With recent promotions of Franklin German and A.J. Politi, Red Sox relief prospect Chase Shugart could take on larger role in Double-A Portland’s bullpen

Red Sox pitching prospect Chase Shugart picked up his third save of the season in Double-A Portland’s 2-1 win over the Somerset Patriots at Hadlock Field on Tuesday afternoon.

Taking the mound for the ninth inning, Shugart worked his way around a leadoff walk by retiring the next three batters he faced in order to secure Portland’s 20th win of the season. 13 of the 21 pitches he threw went for strikes.

In 14 appearances out of the Sea Dogs’ bullpen this year, the right-hander has posted a 2.25 ERA and 4.01 FIP to go along with 20 strikeouts to seven walks over 20 innings of work. In the month of May, he has allowed just one earned run over his last 10 1/3 innings pitched.

Among pitches in the Eastern League with at least 20 innings under their belt to this point in the season, Shugart ranks 20th in batting average against (.194), 22nd in WHIP (1.05), 16th in ERA, and 20th in xFIP (3.57), per FanGraphs.

Shugart, 25, began his professional career as a starter after being selected by the Red Sox in the 12th round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Texas at Austin. The former Longhorn had prior experience as a reliever in college, but did not return to that role until this past winter.

Pitching out of the bullpen for Indios de Mayaguez of the Puerto Rican Winter League, Shugart yielded just two runs on five hits, two walks, and nine strikeouts across five appearances spanning 6 1/3 innings. He took what he gained from his time in Puerto Rico and impressed the Red Sox during the team’s Winter Warm-Up program in Fort Myers back in January.

At that point in time, the club essentially decided that Shugart would be a full-time reliever moving forward, and it certainly seems as though the native Texan has embraced that opportunity so far.

Coming into play on Wednesday, Shugart leads the Sea Dogs’ pitching staff in appearances while also ranking first among relievers in number of innings pitched.

Portland has seen its bullpen composition change up a bit as of late, as a pair of other right-handers — Franklin German and A.J. Politi — recently earned promotions to Triple-A Worcester. Taking this into consideration, Shugart should figure to play an even larger role for the Sea Dogs moving forward.

Listed at 5-foot-10 and 198 pounds, Shugart is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 51 prospect in Boston’s farm system. Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, the righty operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a 93-95 mph fastball that tops out at 97 mph, a 74-80 mph curveball, an 81-84 mph slider, and an 84-87 mph changeup.

Shugart, who turns 26 in October, can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this December if he is not added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster by the November deadline.

(Picture of Chase Shugart: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox pitching prospect Chase Shugart ‘had a lot of success in Puerto Rico’ this winter, Brian Abraham says; ‘It was a really good experience for him’

Chase Shugart was one of several Red Sox minor-leaguers who spent part of their off-season playing winter ball outside of the United States.

Suiting up for Indios de Mayaguez of the Puerto Rican Winter League, Shugart posted a 2.84 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with nine strikeouts to two walks over five relief appearances spanning 6 1/3 innings of work during the regular season.

In the postseason, Shugart’s star shined even brighter. The right-handed pitching prospect allowed a total of one run on five hits, two walks, and nine strikeouts across six outings (6 1/3 innings pitched) out of the bullpen for Mayaguez. That’s good for an ERA of 1.42.

Prior to making the trek to Puerto Rico in December, Shugart had only been used as a starter since being drafted by the Red Sox in the 12th round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Texas.

Last season alone, the 25-year-old pitched to the tune of a 4.78 ERA and 4.34 FIP to go along with 93 strikeouts to 24 walks over 22 starts (105 1/3 innings) for High-A Greenville.

Upon returning from Puerto Rico earlier this month, Shugart was one of 28 Red Sox minor-leaguers to receive an invite to the team’s weeklong Winter Warm-Up minicamp in Fort Myers.

That minicamp commenced at the Fenway South complex on Monday, and it also gave reporters (including MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith) an opportunity to speak with Sox director of player development Brian Abraham.

When asked about the long-term role of certain pitchers in the organization such as Shugart, Abraham seemed to indicate that Boston will attempt to maintain as much flexibility as they can moving forward.

“I think there’s still an opportunity to start, but I think ultimately we see him more as a bulk reliever type role,” Abraham said of Shugart. “He had a lot of success in Puerto Rico in the short amount of time he had down there. It was a really good experience for him based on the conversations we had with him today.”

Shugart, who is listed at 5-foot-10 and 198 pounds, is a four-pitch pitcher who operates with a fastball that hovers around 93-95 mph and tops out at 97 mph, a 74-80 mph curveball, an 81-84 mph slider, and an 84-87 mph changeup, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report.

While he may have only been used as a starter to this point in his professional career, Shugart does have experience in the bullpen that goes beyond what he did in Puerto Rico.

To begin his career at Texas, the Bridge City native pitched out of the bullpen during both his freshman and sophomore seasons before moving to the Longhorns’ starting rotation in 2018.

As Abraham alluded to in his conversation with the media on Monday, the Red Sox value relievers who can provide the club with multiple innings out of the bullpen when needed.

Given his history as a starting pitcher, Shugart could potentially fit that mold if he is going to become a reliever on a full-time basis. With that being said, Shugart is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 minor-league season in Double-A Portland’s bullpen.

(Picture of Chase Shugart via his Instagram)

Red Sox’ Christian Vázquez crushes game-winning home run for Cangrejeros de Santurce in winter ball action

Down to their final two outs while facing the possibility of extra innings, Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez provided a late boost for the Cangrejeros de Santurce of the Puerto Rican Winter League on Wednesday night.

With one out in the top of the ninth inning of a scoreless game against the Indios de Mayaguez, Vazquez came to the plate having already gone hitless with a strikeout through his first three at-bats of the evening.

Matched up against Mayaguez reliever Braden Webb with the bases empty this time around, Vazquez greeted the right-hander by clubbing a go-ahead solo shot to deep left-center field to give his side their first lead of the night at 1-0.

Vazquez’s first home run of the winter — and first in Puerto Rico since 2016-2017 — lifted Santurce to a tightly-contested 1-0 victory over Mayaguez, allowing them to improve to 16-14 on the season.

Following Wednesday’s clutch performance, the right-handed hitting backstop is now batting .179/.207/.357 through his first eight games (29 plate appearances) with the Crabbers.

Vazquez originally revealed last week that he would be returning to his home island to play winter ball for the first time since before the 2017 major-league season began.

While catcher is obviously Vazquez’s primary position with the Red Sox, the 31-year-old has yet to see any time behind the plate for Santurce and has instead served as either the club’s first baseman (like he did on Wednesday) or designated hitter.

As The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier wrote over the weekend, Vazquez is back in Puerto Rico with the hope that the extra reps he is getting there will allow him “to hit the ground running this coming spring.”

Back in November, the Red Sox — after some internal debate — picked up Vazquez’s $7 million club option for 2022, meaning he can become a free agent next winter. Under normal circumstances, they may not have permitted him to play in Puerto Rico this off-season, but the ongoing lockout allowed Vazquez to act on his own volition since clubs cannot contact their players.

On another note, Red Sox pitching prospect struck out one while tossing a scoreless eighth inning for Mayaguez in this very same game on Wednesday. The 25-year-old righty was added to the Indios’ roster earlier this month and has posted a 1.80 ERA in four appearances (five innings pitched) with the team.

(Picture of Christian Vazquez: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)