Red Sox catching prospect Nathan Hickey turns in impressive first full pro season

Nathan Hickey came into his first full professional season ranked by Baseball America as the top catching prospect in the Red Sox farm system. He showed why he was worthy of that ranking over the last six months.

Selected by Boston in the fifth round of last year’s amateur draft out of the University of Florida, Hickey broke camp this spring with Low-A Salem, which is where he ended things in 2021.

In 41 games with Salem this season, the left-handed hitter batted .271/.429/.507 with 12 doubles, seven home runs, 39 RBIs, 31 runs scored, 39 walks, and 39 strikeouts over 182 plate appearances. That level of production prompted a promotion to High-A Greenville in late June.

With the Drive, Hickey hit for more power, though he also got on base less frequently. The 22-year-old slashed .252/.397/.539 with six doubles, nine homers, 23 runs driven in, 19 runs scored, 24 walks, and 39 strikeouts across 34 games (146 plate appearances). He was sidelined for a week in early August due to a concussion.

Between the two affiliates, Hickey produced a cumulative .263/.415/.522 slash line to go along with 18 doubles, 16 home runs, 62 RBIs, 50 runs scored, a walk rate of 19.2 percent, and a strikeout rate of 23.8 percent. Overall, his 155 wRC+ ranked third among minor-league catchers who made at least 100 trips to the plate this season, per FanGraphs.

On the other side of the ball, Hickey made 57 starts at catcher for Salem and Greenville this year. The 6-foot, 210-pound backstop logged 4585 2/3 innings behind the plate and threw out 10 of 75 base stealers. He also committed eight errors and allowed 10 passed balls.

Defense has been an issue with Hickey since before being drafted. The Jacksonville native came up as an infielder in high school but moved to catcher with the Gators so that he could regularly get his bat into the lineup.

Despite the lack of experience at a demanding position, the Red Sox still drafted Hickey as a catcher and signed him to an over-slot deal of $1 million. The doubts people had about his defensive abilities did not sit well with Hickey, as he explained to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier earlier this summer.

“I just hadn’t had enough time behind the plate to be able to show that was the spot for me,” Hickey said. “But I learned in one day more things about catching being here with Boston than I ever did at Florida.”

As detailed by Speier, Hickey did not call pitches at Florida and instead received the calls from his coaches. Since going pro, however, the Red Sox have let him call pitches on his own, which requires him to study up, implement a game plan, and be adaptable during games.

“It was a big step. Pitch-calling was kind of the thing that was stumping me a little bit at the beginning [of the season],” said Hickey. “But [being a catcher] is not really [about] me being successful, it’s making [the pitcher] look as successful as you can.”

In a separate, more recent piece for Baseball America, Speier relayed that pitchers enjoyed throwing to Hickey this season. And while Hickey has embraced becoming a game-caller, there is still more work to do in order to improve as a defender.

Hickey, who turns 23 in November, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 26 prospect in Boston’s farm system. That unsurprisingly ranks tops among catchers in the organization. He is projected by SoxProspects.com to return to Greenville for the start of the 2023 minor-league season next spring.

With that being said, it certainly seems feasible for Hickey to make the jump to Double-A Portland before the end of the next campaign. We will have to wait and see on that.

(Picture of Nathan Hickey: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox catching prospect Brooks Brannon shows signs of promise in pro debut

The Red Sox have selected just one natural catcher in each of the last two amateur drafts. Last year, they took Nathan Hickey in the fifth round of the University of Florida. Earlier this summer, they took Brooks Brannon in the ninth round out of Randleman High School in Randleman, N.C.

At that time, Brannon was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 155 prospect in the 2022 draft class. The 18-year-old backstop was also committed to play college baseball at the University of North Carolina in nearby Chapel Hill.

It was believed that Brannon’s commitment to the Tar Heels was a strong one. But just two days after being drafted, the North Carolina native told HighSchoolOT’s Kyle Morton that he intended to go pro and sign with the Red Sox.

“Leading up to the draft, if I could have picked any team it would have been the Red Sox,” Brannon said. “They did the best as far as establishing a relationship. … Everything is very family oriented. … The fact that they have that is huge. I’m just glad to be a part of an organization that values that like they do.”

