The Boston Red Sox have some decisions to make when it comes to the future of their infield, as they have some good problems to have in the infield.
It seems as if the Sox having just a 24-win season in 2020 was worth it, as the team selected shortstop Marcelo Mayer with the fourth overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft — though that creates even more question marks surrounding the future of the infield.
Mayer, just 19 years old, won’t be ready following this year for the major leagues. Current Boston shortstop Xander Bogaerts reportedly plans to opt out of his six-year, $120M deal that he signed back in 2019. However, the report does also note that Bogaerts would like to spend the rest of his career in Boston.
How fast Mayer — who’s just in rookie ball — develops will likely play a major role in what Boston does with Bogaerts, and with Mayer just 19, it’s not like they can bet on him developing into a perennial All-Star player just yet.
The second base position is a slot that’s much more open and is up for grabs by a number of people. If Mayer is ready to take his talents to the majors but Bogaerts still is Boston’s shortstop — and the club nor Bogaerts have no interest in moving both positions and organizations — Mayer could fill second base.
Nick Yorke might beat Mayer to the majors though. Yorke, a 19-year-old second baseman, hit .325 with 62 RBI and 14 homers across 97 games this season between High-A Greenville (21 games) and Low-A Salem (76 games). Yorke was seen as a poor first-round pick by some in 2020, but that narrative changed very quickly.
Jeter Downs, 22, will likely beat both to the majors — but a down year with Triple-A Worcester raises concerns about the future of Downs. The middle infielder was a key part in Boston’s return of the Mookie Bets-David Price deal.
Don’t forget about middle infield options David Hamilton, Tyler McDonough, Brainer Bonaci, Matthew Lugo, Christian Koss, and Cameron Cannon. All of these assets could sneak onto the scene in some fashion, potentially as a future trade piece or a bench bat. The big names in the system dominate the popularity, but there are some other assets that are somewhat intriguing.
The Red Sox have a very questionable future at middle infield. There’s no true second baseman of the Sox currently — Christian Arroyo didn’t stay healthy enough this season (four IL stints, though one of them was COVID), and the breakout year overall has a possibility of being a fluke.
At the corner infield, the future is much more stabilized. Bobby Dalbec, barring a breakout year of some sort, will likley be taken over by Triston Casas — SoxProspects.com‘s No. 1 Red Sox Prospect — possibly as soon as this year at first base. Across time between Double-A Portland (77 games) and Triple-A Worcester this year (nine games), the left-handed bat hit .279 with 14 homers and 59 RBI. The future of Dalbec is a much bigger question than the future of the position.
Blaze Jordan, Alex Binelas, and Hudson Potts also pose as potential options down the road at corner infield, but third base is currently locked up by Rafael Devers — and barring some unexpected move or Boston not wanting to sign Devers to Mike Trout money, he’ll be the third baseman for years to come.
Catcher is the least definite position out of any infield position for Boston. Christian Vazquez and Kevin Plawecki are most definitely not long-term options, especially after Vazquez’s down year in 2021, and there are not exactly very many options available in the system for Boston.
Ronaldo Hernandez, Nathan Hickey, and Kole Cottam are only the three names that come to mind.
Hernandez, 24, was acquired in a four-player deal with the Rays last year and had a solid year in 2021 with Double-A Portland (92 games) and Triple-A Worcester (seven games), hitting .284 with 16 homers and 58 RBI. Cottam, also 24, had a strong year split between High-A Greenville (46 games) and Double-A Portland (25 games) hitting .278 with 10 homers and 33 RBI.
Hickey, the left-handed bat with likely the most upside between the three, as the 21-year-old catcher was a fifth-round pick by the Sox in 2021. Hickey has one of the sweeter swings you’ll find from a catcher, and he went 1-for-9 with Low-A Salem in 2021 with three walks.
Not much talent at catcher for Boston in the system.
Boston Red Sox, MLB minor league news:
Other news and notes from the week regarding Boston’s system.
Yairo Munoz, Josh Ockimey sign with Phillies
Yairo Munoz and Josh Ockimey, a pair of 2021 WooSox players, signed with the Phillies.
Ockimey, 25, had a strong season with Triple-A Worcester in 2021, hitting .225 but clubbing 15 homers and posting a 112 wRC+ through 98 games. The first baseman has spent his entire pro career with Boston.
Munoz, 27, had short stints with Boston in 2020 and 2021, playing for the Red Sox during their 2021 COVID-19 outbreak. Munoz broke the record for the longest hit streak by a player in the Red Sox organization, managing a 35-game hit streak this year for the WooSox.
Munoz hit .308 with 10 homers and 36 RBI, to go along with a 109 wRC+. With Boston, the utility player went 1-for-11 through five games with Boston.
Pitchers and catchers were supposed to report today
If the MLB wasn’t in a lockout, pitchers and catchers would be reporting to spring training today.
Alex Cora and other Sox executives are assembling in Fort Myers today, in preparation of what they hope will be spring training. If it doesn’t happen, the minor leaguers there will be getting plenty of attention.
MLB making changes to number of minor league roster spots
Jeff Passan of ESPN reports the following:
Major League Baseball asked for the ability to eliminate hundreds of minor league playing jobs in its latest labor proposal, sources told ESPN. The league would not be allowed to implement the plan until after 2022.
Details, free and unlocked, at ESPN: https://t.co/ZkKNE7LhsG
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 15, 2022
While the MLBPA represents only major leaguers, it does bargain for a number of amateur/minor league issues. Among those: the draft. The union in July proposed a 20-round draft, something that the league accepted, one of the few points on which they've agreed during negotiations.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 15, 2022