John Tomase

David Ortiz weighs in on talented trio of Red Sox youngsters

Big Papi sees a bright future for three potential franchise cornerstones in Boston.

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The Red Sox are probably going to finish last in the AL East for the third time in four years, and that doesn't sit well with David Ortiz, who did as much as anyone to build the winning culture that produced four World Series titles between 2004 and 2018.

Ortiz questions the Tampa Bay model of franchise building, since the Rays have yet to win a World Series. He also thinks Boston needs superstars.

But there's good news, too, and it's that Ortiz believes in some of the young players who made contributions this season, and during a recent conversation, he shared his thoughts on three of them: Triston Casas, Brayan Bello, and Jarren Duran.

Triston Casas, 1B

Casas is on the injured list and thus will finish his rookie season with 24 homers and an .856 OPS. He continually improved as the season progressed, with his second-half numbers (.317-15-38-1.034) translating to 45 homers and 114 RBIs over a full season.

The hulking left-handed slugger was the best hitter in the lineup by August, and he's still only 23. Ortiz sees big things.

"He seems like he's getting it," Ortiz said of Casas. "He's in the learning process. He played with a little chip on his shoulder, which is good. He's got the talent. I like the way he approached the game since the first year I saw him."

Ortiz made the transition from dangerous hitter to focal point, and he saw how teams pitched him much more carefully. He expects Casas will receive the same treatment.

"One thing that he's got to keep in mind is, you're a power hitter as a first baseman," he said. "They're going to treat him differently than they do everybody else. So when I was in his situation or position, I tried to engage myself to think differently than everybody else, because I know that my treatment was different. And once you learn how to play with it, then you take things to the next level."

Jarren Duran, OF

Someone who took things up a clear level this year was Duran. An afterthought out of spring training, Duran helped rescue the season in April and May after starting center fielder Adam Duvall broke his wrist.

Though his numbers tailed a bit in the second half before he suffered a season-ending toe injury, Duran still emerged as a capable leadoff threat with real speed, finishing at .295 with a team-leading 24 steals in 26 chances.

"Sometimes it's hard for young players to understand how to deal with (injuries)," Ortiz said. "I had this two-minute conversation with him, because I saw that he feels like he let us down based on his injury, and I basically told him, 'Hey, look, don't worry. Things happen. ... Everybody was having fun watching you out there and you're going to be back.'"

Brayan Bello, SP

That leaves Bello. The de facto ace of the staff, Bello served as a stopper for much of the season before hitting a wall in September (7.65 ERA). Still, with career highs in starts (27) and innings (151), he has gotten a taste of what will be expected of him next year atop the rotation.

"Bello, he is very challenging," Ortiz said. "He does a few things that basically remind me of Pedro (Martinez). He throws his fastball, which is a good thing, and he knows how to use it. So I'm pretty sure at some point, he's going to get to be the ace."

All three have All-Star potential, though Casas and Bello are likelier bets. They provide a solid base of young talent, alongside veteran Rafael Devers, for Chaim Bloom's replacement in baseball operations to build around.

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