Former Red Sox catching prospect Kole Cottam signs with Atlantic League team

Former Red Sox catching prospect Kole Cottam has signed with the Frederick Baseball Club of the independent Atlantic League, per the league’s transactions log.

Cottam, 25, had spent the last five years in the Red Sox organization before being granted his release earlier this month. The Tennessee native was originally selected by Boston in the fourth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Kentucky.

After signing with the club for $375,000, Cottam made his professional debut with short-season Lowell. He then split the 2019 season between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem and was named a Red Sox organizational All-Star by

Though the 2020 minor-league season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cottam still played for the Lexington Leyendas in the Battle of the Bourbon trail that summer. He also took part in the Red Sox’ fall instructional league later that year and received his first invite to major-league spring training the following February.

Cottam began the 2021 campaign with now-High-A Greenville before earning a promotion to Double-A Portland in late July. Between the two affiliates, the right-handed hitter batted .278/.371/.500 with 10 home runs and 33 RBIs in 71 games. Once the Sea Dogs’ season ended, Cottam made the trek out west to play in the Arizona Fall League. While out there, he earned AFL All-Star honors alongside fellow Red Sox prospect Triston Casas.

Last year, Cottam again spent time at big-league camp before returning to Portland in April. He remained with the Sea Dogs through early August, slashing .271/.350/.380 with 15 doubles, two triples, two homers, and 26 RBIs in 64 games before making the jump to Triple-A Worcester. With the WooSox, Cottam appeared in just 14 games down the stretch, going 8-for-45 (.178) at the plate with five doubles, two RBIs, four runs scored, five walks, and 17 strikeouts.

Over the winter, the Red Sox bolstered their catching depth by claiming Caleb Hamilton off waivers from the Twins and signing Jorge Alfaro to a minor-league contract. With Reese McGuire and Connor Wong already on the 40-man roster and Hamilton, Alfaro, Ronaldo Hernandez, and Stephen Scott in camp as non-roster invitees this spring, Cottam fell on Boston’s depth chart.

As such, Cottam was released by the Red Sox on March 5. Shortly thereafter, Ed Hand of reported that the 6-foot-3, 235-pound backstop “requested his release and was granted it” so that he could “catch on with a better opportunity on another team.”

While he did not sign with an affiliated team, Cottam will now look to continue on with his career in indy ball. The team he signed with (which is based in Frederick, Md.) does not yet have an official name since it was only added to the 2023 Atlantic League lineup in November.

Looking back at his time in the Red Sox organization, Cottam peaked as the No. 34 prospect in Boston’s farm system, per’s rankings. He was a lifetime .258/.347/.421 hitter with 71 doubles, six triples, 23 home runs, 129 RBIs, 120 runs scored, two stolen bases, 106 walks, and 196 strikeouts in 268 career minor-league games (1,074 plate appearances) with Lowell, Salem, Greenville, Portland, and Worcester. From behind the plate, he threw out 39 of 210 possible base stealers.

Cottam, who turns 26 in May, and his wife, Elise, welcomed their first child together — a daughter named Callie — last month.

(Picture of Kole Cottam: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)


How Rob Refsnyder turned his career around in first year with Red Sox

As spring training was drawing to a close in Fort Myers last year, Rob Refsnyder was informed that he would not be breaking camp with the Red Sox.

Refsynder, who signed a minor-league deal with Boston over the winter that included an invite to major-league camp, would instead be reporting to Triple-A Worcester for the start of the 2022 season. Before the big-league club headed to New York for their opening series against the Yankees, though, the 31-year-old journeyman approached Red Sox hitting coach Peter Fatse.

Due to the nature of a lockout-abbreviated camp, Fatse had not been able to spend much time working with Boston’s non-roster invitees in the batting cages of the Fenway South complex. With seemingly nothing to lose, Refsnyder went up to Fatse in hopes of working with him just once before joining the WooSox in Jacksonville.

