No need to panic about Bleis' slow start

May 13th, 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.

BOSTON -- The most toolsy prospect in the Red Sox’s farm system will play his 100th game in professional baseball this week.

It’s fair to be excited about the player Miguel Bleis could eventually become, but it's too early to panic that the 20-year-old hasn’t hit his stride yet at Single-A Salem.

Bleis, who packs that coveted combination of power and speed, lost nearly a full year of development last season when he suffered a left shoulder subluxation after just 31 games and 126 at-bats for Salem.

This season, he is healthy and working on making up for those lost at-bats. The power was on display last Tuesday, when the right-handed hitter from the Dominican Republic banged a line drive to left field for his first home run of the season.

Bleis is 10-for-16 in stolen-base attempts. He enters the week with a batting line of .221/.325/.337. Given all the talent that Bleis possesses, you might want to check back on those stats in about a month.

The Red Sox are feeling good about their No. 4 prospect, as ranked by MLB Pipeline.

“[We’re] extremely excited while understanding he can continue to improve,” said Red Sox director of player development Brian Abraham. “He’s an all-around talent that continues to improve on the baseball field and off -- with size and strength. He can catch the baseball, run down the baseball and impact the ball at the plate -- someone who can do something special every time he steps on a baseball field.”

An outfielder, Bleis signed with the Red Sox for a bonus of $1.5 million on Jan. 15, 2021.

Though Bleis doesn’t have a lot of Minor League at-bats, he has evolved over these past three years.

How so?

“The added strength has improved his bat speed and his ability to drive the baseball, and that impacting of the baseball has continued to improve. We expect more of that as he continues to train in the gym and in the cage,” Abraham said. “His swing decisions have also improved as he has seen more advanced pitchers, improved secondaries and how full-season arms continue to attack him. He is very aware of his goals, what he needs to improve on. And he works tirelessly to do so within our competitive training environments.”

What are those goals, particularly for the 2024 season?

“Consistency and ability stay on the field, first and foremost,” said Abraham. “With his added mass and strength, that should be a major help in that area. Even still, we want him to continue to grow and get stronger. On the field, we want him to improve his range in the outfield. We want him to improve his basestealing ability, and improve swing decisions at the plate for more consistency in impacting the baseball and specifically decrease his chase percentage.”

Even though the tools are what jumps out first with Bleis, the intangibles are eventually what could set him apart.

“He’s not just happy being a good player, he wants to be great,” Abraham said. “He’s a leader on and off the field, someone that others look to for how to play the right way. He also has a strong baseball IQ that continues to grow.”

Defensively, Bleis has the chance to be a standout.

“He is a strong outfielder already, with range and speed,” Abraham said. “As he continues to improve his first step/break on balls, along with more in-depth advance reports at the upper levels, we can see him continue to be an above-average defender that is a difference-maker with his glove.”

Minor League roundup

Triple-A Worcester: Already, the Sox are getting some return in the Alex Verdugo trade in the form of setup reliever Greg Weissert, who has a 1.17 ERA in 16 appearances for Boston. But the biggest chip in that deal could end up being Richard Fitts. The righty has started in six of his seven outings this year, posting a 3.51 ERA with 30 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings. The 24-year-old Fitts is rated as the No. 10 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Double-A Portland: Kyle Teel, widely considered the catcher of the future for the Red Sox, got off to a slow start at the plate, but he’s starting to heat up. In his last 39 plate appearances, Teel (No. 3) has a line of .324/.410/.500 with three doubles, a homer and six RBIs.

High-A Greenville: Luis Perales (No. 9), the hard-throwing righty from Venezuela, continues to create excitement in his starts. Perales walked one and struck out eight in four innings on Thursday. He has 29 strikeouts in 17 innings this season.