Potential Red Sox draft target, University of Florida outfielder Jud Fabian a name to watch as college baseball season kicks off Friday

The 2021 college baseball season begins on Friday, and with the Red Sox making their top selection in this July’s amateur draft with the fourth overall pick, this season could stand out significantly.

Several draft-eligible prospects have been linked to the Sox already, but sticking with the college baseball theme here, one name to watch in particular this spring is University of Florida outfielder Jud Fabian.

Back in December, MLB.com’s Jim Callis had Boston selecting the 20-year-old with their top pick in the upcoming draft, writing that “Fabian might be the most polarizing prospect among the eight players who seem to have separated themselves from the rest of the Draft class at this point. He could have the most usable power in the Draft and may stay in center field, but he also has hit just .250 with a 22-percent strikeout rate in two seasons at Florida.”

Fabian, who turns 21 in September, is rather young for a junior on account of the fact he enrolled early at Florida and skipped his senior year of high school.

In his first two seasons as Gator, the right-handed hitting, left-handed throwing outfielder has slashed .250/.368/.466 with 12 home runs and 39 RBI over 73 total games played while primarily patrolling center field.

He did carry with him an OPS of 1.010 through his first 17 games of the 2020 campaign before the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced the SEC to cancel its college baseball season last March.

According to his FanGraphs scouting report, Fabian “has a rare, unfavorable ‘backwards’ profile — he hits right and throws left, limiting him to 1B/OF — but looks like he’ll hit enough for that not to matter. While his lower half has gotten a little heavier and softer since high school, Fabian still has a fairly athletic swing, and his hitting hands work in an explosive loop that give him low-ball power. His hands load deep and high, and Fabian’s bat path doesn’t always look like it’s going to work, but he still covers the zone from (nearly) top to bottom and can pull his hands in to get the barrel on inside pitches.”

Listed at 6-foot and 190 lbs., the Ocala, Fla. native already has at least one connection to the Red Sox since he was teammates with outfield prospect Wil Dalton for a year in Gainesville.

In a recent appearance on Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, Dalton, Boston’s eighth-round draft selection in 2019, raved about Fabian and what he can bring to the table at the next level.

“Jud came in my junior year. He was an early grad out of high school, so he enrolled early and skipped his senior year of high school,” Dalton said in January. “Coming in, we were like, ‘Okay, the kid’s obviously going to be good, coming to the University of Florida, but you’re also coming early.’ So, we knew the kid could play.

“But I’ll say this, not only is he doing what I figured he would do now, he worked for every ounce of it,” added Dalton. “And that’s why I have so much respect for him. The dude truly is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen. He believes in himself, he’s very confident in his abilities, and it shows when he plays. Everything that he does is a straight reward for all the hard work he puts in, and he deserves every bit of it and it’s been great to see that. Anybody that gets to draft him this year is getting one hell of a player. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Red Sox pick him up, at all. In all honesty, it would be a great pick. Kid comes from a great family, a great work ethic. Most of all, he’s a great overall person to represent an organization.”

When asked if Fabian could surpass Vanderbilt University right-hander Kumar Rocker — the consensus top prospect in this year’s draft class — this spring and become the No. 1 pick in July, Dalton did not mince his words.

“I have no doubt in that,” he said. “I mean, he’s got the ability to do it. I’ve seen the kid hit baseballs farther than somebody his size ever should hit a baseball.”

Fabian’s Florida Gators, the top team in the country, open their season against Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s 21st-ranked Miami Hurricanes in Gainesville on Friday evening.

First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. eastern time and you can watch the game on the SEC Network.

(Picture of Jud Fabian: Gary McCullough/AP)

Red Sox release revised Grapefruit League schedule

The Red Sox were originally slated to open Grapefruit League play against the Pirates on February 27, but their spring training schedule has since been revised.

Per a team release, the Sox will now kick off their slate of exhibition games on February 28 against the Twins at Hammond Stadium, and instead of playing just about every other Grapefruit League team, they will only be playing the Twins, Braves, Orioles, Pirates and Rays.

That being the case because all five of those teams’ spring training complexes are located within close proximity to JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, and “to reflect the recommendations suggested by medical experts and infectious disease specialists, Major League Baseball has regionalized the matchups between teams to limit travel.”

By the time spring training comes to an end in late March, the Red Sox will have hopefully played 29 games in a span of 31 days, though the rules for those games will be quite relaxed as part of MLB’s health and safety protocols related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, games between February 27 and March 13 can be played as five- or seven-inning games, as long as the managers agree, while games on or after March 4 will be scheduled as nine innings but managers can agree to shorten them to seven if they so choose.

In total, Boston is scheduled to play 15 of its Grapefruit League contests at JetBlue Park and 14 of them on the road in Bradenton, Fort Myers, North Port, Port Charlotte, and Sarasota.

The team plans on having fans in the stands for home games, though only at a limited capacity to allow for proper social distancing measures. From the aforementioned release:

“The Red Sox will implement appropriate physical distancing and safety protocols that would allow fans to return in a limited capacity for 2021 Spring Training exhibition games by operating JetBlue Park at approximately 24 percent of its normal capacity. All tickets will be sold in physically distanced ‘pods’ comprised primarily of 2-4 seats that will allow for at least six feet between groups. Season Ticket Holders will be offered the first opportunity to attend exhibition games and additional tickets may go on sale to the general public depending on availability. All day games at JetBlue Park will start at 1:05 p.m., and all night games will start at 6:05 p.m.”

For the Red Sox’ full 2021 spring training and regular season schedule, click here.

(Picture of JetBlue Park: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Red Sox Release Schedule for 2021 Season

Less than three full days after releasing its 2020 schedule, Major League Baseball released 2021 schedules for all 30 major-league clubs on Thursday.

For the Red Sox, if all goes according to plan, they will open the season up against the Orioles for the second straight year at Fenway Park on April 1st, the first of three games over a four-day stretch. In other words, Opening Day next year is set for April 1st, and according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, all teams will begin their 2021 season on the same day for the first time since 1968.

Boston’s first road trip of the year will feature match-ups against the Orioles and Twins, while the club’s first interleague bout will take place later in April against the Mets in Queens.

Speaking of the Mets, the Red Sox’ interleague opponents will be the teams that comprise the National League East for the second consecutive year.

They play the Mets in New York in late April, the Phillies in Philadelphia and the Braves and Marlins at Fenway in late May, the Braves in Atlanta in June, the Phillies at Fenway right before the All-Star break in July, and the Nationals in the nation’s capital to close out the campaign in early October.

Other notable schedule highlights include:

A Patriots’ Day matchup against the White Sox on April 19th to close out a four-game set at home.

A four-game series against the Rangers at brand-new Globe Life Field in Arlington in late April/early May.

10 straight games against the Astros and Yankees beginning on May 31st (Memorial Day) and ending the evening of June 10th.

Yankees’ first trip to Fenway Park comes in late June.

An Independence Day match-up against the Athletics in Oakland, part of a six-game west coast road trip against the A’s and Angels.

18 straight games without a day off against divisional opponents coming out of the All-Star break and going into August.

Last two home series of the season come against New York teams, followed by a six-game Beltway road trip with stops in Baltimore and D.C. to close out the season, as previously mentioned.

All in all, the Sox will be aiming to play 162 games in 186 days beginning next April. Of course, there’s still a 2020 season to worry about first. You can read about that schedule here.