Nathanael Cruz identified by Baseball America as Red Sox prospect ‘who could make a leap forward’ in 2022

Red Sox pitching prospect Nathanael Cruz was recently identified by Baseball America as a sleeper “who could make a leap forward” heading into the 2022 season.

Cruz, who turned 19 last month, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 34 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The right-hander originally signed with the Sox for $200,000 as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2019.

While he missed out on his first full pro season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cruz was one of the youngest arms at the Red Sox’ fall instructional league in 2020.

The following spring, Cruz remained in Fort Myers and spent the entirety of the 2021 minor-league season with the rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox. In four appearances (three starts) for Boston’s FCL affiliate, the righty posted a 3.18 ERA and 4.89 xFIP to go along with eight strikeouts to three walks over just 5 2/3 innings of work. He threw just four pitches in his final outing of the year on August 6 and did not appear in another game.

Although Cruz was listed on the club’s 2021 fall instructional league roster, it is unclear how much he participated in the program.

Listed at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, Cruz operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 93-95 mph, an 85-87 mph changeup, and an 80-82 mph curveball, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report. Back in September, SoxProspects.com’s Ian Cundall noted that Cruz “still has a long way to go with his command and control, and his low-80s breaking ball is a work in progress, but he intrigued scouts and there is upside given his age.”

On that note, Cruz is projected to return to the Florida Complex League for the start of the 2022 minor-league season. If healthy, there is certainly a lot to like about the 19-year-old hurler given his youth, potential, and remaining projection.

(Picture of Nathanael Cruz: Bryan Green/Flickr)

Red Sox’ Alex Cora on pitching prospect Chris Murphy: ‘He is a guy I’ve been looking at. He has a good fastball’

Chris Murphy has drawn the attention of Red Sox manager Alex Cora so far at minor-league spring training in Fort Myers, Fla.

Cora, who under normal circumstances would have likely been preparing for a Grapefruit League game against the Yankees on Monday, was instead seen roaming the backfields of the Fenway South complex and watching the action unfold in front of him.

In a brief conversation with the few reporters on-hand, Cora noted that Murphy “is a guy I’ve been looking at. He has a good fastball.”

Murphy, 23, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 12 prospect in the Sox’ farm system, ranking sixth among pitchers in the organization. Boston originally selected the left-hander in the sixth round of the 2019 amateur draft out of the University of San Diego.

After impressing in his pro debut with the Lowell Spinners that summer, Murphy missed the entirety of the 2020 minor-league season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The California native did, however, participate in fall instructs and carried the momentum he gained there into the following spring.

Upon breaking minor-league camp with High-A Greenville in May, Murphy posted a 4.21 ERA and 5.81 FIP to go along with 81 strikeouts and 23 walks through his first 14 starts (68 1/3 innings pitched) of the year before earning a promotion to Double-A Portland in late July.

In seven outings (six starts) with the Sea Dogs, Murphy pitched to the tune of a 5.45 ERA — but much more respectable 3.52 FIP — with 47 punchouts to just 13 walks over 33 innings of work to close out the year. The southpaw was named Double-A Northeast pitcher of the week on two separate occasions during that stretch (August 22 and September 12) thanks to two superb performances against the Binghamton Rumble Ponies.

Among all Double-A Northeast pitchers who compiled at least 30 frames on the mound last season, Murphy ranked 22nd in strikeouts per nine innings (12.82), 20th in strikeout rate (34.1%), 26th in swinging strike rate (15.3%), 35th in FIP, and 27th in xFIP (3.56), per FanGraphs.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, Murphy is a four-pitch pitcher who works with a 90-94 mph fastball that tops out at 96 mph, an 80-82 mph changeup, a 73-75 mph curveball, and an 80-84 mph slider. It should be noted that his arsenal fared far better against left-handed hitters (.401 OPS against) than right-handed hitters (.914 OPS against) between High-A and Double-A in 2021.

Back in January, Murphy was one of 12 Red Sox pitchers who took part in the team’s Winter Warm-Up program. The lefty was also just one of two players (the other being Triston Casas) to speak with the media that week and he emphasized the importance of attacking the strike zone as well as tunneling his pitches.

“Especially right now, I’m all about the analytics like where does my fastball play and what plays off of it and how can I create tunnels,” said Murphy. “Changeup/slider. Something that we’re getting big on this offseason is making two pitches go (releasing them) looking the same and breaking two different ways. So that’s what we call tunneling. And how to make a fastball up look appealing to a hitter when it’s not really in the zone; get swings-and-misses up in the zone.”

