This is not a strong system, but you could probably guess as much given their recent run of rated rookies and deadline deals. Something about the weak systems invites me to dig, and I probably spent too much time doing that here, where I think I found ten players who legitimately matter for our game. As is often the case, the more I dug, the less I found, so I kept going and wound up liking a few of these players more than consensus.
Format: Position Player | Age on 4/1/2022 | Highest level played | ETA
1. SS Jose Rodriguez | 20 | AA | 2022
An explosive rotator with great hands, Rodriguez reminds me of Javier Baez. I was stunned to see he’s MLB pipeline’s ninth ranked prospect on the team on the heels of a season that saw him play at three levels after graduating Low-A then demolishing High-A, where he slashed .361/.381/.538 with 5 HR and 10 SB in 29 games. Yowza. He’s also played some great defense and looks like a long-term shortstop to me as long as he doesn’t add too much weight to his 5’11” 175 lb frame. His free-swinging tendencies might keep the hype train hush-hush for a while, so there’s still some buy-low potential here.
2. SS Romy Gonzalez | 25 | MLB | 2021
Gonzalez covered three levels this year, spending his final ten games with the big club after an electric 15-game stretch in AAA (.370/.417/.704, 4 HR, 3 SB). He was juuuust a bit less effective in the majors (.250/.273/.344), but the full sum of his minor league season is mouth-watering: 24 HR, 24 SB, and a .283/.364/.532 slash line across 93 games. I believe he, Rodriguez, Jake Burger, Yolbert Sanchez and Leury Garcia are the biggest reasons Nick Madrigal was traded. Second base is arguably the deepest spot in the organization, which is not ideal for us. All these guys will probably play a role in 2022. People give La Russa a lot of crap, but he’s always found ways to play the guys who were hitting, so the opportunity is here for a lot of playing time if Gonzalez can get hot, partly because he can play third base and left field. Even if he’s struggling, he’ll probably wind up popping in and out of revolving-door situations over the next couple years.
3. 3B Jake Burger | 25 | MLB | 2021
When the season started, Burger hadn’t played since 2017 in Low A, but the Sox saw enough juice in Spring to assign him to AAA. Might be an unprecedented jump in my time tracking this stuff. The 6’2” 220 pounder stepped up to the challenge, slashing .274/.332/.513 with 18 HR in 82 games. He also played well in 15 games as a big leaguer, slashing .263/.333/.474 with five extra base hits in a part-time role. He got some time at second base, and while it’s hard to imagine that as his long term home, it’s encouraging that the club thinks enough of his athleticism to give it a whirl. Should have a shot at a short-side platoon role early in 2022 with more on tap if he sizzles.
4. SS Colson Montgomery | 20 | CPX | 2025
The 22nd overall pick in the 2021 draft, Montgomery comes in the Corey Seager mold of might-be middle infielders, checking in at 6’4” 205 lbs with a smooth lefty swing geared for impact to all fields. In 26 games in the Arizona Complex League, Montgomery posted a .396 OBP but just a .362 slugging percentage. He could get a little caught in between maintaining a late-on-the-plate, all-fields approach and learning to open up early and demolish pitches in his hot zone. It’s a good thing that he has the chance to do both. He’ll probably be the number one prospect on most, if not all, “real baseball” lists thanks to the draft pedigree, power projection and relative weakness of the system, but the lack of speed caps his topside enough that I prefer the proximity of Burger and fleeter feet of Gonzalez and Rodriguez.
5. SS Yolbert Sanchez | 25 | AA | 2022
Sanchez enjoyed his best season in the states after bulking up a bit during the lost season. He’s listed at 5’11” 176 lbs but looks stronger than that and got better throughout the season as he adapted to his newfound muscle and worked his way into rhythm.
Over his first 19 games in High-A, Sanchez slashed .194/.286/.210 with an 11.3%/18.3% BB/K ratio.
From May 28 onward (80 games, 39 in AA), he hit .332/.366/.463 with 9 HR, 5 SB and a 4.6%/11.1% BB/K ratio across two levels.
