How Red Sox plan on using rookie catcher Connor Wong in prospect’s first big-league stint

With Kevin Plawecki hitting the 10-day injured list due to a left hamstring strain, the Red Sox recalled top catching prospect Connor Wong from Triple-A Worcester to fill in for the veteran backstop for the time being.

While Wong is not in Boston’s starting lineup for Tuesday night’s series opener against the Rays at Tropicana Field, the Sox are planning on using the young catcher while he is up with the big-league club.

As a matter of fact, Wong will make his first start behind the plate in Sunday’s series finale against the Yankees at Fenway Park, according to Red Sox manager Alex Cora — though he could see some playing time in the infield before then considering he has professional experience at both second and third base.

“We’ll use him just like Kevin [Plawecki],” Cora said of Wong. “The plan is for him to start on Sunday… Where we’re at, Christian [Arroyo], as you know, is banged up. We’ll stay away from him today, most likely. In case of an emergency, we’ll move him out there. He can pinch-run, he’s a right-handed bat. As of now, just kind of like Kevin. Use him that way.”

Wong, who turned 25 last month, was one of three players (Alex Verdugo and Jeter Downs being the other two) the Red Sox acquired from the Dodgers as part of the blockbuster trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles last February.

Although he did not get the chance to display his skills in a truly competitive environment last year on account of the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling the 2020 minor-league season, Wong did impress at the alternate training site, and he carried that over into his second big-league camp with the Sox this spring after being added to the club’s 40-man roster this past November.

“I do believe the people that saw him last year and the people that are working with him this year, they’re very comfortable with him. I’m very comfortable,” said Cora. “We talked a little bit in spring training. There’s just something about him. There’s a calm behind the plate. There’s not a lot of emotion, he just goes about his business. He’s a good athlete. His at-bats in spring training, he controlled the strike zone, which is very important. We’re very pleased with his progress.”

A former third-round draft selection of the Dodgers out of the University of Houston in 2017, the 6-foot-1, 181 pound backstop opened the 2021 minor-league season with Triple-A Pawtucket having only played 40 career games above the High-A level.

Due to a hamstring injury suffered in early May, however, Wong has been limited to just 16 games with the WooSox and is only slashing .148/.188/.245 with three doubles, one home run, seven RBI, five runs scored, three walks, and 19 strikeouts over his first 64 plate appearances at Triple-A. Those offensive struggles do not seem to concern Cora, though.

“He hasn’t swung the bat well since he came off the IL, but that doesn’t matter,” Cora said. “We like the player, we know what we can do. And hopefully here, working with [hitting coach Tim Hyers and assistant hitting coach Peter Fatse] — obviously with the feedback from [WooSox hitting coach Rich Gedman] down there — just working on the things that he has to work, and he’ll put together a good at-bat whenever we need him.”

Wong will become the second player in Red Sox history to don the No. 74, joining former left-hander Mike Kickham in doing so.

(Picture of Connor Wong: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox call up top catching prospect Connor Wong from Triple-A Worcester, place Kevin Plawecki on injured list with left hamstring strain

Before opening up a three-game series against the Rays in Tampa Bay on Tuesday night, the Red Sox placed backup catcher Kevin Plawecki on the 10-day injured list with a left hamstring strain.

In a corresponding move, catching prospect Connor Wong has been called up from Triple-A Worcester, the team announced earlier Tuesday afternoon.

Plawecki suffered a hamstring strain in the third inning of Sunday’s loss to the Royals after chasing down an errant throw from center fielder Enrique Hernandez.

The 30-year-old backstop was able to remain in the game for the remainder of the inning, but was pinch-hit for by Christian Vazquez in Boston’s half of the fourth before later being diagnosed with left hamstring tightness.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora did make it seem as though Plawecki could be headed towards a stint on the injured list when speaking with reporters following Sunday’s contest, and that winds up being the case.

Since his stay on the IL was backdated to Monday, the earliest Plawecki could be activated is Thursday, July 1, when the Sox are slated to take on the Royals at Fenway Park.

As of this moment, the amount of time Plawecki will need to miss while recovering from his hamstring injury is unknown.

Wong, meanwhile, is one of three players the Red Sox acquired from the Dodgers last February in the blockbuster trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles.

A former third-round pick of the Dodgers out of the University of Houston in 2017, the 25-year-old opened the 2021 minor-league season with Triple-A Worcester as the No. 2 catching prospect in Boston’s farm system according to Baseball America.

