Has Ryan Fitzgerald been the MVP of spring training so far for the Red Sox?
The left-handed hitting infielder has batted .364/.462/1.182 with a team-leading three home runs, seven RBIs, three runs scored, one stolen base, two walks, and two strikeouts through his first seven games (13 plate appearances) in the Grapefruit League.
Fitzgerald, 27, has the unique distinction of not being drafted out of college or high school. The Creighton University product instead began his pro career by playing one season with the Gary SouthShore RailCats of the independent American Association.
The following spring, Fitzgerald signed with the Red Sox as an undrafted free agent. The Illinois native was assigned to the then-Low-A Greenville Drive out of the gate and really has not looked back since.
In 2019 with the then-High A Salem Red Sox, Fitzgerald posted a .721 OPS across 127 games while making at least one appearance at all four infield positions en route to being named a Carolina League mid- and post-season All-Star. He was also recognized as the organization’s Minor League Defensive Player of the Year that September.
After not being able to do much of anything in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Fitzgerald broke minor-league camp last year with Double-A Portland and proceeded to slash .282/.365/.543 (144 wRC+) with 11 homers and 36 RBIs through his first 70 games with the Sea Dogs. He earned a promotion to Triple-A Worcester on July 29.
In a brief stint with the WooSox that lasted all of 13 games, Fitzgerald hit .262/.340/.571 (138 wRC+) with three home runs and nine RBIs before getting sent back down to Portland on August 17. He closed out his year at a .241/.313/.402 clip leading into the end of September.
Between the Double-A and Triple-A levels, Fitzgerald produced a .270/.350/.512 slash line (131 wRC+) while clubbing a total of 16 home runs, driving in a total of of 58 runs, scoring a total of 55 runs, stealing a total of four bases, drawing a total of 37 walks, and striking out a total of 81 times over 108 games (412 plate appearances) in 2021.
Defensively, the versatile 6-foot, 185 pounder made his pro debut as an outfielder last year, logging 10 innings in left, 79 innings in center, and eight innings in right field with the Sea Dogs and WooSox. He once again saw playing time at all four infield positions between the two affiliates, but none more than shortstop (619 2/3 combined innings).
Fitzgerald, who turns 28 in June, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 38 prospect in Boston’s farm system and is currently participating in his first major-league spring training down in Fort Myers. He appears to be a longshot to make the Sox’ Opening Day roster, but he has been making an intriguing case as a potential bench option these last few weeks.
Based off SoxProspects.com’s roster projections, Fitzgerald is in line to return to Worcester for the start of the 2022 season. That being said, the fact that he can play just about anywhere — as well as major-league rosters expanding from 26 to 28 players through the end of April — certainly works in his favor.
While Fitzgerald still has a little less than two weeks to prove he is worthy of an Opening Day roster spot, the 27-year-old will bat eighth and start at second base for the Red Sox in their Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles on Thursday night.
First pitch from Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. eastern time on MASN.
(Picture of Ryan Fitzgerald: Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)