Murphy, who turns 24 in June, is projected to return to Portland’s starting rotation for the start of the 2022 minor-league season. He has a chance to emerge as the top left-handed pitching prospect in the organization, which is important considering the fact he can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this December.

The Red Sox, of course, would need to add Murphy to their 40-man roster by the November deadline if they intend on protecting him from the 2022 Rule 5 Draft.

(Picture of Chris Murphy: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Don’t forget about Red Sox outfield prospect Juan Chacon

After the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 minor-league season, the Red Sox did not get their first official look at outfield prospect Juan Chacon until fall instructs began that October.

Boston originally signed Chacon, then a 16-year-old outfielder, out of Venezuela for $900,000 in July 2019 to make him the highest-paid player in their 2019-2020 international signing class.

Though the pandemic forced Chacon to miss what would have been his first taste of pro ball, he clearly did enough while at home to earn an invite to fall instructs and impress the Red Sox in Fort Myers.

With Minor League Baseball returning in full last year, Chacon — now 18 — was assigned to the Dominican Summer League Red Sox Blue affiliate in early June and spent the entirety of the 2021 season there. Across 47 games, the right-handed hitter batted .311/.426/.384 to go along with five doubles, two triples, one home run, eight RBIs, 45 runs scored, 11 stolen bases, 26 walks, and 26 strikeouts over 197 plate appearances. He also went 37-for-127 (.291) against right-handed pitchers and 14-for-36 (.389) against lefties.

Among all DSL hitters who made at least 190 trips to the plate in 2021, Chacon ranked fourth in runs scored, 22nd in strikeout rate (13.2%), 14th in batting average, ninth in on-base percentage, 30th in OPS (.811), and 24th in wRC+ (136), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Chacon saw action in both center and right field while splitting time at each position with fellow Venezuelan Jhostynxon Garcia. All told, the 6-foot-2, 171 pounder logged 216 2/3 innings in center and 119 1/3 in right in the process of registering four outfield assists and turning a pair of double plays.

As far as how evaluators feel about his game, SoxProspects.com’s Ian Cundall wrote in September that “scout feedback on Chacon has been tepid, with scouts praising the looseness in his swing but worried about a lack of physical projection and power potential.”

On the other side of the ball, Cundall notes that Chacon profiles best as a corner outfielder due to his average speed and arm strength as well as a need to improve in the route-running department.

Chacon, who turned 19 in December, still has plenty of room to grow physically and developmentally. The Valera native is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 60 prospect in Boston’s farm system. He is projected by the site to begin the 2022 season with the rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox and is already in Fort Myers for the start of minor-league spring training.

(Picture of Juan Chacon via his Instagram)

Red Sox sign right-handers Silvino Bracho, Darin Gillies to minor-league deals for 2022 season

The Red Sox have signed right-handers Silvino Bracho and Darin Gillies to minor-league contracts for the 2022 season, the club announced on Sunday. The deals also include invites to major-league spring training.

Bracho, 29, is a veteran of five big-league seasons (2015-2018, 2020) with the Diamondbacks. He missed all of the 2019 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery that March and made just one appearance for Arizona in 2020 due to a bout with COVID-19 pandemic.

The Giants inked Bracho to a minors pact in December 2020 and he spent the entirety of the 2021 season with the club’s Triple-A affiliate in Sacramento, posting a 4.14 ERA and 5.19 FIP to go along with 65 strikeouts to 19 walks over 49 relief appearances spanning 50 innings of work.

A native of Venezuela, Bracho returned to his home country this off-season to pitch for Aguilas del Zulia of the Venezuelan Winter League. The veteran righty yielded just a 1.99 ERA in 19 outings (22 2/3 innings) for Zulia before representing Venezuela in the Caribbean Series.

Listed at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, Bracho operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a four-seam fastball, changeup, slider, and sinker, per Baseball Savant. He is out of minor-league options but should provide the Red Sox with intriguing and experienced bullpen depth at Triple-A Worcester.

Gillies, on the other hand, is another 29-year-old right-hander who was originally selected by the Mariners in the 10th round of the 2015 amateur draft out of the esteemed Arizona State University.

This past season, Gillies spent the first half of the year with Seattle’s Double-A affiliate in Arkansas before being promoted to Triple-A Tacoma in late July. With the Rainiers, he posted a 3.74 ERA and 5.09 FIP with 22 strikeouts to nine walks over 18 appearances (one start) and 21 2/3 innings pitched.

