The Red Sox have added four prospects to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft, the club announced earlier Friday evening.
Right-handers Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford, and Josh Winckowski and infielder Jeter Downs were all added to Boston’s 40-man roster, which now increases from 33 to 37 players.
Clubs had until Friday at 6 p.m. eastern time to add eligible minor-leaguers to their respective 40-man rosters or otherwise risk losing them in the Rule 5 Draft, which usually takes place during the last day of the Winter Meetings in December.
By adding just the four names listed above, the Red Sox could now be faced with losing other notable prospects such as Thaddeus Ward, Durbin Feltman, Ceddane Rafaela, Frank German, Victor Santos, Kole Cottam, and Gilberto Jimenez in next month’s Rule 5 Draft.
Of the quartet of prospects the Sox did add, one made it as far as the major-leagues under unique circumstances, two made it as far as Triple-A Worcester, and one made it as far as Double-A Portland this past minor-league season.
Bello began the year in High-A Greenville’s starting rotation, but earned a promotion to Portland on June 8. In 15 starts for the Sea Dogs, the 22-year-old righty posted a 4.66 ERA and 3.12 FIP to go along with 87 strikeouts to 24 walks over 63 2/3 innings of work.
Originally signed out of the Dominican Republic for $28,000 in July 2017, Bello is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 5 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking first among pitchers in the organization. He was named the team’s minor-league Starting Pitcher of the Year in September.
Crawford, on the other hand, started out in Portland this spring as he was coming off Tommy John surgery that he underwent in October 2019. The 25-year-old ultimately earned a promotion to Worcester in late July, signaling that he was on the verge of a big-league call-up.
In the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak, the Red Sox called up Crawford from Worcester to fill in for Nick Pivetta against the Guardians on Sept. 5 at Fenway Park.
He allowed five earned runs in two innings and was promptly returned to the WooSox the following day, but Boston was able to remove the former 16th-round draft pick from their 40-man roster since he was a COVID-19 replacement.
Since the minor-league season ended last month, Crawford has been dominating in the Dominican Winter League. In four starts for Estrellas Orientales, he has allowed just two runs (one earned) on 12 hits, six walks, and 18 strikeouts over 18 1/3 innings pitched. That’s good for an ERA of 0.49.
Winckowski, meanwhile, was one of five players the Red Sox acquired in the three-team trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Royals back in February.
Like Crawford, Winckowski began the 2021 campaign with the Sea Dogs and pitched to the tune of a 4.14 ERA and 4.02 FIP over 21 appearances (20 starts) and exactly 100 innings before getting promoted to Worcester in late September.
In his brief stint with the WooSox that spanned two starts, the 23-year-old produced a 2.25 ERA and 3.28 FIP while recording 13 strikeouts and three walks in 12 innings pitched. He worked strictly as a reliever in the Arizona Fall League and is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 9 prospect in Boston’s farm system heading into 2022 season.
As for Downs, the move for Boston to add him to the 40-man roster comes at no surprise considering he was the top prospect acquired from the Dodgers in the infamous trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles last year.
After the minor-league season was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Downs began 2021 with the WooSox and stuck their throughout the year while slashing .190/.272/.333 with nine doubles, 14 home runs, 39 RBIs, 39 runs scored, 18 stolen bases, 38 walks, and 131 strikeouts over 99 games spanning 405 trips to the plate.
Despite the difficulties Downs encountered in his first exposure to Triple-A pitching, there was never really any doubt when it came to the Red Sox adding the talented 23-year-old infielder to their 40-man roster.
Capable of playing both middle infield positions, Downs, like Bello, represented the Sox in this summer’s All-Star Futures Game in Denver. He also enjoyed some success in the Arizona Fall League these last few weeks — as evidenced by his .880 OPS for the Scottsdale Scorpions.
Downs, who does not turn 24 until next July, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 6 prospect in the Red Sox farm system.
(Picture of Brayan Bello: Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images