BOSTON -- Just 19 years old, left-handed-hitting slugger Triston Casas has an approach so sound that it propelled him to being voted the Hitting Prospect of the Year for the Red Sox by MLB Pipeline.
Righty Thad Ward is Pipeline’s selection as the organization’s Pitching Prospect of the Year thanks to a breakout season that put him very much on the radar of arms to watch in Boston’s farm system.
Each team's Hitting and Pitching Prospects of the Year were chosen by the MLB Pipeline staff. To receive consideration, players must have spent at least half the year in the Minors and appear on the team's Top 30 Prospects list.
Those two players were also honored by the Red Sox as the organization's hitter and pitcher of the Year in a pregame ceremony on Thursday afternoon. In fact, the club honored several Minor League Players in their annual awards presentation.
"This never gets old, coming to Fenway," said Casas.
Casas was a first-round selection by the Sox in the 2018 Draft out of American Heritage High School in Miami.
This was his first full pro season and he made it one to remember, slashing .256/.350/.480 with 20 homers and 81 RBIs in 429 at-bats -- nearly all of them for Class A Greenville. Casas is Boston’s top-ranked prospect by Pipeline.
“I’ve been really impressed with his focus on process and preparation, and his overall maturity through the challenges of his first full season,” said Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett.
Casas played his final two games of the season for Class A Advanced Salem, where he will presumably start next season.
"I feel like the adjustment I made from high school to where I am right now is pretty drastic, but so is the pitching," said Casas. "I feel like throughout the year I made a lot of adjustments. It's led me to where I am today. I'm pretty happy where I'm at, but I'd like to get into the offseason and try to perfect it."
Unprompted, Red Sox manager Alex Cora noted the improvement Casas has shown in the span of a year in his pregame press conference on Thursday.
"I saw Casas last year taking BP. We see his swing now, the improvement and the adjustments that he's made, and it's night-and-day to his swing when he took BP here last year," Cora said.
What does Casas -- a left-handed hitter who plays both corner-infield positions -- need to improve going forward?
“He will continue to work on improving swing decision making and the adjustments that come with being challenged by the next level of competition,” Crockett said.
As for Ward, he was a fifth-round selection in the 2018 Draft out of Central Florida, who has come a long way since serving as a batboy for the Red Sox during Spring Trainings of his youth.
The Fort Myers, Fla., native has made a smooth transition to starting after serving almost exclusively as a reliever in college.
“I’d love to be a starting pitcher for the Red Sox someday. I grew up a Red Sox fan,” Ward said. “I’ve always loved this organization. Obviously I would love to stay here and do the best I can to help the starting rotation, the starting pitching.”
Ward started the season with Greenville, then moved up to Salem about halfway through, accumulating an 8-5 record and a 2.14 ERA with 157 strikeouts over 126 1/3 innings.
“The addition of the cutter really helped me as well,” said Ward. “That gave me a new pitch to kind of keep guys off-balance. I was really happy with how I was able to use that for my repertoire.”
“Thad has shown quality stuff and the ability to throw multiple pitches at any time,” said Crockett. “The velocity has ticked up, and he’s continued to improve and refine his repertoire.”
What will be the next step for Ward?
“He continues to work on overall command of his pitches in and around the zone, and on improving his changeup,” said Crockett.