Red Sox infield prospect Brainer Bonaci earns Carolina League Player of the Week honors

Red Sox infield prospect Brainer Bonaci has been named the Carolina League Player of the Week for the week of July 25-31, Minor League Baseball announced on Monday.

In Low-A Salem’s last series against the Fredericksburg Nationals at Virginia Credit Union Stadium, Bonaci went 8-for-18 (.444) with two doubles, one triple, two home runs, 11 RBIs, two runs scored, three walks, and four strikeouts over five games. Seven of those 11 runs driven in came in a career day at the plate last Tuesday.

On the 2022 season as a whole, the switch-hitter is batting a solid .265/.395/.378 with 17 doubles, five triples, those two homers, 36 RBIs, 59 runs scored, 18 stolen bases, 64 walks, and 68 strikeouts across 80 games (365 plate appearances) with the Salem Sox.

Among qualified Carolina League hitters, Bonaci ranks fourth in walk rate (17.5%), 15th in strikeout rate (18.6%), eighth in swinging strike rate (8.2%), 22nd in batting average, fifth in on-base percentage, 22nd in OPS (.772), 18th in speed score (7.6), ninth in line-drive rate (25.3%), and 17th in wRC+ (124), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Bonaci has seen playing time at four different positions so far this season. The 5-foot-10, 165-pounder has logged 425 1/3 innings at second base, 134 innings at shortstop, 34 innings at third base, and even one inning in right field back on April 17.

Bonaci, who celebrated his 20th birthday last month, originally signed with the Red Sox for $290,000 as an international free-agent coming out of Venezuela in July 2018. The Catia La Mar native is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 19 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Given that he has stepped it up with Salem as of late (1.029 OPS in July), one has to wonder if Bonaci could be working his way towards a promotion to High-A Greenville sooner rather than later. Bonaci can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this winter, so the Red Sox may want to see him go up against a stiffer level of competition before determining if he is worthy of a 40-man roster spot come late November.

(Picture of Brainer Bonaci: Gary Streiffer/Flickr)

What to expect from Red Sox infield prospect Brainer Bonaci in 2022

Red Sox infield prospect Brainer Bonaci is one of 28 minor-leaguers participating in the team’s Winter Warm-Up minicamp this week.

Of the 28 players on hand at the Fenway South complex in Fort Myers, Fla., Bonaci is one of just three prospects the Sox acquired via international free agency.

Boston originally signed Bonaci out of Venezuela for $290,000 in July 2018, making him one of their more expensive additions from a 2018-2019 signing class that included Eduardo Lopez, Wilkelman Gonzalez, and Juan Daniel Encarnacion, among others.

After getting his first taste of pro ball in the Dominican Summer League in 2019, Bonaci had his 2020 season wiped out from under him on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the pandemic halted Minor League Baseball in 2020, Bonaci made the most of his time away from organized activities that summer and subsequently stood out at the Red Sox’ fall instructional league program.

“Bonaci looked the best of the young group of middle infielders in camp,” SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall wrote in December 2020. “He showed good athleticism and average bat speed with good bat control. He is not the fastest player, but does have the quick twitch athleticism you look for in the middle infield and a solid blend of instincts and physical ability that should allow him to stick at shortstop long-term.”

With the momentum he gained at fall instructs, Bonaci came into 2021 regarded by Baseball America as the No. 19 prospect in Boston’s farm system. In the spring, he broke camp having been assigned to rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox.

In 36 games with the FCL Red Sox, the switch-hitting infielder batted a stout .252/.358/.403 (108 wRC+) to go along with 13 doubles, one triple, two home runs, 17 RBIs, 27 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, 21 walks, and 37 strikeouts over 162 plate appearances.

Those numbers may not exactly stand out on paper, but scouts were still impressed with what they saw from Bonaci during his time in Southwest Florida.

“He has shown advanced pitch recognition skills for his age, but has the tendency to be passive at the plate,” Cundall wrote of Bonaci back in August. “A switch-hitter, he has shown strong feel for hit and contact ability for his age.”

Roughly three weeks before the minor-league season ended, Bonaci received a promotion to Low-A Salem on September 3. In his first exposure to full-season ball, the 19-year-old slashed .224/.269/.327 (63 wRC+) with three doubles, one triple, eight RBIs, five runs scored, three walks, and eight strikeouts across 13 games (52 plate appearances) with Salem to close out the year.

Defensively, Bonaci logged 113 innings at second base and 269 1/3 innings at shortstop between the FCL and Low-A last year. While patrolling second base, he committed just two errors but committed a total of five (all in the FCL) at shortstop.

