Red Sox relief prospect A.J. Politi continues to impress out of the bullpen with Double-A Portland

Red Sox relief prospect A.J. Politi picked up his third save of the season in Double-A Portland’s 4-0 victory over the Hartford Yard Goats on Wednesday night.

Politi, 25, recorded the final four outs of Wednesday’s contest at Dunkin’ Donuts Park while allowing one hit and one walk to go along with three strikeouts on 25 pitches — 15 of which were strikes.

Through 10 relief appearances for the Sea Dogs this year, the right-hander has posted a miniscule 1.50 ERA and 2.76 FIP with 18 strikeouts to just three walks over 12 innings of work.

Among Eastern League pitchers who have accrued at least 10 innings to this point in the season, Politi ranks tied for 15th in strikeouts per nine innings (13.5), tied for 21st in walks per nine innings (2.25), tied for 13th in strikeout rate (38.3%), 20th in swinging strike rate (17.4%), tied for 22nd in walk rate (6.4%), 20th in batting average against (.143), tied four fourth in WHIP (0.75), tied for 20th in ERA, 29th in FIP, and 10th in xFIP (2.43), per FanGraphs.

Originally selected by the Red Sox in the 15th round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Seton Hall University, Politi has been used as both a starter and reliever throughout his professional career.

Last year, for instance, the New Jersey native opened the 2021 season in Portland’s starting rotation but struggled to the tune of a 7.01 ERA over 15 starts spanning 61 2/3 innings. He was moved to the Sea Dogs’ bullpen on a full-time basis in September, made 11 relief appearances for the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League, and really has not looked back since.

Listed at 6-feet and 195 pounds, Politi operates with a max-effort delivery and works with four different pitches: a mid-90s fastball, a high-80s slider, a lower-80s curveball, and a changeup. His fastball is his best pitch.

Politi, who turns 26 next month, is currently regarded by FanGraphs as the No. 46 prospect and by SoxProspects.com as the No. 54 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Given his age, it seems like Politi should be primed for a mid-season promotion to Triple-A Worcester if he keeps pitching the way he has been for Portland. The righty can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter and could be a prime relief target for other clubs if he is not added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster by the November deadline.

(Picture of A.J. Politi: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox’ Nathan Eovaldi named Jimmy Fund captain for second consecutive year

Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi has been named the team’s Jimmy Fund captain for a second consecutive year, the organization announced on Monday.

Eovaldi, who is entering his fourth full season with Boston, was originally assigned to the post last March as he took over for Mitch Moreland. He was the Sox’ nominee for the 2021 Roberto Clemente Award in September, which ultimately went to Nelson Cruz.

“I am thrilled to continue serving as this year’s Jimmy Fund Captain as it is a role that I am honored to have. I was fortunate to participate in last year’s WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon and met many families who were so inspirational in telling their cancer journeys,” Eovaldi said in a statement. “I enjoy sharing the important Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber mission and look forward to meeting other adult and pediatric patients and helping to raise awareness and funds for a cause that I, and the entire Red Sox organization, hold so close.”

As Jimmy Fund captain, Eovaldi is responsible for “building awareness and support for the Jimmy Fund’s mission to conquer cancer at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.” The 32-year-old hurler will also attend fundraising events, visit patients, and act as an ambassador “for Dana-Farber’s research and care mission.”

Part of his mission mission is to help “encourage fans to step up to the plate and help strike out cancer by getting involved with the Jimmy Fund.”

The Jimmy Fund, which was first established in Boston in 1948, began its partnership with the Red Sox in 1953 after the Braves relocated to Milwaukee. Shortly thereafter, Sox owner Tom Yawkey announced that “his team would adopt the Jimmy Fund as its official charity and continue the tradition started by the Braves.”

Since then, the relationship between the Red Sox and Jimmy Fund has grown to the point where an annual radio-telethon has been held at Fenway Park each summer (excluding 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic) going back 2002.

After a triumphant return in 2021, the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon has now raised $62 million to support pediatric and adult cancer care and research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute over the last 20 years. It will be back at Fenway Park in August.

For more information about the Jimmy Fund, click here. For more information about the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon, click here.

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox sign Garrett Whitlock to four-year extension; deal includes club options for 2027 and 2028

The Red Sox have signed right-hander Garrett Whitlock to a four-year contract extension, the club announced earlier Sunday morning. The deal covers the 2023-2026 seasons and also includes club options for 2027 and 2028.

According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, Whitlock’s deal — which starts in 2023 — includes escalators based on number of innings pitched and award recognition and can max out at $44.5 million over six years.