A native of California, Gillies became a minor-league free agent at the conclusion of the 2021 campaign after spending the first seven years of his professional career with the Mariners organization. The 6-foot-4, 220 pounder has yet to make his major-league debut, but he does throw up to 96-97 mph.

In addition to Bracho and Gillies, the Red Sox also announced that they had signed fellow righty Tyler Danish to a minor-league contract for the 2022 season. With these three officially on board, Boston has now invited 11 players to major-league camp as non-roster invitees.

They join the likes of pitchers Taylor Cole, Michael Feliz, and Zack Kelly, catcher Roldani Baldwin, infielders Roberto Ramos and Yolmer Sanchez, and outfielders Rob Refsnyder and Christin Stewart.

(Picture of Silvino Bracho: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Who is Karson Simas? Red Sox infield prospect batted .310 and intrigued scouts in Florida Complex League last year

The Red Sox’ farm system is currently chock-full of talented, young infielders like Triston Casas, Nick Yorke, Marcelo Mayer, and Blaze Jordan, just to name a few. While those four represent some of the top prospects in the organization, fellow infielder Karson Simas should not be overlooked even if he is not part of that prestigious group.

The son of former big-league pitcher Bill Simas, Karson was originally selected by the Sox in the 25th round of the 2019 amateur draft out of Clovis West High School in Fresno, Calif.

At that time, Simas was committed to play college baseball where his father had at Fresno City College. He instead elected to go pro and signed with Boston for an over-slot $125,000 that July.

Red Sox area scout Josh Labanderia — a California native and former major-leaguer himself — was responsible for signing Simas. In an appearance on Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast last August, Labandeira explained how he was first drawn to Simas as a high school prospect.

“He was a slender-bodied, slick-fielding shortstop that I thought had some projection left,” Labandeira said. “I felt like he was going to get to an average capability with the bat, but be lighter on the power. Maybe not an everyday type-profile, but profiles as a solid utility type player. Maybe like a Jay Bell. He kind of had a Jay Bell build from back in the day with the Pirates.

“I felt like he’s going to fill out into his frame,” added Labandeira. “He ran well and he was always just a really smooth defender. Growing up in the clubhouse with dad, being around the ballpark, his mind worked a little bit different. The game came to him a little bit easier. I really enjoyed watching him play and felt like he had a lot of upside.

“Karson was a guy that was kind of under-the-radar,” he continued. “Not many scouts knew about him except a handful of guys. I had been working him out in the summers and he’d come and hit with me a couple times and take groundballs. His development kept progressing in the right direction, and I knew he didn’t want to go to college, which was another factor that helped out being able to sign him where we did. But, I just felt like he had a lot of projection left. He was just lacking some strength and once that strength would come on, he would turn into the type of player I envisioned.”

After signing with the Sox as an 18-year-old fresh out of high school, Simas made his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League on July 27, though he appeared in just 11 games before the 2019 minor-league season ended.

Because the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out Minor League Baseball in 2020, Simas had his first full season in pro ball effectively taken away from him. He did not receive an invite to the Red Sox’ alternate training site that summer, nor did he participate in fall instructs in Fort Myers.

Still Simas entered the following spring looking to finally get a full season of baseball under his belt. Once extended spring training came to a close in June, the 20-year-old spent the remainder of the 2021 season in the rookie-level Florida Complex League.

With the Sox’ FCL affiliate, Simas batted a stout .310/.381/.460 to go along with six doubles, two triples, one home run, 18 RBIs, 17 runs scored, four stolen bases, eight walks, and 22 strikeouts over 30 games spanning 98 plate appearances. The right-handed hitter surprisingly fared better against righties (.889 OPS in 68 PAs) than he did lefties (.729 OPS in 30 PAs).

Among all Florida Complex League hitters who made at least 90 trips to the plate last year, Simas ranked 18th in batting average, 36th in on-base percentage, 34th in slugging percentage, 32nd in OPS (.841), 17th in speed score (8.6), and 30th in wRC+ (126), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Simas proved in 2021 that he is more than just a shortstop. In addition to logging 56 1/3 innings at short, the 6-foot-6, 175 pounder logged one inning at first base, 138 1/3 innings at second base, seven innings at third base, and even one inning in left field.

As for how evaluators feel about Simas’ defense, SoxProspects.com’s Ian Cundall wrote over the summer that “scout feedback on his glove has been very encouraging.” Cundall also noted that Simas “has a good approach and his swing works, but scouts doubt he will hit for much power.”

