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May 15, 2020 at 11:00 AM

2020 SoxProspects Pre-Season All-Stars Pt. 1 - Hitters

While this post normally comes at the beginning of the minor league season, the uncertainty around baseball in 2020 gives this write-up a much different feel. Below are the players who the SoxProspects.com Community are the most excited about, but who may not be able to showcase their talents for another year. This list is full of new faces who will help rejuvenate the Red Sox farm system, as well as familiar faces with high upside who are just starting to blossom. Four of the players are repeat winners from last year, while four were just added to the system in the last year. 

Catcher: Connor Wong, Portland Sea Dogs
Wong, who just turned 24 last week, was the third piece acquired from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts trade. While he did not headline the trade, he did immediately become Boston's best catching prospect. Currently ranked 12th in the system, Wong is athletic enough to project into a super-utility role, with the defensive chops to handle catcher, second base, and shortstop. His calling card is his power, as he hit 24 home runs last year in 111 games split between High-A and Double-A, but the development of his hit tool will be key to tapping into that power potential as he moves up the ladder. With 87 percent of the vote for this award, he gets the honor of receiving the largest voting share on this list, just edging out the next player to discuss.

First Base: Triston Casas, Salem Red Sox
While he is no longer the consensus number one prospect in the system, with a player mentioned later in this post giving him a run for his money, Casas is still the number one prospect in the system on the SoxProspects.com rankings. As a 19-year-old in his first full season, Casas lived up to his first-round pedigree, slashing .254/.349/.472 with 19 home runs in Greenville. The numbers are even more impressive when you see the improvement he made throughout the year. After a rough April, he went on to hit .267/.364/.506 from May 1 to the end of the season, with the power numbers in particular being well above-average for a player his age.

Second Base: Cameron Cannon, Greenville Drive
The first player that Boston drafted in 2019, though that happened to be in the second round, Cannon split his time between second base and shortstop in short-season ball last year. Second base figures to be his long-term home, but it would not be surprising to see him continue to split his time between the middle infield positions. His 2019 performance was not great, but it's hard to draw a lot of conclusions from a new draftee appearing in only 45 games in his first taste of professional baseball. Cannon was a 2018 Cape Cod League All-Star and a 2019 Baseball America First-Team All-American in college, so he has a very impressive track record to build on.

Shortstop: Jeter Downs, Portland Sea Dogs
Trading Mookie Betts for a player named Jeter was not a great PR move for the Red Sox, but there is no denying Downs's talent. Drafted by Cincinnati with a competitive balance pick in 2017, Downs has now been traded for Alex Wood and Yasiel Puig, and again for Mookie Betts and David Price. His combined batting line between High-A and Double-A last year was .276/.362/.526 with 24 home runs and 24 steals. While he can stick at shortstop, with Xander Bogaerts entrenched in Boston Downs figures to be the long-term answer at second base. It has been a long time since the Red Sox saw a prospect of this caliber come into the system via trade rather than going, and with the players he was traded for, fans will have high expectations for him when he does debut. 

Third Base: Bobby Dalbec, Pawtucket Red Sox
Dalbec's raw power and arm strength are arguably two of the top tools in the farm system, with the former being the reason some analysts think he can turn into a star. The SoxProspects.com rankings are not quite as bullish on Dalbec, placing him sixth in the system, but the upside is easy to dream on. When Dalbec gets hot, he becomes one of the best hitters in the minors. From May 31 to June 11 he hit .306/.468/.806 with six home runs in 10 games. The next 13 games after that, he hit .125/.308/.175. Dalbec was promoted to Pawtucket late in the season, and the Triple-A baseball paid dividends for him very quickly. He hit 7 home runs in 30 games, and he hopes to continue that pace when play ultimately resumes. 

Outfield: Jarren Duran, Portland Sea Dogs
Duran took the minor leagues by storm at the beginning of 2019, hitting .409 in April and .388 in May for Salem. Shortly after that he was promoted to Portland, where his play dropped off precipitously. He hit just .250/.309/.325 in 82 games with the Sea Dogs, though he was still able to use his elite speed to swipe 28 bags. Combined between the two levels he still hit .303, and he had a good but not great showing in the Arizona Fall League as well. Duran is one of the most polarizing players in the system, with his supporters pointing to his potential to have a plus hit tool and plus defense to go along with double-plus speed, while his detractors can point to his Double-A performance and say that his well-below-average power will limit his upside. The SoxProspects.com Community is voting for a bounceback for Duran, and he will be one of the most closely watched players in the system going forward.

Outfield: Gilberto Jimenez, Greenville Drive
Jimenez's place on this list is all about potential. He has performed exceptionally well in rookie ball, and his .359/.393/.470 line in the New York -Penn League last summer turned a lot of heads. However, it is rare for a 19-year-old to excel in his first taste of full-season ball, but that is what the SoxProspects.com Community is expecting of Jimenez. His current skillset is not too different from Duran's, but Jimenez is a better athlete with more remaining projection to grow into his power. If that happens, he can develop into one of the top prospects in the system. 

Outfield: Marcus Wilson, Portland Sea Dogs
Acquired in April of last season in exchange for Blake Swihart, Wilson went from Double-A with the Diamondbacks to High-A with the Red Sox. He proved to be too good for that level, hitting .342/.413/.603 over 45 games before being bumped up to Portland. The Eastern League was a bigger challenge, as his line dropped to .223/.319/.408 over 62 games with the Sea Dogs. A toolsy outfielder with untapped potential, Wilson currently has a wide range of future outcomes. The SoxProspects.com Community is betting on him to progress this upcoming season and become one of the top outfielders in the system.

Photo Credit: All by Kelly O'Connor