Red Sox top prospect Triston Casas in Boston for non-baseball medical issue, expected back in Fort Myers ‘very soon’

Before his team took on the Orioles in Sarasota on Thursday, Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters that top prospect Triston Casas is currently in Boston to address a non-baseball-related medical issue.

“He’s actually in Boston,” Cora said when asked why Casas has yet to appear in any games so far this spring. “They found something medically that we have to take care of. It’s not baseball-related. It’s actually personal. I’ll leave it at that. We’re hoping that everything is fine. He’s in Boston right now going through all that stuff.”

Casas, who turned 21 in January, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the top prospect in the Red Sox’ farm system. Boston originally selected the young corner infielder out of American Heritage High School (Plantation, Fla.) with their top pick in the 2018 amateur draft.

In his first full minor-league season the following year, Casas slashed an impressive .256/.350/.480 to go along with 20 home runs and 81 RBI over 120 total games between Class-A Greenville and High-A Salem. He was named the organization’s offensive player of the year for his efforts.

With no minor-league baseball at all in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Florida native was limited in what he could do to further his development, but he still impressed at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket and fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

Leading up to the start of the 2021 campaign, the left-handed hitting Casas — listed at 6-foot-4 and 252 lbs. — was without a doubt a prospect worthy of garnering a solid amount of attention at the onset of spring training.

That garnering of attention has yet to come to fruition down at the Fenway South complex to this point in time, but it does appear that Casas could return to southwest Florida relatively soon.

This being the case because according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier and Julian McWilliams, “the decision to send Casas to Boston was an effort on the part of the Red Sox to be thorough, and there’s a good chance that he’ll be back in Fort Myers, Fla., and taking part in baseball activities in a matter of days.”

MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo adds that “Casas is planning on returning to Fort Myers [Thursday] or [Friday]” and it’s “unclear what the medical issue was, but he’s expected back in camp very soon.”

The fact that Casas may only miss a limited amount of time here is certainly encouraging and we look forward to seeing him back at JetBlue Park.

For what it’s worth, Casas is projected to begin the 2021 season with Double-A Portland, whose season will not start until sometime in May at the earliest.

(Picture of Triston Casas: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Examining Red Sox infield prospect Hudson Potts’ big-league potential

Hudson Potts’ first offseason as a member of the Red Sox organization has been a busy one to say the least.

Back in November, the 22-year-old was added to Boston’s 40-man roster in order to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft. That, in turn, led to Potts receiving his first invite from the Sox — and third invite overall — to big-league spring training.

The Texas native was originally acquired by the Red Sox along with outfield prospect Jeisson Rosario last August in a trade that sent veteran first baseman Mitch Moreland to the Padres.

At that time, Potts was regarded by MLB Pipeline as San Diego’s No. 16 prospect, and with the minor-league season having been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he was spending time at the club’s alternate training site at the University of San Diego.

He spent the rest of the year at the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket.

Even with no real in-game action in 2020, the former 2016 first-round draft pick was less than a full year removed from his age-20 season with Double-A Amarillo of the Texas League in which he slashed a modest .227/.290/.406 to go along with 16 home runs and 59 RBI across 107 games in 2019.

Those numbers — as well as a strikeout rate of 28.6% and a walk rate of 7.1% — might not jump off the page, but it is important to remember that Potts was doing this at a fairly young age for the level he was playing at. FanGraphs’ Ben Clemens noted as much when writing about Potts and other position player prospects on Tuesday.

“It’s so hard to play in Double-A at 20 years old,” Clemens wrote. “Potts wasn’t good, but he was able to tread water despite being three to four years young for the level, which is often a better sign than hitting well at an age-appropriate level. That said, don’t sleep on his 2018, when he was also quite young for Hi-A and put together a fearsome power season.”

In 2018 with High-A Lake Elsinore of the California League, the right-handed hitter posted a .281/.350/.498 clip in addition to clubbing 17 homers and driving in 58 runs over 106 games (453 plate appearances).

One of the things that has held Potts back, if you want to say that, to this point has been his inability to make contact on a consistent basis. Another dimension of his game that is shrouded in uncertainty pertains to his primary defensive position.

Both of those aspects could hinder the 6-foot-3, 220 lb. infielder’s long-term potential as a major-league-caliber player, according to Clemens.