Due to a hamstring injury, however, Wong has been limited to just 16 games with the WooSox thus far and has posted a .148/.188/.245 slash line to go along with three doubles, one home run, seven RBI, five runs scored, three walks, and 19 strikeouts over his first 64 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. He has also spent some time on the Sox’ taxi squad.

Outside of Vazquez and Plawecki, the 6-foot-1, 181 pound backstop is one of two catchers on Boston’s 40-man roster alongside fellow prospect Ronaldo Hernandez, who is currently at Double-A Portland.

Because of this, it would appear that the Red Sox ultimately opted to go with Wong as opposed to a veteran with big-league experience — such as Chris Herrmann or Jett Bandy — in place of Plawecki so they would not need to make any additional room on their 40-man roster.

The expectation seems to be that Wong will be up with the Sox only for as long as Plawecki is on the injured list.

MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo was the first to report that the Red Sox would be calling up Wong and placing Plawecki on the IL.

(Picture of Connor Wong: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

New Podding the Red Sox episode: SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall.

Among the topics Ian and I discussed are how he got his start in scouting, how he is looking forward to the return of minor-league baseball next week, what he thought about brand-new Polar Park in Worcester, his thoughts on what the Red Sox could do in this summer’s draft, his impression of the Sox’ farm system under Chaim Bloom heading into the 2021 minor-league season, and much more!

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

Thanks to Ian for taking some time out of his busy schedule to have a conversation with me. You can follow Ian on Twitter (@IanCundall) by clicking here. You can check out his work for SoxProspects.com 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 Polar Park: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Red Sox catching prospect Connor Wong hits opposite field home run in exhibition game at Polar Park

While the Red Sox lost both games of their doubleheader against the White Sox in Boston on Sunday, the team’s alternate training site roster hosted the Mets’ alternate training site roster in a scrimmage in Worcester.

In that particular simulated game at Polar Park, in which the Mets won by a final score of 3-2 in 10 innings, Red Sox catching prospect Connor Wong had himself a solid day offensively.

The 24-year-old backstop went 1-for-3 at the plate on Sunday, and that one hit just so happened to be his first competitive home run of the year away from Florida.

Facing off against Mets left-hander Daniel Zamora — who has major-league experience — with one out in the home half of the eighth inning, Wong took a 1-1, 84 mph slider on the outside of the plate and crushed it deep enough to the opposite field that it just snuck over the Worcester Wall in right.

SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, who was among those in attendance at Polar Park on Sunday, described Wong’s homer as a “nice piece of hitting staying on a breaking ball from a lefty that started well off the plate.”

Cundall also commended the right-handed hitter for his “all-fields power,” while Worcester Red Sox broadcaster Josh Mauer added that “a big difference between [Wong] this year and last year is the ability to use the entire field.”

Wong, who turns 25 next month, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 17 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

The 6-foot-1, 179 pound backstop was acquired by the Sox along with Alex Verdugo and fellow prospect Jeter Downs as part of the blockbuster trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers last February.

While he was not able to experience the ups-and-downs of a conventional minor-league season last year on account of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Wong was able to continue his development at the Red Sox’ alternate training site and fall instructional league before being added to the club’s 40-man roster in November.

In his first spring training with Alex Cora back as Red Sox manager, Wong was able to leave quite an impression while at big-league camp in February and March.

Over eight Grapefruit League contests, the Houston-area native slashed .222/.500/.667 with one home run, one double, one RBI, and five walks in 14 trips to the plate. He was also solid behind the plate both in terms of calling games and defense.

“He controls the strike zone,” Cora said in his praise of Wong back on March 16. “Compact swing. Strong kid. I’ve been impressed with the way he swings the bat, the control of the at-bats.

“There’s a calmness about him that managers like,” added Cora. “And we’re very happy. Last year, he was part of the big trade, and I bet everything was going so fast for him. And now for him to slow everything down, and being able to work, it’s a testament of who he is as a person, as a player. And obviously he’s somebody that we’re counting on in the future.”

Wong is currently one of four backstops on Boston’s 40-man roster alongside Christian Vazquez, Kevin Plawecki, and Ronaldo Hernandez.

In the event that one of Vazquez or Plawecki would need to miss an extended period of time this season, it seems likely that Wong would be called up in their place, as was almost the case at the start of year when Vazquez required stitches after suffering an eye contusion and laceration under his left eye in late March.

