The Red Sox acquired middle infielder Jeter Downs from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts trade. Just 22, he might begin the 2021 season with the Portland Sea Dogs. AP Photo/John Bazemore

Putting together our annual list of Top 30 Boston Red Sox prospects had its challenges this year, with no minor league season, and no input from their coaches, to gather information.

But there were clues to be found from prospects getting an invitation to the Red Sox alternate training site during the summer – the 30-player pool that served as both taxi squad and development camp – and additions to (and subtractions from) Boston’s 40-man roster.

The 2021 season is not certain because of the coronavirus pandemic,  but we are assuming (hoping?) for minor league baseball, whether it begins in April or May.

Fifteen pitchers are on this year’s prospects list, including Bryan Mata, repeating at No. 1. The list also includes five prospects the Red Sox obtained in trades this summer.

As always, one factor in our selection process is major league readiness. Players who appear closest to reaching Boston may be ranked ahead of those with greater long-term potential. Some pitchers (Kyle Hart and Mike Shawaryn) struggled in during brief appearances in the majors, but we still see them contributing.

Pitcher Bryan Mata impressed in Portland in 2019 and is likely to earn a call up to Fenway Park next summer. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Many of the prospects on our annual lists reach Double-A Portland, and some springboard to the bigs. We anticipate Mata making his major league debut in 2021. Bobby Dalbec made an impressive major league debut this summer. Can he stick?

Here’s our Top 30, including their ages and position:

1. BRYAN MATA, 21, RHP. Working at the alternate training site, Mata had his development closely monitored. In 2019 at Portland, Mata impressed with 111 strikeouts in 105 innings. His stuff remains electric, anchored by a mid-to-high 90s fastball. A Triple-A rotation spot is next, with a call-up only a matter of time.

2. TRISTON CASAS, 20, 3B/1B. Casas hit 20 home runs in his first full pro season in 2019. The Red Sox were delighted with his work in 2020 and offered him a late invite to the alternate site. Although he played only two regular-season games in advanced Class A, Casas could be pushed to Portland to begin 2021.

3. BOBBY DALBEC, 25, 3B/1B. Dalbec made his major league debut on Aug. 30 and proceeded to play 23 games, hitting eight home runs. Critics may point to his 39 strikeouts in 80 at-bats, but Dalbec also walked 10 times for a .359 on-base percentage. Assuming 2021 will be a full season, it will be a test for the slugger.

Tanner Houck, shown pitching for the Portland Sea Dogs in 2019, made a stunning major league debut 2020. Houck went 3-0 with a 0.58 ERA in three starts with the Red Sox. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

4. TANNER HOUCK , 24, RHP. Houck made his Red Sox debut two weeks after Dalbec and was just as tantalizing. In his three starts, he went 3-0 with a 0.53 ERA (21 strikeouts, nine walks in 17 innings). Boston needs starting pitching, and homegrown arms are a bonus. As with Dalbec, a full season for Houck will be telling.

5. JETER DOWNS, 22, 2B/SS. Obtained from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts deal, Downs is a prized prospect – ranked No. 1 among Boston prospect by mlb.com. He has played only 12 games in Double-A but was a regular at the 2020 alternate site. Not yet on the 40-man roster, Boston does not need to rush Downs. He could begin 2021 in Portland.

6. JARREN DURAN, 24, OF. Duran is also not on the 40-man roster. In Portland for half of 2019, Duran had a .250 OPS. But he reportedly impressed at the alternate site this year, while showing more power. It would be a stretch to say Duran is Jackie Bradley Jr.’s replacement in 2021, but he may not be far off. Possible 2021 start in Portland.

7. GILBERTO JIMENEZ, 20, OF. Duran may be headed for the Fenway Park outfield, but Jimenez could be only a few years behind. Jimenez has generated a lot of buzz, despite not playing in 2020. Reports out of the fall instructional league were encouraging. In 2019, he batted .359 in Lowell, and will be in Class A in 2021, with Portland in his sights.

