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Rating the Red Sox’ top 10 prospects: Marcelo Mayer and Roman Anthony are reasons for optimism

Marcelo Mayer's ability to stick at shortstop gives him a slight leg up over outfielder Roman Anthony as Baseball America's top Red Sox prospect.Carl D. Walsh for The Boston Globe

At his Fenway Park introduction as Red Sox chief baseball officer, Craig Breslow outlined an optimistic view of his team’s future.

“The one thing that I am very, very excited to point to is the emergence of this really exciting young core, some of whom is contributing right now at the major league level, some who are reaching the upper levels of the minor leagues, and some candidly who are not here just yet,” said Breslow.

That outlook points to waves of potential impact talent. Triston Casas and Brayan Bello have solidified the impression that they’re building blocks. Jarren Duran and Connor Wong are big leaguers. Wilyer Abreu and Ceddanne Rafaela are near-term reinforcements. Marcelo Mayer, Roman Anthony, and Kyle Teel could reach the big leagues in 2025 or even by the end of 2024.

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That’s a significant amount of young, potentially high-end contributors. Still, the lopsidedness of the prospect pool — heavily skewed toward position players — suggests that Breslow will need creativity to forge a balanced roster.

For the 11th time, I ranked the Red Sox’ top prospects for Baseball America. Here’s a look at the players I have in the top 10.

1. Marcelo Mayer, SS

20 years old (turns 21 on Dec. 12)

High A Greenville (35 games): .290/.366/.524, 7 HR, 10 percent walk rate, 23 percent strikeout rate.

Double A Portland (43 games): .189/.254/.355, 6 HR, 8 percent walk rate, 26 percent strikeout rate.

2. Roman Anthony, OF

19 years old (turns 20 on May 13)

Single A Salem (42 games): .228/.376/.316, 1 HR, 19 percent walk rate, 19 percent strikeout rate.

High A Greenville (54 games): .294/.412/.569, 12 HR, 16 percent walk rate, 31 percent strikeout rate.

Double A Portland (10 games): .343/.477/.543, 1 HR, 18 percent walk rate, 14 percent strikeout rate.

Key question: Why Mayer over Anthony as the top prospect?

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Interviews with dozens of evaluators offered a split view of whether Mayer or Anthony deserves top billing.

The case for Mayer relates to the fact that he’s likely to reach the big leagues at short and has been a standout performer since early in his amateur career. He excelled against older competition in high school, Single A, and High A before struggling in Double A last season while playing through a left shoulder impingement.

He hits the ball very hard with natural loft, and because the 188-pounder didn’t lift weights in high school, there’s still room to develop into a shortstop with power.

Anthony, however, blew away expectations with an amazing 2023 campaign, looking like a future lineup linchpin with excellent on-base skills and power. He hit the ball very hard for his age and levels.

Both look like future Red Sox staples if healthy, despite flaws. Mayer chases pitches, and Anthony swings and misses at breaking balls in the zone. While Anthony surpassed defensive expectations this year in center, there’s a decent chance he’s primarily a corner outfielder.

3. Kyle Teel, C

21 years old (turns 22 on Feb. 15)

High A Greenville (14 games): .377/.485/.453, 0 HR, 17 percent walk rate, 17 percent strikeout rate.

Double A Portland (9 games): .323/.462/.484, 1 HR, 21 percent walk rate, 28 percent strikeout rate.

Key question: Can Teel swim in the deep end?

Barely removed from Virginia, Teel stands out as one of the best catching prospects in baseball, with the athleticism and actions of an above-average defensive catcher and a contact-heavy, line-drive swing to post averages and on-base numbers that should stand out. That said, it was fascinating to see Teel race to Double A in his pro debut.

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Since 2013, only three college first-round catchers — Adley Rutschman (2019), Shea Langeliers (2019), and Kyle Schwarber (2014) — opened their first full pro seasons in Double A. Rutschman and Langeliers did so after spending the 2020 COVID-19 season at their organizations’ alternate sites. Schwarber, meanwhile, quickly moved off catcher. So Teel will be on the most aggressive development path of any catcher since 2012 first-rounder Mike Zunino (opened at Triple A in 2013).

4. Ceddanne Rafaela, CF/SS

23 years old (turns 24 on Sept. 18)

Double A Portland (60 games): .294/.332/.441, 6 HR, 5 percent walk rate, 21 percent strikeout rate.

Triple A Worcester (48 games): .312/.370/.618, 14 HR, 6 percent walk rate, 22 percent strikeout rate.

MLB (28 games): .241/.281/.386, 2 HR, 5 percent walk rate, 32 percent strikeout rate.

Key question: Can his swing decisions improve?

