Recapping how contingent of 8 Red Sox prospects performed in Arizona Fall League

The 2021 Arizona Fall League season came to a close on Saturday night, with the Mesa Solar Sox besting the Surprise Saguaros by a final score of 6-0 in the championship game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

With the Arizona Fall League making a triumphant return and closing out another exciting season in the desert, now is the time to reflect on how the contingent of prospects the Red Sox sent out west did in what is regarded by many as Major League Baseball’s “finishing school.”

Back in October, it was revealed that the Sox would be sending eight prospects to Arizona to play for the Scottsdale Scorpions alongside Guardians, Twins, Giants, and Rays minor-leaguers.

That initial list included catching prospect Connor Wong, but the backstop was ultimately replaced on Scottsdale’s roster by Christian Koss since he was a member of Boston’s taxi squad for the majority of their postseason run.

That said, the eight prospects who wound up representing the Red Sox were right-handers A.J. Politi, Connor Seabold, Josh Winckowski, left-hander Brendan Cellucci, catcher Kole Cottam, first baseman Triston Casas, and infielders Jeter Downs and Koss.

So, without further ado, here is how each of those players fared during their time with the Scorpions, who finished the 2021 AFL campaign with a record of 12-18.

A.J. Politi, RHP

Politi began the minor-league season in Double-A Portland’s starting rotation, but ultimately transitioned back to the bullpen towards the end of the summer and remained there upon reporting to Scottsdale.

In 11 relief appearances this fall, the 25-year-old posted a 5.84 ERA and 1.86 WHIP to go along with 10 strikeouts to eight walks over 12 1/3 innings of work.

Originally selected by the Red Sox in the 15th round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Seton Hall University, Politi is eligible for this winter’s Rule 5 Draft since he was left unprotected and not added to Boston’s 40-man roster on Friday.

Connor Seabold, RHP

Seabold had quite the eventful first full season in the Red Sox organization after coming over from the Phillies alongside fellow righty Nick Pivetta in the same trade that sent relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree to Philadelphia last August.

The 25-year-old hurler was already a member of Boston’s 40-man roster coming into 2021, but missed the first several weeks of the minor-league season due to right elbow inflammation and did not make his first start for Triple-A Worcester until July 23.

On September 11, Seabold made his major-league debut against the White Sox and allowed two earned runs in three innings before being optioned back to Worcester the following day and closing out the year with the WooSox.

With the Scorpions, Seabold led the team in innings pitched (20 1/3) while putting up a 4.87 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in addition to 32 strikeouts and 12 walks over six starts.

Josh Winckowski, RHP

One of five players the Red Sox acquired in the three-team trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Royals in February, Winckowski emerged as one of the organization’s more intriguing pitching prospects in 2021 and was just protected from the Rule 5 Draft as a result of doing so.

Now a member of the Sox’ 40-man roster, Winckowski split the minor-league season between Portland and Worcester while mainly being used as a starter, but was strictly utilized as a reliever in the fall league.

Over six appearances out of Scottsdale’s bullpen, the 23-year-old produced a 6.55 ERA and 1.73 ERA while recording three strikeouts and four walks in his 11 innings of relief. He was also involved in a benches-clearing brawl with Pirates prospect Canaan Smith-Njigba earlier this month that resulted in both players getting ejected.

Brendan Cellucci, LHP

The lone southpaw representing the Red Sox in the AFL, Cellucci spent the entirety of the 2021 season at High-A Greenville and was one of six lefties on Scottsdale’s roster this fall.

In 10 outings out of the Scorpions bullpen, Cellucci yielded an ERA of 6.94 and WHIP of 1.89 while striking out 11 batters and walking seven over 11 2/3 innings pitched.

A native of Philadelphia who the Red Sox took out of Tulane University in the the 12th round of the 2019 draft, Cellucci does not turn 24 until next June and can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career next winter.

Kole Cottam, C

Cottam began the year in Greenville and later earned himself a midseason promotion to Portland on July 29 while being regarded by Baseball America as the top defensive catcher in the Red Sox farm system.

A 2021 Arizona Fall League Fall Star, the 24-year-old backstop out of the University of Kentucky batted a solid .275/.356/.510 with three doubles, three home runs, 10 RBIs, seven runs scored, five walks, and 13 strikeouts over 15 games (59 plate appearances) for Scottsdale.

Like Politi, Cottam could have been added to Boston’s 40-man roster last week in order to receive protection from next month’s Rule 5 Draft. But the club elected not to do so, thus leaving him exposed if other teams are interested.

Triston Casas, 1B

The top prospect the Red Sox sent to Arizona, Casas put the finishing touches on an impressive year by putting his talent and skills on full display with the Scorpions.

Among qualified hitters in the AFL this year, Casas ranked fifth in batting average (.372), first in on-base percentage (.495), 26th in slugging percentage (.487), and 12th in OPS (.982) in the process of joining Cottam in the Fall Stars Game.

A former first-round pick out of American Heritage High School (Plantation, Fla.) in 2018, the left-handed hitting Casas — who turns 22 in January — figures to make his big-league debut for Boston at some point during the 2022 season.

Jeter Downs, 2B/SS

There was always going to be pressure on Downs since he was the top prospect acquired from the Dodgers in the infamous Mookie Betts/David Price trade last February, but the 23-year-old infielder got his first taste of the Triple-A level this year and it did not go all that swimmingly.

