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December 1, 2022 at 12:00 PM

SoxProspects.com end-of-season rankings countdown: The Top Ten


From the home office in Sioux City, Iowa, here are the Top Ten Prospects in the Boston Red Sox minor league system. 

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10. Luis Perales
Preseason Rank: Unranked
2022 Stats: 13 games, 11 GS, 35 2/3 IP, 1.77 ERA, 20 H, 50 K, 20 BB, 1 HR @ FCL, Salem
"The raw stuff is great, he just needs to get healthy." It's a refrain that seemingly always applies to some mysterious arm in the low minors. Almost always, it doesn't happen. Either the pitcher never really gets healthy, or he does, and the stuff is just not what those initial glowing reports indicate. Once in a great while, however, there is a Luis Perales. Signed back in 2019 to a modest $75,000 bonus, word of Perales' talent started spreading as soon as that fall's Tricky league. A 2020 lost to COVID and a 2021 in which various injuries limited him to two innings in the DSL dropped him off of the rankings entirely. He returned to competitive action on June 10, allowing two runs in three innings for the FCL Red Sox. He would go on to make eight more appearances at that level, allowing just one earned run in total. In his July 11 start, he faced nine batters striking out eight of them. In 25 dominant innings, he surrendered only 10 hits, walked nine, and struck out 34 (36.2% of batters faced). His control wobbled some after a promotion to Salem, but he continued to miss bats and impress scouts. Developmentally, he will need to show that he can handle a starter's workload: he was understandably handled carefully, never facing more than 15 batters or going beyond three innings in any appearance. 

9. Roman Anthony
Preseason Rank: NA; 2022 second-round pick
2022 Stats: 20 games, 83 PA, .306/.374/.361, 9 BB, 8 K @ FCL, Salem
The compensation pick for being unable to sign Jud Fabian a year prior, Anthony received the largest bonus that Boston gave out in this year's draft. Equipped with plus raw power, Anthony also showed ability to make consistent contact in his brief professional debut, striking out in fewer than 10% of his plate appearances. He began his career with a nine game hitting streak (15 for 32), and reached base in each of his 11 FCL games before forcing the promotion to Salem. He saw time at all three outfield positions at the complex level, as the team tried to find appropriate playing time for him, Miguel Bleis, and Allen Castro, but he played exclusively center field with Salem. He likely ends up in a corner, but if the bat reaches its upside it will play anywhere.


8. Brandon Walter
Preseason Rank: 9
2022 Stats: 11 starts, 57 2/3 IP, 3.59 ERA, 0.902 WHIP, 75 K, 7 BB @ Portland, Worcester
Walter was an unheralded 26th-round 2019 pick who burst onto the scene with a high-spin curveball and potentially plus slider complementing his low-90's fastball. He was dominant in April with Portland, striking out 29 batters in 23 innings without issuing a walk. He continued to shine at the level, posting a 2.88 ERA in nine starts despite one disastrous outing in which he allowed seven earned runs in 1 1/3. Promoted to Worcester, he allowed six runs in his Triple-A debut but bounced back to allow just one run in six innings on June 8 in what would turn out to be his last start of the year. He was placed on the injured list with what was initially thought to be a neck strain but was later diagnosed as a bulging disc in his upper back. Provided he is healthy in 2023, Walter figures to be in line for a shot with the major league club. His ultimate role is still unclear: his upside remains as a starter, but his skills could also lend themselves well to a bulk relief or swingman type of role. 


7. Mikey Romero
Preseason Rank: NA; 2022 first-round pick
2022 Stats: 19 games, 87 PA, .304/.368/.506, 7 2B, 8 BB, 15 K @ FCL, Salem
For the second time in three years, the Red Sox took a California shortstop not generally regarded as a first-round pick (not to be confused with the year in between, when the California shortstop regarded by some as the best player in the draft fell to them). The drafting of Romero (pictured, left) had two benefits for Boston: the $600,000 in savings from his underslot signing enabled them to be able to draft and sign Roman Anthony 55 picks later; perhaps more importantly, Boston apparently had Romero graded as a first-round talent. Initial reports have been very, very positive. He shows an advanced approach, gap-to-gap power, and he hits the ball very hard. With soft hands, good instincts, and decent range, he also has a chance to stick at shortstop. 


6.. Bryan Mata
Preseason Rank: 7
2022 Stats: 15 games, 14 GC, 72 IP, 2.38 ERA, 54 H, 88 K, 38 BB @ Porland, Worcester (stats do not include four rehab appearances at lower levels)
If seems hard to believe that Mata is only 23, there is good reason for that: he first entered the SoxProspects.com top ten five and a half years ago. The hiccup caused by Tommy John surgery coming off of the COVID season led to a three-year gap from his Double-A debut to his first Triple-A appearance. Like so many other pitchers, the question will become one of his role. At his best, he has the repertoire to stick as a starter, and there is little question that he has the physicality to match. Other times, the command of his secondaries will waver, profiling him more in a bullpen role. Even if Mata does end up in a bullpen, he possesses the high-end stuff that could make him a high-leverage late-inning weapon in the role. One wrinkle: Mata has just one option remaining, which may motivate the Red Sox to ramp him into a bullpen role, at least to start his MLB career.


