Red Sox ‘in talks’ with Gold Glove-winning catcher Roberto Pérez, per report

The Red Sox are in talks with free agent catcher Roberto Perez, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

Perez, 34, was limited to just 21 games with the Pirates last year after suffering a season-ending left hamstring injury in May that ultimately required surgery. The right-handed hitter batted .233/.333/.367 with two home runs and eight RBIs across 69 plate appearances before getting injured.

Prior to signing a one-year contract with Pittsburgh last winter, Perez spent the first eight years of his major-league career in Cleveland, where he established himself as one of the top defensive catchers in baseball by being named the Wilson Overall Defensive Player of the Year in 2019 and winning back-to-back Gold Glove Awards in 2019 and 2020.

Offensive has never been Perez’s strong suit, as the native Puerto Rican is a lifetime .207/.298/.360 hitter with 57 doubles, four triples, 55 home runs, 192 RBIs, 165 runs scored, two stolen bases, 190 walks, and 521 strikeouts in 511 games (1,752 plate appearances). He did, however, enjoy a career year in 2019 by clubbing 24 homers in 119 games with Cleveland.

Digging deeper into the defensive numbers, Perez has thrown out 97 of 248 potential base stealers in his career. The 5-foot-11, 220-pounder has accrued 79 Defensive Runs Saved in 4,052 1/3 innings behind the plate. He has also been among the game’s top pitch framers since Statcast first began tracking that data in 2015.

Injuries have limited Perez to just 65 games over the last two years, so there may be some questions surrounding his durability. That being said, Perez did appear in 10 games for the Indios de Mayaguez of the Puerto Rican Winter League earlier this winter, so he appears to be healthy heading into the spring.

Since the start of spring training is now less than a month away, Perez will likely have to settle for a minor-league deal. The Red Sox are not alone in their pursuit of Perez, either, as Cotillo reports that the veteran is “believed to have other suitors” on the open market.

As currently constructed, Reese McGuire and Connor Wong are the only two catchers on Boston’s 40-man roster. Jorge Alfaro, who was signed to a minors pact earlier this month, is expected to compete with Wong for a spot on the Sox’ Opening Day roster as the club’s No. 2 catcher. Caleb Hamilton and Ronaldo Hernandez, who were both outrighted off the 40-man roster, will also be at big-league camp as non-roster invites.

(Picture of Roberto Perez: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Red Sox agree to minor-league deal with catcher Jorge Alfaro

The Red Sox have agreed to terms on a minor-league contract with catcher Jorge Alfaro, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo. The deal includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Alfaro, 29, spent the 2022 season with the Padres and batted .246/.285/.383 with 14 doubles, seven home runs, 40 RBIs, 25 runs scored, one stolen base, 11 walks, and 98 strikeouts in 82 games (274 plate appearances) before being non-tendered in November. He also threw out five of 30 possible base stealers while splitting time behind the plate with Austin Nola and Luis Campusano.

A native of Colombia, Alfaro originally signed with the Rangers as a highly-touted international free agent in 2010. Five years later, he was dealt to the Phillies as part of a blockbuster trade that sent Cole Hamels from Philadelphia to Texas.

Alfaro broke in with the Phillies the following September and appeared in a total of 143 games over three seasons with the club before being involved in another significant trade. In February 2019, the Marlins acquired Alfaro and two other players from Philadelphia in exchange for All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto.

In parts of three seasons with Miami, the right-handed hitting Alfaro slashed .252/.298/.386 with 25 home runs, 103 RBIs, and 78 runs scored across 253 total games (876 plate appearances). The Marlins traded Alfaro to the Padres for cash considerations following the conclusion of the 2021 campaign.

So, for his big-league career, Alfaro is a lifetime .256/.305/.396 hitter with 67 doubles, four triples, 47 homers, 194 runs driven in, 150 runs scored, 18 stolen bases, 70 walks, and 566 strikeouts in 478 games (1,658 plate appearances) between the Phillies, Marlins, and Padres. He has traditionally hit the ball hard (averaged an exit velocity of 89.4 mph last year) but he has done so while posting a career 34.1 percent strikeout rate and measly 4.2 percent walk rate.

Defensively, Alfaro has logged over 3,340 innings at catcher since debuting for Philadelphia in 2016. In that time frame, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound backstop has accrued negative-17 defensive runs saved and has graded poorly in terms of pitch framing. While his arm strength and pop time are well-regarded, his receiving abilities leave much to be desired.

