Top Sox prospect Casas made big gains during memorable 2021 season (copy)

Former Red Sox first round pick Triston Casas has had a memorable 2021 , in which he’s excelled at Double-A Portland while also leading the U.S. Olympic baseball team to a silver medal in Tokyo.

The Arizona Fall League wrapped up its season on Sunday, and Red Sox prospect Triston Casas finished the fall as one of the league’s biggest standouts.

The 21-year-old first baseman, currently ranked as the organization’s top prospect by SoxProspects.com, was named a 2021 AFL Fall-Star after leading the league in on-base percentage (.495) while ranking among the league leaders in batting average (.372), OPS (.982), hits (29), doubles (6) and walks (17).

Casas’ excellent fall came after he delivered a highly productive season split between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Worcester while also helping lead the U.S. Olympic team to a silver medal at this summer’s Tokyo Games. Simply put, he gave the Red Sox a lot to be excited about.

The former 2018 first-round pick projects as a future big league cleanup hitter and potentially an all-star, but his continued development suggests he could make an impact sooner than expected. Casas will most likely start the 2022 season in Worcester but could be in line for a midseason call-up as a lefty bat off the bench before long.

Sox make moves ahead of Rule 5 DraftFriday was the deadline for clubs to add prospects to their 40-man roster, protecting them in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. Boston added four players, infielder Jeter Downs and pitchers Brayan Bello, Josh Winckowski and Kutter Crawford.

Downs was acquired in the Mookie Betts trade and is one of the top prospects in the organization despite enduring a tough 2021. Winckowski was acquired in the Andrew Benintendi trade, Bello was the organization’s Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year and Crawford made his MLB debut during Boston’s COVID-19 outbreak and is expected to compete for a role with the big club next season.

Several notable players were left off the 40-man roster and will be exposed to other teams. The most surprising of those included Gilberto Jimenez, widely considered one of the organization’s top prospects but who has never played above Low-A, and Thad Ward, who hasn’t pitched in two years due to the pandemic and Tommy John surgery. Prospects selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on their new team’s active roster or else they are offered back to their original club.

Devers, Bogaerts take home hardwareXander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers were the lone Red Sox players to earn major end of season awards, as both won Silver Slugger honors at shortstop and third base respectively. The two were also among three Red Sox to earn American League MVP consideration, with Devers finishing 11th, Bogaerts 13th and Nathan Eovaldi 15th in the voting.

Eovaldi also placed fourth in the AL Cy Young voting and manager Alex Cora placed fifth in the AL Manager of the Year race. Right fielder Hunter Renfroe was the team’s lone finalist for Gold Glove, and he lost out to Yankees slugger Joey Gallo.

Kiké Hernández, surprisingly, was not nominated as a Gold Glove finalist in center field, and neither Garrett Whitlock nor Tanner Houck received any votes in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.

Offseason trade candidates?The Red Sox have no shortage of financial flexibility, but with a long offseason wish list and roughly $180 million in payroll committed to 2022, Sox baseball boss Chaim Bloom might look to make a trade to clear some space.

The best candidate if Bloom wanted to go this route would be J.D. Martinez. The veteran designated hitter is set to make $19.35 million next season and he would garner interest across the sport, especially if the National League adopts the DH. The savings could allow Bloom to be an even more active player in free agency, or Martinez could also net some big league talent. Perhaps a new starting pitcher or some bullpen help?

The other interesting possibility is Matt Barnes. The veteran reliever signed a two-year contract extension last July that will pay him around $7.5 million annually starting next season, but right after the ink was dry the All-Star closer fell into a tailspin. If Barnes gets back to form then he’ll be a bargain and the Red Sox would be foolish to trade him. But if there are lingering concerns and the right offer comes along, then Bloom might have a decision to make.

Way too early bullpen lookSpeaking of the bullpen, the Red Sox currently have Garrett Whitlock, Barnes, Josh Taylor, Ryan Brasier, Hirokazu Sawamura, Darwinzon Hernandez, Austin Davis and Phillips Valdez under contract among last year’s big league regulars. Adam Ottavino and Hansel Robles are currently unsigned as free agents.

There is quite a range of possibilities with that group. On one hand, if Whitlock remains a reliever and Barnes gets back to form, that bullpen could be quite strong. But if Whitlock moves to the rotation or Barnes’ struggles continue, it could be a total disaster without reinforcements.

The Red Sox should sign at least one veteran reliever — be it Ottavino, Robles or someone else — but there are internal candidates too. Prospects like Connor Seabold, Eduard Bazardo, Durbin Feltman, Crawford and Winckowski could earn a look, and Boston could always try to pluck another arm out of the Rule 5 Draft like they did with Whitlock.

Email: mcerullo@northofboston.com. Twitter: @MacCerullo.

Email: mcerullo@northofboston.com. Twitter: @MacCerullo.

Email: mcerullo@northofboston.com. Twitter: @MacCerullo.

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