Red Sox Injury Updates: Alex Verdugo and Collin McHugh Making Significant Progress as Training Camp Nears

Two of the newest additions to the 2020 Red Sox are progressing well from their injuries, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told reporters in a Zoom call earlier Wednesday night.

Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo, the centerpiece in the February Mookie Betts trade, was coming off a stress fracture in his lower back suffered while he was with the Dodgers last year. It looked as though he would miss quite a bit of the 2020 season earlier in the spring.

Now, with an abbreviated 60-game campaign set to begin late next month, the 24-year-old likely won’t miss any game time at all if all goes according to plan.

“He should be all systems go,” Bloom said of Verdugo Wednesday. “The only limitation on him at this point is what we’ve been able to do by virtue of the fact that we’ve been shut down. He’s handled everything great. He should be ready to roll as we get him ramped up. This applies to everybody but it certainly applies to him given what he’s been through. We’re not going to cut corners. But we’re optimistic that he’s going to be ready to roll.”

With Kevin Pillar and touted prospects like Jarren Duran and Marcus Wilson in the mix, the Red Sox still should not feel the need to rush Verdugo back from his back ailment.

Once the Arizona native reports to training camp at Fenway Park next week, things will presumably become more clear regarding a course of action to take before the season starts.

As for the other new addition, veteran right-hander Collin McHugh has been “doing well” as he recovers from an offseason non-surgical procedure to repair a flexor strain.

While getting back to throwing off a mound in recent weeks, the 33-year-old is “basically progressing towards games,” per Bloom.

“He has tolerated everything really well,” Boston’s chief baseball officer added. “We’ve tried to build him up really responsibility. Don’t know yet on an exact timetable but he is progressing really well.”

The Red Sox and McHugh agreed to a one-year deal in early March that included $600,000 in guaranteed money.

At the time, the one-year pact also included incentives that could bring its value upwards of $4 million, but things have obviously changed now due to a shortened season where players will receive prorated salaries.

McHugh, a native of Illinois, spent the previous six seasons with the Astros and has experience working as both a starter and reliever. That versatility could prove to be quite valuable this year if the hurler is healthy.

In non-physical ailment-related news, an unidentified player on the Sox’ 40-man roster tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month while exposed to the virus in his hometown. As of now, he is not displaying any symptoms, according to Bloom.

Major League Baseball Set to Return as Players Will Report to Training Camps on July 1st

Baseball is officially back. According to the MLB Players Association, “all remaining issues” between Major League Baseball and the PA “have been resolved and players are reporting to training camps.”

That reporting to training camps will take place on Wednesday, July 1st. The 2020 season, which will be limited to just 60 games, will then begin on July 23rd or 24th.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Red Sox, with chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and manager Ron Roenicke at the helm, have plenty to do before June comes to an end.

The schedule for the upcoming season has yet to be set, but we do already know who the Red Sox’ opponents will be, as teams will be limited to a region-only schedule, if that makes sense.

In other words, Boston will play the Yankees, Rays, Orioles, Blue Jays, Braves, Phillies, Mets, Marlins, and Nationals. That’s it.

There’s still plenty do in a short period of time, but at long last, baseball is back. Players and staff report to training camp July 1st.

The Red Sox will utilize Fenway Park, as well as other baseball facilities in the Boston area, for their training camp.

2020 MLB Trade Deadline Will Be August 31st, per Report

With it looking increasingly likely that the 2020 Major League Baseball season will begin in late July, this season’s trading deadline would be on August 31st, according to The Athletic’s Jayson Stark.

This news comes as MLB and the players association continue to hash things out on a potential agreement for the coming season.

Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the MLBPA  “has agreed to report to training camps by July 1 and play a 60-game season.”

The only thing holding up the finalization of this deal, as noted by Passan, is “one last health-and-safety hurdle to get over.” The hope is that this will be resolved by Tuesday night.

Regarding the newly-implemented August 31st trading deadline for this abbreviated 2020 season, clubs will have a shorter amount of time to determine whether they want to be buyers or sellers at said deadline.

If Opening Day was on July 24th,  teams would only have about 38 days make that crucial decision. And if a club were to acquire a player on an expiring contract at the deadline, they would only have control of that player for 27 days. A little less than four weeks time.

The Red Sox, under chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, have four players who are set to become free agents this winter in Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Pillar, Brandon Workman, and Collin McHugh.

