Right-handed Bryan Mata, who spent last summer with Double-A Portland, could become the first homegrown starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox since Clay Buchholz. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

A starting pitcher, a couple of sluggers and another starter who might be bullpen help … that foursome highlights our annual list of the top 30 Boston Red Sox prospects.

As in previous years, the list continues to thin as the Red Sox attempt to rebuild their farm system. There is no guarantee that anyone on this list will establish himself as a consistent major leaguer. There will be call-ups, but who can say if they will stay?

This year’s list features less turnover (10 new players) than last year (16). That is because many of Boston’s hyped young prospects have not proven themselves. We’ve included some (like 19-year-old shortstop Antoni Flores), but not others (like Boston’s top draft pick last year, Cameron Cannon).

The focus, unlike other praiseworthy prospect lists, is major league readiness. We get to know these players in Double-A Portland and watch them move on to Triple-A. We are not big on boosting several young players until we see more of a sample size, but some cannot be ignored.

Among those players no longer ranked, six have graduated to the major leagues. That does not guarantee a spot on the Red Sox roster. We think most will be there next season, but a player like first baseman Sam Travis is dangling – not yet established, but also out of minor league options. Utility player Tzu-Wei Lin is out of options, too, but his versatility gives him a better chance of sticking in Boston.

Here’s our Top 30, listing each player’s ranking (his ranking last year), age and position:

1. Bryan Mata, (8), 20, RHP.  Most prospect lists put slugger Triston Casas at No. 1 for Boston, but Mata’s solid 2019 season makes him potentially the first homegrown starting major league pitcher since Clay Buchholz. Mata had his healthiest season (105 innings) and produced (111 strikeouts). He gets your attention when he starts a game with his 98 mph fastball; then settles in at 96, along with a slider, curve and change-up. He has the stuff and the mix to be special.

2. Triston Casas (10), 19, 3B/1B. The Red Sox challenged Casas in his first professional season, sending him to Class A Greenville. He shined and ended the season in advanced Class A Salem. Casas swatted 20 home runs – the most by a teenager in the Red Sox system since Xander Bogaerts – with an .830 OPS. Mostly a first baseman, he could see Portland before the 2020 season is over.

Corner infielder Bobby Dalbec hit 27 home runs last season between Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. He was promoted to Boston’s 40-man roster after the season. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

3. Bobby Dalbec (3), 24, 3B/1B. Playing at high levels last season, in Portland and Pawtucket, Dalbec still hit 27 home runs (compared to 32 the year before) and his strikeouts were down (139, from 176 in 2018). His OPS also dropped 103 points to .816. Now on the 40-man roster, he could be called up if either Rafael Devers or Michael Chavis is injured. He also could be made available in a trade.

4. Tanner Houck (9), 23, RHP. His fastball/slider combination make him a tempting option in the bullpen (where he made 14 appearances in Triple-A after his promotion from Portland). The Red Sox still see him as a starter, especially if his change-up continues to improve. The 2017 first-round pick will start 2020 in Triple-A.

5. Jarren Duran (21), 23, 2B/OF. He continued to rake in A ball, starting 2019 with a .387 average in 50 games with Salem (.998 OPS). Promoted to Portland, Duran’s bat cooled (.250/.634 OPS). The speed is there (five triples, 28 steals in 36 attempts) and his conversion to the outfield is getting smoother. As he makes adjustments at the plate, Triple-A will beckon.

6. C.J. Chatham (13), 24, SS/2B. When Chatham is healthy, he is one of the best pure hitters in the Red Sox system. He missed nearly a month with hamstring issues last season, but still batted .298, which is his career average. Last year, he played 12 games at second base. With Bogaerts in Boston, Chatham’s versatility will be key. Now on the 40-man roster, he will be in Pawtucket.

7. Gilberto Jimenez (NR), 19, OF. Jimenez is the first prospect from the short-season levels to be listed, and he’s a fine choice. Jimenez, from the Dominican Republic, features dazzling speed. He puts the ball in play – only 38 strikeouts in 234 at-bats – and then runs. He batted .359 at short-season Lowell last year. Considered raw, but with so many skills, Jimenez is one to watch.

