Should the Red Sox consider trading Austin Davis?

Seven games into the 2022 season, the two Red Sox relievers who are tied for the team lead in appearances with four apiece are Ryan Brasier and Austin Davis.

Both Brasier and Davis were used by manager Alex Cora out of the bullpen in Friday’s 8-4 loss to the Twins at Fenway Park. The former struck out the side in a scoreless seventh inning. The latter allowed two runners to reach base but also fanned three in a scoreless eighth inning.

In Davis’ case, the left-hander has now yielded three earned runs on five hits and two walks to go along with five strikeouts over his first three innings pitched this year.

Put another way, Davis has posted a 9.00 ERA, a 2.33 WHIP, an OPS against of .945, a strikeout rate of 29.4%, and a walk rate of 11.7% so far this season. Two of his four outings have been scoreless, though Friday’s performance was undoubtedly his best work to this point.

Of the 21 pitches Davis threw in Friday’s loss to Minnesota, 13 went for strikes. The 29-year-old southpaw induced a total of seven swings-and-misses; three on his slider and changeup and one on his four-seam fastball.

In regards to his four-seamer, Davis averaged 93.6 mph with the pitch across 26 1/3 innings between the Pirates and Red Sox in 2021. On Friday, he averaged 95.6 mph with his heater and topped out at 97 mph with it, per Baseball Savant. For his big-league career, which dates back to June 2018, Davis had only thrown a pitch 97 mph or faster on two separate occasions prior to Friday’s outing.

Since the Red Sox acquired Davis from the Pirates for infielder Michael Chavis last July, the lefty has been one of Cora’s more frequently-used relievers. From the time he debuted for Boston on July 31 of last season, Davis has now made 24 relief appearances for the Sox. The only other hurlers who have seen more action over that stretch are Adam Ottavino (24 appearances), who is no longer with the team, and Hansel Robles (30 appearances).

Despite a career ERA of 5.49 in a Red Sox uniform, it would appear as though the club likes what they have in Davis. With that being said, though, it is worth wondering if Davis’ spot in Boston’s bullpen could be on the line sometime in the near future.

As a result of a shortened spring training, major-league teams were permitted to carry 28 players on their active roster. This, for instance, allowed the Red Sox to carry 10 relievers on their Opening Day squad.

On May 2, however, teams will be required to trim their rosters back down to the traditional size of 26 active players. When that time comes, the Sox will have no other choice but to carry no more than 13 pitchers on their active roster.

The way things stand now, Davis is one of three lefties in Boston’s bullpen alongside the likes of Jake Diekman and Matt Strahm. Josh Taylor, who began the season on the injured list due to a low back strain, could be nearing a minor-league rehab assignment.

With Diekman and Strahm being new free-agent additions and Taylor already earning the trust of Cora last season, would the Red Sox still entertain the idea of carrying four left-handed relievers on their 26-man roster beginning next month?

If Davis is deemed the odd man out once rosters shrink and Taylor returns from the injured list, the Red Sox could not simply option him to Triple-A Worcester, for the Arizona native is out of minor-league options. Because of this, Boston would need to expose Davis to waivers if they wanted to retain his services as a non-40-man roster player in the minors.

Taking that into account and assuming that Taylor will be back before long, what would be stopping the Red Sox from trading Davis away for a prospect who is not on a 40-man roster at some point between now and May 2? Why risk losing Davis for nothing when you could get something back in return?

Under chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, the Red Sox have made similar moves in the past, with the Yoan Aybar-for-Christian Koss swap probably sticking out the most. Davis, of course, is far more established than Aybar and could fetch an intriguing return since he is still under club control for three more seasons after 2022.

At the end of the day, do the Red Sox need to trade Davis? No. Even with Taylor on his way back, perhaps the club still believes Davis can play an important role out of the bullpen this season. If not, though, then perhaps it would be in Boston’s best interest to explore their options now before running into a roster crunch in a few weeks.