J.D. Martinez, Mitch Moreland, and Martin Perez, meanwhile, have options for 2021.

With no baseball yet to be played this season, it’s obviously way too early to determine where the Red Sox will stand come August 31st. But, the moving back of the trading deadline, and the fact that there will even be one, is definitely noteworthy.

Red Sox Placing Plenty of Emphasis on Undrafted Free Agent Market

The window for teams to sign undrafted free agents opened up a week ago Sunday. Since that time, the Red Sox have signed 13 undrafted free agents for no more than $20,000, according to Baseball America. That’s the most of any club thus far.

Not only that, but Boston, led by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and amateur scouting director Paul Toboni, are making sure they get the guys they want.

That being the case because two of the 13 UDFAs the Sox have signed so far have been recruited by a pair of All-Stars.

St. Joseph’s University (Philadelphia) right-hander Jordan DiValerio, a senior, already had the Red Sox at the top of his list after he realized he was not going to get drafted. A call from Chirs Sale last Sunday morning all but solidified which club the Nescopeck product was going to sign with.

“I was definitely nervous,” DiValerio said of his conversation with the Red Sox ace. “But he’s just a normal dude. When it boils down to it, he’s really normal, easy to talk to. We talked about Pennsylvania a little bit. He said he’s excited to have me as part of the club.”

On that same Sunday, Boston reached out to another undrafted college player in the form of Grand Canyon University’s Cuba Bess.

A first baseman by trade, the redshirt junior out of Fruita, Colo. received a call from Red Sox area scout Vaughn Williams that was accompanied by a recruitment video pitch from Xander Bogaerts.

One day later, Bess made the decision to forego his senior season and sign with the Sox.

“I took about a day to discuss it with family and coaches and even some of my teammates and former teammates,” Bess told WEEI’s Rob Bradford. “It was a tough decision, especially having eligibility back. It took about a day to say, ‘Yeah, I’m going to sign with you guys.'”

Along with DiValerio and Bess, the Red Sox have reportedly signed Jacinto Arredondo, Graham Hoffman, Jake MacKenzie, Juan Montero, Cole Milam, Henry Nunez-Rijo, Jose Garcia, Merfy Andrew, Brian Van Belle, Maceo Campbell, and Robert Kwiatkowski to undrafted free agent contracts.

Blogging the Red Sox Presents: An Interview With Chaim Bloom

When Major League Baseball first suspended spring training and delayed the start of the 2020 season back in March due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, I sent an email to Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom asking if I could send him a handful of questions pertaining to those aforementioned events taking place.

It took some time, but after sorting things out with the club’s media relations department over the last few weeks, I have in my virtual possession the written responses to the questions I sent him.

Rather than structure this article like a story you would typically see on here, I am instead going to enclose the “transcript” of the “interview” below. So please enjoy, and remember, these questions were sent earlier in the spring, before this year’s draft and before MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said he’s not “100%” confident there will be a season this year.

Would you rather the Red Sox host spring training workouts in Boston or Fort Myers?

Chaim Bloom: This is such a unique year – it forces us to rethink everything that goes into spring training. There are certainly benefits to both places and we’re hoping to get a clearer idea of exactly what 2020 will look like before we firm up a plan. In the meantime, we’re working on parallel tracks to make sure we’re ready for whatever makes the most sense once we see the schedule as a whole.

How has it been preparing for this year’s draft with less material to go over than usual?

Bloom: The process to prepare for the 2020 draft really favored those staffs who had done their homework in the summer and the fall. When you have a hard-working staff with a lot of continuity, which we do, that’s one aspect we were well prepared to take advantage of. The biggest challenge for all 30 clubs was how to weigh those spring samples, which were either small or nonexistent. If a player changed dramatically from what he’d been, how much weight do you put on that? Is that who he is now – was it a real step forward or back – or was it just a small-sample fluke? Those types of discussions were some of the most interesting that we had amongst our staff.

Who in the front office or scouting department would be best at convincing undrafted players to sign with the Red Sox for up to $20,000?

Bloom: The decision to play pro ball is a very personal one for a lot of players and this year is no different. We certainly want to make the case to interested players that we’re the organization that can get the most out of them and maximize their potential. But we also want this to be a mutual fit, who see themselves as well-positioned to take advantage of what we have to offer. When those things line up, we will be set up well to have success in development.