Whitlock, per Cotillo, will receive a signing bonus of $1 million upfront. His 2022 salary of $720,000 will not be affected by the extension, but he will then earn $1 million in 2023, $3.25 million in 2024, $5.25 million in 2025, and $7.25 million in 2026. The club option for 2027 is worth $8.25 million and comes with a $1 million buyout while the club option for 2028 is worth $10.5 million and comes with a $500,000 buyout.

In regards to the escalators, Cotillo notes that Whitlock’s options can increase by up to $2.5 million per year based on the cumulative number of innings he pitches from 2023-2026 as well as recognition he receives for certain awards. All told, each year’s option can increase by a maximum of $4 million per season.

Whitlock, who the Red Sox selected from the Yankees organization in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft, was originally slated to become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2026 season. By signing him to this extension, though, the Sox can now retain control of Whitlock through 2028.

A native of Georgia, Whitlock broke in with Boston last year and immediately made his impact felt as a rookie out of the bullpen. In the process of becoming one of Alex Cora’s most trusted relievers, the 25-year-old righty posted a stellar 1.96 ERA and 2.84 FIP to go along with 81 strikeouts to 17 walks over 46 appearances spanning 73 1/3 innings of work.

Early on in the 2022 campaign, Whitlock is once again set up for a high-leverage, late-inning spot in Cora’s bullpen. That said, the structure of this complex extension seems to indicate the Red Sox still view Whitlock as a starter in the long-term. As Cotillo puts it, “the innings-related escalators are based on Whitlock accumulating a significant number of innings as a starter.”

If Whitlock remains with the Sox through the end of the 2028 season, he will have the opportunity to become a free agent for the first time at the age of 32. When that time comes, he may have already established himself as an effective starter at the big-league level.

(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox still have high hopes for power-hitting prospect Hudson Potts, Brian Abraham says

After claiming right-hander Kyle Tyler of waivers from the Angels on March 22, the Red Sox needed to clear a spot on their 40-man roster. They did so by designating infield prospect Hudson Potts for assignment.

Three days later, the Sox announced that Potts had cleared waivers and had been outrighted to the minor-leagues. He was officially reassigned to Double-A Portland this past Tuesday.

Potts, 23, was one two prospects (the other being Jeisson Rosario) the Red Sox acquired from the Padres in the trade that sent Mitch Moreland to San Diego in August 2020.

After closing out the COVID-compressed 2020 season at the alternate training site, Potts was added to Boston’s 40-man roster that November to receive protection from the Rule 5 Draft. He came into spring training last year ranked by Baseball America the No. 27 prospect in the Sox’ farm system.

Potts, a former first-round draft pick of the Padres in 2016, broke camp with Portland but missed the first month or so of the 2021 season due to an oblique injury.

Once healthy, Potts debuted for the Sea Dogs in June 10 but could never quite find his footing. The right-handed hitter struggled, particularly against righties, to the tune of a .217/.264/.399 slash line (76 wRC+) to go along with 18 doubles, 11 home runs, 47 RBIs, 33 runs scored, 16 walks, and 100 strikeouts over 78 games and 307 plate appearances. He put up those numbers while playing nothing but third base.

Considering how poorly he fared at the plate in 2021, it was not much of a surprise to see Potts lose his spot on the 40-man roster last month. That being said, the Red Sox are pleased with the fact that the corner infielder remains in the organization after clearing waivers.

Boston’s director of player development Brian Abraham expressed these feelings in a recent conversation with The Athletics’ Chad Jennings while noting that Potts still has plenty of potential.

“I think we’re excited to see what we have here,” Abraham said of Potts. “We see a guy who’s an athletic third baseman, he shows power, (and) we just want to see a little bit more consistency. Obviously, the player wants to be on the 40-man, and there are circumstances that took him off, but we’re excited to get the player back, and excited to maybe take some of the pressure off him.”

Abraham told Jennings that the plan is to give Potts everyday at-bats with Portland. Third base will be his primary position, though he is likely to see some playing time at first base as well for the first time since 2018.

Potts, who does not turn 24 until October, may have lost his status as one of the top 30 or so prospects in the Red Sox farm system in 2022, but there is still plenty to like about his game when you take into account the raw power he offers from the right side of the plate.

On that note, Potts will be batting eighth and starting at first base for the Sea Dogs in their series opener against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats at Hadlock Field on Friday night.

