It’s Official: Red Sox Will Pick Fourth Overall in 2021 MLB Draft

After finishing with the fourth-worst record in Major League Baseball in 2020 (24-36), the Red Sox will be making their first selection in the 2021 amateur draft with the fourth overall pick, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

The Sox picking fourth next July has been assumed since the conclusion of the regular season last month, but thanks to MLB’s decision to determine the draft order based off clubs’ 2020 records rather than clubs’ 2020 and 2019 records, it is now official.

Picking behind the Pirates, Rangers, and Tigers and ahead of the Orioles this coming July, Boston will pick in the top-five of a first-year player draft for the first time since 1967, when right-hander Mike Garman was picked third overall.

In terms of who the Red Sox could take with the No. 4 pick next summer, it’s still very early, but Florida’s Jud Fabian, LSU’s Jaden Hill, Vanderbilt’s Jack Leiter, and UCLA’s Matt McLain are some preliminary prospects to monitor going into the 2021 college baseball season.

Red Sox Announce Bench Coach Jerry Narron, Bullpen Coach Craig Bjornson Will Not Return in 2021

The Red Sox will not be bringing back bench coach Jerry Narron or bullpen coach Craig Bjornson for the 2021 season, the club announced Monday morning.

Narron, 64, was named the Sox’ bench coach under Ron Roenicke back in February, which was the same role he served under Grady Little during the 2003 season.

Bjornson, meanwhile, had served as Boston’s bullpen coach for the past three seasons. The 51-year-old initially came over from the Astros shortly after Alex Cora was hired in November 2017.

In the same announcement, Boston also invited eight members of this year’s coaching staff back for the 2021 campaign.

Those coaches include hitting coach Tim Hyers, assistant hitting coach Peter Fatse, pitching coach Dave Bush, assistant pitching coach Kevin Walker, first base coach Tom Goodwin, third base coach Carlos Febles, coach Ramon Vazquez, and special assistant/catching coach Jason Varitek.

Outside of Fatse, all other Red Sox coaches who could return next season have been with the organization in some capacity for more than one year.

With that in mind, on top of the fact that there have been next to no rumors pertaining to the club’s ongoing managerial search, it would appear that old friend Alex Cora is a favorite to return to his old post and retain his title as the Sox’ 47th manager in franchise history.

The soon-to-be 45-year-old led the Red Sox to a World Series title in 2018 and was subsequently handed down a one-year ban from Major League Baseball this past April for the role he played in the Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing scandal.

That suspension for Cora runs through the end of this year’s World Series, so he will not be able to formally talk with any clubs about their managerial openings until the end of October.

Whether it be Cora or someone else, whoever Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom brings in as his club’s next manager will have more coaching staff decisions to make. The current openings at bullpen coach and bench coach are one thing, but more vacancies could be created if one of the names listed above leaves Boston for another organization this winter.

Christian Arroyo’s Performance With Red Sox This Year Left Chaim Bloom ‘Hungry for More’ in 2021

Going into the 2020 season, Christian Arroyo likely wasn’t on the Red Sox’ radar.

The 25-year-old infielder opened the year with the Indians and managed to appear in just one game as a defensive replacement before getting designated for assignment on August 6.

A week later, Arroyo was claimed off waivers by Boston. All the while, the club’s brass was watching another former top prospect struggle at the major-league level in the form of Jose Peraza.

Peraza, who inked a one-year deal with the Sox last December after getting non-tendered by the Reds coming off a disappointing 2019 campaign, was viewed as a potential solution to Boston’s lingering second base problem.

The 26-year-old Venezuelan got off to a hot start with his new club by racking up seven hits in his first five games of the year, but eventually cooled off to the point where he was eventually optioned to the alternate training site for the remainder of the season on September 9.

Peraza’s demotion came a day after the Red Sox selected Arroyo’s contract from Pawtucket, thus promoting him to the major-league roster for the first time on September 8.

With more at-bats to be had now that his fellow second baseman had been sent down, Arroyo showed glimpses of his potential and reminded everyone why the Giants took him with the 25th overall pick in the 2013 amateur draft.

In 14 games with the Red Sox, the Tampa native slashed .240/.296/.440 with three home runs and eight RBI over 54 plate appearances, which came with him primarily playing second and batting out of the nine-hole.