Warning Signs: The big one is contact — that’s not the kind of thing you can paper over with other skills,” Clemens wrote of Potts. “He’ll also need to find a defensive home; he looks like a corner guy, though San Diego experimented with a Mike Moustakas-esque second base assignment before trading him. Corner-only sluggers with contact issues aren’t exactly in short supply, so that’s the worry here.”

In regards to the 20-80 scouting scale, FanGraphs‘ Eric Longenhagen has Potts’ hit tool at 30 in terms of present value and 35 in terms of future value, which ranks ninth and 19th among Red Sox position player prospects, respectively.

“If [Potts’ hit tool turns out lower than 40 FV], it might make his bat unplayable” due to all the swings-and-misses, Clemens wrote.

Despite those concerns, Clemens still seems optimistic about Potts’ outlook, opining that “the combination of his power and age are simply more enticing than the whiffs are worrisome.”

Currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s 19th-ranked prospect, Potts is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season — whenever it starts — with Double-A Portland and could seemingly see playing time at every infield position besides shortstop.

The Red Sox will host their first full squad spring training workout in Fort Myers this coming Monday, so that could be a good time to get our first glance at Potts since last year’s fall instructional league. Stay tuned for that.

(Picture of Hudson Potts: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstillsmugmug.com)

Red Sox pitching prospect Durbin Feltman one of 22 non-roster invitees added to club’s spring training roster

Right-handed pitching prospect Durbin Feltman was one of 22 non-roster invitees that the Red Sox added to their spring training roster earlier Friday evening. He will be one of 30 players the club invited to major-league spring training when camp begins next week.

The 23-year-old, like a majority of minor-leaguers, did not have any sort of season to take part in last year.

Some had the luxury of being invited to their respective team’s alternate training sites over the course of the 2020 season, but Feltman was not one of them.

Instead, the former 2018 third-round draft pick out of Texas Christian University was on his own, and he was rather disappointed to not be included in the Sox’ 60-man player pool at any point last season.

“I was frustrated, upset,” Feltman told BloggingtheRedSox.com back in December. “Just not being invited [after] thinking I was going to go — I was frustrated the whole time because I figured ‘Hey, I’m going to use this time the best I can.’ I’m not going to get time like this again, barring another pandemic, to be able to do whatever I want and work on things. So, I used it the best I could and figured out some stuff. I feel like I figured out a lot.”

By figuring a lot out on his own time over the summer, the flame-throwing reliever was able to bring with him to the Sox’ fall instructional league a chip on his shoulder. He was out to show the club what they missed out on by not inviting him to the alternate site.

“I came in there with a chip on my shoulder and was like ‘Hey, this is what you missed out on at the alternate site,'” Feltman said. “Hopefully I showed enough, I felt like I did. And I’m carrying that into 2021 as well.”

According to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, Feltman “put in the work at instructs, as he looked much closer to the pitcher we saw in 2018 than he did at any time in 2019. Feltman’s velocity came back, as he was up to 96 mph, mostly sitting 93-94 mph. His 85-87 mph slider flashed above-average potential, and even though it was not as crisp as it used to be, he still was able to use it to get swinging strikes. He also mixed in his low-80s curveball, which was a good change of pace to his slider.”

While Cundall noted that Feltman’s ability to control and command the strike zone are still long-term concerns, he also wrote that “the stuff he showed at Instructs definitely could play in a middle relief role at the major-league level.”

Feltman, who turns 24 in April, is eligible for this year’s Rule 5 Draft in December unless he is added to Boston’s 40-man roster by November 20.

“Obviously, I don’t want to have to go through the Rule 5 Draft,” the Texas native said. “Because if you’ve been in the big-leagues you’re not getting Rule 5 drafted.”

Having pointed that out, it would appear that Feltman would not be opposed to making his major-league debut this year, or at the very least impress enough to make the Sox’ 40-man roster by the November deadline.

With those goals in mind, Feltman — currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the organization’s No. 29 prospect — being invited to Red Sox spring training as a non-roster invite is surely a step in the right direction.

(Picture of Durbin Feltman: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox’ Triston Casas ranked No. 2 first-base prospect in baseball by MLB.com

While the Red Sox continue to build up their farm system under chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, one of the club’s most highly-touted minor-leaguers was recently ranked by MLB.com as one of the best first base prospects in baseball

His name? Triston Casas.

