Red Sox officially promote Ramón Vázquez to bench coach

UPDATE: The Red Sox have officially named Vazquez as their next bench coach, the club announced on Tuesday. Vazquez becomes the fourth different bench coach Boston has had since the start of the 2018 season.

The Red Sox are promoting Ramon Vazquez from first base coach to bench coach, according to reporter Edwin Hernandez Jr. (@LBPRCinEnglish) on Twitter.

Vazquez, who has been managing the Criollos de Caguas of the Puerto Rican Winter League this offseason, will be taking over for Will Venable. After serving as Boston’s bench coach for the last two seasons, Venable left the club earlier this month to become the associate manager of the Rangers under Bruce Bochy.

A native of Puerto Rico himself, Vazquez first joined manager Alex Cora’s coaching staff as a statistical analysis coordinator in November 2017. He remained in that role for three seasons before taking on more responsibility as a quality control coach in 2021. When Tom Goodwin’s unvaccinated status kept him off the field, Vazquez filled in as the first base coach for the entirety of the Sox’ postseason run. He was named the full-time first base coach last December after the club elected to part ways with Goodwin.

Prior to joining the Red Sox as a coach, Vazquez spent three seasons (2014-2016) in the Astros organization. He served as Houston’s developmental specialist from 2014-15 and then managed its High-A minor-league affiliate in 2016. The following season, Vazquez got his first taste of life as a big-league coach with the Padres while working under Andy Green.

Going back to his playing days, the 46-year-old Vazquez is a veteran of nine major-league seasons (2001-2009) between the Mariners, Padres, Red Sox, Guardians, Rangers, and Pirates. In July 2005, Vazquez was traded from Boston to Cleveland in exchange for a fellow infielder (and Puerto Rican) in Cora.

In becoming the Red Sox’ next bench coach, Vazquez has opted to step down as Caguas’ manager in order to focus on his new duties. This comes just 10 months after he became the third manager ever to win four titles in the Puerto Rican Winter League.

With Vazquez taking over for Venable as Cora’s top lieutenant, the Red Sox now have an opening at first base coach. It remains to be seen how they will go about filling that vacancy. As far as internal candidates are concerned, major-league field coordinator Andy Fox and Triple-A Worcester bench coach Jose David Flores could garner consideration since they have prior experience at the position. Fox was the Marlins’ first base coach from 2007-2009 while Flores served in the role with the Phillies in 2018.

(Picture of Ramon Vazquez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Will Red Sox protect Christian Koss from Rule 5 Draft by adding him to 40-man roster?

By this time next Tuesday, the Red Sox will have added a number of minor-leaguers to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from December’s Rule 5 Draft.

Ceddanne Rafaela will almost certainly be protected. Wilyer Abreu, David Hamilton, Chris Murphy, Brandon Walter, and Thad Ward are also eligible and have interesting cases to be made. The same can be said for Christian Koss, who MLB Pipeline recently identified as Boston’s toughest Rule 5 decision.

Koss, 24, spent the entirety of the 2022 season with Double-A Portland. The versatile right-handed hitter batted .260/.309/.430 with 22 doubles, five triples, 17 home runs, 84 RBIs, 69 runs scored, 16 stolen bases, 25 walks, and 137 strikeouts over 125 games (532 plate appearances) en route to being named the Sea Dogs’ Most Valuable Player.

Among qualified Eastern League hitters, Koss ranked fourth in hits (125), third in RBIs, 11th in runs scored, 19th in stolen bases, 18th in batting average, 16th in speed score (6.5). He also ranked 35th in strikeout rate (25.8 percent), 57th in walk rate (4.7 percent), 43rd in on-base percentage, 35th in wRC+ (99), 60th in line-drive rate (14.4 percent), 57th in groundball rate (48.9 percent), and 48th in swinging-strike rate (14.7 percent), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Koss saw playing time at five different positions in 2022. The 6-foot-1, 182-pounder logged 214 1/3 innings at second base, 185 innings at third base, 601 2/3 innings at shortstop, nine innings in left field, and 37 innings in right field. This year marked the first time he had ever played the outfield in his professional career.

Koss’ pro career dates back to June 2019, when he was selected by the Rockies in the 12th round of the amateur draft out of the University of California, Irvine. The Red Sox acquired the Riverside native from Colorado in exchange for left-hander Yoan Aybar the following December.

The Red Sox made that trade in order to clear a spot on their 40-man roster. Koss now finds himself in a similar position. As noted by MLB Pipeline, what makes Koss appealing is the fact that he “has solid raw power and speed, not to mention a high baseball IQ.” At the same time, however, Koss’ high strikeout rate and low walk rate indicate that “his lack of plate discipline could be a problem at higher levels” of the minor-leagues.

Koss, who turns 25 in January, is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 20 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The former Anteater has spent his offseason playing for the Criollos de Caguas of the Puerto Rican Winter League. There, he has been under the watchful eyes of Red Sox first base coach Ramon Vazquez (Caguas’ manager), WooSox bench coach Jose Flores (Caguas’ infield coach), and Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who hails from Caguas.