Despite the current freeze placed on any sort of roster moves, have you had any conversations with free agents or other general managers during this period?

Bloom: Along with others in the front office, I’ve continued to speak to counterparts and contacts throughout the game, but not to discuss trades or roster moves. That’s just not appropriate right now and there have been many other issues to worry about.

As a spectator, how different would it be for you to watch Major League Baseball be played in empty ballparks? Would that impact the way you view or analyze a certain player since there would be no crowd noise to react to?

Bloom: It would be different, that’s for sure. I don’t think we know exactly how players will react. But I’d be hesitant to give too much blame or credit to the attendance (or lack thereof) when assessing how a player performs. There’s so much that goes into what these guys do that I don’t know how we could separate the signal from the noise. They’re pros and I have every reason to think they’ll be locked in when the time comes to compete.

Finally, how odd has it been to not have any live stateside baseball to watch at this point in the year? There are obviously more pressing issues at hand in this country, but as someone who has been part of a major-league front office in some capacity since 2005, this has to be kind of strange, no?

Bloom: No question. This is not an experience that has been fun for anyone in the game. We’ve done what we can to make the most of the time, but we’re all in this because we love baseball and when there isn’t any, it’s a downer. Having said that, we know that public health and the safety of our players, our staff, and our fans is and should be higher priorities. Those things have to come first, but we’re hopeful that we can provide some entertainment for our fans during this really difficult period.

Thank you to Chaim Bloom and Red Sox vice president of media relations Kevin Gregg for making this possible. 

Red Sox Third-Round Draft Pick Blaze Jordan Not Taking Anything for Granted

Newest Red Sox draftee Blaze Jordan has been in the spotlight since he was in the eighth grade, if not earlier. He was a consensus top-100 prospect headed into this year’s draft, but that did not stop the 17-year-old from feeling some angst this past week.

Speaking with MassLive.Com’s Chris Cotillo on The Fenway Rundown podcast, Jordan went over how things went on Wednesday and on Thursday.

“I’m not gonna lie, it was a pretty stressful process,” he said. “Especially that first night, because I knew there was a shot I could go that night. I was just waiting it out and seeing when it happens.

“The next day came and Boston called, and when I heard my name get called I actually started crying a bit because all that stress and stuff that was built up. It’s always been one of my dreams and I was just really fortunate to get picked by a great organization like the Red Sox. It was truly a great experience.”

Selected in the third round with the 89th overall pick, Jordan was one of the most well known draft-eligible prospects as previously mentioned. He was even dubbed ‘the next Bryce Harper’ as a 15-year-old. All that attention was tough to deal with at first, but the Mississippi native was eventually able to turn it into a positive.

“It was kind of hard, especially being that young,” Jordan said of being recognized at such a young age. “I would walk into a travel ball tournament and every team would know who I am and other teams would start to pitch me different and when they would get me out, they would get really excited.”

He added, “It made it a lot harder to play because it was stressful sometimes, but over time, I started to enjoy it because once that many people start to know you, a lot of kids would love to be in the situation I was in. Once all that pressure started getting put on me, I felt like it was helping me for the future and I felt like it helped me get to where I am today.”

Going back to that Bryce Harper comparison, Jordan says at first, it was “crazy” to be compared to a player of that caliber at such a young age. However, he added that, “I would definitely want to be in the position he’s in, but I also feel like I’m a different type of player. My goal is not just to be as good as him, but better. That’s what your goal has to be, to be the best one out there day in and day out.”

Another aspect of the Harper comparison can be attributed to Jordan’s personality and social media presence. With over 85,000 followers on Instagram, Jordan has already established quite the social media following for himself. He says he wants to use his platform in a positive manner and be a player fans can gravitate towards.

“I really hope I can be one of those guys fans know on a personal level,” the Mississippi State commit said. “I’m hoping that I can just have some good fan interactions and bring people back to the ballpark with excitement.”

Regarding the social media aspect, Jordan says, “The biggest thing for me is just trying to keep everything positive and try not to post anything negative. I know a lot of kids look up to me and I try to keep it to stuff kids would enjoy looking at.

“It’s really cool to interact with people through social media so they can see what I do in my life. I didn’t really mean for it to blow up, it just kind of happened and I went with it. It’s a true blessing because it’s a good platform to be on and share my life.”