Alfaro, who turns 30 in June, will receive a base salary of $2 million if he makes Boston’s big-league roster. He also has multiple opt-outs in his deal, meaning he can return to free agency if he is not called up by June 1 or July 1 at the latest, per Cotillo.

On paper, Alfaro provides the Red Sox with experienced catching depth. In reality, though, he should have a chance to compete with Reese McGuire and Connor Wong — who also hits from the right side of the plate — for a spot on Boston’s Opening Day roster once spring training begins next month.

As noted by Cotillo, Wong has minor-league options remaining and can therefore be moved freely between Triple-A Worcester and Boston this coming season. Alfaro, on the other hand, can no longer be optioned to the minor-leagues since he already has more than five years of major-league service time under his belt.

All things considered, the addition of Alfaro should make for an even more interesting spring training in Fort Myers. In the meantime, Alfaro has enjoyed a productive offseason playing for the Tigres del Licey of the Dominican Winter League. He came into play Monday slashing .383/.471/.633 with two home runs and 19 RBI in 16 postseason games for the Tigres, who are now just two wins away from clinching the LIDOM title.

(Picture of Jorge Alfaro: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Former Red Sox catcher Christian Vázquez agrees to three-year, $30 million deal with Twins, per report

Former Red Sox catcher has agreed to terms on a three-year contract with the Twins, as first reported by The New York Post’s Jon Heyman. The deal, which is pending a physical, comes with $30 million in guaranteed money, according to Twins Daily’s Ted Schwerzler.

Vazquez, 32, was Minnesota’s top free agent catching target, per The Athletic’s Aaron Gleeman. The native Puerto Rican split the 2022 season between the Red Sox and Astros and batted .274/.315/.399 with 23 doubles, nine home runs, 52 RBIs, 41 runs scored, one stolen base, 22 walks, and 69 strikeouts over 119 games spanning 426 trips to the plate.

After the Red Sox picked up his $7 million club option last offseason, Vazquez opened the 2022 campaign as Boston’s No. 1 catcher. The right-handed hitter slashed a stout .282/.327/.432 with eight homers and 42 RBIs in his first 84 games (318 plate appearances) of the year before emerging as a trade candidate in late July.

On August 1, while they were already in Houston, the Red Sox dealt Vazquez to the Astros in exchange for prospects Wilyer Abreu and Enmanuel Valdez. Abreu and Valdez spent the rest of the season in the minor-leagues and have since been added to Boston’s 40-man roster. Vazquez, on the other hand, split time behind the plate with fellow Puerto Rican Martin Maldonado and produced a meager .250/.278/.308 slash line in 35 regular season games (108 plate appearances) with the Astros.

During Houston’s run to its second World Series title in six seasons, Vazquez had some memorable moments. He caught 12 innings of scoreless baseball against the Mariners in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, caught nine more scoreless frames against the Yankees in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, and then caught a combined no-hitter in Game 4 of the World Series against the Phillies.

Vazquez reached free agency for the first time in his career last month. He drew interest from several teams, including the Cardinals, Cubs, and Red Sox. At last week’s winter meetings in San Diego, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom expressed interest in a reunion with the two-time World Series champion.

Instead of reuniting with the team he spent the first 14 years of his professional career with, though, Vazquez elected to sign with the Twins, who — like the Red Sox — make their spring training home in Fort Myers, Fla.

Vazquez, who does not turn 33 until next August, should provide Minnesota with a reliable veteran presence to pair alongside 25-year-old backstop Ryan Jeffers. In addition to what he does offensively, Vazquez has proven to be solid from behind the plate as well. This past season, the 5-foot-9, 205-pounder threw out 19 of 70 possible base stealers and accrued 11 defensive runs saved across 870 innings at catcher.

With Vazquez agreeing to sign elsewhere, the Red Sox will need to look in another direction if they intend on bolstering their catching depth this winter. As things stand now, Reese McGuire and Connor Wong are the only two catchers on Boston’s 40-man roster. Last week, MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo reported that the Sox were “actively pursuing” backstops who could be had in free agency or via trade.

“There have been some talks. We’re in on the guys that we like,” Bloom said of the catching market when speaking with reporters (including Cotillo) in San Diego. “There’s some guys that we like but, forever reason, aren’t the right fits for us. We’re trying to be selective with who we pursue.”

