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Abreu's Rookie of the Year-caliber season brings hope Sox can be like O's

Two American League Rookie of the Year frontrunners will face off when the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles begin their three-game series on Monday.

Red Sox outfielder Wilyer Abreu and O’s outfielder Colton Cowser have been the top rookie position players in the Junior Circuit so far in the 2024 MLB campaign. According to Fanatics Sportsbook, they currently have the fourth- and second-best odds to earn the AL ROY award, respectively.

The Red Sox acquired Abreu and second baseman Enmanuel Valdez in the 2022 trade that sent veteran catcher Christian Vazquez to the Houston Astros. Time will tell, but that may have been the best move of Chaim Bloom's tenure as Boston's chief baseball officer. Abreu ranks second on the team in doubles (13) and OPS (.859), and fourth in home runs (5) and RBI (21).

Abreu's emergence offers hope that the Red Sox can follow Baltimore's model of building a powerhouse with young talent. O's catcher Adley Rutschman was the AL ROY runner-up in 2022, shortstop Gunnar Henderson won the award in 2023, and Cowser has a strong chance to earn it in 2024. Young right-hander Grayson Rodriguez, formerly the club's top prospect, has shown ace potential through eight starts this season.

Baltimore's top prospect Jackson Holliday -- the No. 1 ranked prospect in MLB -- struggled in his first big-league stint but undoubtedly has a bright future. Catcher/first baseman Samuel Basallo (No. 14), corner infielder Coby Mayo (No. 20), and outfielder Heston Kjerstad (No. 22) are the other O's prospects ranked inside MLB Pipeline's Top 100.

There's reason to believe Boston's young core will soon go toe-to-toe with Baltimore's. Abreu is on track to join Cowser as a Rookie of the Year finalist. All signs point toward former top prospect Triston Casas -- last year's third-place AL ROY finisher -- developing into a perennial All-Star first baseman. Rookie Ceddanne Rafaela has work to do offensively, but he's already an elite defender at both center field and shortstop.

The Red Sox have three prospects inside MLB's Top 100: shortstop Marcelo Mayer (No. 12), outfielder Roman Anthony (No. 17), and catcher Kyle Teel (No. 30). Each is believed to have All-Star upside and is expected to reach the majors by the end of 2025 -- if not later this season.

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Casas and Abreu's Rookie of the Year candidacies could mark the start of an Orioles-like ascension for Boston. That dream will become a reality if the aforementioned "Big Three" Red Sox prospects compete for the award next year. Like the O's, the Red Sox will rely heavily on their young talent to vault them from the cellar to the top of the AL East.

While Boston's team-building approach resembles Baltimore's, there's one significant difference: the Orioles have yet to lock up any of their young stars to contract extensions. The Red Sox have already signed Rafaela and young righty Brayan Bello -- their former top pitching prospect -- to new deals.

First pitch for Game 1 of the Red Sox-Orioles series is set for 1:05 p.m. ET at Camden Yards.

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