The Red Sox entered the 2019 season with the lowest-ranked minor league system in the game according to Baseball America. Midway through the year, they jumped up to No. 23. And judging by BA's most recent list of Top 10 players in the Sox system, there might be some optimism regarding the future after all.
Baseball America released its annual ranking Monday -- with the Red Sox rankings penned by the Boston Globe's Alex Speier -- and it is heavy with almost-but-not-quite-ready talent, led by 2018 first-round pick Triston Casas.
Here is the latest Red Sox Top 10:
1. Triston Casas, 1B
Casas hasn't disappointed since being drafted out of high school, getting a taste of High-A ball in Salem at the end of 2019 after managing 19 home runs, a .820 OPS and .254 batting average with Single-A Greenville. ("How Red Sox 1st-round pick Triston Casas' hair sent a message")
2. Bobby Dalbec, 1B
Dalbec seemingly has a shot to crack the 2020 major league roster after continuing to excel offensively and defensively in the minors, hitting a combined 27 home runs between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. The 24-year-old also made his mark with the major league coaching staff while getting private instruction at Fenway Park in September before holding his own in the Premier 12 international tournament. He is also viewed as above-average defender.
3. Bryan Mata, P
Just 20 years old, Mata got his feet wet with 11 starts for Double-A Portland after dominating Single-A (1.75 ERA in 10 starts. He opened more eyes with his performance in the Arizona Fall League, hitting 99 mph while serving as a reliever.
4. Jarren Duran, OF
Duran initially struggled in Double-A after his shock-and-awe performances throughout Single-A. But the speedy lefty hitter -- who once aspired to become a Navy SEAL -- showed improvement throughout his stint in Portland, ending up with 28 stolen bases for the Sea Dogs. For a system in dire need of young outfield help, Duran represents an important piece of the equation. ("Red Sox prospect Jarren Duran strived to become Navy SEAL")
5. Darwinzon Hernandez, P
In 25 Single-A starts -- splitting time between Greenville and Salem -- Ward didn't skip a beat, finishing 2019 with a combined ERA of 2.14, striking out 157 in 126 1/3 innings while walking just 57. A 2018 fifth-round pick out of Central Florida, Ward boasts a fastball that sits 93-95 mph, having implemented a solid cutter this past season.
7. Jay Groome, P
This designation is based purely on potential, with the Sox' first-round pick in 2016 having to fend off injuries throughout his pro career, with a recent recovery from Tommy John surgery serving as the latest obstacle. At 6-foot-6, 220 pounds it's easy to see why the lefty offers so much optimism, with the 21-year-old getting a chance to turn in a couple of appearances with Single-A Lowell at the end of 2019. He is expected to hit the ground running in spring training.
8. Gilberto Jimenez, OF
Just 19 years old, the speedy outfielder held his own with Single-A Lowell, hitting .359 with an .863 OPS in 59 games. Considering the Red Sox got Jimenez in international free agency for just a $10,000 signing bonus, this might be shaping up as a solid success story for the international scouting department.
9. Noah Song, P
You probably know the story by now: Song is drafted in the fourth round after finishing his career at the Naval Academy having placed as one of the four finalists for the collegiate player of the year. Teams pass on him due to the uncertainty regarding the righty's military commitment, leaving his availability beyond 2019 in doubt. Song leaves a very strong impression in both his stay with the Spinners and then his performance with Team USA in the Premier 12 tournament. It's fair to say that if Song -- who now heads to flight school in Pensacola, Fla. -- can get clearance to return to pro baseball he will undoubtedly fly up this list.
10. Tanner Houck, P
The former Red Sox first-round pick is presenting himself as an intriguing option for the 2020 Red Sox, showing the ability to start and relieve thanks in large part to a wipeout slider. He is certainly considered on the cusp of contributing at the major league level.