According to MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, Casas is the No. 2 first base prospect in the game behind only the White Sox’ Andrew Vaughn, who’s more than a full year older than him, headed into the 2021 season.

Among the top-10 first base prospects Mayo listed — Vaughn, Casas, Aaron Sabato (MIN), Seth Beer (ARI), Lewin Diaz (MIA), Michael Toglia (COL), Bobby Bradley (CLE), Nick Pratto (KC), Pavin Smith (ARI), Mason Martin (PIT) — Casas has one of the best power and arm strength tools.

“The 6-foot-5 Casas has the perfect combination of strength, size, bat speed and leverage for plus power, with the advanced approach to get to it consistently,” Mayo wrote of the 21-year-old’s slugging abilities.

Last we saw Casas in any organized minor-league action, the 2018 first-round draft pick clubbed 20 home runs and drove in 81 RBI in 120 games and 500 plate appearances between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem in 2019. He also posted a solid .256/.350/.480 slash line en route to being named an organizational All-Star.

As for what he is capable of doing defensively, Mayo notes that Casas pitched and played third base as an amateur at American Heritage High School in South Florida, which therefore “allows him to do more with his arm” while playing first base.

Per FanGraphs, Casas logged 834 2/3 total innings at first base with Greenville and Salem in ’19 as opposed to just 67 innings at the hot corner in Greenville alone.

With the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled on account of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Casas, like so many other prospects, were forced to continue their development in an unfamiliar setting.

The Red Sox added the left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing infielder to their player pool in late August, allowing him to participate at the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket for the remainder of the major-league season.

While in Pawtucket for just over a month, Casas again showed off his power at the plate as well as the rest of his skillset. Many came away impressed with what he did, including Worcester Red Sox manager Billy McMillon.

Casas is very intriguing to me,” McMillon said when speaking with reporters back in October. “Can play both corner positions. I think he’s probably going to settle in at first base. His discipline at the plate is incredible. His approach was a little bit different than what you might see with some of the guys today. He spread out, he choked up. Wasn’t afraid to hit the ball the other way. He definitely has an idea at the plate. I really like how intelligent he was at the plate. He was a guy who really benefitted from coming up, facing Triple-A/Four-A type pitching. He held his own, had very good at-bats, walked a lot. Defense, I think he’s going to be solid. I think we’ve got a good one with Triston.”

When watching Casas go to work at the plate, you will likely notice that he takes a unique approach to doing things, especially with two strikes in the count, as McMillon alluded to in the above quote.

That would be the case because as a left-handed hitter, Casas tries to somewhat take after Cincinnati Reds star and fellow first baseman Joey Votto.

“Growing up, I loved watching Joey Votto,” Casas said via Zoom this past September. “I love his approach, I love his swing, I love the way he approaches the game, and the way he he takes his at-bats are second to none. The stats speak for themselves. He was one of the best hitters of the 2010s, and that’s when I was growing up watching baseball. Being a left-handed first baseman, Joey Votto’s not a bad guy to emulate. I don’t really try to copy everything that he does, but the other day I hit a home run in a sim game and looking back on it, I was like, ‘Wow, I actually do look like Joey Votto.’ So, growing up I really liked watching him play

“The choke-up on the bat and the two-strike approach, it was just something that I watched him do and I tried it out for myself and I liked the results that I was getting,” he added. “I liked the way it felt in the box. I liked the way I would compete when I did formulate a good two-strike approach, and I’m looking to keep hearing that because I’m feeling really comfortable right now.”

Following the conclusion of alternate training site workouts, Casas was one of about 63 minor-leaguers who were invited to take part in the Red Sox’ fall instructional league down in Fort Myers.

There, per SoxProspects.com’s Ian Cundall, the Florida native was arguably the best infielder at camp and the most impressive position player behind only outfield prospect Gilberto Jimenez.

Currently regarded by SoxProspects as Boston’s top-ranked prospect, the 6-foot-5, 250 lber is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season with Double-A Portland.

That said, it seems possible that the Sox would want to include Casas and some of their other top prospects in major-league spring training for MLB/Triple-A players starting next month with minor-league camp for Class-A/Double-A players being pushed back until later in the spring.

With that scenario in mind, prospects such as Casas and Jeter Downs, among others, could potentially start the year at Triple-A Worcester. @RedSoxStats was one of the first to put that possibility out there.