“I was like you know what, Fatse, everyone speaks so highly of him,” Refsnyder recalled to The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey. “I didn’t get that much time with him, especially as a minor-league signing, so he was available and I went up to him and said, ‘Hey, I’d love to work with you before I leave.'”

That decision would prove to pay off for Refsnyder. On April 4, he and Fatse worked through a self-described “life-changing” hitting session.

Refsnyder, who to that point in his career had played in parts of six major-league seasons for the Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays, Rangers, and Twins, had always had difficulties against right-handed pitching. Those struggles could be attributed to the fact that the right-handed hitter had trouble staying inside the ball due to his swing mechanics.

As outlined by McCaffrey, Refsynder had “been hyper-focused on his upper-half movements, but less so on his lower half, which forced him to open up too much on his swing. It was something he was aware of but always struggled to fix.”

During that April 4 hitting session, however, something clicked while Refsnyder was working with Fatse, which allowed him to unlock a new component of his swing.

“Fatse really dumbed it down for me,” Refsnyder said. “He really helped me understand how the lower half should work. It’s super simple stuff, but I was like, ‘Damn.’”

As part of the session, Refsnyder picked up on the notion that if he kept his back heel planted on the ground, his lower half would stay more stable throughout his swing. That, in part, would allow him to get the ball in the air more frequently as opposed to hitting soft singles.

“I would just jump out of my swing and the barrel would drop under plane, and then come up really fast and create top spin,” said Refsnyder. “I think I’ve always been able to control the strike zone OK but I couldn’t do anything with the ball. Fatse unlocked that for me.”

Fatse, for his part, has worked with countless Red Sox hitters since joining the organization as an assistant hitting coach in October 2021. When speaking with McCaffrey, though, the Western Mass. native was able to remember that particular day with Refsnyder rather quickly.

“It was honestly probably more talking than hitting,” Fatse said. “I basically put together almost like a four-part iMovie of the drills and said, ‘Boom, do this, this, this and go.’ Let that be your fallback whenever you feel you need something, go back to this. These things are your staples in terms of your routine.

“The thing that stands out about that time to me,” he added, “it was the physical element of the swing, but it was the mental, like, ‘You’re going to help us. We need you to be locked and loaded when it’s your time,’ and to his credit, if it helped him, great, but he was ready to go when it was his time. He set the league on fire in Triple-A.”

With a condensed, four-minute video of his session with Fatse saved on his phone as a helpful reference, Refsnyder made his WooSox debut on April 5. While coordinating with hitting coach Rich Gedman and assistant hitting coach Mike Montville, he set the International League on fire by hitting safely in 10 of his first 11 games. He was then called up by the Red Sox when the club was dealing with a COVID outbreak in late April.

Upon returning to Worcester, Refsnyder picked up where he left off. By early June, he was batting a stout .306/.429/.524 with 14 doubles, six home runs, 28 RBIs, and 31 runs scored in 42 games. Around that same time, injuries began to pile up for the Red Sox. And so Refsnyder had his contract selected from Triple-A on June 8.

From that point forward, Refsnyder did not return to Worcester and instead put together the best year of his big-league career. In the process of registering a career-high 177 plate appearances over 57 games, Refsnyder slashed .307/.384/.497 with 11 doubles, six home runs, 21 RBIs, 25 runs scored, one stolen base, 15 walks, and 46 strikeouts. He also hit .308 as a pinch-hitter and posted a respectable .792 OPS off right-handed pitching.

On the other side of the ball, Refsnyder saw playing time at all three outfield positions for the Red Sox last year. The 6-foot, 205-pounder started 16 games in right, 13 in center, and two in left while ranking in the 90th percentile of all big-leaguers in arm strength (averaged 91.3 mph on his throws), per Baseball Savant.

In November, the Red Sox avoided arbitration with Refsnyder by signing him to a $1.2 million deal for the 2023 season. It might not seem that noteworthy on the surface, but it actually marked the first time in Refsnyder’s career that he had agreed to a guaranteed contract.