(Picture of Christian Vazquez: Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Could Red Sox explore a trade for Padres catcher Austin Nola?

Could the Red Sox explore a trade for Padres catcher Austin Nola this offseason?

In Reese McGuire and Connor Wong, the Sox already have two big-league caliber catchers under club control for 2023. But that should not stop them from looking into external additions at the position. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said as much when speaking with reporters (including The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier) at the ongoing GM Meetings in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

“It’s a hard spot to find one guy you can trust, much less more than one,” Bloom said. “In any given winter, there’s only a handful of players on the free agent market who you see as really good fits at that position. So the trade market is another avenue. I would say that we don’t think we’ll be looking at a huge group of possibilities there, but there are some possibilities through both avenues.”

According to Speier, the Sox “have cast a wide net in trade talks about catchers” over the last two years. They had conversations with the Athletics pertaining to Sean Murphy ahead of this year’s trade deadline that did not pan out. They “also have discussed other catchers who are heralded for their defense,” such as Nola.

Like Murphy, Nola is under team control for three more years. He is also nearly five years older than Murphy and is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn significantly less than him in 2023. Murphy is slated to receive $3.5 million in his first year of arbitration while Nola is projected for $2.2 million.

Nola, who turns 33 in December, appeared in a career-high 110 games for the Padres this season. The right-handed hitter batted .251/.321/.329 with 15 doubles, four home runs, 40 RBIs, 40 runs scored, two stolen bases, 34 walks, and 60 strikeouts across 397 trips to the plate.

From behind the plate, Nola logged 834 2/3 innings at catcher and threw out eight of 64 base stealers. Among the 15 catchers who caught at least 800 innings, Nola ranked 13th in Defensive Runs Saved (-6), 14th in Catcher Framing (-8.3), and 14th in Defense (-5.2), per FanGraphs. While those metrics are not all that encouraging, the 6-foot, 197-pounder has proven to be a better defender in the past, especially when it comes to pitch framing.

Originally selected by the Marlins in the fifth round of the 2012 draft out of Louisiana State University, Nola initially came up through Miami’s farm system as a shortstop not begin catching at the professional level until he was in the Arizona Fall League in 2016.

The Marlins outrighted and released Nola at the conclusion of the 2018 season. The Baton Rouge native then inked a minor-league deal with the Mariners and finally made his major-league debut in 2019 at the age of 27. The following August, Nola was dealt to the Padres in a trade that involved six other players.

After an array of injuries limited him to just 56 games in his first full season with San Diego, Nola emerged as the Padres’ starting catcher in 2022 thanks in part to the way he handled their pitching staff in a run to the National League Championship Series.

The Padres ultimately came up short against Nola’s younger brother, Aaron, and the rest of the Phillies. Under the direction of president of baseball operations A.J. Preller, the Friars could elect to shake things up at catcher this winter.

In addition to Nola, San Diego has two other major-league caliber catchers on its roster in Jorge Alfaro and Luis Campusano. Alfaro posted a .667 OPS this season and is a non-tender candidate. Campusano, on the other hand, was ranked by Baseball America as the sport’s No. 53 prospect coming into the 2022 season. But the 24-year-old only received 48 at-bats this season, so the Padres may feel like it is time to give him an extended look beginning next spring.

From the Red Sox’ end, it would likely not take much to pry Nola away from the Padres as far as prospect capital is concerned. Nola himself represents an inexpensive addition at catcher who could platoon with the left-handed hitting McGuire if Wong winds up being the odd man out.

When it comes to what the Red Sox are looking from out of their catchers next year, Bloom emphasized the importance of handling a pitching staff.

“Now, that doesn’t mean there’s only one way to get value at the position, but it’s certainly something we value,” he said. “And I think we have a staff that can really take advantage of somebody who’s invested in that aspect of the game, specifically with [catching instructor Jason Varitek].”

Nola represents just one direction Bloom and Co. could lean if they intend on adding another catcher to the mix this winter. While Murphy is the top trade target, the Sox could also pursue the likes of Wilson Contreras, Mike Zunino, Omar Narvaez, Gary Sanchez, or even old friend Christian Vazquez in free agency.