So he was better when he was aggressive–probably too aggressive for sustained success, but time will tell. His first, and perhaps only, opportunities in the big leagues will come in fits and starts as a utility piece, so the free-swinging nature of his approach might mean he’ll have to start hot and stay hot because his cold spells will be empty.
6. OF Yoelqui Cespedes | 24 | AA | 2022
At 5’9” 205 lbs, Cespedes features a short-levered swing with above average raw power. I was surprised by how well he played this year after several seasons away from the field due to the defection process. He slashed .278/.355/.494 in 45 games at High-A then kept hitting in 27 games at AA (.298/.340/.404). He struck out a bit too much, but Cespedes is a pretty tough out. He fouls off good pitches but swings too much as a general rule. If he can learn to track pitches a little deeper and lay off the close ones, he’s got a shot, but the margin for error among mid-20’s decent-athlete outfielders is razor thin.
7. RHP Norge Vera | 21 | DSL | 2024
Signed for $1.5 million out of Cuba, Vera brings an imposing presence to the mound at 6’4” 185 lbs. He spent his first pro season in the DSL, but I suspect that happened for reasons beyond baseball. Tax stuff or travel stuff or covid stuff, could be any number of things because it sure wasn’t skill level. In eight games (seven starts), Vera threw 19 shutout innings with 34 strikeouts, allowing just nine hits and five walks, good for a 0.74 WHIP. That doesn’t matter, really, in the grand scheme of things, as Vera was 2.3 years older than his average opponent. Kind of funny considering he was 10.6 years younger than the average player last time he’d pitched in a pro setting as an 18-year-old in the Cuban National Series. We don’t know Vera’s level yet, is the main takeaway, so there’s a pretty good chance he’ll rush right up a bunch of lists early this season as he pitches through the lower levels.
8. 3B Wes Kath | 19 | CPX | 2026
Kath is a bit like Montgomery in that he’s a 6’3” 200 lb left handed hitter with an all-fields approach who could grow into the rare plus-hit, plus-power zone we all want to see. The Sox took him with the 57th overall pick this year and sent him to the complex league, where he slashed .212/.287/.337 with 3 HR in 28 games. Not ideal, but he’s just getting started.
9. 3B Bryan Ramos | 20 | A | 2025
The statline doesn’t jump off the page at first blush, but Bryan Ramos had a good season as a Kannapolis Cannon Baller in Low-A, slashing .244/.345/.415 with 13 HR, 13 SB, 51 walks and 110 strikeouts in 115 games. You can see where he needs to improve and how he’s working at that. He hit 23 doubles and 6 triples. The 6’2” 190 right handed hitter signed out of Cuba in 2018 and posted a line that looked a lot like what he did in 2020: .277/.353/.415 with 4 HR and 3 SB in 51 games. I think it’s a good time to buy in on Ramos, who turns 20 in March and will open 2022 in High-A with a path to AA and even AAA before he turns 21.
10. OF Luis Mieses | 21 | A+ | 2023
A lot of sites will probably go to Jared (Kelley) for this spot, or at least some spot inside their top ten, but he was really, really bad last year after the long covid interruption, and I’m just not often patient like that for struggling high school pitchers, especially when I could bounce instead to a Micker Adolfo or Luis Mieses type guy who, while flawed, presents a nice blend of upside and proximity. A 6’3” 180 lb left handed hitter, Mieses was overmatched in his first 58 games at High-A Winston-Salem, slashing .236/.278/.464 with 9 HR, 19 2B and 2 3B. So why is he here? Well, I’m pretty impressed by the extra base thump, and I think there’s more in the frame than Mieses is accessing in games at present. He had also slashed .305/.347/.463 at Low-A Kannapolis, so there’s a better contact hitter in here than he appeared to be against players who were (on average) 1.9 years his senior. If the Sox send him to AA to open 2022, he’ll be well ahead of the age/level curve and have plenty of time to tread water as he makes little tweaks to improve.
Thanks for reading!
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