Despite those miscues, Cundall did note over the summer that Bonaci ” has a strong arm and shows the defensive ability to stick at shortstop” as opposed to moving over to second base.

Bonaci, who turns 20 in July, is currently listed at 5-foot-10 and 164 pounds. The Catia La Mar native is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 season where he left off in 2021: Salem.

On that note, the 2022 campaign could prove to be somewhat of a pivotal one for Bonaci, who can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career next winter. The Red Sox would need to add him to their 40-man roster to prevent that from happening.

(Picture of Brainer Bonaci: Bryan Green/Flickr)

Red Sox prospect Juan Chacon ‘caught some attention’ at fall instructs, Eddie Romero says

Like fellow prospect Chih-Jung Liu, Juan Chacon’s baseball experience in 2020 was anything but normal.

The 17-year-old was likely going to spend the majority of the year playing in the Dominican Summer League, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that caused the minor-league season to be cancelled prevented that from happening.

Instead of getting more exposure in the Dominican, where he played in the Tricky League last summer, Chacon had to wait until early October to get his first real opportunity of 2020.

Up until then, Chacon had been working out a facility in Miami, which likely gave him an edge in preparedness when he received an invite to the Sox’ fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

“It was our official version of seeing him, finally under supervision,” Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero said of Chacon when speaking with WEEI’s Rob Bradford. “He has a tool-set. He is a plus-runner. It was something when we first saw him he kept getting faster every time and by signing day he was running a 6.6 60. He’s got above-average arm strength. We think he’s somebody who can stay in the middle of the field and cover a lot of range. He’s got a strong arm. And offensively, right now he’s got a projectable frame. He’s very athletic. He’s somebody from an offensive standpoint, he uses the whole field.”

The Red Sox signed Chacon, a right-handed hitter, out of Venezuela for $900,000 last July, making him the club’s highest-paid international signee for the 2019-2020 international signing period.

That is quite the investment, and with that investment comes somewhat lofty expectations; expectations which Chacon lived up to at fall instructs.

“He performed well at instructs,” Romero added. “Which for a first-year signee, usually [with those] those guys, there aren’t many of them we push straight to the stateside instructional league. We wanted to see him and he did well and I know he caught some attention.”

Regarded by SoxProspects.com as Boston’s No. 49 prospect, the 6-foot-2, 170 lb. outfielder will have the opportunity to ascend the prospect ranks some more once he actually gets the chance to see some in-game action. That will presumably happen in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League at some point in 2021.

Red Sox prospect Brainer Bonaci ‘showed a solid blend of instincts and physical ability’ at fall instructs

Brainer Bonaci has been a professional baseball player for just over two years and he doesn’t turn 19 years old until next July, but he is already looking like one of the more exciting young infielders in the Red Sox’ minor-league pipeline.

The 18-year-old shortstop is coming off an impressive showing at the Sox’ fall instructional league in Fort Myers. According to SoxProspects’ Ian Cundall, Bonaci “looked the best of the young shortstops [at fall instructs] and showed a solid blend of instincts and physical ability. He has a plus arm and both his glove and hit tool showed average potential.”

Signed out of Venezuela by Manny Padron and Eddie Romero for $290,000 on his 16th birthday in 2018, Bonaci is starting to get some legitimate attention thanks to what he did this fall.

Had there been a minor-league season in 2020, Bonaci likely would have began the year with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox. Instead, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he was limited in what he could do until October, when fall instructs began.

In his only organized action as a minor-leaguer thus far, the 5-foot-10 switch-hitter posted a solid .279/.356/.379 slash line (111 wRC+) to go along with three home runs, 37 RBI, and 18 stolen bases over 61 games played for the Dominican Summer League Red Sox last year.

Because he is still only 18 years old, Bonaci still has plenty of room to grow physically and developmentally. That said, there’s still reason to be excited about his potential, and SoxProspects’ latest prospect rankings reflect that.

Yes, Bonaci is now the No. 14 prospect in Boston’s farm system according to SoxProspects, good for the fifth highest ranking among infielders after Triston Casas, Jeter Downs, Bobby Dalbec, and Nick Yorke.

Going back to April 1, Bonaci was regarded by SoxProspects as the club’s 20th-ranked prospect, so it is clear he is trending in the right direction. And with Dalbec set to graduate from his prospect status next season, it’s safe to assume Bonaci will only continue to rise through the prospect ranks in 2021.

If we look even further ahead, Bonaci will become Rule 5 eligible for the first time in late 2022, so it’s not like he is too far out from garnering 40-man roster consideration as his development continues.