(Picture of Austin Davis: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox lose two players on waivers as Jeisson Rosario is claimed by Yankees and Kyle Tyler is claimed by Padres

The Red Sox lost two players on waivers to two different teams on Saturday. Recently designted outfielder Jeisson Rosario was claimed by the division rival Yankees, while recently designated right-hander Kyle Tyler was claimed by the Padres.

Rosario, 22, was one of two players the Sox acquired from the Padres in the August 2020 trade that sent veteran first baseman Mitch Moreland to San Diego. Hudson Potts, the other prospect Boston got in that deal, was designated for assignment himself on Monday but cleared waivers and remains in the organization.

After being added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster in November 2020 to receive protection from the Rule 5 Draft, Rosario came into the 2021 season regarded by Baseball America as the No. 21 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The speedy left-handed hitter spent the entirety of the year with Double-A Portland and slashed an underwhelming .232/.335/.307 with three home runs, 36 RBIs, 48 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases over 98 games spanning 405 plate appearances.

On the heels of such a disappointing season, Rosario was clearly on the bubble coming into major-league camp this spring. He officially lost his spot on the Sox’ 40-man roster when the club signed announced their signing of free-agent infielder Trevor Story.

Tyler, on the other hand, had a much briefer stay with the Red Sox. The 25-year-old right-hander was claimed off waivers from the Angels on Tuesday but was then designated for assignment on Thursday when fellow righty Ralph Garza was claimed off waivers from the Twins.

A former 20th-round draft pick of the Halos out of the University of Oklahoma, Tyler debuted for Los Angeles last September and posted a 2.92 ERA and 5.20 FIP to go along with six strikeouts and six walks across five appearances (12 1/3 innings pitched) out of the bullpen.

In the wake of these moves being made, the Red Sox’ 40-man roster remains at full capacity. They also have 56 players on their spring training roster with less than two weeks until Opening Day.

(Picture of Jeisson Rosario: Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Red Sox outright Hudson Potts to minor-leagues after infielder clears waivers

Three days after designating him for assignment, the Red Sox have outrighted infielder Hudson Potts to the minor-leagues, the club announced on Friday afternoon.

Boston had designated Potts for assignment earlier this week when they needed to clear a spot on their 40-man roster for right-hander Kyle Tyler, who has since been designated for assignment himself.

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

A former first-round draft pick of the Padres in 2016, Potts was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster in November 2020 and entered the 2021 season ranked by Baseball America as the No. 27 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

After dealing with an oblique injury during spring training, Potts missed the first month or so of the minor-league season and did not make his debut with Double-A Portland until June 10. Limited to just 78 games with the Sea Dogs, the right-handed hitter slashed .217/.264/.399 (76 wRC+) with 18 doubles, 11 home runs, 47 RBIs, 33 runs scored, 16 walks, and 100 strikeouts over 307 plate appearances.

Defensively, Potts was used strictly as a third baseman with Portland despite having prior experience at every other infield position. The 6-foot-3, 205 pounder logged a total of 609 2/3 innings at the hot corner in 2021.

Before losing his spot on the 40-man roster on Tuesday, Potts had appeared in four Grapefruit League games this spring and had gone 0-for-7 with one walk and four strikeouts. Since the Texas native cleared waivers, the Red Sox retain his services as a non-40-man player.

Coming into the 2022 campaign, Potts is regarded by SoxProspects.com as the 53rd-ranked prospect in the organization. He is projected by the site to return to Portland for the start of the minor-league season, which begins next month.

(Picture of Hudson Potts: Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Red Sox claim right-hander Kyle Tyler off waivers from Angels, designate infielder Hudson Potts for assignment

The Red Sox have claimed right-hander Kyle Tyler off waivers from the Angels, the club announced on Tuesday. In order to make room for Tyler on the 40-man roster, infielder Hudson Potts was designated for assignment.

Tyler, 25, made his major-league debut with Los Angeles last September after originally being selected by the Halos in the 20th round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Oklahoma. The Oklahoma native posted a 2.92 ERA and 5.20 FIP to go along with six strikeouts and six walks over five appearances (12 1/3 innings pitched) out of the Halos’ bullpen.

