The Red Sox are working to convert infield prospect Daniel McElveny into a catcher, former minor-league catching coordinator (and current Double-A Portland manager) Chad Epperson tells Peter Gammons of The Athletic.
McElveny, who turns 19 in April, was selected by Boston in the sixth round of last year’s draft out of Bonita Vista High School in Chula Vista, Calif. He signed with the Sox for $197,500 that July as opposed to honoring his commitment to San Diego State University.
Before drafting him, however, the Red Sox had McElveny fly in to Boston and work out at Fenway Park. There, the 18-year-old who had played both infield and outfield in high school shifted between right field, second base, third base, shortstop, and behind the plate.
“I don’t know how that’s going to play out in the long-term,” director of amateur scouting Paul Toboni said of McElveny’s versatility last summer. “But for now, he’s going to have a lot of ways to keep his bat in the lineup and hopefully string together some really quality at-bats.”
Of the 612 prospects taken in the 2021 amateur draft, McElveny was the only individual to receive the designation of utility player. After officially signing with the Red Sox as a shortstop on July 24, the right-handed hitter made his pro debut in the rookie-level Florida Complex League on August 10.
In just nine FCL contests, McElveny batted .174 (4-for-23)/.367/.217 (85 wRC+) with one double, one RBI, five runs scored, three walks, and 10 strikeouts across 33 plate appearances. He was also hit by a pitch on four separate occasions.
Defensively, the 6-foot, 190 pounder did not see any time behind the plate in the FCL, but he did log 37 1/3 innings at second base and three innings in left field.
Epperson, who spent the last 12 seasons (2010-2021) as the Red Sox’ catching coordinator before being named the Portland Sea Dogs’ new manager earlier this month, told Gammons that the club is “optimistic” about McElveny’s conversion and that “it’s worth a try.”
If McElveny is to make the switch to catcher to some degree, he would become the latest in a slightly long line of Boston minor-leaguers to do so. Alex Erro was drafted as an infielder in 2019 but caught 57 games for Low-A Salem last year. Stephen Scott was drafted as an outfielder that same year but caught 19 games between Salem and High-A Greenville last year. Alex Zapete signed out of the Dominican Republic as an infielder in 2018 but is now working to become a catcher.
Connor Wong, one of three players the Red Sox acquired from the Dodgers in the famed Mookie Betts trade, played several positions at the University of Houston and while coming up through Los Angeles’ farm system.
Last year with Triple-A Worcester, Wong caught 372 1/3 innings but also made one appearance at second base. The 25-year-old backstop made his major-league debut in June and appeared in a total of five big-league games behind the plate. In each of those outings, the Red Sox took note of how well Wong collaborated with the pitchers he was working with.
“The first thing is that the young player has to really buy in, he has to want to make the change,” Epperson said of the conversion process. “He has to be very quiet when he goes back there. Selfless, like Jason (Varitek). The mindset is really important.”
While someone like Wong will be looking to make his mark in the majors this year, McElveny is preparing to embark upon his first full professional season. The Southern California native is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 campaign back in the FCL, though he should have the opportunity to earn himself a promotion to Low-A Salem at some point in the spring or summer.
(Picture of Daniel McElveny: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)