Red Sox prospects Jose Ramirez, Giancarlos Santana making strides in Dominican Summer League

Earlier this week, Red Sox pitching prospect Jose Ramirez put together yet another quality outing for one of the club’s Dominican Summer League affiliates.

Over five strong innings of work against the DSL Marlins on Monday, Ramirez kept the opposition off the scoreboard while allowing just one hit and no walks to go along with three strikeouts on the afternoon.

Needing just 40 pitches — 31 of which were strikes — to get through those five scoreless frames, the young right-hander wound up facing the minimum 15 batters, as he worked his way around a leadoff single in the fifth inning by inducing a 5-4-3 double play that was followed by an inning-ending groundout.

Later earning the win in what would go down as a 2-1 road victory for the DSL Red Sox, Ramirez improved to 3-0 on the season while lowering his ERA on the year to a miniscule 0.33.

In addition to posting a 0.33 ERA — and 3.52 FIP — through his first seven outings (six starts) of the 2021 campaign down in the Dominican, Ramirez has also recorded 21 strikeouts to just 11 walks while holding opposing hitters to a .194 batting average against over 27 total innings pitched.

The 20-year-old hurler originally signed with the Red Sox out of Santo Domingo in May 2018 and made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League shortly thereafter.

At that time, Ramirez was listed at 6-foot and 145 pounds, but has since experienced a bit of a growth spurt that may have something to do with the success he has enjoyed this year, as Red Sox executive vice president and assistant general manager Eddie Romero recently explained to BloggingtheRedSox.com.

“Jose has been one of our better starters,” Romero said via email. “He’s 6-foot-2, 170 pounds now and shows three pitches — a fastball that’s 90-95 mph, a sharp, true curveball in the mid-70s, and a late, fading changeup.”

While Ramirez’s 19.6% strikeout rate to this point in the season does not exactly jump off the page, Romero credits the righty’s ability to attack the strike zone as a reason to why he has been so effective after the 2020 minor-league season was cancelled on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One day after Ramirez dominated for the Red Sox Red Dominican Summer League affiliate, outfield prospect Giancarlos Santana put together an impressive day at the plate for the Red Sox Blue affiliate on Tuesday.

Matched up against the DSL Rangers while starting in right field and batting out of the seven-hole, Santana led the way by going 3-for-4 with a triple, a home run, a walk, two RBI, two runs scored, and a stolen base in a 7-5 win for the Sox.

Santana’s homer, which came off Rangers starter Eury Rosado to lead things off in the top of the fifth inning, was the first of the 19-year-old’s professional career. It also got the Red Sox on the board and proved to be the catalyst for a five-run inning.

Fast forward to the top half of the 10th, with things knotted up at five runs apiece, and Santana again provided a boost while leading off an inning. This time, while matched up against reliever Elias Leal, the right-handed hitter ripped a triple — his first of the year — to drive in the winning run from second base.

Santana then scored an important insurance run himself on an RBI single off the bat of Diego Viloria, which in turn gave the Red Sox the two-run lead they would need to secure a 7-5 victory over the Rangers.

With his three-hit day in tow, Santana raised his batting line on the season to a solid .280/.438/.440 (156 wRC+) to go along with one triple, one home run, four RBI, six runs scored, seven walks, five strikeouts, and four stolen bases through 15 games and 32 plate appearances in the DSL.

The Red Sox originally signed Santana as a 17-year-old outfielder out of Santo Domingo for $460,000 back in July 2018. At that time, Baseball America’s Ben Badler wrote that Santana “has a clean, fluid swing with an advanced approach and sprays the ball over the field with a good track record of hitting in games. He’s a line-drive hitter with occasional doubles pop and a hit-over-power offensive profile, though he has the physical upside to grow into more sock.”

After settling in and eventually making his Dominican Summer League debut the following June, Santana got his professional career off to a rough start as he struggled to the tune of a .192/.322/.216 (69 wRC+) slash line over 50 games in 2019.

Despite those struggles, Santana was able to use the COVID-19 shutdown last year to his advantage, as he trained with his cousin — former Red Sox prospect and current Rays outfielder Manuel Margot — to get stronger.

“A rangy outfielder,” Romero said when describing Santana, who has experience at all three outfield positions. “He trains with his cousin Manuel Margot in the offseason. Santana struggled in his 2019 season but worked to get stronger during the pandemic and has performed well to date while showing much better plate command.”

Santana, who is listed at 6-foot-1 and likelier heavier than his listed weight of 180 pounds, struck out in 23% of his plate appearances in 2019 while only drawing a walk 13.5% percent of the time.

So far this year, as Romero indicated, Santana has shown better discipline at the plate considering the fact he has lowered his strikeout rate down to 15.6% in the process of raising his walk rate up to 21.9%.