Connor Seabold, shown at the 2017 College World Series while pitching for Cal State Fullerton, was acquired by the Red Sox in a trade with the Phillies this summer. AP Photo/Nati Harnik

8. CONNOR SEABOLD, 24, RHP. On Aug. 20, 2019, Hadlock Field fans watched Seabold, a Reading Fightin’ Phils right-hander, tame the Sea Dogs, allowing one run over six innings with his typical control (six strikeouts/one walk). The Red Sox obtained Seabold in the Brandon Workman trade. Now on the 40-man roster, he could skip to Triple-A.

9. JAY GROOME, 22, LHP. Has Groome finally turned the corner to a healthy season? The left-hander with loads of potential has recovered from Tommy John surgery. He looked solid at the alternate site and was put on the 40-man roster. Groome appears set for advanced Class A and could be in Portland sometime in 2021.

10. THAD WARD, 23, RHP. Ward should definitely be in Portland in the spring of 2021, after his 2019 Class A performance (2.14 ERA and 157 strikeouts in 126 innings). Ward’s best pitch is a slider, working off a low-90s fastball. He has added a cut fastball to the mix, which has increased his strikeouts.

11. C.J. CHATHAM, 25, SS/2B. He played outfield in high school, shortstop in college, and has lately seen time at second base. Chatham projects as utility player who can hit (.298 career minor league average). Put on the 40-man roster last year, the clock is ticking. Chatham will begin the season in Triple-A with a call-up possible.

12. NOAH SONG, 23, RHP. The Song story remains intriguing. Some rankings list him as Boston’s second-best pitching prospect after Mata. But will the Navy let him pitch? A 2019 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Song’s request to delay active duty was denied last December. He may not be available to the Red Sox until 2022.

13. EDUARD BAZARDO (17), 25, RHP. With a mid-90s fastball and a curve that looks major league ready, the Red Sox gambled by not putting him on the 40-man roster last year. This year, Boston took no chances and added Bazardo. He will either return to Portland’s bullpen to begin 2021 or jump to Triple-A.

14. JEISSON ROSARIO, 21, OF. The Padres signed Rosario for $1.85 million, as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic. He has not put up big numbers (.264) in the minors, but his potential remains. Boston liked him enough to obtain him in the Mitch Moreland trade and add him to the 40-man roster. He seems destined for Portland.

Infielder Hudson Potts, a first-round draft pack of the San Diego Padres in 2016, could be destined for Hadlock Field in 2020. AP Photo/Matt York

15. HUDSON POTTS, 22, INF. Potts was another Padres prospect – a first-round pick in 2016 – acquired in the Moreland deal and also put on the 40-man roster. Potts hit 20 home runs in Class A in 2017, but has scuffled in Double-A (.227 in 2019). With power potential, Potts should be at Hadlock this spring.

16. CONNOR WONG, 24, catcher. Continuing the string of prospects obtained and added to the 40-man roster, Wong arrived from the Dodgers in the Betts deal. Promoted to Double-A at the end of 2019, Wong got hot (.349 with nine home runs in 40 games). He spent 2020 at the alternate site and is expected in Portland in 2021.

17. NICK YORKE, 18, SS/2B. The mystery man may be steal of the 2020 draft. Yorke was not expected to go in the first round, but Boston surprisingly made him the 17th overall pick. The Red Sox think highly of Yorke’s approach at the plate and gave him a late invitation to the alternate site. He will be pushed to Class A. Portland in 2022?

18. DENYI REYES, 24, RHP. Reyes remains a prospect even though the Red Sox removed him from their 40-man roster last January. No team claimed Reyes, so he is likely headed back to Portland in 2021. Reyes mixes his pitches well, utilizing a deadly curveball. He shined in spots in 2019 and needs consistency.

19. KYLE HART, 28, LHP. Last year, we called Hart’s No. 11 ranking “a stretch,” but he kept advancing and reached the majors in 2020. It did not go well for Hart in four games (three starts), allowing 24 hits and 19 earned runs in 11 innings. He was removed from the 40-man roster this month, but has shown an ability to bounce back.

