Red Sox prospect Armando Sierra improved across the board in 2022

Red Sox first base/outfield prospect Armando Sierra celebrated his 19th birthday on Tuesday.

Sierra originally signed with the Red Sox for $150,000 as an international free agent coming out of the Dominican Republic just two days shy of his 17th birthday in January 2021. Shortly thereafter, the Sabana Grande de Palenque native was identified by Baseball America as a potential under-the-radar addition to Boston’s 2021 signing class.

“Armando was a player we scouted later on in his signing year,” Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero said of Sierra in April 2021. “After scouting him a few times, he stood out for his strong frame and his power. As we continued to see him, it became apparent that not only did he have above average power for his signing class, but he also was developing a stronger approach.”

Sierra made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League in July 2021. In 53 games for the DSL Red Sox Blue, the right-handed hitter batted .284/.373/.379 with 10 doubles, two home runs, 35 RBIs, 24 runs scored, 21 walks, and 41 strikeouts over 193 plate appearances.

After seeing the majority of his playing time come in the outfield corners in 2021, Sierra played more first base as he returned to the Dominican Summer League last year. In the process of logging 220 2/3 innings at first, 46 innings in left field, and 41 innings in right field, the 6-foot-2, 189-pounder slashed .314/.399/.473 with 15 doubles, five homers, 48 runs driven in, 37 runs scored, three stolen bases, 25 walks, and 22 strikeouts across 51 games (218 plate appearances) with the DSL Red Sox Blue.

Among the 69 hitters in the Dominican Summer League who made at least 210 trips to the plate in 2022, Sierra ranked second in strikeout rate (10.1 percent), ninth in batting average, 16th in on-base percentage, 11th in slugging percentage, 12th in OPS (.872), 24th in isolated power (.160), 16th in line-drive rate (23 percent), third in swinging-strike rate (16.5 percent), and 10th in wRC+ (136), per FanGraphs. He also represented the Red Sox in last July’s DSL All-Star Game.

As the above numbers indicate, Sierra showed signs of improvement across the board last season. He hit for a higher average (.284 to .314), raised his on-base percentage (.373 to .399), hit for more power (.379 to .473 slugging percentage), walked more (10.9 percent to 11.5 percent walk rate), and struck out less (21.2 to 10.1 percent strikeout rate) while putting up a wRC+ that increased by 19 percent (117 to 136).

Of course, Sierra has done all of this at the lowest rung of the minor-league ladder. He will likely be faced with an adjustment period when he makes the expected jump to the rookie-level Florida Complex League later this summer. With that being said, though, Sierra certainly seems to be on an encouraging trajectory even if he is still just a developing teenager.

Sierra, who obviously does not turn 20 until next January, is not yet regarded by publications such as SoxProspects.com as one of the top 60 prospects in Boston’s farm system. He should, however, have the chance to elevate his profile once he officially goes stateside in 2023.

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

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)

Evaluating early returns from Red Sox’ 2022 international signing class

With the 2023 international signing period set to begin on Sunday, now feels like an appropriate time to reflect on how some key members of the Red Sox’ 2022 class fared in their first seasons of professional baseball.

Per SoxProspects.com, Boston signed 31 prospects for a combined $5.281 million between January 15 and December 15 of last year. Of those 31 prospects, one has already been traded, as left-hander Inmer Lobo was dealt to the Pirates in November in exchange for infielder/outfielder Hoy Park.

Just two members of the Sox’ 2022 signing class — Dominican shortstops Fraymi De Leon and Freili Encarnacion — received bonuses of more than $1 million. Two others (Venezuelan catcher Johanfran Garcia and Dominican shortstop Jancel Santana) signed for more than $500,000 while four additional players (Dominican outfielders Natanael Yuten and Cristofher Paniagua, Venezuelan shortstop Frayner Noria, and Venezuelan right-hander William Colmenares) netted between $125,000 and $400,000 in bonus money.