Rafaela’s defense is a game-changer, but while he has surprising pop when he barrels the ball, he swings at too many pitches outside the strike zone. Mauricio Dubón and Kevin Pillar are among the players who have forged nice careers based on defensive value and in spite of their lack of plate discipline. Perhaps that’s Rafaela’s future.

But if he can tighten his approach, his path to an everyday role becomes clear.

Ceddanne Rafaela (left) is from Curacao.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

5. Miguel Bleis, CF

19 years old (turns 20 on March 1)

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Single A Salem (31 games): .230/.282/.325, 1 HR, 7 percent walk rate, 27 percent strikeout rate.

Key question: How will he come back from shoulder surgery?

Bleis possesses an array of tools unrivaled in the system, but his season ended early because of a left shoulder subluxation. Shoulder surgeries can impact players’ swings in ways that compromise their ability to cover the strike zone. That said, Fernando Tatís Jr. offered evidence in 2023 that such procedures need not derail incredibly athletic, talented young players.

Still, the surgery only adds to the vastness of possibility between floor and ceiling for Bleis, whose profile opens the door to both superstardom and a career that never advances to the big leagues.

6. Wilyer Abreu, OF

24 years old (turns 25 on June 24)

Triple A Worcester (86 games): .274/.391/.538, 22 HR, 16 percent walk rate, 20 percent strikeout rate.

MLB (28 games): .316/.388/.474, 2 HR, 11 percent walk rate, 27 percent strikeout rate.

Key question: Will he open the year in the Boston lineup?

Abreu impressed in his September call-up with an advanced approach, displaying a discerning sense of the right pitches to attack and take. It remains to be seen exactly what kind of hitter he becomes — one who sells out for power and accepts strikeouts or one who shoots the ball to all fields — but he could be an Opening Day contributor.

7. Wikelman Gonzalez, RHP

21 years old (turns 22 on March 25)

High A Greenville (63 IP): 5.14 ERA, 38 percent strikeout rate, 15 percent walk rate, 0.7 homers per 9 IP.

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Double A Portland (48⅓ IP): 2.42 ERA, 32 percent strikeout rate, 14 percent walk rate, 0.4 homers per 9 IP.

Key question: Can he throw enough strikes to start?

Gonzalez has fantastic stuff, reflected by a 35 percent strikeout rate that was the highest in the minors by a pitcher who threw at least 100 innings. Still, he’ll need to improve his strike-throwing to avoid becoming a bullpen option. He made progress in that realm this year through improvements to his between-starts routine. If he can do the same in 2024, he could emerge as a back-of-the-rotation option capable of big strikeout numbers in five-inning looks.

8. Nick Yorke, 2B

21 years old (turns 22 on April 2)

Double A Portland (110 games): .268/.350/.435, 13 HR, 10 percent walk rate, 24 percent strikeout rate.

Key question: Which path will he take?

Yorke has now played three full professional seasons. The first in 2021 was spectacular in Single A with a season-ending High A cameo. Injuries contributed to the unraveling of 2022, which he spent entirely in High A Greenville. In 2023, he had a good-not-great year in Double A, staying healthy and smoothing out some of his peaks and valleys but without the same dazzling front-of-the-order showing of two years ago. He does hit the ball hard enough — albeit with a line-drive-heavy approach — to suggest greater power potential.

9. Luis Perales, RHP

20 years old (turns 21 on April 14)

Single A Salem (53⅓ IP): 3.21 ERA, 31 percent strikeout rate, 12 percent walk rate, 0.3 HR per 9 IP.

High A Greenville (36⅓ IP): 4.95 ERA, 26 percent strikeout rate, 13 percent walk rate, 2.0 HR per 9 IP.

Key question: Can he throw enough strikes to start?

Yes, it’s the same question that Gonzalez faces, but it’s unavoidable given that the average big league starter had an 8 percent walk rate in 2023. Still, Perales has an incredible fastball that sits at 95, touches 99, and has extreme ride as well as excellent extension. That pitch alone gives him a solid reliever floor. He pairs it with two sliders (one hard, one slower like a baby curveball), but needs to improve his changeup or develop a splitter to forge a starter’s arsenal.

10. Yoeilin Cespedes, SS

18 years old (turns 19 on Sept. 8)

Dominican Summer League (46 games): .346/.392/.560, 6 HR, 7 percent walk rate, 12 percent strikeout rate.

Key question: Will he keep dominating against more advanced pitching?

Cespedes hit the ball extremely hard for a 17-year-old in the DSL, with a 101 m.p.h. 90th percentile exit velocity that is typically seen years later in developing players. But dominance in the DSL doesn’t always translate to the more advanced pitching in the States.

The 2024 and 2025 seasons should provide a better gauge of the offensive profile of Cespedes, who is currently a shortstop but seems likely to move to second or third.


Alex Speier can be reached at alex.speier@globe.com. Follow him @alexspeier.