Could Red Sox explore a trade for Padres catcher Austin Nola?

Could the Red Sox explore a trade for Padres catcher Austin Nola this offseason?

In Reese McGuire and Connor Wong, the Sox already have two big-league caliber catchers under club control for 2023. But that should not stop them from looking into external additions at the position. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said as much when speaking with reporters (including The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier) at the ongoing GM Meetings in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

“It’s a hard spot to find one guy you can trust, much less more than one,” Bloom said. “In any given winter, there’s only a handful of players on the free agent market who you see as really good fits at that position. So the trade market is another avenue. I would say that we don’t think we’ll be looking at a huge group of possibilities there, but there are some possibilities through both avenues.”

According to Speier, the Sox “have cast a wide net in trade talks about catchers” over the last two years. They had conversations with the Athletics pertaining to Sean Murphy ahead of this year’s trade deadline that did not pan out. They “also have discussed other catchers who are heralded for their defense,” such as Nola.

Like Murphy, Nola is under team control for three more years. He is also nearly five years older than Murphy and is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn significantly less than him in 2023. Murphy is slated to receive $3.5 million in his first year of arbitration while Nola is projected for $2.2 million.

Nola, who turns 33 in December, appeared in a career-high 110 games for the Padres this season. The right-handed hitter batted .251/.321/.329 with 15 doubles, four home runs, 40 RBIs, 40 runs scored, two stolen bases, 34 walks, and 60 strikeouts across 397 trips to the plate.

From behind the plate, Nola logged 834 2/3 innings at catcher and threw out eight of 64 base stealers. Among the 15 catchers who caught at least 800 innings, Nola ranked 13th in Defensive Runs Saved (-6), 14th in Catcher Framing (-8.3), and 14th in Defense (-5.2), per FanGraphs. While those metrics are not all that encouraging, the 6-foot, 197-pounder has proven to be a better defender in the past, especially when it comes to pitch framing.

Originally selected by the Marlins in the fifth round of the 2012 draft out of Louisiana State University, Nola initially came up through Miami’s farm system as a shortstop not begin catching at the professional level until he was in the Arizona Fall League in 2016.

The Marlins outrighted and released Nola at the conclusion of the 2018 season. The Baton Rouge native then inked a minor-league deal with the Mariners and finally made his major-league debut in 2019 at the age of 27. The following August, Nola was dealt to the Padres in a trade that involved six other players.

After an array of injuries limited him to just 56 games in his first full season with San Diego, Nola emerged as the Padres’ starting catcher in 2022 thanks in part to the way he handled their pitching staff in a run to the National League Championship Series.

The Padres ultimately came up short against Nola’s younger brother, Aaron, and the rest of the Phillies. Under the direction of president of baseball operations A.J. Preller, the Friars could elect to shake things up at catcher this winter.

In addition to Nola, San Diego has two other major-league caliber catchers on its roster in Jorge Alfaro and Luis Campusano. Alfaro posted a .667 OPS this season and is a non-tender candidate. Campusano, on the other hand, was ranked by Baseball America as the sport’s No. 53 prospect coming into the 2022 season. But the 24-year-old only received 48 at-bats this season, so the Padres may feel like it is time to give him an extended look beginning next spring.

From the Red Sox’ end, it would likely not take much to pry Nola away from the Padres as far as prospect capital is concerned. Nola himself represents an inexpensive addition at catcher who could platoon with the left-handed hitting McGuire if Wong winds up being the odd man out.

When it comes to what the Red Sox are looking from out of their catchers next year, Bloom emphasized the importance of handling a pitching staff.

“Now, that doesn’t mean there’s only one way to get value at the position, but it’s certainly something we value,” he said. “And I think we have a staff that can really take advantage of somebody who’s invested in that aspect of the game, specifically with [catching instructor Jason Varitek].”

Nola represents just one direction Bloom and Co. could lean if they intend on adding another catcher to the mix this winter. While Murphy is the top trade target, the Sox could also pursue the likes of Wilson Contreras, Mike Zunino, Omar Narvaez, Gary Sanchez, or even old friend Christian Vazquez in free agency.

(Picture of Austin Nola: Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

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 commit 3 costly errors in 5-3 loss to Yankees

The Red Sox committed three errors and were swept by the Yankees on Wednesday night. Boston fell to New York by a final score of 5-3 at Fenway Park to drop to 69-74 on the season and 20-42 against American League East opponents.

