5 Red Sox prospects who should make fans more grateful to Dave Dombrowski
Dave Dombrowski deserves more credit for recent Red Sox farm system success
In his absence, things have come full circle for Dave Dombrowski in Boston.
When the Red Sox abruptly parted ways with Dombrowski during a late-September Sunday Night Baseball game at Fenway in 2019, he departed an organization on the brink of a disaster partially of his own creation. The payroll was enormous, the farm system had plummeted to the bottom of the rankings, and they were about to finish a disappointing, injury-marred season one year after winning more regular-season games than any squad in franchise history and the World Series.
Though he was only a partial orchestrator of the collapse, Dombrowski became the scapegoat for all of it. In a state of frustration, it was easy to overlook the fact that he did what he was brought to Boston to do: win a championship. But when the Sox failed to come close to repeating the following year, everyone wanted someone to blame for the come-down. Or, as The Dark Knight famously put it:
"“You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”"
But taking the long view, Dombrowski did not do as much damage as it seemed at the time; in fact, his impact on the organization goes much deeper than a gleaming trophy. Look at MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 for the organization now, and it’s littered with players signed or drafted during the Dombrowski era. The moves he made to acquire players like Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel emptied out the upper levels of the farm system, but many of his Sox draft picks and international signings are only getting close to the big leagues now. Brayan Bello and Triston Casas, two of the club’s best prospects, made their debuts this season. Both were products of his tenure, and several of the prospects who will debut in 2023 or 2024 will be, too.
This should come as no surprise to anyone who’s followed Dombrowski’s career. As he transformed the Detroit Tigers from perennial losers to pennant-winners in the 2000s and 2010s, he drafted some of the best talent of the last two decades, including Justin Verlander, Andrew Miller, Curtis Granderson, and Nick Castellanos.
Here are five promising prospects that should remind fans to be grateful to their former GM…
Bryan Mata – signed 2016
Injuries have derailed Bryan Mata’s progress through the Sox system, but it appears he’s finally coming out the other side.
Mata signed with the Sox in January 2016 and began his professional career at 17 years old. He’d risen as high as Double-A before the pandemic, and then he had Tommy John in April of 2021, derailing his progress for over a year. He’d previously dealt with injuries to his groin, back, shoulder, and hamstring.
Working back from Tommy John, Mata made a few rehab starts with Low- and High-A before joining the Double-A Portland SeaDogs for two months. Over 48 2/3 innings, he held opposing hitters to .202/.300/.295, striking out 58 and only allowing 10 earned runs. At the very end of August, Mata jumped up to Triple-A Worcester for the remainder of the season and made five starts for the penultimate level. He got hit a bit harder there, giving up nine earned runs in 23 1/3 innings.
Aside from the 2019 Arizona Fall League, Mata has spent his entire professional career as a starting pitcher. He made his first and only relief appearance this season, but several scouting reports from MLB Pipeline and SoxProspects.com see him in a possible relief role at the big-league level.