Red Sox rebuild hits key checkpoint as top prospects earn national recognition

Jan. 23—Building towards the future isn't always easy for Red Sox fans. Boston is a notoriously impatient city, and for some the notion of a well-monied club and the Red Sox acting conservatively is borderline offensive.

Just turn on sports talk radio around the trade deadline, and you won't have to wait long before someone makes an unflattering comparison between the Red Sox and the penny-pinching Tampa Bay Rays.

The Red Sox team-building approach under Chaim Bloom these past two years hasn't always been popular, but it's undoubtably working. Not only did the big league club exceed expectations and reach the American League Championship Series well ahead of schedule last year, but the farm system is quickly bulking up as well.

And Wednesday marked a significant checkpoint for the organization.

Baseball America unveiled its preseason 2022 Top 100 Prospects rankings, and for the first time in five years the Red Sox will enter the season with four of the game's most highly touted prospects.

Marcelo Mayer, last year's No. 4 overall pick, is up to No. 15 overall, followed closely by 2018 first-rounder Triston Casas (19th) and 2020 first-rounder Nick Yorke (31). Jarren Duran (91) remains in the top 100 as well, though his stock has cooled somewhat since his big league debut last summer.

The last time Boston's farm system was this robust was back in 2016-17, a project largely undertaken by former general manager Ben Cherington and inherited by his successor Dave Dombrowski. The Red Sox had recently endured three last-place seasons in four years, and the haul of prospects they accumulated during that time included Rafael Devers and Andrew Benintendi.

Those two would soon join newly graduated homegrown stars like Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. in the big leagues, and many of Boston's other top prospects wound up being traded for Chris Sale, Craig Kimbrel and Drew Pomeranz, among others.

The result was the most dominant team in club history, a 108-win juggernaut that cruised to the 2018 World Series title.

But that "all-in" approach came with its own cost.

Boston didn't have a single prospect ranked in the top 100 entering 2018 or 2019, and the dearth of organizational talent meant the Red Sox couldn't compete for the best players on the trade market for years.

Meanwhile, Red Sox fans watched as the equally wealthy Los Angeles Dodgers continued churning out top prospects even as they kept running up historic payrolls. That allowed them to swing multiple bombshell trades, first for Mookie Betts and later for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, while still having plenty of talent left over to help sustain the club's ongoing dominance at the big league level.

That's ultimately the model Bloom is trying to replicate in Boston.

Like the Dodgers, the Red Sox are getting to the point where they have the organizational depth and financial resources to do whatever they want. Where the past two GMs leaned too heavily one way or the other, Bloom now has the Red Sox right in the sweet spot where they can simultaneously build for the short and long-term.

Getting here hasn't been easy, but it might not be much longer before Red Sox Nation's patience pays off.

Email: mcerullo@northofboston.com.

Twitter: @MacCerullo.

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