The 2021 Dominican Summer League Season, which will not include a postseason, will run through October 2, so Ramirez and Santana have a little more than five weeks to continue to build on what they have done as of late.

With that being said, both Ramirez — who does not turn 21 until next March — and Santana — who turns 20 in November — can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in their respective careers next December.

(Picture of Giancarlos Santana: Jesse Sanchez/MLB.com)

Red Sox outfield prospect Miguel Bleis off to hot start in Dominican Summer League: ‘He’s the real deal’

The 2021 Dominican Summer League season may only be five weeks old, but one Red Sox prospect in particular is already drawing early praise from scouts who are on hand to watch the action unfold.

Miguel Bleis, Boston’s top international signing of 2021, has gotten his first professional season off to a hot start down in the Dominican.

Through eight games with the Dominican Summer League Red Sox Red team, the 17-year-old outfielder has slashed an impressive .391/.462/.652 (205 wRC+) to go along with three doubles, one home run, four RBI, five runs scored, two walks, two strikeouts, and three stolen bases in 26 plate appearances thus far.

In addition to what he has done at the plate, Bleis has also played 50 defensive innings in center field, has recorded 14 put outs, and one outfield assist while only committing one error.

While Bleis has played in just eight of the DSL Red Sox Red’s 22 games to this point in the season, he has been able to garner positive feedback from scouts and other evaluators.

According to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, the consensus among scouts seems to indicate that Bleis “is the real deal.”

The Red Sox originally gave Bleis a lucrative $1.8 million signing bonus back in January, making him the highest-paid member of their 2021 international free-agent class.

Bleis, who was regarded by Baseball America as the No. 20 prospect coming into this year’s international signing period, which began on January 15, is now regarded by BA as the 20th-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system, per their midseason organizational rankings update.

According to his Baseball America scouting report, the right-handed hitting, right-handed throwing center fielder “has a lean, lively frame that’s sleek and athletic with high physical upside. His tools have trended up over the past year as projected, with plus speed and a plus arm now. He has long, gliding strides with an easy gait, covering a lot of ground in center field with the physical projection for his arm to potentially develop into a 70-grade tool.

“Bleis has fast bat speed and his power has jumped up from a little below-average to now showing above-average raw power, driving the ball fairly easily with backspin from center field over to his pull side,” the Dominican native’s scouting report reads. “With room to put on another 25-30 pounds of good weight, there could be more power in the tank. Bleis isn’t an advanced pure hitter, but he isn’t raw either, so if he can develop into an average hitter, he has the secondary tools to be a dynamic center fielder.”

Currently listed at 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds, Bleis — who does not turn 18 until next March — hails from San Pedro de Marocis, a city on the Dominican Republic’s southeastern coast that has produced major-league stars such as Fernando Tatis Jr., Robinson Cano, Johnny Cueto, Tony Fernandez, Alfonso Soriano, and Sammy Sosa, among others.

Back in February, Red Sox executive vice president and assistant general manager Eddie Romero appeared on the SoxProspects.com Podcast with Cundall and Chris Hatfield and described Bleis as a “premium center field talent” who has “all five tools” in addition to “an absolute hose” of an arm.

“He’s got surprising power,” Romero said of Bleis. “Being so young and being able to have above-average raw power is something we don’t see often for a center field player given his body type and athleticism. So, really, what we need to hone in on with him is approach. He performed well offensively in competition for us, and he’s continued to do that in the academy.”

As Bleis looks to build off his strong start to the Dominican Summer League campaign as the summer continues, it should be noted that the young outfielder is still a ways away from netting any sort of major-league consideration.

That said, it should be interesting to see if Bleis at any point this summer earns a promotion to the Florida Complex League. If not, he will still likely receive an invite to participate in the Sox’ fall instructional league in Fort Myers later this year.

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

Red Sox outfield prospect Armando Sierra could prove to be underrated member of team’s 2021 international signing class

The Red Sox made a splash in the international free-agent market this winter by signing Dominican outfield prospect Miguel Bleis for $1.5 million back in January.

Appearing on the SoxProspects.com podcast with Chris Hatfield and Ian Cundall in February, Red Sox executive vice president and assistant general manager Eddie Romero described Bleis as a “premium centerfield talent” who has “got all five tools” in addition to “surprising power” and “an absolute hose of an arm.”

While Bleis has stolen the headlines and has already shot up the prospect charts (Boston’s No. 22 prospect according to Baseball America), there is another 17-year-old outfielder the Sox signed out of the Dominican who deserves some attention as well.

That outfield prospect’s name? Armando Sierra, who hails from the same city as fellow outfielder Gilberto Jimenez and right-hander Denyi Reyes (San Cristobal).