Towards the end of July, Brannon officially signed with Boston for $712,500. To put that number into context, third-rounder Dalton Rogers received a signing bonus of $447,500, so the Sox certainly went above and beyond to secure Brannon’s services.

“We were surprised to see him get that far,” amateur scouting director Paul Toboni told MLB.com’s Julia Kreuz back in July. “We think so highly of the baseball player and the person, we were beyond thrilled to see him staring at us at that point of the draft.

Fresh off belting 20 homers and driving in 91 runs as a senior at Randleman High, Brannon made his professional debut in the Florida Complex League on August 13. The right-handed hitter appeared in just five games for the FCL Red Sox, going 6-for-13 (.462) with one double, two triples, five RBIs, six runs scored, two walks, and five strikeouts.

Though he did not go deep in his brief pro cameo, Brannon was still recently identified by Baseball America’s Carlos Collazo as the best power hitter the Red Sox drafted this year.

“While the baseline stats are nice to see, [Brannon’s] underlying exit velocity data is even more encouraging,” Collazo wrote on Monday, “with the best 90th percentile exit velocity mark (105 mph) of this Boston draft class.”

On the other side of the ball, there are questions about whether Brannon can stick behind the plate long-term. The 6-foot, 210-pounder is described by Baseball America as someone who “needs to improve his actions behind the plate as both a receiver and pitch blocker.” Although his arm strength stands out, Brannon did not throw out any of the three runners who tried to steal against him in the Florida Complex League.

“Brooks’ defensive skill set was one of the parts of his game that we were drawn to most,” Toboni said over the summer. “While he’s big and physical, he’s really flexible and athletic. He can get his body into some pretty unique positions, especially for a big, strong kid. We also think he has good hands behind the plate and an obviously strong arm. In our eyes, he possesses all the physical and mental traits to take off with professional instruction.”

Brannon, who does not turn 19 until next May, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 30 prospect in Boston’s farm system. That ranks third among backstops in the organization behind only Hickey and Connor Wong.

Given that he has just five FCL games under his belt, Brannon is expected to return to the rookie-level affiliate next summer. That being said, it would not be all that surprising if he made it up to Low-A Salem before the end of the 2023 season.

(Picture of Brooks Brannon: Bryan Green/Flickr)

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 sign University of Connecticut catcher Matt Donlan

The Red Sox have agreed to terms with undrafted University of Connecticut catcher Matt Donlan, the school announced following the conclusion of Tuesday’s draft.

Donlan, 22, was not regarded as one of the top catching prospects in this year’s draft class. As a non-drafted free-agent, the Connecticut native can sign with Boston for up to $125,000.

After beginning his collegiate career at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass., Donlan transferred to UCONN, but was not eligible to play in 2021. So, in his one season with the Huskies, the right-handed hitter batted .260/.375/.489 with 14 doubles, 12 home runs, 60 RBIs, 47 runs scored, three stolen bases, 27 walks, and 55 strikeouts over 61 games spanning 265 plate appearances.

From behind the plate, Donlan — equipped with a strong arm — threw out 22 of the 42 base runners who attempted to steal off him this spring. In terms of accolades, the 6-foot-3, 213-pound backstop earned First Team All-Big East and College Park Regional Most Outstanding Player honors for his performance in both the regular and postseason.

Donlan, who turns 23 in November, will likely begin his pro career in the rookie-level Florida Complex League upon officially putting pen to paper. Other Red Sox catching prospects who are currently down in Fort Myers include Enderso Lira, Daniel McElveny, and Diego Viloria, among others.

(Picture of Matt Donlan: University of Connecticut Athletics)

Red Sox select Randleman High School catcher Brooks Brannon with ninth-round pick in 2022 MLB Draft

With the 279th overall pick in the 2022 MLB first-year player draft, the Red Sox selected Randleman High School (N.C.) catcher Brooks Brannon.