That scenario remains just a mere possibility at this point, though, and as most things have gone regarding minor-league baseball recently, we will have to wait and see how it all transpires before determining which player will go where.

(Picture of Triston Casas: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Chaim Bloom explains what went into Red Sox taking infielder Nick Yorke with top pick in 2020 MLB Draft

When the Red Sox selected prep infielder Nick Yorke with their top pick in the shortened 2020 MLB first-year player draft, they were met with quite a bit of blowback from fans and the general public alike.

Going into the June draft, which was cut down to five rounds due to the financial constraints created by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Yorke was not necessarily seen as a bona fide first-rounder.

A recent graduate of Archbishop Mitty High School in the San Jose Area, the 18-year-old was committed to play college baseball at the University of Arizona and it appeared as though that commitment was a strong one.

With that, and perhaps other factors, in mind, Yorke slipped through the draft rankings to the point where Baseball America had him as the No. 96 draft-eligible prospect in the early stages of the summer.

While other clubs targeted more hyped-up and well-known prospects with their respective top selections, the Sox did not shy away from Yorke — a player they had already liked — when they were put on the clock at pick No. 17.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said as much when speaking with SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield and Ian Cundall on the SoxProspects.com podcast earlier this week.

“I think at the end of the day, what it came down to is not us trying to do something that was off the board because we got a kick out of doing something that was off the board, but believing in it and not being scared off of it just because it was different,” Bloom said. “If the only reason that we don’t do something is that we’re worried about criticism, that’s not a good enough reason. We should never operate like that. We have to be willing to do what we believe is right, even if we’re going to get criticized.

“We knew that it would come with some blowback,” continued Bloom. “Because Nick wasn’t a hyped player. We also had a lot of belief in the player and there was also belief that if we had had a normal spring, he would have been seen. A lot of things kind of conspired with him having been hurt the year before and not having played the infield the year before. And if you weren’t there really all over him those first few weekends, you did not have enough information on Nick Yorke to really think anything about him.”

Because of the aforementioned pandemic, Yorke’s senior season at Archbishop Mitty was prematurely cut short after just five games. The right-handed hitter went 8-for-15 (.533) with two home runs and six RBI in those five games, though, to finish his high school career with an otherworldly .457/.552/.709 slash line over 94 total games played at the varsity level.

Still, even if Yorke, who is listed at 6-foot and 200 lbs., was able to play a full season’s worth of high school ball in 2020, perceptions of him around the game would have still likely varied.

“We could have had a full spring and there still would have been a lot of different opinions in the industry about the player, about the profile,” said Bloom. “But, we had a really strong belief in the evaluation that we had and we went through a very rigorous process about how to build our board. And look, there’s certainly ways the draft could have fallen where we might have ended up taking someone else. It wasn’t that we were hellbent on saving money in that round to go spend it later.

“But, given what the board looked like when it got to our pick, we felt very, very clearly that it made sense to us to take Nick there,” Bloom added. “We liked the player a lot and also felt like we had some savings we could do damage with later in the draft.”

A little less than a month after drafting him, the Sox managed to sign Yorke for $2.7 million, which fell well below the recommended slot value for the 17th overall pick in the 2020 draft ($3.6 million).

This, in turn, allowed the club to draft and sign fellow prep prospect Blaze Jordan, who was selected in the third round with the 89th overall pick.

With a full ride to Mississippi State University to use to his advantage, Jordan received $1.75 million in signing bonus money from Boston, well above the recommended slot value assigned to pick No. 89 ($667,900).

As you may recall, the reason the Red Sox were docked a second-round pick in last year’s draft was due to their illegal use of the video replay room during the 2018 season, hence the long wait in between their first and second selections.

“It really has to start with believing in the player,” Bloom said of Yorke, his first draft pick as Boston’s CBO. “Because it was going to be a long time before we were going to pick again, and you can’t necessarily count on what you’re going to be able to do with those savings. But, we also felt like we had enough intel — that there were enough clubs that were aligned with us on Nick — that waiting for him to be around at pick No. 89 was also not a good strategy. This was a player we wanted.”

Following impressive showings at both the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket and fall instructional league in Fort Myers last year, Yorke has worked his way up to becoming the No. 13 prospect (No. 6 among position players) in Boston’s farm system, per SoxProspects.