Simas, who turns 21 in June, is not regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in the Red Sox’ farm system. He is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 minor-league season with Low-A Salem and is presumably preparing for the upcoming campaign in Fort Myers as we speak.

(Picture of Karson Simas: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Stephen Scott identified by Baseball America as ‘unheralded young minor-league hitter’ within Red Sox organization

Stephen Scott was recently identified by Baseball America’s Matt Eddy as an “unheralded young minor-league hitter” within the Red Sox organization who “succeeded in 2021 and is looking to build on that success this season.”

Scott — an outfielder, first baseman, and catcher — was originally selected by the Sox in the 10th round of the 2019 amateur draft out of the baseball powerhouse that is Vanderbilt University. As a senior coming out of college, the North Carolina native signed with Boston for a modest $50,000.

After spending the remainder of the 2019 season with the Lowell Spinners, Scott had his first full season as a pro taken away from him due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. He did, however, participate in fall instructs and subsequently opened the 2021 campaign with Low-A Salem.

While living in a trailer with teammate Joe Davis, Scott batted .259/.381/.453 with 17 doubles, eight home runs, 42 RBIs, 49 runs scored, two stolen bases, 39 walks, and 46 strikeouts across his first 61 games (257 plate appearances) for the Salem Sox.

On July 29, the Red Sox promoted Scott to High-A Greenville, where the left-handed hitter turned it up a notch offensively. In his final 39 games (165 plate appearances) with the Drive, Scott slashed an astounding .338/.430/.606 to go along with 12 doubles, one triple, eight homers, 29 RBIs, 24 runs scored, one stolen base, 23 walks, and 32 strikeouts.

Among all High-A East hitters who made at least 160 trips to the plate last year, Scott ranked 12th in walk rate (13.9%), 23rd in strikeout rate (19.4%), second in batting average, first in on-base percentage, fourth in slugging percentage, second in OPS (1.036), 13th in isolated power (.268), and second in wRC+ (173), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Scott is more versatile than his 5-foot-11, 207 pound frame might suggest. Last season alone, the 24-year-old logged 321 1/3 innings at first base, 78 in left field, 156 1/3 in right field, and 163 2/3 behind home plate while making his professional debut as a catcher.

As noted by Eddy, Scott’s “best path forward involves a large share of time behind the plate, where he made just 18 starts last year.” That being said, SoxProspects.com’s Ian Cundall writes that scouts are skeptical Scott can stick behind the plate long-term given his lack of mobility and lack of experience at the position.

Scott, who turns 25 in May, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 51 prospect in Boston’s farm system. After participating in the Sox’ Winter Warm-Up program in January, he is projected by the site to return to Greenville for the start of the 2022 minor-league season, though it should not take him long to get to Double-A Portland if he can replicate what he did at the plate last summer.

(Picture of Stephen Scott via the Greenville Drive’s Twitter)

Who is Phillip Sikes? Red Sox outfield prospect batted .392 in Florida Complex league last year after being taken in 18th round of 2021 draft

The Red Sox selected 10 college players from Power Five schools in the 2021 amateur draft, including Texas Christian University outfielder Phillip Sikes.

Sikes, 22, began his college career at the University of New Mexico in 2018. He then transferred to Pima Community College in Arizona for his sophomore season and was taken by the Diamondbacks in the 33rd round of the 2019 draft.

Rather than go pro as a draft-eligible sophomore, Sikes opted to transfer to TCU for his junior and senior seasons. After being taken by Boston in the 18th round of last summer’s draft, the Paris, Texas native ultimately signed with the club for $97,500.

Regarded by Baseball America as the 465th-ranked prospect in the 2021 draft class, Sikes’ first assignment as a professional came in the rookie-level Florida Complex League. The right-handed hitter debuted for the Sox’ FCL affiliate on August 5 and proceeded to slash a stout .392/.464/.622 to go along with eight doubles, three home runs, 18 RBIs, 18 runs scored, five stolen bases, eight walks, and 24 strikeouts over 24 games (84 plate appearances) to close out the minor-league season.

In 63 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers, Sikes posted a 1.227 OPS but only produced a .679 OPS in 22 plate appearances against lefties.

