Red Sox: Five questions we need answers for during 2021 spring training

Jul 12, 2020; Boston, Massachusetts, United States; Boston Red Sox left fielder J.D. Martinez (28) watches batting practice during summer practice at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 12, 2020; Boston, Massachusetts, United States; Boston Red Sox left fielder J.D. Martinez (28) watches batting practice during summer practice at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports /
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Red Sox prospect Triston Casas
Red Sox prospect Triston Casas.. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images) /

How have Red Sox prospects progressed?

The Red Sox have invited several of their top prospects to training camp this year. Triston Casas, Jeter Downs and Jarren Duran are among the notable players who undoubtedly will begin the season in the minor leagues but will get an opportunity to mingle with big league players for at least part of spring training.

Training camp will be pivotal for these young players as the team evaluates where they are in their development. Last year’s cancelled minor league season prevented prospects from climbing the organizational ladder. While some were able to sharpen their skills at the team’s alternate site in Pawtucket, it’s not the same experience as getting regular playing time in actual games. Grapefruit League action may only be exhibition contests but for many prospects, this will be the first real competition they’ve faced since the end of the 2019 minor league season.

Casas is arguably the top prospect in the Red Sox farm system but the 21-year-old has never advanced beyond a brief stint in High-A ball. He probably would have worked his way up to Double-A Portland if there was a season last year. Was he able to develop enough at the alternate site to start at that level this season or does he need more time at the lower levels?

Downs and Duran are a bit more experienced, having reached Double-A in 2019. If they are deemed ready for a step up to Triple-A then they could be knocking on the door to their major league debuts by mid-season. A slow start in camp could send them back to Double-A, potentially delaying their journey to Boston until September, if not 2022.

The spring schedule has been trimmed down to 29 games this year. With the priority leaning toward preparing those expected to make the Opening Day roster, there will be fewer opportunities for prospects to shine. They need to make the most out of the chances they are given since it will be the first opportunity to evaluate if they made any progress during the lost 2020 season or if their development has stalled.