De Leon signed for $1.2 million last January and made his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League less than five months later. The switch-hitting 18-year-old batted .218/.332/.268 with one double, one triple, two home runs, 21 RBIs, 29 runs scored, 20 stolen bases, 21 walks, and 61 strikeouts over 50 games (214 plate appearances) with the DSL Red Sox Blue. He saw playing time at both middle infield positions.

Encarnacion signed for $1.1 million and spent the entirety of the 2022 campaign with the DSL Red Sox Red. In 41 games for the affiliate, the right-handed hitting 17-year-old (turns 18 later this month) slashed .255/.335/.369 with eight doubles, three home runs, 23 runs driven in, 31 runs scored, nine stolen bases, 15 walks, and 51 strikeouts across 173 trips to the plate. He saw playing time at third base and shortstop and is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the 35th-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Garcia signed for $850,000 at the same time De Leon and Encarnacion did. The younger brother of Red Sox outfield prospect Jhostynxon Garcia, Johanfran compiled a .268/.367/.333 slash line to go along with seven doubles, one triple, 23 RBIs, 26 runs scored, 21 walks, and 25 strikeouts in 40 games (161 plate appearances) with the DSL Red Sox Red last season. The 18-year-old backstop also threw out 26 of 58 base stealers from behind the plate.

Santana, like De Leon and Encarnacion, hails from the Dominican Republic. The switch-hitting 17-year-old signed for exactly $600,000 last winter and proceeded to bat .184/.303/.203 with seven doubles, one triple, two home runs, 16 RBIs, 25 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, 18 walks, and 56 strikeouts in 43 games (179 plate appearances) for the DSL Red Sox Red. He logged 317 1/3 innings at second base and just 31 innings at shortstop.

Colmenares received the highest bonus ($125,000) of any of the 16 pitchers Boston signed in 2022. The 17-year-old (turns 18 next month) righty posted a 3.79 ERA and 3.79 FIP with 40 strikeouts to 18 walks over 13 outings (12 starts) spanning 40 1/3 innings of work for the DSL Red Sox Blue. He reportedly possesses a three-pitch mix that includes a 93 mph fastball.

Of the 23 international prospects who received bonuses of less than $100,000 last year, Venezuelan infielder Marvin Alcantara may have made the strongest first impression. After signing for just $30,000, the right-handed hitting 18-year-old batted .302/.406/.397 with 15 doubles, one home run, 29 runs driven in, 49 runs scored, 14 stolen bases, 29 walks, and 33 strikeouts in 53 games (224 plate appearances) with the DSL Red Sox Blue. He put up those numbers while playing every infield position besides first base.

Alcantara, who is listed at just 5-foot-10 and 157 pounds, did not receive much attention as an amateur. But it was Venezuelan area scout Alex Requena who made the case for the Red Sox to sign the La Victoria native, as assistant general manager Eddie Romero explained to The Athletic’s Chad Jennings last January.

“Just pounding the table for him,” Romero said of Requena’s interest in Alcantara. “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!’”

Outside of Encarnacion, Alcantara is presently the only prospect included on SoxProspects.com’s top-60 rankings, as he comes in at No. 37 within the organization.

Alcantara, like many other players listed here, are projected to make the jump to the Florida Complex League for the 2023 minor-league season. Others will return to the Dominican Summer League and continue to hone their skills at the Red Sox’ academy down in El Toro.

(Picture of Freili Encarnacion via his Instagram)

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)

Who is Eybersson Polanco? Get to know the Red Sox’ Latin Program Pitcher of the Year

In similar fashion to Andy Lugo, Eybersson Polanco was named the Red Sox’ Latin Program Pitcher of the Year last month.

Polanco, 19, made 12 starts for the Dominican Summer League Red Sox Red this season. The right-hander posted a 1.78 ERA and 2.96 FIP to go along with 50 strikeouts to 17 walks over 50 2/3 innings of work. He led his team in strikeouts and WHIP (0.95) and represented them in the Dominican Summer League All-Star Game in July.