The Newport Beach native is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season — whenever it begins — with Low-A Salem, where he will have the chance to show off his highly-touted hit tool and continue to develop in organized games against other teams for the first time as a professional.

(Picture of Nick Yorke: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox feel top prospect Jeter Downs needs to gain more experience at second base in minors before getting big-league consideration

While the Red Sox continue to explore their options at second base this offseason, one thing is apparent: Don’t expect top prospect Jeter Downs to fill that gap next year, at least not right away.

This is the case because according to WEEI’s Rob Bradford, the Red Sox would like to see the 22-year-old infielder gain more experience at second base at the minor-league level.

“The organizational perception is that [Downs] needs to experience the ups and downs of a semi-normal Triple-A season at this new position,” Bradford wrote over the weekend.

One of the three players (two prospects) Boston got in return from the Dodgers in the blockbuster Mookie Betts trade back in February, Downs has accrued significant playing time as a middle infielder in the minors, but little of that playing time as come at second.

Since being selected by the Reds with the 32nd overall pick in the 2017 amateur draft out of Monsignor Pace High School (Fla.), the Colombia native has played 195 games (1,672 2/3 innings) at shortstop and just 84 games (698 1/3 innings) at second, with just one of those 84 coming above the High-A level in 2019.

FanGraphs does not get too in-depth with defensive metrics for minor-leaguers, but Downs recorded one error and helped turn seven double plays while patrolling second base for High-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Tulsa last year.

This year, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic prevented the minor-league season from taking place, so coveted prospects such as Downs were limited to working out at their club’s respective training sites, which in Downs’ case was in Pawtucket.

There, as noted by SoxProspects.com, the young infielder primarily focused on improving his defense with coach Bruce Crabbe.

“Crabby’s amazing,” Downs said via Zoom back in August. “Almost everyday now we go out there and we get a little work in with a couple other guys as well. It’s a good learning curve, everybody does extra hitting, so I felt like I wanted to do that same thing with my defense. As much as I hit, I also want to do the same amount of defense. I want to be elite at both sides of the ball, so that’s where I’m trying to get it to.”

As it turns out, Downs did put in the work at the alternate site to improve his defensive capabilities at both middle infield positions. At least that’s what Worcester Red Sox manager Billy McMillon said when speaking with reporters in October.

“He made tremendous strides defensively,” McMillon said of Downs. “There are some things he needs to work on, like his makeup and his confidence and things like that. I think those issues affected how he did offensively. As far as Jeter, I see tremendous upside. His track record of offensive performance indicates that at 7:05, when the lights are on, he shows up at the plate. I’m hopeful his track record offensively meshes well with the strides he made defensively. If that happens, I think you’ve got a pretty good player. I don’t want to give a comp or anything, but I think he would more than hold his own based on what he did defensively and how much better and more consistent he got.

“I think he would be a better second baseman longterm, but I do believe he could play shortstop,” added McMillon. “He made some plays that were just unbelievable at shortstop. I personally would see him a better fit at second base if we were talking about 162 games. I think his athleticism, his skills, would be a little better at second base. But he’s still young. I don’t want it to seem like he can’t play shortstop. I think he could do a fine job over there. In my eyes, I see second base when I see him.”

Depending on how the rest of the offseason pans out, Downs will presumably get the opportunity to play second base on an everyday basis with Triple-A Worcester in 2021.

There, as Bradford alluded to, the Red Sox will obviously be keeping a close eye on the right-handed hitter as he prepares to make the jump to the majors — or at least Boston’s 40-man roster — in the months leading up to him being eligible for the 2021 Rule 5 Draft.

In the meantime, The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier wrote earlier this month that while the plan is for Downs to continue to develop at Triple-A, the Sox could pursue free-agent second base options, like Kike Hernandez or Kolten Wong, who would sign one or two-year deals in order to “serve as a bridge to Downs.”

Of course, as Speier points out, it’s not out of the question that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. could use Downs as a trade chip in order to acquire a bigger piece from another club.

That possibility likely depends on how the club views Downs, as well as its other second base candidates such as Jonathan Arauz, Christian Arroyo, and Michael Chavis, internally.

Red Sox invite nine minor-leaguers to major-league spring training

In case you missed it, the Red Sox added nine non-roster invitees to their spring training roster on Tuesday afternoon. Those nine players?

