How did contingent of Red Sox prospects perform in Arizona Fall League this year?

The 2022 Arizona Fall League season came to a close over the weekend, as the Surprise Saguaros defeated the Glendale Desert Dogs by a final score of 7-6 in Saturday’s championship game at Scottsdale Stadium.

Orioles prospect Heston Kjerstad was named the league’s Most Valuable Player while Cardinals lefty Connor Thomas was named Pitcher of the Year. Colorado’s Zac Veen earned Offensive Player of the Year honors, Tampa Bay’s Evan Reifert was named Reliever of the Year, Minnesota’s Edouard Julien was named Breakout Player of the Year, San Francisco’s Luis Matos was named Defensive Player of the Year, and Oakland’s Lawrence Butler received the Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award.

The Red Sox sent eight of their own minor-leaguers to play for the Scottsdale Scorpions, who at 13-16 finished 1 1/2 games back of a playoff spot, this fall. Although none of these players were recognized in postseason award distribution, some certainly fared better than others.

Here is a rundown of how each of these eight prospects performed over the last six-plus weeks, starting with the four pitchers who made the trek out west:

Aaron Perry, RHP

Perry, 23, made 10 relief appearances for the Scorpions. The right-hander posted a 12.46 ERA and 2.86 WHIP with four strikeouts to 10 walks over 8 2/3 innings of work. Opponents batted .395 off him.

Boston originally selected Perry in the 14th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of Hurricane High School in West Virginia. Since then, the righty has been limited to 47 2/3 minor-league innings due to a number of injuries. He appeared in just three games for High-A Greenville this year.

Thad Ward, RHP

Ward, 25, made four appearances — three of which were starts — for Scottsdale. The righty suffered a left oblique strain after his second start of the fall on October 10 and was sidelined for nearly a month as a result. He returned in time to pitch in two more games and wound up posting a 2.84 ERA and 1.34 WHIP with 15 strikeouts to six walks over 12 2/3 innings of work. Opponents batted .234 off him.

Currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 25 prospect in Boston’s farm system, Ward was limited to 13 minor-league starts this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last June. The former fifth-round selection out of the University of Central Florida can become eligible for this winter’s Rule 5 Draft if the Red Sox do not add him to their 40-man roster on Tuesday.

Jacob Webb, RHP

Webb, 23, finished in a two-way tie for the team lead in saves (3) this fall. The hard-throwing righty pitched to a 3.60 ERA and 1.30 WHIP to go along with 12 strikeouts to five walks over nine relief appearances spanning 10 innings of work. Opposing hitters batted .222 (8-for-36) off him.

The Red Sox took Webb in the 14th round of last year’s draft out of Miami University of Ohio. The 6-foot-5, 246-pound hurler pitched at three different levels this season and ended the year at Double-A Portland. He possesses a three-pitch mix that consists of a high-90s fastball, a mid-80s slider, and a high-80s changeup.

Ryan Zeferjahn, RHP

Zeferjahn, 24, primarily came out of the bullpen for Scottsdale, but he also made one start. In nine total appearances, the right-hander produced a 4.80 ERA and 1.27 WHIP with 18 strikeouts to eight walks over 15 innings of work. He limited opposing hitters to a .208 batting average against.

Listed at 6-foot-5 and 209 pounds, Zeferjahn spent the majority of the 2022 minor-league season with Greenville before being promoted to Portland in late August. The former third-round pick out of the University of Kansas posted a 5.05 ERA between the two levels and, like Ward, is Rule 5 eligible this winter.

Moving on the four position players that made up this eight-man contingent…

Wilyer Abreu, OF

Abreu, 23, was one of two prospects the Red Sox acquired from the Astros in the Christian Vazquez trade. The left-handed hitter went just 9-for-54 (.167) with two doubles, 10 RBIs, eight runs scored, three stolen bases, 10 walks, and 18 strikeouts in 17 games for the Scorpions this fall. He made four appearances in left field and eight appearances in right.

After closing out the minor-league season with Portland, Abreu is another minor-leaguer who can become eligible for next month’s Rule 5 Draft if he is not added to Boston’s 40-man roster on Tuesday. The native Venezuelan does offer intriguing speed and possesses the ability to get on base at a respectable clip, so he has that going for him.

Niko Kavadas, 1B

Kavadas, 24, split time at first base with San Francisco’s Logan Wyatt and Atlanta’s Cade Bunnell. The left-handed hitting slugger slashed .239/.417/.435 with three doubles, two homers, six runs driven in, seven runs scored, 13 walks, and 24 strikeouts in 15 games (60 plate appearances) with the Scorpions.

The Red Sox originally selected Kavadas in the 11th round of the 2021 amateur draft out of The University of Notre Dame. The Indiana native earned Minor League Offensive Player of the Year honors in his first full professional season. He is currently regarded by Baseball America as the 30th-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Stephen Scott, C

Scott, 25, was one of two Red Sox minor-leaguers to make it to this year’s AFL Fall Stars Game. The left-handed hitter also took part in the league’s first-ever home run derby in the process of batting .298/.394/.614 with one double, one triple, five home runs, 16 RBIs, 15 runs scored, one stolen base, nine walks, and 11 strikeouts across 15 games (66 plate appearances) this fall. He started 13 games at catcher and threw out four of 22 base stealers en route to being named to the 2022 All-Arizona Fall League Team.

A former 10th-round pick in 2019 out of Vanderbilt University who was signed as an outfielder, Scott has since emerged as a full-time backstop. The 5-foot-11, 207-pound North Carolina native split the 2022 campaign between Greenville and Portland. He is a candidate to be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster on Tuesday given his upcoming Rule 5 eligibility.

Nick Yorke, 2B

Yorke, 20, played in last week’s Fall Stars Game alongside Scott. Before that, the right-handed hitting infielder missed some time with left wrist soreness. But he wound up batting a stout .342/.424/.526 with eight doubles, two home runs, 18 RBIs, 18 runs scored, one stolen base, 12 walks, and 16 strikeouts over 19 games (92 plate appearances) with the Scorpions.

It was a down year for Yorke offensively, as he posted a .668 OPS in Greenville after being named the Red Sox’ Minor League Offensive Player of the Year in 2021. Perhaps what he just did in Arizona is a positive sign of what is to come. The 2020 first-round pick is still regarded by Baseball America as the No. 5 prospect in Boston’s farm system. He is projected to be on Portland’s Opening Day roster next spring.

(Picture of Nick Yorke: Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

Author: Brendan Campbell

Blogging about the Boston Red Sox since April '17. Also support Tottenham Hotspur.

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