Assuming that does not happen, though, Wong is otherwise projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season at Triple-A Worcester, who will kick off their inaugural season on May 4.

On another note, Michael Chavis also homered in Sunday’s game against the Mets’ alternate site roster.

(Picture of Connor Wong: Worcester Red Sox)

Jeter Downs, top Red Sox prospect, is a ‘workaholic,’ Alex Cora says; ‘His bat is going to play’

Jeter Downs collected his second home run of the spring in the Red Sox’ 7-3 loss to the Rays in Port Charlotte on Friday afternoon.

Starting at shortstop and batting out of the seven-hole, the 22-year-old infielder went 1-for-3 at the plate with a walk, a strikeout, and that aforementioned home run.

Downs’ homer came in the top half of the second, when with one out and a runner on first he took a 2-2 changeup at the bottom of the zone from Rays starter David Hess and clobbered it well over the left-center field wall.

Though the wind was blowing hard in that particular direction at Charlotte Sports Park, Downs’ display of power was impressive nonetheless.

“He does a good job of controlling the strike zone,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Downs’ plate discipline. “He knows what he wants to do at the plate. Even in the last at-bat when he chased a pitch up, he knew right away he was out of the zone. “That’s something that we’ve been impressed [by].

Following Friday’s showing, Downs is now slashing .357/.500/.786 with a pair of homers and five RBI through his first 15 games and 18 plate appearances of Grapefruit League play while primarily playing shortstop.

A bruise to his left side suffered during a game against the Twins on March 14 resulted in Downs being held out of in-game action for a little more than week, but the Colombian-born prospect returned to action this past Monday and has gotten back into the swing of things.

Throughout the spring, Cora has not shied away from commending some of the organization’s top prospects — like Downs, catcher Connor Wong, and infielder Nick Yorke — for their ability to seemingly slow down what’s going on around them. He did more of the same while praising Downs on Friday.

“The bat will play,” said the Sox skipper. “He’s a good defender. I know he had that tough game the second game of spring training, but he’s a workaholic. One thing is for sure: He has a very slow pulse, and that helps him out. People might see him and they’ll be like, ‘Oh, low-energy guy. He’s not into it.’ That’s not the case.

“Offensively, he understands what he wants to do,” Cora added. “He understands the strike zone, and that’s why his bat is going to play.”

Downs, who like Cora has connections to the city of Miami, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 2 prospect in the Sox’ farm system behind only Triston Casas.

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 193 pounds, the right-handed hitter was reassigned to the minor-leagues on March 12. He is projected to begin the year at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Worcester.

Downs, of course, was one of three players the Sox acquired from the Dodgers in the blockbuster trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles last February — with Wong and outfielder Alex Verdugo being the other two.

Verdugo, the only one of the three with any major-league experience to this point, seemed impressed with what he has seen from both Downs and Wong at camp thus far when speaking with reporters earlier this week.

“They’re great players. Obviously, Downs, a middle infielder, and I love his swing,” Verdugo said this past Tuesday. “I think his swing is really good. I think it’s going to play in the big leagues. The same goes with Wong. Wong is a really good catcher and has a really good arm back there. He can fire it and he can swing it, too.

“With those guys, it’s obviously tough because last year we didn’t have a minor leagues,” he added. “They weren’t able to go to Pawtucket and put up big numbers or whatever it may be. It kind of hurts them a little bit but these are guys who are professionals. They’re working in the cage, talking to guys and trying to learn more and more so in the next two years — maybe this year, we never know — we’ll start seeing them come up.”

(Picture of Jeter Downs: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Red Sox prospect Connor Wong catching the eyes of Alex Cora at spring training

Red Sox catching prospect Connor Wong is a longshot to make the team’s Opening Day roster out of spring training next month.

As the third backstop on Boston’s catching depth chart, the 24-year-old is more likely to begin the year at the club’s alternate training site in Worcester before heading to Double-A Portland or Triple-A Worcester for the start of the 2021 minor-league season.

All that being said, nothing has stopped Wong from impressing his peers thus far at big-league camp in Fort Myers.

