Red Sox’ Miguel Bleis enters Baseball America’s top 100 prospects rankings

Red Sox outfield prospect Miguel Bleis has entered Baseball America’s top 100 rankings heading into the 2023 season.

Previously unranked, Bleis is now considered by the publication to be the 88th-ranked prospect in all of baseball. The 18-year-old was one of five Red Sox minor-leaguers to make the cut for the top-100 on Wednesday, joining the likes of Marcelo Mayer at No. 10, Triston Casas at No. 29, Ceddanne Rafaela at No. 71, and Masataka Yoshida at No. 87.

Bleis is already regarded by Baseball America as the No. 4 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The Red Sox originally signed the Dominican-born outfielder for $1.5 million as a highly-touted international free agent coming out of San Pedro de Macoris in January 2021.

After a solid pro debut in the Dominican Summer League, Bleis made the jump to the Florida Complex League last year. The right-handed hitter batted a stout .301/.353/.543 with 14 doubles, four triples, five home runs, 27 RBIs, 28 runs scored, 18 stolen bases, 10 walks, and 45 strikeouts in 40 games (167 plate appearances) for Boston’s rookie-level affiliate.

Among qualified hitters in the Florida Complex League last season, Bleis ranked seventh in batting average, 24th in on-base percentage, third in slugging percentage, fourth in OPS (.896), 12th in line-drive rate (22.3 percent) second in isolated power (.242), tied for first in speed score (9.3), and sixth in wRC+ (142), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Bleis saw the majority of his playing time for the FCL Red Sox come in center field. The 6-foot-3, 170-pounder logged 310 1/3 innings in center and just five innings in right while registering a team-high five outfield assists, which is a testament to his arm strength.

Had he not been bothered by back soreness in late August, Bleis would have been promoted to Low-A Salem for the final few weeks of the 2022 campaign. The Red Sox instead opted to have Bleis stay back in Fort Myers to get healthy before sending him home for the winter.

Despite playing in just 40 minor-league games, Bleis still drew plenty of attention throughout the calendar year. Back in August, SoxProspects.com’s Ian Cundall tweeted that Bleis is “the prospect generating the most buzz in the Red Sox farm system right now.”

In late October, Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline tabbed Bleis as “Boston’s best international prospect since Rafael Devers,” noting that the former’s stock rose in 2022 since “he displayed his all-around ability to a larger audience while making his U.S. debut.”

Bleis, who turns 19 in March, is expected to begin the 2023 season in Salem, where he should serve as the Red Sox’ primary center fielder. There are some concerns about his approach at the plate, but he has time to work out those issues as he continues to develop. As the saying goes, Bleis’ potential is through the roof at the moment.

“He has five tools. That’s the reality,” Red Sox director of player development said of Bleis in a conversation with The Athletic’s Chad Jennings last September. “You don’t see that too often. What those five tools will ultimately (become), how they will pan out, not sure. But in terms of the tools, and in terms of the ability to impact the game in various ways, he does that. I think whenever you have a player who does those types of things, he’s someone you want to pay attention to and watch.”

(Picture of Miguel Bleis: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox prospect Armando Sierra improved across the board in 2022

Red Sox first base/outfield prospect Armando Sierra celebrated his 19th birthday on Tuesday.

Sierra originally signed with the Red Sox for $150,000 as an international free agent coming out of the Dominican Republic just two days shy of his 17th birthday in January 2021. Shortly thereafter, the Sabana Grande de Palenque native was identified by Baseball America as a potential under-the-radar addition to Boston’s 2021 signing class.

“Armando was a player we scouted later on in his signing year,” Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero said of Sierra in April 2021. “After scouting him a few times, he stood out for his strong frame and his power. As we continued to see him, it became apparent that not only did he have above average power for his signing class, but he also was developing a stronger approach.”

Sierra made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League in July 2021. In 53 games for the DSL Red Sox Blue, the right-handed hitter batted .284/.373/.379 with 10 doubles, two home runs, 35 RBIs, 24 runs scored, 21 walks, and 41 strikeouts over 193 plate appearances.