In his review of what the Red Sox have done thus far during the 2021 international signing period, Baseball America’s Ben Badler identified Sierra as his ‘sleeper [to] watch.’

“Armando Sierra is a corner outfielder from the Dominican Republic with a chance to hit and hit for power,” Badler wrote of the right-handed hitter last week. “He’s a physically imposing 6-foot-3, 210 pounds with an advanced approach to hitting for his age, keeping the bat head in the hitting zone for a long time that helps him drive the ball with power to all fields. He’s a limited runner whose offensive game will drive his value.” 

Sierra, who signed with the Sox for a bonus of $150,000 on January 15, does not turn 18 until next January.

“Armando was a player we scouted later on in his signing year. After scouting him a few times, he stood out for his strong frame and his power,” Romero recently told BloggingtheRedSox.com via email. “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.

“Since his signing, Sierra has lost close to 20 pounds while gaining muscle working out at our academy,” added Romero. “He continues to improve defensively and is also featuring an above average arm (which was not the case during his scouting trials).”

The young outfielder will likely begin the 2021 minor-league season with one of the Red Sox’ rookie-level, Dominican Summer League teams. In fact, as Romero indicated, he’s already training at the team’s Dominican academy in El Toro, a town just outside of Santo Domingo.

Other recent Red Sox international signees highlighted by Badler include catcher Enderso Lira, right-handers Alvaro Mejias and Jedixson Paez, and shortstops Luis Ravelo and Ahbram Liendo.

(Picture of Chaim Bloom: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox have an ‘extremely exciting’ prospect in Dominican outfielder Miguel Bleis, Eddie Romero says

Last month, the Red Sox made some headlines by giving Dominican outfield prospect Miguel Bleis a signing bonus of $1.8 million, making him the highest-paid player in their 2021 international signing class thus far.

Bleis, who turns 17 in early March, was regarded by Baseball America as the 20th-ranked international prospect headed into the international signing period, which began on January 15.

Per his Baseball America scouting report, the right-handed hitting, right-handed throwing center fielder “is one of the top athletes in the 2020-21 international class.

“He has a sleek, athletic frame with high physical upside. He glides around center field with an easy gait and long strides, with average speed that might tick up as he gets stronger along with a strong arm. He has a quick bat with gap power and a chance to turn more of his doubles into home runs once he gets stronger.”

Currently listed at 6-foot-2 and and 170 lbs., Bleis had been training in the Mejia Top 10 Program in his home country, but he is currently at the Red Sox’ Dominican Academy in El Toro, a town just outside of Santo Domingo.

On Monday’s installment of the SoxProspects.com podcast with Chris Hatfield and Ian Cundall, Red Sox executive vice president and assistant general manager Eddie Romero spoke at length about what Bleis brings to the table.

“He’s a premium center field talent,” Romero said of one of Boston’s newest prospects. “He’s got all five tools. He runs well. He’s got an absolute hose of an arm at an early age with really good mechanics and accuracy. So we think that he can stay in the middle of the field.

“He’s got surprising power,” Romero added. “Being so young and being able to have above-average raw power is something we don’t see often for a center field player given his body type and athleticism. So, really, what we need to hone in on with him is approach. He performed well offensively in competition for us, and he’s continued to do that in the academy.”

Bleis hails from San Pedro de Marocis, a city on the Dominican’s southeastern coast that has produced the likes of Sammy Sosa, Robinson Cano, Alfonso Soriano, Fernando Tatis, and Fernando Tatis Jr., among others.

“He’s a high-character kid that is all about baseball and he’s from San Pedro,” said Romero in regards to Bleis’ roots. “They put something in the water there to create baseball players. So we hope that he can continue the lineage of talent coming out of that area. He’s extremely exciting.”

Since he is still just 16 years old, Bleis is still obviously a long ways away from cracking a major-league roster as there is plenty of room for him to develop in a variety of areas over the next several years.

The young outfielder will likely begin the 2021 minor-league season with one of the Red Sox’ rookie-level, Dominican Summer League teams. That is, if there is a DSL season this year in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re actively discussing that with MLB right now,” Romero said when asked if there would be a DSL season in 2021. “Everybody hopes that there is. It’s just pandemic-affected. We’re still working on the best way to organize that: What the structure would be, how the testing would go. And so we really want to have another platform for these guys to develop after so many of them missed the entire season last year.”

One last note on Bleis for those who enjoy prospect lists: FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen has him ranked as Boston’s No. 32 prospect going into the 2021 campaign.

Using the 20-80 scouting scale, Longenhagen grades Bleis’ current tools as follows: 20 Speed, 45 Raw Power, 20 Game Power, 50 Run, 40 Fielding, 55 Throw.

“Bleis is a righty corner outfield power projection prospect with a whippy, low-ball swing and room for about 30 pounds on his frame,” Longenhagen wrote of the speedy outfielder.