Brayan Bello, making his eighth start of the year for the Sox, was the victim of poor defense behind him. The rookie right-hander immersed himself into the rivalry by allowing three unearned runs on six hits and just one walk to go along with six strikeouts over five solid innings of work.

All three of those runs came in the top of the fifth. Bello fanned Jose Trevino to begin the inning, but Aaron Hicks followed by reaching on a fielding error committed by Xander Bogaerts. Hicks moved up to second base on an Aaron Judge single before Giancarlo Stanton struck out swinging.

With two outs and runners on first and second, Gleyber Torres ripped a line drive to Alex Verdugo in right field. Verdugo attempted to gun down Hicks at home plate, but instead made an inaccurate throw that got past cutoff man Christian Arroyo and rolled to catcher Connor Wong.

As Hicks crossed the plate, Wong tried to get Torres caught in a rundown between first and second base. He instead made a poor throw that Arroyo had no chance of getting to and wound up in right field.

While Judge had already scored, Torres was on his horse and scored on a head-first slide to complete a Little League three-run home run that gave the Yankees a 3-0 plate.

Bello got through the rest of the fifth unscathed, but the damage had already been done. The 23-year-old hurler finished with a final pitch count of 98 (59 strikes) and induced 14 swings-and-misses. He was the tough-luck loser on Wednesday, though he did lower his ERA on the season down to 5.10.

Shortly after Bello’s night came to an end, the Red Sox got one of those three runs back in their half of the fifth. Rob Refsnyder led off with a hard-hit single off Yankees starter Nestor Cortes. He then scored all the way from first on a two-out RBI double from Wong.

Trailing by two runs going into the sixth inning, Red Sox manager Alex Cora called upon Zack Kelly out of the Boston bullpen. Kelly issued a leadoff walk to Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who promptly stole second base and scored from second on an RBI double off the bat of Trevino.

Following shutdown innings from Kaleb Ort and Eduard Bazardo, the pinch-hitting Reese McGuire led off the bottom of the eighth with a groundball single off Jonathan Loaisiga. Tommy Pham followed with a single of his own to put runners at first and second for Verdugo.

Verdugo grounded into a force out at third base, but Bogaerts filled the bases by blooping a single to right field. Pham then scored from third on a Rafael Devers groundball that got through the legs of Yankees first baseman Marwin Gonzalez.

The bases were still loaded with one out for J.D. Martinez, who seemingly drove in Verdugo by beating out a 6-4-3 double play. New York challenged the ruling on the field, however, and it turns out Martinez’s left foot missed the first-bag completely. The call on the field was overturned, meaning the inning ended without Boston tacking on additional run.

Ryan Brasier allowed one unearned run in the ninth on an Abraham Almonte fielding error in center field. Almonte, who had pinch-hit for Refsnyder in the seventh, led off the bottom of the inning with a line-drive double. He moved up to third and then scored on an Enrique Hernandez groundout. McGuire struck out against Clay Holmes to end it.

All told, the Red Sox went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position on Wednesday and left six men on base as a team.

Next up: A weekend with the Royals

The Red Sox will have the day off on Thursday before welcoming the Royals into town for a three-game weekend series. Veteran right-hander Michael Wacha will get the start for Boston in Friday’s opener while fellow righty Jonathan Heasley will take the mound for Kansas City.

First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN

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

Red Sox to call up Connor Wong, Eduard Bazardo from Triple-A Worcester as rosters expand

With major-league rosters expanding from 26 to 28 players on Thursday, the Red Sox have called up catcher Connor Wong and right-hander Eduard Bazardo from Triple-A Worcester, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo and Christopher Smith.

This will be Wong’s fourth big-league stint of the season. The 26-year-old backstop has already appeared in five games for Boston and has gone 2-for-8 with an RBI and two strikeouts.

In Worcester, however, Wong has been on a torrid stretch as of late. Dating back to August 13, when he returned to the lineup after missing two weeks with a wrist injury, the right-handed hitter has slashed .368/.411/.838 (220 wRC+) with five doubles, nine home runs, 22 RBIs, 14 runs scored, four walks, and 21 strikeouts over his last 16 games.

On the 2022 campaign as a whole, Wong has batted .288/.349/.489 (121 wRC+) to go along with 20 doubles, 15 homers, 44 runs driven in, 47 runs scored, seven stolen bases, 27 walks, and 80 strikeouts across 81 games (355 plate appearances) with the WooSox.

From behind the plate, Wong has thrown out 12 of a possible 49 possible base stealers while logging 460 innings at catcher. The 6-foot-1, 181-pounder also made his first start of the season at second base last Saturday in an effort to add to his versatility.