8. Travis Lakins (6), 25, RHP. Lakins is not high on most prospect lists, but we figured that after making his major league debut last year, he could be ready to contribute for this season. After the All-Star break, Lakins made nine appearances (2.57 ERA, with 13 strikeouts in 14 innings). His effective fastball/cutter combination make him an option for a call-up.

Left-handed pitcher Jay Groome received media attention after being selected by Boston in the first round of the 2016 draft, but he has pitched just 66 innings in the pros after Tommy John surgery. AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

9. Jay Groome (9), 21, LHP. Since being drafted 12th overall in 2016, Groome has pitched 66 innings in the pros. That included four innings in the rookie leagues last year after he recovered from Tommy John surgery (he missed all of 2018). With a mid-90s fastball and solid curve, he’s still considered a potential frontline starter.

10. Thad Ward (NR), 22, RHP. A fifth-round draft pick in 2018, Ward performed well at Greenville (1.99 ERA, 87 strikeouts in 72 1/3 innings). Good college pitchers often stand out in low Class A, but then Ward got to Salem and kept it up – 2.33 ERA, 70 strikeouts in 54 innings. He should be bringing his prime slider to Portland next season.

11. Kyle Hart (27), 27, LHP. This ranking may be a stretch, but Hart has figured out ways to succeed in the past, which is why Boston put him on the 40-man roster. A 19th-round draft pick in 2016, Hart has moved up the prospect rankings with his ability to mix pitches. His fastball is in the low 90 mph range, but plays well off his cutter and change-up.

12. Noah Song (NR), 22, RHP. Will he pitch, or serve? Song, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, has requested a delay in serving his active duty so he can pitch for the Red Sox, who drafted him in the fourth round in June. Song, featuring an upper-90s fastball, had a 1.03 ERA in Lowell, with 17 strikeouts in 15 innings.

13. Mike Shawaryn (5), 25, RHP. Shawaryn was cruising in his first six pro games (four hits, one run in 11 1/3 innings), then gave up a single and back-to-back homers against Toronto, followed by allowing eight earned runs to the Yankees in London. He never seemed to recover. But if Shawaryn can shake off those memories, he can contribute.

14. Bobby Poyner (7), 27, LHP. A five-run outing in June sent Poyner from Boston to Pawtucket until September. When he returned, he allowed one hit (a homer) and one walk in 10 outings (0.26 WHIP). Poyner can still be an addition to the Red Sox bullpen with his deceiving fastball and change-up.

15. Nick Decker (30), 20, OF. Decker was drafted one round after Casas and, while not rushed, he is coming along. He stayed in Lowell last year, recording a .799 OPS in 53 games, with 10 doubles, five triples and six home runs. He does not have the power of Casas, but there is some pop, along with a good approach at the plate.

Left-hander Daniel McGrath worked his way into the Portland Sea Dogs rotation this summer, compiling a 7-1 record with a 1.24 ERA in 15 starts. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

16. Daniel McGrath (NR), 25, LHP. Maybe the most underappreciated prospect, McGrath worked his way into the Sea Dogs rotation last year and, in 15 starts, was 7-1 with a 1.24 ERA, and 1.03 WHIP. He got one start in Triple-A (seven innings, three earned runs). He mixes a plus curve and change-up with an 89 mph fastball. Re-signed to a minor league contract, McGrath is eligible for the Rule 5 draft.

17. Eduard Bazardo (NR), 24, RHP. Speaking of the Rule 5 draft, Bazardo is definitely a candidate to be picked by another team. Signed as an 18-year-old, he labored in the rookie levels until last year. He reached Portland by June and, with a low to mid-90s fastball and solid curve, recorded a 2.78 ERA with 35 strikeouts and 13 walks in 32 1/3 innings.

18. Denyi Reyes (15), 23, RHP. Reyes is not a “stuff” pitcher. He doesn’t overwhelm, but he can pitch, using a 91 mph fastball and a diving curveball. He made 26 starts in Portland (4.16 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP). He was consistent and durable and will begin his second season on the 40-man roster, taking his game to Triple-A.

19. Trevor Kelley (NR), 26, RHP. The underdog story of last year, Kelley went from being a 36th-round draft pick in 2015 to making his major league debut in July. A side-arm thrower, Kelley dominated in Pawtucket (1.79 ERA/1.10 WHIP). He needs refinement for the majors (only half of his 10 appearances were scoreless).

