Red Sox top prospects Nick Yorke, Brayan Bello named organization’s Offensive Player, Starting Pitcher of the Year

Two of the top prospects in the Red Sox farm system were recognized for the seasons they respectively put together this year.

Infielder Nick Yorke was named Boston’s Offensive Player of the Year, while right-hander Brayan Bello was named Boston’s Starting Pitcher of the Year, the club announced on Tuesday.

Yorke, 19, enjoyed a great deal of success in his first professional season with the Sox after being selected with the 17th overall pick in last summer’s amateur draft.

The right-handed hitting second baseman received an invite to major-league spring training earlier this year and broke minor-league camp with Low-A Salem.

After getting off to a slow start with Salem, Yorke turned a corner at the plate beginning in June, as he was slashing a scorching .323/.413/.500 (146 wRC+) with 14 doubles, four triples, 10 home runs, 47 RBI, 59 runs scored, 11 stolen bases, 41 walks, and 47 strikeouts over 76 games (346 plate appearances) before earning a promotion to High-A Greenville late last month.

Upon getting promoted to a more advanced level on the minor-league ladder, Yorke did not slow down, as evidenced by him collecting two hits in his Greenville debut on August 24.

From there, the California native went on to hit .333/.406/.571 (158 wRC+) with six doubles, one triple, four homers, 15 RBI, 17 runs scored, two stolen bases, 11 walks, and 22 strikeouts across 21 games (96 plate appearances) with the Drive, whose season ended on Sunday.

All in all, Yorke this season ranked first among all qualified Red Sox minor-league hitters in batting average (.325), fourth in on-base percentage (.412), third in slugging percentage (.516), first in OPS (.928), second in wRC+ (158), per FanGraphs.

Yorke, who does not turn 20 until next April, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 8 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking fifth among position players in the organization.

As for Bello, the 22-year-old right-hander also earned a midseason promotion over the summer after originally beginning the year — and dominating — with Greenville.

Across six starts with the Drive, Bello posted a dazzling 2.27 ERA and 2.82 FIP to go along with 45 strikeouts to seven walks over 31 2/3 innings of work before moving up to Double-A Portland in early June.

While the transition from High-A to Double-A did not go entirely smoothly for Bello, he was one of two prospects to represent the Red Sox in July’s All-Star Futures Game at Coors Field.

From the time he was promoted to Portland through the end of the minor-league season, the Dominican-born righty put up a 4.66 ERA, but much more respectable 3.12 FIP, while striking out 31.1% of the batters he faced and walking just 8.6% of them over 15 starts spanning 63 2/3 innings of work with the Sea Dogs.

Among the eight Red Sox minor-league pitchers who accrued at least 90 innings this season, Bello ranked first in strikeouts per nine innings (12.46), first in strikeout rate (32.8%), first in FIP (3.02), and first in xFIP (3.16), per FanGraphs.

Bello, who is listed at 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, is the No. 6 prospect in Boston’s farm system, according to Baseball America.

Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, Bello throws from a mid-three-quarters arm slot and operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a fastball, a changeup, and a slider.

Despite the fact he does not turn 23 until next May, Bello will more than likely be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster by the November 20 deadline since he can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time this winter.

In addition to Yorke being named the Red Sox’ Offensive Player of the Year and Bello being named the Starting Pitcher of the Year, infielder/outfielder Ceddanne Rafaela was named the Defensive Player of the Year, right-hander Durbin Feltman was named the Relief Pitcher of the Year, infielder Christian Koss was named the Baserunner of the Year, outfielder Allan Castro was named the Latin Program Position Player of the Year, and right-hander Jedixson Paez was named the Latin Program Pitcher of the Year.

On top of that, right-hander Kutter Crawford — who made his major-league debut earlier this month — was named the recipient of the Lou Gorman Award, which goes to a player “who has demonstrated dedication and perseverance in overcoming obstacles while working his way to the major-league team.”

(Picture of Nick Yorke: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Bobby Dalbec named American League Rookie of the Month after posting 1.205 OPS in August

The month of August continues to treat Red Sox first baseman extremely well.

