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

Red Sox prospects in the Fall Stars Game: How did Triston Casas, Kole Cottam fare in Arizona Fall League showcase?

The East Division Fall Stars took care of business against the West Division Fall Stars in the 2021 Fall Stars Game on Saturday night, holding them off for a 6-5 victory in front of 3,575 spectators at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Red Sox prospects Triston Casas and Kole Cottam both appeared in the one-run win for the East Division while representing the Scottsdale Scorpions, with the former getting the start at first base and the latter coming off the bench as a defensive replacement at catcher.

Batting sixth for the East, Casas went 1-for-3 with a ground-rule double and run scored while also leaving runner on base. The left-handed hitter began his night by lacing a line-drive double down the right field line off Angels right-hander Coleman Crow with two outs in the bottom of the first inning.

The ball left Casas’ bat with an exit velocity of 97 mph and very well could have scored Gabriel Moreno all the way from first base. It instead rolled under the right field wall in foul territory and went for a ground-rule double that momentarily kept Moreno at third.

Both Moreno and Casas scored moments later, though, with Rays prospect Curtis Mead driving them in on a two-run single that gave the East Division an early 4-2 lead.

From that point on, Casas came up to the plate two more times and softly grounded out in both appearances. He was replaced at first base by Rockies prospect Michael Toglia in the beginning of the sixth.

Casas, who turns 22 in January, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the top prospect in Boston’s farm system. He was selected to the Fall Stars Game after slashing an impressive .356/.472/.479 to go along with six doubles, one home run, 10 RBIs, 17 runs scored, 14 walks, and 18 strikeouts over 19 games (73 plate appearances) for Scottsdale.

Cottam, meanwhile, was a late addition to the East Division’s Fall Stars roster on Saturday. He was dispatched in the top of the eighth inning as he took over behind the plate for Giants prospect Patrick Bailey.

The right-handed hitting backstop got one at-bat in the bottom half of that frame and went 0-for-1 as he grounded into a fielder’s choice out at third base and was stranded at first base himself. He additionally caught the final two frames of Saturday’s contest, both of which were scoreless to close out the 6-5 win for the East Division.

Cottam, 24, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the top defensive catcher in the Red Sox farm system. The 6-foot-3, 235 pounder out of the University of Kentucky was added to the East Division’s roster after posting a stout .283/.370/.543 slash line with three doubles, three home runs, 10 RBIs, seven runs scored, five walks, and 11 strikeouts through 14 games (54 plate appearances) with the Scorpions.

With the conclusion of the 15th installment of the Fall Stars Game, the 2021 Arizona Fall League season is less than a full week away from wrapping up for the year.

The Scorpions (11-16) trail the first-place Mesa Solar Sox (13-11) by 3 1/2 games) and play three more regular season games beginning on Tuesday. The championship game between the top teams from each division will then take place on Saturday, November 20, and be broadcasted on MLB Network.

Picture of Kole Cottam and Triston Casas: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox catching prospect Kole Cottam selected to 2021 Fall Stars Game, joining Triston Casas

Red Sox catching prospect Kole Cottam has been added to the East Division’s roster for Saturday night’s Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game, per his agency True Gravity Baseball.

Cottam will join fellow Red Sox prospect Triston Casas in representing the Scottsdale Scorpions in the 15th installment of Fall Stars Game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

The 24-year-old backstop was one of eight prospects Boston sent to Arizona last month to participate in the fall league. Through 14 games with Scottsdale, he has slashed an impressive .283/.370/.543 to go along with three doubles, three home runs, 10 RBIs, seven runs scored, five walks, and 11 strikeouts over 54 plate appearances.

Among all Arizona Fall League hitters this year, Cottam ranks 31st in doubles, 12th in home runs, 32nd in RBIs, 64th in runs scored, 39th in batting average, 53rd in on-base percentage, 19th in slugging percentage, 29th in OPS (.914), 16th in isolated power (.261), and 14th in at-bats per home run (15.33), per MLB.com.

Regarded by Baseball America as the top defensive catcher in the Sox’ farm system, Cottam will be one of three backstops on the East Division’s roster alongside the likes of Blue Jays prospect Gabriel Moreno and Giants prospect Kole Cottam.