“This offseason, my wife and I celebrated our first guaranteed contract,” Refsnyder said in a recent interview with Red Sox Productions. “I always got to a point where I was like, ‘I wonder what this is going to feel like? If it’s going to feel any different.’ It’s almost like even more of a driving factor. It’s like, ‘Wow, a team has put a little bit of confidence in you. You better work your [expletive] off. You better live up to it or do the best you can trying to.”

Refsnyder, who turns 32 later this month, figures to serve as a fourth outfielder who fares well against lefties for Boston this season behind the likes of Masataka Yoshida, Adam Duvall, and Alex Verdugo. He will surely be looking to build off the momentum he gained in 2022 by taking another step forward this year.

Looking back, though, Refsnyder is in a much better place than he was 11 months ago. After being informed that he would not make the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster, Refsnyder told McCaffrey that he was at a crossroads and was even contemplating retirement.

Now, thanks in part to a memorable session in the cages with his hitting coach last April, Refsnyder is on track to head north with the Red Sox this time around.

“That session with Fatse really changed my life, to be honest,” said Refsnyder. “I still have it on my phone and it’s my favorite video when I’m not going well to look up.”

(Picture of Rob Refsnyder: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ James Paxton on exercising player option: ‘I’m trying to establish myself back in the big-leagues and I felt like this was the place for me to do it’

Back on November 7, the Red Sox elected to decline James Paxton’s two-year, $26 million team option. Two days later, the left-hander somewhat surprisingly exercised his $4 million player option to return to the club for the 2023 season.

As’s Christopher Smith wrote on Thursday, Paxton might have received more than $4 million in free agency if he chose to hit the open market this winter. Fellow southpaw Matthew Boyd, for instance, got $10 million from the Tigers in December after pitching just 13 1/3 innings of relief for the Mariners in 2022.

Paxton, like Boyd, has been hindered by injury issues in recent years. Rather than taking his chances as a free agent, though, the 34-year-old opted for familiarity by remaining with Boston.

“I haven’t pitched healthy in like three years,” Paxton told reporters (including Smith) at JetBlue Park on Thursday. “I’m comfortable here. They know me. I know them. And I’m trying to establish myself back in the big-leagues and I felt like this was the place for me to do it.”

The Red Sox originally signed Paxton to a one-year, $6 million contract in December 2021. The deal came with a two-year, $26 million club option ($13 million per year) as well as a one-year, $4 million player option if the former was rejected.

Having undergone Tommy John surgery while with the Mariners in April 2021, Paxton was initially optimistic that he would be able to return to the mound before the All-Star break last season. He was shut down from throwing for a few weeks in early May due to posterior elbow soreness, but he was able to begin a rehab assignment in the Florida Complex League on August 18.

Just two batters into his start for the FCL Red Sox, however, Paxton was forced to exit due to left lat (latissimus dorsi muscle on the back) tightness. He was later diagnosed with a Grade 2 lat tear, which ended his 2022 season before it really even started.

“It was hard,” said Paxton. “I really wanted to make it out there last year. I had just started feeling really good with the elbow and started letting it rip a little bit and the lat wasn’t quite ready for that so it gave out on me. But I got myself in the best shape I could this year and ready to compete.”

Paxton threw eight bullpen sessions this offseason and threw his first of the spring before speaking with the media on Thursday. The Red Sox came into camp with seven different starters (Paxton, Chris Sale, Nick Pivetta, Corey Kluber, Garrett Whitlock, Brayan Bello, and Tanner Houck) vying for five rotation spots, so Paxton certainly has his work cut out for him these next few weeks.

“I’m going to do what I do,” he said. “Then we’ll see where it all shakes out in the end. But I’m not going to worry about it. I’m just going to go out there and pitch and have a good time and get ready to compete.”

Since debuting for the Mariners in 2013, Paxton has started all 137 games he has pitched in. The Red Sox have not yet approached the lefty about coming out of the bullpen, but it does not seem as though he is totally against that idea.

