4 Red Sox prospects recognized in Baseball America’s top 100 rankings heading into 2022 season

The Red Sox have four of the top 100 prospects in baseball, according to the preseason rankings Baseball America released on Wednesday.

Of the 100 players who were selected, Red Sox prospects such as shortstop Marcelo Mayer (No. 15), first baseman Triston Casas (No. 19), second baseman Nick Yorke (No. 31), and outfielder Jarren Duran (No. 91) all made the cut.

Mayer, 19, was Boston’s top selection in last summer’s draft. The Eastlake High School (Chula Vista, Calif.) product was taken with the fourth overall pick and ultimately signed with the Sox for $6.64 million as opposed to honoring his commitment to the University of Southern California.

After being assigned to the rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox out of the gate, Mayer got his pro career off to a solid start. The right-handed hitting infielder slashed .275/.377/.440 with four doubles, one triple, three home runs, 17 RBIs, 25 runs scored, seven stolen bases, 15 walks, and 27 strikeouts over 26 games (107 plate appearances) in the FCL.

Casas, 22, became Boston’s top selection in the 2018 draft when the club took him with the 26th overall pick out of American Heritage High School (Plantation, Fla.).

The 2021 season proved to be an eventful one for Casas, who played at two different minor-league levels, for Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics, and for the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League.

Between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Worcester last year, the left-handed slugger batted a stout .279/.394/.484 to go along with 15 doubles, three triples, 14 home runs, 59 RBIs, 63 runs scored, seven stolen bases, 57 walks, and 71 strikeouts over 86 games spanning 371 trips to the plate. Elsewhere, he was recognized as the top first baseman in the Summer Games as well as an Arizona Fall League All-Star.

This is not the first time Casas has been recognized by Baseball America as one of the game’s top prospect. In fact, the 6-foot-4, 252 pounder has effectively been one of — if not the best prospect in the Sox’ farm system since joining the organization and could very well make his big-league debut at some point in 2022.

The same cannot be said for Yorke, who is fresh off his first full season in pro ball after being taken by the Red Sox with the 17th overall selection in the shortened 2020 draft out of Archbishop Mitty High School (San Jose, Calif).

At that time, Boston’s selection of Yorke was met with much surprise since the infielder was not regarded as one of the country’s top draft-eligible prospects. It now appears as though the Red Sox made a smart decision by drafting Yorke when they did.

After drawing praise from the likes of Alex Cora throughout spring training, Yorke initially got off to a slow start with Low-A Salem, but he turned things around and wound up tearing the cover off the ball across both Class-A levels in 2021.

In 97 total games between Salem and High-A Greenville, the right-handed hitting 19-year-old slashed a scorching .325/.412/.516 with 20 doubles, five triples, 14 homers, 62 runs driven in, 76 runs scored, 13 stolen bases, 52 walks, and 69 strikeouts over 442 plate appearances.

Finally, we arrive at Duran, the lone Red Sox prospect on this last who was not selected by the club in the first round of his respective draft. He was instead taken in the seventh round of the 2018 draft and opened the 2021 season in Worcester.

Duran got off to a hot start with the WooSox as he batted .270/.365/.561 (144 wRC+) through his first 46 games (219 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. That impressive stretch resulted in his first big-league call-up in mid-July, though he struggled to make the most of that opportunity.

In his two stints with the Red Sox, the speedy 25-year-old hit an underwhelming .215/.241/.336 with three doubles, two triples, two home runs, 10 RBI, 17 runs scored, two stolen bases, four walks, and 40 strikeouts over 33 games and 112 plate appearances. He was placed on the COVID-19 related injured list on September 3 after testing positive for the virus and did not appear in another major-league contest.

Despite the disappointing debut, there is still plenty of upside with Duran, and his speed has plenty to do with that. With that being said though, the Red Sox’ outfield picture is already quite crowded at the moment, so it may be difficult for the left-handed hitter to find consistent playing time in Boston to begin the 2022 season.

According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, this is the first time since 2016 in which Baseball America has included at least four Red Sox prospects in its preseason top-100 list. Heading into the 2016 season, the likes of Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, Anderson Espinoza, and Michael Kopech were among the publication’s top 100.

The fact that the Red Sox have as many as four prospects featured in Baseball America’s top-100 list speaks to how much the team’s farm system has improved since Chaim Bloom was named chief baseball officer in October 2019.

