball hard, you’d like to think it will eventually lead to more baseball-card-type success versus some of the back-end numbers that he’s shown a lot of success with.”

Anthony is playing his first full season of pro ball at Single A Salem.Salem Red Sox

Some are already willing to forecast future production; ESPN recently pegged Anthony as the No. 49 overall prospect in the minors, citing his swing decisions and ability to hit the ball hard.

“It’s process over production,” said one official who endorsed the ranking.

While under-the-hood numbers are becoming an important part of how all players are judged, evaluators from several teams expressed surprise to see Anthony ranked so highly. Many saw a promising young player but not yet the in-game attributes of an elite prospect.

“I actually really like Anthony,” said one evaluator. “A lot of intriguing aspects to his game. But he’s not there yet to hype. I’m all in on hyping him next year if [the production] starts to show.”


Anthony expressed appreciation for the ranking but suggested his focus lies elsewhere.

“All that stuff is good to have, but I’m not looking on Twitter and looking at rankings,” he said. “It’s a nice accolade, but for me, I’m not looking too much into it. We’re not too far into the season.

“But it’s always nice when someone notices. It feels like the hard work you’re putting in is paying off a little bit. But I’m still not where I want to be. There’s still a lot of learning to go. I’m just getting started.”

That attitude adds to the Sox’ enthusiasm for Anthony. He has impressive physical traits and an approach that is obviously advanced for his level, with what Abraham described as a “growth mind-set.”

Anthony's plate discipline has impressed; he's walked more (20 percent rate) than he's struck out (17 percent rate).Salem Red Sox

Already, he’s shown a major year-over-year bump in how hard he hits the ball. The Sox believe he can make the adjustments to his swing path to drive the ball in the air more frequently — something that Yelich accomplished in his own evolution into a star.

“I’m always trying to improve on all aspects,” said Anthony. “Being so young, I’m trying to learn as much as I can, take in as much as I can.

“I’m just learning a lot from the staff and guys we have here, feeling better every day, getting more and more used to it every day, getting more acclimated to the professional baseball life. I’m enjoying every minute of it, having a lot of fun.”


Three up

▪ Center fielder/shortstop Ceddanne Rafaela extended his hitting streak for Double A Portland to 13 games with a homer Thursday. He’s hitting .352/.367/.667 with 4 homers and 9 extra-base hits during the run.

▪ Infielder Chase Meidroth, a 2022 fourth-rounder, has reached base in 16 straight games and is hitting .301/.441/.466 with 3 homers for Portland.

▪ Righthander Isaac Coffey has 75 strikeouts and 10 walks for High A Greenville, a 7.5 strikeout-to-walk rate that ranks third among minor leaguers with at least 50 innings.

Three down

▪ Lefthander Brandon Walter continues to struggle in Worcester — 0-5 with a 6.84 ERA, 21.1 percent strikeout rate, and 9.9 percent walk rate — a far cry from the dominance he showed last year in Portland before being shut down with a bulging disk.

▪ Middle infielder David Hamilton is on the injured list for Worcester with a left thumb sprain incurred while diving for a ball but is expected back soon.

▪ Outfielder Wilyer Abreu landed on Worcester’s injured list with a right hamstring strain that’s expected to keep him sidelined for longer than the minimum seven days.

Alex Speier can be reached at Follow him @alexspeier.