February 24, 2024

Boston Red Sox 2024 top 20 prospects: Marcelo Mayer, Roman Anthony lead the way


The Red Sox’s system had a great year in 2023, with the emergence of Roman Anthony as a potentially elite hitting prospect, a very strong draft class led by two players who I ranked quite a bit higher than where Boston took them, and strong years that improved the odds of success for several of their hitting prospects beyond the top 100. They’re still very light on pitching, with their best arms all projecting as relievers (other than Yordanny Monegro, perhaps), and at some point they’re going to have to change their approach in the draft and/or the international market to address that.

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Top 100 MLB prospects 2024: Keith Law’s rankings, with Jackson Holliday at No. 1

Red Sox 2024 top 20 prospects

(Note: Seasonal ages as of July 1, 2024. Scouting grades are on the traditional 20-80 or 2-8 scouting scale.)

1. Marcelo Mayer, SS (2024 top 100 ranking: 8)

Bats: L | Throws: R | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 190 | Seasonal age in 2024: 21

Mayer was the fourth overall pick in the 2021 draft and No. 1 on my final draft board that year. His 2023 season didn’t go according to plan, as Boston’s top prospect hurt his shoulder in May, eventually going on the injured list for the impingement in early August, ending his season. When healthy, Mayer has a beautiful left-handed swing and projects to plus power in his peak years, with plenty of loft in his finish to put the ball over the fence, but he hasn’t been healthy all that often in his two full years in the minors, dealing with some wrist soreness in 2022, as well.

He’s got the athleticism and first-step movement to be a plus defender at short, showing the ability to make difficult or distant plays, and needs to work more on consistency to become a 60 or better in the field. He’s a below-average runner and not likely to be a base-stealing threat in the majors. Mayer’s shoulder was already hurt when he got to Double A last year, so his dismal line there (.189/.254/.355, 26 percent K rate) is probably just noise. He needs a full season on the field now to show the huge upside that made him Boston’s first pick in 2021.

2. Roman Anthony, OF (2024 top 100 ranking: 22)

Bats: L | Throws: R | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 190 | Seasonal age in 2024: 20

Anthony boasts one of the best-looking swings in the minors, making a number of adjustments between when the Red Sox took him in the second round in 2022 and the start of 2023, turning him into one of the game’s top offensive prospects. Those adjustments included freeing up his hands and helping him keep his lead arm looser through contact for more power, while also using his lower half more to produce harder contact — something Boston cited when promoting him out of Low A despite a mediocre stat line of .228/.376/.316 at the level. He responded by hitting .301/.422/.565 the rest of the way between High A and a 10-game stint in Double A, so, hey, sorry I doubted you guys!

He struck out around 28 percent of the time after the promotion but doesn’t chase often at all until he gets to two strikes, so the approach is sound, and the power is already showing up with more to come as he fills out. He’s playing more center now and Boston is working with him to improve his routes and his first-step quickness to give him a chance to remain there, with plus defense in a corner another potential outcome if he has to move. The Red Sox previously had the Greek God of Walks; maybe soon they’ll have Roman, God of Swings.

3. Ceddanne Rafaela, OF (2024 top 100 ranking: 32)

Bats: R | Throws: R | Height: 5-9 | Weight: 165 | Seasonal age in 2024: 23

Rafaela is one of the most fascinating prospects in the minors, a 5-foot-9 infielder/centerfielder from Curaçao who hits the ball harder than you’d expect from someone his size, plays some of the best centerfield defense anywhere in professional baseball, and might swing at a butterfly if it flew within 10 feet of him. He started his pro career at shortstop and third base, but he’s too inconsistent for short and ended up moving to second, where he’s plus, and center, where he might be an 80, with easy routes and at least 70 speed to cover huge tracts of land.

As a hitter, he­ boasts great bat speed and can connect with a lot of pitches out of the strike zone, which worked well enough in the minors but was an area that major-league pitchers exploited during his 28-game MLB debut. He’ll probably never be much for the free pass, but if he just cuts down on the chase, he has the strength and the loft in his finish to at least hit for line-drive power — balls to the gaps that will become doubles and triples with his speed, plus probably 12-18 homers a year, although he did hit 22 last year across three levels. He’s not the sort of player I typically like with his undisciplined approach, but I think he has a chance to be the most valuable defensive outfielder in baseball, giving him a high floor and thus time for him to clean up the approach enough for the swing and speed to play.

