Two of the top pitching prospects in the Red Sox farm system have each been scratched from their respective starts for Triple-A Worcester within the last two days.
Kutter Crawford had been slated to make his sixth start of the season for Worcester in their contest against the Rochester Red Wings on Thursday night, while Connor Seabold was in line to do make his eighth start on Friday.
Instead, the pair of right-handers have been pulled aside as somewhat of a contingency plan in the event that a shorthanded Red Sox team finds themselves in need of more pitching depth if additional COVID-19-related issues arise.
Since last Friday, Boston has placed four pitchers on the COVID-19 related injured list, as Matt Barnes, Martin Perez, and Hirokazu Sawamura have all recently tested positive for the virus while Josh Taylor was identified as a close contact.
Because of all those hurlers being sidelined at the moment, the Sox have had to call up the likes of Raynel Espinal, Stephen Gonsalves, John Schreiber, and Brad Peacock — who was recently acquired from the Indians for cash considerations — within the last week in order to stabilize its starting rotation and bullpen depth.
That being said, the reinforcements from the minor-league side may not stop there, as both Crawford and Seabold have essentially been put on standby for the time being.
“We got to be prepared,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Friday when asked about the reasoning behind the two prospects being scratched from their starts. “We got to be prepared. Yes.”
Crawford, 25, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 22 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking 11th among pitchers in the organization.
The former 16th-round draft selection out of Florida Gulf Coast University initially began the 2021 season at Double-A Portland, but earned a promotion to Worcester in late July.
Since that time, Crawford has posted a 5.52 ERA and 3.80 xFIP to go along with 39 strikeouts to eight walks over six appearances (five starts) and 29 1/3 innings of work for the WooSox.
Seabold, on the other hand, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 12 prospect in Boston’s farm system, placing 10 spots above Crawford.
Unlike Crawford, the 25-year-old righty is on the Red Sox’ 40-man roster after being added to it last November in order to receive protection from the Rule 5 Draft.
One of two right-handers (the other being Nick Pivetta) the Sox acquired from the Phillies in exchange for relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree last August, Seabold missed the first several weeks of the 2021 campaign due to elbow inflammation.
After rehabbing in the Florida Complex League debut for a spell, the former third-round draft pick out of Cal State Fullerton made his highly-anticipated WooSox debut on July 23.
In seven starts with Worcester, Seabold has pitched to the tune of a 4.29 ERA and 4.62 xFIP while striking out 26.5% of the batters he has faced and walking just 6.6% of them over 35 2/3 innings pitched.
Between the two of them, Seabold has more experience as a reliever, though five of his six career relief appearances in the minors came in 2017.
Earlier this week, Cora told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith) that the club has not discussed promoting Seabold to use him as a multi-inning reliever, though they have been impressed with what he’s done with Worcester.
“We have talked about him,” Cora said on Wednesday. “We know he’s very talented. He’s throwing the ball well. I do believe that September is going to be very interesting as far as like maneuvering our roster and trying to maximize our roster. It’s only two more spots. It’s not a few years ago when you could go up to 40.
As noted by Smith, major-league rosters now expand from 26 to 28 players at the beginning of September — not all the way up to 40 as they did previously.
“He’s throwing the ball well,” added Cora. “We know that probably he can contribute. How? We’ll talk about it and when/if we need him. But as of now, he’s still down there (in Worcester). He’s still getting better. And we’re very happy that he’s performing the way he’s performing.”
(Picture of Kutter Crawford: Katie Morrison/MassLive)