Before getting called up for the final few weeks of the 2021 campaign, Tyler had spent the entirety of the year between the Double-A and Triple-A levels, producing a 3.66 ERA and 3.69 FIP with 92 strikeouts and 25 walks across 20 outings (14 starts) spanning 86 total innings of work.

At the midway point of the 2021 season, Tyler was regarded by Baseball America as the No. 28 prospect in the Angels’ farm system. The 6-foot, 185 pound hurler operates with a four-pitch mix that includes a four-seam fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup, per Baseball Savant.

Boston was able to claim Tyler off waivers when he was designated for assignment by Los Angeles this past Saturday so that they could accommodate the addition of free-agent reliever Ryan Tepera.

Tyler, who does not turn 26 until December, has minor-league options remaining and has already been assigned to Triple-A Worcester. He should be joining the Red Sox at major-league camp soon and has the chance to provide his new club with versatile pitching depth as both a starter and reliever.

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

After being added to Boston’s 40-man roster that November, Potts missed the first month of the 2021 minor-league season due to an oblique injury. As a result, the right-handed hitting 23-year-old was limited to just 78 games with Double-A Portland and struggled to the tune of a .217/.264/.399 slash line with 11 home runs and 33 RBIs over 307 plate appearances.

A former first-round pick of the Padres in 2016, Potts entered the 2022 season ranked by SoxProspects.com as the No. 53 prospect in the system. By taking him off their 40-man roster, the Red Sox now have the next seven days to either trade, waive, or release Potts.

If Potts goes unclaimed and clears waivers, he would remain with Boston as a non-40-man roster player. Since the Sox’ 40-man roster is still at full capacity, they will need to clear another spot before making the signing of Trevor Story official.

(Picture of Kyle Tyler: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Red Sox pitching prospect Durbin Feltman on Rule 5 Draft getting cancelled: ‘It was kind of a gut punch’

Under normal circumstances, Red Sox pitching prospect Durbin Feltman likely would have been targeted by other clubs this off-season. Not via trade, but via the Rule 5 Draft.

After a bounce-back 2021 season in which he posted a 2.96 ERA and 3.87 FIP with 62 strikeouts to 14 walks over 39 relief appearances (51 2/3 innings pitched) between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Worcester, Feltman was left off Boston’s 40-man roster last November.

That decision left the right-handed reliever up for grabs in the 2021 Rule 5 Draft, which was set to take place the following month. Instead, the months-long MLB lockout postponed the Rule 5 Draft indefinitely until it was cancelled altogether last week.

As a result of that move, players who could be on the verge of the major-leagues but are blocked by others in their organization were denied the opportunity to go elsewhere and potentially thrive with a new team. The Red Sox were the beneficiaries of this last year when they scooped up Garrett Whitlock from the Yankees.

Unable to live out his own Whitlock-like dream as a Rule 5 pick this year, Feltman — who turns 25 next month — recently expressed his frustration to WEEI’s Rob Bradford.

“It was frustrating and disappointing when they made that decision to not put me on the 40-man in November,” Feltman said. “So my goal my whole off-season was do everything I can to be a Rule 5 Draft pick. And then to see that canceled was kind of a gut punch — kind of like making the playoffs and them canceling the whole postseason. That’s out of my control now, so now it’s going back to work and trying to debut with the Red Sox.

“It was really frustrating when they came out with the news,” he added. “It’s kind of heart-breaking. You can’t control it anymore, so just keep going from there. Everybody hopes for an opportunity, especially with the Rule 5. It’s almost like a lottery ticket. … [When the lockout was extended], I could kind of read the writing on the wall, but I didn’t want to believe it until they actually came out with it and then it hurt even more. Yeah, it sucks.”

A former third-round draft pick of the Red Sox out of Texas Christian University in 2018, Feltman is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 48 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

While he may not have been added to the Sox’ 40-man roster last fall, the hard-throwing righty did just receive an invite to major-league spring training in Fort Myers after participating in minor-league camp. Earlier last week, Alex Cora remarked that Feltman “physically looks really good.”