(Picture of Austin Nola: Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Red Sox catching prospect Ronaldo Hernández could receive fourth minor-league option next season

Red Sox catching prospect Ronaldo Hernandez was called up from Triple-A Worcester on two separate occasions this season, yet he never got into a game and has yet to make his major-league debut.

Instead, Hernandez spent one day on the big-league roster in late April after Christian Vazquez was briefly placed on the COVID-19 related injured list. He then spent an additional day with the club in early August after Vazquez was traded to the Astros. But he was quickly optioned following the acquisition of Reese McGuire from the White Sox.

When Worcester’s season ended in late September, Hernandez made the trek to Boston and was added to the Red Sox’ taxi squad for their final road trip of the year in Toronto.

Despite not making his impact felt in the majors this season, Hernandez still enjoyed a relatively productive year at the plate in Worcester. The right-handed hitting backstop batted .261/.297/.451 with 27 doubles, 17 home runs, 63 RBIs, 50 runs scored, 21 walks, and 92 strikeouts in 105 games (439 plate appearances) with the WooSox.

From behind the plate, Hernandez logged 577 1/3 innings and threw out 16 of 65 possible base stealers. The 6-foot-1, 230-pounder out of Colombia also allowed 13 passed balls and committed six errors.

Hernandez, who turns 25 next month, was originally acquired from the Rays with minor-league infielder Nick Sogard in a February 2021 trade that sent pitchers Chris Mazza and Jeffrey Springs to Tampa Bay.

At that time, Hernandez was already a member of the Rays’ 40-man roster after being added in November 2019. His status did not change after being traded, so he has used minor-league options in each of the last three seasons.

Under normal circumstances, players typically receive three minor-league options. As MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith reported earlier this month, though, Hernandez — who did not play above rookie ball until 2018 — is expected to be eligible for a fourth option next year since “he has fewer than five full seasons of pro ball while using three options.”

If Hernandez receives a fourth option like the Red Sox expect him to , they would once again be able to send him to Worcester next season to continue to develop and provide depth. Without that option, Hernandez would need to make Boston’s Opening Day roster out of spring training if the club did not want to trade him or expose him to waivers.

“The main goal is to be here in the big-leagues,” Hernandez told Smith (through interpreter Carlos Villoria Benítez) last weekend. “If they have that option next year, that’s fine. That’s not a big deal for me. My main goal is to keep improving every day and try to be better so I can make it to the big-leagues and stay here. So my focus doesn’t change whether I have the extra option or not.”

Beyond Hernandez, McGuire and Connor Wong are the only other catchers on the Sox’ 40-man roster. During the team’s end-of-season press conference at Fenway Park on Thursday, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom indicated that catcher would be one position group the Red Sox explore making external additions at over the winter.

“This is one of the areas I fully expect that we’re going to explore additions,” Bloom said. “It’s nice to know that we have two guys that are familiar with how we do things, that showed a lot of good things. But we owe it to ourselves and everybody who cares about this team to look to get better and catcher is certainly not going to be an exception to that.”

McGuire and Wong split time behind the plate for the Sox after Vazquez was traded in August and Kevin Plawecki was designated for assignment in late September. Even though they were out of it at that point, Hernandez never received a promotion. As noted by Smith, this reflects that the Red Sox “still feel like he has improvements to make and he’s not in the immediate plans for 2023. ”

Depending on how the offseason plays out, however, Hernandez could solidify his case for an Opening Day roster spot if he is able to impress club officials and put together a strong showing in spring training.

“Obviously, if I can make the team and stay here with Boston, it would be great,” said Hernandez. “That’s what I’m working for. But I can’t focus on things that I can’t control. I’m going to work hard this offseason. I’m going to work hard and improve in all the aspects of my game and we’ll see what happens in spring training. But I’m confident that my skillsets will be good enough to play in the big-leagues.

“And hopefully, it’s with the Red Sox,” he added. “But we’ll see what happens. I can’t control the decisions they are going to make. But the things I can control, which is preparing for next season and preparing to be ready for spring training, that’s what I’ll do.”

Hernandez told Smith that if the Red Sox were to go in a different direction, there would be “a lot of options and a lot of opportunities out there with other organizations.

“I know the type of player that I am,” he said. “I know what I can do. And that’s why I’m not too worried about what’s going to happen in the future.”