Given how all four of Mayer, Casas, Yorke, and Duran were drafted by the Sox, it also speaks to how well-run the club’s amateur scouting department is run. Vice president of scouting Mike Rikard can be credited with the selections of Casas and Duran, while director of amateur scouting Paul Toboni can be credited with the selections of Mayer and Yorke.

Of course, the area scouts who initially scouted these prospects when they were still amateurs deserve recognition as well. J.J. Altobelli is credited with signing Mayer, Willie Romay is credited with signing Casas, Josh Labandeira is credited with signing Yorke, and Justin Horowitz is credited with signing Duran.

(Picture of Marcelo Mayer: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Red Sox sign right-hander Taylor Cole to minor-league deal for 2022 season

The Red Sox have signed free agent right-hander Taylor Cole to a minor-league contract for the 2022 season, the club announced Wednesday. The deal also includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Cole, 32, last pitched in the majors in 2019. He was originally drafted by the Blue Jays in the 29th round of the 2011 amateur draft out of Brigham University and debuted with Toronto in 2017.

After just one appearance with the Jays, Cole was released that November and later signed on with the Angels ahead of the 2018 campaign. For the next two years, the righty was shuttled between Anaheim and the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Salt Lake City. He posted a 4.62 ERA — but much more encouraging 3.31 FIP — to go along with 89 strikeouts to 36 walks over 56 outings (eight starts) spanning 87 2/3 innings of work during that two-year stretch.

The highlight of Cole’s tenure with the Halos came on July 12 of the 2019 season, when he started and threw the first two innings of a combined no-hitter against the Mariners. Felix Pena was responsible for the final seven frames of that memorable 13-0 win at Angel Stadium, which was the team’s first home game following the tragic death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs.

Most recently, Cole missed the 2020 season in its entirety due to a shoulder injury that required surgery that August. The California native was out of affiliated ball altogether in 2021, but spent his winter in the Dominican Republic.

There, while pitching for Tigres del Licey of the Dominican Winter League, Cole put up a 2.08 ERA and 1.38 WHIP with eight strikeouts and six walks over seven relief appearances and 8 2/3 innings pitched.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, Cole — who turns 33 in August — operates with a five-pitch mix that consists of a four-seam fastball, changeup, slider, curveball, and cutter, per Baseball Savant.

Given how he has a history of both working as a starter and reliever, Cole’s versatility must have intrigued the Red Sox to a certain extent. It’s the sort of signing that does not come with much risk, but could prove beneficial for both parties if Cole impresses this spring.

On that note, Cole becomes the fifth non-roster invitee Boston has invited to big-league spring training, as he joins the likes of fellow pitchers Zack Kelly and Michael Feliz as well as outfielders Christin Stewart and Rob Refsnyder.

(Picture of Taylor Cole: John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Red Sox pitching prospect Victor Santos’ debut season with Double-A Portland was a solid one

It was one year ago Tuesday (January 18) when the Red Sox traded infielder C.J. Chatham to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

The trade allowed the Sox to create an opening on their 40-man roster, which enabled them to acquire veteran reliever Adam Ottavino and pitching prospect Frank German from the Yankees the following week.

Nearly four months after the initial trade between Boston and Philadelphia was finalized, it was revealed on July 17 that the Red Sox would be acquiring another pitching prospect in Victor Santos from the Phillies to complete the Chatham deal.

Santos, 21, originally signed with Philadelphia as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2016. The young right-hander opened the 2021 minor-league season with High-A Jersey Shore before earning a promotion to Double-A Reading in late June.

In 13 appearances (five starts) between Jersey Shore and Reading to begin the year, Santos posted a 2.20 ERA and 3.69 FIP to go along with 40 strikeouts to nine walks over 41 innings of work.

Upon getting assigned to Double-A Portland in mid-July, the 6-foot-1, 191 pound hurler proceeded to put up a 2.58 ERA and 3.49 FIP with 45 strikeouts and six walks across 10 outings (eight starts) spanning 45 1/3 innings pitched to close out his 2021 campaign.

Among all pitchers who accrued at least 60 innings in the Double-A Northeast last year, Santos ranked 33rd in strikeouts per nine innings (8.18) second in walks per nine innings (1.36), 29th in strikeout rate (22.2%), second in walk rate (3.7%), 16th in batting average against (.233), seventh in WHIP (1.06), sixth in ERA (2.73), 10th in FIP (3.62), and 14th in xFIP (4.00), per FanGraphs.