C Roldani Baldwin
C Jhonny Pereda
1B Josh Ockimey
OF Cesar Puello
LHP Stephen Gonsalves
RHP Kevin McCarthy
RHP Seth Blair
RHP Raynel Espinal
RHP Caleb Simpson

Besides McCarthy, all players listed here spent the 2020 season with the Red Sox organization in some capacity.

The likes of Pereda, Ockimey, Puello, Gonsalves, Blair, and Simpson spent time at the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket, while the likes of Baldwin and Espinal did not.

Puello was the only one who saw major-league time with the Sox last year, as the 29-year-old appeared in five games for Boston in September and went 3-for-8 (.375) at the plate with one run scored while also recording a pair of outfield assists in limited action.

McCarthy, meanwhile, yielded three earned runs over five appearances and six innings of work for the Royals this past season, his fifth in the majors. The 28-year-old inked a minor-league pact with Boston last month after being outrighted from Kansas City’s 40-man roster in October.

Another pitcher listed here with big-league experience is Gonsalves, a former top prospect of the Twins organization. The former fourth-round draft pick appeared in seven contests (four starts) for Minnesota in 2018, posting a 6.57 ERA and 5.71 FIP over 24 2/3 innings pitched.

Still just 26 years old, Gonsalves was claimed off waivers by the Mets last fall before again being claimed off waivers by the Sox over the summer.

Some within the organization still believe the left-hander has plenty of upside, which was made evident by his impressive performance at the alternate site as well as the club re-signing him to a minor-league deal in November.

“Gonsalves is a guy that can make an impact next year if we bring him back,” Worcester Red Sox pitching coach Paul Abbott said in October. “His velo went from 89-90 mph — and he already had a highly rated fastball that had some carry — the velo jumped up to 94-96 mph. He got better as we went along and I know he was close to getting an opportunity because they brought him up there.”

With the additions of these nine players, the Red Sox currently have 49 players on their 2021 spring training roster as February draws closer. That number of players is likely to change between now and then, though, since chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. still have plenty of time for roster shuffling if they so choose.

Red Sox pitching prospect Durbin Feltman intends to be more aggressive in the strike zone in 2021

Right-hander Durbin Feltman entered the 2019 season as the Red Sox’ No. 11 prospect according to Baseball America.

Fresh off an inaugural 2018 campaign in which he split time between short-season Lowell, Low-A Greenville, and High-A Salem and posted a miniscule 1.93 ERA over 22 total appearances, the third-round draft pick out of Texas Christian University was facing rather lofty expectations as he embarked on his first full professional season.

Spending the entirety of the 2019 season with Double-A Portland, Feltman struggled to the tune of a 5.26 ERA and 5.02 FIP over 43 outings and 51 1/3 innings of work.

This summer, after the 2020 minor-league season had already been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Red Sox decided against including Feltman in its 60-man player pool while a number of the organization’s top pitching prospects, such as Tanner Houck, Bryan Mata, and Jay Groome were.

These prospects spent their summers working out and playing in intrasquad games at the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket. Prospects such as Feltman, meanwhile, remained at their respective homes.

The 23-year-old recently spoke with BloggingtheRedSox.com about this experience.

“I was frustrated, upset,” Feltman said of not being included in the 60-man pool. “Just not being invited [after] thinking I was going to go — I was frustrated the whole time because I figured ‘Hey, I’m going to use this time the best I can.’ I’m not going to get time like this again, barring another pandemic, to be able to do whatever I want and work on things. So, I used it the best I could and figured out some stuff. I feel like I figured out a lot.”

Having seemingly turned a corner on his own time, Feltman went into the Red Sox’ fall instructional league in Fort Myers and thoroughly impressed thanks to some added motivation.

“I came in there with a chip on my shoulder and was like ‘Hey, this is what you missed out on at the alternate site,'” he added. “Hopefully I showed enough, I felt like I did. And I’m carrying that into 2021 as well.”

While he had to wait a little bit to report to fall instructs in early October, Feltman was able to hone his craft while at home as opposed to the alternate training this summer. The Red Sox even gave him some things to work on.