Although he was admittedly older for the level he was playing at, Sikes was still one of the top hitters in the lower-minors last year. Among FCL hitters who made at least 80 trips to the plate in 2021, the former Horned Frog ranked third in batting average, third in on-base percentage, fourth in slugging percentage, fourth in OPS (1.086), 18th in isolated power (.230), and fifth in wRC+ (185), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Sikes had played all three outfield positions while in college and things remained that way — albeit to a lesser degree — during his first pro season. The 6-foot-2, 190 pounder logged 158 2/3 innings in center, seven in left, and nine in right while recording two outfield assists and turning one double play.

A former two-way player as an amateur, Sikes profiles best as a corner outfielder moving forward. According to his Baseball America scouting report from before last July’s draft, Sikes “has a solid, well-rounded tool set. He’s a plus runner who has demonstrated that he can catch up to a good fastball, although he can be enticed to chase a tantalizing slider.

“Sikes has a short, direct swing that is geared more for hitting for average than power, but he has enough strength to drive balls to the right field power alley as well,” his scouting report continues. “Sikes is a well-rounded outfielder who can play center field in a pinch and is average in the corners. His arm is fringe-average but accurate.”

Sikes, who turns 23 next month, is not listed on any major publication’s top Red Sox prospects list heading into the 2022 campaign. That being said, the speedy outfielder is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin his first full season as a pro at High-A Greenville, which is certainly interesting when you consider the fact he did not play at the Low-A level last year.

(Picture of Phillip Sikes: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Don’t forget about Red Sox prospect Devlin Granberg

Even with the ongoing lockout delaying the start of the 2022 Major League Baseball Season, the 2022 minor-league season remains unaffected. And while prospects on the 40-man roster are still impacted by the work stoppage, all other Red Sox minor-leaguers begin their version of spring training this Sunday.

Out of the dozens of players who have been and who will be pouring into the Fort Myers-area in the coming days, one name to watch for is first baseman/outfielder Devlin Granberg.

Granberg, 26, is admittedly older for your prototypical prospect. The Sox originally drafted the Dallas Baptist University senior in the sixth round of the 2018 amateur draft and later signed him for just $40,000.

After beginning his professional career with the Lowell Spinners and splitting the 2019 campaign between Boston’s two Class-A affilates, Granberg was met with somewhat of a roadblock when the 2020 minor-league season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He did not receive an invite to the Red Sox’ alternate training site that summer, nor did he participate in the team’s fall instructional league. Still, according to director of player development Brian Abraham, Granberg was one of several players who came into camp last year and “immediately impressed with the strides they’d made during a year away.”

On the heels of such an impressive spring, Granberg opened the 2021 minor-league season with High-A Greenville. The right-handed hitter got off to a scorching start for the Drive, batting .326/.416/.642 (174 wRC+) with seven doubles, one triple, seven home runs, 29 RBIs, 21 runs scored, one stolen base, 12 walks, and 16 strikeouts over 27 games (113 plate appearances) before earning a promotion to Double-A Portland on June 16.

Upon arriving in Portland, Granberg picked up right where he left off in terms of offensive production. He cooled down for a bit in August, but rebounded in September to end his year by slashing .286/.331/.469 (117 wRC+) with 16 doubles, one triple, 10 homers, 45 RBIs, 48 runs scored, four stolen bases, 11 walks, and 54 strikeouts across 69 games (281 plate appearances) with the Sea Dogs.

In a conversation with FanGraphs’ David Laurila last July, Granberg described himself as “immobile” and his short, compact swing as “one of the more interesting swings out there” since it is unconventional.

“I would say it’s pretty rotational, yet not totally rotational,” he said. “It’s kind of like those combo swings — not too crouched, maybe a little bit open, and then I stride into it. I’m trying to hit the ball middle/opposite field most of the time.”

Defensively, Granberg saw playing time at four different positions between Greenville and Portland in 2021. The 6-foot-2, 224 pounder logged 138 innings at first base, 194 innings in left field, nine innings in center field, and 303 1/3 innings in right field while recording a total of two outfield assists.

Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, Granberg “has more defensive upside at first base” than he does in the outfield since he possesses fringe-average arm strength and average range.

Granberg, who does not turn 27 until September, is not regarded by SoxProspects.com as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system. The Colorado native is currently projected by the site to begin the 2022 season where he left off in 2021: Portland.

That being said, Granberg is still eligible for the Rule 5 Draft since he was left off the Red Sox’ 40-man roster in November. On Friday, Baseball America’s Josh Norris reported that the Rule 5 Draft “is expected to take place a week after a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is in place,” though it could end up getting cancelled if the lockout continues to drag on.