After making his major-league debut last August, Dalbec was named the American League Rookie of the Month for what he did this August earlier Thursday evening.

In 24 games this month, the 26-year-old slugger slashed an impressive .339/.431/.774 to go along with four doubles, one triple, seven home runs, 21 RBI, and 12 runs scored across 72 trips to the plate.

Two of his seven homers and seven of his 21 RBI came in one game against the Twins on August 26 — a Thursday night at Fenway Park in which he racked up three hits to tie a season-high.

Among all American League position players who accrued at least 70 plate appearances in the month of August, Dalbec ranked ninth in batting average, second in on-base percentage, second in slugging percentage, first in OPS (1.205), first in isolated power (.435), first in weighted on-base average (.491), and first in wRC+ (214), per FanGraphs.

One thing that has aided the right-handed hitter as of late has been an increase in awareness at the plate, or — to put it simply — plate discipline.

As of July 31, Dalbec carried with him a strikeout rate of 37.5% and walk rate of just 4.4%, both of which were among the worst marks in all of baseball at that point in the season.

Once the calendar flipped to August, however, the former top prospect demonstrated a much more patient approach at the plate, as he cut his punchout rate down to 25% while bumping up his walk rate to 11.1%.

Dalbec’s improved performance at the plate over the last four weeks or so certainly comes at interesting time, as the Red Sox activated trade deadline acquisition Kyle Schwarber from the injured list with the intention of having him play some first base on August 13 and subsequently claimed corner infielder Travis Shaw off waivers on August 15.

In being named American League Rookie of the Month, Dalbec becomes the first Red Sox rookie to receive the honor since former teammate Michael Chavis did so in May 2019.

As he looks to build off a successful month of August in his first appearance of September, Dalbec will be batting fifth and getting the start at first base for the Red Sox in Thursday’s series finale against the Rays at Tropicana Field.

(Picture of Bobby Dalbec: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Kiké Hernández earns American League Player of the Week honors

Red Sox utility man Kiké Hernández has been named the American League Player of the Week for the week of July 19-25, Major League Baseball announced Monday.

Hernández becomes the second member of the Red Sox to earn AL Player of the Week honors this season, joining J.D. Martinez — who did so in early April.

On the National League side of things, Dodgers utility man Chris Taylor — a former teammate of Hernández — was the recipient of Player of the Week honors after he posted an OPS of 1.433 in seven games against the Giants and Rockies.

In six games against the Blue Jays and Yankees this past week, Hernández went 10-for-25 (.400/.448/1.000) at the plate with four doubles, one triple, three home runs, nine RBI, and eight runs scored over 29 plate appearances while playing second base, shortstop, and center field.

The 29-year-old began his week with his first multi-homer game of the year in Buffalo, then came through in the clutch on more than one occasion at Fenway Park while the Yankees were in town.

On Thursday, with his side down to their final out and trailing 3-1 in the late stages of the ninth inning, Hernández laced a game-tying, two-run double off the Green Monster that scored both Alex Verdugo and Jarren Duran to knot things up at three runs a piece and set the Red Sox off for a walk-off 5-4 win in the 10th.

On Sunday, Hernández took center stage in the eighth inning of Boston’s dramatic come-from-behind victory over New York, as he ripped an RBI double off Yankees reliever Zack Britton that brought in Christian Vazquez to cut the Sox’ deficit down to one run and later scored what would turn out to be the winning run on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Xander Bogaerts.

Including what he has done over his last six games, Hernández is now slashing .244/.322/.467 (111 wRC+) to go along with 14 home runs and 39 RBI over 84 total games (357 plate appearances) in his first season with the Red Sox.

Hernández, who signed a two-year, $14 million deal with Boston in February, has proven to be a valuable component of what the club is trying to accomplish in 2021 and beyond.

Coming into play on Monday, the right-handed hitter out of Puerto Rico ranks 20th among qualified American League position players in fWAR (2.4) while leading all AL center fielders in Defensive Runs Saved (12), per FanGraphs.