One of three players acquired from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts trade, Wong is currently regarded by Baseball America as the top defensive catcher in Boston’s farm system.

Bazardo, meanwhile, is celebrating his 27th birthday on Thursday and has received quite the gift. In 37 appearances (four starts) for the WooSox this season, the Venezuelan-born righty has posted a 3.45 ERA and 3.58 FIP with 60 strikeouts to 19 walks over 57 1/3 innings of work.

Originally signed out of Maracay for just $8,000 in July 2014, Bazardo was initially added to Boston’s 40-man roster in November 2020 after an impressive showing at fall instructs. He made his major-league debut last April and appeared in a total of two games.

Although it seemed like Bazardo had a chance to crack the Sox’ Opening Day roster this spring, he was designated for assignment in early April. But he cleared waivers and was outrighted to Worcester.

With that being said, the Red Sox will need to add Bazardo to their 40-man roster, though they already have an opening on it and will not have to designate someone else for assignment.

(Picture of Connor Wong: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox place Chris Sale on 15-day injured list, option Connor Wong to Triple-A Worcester; Brayan Bello, Yolmer Sánchez called up

Before opening a three-game weekend series against the Blue Jays at Fenway Park on Friday night, the Red Sox made a series of roster moves.

First off, left-hander Chris Sale was placed on the 15-day injured list with a left fifth finger fracture, retroactive to July 19. To take Sale’s place on the active roster, right-hander Brayan Bello was recalled from Triple-A Worcester.

Additionally, catcher Connor Wong was optioned to Worcester on Thursday. To take Wong’s place on the active roster, veteran infielder Yolmer Sanchez was selected to the 40-man roster from Worcester.

Sale, in the first inning of his second start of the season against the Yankees on Sunday, was struck in the hand by a 106.7 mph line drive off the bat of Aaron Hicks. The 33-year-old southpaw was immediately removed from the game and was later diagnosed with a broken left pinky. He underwent surgery — or an open reduction and internal fixation of a left fifth finger proximal phalanx fracture — in Wellesley, Mass. on Monday. The Red Sox are optimistic that he will pitch again this season.

Bello, meanwhile, is up with the Sox for the second time this season. The 23-year-old prospect made two starts against the Rays (one at home, one on the road) earlier this month and allowed a total of nine runs on 13 hits, six walks, and seven strikeouts over eight combined innings of work. He is expected to start Sunday’s series finale against Toronto.

On the position player side of things, Wong was optioned back down to Worcester so that the Red Sox could add another infielder (Sanchez) to their roster in place of the injured Trevor Story.

Wong took the place of Story on the major-league roster when the second baseman was placed on the 10-day injured list on Saturday. He appeared in two games during last weekend’s series in the Bronx and went 1-for-1 with a single.

Sanchez, meanwhile, made a brief cameo for Boston as a COVID-19 substitute back in June. Filling in for the then-unvaccinated Jarren Duran in Toronto on June 28, Sanchez went 0-for-1 with a walk and sacrifice bunt.

With the WooSox this season, the switch-hitting 30-year-old has batted .247/.378/.413 with 12 doubles, one triple, nine home runs, 33 RBIs, 43 runs scored, six stolen bases, 50 walks, and 67 strikeouts over 78 games (303 plate appearances) while seeing playing time at every infield position besides first base.

The Red Sox did not not need to create an opening on their 40-man roster for Sanchez since rookie right-hander Josh Winckowski is currently on the COVID-19 related injured list. Boston’s 40-man roster is now at full capacity.

(Picture of Yolmer Sanchez: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Red Sox activate Kevin Plawecki from COVID-19 related injured list, option Connor Wong to Triple-A Worcester; Matt Barnes transferred to 60-day injured list

Another day, another series of roster moves for the Red Sox.

Prior to Wednesday’s game against the Rays, the Red Sox announced that backup catcher Kevin Plawecki had been reinstated from the COVID-19 related injured list.

In order to make room for Plawecki on the major-league roster, fellow backstop Connor Wong was optioned to Triple-A Worcester. In order to make room for him on the 40-man roster, right-hander Matt Barnes was transferred to the 60-day injured list.

Plawecki returns to action after missing the last two games on the COVID-related injured list. The 31-year-old exhibited COVID-like symptoms but never tested positive for the virus. He will be active for Wednesday’s contest at Tropicana Field.