5. Nick Yorke
Preseason Rank: 3
2022 Stats: 80 games, 373 PA, .232/.303/.365, 11 HR, 33 BB, 94 K @ Greenville
Expectations were sky high coming off of Yorke's spectacular 2021 debut, but the 2020 first-round pick never quite got on track. He missed time with turf toe, back stiffness, and a wrist injury and showed the lingering effects of those injuries when he was on the field. While the injuries give him something of a pass for 2022, as a bat-first player, Yorke needs to hit. While he should be adequate at second base, his defense isn't likely to carry him there. He hit well in the Arizona Fall League to earn Fall Star recognition, showing a new stance with his hands starting higher. The tools to be a force at the plate are still there, keeping Yorke in the system's top five. 


4. Ceddanne Rafaela
Preseason Rank: 19
2022 Stats: 116 games, 522 PA, .299/.342/.539, 32 2B, 10 3B, 21 HR, 28 SB, 26 BB, 113 K @ Greenville, Portland
It was a huge year for Rafaela, as he paired a breakout offensive season with highlight-reel defensive play in center field. Coming off of a solid 2021 at Salem, Rafaela started the year on fire for Greenville, hitting .330/.368/.594. He earned a promotion after only 45 games, an aggressive timeline usually reserved for some of the top prospects to have come through the system. The power continued to show in Portland, and he was able to cut his strikeout rate as well. He remains quite aggressive with his plate approach, and there are concerns that pitchers will be able to take advantage of that as he climbs the ladder. He walked only 16 times in 313 plate appearances with Portland, and even that number may be deceptively high, as nine of those came in one 15-game stretch. He drew just one free pass in his final 18 games, leading to a .291 on-base percentage despite hitting .288. Rafaela's defense lowers the bar he needs to reach at the plate significantly, however: for comparison's sake, Cleveland's Myles Straw posted a 2.7 bWAR despite hitting just .221/.291/.273. 


3. Miguel Bleis
Preseason Rank: 8
2022 Stats: 40 games, 167 PA, .301/.353/.543, 14 2B,  5 HR, 10 BB, 45 K @ FCL
Miguel Bleis (pictured) hits baseballs very hard. Hard in a way that is completely out of alignment with being just 18 years old, hard in a way that invites comparisons from scouts that begin with phrases like "it's probably unfair to compare him to (insert multi-time All-Star), but..." If Bleis was a plodding first baseman, the authority with which he makes contact at such an early stage in his development would probably put him into the top 10 prospects in the system. He is not a plodding first baseman though, he is an extremely athletic center fielder who has the potential to be a plus defender in center and be a demon on the basepaths. If there was one yellow flag in his 2022 performance it would have been a strikeout rate that was higher than one might like, but even that seemed to be corrected at the end of the season. Bleis struck out just twice in his final seven games, going 14 for 28 and registering nine extra-base hits, a .500/.548/.964 slash line. He is a long way away, so there are places where a fatal flaw might be exposed in his game, but Bleis' ceiling is that of a franchise cornerstone.


2. Triston Casas
Preseason Rank: 1
2022 Stats: 72 games, 317 PA, .273/.382/.481, 20 2B, 11 HR, 46 BB, 68 K @ Worcester; 27 games, 95 PA, .197/.358/.408, 5 HR, 19 K, 23 BB in MLB
Casas's three-year reign as the top prospect in the system was ended over the summer by the emergence of Marcelo Mayer, but competing for the 2023 Rookie of the Year Award should be a fair consolation prize. It's hard to write about Casas in the context of being a prospect, because he's probably as ready as a prospect can ever be. By the time he was called up, he was utterly locked in at Worcester, driving the ball with authority--even his walks seemed to show swagger. While his .197 batting average in his jaunt to Boston was obviously not ideal, it's hard to look at the underlying numbers and see that as anything but a fluke. He was held back by an unsustainably-low .208 BABIP, and even with that his .358 OBP and .408 SLG represented notable upgrades from what the Red Sox had been getting at first base. A BABIP correction to .290 (the equivalent of four singles falling in) would have brought his line to .250/.400/.461. If all goes according to plan, Casas will be graduating from this list on May 1.


1. Marcelo Mayer
Preseason Rank: 2
2022 Stats: 91 games, 424 PA, .280/.399/.489, 30 2B, 13 HR, 17 SB, 68 BB, 107 K @ Salem, Greenville
Sometimes when a player rises quickly as a top prospect, it becomes easier to point out the flaws rather than focus on what the player does well. Yes, Mayer (pictured, top) probably struck out a bit more than the Red Sox would have liked. Yes, his consistency was sometimes a source of frustration, as he'd have a week or two here or there where things really just weren't working for him at the plate. Yes, he lacks a true 80-grade tool, that one obvious thing that pops out as better than anyone else. It's important to step back and look at what Mayer can, and did, do. At just 19 he starred in the Carolina League and more than held his own after a promotion to Greenville. He showed an approach at the plate that belied his age, excellent gap-to-gap power which should translate into more home runs as he adds strength, solid, confident, and sometimes spectacular defense at shortstop, and leadership and an approach to the game more in line with the expectations of a veteran than an A-ball player in his first full professional campaign. Mayer is as likely as any prospect can be to turn into a good player and could become a great one.

Photo Credit: Marcelo Mayer, Mikey Romero, Miguel Bleis by Kelly O'Connor