The 24-year-old hurler is projected by SoxProspects.com to return to Worcester’s bullpen for the start of the 2022 season. As he told Bradford, though, his goal is to make his big-league debut with the Red Sox this year.

(Picture of Durbin Feltman: Katie Morrison/MassLive)

Why did Red Sox leave Rule 5 eligible prospects such as Gilberto Jiménez and Thaddeus Ward off 40-man roster? Chaim Bloom explains

The Red Sox were never going to be able to protect all 54 of their eligible minor-leaguers from next month’s Rule 5 Draft since they only had seven open spots on their 40-man roster to work with.

However, when the time came for the Sox to add those prospects they deemed worthy of protecting this past Friday, the club elected to fill just four of the seven vacancies they had on the 40-man.

While right-handers Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford, Josh Winckowski and infielder Jeter Downs were all added, 50 other Red Sox minor-leaguers were not and effectively became eligible for December’s Rule 5 Draft as a result.

Of those 50 who missed the cut, some notable prospects stick out, such as Kole Cottam, Durbin Feltman, Franklin German, Gilberto Jimenez, A.J. Politi, Ceddanne Rafaela, Victor Santos, Chase Shugart, and Thaddeus Ward, among others.

Within this group, Jimenez and Ward are regarded by SoxProspects.com as two of the top 20 prospects in Boston’s farm system and could be of interest to other clubs come December.

With that being said, though, Jimenez — a 21-year-old outfielder — has yet to advance past the Low-A level in the minors, while Ward — a 24-year-old right-hander — is only five-plus months removed from Tommy John surgery and is unlikely to pitch in 2022.

As FanGraphs‘ Eric Longenhagen recently wrote, Jimenez would “be a bold Rule 5 choice for a rebuilding club, who’d be putting his long-term development at risk by rostering him.”

Ward, on the other hand, “would also be an interesting Rule 5 choice” since his new team could stash him on the 60-day injured list for the entirety of the 2020 season while he rehabs in order to clear a 40-man roster spot of their own.

On Monday, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom explained to reporters (including MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith) just how difficult it was to leave a number of talented players off their 40-man roster going into the winter.

“We had a few tough calls, and I think some of that is a credit to the depth we built up in the system,” Bloom said. “Any time you add someone or leave someone off, in some sense it’s a calculated gamble. Over time, you learn sometimes the best way to lose a player is to add somebody that you shouldn’t. It might lead to you being in a crunch down the road, experiencing that pain of losing a player in another way, whether it’s that [unprotected] player or someone else.

“Knowing there are other things we want to accomplish this off-season with our 40-man roster and players we’d like to bring in both during the off-season and as we get into next year, wanting to have as much space as possible, that’s something you have to factor into the decisions you make,” added Bloom. “So there were a few that were not easy, but ultimately, this is how we felt most comfortable.”

Put another way, by keeping three spots on their 40-man roster open, the Red Sox at present would not have to make a corresponding move if they were to sign a free-agent to a major-league contract.

Along those same lines, Bloom and Co. are essentially daring other teams to take any of the prospects Boston left unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft and attempt to keep them on their big-league roster throughout the 2022 season.

As SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall explains, if the Red Sox added an eligible prospect like Jimenez to their 40-man roster and wanted to remove him from it in the future, another club could then just claim him off waivers, option him to the minors, and keep him there.

(Picture of Chaim Bloom: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox add Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford, Jeter Downs, and Josh Winckowski to 40-man roster to protect them from Rule 5 Draft

The Red Sox have added four prospects to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft, the club announced earlier Friday evening.

Right-handers Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford, and Josh Winckowski and infielder Jeter Downs were all added to Boston’s 40-man roster, which now increases from 33 to 37 players.

Clubs had until Friday at 6 p.m. eastern time to add eligible minor-leaguers to their respective 40-man rosters or otherwise risk losing them in the Rule 5 Draft, which usually takes place during the last day of the Winter Meetings in December.

By adding just the four names listed above, the Red Sox could now be faced with losing other notable prospects such as Thaddeus Ward, Durbin Feltman, Ceddane Rafaela, Frank German, Victor Santos, Kole Cottam, and Gilberto Jimenez in next month’s Rule 5 Draft.