(Picture of Devlin Granberg: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

First 6 games of Red Sox’ 2022 season cancelled due to MLB lockout

The start of the 2022 Major League Baseball season has been delayed due to the ongoing lockout.

After nine consecutive days of intense negotiations in Jupiter, Fla. , MLB and the players association were unable to reach agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement by the league’s self imposed 5 p.m. eastern time deadline on Tuesday evening.

It has now been 90 days since the previous collective bargaining agreement expired on December 2 and the owners locked out the players as a result. Spring training games had already been cancelled, but with the aforementioned negotiating deadline come and gone, the league felt as though it could not start the regular season as scheduled on March 31.

More specifically, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced on Tuesday that the league has cancelled Opening Day as well as each team’s first two series of the 2022 season.

For the Red Sox, this means that their first six games of the year have been cancelled. The Sox were originally slated to host the Rays (March 31, April 2-3) and Orioles (April 4-6) in a pair of three-game series at Fenway Park to kick off their schedule.

Following Tuesday’s announcement, however, the earliest Boston’s season can begin is April 7, when they are scheduled to open a three-game set against the New York Yankees in the Bronx.

Of course, those games and the ones that come immediately after remain in jeopardy on account of the ongoing work stoppage. Manfred said the league and players union will not meet again until Thursday at the earliest, but those talks could drag on.

Regardless of that, any games that are cancelled because of the lockout will not be rescheduled, nor will players be compensated for them. This means that — at most — the Red Sox will play 75 home games at Fenway Park this season. It feels safe to assume that fans who purchased tickets for cancelled games will be eligible for a full refund.

(Picture of Fenway Park: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Is right-hander Jacob Wallace ‘the best pure relief prospect’ in the Red Sox’ farm system?

It has been roughly 18 months since the Red Sox traded veteran outfielder Kevin Pillar to the Rockies for a player to be named later in August 2020. Less than three weeks later, the trade was completed when Boston acquired pitching prospect Jacob Wallace from Colorado.

A former third-round draft pick of the Rockies in 2019, Wallace drew immediate interest from the Red Sox fanbase since he hails from Methuen, Mass. and played his college baseball at the University of Connecticut.

After making his organizational debut at fall instructs, Wallace entered last spring ranked by Baseball America as the No. 28 prospect in the Sox’ farm system. The right-handed reliever broke minor-league camp with High-A Greenville, though he did not get off to the best of starts.

In his first 27 appearances out of the bullpen for the Drive, Wallace struggled to the tune of a 7.96 ERA and 5.66 FIP to go along with 43 strikeouts to 19 walks over 31 2/3 innings of work.

That miserable stretch lasted from May 5 through Aug. 1. Four days later, it was almost as if a flip had switched for Wallace when he punched out four of the six batters he faced in two scoreless frames against the Rome Braves at Fluor Field.

From that point on, the 23-year-old seemingly turned his 2021 around for the better by posting a 2.12 ERA and miniscule 1.12 FIP while recording 33 strikeouts to just six walks across his final 12 outings (17 innings pitched) of the year.

Most notably, Wallace made some history when he tossed the ninth and final inning of a combined no-hitter against the Asheville Tourists on September 2. Jeremy Wu-Yelland had started that contest and hurled five shutout frames, while Jose Espada Oddanier Mosqueda combined for three scoreless innings before Wallace closed out a 6-0 victory for Greenville.

Among High-A East pitchers who accrued at least 40 innings on the mound last season, Wallace ranked sixth in strikeouts per nine innings (14.05), 10th in strikeout rate (34.5%), and fourth in swinging strike rate (18.5%), per FanGraphs.

While Wallace was clearly among the top strike throwers at the High-A level in 2021, the righty still seemed to struggle with his control to some degree. His 4.62 walks per nine innings and 11.4% walk rate last year are indicators of that.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, Wallace utilizes a unique delivery and operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 96-98 mph fastball, an 84-86 mph slider, and a slider that he added after turning pro, according to his SoxProspects.com scouting report.

Along those same lines, SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall tweeted on Monday that he believes Wallace is “the best pure relief prospect in the system” and “could move quick if he can build on his end to 2021.”

Wallace, who does not turn 24 until August, is currently projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 minor-league season with Double-A Portland. The hard-throwing hurler can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career next winter, so the Red Sox would need to add him to their 40-man roster by late November if they want to prevent that from happening.

(Picture of Jacob Wallace courtesy of the Greenville Drive)