Despite collecting just one hit through his first 10 plate appearances of Grapefruit League play, the Houston-area native has drawn three walks, and that ability to be patient and slow the game down is something that has caught the attention of Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

“He’s a good player,” Cora said of Wong on Wednesday. “Very calm behind the plate. Very athletic. Seems like he and Jason [Varitek], they’ve been working hard on that setup on one knee. He’s made progress. I didn’t see him last year, but what I’ve seen is great. Like I’ve been saying: all these kids, Jeter [Downs], and Nick [Yorke], and Connor. There’s something about them that they’re very calm when they play the game.

“It’s like there’s no panic,” continued Cora. “Even his at-bats. He walks and he takes his time putting the bat down. There’s something good about them. They understand the game, they ask questions, and we have a good one.”

The one hit Wong has recorded so far this spring came in the Red Sox’ Grapefruit League opener against the Twins on February 28.

The 6-foot-1, 181 lb. pounder took over behind the plate for Christian Vazquez in the bottom half of the third inning of that contest and picked up a one-out double in his first trip to the plate a half inning later.

He may have struck out in his second at-bat, but he played ‘outstanding’ defense in the process of doing so.

“He’s another guy that slows down the game,” Cora said of Wong back on March 1. “You could see yesterday, we had a bad inning and then he comes in and it’s kind of like a presence about him. He studies the game. He talks the game, which is very important for a catcher. Seems like he never panicked back there. He keeps working on that one-knee down stance. He has some really good hands.”

Wong, a right-handed hitter, was originally selected by the Dodgers in the third round of the 2017 amateur draft out of the University of Houston. His natural position in college was shortstop — not catcher — but he eventually moved behind the plate and has remained there.

While transitioning to catcher, though, Wong also saw playing time at second base and third base at Double-A Tulsa in 2019 before being part of the trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles and Alex Verdugo and Jeter Downs to Boston the following February.

The Dodgers have a history of converting position player prospects into full-time catchers. They’ve done so with Will Smith, who played a little bit of infield and outfield at the University of Louisville, and Austin Barnes, who has appeared in 195 total games at either second or third base at the minor-league level.

Cora recounted a conversation he had with the versatile Enrique Hernandez, who spent the last six seasons with the Dodgers before signing with the Red Sox over the winter, about Wong and Los Angeles’ ability to convert position players into catchers.

“A position player that’s a catcher now. It seems like it’s something they like on the West Coast with Smith and Barnes,” said the Sox skipper. “And this kid can do it, too. Good hands. Very smooth. And offensively, he understands what he can do. But, I really like the fact that communication is No. 1 for him in his defensive game. You see him in the dugout talking to Jason [Varitek], to the pitchers, and for a young guy to be able to do that right now is eye-opening. And it was fun to watch him perform yesterday.”

Going into the new season, Baseball America has Wong ranked as the No. 15 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which is the top rank among catchers in the organization.

Just last week, the folks over at Baseball America picked two potential breakout prospects from every team’s farm system for 2021. Along with 2019 second-round draft pick Matthew Lugo, Wong was the other Red Sox prospect chosen by the BA staff to break out this year.

“Wong was granted a reprieve of sorts when he was traded from the Dodgers to the Red Sox in the Mookie Betts’ trade,” they wrote. “Instead of being stuck behind Will Smith and Keibert Ruiz, he now has a clear path to a future MLB role as a well-rounded backup catcher who can play around the infield as well.”

Added to the Sox’ 40-man roster last November, Wong is projected by both FanGraphs and MLB Pipeline to make his major-league debut at some point this season.

That would likely come in the event of an injury to one of Boston’s major-league catchers or when rosters expand to 28 players in September.

(Picture of Connor Wong: Pawtucket Red Sox)

Red Sox’ Nathan Eovaldi threw to catching prospect, fellow Houston-area native Connor Wong this offseason

Despite more than six years separating them in age, Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (31) and catching prospect Connor Wong (24) actually have a lot in common.

They both hail from the Houston-area, they both received offers to play college baseball for Houston-area schools, they were both drafted by the Dodgers, they were both traded to the Red Sox at one point in their careers, and they are both currently on Boston’s 40-man roster.

With those connections in mind, it does not come as much of a surprise to learn that the pair have virtually become bullpen partners at this point.

The first instance of this arose shortly after spring training was shut down last March due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

At that time, as previously noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, “Eovaldi returned home to Texas and completely shut down his throwing program for about a month. After ramping back up, he got together with Wong — a fellow Houston area resident — and was able to stretch himself out to five or six innings in simulated outings.”

