With Triston Casas’ impressive first month in the majors coming to a close and the Boston Red Sox already eliminated from postseason contention, the focus has shifted to next year.
Will Casas be Boston’s everyday first baseman?
Casas only made his big-league debut on September 4, so when the regular season ends on Wednesday, October 5, he’ll have compiled a small, albeit encouraging sample size. It’s hard to extrapolate from so few games, but it’s better than if they’d not called him up at all. Instead of waiting for spring training, Casas is getting his feet wet now, and handling the big leagues quite well.
Over the first 22 games of his major-league career, he’s hitting .213/.385/.475 for a .860 OPS with five home runs, a double, 11 runs scored, and 11 RBI. He’s walked and struck out exactly 17 times each. Those numbers are solid, but they mask the rapid improvement in his game in such a short span. Over his last seven games, he has nine hits, including a pair of homers, he’s drawn 10 walks and only struck out four times in 19 at-bats. He’s also a confident defender.
Is Triston Casas ready to be the Red Sox starting first baseman in 2023?
So what’s stopping the Sox from giving him the gig full-time next year?
Hall of Famer Jim Rice has an interesting cause for concern. After an enjoyable, yet meaningless victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday afternoon, the NESN postgame show debated whether Casas is ready to be the everyday first baseman next year. Rice revealed that his hesitation stems from the increase in inter-league play beginning in 2023. By Rice’s logic, more inter-league play means more pitchers the rookie has yet to face, which could lead to struggles.
Due respect to the legendary Sox outfielder, this take makes little sense for several reasons.
First, there is no difference between the American League pitchers and National League pitchers Casas has yet to face. For him, almost everyone is unfamiliar.
Likewise, Casas is unfamiliar to most opposing pitchers, which affords him an opportunity to hit them hard while they figure out how to pitch to him. He’s already hitting well against the division; all five of his big-league homers were against Rays, Yankees, and Orioles pitchers. Divisional play will reduce slightly next season to reallocate games to inter-league play, but given how the Sox struggled against their four AL East rivals this year, it’s great that Casas is already handling his team’s most frequent opponents well.
It would be one thing for Rice to say that he’s trepidatious about putting so much pressure on Casas, but his concern is a league-wide change that’s happening regardless, so the rookie will have to face these teams eventually. What’s the point of putting off the inevitable?
If anything, the fact that Casas is so young and will spend the overwhelming majority of his career accustomed to inter-league play will give him a leg up on his more veteran teammates; they are the ones who will have to contend with a slew of unfamiliar arms next year. Xander Bogaerts, for example, is wrapping up his tenth season in the majors and has played fewer than ten games against eight NL teams. In less than a month, Casas has already faced the Cincinnati Reds twice; in 10 seasons, Bogaerts has played them 11 times.
It’s not unlike Casas’ fellow rookies Brayan Bello, Zack Kelly, and Franklin German already being somewhat accustomed to working with a pitch timer because they played in Triple-A this season.
It’s clear that Rice is looking out for Casas, but it seems he’s viewing the situation a bit backwards. For once, being the new kid on the block could actually make things easier.