Still, the Red Sox sent Downs to play in the fall league despite the struggles he endured over the summer and it now appears as though that decision paid off.

Across 16 games (72 plate appearances) for the Scorpions, Downs slashed .228/.389/.491 with five homers, 14 RBIs, nine runs scored, four stolen bases, 14 walks, and 18 strikeouts while playing both middle infield positions.

Like Winckowski, Downs was added to Boston’s 40-man roster on Friday, which came as no surprise.

Christian Koss, INF

Acquired from the Rockies in exchange for pitching prospect Yoan Aybar last December, Koss enjoyed a solid 2021 season with Greenville and later received an invite to play in the Arizona Fall League in order to replace the aforementioned Wong.

In 14 games with Scottsdale, the versatile infielder batted .229/.275/.250 to go along with one double, six RBIs, four runs scored, two stolen bases, three walks, and eight strikeouts across 51 total trips to the plate.

A product of University of California, Irvine who played on the Cape in 2017 and 2018, Koss has proven he is capable of playing second base, third base, and shortstop in the minors.

The right-handed hitter turns 23 in January and can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his professional career next winter.

(Picture of Triston Casas: Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Durbin Feltman, A.J. Politi, Thaddeus Ward among 12 players included in Red Sox’ first round of spring roster cuts

Before taking on the Rays in Port Charlotte on Tuesday afternoon, the Red Sox announced their first round of spring training roster cuts.

In total, 12 players — two catchers, 10 pitchers — were reassigned by the club to the minor-leagues.

Catchers (2): Roldani Baldwin, Austin Rei

Pitchers (10): Seth Blair, Matt Carasiti, Raynel Espinal, Durbin Feltman, Frank German, Zac Grotz, Kaleb Ort, A.J. Politi, Thaddeus Ward, Josh Winckowski

All 12 players cut on Tuesday were initially invited to big-league camp as non-roster invitees, so these moves are not exactly surprising.

According to Baseball America, Ward is the No. 10 prospect and Politi is the No. 27 prospect in Boston’s farm system heading into the 2021 season. Both right-handers are projected to begin the year with Double-A Portland as part of the Sea Dogs’ starting rotation.

German and Winckowski, meanwhile, are two pitching prospects the Sox acquired via trade this offseason.

The 23-year-old German was part of the deal between the Red Sox and Yankees that brought Adam Ottavino to Boston, while the 22-year-old Winckowski was part of the three-team swap that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Kansas City Royals.

They, too, are right-handed pitchers and are both projected to start the 2021 campaign in Portland.

Just because these players were reassigned, that does not prevent them from appearing in additional Grapefruit League games this spring. Feltman and Ward are both expected to pitch against the Rays on Tuesday, for example.

When they are not playing in games, players reassigned to the minors will remain in Fort Myers, but will work out at different times than those who are still on the major-league roster.

Following Tuesday’s round of cuts, the Sox now have 22 non-roster invitees at big-league camp, bringing the total size of their spring training roster down to 62 players.

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

Red Sox pitching prospect Andrew Politi, a potential sleeper for 2021, receives invite to major-league spring training

Along with Durbin Feltman, fellow right-handed pitching prospect Andrew Politi was one of 22 Red Sox minor-leaguers to receive an invite to major-league spring training on Friday.

The 24-year-old was originally selected by Boston in the 15th round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Seton Hall University. He signed with the team for only $25,000 that June, and according to The Athletic’s Keith Law, he could be a major sleeper this year.

“Politi was Boston’s 15th-round pick in 2018, a senior signed out of Seton Hall,” Law, who ranked Politi as the No. 15 prospect in the Sox’ farm system, wrote on Thursday, “but his stuff picked up over the last two years and he’s now showing mid-90s velocity with a curveball and cutter — even as he moved from a relief role to the rotation. He needs better control and command, and he’s on the smaller side for a starter, but there’s some starter upside here.

“Politi could make a jump this year, at least into their top 10 if not the global list,” Law added.

Last time he saw any organized minor-league action, the New Jersey native posted a 3.55 ERA and 3.17 xFIP over 33 appearances (five starts) and 78 2/3 innings of work for High-A Salem in 2019.

Politi emerged as a regular starter for Salem towards the tail end of the 2019 campaign in late August, and he dazzled by yielding just three runs (two earned) on three hits, five walks, and 17 strikeouts over his final three starts (13 1/3 innings pitched) of the season.

While he was not included in the Sox’ 60-man player pool nor invited to the Sox’ alternate training site any point in 2020, the 6-foot, 191 lb. hurler did participate in the club’s fall instructional league.

There in Fort Myers, according to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, Politi put his diverse pitch mix on display for scouts to see.

“Though he worked his way into the Salem rotation at the end of 2019, scouts see right-hander Andrew Politi as a reliever all the way,” Cundall wrote back in November. “His delivery has a lot of effort, and his command was inconsistent at Instructs. His fastball sat 93-95 mph and he mixed in an average slider. He also showed a changeup and curveball, and seemed to be working on a cutter as well. “

What Cundall gathered about Politi seems to differ from what Law gathered, but one thing is clear: Politi has potential. Whether that be as a starter or reliever has yet to be determined, but that notion became clear on Friday when he received an invite to big-league camp.

Like Feltman, Politi is also eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this December, so it goes without saying that 2021 will be an important year for him.

Projected to begin the upcoming minor-league season with Double-A Portland, Politi, who turns 25 in June, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the organization’s 40th-ranked prospect.

(Picture of Andrew Politi: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)