Christian Koss crushes two home runs as Red Sox walk off Rays, 7-6

The Red Sox improved to 2-0 in Grapefruit League play on Friday afternoon following a 7-6 walk-off victory over the Rays at JetBlue Park.

Nathan Eovaldi, who was recently named the Sox’ Opening Day starter for a third consecutive year, made his 2022 debut for Boston. The veteran right-hander allowed two runs (both earned) on three hits and no walks to go along with three strikeouts over three innings of work.

After retiring each of the first six batters he faced, Eovaldi ran into some trouble in the top half of the third. The 32-year-old issued a leadoff double to Miles Mastrobuoni before yielding a pair of run-scoring hits to Esteban Quiroz and Josh Lowe.

That put Boston in early 2-0 hole, though Eovaldi was able to get through three full frames on 42 frames. His next start should come against the Twins in Fort Myers next Wednesday.

In relief of Eovaldi, Kaleb Ort got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen in the fourth inning and allowed one run on two hits that made it a 3-0 contest in favor of the Rays.

A half-inning later, though, the Sox got all three of those runs back on one swing of the bat. Following back-to-back singles from Christian Arroyo and Rafael Devers, Bobby Dalbec stayed hot and greeted reliever Zack Erwin by demolishing his second home run of the spring over the Fenway South green monster.

Dalbec’s three-run blast knotted things up at three runs a piece going into the fifth, when Durbin Feltman twirled a 1-2-3 frame before 2021 Rule 5 draftee Brian Keller did the very same in the sixth.

Ceddanne Rafaela and Christian Koss led off the bottom of the sixth with a pair of singles off Rays reliever David McKay and both base runners advanced an additional 90 feet on a groundout off the bat of Hudson Potts. Rafaela then scored when Tyler Esplin reached base on a fielder’s choice.

That sequence put the Red Sox up 4-3, although their newfound lead did not last long when Keller served a go-ahead, three-run home run to Ford Proctor that gave the Rays a 6-4 edge. Joan Martinez came on for Keller and recorded the final out of the seventh.

From there, non-roster invitee Silvino Bracho took over for Martinez and maneuvered his way around a two-out single in an otherwise clean inning of work.

To lead off the bottom half of the eighth, the Sox cut into the Rays’ lead when Koss cranked his first home run of the spring to left field off Adrian De Horta. Izzy Wilson followed with a two-out single before Tyreque Reed came through with a game-tying single off former Red Sox farmhand Seth Blair.

Right-handed pitching prospect Victor Santos came on in the top of the ninth and put up one final zero for Boston to pave the way for some late-game heroics in the bottom half.

With two outs and the bases empty, Koss obliterated his second home run of the day. This one was another solo shot and came off Rays reliever Joel Peguero, thus ensuring a 7-6 walk-off victory for the Red Sox.

Next up: Pivetta makes spring debut against Twins

Nick Pivetta will make his 2022 debut for the Red Sox on Saturday as they face off against the Twins — who have yet to name a starter — at Hammond Stadium.

First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time. The game will be broadcasted on NESN.

(Picture of Christian Koss: Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Red Sox infield prospect Christian Koss could provide Double-A Portland with much-needed versatility in 2022

Red Sox infield prospect Christian Koss celebrated his 24th birthday on Thursday. He was among 28 minor-leaguers who spent the week participating in the team’s Winter Warmup program in Fort Myers.

One of nine infielders on the Sox’ minicamp roster, Koss was acquired from the Rockies in exchange for pitching prospect Yoan Aybar in December 2020.

That move was primarily made so that the Sox could clear a spot on their 40-man roster, but it also provided the club with an intriguing, versatile infielder.

Upon acclimating himself to a new organization, Koss spent the entirety of the 2021 minor-league season with Low-A Greenville, where he batted .271/.325/.451 (106 wRC+) with 18 doubles, seven triples, 15 home runs, 55 RBIs, 65 runs scored, 10 stolen bases, 31 walks, and 100 strikeouts over 104 games spanning 468 plate appearances.

On the surface, it would appear that Koss had a solid, above-average year at the plate. However, it is worth mentioning that the right-handed hitter actually got off to a slow start before picking things up over the summer.

From July 1 on, in fact, Koss slashed a more impressive .297/.340/.529 (127 wRC+) while cutting his strikeout rate down from 25.7% to 18.6% over the final 64 games (285 plate appearances) he played in.

SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall had the chance to see Koss during this stretch, and observed that the then-23-year-old “may not have the highest ceiling, but he was solid enough at shortstop and should add positional versatility as he moves up the system. He does not have a standout tool, but has a bunch of average tools in his locker.” 