After seeing the majority of his playing time come in the outfield corners in 2021, Sierra played more first base as he returned to the Dominican Summer League last year. In the process of logging 220 2/3 innings at first, 46 innings in left field, and 41 innings in right field, the 6-foot-2, 189-pounder slashed .314/.399/.473 with 15 doubles, five homers, 48 runs driven in, 37 runs scored, three stolen bases, 25 walks, and 22 strikeouts across 51 games (218 plate appearances) with the DSL Red Sox Blue.

Among the 69 hitters in the Dominican Summer League who made at least 210 trips to the plate in 2022, Sierra ranked second in strikeout rate (10.1 percent), ninth in batting average, 16th in on-base percentage, 11th in slugging percentage, 12th in OPS (.872), 24th in isolated power (.160), 16th in line-drive rate (23 percent), third in swinging-strike rate (16.5 percent), and 10th in wRC+ (136), per FanGraphs. He also represented the Red Sox in last July’s DSL All-Star Game.

As the above numbers indicate, Sierra showed signs of improvement across the board last season. He hit for a higher average (.284 to .314), raised his on-base percentage (.373 to .399), hit for more power (.379 to .473 slugging percentage), walked more (10.9 percent to 11.5 percent walk rate), and struck out less (21.2 to 10.1 percent strikeout rate) while putting up a wRC+ that increased by 19 percent (117 to 136).

Of course, Sierra has done all of this at the lowest rung of the minor-league ladder. He will likely be faced with an adjustment period when he makes the expected jump to the rookie-level Florida Complex League later this summer. With that being said, though, Sierra certainly seems to be on an encouraging trajectory even if he is still just a developing teenager.

Sierra, who obviously does not turn 20 until next January, is not yet regarded by publications such as SoxProspects.com as one of the top 60 prospects in Boston’s farm system. He should, however, have the chance to elevate his profile once he officially goes stateside in 2023.

(Picture of Fenway Park: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox sign infielder Edwin Díaz to minor-league deal

The Red Sox have signed infielder Edwin Diaz to a minor-league contract for the 2023 season, per Melissa Lockard of The Athletic. It is unclear if the deal includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Diaz, 27, is not to be confused with the All-Star closer for the Mets. While they both hail from Puerto Rico, the Diaz the Red Sox are signing has yet to break in at the big-league level.

A native of Vega Alta, Diaz was originally selected by the Athletics in the 15th round of the 2013 amateur draft out of Ladislao Martinez High School. He made his professional debut in the rookie-level Arizona League that July and has since appeared in a total of 717 minor-league games across nine seasons.

After reaching free agency for the first time in his career at the conclusion of the 2021 campaign, Edwin signed a minors pact with the Astros during the lockout that December. The right-handed hitter missed the first two months of the 2022 season with an undisclosed injury. He then batted .168/.254/.376 with two doubles, one triple, nine home runs, 24 RBIs, 20 runs scored, two stolen bases, 17 walks, and 60 strikeouts in 44 games (169 plate appearances) with Double-A Corpus Christi before moving up to Triple-A Sugar Land in late August.

With the Space Cowboys, Diaz slashed .227/.277/.373 with five doubles, one triple, three homers, 17 runs driven in, 12 runs scored, eight walks, and 46 strikeouts over 30 games (120 plate appearances). All told, he is a lifetime .215/.296/.394 hitter in the minor-leagues. That includes a .217/.295/.405 line at Double-A and a .175/.242/.299 line at Triple-A.

On the other side of the ball, Diaz — who is described by Lockard as slick-fielding — has experience at every infield position besides pitcher and catcher. This past season, for instance, the versatile 6-foot-2, 223-pounder logged 18 innings at first base, 191 1/3 innings at second base, 104 innings at third base, and 276 1/3 innings at shortstop between Corpus Christi and Sugar Land.