A native of Villa Tapia, Santos works from a three-quarters arm slot and operates with a three-pitch mix of a 90-92 mph fastball that tops out at 94 mph, a 77-79 mph split-changeup, and a “slurvy” 77-81 mph slider, according to his SoxProspects.com scouting report.

This off-season, Santos returned to his home island to pitch for Leones del Escogido of the Dominican Winter League. Working strictly as a reliever, he pitched to the tune of a 2.45 ERA and 1.20 WHIP with 17 strikeouts and six walks over 14 appearances (18 1/3 innings) out of the bullpen for Escogido.

Santos, who turns 22 in July, is still technically eligible for the 2021 Rule 5 Draft since the Red Sox did not add him to their 40-man roster by last November’s deadline. However, due to the nature of the MLB lockout, the major-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft has been postponed indefinitely and a makeup date has not yet been determined.

If there is eventually a Rule 5 Draft and Santos goes unselected, the Dominican-born righty is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 season in the starting rotation for the Sea Dogs. If that winds up being the case, an eventual promotion to Triple-A Worcester cannot be ruled out depending on how he performs in the spring.

(Picture of Victor Santos: Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Northeastern’s Sebastian Keane one of Baseball America’s top 100 draft-eligible prospects heading into 2022 season

Baseball America released the first installment of its annual top 100 prospect rankings for the upcoming 2022 MLB Draft on Monday. Of the 100 draft-eligible high school and college players that were selected, North Andover native and Northeastern University right-hander Sebastian Keane made the cut at No. 96.

As you might recall, Keane was selected by the Red Sox in the 11th round of the 2019 amateur draft out of North Andover High School. Rather than go pro and sign with Boston, though, the young righty elected to honor his commitment to Northeastern University.

Now a 21-year-old junior, Keane is coming off an eventful 2021 season in which he pitched for both the Huskies and the Chatham Anglers of the Cape Cod Baseball League.

In 12 starts for Northeastern during the spring, Keane posted a 4.09 ERA and 1.19 WHIP to go along with 73 strikeouts to 20 walks over 70 1/3 innings of work. In seven appearances — three of which were starts — for Chatham, he produced a 3.86 ERA and 1.57 WHIP with 25 strikeouts to seven walks across 21 total innings pitched.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 187 pounds with room to grow, Keane operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a fastball that has reached 96 mph, a low-80s slider, a mid-70s curveball, and a low-80s changeup, per his Baseball America scouting report.

“Keane has always been a lean, wiry pitcher who might struggle to add weight in the future,” Baseball America’s Carlos Collazo wrote on Monday. “He had plenty of interest out of high school and has only gotten more since, given his performance and solid package of stuff and average control.”

Considering that he is currently regarded by BA as the 96th-ranked prospect in this year’s draft class, you could make the case that Keane — who turns 22 in November — is a projected third-round pick at the moment.

Of course, plenty will change once the high school and college baseball seasons begin in the spring. Whether Keane will be able to improve his draft stock or sees it take a hit remains to be seen as he prepares for his third season with the Huskies — which begins next month and includes an exhibition against the Red Sox in Fort Myers on February 25.

In a separate piece for Baseball America, Collazo cited that major-league scouting directors feel as though college pitching is the clear wink link heading into the 2022 draft.

“There are few established pitchers with starting track records and first round stuff to match as we enter the 2022 season,” he wrote. “Teams are hoping to look up five months from now and have much different feelings about the college pitching than they do presently.”  

With that being said, Collazo adds that prospects such as Keane do have an opportunity “to come out with better stuff and impress in a starting role all season to cement themselves in the first round because of the lack of marquee names in the group.”

Over the course of last summer’s 20-round draft, the Red Sox took a total of seven college pitchers in Wyatt Olds (seventh round), Hunter Dobbins (eighth round), Matt Litwicki (10th round), Christopher Troye (12th round), Jacob Webb (14th round), Luis Guerrero (17th round), and Tyler Uberstine (19th round).

At this point, it is too early to determine what sort of strategy the Red Sox — whose amateur scouting efforts are led by Paul Toboni — will implement going into this summer’s draft.

If college pitching becomes a priority, though, then perhaps they could target someone who is local and someone they already have a history with in Keane. Only time will tell.

(Picture of Sebastian Keane: Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Brayan Bello recognized by MLB Pipeline as top international prospect in Boston’s farm system

With the 2021-2022 international signing window officially opening this weekend, MLB Pipeline recently identified each team’s top international prospect across Major League Baseball.