(Picture of Ronaldo Hernandez: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox explored possibility of acquiring Athletics catcher Sean Murphy before last week’s trade deadline, per report

Before the trade deadline passed last week, the Red Sox reportedly explored the possibility of trading for Athletics catcher Sean Murphy, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

This past Monday, Speier wrote that the Red Sox discussed “dealing prospects for players who would be under team control for the longer haul.” Murphy was among the players Boston targeted, though they ultimately could not find a match.

Murphy, 27, is under club control with the Athletics through the end of the 2025 campaign and emerged as one of baseball’s top catchers in recent years. Through 101 games this season, the right-handed hitting backstop has batted .242/.316/.424 with 26 doubles, one triple, 13 home runs, 48 RBIs, 46 runs scored, one stolen base, 33 walks, and 88 strikeouts over 415 plate appearances.

From behind the plate, Murphy has thrown out 13 of a possible 43 base stealers. The 6-foot-3, 228-pounder currently ranks fifth among all big-league catchers in fWAR (3.0), per FanGraphs. He is also well-regarded when it comes to pop time and framing.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the A’s are in the midst of a lengthy rebuild and have traded away key players such as Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Frankie Montas, and Lou Trivino in recent months. The expectation seems to be that Murphy, who turns 28 in October, will be the next big-leaguer moved since Oakland’s top two prospects — Shea Langeliers and Tyler Soderstrom are both catchers.

Cotillo opines that Murphy will draw strong interest from catcher-needy clubs this winter. Cleveland.com’s Paul Hoynes reported last week that the Guardians were among the several teams interested in Murphy ahead of the trade deadline and could open up talks with the Athletics again this off-season.

That the Red Sox were in the market for a frontline catcher is certainly interesting when you consider that they just traded Christian Vazquez to the Astros for a pair of prospects in Enmanuel Valdez and Wilyer Abreu.

Even before trading away Vazquez, though, Boston was expected to bolster its catching depth this winter since both Vazquez and Kevin Plawecki are slated to become free-agents. Reese McGuire, who was acquired from the White Sox, is under club control through the 2025 but is more of a backup-type. The same can be said for prospects Connor Wong and Ronaldo Hernandez, who are having solid seasons with Triple-A Worcester but remain unproven at the major-league level.

Murphy, who took home the Gold Glove Award for American League catchers last season, would represent quite the upgrade in that department. At the same time, it would likely take a package of top prospects and/or major-league-ready talent to pry Murphy away from Oakland since the former third-round pick is not eligible for free agency for another three years.

(Picture of Sean Murphy: Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Red Sox catching prospect Ronaldo Hernández heating up at the plate with Triple-A Worcester

It was a slow start to the season for Ronaldo Hernandez, but the Red Sox catching prospect has picked things up as of late for Triple-A Worcester.

In the WooSox’ most-recent series against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in Allentown, Pa., Hernandez went a ridiculous 13-for-22 (.591) at the plate with three doubles, two home runs, seven RBIs, six runs scored, one walk, and two strikeouts over five games and 24 plate appearances.

Hernandez very well could have been named International League Player of the Week were it not for the efforts of Royals prospect Vinnie Pasquantino, who had quite the week himself for the Omaha Storm Chasers.

Regardless of that, Hernandez has seen his stock rise lately for good reason. After struggling to the tune of a .132/.132/.245 slash line (-9 wRC+) in April, the right-handed hitting 24-year-old comes into the final day of May batting a stout .309/.367/.491 (131 wRC+) with six extra-base hits, eight RBIs, eight runs scored, four walks, and 17 strikeouts across his last 15 games and 62 trips to the plate.

This is Hernandez’s first full season with Worcester after he was promoted there from Double-A Portland last September. One of four catchers on the WooSox’ active roster, the 6-foot-1, 247 pound backstop has logged 189 innings behind the plate thus far while throwing out five of the 28 base runners who have attempted to steal off him.

The Red Sox originally acquired Hernandez and fellow prospect Nick Sogard from the Rays last February in exchange for pitchers Chris Mazza and Jeffrey Springs. Since then, the native Colombian has been regarded by publications such as Baseball America as one of the top two catching prospects in Boston’s farm system alongside Connor Wong.

While Wong has appeared in eight games for the Sox over the last two seasons, Hernandez has not gotten that same opportunity. Hernandez spent one day on Boston’s major-league roster last month, but he did not get into a game and was quickly optioned back down to Worcester when Christian Vazquez returned from the COVID-19 related injured list.