“I was in a sticky situation,” said Feltman. “They were taking MLB depth and they didn’t see me as MLB depth yet because I’m obviously really young. They gave us stuff to work on, stuff I had been working on — having a repeatable delivery and just getting back to what I used to do in 2018. I feel like I’m closing in, and I’m not trying to revert back to [2018], but I’m also trying to get better. So, I feel like I’m in a really good spot right now, going down there and working with them and then working on my own.”

An aspect the Red Sox would like to see Feltman improve upon, as he mentioned, was having a more repeatable delivery. The flame-throwing righty went into more depth with that.

“I worked a lot on making things easier — more repeatable and easier,” the Houston-area native said. “I got into the mindset of trying to create more with everything, just trying to create more, and that’s not what I needed to do. So now, it’s just being easy and letting it go. The velocity’s ticking back up, it’s not quite where I want it to be yet, but it’s getting back up there. The ball’s coming out better now just playing catch than it was in instructs and even during the summer.

“Just continuing to work and figuring out those little things,” Feltman continued. “Just making it smooth and basically just being an athlete on the mound instead of worrying about every little thing.”

One thing Feltman does have to worry about while on the mound is which pitch he is going to throw and where said pitch is going to end up. The former Horned Frog’s pitch arsenal currently consists of a fastball, a slider, and a curveball. He discussed how he can use each of those pitches to his advantage.

“Obviously I have my fastball,” Feltman stated. “It has a little bit of a cut to it sometimes when I throw it to the glove side, so I try to throw it up in the zone and then to my glove side. Then I have my slider. I’m finally getting back to how I throw my upper-80s power-slider and just getting a feel for that, being able to throw it in any count. And then, I switched back my grip to my old curveball, just a 12-6 to play off that high fastball or drop it in when I need a get-me-over strike to show them something else. I don’t throw any changeups or anything that moves arm-side, so just being able to show a change of speed from hard to power breaking ball and then flip in a low-80s curveball. It just puts that in the back of the mind that ‘Hey, you got to watch out for that, too.'”

Despite this sound strategy, there were instances last year in Portland where Feltman would regularly fall behind in counts, which in turn led to 13.9% walk rate. He attributed this to a tendency to nibble the corners of the strike zone after falling behind in counts, and is now aiming to be more aggressive in the strike zone moving forward.

“I feel like it was just a snowball effect of one thing led to another led to another led to another,” Feltman said. “I go up there and it’s cold, so my velo’s down a little bit, so I’m trying to create more. Obviously, I’m getting in hitter’s counts because I’m not commanding like I should and then you’re obviously going to have higher batting averages in hitter’s counts. So, I’m giving up hits here and there, so I’m like ‘Okay, they’re hitting me.’ Well, no, you’re doing it to yourself, getting in 3-0, 3-1 counts. That kind of led to ‘I’ve got to nibble here, nibble there.’ I can’t let him hit it early in the count and that’s just getting away from what I do.

“I’ve gone back to ‘Hey, get ahead early in the count, don’t try to nibble, just be aggressive in the strike zone. My stuff’s going to play in the strike zone,'” he added. “It’s amazing what happens, you get swings and misses left and right if you’re confident throwing it in the strike zone. That’s kind of the mentality I’ve gone back to: Get ahead early. You get ahead early, it’s a whole different ballgame. It makes it so much easier… The odds are in your favor if you’ve got two strikes.”

With this more aggressive approach in mind, Feltman is going to take what he learned from 2019 and work to throw more strikes earlier in counts in 2021.

“That’s going to help two things,” he said. “It’s going to help increase strikeouts, so your strikeout rate, and it’s also going to help decrease my walk rate. What I’m working on is being able to throw all three of my pitches for strikes — and not just strikes — quality strikes, and then just keeping that same mentality: Be aggressive early, be aggressive early. I feel like if I do that, everything will take care of itself.”

Feltman, who turns 24 in April, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as Boston’s No. 28 prospect. The TCU alum, listed at 6-feet and 205 lbs., will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft next December, but he has not thought about that too much and is more focused on getting to the big-leagues as soon as possible.

“Obviously, I don’t want to have to go through the Rule 5 Draft, because if you’ve been in the big-leagues you’re not getting Rule 5 drafted,” he said.

(Top photo of Feltman: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox catching prospect Connor Wong ‘made a lot of progress’ in 2020, Jason Varitek says

Of the three players the Red Sox acquired from the Dodgers in the infamous Mookie Betts trade back in February, catching prospect Connor Wong is undoubtedly the least well-known and the least heralded.