Diaz, who turns 28 in August, should provide Boston with experienced infield depth regardless of where he starts the 2023 season (Portland or Worcester). If he receives an invite to big-league spring training, he would become the ninth player to get one thus far, joining the likes of Jorge Alfaro, Greg Allen, Narciso Crook, Niko Goodrum, Caleb Hamilton, Ronaldo Hernandez, Oddanier Mosqueda, and Norwith Gudino.

In the meantime, Diaz is coming off a solid offseason in the Puerto Rican Winter League in which he batted .229/375/.418 with eight homers and 29 RBIs over 48 games (192 plate appearances) for the Criollos de Caguas (Alex Cora’s hometown team). Ramon Vazquez served as Diaz’s manager in Caguas before being named Red Sox bench coach back in November.

(Picture of Edwin Diaz: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Red Sox agree to minor-league deal with catcher Jorge Alfaro

The Red Sox have agreed to terms on a minor-league contract with catcher Jorge Alfaro, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo. The deal includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Alfaro, 29, spent the 2022 season with the Padres and batted .246/.285/.383 with 14 doubles, seven home runs, 40 RBIs, 25 runs scored, one stolen base, 11 walks, and 98 strikeouts in 82 games (274 plate appearances) before being non-tendered in November. He also threw out five of 30 possible base stealers while splitting time behind the plate with Austin Nola and Luis Campusano.

A native of Colombia, Alfaro originally signed with the Rangers as a highly-touted international free agent in 2010. Five years later, he was dealt to the Phillies as part of a blockbuster trade that sent Cole Hamels from Philadelphia to Texas.

Alfaro broke in with the Phillies the following September and appeared in a total of 143 games over three seasons with the club before being involved in another significant trade. In February 2019, the Marlins acquired Alfaro and two other players from Philadelphia in exchange for All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto.

In parts of three seasons with Miami, the right-handed hitting Alfaro slashed .252/.298/.386 with 25 home runs, 103 RBIs, and 78 runs scored across 253 total games (876 plate appearances). The Marlins traded Alfaro to the Padres for cash considerations following the conclusion of the 2021 campaign.

So, for his big-league career, Alfaro is a lifetime .256/.305/.396 hitter with 67 doubles, four triples, 47 homers, 194 runs driven in, 150 runs scored, 18 stolen bases, 70 walks, and 566 strikeouts in 478 games (1,658 plate appearances) between the Phillies, Marlins, and Padres. He has traditionally hit the ball hard (averaged an exit velocity of 89.4 mph last year) but he has done so while posting a career 34.1 percent strikeout rate and measly 4.2 percent walk rate.

Defensively, Alfaro has logged over 3,340 innings at catcher since debuting for Philadelphia in 2016. In that time frame, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound backstop has accrued negative-17 defensive runs saved and has graded poorly in terms of pitch framing. While his arm strength and pop time are well-regarded, his receiving abilities leave much to be desired.

Alfaro, who turns 30 in June, will receive a base salary of $2 million if he makes Boston’s big-league roster. He also has multiple opt-outs in his deal, meaning he can return to free agency if he is not called up by June 1 or July 1 at the latest, per Cotillo.

On paper, Alfaro provides the Red Sox with experienced catching depth. In reality, though, he should have a chance to compete with Reese McGuire and Connor Wong — who also hits from the right side of the plate — for a spot on Boston’s Opening Day roster once spring training begins next month.

As noted by Cotillo, Wong has minor-league options remaining and can therefore be moved freely between Triple-A Worcester and Boston this coming season. Alfaro, on the other hand, can no longer be optioned to the minor-leagues since he already has more than five years of major-league service time under his belt.

All things considered, the addition of Alfaro should make for an even more interesting spring training in Fort Myers. In the meantime, Alfaro has enjoyed a productive offseason playing for the Tigres del Licey of the Dominican Winter League. He came into play Monday slashing .383/.471/.633 with two home runs and 19 RBI in 16 postseason games for the Tigres, who are now just two wins away from clinching the LIDOM title.

(Picture of Jorge Alfaro: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Evaluating early returns from Red Sox’ 2022 international signing class

With the 2023 international signing period set to begin on Sunday, now feels like an appropriate time to reflect on how some key members of the Red Sox’ 2022 class fared in their first seasons of professional baseball.

