A homegrown core that included Matt Barnes, Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rafael Devers and Christian Vazquez played a large role in the Red Sox winning the 2018 World Series, the franchise's fourth championship in 15 seasons.
But ownership's doubts that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski could maintain a cost-efficient sustainable team cost him his job last September, three weeks before the season ended with Boston missing the playoffs for the first time since 2015. And with John Henry & Co. looking to avoid crossing MLB's luxury-tax threshold for a third straight year in 2020, new Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom made the difficult decision to trade Betts (a year before he is set to become a free agent) along with World Series hero David Price to the Dodgers in February.
That trade netted the Red Sox their best overall prospect in middle infielder Jeter Downs and their top catching prospect in Connor Wong, but it won't help them return to the postseason in 2020. The farm system won't offer much assistance either, as it's rebuilding after years of graduations and the sacrifice of prospects in deals for Craig Kimbrel and Chris Sale, among others. Third baseman Bobby Dalbec and right-handers Bryan Mata and Tanner Houck could find roles in Boston this year, but most of the organization's best prospects are at least a couple of years away.
The Red Sox have landed some intriguing talents at relatively low cost, signing speedster Gilberto Jimenez for $10,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2017, finding outfielder Jarren Duran and right-hander Thad Ward in the middle rounds of the 2018 Draft and grabbing righty Noah Song's first-round-quality arm in the fourth round last June amid concerns over his U.S. Navy service commitment. Getting Song earlier than initially hoped and having 2016 first-rounder Jay Groome bounce back from Tommy John surgery would be a shot in the arm for a system deeper in position players than pitchers.
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2019 preseason list to the 2020 preseason list.
Jump: Thad Ward, RHP (2019: NR | 2020: 9) -- His stuff improved in his first full pro season while he transitioned from college reliever to starter and ranked eighth in the Minors with a 2.14 ERA.
Fall: Mike Shawaryn, RHP (2019: 13 | 2020: NR) -- He got hammered for a 9.74 ERA and .987 opponent OPS in the big leagues and may not be more than a long reliever.
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Players in parentheses have the same grade.
Hit: 55 -- C.J. Chatham (Brainer Bonaci, Cameron Cannon, Jeter Downs, Jarren Duran, Gilberto Jimenez)
Power: 60 -- Bobby Dalbec (Triston Casas)
Run: 75 -- Jimenez
Arm: 70 -- Brainer Bonaci
Defense: 60 -- Jimenez
Fastball: 70 -- Yoan Aybar
Curveball: 65 -- Jay Groome
Slider: 60 -- Bryan Mata
Changeup: 55 -- Brayan Bello (Mata, Aldo Ramirez, Noah Song)
Control: 55 -- Ramirez
How they were built
Draft: 17 | International: 9 | Trade: 3 | Rule 5: 1
Breakdown by ETA
2020: 7 | 2021: 6 | 2022: 9 | 2023: 7 | 2024: 1
Breakdown by position
C: 1 | 1B: 1 | 3B: 3 | SS: 7 | OF: 5 | RHP: 10 | LHP: 3