(Picture of Eddie Romero: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Why 2021 could prove to be pivotal year for Red Sox infield prospect Antoni Flores

In the summer of 2017, the Red Sox made infielder Antoni Flores one of their top priorities, as they signed the Venezuelan prospect for a hefty sum of $1,400,000 that July, which would go on to make him the third-highest paid international addition of that particular signing class for Boston.

Flores initially rewarded the Sox for their investment in him the following year in both the Dominican Summer League and Gulf Coast League.

Over 15 total games and 57 total plate appearances between the two affiliates, the young infielder, primarily playing shortstop, went 18-for-53 (.340) at the plate to go along with one home run and 14 RBI.

The reason Flores only managed to play in 15 games, in 2018 was due to the fact that he missed six weeks of action from mid-June until late July due to “general soreness.”

Upon returning and getting promoted from the DSL to GCL, Flores played in just two games before pulling his hamstring in early August, which wound wind up costing him the rest of the season.

The fact Flores was able to put on an impressive showing at the Red Sox’ fall instructional league that year in the wake of suffering that hamstring injury was certainly encouraging, but more red flags arose in 2019.

Entering the year regarded by SoxProspects.com as Boston’s No. 7 prospect, Flores struggled mightily in his first exposure to non-rookie-league baseball in the United States.

Playing in 55 games for the short-season Lowell Spinners, the then-18-year-old posted a dismal .193/.293/.227 slash line over 208 plate appearances while striking out 28.4% of the time. He also committed 10 errors in 410 defensive innings at shortstop, which would signal a transition to second base.

According to SoxProspects‘ director of scouting Ian Cundall, “scouts really soured on Flores” following his first full professional season, “as he showed a poor approach and limited offensive ability while simultaneously struggling in the field.”

Unfortunately, Flores would not get the chance to bounce back in a traditional manner in 2020, as the minor-league season was cancelled in June due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, Flores, like most other Red Sox minor-leaguers, had to wait until the 2020 installment of fall instructs to try to continue on with their development.

Alas, a long break from organized baseball did the right-handed hitter no favors, as he continued to underwhelm in Fort Myers this past fall.

Per Cundall, Flores, now 20 years old, “again struggled and now seems to have moved to second base primarily. The athleticism he showed in the Fall Instructional League in 2018 is gone, and his speed has regressed to the point where he was consistently timed at 4.6 seconds down the line, which is a 20 on the 20-80 scouting scale.”

FanGraphs‘ Eric Longenhagen added on to this, writing last month that though he wished Flores’ disappointing 2019 was more of an outlier, it may have very well been the start of a negative trend.

“Flores was generating Willy Adames comps during the Fall of 2018, and has since regressed physically and technically,” Longenhagen wrote. “He no longer looks athletically capable of playing the middle infield and has continued to struggle with the bat.”

While Longenhagen still has Flores as his No. 43 prospect in the Red Sox farm system, he notes that “he’s in danger of slipping off the list entirely next year unless he performs statistically and looks more athletic early in the year.” 

SoxProspects projects Flores, who does not turn 21 until October, will start the 2021 minor-league season with Low-A Salem.

Before the 2021 season begins, though, there is still the minor-league portion of spring training — which will likely start later than usual this year — to look forward to.

Between the time fall instructs ended and the time in which minor-league spring training eventually starts up, it appears as though the Sox have given Flores some homework to do.

“Antoni has been working on his agility and quickness a lot this offseason,” Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero, who played a significant role in Flores signing with the organization, told BloggingtheRedSox.com via email. “He’s made a lot of strides in the past few months, so we’re looking forward to seeing him in spring training.”

On that note, 2021 could prove to be a monumental year for Flores in terms of development and career trajectory.

Not only is the 6-foot-1, 190 lb. infielder looking to buck the trend that has seen his stock take a hit in recent years, but he is also Rule 5 eligible for the first time come December.

If he were to make an impact with Salem, or whichever affiliate he played with this year, Flores could be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster if Boston believes in his potential enough to not want to see him scooped up by another club.

If Flores were not to be added, which does seem unlikely at this point given the fact that other prospects such as Jarren Duran, Jeter Downs, Thad Ward, and Gilberto Jimenez will be in need of protection, then as previously mentioned, an opposing team could pick him up if they felt he was ready to make an impact at the major-league level.

That, too, seems unlikely, but there’s a reason why Flores was once considered one of the top prospects in the Sox’ farm system. The talent is still there somewhere, and so is a relatively high ceiling given his age.

Having written all that, it’s fair to say that 2021 could be a ‘make-or-break’ type year for Flores. We will have to wait and see how he performs.

(Picture of Antoni Flores: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)