Defensively, Koss saw the majority of his playing time with the Drive come at shortstop. The 6-foot-1, 182 pounder logged 842 1/3 innings and committed 15 errors at that position while accruing 73 innings and committing no errors as a second baseman.

Following the conclusion of the regular minor-league season, Koss spent his fall in the Arizona Fall League after replacing catcher Connor Wong on the Scottsdale Scorpions’ roster.

Appearing in 14 games for Scottsdale, Koss posted a .525 OPS and swiped a pair of bags while playing every infield position besides first base.

Originally selected by the Rockies in the 12th round of the 2019 amateur draft out of University of California, Irvine, Koss’ most appealing tool is undoubtedly his speed. He was named the Red Sox’ minor-league Baserunner of the Year for 2021, after all.

A native of Riverside, Calif. who spent two summers (2017, 2018) playing for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod Baseball League, Koss ended the 2021 season ranked by SoxProspects.com as the No. 31 prospect in Boston’s farm system. He is projected by the publication to begin the 2022 campaign with Double-A Portland.

Given his ability to play multiple defensive positions, Koss could provide the Sea Dogs with a shifty, utility infielder who has the ability to play three different positions on any given night.

As is the case with many Red Sox minor-leaguers heading into the 2022 season, Koss can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career come December. Boston would need to add the 24-year-old to their 40-man roster by late November in order to prevent that from happening.

(Picture of Christian Koss: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox)

Recapping how contingent of 8 Red Sox prospects performed in Arizona Fall League

The 2021 Arizona Fall League season came to a close on Saturday night, with the Mesa Solar Sox besting the Surprise Saguaros by a final score of 6-0 in the championship game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

With the Arizona Fall League making a triumphant return and closing out another exciting season in the desert, now is the time to reflect on how the contingent of prospects the Red Sox sent out west did in what is regarded by many as Major League Baseball’s “finishing school.”

Back in October, it was revealed that the Sox would be sending eight prospects to Arizona to play for the Scottsdale Scorpions alongside Guardians, Twins, Giants, and Rays minor-leaguers.

That initial list included catching prospect Connor Wong, but the backstop was ultimately replaced on Scottsdale’s roster by Christian Koss since he was a member of Boston’s taxi squad for the majority of their postseason run.

That said, the eight prospects who wound up representing the Red Sox were right-handers A.J. Politi, Connor Seabold, Josh Winckowski, left-hander Brendan Cellucci, catcher Kole Cottam, first baseman Triston Casas, and infielders Jeter Downs and Koss.

So, without further ado, here is how each of those players fared during their time with the Scorpions, who finished the 2021 AFL campaign with a record of 12-18.

A.J. Politi, RHP

Politi began the minor-league season in Double-A Portland’s starting rotation, but ultimately transitioned back to the bullpen towards the end of the summer and remained there upon reporting to Scottsdale.

In 11 relief appearances this fall, the 25-year-old posted a 5.84 ERA and 1.86 WHIP to go along with 10 strikeouts to eight walks over 12 1/3 innings of work.

Originally selected by the Red Sox in the 15th round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Seton Hall University, Politi is eligible for this winter’s Rule 5 Draft since he was left unprotected and not added to Boston’s 40-man roster on Friday.

Connor Seabold, RHP

Seabold had quite the eventful first full season in the Red Sox organization after coming over from the Phillies alongside fellow righty Nick Pivetta in the same trade that sent relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree to Philadelphia last August.

The 25-year-old hurler was already a member of Boston’s 40-man roster coming into 2021, but missed the first several weeks of the minor-league season due to right elbow inflammation and did not make his first start for Triple-A Worcester until July 23.

On September 11, Seabold made his major-league debut against the White Sox and allowed two earned runs in three innings before being optioned back to Worcester the following day and closing out the year with the WooSox.

With the Scorpions, Seabold led the team in innings pitched (20 1/3) while putting up a 4.87 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in addition to 32 strikeouts and 12 walks over six starts.

Josh Winckowski, RHP

One of five players the Red Sox acquired in the three-team trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Royals in February, Winckowski emerged as one of the organization’s more intriguing pitching prospects in 2021 and was just protected from the Rule 5 Draft as a result of doing so.

Now a member of the Sox’ 40-man roster, Winckowski split the minor-league season between Portland and Worcester while mainly being used as a starter, but was strictly utilized as a reliever in the fall league.

Over six appearances out of Scottsdale’s bullpen, the 23-year-old produced a 6.55 ERA and 1.73 ERA while recording three strikeouts and four walks in his 11 innings of relief. He was also involved in a benches-clearing brawl with Pirates prospect Canaan Smith-Njigba earlier this month that resulted in both players getting ejected.

Brendan Cellucci, LHP

The lone southpaw representing the Red Sox in the AFL, Cellucci spent the entirety of the 2021 season at High-A Greenville and was one of six lefties on Scottsdale’s roster this fall.