4. Kyle Teel, C (2024 top 100 ranking: 54)

Bats: L | Throws: R | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 190 | Seasonal age in 2024: 22

Teel was the best catcher in the 2023 draft class, a three-year starter at UVA who probably would have gotten first-round money out of high school had the pandemic not wiped out his senior season in New Jersey. He’s an unusually good athlete and runner for a backstop, with excellent bat speed and a swing that produces line drives to the gaps with occasional over-the-fence power, although in college he did much more damage against right-handers, with softer contact versus southpaws. He was a solid-average defender in college, very active behind the plate with a plus arm, but was not good in Double A when Boston promoted there at the end of the season — quite likely tired from a long season but also showing he needs to simplify his movements back there to catch better quality stuff than he had to handle in Charlottesville.

He could come into some pull-side power with a few small adjustments at the plate, depending on how Boston wants to develop him; a catcher who hits a ton of line drives and is at least an average receiver is good enough to make some All-Star teams, and he’d solve a problem the Red Sox have had for years at that position.

5. Miguel Bleis, OF (2024 top 100 ranking: 88)

Bats: R | Throws: R | Height: 6-0 | Weight: 170 | Seasonal age in 2024: 20

It was a lost year for Bleis in 2023, as he hit .230/.282/.325 in his first taste of Low A, but hurt his shoulder after 31 games and underwent season-ending surgery. He’d had previous subluxations in that shoulder, so the hope is the surgery will clear up that issue permanently and let him just get back to hitting. He’ll show five tools, with 60 raw power and 55 speed that would allow him to stay in center long-term if he doesn’t lose speed as he fills out, and he has great bat speed that’s undermined by a poor approach and some extra movement before he gets the barrel going towards the zone. He’s looking fastball too often, so he struggled with pitch and ball/strike recognition in 2022 and his brief stint in 2023, chasing secondary stuff out of the zone more than he should, but that’s the sort of thing that only improves with playing time.

I wrote last year that I wouldn’t “be shocked or too dismayed if he struggles early in Low A as an inexperienced 19-year-old,” and that did happen, but he never got a chance to make adjustments. There’s still high-average/25-homer potential in a centerfielder here. Depending on his shoulder strength — he’s supposed to be full go for spring training, at least — and how much time he needs to shake off the rust, however, any progress might not come until later in the year.


The Red Sox are currently projected to give Wilyer Abreu plenty of playing time in the outfield this season. (David Butler II / USA Today)

6. Wilyer Abreu, OF

Bats: L | Throws: L | Height: 5-10 | Weight: 215 | Seasonal age in 2024: 25

Abreu had a weird 2022 season, walking and striking out at very high rates so that 46 percent of his plate appearances ended in one or the other, and without a ton of other production as a result. His approach ticked up in 2023 as he moved to Triple A — the automatic ball-strike system (ABS) may have helped, although scouts saw a real difference here — and he got to way more power, enough that he’s probably going to be a regular for someone in an outfield corner. He’s got a cannon of an arm for right, and while I think he’s overstretched in center, if he plays there he might end up a 4-WAR player.

7. Mikey Romero, SS

Bats: L | Throws: R | Height: 5-11 | Weight: 175 | Seasonal age in 2024: 20

It was a lost year for the Red Sox’s first-round pick in 2022, as Romero suffered a lower back injury that limited him to just 34 games on the year, and he only hit .214/.294/.286 when he did play. He’s a polished shortstop with a solid approach at the plate and had started to flash a little more power in 2022, which of course was not evident at all last year. I wrote last year that he was probably a regular and anything more than that depended on him showing more power, which is still the case assuming this injury isn’t chronic.

8. Yoeilin Cespedes, SS

Bats: R | Throws: R | Height: 5-9 | Weight: 181 | Seasonal age in 2024: 18

Signed in January 2023 for $1.4 million, Cespedes mashed in the Dominican Summer League with very hard contact, hitting .346/.392/.560 in 46 games with just an 11.4 percent strikeout rate. He did swing and miss some, which isn’t surprising for a 17-year-old in the DSL. He’s a shortstop with a good chance to stay there, although his body could push him to second or third in time, as he’s athletic but not a runner and may not hold his range as he fills out.