The Red Sox drafted Jordan as a third baseman, but with 23-year-old Rafael Devers entrenched in the position at the big-league level for the foreseeable future, that may create a roadblock for the 2020 draftee to get to the majors. Still, he sees himself as a third baseman in the long term.

“I definitely feel like I should stay at third base,” he said. “Because I feel like I’ve put my body in the position to be able to play third base and I know my arm is definitely strong enough to play third.”

Although he can play first base, Jordan wants to continue to develop at third and “continue to work hard” because he knows he has things he can improve upon, such as his strength and conditioning.

Due to the current circumstances in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s no timetable for when minor-league baseball will return. It likely won’t be this year, but that’s not stopping Jordan from looking ahead to his eventual minor-league debut if he does sign with Boston.

“Once I get there, I’m just going to be that average guy that’s going into the park,” Jordan said. “I’m going to have to fight for a spot and continue to work my butt off and try to go out there and have fun and continue to play my game.”

You can follow Jordan on Instagram here.

Following 2020 Draft, How Should Red Sox Approach Pursuing Undrafted Free Agents?

The 2020 MLB first-year player draft has come and gone, and beginning the morning of June 14th, clubs will have the opportunity to sign an unlimited number of undrafted free agents for no more than $20,000.

Under normal circumstances, the Red Sox have signed anywhere between 25-35 players in past draft, but since the 2020 edition was limited to just five rounds and Boston was limited to just four picks, only four new additions were made over the past two days in the forms of Nick Yorke, Blaze Jordan, Jeremy Wu-Yelland, and Shane Drohan.

Because this year’s draft was cut to five rounds rather recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems likely that the Red Sox had an idea of who would be available over the course of a typical 40-round draft before that announcement was made.

It also helps that, since not much baseball was played at the high school or college level this spring, the Sox’ draft board probably hasn’t changed all that much since the 2019 season came to an end.

Only 160 players were drafted this year, meaning there is still plenty of mid-to-late-round level talent out there on the free agency market.

With chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and amateur scouting director Paul Toboni at the helm, the Red Sox are in a position where they are trying to revamp things on the player development side of the game. They should not limit themselves to just the four players they drafted this week.

Some local products Boston could pursue during this unique free agency period, as noted by SoxProspects‘ Mike Andrews, include:

  • Wake Forest outfielder Chris Lanzilli (Stoneham, MA)
  • Boston College outfielder Chris Galland (Sudbury, MA)
  • Northeastern catcher Teddy Beaduet (Franklin, NH)
  • Buckingham Browne & Nichols shortstop Jake Berger (Boston, MA)
  • Avon Old Farms outfielder/catcher Jake Deleo (Norwalk, CT)
  • Braintree High School right-handed pitcher Myles McDermott (Braintree, MA)
  • Halifax High School right-handed pitcher Michael Quigley (Halifax, MA)
  • East Greenwich High School right-handed pitcher/infielder Brad Lombardi (East Greenwich, RI)
  • Gilmanton High School right-hander Adrian Siravo (Gilmanton, NH)
  • South Portland High School left-handed pitcher Hunter Owen (South Portland, ME)

Some of these prospects, more specifically the ones graduating from high school, will likely opt to honor their college commitments rather than go pro, but for the college seniors with no eligibility left, this could be the opportunity they have been looking for after going overlooked in the draft.

When asked last week about what the Sox’ approach to recruiting undrafted free agents will look like, Toboni said, “The Red Sox brand carries weight itself,” so it will certainly be fascinating to see just how many additional prospects they sign in the coming weeks.

The deadline to sign both drafted and undrafted players is August 1st.

Red Sox Draft Round-Up: How Did Chaim Bloom Fare in First Draft as Boston’s Chief Baseball Officer?

As the dust settles on the day following the completion of the shortest draft in Major League Baseball history, the Red Sox will come away with four new additions to their minor-league pipeline if all goes according to plan.

Those four new additions are prep infielders Nick Yorke and Blaze Jordan, as well as college left-handed pitchers Jeremy Wu-Yelland and Shane Drohan.

As part of their punishment for illegally stealing signs in 2018, the Sox were docked a second-round pick in this year’s draft, which subsequently dropped their total pool money down to just $5,129,900.

Because of that, it seems that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and amateur scouting director Paul Toboni utilized a somewhat unconventional approach in their first draft together.