Of the quartet of prospects the Sox did add, one made it as far as the major-leagues under unique circumstances, two made it as far as Triple-A Worcester, and one made it as far as Double-A Portland this past minor-league season.

Bello began the year in High-A Greenville’s starting rotation, but earned a promotion to Portland on June 8. In 15 starts for the Sea Dogs, the 22-year-old righty posted a 4.66 ERA and 3.12 FIP to go along with 87 strikeouts to 24 walks over 63 2/3 innings of work.

Originally signed out of the Dominican Republic for $28,000 in July 2017, Bello is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 5 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking first among pitchers in the organization. He was named the team’s minor-league Starting Pitcher of the Year in September.

Crawford, on the other hand, started out in Portland this spring as he was coming off Tommy John surgery that he underwent in October 2019. The 25-year-old ultimately earned a promotion to Worcester in late July, signaling that he was on the verge of a big-league call-up.

In the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak, the Red Sox called up Crawford from Worcester to fill in for Nick Pivetta against the Guardians on Sept. 5 at Fenway Park.

He allowed five earned runs in two innings and was promptly returned to the WooSox the following day, but Boston was able to remove the former 16th-round draft pick from their 40-man roster since he was a COVID-19 replacement.

Since the minor-league season ended last month, Crawford has been dominating in the Dominican Winter League. In four starts for Estrellas Orientales, he has allowed just two runs (one earned) on 12 hits, six walks, and 18 strikeouts over 18 1/3 innings pitched. That’s good for an ERA of 0.49.

Winckowski, meanwhile, was one of five players the Red Sox acquired in the three-team trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Royals back in February.

Like Crawford, Winckowski began the 2021 campaign with the Sea Dogs and pitched to the tune of a 4.14 ERA and 4.02 FIP over 21 appearances (20 starts) and exactly 100 innings before getting promoted to Worcester in late September.

In his brief stint with the WooSox that spanned two starts, the 23-year-old produced a 2.25 ERA and 3.28 FIP while recording 13 strikeouts and three walks in 12 innings pitched. He worked strictly as a reliever in the Arizona Fall League and is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 9 prospect in Boston’s farm system heading into 2022 season.

As for Downs, the move for Boston to add him to the 40-man roster comes at no surprise considering he was the top prospect acquired from the Dodgers in the infamous trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles last year.

After the minor-league season was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Downs began 2021 with the WooSox and stuck their throughout the year while slashing .190/.272/.333 with nine doubles, 14 home runs, 39 RBIs, 39 runs scored, 18 stolen bases, 38 walks, and 131 strikeouts over 99 games spanning 405 trips to the plate.

Despite the difficulties Downs encountered in his first exposure to Triple-A pitching, there was never really any doubt when it came to the Red Sox adding the talented 23-year-old infielder to their 40-man roster.

Capable of playing both middle infield positions, Downs, like Bello, represented the Sox in this summer’s All-Star Futures Game in Denver. He also enjoyed some success in the Arizona Fall League these last few weeks — as evidenced by his .880 OPS for the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Downs, who does not turn 24 until next July, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 6 prospect in the Red Sox farm system.

(Picture of Brayan Bello: Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Red Sox’ Franchy Cordero off to hot start in Dominican Winter League

Red Sox outfielder Franchy Cordero has gotten off to a fast start in the Dominican Winter League.

Cordero was added to Leones del Escogido’s roster on November 9 and made his 2021 Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana debut over the weekend.

After homering in Saturday’s 4-2 victory over Aguilas Cibaenas, Cordero went 1-for-3 with a single, two runs scored, one walk, and one strikeout in a 3-1 win over Toros del Este at Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal in Santo Domingo on Saturday evening.

By putting together that performance at the plate while batting second and serving as Leones’ designated hitter, Cordero is now slashing .364/.417/.636 with one home run, three RBIs, four runs scored, one walk, and two strikeouts through his first three games (12 plate appearances) of the LIDOM campaign.

