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 catching prospect Enderso Lira ‘showed promise both offensively and defensively’ in Dominican Summer League last year

Of the 30 free agents the Red Sox have signed during the 2020-2021 international signing period, only one is listed as a catcher.

That catching prospect would be none other than Enderso Lira, who signed with Boston for approximately $850,000 last winter, making him the second-highest paid member of the club’s international signing class behind only Miguel Bleis.

At the time of his signing, Lira — then 17 — was heralded by Baseball America as one of the top young catchers to come out of Venezuela. With the help of signing scout Angel Escobar, he officially inked his first professional contract on January 15 and subsequently made his way to the Sox’ Dominican academy in El Toro.

A little less than six months after signing, Lira made his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League on July 13 — batting third and starting behind the plate for the DSL Red Sox Red affiliate in their contest against the DSL Royals Blue.

From that point forward, the right-handed hitting backstop proceeded to slash .246/.414/.336 with seven doubles, three triples, 15 RBIs, 16 runs scored, one stolen base, 32 walks, and 18 strikeouts over 41 games spanning 162 plate appearances.

Among hitters in the Dominican Summer League who made at least 160 trips to the plate last year, Lira ranked 10th in walk percentage (19.8%), 17th in strikeout percentage (11.1%), 26th in on-base percentage, and 57th in wRC+ (125), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, 32 of Lira’s 41 appearances last season came at catcher. In the process of logging 246 2/3 innings behind the plate, the San Felipe native was credited with 225 putouts, 34 assists, eight errors committed, three double plays turned, and four passed balls allowed. He also threw out 27 of the 70 (39%) of the base runners who attempted to steal against him.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, Lira — like most prospects his age — still has plenty of room to grow both on and off the field. The 18-year-old is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 32 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks fourth among catchers in the organization.

Back in September, SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall identified Lira as “the most intriguing position player prospect in the DSL” besides the aforementioned Bleis.

“Lira has a great frame for a catcher, with projection remaining, and is athletic enough that one scout suggested to me he could even handle third base if he outgrows catcher,” Cundall wrote. “He has looked good behind the plate though and has an above-average arm already.

“Offensively, he has a very advanced approach for his age,” added Cundall. “His swing is short and direct, and he has quick hands. Right now, he mostly hits hard line drives, but he should grow into some power in the future, especially given his frame.”

As alluded to by Cundall, the Red Sox have had a tough time as of late when it comes to developing catchers. The additions of Lira and 2021 fifth-round draft pick Nathan Hickey could change the club’s fortunes in that area, though.

On that note, Lira — who does not turn 19 until October — is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 season as the Sox’ top backstop in the Florida Complex League.

(Picture of Enderso Lira via his Instagram)

Reviewing the 2021 season Red Sox outfield prospect Miguel Bleis had in the Dominican Summer League

With the 2021-2022 international signing period opening later this week, now feels like as good as time as any to look back at what the Red Sox were doing around this time last year.

It was one year ago next Saturday when the Sox made Miguel Bleis the highest-paid member of their 2020-2021 international signing class, as they inked the Dominican-born outfield prospect to a lucrative $1.8 million deal.

Officially signed by Jonathan Cruz on January 15, Bleis received plenty of praise heading into his first season in the pro ranks.

In an appearance on the SoxProspects.com podcast in February, Red Sox executive vice president and assistant general manager Eddie Romero described Bleis as “premium center field talent” who possesses all five tools and is “extremely exciting.”

After celebrating his 17th birthday in March and continuing to develop at the club’s academy in El Toro, Bleis made his highly-anticipated professional debut in the Dominican Summer League on July 27.

Across 36 games spanning 136 plate appearances for the DSL Red Sox Red affiliate, the right-handed hitting outfielder batted a solid .252/.331/.420 to go along with six doubles, one triple, four home runs, 17 RBIs, 17 runs scored, seven stolen bases, 12 walks, and 25 strikeouts.

When going up against right-handed pitching, Bleis slashed .269/.361/.398. Against left-handed pitching those numbers dipped down to .095/.091/.238, though it was a much more limited sample.