The fact that Hernández has been as solid as he has been at center field this season speaks to just how versatile he is, as he originally signed with the Sox to be the club’s everyday second baseman.

That being said, Hernández — who turns 30 in late August — will make just his second start and fifth overall appearance at shortstop in place of Xander Bogaerts in Monday’s series opener against the Blue Jays at Fenway Park.

First pitch between the 61-39 Red Sox and 49-46 Blue Jays is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Kiké Hernández: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Matt Barnes named American League Reliever of the Month for April

Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes has been named American League Reliever of the Month for the month of April, Major League Baseball announced Monday.

In 13 appearances out of the Red Sox bullpen last month, Barnes posted a 2.57 ERA and a minuscule .351 OPS against to go along with 25 strikeouts and just three walks over 14 innings of work. He also went 1-0 while converting all six of his save opportunities.

By recording 25 strikeouts in April, the 30-year-old hurler punched out exactly half of the 50 batters he faced, which ranked third among qualified American League relievers behind only the Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman and the Indians’ James Karinchak, per FanGraphs.

As for why Barnes has been enjoying so much success through the first four-plus weeks of the 2021 season, he has been working at a quicker tempo, been more aggressive, and has focused on attacking hitters early on in counts.

For someone who was previously known to fall behind in counts and nibble quite frequently in the past, Barnes started to change his approach on the mound upon learning about just how advantageous a first-pitch strike can be.

“If you throw 100 fastballs down the middle of the plate in an 0-0 count, 92% of the time, you get a positive result,” Barnes said last week. “To me, if you tell me 92% of the time I can be successful doing something, I’m going to take those odds all day every day.

“We looked at some of the analytical stuff on attacking the strike zone, working quick and forcing guys of make some decisions at the plate,” he added. “I’ve taken that wholeheartedly and really tried to use that to my advantage. It’s about working quick, it’s about attacking guys. It’s being confident in my stuff and being aggressive in the zone.”

Barnes, who turns 31 next month, takes home the first Reliever of the Month award of his eight-year big-league career and becomes the first Red Sox reliever to receive the honor since Brandon Workman did so in September 2019.

Per Baseball Savant, Barnes currently ranks in the 98th percentile in expected weighted on-base average (.199), the 98th percentile in expected ERA (1.48), the 97th percentile in expected batting average (.144), the 93rd percentile in expected slugging percentage (.260), the 99th percentile in strikeout percentage (48.1%), the 97th percentile in whiff percentage (40.2%), and the 96th percentile in chase rate (36.6%).

The former first-round pick out of UCONN is set to become a free-agent for the first time this winter, so he has certainly gotten his contract year off to a strong start.

(Picture of Matt Barnes: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Christian Vázquez, 15 pounds lighter than he was last year, aspiring to win first Gold Glove in 2021

Earlier this week, Red Sox manager Alex Cora poked fun at a typical spring training cliché you hear every year in that a certain player showed up to camp in the best shape of his life. The player Cora was talking about in this case was Christian Vazquez.

“Christian put work in in the offseason,” Cora said Monday. “I know [WEEI’s Rob Bradford] always makes fun of me when I say ‘He’s in the best shape of his life,’ because everybody is. Well, you’ll see him. You’ll see the pictures. He is in the best shape of his life.”

While Vazquez has been at camp for the past week-plus, he talked to reporters for the first time this spring on Friday and went into more detail about what exactly he accomplished over the winter.

“I went out and improved everything,” the veteran backstop said via a Zoom call. “I improved my hitting, my body. [I wanted to] get in the best shape, the best I can do with my body. I want to catch all the games I can and help the team.

Vazquez, 30, is coming off a 2020 season in which he slashed a solid .283/.344/.457 to go along with seven home runs and 23 RBI over 47 games played, 42 of which came behind the plate.

As he alluded to, the Puerto Rico native is coming into spring training in better shape thanks in part to dropping a significant amount of weight during the offseason, which he feels will aid him throughout the upcoming 2021 campaign.

“I’ve lost like 15 pounds,” Vazquez said while giving credit to one of the Red Sox’ nutritionists for helping with his diet. “I’m lighter, I feel better, moving better behind the plate. I feel 10 years younger, so it feels good. It feels good.”