9. Nick Yorke, 2B

Bats: R | Throws: R | Height: 5-11 | Weight: 200 | Seasonal age in 2024: 22

Yorke was Boston’s first-rounder in 2020, a pick most other teams derided at the time, and then he blew up in 2021 to make my top 100. He flopped in 2022, and then had a season in 2023 that sits squarely in the middle of the previous two years and probably represents something like his true talent level, hitting .268/.350/.435 in Double A with below-average defense at second. He does have a really pretty right-handed swing and good feel for the barrel within the strike zone, so it’s surprising that he struck out as much as he did (24 percent) last year, although Boston has tried to work with him to lower his hands so he can get to more fastballs up and perhaps drive the ball more consistently. A small tradeoff of contact for power would help him, as he’s never likely to be more than an average defender at second and his arm will be an issue anywhere in the outfield if he had to move. I think he’s a soft regular, probably not an everyday player for a contender, while he doesn’t offer utility infielder value since he can’t play on the left side.

10. Nazzan Zanetello, SS

Bats: R | Throws: R | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 180 | Seasonal age in 2024: 19

Zanetello was Boston’s second pick in 2023, a perfect contrast to the polished college player they took in the first round in Teel. Zanetello was one of the best pure athletes in the class, with fast-twitch actions on defense and really quick hands at the plate, showing great bat speed if not the feel for the barrel yet. He’s a potential plus defender at short with plenty of arm, so there’s a ton of upside if the bat develops. He’s a long way away as a hitter, though, needing to work on pitch recognition and timing.

11. Wikelman Gonzalez, RHP

Bats: R | Throws: R | Height: 6-0 | Weight: 167 | Seasonal age in 2024: 22

Gonzalez is 95-98 mph from a low three-quarter arm slot and gets a ton of ride and late hop on the fastball, while his changeup is fringy at 89-90 but gets misses because of the separation between the two. He punched out 168 batters last year, ranking sixth among all minor-league pitchers, but also walked 14.6 percent of the batters he faced because he doesn’t repeat the delivery at all. He also needs to either tighten up his curveball or, my pick, switch to a slider or cutter, since his arm slot and release point look way better suited to that. He has the build to start and holds his velocity, so I’d keep developing him that way, although this is 35 command and it’s an uphill battle to get him to a level that keeps him in the rotation.

12. Luis Perales, RHP

Bats: R | Throws: R | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 160 | Seasonal age in 2024: 21

Perales might have the best arm in the system, with a fastball up to 98 mph with good ride and vertical break along with a plus slider, but he’s got a rough delivery that he doesn’t repeat and he is about 90 percent likely to end up in the bullpen. He added a cutter last year to try to give him another weapon against left-handed batters as he’s struggled with the changeup but still showed a platoon split, with a 16 percent walk rate versus lefties. He should continue to start for developmental reasons but I could see him blowing 100 out of the bullpen with a 60 or 70 slider in short bursts.

13. Yordanny Monegro, RHP

Bats: R | Throws: R | Height: 6-4 | Weight: 180 | Seasonal age in 2024: 21

Monegro doesn’t have the pure stuff of Perales or Gonzalez, so his upside is lower, but he had more success as a starter last year and at least offers the body and delivery to end up in that role. He works with three pitches, with a low-90s fastball that has a little cut and a curveball that was insanely effective last year, with lefties whiffing on it more than two-thirds of the time they swung. It doesn’t look or grade out as that kind of pitch, although at some point the hitters just tell you if it’s a good pitch or not. He has a slider that also missed a ton of bats in Low A and might end up the better breaking ball in the end, while he almost never used his changeup last year. He could be a back-end starter with some adjustments the Red Sox are trying to help him make with his grips on the fastball and curve.

14. Johanfran Garcia, C

Bats: R | Throws: R | Height: 5-10 | Weight: 196 | Seasonal age in 2024: 19

García raked in the complex league last year, a bat-over-glove catcher who has plenty of arm but has work to do on receiving, blocking, and framing. The bat’s real, as he’s strong and has a swing geared to drive the ball in the air to all fields. If you think he can catch, he’s a potential star because of the offensive upside. The risk is that there isn’t really another position for him besides first base, and the offensive bar there is much higher.

15. Blaze Jordan, 3B/1B

Bats: R | Throws: R | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 220 | Seasonal age in 2024: 21

Jordan hits the ball a mile in BP, but in games his bat is in and out of the zone so fast and on such a low plane that he doesn’t hit for that kind of power in games, with a lot of groundballs and popups because he doesn’t truly square the ball up. He’s lost a good bit of weight to try to gain some agility in the field, although third base is still unlikely. Double-A pitchers really exploited his pitch recognition issues, as he doesn’t pick up non-fastballs well and would expand the zone to chase them. There’s a path here for him to become a high-contact first baseman who hits enough doubles to play regularly, but the odds are against it.


