3 Red Sox prospects who should join the team by the All-Star break

With an ever-growing list of injuries, the Red Sox will look to prospects to fill some holes at the major-league level.
Oct 22, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Boston Red Sox infielder Niko Kavadas plays for the Scottsdale Scorpions (AFL)
Oct 22, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Boston Red Sox infielder Niko Kavadas plays for the Scottsdale Scorpions (AFL) / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Does it feel like the Red Sox are cursed? The calendar just flipped to May, but Nick Pivetta, Vaughn Grissom, Garrett Whitlock, and Brayan Bello have all missed significant time due to injury. Trevor Story and Lucas Giolito are done for the season. Triston Casas is looking at a minimum of 60 days before his return. Countless others have missed bits and pieces of the young season.

Even new acquisition Garrett Cooper only made it through two at-bats before succumbing to injury when he took a fastball off the wrist. The cacophony of bad news worsened on May 1 when Alex Cora announced Masataka Yoshida's IL spell.

Injury bugs happen, but rarely to this scale. The Red Sox have already used every player on the 40-man roster, and it feels like chief baseball officer Craig Breslow is making multiple transactions every day just to field a healthy team.

The Red Sox are relying on organizational depth more than ever. Multiple players have already made unexpected MLB appearances in 2024, and that trend is likely to continue as the injuries mount. Yes, Boston will do its best to acquire Major Leaguers, but at least a few opportunities will go to prospects, especially if some of the lesser-heralded big-leaguers struggle.

Here are three Red Sox prospects who should be with the team by the All-Star break, and a couple of others that should be promoted.

3 Red Sox prospects who should join the team by the All-Star break

Niko Kavadas -1B/DH

Niko Kavadas was not a slam-dunk prospect. He’s 25 years old, he has strikeout problems, and he’s not a projectable defender. His left-handedness makes him a bit redundant in any potential Red Sox lineup, and his inability to hit lefty pitching at the minor-league level is concerning.

But, in 2024, Kavadas has done the one thing a prospect can do to make all that noise go away — mash. In 62 at-bats, the left-hander sports a 1.103 OPS alongside five home runs and 15 RBI. It’s not a fluke, either; exit velocities suggest he’s seeing deserved results.

Yes, he’s continued to underperform against left-handed pitching, but it’s now to the tune of a .750 OPS as opposed to his ghastly numbers in years past. The concern with Kavadas lies in his strikeout totals, where he’s continuing to post high rates despite his offensive outburst. He’s striking out at a nearly 39% clip, and although he also takes his fair share of walks (1.5/1 K/BB), that’s a troubling metric for a 25-year-old in Triple-A.

Overall, though, Kavadas is worth a shot. His raw power alone makes him enticing, and in combination with advanced knowledge of the strike zone and what looks to be improved defense at first base, he becomes intriguing as a potential platoon hitter alongside Cooper. At a certain point, it’ll be hard to ignore Kavadas’s gaudy numbers, and he should get an opportunity to rake at the big-league level.

Grant Gambrell - RHP

Boston’s starting rotation is decimated, and although Pivetta and Bello should be back within the month, depth is sorely needed in the major-league staff.

Enter Grant Gambrell. Outside of one blowup start, the right-hander has been both consistent and successful for Worcester. He's pitched to a 4.35 ERA to pair with 32 strikeouts across 31 innings. While he’s not an overpowering pitcher (his fastball tops out around 95), he possesses a solid three-pitch mix and boasts above-average control. His command appears to have taken another step forward in 2024, recording a four strikeout-to-walk ratio, close to a 40% bump from 2023.

Gambrell, like Kavadas, is not without issues. The right-hander isn’t a dominant strikeout artist (250 across 239.1 minor league innings) and relies on his defense quite a bit as a result. He’s also probably gotten a bit lucky — his groundout-to-flyout ratio suggests his ERA could be a bit higher — and his lack of a quality fourth pitch can make it easier for hitters to extend at-bats against him. Maybe as a result, Gambrell’s minor-league resume only includes two starts where he’s gone into the seventh inning, and scouts have legitimate concerns about his ability to ever go deep into games.

But it’s hard to ignore success, and Gambrell has performed well at every step in his minor-league career. It’s not uncommon for pitchers to struggle at the outset of a season, and there are certainly signs that he’s improving as this one goes on. If he continues to trend up, there’s enough potential to try his hand at the big-league level, either as a starter or an impact reliever.

Nathan Hickey - C/UTL/1B

It takes a bit of searching to notice much of a difference in the profiles of Nathan Hickey and Kavadas.

Both are star left-handed hitters without a true home in the field. They each have whiff issues, and they both leave something to be desired against left-handed pitching. Both men have good knowledge of the strike zone and are more than happy to take a walk.

There’s not too much to say about Hickey that hasn't already been said about Kavadas. Hickey is the more lauded prospect because he’s shown more ability to hit left-handed pitching, but the similarities in the two are readily apparent. Hickey can also play catcher, although his poor arm makes him unlikely to stick at the position long-term.

He’s scuffled a bit to open 2024, but history suggests he’ll get it going sooner than later. He’s still hitting the ball in the air more than 50% of the time, and while his strikeout rate has gone up a tick, it’s not enough to indicate his bat has taken a step back. Hickey’s profile is so enticing that his .726 OPS feels like a disappointment — that’d be a solid mark for most hitters.

The Woo Sox have started giving Hickey some reps at first, in preparation for what feels like a potential summer call-up. He’s not a natural first baseman, but he’s been improving steadily, and if he can turn himself into an average defender, his bat will likely get a shot in the majors at some point soon. 

Lower Levels

2B Nick Yorke, Portland Sea Dogs

Yorke’s stats don’t jump off the page, but he’s been hitting the ball hard while playing quality defense at second base. He’ll have logged 140 Double-A games by the end of May, and a lower strikeout rate indicates he’s ready for a new challenge. Look for his numbers to pop as the weather gets warmer.

3B Matthew Lugo, Portland Sea Dogs

Lugo’s stats do jump off the page, and he looks like he’s got Double-A all figured out after 100 games with Portland. His 1.150 OPS and a strikeout-to-walk rate that’s been nearly halved from 2023 points to a hitter that’s itching to climb the ladder. The former heralded prospect should find himself in Worcester by summertime.

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