Given the fact that he feels as good as he has in quite a while, Vazquez would like to start as many games at catcher for the Sox as possible in 2021. And while playing a full 162 may be out of the question, the right-handed hitter would still prefer to contribute as much as possible.

“Like I said before, I don’t help the team on the bench,” said Vazquez. “That’s the pride I take everyday. Go to the ballpark and be in the lineup. I want to be there. I like to be on the field. Like, I need to be dead to be on the bench, brother. I like to be in the lineup everyday. They pay me for that, so why not? Take charge everyday behind the plate, help my pitchers, block all the balls. It’s the pride inside me.”

Taking that pride into consideration, one milestone Vazquez would like to reach as a catcher from Puerto Rico is to win a Gold Glove Award, which seemed like a given at the time of his call-up in 2014 due to his reputation as a defense-first backstop back then.

“I know for a fact that he takes it personal because Martin [Maldonado] has a Gold Glove. Roberto [Pérez] has two,” Cora said of Vazquez’s aspirations earlier Friday. “Obviously Yadi [Molina], he’s the king of the Gold Gloves on the island. So, it’s a position that since 1986 when Benito [Santiago] got called up with the Padres, we’ve been so consistent behind the plate. We’ve had so many good ones. And he wants to be in the conversation.”

Over the last two seasons, Vazquez ranks second in Catcher Framing (17) and third in Defensive Runs Saved (6) among qualified big-league catchers, per FanGraphs. He has also thrown out 31 of the 88 base runners (35%) who have attempted to steal off of him in that time frame.

“He’s one of the most complete catchers in the big leagues,” Cora stated confidently in regards to Vazquez’s ability at and behind the plate. “Offensively, he puts the whole package. But sometimes those awards are hard to come… He put in a good season last year. I think framing-wise he was good. Blocking-wise, throwing people out. Hopefully, people can recognize him this year and he can get one. I know he wants one.”

In order to see that potentially come to fruition this year, the Red Sox first have to take care of Vazquez so he is not overworked and can instead be the best version of himself when he takes the field.

“We want the best version of Christian Vazquez,” said Cora. “I think we got a pretty good chance to see it this year.”

(Picture of Christian Vazquez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Alex Verdugo, Xander Bogaerts finish 12th and 17th in American League MVP voting

Red Sox teammates Alex Verdugo and Xander Bogaerts received one vote each in this year’s installment of American League Most Valuable Player Award voting, as announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Thursday night.

White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu took home AL MVP honors.

Verdugo, 24, finished in 12th place thanks to one fifth-place vote, while Bogaerts, 28, finished in 17th place thanks to one 10th-place vote. Both votes came courtesy of The Boston Globe’s Julian McWilliams, who was the only BBWAA member to include a Red Sox player on his ballot.

This marks the first time Verdugo has received an MVP vote in his four-year career. Bogaerts, meanwhile, was coming off a 2019 campaign in which he finished fifth in AL MVP voting, which followed up a 2018 campaign in which he finished 13th.

Offensively speaking, Bogaerts and Verdugo were the Red Sox’ best players throughout the course of the 2020 season. The former led the way by posting a wRC+ of 130 over 56 games, and the latter was right behind him with a 126 wRC+ over 53 contests.

Earlier this week, Sox manager Alex Cora tabbed Verdugo as Boston’s MVP this year, which is commendable when considering it was his first season with the club after coming over from the Dodgers in February.

Speaking of the Dodgers, former Red Sox star outfielder Mookie Betts, who was involved in the same trade as Verdugo last winter, finished second in National League MVP voting behind Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman.

Former Red Sox star Mookie Betts wins fifth consecutive Gold Glove Award

Former Red Sox star Mookie Betts took home his fifth consecutive Gold Glove Award and his first of the National League variety for right fielders on Tuesday night.

The 28-year-old had won the American League Gold Glove Award for right fielders in each of his last four seasons with the Sox from 2016 until 2019.