If the Red Sox were to add Koss to their 40-man roster by next Tuesday’s deadline, they would retain his rights moving forward. In that scenario, Koss would be in line to make the jump to Triple-A Worcester while providing Boston with infield and outfield depth in 2023.

If the Red Sox do not add Koss to their 40-man roster by November 15, another club could acquire him for $100,000 during next month’s Rule 5 Draft. That team would then be responsible for carrying Koss on their major-league roster for the entirety of the 2023 season. If they were unable to do so, Koss would have to be offered back to the Red Sox for $50,000.

(Picture of Christian Koss: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox prospect Ceddanne Rafaela to play winter ball in Puerto Rico

Versatile Red Sox prospect Ceddanne Rafaela will play for the Criollos de Caguas of the Puerto Rican Professional Baseball League this winter, the club announced on Monday.

The Criollos, who have won the last two league championships, are managed by Red Sox first base coach Ramon Vazquez. Alex Cora, a native of Caguas himself, previously served as the team’s general manager.

Rafaela, who turns 22 next month, has never played winter ball before. The native Curacaoan is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 4 prospect in Boston’s farm system and the No. 82 prospect in all of baseball.

The 2022 season has served as a breakout campaign for Rafaela. After being named the organization’s Minor League Defensive Player of the Year last fall, the 21-year-old broke camp this spring with High-A Greenville and batted .330/.368/.594 in 45 games (209 plate appearances) for the Drive before earning a promotion to Double-A Portland in early June.

Since then, Rafaela has slashed .279/.337/.513 with 15 doubles, four triples, 10 home runs, 32 RBIs, 38 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, 15 walks, and 51 strikeouts over 57 games (250 plate appearances) with the Sea Dogs. He has not played since last Thursday after being hit on the left wrist by a pitch in the third inning of a 9-0 win over the Hartford Yard Goats at Hadlock Field.

Among those in the Eastern League who have made at least 250 trips to the plate this season, the right-handed hitter ranks 11th in batting average, ninth in slugging percentage, 10th in OPS (.851), eighth in isolated power (.235), fourth in speed score (8.0), and 15th in wRC+ (128), per FanGraphs.

On the other side of the ball, Rafaela has played both shortstop and centerfield since making the jump to Portland earlier this summer. While the 5-foot-8, 152-pounder has made a habit of making highlight reel plays at either position, he also has past experience at second base, third base, left field, and right field.

Rafaela, who represented the Red Sox in last month’s All-Star Futures Game in Los Angeles, has clearly come a long way since signing with Boston for a mere $10,000 out of Willemstad a little more than five years ago.

Although there are still some things he could improve upon (plate discipline, for example), it seems all but certain that Rafaela will be added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster in November so that he can receive protection from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.

In the meantime, Rafaela will be looking to end the 2022 season on a strong note. The Sea Dogs open a six-game series on the road against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats on Tuesday, so it should be interesting to see how soon it will be until he is able to return to the lineup.

(Picture of Ceddanne Rafaela: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox first base coach Ramón Vázquez leads Criollos de Caguas to second straight Puerto Rican Winter League title

Red Sox first base coach Ramon Vazquez made some history on Thursday night by becoming just the third manager to ever win four titles in the Puerto Rican Winter League (Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente).

Vazquez’s Criollos de Caguas took down Indios de Mayaguez by a final score of 4-3 at Estadio Isidoro “Cholo” García on Thursday to win the best-of-seven championship series four games to one.

This marks the second straight year in which Caguas have come out on top in Puerto Rico. The back-to-back national titles brings their total up to 20, which is the most among teams in the LBPRC.

Alex Cora, of course, hails from Caguas, so it is safe to assume the Red Sox manager is proud of what his hometown team accomplished on Thursday.

Vazquez himself has been at the helm of Criollos for the most recent pair of those 20 championships. He previously won two titles as manager of Cangrejeros de Santurce in 2015-2016 and 2018-2019.

A veteran of nine major-league seasons, Vazquez originally joined Cora’s coaching staff in Boston in November 2017. After serving as a coach and interpreter through his first three years with the club, the Aibonito native was named quality control coach/interpreter upon Cora’s re-hiring in Nov. 2020.

Last season, Vazquez shifted from quality control coach to first base coach when it was revealed that unvaccinated individuals such as Tom Goodwin would not be granted on-field access during the playoffs.

Goodwin, who had served as Boston’s first base coach since 2018, was relieved of his duties in October. Two months later, the Red Sox announced that Vazquez would be taking over as first base coach on a full-time basis and that he would also be responsible for coordinating the team’s base-running instruction.

Now 45 years old, Vazquez is about to embark upon his fifth season as an integral member of the Red Sox coaching staff. Before that, though, he will be representing his home island of Puerto Rico in the 2022 Caribbean Series.

The tournament, which begins next Friday and runs through February 3, will feature winter league champions from Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Panama, Colombia, and host nation Dominican Republic.

Criollos de Caguas have won five Caribbean Series titles in their storied history. They most recently finished as the runner-ups behind Aguilas Cibaenas of the Dominican Winter League last year.

(Picture of Ramon Vazquez: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)