Red Sox could find their first base upgrade with recovering Triston Casas

WORCESTER - Triston Casas watches the ball fly before being tagged out running to second during the final home game of the inaugural season at Polar Park on Sunday, September 26, 2021.Spt Woosoxgame 59
WORCESTER - Triston Casas watches the ball fly before being tagged out running to second during the final home game of the inaugural season at Polar Park on Sunday, September 26, 2021.Spt Woosoxgame 59 /

Triston Casas could give the Boston Red Sox a boost at first base

The Boston Red Sox will be in the market for some upgrades as the trade deadline approaches, with first base being among their top priorities. While Chaim Bloom will do his due diligence exploring trade targets, Boston’s best option might come internally in the form of Triston Casas.

Casas has been sidelined since May 17 by a high right ankle sprain but he’s expected to begin a rehab assignment in the Florida Complex League today, according to Alex Speier of The Boston Globe.

The Red Sox will want to give Casas time to find his swing in Florida, perhaps even giving him a pit stop at another lower level of the minor league system, but he should be back in Triple-A Worcester before the end of the month. As long as he’s productive, an early-August promotion could land him in the big leagues right around the same time as the trade deadline.

Boston is in dire need of an upgrade at first base, which has been handled primarily by the platoon of Bobby Dalbec and Franchy Cordero. The Red Sox rank 26th in the majors with a .283 wOBA and 28th with 79 wRC+ from their first basemen this season, per FanGraphs.

Boston found themselves in a similar position last season when they acquired Kyle Schwarber before the deadline. While he proved to be an awkward fit defensively, Kyle from Waltham provided enough of an upgrade to the lineup to offset those concerns.

The Red Sox could use another big bat in their lineup, preferably one who has actually played first base before. Casas, the No. 2 prospect in the organization, has the talent to provide that.

In 36 games in Triple-A prior to his injury, Casas hit .248/.359/.457 with six home runs, nine doubles and 22 RBI. The batting average might not be exciting but Casas has a patient eye that draws a healthy amount of walks, enabling him to reach base at a strong clip.

The plate discipline of Casas would be a refreshing change of pace from the strikeout prone Dalbec, who is hitting a meager .205 with a .615 OPS. Power is supposed to be his calling card but Dalbec doesn’t make enough contact to make use of it. He only has six home runs and a .329 SLG.

As poorly as he’s played this season, Dalbec has at least been serviceable against lefties. He’s only hitting .234 against southpaws but he has a .364 OBP and his slugging percentage jumps 90 points against lefties compared to right-handed pitching.

That makes Dalbec an ideal platoon partner for Casas. The one thing Casas hasn’t proven he can do consistently is hit lefties, as he carries a .222/.333/.306 slash line against them this season. Long-term, Casas should be an everyday player but pairing him with a right-handed bat during his first taste of the big leagues would be a wise way to protect him as he adjusts to this level.

Cordero has helped salvage the first base production. His .240/.317/.397 slash line is underwhelming but he’s an upgrade over Dalbec against right-handed pitching. Unfortunately, he can’t hit lefties so platooning him with Casas wouldn’t make sense. Cordero has been better than Dalbec, but Dalbec is the better fit with Casas. Cordero’s ability to play the outfield might increase his chances to hang on to a roster spot but the eventual return of Enrique Hernandez might negate the need for the additional outfield depth.

If Casas’ rehab assignment stalls or he falls into a slump once he reaches Triple-A, the Red Sox will need to pivot to the trade market to find another first baseman. They don’t want to block one of their top prospects but they can’t wait around too long for their first base upgrade. If Casas isn’t ready, trading for a rental who won’t block Casas next year would be a necessity.

Regardless of if it comes from a trade or a promotion for Casas, we shouldn’t expect both Dalbec and Cordero to survive the trade deadline. One of them is likely to lose their roster spot to make room for a new first baseman.

Hopefully, a healthy Casas will claim that role, enabling the Red Sox to use a valuable asset rather than surrender assets to fill the need.

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