Cordero, who turned 27 in September, was one of five players the Red Sox acquired in the three-team trade that sent fellow outfielder Andrew Benintendi to the Royals this past February.

While he made Boston’s Opening Day roster out of spring training, the left-handed hitter struggled to the tune of a .179/.228/.274 slash line to go along with six doubles, one home run, nine RBIs, nine runs scored, one stolen base, six walks, and 37 strikeouts in 34 games (102 plate appearances) before being optioned to Triple-A Worcester for the first time in late May.

From that point forward, Cordero appeared in just 14 additional games for the Red Sox through the end of the regular season. With the WooSox, however, the 6-foot-3, 226 pounder did bat .300/.398/.533 with 13 home runs and 56 RBIs over 78 games.

Despite that success at the Triple-A level, Cordero lost his spot on the Sox’ 40-man roster when the club designated him for assignment in the middle of the American League Championship Series on October 21.

Four days later, Cordero cleared waivers and — under normal circumstances — would have been able to elect free agency since he had already accrued more than three years of major-league service time. He did not elect free agency, however, and was instead outrighted to Worcester.

On that same day, Oct. 25, MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo reported that Cordero actually signed a one-year, $825,000 contract with Boston for next season before getting designated, meaning the Red Sox still control his rights as of now.

Assuming he is not added back to Boston’s 40-man roster by the upcoming Nov. 19 deadline, Cordero would technically be eligible for next month’s Rule 5 Draft, per SoxProspects.com’s Rule 5 eligibility page.

If he still remains with the Red Sox in the wake of the Rule 5 Draft, Cordero would presumably be in line to receive an invite to big-league spring training come February.

In the meantime, Cordero — who hails from Azua — will continue playing in the Dominican Winter League this fall and winter. 2021 marks the fifth consecutive year in which he has suited up for Leones.

(Picture of Franchy Cordero: Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana)

Red Sox pitching prospect Josh Winckowski involved in benches-clearing brawl in Arizona Fall League action

Red Sox pitching prospect Josh Winckowski was involved in a benches-clearing brawl in the ninth inning of an Arizona Fall League game between the Scottsdale Scorpions and Peoria Javelinas on Saturday afternoon.

Winckowski, making his sixth relief appearance of the Arizona Fall League season, recorded the final two outs of the eighth inning before being deployed back out for the ninth in hopes of securing an 11-7 win for the Scorpions in front of 705 spectators at Scottsdale Stadium.

As he came back out for the ninth, the right-hander immediately plunked the pinch-hitting Pirates prospect Canaan Smith-Njigba near the head and on the shoulder on a first-pitch fastball that was too far up and in.

Smith-Njigba took exception to this, promptly charging the mound and throwing a punch at Winckowski before taking the 6-foot-4, 202 pound hurler down to the ground and throwing another punch. This resulted in both the Javelinas and Scorpions’ benches clearing as players and coaches dashed on to the field.

According to Baseball America’s Josh Norris, who was on-hand for the debacle, it took umpires several minutes to separate the teams and break up the scuffle between Smith-Njigba and Winckowski. The umpires then convened with Arizona Fall League officials before making the decision to eject both players from the contest.

In Peoria’s dugout, Smith-Njigba could apparently be heard yelling about how something like this has happened two days in a row. That being the case because on Friday, Smith-Njigba’s teammate and fellow Pirates prospect Nick Gonzales was beaned by Scorpions reliever Matthew Peguero.

Additionally, as noted by Norris, the only other instance of a Scottsdale pitcher hitting a Peoria batter arose this past Thursday at Peoria Stadium when left-hander Seth Corry struck Phillies prospect Bryson Stott.

That said, what occurred on Saturday was rather unprecedented for the AFL. Smith-Njigba wound up getting replaced at first base by pinch-runner Jose Caballero, while former Red Sox prospect and current Giants right-hander Gregory Santos took over for Winckowski and put the finishing touches on an 11-7 victory for the Scorpions.

The older brother of standout Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Canaan Smith-Njigba is currently regarded by Baseball America as the 29th-ranked prospect in the Pittsburgh farm system. The 22-year-old was acquired by the Pirates in the trade that sent right-hander Jameson Taillon to the Yankees back in January.