(Picture of Hudson Potts: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Who is Red Sox prospect Allan Castro? Get to know the organization’s 2021 Latin Program Position Player of the Year

Red Sox outfield prospect Allan Castro comes into the 2022 season fresh off being recognized as the organization’s Latin Program Position Player of the Year in 2021.

Castro, 18, was originally signed by the Sox as a middle infielder coming out of the Dominican Republic in July 2019. The Santo Domingo native received a signing bonus of $100,000, but has since made the move to the outfield.

After the start of his professional career was pushed back on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, Castro made his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League last year. Upon being assigned to the DSL Red Sox Red affiliate in July, the switch-hitting outfielder proceeded to bat .232/.335/.421 (110 wRC+) to go along with eight doubles, seven triples, three home runs, 19 RBIs, 24 runs scored, three stolen bases, 21 walks, and 43 strikeouts over 46 games spanning 194 plate appearances.

Among all DSL hitters who made at least 190 trips to the plate last season, Castro ranked tied for first in triples, 28th in slugging percentage, and 13th in isolated power (.189), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Castro saw playing time at all three outfield positions in 2021. The 6-foot-1, 170 pounder logged 95 innings in left field, 32 innings in center, and 175 1/3 innings in right while recording a total of six outfield assists and turning a total of two double plays.

Back in September, SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall identified Castro as “one of the Red Sox’ most promising hitters in the DSL, showing the potential to hit for average and power.”

“He has some swing-and-miss in his game, but could get to above-average raw power eventually and an average defensive profile in right field, including a potential above-average arm,” Cundall wrote. “Scouts identified Castro as having one of the best pure bats in the Red Sox’ DSL program and as one to watch when he makes the jump stateside.”  

As Cundall alluded to, Castro is slated to begin the 2022 minor-league season in the rookie-level Florida Complex League. Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero indicated as much in a recent email exchange with BloggingtheRedSox.com.

“Regarding Castro, his career was delayed by the pandemic lost season, and he was really standing out from the offensive end until he tired later in the DSL summer,” wrote Romero. “Encouraging to see a position change to the outfield not affect him, and he ended up with a good range of extra-base hits. We have a talented group of outfielders expected to play in the FCL, and he’ll be in the mix for priority at-bats within that group.”

Castro, who turns 19 in May, is not currently regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system. Given that he still has room to grow and develop, though, it would not be surprising to see Castro gain some notoriety and rise up the rankings a bit this summer if he impresses in the FCL.

(Picture of Allan Castro via his Instagram)

Red Sox infield prospect Alex Binelas has plenty of raw power

Alex Binelas enters his first season with the Red Sox as the organization’s No. 17 prospect, according to Baseball America’s rankings.

After being selected by the Brewers in the third round of last year’s draft out of the University of Louisville, Binelas’ time with his hometown team came to an abrupt end when he (and fellow prospect David Hamilton) was traded to the Red Sox alongside outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. for Hunter Renfroe in early December.

It was a move that evoked plenty of emotion for Binelas, a Wisconsin native who grew up in the suburbs of Milwaukee and less than 20 miles away from American Family Field.

When he was taken by the Brewers last July, Binelas had just recently wrapped up his third and final season with Louisville. In 50 games with the Cardinals, the 21-year-old junior slashed .256/.348/.621 with 19 home runs and 63 RBIs across 230 trips to the plate.

Regarded by Baseball America as the 77th-ranked draft-eligible prospect in the 2021 class, Binelas signed with Milwaukee for $700,000 and was assigned to the rookie-level Arizona Complex League Brewers Gold out of the gate. It took all of seven games for the left-handed hitting infielder to earn a promotion to Low-A Carolina on August 16.

Spending the rest of his debut season with the Mudcats, Binelas batted a stout .314/.379/.636 to go along with 11 doubles, nine homers, 27 RBIs, 29 runs scored, 12 walks, and 33 strikeouts over 29 games spanning 132 plate appearances.

Among all Low-A East hitters who made at least 130 trips to the plate in 2021, Binelas ranked ninth in batting average, 35th in on-base percentage, fourth in slugging percentage, fifth in OPS (1.014), third in isolated power (.322), and fifth in wRC+ (163), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Binelas saw time at both corner infield positions in his first exposure to pro ball, as was the case throughout his college career. With Carolina in particular, the 6-foot-3, 225 pounder logged a total of 42 2/3 innings at first base and 167 innings at the hot corner.

Since he was unaffected by this off-season’s lockout, Binelas was one of several Red Sox minor-leaguers who participated in the team’s Winter Warm-Up program back in January. Spring training began shortly thereafter, allowing Binelas to see some action in one Grapefruit League game thus far.