The 6-foot-3, 235 pound right-handed hitter was originally selected by the Red Sox in the fourth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Kentucky. After receiving an invite to major-league spring training, he opened the 2021 minor-league season with High-A Greenville and earned a promotion to Double-A Portland in late July.

With the Scorpions, Cottam has caught six games for a total of 51 innings behind the plate. He has also played one game at first base while primarily serving as Scottsdale’s designated hitter.

The Red Sox likely sent Cottam, who does not turn 25 until next May, knowing that he can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this winter. Boston would need to add the native Tennessean to their 40-man roster by November 19 — or next Friday — in order to prevent that from happening.

While Cottam is starting Saturday’s Fall Stars Game on the bench, Casas is in Scottsdale’s starting lineup, batting sixth while getting the start at first base. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. eastern time on MLB Network, MLB.com, and the MLB app.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and senior vice president of baseball operations Ben Crockett are among those expected to be in attendance.

(Picture of Kole Cottam: Arizona Fall League)

Red Sox top prospect Triston Casas selected to 2021 Fall Stars Game

Red Sox top prospect Triston Casas has been named a 2021 Arizona Fall League Fall Star, the league announced on Wednesday morning.

Casas will represent the Sox and the Scottsdale Scorpions when he suits up for the East Division Fall Stars team this coming Saturday. Fellow Red Sox prospect Jeter Downs was also named a final vote candidate.

One of eight prospects Boston sent to Arizona, Casas has put together a strong showing in his brief time with the Scorpions. Through 17 AFL games, the 21-year-old first baseman is slashing an impressive .333/.457/.424 to go along with three doubles, one home run, nine RBIs, 15 runs scored, 13 walks, and 17 strikeouts over 81 plate appearances thus far.

Among the top hitters in this year’s installment of the Arizona Fall League, Casas ranks seventh in hits (22), ninth in runs scored, ninth in walks, ninth in batting average, fifth in on-base percentage, 23rd in slugging percentage, and 19th in OPS (.881), per MLB.com.

Casas, who turns 22 in January, has certainly had an action-packed 2021 season. He began the year with Double-A Portland, left the team on two separate occasions to ultimately help the United States baseball team win a silver medal in the Summer Games in Tokyo, and was promoted to Triple-A Worcester in late September.

The left-handed hitting infielder is currently regarded by Baseball America as the top prospect in Boston’s farm system a little more than three years after he was selected by the Sox in the first round of the 2018 amateur draft out of American Heritage High School (Plantation, Fla.).

Downs, meanwhile, will have a chance to join Casas in this weekend’s Fall Stars Game in Scottsdale.

The 23-year-old infielder, who also hails from the Miami-area, comes into play Wednesday batting .196/.393/.522 with five homers, 14 RBIs, nine runs scored, four stolen bases, 14 walks, and 15 strikeouts across 13 games (61 plate appearances) for the Scorpions.

Fans have until 2 p.m. eastern time on Friday to vote Downs into the Fall Stars Game, as he is competing against the likes of Giants prospect Marco Luciano and Rockies prospect Michael Toglia. Voting can be done by following this link.

As previously mentioned, the Fall Stars Game itself takes place on Saturday night. First pitch from Salt River Fields at Talking Stick is slated for 7 p.m. eastern time. The game will be broadcasted on MLB Network and streamed on MLB.com.

(Picture of Triston Casas: Taylor Jackson/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Red Sox catching prospect Kole Cottam crushes walk-off home run in Arizona Fall League

For the second time this month, Red Sox catching prospect Kole Cottam lifted the Scottsdale Scorpions to a come-from-behind win, with this one coming over the Surprise Saguaros in Arizona Fall League action on Tuesday afternoon.

Batting eighth and serving as his team’s designated hitter, Cottam went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs, one run scored, and one strikeout in what would turn out to be a 2-1 walk-off victory for the Scorpions at Scottsdale Stadium.

With approximately 477 spectators in attendance, the Scorpions lineup was initially held in check by Saguaros pitching. Through the first eight innings of Tuesday’s contest, Scottsdale failed to put up a single run.

