The recent DFA of Darwinzon Hernandez highlights the progress that the Boson Red Sox farm system has made
The Boston Red Sox made the signing of free agent Justin Turner official. And to complete the move, they had to free up a 40-man roster spot. That happened when the designated relief pitcher Darwinzon Hernandez for assignment.
This move highlights the great progress the Red Sox farm system has made in recent years.
Let’s go back to the 2019 season. According to MLB, Boston’s top five prospects at that time were Michael Chavis, Triston Casas, Bobby Dalbec, Hernandez, and Jay Groome.
Casas is still one of the top prospects in baseball and will be graduating soon, as he’s already made his MLB debut and should be the team’s starting first baseman to open the year.
Outside of that, wow. Chavis had his moments, but a dreadful eye at the plate (59 walks in 1,090 career plate appearances) and streaky hitting were his downfalls. He was with the Pittsburgh Pirates last season.
Dalbec shows insane streaks of power, but holds low averages and high strikeout numbers with major power outages at times.
Groome saw his stock drop after a lot of injuries. He’s now in the San Diego Padres system and still has plenty of potential (looked great in Triple-A last season). The hype isn’t there for him anymore though.
Hernandez came up and played great for the Red Sox for a while. 2019 was solid, 2020 was phenomenal (small sample size though), and 2021 was great. Then something happened though.
The left-handed pitcher always had control issues, but it suddenly ramped up to 100 in 2022. Hernandez couldn’t hit his spots at all. It led to a lot of walks and then he’d try to just get a strike over and give up a bomb. To be brutally honest, it was ugly. And when he was sent to Triple-A, it was more of the same.
The potential is still there, but a ton of work needs to be done to correct the issues.
If we’re being honest though, that wasn’t a great group. Your top prospect had very clear issues even back in 2019. Everyone knew Chavis didn’t have a good eye (which he’s since remedied), Dalbec struck out too much, Groome was unproven, and Hernandez was walking people.
And who are the top five prospects in the system now?
Marcelo Mayer is number one. He had a fantastic first full year in the minors in 2022. The shortstop showcased great defense to go along with solid speed and an amazing all-around offensive game. There don’t seem to be any weaknesses in his game. Mayer will hit for average, draw plenty of walks, and has good power potential.
Casas still comes in at number two (although he’s graduating soon). Everyone’s ready for his complete takeover of first base in 2023.
Ceddanne Rafaela is third. The center fielder is one of the best defensive prospects you’ll ever see. He looks like a future gold glover in the outfield. If Boston decides to play him at shortstop, he’ll likely win a few there too (and if he goes back to second and third base he’d probably be in the running at those positions). Meanwhile, his offense took major steps forward in 2022. Great speed and fantastic pop.
Fourth is Nick Yorke. Injuries hampered his 2023, but just about everything is there. Yorke has turned into a phenomenal defensive second baseman. He had just one error in 593 1/3 innings at the position last season. Meanwhile, he possesses a good contact bat with some power in there and decent speed on the base paths.
And holding onto the fifth spot is Miguel Bleis. The outfielder hasn’t even reached Low-A yet (he’ll start 2023 there), but he’s already captured the hearts of Red Sox fans. Bleis looks like a five-tool player. Top-tier defense and arm in the outfield, 30-plus steal speed, and 30-plus home run power, to go along with high averages.
So let’s go through each individually. If you would plop Mayer in 2019, he would be the Red Sox top prospect. The same goes for this version of Casas. Rafaela, Yorke, and Bleis would all have legitimate shots as well, and would likely be number two if they didn’t take the one spot.
Let’s dig even a little bit deeper though. Because the number nine prospect in 2023 is someone that compares to Chavis and Dalbec, Blaze Jordan. Jordan has phenomenal power potential, but there are questions if he can perform at higher MiLB levels.
The corner infielder is already drawing plenty of walks compared to Chavis though. And his average is much higher than what Dalbec was putting out (with much fewer walks as well). It’s not crazy to say Jordan would have cracked the top five in 2019.
The Boston Red Sox have had their ups and downs in the Chaim Bloom era. In the few years since he’s taken over though, there’s no denying that he has completely rebuilt the farm system.
For me, that means I get the potential for a team with a ton of homegrown stars. Look at that Atlanta Braves team and tell me it wouldn’t be great to see the Red Sox do something like that.
But even if you just want proven talent and hate the idea of building around prospects and their unsure futures, it also means Boston has the tools to make big trades to get veterans that can help you win now.