Those numbers certainly are not off the charts, and Arroyo would probably be one of the first people to tell you that. But again, the ex-Rays infielder had his moments, and those moments left Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom very impressed with someone he was already familiar with.

“I knew he was a fundamentally sound player,” Bloom said of Arroyo’s potential when speaking with The Boston Globe’s Julian McWilliams earlier this week. “I knew he had versatility and ability. At the plate, I saw him drive pitches that I’ve never seen him drive before. That was impressive to see. He had a very confident approach at the plate.”

With all the uncertainties surrounding what the Red Sox will do at second base this offseason, Arroyo could emerge as a favorite to land the starting gig next spring. That possibility comes given the notion that Peraza will presumably get non-tendered, Dustin Pedroia will lose his 40-man roster spot, and top prospect Jeter Downs will begin the year in Triple-A.

All that being said, Bloom anticipates Arroyo will get more of a chance to show what he’s capable of once position players report to Fenway South this coming February.

“We were able to give him an opportunity down the stretch but if you look at it in the grand scheme it was not a long [opportunity],” Bloom added. “But it’s still a small sample. Certainly, what he did made you hungry for more.”

Arroyo, who turns 26 in May, is under team control with the Red Sox through the end of the 2024 season.

Red Sox Owner John Henry in Talks With Acquisition Firm To Take Fenway Sports Group Public

Want to own a share of the Red Sox? Well, according to The Wall Street Journal’s Cara Lombardo and Miriam Gottfried, that could become a realistic possibility relatively soon.

Per Lombardo and Gottfried, Red Sox principal owner John Henry is in preliminary talks with blank-check firm RedBall Acquisition Corp. to take Fenway Sports Group public.

The plan would be for RedBall to raise $1 billion in funds that would coincide with the $575-plus million the firm raised over the summer. With those funds, RedBall in turn would be able to purchase a stake in FSG which would be worth no more than 25% of the company.

Because talks between the two sides are still ongoing, it is worth mentioning that this deal could fall apart. If talks do not fall through, though, the Red Sox could become one of the few publicly traded American sports franchises. The NFL’s Green Bay Packers are a prime example of one.

Henry, who turned 71 last month, originally purchased the Red Sox for $660 million in February 2002. Since that time, Henry has seen his club end an 86-year championship drought and win four World Series titles.

According to Forbes, the Red Sox are currently worth $3.3 billion, while Fenway Sports Group, which includes the Sox, Liverpool Football Club, Fenway Park, and New England Sports Network, is worth a total of $6.6 billion.

FSG going public with RedBall would reportedly raise its value to approximately $8 billion including debt. For more details on this, I would recommend checking out the above tweet.

Could Red Sox Welcome Soon-To-Be Free Agent Stephen Gonsalves Back in 2021?

Excluding position players, 27 different pitchers took the mound for the Red Sox in 2020. Left-hander Stephen Gonsalves was not one of them.

The 26-year-old was claimed off waivers by Boston from the Mets early in the season and was subsequently optioned to the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket, where he remained on the Sox’ 40-man roster up until August 19.

At that point, Gonsalves was designated for assignment in order to make room on the 40-man roster for veteran right-hander Andrew Triggs.

A week went by and Gonsalves went unclaimed, which resulted in his being outrighted to Pawtucket.

As he spent the final few weeks of his 2020 campaign working out at McCoy Stadium, the San Diego native was actually very impressive, which is important when you consider the fact that he will become a minor-league free agent this winter. Worcester Red Sox pitching coach Paul Abbott made that much clear when speaking with reporters via Zoom last week.

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

A former fourth-round pick of the Twins out of high school in 2013, Gonsalves only has seven major-league outings under his belt. In those seven appearances, four of which were starts, towards the end of the 2018 season, the one-time University of San Diego commit posted a 6.57 ERA and .822 OPS against over 24 2/3 innings pitched.

At the start of the 2019 campaign, Gonsalves suffered an elbow strain in April and a stress reaction to that same elbow in May, which resulted in the former top prospect accruing just 13 innings of work across three minor-league levels last year prior to ultimately getting designated by Minnesota in November.