“I like starting. I’ve made starts my whole career,” Paxton said. “Obviously if that’s the conversation they want to have, we’ll have it.”

(Picture of James Paxton: Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)

Red Sox sign Yu Chang to one-year deal, place Trevor Story on 60-day injured list

The Red Sox have signed free agent infielder Yu Chang to a one-year major-league contract for the 2023 season, the club announced earlier Thursday morning. In order to make room for Chang on the 40-man roster, shortstop Trevor Story was placed on the 60-day injured list due to right elbow ulnar collateral ligament repair.

Chang, 27, will earn $850,000 with the Red Sox this season and will have the chance to make more via performance bonuses, according to’s Chris Cotillo.

This will mark Chang’s second stint with Boston. The Red Sox originally claimed the versatile right-handed hitter off waivers from the Rays last September. He appeared in 11 games for the club down the stretch, batting .150 (3-for-20) with two doubles, one RBI, three runs scored, five walks, and seven strikeouts over 26 trips to the plate.

Chang was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $900,000 in arbitration this year, but he was instead non-tendered by Boston in November, which allowed him to become a free agent in the first place. Fast forward three months, and the Red Sox are now bringing Chang back at a slightly lower price.

With Story sidelined for the foreseeable future after undergoing right elbow surgery in January and Adalberto Mondesi’s status for Opening Day in question as he continues to recover from a torn ACL in his left knee, the Red Sox found themselves in need of some middle infield depth as the start of the season approaches. They wound up turning to a familiar face to complement the likes of Enrique Hernandez and Christian Arroyo on the big-league roster.

Chang will not report to Red Sox camp in Fort Myers until mid-March, as he is slated to play for Team Chinese Taipei in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Once he does join the team, though, the Taiwan native will likely have an inside track to making Boston’s Opening Day roster out of spring training since he has prior major-league experience. The same cannot be said for other infielders on the 40-man roster, like prospects David Hamilton, Ceddanne Rafaela, and Enmanuel Valdez.

A former international signing of the Guardians out of Taitung in 2013, Chang was regarded as one of the top prospects in Cleveland’s farm system prior to making his debut as a 23-year-old in June 2019. He spent parts of four seasons with the Guardians before being traded to the Pirates last May. After a little more than month in Pittsburgh, he was claimed off waivers by the Rays, though his stint in Tampa Bay did not last too long, either.

For his big-league career, Chang is a lifetime .213/.279/.360 hitter with 22 doubles, four triples, 14 home runs, 61 runs driven in, 60 runs scored, one stolen base, 40 walks, and 154 strikeouts in 196 games (538 plate appearances) between the Guardians, Pirates, Rays, and Red Sox.

Defensively, Chang has past experience at all four infield positions. With Boston last year, the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder logged 32 innings at shortstop, 23 innings at second base, and seven innings at first base.

Chang, who turns 28 in July, becomes the eighth free agent the Red Sox have added on a major-league contract this offseason. He joins Kenley Jansen, Corey Kluber, Chris Martin, Joely Rodriguez, Justin Turner, Adam Duvall, and Masataka Yoshida.

(Picture of Yu Chang: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Red Sox pitching prospect Brendan Cellucci ended his 2022 season on a strong note

The Red Sox have a number of intriguing left-handed pitching prospects within their farm system. Brendan Cellucci is among them.

Cellucci, now 24, was originally selected by Boston in the 12th round of the 2019 amateur draft out of Tulane University. The Philadelphia-area native signed with the club for $345,000 and made his professional debut for short-season Lowell later that summer.

What would have been Cellucci’s first full season in pro ball was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. He then spent the entirety of the 2021 minor-league campaign with High-A Greenville and also pitched for the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League.

After taking part in the Red Sox’ Winter Warm-Up minicamp last January, Cellucci returned to Greenville for the start of the 2022 season. The left-hander began the year in the Drive’s bullpen, but he struggled to the tune of an 11.70 ERA over nine relief appearances (10 innings pitched) out of the gate.