For the Red Sox, that was none other than pitching prospect Brayan Bello, who signed with Boston out of the Dominican Republic for just $28,000 back in July 2017.

Then just 18 years old, Bello has since emerged as one of the premier young hurlers in the Sox’ farm system at the age of 22.

This past season, the right-hander began the year in the starting rotation High-A Greenville and quickly made strides there. He posted a 2.27 ERA and 2.82 FIP to go along with 45 strikeouts to seven walks over six starts (31 2/3 innings pitched) for the Drive before earning a promotion to Double-A Portland in early June.

With the Sea Dogs, Bello picked up where he left off by pitching to the tune of a 4.66 ERA — but much more respectable 3.12 FIP — with 87 strikeouts and 24 walks across 15 starts spanning 63 2/3 innings of work.

During his run in Portland, Bello was selected to represent the Red Sox in the All-Star Futures Game at Coors Field alongside infielder Jeter Downs. He allowed one run on one hit while recording the final two outs of the third inning of that contest on July 11.

At the conclusion of the 2021 minor-league season, Bello was recognized by the Sox and was named the organization’s starting pitcher of the year. The fiery righty was subsequently added to the club’s 40-man roster in November in order to receive protection from the Rule 5 Draft.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, Bello operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a mid-90s four-seam fastball that touches 98 mph, a changeup, and a slider. He is also in the midst of developing a two-seamer, according to Baseball America.

In terms of prospect ranks, Bello is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 5 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks tops among pitchers in the organization. The Samana native is also ranked by MLB Pipeline as the top pitching prospect the Red Sox have in the fold.

Bello, who turns 23 in May, is presently projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the upcoming 2022 campaign with Portland. That being said, an early promotion to Triple-A Worcester certainly seems possible depending on the kind of start he gets off to in the spring.

(Picture of Brayan Bello: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox sign Venezuelan catching prospect Johanfran Garcia

Saturday marked the opening of the 2021-2022 international signing window across Major League Baseball. The Red Sox have been as active as any team and have signed six players thus far, according to Baseball America signing agreement tracker.

Of those six players, catching prospect Johanfran Garcia may stand out above the rest.

Garcia, who turned 17 last month, will sign with Boston for approximately $650,000, per MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. The native of Venezuela is the younger brother of Red Sox outfield prospect Jhostynxon Garcia, who originally signed with the club in July 2019.

Listed at 6-foot and 205 pounds, Garcia came into 2022 regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 34 overall prospect in this year’s class, ranking fifth among catchers in the publication’s top-50 list.

On the 20-80 scouting scale, MLB Pipeline grades the right-handed hitting backstop’s hit tool at 50, his power tool at 55, his run tool at 45, and his arm tool at 50.

“Garcia is built like Yadier Molina,” his MLB Pipeline scouting report reads. “He’s husky, strong and extremely durable. And while he could eventually develop into an all-around defender like Yadier, Garcia is better known for his bat over his defense at this stage of his career.

“The teen simply has a great feel for hitting and performs well at the plate in games and showcases,” it continues. “He has displayed the ability to spray the ball all over the field with authority and has what has been described as ‘sneaky’ pull power to his pull side.

“He’s no slouch on defense. He has average hands and projects to have an average arm. He moves well behind the plate and continues to work on his blocking and receiving skills.” 

In addition to Garcia, the Red Sox have also inked shortstops Fraymi De Leon, Freili Encarnacion, Jancel Santana, Yosander Asencio (Dominican Republic), and Marvin Alcantara (Venezuela), outfielder Natanael Yuten (Dominican Republic), left-hander Inmer Lobo (Venezuela) and right-handers Willian Colmenares and Denison Sanchez (Venezuela).

Boston has $5,179,700 to work with in terms of their international amateur bonus pool. Any player they sign for $10,000 or less does not count against the cap as this year’s signing window runs through December 15.

(Picture of JetBlue Park: Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Red Sox make history in hiring Katie Krall as development coach with Double-A Portland

The Red Sox have hired Katie Krall to serve as a player development coach with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Per Speier, “Krall will have a hybrid role in which she navigates among the front office, coaching staff, and players, while helping to integrate technology and information into on-field work.”

Krall, 24, is a native of Illinois who graduated from Northwestern University in 2018. She is currently an MBA candidate at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

Upon graduating from Northwestern in 2018, Krall spent nearly two years working in the Commissioner’s Office as part of Major League Baseball’s Diversity Fellowship Program.