Per SoxProspects.com, Boston signed 31 prospects for a combined $5.281 million between January 15 and December 15 of last year. Of those 31 prospects, one has already been traded, as left-hander Inmer Lobo was dealt to the Pirates in November in exchange for infielder/outfielder Hoy Park.

Just two members of the Sox’ 2022 signing class — Dominican shortstops Fraymi De Leon and Freili Encarnacion — received bonuses of more than $1 million. Two others (Venezuelan catcher Johanfran Garcia and Dominican shortstop Jancel Santana) signed for more than $500,000 while four additional players (Dominican outfielders Natanael Yuten and Cristofher Paniagua, Venezuelan shortstop Frayner Noria, and Venezuelan right-hander William Colmenares) netted between $125,000 and $400,000 in bonus money.

De Leon signed for $1.2 million last January and made his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League less than five months later. The switch-hitting 18-year-old batted .218/.332/.268 with one double, one triple, two home runs, 21 RBIs, 29 runs scored, 20 stolen bases, 21 walks, and 61 strikeouts over 50 games (214 plate appearances) with the DSL Red Sox Blue. He saw playing time at both middle infield positions.

Encarnacion signed for $1.1 million and spent the entirety of the 2022 campaign with the DSL Red Sox Red. In 41 games for the affiliate, the right-handed hitting 17-year-old (turns 18 later this month) slashed .255/.335/.369 with eight doubles, three home runs, 23 runs driven in, 31 runs scored, nine stolen bases, 15 walks, and 51 strikeouts across 173 trips to the plate. He saw playing time at third base and shortstop and is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the 35th-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Garcia signed for $850,000 at the same time De Leon and Encarnacion did. The younger brother of Red Sox outfield prospect Jhostynxon Garcia, Johanfran compiled a .268/.367/.333 slash line to go along with seven doubles, one triple, 23 RBIs, 26 runs scored, 21 walks, and 25 strikeouts in 40 games (161 plate appearances) with the DSL Red Sox Red last season. The 18-year-old backstop also threw out 26 of 58 base stealers from behind the plate.

Santana, like De Leon and Encarnacion, hails from the Dominican Republic. The switch-hitting 17-year-old signed for exactly $600,000 last winter and proceeded to bat .184/.303/.203 with seven doubles, one triple, two home runs, 16 RBIs, 25 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, 18 walks, and 56 strikeouts in 43 games (179 plate appearances) for the DSL Red Sox Red. He logged 317 1/3 innings at second base and just 31 innings at shortstop.

Colmenares received the highest bonus ($125,000) of any of the 16 pitchers Boston signed in 2022. The 17-year-old (turns 18 next month) righty posted a 3.79 ERA and 3.79 FIP with 40 strikeouts to 18 walks over 13 outings (12 starts) spanning 40 1/3 innings of work for the DSL Red Sox Blue. He reportedly possesses a three-pitch mix that includes a 93 mph fastball.

Of the 23 international prospects who received bonuses of less than $100,000 last year, Venezuelan infielder Marvin Alcantara may have made the strongest first impression. After signing for just $30,000, the right-handed hitting 18-year-old batted .302/.406/.397 with 15 doubles, one home run, 29 runs driven in, 49 runs scored, 14 stolen bases, 29 walks, and 33 strikeouts in 53 games (224 plate appearances) with the DSL Red Sox Blue. He put up those numbers while playing every infield position besides first base.

Alcantara, who is listed at just 5-foot-10 and 157 pounds, did not receive much attention as an amateur. But it was Venezuelan area scout Alex Requena who made the case for the Red Sox to sign the La Victoria native, as assistant general manager Eddie Romero explained to The Athletic’s Chad Jennings last January.

“Just pounding the table for him,” Romero said of Requena’s interest in Alcantara. “He’s one of these guys that the crosscheck group really didn’t get to see much, but he made it to signing day and our area scout was just like, ‘You need to sign this guy!’”

