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 prospect Blaze Jordan named best power hitter in Boston’s farm system by Baseball America

For the second year running, Blaze Jordan was named the best power-hitting prospect in the Red Sox farm system heading into the 2022 season by Baseball America on Wednesday.

Jordan, who turns 19 next month, was also identified by Baseball America as the No. 7 prospect in Boston’s farm system, rising 11 spots from where he was at this time one year ago.

The Red Sox originally selected Jordan in the third round of the 2020 amateur draft out of DeSoto Central High School (Southaven, Miss.), ultimately swaying him away from his commitment to Mississippi State University by signing him to an overslot deal of $1.75 million.

With the 2020 minor-league season having been cancelled on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jordan did not make his highly-anticipated professional debut until this past June in the rookie-level Florida Complex League.

In 19 complex league games, the right-handed hitting corner infielder slashed .362/.408/.667 (170 wRC+) with seven doubles, one triple, four home runs, 19 RBIs, 12 runs scored, one stolen bases, six walks, and 13 strikeouts over 76 plate appearances before earning a promotion to Low-A Salem in early August.

Among hitters who accrued at least 70 plate appearances in the Florida Complex League this season, Jordan ranked third in slugging percentage, fifth in isolated power (.304), and seventh in wRC+, per FanGraphs.

It took more than two weeks for Jordan to debut for Salem, but the 18-year-old picked up where he left off by batting .250/.289/.444 (95 wRC+) to go along with one double, two homers, seven RBIs, seven runs scored, two walks, and eight strikeouts across nine games (38 plate appearances) to close out the year.

Considering that he reclassified while in high school to graduate a year early, Jordan is still a relatively young prospect. The 6-foot-2, 220 pounder was signed by Red Sox area scout Danny Watkins out of high school and was among the youngest hitters to play at the Low-A level this season.

On Wednesday, The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, who also serves as a Red Sox correspondent for Baseball America, wrote that Jordan’s “plus-plus power is a show-stopper. He hits towering home runs to all fields and gets to his power even with a disconnect in his upper and lower halves that should get smoothed out over time.

“Though he lacks any real semblance of an approach, he sees the ball well, allowing him to remain more controlled in the batter’s box than might be expected,” added Speier. “Jordan projects to be no more than a fringe-average hitter, but his pitch recognition gives him the foundation to get to his power enough to be an everyday player.”

On the other side of the ball, Jordan saw the majority of his playing time at both the complex and Low-A come at third base, though he also appeared in five total games as a first baseman as well.

The Sox, per Speier, “believe he can continue developing at third, which he does have the plus arm strength for.”

As for where Jordan will begin the 2022 season, it is believed that Boston will take a deliberate approach with the young infielder and have him progress through the system at a steady pace beginning in Salem next spring.

(Picture of Blaze Jordan: Bryan Green/Flickr)

Marcelo Mayer takes over top spot in Baseball America’s latest Red Sox prospect rankings

Baseball America unveiled its top 10 prospects within the Red Sox farm system heading into the 2022 season on Wednesday morning. Most notably, there is a new No. 1 in the ranks.

Previously occupied by Triston Casas, infielder Marcelo Mayer has taken over as the top prospect in Boston’s farm system going into 2022.

The Red Sox selected Mayer with the fourth overall pick in this year’s amateur draft out of Eastlake High School (Chula Vista, Calif.).

A University of Southern California commit, Mayer — with some help from area scout J.J. Altobelli — signed with the Sox for $6.64 million in late July and was subsequently assigned to the club’s rookie-level Florida Complex League affiliate in Fort Myers.

With the FCL Red Sox, the left-handed hitting shortstop slashed .275/.377/.440 (121 wRC+) with four doubles, one triple, three home runs, 17 RBIs, 25 runs scored, seven stolen bases, 15 walks, and 27 strikeouts over 26 games spanning 107 plate appearances.

Going into this summer’s draft, Mayer was regarded as perhaps the best prep prospect available, and the Red Sox were able to capitalize on that after finishing with the fourth-worst record in baseball (24-36) in 2020 and thus receiving the No. 4 pick in the 2021 draft.

