Anthony looks like a pro in early first taste of big league spring

February 26th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Ian Browne's Red Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- One of the most enjoyable parts of Spring Training is when a top prospect gets summoned to the big field as a Minor League extra. Typically, this happens midway through to late in camp for long bus rides that veterans don’t want to go on.

That’s what made Sunday’s situation at JetBlue Park so unique. Here it was, the Grapefruit League home opener against the Twins, and , all of 19 years old, started in center field for the Red Sox.

The gifted left-handed hitter is No. 24 in MLB Pipeline’s preseason Top 100 Prospects list, and he was playing high school baseball in South Florida less than two years ago.

While Anthony hopes to call center field his home with the Red Sox in the not-too-distant future, even he was surprised by Sunday’s one-day promotion.

“Yeah, they hadn't really told me much as far as what I was going to be doing,” Anthony said. “I was taking live at-bats the last couple days around the back fields, so I didn't really hear much regarding when I was going to play. Then obviously yesterday, they gave me a hint that me and [Kyle] Teel, we'd be in the game. Didn't know at what point, and I didn't know I'd be starting. But it was awesome. Super exciting.”

Rather than trying to show off his enormous offensive potential, Anthony -- Boston's No. 2 prospect -- did exactly what player development would want. He stayed within himself, grinding out a pair of walks in his first two plate appearances.

“He’s very disciplined. He keeps getting stronger,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “Every time you see him, it’s like, 'Wow, he’s getting taller.' Just very disciplined in his craft. He understands what he needs to do. He’s a very mature kid, understanding what he needs to do to make it to the big leagues. Hopefully it’s sooner rather than later.”

Teel, MLB Pipeline’s No. 40 overall prospect, got an at-bat off the bench and grounded out. Blaze Jordan, a third-rounder from 2020 whom the Sox went over slot value to sign, got the start at first base. He belted a single in each of his first two at-bats.

It was a day in which Boston’s present and future were intertwined. Anthony and Jordan shared the starting lineup with Rafael Devers, Trevor Story and Masataka Yoshida.

“They're obviously great baseball players who are going to help us out a lot,” Devers said through an interpreter. “One thing we do have is a lot of talent in the Minor Leagues, and those guys from the Minor Leagues are going to help us a lot in the future.”

Anthony, the 79th overall pick in the 2022 Draft, has rocketed through Boston's farm system.

By the end of last season, he was at Double-A Portland. Along with Marcelo Mayer and Teel, Anthony is front and center in Boston’s next wave of prospects.

A confluence of circumstances led to some of the “kids” getting such a prominent opportunity this early in Spring Training. First of all, it was a split-squad game, which means the Red Sox needed a lot of bodies. With Jarren Duran not due in the lineup until Friday as he recovers from offseason surgery and Triston Casas out with the flu, opportunity knocked in the starting lineup for Anthony and Jordan.

And the way the Red Sox looked at it, why not?

“I was actually thinking about this watching the Orioles [on Saturday],” said Cora. “I know some people that have criticized us, kind of like banking on these kids, obviously, in the future. It’s not a given, right? But I think Baltimore wasn’t shy talking about their guys, and I think little by little, they’re playing. We saw [Jackson] Holliday play against us for Baltimore on Saturday.”

For Boston to be confident enough in Anthony to showcase him on the main diamond this early in his pro career is a win for the entire organization.

“Super exciting,” said Red Sox assistant general manager Paul Toboni, who was the team’s amateur scouting director when Anthony was drafted. “He’s a model for us and everyone in the organization and on the Minor League side for just how they [should] go about their work. At the same time, he’s not there yet. I think, he, of everyone involved, most realizes that. It’s gratifying for everyone that he continues to put in the work at a really high level.”