Putting that work in during the shutdown surely helped Eovaldi put together a solid 2020 campaign in which he posted a 3.72 ERA over nine starts and 48 1/3 innings pitched and head into the offseason with a positive mindset.

Throughout this past offseason, the veteran righty again got together with Wong back home in Texas, as he told NESN’s Tom Caron on Thursday.

“Over the years, I’ve been able to acquire a pretty good workout setup in the garage and everything like that,” Eovaldi said. “So I’ve been able to get all my workouts done. And then this offseason as well, I was able to throw to Connor Wong a lot. So, that was nice having a solid catcher behind the plate and being able to work with him.”

Wong, who was part of the Mookie Betts trade with the Dodgers last February, was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster this past November in order to receive protection from the Rule 5 Draft.

The right-handed hitting backstop is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the organization’s No. 22 prospect, ranking second among catchers behind only the recently-acquired Ronaldo Hernandez.

He is currently one of nine catchers (including Kevin Plawecki) at major-league camp in Fort Myers and is projected to begin the 2021 season with Double-A Portland.

As for Eovaldi, the 6-foot-2, 217 lb. hurler is about to embark upon his third full season with the Red Sox and is feeling confident going into a year that could be full of uncertainties, especially for pitchers.

“It’s kind of the unknown for everybody right now,” he said. “A lot of guys weren’t able to get the normal innings that they normally do. We haven’t talked too much about inning limits or control like that yet. And I feel really good coming into spring training. My body feels great, my arm feels fresh, so I’m definitely excited to see what we got.”

As previously mentioned, Eovaldi made just nine starts last year on account of missing a few weeks of action from late August until mid-September due to a right calf strain. But, even while being somewhat limited, the flame-throwing righty put up some of the best numbers of his career in regards to strikeout rate (26.1%), walk rate (3.5%) and swinging-strike percentage (13%).

“I go out there and I try to attack the strike zone,” stated Eovaldi. “I feel like a lot of the times I get behind guys too often and then I have to battle back, and then there’s long at-bats, which end up resulting in walks or hits. So, trying to attack the strike zone, get that first-pitch strike, and stay in the aggressive mode. I think, too, over time you just get to learn your mechanics a little bit better. You find what’s working for you. And then for me, being able to work with [pitching coach Dave Bush, assistant pitching coach-turned-bullpen coach Kevin Walker, and former bullpen coach Craig Bjornson] last year, just really working on my mechanics. And finding what works the best for me was the key to limit my walks.”

In order to replicate the same sort of success he enjoyed last year, Eovaldi will have plenty of work to do over these next few weeks in Fort Myers. He’s been limiting himself to some degree thus far, but that will soon come to an end with Opening Day just less than six weeks away.

“Arm’s ready to go. It feels great. I’ve been trying to control myself out there in the bullpen sessions, hold back a little bit, but we’re going to start ramping it up here soon,” he said.

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox catching prospect Jhonny Pereda takes home Venezuelan winter ball Rookie of the Year honors

Red Sox catching prospect Jhonny Pereda took home Rookie of the Year honors in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League Saturday night.

The 24-year-old, playing for Leones del Caracas, slashed an impressive .338/.421/.421 to go along with one home run and 16 RBI over 39 games and 153 plate appearances this season, which ended on January 10.

He also threw out six of a possible 13 runners on the base paths, which translates to a 46% success rate.

Pereda received 37 of 50 possible first-place votes in the league’s MVP race while also finishing with 205 voting points, 105 more than the runner-up.

“This makes me very happy because last year was a strong year because of the virus. There were no minor-leagues and that affected many players, both me and many, because there was no season,” Pereda said (in Spanish) of winning the award. “But I kept working to come to Venezuela. Thank God and Leones, who gave me the opportunity to play here.”

The Red Sox originally acquired Pereda from the Cubs back in March as the player to be named later in a January trade that involved right-hander Travis Lakins.

The club briefly released the Venezuelan from his contract on July 15 only to re-sign him to a two-year minor-league deal on July 17 and promptly add him to their 60-man player pool. He would go on to spend the rest of the summer at the alternate training site in Pawtucket.

After baseball activities ended at the alternate training site in late September, Pereda did not attend the Red Sox’ fall instructional league in Fort Myers, but he did receive an invite to major-league spring training in December.

In addition to his catching abilities that netted him a minor-league Gold Glove Award in 2019, the right-handed hitting backstop can play a little first base as well, as evidenced by what he did this winter.