Among 31 qualified DSL pitchers this year, Polanco ranked 15th in walks per nine innings (3.02), 13th in strikeout rate (25.8%), fourth in batting average against (.177), fifth in WHIP, 13th in groundball rate (46.2%), fourth in ERA, third in FIP, and 11th in xFIP (3.42), per FanGraphs.

Like Lugo, there is not much information available on Polanco since he only just completed his first professional season. The Red Sox originally signed the 6-foot, 170-pound righty out of Venezuela last July. He received a $50,000 bonus while fellow countryman Jedixson Paez netted $450,000, making him the highest-paid pitcher from the club’s 2021 international signing class.

Paez, who earned Latin Program Pitcher of the Year last season, was signed by Angel Escobar in January 2021. Polanco, on the other hand, was signed by Lenin Rodriguez six months later.

Given that he just turned 19 in September, it feels safe to assume that Polanco still has plenty of room to grow. That applies to his physical maturation, mechanics, and pitch arsenal, among other things.

Polanco is projected by SoxProspects.com to make the jump to the Florida Complex League in 2023. Paez made strides in Fort Myers this year and is now regarded by the site as the No. 12 pitching prospects in Boston’s farm system. Perhaps Polanco can do the same beginning next summer.

(Picture of Eybersson Polanco via his Facebook)

Who is Andy Lugo? Get to know the Red Sox’ Latin Program Position Player of the Year

Last month, Andy Lugo was named the Red Sox’ Latin Program Position Player of the Year after a successful debut season in the Dominican Summer League.

Appearing in 56 games for the club’s DSL Blue affiliate, Lugo batted an impressive .318/.368/.414 to go along with 11 doubles, two triples, two home runs, 30 RBIs, 52 runs scored, 21 stolen bases, 11 walks, and 35 strikeouts. The right-handed hitting 18-year-old led his team in hits (70), total bases (91), runs scored, and stolen bases.

Among those in the Dominican Summer League who made at least 200 trips to the plate this season, Lugo ranked ninth in batting average, 19th in strikeout rate (14.5%), 10th in speed score (8.4), 33rd in line-drive rate (21.8%), and 47th in wRC+ (114), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Lugo saw playing time at four different positions over the summer. The versatile 5-foot-11, 160-pounder logged 18 innings at second base, 51 innings at third base, 123 2/3 innings in left field, and 179 innings in center. His six outfield assists were tied for second-most on the DSL Red Sox Blue behind only Albertson Asigen’s eight.

The Red Sox originally signed Lugo as an international free agent coming out of the Dominican Republic last July. The San Cristobal native netted a modest $10,000 signing bonus, which pales in comparison to what the club’s top signee from the 2021 class — fellow countryman Miguel Bleis — received ($1.5 million). Bleis was signed by Jonathan Cruz while Lugo was signed by Esau Medina.

Given that his professional career has only just begun, there is not too much information available when it comes to Lugo’s scouting profile. He is unsurprisingly not yet regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system.

While that could certainly change with time, Lugo does not turn 19 until next March and presumably still has room to grow both physically and developmentally. He is projected by SoxProspects.com to make the jump to the Florida Complex League in 2023, so perhaps he will benefit from more exposure stateside.

(Picture of Andy Lugo via his Instagram)

Who is Claudio Simon? Red Sox prospect has stolen 27 bases in 32 Dominican Summer League games: ‘There is no doubt that his speed is legit,’ Eddie Romero says

Red Sox infield prospect Claudio Simon stole his 27th base of the Dominican Summer League season on Tuesday afternoon.

Batting eighth and starting at third base for the Red Sox’ DSL Red affiliate, Simon went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles and a run scored. His stolen base came in the sixth inning of an 8-1 win over the Royals’ DSL Stewart affiliate in El Toro.

Following Tuesday’s performance, the right-handed hitting Simon is now batting .219/.310/.281 with two doubles, one triple, one home run, 10 RBIs, 21 runs scored, 11 walks, and 35 strikeouts over 32 games (129 plate appearances) this season.