Down to their final three outs in the bottom half of the ninth of a 1-0 game, the Scorpions were tasked with facing off against Yankees right-hander Zach Greene for the Saguaros.

Cottam, who had gone 1-for-3 at the plate up until that point, was due to hit second in the inning for Scottsdale. He did not have to wait long after Twins outfielder Matt Wallner led things off with a hard-hit single to right field.

Representing the potential winning run, Cottam did not waste any time in coming through with his second walk-off hit of the AFL season. On the very first pitch he saw from Greene, the right-handed hitter drilled a two-run home run to right-center field, allowing the Scorpions to improve to 9-15 on the year in the process of doing so.

Following Tuesday’s impressive showing, Cottam is now slashing a stout .286/.380/.548 to go along with two doubles, three home runs, 10 RBIs, seven runs scored, five walks, and nine strikeouts through 13 games (50 plate appearances) with Scottsdale.

Among all Arizona Fall League hitters this year, Cottam ranks 11th in home runs, 26th in RBIs, 21st in slugging percentage, 26th in OPS (.928), 31st in total bases (23), 13th in isolated power (.262), and 11th in at-bats per home run (14.00), per MLB.com.

Cottam, 24, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the top defensive catcher in Boston’s farm system. The Red Sox originally selected the 6-foot-3, 235 pound backstop in the fourth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Kentucky.

After receiving an invite to major-league camp this spring, Cottam opened the 2021 minor-league season at High-A Greenville. He batted .276/.386/.487 (135 wRC+) with 13 doubles, one triple, six home runs, 24 RBIs, 22 runs scored, 25 walks, and 64 strikeouts across 46 games (190 plate appearances) for the Drive while also throwing out six of the 35 (17.1%) of the base runners who tried to steal against him.

On July 29, Cottam — a native Tennessean — earned himself a promotion to Double-A Portland, where he produced a .282/.337/.526 (131 wRC+) slash line to go along with five doubles, one triple, four homers, nine runs driven in, 11 runs scored, three walks, and 33 strikeouts over 25 games (86 plate appearances) with the Sea Dogs. He also threw out two of the 15 (13.3%) of the base runners who tried to steal against him to close out the year.

In total, Cottam logged 439 innings behind the plate during the 2021 minor-league season, which likely explains why he has only caught for the Scorpions on five separate occasions so far this fall.

That being said, Cottam — who does not turn 25 until next May — can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this winter. The Red Sox would need to add him to their 40-man roster by November 19 if they intend to protect him from becoming Rule 5 eligible.

(Picture of Kole Cottam: Arizona Fall League)

Red Sox top prospect Triston Casas boasting .455 on-base percentage in Arizona Fall League; ‘We’re really excited about him,’ Chaim Bloom says

Red Sox top prospect Triston Casas continues to have no issues with getting on base in the Arizona Fall League.

Starting at first base and batting cleanup for the Scottsdale Scorpions on Monday afternoon, Casas went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles, an RBI, two runs scored, and was hit by a pitch as part of an 11-10 loss to the Mesa Solar Sox at Sloan Park.

With approximately 675 spectators in attendance, Casas began his productive day at the plate by ripping a two-out single off Cubs right-hander Ryan Jensen in the top of the first inning and later scoring on a bases-loaded RBI single from Giants prospect Marco Luciano.

After committing a fielding error in the bottom half of the frame, Casas was drilled by a pitch from Jensen in the second, but was stranded at first base.

In the top of the third, however, Casas bounced back when he laced a run-scoring single back up the middle off Athletics righty Brock Whittlesey that plated Giants prospect Will Wilson to make it an 8-0 contest in favor of Scottsdale.

Casas himself scored his side’s 10th run and his second run of the afternoon later in the inning, but that would prove to be the Scorpions’ last bit of offense with Solar Sox pitching shutting them out the rest of the way on their way to a comeback victory.