Outside of Encarnacion, Alcantara is presently the only prospect included on SoxProspects.com’s top-60 rankings, as he comes in at No. 37 within the organization.

Alcantara, like many other players listed here, are projected to make the jump to the Florida Complex League for the 2023 minor-league season. Others will return to the Dominican Summer League and continue to hone their skills at the Red Sox’ academy down in El Toro.

(Picture of Freili Encarnacion via his Instagram)

Red Sox, Josh Taylor avoid arbitration by agreeing to $1.025 million deal for 2023 season

The Red Sox and left-hander Josh Taylor have agreed to terms on a one-year contract for the 2023 season, thus avoiding salary arbitration, the club announced earlier Thursday afternoon. The deal is worth $1.025 million, per Robert Murray of FanSided.

Taylor, who turns 30 in March, did not appear in a game at the major-league level in 2022 due to a low back strain that dates back to the end of the 2021 regular season. The 29-year-old was sent out on several minor-league rehab assignments, but he struggled to a 6.00 ERA in 13 outings (12 innings) between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Worcester before being shut down from throwing in mid-July.

It was certainly a disappointing development for Taylor, as the lefty was coming off an impressive 2021 campaign in which he posted a 3.40 ERA and 2.83 FIP with 60 strikeouts to 23 walks over 61 relief appearances spanning 47 2/3 innings of work. His 34 percent whiff rate ranked in the 92nd percentile of all big-league pitchers that year.

Despite spending the entirety of the 2022 season on the injured list, the Red Sox still tendered Taylor a contract in November. The 6-foot-5, 245-pound southpaw is entering his second season of arbitration eligibility and will receive the exact same salary ($1.025 million) in 2023 as he did last year. He is currently slated to become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2025 campaign.

If healthy come Opening Day, Taylor figures to join free agent addition Joely Rodriguez as the two primary left-handed relievers available for Alex Cora out of the Boston bullpen to start the season.

With Taylor locked in for 2023, the Red Sox have five remaining players who are eligible for salary arbitration in right-handers Ryan Brasier and Nick Pivetta, catcher Reese McGuire, infielder Christian Arroyo, and outfielder Alex Verdugo. The deadline for teams and arbitration-eligible players to exchange salary figures is Friday.

(Picture of Josh Taylor: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox designate Connor Seabold for assignment

The Red Sox needed to clear a spot on their 40-man roster before making the signing of veteran starter Corey Kluber official on Thursday afternoon. They did so by designating fellow right-hander Connor Seabold for assignment.

Seabold, who turns 27 later this month, was regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 22 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranked seventh among pitchers in the organization. The Red Sox originally acquired the California native from the Phillies alongside Nick Pivetta in the August 2020 trade that sent relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree to Philadelphia.

For the better part of the last two seasons, Seabold has served as upper-minors rotation depth for the Red Sox. He posted a 3.50 ERA in 11 starts (54 innings) for Triple-A Worcester in 2021 and followed that up by producing a 3.32 ERA in 19 starts (86 2/3 innings) with the WooSox in 2022.

Unfortunately, that success has not translated to the major-league level as of yet. Seabold made his big-league debut in September 2021 and made five additional starts for Boston last season. In those six outings, the righty allowed 25 earned runs on 38 hits, 10 walks, and 19 strikeouts over 21 1/3 cumulative innings of work. That is good for an ERA of 10.55 and FIP of 6.82.

Seabold has dealt with his fair share of injuries in his time with the Red Sox organization. He was sidelined with right elbow inflammation during the early stages of the 2021 campaign and spent time on the injured list with a pectoral strain and right forearm extensor strain in 2022. Perhaps as a result of those arm issues, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound hurler averaged just 92.1 mph on his four-seam fastball in the majors, per Baseball Savant.

With the addition of Kluber, the Red Sox have only further bolstered a starting rotation mix that already included Chris Sale, Nick Pivetta, Garrett Whitlock, Brayan Bello, James Paxton, and Tanner Houck. When you add others like Josh Winckowski, Kutter Crawford, Bryan Mata, Chris Murphy, and Brandon Walter, Seabold undoubtedly became more expandable.

