Conflicting opinions on how much the Red Sox farm system has improved

BOSTON, MA - JULY 22: Boston Red Sox 2021 first round draft pick Marcelo Mayer looks on with Boston Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom as he signs a contract with the club on July 22, 2021 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JULY 22: Boston Red Sox 2021 first round draft pick Marcelo Mayer looks on with Boston Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom as he signs a contract with the club on July 22, 2021 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /
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Improvement from the Red Sox farm system is under debate

The Boston Red Sox have been praised by several outlets for the improvement they have made with their farm system over the past year but not everyone agrees that they have taken a significant step forward.

MLB Pipeline put the Red Sox at the top of their list for the most improved farm systems back in December. They entered the 2021 season viewed as one of the worst farm systems in baseball at No. 24 but they had risen all the way to No. 12 by the end of the year.

Marcelo Mayer (No. 9), Triston Casas (18), Jarren Duran (25) and Nick Yorke (96) currently sit inside MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospect rankings.

Baseball America recognized similar improvement in their latest farm system rankings. They placed the Red Sox at No. 11, up from 21st a year ago.

"“Boston’s system isn’t the deepest, but its opening trio of shortstop Marcelo Mayer, first baseman Triston Casas and second baseman Nick Yorke is one of the most enticing,” the Red Sox capsule on Baseball America’s website reads. “Right-hander Brayan Bello took steps forward in 2021, including an appearance in Denver at the Futures Game.”"

Mayer (No. 15), Casas (19), Yorke (31) and Duran (91) all reside on BA’s list of the top 100 prospects with Bello potentially on the verge of cracking that list.

Not everyone is as optimistic about the future of this franchise though. Keith Law of The Athletic released his farm system rankings, which places the Red Sox at No. 20, the same spot they landed on his list a year ago. As far as Law is concerned, Boston’s farm system hasn’t made much progress at all.

Law makes reference to Yorke’s stellar season silencing the critics who questioned his selection in the first round of the 2020 draft, as well as the Red Sox landing the best player in last year’s draft when Mayer unexpectedly fell to them with the fourth overall pick.

While their recent first-round picks are promising, Law pours cold water on our enthusiasm by raising some valid concerns.

"“It hurt a bit more to have two of the team’s top hitting prospects endure disappointing years that at least raised some doubts about their hit tools,” writes Law."

He’s presumably referring to Jeter Downs and Duran.

Downs had a miserable year, batting .191 with a .606 OPS in 99 games for Triple-A Worcester. He flashed his five-tool talents with 14 home runs and 18 stolen bases but he wasn’t nearly consistent enough to place himself on the radar for a big league call-up. In fairness, the 23-year-old only had 12 games at the Double-A level under his belt before sitting out a year during the cancelled 2020 minor league season. It’s easy to see why the once-promising prospect’s development has stalled. The question is whether or not he can get back on track.

Duran made some noise with Triple-A Worster, showcasing the emerging power that we heard whispers about the previous year with 16 home runs and an .873 OPS in 60 games. The production didn’t translate to his first taste of the big leagues though. Duran was woefully overmatched during his brief time in Boston, hitting .215 with a .578 OPS in 33 games. His struggles are a prime example of the wider than usual gap between Triple-A and the majors last year due to the cancelled 2020 minor league season.

It’s clear that Duran needs more polishing in the minors. His upside remains appealing, but the hype train has slowed significantly. While he’s still at top 100 prospect according to MLB Pipeline and BA, Duran doesn’t crack Law’s top 100 list.

Law is generally less optimistic about Red Sox prospects compared to other ranking lists. He still views Mayer (18) as the best Red Sox prospect but his ranking isn’t quite as lofty as on other sites. While the other two sources are about equally high on Casas, he falls all the way to No. 56 on Law’s list. The hit tools are evident and Law acknowledges that Casas has another gear of power but it’s not enough to push him into the top half of his list. His position at first base arguably makes Casas less valuable than prospects at premium positions, which could be a factor in the lower ranking.

His review of the top bats in the system is a bit discouraging but Law does point out that there’s more pitching on the horizon than there’s been in this system for a long time. Bello landed at No. 86 on his list after falling short of the cut in the MLB Pipeline and BA rankings.

Rankings for various sources are always going to have some variations. Some are more optimistic about the Red Sox farm system than others. Those who are deemed as elite prospects aren’t necessarily going to be ranked in the same order on every list. One thing everyone seems to agree on though is that the Red Sox have at least four of the top 100 prospects in baseball. They may lack depth and have a few questions about certain prospects reaching their ceiling, but there’s still plenty of reason to be excited about the long-term future of this organization.

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