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What to expect from Red Sox' top 10 prospects in 2024

Coming off two consecutive last-place seasons, Boston Red Sox fans haven’t had much to get excited about lately. This lackluster offseason has only added to the disappointment and frustration around these parts.

If there’s one glimmer of hope for the organization, it’s the abundance of young talent in the farm system. Boston has four prospects in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 overall: Marcelo Mayer (No. 15), Roman Anthony (No. 24), Kyle Teel (No. 40), and Ceddanne Rafaela (No. 76). Rafaela already made his MLB debut last season, and the other three up-and-comers are expected to reach The Show within the next year or two.

Fans will get to watch Boston’s prized prospects play on the same team in MLB’s inaugural “Spring Breakout” showcase this weekend. Twenty-one of the Red Sox’ top 30 prospects (via MLB Pipeline) will participate in the event against the Atlanta Braves’ young talent on Saturday at JetBlue Park.

The special occasion makes it a perfect time to assess where the top Red Sox prospects stand heading into the 2024 campaign. Here’s a look at the top 10, with all prospect rankings coming via MLB Pipeline.

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1. Marcelo Mayer, SS

2023 stats: .236/.306/.433, 13 HR, 54 RBI (78 games between High-A and Double-A)

MLB ETA: 2025

This is an important year for the Red Sox’ No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 draft. His production dipped significantly following his promotion to Double-A Portland in May. He was shut down for the year in August due to a shoulder injury that he admitted he suffered prior to his call-up.

Mayer’s splits before and after May 7, the day he said he sustained the injury, are eye-opening:

April 6 – May 7: 111 plate appearances, .337/.414/.582, 15 extra-base hits, 21.6 strikeout percentage.
May 14 – August 2: 243 plate appearances, .190/.256/.366, 19 extra-base hits, 25.5 strikeout percentage

Now healthy heading into the new season, Mayer is playing with a chip on his shoulder (no pun intended). He’s looking to prove he still has the shine he arrived in Boston with when he was selected in the draft three years ago.

If all goes well for Mayer, he should a promotion to Triple-A Worcester by season’s end. If he continues to produce at that level, a September call-up to the majors isn’t out of the question.

2. Roman Anthony, OF

2023 stats: .272/.403/.466, 14 HR, 64 RBI (106 games between Low-A, High-A, and Double-A)

MLB ETA: 2025

To some, Anthony has overtaken Mayer as the Red Sox’ No. 1 prospect. The slugging outfielder, selected in the second round of the 2022 draft, skyrocketed through the minor-league ranks last season at just 19 years old.

Anthony didn’t miss a beat upon his promotion to Portland. In 10 games with the Sea Dogs, he hit .343 with four doubles, a homer, and only six strikeouts to eight walks. That’s likely where he’ll begin the 2024 season, so we’ll get a more accurate idea of how he fares against better competition with a larger sample size.

Like Mayer, Anthony has a chance to reach Triple-A Worcester later in the season. He could debut with the big-league club in September, but it’s probably best to give him one full minor-league campaign before bringing him up to the majors.

3. Kyle Teel, C

2023 stats: .363/.483/.495, 2 HR, 22 RBI (26 games)

MLB ETA: 2024

Rounding out the Red Sox’ trusted trio of prospects is Teel, the organization’s 14th overall pick in the 2023 draft. The Virginia product played three games with the rookie-league FCL Red Sox before skipping Low-A Salem and joining High-A Greenville. He spent only 14 games there before earning a promotion to Double-A Portland.

Teel raked at every level, making him arguably the most hyped prospect in the system heading into 2024. Given how quickly he rose through the ranks after being drafted, it isn’t farfetched to believe he could debut in Boston as soon as this year.

The Red Sox are set to enter the season with Reese McGuire and Connor Wong as their catching tandem. Teel boasts far more upside than either of those options. If he continues on his torrid pace to start the year in Portland, a promotion to Triple-A Worcester and a late-season call-up to Boston is on the table.

4. Ceddanne Rafaela, OF

2023 stats: .303/.349/.520, 20 HR, 79 RBI (108 games between Double-A and Triple-A); .241/.281/.386, 2 HR, 5 RBIs (28 games with Red Sox)

MLB ETA: 2024

Rafaela, the Red Sox’ 2022 Minor League Player of the Year, picked up where he left off in 2023. He continued to produce impressive offensive numbers while remaining arguably the best defensive outfielder in the minors.

That earned him a promotion to the majors in late August. With Boston, Rafaela’s had some issues chasing pitches out of the zone (28 strikeouts in 28 games) but showed flashes of potential both at the plate and in the field.

The Curacao native is set for his official rookie campaign in 2024, though it’s uncertain how the Red Sox will utilize his talents. Manager Alex Cora said Rafaela will be the subject of an organizational meeting this weekend. While he’s most impactful as a center fielder, he can also fill in at second base or shortstop when necessary.