Since joining the Red Sox organization over the summer, Gonsalves obviously has not had the chance to showcase himself in any real, meaningful games. But, as Abbott mentioned, an uptick in the 6-foot-5 southpaw’s fastball velocity could mesh well with his other three pitches — changeup, slider, curveball — moving forward.

With that being said, in addition to how highly Abbott spoke of him, Gonsalves may be someone the Red Sox look to bring back early on in free agency this offseason.

Assuming he is brought back by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. on a minor-league deal, Gonsalves could prove to be an interesting hurler to monitor during spring training next year given the fact he has experience as both a starter and reliever.

Red Sox Set To Kick off Fall Instructional League This Week With Bevy of Top Prospects in Attendance

The Red Sox are set to kick off their fall instructional league in Fort Myers on Monday. And according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, several of the club’s top prospects will take part in these offseason activities.

Among the 62 minor-leaguers who will report to Fenway South starting this week, several had just spent at least part of their summers at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket. Those names, per Speier, include pitchers Bryan Mata and Jay Groome, infielders Triston Casas, Nick Yorke, and Hudson Potts, and outfielder Jeisson Rosario.

As for the prospects who did not receive an invite to the alternate site this season, there are right-handers Brayan Bello and Thad Ward, left-hander Chris Murphy, infielders Brainer Bonaci and Matthew Lugo, and speedy outfielder Gilberto Jimenez.

On top of that group of players, infielder Blaze Jordan and pitchers Shane Drohan and Jeremy Wu-Yelland — the rest of Boston’s 2020 draft class — are also expected to attend this offseason program that will run until November 12.

Although it is not yet clear if teams will be allowed to play games against one another due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, these instructional leagues do allow the Red Sox, as well as the other 29 clubs, to get back in contact with the core of their minor-league talent.

Speaking of minor-league talent, as of September 1, the Sox had the No. 25 farm system in baseball according to MLB Pipeline.

As underwhelming as that ranking may be, there appears to be optimism from within the organization that things in that developmental area are steadily improving. PawSox manager Billy McMillon opined as much when speaking with reporters this past Friday via Zoom.

“I think it’s very promising right now,” McMillon said regarding the state of the Red Sox farm system. “Some of the returns that we got back in some of the various trades and offseason acquisitions, I think that’s going to raise the level of our minor-leagues. We saw some guys develop, get a little bit better. There’s encouraging news from guys that impressed on the mound to seeing how some of the position players developed. I think the cupboard is getting full again, and I think there’s reason for optimism with some of the guys that we saw in the alternate camp.”

Expect the full list of Red Sox minor-leaguers who will be attending fall instructs to be released relatively soon.

UPDATE: Here’s the full list of the 62 Red Sox minor-leaguers who will be at full instructs, courtesy of SoxProspects.

Medfield Native Matt Klentak Steps Down as Phillies General Manager

Matt Klentak has stepped down as general manager of the Phillies, the club announced earlier Saturday.

Klentak, a native of Medfield, Mass., had been on the job in Philadelphia since October 2015.

In his tenure as the youngest general manager in franchise history, Klentak saw the Phillies post a .460 winning percentage (326-382) while failing to reach the postseason in any of his five seasons at the helm in spite of facing increasingly lofty expectations.

A graduate of Xaverian Brothers High School in Braintree, Klentak attended and played baseball at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire before earning a bachelor’s degree in economics.

Despite losing the GM title with the Phils, Klentak will remain in the organization and serve a different role within the club’s front office.

“While I am disappointed that we failed to reach our ultimate goal, I am nevertheless very proud of the progress that this organization made over the last five years and of the people who worked so hard to make it happen,” the 40-year-old Klentak said in a statement. “I am grateful for all of the support that I received along the way from Phillies ownership, friends and colleagues, and our loyal Phillies fans.”

As it now turns out, one of the final major moves Klentak made as Phillies general manager was dealing right-handers Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold to the Red Sox in exchange for righty relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree back in late August.

That four-player swap proved to be very costly for Philadelphia’s postseason chances, as Workman posted a 6.92 ERA and 1.146 OPS against over 14 appearances and 13 innings pitched out of the Phillies bullpen. Hembree, meanwhile, yielded 13 earned runs in just 9 1/3 innings pitched (12.54 ERA) before hitting the injured list with a right elbow strain.