Winckowski, meanwhile, is at the moment regarded by Baseball America as the No. 16 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking ninth among pitchers in the organization.

In February, the Red Sox acquired Winckowski from the Mets in the three-team, seven-player trade that jettisoned outfielder Andrew Benintendi to the Royals ahead of the start of spring training.

After a solid 2021 campaign spent between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Worcester, Winckowski has posted a 6.55 ERA and 1.73 WHIP to go along with three strikeouts and four walks over six outings spanning 11 innings of work for the Scorpions in his first taste of Arizona Fall League action.

Per SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, Winckowski was hovering around 98-99 mph with his heater on Saturday, which might explain why Smith-Njigba was not pleased with the location of the pitch that hit him.

The 23-year-old can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the second time in his professional career this winter if the Red Sox do not add him to their 40-man roster by the November 19 deadline to do so. He was left unprotected and went unselected in the Rule 5 Draft as a member of the Blue Jays organization last year.

(Picture of Josh Winckowski: Norm Hall/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Red Sox pitching prospect Thaddeus Ward plays catch for first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery

Red Sox pitching prospect Thaddeus Ward posted a video on social media of himself playing catch on Wednesday, marking the first time he has done so since undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Ward, 24, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 14 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking seventh among pitchers in the organization.

The right-hander was originally selected by the Sox in the fifth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Central Florida and had opened the 2021 minor-league season with Double-A Portland.

Just two starts and eight innings into his tenure with the Sea Dogs, however, it was revealed that Ward would require Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow after he suffered a forearm strain in mid-May. The procedure was later performed by Dr. James Andrews in Florida in early June, thus ending the righty’s year prematurely.

Fast forward six months later, though, and it appears that Ward is on the right track towards a full recovery. While it’s likely that he won’t pitch in a game again until late 2022 at the earliest, the Red Sox will still have an interesting decision to make regarding Ward’s status in the coming weeks.

Major-league clubs have until November 19 to add eligible minor-leaguers to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft, which is slated to take place during the winter meetings in December.

Along with the likes of Jeter Downs, Brayan Bello, and Gilberto Jimenez, Ward is one of several top Red Sox prospects who could become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if they are not added to Boston’s 40-man roster later this month.

A native of Fort Myers, Fla., the 6-foot-3, 192 pound hurler is certainly an interesting candidate to be added. In his first full professional season in 2019, he posted a 2.14 ERA and strikeout-to-walk ratio of 157:57 over 25 starts spanning 126 1/3 innings pitched between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem.

This past spring, he put up a 5.63 ERA and 2.64 FIP to go along with 11 strikeouts to five walks in his two outings for Portland prior to getting injured.

With that being said, there would be some caveats to adding Ward on account of the fact that he is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, which can take anywhere between 12-18 months to heal from.

Put another way, if the Red Sox were to add Ward to their 40-man roster before the Nov. 19 deadline, he would essentially be taking up a spot on their roster going into next season. Boston could place Ward, who turns 25 in January, on the 60-day injured list to temporarily clear a roster spot, but would subsequently be starting his service time clock as a result of doing so.

If Ward were to be left unprotected heading into next month’s Rule 5 Draft, other clubs would have the chance to select him. Any team that picks him up, though, would then ordinarily be tasked with carrying him on their active roster for a minimum of 90 days.

Since that would be unlikely to execute in Ward’s case, his new club would presumably place him on the 60-day injured list for the entirety of the 2022 campaign before being subject to the same set of rules in 2023.

Those rules being that once healthy, Ward will have to remain on his new team’s 26-man roster for the entire 2023 season or otherwise be offered back to the Red Sox.

It’s a fascinating situation, and one that can definitely be classified as unique and maybe even somewhat confusing. That said, all signs seem to point to the Red Sox not adding Ward to their 40-man roster by the Nov. 19 deadline and thus exposing him to this winter’s Rule 5 Draft.

(Picture of Thaddeus Ward: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)