With the regular season concluding, we've decided to take a look at each team's future -- not by using a crystal ball or other psychic abilities, but by evaluating their farm systems. Below you'll find our ranking of the top five prospects in the organization -- sorted by perceived future potential -- as well as five other players who fit various categories. Those categories are:

  • 2020 contributor: A player who is likely to play a role for the big-league team next season.

  • Analyst's pick: A player who is a strong statistical performer and/or whose underlying measures are better than the scouting reports suggest.

  • Riser: A player on the way up.

  • Faller: A player on the way down.

  • One to watch: An interesting player to keep in mind (for whatever reason).

These rankings were compiled after talking with various industry sources about the systems (and players) in question. It should be acknowledged that this process is more art than science, and that there are limits to ordinal rankings. Still, it's an intuitive system, and our hope is that the write-ups will answer any questions by providing additional context and analysis of each player -- such as their pluses and minuses; the risk factors involved; and their estimated arrival date.

One last word on eligibility: we're following MLB's rookie guidelines by disqualifying any player with more than 130 big-league at-bats or 50 innings pitched.

The Red Sox don't have a good farm system anymore after years of high-profile graduations and win-now trades. They do have the 2018 World Series title, however, and that's the point of the game.

1. Triston Casas, 1B

Boston's first-round pick in 2018, Triston Casas's best-case outcome is turning into a middle-of-the-order anchor who provides significant average, power, and on-base skills. 

Sounds promising, right? Casas has the innate qualities to make it happen -- the size, the strength, the eye, the feel for hitting, and so on. But he's limited defensively to first base (he's already listed at 6-foot-4, 238 pounds despite being 19 years old) and there's always significant risk tied up to bat-only prospects -- especially those who aren't yet able to legally drink.

Casas reached High-A at the end of his first full professional season. It stands to reason he'll spend most of the year there, with a chance at moving up to Double-A before 2020 concludes.

2. Bobby Dalbec, 3B

Casas is still years away. Bobby Dalbec, conversely, could reach the majors before year's end.

Dalbec is the player likeliest in the system to be compared to Joey Gallo. He has absurd raw power, as evidenced by his 27 home runs across two levels, and he strikes out a ton -- though it should be noted he did so less often in 2019 (about a quarter of the time) than in years past. Dalbec has shown a propensity for getting on-base via free passes, and there shouldn't be too much concern about his walk rate dipping in Triple-A -- he experienced a similar crater the year prior in his introduction to Double-A, suggesting he requires a little time to adapt.

The combination of Dalbec's power and on-base skills could make him a middle-of-the-order hitting, depending on his ability to adjust to the gameplanning thrown his way in the majors. But he's more than just a slugger. He's also someone who should be able to hang at third base for at least the next few seasons, thanks in part to an arm that was good enough for him to serve as a two-way player in college.

How the Red Sox fit Dalbec onto their roster with Rafael Devers in place is anyone's guess, but don't be surprised if he's swatting balls into and over the Green Monster before autumn. 

3. Bryan Mata, RHP

Although Bryan Mata's primarily level in 2019 was Double-A, he won't celebrate his 21st birthday until next May. Even so, he could see big-league action this year.

The enduring question for Mata is: in what capacity? On a stuff basis, he's a starter. He has a broad arsenal -- led by an above-average heater -- that generates grounders by the bushel. Mechanically, however, Mata is another story. He has a top-heavy delivery that includes a low three-quarters release point, giving evaluators pause as to whether he'll be able to throw enough quality strikes and/or be thrashed by left-handed hitters. 

Those concerns were borne out during his Double-A stint, as he walked more than four batters per nine. Lefties also had an OPS against him that was more than .160 points higher than the mark posted versus him by right-handers. Even his season-capping performance -- seven shutout one-hit innings -- included five walks. 

Mata is working as a reliever in the Arizona Fall League, but figures to resume starting next spring before the Red Sox decide whether it's worth just putting him in the pen.

4. Jarren Duran, OF

A collegiate infielder, Jarren Duran has since moved to the outfield to take advantage of his well-above-average speed. He's also altered his swing: he's more upright than in the past, and he continues to tweak aspects of his mechanics -- like where he sets up his hands. 