Mayer, who turns 19 next month, joins an exceptional list of Red Sox prospects to be regarded by Baseball America as the top minor-leaguer in Boston’s farm system, such as Xander Bogaerts, Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, and Bobby Dalbec.

While Mayer is likely going to start the 2022 minor-league season at Low-A Salem, him moving up to the top spot in Baseball America’s Red Sox prospect rankings means Casas has dropped to No. 2 spot.

Here is how the rest of Baseball America’s top-10 rankings for the Red Sox shake out.

3. Nick Yorke, 2B

4. Jarren Duran, OF

5. Brayan Bello, RHP

6. Jeter Downs, IF

7. Blaze Jordan, 1B

8. Bryan Mata, RHP

9. Josh Winckowski, RHP

10. Jay Groome, LHP

It should be noted that The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, who also serves as a contributor for Baseball America, was responsible for compiling this list. You can read more about his choices by clicking here and here.

(Picture of Marcelo Mayer: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox prospect Josh Winckowski closes out season with another impressive outing for Triple-A Worcester

Red Sox pitching prospect Josh Winckowski wrapped up his first season with his new organization on a promising note Friday night.

Making his second start for Triple-A Worcester since being promoted there late last month, Winckowski allowed just one earned on two hits, three walks, and seven strikeouts over six innings of work against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies affiliate) at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, Pa.

Coming off a strong showing in his last time out against the Rochester Red Wings, Winckowski retired each of the first six batters he faced in order before running into some trouble in the bottom half of the third.

There, the right-hander led the inning off by serving up a solo home run to Logan O’Hoope. He then issued a four-pitch walk to Nick Maton, who proceeded to advance all the way to third base on a Josh Ockimey throwing error after Arquimedes Gamboa reached safely on a fielder’s choice.

Despite being put in a tough spot at that moment, Winckowski did not waver, as he stranded Maton at third by getting Adam Haseley to fly out to left field before Luke Williams grounded into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play that was started by Jack Lopez and turned by Jonathan Arauz.

Having escaped that jam, Winckowski settled in a bit by retiring the side in order in the fourth, maneuvering his way around a two-out single in the fifth, and working around two walks in the sixth with an emphatic punchout of Darick Hall to end his night on a positive note.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 84 (47 strikes), Winckowski ultimately picked up his first winning decision at the Triple-A level by leading the WooSox to a 4-3 victory over the IronPigs on Saturday.

In his first and final two starts of the season with Worcester, the righty allowed a total of three earned runs on five hits, three walks, one hit batsman, and 13 strikeouts over 12 innings pitched. That’s good for a 2.25 ERA and 3.27 FIP.

Winckowski, 23, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 16 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking ninth among pitchers in the organization.

The Red Sox orginally acquired the former 15th-round draft pick of the Blue Jays from the Mets as part of the three-team trade that sent outfielder Andrew Benintendi to the Royals back in February.

He received an invite to major-league spring training before opening the 2021 minor-league season with Double-A Portland, where he posted a 4.14 ERA and 4.02 FIP to go along with 88 strikeouts to 30 walks over 21 outings (20 starts) spanning exactly 100 innings of work.

That led to him being named the Sea Dogs’ Pitcher of the Year, and it also netted him a promotion to Worcester on September 24.

Of the four prospects (Winckowski, right-handers Grant Gambrell and Luis De La Rosa, and outfielder Freddy Valdez) Boston added as part of that three-team swap with New York and Kansas City, Winckowcki is the furthest along in regards to his development.

Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, the 6-foot-4, 212 pound hurler out of Fort Myers operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 92-94 mph fastball that tops out at 97 mph, an 84-86 mph slider, an 88-91 mph changeup, and a reported split-finger fastball.

The timing of Winckowski’s promotion and success with the WooSox certainly comes at an interesting time when considering the fact that he can once again become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter.

While still with the Blue Jays last year, he was left unprotected upon becoming eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time, though that seems unlikely to happen this time around.

