There haven’t been many bright spots during the 2022 season for the Boston Red Sox. Most of the few they have had are the prospects that have been called up, along with some breakout seasons in the farm system. Some of those bright spots were the debuts of guys like Brayan Bello and Triston Casas, and in 2023 the Red Sox could have a few more.
Here are five Red Sox prospects who could make their MLB debuts in 2023.
Bryan Mata is probably the most likely to make his debut in 2023, especially since he probably would’ve made it this year if he didn’t get a late start due to recovering from Tommy John surgery he had in April of 2021, and he is also already on the 40-man roster. In 10 appearances (48.2 IP) in Double-A when first returning Mata had a 1.85 ERA and a 3.58 FIP to go with a 1.19 WHIP. Then once called up to Triple-A in 5 appearances (23.1 IP), Mata had a 3.47 ERA and a 3.12 FIP to go with a 1.46 WHIP. The expectation for Mata is that he will start 2023 in Triple-A, and it is most likely that he would be called up in a bullpen role or for a start or two at some point in the season if the need arises, or if he pitches well enough to where the Sox have to call him up.
Acquired in the Christian Vazquez trade, Enmanuel Valdez was the piece that initially caught the eye of Red Sox fans. Valdez hasn’t been amazing in Triple-A since coming to the Red Sox, but you can still see that there is plenty of talent there, especially at the plate. In 44 games at Double-A in the Astros system, Valdez hit .357 with a .463 OBP and .649 SLG. In 38 games in Triple-A with Houston, Valdez hit .296 with a .347 OBP and a .560 SLG.
Since joining the Red Sox organization, Valdez has hit .237 in Triple-A with a .309 OBP and a .422 SLG. It should be stated that the league the Astros Triple-A affiliate is in is notoriously hitter friendly. However, the two big things holding Valdez back is that he is a left handed hitter (Red Sox already have Devers, Casas, Verdugo, and McGuire, plus Hosmer) and that he doesn’t have a defensive home. Valdez has played all over the place defensively, but that’s more because they want to find a home for him than the fact that he can actually play all over the place. However, if there are injuries to any of Devers, Casas, or Verdugo, Valdez could potentially be a left handed option to replace one of those three in the lineup, and Valdez will be added to the 40-man roster this offseason.
Brandon Walter has been one of the fastest risers in the Red Sox organization since the start of the 2021 season, but lost any chance of making his MLB debut in a depleted Red Sox rotation when he got injured in just his second appearance after being called up to Triple-A. He didn’t pitch at all after June 7. In 9 appearances (50 IP) in Double-A, Walter had a 2.88 ERA and a 2.73 FIP. Walter will start 2023 in Triple-A, but if there are injuries in the rotation or bullpen, Walter is probably the second option to call up behind Bryan Mata. With Walter being a lefty, he could even jump Mata if the Red Sox feel it is a priority to bring up a lefty.
Also an honorable mention to lefty Chris Murphy, who will also start 2023 in Triple-A, and would’ve made this list if I went the route of including 3 pitchers. Both Walter and Murphy will have to be added to the 40-man roster after the 2022 season.
Ceddanne Rafaela is very unlikely to be called up in 2023, but because he has been my favorite prospect in the system, and because I’m biased, I have decided to include him. In 2022, Rafaela started the year in High-A hitting .330 with a .368 OBP, a .594 SLG, and nine home runs in 45 games. Once he was called up to Double-A, Rafaela played in 71 games, hitting .278 with a .324 OBP, a .500 SLG, and 12 home runs. Over 116 games between High-A and Double-A, Rafaela stole 28 bases, with 14 at each level. Pair that with ELITE defense in center as well as great to elite defense at short, and you have a player that could maybe be called up late in the season to bring defensive value to the team.
Think of the Yankees calling up Oswaldo Cabrera just before September. Something similar to that wouldn’t surprise me if Rafaela were to be called up in 2023. It seems likely that Rafaela will start 2023 in Triple-A, and if he can continue to develop by refining his approach at the plate, he could be a legitimate candidate to be added to the big league roster at some point in 2023. Rafaela will have to be added to the 40-man roster as well after the 2022 season.
Last but not least is David Hamilton. Hamilton was acquired in the trade where the Red Sox sent Hunter Renfroe to Milwaukee. Hamilton was, and still is, seen by most as the least important piece to the trade, but he might be able to bring a dimension to a Red Sox team that has one big hole. The thing Hamilton brings to the table is speed. That was put on full display this year as David Hamilton set the organizational record for the most stolen bases in a season, by stealing 70 bases in 78 attempts over 119 games. Hamilton’s hitting may not seem impressive, as he hit .251 with a .338 OBP and .402 SLG this past year, but him potentially being called up has absolutely nothing to do with his bat.
Why do guys like Tim Locastro have jobs? Because they bring an elite skillset to the table, and that elite skill set is the ability to steal bases. Also, Hamilton has added a little versatility, as the Sox gave him a couple looks in center near the end of 2022, and if that continues that would only give Hamilton more value to a team. No one would ask Hamilton to play everyday, but he could be the 2023 Red Sox version of Dave Roberts. A guy who is on the team because he can steal a base when you need it, and that is important in the playoffs. Hamilton seems likely to start the 2023 season in Triple-A, and could be added to the 40-man roster this offseason as he is Rule 5 eligible for the 2022 Rule 5 draft that will take place this offseason.
You can never really guess which prospects will make the jump to MLB or how successful they will be, but these are five potential Red Sox prospects who could make their MLB debut in 2023. There are more players that could’ve been selected for this, suchs as Chris Murphy, A.J. Politi, Ronaldo Hernandez, Wilyer Abreu, Niko Kavadas, and more. Any of these guys could debut in 2023 if the circumstances are right.
Who do you think could debut for the 2023 Red Sox? What are your thoughts on that, as well as your thoughts on the five players mentioned and any others you think could make their debuts in 2023? Is there anyone missing, or should someone have not been included?
Let us know, and stay tuned in to Bleacher Brawls as we discuss these names as they come up during discussions on the 40-man roster once the offseason starts.