Wherever Duran sets his hands, he's been a highly productive professional hitter, exiting this season with a career .322/.376/.446 slash line and 70 steals in 93 tries. The hit tool isn't as good as those numbers suggest -- he hits a ton of grounders -- and he ran into some issues in Double-A, where his strikeout rate ballooned and his power output disappeared. He'll likely spend most of 2020 in Double-A, so he'll get a chance at redemption.

The dream-world outcome here looks something like Michael Bourn -- which is not to say that Duran is or will become as good as Bourn, just that he has the chance for a similar profile. There is considerable downside despite him being (conceivably) a year or so away from debuting in the majors.

5. Gilberto Jimenez, OF

Switch-hitter Gilberto Jimenez won't turn 20 until next July, but he spent this season in Low-A and hit .359/.393/.470 while being nearly three years younger than the average competition. That would seem to bode well for him -- as would his physical tools.

Jimenez can really run, and he has enough arm strength to play across the outfield if need be (though he still needs to clean up the technical aspects out there). At the dish, he's an opposite-field hitter whose power contributions are limited to down the lines. As is always the case with these types, there's a chance his hit tool plays worse than expected because the opposition decides to pummel him with strikes.

In a sense, Jimenez is a less actualized version of Durran, albeit with more upside thanks to his age and louder tools. He could end up as a starter, but it's probably more realistic to envision him as a reserve type due to the development curve required. 

2020 contributor: Tanner Houck, RHP

Tanner Houck -- pronounced "Hawk," for those wondering -- was a first-round pick in 2017 whose mechanics resemble a right-handed Chris Sale -- down to the high elbow during his arm stroke, the low release point, and the crossfire action. He doesn't have the rest of Sale's package, however, and is therefore unlikely to join him in the rotation. Houck seems better suited for the bullpen, where his unsteady changeup can be shelved and he can torment same-handed batters. That's how he was used in Triple-A and it's probably wise to bet on him being deployed in a similar manner for the big-league team sometime during the 2020 season. 

Analyst's pick: Travis Lakins, RHP

Travis Lakins had his starting dreams derailed by multiple stress fractures in his elbow, but he has the chance to be a handy reliever. He doesn't throw as hard as the typical short-stinter these days, averaging just 93-94 mph, yet he makes up for it with a deeper-than-expected arsenal -- including a cutter and a biting curve. He imparts good spin on the fastball and the curve, and the Red Sox should at least consider permitting him to continue on as a multi-inning reliever, as they did in 2019 when half his 16 big-league appearances saw him record at least five outs. He could also come in handy as an opener, perhaps giving him added trade value.

Riser: Thad Ward RHP

A fifth-round pick in 2018, Thad Ward's stock has steadily improved by solidifying himself as a legit starting prospect following a collegiate career at UCF where he pitched mostly in relief. Ward split this season between Single- and High-A, posting a 2.14 ERA and a 2.75 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 126 innings. (His walk rate did balloon in an uncomfortable way after his promotion.) His stuff is more average than anything, but he has a puncher's chance of developing into a back-end starter, which gives him better odds than seemed likely on draft day.

Faller: Jay Groome LHP

The Red Sox appeared to have land a steal when they picked Jay Groome 12th overall in the 2016 draft. Unfortunately, some three and a half years later, he's tallied all of 20 professional appearances in the regular season due to a variety of injuries, including a torn UCL that necessitated Tommy John surgery and wiped out most of the past two years. A healthy Groome is arguably the most interesting pitching prospect in the system.

One to watch: Noah Song, RHP

Noah Song was one of the finalists for the Golden Spikes Award -- given to the best college baseball player in any given season -- and lasted until the fourth round only because of the uncertainty surrounding his future. Song, you see, may have to serve out his commitment to the Navy before he can pursue his professional career. That means he would be unavailable to play the next two years, which would leave him as a 24-year-old coming off a long layoff. Nonetheless, Boston's investment in Song has a chance to pay off if he's able to secure a waiver, or if he's able to later return without missing a beat. He has mid-rotation potential thanks to a deep arsenal and a good feel for the craft. There's a chance he ends up in the bullpen due to his arm action and, perhaps, to hasten his arrival after the years away.