The Red Sox now have the next seven days to either trade, release, or waive Seabold, who has one minor-league option year remaining and could be of interest to other clubs as a result. If he clears waivers, the Red Sox would be able keep Seabold in the organization without committing a 40-man roster spot to him.

Regardless of his fate, though, Seabold becomes the latest in a long line of players to be lopped off the Red Sox’ 40-man roster this winter. He joins the likes of Eduard Bazardo, Yu Chang, Franchy Cordero, Tyler Danish, Jeter Downs, Eric Hosmer, and — most recently — Darwinzon Hernandez.

(Picture of Connor Seabold: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Red Sox re-sign Sterling Sharp to minor-league deal

The Red Sox have re-signed right-hander Sterling Sharp to a minor-league contract for the 2023 season, per his MiLB.com transactions log.

Sharp, 27, first signed with Boston as a minor-league free agent last August after spending the first half of the 2022 season in the Nationals organization. The lanky righty made seven starts for Double-A Portland down the stretch and posted a 3.18 ERA (3.59 FIP) with 31 strikeouts to 12 walks over 34 innings of work.

Washington originally selected Sharp in the 22nd round of the 2016 amateur draft out of Drury University (Springfield, Mo). The Michigan native rose through the prospect ranks in the Nationals’ farm system before being taken by the Marlins in the major-league phase of the 2019 Rule 5 Draft.

Sharp made his big-league debut for Miami the following August. He allowed six earned runs in 5 1/3 innings (10.13 ERA) out of the Marlins bullpen before being designated for assignment on Aug. 27. He was ultimately returned to the Nationals for $50,000 after clearing waivers.

Since that time, Sharp has made 34 appearances (27 starts) at the Triple-A level and 10 starts at the Double-A level. For his minor-league career, the 6-foot-3, 182-pound hurler owns a lifetime 3.77 ERA over 167 Double-A innings and a lifetime 5.77 ERA across 137 1/3 Triple-A innings.

Sharp, who turns 28 in May, operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of an 88-90 mph sinker, an 80-81 mph changeup, and a 79-81 mph slider. He has been assigned to Portland. As noted by SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield, though, Sharp provides the Red Sox with upper-minors rotation depth in the event that they include one of their Triple-A starters (like Chris Murphy or Brandon Walter) in trade for a major-league ready player before the season begins.

In short, Sharp could very well wind up pitching for the WooSox at some point in 2023. We will have to wait and see on that.

(Picture of Sterling Sharp: Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Red Sox trade Darwinzon Hernandez to Orioles for cash considerations

The Red Sox have traded reliever Darwinzon Hernandez to the Orioles in exchange for cash considerations, the club announced earlier Wednesday afternoon.

Hernandez, 26, was designated for assignment last Friday so that the Red Sox could clear a spot on their 40-man roster for newly signed infielder/designated hitter Justin Turner.

Boston originally signed Hernandez for just $7,500 as an international free agent coming out of Venezuela in July 2013. The Ciudad Bolivar native established himself as arguably the top pitching prospect in the Red Sox farm system before making his major-league debut at the age of 22 in April 2019.

Hernandez made one start for the Red Sox early on before moving to the bullpen on a full-time basis that July . The left-hander posted a 4.32 ERA — but much more respectable 2.81 FIP — with 46 strikeouts to 20 walks over 27 relief appearances (25 innings) from that point forward to wrap up what was an otherwise solid rookie campaign.

Injuries and a bout with COVID-19 limited Hernandez to just seven outings during the pandemic-shortened season in 2020. He bounced back by forging a 3.38 ERA (4.80 FIP) in 2021, but he did so while averaging exactly seven walks per nine innings.

This past spring, Hernandez failed to break camp with the Red Sox and instead began the 2022 season at Triple-A Worcester. The burly lefty was then forced to undergo surgery in May after suffering a torn right meniscus that kept him sidelined well into the summer. He made his return to the majors on July 14 got rocked for 16 earned runs in 6 2/3 innings (21.60 ERA) before being sent down in mid-August.

