Don’t forget about Red Sox catching prospect Kole Cottam

When it comes to how the Red Sox view the catching position in the long-term, they already have some intriguing prospects on the 40-man roster in Connor Wong and Ronaldo Hernandez. Boston also used a fifth-round pick on former University of Florida catcher Nathan Hickey in last year’s draft.

With that being said, do not forget about fellow backstop and SEC alumnus Kole Cottam, who the Sox originally selected in the fourth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Kentucky.

Cottam, who turns 25 in May, may not be one of the more well-known catching prospects in baseball. Still, the Tennessee native is coming off a 2021 season that was inarguably productive.

After the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out Minor League Baseball in 2020, Cottam broke camp last spring with High-A Greenville. The right-handed hitter proceeded to bat a stout .276/.386/.487 (135 wRC+) with 13 doubles, one triple, six home runs, 24 RBIs, 22 runs scored, 25 walks, and 64 strikeouts over 46 games (190 plate appearances) for the Drive.

On July 29, the Red Sox promoted Cottam to Double-A Portland, where he slashed .282/.337/.526 to go along with five doubles, one triple, four homers, nine runs driven in, 11 runs scored, three walks, and 33 strikeouts across 25 games (98 plate appearances) with the Sea Dogs.

Though Cottam’s walk rate fell and strikeout rate increased upon his promotion to Portland, he still finished the year with a .871 OPS and 133 wRC+, meaning he created 33% more runs than the average hitter in 2021.

Defensively, Cottam logged a total of 439 innings behind the plate with the Drive and Sea Dogs last year. The 6-foot-3, 235 pounder threw out eight of a possible 50 base stealers and also saw some time at first base with Portland.

While the Double-A season may have concluded in September, Cottam’s year was not done. He was one of eight Red Sox prospects who made the trek out west to play in the Arizona Fall League.

Suiting up for the Scottsdale Scorpions, Cottam and his moustache crushed three homers, collected 10 RBIs, and posted an OPS of .866 in 15 games. He was named an Arizona Fall League All-Star alongside teammate Triston Casas in November.

Shortly after the AFL season came to a close, Cottam very well could have been added to Boston’s 40-man roster in order to receive protection from the Rule 5 Draft. The Red Sox, however, elected to not include the 24-year-old.

At the time that decision was made, it’s safe to assume Cottam was disappointed with the news. That said, not being added to the 40-man allowed Cottam to stay in contact with Sox coaches throughout the lockout and participate in the team’s Winter Warm-Up program in January.

Not being on the club’s 40-man roster also allowed Cottam to report to minor-league spring training in Fort Myers earlier this month. When the lockout ended, he was one of 12 minor-leaguers who received an invite to big-league camp this past Thursday.

As he takes part in major-league spring training for a second consecutive year, Cottam enters the 2022 season ranked by SoxProspects.com as the No. 56 prospect in the organization.

The former Kentucky Wildcat is projected by the site to return to Portland for the start of the upcoming campaign, though it would not be surprising to see him earn a promotion to Triple-A Worcester at some point this year.

(Picture of Kole Cottam: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox)

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

For the second consecutive year, Triston Casas has been identified by MLB Pipeline as the No. 2 first-base prospect in baseball heading into the 2022 season.

Last year, Casas only trailed White Sox rookie Andrew Vaughn for the top spot. This time around, the Red Sox first baseman falls in line behind Tigers top prospect Spencer Torkelson for the No. 1 ranking.

In evaluating this position group, MLB.com’s William Boor writes that Casas has 60-grade arm strength (20-80 scouting scale) since he both pitched and played third base in high school. Boor also projects that Casas will make his major-league debut this year.

Casas, who turned 22 in January, enters the 2022 season ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 2 prospect in Boston’s farm system behind only fellow infielder Marcelo Mayer.

At this time last spring, Casas was preparing for his third full season in the Red Sox organization after being selected by the club in the first round (26th overall pick) in the 2018 amateur draft out of American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla.

Coming off a 2020 campaign that was altered drastically by the COVID-19 pandemic, Casas opened the 2021 season with Double-A Portland. While he had to step away from affiliated ball on two separate occasions to help Team USA qualify for and win a silver medal in the Tokyo Olympics, the left-handed hitter still batted .284/.395/.484 (142 wRC+) with 12 doubles, three triples, 13 home runs, 52 RBIs, 57 runs scored, six stolen bases, 49 walks, and 63 strikeouts across 77 games (329 plate appearances) for the Sea Dogs.

Shortly before the minor-league season came to a close, the Red Sox promoted Casas to Triple-A Worcester. In nine games with the WooSox, the Florida native slashed .242/.381/.485 (130 wRC+) to go along with three doubles, one triple, one homer, seven RBIs, six runs scored, one stolen base, eight walks, and eight strikeouts over nine games and 42 trips to the plate.