Brannon, 18, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 155 prospect in this year’s draft class. The right-handed hitting backstop is currently committed to play college baseball at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

As a highly-touted senior at Randleman, Brannon batted a ridiculous .609/.644/1.330 with 17 doubles, three triples, 20 home runs, 91 RBIs, 44 runs scored, two stolen bases, 16 walks, and 15 strikeouts over 34 games (135 plate appearances) for the Tigers.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, Brannon “is close to physically maxed out,” according to his Baseball America scouting report. He “has plus raw power in the tank and swings like someone who knows he does — constantly looking to do damage. He wasn’t on the summer showcase circuit and so scouts don’t have much track record with him facing high-end velocity, and he has also expanded the zone and swung and missed at times with noncompetitive swings against below-average secondaries.”

Defensively, Brannon “shows above-average arm strength and clocked pop times around 1.95 seconds last fall, but he needs to improve his actions behind the plate as both a receiver and pitch blocker. There are tools here for Brannon to be an impactful player, but he needs to iron out some of the details of his game to fully capitalize on them.”

Considering that Brannon — who does not turn 19 until next May — is committed to a well-regarded school like North Carolina, it may take the Red Sox some effort to sway him away from Chapel Hill.

The recommended slot value for the 279th pick in the 2022 draft comes in at $158,100, so Boston could be looking to sign Brannon to an over-slot deal of some sorts.

“We were surprised to see him get that far,” Red Sox director of amateur scouting Paul Toboni said of Brannon on Monday, via MLB.com’s Julia Kreuz. “We think so highly of the baseball player and the person, we were beyond thrilled to see him staring at us at that point of the draft.”

(Picture of Brooks Brannon: Randleman High School head coach Jake Smith)

Red Sox catching prospect Nathan Hickey has homered 3 times in last 3 games for Low-A Salem

Another member of the Salem Red Sox who has been tearing it up at the plate as of late is catcher Nathan Hickey.

In Salem’s 8-7 loss to the Fredericksburg Nationals at Carilion Clinic Field on Tuesday night, Hickey — batting cleanup — went 1-for-4 with two RBIs, two runs scored, two strikeouts, and one walk.

His lone hit was a clutch game-tying, two-run home run in the ninth inning. Although Salem ultimately fell to Fredericksburg in extras, Hickey extended his hitting streak to six consecutive games and is continuing on with a productive month of June.

Since the calendar flipped from May, Hickey is batting a stout .295/.418/.614 with five doubles, three home runs, 18 RBIs, 10 runs scored, 10 walks, and 11 strikeouts over his last 12 games and 55 trips to the plate.

On the 2022 campaign — which is also his first full professional season — as a whole, the left-handed hitter has slashed .278/.437/.526 to go along with 12 doubles, seven homers, 39 runs driven in, 30 runs scored, 38 walks, and 37 punchouts across 39 games (174 plate appearances) with Salem.

Among qualified Carolina League Hitters, Hickey ranks 16th in batting average, third in on-base percentage, fifth in slugging percentage, fourth in OPS (.963), fifth in isolated power (.248), and second in walk rate (21.8%), per MiLB.com’s leaderboards.

Defensively, Hickey has unsurprisingly seen all his playing time this season come behind the plate when not serving as Salem’s designated hitter. The 6-foot, 210 pound backstop has now logged 209 2/3 innings behind the plate in 2022 and has allowed six passed balls while throwing out three of a possible 34 base stealers.

Hickey, 22, was selected by the Red Sox in the fifth round of last year’s amateur draft out of the University of Florida. Unlike his college teammate Jud Fabian, the former Gator signed with the club for $1 million last August.

A native of Jacksonville, Fla. himself, Hickey is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 23 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks tops among catchers in the organization.

Per his Baseball America scouting report, which was written by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, Hickey is “far from a sure bet to stay behind the plate, where he lacks agility and technical polish when both receiving and blocking. While he has solid arm strength, he ended his 2021 college season at third base.”

Speier also noted that Hickey, who does not turn 23 until November, “may move more deliberately than other college players with his offensive profile given the need to develop behind the plate, but he’ll be given every chance to develop into a bat-first everyday catcher. If he can’t stay at the position, he could fit in a corner.”

Taking that into consideration, it remains to be seen if Hickey will work his way to High-A Greenville at some point this summer or will instead stick with Salem for the rest of the season. Only time will tell.