Workman, 32, is now a free agent, while Hembree, who turns 32 in January, has one year of arbitration eligibility remaining before reaching free agency at the end of the 2021 season.

Red Sox Prospect Hudson Potts Made Positive First Impression in Pawtucket This Year, Has Chance To Be ‘Interesting’ Player in 2021

Infielder Hudson Potts was a late addition to the Red Sox’ player pool this season on account of the fact he was acquired from the Padres on August 30.

The 21-year-old arrived at the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket in early September and, unlike the majority of players and prospects who were already there, did not have a ton of time to get acclimated to a completely new environment.

Still, Potts impressed and showed glimpses of promises in his first go-around as a Red Sox prospect. PawSox manager Billy McMillon, who was one of the main authority figures at the alternate site these past two-plus months, made that much clear when speaking with reporters via Zoom on Friday.

“I was really, really impressed with his approach at the plate,” McMillon said of Potts. “He would hit a ball to the pull side 400 feet and then hit a line drive to right-center field. Big, strong kid. He showed a little bit of defensive versatility, too. We played him some at second base. The lion’s share of his work was at third base.”

Originally drafted by San Diego as a shortstop out of high school in the first round of the 2016 amateur draft, Potts is listed at 6-foot-3 and 218 lbs. Those measurements seemed to remind McMillon of a former Red Sox prospect who could play third base.

“If you look at him physically, body type, he kind of reminds you of a Will Middlebrooks,” the Pawtucket skipper added. “That’s the first person I thought about when I saw him. Good kid. Very, very hard worker. I like him. He’s going to be an interesting person when we try to slot him in next year with a full year of Double-A under his belt. We got something from San Diego with him.”

Potts, who along with outfielder Jeisson Rosario was dealt to Boston in the trade that saw Mitch Moreland go to the Padres, is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 20 prospect in the Sox’ farm system.

As McMillon mentioned, Potts played a full season’s worth of Double-A baseball last year. In 107 games for the Amarillo Sod Poodles, the Southlake, Texas native posted a .227/.290/.406 slash line to go along with 16 home runs and 59 RBI over 448 plate appearances.

Going back to 2017, Potts has clubbed at least 15 homers in each of his last three minor-league seasons, so he has rightfully earned the reputation of being a power-hitting prospect. On top of that, FanGraphs regards the young infielder’s power tool as one of the best in the organization.

Despite those accolades, Potts is striving to improve his approach at the plate to show that he is capable of being an all-around hitter opposed to just a power hitter.

“I know that’s probably one of the things that has been one of my better things throughout my career,” he said in regards to his slugging abilities back in September. “But, once I learn and make adjustments to my approach that I need to make, I feel like I can be a lot more than just a power guy. I feel like I can be a complete hitter and I just need to work on that and get to that spot I know I’m capable of doing. That’s what I’m striving to be, an all-around hitter, not just a power hitter.”

Because he signed with the Padres as a 17-year-old back in 2016, Potts is now eligible for this year’s Rule 5 Draft in December. In order to not expose him to that, the Red Sox will have to add Potts to their 40-man roster by late November.

Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom Appears Confident Andrew Benintendi Can Bounce Back in 2021

On the night of August 11, it appeared as though Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi was on the verge of potentially turning his 2020 season around.

Entering the day with just two hits through his first 36 plate appearances of the year, the 26-year-old managed to double his hit total within the first three innings against the Rays that Tuesday with a pair of leadoff singles.

Fast forward to the eighth, and Benintendi again reached base after getting plunked by an Aaron Loup sinker.

An Alex Verdugo single to shallow left field moments later allowed Benintendi to advance to second base, but as the University of Arkansas product rounded the bag to take off for third, he subsequently slipped while on the run and wound up getting caught in a rundown.

As he made one last effort to reach third base, Benintendi slid head first before getting tagged out, but appeared to get up rather slowly after said out was recorded.

On August 12, the Cincinnati native was placed on the injured list after getting diagnosed with a right rib cage strain, which would wind up costing him the rest of the season.