Wherever he ends up, Rafaela’s development will be one of the biggest reasons to tune into Red Sox games this year.

5. Miguel Bleis, OF

2023 stats: .230/.282/.325, 1 HR, 16 RBI (31 games at Low-A)

MLB ETA: 2026

Bleis’ 2023 was cut short due to season-ending shoulder surgery in June. Arguably the Red Sox prospect with the highest ceiling, the Dominican Republic native enters 2024 looking to regain his reputation as one of the best all-around talents in the minors.

Bleis is a true five-tool player who could develop into a superstar if all goes well from this point on. He’ll likely start 2024 in Low-A Salem — where he played his 31 games last season — and could reach Double-A Portland by season’s end. It’s a crucial year for Bleis’ development.

6. Wilyer Abreu, OF

2023 stats: .274/.391/.539, 22 HR, 65 RBI (86 games at Triple-A); .316/.388/.474, 2 HR, 14 RBI (28 games with Red Sox)

MLB ETA: 2024

After dominating Triple-A Worcester, Abreu earned his MLB call-up alongside Rafaela in late August. He looked the part as a starting MLB outfielder during his brief stint with the club.

The 24-year-old, acquired from Houston as part of the 2022 Christian Vazquez trade, is a strong breakout candidate for the upcoming season. He showed during his brief big-league cameo that he can impact the game at the plate, in the outfield, and on the basepaths. Cora doesn’t want Abreu to change a thing during his official rookie year.

“Just keep doing the things he did last year,” Cora told reporters last month. “He’s a good player. He’s a good defender. He hits the ball hard. He runs the bases well. He’s a complete player.”

7. Wikelman Gonzalez, RHP

2023 stats: 9-4, 3.96 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 168 SO, 70 BB (25 starts between High-A and Double-A)

MLB ETA: 2025

It was a rocky start to the 2023 season for Gonzalez at High-A Greenville. The top pitching prospect in the system following Brayan Bello’s promotion posted a 5.14 ERA through his first 15 starts.

Despite that, Gonzalez was called up to Double-A Portland in July and found his groove. In 10 starts for the Sea Dogs, he amassed a 2.42 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 48.1 innings.

Consistency will be key for the Venezuelan righty in 2024. If he continues to thrive in Double-A, he’ll earn a spot with the WooSox and be on the cusp of contributing to the Red Sox’ needy pitching staff.

8. Nick Yorke, 2B

2023 stats: .268/.350/.435, 13 HR, 61 RBI (110 games at Double-A)

MLB ETA: Late 2024

Yorke had a rough 2022 after earning 2021 Red Sox Minor League Player of the Year honors. That made 2023 a pivotal season for the first-round draft pick as he looked to maintain his status as a top prospect in the system.

Playing the entire year in Portland, Yorke didn’t produce his monster 2021 numbers but still bounced back in a big way. He posted a .785 OPS while playing exceptional defense, something that has carried into spring training.

Barring a brutal start to the season, Yorke is expected to reach Triple-A at some point in 2024. With a giant question mark residing at the second base position in Boston, don’t rule out an MLB debut for the soon-to-be 22-year-old.

9. Yoeilin Cespedes, SS

2023 stats: .346/.392/.560, 6 HR, 38 RBI (46 games at Dominican Summer League)

MLB ETA: 2028

Cespedes hasn’t been in the spotlight like his fellow top Red Sox prospects due to his age (18) and inexperience (debuted in rookie ball last season). That’s likely to change in 2024.

Signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2023, Cespedes can flat-out hit. He was named the Red Sox’ Latin Program Position Player of the Year after 46 impressive games in the Dominican Summer League. At just 5-foot-9 and 181 pounds, he boasts stellar bat speed and power for his size.

It remains to be seen whether Cespedes will stick at shortstop or move over to second base. For now, he’ll likely stick to the left side of the infield as he looks to rise through the minor-league ranks this year.

10. Nazzan Zanetello, SS

2023 stats: .158/.319/.237, 0 HR, 2 RBI (14 games between FCL and Low-A)

MLB ETA: 2027

Zanetello was selected after Teel in the second round of the 2023 draft. Considered an elite athlete at 18 years old, Zanetello could develop into a five-tool talent if his offense takes a step forward. He struggled at the plate in 14 games last season, but that obviously isn’t enough of a sample to determine how he’ll fare as a pro. His 2024 campaign will be telling.

If Zanetello doesn’t stick at short, he’s athletic enough to excel as an outfielder. Rafaela is a common comparison, though Zanetello has yet to display the same offensive prowess. Time is on his side, of course, and he’ll get his first real taste of pro ball this year when he begins the campaign with Low-A Salem.

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