While those numbers might not seem all that impressive, Simon’s 27 stolen bases rank second in the Dominican Summer League behind only the Yankees’ Fidel Montero, who has swiped 28 bags. Coming into play on Tuesday, he ranked seventh in the DSL in speed score (9.3), per FanGraphs.

Simon, 20, originally signed with the Red Sox for just $5,000 as an international free-agent coming out of the Dominican Republic back in December. In his first professional season, the La Romana native has seen playing time at second base, third base, and all three outfield positions.

Outside of his listed height and weight of 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, there is not much information out there on Simon given his relatively low profile. With that being said, I recently reached out to Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero to ask about Simon and his propensity to steal bases.

“Simon’s speed is one of his best tools,” Romero told BloggingtheRedSox.com via email earlier this month. “It rates at least as a 7 (out of 8) on the scouting scale. He’s improving as a base stealer, reading pitchers, and getting better leads and jumps. However, there is no doubt that his speed is legit. He’s a tremendous athlete.”

Simon, who turns 21 in December, will presumably spend the rest of the season in the Dominican Summer League. If the speedster remains in the organization through the winter, it seems likely he will make the jump to the United States and the Florida Complex League in 2023.

(Picture of Claudio Simon via his Instagram)

Armando Sierra, Eybersson Polanco represent Red Sox in Dominican Summer League All-Star Game

A pair of young prospects represented the Red Sox in the 2022 Dominican Summer League All-Star Game in San Cristobal on Sunday.

Armando Sierra served as the American League’s starting first baseman and went 0-for-2 with a flyout and groundout before being replaced at first base by Astros prospect Waner Luciano in the middle of the fifth inning.

Eybersson Polanco, on the other hand, retired all three batters he faced in a scoreless third inning while also striking out one. Interestingly enough, the game ultimately ended in a 6-6 tie.

Sierra, 18, originally signed with the Red Sox for $150,000 as an international free-agent coming out of Sabana Grande de Palenque in January 2021. The 6-foot-2, 189-pounder has proven capable of playing first base and both corner outfield positions thus far into his professional career.

In 35 games with Boston’s Dominican Summer League Blue affiliate this season, the right-handed hitting Sierra has batted a stout .323/.395/.489 with 13 doubles, three home runs, 36 RBIs, 31 runs scored, one stolen base, 15 walks, and 14 strikeouts over 152 plate appearances.

Among qualified DSL hitters, Sierra currently ranks ninth in runs scored, second in doubles, first in RBIs, and ninth in strikeout rate (9.2%), per MiLB.com’s leaderboards.

Polanco, also 18, signed with Boston approximately six months after Sierra did as an international free-agent coming out of Venezuela. The right-hander received a signing bonus of $50,000.

Listed at 6-foot and 170 pounds, Polanco made his professional debut for the DSL Red Sox Red last month and has since posted a 2.03 ERA and 3.00 FIP to go along with 29 strikeouts to 10 walks over seven starts spanning 26 2/3 innings of work.

Among DSL hurlers who have pitched at least 20 innings to this point in the season, Polanco currently ranks 60th in strikeout rate (28.7%), 26th in batting average against (.156), 31st in WHIP (0.90), 55th in ERA, 40th in FIP, and 55th in xFIP (3.51), according to FanGraphs.

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

Red Sox pitching prospect Stiwar Adames making strides in Dominican Summer League

Red Sox pitching prospect Stiwar Adames was recently recognized by Minor League Baseball as the Dominican Summer League Pitcher of the Week for the week of July 11-17.

In two outings for the Dominican Summer League Red Sox Blue affiliate last week, Adames tossed six scoreless, one-hit innings in which he struck out six while only yielding two walks to the 21 batters he faced.

On the 2022 season as a whole, the left-hander has posted a 2.08 ERA and 3.27 FIP to go along with 22 strikeouts to nine walks over nine appearances spanning 21 2/3 innings of work.

