Remember when you could play as Yoshi for the first time in a Mario game? Maybe it was Mario Tennis. Maybe you could count riding him in that first SNES game? Remember how great it felt to win a Mariocart race as Yoshi?
Though they lack a truly elite prospect, the Red Sox have assembled an exciting group of hitters that should matriculate to Fenway in waves over the next few seasons. Best system I’ve seen here in four years doing these lists. Took me a long time to whittle down to these top ten.
1. SS Marcelo Mayer | 20 | A+ | 2024
Mayer turned 20 on Monday this week, just a few days after Boston turned the organization over to him by watching Xander Bogaerts walk away with AJ Preller. It’s not like you’re sitting on a historic landmark that prints money or anything. Gotta play it smart. Which, maybe it’ll turn out that they did. The 6’3” 188 lb Mayer was the near-consensus top player in the 2021 draft but fell to Boston at 4th overall, so the Bogaerts departure feels like an ongoing thread from the story of that night. Mayer posted a 127 wRC+ in 25 games in High-A as a 19-year-old, which is pretty absurd but might have to hold 2023’s beer if Mayer rushes his way up to the majors, which would surprise everyone but shock nobody.
2. 1B Triston Casas | 22 | MLB | 2022
I’ve been working toward a dynasty buys article when I can squirrel aside some time to do it, and Casas makes a pretty good . . . argument to be included. I doubt he qualifies as a buy low in an OBP league. Maybe not in batting average leagues either, except that I just saw him traded in a standard 5×5 for a return that made me wish I’d asked about him. There’s keeper complications involved in the highlander dynasty, so it’s tough to pinpoint a player’s value out of context. James Anderson dealt Casas and Kevin Alcantara to Alex Sanchez for Aaron Ashby. Pitching is at a premium in that league right now, but I’m buying all day at this price. Casas struggled a bit in 27 major league games (.197 AVG) but still hit five home runs and posted a .358 OBP. Might have some tough stretches as he learns the pitchers, but he’s the kind of player who should do exactly that, flipping the familiarity advantage toward his favor across time.
3. OF Masataka Yoshida | 29 | NPB | 2023
I keep hearing opinions from people who’ve never seen Yoshida play. It’s okay though because they’re saying they’re hearing it from other people. And presumably those people have seen him play. Hopefully more than once, and hopefully it was against good pitchers he’s seen before. At 5’9” 1?? lbs , Yoshida is exactly the kind of player scouts doubt every step of the way. The key takeaway for now is that he was completely dominant for a half-decade in Japan, walking twice as much as he struck out while swatting 20-plus home runs and producing MVP-level slash lines. He’s currently around the 400 spot in NFBC drafts. Feels like easy money there. We know one thing for sure: Boston loves him and will give him more time than they gave Rusney Castillo to get situated . . . I hope.
4. SS OF Ceddanne Rafaela | 22 | AA | 2023
An excellent defender with elite hands and good speed, Rafaela has been adding power and plate skills the past few seasons. He hit 21 home runs and stole 28 bases across two levels last season. Even reduced his strikeout rate 5.9 percent from High-A to Double-A. Could be an impact piece for us and the Red Sox this year. Seems to me he represents the new prototype in the organization. One of the key lessons Chaim Bloom brought with him from Tampa is prizing plus defenders who run well and can play multiple positions while developing into tough outs in the batter’s box.
5. OF Miguel Bleis | 19 | CPX | 2025
You could put Bleis just about anywhere on this list. He improved in a hurry during his 40-game stretch in the complex league. His final-eight-game line is better than his final-20-game line is better than his 40-game line. Guys like Bleis are why I’m incessantly slicing and dicing game logs to help decipher the stories of seasons. At 6’3” 170 lbs, Bleis features plus speed and power and anything a young outfield prospect could want.
6. SS Eddinson Paulino | 20 | A | 2025
You don’t have to cherry-pick the game logs to make Eddinson Paulino’s 2022 season look good. He stole 27 bases and smoked 58 extra base hits in 114 games against players who were (on average) 1.7 years older than him, slashing .266/.359/.469 with 64 walks and 105 strikeouts. Like a lot of these guys, Paulino is a smallish (5’10” 155 lbs) left-handed hitter with good hands who has played all over the diamond. If I were cutting it fine to observe a possible spike in development, I’d note Paulino’s outburst from July 14 through the season’s end (38 games). He slashed .325/.417/.558 with seven home runs, ten stolen bases, and a 13.3 percent to 17.2 percent walk-to-strikeout rate. He’ll open the year in High-A, but if he starts hot, I’m anticipating an early jump to Double-A as kind of a make-up-call for leaving him in Low-A to close this season.
7. 2B Enmanuel Valdez | 24 | AAA | 2023
Valdez came over from Houston in the Christian Vazquez deal. Rode the struggle bus a bit in Pawtucket, where he hit seven home runs in 44 games despite losing 38 points of on-base percentage and adding 7.8 percent to his strikeout rate compared to his 38 games in Triple-A for Houston. A 5’9” 191 lb left-handed hitter who popped 28 home runs across two levels, Valdez might struggle with the deep right field in Boston, but he’s got good enough plate skills and hands that I like his chances to adapt.
8. SS Matthew Lugo | 21 | AA | 2024
Lugo is another guy who might’ve earned a promotion a while before he got it, posting a 126 wRC+ in 114 games at High-A. The season-per-level system works for Tampa and is producing positive outcomes here, too, as the 6’1” 187 lb Lugo played well in his full-season against similar-age players, slashing .288/.344/.500 with 18 home runs and 20 steals. He’s not especially fast but could remain aggressive enough to help in that category with the new baserunning rules.
9. 1B Blaze Jordan | 20 | A+ | 2024
The name alone will keep Jordan high on lists for a long time, but there’s a lot more than cool-sounding syllables to like here. Jordan appears to be mid-renaissance as a high school powerhouse who’s zeroed in on controlling the strike zone and minimizing strikeouts as a professional. In 95 games at Low-A, Jordan struck out just 67 times (16.1 percent), and while that number jumped to 25.5 percent in 25 High-A games, the trajectory is clear: Jordan is something more than just a power bat. Best number nine prospect I’ve seen this year.
10. 2B Nick Yorke | 20 | A+ | 2025
My wife likes those peppermint patties, so that’s what I’m dealing with. Have mostly felt the same way about Nick Yorke, a medium-good athlete who slashed .231/.303/.365 in 80 games at High-A. I ate some crow when it looked like I was wrong about disliking the pick when Boston took Yorke in the first round, so I guess I’ll spit some of that up for the moment along with anyone who invested in the 6’0” 200 lb second baseman slash designated hitter. What a word combination that is!
Thanks for reading!
I’m @theprospectitch on Elonissmartandfunnyackshually.com