Having said all that, the Red Sox have until November 20 to add Winckowski — as well as any other eligible prospect they would like to protect — to their 40-man roster if they do not wish to expose him to the Rule 5 Draft come December.

(Picture of Josh Winckowski: Billie Weiss/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Xander Bogaerts shouts out Red Sox prospect Ceddanne Rafaela for being named organization’s Defensive Player of the Year

Earlier this week, the Red Sox recognized several of their minor-leaguers for the seasons they had this year by handing out eight different organizational awards.

Highlighted by Nick Yorke being named Boston’s Offensive Player of the Year and Brayan Bello being named Boston’s Starting Pitcher of the Year, infielder/outfielder Ceddanne Rafaela was also recognized as the organization’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Before their series finale against the Mets at Fenway Park on Wednesday night, the Red Sox honored each of these recipients during a pre-game ceremony. Rafaela was among those who was in attendance, and he was able to grab a picture with fellow Dutch national Xander Bogaerts before the festivities concluded.

Bogaerts, a native of Aruba, took to Instagram to congratulate Rafaela, a native of nearby Curacao, for his accomplishment, writing, ‘Congrats Minor League Defensive Player of the Year Kid! Curacao Kid 🇨🇼 Ban Pa Bai 🔥💯.’  

(From Xander Bogaerts’ Instagram story on Thursday)

Rafaela, who turned 21 last week, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 25 prospect in Boston’s farm system. He was originally signed out of Curacao for just $10,000 as a 16-year-old international free agent back in 2017.

With Low-A Salem this season, Rafaela played in a total of 102 games while making 52 appearances (51 starts) in center field, 20 appearances (17 starts) at third base, 16 appearances (15 starts) at shortstop, nine appearances (nine starts) in left field, eight appearances (six starts) at second base, and one appearance (one start) in right field.

Over 516 defensive innings between all three outfield positions this year, Rafaela racked up nine outfield assists and started five double plays — all while committing just one error.

On the offensive side of things, Rafaela had himself a decent season at the plate for Salem. The right-handed hitter slashed .251/.305/.424 (95 wRC+) with 20 doubles, a team-leading nine triples, 10 home runs, 53 RBI, a team-leading 73 runs scored and 23 stolen bases (in 26 attempts), 25 walks, and 79 strikeouts over 432 plate appearances.

Per his Baseball America scouting report, the versatile, 5-foot-8, 145 pounder is “hard to miss” since “his high-energy style of play is evident in every aspect of the game and he turns heads with his unexpected bat speed and ability to put a charge in pitches in the zone, particularly against left-handers.”

As someone who hits from the right side of the plate, it’s not too surprising to see that Rafaela had far more success against left-handed pitching (.930 OPS in 79 PAs) as opposed to right-handed pitching (.681 OPS in 353 PAs) this season.

That being said, Baseball America does note that Rafaela — who represented Curacao in the 2012 Little League World Series — has a tendency to be a free-swinger, which can work against him at times, particularly on pitches outside of the strike zone that induce weak contact off his bat.

Even while taking those points into consideration, it goes without saying that Rafaela still has plenty of room — and time — to grow and develop, both as a hitter and fielder.

The Curacaoan-born infielder/outfielder can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his professional career this winter if he is not added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster by the November 20 deadline, though it seems likely he will remain with the organization heading into the 2022 season.

On that note, it should be interesting to see if Rafaela participates in the Sox’ fall instructional league that begins in Fort Myers next month, as he has each of the last three years, or if he has other plans for the offseason.

(Picture of Ceddanne Rafaela and Xander Bogaerts via Instagram)

Red Sox’ Alex Cora on Nick Yorke being named organization’s Offensive Player of the Year: ‘What he did is what he expects’

Alex Cora has long been impressed with what he has seen from Nick Yorke since Yorke, then 18, was the youngest player at major-league spring training earlier this year.

So, when Yorke, now 19, was named the organization’s minor-league Offensive Player of the Year on Tuesday after completing just his first full professional season, that did not come as much of a surprise to the Red Sox manager.