In 10 outings out of the Scorpions bullpen, Cellucci yielded an ERA of 6.94 and WHIP of 1.89 while striking out 11 batters and walking seven over 11 2/3 innings pitched.

A native of Philadelphia who the Red Sox took out of Tulane University in the the 12th round of the 2019 draft, Cellucci does not turn 24 until next June and can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career next winter.

Kole Cottam, C

Cottam began the year in Greenville and later earned himself a midseason promotion to Portland on July 29 while being regarded by Baseball America as the top defensive catcher in the Red Sox farm system.

A 2021 Arizona Fall League Fall Star, the 24-year-old backstop out of the University of Kentucky batted a solid .275/.356/.510 with three doubles, three home runs, 10 RBIs, seven runs scored, five walks, and 13 strikeouts over 15 games (59 plate appearances) for Scottsdale.

Like Politi, Cottam could have been added to Boston’s 40-man roster last week in order to receive protection from next month’s Rule 5 Draft. But the club elected not to do so, thus leaving him exposed if other teams are interested.

Triston Casas, 1B

The top prospect the Red Sox sent to Arizona, Casas put the finishing touches on an impressive year by putting his talent and skills on full display with the Scorpions.

Among qualified hitters in the AFL this year, Casas ranked fifth in batting average (.372), first in on-base percentage (.495), 26th in slugging percentage (.487), and 12th in OPS (.982) in the process of joining Cottam in the Fall Stars Game.

A former first-round pick out of American Heritage High School (Plantation, Fla.) in 2018, the left-handed hitting Casas — who turns 22 in January — figures to make his big-league debut for Boston at some point during the 2022 season.

Jeter Downs, 2B/SS

There was always going to be pressure on Downs since he was the top prospect acquired from the Dodgers in the infamous Mookie Betts/David Price trade last February, but the 23-year-old infielder got his first taste of the Triple-A level this year and it did not go all that swimmingly.

Still, the Red Sox sent Downs to play in the fall league despite the struggles he endured over the summer and it now appears as though that decision paid off.

Across 16 games (72 plate appearances) for the Scorpions, Downs slashed .228/.389/.491 with five homers, 14 RBIs, nine runs scored, four stolen bases, 14 walks, and 18 strikeouts while playing both middle infield positions.

Like Winckowski, Downs was added to Boston’s 40-man roster on Friday, which came as no surprise.

Christian Koss, INF

Acquired from the Rockies in exchange for pitching prospect Yoan Aybar last December, Koss enjoyed a solid 2021 season with Greenville and later received an invite to play in the Arizona Fall League in order to replace the aforementioned Wong.

In 14 games with Scottsdale, the versatile infielder batted .229/.275/.250 to go along with one double, six RBIs, four runs scored, two stolen bases, three walks, and eight strikeouts across 51 total trips to the plate.

A product of University of California, Irvine who played on the Cape in 2017 and 2018, Koss has proven he is capable of playing second base, third base, and shortstop in the minors.

The right-handed hitter turns 23 in January and can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his professional career next winter.

(Picture of Triston Casas: Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Red Sox trade: infield prospect Christian Koss acquired from Rockies in exchange for left-hander Yoan Aybar

The Red Sox have acquired infield prospect Christian Koss from the Rockies in exchange for left-handed pitching prospect Yoan Aybar. The club made the trade official earlier Thursday evening.

Koss, who turns 23 in January, was selected by Colorado in the 12th round of the 2019 amateur draft out of the University of California, Irvine.

In 53 games with rookie-level Grand Junction of the Pioneer League last year, the Riverside native posted an impressive .322/.447/.605 slash line (172 wRC+) to go along with 11 home runs and 51 RBI over 238 plate appearances.

Named a mid and post-season Pioneer League All-Star thanks to his efforts, Koss opened the 2020 campaign regarded by Baseball America as the Rockies’ No. 29 prospect.

Capable of playing every infield position besides first base at the moment, the right-handed hitting, right-handed throwing Koss is listed at 6-foot-1 and 182 lbs.

Koss is Rule 5 eligible next winter, so the 2021 season will prove to be an important one for him regardless of where he begins the year, which will likely be High-A Salem.

As for Aybar, the now-former Sox prospect was added to Boston’s 40-man roster last November, yet he was the only member of the 40-man roster to not be included in the club’s 60-man player pool this past season.

Originally signed as an outfielder out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, the stout southpaw converted into a pitcher full-time in 2018, most recently posting a 4.61 ERA over 44 relief appearances and 56 2/3 innings pitched between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem last year.

With Aybar being traded to another organization, the Red Sox’ 40-man roster is currently down to 39 players, with plenty more moves to come as the offseason continues.