For a team coming off its worst season in more than a half-century, it is not, in actuality, all doom and gloom for the Red Sox.
Yes, there are a myriad of areas on the major league roster that require upgrades, if not outright overhauls. There's the sad track record over the last 15 or so years when it comes to developing starting pitching. And yes, it's been a long time since the franchise has been this out of favor with the New England sports fan.
But there is some hope, and that hope was on display at the recently-concluded Instructional League program in Fort Myers. The Instructional League program is held every year in the fall, of course, but it seemed more needed and necessary than ever following the pandemic-ravaged 2020 season.
With no minor league season taking place, dozens and dozens of Red Sox minor leaguers had no formal outlet with which to advance their development. The ones closest to reaching the major leagues -- and a handful of the most elite prospects at the lowest levels -- participated in the team's alternate training site at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket. But even there, it was a controlled environment: intra-squad games had to replace actual minor league games and evaluation was admittedly limited.
Faced with that, the team held its Instructional League for the rest of its minor leaguers in Fort Myers, with strict protocols in place. It was a chance to see a few alternate site players in a different environment, and, more to the point, a lot of players who weren't in Pawtucket.
And according to one Red Sox official, the reviews were glowing.
"The system was way better than I thought it was going to be,'' the official gushed. "That was really encouraging. I adamantly disagree with the public ranking of our system, based on what I saw. No way we're (ranked) in the 20s (out of 30 systems); no way.
"There's some really good young Latin players. There's a mix of different areas that we have in there now, which is good. It was impressive.''
Some thumbnail reports on those who stood out from the evaluator's perspective:
1b Triston Casas, first-round pick 2018. "He's a dude. I agree with those who say he could be the next Freddie Freeman. Same swing, same body. It was eerie, actually.''