FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In three weeks, the Red Sox will be in Toronto to open the 2020 season. But until then, the second half of Spring Training awaits.
It has already been an eventful camp in which veterans and prospects have impressed.
MLB.com recently polled six players to find out which teammates have impressed them the most this spring. Let’s take a look at who, in order, received the most votes:
Jarren Duran, OF
The speedy center fielder is ranked No. 8 among Red Sox prospects by MLB Pipeline. With Jackie Bradley Jr. eligible for free agency at the end of the 2020 season, Duran could factor into the picture as soon as next season if he has a strong year in the Minors. A seventh-round Draft pick out of Long Beach State in 2018, Duran was converted by the Red Sox from second base to center field, where his speed should play better.
“He’s fun to watch, honestly,” said infielder Michael Chavis. “He’s got, I don’t know what you call it, just that factor that makes him fun to watch. He’s fast as hell. Watching him run, it’s special. And you’ve seen him develop and grow as a hitter and a player. That’s just cool. And he’s a good dude as well. I’m definitely pulling for him.”
Bryan Mata, RHP
The hard-throwing starting pitcher from Venezuela was signed by the Sox as an international free agent four years ago and has elevated himself to the highest-ranked pitching prospect in the system. Mata, ranked No. 4 by MLB Pipeline among Sox prospects, has a goal of reaching the Majors at some point this season. Given that he is still two months shy of his 20th birthday, that time-table could be more aggressive than what the Red Sox have in mind. But there is a lot to like.
“I think he’s going to be good in the big leagues as he gets more experience,” said catcher Christian Vazquez. “He’s got a great arm. Power arm. If he can control his emotions, he’s going to be good. His stuff is electric. It was fun to catch his first start.”
Nathan Eovaldi, RHP
Unlike the first two players listed, Eovaldi has already made his presence felt on the highest stage -- helping the Red Sox in the 2018 World Series. After an inconsistent and injury-plagued 2019 season, the flame-throwing righty looks poised to be a Comeback Player of the Year candidate. He hit triple digits on the radar gun in his first two starts of Spring Training, walking none and striking out eight over five innings.
“Obviously I have a lot of familiarity with these guys competing with them over the years,” said outfielder Kevin Pillar. “But now being inside the clubhouse walls and seeing the way he prepares, the way he works, takes care of his body, his routine, it’s no surprise he’s been able to dominate the way he’s been able to dominate so far. It’s pretty impressive.”
Kevin Pillar, OF
For many years, Pillar had Red Sox players muttering on their way back to the dugout after being a victim of one of his dazzling defensive plays. Now, Pillar has joined forces with the team he competed against so often as a member of the Blue Jays. With Alex Verdugo set to begin the season on the injured list with a back injury, Pillar will open as Boston’s starting right fielder. Once Verdugo returns, Pillar will continue to be an important piece, starting against all lefties and probably slotting in against some righties.
“Pillar, obviously we’ve seen how good he is playing against him,” said third baseman Rafael Devers. “But actually having him here now is much different. Just watching how he prepares and seeing how he’s been playing and how hard he’s hitting the ball and being consistent, it’s something that’s a nice surprise for me to see up close.”
Tanner Houck, RHP
Never has the competition been more wide open at the back end of Boston’s rotation. With Chris Sale set to start the season on the injured list, there are two spots currently up for grabs. Could this open up an opportunity for Houck, Boston’s first-round pick in 2014? The righty has been unscored on over five innings in his first two appearances this spring, one of which was a start.
“Big, strong kid,” said Bradley. “He’s somebody who looks like he can last through a game. He looks like he’s built for a starting role.”