While Scottsdale may have fallen to an underwhelming 8-15 on the AFL season, Casas raised his batting line with the Scorpions up to an impressive .333/.455/.429 to go along with three doubles, one home run, nine RBI, 15 runs scored, 12 walks, and 16 strikeouts over 16 games spanning 77 plate appearances.

Among qualified hitters in the Arizona Fall League this year, Casas ranks seventh in hits (21), ninth in batting average, eighth in on-base percentage, 23rd in slugging percentage, and 20th in OPS (.883), per MLB.com.

Casas, who turns 22 in January, is currently regarded by Baseball America as both the top prospect and the best hitter for average in the Red Sox farm system.

This past season, the left-handed hitting infielder began the year with Double-A Portland, where he slashed .284/.395/.484 (142 wRC+) with 12 doubles, two triples, 13 homers, 52 RBI, 57 runs scored, six stolen bases, 49 walks, and 63 strikeouts over 77 games and 329 total trips to the plate.

Casas’ time with the Sea Dogs was interrupted on two separate occasions due to his commitment to Team USA. The former first-round draft pick helped the United States baseball team win a silver medal in the Summer Games in Tokyo before returning stateside for good in early August.

Shortly thereafter, Casas earned himself a promotion to Triple-A Worcester for the final stretch of the minor-league season on September 22. He batted .242/.381/.485 (130 wRC+) with three doubles, one triple, one home run, seven RBI, six runs, one stolen base, eight walks, and eight strikeouts in nine games (42 plate appearances) for the WooSox.

Because of the time he missed while playing for Team USA, the Red Sox opted to have Casas play in the Arizona Fall League in order to get more at-bats against some of the brightest pitching prospects in baseball.

It goes without saying that the decision to have Casas play in the desert has paid off thus far. The Sox are clearly excited with what they have in the 21-year-old, but will not take any shortcuts in his development.

When speaking with reporters on Sunday night, Red Sox chief baseball officer acknowledged as much, noting that getting Casas to the majors is not the team’s top priority since they have other options available at first base, such as Bobby Dalbec.

“Triston just got to Triple-A,” Bloom said. “I know he’s getting some reps in the fall league right now. But you guys have heard me say and know how I feel about that level (Triple-A) being a real test. We want to make sure that somebody has mastered that level before you have them take on the huge adjustment to the major-leagues.

“But, you know, in the long run, we’re really excited about him,” added Bloom. “And that doesn’t preclude us from adding other options to help us in the near, or in the medium term.”

So, while Casas may be in line to make his big-league debut at some point during the 2022 season, the Red Sox will by no means be rushing things with the 6-foot-5, 250 pound first baseman from Miami.

In the meantime, though, Casas should be on track to play in the Fall Stars Game at Salt Rivers Field this coming Saturday.

(Picture of Triston Casas: Norm Hall/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

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 catching prospect Kole Cottam homers twice, delivers walk-off hit for Scottsdale Scorpions in Arizona Fall League action

Red Sox catching prospect Kole Cottam enjoyed a monster day at the plate while leading the Scottsdale Scorpions to a 10-9 walk-off victory over the Salt River Rafters in Arizona Fall League action Tuesday afternoon.

Batting out of the eight-hole while serving as the team’s designated hitter, Cottam went 4-for-5 with a pair of singles, a pair of home runs, four RBI, two runs scored, and one strikeout for the Scorpions in front of 291 spectators at Scottsdale Stadium.

After singling and being stranded at second base in the bottom of the third inning and striking out in the bottom of the fifth, Cottam truly got his productive afternoon started when leading off the bottom half of the seventh inning.

With newly-inserted reliever J.T. Hintezen pitching for Salt River, Cottam greeted the right-hander by crushing a solo shot to deep right-center field off him, thus marking his first home run of the Arizona Fall League campaign.

An inning later, Cottam immediately doubled his home run total when he clubbed a towering, go-ahead two-run homer off Rafters righty Taylor Floyd that gave the Scorpions their first lead of the day at 9-8.

Salt River managed to knot things up at nine runs a piece in their half of the ninth, however, meaning this one headed into extra innings with Scottsdale in search of their seventh win of the season.

Following a scoreless top of the 10th, Cottam came to the plate in the bottom half with the game in his hands, as the Scorpions had loaded the bases for him while only recording one out.