“The way he hacks, the way he goes about his business, it’s very impressive,” Cora said before Wednesday’s game against the Mets at Fenway Park. “As you guys know, I have a daughter (Camila) who is around the same age, and just to think about the way he carried himself in the clubhouse, with adults — it was eye-opening. “

After being reassigned to minor-league camp in March, Yorke later opened the 2021 campaign with Low-A Salem. The 2020 first-round draft pick out of Archbishop Mitty High School (Calif.) got off to a slow start at the plate before turning a corner beginning in June.

From June 1 on, Yorke slashed a sizzling .373/.467/.608 (185 wRC+) with 12 doubles, four triples, 10 home runs, 38 RBI, 50 runs scored, eight stolen bases, 33 walks, and 26 strikeouts over his final 55 games (255 plate appearances) with Salem before earning a promotion to High-A Greenville in late August.

Yorke’s production did not drop off following his promotion, though, as the right-handed hitting second baseman continued to light it up at the plate by batting  .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 in 21 games (96 plate appearances) with the Drive before their season ended on Sunday.

“What he did is what he expects,” Cora said of Yorke. “I told [MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith] that in spring training, he’d get mad when he made an out. So his expectations are great. He’s in-tune with the game. He understands the offensive part of it. You got to run the bases, you got to play defense — he knows that. He was a sponge the whole time.”

Yorke, who does not turn 20 until next April, was among the youngest position players to appear in a game at the High-A level this season. He is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 8 prospect in the Red Sox farm system and the No. 63 prospect in all of baseball.

The 6-foot, 200 pounder out of California will presumably take part in Boston’s fall instructional league that begins next month and will likely receive another invite to big-league spring training come February 2022.

“We’re very pleased with the way he went about it this year,” said Cora in regards to Yorke’s 2021 season. “And we’re looking forward for him to keep getting better and get him here as soon as possible to contribute.”

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

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 promote top pitching prospect Jay Groome to Double-A Portland

The Red Sox have promoted top pitching prospect Jay Groome to Double-A Portland, per MiLB.com’s transaction wire.

Groome, 23, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 9 prospect in the Sox’ farm system, ranking fourth among pitchers in the organization.

Boston originally selected the left-hander with the 12th overall pick in the 2016 amateur draft out of Barnegat High School (N.J.) and later signed him for $3.65 million that July.

After an injury-riddled 2017 season, Groome underwent Tommy John surgery the following spring, resulting in him missing the entirety of 2018 and the majority of the 2019 campaign.

While the COVID-19 pandemic prevented Groome from pitching in any meaningful games last year, the New Jersey native still got work in at the Red Sox’ alternate training site and fall instructional league before being added to the club’s 40-man roster in November in order to receive protection from the Rule 5 Draft.

Invited to his first major-league camp earlier this spring, Groome opened the 2021 season at High-A Greenville and posted a 5.16 ERA and 4.13 FIP to go along with 75 strikeouts to 24 walks over 12 starts spanning 52 1/3 innings pitched through July 7.

At that time, Groome stepped away from the affiliate for the birth of his daughter and did not return until July 30. In six starts with the Drive since then, the lefty put up a 5.52 ERA and 4.76 FIP — as well as a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 33:8 — over 29 1/3 total innings of work.

Among High-A East pitchers with at least 80 innings under their belt this season, Groome ranks first in strikeouts per nine innings (11.9), first in strikeout rate (30.8%), and third in xFIP (3.97), per FanGraphs.

Despite some of those numbers being underwhelming, Groome has still earned himself a promotion to Portland and will make his highly-anticipated Sea Dogs debut as they face off against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Blue Jays affiliate) in Manchester on Saturday night.

Per his Baseball America scouring report, the 6-foot-6, 251 pound hurler operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a 92-95 mph fastball that “has missed a ton of bats” this year, a curveball that “has been more of an average pitch” post-Tommy John, a recently-added slider, and a changeup.

As he prepares to make his first start at the Double-A level on Saturday night, Groome will don the No. 46 with the Sea Dogs.

UPDATE: Groome’s first start with Portland went well, as he scattered just two hits and zero walks to go along with a career-high 10 strikeouts over five innings of work. 53 of the 83 pitches he threw went for strikes.