Three days following another tough showing against the Rome Braves at Fluor Field on May 8, Cellucci did something he had not done since pitching on Cape Cod in 2019: he started a game. On May 11, Cellucci served as an opener for Greenville and struck out four of the six batters he faced over two scoreless, no-hit frames on the road against the Asheville Tourists.

For the next month, Cellucci continued to open games for the Drive every three to four days. In 10 starts from May 11-June 12, he produced a 1.83 ERA and .141 batting average against to go along with 30 strikeouts to 14 walks across 19 2/3 total innings of work.

Though he found success in an opening role, Cellucci returned to the Greenville bullpen in mid-June. The results (such as a 7.04 ERA in his next 13 outings) were not pretty at first, but the lefty was able to settle down a bit following a five-run blowup against Rome on August 3.

Against that same Braves team four days later, Cellucci worked a scoreless seventh inning. He then proceeded to keep the opposition off the scoreboard in eight of his next 10 appearances, putting up a 1.06 ERA and .155 batting average against with 22 strikeouts to six walks over 17 innings pitched altogether.

On September 16, Cellucci earned a late-season promotion to Double-A Portland. He appeared in two games for the Sea Dogs down the stretch and did not surrender run while recording three punchouts and zero walks in 2 1/3 frames of relief.

All told, it was an up-and-down season for Cellucci. Between Greenville and Portland, he wound up posting a 4.34 ERA and 4.64 FIP with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 85:44 over 45 total appearances (10 starts) spanning 64 1/3 innings. Opponents hit .238/.374/.340 with six home runs in 290 plate appearances against him.

According to FanGraphs, 30 minor-league pitchers in the Red Sox organization accrued at least 60 innings on the mound last year. Among them, Cellucci ranked second in strikeouts per nine innings (11.89), 30th in walks per nine innings (6.16), fourth in strikeout rate (29.3 percent), 30th in walk rate (15.2 percent), 11th in batting average against, 26th in WHIP (1.55), seventh in line-drive rate (18.4 percent), ninth in groundball rate (48 percent), ninth in swinging-strike rate (13 percent), 14th in ERA, 18th in xFIP (4.61), and 20th in FIP.

Cellucci could have been added to Boston’s 40-man roster at the end of the season in order to receive protection from the Rule 5 Draft. The Red Sox, however, left Cellucci unprotected and he unsurprisingly did not get scooped up by another team on the final day of the Winter Meetings in December.

While he is not considered to be one of the top relief prospects in Boston’s farm system, Cellucci does have potential. His strikeout numbers are indicative of that, though his struggles to command the strike zone at times do lead to some concerns surrounding his long-term outlook.

Per his scouting report, Cellucci is a three-pitch pitcher who possesses a max-effort, over the top delivery. The 6-foot-4, 211-pound southpaw operates with a 91-93 mph fastball that tops out at 95 mph (and has topped out at 97 mph in the past), an 88-90 mph cutter, and an 82-88 mph slider.

Cellucci, who turns 25 in June, is projected to return to Portland for the upcoming 2023 season. He will once again be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft next winter, but will presumably look to make strides with the Sea Dogs in the meantime.

(Picture of Brendan Cellucci: Kelly O’Connor/

Former Red Sox right-hander Michael Wacha agrees to deal with Padres, per report

Former Red Sox starter Michael Wacha has agreed to a deal with the Padres, as was first reported by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

According to the Associated Press, the contract, which is still pending a physical, is believed to be for multiple years and similar in structure to the three-year deal San Diego gave fellow right-hander Nick Martinez back in November.

Rosenthal further reports that Wacha could earn more than $24 million over four years with the Padres. The deal includes player and team options and its structure lowers the average annual value for luxury tax purposes.