Among hitters in the Dominican Summer League who racked up at least 130 trips to the plate last year, Bleis ranked 65th in slugging percentage, 53rd in isolated power (.168), and 160th in wRC+ (109), per FanGraphs.

On the other side of the ball, Bleis made all 34 of his defensive appearances in center field in 2021. He committed a total of four errors and recorded seven outfield assists as well as one double play while logging 245 1/3 innings at the position.

Currently listed at 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds, Bleis obviously still has room to grow both physically and developmentally. The San Pedro de Macoris native does not turn 18 for another two months.

Taking that sort of projection into consideration, SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall wrote back in September that even though Bleis “is still early in his career,” he has already garnered positive reviews from scouts. One scout even told Cundall that Bleis “is the real deal.”

Coming into the new year, Bleis is presently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 20 prospect in Boston’s farm system. He is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 campaign in the rookie-level Florida Complex League in Fort Myers and would presumably attract a lot of attention going stateside.

(Picture: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Red Sox power-hitting prospect Blaze Jordan could be ready to break out in 2022

Is Red Sox prospect Blaze Jordan primed to break out in 2022? The experts at MLB.com seem to think so.

Earlier this week, MLB Pipeline published an article in which three writers — William Boor, Jim Callis, and Sam Dykstra — picked one potential breakout candidate from each team’s farm system.

For the Red Sox, that turned out to be Jordan, the club’s third-round selection in the 2020 amateur draft who just completed his first full season as a pro in 2021.

After breaking minor-league spring training with the rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox, Jordan got his 2021 campaign off to a blazing start.

The right-handed hitting corner infielder slashed a blistering .362/.408/.667 (170 wRC+) to go along with seven doubles, one triple, four home runs, 19 RBIs, 12 runs scored, one stolen base, six walks, and 13 strikeouts over 19 games (76 plate appearances) in the FCL before earning a promotion to Low-A Salem in early August.

It took quite a while for Jordan to debut for Salem, but the then-18-year-old made his first appearance for the Red Sox on Aug. 19. One of the youngest position players at the Low-A level, he proceeded to slash .250/.289/.444 (95 wRC+) one double, two homers, seven RBIs, seven runs scored, two walks, and eight strikeouts across nine games spanning 38 plate appearances. A trip to the injured list prematurely ended his season in early September.

Defensively, Jordan logged 41 innings at first base and 146 2/3 innings at third base between the complex league and Low-A last year. The native Mississippian committed a total of two errors at the hot corner but did not make any miscues at first base.

Jordan, who turned 19 last month, is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 9 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks sixth among position players in the organization.

In November, Baseball America identified Jordan as the best power hitter in the Sox’ system, citing that the 6-foot-2, 220 pounder’s “plus-plus [70-grade] power is a show-stopper. He hits towering home runs to all fields and gets to his power even with a disconnect in his upper and lower halves that should get smoothed out over time. Though he lacks any real semblance of an approach, he sees the ball well, allowing him to remain more controlled in the batter’s box than might be expected.”  

Since he reclassified in high school to graduate a year early and enter the draft sooner than expected, Jordan is still relatively young for a prospect who is entering his third year of pro ball. Along those same lines, the one-time Mississippi State commit is projected by SoxProspects.com to open the 2022 season where he left off in September: Salem.

(Picture of Blaze Jordan: Bryan Green/Flickr)

After rough 2020 season with Red Sox, Dylan Covey enjoyed success in Taiwan in 2021

Remember when Dylan Covey was one of 27 pitchers the Red Sox used during a dismal 2020 season that only consisted of 60 games?

A former fourth-round pick of the Oakland Athletics who broke in with the White Sox in 2017, Covey was effectively released by Chicago leading up to the 2020 season and inked a minor-league deal with the Rays shortly thereafter.

On the other side of the COVID-19-induced shutdown that placed a freeze on transactions across Major League Baseball, the Rays traded Covey to the Red Sox in late July.

The right-hander was initially optioned to Boston’s alternate training site, but wound up making the club’s Opening Day roster. He made his Red Sox debut against the Orioles on July 25 and was then sent back down to Pawtucket the following day.