As a member of the Red Sox’ 40-man roster, Hernandez can easily be shuttled between Boston and Worcester this season when the need arises. That being said, it definitely seems as though Hernandez is squarely behind Wong (also on the 40-man) as far as the big-league club’s catching depth is concerned.

Hernandez, who does not turn 25 until November, has just one minor-league option remaining. So, if he remains in the organization throughout the off-season and into the spring, he will need to make the Sox’ 2023 Opening Day roster or will otherwise lose his 40-man spot since he will then be out of options.

With that, the 2022 season obviously holds some significance for Hernandez, who is represented by CAA Sports. On top of that, both Vazquez and Kevin Plawecki can become free-agents at the end of the year.

In short, Hernandez has but a few months to show he has what it takes to stick in the major-leagues. Offense has always been his calling card, so he will need to continue to hone his skills as a defender if he intends to stay behind the plate for the long haul.

(Picture of Ronaldo Hernandez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox expected to call up top catching prospect Ronaldo Hernández from Triple-A Worcester, per report

The Red Sox are expected to call up catching prospect Ronaldo Hernandez from Triple-A Worcester, reports Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com. As noted by Cotillo, Hernandez has been active on Instagram, sharing stories of people congratulating him on getting promoted.

The timing of Hernandez’s call-up is certainly interesting, as the Red Sox just recalled fellow catcher Connor Wong from Worcester after placing Kevin Plawecki on the COVID-19 related injured list due to a positive test ahead of Monday afternoon’s loss to the Twins at Fenway Park.

With that, it seems likely that Hernandez — who is already on Boston’s 40-man roster — could be replacing either Wong or Christian Vazquez on the major-league squad before Tuesday’s series opener against the Blue Jays.

Hernandez, 24, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 27 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking tops among catchers in the organization. The Red Sox originally acquired the native Colombian (and infielder Nick Sogard) from the Rays in exchange for right-handers Chris Mazza and Jeffrey Springs last February.

After spending the majority of the 2021 campaign with Double-A Portland, Hernandez was promoted to Worcester in late September. He played winter ball in the Domincan Republic and broke camp this spring with the WooSox.

In seven games for the WooSox thus far, the right-handed hitter has gone 4-for-28 (.173) at the plate with two doubles, four RBIs, three runs scored, no walks, and eight strikeouts. He has also thrown out one of three base runners who have attempted to steal off him.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 247 pounds, Hernandez is known more for his abilities as a slugger than a defensive stalwart behind the plate, though he does possess plus arm strength. Still, with just one minor-league option year remaining, this could prove to be a worthwhile opportunity for Hernandez, who is in line to become the first member of the 2022 Red Sox to make their big-league debut.

(Picture of Ronaldo Hernandez: Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)

Latest Baseball America mock draft has Red Sox selecting Mississippi State catcher Logan Tanner with top pick

The 2022 MLB Draft may still be six months away, but it should now start to come into focus more with the college baseball season slated to begin next week.

With that, Baseball America released the first version of their 2022 mock draft on Thursday, and they have the Red Sox taking a college bat with their top pick.

Boston owns the 24th overall selection in this summer’s draft after finishing last season with the seventh-best (or 24th-worst) record in baseball. As of now, the club is projected to take Mississippi State University catcher Logan Tanner.

In explaining why he has the Sox going in this direction, Baseball America’s Carlos Collazo writes that he does not “have much feel for the Red Sox pick tendencies, especially in this range. They’ve taken prep infielders in each of the last three drafts but all of those picks are quite a bit different both in terms of bonus, draft position, and player profile.”

Collazo adds that at this point in the mock draft, Tanner is the best player available as he comes into the year regarded by Baseball America as its No. 17 draft-eligible prospect, which ranks third among catchers in the class.

Tanner, 21, is preparing for his junior season with Mississippi State. The right-handed hitting backstop is coming off a 2021 campaign in which he batted .287/.383/.525 with 13 doubles, 15 home runs, 53 RBIs, 45 runs scored, 39 walks, and 48 strikeouts over 67 games (285 plate appearances) while helping the Bulldogs win a national championship.