Two days before making his Grapefruit League debut this past Thursday, Binelas was identified by Baseball America’s Geoff Pontes as one of the top raw power prospects in the game since he hit the ball hard and far on a consistent basis last year.

Binelas, who turns 22 in May, is projected by SoxProspects.com to make the jump to High-A Greenville for the start of the 2022 campaign. His first full season as a professional should be one worth watching.

New Podding the Red Sox episode: Red Sox catching prospect Kole Cottam joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by Red Sox catching prospect Kole Cottam.

Cottam, 24, was originally selected by the Red Sox in the fourth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Kentucky. The right-handed batting backstop spent the 2021 season between High-A Greenville and Double A-Portland and was also named an Arizona Fall League All-Star.

Among the topics Kole and I discussed were his days at Kentucky and his summer on Cape Cod in 2017, where he was when he found out he was getting drafted by the Red Sox in 2018, how he fared during the COVID-19 shutdown in 2020, a recap of his 2021 season, his thoughts on playing in the Arizona Fall League, the popularity the one-knee catching stance and his mustache, where he is at with two weeks to go until the start of the 2022 season, and much more!

The episode is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

My thanks to Kole for taking some time out of his spring training schedule to have an insightful conversation with yours truly. You can follow Kole on Twitter (@Kole_Cotton13) by clicking here and on Instagram (@KoleCottam13) by clicking here.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Please make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of Kole Cottam: Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Who is Reidis Sena? Red Sox pitching prospect struck out 32.3% of the batters he faced in Florida Complex League last year

Earlier this month, FanGraphs released their list of the top 51 prospects in the Red Sox farm system heading into the 2022 system.

Headlined by the likes of Triston Casas, Marcelo Mayer, and Nick Yorke, the prospect who rounded out the list at No. 51 was right-hander Reidis Sena.

Sena, who turns 21 next month, originally signed with Boston as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic for just $10,000 in December 2018.

After making his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League in 2019, Sena was unable to pitch at the organizational level in 2020 since the minor-league season was cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The young righty instead picked up where he left off last year by spending the entirety of the 2021 campaign in the rookie-level Florida Complex League. He made his season debut on July 24 and made a total of nine appearances (three starts) for the FCL Red Sox.

In those nine outings that spanned anywhere from one to four innings in length, Sena posted a 3.22 ERA and 3.83 FIP to go along with 31 strikeouts to 13 walks over 22 1/3 innings of work.

Among all FCL pitchers who threw at least 20 innings last year, the 20-year-old ranked 21st in strikeouts per nine innings (12.49), 23rd in strikeout rate (32.3%), 21st in swinging strike rate (33.7%), 29th in FIP, and 26th in xFIP (3.99), per FanGraphs.

With a listed height and weight of 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, there is not much else available on Sena besides what FanGraphs’ Kevin Goldstein and Tess Taruskin have on him.

“Sena is pretty raw for a pitching prospect who will be 21 in 2022,” they wrote. “He has huge arm strength, sitting 95 mph on the complex last year, and he makes very heavy use of that fastball. His slider has plus raw spin but Sena throws his heater 85% of the time right now, suggesting he and the Sox are just trying to get him to throw a viable rate of strikes more than anything else. He walked over five hitters per nine innings in 2021. If things click for him, he’ll move very quickly.”

As Goldstein and Taruskin indicated, Sena does need to work on his command considering the fact he averaged more than five walks per nine innings and walked more than 13% of the batters he faced last year.

That being said, there does seem to be some intrigue with Sena based off his current arsenal that consists of a high-octane fastball and slider. It will be interesting to see if the Red Sox view the Neiba native as a potential starter or reliever in the long-term.

On that note, though, Sena is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 season in Low-A Salem’s starting rotation. He will have the opportunity to rise through Boston’s prospect ranks beginning in April.

(Picture of Reidis Sena: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox outfield prospect Wil Dalton homers in Grapefruit League debut

Red Sox outfield prospect Wil Dalton homered in his Grapefruit League debut on Tuesday afternoon.

Hours after being added to the Sox’ roster for their contest against the Rays at Charlotte Sports Park, Dalton took over for Rob Refsnyder as a defensive replacement in left field in the middle of the sixth inning. He registered his first and only plate appearance of the day an inning and a half later.

Matched up against Rays reliever Jack Lobosky to lead off the top of the eighth, Dalton worked a 1-1 count before swinging away at the third pitch he saw. The right-handed hitter wound up drilling a solo shot over the left field wall to provide Boston with some much-needed insurance in an eventual 4-2 win over Tampa Bay.