On August 8, Covey was recalled from the alternate training site, paving the way for him to make three more appearances out of the Sox’ bullpen before getting optioned eight days later.

Fast forward nearly four weeks, and Covey’s name was called upon once again. He closed out the shortened campaign on Boston’s big-league roster and made four final relief appearances in the process of doing so.

All told, Covey posted a 7.07 ERA — yet a much more respectable 3.91 FIP — to go along with 11 strikeouts to just two walks over eight outings spanning 14 total innings of work in his three stints with the club.

Following the conclusion of the 2020 World Series, the Red Sox outrighted Covey off their 40-man roster, thus allowing the righty to become a free agent since he had already accrued more than three years of major-league service time.

It’s unclear if Covey — a client of CAA Sports — was pursuing big-league opportunities upon hitting the open market, but he ultimately inked a one-year deal with the Rakuten Monkeys of the Chinese Professional Baseball League last May.

Equipped with a five-pitch mix that consists of a slider, four-seam fastball, sinker, changeup, and curveball, Covey debuted for Rakuten’s first-team in late August.

In 10 starts for the Monkeys, the 30-year-old put up a 4.01 ERA and 3.14 FIP with 38 strikeouts and 17 walks across 58 1/3 innings pitched. According to CPBLStats.com, he yielded a minuscule 0.84 ERA over his final five starts of the year.

Last month, it was revealed that Rakuten had re-signed Covey to a one-year contract for the upcoming 2022 season, which begins in April.

If Covey — who turns 31 in August — can put together another productive season in Taiwan, it would be fascinating to see if the 6-foot-1, 214 pound hurler could garner enough interest from MLB teams to ponder a return to the United States next winter.

(Picture of Dylan Covey: CPBL Stats)

New Podding the Red Sox episode: Red Sox pitching prospect Christopher Troye joins the show

On the latest episode of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by Red Sox pitching prospect Christopher Troye.

Troye, who turns 23 next month, was selected by Boston in the 12th round of the 2021 amateur draft out of the University of California, Santa Barbara and made two appearances in the Florida Complex League last season.

Among the topics Christopher and I discussed are how he was a catcher in high school but converted into a pitcher in college, how he spent his summers playing in the New England Collegiate Baseball League and Cape Cod Baseball League, working out with major-leaguers such as Shane Bieber and Tyler Glasnow during the COVID-19 pandemic, reflecting on his first professional season, his goals and expectations for 2022, and much more!

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

My thanks to Christopher for taking some time out of his off-season schedule to have a conversation with yours truly. You can follow him on Twitter (@cctroye) by clicking here and on Instagram (@christophertroye) 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 Christopher Troye: Bryan Green/Flickr)

Red Sox bring back power-hitting outfielder Johan Mieses on minor-league deal for 2022 season

The Red Sox have brought back outfielder Johan Mieses on a minor-league contract for the 2022 season, according to the team’s transaction wire. It does not appear as though the deal includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Mieses, 26, originally signed a minors pact with the Sox in November 2019 after spending the first seven years of his professional career between the Dodgers and Cardinals organizations.

While unable to play in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mieses did re-up with Boston that year before truly making his impact felt in 2021. After breaking camp with Double-A Portland, the right-handed hitter batted .286/.368/.714 to go along with three doubles, 11 home runs, 22 RBIs, 19 runs scored, nine walks, and 19 strikeouts across 23 games (95 plate appearances) for the Sea Dogs.

On June 2, Mieses was promoted to Triple-A Worcester. He spent nearly two weeks away from the team in June for an Olympic qualifying event, then helped his native Dominican Republic win a bronze medal in the Tokyo Summer Games in August.

Upon returning to the United States, Mieses went on to play a total of 59 games with the WooSox and finished the year by slashing .211/.286/.368 with nine doubles, one triple, eight homers, 26 RBIs, 28 runs scored, three stolen bases, 22 walks, and 64 strikeouts over 230 plate appearances in those contests.

Defensively, Mieses has proven over the course of his career that he is capable of playing all three outfield positions. Last season alone, the 6-foot-2, 185 pounder logged 150 1/3 innings in left field and 230 innings in right field between Portland and Worcester.

