What are the chances Triston Casas, Jeter Downs, and other Red Sox position player prospects make their major-league debuts this season?
Last year, the Boston Red Sox saw 10 players make their major-league debuts. Of that group of 10, only three of Boston’s debutants – Connor Wong, Jack López, and Jarren Duran – were position players. With that in mind, now feels like a good time to take a look at which position players already in the Red Sox organization could make their major-league debuts in 2022.
Triston Casas, 1B
This is the obvious one. Depending on how you feel about Marcelo Mayer, Casas can be considered the top prospect in Boston’s farm system, and it’s been that way for quite a while now. After the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 minor-league season, Casas enjoyed an eventful 2021 in which he played at Double-A, for the United States in the Summer Olympics, Triple-A, and the Arizona Fall League.
Between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Worcester, the left-handed hitting first baseman slashed .279/.394/.484 (141 wRC+) with 15 doubles, three triples, 14 home runs, 59 RBIs, 63 runs scored, seven stolen bases, 57 walks, and 71 strikeouts over 86 games spanning 371 plate appearances. He was also named a 2021 Arizona Fall League All-Star for how he performed with the Scottsdale Scorpions.
Given that he has only played nine games at the Triple-A level, it seems likely that Casas will begin the 2022 season with the WooSox, though he certainly will get the chance to shine at spring training as a non-roster invitee. Under chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, the Red Sox have placed an emphasis on having prospects continue to develop at Triple-A, so Casas fits that mold. That said, the soon-to-be 22-year-old could force his way to the majors if he gets off to a hot start in Worcester and Boston is not getting the sort of first-base production they had hoped to get out of Bobby Dalbec.
Jeter Downs, MIF
It’s fair to say that Downs’ stock is trending in the wrong direction coming off the season he had in Worcester in 2021. The key prospect acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Mookie Betts/David Price trade ahead of the 2020 season, Downs spent the entirety of the 2021 campaign in Worcester. In 99 games at Triple-A, the right-handed middle infielder posted an underwhelming .190/.272/.333 slash line (62 wRC+) to go along with nine doubles, 14 home runs, 39 RBIs, 39 runs scored, 18 stolen bases, 38 walks, and 131 strikeouts over 405 plate appearances.
During last summer’s All-Star break, Downs represented the Red Sox in the All-Star Futures Game alongside pitching prospect Brayan Bello. He, like Casas, also played for the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League to close out his year.
Despite the kind of season Downs may have had in 2021, there is still plenty to like about the 23-year-old. The Red Sox clearly think so, as they added him to their 40-man roster in November as a means to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.
Along those same lines, though, Downs’ path to the majors in 2022 is not as clearcut as Casas’. While first base could be an issue for Boston, the middle infield is already well taken care of between the likes of Xander Bogaerts, Enrique Hernández, Christian Arroyo, and Jonathan Araúz. If Downs were to debut this season, things may have to fall in his favor in order for that to happen.
Ronaldo Hernández, C
It’s been nearly 11 months since the Red Sox acquired Hernández and infield prospect Nick Sogard from the Rays for relievers Chris Mazza and Jeffrey Springs, and the trade already seems to be yielding positive results for Boston. In his debut season with the Red Sox organization, the right-handed hitting backstop made it as far as Triple-A while putting up a stout .284/.326/.501 line (122 wRC+) with 29 doubles, one triple, 16 home runs, 58 RBIs, 45 runs scored, 12 walks, and 77 strikeouts over 99 games (387 plate appearances) between Portland and Worcester.
Hernández, who turned 24 in September, is recognized more for his offensive potential, but has quality arm strength to be reckoned with as well. The native Colombian threw out 17 of the 65 (26.1%) of the base runners who attempted to steal against him while logging 537 innings behind the plate last year.
For as intriguing as Hernández may be, he is somewhat blocked at the catching position, which might explain why he played one game at first base for the WooSox last season. With Christian Vázquez and Kevin Plawecki representing the Sox’ top two catching options and the aforementioned Wong right behind them, it’s hard to imagine seeing Hernández getting called up as anything but an injury replacement in 2022.
Hudson Potts, 3B and Jeisson Rosario, OF
During the forgettable, pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the Red Sox traded veteran first baseman Mitch Moreland to the Padres for a pair of prospects in infielder Hudson Potts and outfielder Jeisson Rosario – both of whom were added to Boston’s 40-man roster that November to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft.
In their first full season as Red Sox prospects, neither Potts nor Rosario had outstanding years to remember. The former – a right-handed hitter – batted .217/.264/.399 (76 wRC+) while the latter – a left-handed hitter – slashed .232/.335/.307 (wRC+).
Despite their 40-man roster status, it’s a bit difficult to see how either Potts or Rosario could make their major-league debuts with the Red Sox in 2022 unless it’s some sort of emergency situation. In fact, I think it’s more likely that one of the two – or both – could be dealt on the other side of the lockout so that Boston can create more space on its 40-man roster.