“It’s frustrating,” Benintendi said at the time he was placed on the IL. “I got a few hits. I was feeling good. Felt like I was about to get hot, so, I mean, I’m frustrated.”

With his 2020 season prematurely coming to a close, Benintendi has now seen his on-field performance continue to decline going back to the start of the 2019 campaign.

In his first full two seasons with Boston, the 2015 first-round draft pick got on base 36% of the time while posting an OPS+ of 113 over a 299-game span that saw him nearly win American League Rookie of the Year and become a first-time All-Star.

Since then, though, as previously mentioned, Benintendi has been rather underwhelming, as he slashed .266/.343/.431 with 13 home runs and 68 RBI in 138 games played last year before running into the buzz saw that was 2020.

Still, even as he trends ever so slightly in the wrong direction two years out from free agency, Benintendi is still viewed as a plus-player in the eyes of the Red Sox front office. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom made that much clear when speaking with reporters via Zoom on Tuesday.

“I think talent-wise, I wouldn’t factor this year into an evaluation of his talent at all,” Bloom said of Benintendi’s prospects. “I mean, this guy has great all-around ability. It’s just unfortunate how the year started. He actually looked great at Summer Camp, and then for whatever reason the season opened and he wasn’t operating on all cylinders. He had a couple bad weeks and then got hurt, so I wouldn’t let that change anyone’s mind.

“I thought he looked great coming in both in spring training and Summer Camp,” Bloom continued. “This is a guy who has shown the ability to perform at a really high level, including in some really critical situations. Still young, still has all that ability. It’s just a shame that his year kind of got wiped out.”

As he continues to recover from that rib cage strain, Benintendi is expected to undergo a typical offseason where he will not be limited in his activities.

“He’s not full-go at this moment if we were still playing,” said Bloom. “That shouldn’t be a surprise. But, substantively, his offseason should be pretty normal.”

From there, depending on what Bloom and Co. do between now and February, Benintendi should be in line to be a prime bounce-back candidate in 2021, especially with the potential he still brings to the table.

What Does Future Hold for Red Sox’ Jonathan Araúz?

It took until the final inning of the final game of the regular season, but Red Sox infielder Jonathan Arauz collected his first career major-league home run in the top half of the ninth of Sunday’s 9-1 victory over the Braves.

Per Statcast, Arauz’s solo blast traveled 347 feet and had an exit velocity of 93 mph coming off a 1-1, 87 mph cutter at the top of the strike zone from Atlanta reliever Josh Tomlin. Not exactly a moonshot, but the 22-year-old will certainly take it, especially when it wraps up a three-hit afternoon.

By going 3-for-4 at the plate with three RBI on Sunday, Arauz finishes his first full big-league season with a slash line of .250/.325/.319 to go along with that lone big fly and nine total runs driven in on the year.

In remaining with Boston for the entirety of the 2020 campaign, Arauz is now in a position where he could remain a member of the Sox organization for the foreseeable future.

Last December, the Red Sox selected Arauz from the Astros in the major-league portion of the Rule 5 Draft and wound up paying Houston $100,000 to do so.

Because the Panama native made it through the entire year without getting offered back to his previous club for $50,000, though, the Sox can now maintain his services without the risk of losing him to waivers.

Prior to the 2020 season, Arauz had never played a single minor-league game above the Double-A level. With that in mind, it appears that the switch-hitting infielder could be in line to see significant playing time at the Triple-A level in 2021.

Regardless of how the minor-leagues are formatted next year, the Red Sox will still have their Triple-A affiliate in Worcester, Mass. It remains to be seen if the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will also derail the 2021 minor-league season, but assuming it doesn’t, Arauz should be part of a solid mix of infielders there that could include the likes of Jeter Downs, C.J. Chatham, and Chad De La Guerra.

Unlike those three, Arauz already has some major-league experience. And although he did not exactly shine this season, he did show some flashes with the bat (went 12-for-30 at the plate from Aug. 10-23) and proved that with time, he could become capable of adequately playing multiple positions (2B, 3B, SS) around the infield.

Arauz was one of 28 Red Sox players to make their club debuts and one of six to make their major-league debuts this season. Considering he is presumably under team control through 2025, it should it be fascinating to see what Arauz’s role with Boston looks like for 2021 and beyond in the coming months.