As was the case last year, Mieses has presumably been brought back by the Red Sox to provide the club with experienced upper-minors outfield depth alongside the likes of Rob Refsnyder, Christin Stewart, and others.

Mieses, who turns 27 in July, is well-known for his slugging abilities. His .251 ISO ranked third among Red Sox minor-leaguers who accrued at least 300 plate appearances in 2021, per FanGraphs.

(Picture of Johan Mieses: Katie Morrison/MassLive)

New Podding the Red Sox episode: Red Sox co-director of international scouting Todd Claus joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by Red Sox co-director of international scouting Todd Claus.

Among the topics Todd and I discussed are his playing career in the Angels organization, transitioning from a minor-league player to a minor-league manager, managing the likes of Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez, and Jacoby Ellsbury in the minors, how he first started scouting for the Red Sox and how the technology involved with scouting has evolved over the years, and the obstacles the COVID-19 pandemic have created when it comes to scouting.

We also went over some of the Red Sox prospects Claus has helped the Red Sox sign over the years, such as Juan Daniel Encarnacion, Joan Martinez, and Ceddane Rafaela. Additionally, we talked about the possibility of an international draft being implemented in the near future and looked ahead a bit to this year’s international signing period.

The episode — which is the first of 2022 — is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

My thanks to Todd for taking some time out of his busy off-season schedule to have a conversation with yours truly.

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 Fenway Park: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Nathan Hickey quickly emerging as one of top catching prospects in Boston’s farm system

The Red Sox have an extensive history when it comes to drafting amateur prospects out of the University of Florida.

Dating back to the 2012 draft, the Sox have selected 12 players from Florida. Of that group of Gators, four (Austin Maddox, Brian Johnson, Bobby Poyner, and Shaun Anderson) went on to make it to the major-leagues.

Most recently, Boston selected Florida outfielder Jud Fabian and Florida catcher Nathan Hickey with its second- and fifth-round picks in last summer’s draft, respectively.

While Fabian ultimately made the decision to return to Gainesville for his senior season, Hickey wound up signing with the Red Sox for an over-slot deal of $1 million last July.

Upon inking his first professional contract, Hickey — a native of Jacksonville — reported to Fort Myers to begin his debut season with the rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox.

Across eight games in the FCL, the left-handed hitting backstop slashed .250/.429/.350 (124 wRC+) to go along with two doubles, one RBI, four runs scored, six walks, and eight strikeouts over 28 plate appearances before earning a promotion to Low-A Salem on August 27.

Hickey appeared in two games on Aug. 27 and 28, but was placed on the temporary inactive list on September 5. After a near-two-week hiatus, the 22-year-old returned to the field and made his final appearance of the season for Salem on Sept. 17. All told, he went 1-for-8 at the plate in his first exposure to the Low-A level.

Shortly after the conclusion of the minor-league season, it was revealed that Hickey’s father, Mark, passed away in early October.

On the heels of what was presumably an emotional 2021, Hickey comes into 2022 regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 19 prospect in Boston’s farm system — which ranks tops among catchers in the organization.

Per his MLB Pipeline scouting report, Hickey’s best carrying tool is his raw power. He also utilizes “a mature approach at the plate” that could help him “develop into a solid hitter, though his swing can get long and too uphill at times.”

That being said, Hickey also comes with some questions in regards to his defensive abilities behind the plate. The 6-foot, 210 pounder’s “receiving and blocking will have to improve significantly, and his solid arm strength plays down and resulted in 39 steals in 41 attempts against him during the spring.”

On that note, Hickey does have experience at other positions besides catcher. He saw time at both corner infield positions with the Gators in the spring before catching a total of five games between the FCL and Low-A over the summer.

Whether Hickey — who does not turn 23 until November — is able to stick at catcher has yet to be determined. He does however have an appealing offensive profile, and that should only help him in the long run.

Going off of SoxProspects.com’s roster projections, Hickey is slated to begin the 2022 campaign where he left off in 2021: with Salem. He will likely have a chance to earn a midseason promotion to High-A Greenville depending on the kind of start he gets off to.

(Picture of Nathan Hickey: Bryan Green/Flickr)