Wacha, 31, is now slated to join his fifth team in the last five years after originally signing a one-year, $7 million pact with Boston at the conclusion of the 2021 campaign. The former 2012 first-round draft pick out of Texas A&M first broke in with the Cardinals in 2013 and has also pitched for the Mets and Rays.

In 23 starts for the Red Sox last season, Wacha posted a 3.32 ERA and 1.12 WHIP with 104 strikeouts to 31 walks over 127 1/3 innings of work. While the veteran hurler put up solid surface-level numbers, he produced a less-than-desirable 4.14 FIP and 20.2 percent strikeout rate. The righty also ranked in the 27th percentile of all big-league pitchers in expected batting average (.254), the 13th percentile in expected slugging percentage (.446), the 14th percentile in barrel rate (9.6 percent), and the 12th percentile in whiff rate (20.7 percent), per Baseball Savant.

Though Wacha led all Red Sox pitchers in Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement metric (3.3 bWAR) in 2022, he did miss time with injuries. From May 5-20 he was sidelined with left intercostal irritation. From July 5-August 14, he was sidelined with right shoulder inflammation.

Taking those factors into consideration, it does not appear as though the Red Sox made a strong effort to bring Wacha back in free agency despite publicly expressing interest in a reunion. With other starters such as Chris Sale, Nick Pivetta, Corey Kluber, Brayan Bello, Garrett Whitlock, James Paxton, and Tanner Houck already on the roster, Wacha would have only added to Boston’s starting pitching surplus.

In agreeing to a deal with the Padres, Wacha will join a rotation mix in San Diego that includes the likes of Martinez, Joe Musgrove, Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, Seth Lugo, and Adrian Morejon, among others.

Wacha, who turns 32 in July, is the second member of the 2022 Red Sox to leave Boston for San Diego as a free agent this winter. Back in December, as you may recall, Xander Bogaerts inked a monstrous 11-year, $280 million contract with the Friars.

(Picture of Michael Wacha: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Former Red Sox catcher Kevin Plawecki signs minor-league deal with Pirates

Former Red Sox catcher Kevin Plawecki has signed a minor-league contract with the Pirates, the club announced on Sunday. The deal includes an invite to big-league spring training and a salary of $1.5 million if Plawecki makes it to the majors with Pittsburgh, per WEEI’s Rob Bradford.

Plawecki, who turns 32 later this month, spent the better part of the last three seasons with the Red Sox after originally signing with the club as a free agent in January 2020. He primarily served as Christian Vazquez’s backup before being somewhat surprisingly designated for assignment — and subsequently released — by Boston last September.

At that time, the Red Sox were already looking ahead to 2023 and wanted to get Connor Wong and the recently-acquired Reese McGuire as many reps as possible behind the plate. In order to accomplish that, they elected to move on from Plawecki, though that decision was not a popular one among other veterans in the clubhouse.

“It was very difficult,” Rich Hill told’s Chris Cotillo. “Throughout the clubhouse, it was a tough one for everybody. What everybody sees out in the field and in the dugout… what you don’t realize is the humanity side of this game. We’re not just all numbers. We’re human beings. And removing a guy like that from the clubhouse is a big hit for a lot of guys. I would say everybody in here.”

After batting just .217/.287/.287 with one home run and 12 RBIs in 60 games (175 plate appearances) with the Red Sox last year, Plawecki latched on with the Rangers and appeared in three games for the club before the 2022 campaign came to a close. Between Boston and Texas, he threw out just five of 51 possible base stealers.

In his three seasons with the Red Sox from 2020-2022, Plawecki slashed .270/.333/.364 with 20 doubles, one triple, five homers, 44 runs driven in, 107 runs scored, one stolen base, 31 walks, and 68 strikeouts over 148 total games (437 plate appearances). The right-handed hitter also gained notoriety for his role in Boston’s laundry cart home run celebration and his walk-up song (Calum Scott’s remix of “Dancing On My Own”), which ultimately served as the club’s anthem during their run to the American League Championship Series in 2021.