(Picture of Jay Groome: Billie Weiss/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Red Sox scratch pitching prospects Kutter Crawford, Connor Seabold from starts with Triple-A Worcester amid club’s COVID-19 issues: ‘We got to be prepared,’ Alex Cora says

Two of the top pitching prospects in the Red Sox farm system have each been scratched from their respective starts for Triple-A Worcester within the last two days.

Kutter Crawford had been slated to make his sixth start of the season for Worcester in their contest against the Rochester Red Wings on Thursday night, while Connor Seabold was in line to do make his eighth start on Friday.

Instead, the pair of right-handers have been pulled aside as somewhat of a contingency plan in the event that a shorthanded Red Sox team finds themselves in need of more pitching depth if additional COVID-19-related issues arise.

Since last Friday, Boston has placed four pitchers on the COVID-19 related injured list, as Matt Barnes, Martin Perez, and Hirokazu Sawamura have all recently tested positive for the virus while Josh Taylor was identified as a close contact.

Because of all those hurlers being sidelined at the moment, the Sox have had to call up the likes of Raynel Espinal, Stephen Gonsalves, John Schreiber, and Brad Peacock — who was recently acquired from the Indians for cash considerations — within the last week in order to stabilize its starting rotation and bullpen depth.

That being said, the reinforcements from the minor-league side may not stop there, as both Crawford and Seabold have essentially been put on standby for the time being.

“We got to be prepared,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Friday when asked about the reasoning behind the two prospects being scratched from their starts. “We got to be prepared. Yes.”

Crawford, 25, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 22 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking 11th among pitchers in the organization.

The former 16th-round draft selection out of Florida Gulf Coast University initially began the 2021 season at Double-A Portland, but earned a promotion to Worcester in late July.

Since that time, Crawford has posted a 5.52 ERA and 3.80 xFIP to go along with 39 strikeouts to eight walks over six appearances (five starts) and 29 1/3 innings of work for the WooSox.

Seabold, on the other hand, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 12 prospect in Boston’s farm system, placing 10 spots above Crawford.

Unlike Crawford, the 25-year-old righty is on the Red Sox’ 40-man roster after being added to it last November in order to receive protection from the Rule 5 Draft.

One of two right-handers (the other being Nick Pivetta) the Sox acquired from the Phillies in exchange for relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree last August, Seabold missed the first several weeks of the 2021 campaign due to elbow inflammation.

After rehabbing in the Florida Complex League debut for a spell, the former third-round draft pick out of Cal State Fullerton made his highly-anticipated WooSox debut on July 23.

In seven starts with Worcester, Seabold has pitched to the tune of a 4.29 ERA and 4.62 xFIP while striking out 26.5% of the batters he has faced and walking just 6.6% of them over 35 2/3 innings pitched.

Between the two of them, Seabold has more experience as a reliever, though five of his six career relief appearances in the minors came in 2017.

Earlier this week, Cora told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith) that the club has not discussed promoting Seabold to use him as a multi-inning reliever, though they have been impressed with what he’s done with Worcester.

“We have talked about him,” Cora said on Wednesday. “We know he’s very talented. He’s throwing the ball well. I do believe that September is going to be very interesting as far as like maneuvering our roster and trying to maximize our roster. It’s only two more spots. It’s not a few years ago when you could go up to 40.

As noted by Smith, major-league rosters now expand from 26 to 28 players at the beginning of September — not all the way up to 40 as they did previously.

“He’s throwing the ball well,” added Cora. “We know that probably he can contribute. How? We’ll talk about it and when/if we need him. But as of now, he’s still down there (in Worcester). He’s still getting better. And we’re very happy that he’s performing the way he’s performing.”

(Picture of Kutter Crawford: Katie Morrison/MassLive)

Red Sox pitching prospects Jeremy Wu-Yelland, Shane Drohan strike out 9 batters in respective starts for High-A Greenville, Low-A Salem

The two pitching prospects the Red Sox selected in last year’s amateur draft certainly showed out for their respective affiliates on Thursday night.