By taking Yorke, an 18-year-old second baseman out of San Jose, Calif. who was regarded by Baseball America as the 98th-ranked draft-eligible prospect, the Sox will likely be able to save quite a bit of money. That being the case because Yorke, who is committed to play college baseball at the University of Arizona, will presumably sign with Boston for less than the $3,609,700 slot value assigned to his draft position.

With that in mind and done with on Day 1 of the draft, Blom and Co. were able to go out and splurge with their third-round selection in first baseman/third baseman Blaze Jordan on Thursday.

The 17-year-old likely fell to the third-round because of his commitment to Mississippi State University, but the Red Sox will presumably be able to sway Baseball America’s 90th-ranked draft-eligible prospect to go pro by offering him more than the $667,900 signing bonus assigned to his draft position (No. 89).

“Getting that kind of upside at pick No. 89, it’s not normal,” Toboni said of Jordan Thursday night. “We were able to assume the risk mainly because the expected value we thought we were getting was really, really good in that area of the draft. He’s just a really exciting talent. There’s no other way to put it.”

As for the two college hurlers, Hawaii left-hander Jeremy Wu-Yelland and Florida State left-hander Shane Drohan, taken by Boston in the fourth and fifth rounds of the draft, they were ranked by Baseball America as the No. 261 and No. 189 draft-eligible prospects respectively.

Wu-Yelland, who was scouted by J.J. Albotelli, has a recommended slot value of $487,9000, while Drohan, who was scouted by Dante Ricciardi, has a recommended slot value of $364,400.

The Red Sox have until August 1st to sign these four prospects, as well as any undrafted free agent they may pursue.

Some players are already reaching agreements with their new clubs, so it should not be long until we get our first reports of the Red Sox agreeing to terms with one of the four names mentioned above.

Red Sox Take Florida State Left-Hander Shane Drohan With Final Pick of 2020 MLB Draft

The Red Sox have selected left-hander Shane Drohan with their fourth and final pick of the 2020 MLB Draft at No. 148 overall.

Taking their second consecutive college lefty, the Red Sox go with Drohan, a 21-year-old junior out of Florida State University in Tallahassee.

MLB Pipeline’s 147th-ranked draft-eligible prospect, Drohan posted a 4.08 ERA over four starts and 17 2/3 innings pitched for the Seminoles in 2020 before the college baseball season was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

His pitching arsenal consists of a 92-93 MPH that can reach 95 MPH, an above-average curveball, and a changeup that “continues to improve.”

A former 23rd round selection of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2017, Drohan, once a star quarterback at Cardinal Newman High School in West Palm Beach, “is still learning how to pitch,” according to MLB Pipeline, which means “there’s still ceiling [for him] to reach.”

By being taken in the fifth round of this year’s draft, Drohan’s recommended slot value is approximately $364,400.

The Red Sox, led by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and amateur scouting director Paul Toboni, will have until August 1st to sign Drohan, as well as the three other players that have been drafted by Boston over the last 26 hours or so.

Speaking of Bloom and Toboni, the selection of Drohan marks the conclusion of their first draft together.

If all goes according to plan, I’ll have a wrap-up post about this year’s draft for the Red Sox up some time on Friday, so stay tuned for that.

 

 

Red Sox Take Hawaii Left-Hander Jeremy Wu-Yelland in Fourth Round of 2020 MLB Draft

The Red Sox have selected left-hander Jeremy Wu-Yelland with their fourth-round pick in the 2020 MLB Draft at No. 118 overall.

The first college player and pitcher taken by Boston in this year’s draft, Wu-Yelland is a soon-to-be 21-year-old junior out of the University of Hawaii.

Before this past college baseball season was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wu-Yelland, a native of Spokane, Wash., posted a nice 0.69 ERA and .200 batting average against over seven relief appearances and 13 innings of work out of the Rainbow Warriors bullpen.

Ranked by Baseball America as the No. 261 prospect in this year’s draft class, Wu-Yelland relies heavily on his fastball, and thanks to a somewhat erratic delivery, he has dealt with control issues in the past, which ultimately led to a move to Hawaii’s ‘pen prior to the start of the 2020 season.

As a fourth-round selection, Wu-Yelland is likely to sign with Boston for around $487,900 if he so chooses.

The final pick of chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and amateur scouting director Paul Toboni’s first draft together is coming up in the middle of the fifth round. Or, more specifically, the 148th overall selection.