Boston Red Sox prospect evaluation opportunity
There are two areas the Boston Red Sox have had noted success this century – getting World Series titles and finishing last. The last place doldrums were an anomaly, but that will not be the case after 2020. Even with Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez returning to form this team has issues.
Now is the time to test the unknown commodities – prospects. I will cover my first real baseball experience of witnessing that and it failed in the big picture but produced some outstanding players.
In 1962 the National League followed the American League 1961 template and expanded. A new team was located in Houston and became the Colt .45s until a move to the Astrodome and revenue sharing with Colt Firearms prompted a change.
That was for the start of the 1965 season, but those first three years witnessed something the Red Sox seriously contemplate – throw the kids in the pool and see if they can swim.
The expansion Colts (Astros) had the usual expansion roster of has-beens and never were, but that changed in season two. Promising young players were tossed into the lineup. Rusty Staub, Jim Wynn, Joe Morgan, Jerry Grote, John Bateman, Walt Williams, Ernie Fazio, and a 17-year-old Larry Dierker may the roster at various junctures. There were other young players, but they failed their trial by fire.
The entire lineup was not one of youth as many seasoned veterans remained and players such as Hall of Fame Nellie Fox, two-time batting champion Pete Runnels, Bob Lillis, Johnny Temple, Hal Brown, and a revolving door of others blended in with the ever-expanding youth movement. Houston finally reached .500 (81-81) in 1969 when their expansion cohorts the New York Mets won it all.
The Red Sox have prospects and it is similar to Houston in that they are primarily position players. Houston’s pitching development was lagging behind with hard-throwing Don Wilson the only real significant one to surface before 1970. That 1962 Houston team had an average age of 29.4 and by 1965 it had dropped to 26.9.
The Red Sox have several prospects in their Player Pool and now is the time to do what those long-ago Astros did and toss them into the fray. I know what Andrew Benintendi – still just 26-years old, and Jackie Bradley Jr.can do, but what about Jarren Duran? Last I look Benny was struggling to get to the Mendoza Line and JBJ was in his usual slump. Let’s see what Duran has.
Jeter Downs is one of the supposed prizes from the Mookie Betts deal so find out. Downs is ranked as a number two prospect and we are told has some pop in his bat. Let’s find out. Triston Casas has just been bumped up to the Player Pool. Casas has just 120 games of minor league experience. Staub had 140 games – same as Morgan – before he got the call to Houston.
Bobby Dalbec has power but unless you go to games in Portland or Pawtucket you won’t see it. Dalbec can play first or third so let’s see him. With the Rafael Devers crash and burn so far it is worth the risk. Connor Wong was part of the Betts deal and Wong is a catcher. Boston has a solid pair of backstops, but Boston is also racing with the Pittsburgh Pirates for baseball train wrecks.
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The pitching for the Red Sox is non-existent, but there are a few arms that are available. Tanner Houck and Bryan Mata are in the Player Pool along with Jay Groome. Houk and Groome are first-round picks so time to see if this is another Henry Owens and Brian Johnson – two first-round failures. Darwinzon Hernandez is recovering from COVID-19 and has shown glimmers of electric talent that often blows a use with control. If Kyle Hart can get multiple shots as a number 42 prospect so can the others.
The risk with young players is their psyche. Can being overmatched and possibly embarrassed stifle their future? I am not Dr. Phil (thankfully) and based on what I have seen presented for our amusement this season I would shift and shift quickly to a greater infusion of youth. The other con to this plan is speeding up service time and marching players towards arbitration and free agency much quicker but with no MiLB season, they need reps against real competition in game settings.
The Red Sox – unlike those woe begotten Astros/.45s have some talented veterans on board such as Xander Bogaerts, Mitch Moreland, J.D. Martinez, Kevin Pillar, and Christian Vazquez. They also have some real potential in Alex Verdugo, Jose Peraza, and Michael Chavis. Time to mix and match to a greater extent. Time to get a baseline of evaluation for off-season maneuvering.