Dalton, 24, was originally selected by the Sox in the eighth round of the 2019 amateur draft out of the University of Florida and signed with the club for $135,000 that summer.

A former junior college product from Tennessee, Dalton made his professional debut for the Lowell Spinners but had his first full season in pro ball wiped away because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last spring, Dalton broke minor-league camp with Low-A Salem and embarked upon what would turn out to be an eventful 2021 season in which he played at three different levels.

From May 4 through June 16, Dalton posted for Salem regularly and batted a solid .265/.354/.449 (118 wRC+) with four home runs, 17 RBIs, 14 runs scored, and four stolen bases over 31 games spanning 113 plate appearances.

On June 17, Dalton was promoted to High-A Greenville. He proceeded to struggle to the tune of a .631 OPS in 33 games with the Drive but was added to Double-A Portland’s roster (presumably for depth-related reasons) in late July.

Dalton made his Double-A debut on July 30 and remained with the Sea Dogs for the next two weeks. He slashed .240/.296/.400 (90 wRC+) to go along with four doubles, three RBIs, and three runs scored over eight games (27 plate appearances) for Portland before getting sent back down to Greenville on August 11.

The transition from Double-A back to Low-A was not a smooth one for Dalton, who limped to the finish line and managed just a .573 OPS in his final 27 games to close out the year.

All told, Dalton appeared in a total of 99 games between Salem, Greenville, and Portland last year. Over that 99-game sample, he hit a collective .211/.293/.377 (82 wRC+) with 21 doubles, one triple, 11 home runs, 49 RBIs, 47 runs scored, five stolen bases, 36 walks, and 101 strikeouts across 380 trips to the plate.

Defensively, the 6-foot, 182 pound saw playing time at all three outfield positions in his travels last season. The former Gator logged 261 innings in left, 273 1/3 innings in center and 280 1/3 in right while recording eight outfield assists.

According to FanGraphs, 137 different Red Sox minor-leaguers registered at least one plate appearance over the course of the 2021 season. Among that group, Dalton was one of just three who played with three or more affiliates. The other two who did so were Danny Santana and Ricardo Cubillan.

Dalton, who turns 25 in August, is not regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in the Red Sox’ farm system. He will need to improve against more advanced pitching, but the power he possesses from the right side of the plate is certainly intriguing.

On that note, Dalton is projected to return to Portland for the start of the 2022 season, which — for the Sea Dogs — begins on April 8.

Red Sox pitching prospect Brayan Bello looking to make most of first invite to major-league spring training

Brayan Bello enters the 2022 season regarded by Baseball America as the No. 5 prospect in the Red Sox farm system, which ranks first among pitchers in the organization.

It has been quite the rise for Bello, who at this time last year was Baseball America’s 20th-ranked Boston prospect.

The 22-year-old right-hander is coming off a 2021 season in which he posted a 3.87 ERA and 3.02 FIP to go along with 132 strikeouts to 31 walks over 21 starts (95 1/3 innings pitched) between High-A Greenville and Double-A Portland. He also represented the Red Sox in last July’s All-Star Futures Game and was named the team’s Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year.

As a reward for his exceptional campaign, Bello was added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster last November so he would receive protection from the Rule 5 Draft. The lockout began shortly thereafter, though, which barred the former international signee from communicating with his club since he was now considered a major-leaguer.

Forced to spend his off-season and work out at home in the Dominican Republic instead of Fort Myers, Bello was about as excited as anyone when the lockout ended earlier this month since it meant he would be receiving his first-ever invite to big-league spring training.

“I’m really happy because that just shows the hard work that I put in to be able to even be invited to big-league camp,” Bello recently told The Boston Globe’s Julian McWilliams. “Like, that’s really what was the goal to be able to have this opportunity. So now that I’m here, like, I’m trying to just take advantage of it.”

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, Bello has a repeatable delivery and operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a mid-90s four-seam fastball that touches 98 mph, a changeup that is considered to be a plus offering, and an improving slider. He is also working on developing a two-seamer, per his Baseball America scouting report.

“Everybody raves about him,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Bello, who will likely be making his spring debut on either Tuesday or Wednesday. “[He doesn’t have] a physical presence. But what they said stuff wise, he’s really good.”

Bello, who turns 23 in May, is projected by SoxProspects.com to return to Portland for the start of the 2022 minor-league season next month. He should, however, make it as far as Triple-A Worcester this year and could be on the cusp of making his major-league debut sooner rather than later.

(Picture of Brayan Bello: Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)