In January 2020, Krall was hired by the Cincinnati Reds to work in the club’s front office as a baseball operations analyst. She served in that role through the end of the 2021 season and her responsibilities included developing and integrating new tools and technology to improve baseball operations decision-making processes as well as providing comprehensive scouting coverage and statistical request support.

Krall’s upcoming endeavor with the Sea Dogs will not be her first experience in New England. She previously interned for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks of the Cape Cod Baseball League during the summer of 2017.

In hiring Krall, the Red Sox — as noted by Speier — become the first MLB team to have multiple women on coaching staffs in the organization. The Sox hired Bianca Smith as a minor-league coach last January, allowing her to become the first Black woman hired to coach in the history of affiliated baseball.

“I’m super excited about Katie,” Smith said of Krall in a recent conversation with Speier. “I know her background. I know what she’s done. I’m glad I’m able to be a resource to help. I’m excited to work with her.

“We’ve already talked about how we’ve got to get a picture when we’re together at spring training, because that’s going to be history in itself — that an organization has two women,” added Smith. “It’s kind of sad that it’s still a big deal, but we’re both really excited about it.”

Upon joining the Red Sox organization last year, Smith started out on a seasonal, six-month contract in which she worked primarily with hitters and outfielders in extended spring training in Fort Myers. Her responsibilities gradually increased once the 2021 Florida Complex League season began.

According to Speier, Smith will be promoted and undertake a full-time coaching role in Fort Myers in 2022.

This news comes at a time when glass ceilings are continuously shattering across baseball. Earlier this week, the Yankees introduced Rachel Balkovec as the new manager of their Low-A affiliate in the Tampa Tarpons, making her the first woman to ever be appointed manager of a minor-league team.

As of this moment, 11 women are slated to coach in affiliated baseball during the 2022 season. Of those 11, eight (including Balkovec, Krall, and Smith) have been hired by their respective clubs since January 2021.

(Picture of Hadlock Field: Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Red Sox sign outfielder Izzy Wilson to minor-league deal for 2022 season

The Red Sox have signed free-agent outfielder Izzy Wilson to a minor-league contract for the 2022 season, according to Baseball America’s transaction log. It does not appear as though the deal includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Wilson, who turns 24 in March, spent the 2021 season in the Angels organization after splitting the first six years of his professional career between the Braves and Rays.

Formerly an infielder as an amateur, Wilson originally signed with Atlanta as an international free agent out of Saint Martin in 2014 and immediately moved the outfield.

Once a top prospect in the Braves’ farm system, Wilson was cut loose by Atlanta in June 2019. He signed a minor-league deal with the Rays shortly thereafter and closed out the year with Tampa Bay’s Class-A affiliate, so there might be a connection to Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom there.

After the 2020 minor-league season was wiped out on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wilson became a free agent once more that November before signing a minors pact with the Halos for the 2021 campaign.

In 83 games with the Angels’ Double-A affiliate (the Rocket City Trash Pandas) last year, the left-handed hitter batted .247/.328/.486 (124 wRC+) to go along with eight doubles, 21 home runs, 53 RBIs, 51 runs scored, 25 stolen bases, 36 walks, and 102 strikeouts over 335 trips to the plate.

Defensively, Wilson has experience at all three outfield positions. In 2021 alone, the speedy 23-year-old logged a total of 58 innings in left field and 612 1/3 innings in right field. He last played center field in 2019.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, Wilson becomes the third minor-league outfielder Boston has added since the off-season began in November. The Sox signed Rob Refsnyder and Christin Stewart in the late stages of the fall, then inked Johan Mieses earlier this month.

(Picture of Izzy Wilson courtesy of Rocket City Trash Pandas)

Red Sox infield prospect Matthew Lugo closed out his 2021 season with Low-A Salem on a high note

One of the youngest players the Red Sox selected in the 2019 amateur draft was second-round pick Matthew Lugo.

Lugo, then just 18 years old, was fresh out of the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico and ultimately forwent his commitment to the University of Miami to sign with the Sox for an over-slot deal of $1.1 million that June.

After beginning his professional career in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League and closing out the year with the short-season Lowell Spinners, Lugo — like many minor-leaguers had his 2020 season taken away from him due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Lugo had the chance to participate in some organized baseball activities during the Sox’ fall instructional league in Fort Myers, the young infielder came into the 2021 campaign having not seen any real in-game action in nearly two years.