Alex Verdugo — the headliner of the deal for Boston — has the makings to be an All-Star caliber major-league outfielder, Jeter Downs is the organization’s top prospect, and then there’s Wong.

This isn’t to say the 24-year-old is not a talented prospect, because he is. So much so that MLB Pipeline has him ranked as the top catching prospect in the Sox’ farm system.

In his last minor-league season with the Dodgers in 2019, Wong posted a solid .281/.336/.541 to go along with 24 home runs and 82 RBI over 111 total games played between High-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Tulsa.

The majority of Wong’s playing time last year came behind the plate, but he also proved capable of playing multiple positions around the infield, which is something he did quite frequently at the University of Houston since he was originally recruited as a shortstop.

Despite that added dose of versatility, the Red Sox still view the 2017 third-round pick as a catcher primarily. Newly-promoted game planning coordinator and former Sox backstop Jason Varitek made that much clear when speaking with The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham last week.

“I saw him a lot, from spring training and spring training 2.0, and probably three weeks when he was on the taxi squad and around the team,” Varitek said of Wong. “He works extremely hard. He didn’t get in any [major-league] games, but he showed his abilities and made a lot of progress. He can play other positions, but I think he’s a catcher. There’s a lot there we can work with.”

Indeed, Wong did not appear in any games for Boston this past season, but as noted by Varitek, he still spent plenty of time around the club during spring training as well as parts of the summer and fall on account of being included on the 60-man player pool for the entirety of the 2020 campaign.

On top of that, the Houston native was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster earlier this month, so it would appear he is primed to make his major-league debut sooner rather than later.

With Wong being added to the 40-man, the Red Sox currently have four catchers — Wong, Deivy Grullon, Kevin Plawecki, and Christian Vazquez — on their major-league roster.

Top Red Sox Outfield Prospect Jarren Duran Set To Play Winter Ball in Puerto Rico

Top Red Sox outfield prospect Jarren Duran will be competing in the Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente in Puerto Rico this winter for Los Criollos de Caguas, the club announced earlier Tuesday.

Duran, who turned 24 last month, is regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s No. 8 overall prospect and top outfield prospect.

The 2018 seventh-round draft pick out of Long Beach State was added to the Sox’ player pool back in July and put on quite a show at the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket in what would have been his second full minor-league season.

In joining Caguas, Duran will be managed by Red Sox coach Ramon Vazquez, while Alex Cora’s brother-in-law Jesus Feliciano serves as the team’s general manager.

“Jarren Duran has a great chance to play in the big leagues next year. A player who has hit for average, has strength and has stolen 70 bases in his two seasons as a professional,” Feliciano said (in Spanish) of the speedy outfielder. “He is a versatile player who we are going to like a lot because of the strong way he plays and he will help us with the experienced outfielders we have on our team.”

According to FanGraphs, Duran, who has swiped 70 bags in 199 career minor-league games, has the second-best speed tool (70) in the Sox’ farm system behind only fellow outfielder Gilberto Jimenez (80).

With that speed, as well as the uptick in power he put on display at McCoy Stadium, the California native may have a legitimate shot to crack Boston’s Opening Day roster come next spring.

Many around the organization seem impressed with what they have seen out of Duran in the relatively short period of time he has been a professional. Worcester Red Sox manager Billy McMillon is no exception.

“He had an unbelievable offensive camp. Stole a lot of bases, hit a lot of home runs. Impacted the baseball hard day in and day out,” McMillon said of Duran earlier this month. “I think he continues to get better in the outfield and as that continues to get better, I think that’s going to help clear the path for him. He’s okay, he’s solid, but you can see there’s some room for improvement there. We did some things working on footwork and routes to balls and he kind of cleaned that up a little bit. For me, the question is, can he do that consistently? If he hits a lull with his offense, is he going to stay as positive as we was all camp? I never saw him down during the camp. He hit really well for the entirety of the camp. He’s a very intriguing, very interesting guy.”

Because of what he did in Pawtucket this summer, the Red Sox likely felt that Duran did not need to attend fall instructs, which are currently underway in Fort Myers. Instead, the young speed merchant will take the field for Los Criollos de Caguas down in Puerto Rico in the coming weeks.

Barring any COVID-19-related setbacks, the 2020-2021 Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente season should begin sometime in mid-November.