In his first go-around with the Dodgers, Betts logged 52 games and 438 2/3 innings in right field. While doing so, the Tennessee native led qualified National League right fielders in defensive runs saved (11), ultimate zone rate per 150 games (15.9), and Defense (3.7), according to FanGraphs. On top of that, he finished first among all right fielders in Outs Above Average (6), per Statcast.

By winning his fifth career and fifth consecutive Rawlings Gold Glove Award, Betts becomes the 30th outfielder in major-league history to win five Gold Gloves while also becoming the first outfielder to win as many as five straight since Ichiro Suzuki won 10 straight from 2001 until 2010.

Thanks mostly to Betts’ efforts, the eventual-World Series champion Dodgers had the top right field defense in the National League this past season going off multiple FanGraphs metrics. The Red Sox, meanwhile, saw their right field defense decline immensely in 2020, as the club finished 12th in the American League in DRS (-2), eighth in UZR/150 (1.8), and eighth in Defense (-1.4).

Betts, a former fifth-round draft pick, was traded to the Dodgers along with David Price back in February. Because he is under contract with Los Angeles through the end of the 2032 campaign, one might expect the four-time All-Star to add a few more Gold Gloves to his collection before all is said and done.

Red Sox’ Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts Take Home Third Career Silver Slugger Awards

For the third time in both of their respective careers, Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts were named Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award winners on Thursday night, with Betts being one of three American League outfielders selected, and Bogaerts being the lone American League shortstop to win the award.

Betts, 27, followed up an MVP Award-winning 2018 season with another solid campaign at the plate in 2019, slashing .295/.391/.524 to go along with 29 home runs and 80 RBI over 150 games, 102 of which came batting out of the leadoff spot.

Among qualified American League outfielders this year, Betts ranked first in runs scored (135), second in OBP, and sixth in wRC+ (135). The Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout and Houston Astros’ George Springer took home the other two Silver Slugger Awards for AL outfielders.

The Tennessee native has now won both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award in the same year three times, becoming the first Red Sox player to ever accomplish the feat. It sure would be nice to see him try and do it a fourth time.

Bogaerts, meanwhile, built on a strong 2018 season and broke out even more in ’19, as he posted a .309/.384/.555 slash line to go along with a career-best 33 homers and 117 runs driven in over 155 games.

In terms of qualified AL shortstops not named Alex Bregman, who played 61 games at short for the Houston Astros, the 27-year-old ranked first in hits, (190), first in doubles (52), first in RBI, first in on-base percentage, first in slugging percentage, and first in wRC+ (141).

Back in April, Bogaerts inked a six-year, $120 million contract extension with Boston. The extension does not come into effect until next year, but the Aruba native seemed to settle into his own in 2019 and establish himself as a veteran presence in the Red Sox’ clubhouse.

Even if Boston is looking to shred payroll this winter, trading Bogaerts should not be on the table.

J.D. Martinez, who won two Silver Slugger awards last year, was not named an award winner for designated hitters this year. That honor went to Minnesota Twins slugger Nelson Cruz.

Rafael Devers Is Your American League Player of the Week

Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers has been named American League Player of the Week for August 12th through the 18th.

The 22-year-old put together quite the week at the plate against the Cleveland Indians and Baltimore Orioles, slashing .593/.633/1.185 with 10 extra-base hits, three of which being home runs, and 11 RBI over his last six games.

That stretch included a run of eight straight hits that began with a six-hit, four-double performance in Cleveland on Tuesday, marking the first time since at least 1908 that a major leaguer had achieved that feat, and extended into Wednesday.

Against the Orioles on Sunday, Devers became the first big leaguer this season to surpass the century mark in RBI with a two-run homer, his 27th, in the seventh inning of a 13-7 victory.

On the 2019 campaign as a whole, Devers leads American League third baseman in games played (123), runs scored (103), runs driven in (101), slugging percentage (.575), and is tied with Houston’s Alex Bregman atop the fWAR leaderboards (5.5).

2019 has certainly been a breakout year for Devers to say the least. In what is only his second full season in the majors, the breakout star appears to be a lock to finish in the top three for American League Most Valuable Player voting in the fall.