Wong filled in for Plawecki in the first two games of this four-game set. The 26-year-old made his third appearance of the season while pinch-hitting for Jarren Duran in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay. He went 0-for-1 with a strikeout and finished the game behind the plate.

While on the COVID-related injured list, Plawecki did not count against Boston’s 40-man roster. So the club created a spot for him by moving Barned to the 60-day injured list. Barnes was originally placed on the 15-day injured list because of right shoulder inflammation on June 1, though the move was made retroactively to May 31.

With that, the soonest Barnes could return to the Red Sox would be Saturday, July 30. The 32-year-old reliever began a rehab assignment in the Florida Complex League on Saturday. In two starts with the Fort Myers-based affiliate, he has allowed four runs on five hits, one walk, and three strikeouts over two innings.

Prior to getting injured in late May, Barnes had struggled to the tune of a 7.94 ERA and 5.29 FIP with 14 strikeouts to 12 walks across 20 relief appearances (17 innings) with the Red Sox this season.

(Picture of Kevin Plawecki: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox place Kevin Plawecki on COVID-19 related injured list, recall Connor Wong From Triple-A Worcester

The Red Sox have placed catcher Kevin Plawecki on the COVID-19 related injured list. In a corresponding move, fellow backstop Connor Wong was recalled from Triple-A Worcester, the club announced prior to Monday’s game against the Rays.

It is unclear if Plawecki, who is vaccinated, has tested positive for COVID-19. MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo reports that the 31-year-old is exhibiting COVID-like symptoms and is currently awaiting test results. He was previously sidelined from April 18-25 after testing positive for the virus.

By placing Plawecki on the COVID-related injured list, the Red Sox have cleared a spot on their 40-man roster, which now sits at 39 players. As noted by Cotillo, that is significant since it means they will not have to create an opening when they activate left-hander Chris Sale from the 60-day injured list ahead of his 2022 debut on Tuesday.

Boston will, however, need to make room on its 40-man roster for Plawecki once he is cleared to return to action. Plawecki came into play Monday slashing .156/.267/.221 with one home run and five RBIs in 30 games (91 plate appearances) this season.

Wong, meanwhile, will serve as the Sox’ backup catcher while Plawecki is out. He is active for Monday’s series opener at Tropicana Field.

This will mark Wong’s second stint of the season with the big-league club. The 26-year-old appeared in two games back in April and went 1-for-6 with an RBI. In 57 games with the WooSox this season, the right-handed hitting Wong has batted .267/.340/.404 (101 wRC+) to go along with 13 doubles, six home runs, 20 RBIs, 29 runs scored, and seven stolen bases across 250 trips to the plate.

By recalling Wong, the Red Sox now have all three players they acquired from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts trade on their major-league roster. Wong joins the likes of Alex Verdugo and Jeter Downs in Tampa Bay.

(Picture of Kevin Plawecki: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

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 reinstate Kevin Plawecki from COVID-19 related injured list, option Connor Wong to Triple-A Worcester

The Red Sox have reinstated catcher Kevin Plawecki from the COVID-19 related injured the list, the team announced before Monday’s series opener against the Blue Jays in Toronto. In a corresponding move, fellow backstop Connor Wong was optioned to Triple-A Worcester.

Plawecki, who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, initially tested positive for the virus last Monday and was placed on the COVID-related IL as a result. Since he is vaccinated, the 31-year-old was eligible to return sooner than 10 days so long as he registered two negative PCR tests, showed no signs of a fever, and received approval from the joint COVID medical committee.

In total, Plawecki missed seven games while sidelined due to COVID-19. Before that, the right-handed hitter appeared in four games for Boston and went 1-for-10 with one RBI, one run scored, one walk, and four strikeouts. He will be batting ninth and catching Nathan Eovaldi to begin things on Monday at Rogers Centre.

Wong, meanwhile, was called up for the first time this season when Plawecki tested positive on April 18. The 25-year-old caught two games in the Sox’ last series against the Jays at Fenway Park and went 1-for-6 with one RBI and one strikeout.

With Plawecki being reinstated, the only Red Sox player who remains on the COVID-19 related injured list is infielder Jonathan Arauz, who tested positive one day after Plawecki did.

Elsewhere, Sox manager Alex Cora has yet to re-join the team after testing positive last Thursday. Acting manager Will Venable told reporters (including MLB.com’s Ian Browne) earlier Monday that Cora is feeling better and has not been ruled out for the Blue Jays series, though he has not yet been cleared to return either.

(Picture of Kevin Plawecki: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)