Defensively, Tanner made 57 appearances behind the plate as a sophomore and threw out 11 baserunners who attempted to steal off him. Per his Baseball America scouting report, the 6-foot, 215 pounder is “the top catch-and-throw backstop in the class. His arm is a clear tier ahead of most other catchers in the class, with double-plus grades and should allow him to keep the running game in check.”

MLB Pipeline, on the other hand, has Tanner listed as its 19th-ranked draft-eligible prospect, right behind his battery mate in right-hander Landon Sims.

In their evaluation of Tanner’s offensive approach, MLB Pipeline notes that the Lucedale, Miss. native’s “strength and bat speed give him legitimate power to all fields from the right side of the plate, and he might provide 20-25 homers per year if he can lift more balls in the air. He draws walks, makes contact and has done damage against quality pitching at the college level. He’s a well below-average runner but that’s excusable for a catcher.”

As Opening Day for the college baseball season approaches, Tanner has been named to the preseason All-SEC first team and Perfect Game’s preseason All-America third team.

If the Red Sox were to select Tanner in this year’s draft, it would mark the first time since 2011 in which they used a first-round pick on a catcher (Blake Swihart). As Collazo previously alluded to, Boston has used its last three first-round selections on prep infielders in shortstop Marcelo Mayer (2021), second baseman Nick Yorke (2020), and first baseman Triston Casas (2018). They were without a first-rounder in 2019.

Last July marked the second time straight year the Red Sox had chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and amateur scouting director Paul Toboni orchestrating the club’s draft efforts.

Of the 20 players Boston selected in 2021, only one — Nathan Hickey — was a catcher. Hickey, like Tanner, played his college ball in the SEC for the University of Florida.

According to one scout, Tanner would surpass Hickey and emerge as the top catching prospect in Boston’s farm system if he were to join the Red Sox this summer.

All that being said, who the Sox take in this year’s draft has yet to be determined and plenty can change once the high school and college baseball seasons get rolling in the spring.

(Picture of Logan Tanner: Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Red Sox re-sign versatile catcher Roldani Baldwin to minor-league deal for 2022 season

The Red Sox have brought back catcher Roldani Baldwin on a minor-league contract for the 2022 season, per the team’s transaction log. The deal also includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Baldwin, who turns 26 next month, returns to the organization he began his career with after originally signing with Boston as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in November 2013.

Most recently, Baldwin spent the entirety of the 2021 season with Double-A Portland, though he did spend one day on Triple-A Worcester’s roster in August. Regardless of that, the right-handed hitting backstop slashed .242/.321/.389 with eight doubles, one triple, four home runs, 18 RBIs, 18 runs scored, one stolen base, 13 walks, and 61 strikeouts over 45 games (168 plate appearances) for the Sea Dogs.

One of the reasons Baldwin appeared in just 45 minor-league games last year was because he missed nearly two weeks of action while on the injured list. Another reason is that he had to step away from affiliated ball in order to help his native Dominican Republic win a bronze medal in last summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

Defensively, Baldwin has primarily been used as either a catcher or third baseman throughout his professional career. In 2021, however, the 5-foot-11, 211 pounder not only saw time behind the plate and at the hot corner, but he also logged 47 innings at second base, and nine innings in left field.

This off-season, Baldwin spent part of his winter playing for Tigres del Licey of the Dominican Winter League. There, the 25-year-old slashed .412/.500/.529 with a pair of doubles and two runs scored over the course of a brief seven-game sample that consisted of 20 plate appearances as well as seven appearances (five starts) at catcher.

Coming into the 2022 season, Baldwin has apparently been assigned to Portland and represents some experienced catching depth the Red Sox will have available to them in the upper minors.

As SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield alluded to on Twitter, the addition of Baldwin does have some significance considering the fact the MLB lockout remains unresolved.

If the lockout continues into the spring, the Red Sox would not be able to assign prospects on their 40-man roster — such as catchers Connor Wong and Ronaldo Hernandez — to minor-league affiliates when the season begins in April.

With that being said, Hatfield notes that Boston could sign players like Baldwin to minor-league deals so that they can cover for those prospects affected by the lockout.

In addition to Wong and Hernandez, other prospects the Red Sox have on their 40-man roster include pitchers Eduard Bazardo, Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford, Jay Groome, Connor Seabold, Josh Winckowski, Jeter Downs, Hudson Potts, Jarren Duran, and Jeisson Rosario.

(Picture of Roldani Baldwin: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)