(Picture of Nathan Hickey: Gary Streiffer/Flickr)

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)

New Podding the Red Sox episode: Red Sox catching prospect Kole Cottam joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by Red Sox catching prospect Kole Cottam.

Cottam, 24, was originally selected by the Red Sox in the fourth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Kentucky. The right-handed batting backstop spent the 2021 season between High-A Greenville and Double A-Portland and was also named an Arizona Fall League All-Star.

Among the topics Kole and I discussed were his days at Kentucky and his summer on Cape Cod in 2017, where he was when he found out he was getting drafted by the Red Sox in 2018, how he fared during the COVID-19 shutdown in 2020, a recap of his 2021 season, his thoughts on playing in the Arizona Fall League, the popularity the one-knee catching stance and his mustache, where he is at with two weeks to go until the start of the 2022 season, and much more!

The episode is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

My thanks to Kole for taking some time out of his spring training schedule to have an insightful conversation with yours truly. You can follow Kole on Twitter (@Kole_Cotton13) by clicking here and on Instagram (@KoleCottam13) by clicking here.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Please make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of Kole Cottam: Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Don’t forget about Red Sox catching prospect Kole Cottam

When it comes to how the Red Sox view the catching position in the long-term, they already have some intriguing prospects on the 40-man roster in Connor Wong and Ronaldo Hernandez. Boston also used a fifth-round pick on former University of Florida catcher Nathan Hickey in last year’s draft.

With that being said, do not forget about fellow backstop and SEC alumnus Kole Cottam, who the Sox originally selected in the fourth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Kentucky.

Cottam, who turns 25 in May, may not be one of the more well-known catching prospects in baseball. Still, the Tennessee native is coming off a 2021 season that was inarguably productive.

After the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out Minor League Baseball in 2020, Cottam broke camp last spring with High-A Greenville. The right-handed hitter proceeded to bat a stout .276/.386/.487 (135 wRC+) with 13 doubles, one triple, six home runs, 24 RBIs, 22 runs scored, 25 walks, and 64 strikeouts over 46 games (190 plate appearances) for the Drive.

On July 29, the Red Sox promoted Cottam to Double-A Portland, where he slashed .282/.337/.526 to go along with five doubles, one triple, four homers, nine runs driven in, 11 runs scored, three walks, and 33 strikeouts across 25 games (98 plate appearances) with the Sea Dogs.

Though Cottam’s walk rate fell and strikeout rate increased upon his promotion to Portland, he still finished the year with a .871 OPS and 133 wRC+, meaning he created 33% more runs than the average hitter in 2021.

Defensively, Cottam logged a total of 439 innings behind the plate with the Drive and Sea Dogs last year. The 6-foot-3, 235 pounder threw out eight of a possible 50 base stealers and also saw some time at first base with Portland.

While the Double-A season may have concluded in September, Cottam’s year was not done. He was one of eight Red Sox prospects who made the trek out west to play in the Arizona Fall League.

Suiting up for the Scottsdale Scorpions, Cottam and his moustache crushed three homers, collected 10 RBIs, and posted an OPS of .866 in 15 games. He was named an Arizona Fall League All-Star alongside teammate Triston Casas in November.

Shortly after the AFL season came to a close, Cottam very well could have been added to Boston’s 40-man roster in order to receive protection from the Rule 5 Draft. The Red Sox, however, elected to not include the 24-year-old.

At the time that decision was made, it’s safe to assume Cottam was disappointed with the news. That said, not being added to the 40-man allowed Cottam to stay in contact with Sox coaches throughout the lockout and participate in the team’s Winter Warm-Up program in January.

Not being on the club’s 40-man roster also allowed Cottam to report to minor-league spring training in Fort Myers earlier this month. When the lockout ended, he was one of 12 minor-leaguers who received an invite to big-league camp this past Thursday.

As he takes part in major-league spring training for a second consecutive year, Cottam enters the 2022 season ranked by SoxProspects.com as the No. 56 prospect in the organization.

The former Kentucky Wildcat is projected by the site to return to Portland for the start of the upcoming campaign, though it would not be surprising to see him earn a promotion to Triple-A Worcester at some point this year.

(Picture of Kole Cottam: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox)