Red Sox officially sign Dominican shortstop Yoelin Cespedes

The Red Sox have officially signed international free agent Yoelin Cespedes, per the club’s MLB.com transactions log. Cespedes received a signing bonus of approximately $1.4 million, according to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez.

Cespedes is a 17-year-old shortstop from the Dominican Republic who is regarded by MLB Pipeline as the 25th-ranked international prospect in this year’s signing class. Baseball America, on the other hand, has him at No. 27 on its list.

A right-handed hitter who was scouted by Manny Nanita, Cespedes has drawn comparisons to a young Howie Kendrick in part because of his compact 5-foot-9, 188-pound frame. “He already shows an advanced approach at the plate and projects to be a solid everyday major-league player in the future because of his overall skill set,” his MLB Pipeline scouting report reads.

According to Baseball America’s Ben Badler, “some scouts consider [Cespedes] one of the best pure hitters in Latin America for this year, with excellent hand-eye coordination that leads to a high contact rate. He has an aggressive approach that he will have to rein in to become a more selective hitter, but he still has the bat-to-ball skills to make contact with pitches in the zone or off the plate.”

Defensively, Cespedes may be listed as a shortstop at present, but he may project best as a second or third baseman with average arm strength and average speed. Regardless of where he plays, though, Sanchez notes that Cespedes possesses a strong baseball IQ and a great work ethic.

Cespedes, who turns 18 in September, will presumably make his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League at some point later this year. He will account for roughly 30 percent of Boston’s $4.644 million bonus pool for the 2023 international signing period, which opened on Sunday and runs through December 15.

In addition to Cespedes, the Red Sox — as of Sunday night — have also officially signed Venezuelan shortstop Yoiber Ruiz and Venezuelan catcher Andruw Mussett.

(Picture of JetBlue Park: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Wandy Abreu named Dominican Summer League Pitcher of the Year

Red Sox prospect Wandy Abreu has been named the Dominican Summer League Pitcher of the Year, Minor League Baseball announced on Friday.

Abreu, 20, made 18 relief appearances for the DSL Red Sox Blue affiliate this season. Thirteen of those 18 outings were scoreless, as the right-hander posted a 1.22 ERA and 3.14 FIP to go along with 45 strikeouts to 11 walks over 37 total innings of work.

Among the 294 DSL pitchers who threw at least 30 innings in 2022, Abreu ranked 56th in strikeouts per nine innings (10.95), 73rd in walks per nine innings (2.68), 32nd in strikeout rate (31.3 percent), 49th in swinging-strike rate (38.9 percent), 88th in walk rate (7.6 percent), 49th in batting average against (.191), 27th in WHIP (0.97), eighth in ERA, 51st in FIP, and 36th in xFIP (3.18), per FanGraphs.

Boston originally signed Abreu for just $1,000 as an international free agent coming out of the Dominican Republic last November. The Santo Domingo native is listed at 6-foot-4 and 238 pounds. Outside of that, there is not much information on him available.

While Abreu certainly enjoyed success in his pro debut this summer, it is worth mentioning that he was older (1.4 years on average) than the competition he was facing this season. The righty is projected to make the jump to the Florida Complex League next year, so it should be interesting to see how he adjusts to pitching in the United States.

In other award-related news, Ozzie Chavez was named the Dominican Summer League Manager of the Year after leading the DSL Red Sox Blue to a league-best record of 44-16. Chavez has been managing in the Dominican Summer League since 2019 after first joining the Red Sox organization as a minor-league coach in 2015.

(Picture of Dominican Republic flags: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Triston Casas unlikely to return to Dominican Winter League due to knee injury

UPDATE: Licey general manager Audo Vicente told reporters (including David Alcantara) on Tuesday that while Casas remains in Boston, he is expected to rejoin the team in the third week of November.

Red Sox first baseman Triston Casas is not expected to return to the Dominican Winter League this offseason, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told reporters (including The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier) at the GM Meetings in Las Vegas on Monday.

Casas had been playing for the Tigres del Licey and went 2-for-9 (.222) with one RBI, two runs scored, five walks, and three strikeouts in his first three games with the club. The 22-year-old last suited up for Licey on October 17 and has since been sidelined with knee soreness.

Because of that discomfort, the Red Sox flew Casas to Boston so he could undergo further testing. An MRI revealed no structural damage, leaving Bloom and other team officials to believe Casas would be able to return to the Dominican Republic before Licey’s season ended. They no longer share that sense of optimism.

“He came back home, we looked at the knee, and we are not concerned,” Bloom said of Casas. “But just given that the soreness was still lingering, given what’s ahead of him — hopefully big things in 2023 — he ended up going back [home] to Florida. At this point, we don’t expect him to go back to [Licey].”

One of the reasons the Red Sox sent Casas to the Dominican because the former first-round draft pick missed nearly two months of the minor-league season with a high right ankle sprain. The idea was for him to make up for lost time, but this latest injury appears to have prevented that from happening in full.

Casas, who turns 23 in January, is expected to emerge as Boston’s everyday first baseman in 2023 if he can stay healthy. The left-handed hitter made his highly-anticipated major-league debut in September and batted .197/.358/.408 with one double, five home runs, 12 RBIs, 11 runs scored, one stolen base, 19 walks, and 23 strikeouts over 27 games (95 plate appearances) with the Red Sox.

(Picture of Triston Casas: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Franchy Cordero to play winter ball in Dominican Republic

Red Sox first baseman/outfielder Franchy Cordero intends on playing for the Leones del Escogido of the Dominican Winter League this off-season, he announced on Wednesday.

“I’ll be here in a few weeks,” Cordero said (in Spanish) to team reporter Natacha Pena.

Earlier this week, Escogido general manager Luis Rojas told reporters that he expected Cordero to join the team in mid-November or by the 20th at the latest.

Cordero was officially added to Escogido’s roster on Wednesday, per his MLB.com transaction log. The Azua native has spent the last five winters with the Santo Domingo-based club. He took home LIDOM (Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana) Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year honors at the conclusion of the 2017-2018 campaign.

This news is particularly noteworthy since Cordero is still technically recovering from a right ankle sprain that prematurely ended his 2022 season. In the fifth inning of 4-3 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field on September 5, the 28-year-old attempted to track down a 358-foot fly ball off the bat of Randy Arozarena in left field. He wound up jumping for the ball and his right cleat got caught in the fence’s padding. That caused him to land awkwardly and he was ultimately carted off the field.

An MRI revealed that Cordero had sprained both sides of his ankle and he was placed on the 60-day injured list two days later. All told, the left-handed hitter batted .219/.300/.397 with 17 doubles, one triple, eight home runs, 29 RBIs, 36 runs scored, four stolen bases, 28 walks, and 92 strikeouts over 84 games (275 plate appearances) in his second season with the Sox.

Since coming over from the Royals in the Andrew Benintendi trade last February, Cordero owns a .209/.279/.350 slash line across 132 career games in a Red Sox uniform. Although he possesses freakish tools, the 6-foot-3, 226-pounder has proven to be a below-average defender at first base who may be better suited for the outfield.

Because he was added back to Boston’s 40-man roster in April, Cordero is eligible for arbitration this winter. He is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $1.5 million in 2023. The Red Sox could elect to non-tender Cordero and make him a free agent before then, but they will first have to activate him from the 60-day injured list by Nov. 15.

In short, it should be interesting to see what the Red Sox have planned for Cordero in the coming weeks. MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo took note of the fact that Cordero is well-liked within the organization, so that could play a role in their decision-making process moving forward.

(Picture of Franchy Cordero: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Miguel Bleis tabbed by MLB Pipeline as ‘Boston’s best international prospect since Rafael Devers’

On Wednesday night, MLB.com’s Jim Callis identified Miguel Bleis as the Red Sox’ best international prospect since Rafael Devers.

Bleis, 18, originally signed with the Red Sox for $1.5 million (the same amount Devers received in 2013) as a highly-touted international free agent coming out of the Dominican Republic in January 2021. After making his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League last year, the San Pedro de Macoris native made the jump to the Florida Complex League this summer.

In 40 games with Boston’s rookie-level, Fort Myers-based affiliate, the right-handed hitting outfielder batted .301/.353/.543 with 14 doubles, four triples, five home runs, 27 RBIs, 28 runs scored, 18 stolen bases, 10 walks, and 45 strikeouts over 167 plate appearances.

Among qualified FCL hitters this season, Bleis ranked seventh in batting average, 24th in on-base percentage, third in slugging percentage, fourth in OPS (.896), 12th in line-drive rate (22.3 percent) second in isolated power (.242), tied for first in speed score (9.3), and sixth in wRC+ (142), per FanGraphs.

While he was undoubtedly one of the top hitters in the lower minors this year, Bleis did struggle a bit when it came to plate discipline, as noted by Callis. In simpler terms, he only walked six percent of the time while striking out at 26.9 percent clip. He also posted the ninth-highest swinging-strike rate (33.8 percent) in the FCL.

Defensively, Bleis saw the majority of his playing time this season come in center field. The 6-foot-3, 170-pounder logged 310 1/3 innings in center and just five innings in right while recording a team-high five outfield assists.

Taking that statistic into consideration, Callis adds that Bleis should be able to stick in center on account of his arm strength. If not, he has the offensive upside and defensive profile to shift over to right.

As the 2022 FCL season drew to a close in August, the Red Sox began promoting several of their younger prospects — such as Mikey Romero and Roman Anthony — to Low-A Salem. Bleis very well could have been part of that group, but the club opted to have him stay in Fort Myers since he was dealing with some back soreness.

Back in September, Red Sox director of player development Brian Abraham told The Athletic’s Chad Jennings that had Bleis been healthy, he would have joined Anthony, Romero, and the like in Salem for the remainder of the minor-league campaign.

“He certainly would have been with that group (that was promoted to Salem),” Abraham said. “We let him know that he would have been with that group. But I think being healthy going into the offseason was the primary concern. So, he stayed in Fort Myers and made sure we got that (back issue) right and then we sent him home. There’s no doubt he had earned a promotion to Salem if not at the end of the year, earlier. He is aware of that.”

Bleis, who turns 19 in March, is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 5 prospect in Boston’s farm system. He has yet to crack the publication’s top 100 list, but that could happen sooner rather than later.

Considering what Abraham already told Jennings, it seems likely that Bleis will kick off his first full professional season in Salem next spring. After all, his potential is through the roof and he has the tools to back it up.

“He has five tools. That’s the reality,” said Abraham. “You don’t see that too often. What those five tools will ultimately (become), how they will pan out, not sure. But in terms of the tools, and in terms of the ability to impact the game in various ways, he does that. 

“I think whenever you have a player who does those types of things, he’s someone you want to pay attention to and watch,” added Abraham. “Whether he’s on the bases, whether he’s in the field, whether he’s in the batter’s box, you know something special is going to happen, and I think that’s something he showed during his short time in the states.”

(Picture of Miguel Bleis: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox outfield prospect Miguel Bleis catching fire in Florida Complex League

Like right-hander Luis Perales, Red Sox outfield prospect Miguel Bleis has also been opening eyes and turning heads in the Florida Complex League this summer.

Last week, Bleis appeared in four games for Boston’s rookie-level affiliate and went 8-for-17 (.471) at the plate with two doubles, two home runs, four RBIs, three runs scored, four stolen bases, zero walks, and four strikeouts. Both of those homers came in the same game against the FCL Rays in Port Charlotte on July 11.

As a result of all that production, Bleis was included in Baseball America’s latest Hot Sheet — which highlights the game’s 20 hottest prospects from the previous week — on Tuesday.

“One of the top young talents in Boston’s system, Bleis started a little slow out of the gate this season but has been on fire in July,” Baseball America’s Geoff Pontes wrote. “He’s a speedy center fielder with a knack for the barrel and solid plate approach considering his age and level. His in-game power is starting to show, with strong exit velocity numbers that would compare well against a majority of major-league hitters.”

After batting just .156 through the first two weeks of the FCL season, the right-handed-hitting 18-year-old has since turned things around and is now slashing .298/.337/.511 (124 wRC+) with seven doubles, two triples, three homers, 15 RBIs, 15 runs scored, 11 stolen bases, five walks, and 25 strikeouts over 24 games spanning 101 trips to the plate.

Among qualified FCL hitters, Bleis ranks 13th in batting average, 10th in slugging percentage, 12th in OPS (.847), ninth in isolated power (.213), fourth in speed score (9.2), fifth in line-drive rate (29.2%), and 18th in wRC+, per FanGraphs.

Defensively, the 6-foot-3, 170-pounder has seen all of his playing time come at center field so far this season. He has logged 195 1/3 innings at the position and has yet to record an error while also registering a team-high of four outfield assists.

The Red Sox originally signed Bleis as an international free-agent out of the Dominican Republic last January. Boston gave the San Pedro de Macoris native a lucrative $1.5 million bonus, making him the highest-paid member of its 2021 signing class.

Since then, Bleis — who does not turn 19 until next March — has played in both the Dominican Summer and Florida Complex Leagues and is currently ranked by Baseball America as the No. 16 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Bleis is best described by SoxProspects.com as having “the highest upside of any Latin American prospect in the system,” and it’s easy to see why. Between the athleticism, the potential, and the talent, Bleis will more than likely emerge as a top-100 prospect in baseball sooner rather than later.

In the near-term, Bleis could very well earn a promotion to Low-A Salem before long if he continues to impress down in Fort Myers. That would certainly be an exciting development within the Red Sox organization.

(Picture of Miguel Bleis: Bryan Green/Flickr)

Red Sox prospects Marvin Alcantara and Denis Reguillo identified as potential sleepers within team’s 2022 international signing class

Since the 2022 international signing period began in January, the Red Sox have signed 19 foreign-born free-agents, according to SoxProspects.com.

Boston’s 2022 signing class thus far is highlighted by the likes of shortstops Fraymi De Leon and Freili Encarnacion and catcher Johanfran Garcia, who happens to be the younger brother of Red Sox outfield prospect Jhostynxon Garcia.

While these three may be the early headliners, there are other young prospects worth keeping in mind as well. In his annual review of the Sox’ most-recent signing class, Baseball America’s Ben Badler identifies infielder Marvin Alcantara and right-hander Denis Reguillo as two possible sleepers to watch.

Alcantara, 17, was signed out of Venezuela by area scout Alex Requena back in January. The right-handed hitting shortstop did not receive much attention as an amateur and thus signed with Boston for a modest $30,000.

Still, despite the lack of eyes that were on him, Alcantara received a strong endorsement from Requena, who played a key role in making the signing happen, according to Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero.

“Just pounding the table for him,” Romero said of Requena’s interest in Alcantara in a conversation with The Athletic’s Chad Jennings. “He’s one of these guys that the crosscheck group really didn’t get to see much, but he made it to signing day and our area scout was just like, ‘You need to sign this guy!’”

From the time he officially put pen to paper in January, Alcantara has made adding a muscle a priority over the last two months.

“Alcantara has started to add weight to his slender frame, standing out as a hit collector in games from the right side of the plate,” wrote Badler. “He’s a solid all-around player who could play at different spots around the infield, with his bat his calling card.”

Reguillo, on the other hand, was signed out of the Dominican Republic for just $10,000. There is not as much information available on the righty as there is on Alcantara, however.

“Reguillo was mostly in the mid-to-upper 80s as an amateur, but he has been adding weight to his slender frame since then and has the projection to be throwing in the low-to-mid 90s,” Badler wrote. “Adding more power behind his fastball would make him more intriguing, as he already has good feel for pitching and throws strikes from a good delivery with loose arm action.”

Both Alcantara and Reguillo are presumably raw and early on in their development. The Red Sox doled out a total of $40,000 for the two prospects, which accounts for less than one percent of their $5,179,700 bonus pool this year.

“The signing class isn’t made on January 15 (when the market opens),” Romero told Jennings. “The signing class is really made throughout the year when you have some more of these flexible signings. … We hammer the passed over and the (overlooked players) just as much as we do trying to make sure we’re on top of the premium, priority players in each class.”

On that note, both Alcantara and Reguillo are projected by SoxProspects.com to begin their professional careers in the Dominican Summer League. the 2022 DSL season is slated to begin sometime in July.

(Picture of JetBlue Park: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox pitching prospect Gabriel Jackson needs just 44 pitches to toss 4 scoreless innings in second start of season for Low-A Salem

Red Sox pitching prospect Gabriel Jackson was extremely efficient in his second start of the minor-league season for Low-A Salem on Saturday night.

Going up against the Fayetteville Woodpeckers (Astros affiliate) at SEGRA Stadium in North Carolina, Jackson tossed four scoreless innings while allowing just two hits and no walks to go along with four strikeouts.

Both hits allowed by the right-hander came in the bottom of the third, but he escaped that jam and proceeded to retire each of the final five batters he faced before making way for Blake Loubier in the middle of the fifth. The Salem Red Sox ultimately defeated the Woodpeckers by a final score of 5-3.

Of the 44 pitches Jackson threw on Saturday, 34 went for strikes. Through two starts with Salem now, the 20-year-old has yet to allow a run and is holding opponents to a .130 batting average against over his first seven innings of work this season.

The Red Sox originally signed Jackson for $350,000 as an international free agent out coming out of the Dominican Republic in July 2018. At that time, Baseball America’s Ben Badler noted that the Samana native was “a strong, thick-boned pitcher” who featured heavy life on a fastball that reached 93 mph.

Upon signing with Boston in 2018, Jackson made his professional debut the following year in the Dominican Summer League, where he posted a 3.49 ERA and 3.97 FIP with 38 strikeouts to 27 walks across 14 starts spanning 59 1/3 innings pitched.

While the 2020 minor-league season was derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Jackson was at least able to participate in the Sox’ fall instructional league in Fort Myers. He spent the entirety of the 2021 campaign in the rookie-level Florida Complex League and produced a 3.57 ERA, 4.83 FIP, and 17:11 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 10 appearances (two starts) and 17 2/3 innings of work.

Listed at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, Jackson still has some room to grow physically and developmentally since he is still just 20 years old and does not turn 21 until September. Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, the righty currently works with three different pitches: a 90-94 mph fastball that tops out at 95 mph, an 84-88 mph slider, and an 87-89 mph changeup.

Although he is not yet and may never be regarded as one of the top pitching prospects in the Red Sox farm system, Jackson will undoubtedly get to pitch plenty with Salem this season. Boston’s director of player development, Brian Abraham, said as much in a recent conversation with The Athletic’s Chad Jennings.

More specifically, Abraham told Jennings that Jackson and fellow right-hander Tyler Uberstine will get “a lot of innings as piggyback starters coming out of the bullpen and making occasional starts of their own.”

As previously mentioned, Jackson’s first two appearances of 2022 have come in the form of starts. With that, it should be interesting to see how long it will be until the Dominican-born hurler is used by Salem as a multi-inning or bulk reliever out of the bullpen.

(Picture of Gabriel Jackson: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Who is Red Sox prospect Allan Castro? Get to know the organization’s 2021 Latin Program Position Player of the Year

Red Sox outfield prospect Allan Castro comes into the 2022 season fresh off being recognized as the organization’s Latin Program Position Player of the Year in 2021.

Castro, 18, was originally signed by the Sox as a middle infielder coming out of the Dominican Republic in July 2019. The Santo Domingo native received a signing bonus of $100,000, but has since made the move to the outfield.

After the start of his professional career was pushed back on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, Castro made his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League last year. Upon being assigned to the DSL Red Sox Red affiliate in July, the switch-hitting outfielder proceeded to bat .232/.335/.421 (110 wRC+) to go along with eight doubles, seven triples, three home runs, 19 RBIs, 24 runs scored, three stolen bases, 21 walks, and 43 strikeouts over 46 games spanning 194 plate appearances.

Among all DSL hitters who made at least 190 trips to the plate last season, Castro ranked tied for first in triples, 28th in slugging percentage, and 13th in isolated power (.189), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Castro saw playing time at all three outfield positions in 2021. The 6-foot-1, 170 pounder logged 95 innings in left field, 32 innings in center, and 175 1/3 innings in right while recording a total of six outfield assists and turning a total of two double plays.

Back in September, SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall identified Castro as “one of the Red Sox’ most promising hitters in the DSL, showing the potential to hit for average and power.”

“He has some swing-and-miss in his game, but could get to above-average raw power eventually and an average defensive profile in right field, including a potential above-average arm,” Cundall wrote. “Scouts identified Castro as having one of the best pure bats in the Red Sox’ DSL program and as one to watch when he makes the jump stateside.”  

As Cundall alluded to, Castro is slated to begin the 2022 minor-league season in the rookie-level Florida Complex League. Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero indicated as much in a recent email exchange with BloggingtheRedSox.com.

“Regarding Castro, his career was delayed by the pandemic lost season, and he was really standing out from the offensive end until he tired later in the DSL summer,” wrote Romero. “Encouraging to see a position change to the outfield not affect him, and he ended up with a good range of extra-base hits. We have a talented group of outfielders expected to play in the FCL, and he’ll be in the mix for priority at-bats within that group.”

Castro, who turns 19 in May, is not currently regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system. Given that he still has room to grow and develop, though, it would not be surprising to see Castro gain some notoriety and rise up the rankings a bit this summer if he impresses in the FCL.

(Picture of Allan Castro via his Instagram)

What to expect from Red Sox infield prospect Luis Ravelo heading into 2022 season

Red Sox infield prospect Luis Ravelo could be a player to watch this year, tweets SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall.

Ravelo, 18, signed with Boston for $545,000 as an international free agent coming out of the Dominican Republic in January 2021.

At that time, Baseball America’s Ben Badler noted that Ravelo was one of the top defensive shortstops to come out of the Dominican Republic, writing that the Santo Domingo native “has excellent hands and likes to show them off with ball tricks and fielding grounders between his legs, but in games he’s also a smart, instinctive defender. He has good actions and the ability to make both the routine play and the challenging ones, along with a plus arm.”

Upon signing his first professional contract, Ravelo remained on his home island and spent the entirety of the 2021 season in the Dominican Summer League. Across 43 games for the DSL Red Sox Red affiliate, the switch-hitter batted .243/.333/.319 (91 wRC+) with four doubles, two triples, one home run, 13 RBIs, 20 runs scored, 19 walks, and 22 strikeouts over 168 plate appearances.

Obviously, a below-average 91 wRC+ is not exactly an eye-popping statistic. That being said, Ravelo did strike out in just 13.1% of his plate appearances last year, which ranked 32nd among qualified DSL hitters, per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Ravelo unsurprisingly saw all his playing time in 2021 come at shortstop. The 6-foot-1, 187 pounder committed a total of nine errors and turned 24 double plays while logging 337 1/3 innings at the ever-important position.

After participating in the team’s fall performance program during the off-season, Ravelo returned to Fort Myers for the start of minor-league spring training earlier this month. He is projected by SoxProspects.com to start the 2022 campaign out in the rookie-level Florida Complex League.

Ravelo, who does not turn 19 until November, is not yet regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system. Given his age and lack of experience, though, it feels safe to assume that Ravelo will rise through the ranks as he continues to develop both physically and developmentally.

(GIF of Luis Ravelo via Ian Cundall)