Among 177 DSL pitchers who have thrown at least 20 innings to this point in the season, Adames most notably ranks 39th in batting average against (.184), 47th in WHIP (1.06), 48th in ERA, 60th in FIP, 69th in swinging strike rate (36%), and 74th in groundball rate (45.3%), per FanGraphs.

Adames, who turns 20 next month, originally signed with the Red Sox for $50,000 as an international free-agent coming out of the Dominican Republic in February 2020. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound southpaw made his professional debut in the DSL last July and has since pitched to a 2.22 ERA (3.86 FIP) across 44 2/3 total innings at that level.

Compared to last year, Adames has been able to cut down on his walks (13.1% to 10.5%) while also striking out more hitters (13.1% to 25.6%). Considering that he turns 20 in just a few weeks and is a bit older for his level at the DSL, one has to wonder if Adames could soon make his way to the United States by earning a promotion to the rookie-level Florida Complex League.

(Picture of Stiwar Adames via his Instagram)

Red Sox infield prospect Ahbram Liendo drives in 3 runs in Grapefruit League debut

Red Sox infield prospect Ahbram Liendo certainly made the most of his Grapefruit League debut on Tuesday afternoon.

With the majority of Red Sox minor-leaguers leaving Fort Myers for the start of the 2022 season with their respective affiliate, Liendo was one of eight players Boston added to its roster ahead of Tuesday’s spring finale against the Twins at JetBlue Park.

After replacing Trevor Story at second base at the onset of the fifth inning, Liendo got his first crack at the plate in the bottom of the sixth. With two outs in the frame and runners at second and third, Liendo kept things going by ripping a line-drive, two-run single off Twins reliever Griffin Jax. He scored from third base himself later in the inning.

Fast forward to the seventh, and Liendo again came to the plate with two outs and runners on base. This time around, he drove in Jonathan Arauz on an RBI groundout to second. That gave Boston a 9-6 lead in what would turn out to be a 10-6 victory over Minnesota.

All told, Liendo went 1-for-2 off the bench with his single, one run scored, and a team-leading three RBIs in the Sox’ final exhibition game of the spring.

Liendo, 18, was originally signed by the Red Sox as an international free agent coming out of Venezuela last January. The Maracay native received a signing bonus of $450,000, making him one of the more notable additions from the 2021 class.

Upon going pro last winter, Liendo had to wait a bit to make his organizational debut. In July, the Sox assigned Liendo to their Dominican Summer League Red affiliate and he debuted for the team on July 13.

Over the next two-plus months, the switch-hitting infielder slashed .251/.349/.353 (102 wRC+) with six doubles, four triples, one home run, 21 RBIs, 26 runs scored, 11 stolen bases, 25 walks, and 30 strikeouts across 46 games spanning 195 plate appearances.

Among the 90 DSL hitters who made at least 190 trips to the plate last season, Liendo ranked 45th in stolen bases, 43rd in walk percentage (12.8%), 33rd in strikeout percentage (15.4%), and 28th in speed score (7.6), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Liendo saw the majority of his playing time come at second base last year and logged 338 1/3 innings at the position. But the 5-foot-8, 170 pounder also made two appearances (17 innings) at third base and one appearance (7 innings) at shortstop while recording six errors and turning 23 total double plays.

At the time of his signing, Baseball America’s Ben Badler noted that Liendo was “a baseball rat with an outstanding arm. He’s a headsy player who could move all around the field — some scouts thought about him as a catching conversion candidate — and an average runner. He’s a switch-hitter with gap power who is more advanced from the right side of the plate.”

Liendo, who just turned 18 in February, is not currently regarded by any major publication, including Baseball America, as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system. That is understandable given his age and lack of experience.

With that being said, though, Liendo still has plenty of room to grow physically and developmentally on the field. He is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 season in the rookie-level Florida Complex League and could be an intriguing player to watch once the FCL gets underway in June.

(Picture of Ahbram Liendo via his Instagram)