20. Josh Ockimey (16), 24, 1B. Ockimey has fallen off most prospect rankings (soxprospects.com has him 45th). He batted only .204 in Pawtucket, but his OPS was .811. He swatted 25 home runs and drew a league-leading 82 walks. Eligible for Rule 5 (but a longshot), Ockimey likely has one more season to prove himself to Boston.

21. Durbin Feltman (14), 22, RHP. A victim of hype and unrealistic expectations, Feltman’s first full pro season, in Portland, was a disappointment (5.26 ERA/1.42 WHIP). Considered major league ready when drafted in 2018, he made four major league appearances in spring training. His stuff (fastball/slider) is apparent, but more work is obviously needed.

22. Alex Scherff (12), 21, RHP. Scherff did not experience the breakout year some expected in his second pro season (4.83 ERA/1.60 WHIP in Greenville). But consider that Scherff, if he had accepted a scholarship to Texas A&M, would not have been draft eligible until 2020. He’s got time. He will remain a starter, but his fastball/cutter may be destined for the bullpen.

The Red Sox placed outfielder Marcus Wilson, right, on their 40-man roster this fall after acquiring him in a trade from Arizona for Blake Swihart early in the season. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

23. Marcus Wilson (NR), 23, OF. Wilson looked like a bust when first arriving in the Blake Swihart trade. He was demoted from Portland to Salem. Wilson worked his way back to the Sea Dogs and batted .250/.811 OPS. He was 10 for 30 in the Arizona Fall League, which, along with his potential, prompted his promotion to the 40-man roster.

24. Brayan Bello (NR), 20, RHP. Bello was only 19 when the Red Sox assigned him the Greenville, a sure sign that Boston thinks highly of him. Bello features loads of potential, starting with a mid-90s fastball with life, and a hard slider. He stuck out 119 in 117 2/3 innings last year and may be pushed to Salem this season.

25. Antoni Flores (19), 19, SS. Flores is reportedly a joy to watch in the field, manning his shortstop position with grace and authority. But can he hit in the pros? Flores, only 18 last season, was pushed to short-season Lowell and batted only .193. Another year of development and a return to Lowell may bring out Flores’ offensive potential.

26. Yoan Aybar (NR), 22, LHP. Aybar was put on the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Now, Boston has to figure out what it has in its newly transitioned pitcher. Once a touted outfield prospect, Aybar moved to the mound in 2018. With a mid-90s fastball, Aybar is both promising and raw, which he showed in Greenville last season (67 strikeouts, but 40 walks).

27. Chase Shugart (NR), 23, RHP. A 12th-round draft pick in 2018, Shugart was a nice surprise in his first full pro season, recording a 2.81 ERA/1.25 WHIP in Greenville. Both his slider and curve work well off a low 90s fastball. He stuck out 73 and walked 23. He was both a reliever and starter at the University of Texas.

28. Brandon Howlett (25), 20, 3B. The Red Sox were thrilled to get Howlett in the 21st round of the 2018 draft, because he was a top prospect who figured to be going to Florida State. He was pushed to Greenville and, predictably, struggled (.231/.698 OPS). He will likely head back to Greenville where he should be ready to show his potential.

29. Matthew Gorst (18), 25, RHP. Gorst could have been dropped from our rankings after he took a step backward, with a 4.62 ERA in Portland (after flashing a 0.00 ERA in nine games with the Sea Dogs in 2018). Gorst has a fastball/cutter combination that makes him effective. He will look to bounce back in Portland next season.

30. Austin Maddox (24), 28, RHP. Maddox seemed destined for a promising major league career in 2017 when he recorded a 0.52 ERA in 13 games with the Red Sox. But injuries, including shoulder surgery that wiped out the 2019 season, have derailed him. He hopes to begin his comeback in 2020.

From last year’s list, six prospects reached the major leagues – Michael Chavis (1), Darwinzon Hernandez (2), Tzu-Wei Lin (11), Sam Travis (20), Josh Taylor (22) and Marco Hernandez (23). One was waived – Chandler Shephard (16). One is a free agent – Dedgar Jimenez (28). Two were dropped from the list – Matthew Kent (26), Roniel Raudes (29).

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