By signing with the Pirates, Plawecki will presumably be competing for a spot on Pittsburgh’s bench behind the likes of Austin Hedges and prospect Endy Rodriguez, who are currently the only two backstops on the club’s 40-man roster. The Bucs will also have fellow catchers Carter Bins, Henry Davis, Jason Delay, and Tyler Heineman in camp as non-roster invitees.

Plawecki becomes the second member of the 2022 Red Sox to join the Pirates organization this offseason, as Hill previously inked a one-year, $8 million deal with Pittsburgh back in December.

(Picture of Kevin Plawecki: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Former Red Sox lefty Kyle Hart agrees to minor-league deal with Phillies

Former Red Sox left-hander Kyle Hart has agreed to terms on a minor-league contract with the Phillies, according to’s Chris Cotillo. It is unclear if the deal comes with an invite to major-league spring training.

Hart, 30, was originally selected by Boston in the 19th round of the 2016 amateur draft out of Indiana University Bloomington. As an unheralded senior, the Ohio native signed with the club for a modest $5,000 and made his professional debut in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League that summer.

After working his way up the minor-league ladder in 2017 and 2018, Hart put together an impressive 2019 campaign in which he posted a 3.52 ERA with 140 strikeouts to 53 walks in 27 outings (24 starts) spanning 156 innings of work between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. That November, the Red Sox added the southpaw to their 40-man roster in order to prevent him from being selected in the Rule 5 Draft.

Hart entered the COVID-shortened 2020 season ranked by Baseball America as the No. 29 prospect in Boston’s farm system. He made his major-league debut that August, but struggled to a 15.55 ERA (19 earned runs in 11 innings) across four appearances (three starts) and was outrighted off the Sox’ 40-man roster in the fall of that year.

Since then, Hart has spent the last two seasons pitching in the minors. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound hurler forged a 4.22 ERA with Worcester in 2021 and followed that up by producing a 5.25 ERA with 74 strikeouts to 33 walks in 82 1/3 innings between the WooSox and Sea Dogs last year before reaching minor-league free agency for the first time.

In agreeing to a minors pact with Philadelphia, Hart will be joining just the second organization of his professional career. With that being said, it should be mentioned that Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was at the helm in Boston when Hart was drafted by the Red Sox in 2016.

(Picture of Kyle Hart: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Coming off solid 2022 season with Red Sox, Michael Wacha remains unsigned as spring training nears

Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to their respective spring training sites in Arizona and Florida in just a matter of days, yet Michael Wacha remains unsigned despite being the top free agent starting pitcher still on the market.

Wacha, 31, posted a 3.32 ERA and 1.12 WHIP with 104 strikeouts to 31 walks in 23 starts (127 1/3 innings pitched) for the Red Sox last season after signing a one-year, $7 million deal with Boston in November 2021.

While those surface-level numbers are certainly respectable, his 4.14 FIP and 20.2 percent strikeout rate are less encouraging. The veteran right-hander also ranked in the 27th percentile of all big-league pitchers in expected batting average (.254), the 13th percentile in expected slugging percentage (.446), the 14th percentile in barrel rate (9.6 percent), and the 12th percentile in whiff rate (20.7 percent), per Baseball Savant.

Though Wacha led all Red Sox pitchers in Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement metric last year (3.3 bWAR), he also missed time with injuries. Left intercostal irritation kept him sidelined from May 5-20 while right shoulder inflammation cost him more than a month (July 5-August 14) of action over the summer.

When the offseason first began in November, the Red Sox entertained the idea of extending Wacha a qualifying offer, which would have tied the righty to draft pick compensation. They elected not to go in that direction and instead issued qualifying offers to Xander Bogaerts and Nathan Eovaldi, who both left the club by signing with the Padres and Rangers in free agency.

Wacha, meanwhile, has not had much of a market to speak of. He has been loosely linked to the Angels, Orioles, and Twins this winter, though Baltimore and Minnesota have recently added starting pitching by acquiring Cole Irvin and Pablo Lopez, respectably, via trade.