20. BRAYAN BELLO, 21, RHP. Bello has the potential to be special, depending on consistency and pitch development. Pushed to lower Class A as a 19-year-old in 2019, he adjusted the final two months with 63 strikeouts/14 walks in 59 innings. Featuring a mid-90s fastball with a solid slider, Bello will be in advanced Class A in 2021, with Portland on the horizon.

21. YOAN AYBAR, 23, LHP. The Red Sox should find out what they have in Aybar in 2021. A converted outfielder in 2018, Aybar brings heat out of the bullpen with a high-90s fastball. Put on the 40-man roster last year, Aybar has not pitched above Class A. His pending performance in Portland will be telling.

22. CHASE SHUGART, 23, RHP. Where Shugart pitches in 2021 will show his track as a prospect. He shined in lower Class A in 2019 in his first full pro season (2.81 ERA) and would have been in advanced A in 2020. Showing a good command and mix, the Red Sox may push him to Portland next season.

23. NICK DECKER, 21, OF. The cancellation of the 2020 minor league season really affected prospects like Decker, a talented high school player who needs polish. A second-round pick in 2018, Decker showed promise in Lowell the next year (.328 on-base percentage) but obviously needs work. He will begin 2021 in Class A.

Mike Shawaryn, shown pitching for the Sea Dogs in 2018, initially showed promise after a call-up by the Red Sox in 2019 but since has been dropped from Boston’s 40-man roster. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

24. MIKE SHAWARYN, 26, RHP. In August, Shawaryn was not only removed from the 40-man roster, but also removed from the alternate site player pool. Yet, we go back to his first six major league games in 2019 (four hits, one run in 11 1/3 innings). The potential remains. Shawaryn could get taken by another team in December’s Rule 5 Draft.

25. DURBIN FELTMAN, 23, RHP. While Feltman was pushed to Portland in 2019 and did not shine (5.26 ERA), he remains a prospect who can turn things around. Fastball command, to complement his slider, is essential. Not eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, Feltman appears destined to begin 2021 in Portland.

26. ALDO RAMIREZ, 19, RHP. Ramirez could be breaking out soon. Soxprospects.com reported that Ramirez was the “top pitcher” in the fall instructional league with a three-pitch mix, including a 92-95 mph fastball. He pitched in Lowell in 2019, so Class A appears the next step in 2021.

27. BRAINER BONACI, 18, SS. The temptation is to say Bonaci is a no-brainer for the prospect list. He signed for $290,000 two years ago and has played well in the field, along with an advanced approach at the plate. With short-season leagues going away, Bonaci is likely to be pushed to Class A in 2021.

28. MATTHEW LUGO, 19, SS. It will say something of Bocani’s potential if he takes playing time away from Lugo, the second-round draft pick in 2019. Raw talent, with quickness in the field and potential at the plate, Lugo is high on several prospect lists. He figures to be in Class A in 2021.

29. JOSH OCKIMEY, 25, 1B. Ockimey is not on the 40-man roster but played at the alternate site, and was re-signed as a minor league free agent (when several others were let go). So Boston still sees something in Ockimey. He hit for power (25 home runs in Triple-A in 2019) but not average (.204).

30. MARCUS WILSON, 24, OF. It was telling that Wilson was not added to the alternate site until September, despite being on the 40-man roster. Wilson, obtained in the 2019 Blake Swihart deal, has not batted over .235 in Double-A. But he has remained on the 40-man roster. He will likely return to Portland.

From last year’s list, one player was traded by the Red Sox – RHP Travis Lakins; one was not re-signed – LHP Daniel McGrath; and three right-handed pitchers were waived – Trevor Kelley, Matthew Gorst and Austin Maddox. Four other players were dropped from our list – LHP Bobby Poyner, RHP Alex Scherff, SS Antoni Flores and 3B Brandon Howlett.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.