Matched up against Rockies pitching prospect Jake Bird this time around, Cottam worked a full count before taking the sixth pitch he saw from the opposing right-hander and promptly ripping a line-drive single to the opposite field that plated Curtis Mead from third to secure the come-from-behind, walk-off win for the Scorpions.

In going 4-for-5 on Tuesday, Cottam raised his slash line on the Arizona Fall League season to a solid .294/.405/.529 to go along with two doubles, those two homers, eight RBI, six runs scored, five walks, and eight strikeouts over 11 games (42 plate appearances) with Scottsdale so far.

Cottam, 24, was originally selected by the Red Sox in the fourth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Kentucky. The former Wildcat may not be regarded by Baseball America as one of the top 30 prospects in Boston’s farm system, but he has been recognized as the best defensive catcher in the organization.

This past season, after spending a good chunk of the spring at major-league camp, the right-handed hitting backstop out of Tennessee opened the year with High-A Greenville. He batted a stout .276/.386/.487 (135 wRC+) to go along with 13 doubles, one triple, six home runs, 24 RBI, 22 runs scored, 25 walks, and 64 strikeouts across 46 games (190 plate appearances) for the Drive before earning a promotion to Double-A Portland on July 29.

While his playing time took a dip upon arriving in Portland, Cottam still slashed .282/.337/.526 (131 wRC+) with five doubles, one triple, four homers, nine runs driven in, 11 runs scored, three walks, and 33 strikeouts over 25 games spanning 86 plate appearances for the Sea Dogs.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, Cottam — who does not turn 24 until next May — can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his professional career this winter. The Red Sox would need to add Cottam to their 40-man roster by the November 19 deadline if they intend on protecting him from it.

In the meantime, the 2021 Arizona Fall League season rolls on for Cottam and the 7-11 Scorpions. The Fall Stars Game will take place on Nov. 13, while the season itself will conclude with the championship game on Nov. 20.

(Picture of Kole Cottam: Michael Gonzales/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Red Sox top prospect Jeter Downs continues to light it up in Arizona Fall League

Red Sox top prospect Jeter Downs continues to rake for the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League.

As part of a 7-6 loss to the Glendale Desert Dogs at Scottsdale Stadium on Monday afternoon, Downs went 1-for-3 with a grand slam as well as a walk and strikeout while batting out of the eight-hole.

After drawing a two-out walk in the second inning, punching out in the fifth inning, and flying out in the sixth inning, Downs’ grand slam came in the bottom half of the eighth.

With two outs and the bases full after Desert Dogs right-hander Kyle Hurt on a single, a wild pitch, and two walks, Downs greeted the Dodgers prospect by crushing a bases-clearing grand slam to the opposite field that at the time cut Glendale’s lead down to one run.

By going deep yet again on Monday, Downs has now clubbed five home runs through his first six games for Scottsdale, which is tops amongst all hitters in the Arizona Fall League.

To go along with those five home runs, the 23-year-old middle infielder has also collected 13 RBI, scored seven runs, stole one base, draw eight walks, and strike out six times while slashing an impressive .333/.517/1.048 over 29 plate appearances thus far.

Regarded by Baseball America as the No. 4 prospect in Boston’s farm system, Downs enjoying some early success three weeks into the Arizona Fall League campaign certainly is encouraging.

One of the three players the Red Sox got back from the Dodgers in the infamous trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles, the Colombian-born right-handed hitter endured his fair share of struggles with Triple-A Worcester this season.

Coming off a 2020 season in which he was limited to working out at the alternate training site on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, Downs hit just. 190/.272/.333 (62 wRC+) with nine doubles, 14 homers, 39 RBI, 39 runs scored, 18 stolen bases, 38 walks, and 131 strikeouts over 99 games (405 plate appearances) in his first exposure to the Triple-A level.

On the surface, those numbers obviously do not jump off the page. However, it is worth mentioning that from September 14 through the end of the minor-league season, Downs slashed a much-improved .316/.372/.579 (149 wRC+) to go along with one double, three home runs, eight RBI, four runs scored, one stolen base, three walks, and 11 strikeouts in his final 11 games (43 plate appearances) of the year.