Going into spring training next month, Pereda should figure to be an intriguing component of the Red Sox’ catching depth equation given the fact Deivy Grullon was lost on a waiver claim by the Cincinnati Reds in December.

As of this writing, the 6-foot-1, 202 lb. catcher is Boston’s top backstop not included on their 40-man roster, according to SoxProspects.com’s depth charts.

Pereda, along with fellow catching prospect Connor Wong, is expected to begin the 2021 minor-league season with Triple-A Pawtucket.

“I know that this season here in Venezuela will help me. It gave me many experiences that I will put into practice in the training field,” said Pereda (in Spanish) of his time in his home country. “I played with a very experienced team. I had teammates who have played in the major-leagues, who have been in pro ball for many years and I always tried to listen to what they talked about baseball, and those little details that can help me.”

(Picture of Jhonny Pereda: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Former Red Sox catcher Deivy Grullón claimed off waivers by Reds

Before signing right-hander Matt Andriese to a one-year deal on Wednesday, the Red Sox needed to clear a spot on their 40-man roster, which at the time was at full capacity.

Well, it turns out they accomplished this by placing catcher Deivy Grullon on waivers recently, and he was claimed off waivers by the Reds on Wednesday.

The 24-year-old backstop appeared in just one game for Boston this past season after getting picked up off waivers from the Phillies in early September.

In that one game, which came against Philadelphia in the nightcap of a day-night doubleheader on September 8, the Dominican national went 1-for-3 at the plate with one walk, one RBI, and one strikeout while catching all seven innings.

Grullon was subsequently optioned back down to the alternate training site the following day, where he spent the rest of the season before returning to the Dominican Republic to play for Aguilas Cibaenas of the Dominican winter league.

Since reporting back home, Grullon has struggled a bit on both sides of the ball, as noted by SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield.

With the Reds, Grullon will presumably slide behind Tucker Barnhart and Tyler Stephenson in terms of catching depth. He has two minor-league options remaining on his current contract.

As for how this affects the Red Sox, catching prospect Connor Wong is now without a doubt the No. 3 backstop on Boston’s 40-man roster behind Christian Vazquez and Kevin Plawecki.

The 24-year-old was added to the 40-man in late November and is projected to begin the 2021 season with Triple-A Worcester.

Red Sox catching prospect Connor Wong ‘made a lot of progress’ in 2020, Jason Varitek says

Of the three players the Red Sox acquired from the Dodgers in the infamous Mookie Betts trade back in February, catching prospect Connor Wong is undoubtedly the least well-known and the least heralded.

Alex Verdugo — the headliner of the deal for Boston — has the makings to be an All-Star caliber major-league outfielder, Jeter Downs is the organization’s top prospect, and then there’s Wong.

This isn’t to say the 24-year-old is not a talented prospect, because he is. So much so that MLB Pipeline has him ranked as the top catching prospect in the Sox’ farm system.

In his last minor-league season with the Dodgers in 2019, Wong posted a solid .281/.336/.541 to go along with 24 home runs and 82 RBI over 111 total games played between High-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Tulsa.

The majority of Wong’s playing time last year came behind the plate, but he also proved capable of playing multiple positions around the infield, which is something he did quite frequently at the University of Houston since he was originally recruited as a shortstop.

Despite that added dose of versatility, the Red Sox still view the 2017 third-round pick as a catcher primarily. Newly-promoted game planning coordinator and former Sox backstop Jason Varitek made that much clear when speaking with The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham last week.

“I saw him a lot, from spring training and spring training 2.0, and probably three weeks when he was on the taxi squad and around the team,” Varitek said of Wong. “He works extremely hard. He didn’t get in any [major-league] games, but he showed his abilities and made a lot of progress. He can play other positions, but I think he’s a catcher. There’s a lot there we can work with.”

Indeed, Wong did not appear in any games for Boston this past season, but as noted by Varitek, he still spent plenty of time around the club during spring training as well as parts of the summer and fall on account of being included on the 60-man player pool for the entirety of the 2020 campaign.

On top of that, the Houston native was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster earlier this month, so it would appear he is primed to make his major-league debut sooner rather than later.

With Wong being added to the 40-man, the Red Sox currently have four catchers — Wong, Deivy Grullon, Kevin Plawecki, and Christian Vazquez — on their major-league roster.