Most minor-leaguers knew their season was over by October. Casas, however, was not done, as he was one of eight Red Sox prospect who headed out west to play for the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League.

Appearing in 21 games with Scottsdale, Casas crushed just one home run but posted a .982 OPS (12th-highest in the league) en route to being named an AFL All-Star.

Following the conclusion of the brief AFL season, Casas was able to remain in touch with the Red Sox throughout the MLB lockout since he has yet to be added to the club’s 40-man roster. As such, the hulking 6-foot-4, 252 pounder participated in the Sox’ Winter Warm-Up program that preceded the start of minor-league spring training.

Had the lockout not ended last week, Casas would still be at minor-league camp in Fort Myers. He was instead one of 12 non-roster invitees added to the Red Sox’ spring training roster on Saturday and is likely to get into some Grapefruit League games as soon as this weekend.

With Casas being present at major-league camp for a second straight spring, Red Sox manager Alex Cora has the opportunity to get another extended look at the promising 22-year-old who may share some of the same habits as veteran slugger J.D. Martinez.

“Very structured in his routine. Very J.D.-like if you want to call it that,” Cora said of Casas this past Sunday. “So I think they’re going to be fighting for that cage time. But because he (Casas) is a rookie, he probably has to show up at five in the morning and get it. Because when J.D. gets here, it’s his cage.”

Regardless of how he performs this spring, Casas will likely return to Worcester for the start of the 2022 minor-league season. He could, however, be knocking on the door and eventually be making his big-league debut at some point this summer.

(Picture of Triston Casas: Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Red Sox infield prospect Christian Koss could provide Double-A Portland with much-needed versatility in 2022

Red Sox infield prospect Christian Koss celebrated his 24th birthday on Thursday. He was among 28 minor-leaguers who spent the week participating in the team’s Winter Warmup program in Fort Myers.

One of nine infielders on the Sox’ minicamp roster, Koss was acquired from the Rockies in exchange for pitching prospect Yoan Aybar in December 2020.

That move was primarily made so that the Sox could clear a spot on their 40-man roster, but it also provided the club with an intriguing, versatile infielder.

Upon acclimating himself to a new organization, Koss spent the entirety of the 2021 minor-league season with Low-A Greenville, where he batted .271/.325/.451 (106 wRC+) with 18 doubles, seven triples, 15 home runs, 55 RBIs, 65 runs scored, 10 stolen bases, 31 walks, and 100 strikeouts over 104 games spanning 468 plate appearances.

On the surface, it would appear that Koss had a solid, above-average year at the plate. However, it is worth mentioning that the right-handed hitter actually got off to a slow start before picking things up over the summer.

From July 1 on, in fact, Koss slashed a more impressive .297/.340/.529 (127 wRC+) while cutting his strikeout rate down from 25.7% to 18.6% over the final 64 games (285 plate appearances) he played in.

SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall had the chance to see Koss during this stretch, and observed that the then-23-year-old “may not have the highest ceiling, but he was solid enough at shortstop and should add positional versatility as he moves up the system. He does not have a standout tool, but has a bunch of average tools in his locker.” 

Defensively, Koss saw the majority of his playing time with the Drive come at shortstop. The 6-foot-1, 182 pounder logged 842 1/3 innings and committed 15 errors at that position while accruing 73 innings and committing no errors as a second baseman.

Following the conclusion of the regular minor-league season, Koss spent his fall in the Arizona Fall League after replacing catcher Connor Wong on the Scottsdale Scorpions’ roster.

Appearing in 14 games for Scottsdale, Koss posted a .525 OPS and swiped a pair of bags while playing every infield position besides first base.

Originally selected by the Rockies in the 12th round of the 2019 amateur draft out of University of California, Irvine, Koss’ most appealing tool is undoubtedly his speed. He was named the Red Sox’ minor-league Baserunner of the Year for 2021, after all.

A native of Riverside, Calif. who spent two summers (2017, 2018) playing for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod Baseball League, Koss ended the 2021 season ranked by SoxProspects.com as the No. 31 prospect in Boston’s farm system. He is projected by the publication to begin the 2022 campaign with Double-A Portland.

Given his ability to play multiple defensive positions, Koss could provide the Sea Dogs with a shifty, utility infielder who has the ability to play three different positions on any given night.

As is the case with many Red Sox minor-leaguers heading into the 2022 season, Koss can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career come December. Boston would need to add the 24-year-old to their 40-man roster by late November in order to prevent that from happening.

(Picture of Christian Koss: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox)

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)