Last month, Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported that Wacha was seeking a two-year deal. Bob Nightengale added on by relaying that the CAA Sports client was looking for a contract that would net him $15 million per year, or about $30 million altogether.

That Wacha prefers a multi-year offer is not all that surprising when you consider the fact that he has settled for one-year pacts with the Red Sox, Rays, and Mets in each of the last three offseasons. An additional, guaranteed year of security would be rewarding, but it seems as though teams are hesitant to go that far given Wacha’s recent health history and discouraging peripherals.

Wacha, who turns 32 in July, may have to settle for another one-year deal or a one-year deal with an option attached if he intends on signing with a club before Opening Day. At this point, a reunion with the Red Sox seems unlikely since already Boston has seven starters (Chris Sale, Nick Pivetta, Garrett Whitlock, Corey Kluber, James Paxton, Brayan Bello, and Tanner Houck) in its rotation mix heading into camp.

Of course, Wacha’s market could heat up if teams sustain rotation injuries over the course of spring training and find themselves in need of an established replacement leading up to the start of the season.

(Picture of Michael Wacha: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

How did Red Sox pitching prospect Juan Daniel Encarnación fare in 2022 and what can be expected from the righty this season?

In his evaluation of the Red Sox farm system, which he ranked 23rd out of 30, heading into the 2023 season, The Athletic’s Keith Law noted that Boston’s “group of pitching prospects is one of the weakest” in baseball.

“They might not have a future MLB starter anywhere on their full-season rosters,” wrote Law. “The best of those candidates all have huge reliever risk, at least.”

One under-the-radar prospect who could help change this narrative in 2023 is Juan Daniel Encarnacion, who is currently regarded by as the No. 44 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks 16th among pitchers in the organization.

Encarnacion, 21, spent the majority of the 2022 minor-league season with Low-A Salem before earning a promotion to High-A Greenville in August. The right-hander posted a 4.09 ERA — but much more respectable — 3.34 FIP — with 119 strikeouts to 39 walks in 24 appearances (23 starts) spanning 103 1/3 innings of work for the Red Sox.

Among the 14 Carolina League pitchers who surpassed the 100-inning mark last year, Encarnacion ranked third in strikeouts per nine innings (10.36) and strikeout rate (26.7 percent), seventh in walks per nine innings (3.40) and walk rate (8.8 percent), first in home runs per nine innings (0.26), sixth in WHIP (1.30), seventh in ERA, second in FIP, and fourth in xFIP (4.12), per FanGraphs. He also allowed the highest batting average on balls put in play (.336), which suggests he may have been unlucky at times.

Upon making the jump from Salem to Greenville in late August, Encarnacion made two starts for the Drive before the season came to a close. His first start did not go so well, as he surrendered four earned runs in five innings against the Rome Braves on September 2. One week later, though, the righty bounced back by tossing five scoreless frames and striking out seven in a 2-0 win over the Asheville Tourists at hitter-friendly Fluor Field.

All things considered, it was a solid first full season in affiliated ball for Encarnacion after he impressed at the rookie-level Florida Complex League in 2021. The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier even wrote for Baseball America in November that he believed Encarnacion “already started to open eyes” in 2022.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Encarnacion originally signed with the Red Sox for $40,000 as an international free agent coming out of San Pedro de Macoris in Sept. 2018. Per his scouting report, the wiry 6-foot-2, 173-pound hurler throws from a low three-quarters arm slot and operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of an 88-92 mph fastball that tops out at 94 mph, a 76-78 mph curveball, and an 84-86 mph changeup.

Encarnacion, who turns 22 late next month, is projected to return to return to Greenville for the start of the 2023 campaign. He can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time next winter, so he certainly could improve his standing as a prospect if he proves capable of holding his own against more advanced hitting.

(Picture of Juan Daniel Encarnacion: Gary Streiffer/Flickr)