It appears as though Downs has carried over how he ended his season with the WooSox to how he has started the Arizona Fall League season with the Scorpions, who will host the Surprise Saguaros in their 12th game of the year later Tuesday afternoon.

Downs, who does not turn 24 until next July, can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his professional career this winter. And so he will most definitely be added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster by the November 20 deadline in order to prevent that from happening.

(Picture of Jeter Downs: Taylor Jackson/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Red Sox top prospect Jeter Downs catching fire in Arizona Fall League

Red Sox top prospect Jeter Downs may only be a few weeks removed from an overall tough season with Triple-A Worcester this year, but the young middle infielder has certainly gotten off to a hot start in the Arizona Fall League.

Playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions alongside other Red Sox, Indians, Twins, Giants, and Rays prospects, Downs went 2-for-4 with a home run, an RBI, two runs scored, one walk, and one strikeout as part of an 11-9 loss to the Mesa Solar Sox at Scottsdale Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.

Batting out of the two-hole behind Rays prospect Matt Dyer and ahead of Twins prospect Matt Wallner, Downs began his day by crushing a solo shot off Marlins prospect Evan Fitterer with one out in the bottom of the first inning, marking the third straight game in which he has homered.

The 23-year-old, who was playing shortstop on Wednesday (and can also play second base), later drew an eight-pitch walk with no outs in the third inning, struck out on four pitches in the fifth inning, flew out to center field for the final out of the seventh inning, and led off the ninth inning with a single before scoring on a passed ball to wrap up what was a productive afternoon at the plate and on the base paths.

Since the 2021 Arizona Fall League season began on October 13, Downs has appeared in four games for the Scorpions and — following Wednesday’s strong performance — is currently slashing .357/.550/1.000 with three home runs, six RBI, five runs scored, one stolen base, six walks, and three strikeouts over 20 trips to the plate.

One of three players (two prospects) the Red Sox acquired from the Dodgers in the infamous trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles last February, Downs finally got his first taste of Triple-A action this year after the 2020 minor-league season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the hole, the 2021 campaign was not a particularly encouraging one for Downs. While he was selected to play in the All-Star Futures Game in Denver over the summer, the right-handed hitter overall struggled to the tune of a .190/.272/.333 (62 wRC+) across 99 games and 405 plate appearances with the WooSox.

That being said, Downs was at least able to salvage his season towards the end, and it came right around the same time fellow top Sox Prospect and Miami-area native Triston Casas earned a promotion to Worcester in late September.

From Sept. 17 until the Triple-A season came to a close on October 3, Downs hit an impressive .355/.400/.581 (158 wRC+) with one double, two homers, seven RBI, three runs scored, one stolen base, two walks, and eight strikeouts over his final nine games (35 plate appearances) of the year. Casas was promoted from Double-A Portland right in the middle of that stretch on Sept. 22.

Downs, who does not turn 24 until next July, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 4 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks three spots behind Casas, who is also playing for the Scorpions with five other Red Sox prospects in left-hander Brendan Cellucci, right-handers Andrew Politi, Connor Seabold, and Josh Winckowski, catcher Kole Cottam, and infielder Christian Koss.

Connor Wong is also listed on Scottsdale’s roster, but the catching prospect is currently with the Red Sox as part of their taxi squad for their American League Championship Series clash with the Astros.

Going back to Downs, the 5-foot-11, 193 pounder out of Colombia can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his professional career this winter if he is not added to Boston’s 40-man roster by the November 2020 deadline.

When speaking with The Athletic’s Zach Buchanan recently, Red Sox director of player development Brian Abraham relayed that Downs wanted to play in the Arizona this fall even after a long and full season with Worcester.

Abraham also indicated that the Sox view Downs “as an up-the-middle, impact player” who is capable of driving the baseball while playing sound defense and running the bases.

“He’s an all-around player,” Abraham said, “and that’s really exciting for us.”

(Picture of Jeter Downs: Norm Hall / MLB Photos via Getty Images)