RIchard Fitts came over to the Red Sox in the Alex Verdugo trade. (Rusty Jones / Four Seam Images via Associated Press)

16. Richard Fitts, RHP

Bats: R | Throws: R | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 230 | Seasonal age in 2024: 24

One of the three pitchers Boston acquired from the Yankees for Alex Verdugo, Fitts quietly ended up in the top 10 among all minor-league pitchers in strikeouts with 163, with a solid year as a 23-year-old starter in Double A. It was more command and feel to pitch than stuff, as it’s a light 91-96 mph without a plus secondary, and he gave up 22 homers in 151 innings because hitters do make hard contact when they square it up. The command and control are something, though, so he could pick up with a move to relief, or perhaps the Red Sox find a way to boost his velocity or improve his slider or changeup and make him a back-end guy.

17. Eddinson Paulino, SS/2B/3B

Bats: L | Throws: R | Height: 5-10 | Weight: 155 | Seasonal age in 2024: 21

Paulino was my sleeper for the Red Sox’s system last year, but he didn’t take much of a step forward, moving up the ladder to High A but seeing his offense dip slightly across the board. I like his approach at the plate and still think he’s going to grow into some more pop, maybe 15-18 homers with a bunch of doubles, and could end up at short or second, with the speed to even move to center if need be. He’ll be just 21 this year, so he could easily take that step in 2024, but 2023 was disappointing.

18. Brandon Walter, LHP

Bats: L | Throws: L | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 200 | Seasonal age in 2024: 27

The pride of Delaware — the state and the university — Walter used to be up to 97 mph but lost some velocity during the pandemic layoff, averaging around 92 in his big-league stint last year. His arm slot and big extension make him very hard on left-handed hitters, but he doesn’t have the third pitch or the repeatability to start.

19. Chase Meidroth, 3B/2B

Bats: R | Throws: R | Height: 5-9 | Weight: 170 | Seasonal age in 2024: 22

Meidroth has a super-short swing that produces high contact rates and lets him wait on pitches enough that he’s shown strong walk rates up through Double A, but it doesn’t produce any power or particularly hard contact. He’s played third, second, and short in the minors but isn’t a shortstop and isn’t great at either of the other spots, lacking the arm for the left side. The contact skill will get him to the majors, but I’m not sure what the role would be given his limitations.

20. Bryan Mata, RHP

Bats: R | Throws: R | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 223 | Seasonal age in 2024: 25

It was truly a lost year for Mata, who missed 2021 after Tommy John surgery and then missed four months of 2023 with right shoulder inflammation. He was awful when he did pitch, with 30 walks in 27 innings in Triple A and a 6.33 ERA, although he was still mid-90s with a 55 changeup. He’s always had a violent delivery, so the injuries aren’t surprising, per se, but he wasn’t even healthy enough for Boston to move him to the bullpen and bring him up last year.

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MLB 2024 farm system rankings: Keith Law ranks all 30 teams, Orioles are new No. 1

Others of note

Nathan Hickey is a potential backup catcher with power and patience but below-average receiving and throwing, with a career caught-stealing rate of just 10 percent in the minors.

• I thought the Sox reached a bit for shortstop Antonio Anderson in the third round last year, as the Georgia high school product had trouble hitting decent offspeed stuff as an amateur and his swing needed some work to shorten it up. He struck out a third of the time in his 46 PA pro debut.

• I was pretty high on Brainer Bonaci coming out of the 2023 season, but he was placed on the restricted list in October for a violation of the league’s domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse policy.

2024 impact

Rafaela and Abreu could both compete for starting jobs in spring training; Rafaela has the edge on defense but Abreu is more likely to hit right away.

The fallen

I was pretty bullish on Matthew Lugo until this past year, when he hit the Double-A wall but didn’t hit anything else, with a .242/.297/.381 line and just 19 walks against 89 strikeouts in 322 PA. The former shortstop is playing third base and left field, but it won’t matter if he can’t even muster a .300 OBP.

Sleeper

Cespedes might be their next superstar hitting prospect if what we saw in the DSL carries over to the US.

(Top photo of Marcelo Mayer: Rob Tringali / MLB Photos via Getty Images)





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