While with the WooSox last year, Hernandez produced a 5.73 ERA with 51 strikeouts to 27 walks over 23 appearances (seven starts) spanning 33 innings of work. He returned to his home country this offseason to play winter ball for the Cardenales de Lara. There, he pitched to a 3.86 ERA to go along with 23 punchouts to nine walks across 16 1/3 frames of relief.

Hernandez, who does not turn 27 until next December, has one minor-league option remaining and is not yet eligible for salary arbitration. Those factors, as well as the fact that his pitch arsenal consists of a high-octane four-seam fastball, a mid-80s curveball, and a high-70s curveball, surely made the 6-foot-2, 255-pound southpaw appealing to a team such as the Orioles.

Although Hernandez has dealt with command issues in the past, he does own a career strikeout rate of 32.3% in parts of four big-league seasons. If Baltimore can harness his ability to induce swing-and-misses without giving up too many walks, perhaps Hernandez can get back on track with a new organization.

Hernandez becomes the latest former Red Sox prospect the Orioles have acquired in some capacity this winter. Last month, they signed right-hander Eduard Bazardo to a minor-league pact and selected fellow righty A.J. Politi in the major-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft. They also signed first baseman/outfielder Franchy Cordero to a split contract on Dec. 2.

(Picture of Darwinzon Hernandez: Elsa/Getty Images)

Former Red Sox prospect Pedro Castellanos signs minor-league deal with Padres

Former Red Sox prospect Pedro Castellanos has signed a minor-league contract with the Padres, per the MiLB.com transactions log.

Castellanos, 25, originally signed with the Red Sox as an international free agent coming out of Venezuela in July 2015. The Carora native received a modest $5,000 signing bonus and made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League the following June.

After earning Red Sox Minor League Latin Program Player of the Year honors in 2016, Castellanos made the jump to the rookie-level Gulf Coast League (now the Florida Complex League) in 2017. From there, the first baseman/outfielder spent the entirety of the 2018 season in Greenville and the entirety of the 2019 season in Salem, where he was named a Carolina League All-Star.

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing Minor League Baseball to cancel its 2020 campaign, Castellanos was unable to make the jump to Double-A until 2021. In 87 games with the Portland Sea Dogs that season, the right-handed hitter batted .289/.364/.471 with 13 home runs and 44 RBIs over 87 games as he made starts at all three outfield positions.

Castellanos returned to Portland for the start of the 2022 season but got off to a rough start. Coming into play on May 3, he was hitting just .116 (8-for-69) with one homer and eight RBIs through his first 18 games. From that point forward, though, Castellanos turned a corner offensively and proceeded to slash a stout .345/.360/.561 with 16 doubles, seven home runs, 34 RBIs, and 20 runs scored over his next 43 games (178 plate appearances) before earning a promotion to Triple-A Worcester in late June.

In 60 games with the WooSox, Castellanos forged a .269/.307/.397 slash line to go along with 10 doubles, two triples, five homers, 29 runs driven in, 31 runs scored, one stolen base, seven walks, and 47 strikeouts across 241 trips to the plate. The 6-foot-3, 244-pounder put up those numbers while logging 314 1/3 innings at first base, 129 innings in right field, and seven innings in left field.

While he was never truly regarded as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system (topped out at No. 27 on Baseball America’s rankings in 2019), Castellanos did prove to be a quality hitter — as evidenced by his career .294 batting average — during his seven years as a member of the Red Sox organization.

Castellanos, who does not turn 26 until December, will now look to break in at the big-league level with the Padres. He has technically been assigned to San Diego’s Double-A Affiliate in San Antonio, but it would not be all that surprising if he began the 2023 season at Triple-A El Paso.

In the meantime, Castellanos has been playing winter ball for the Cardenales de Lara of the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League. He slashed .289/.344/.436 with five home runs and 26 RBI in 46 regular season games for the Cardenales, who are currently in that league’s playoffs.

(Picture of Pedro Castellanos: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)