Now 20 years old, Lugo broke minor-league camp with Low-A Salem last spring and spent the entirety of the year there. In 105 games for Salem, the right-handed hitter batted .270/.338/.364 (95 wRC+) to go along with 21 doubles, three triples, four home runs, 50 RBIs, 61 runs scored, 15 stolen bases, 38 walks, and 94 strikeouts over 469 trips to the plate.

On the surface, those numbers may not look all that inspiring, but Lugo was among the youngest hitters to play in the Low-A East last year. Interestingly enough, the Manati native fared far better against right-handed pitchers (.294/.367/.402 slash line against in 387 plate appearances) than left-handers (.160/.198/.187 slash line in 82 plate appearances).

In spite of those reverse splits, Lugo saved his best for last in terms of offensive production by batting a scorching .349/.432/.587 (171 wRC+) with five doubles, two triples, two homers, 13 RBIs, 18 runs scored, one stolen base, eight walks, and 16 strikeouts over 17 games (74 plate appearances) in the month of September.

Defensively, Lugo saw time at both second base and shortstop with the Salem Sox in 2021. The 6-foot-1, 187 pounder logged 53 innings at second base and 797 1/3 innings at shortstop, committing a total of 35 errors while turning 44 double plays.

Going into the off-season, Lugo was assigned to Criollos de Caguas of the Puerto Rican Winter League back in November. He had previously played for his hometown Atenienses de Manati during the 2019-2020 off-season but has yet to appear in a game for Caguas.

Lugo, who turns 21 in May, is the nephew of former All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran — a close friend of Red Sox manager Alex Cora. He ended the 2021 season ranked by Baseball America as the No. 18 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Per his Baseball America scouting report, Lugo “is described as strikingly mature in his routines and work, including strength work that led one evaluator to describe him as, pound for pound, the strongest prospect in the system. While many expected him to move to second base in pro ball, he has made significant strides at shortstop and many with the Red Sox now believe he can stick at the position.”

On that note, Lugo is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 season at High-A Greenville. He will not become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft until next year.

Picture of Matthew Lugo: Gary Streiffer/Flickr)

Red Sox expected to sign pair of Dominican shortstops when international signing period opens this weekend

When the 2021-2022 international signing period opens this weekend, the Red Sox are expected to add some young and intriguing infield depth to their farm system.

According to Baseball America’s Ben Badler, Boston is in line to sign a pair of shortstops from the Dominican Republic in Fraymi De Leon and Freili Encarnacion beginning on January 15.

De Leon, who turned 17 in September, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 32 overall prospect and one of the best defensive shortstops in this year’s international signing class.

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 157 pounds, De Leon is a natural switch hitter who still has room to grow physically when it comes to adding strength. Per his Baseball America scouting report, De Leon is “a quick-twitch athlete who is light on his feet with smooth actions and good body control at shortstop. [He] has soft hands, a strong arm and good instincts, reading the ball well off the bat with a good internal clock for his age.”

MLB Pipeline, on the other hand, has De Leon penciled in as their 50th-ranked international prospect, noting that the teen is “already a fringe-to-average runner” who possesses “solid defensive actions and a decent arm that should keep him” at shortstop.

Turning to Encarnacion now, the 16-year-old infielder comes in as Baseball America’s No. 37 international prospect. Like De Leon, Encarnacion hails from Santo Domingo but is listed at a taller 6-goot-2 and 175 pounds.

Per Badler, Encarnacion “is strong for his age” and “an offensive-minded infielder who drives the ball with impact for extra-base and over-the-fence juice.

“He’s not a dead pull hitter either, with a sound approach for his age and the ability to hit to all fields,” adds Badler. “Encarnacion has trained as a shortstop, though he might end up sliding over to third base.”

Encarnacion, who actually turns 17 in a little over two weeks, hits from the right side of the plate. He is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 19 prospect in this year’s signing class and is described as a special individual with a great demeanor who is also consistent, confident, and one of the top hitters on the international market.

“He has shown the ability to spray the ball across the outfield, and has a knack for squaring up the ball and driving it up the middle,” Encarnacion’s MLB Pipeline scouting report reads. “On defense, he shows good hands, a plus arm potential and will have a chance to stay at shortstop. He could still make the switch to third base if he outgrows the position.” 

At the moment, it’s unclear how much either De Leon or Encarnacion will sign with the Red Sox for. However, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports that Boston will have approximately $5,179,700 to work with when it comes to their bonus signing pool.

(Picture of JetBlue Park: Mark Brown/Getty Images)