Jeremy Wu-Yelland, taken by the Sox in the fourth round out of the University of Hawaii, and Shane Drohan, taken in the fifth round out of Florida State University, each struck out a season-high of nine batters in their starts — which took place at the same time, but approximately 260 miles away from one another.

Wu-Yelland, who was just promoted to High-A Greenville earlier in the day, made his debut for the Drive a memorable one by tossing five scoreless, no-hit innings against the Asheville Tourists (Astros affiliate) at Fluor Field.

In addition to not allowing a run or hit, the left-hander worked his way around four walks and a hit batsman while striking out those nine batters.

Two of those four walks — and the HBP — issued by Wu-Yelland came in consecutive order to begin things in the top half of the third inning, thus loading the bases with no outs for Asheville.

The 22-year-old southpaw did not buckle under the pressure, however, and instead locked in by punching out Freudis Nova on three pitches before getting Shay Whitcomb to ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.

From there, Wu-Yelland struck out the side for the second time in the fourth and followed that up by retiring the final three hitters he faced in the fifth to end his outing on an encouraging note.

Of the 72 pitches Wu-Yelland threw on Thursday, 43 went for strikes. Six of his strikeouts were swinging, two were looking, and one was on a foul tip.

The Greenville bullpen took over for Wu-Yelland in the sixth and ensured that the lefty’s efforts would not go to waste as relievers Jose Espada, Oddanier Mosqueda, and Jacob Wallace saw the combined no-hit bid through to its completion.

In helping the Drive throw their fourth no-hitter in team history, Wu-Yelland was able to earn his first victory at the High-A level in his very first start there.

Prior to getting promoted on Thursday, the Seattle-area native had spent the entirety of the 2021 minor-league season with Low-A Salem, where he had posted a 4.03 ERA and 4.28 FIP to go along with 77 strikeouts to 36 walks over 20 starts spanning 67 innings pitched.

Listed at an imposing 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, Wu-Yelland — who was signed as a junior out of Hawaii by J.J. Altobelli — is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 27 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking 12th among pitchers in the organization.

Per his Baseball America scouting report, Wu-Yelland “is one of the most explosive, powerful pitchers in Boston’s system” as he operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a high-octane fastball, a slider, and a changeup.

30 picks after taking Wu-Yelland in the fourth round of last summer’s draft, the Red Sox selected a fellow left-hander in the fifth round in the form of Drohan, who was also sharp for Low-A Salem on Thursday in the first game of their seven-inning doubleheader against the Fredericksburg Nationals at Haley Toyota Field.

Over five quality innings of work, Drohan surrendered just one earned run while scattering just four hits and no walks with a season-high nine strikeouts on the night.

Drohan, also 22, faced all of 14 batters — just two over the minimum — through his first four frames, but ran into some trouble in the top half of the fifth when he yielded back-to-back one out doubles to Jaden Fein and Jose Sanchez, resulting in Fredericksburg plating their first run.

A wild pitch allowed Sanchez to move up to third, though Drohan managed to strand him there by sitting down the final two hitters he faced to retire the side in the fifth.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 89 (53 strikes), the Florida State product was able to pick up his sixth winning decision of the season while also lowering his ERA on the year down to 3.89.

Through 20 starts with Salem now, Drohan has pitched to the tune of a 3.89 ERA, a .241 batting average against, and a 1.40 WHIP to go along with 75 strikeouts to 40 walks in 78 2/3 total innings of work.

A former 23-round draft pick of the Phillies out of high school who opted to honor his commitment to Florida State in 2017, Drohan is not regarded by Baseball America as one of the top 30 prospects in Boston’s farm system.

The 6-foot-3, 195 pound Florida native is, however, regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 32 prospect in the Red Sox organization, as his pitch arsenal is currently comprised of a 90-92 mph fastball that tops out at 95 mph, a 77-79 mph curveball, and 80-83 mph changeup.

Both Wu-Yelland and Drohan can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft after the 2023 season, so there is no rush for the Red Sox to add either hurler to their 40-man roster at the moment.

(Picture of Jeremy Wu-Yelland: Gary Streiffer/Flickr)