Red Sox prospect Juan Chacon ‘caught some attention’ at fall instructs, Eddie Romero says

Like fellow prospect Chih-Jung Liu, Juan Chacon’s baseball experience in 2020 was anything but normal.

The 17-year-old was likely going to spend the majority of the year playing in the Dominican Summer League, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that caused the minor-league season to be cancelled prevented that from happening.

Instead of getting more exposure in the Dominican, where he played in the Tricky League last summer, Chacon had to wait until early October to get his first real opportunity of 2020.

Up until then, Chacon had been working out a facility in Miami, which likely gave him an edge in preparedness when he received an invite to the Sox’ fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

“It was our official version of seeing him, finally under supervision,” Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero said of Chacon when speaking with WEEI’s Rob Bradford. “He has a tool-set. He is a plus-runner. It was something when we first saw him he kept getting faster every time and by signing day he was running a 6.6 60. He’s got above-average arm strength. We think he’s somebody who can stay in the middle of the field and cover a lot of range. He’s got a strong arm. And offensively, right now he’s got a projectable frame. He’s very athletic. He’s somebody from an offensive standpoint, he uses the whole field.”

The Red Sox signed Chacon, a right-handed hitter, out of Venezuela for $900,000 last July, making him the club’s highest-paid international signee for the 2019-2020 international signing period.

That is quite the investment, and with that investment comes somewhat lofty expectations; expectations which Chacon lived up to at fall instructs.

“He performed well at instructs,” Romero added. “Which for a first-year signee, usually [with those] those guys, there aren’t many of them we push straight to the stateside instructional league. We wanted to see him and he did well and I know he caught some attention.”

Regarded by SoxProspects.com as Boston’s No. 49 prospect, the 6-foot-2, 170 lb. outfielder will have the opportunity to ascend the prospect ranks some more once he actually gets the chance to see some in-game action. That will presumably happen in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League at some point in 2021.

Red Sox prospect Brainer Bonaci ‘showed a solid blend of instincts and physical ability’ at fall instructs

Brainer Bonaci has been a professional baseball player for just over two years and he doesn’t turn 19 years old until next July, but he is already looking like one of the more exciting young infielders in the Red Sox’ minor-league pipeline.

The 18-year-old shortstop is coming off an impressive showing at the Sox’ fall instructional league in Fort Myers. According to SoxProspects’ Ian Cundall, Bonaci “looked the best of the young shortstops [at fall instructs] and showed a solid blend of instincts and physical ability. He has a plus arm and both his glove and hit tool showed average potential.”

Signed out of Venezuela by Manny Padron and Eddie Romero for $290,000 on his 16th birthday in 2018, Bonaci is starting to get some legitimate attention thanks to what he did this fall.

Had there been a minor-league season in 2020, Bonaci likely would have began the year with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox. Instead, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he was limited in what he could do until October, when fall instructs began.

In his only organized action as a minor-leaguer thus far, the 5-foot-10 switch-hitter posted a solid .279/.356/.379 slash line (111 wRC+) to go along with three home runs, 37 RBI, and 18 stolen bases over 61 games played for the Dominican Summer League Red Sox last year.

Because he is still only 18 years old, Bonaci still has plenty of room to grow physically and developmentally. That said, there’s still reason to be excited about his potential, and SoxProspects’ latest prospect rankings reflect that.

Yes, Bonaci is now the No. 14 prospect in Boston’s farm system according to SoxProspects, good for the fifth highest ranking among infielders after Triston Casas, Jeter Downs, Bobby Dalbec, and Nick Yorke.

Going back to April 1, Bonaci was regarded by SoxProspects as the club’s 20th-ranked prospect, so it is clear he is trending in the right direction. And with Dalbec set to graduate from his prospect status next season, it’s safe to assume Bonaci will only continue to rise through the prospect ranks in 2021.

If we look even further ahead, Bonaci will become Rule 5 eligible for the first time in late 2022, so it’s not like he is too far out from garnering 40-man roster consideration as his development continues.

The latest on the Red Sox’ managerial search

With the White Sox and Tigers both landing their new managers in the forms of Tony La Russa and A.J. Hinch this week, the Red Sox currently stand as the only club in baseball with a vacancy at manager as the month of October comes to a close.

From what has been reported, the Sox have interviewed seven candidates — Will Venable, Don Kelly, Luis Urueta, Skip Schumaker, James Rowson, Mike Bell, Carlos Mendoza — to fill that opening, though former manager Alex Cora has been viewed as the favorite to return to his old post.

As it turns out, Boston has indeed been in contact with Cora since his one-year suspension ended on Tuesday following the conclusion of the World Series, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

On top of that, assistant general manager Eddie Romero told Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Dia Friday that the Red Sox do plan to speak to Cora about the position, while MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that the club will interview the 45-year-old within the “coming days.”

In that same tweet from Heyman, we also learn that Mendoza, currently the Yankees’ bench coach, and Kelly, who serves the same role for the Pirates, have gotten second interviews for the job, which have actually happened in-person.

While Heyman notes that other candidates may have been interviewed a second time as well, it is worth noting that all three of Urueta (Diamondbacks bench coach), Venable (Cubs third base coach), and Bell (Twins bench coach) are now out of the running for Boston’s managerial opening, per Speier and MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

With that in mind, the list of managerial candidates chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have composed to take over for the ousted Ron Roenicke can, at the moment, be narrowed down to Cora, Mendoza, Kelly, Schumaker (Padres associate manager), and Rowson (Marlins bench coach).

Of course, as Cotillo notes, these are just the names that have been leaked out. There still could be other candidates, such as Dodgers first base coach George Lombard and former major-league outfielder-turned-Phillies executive Sam Fuld, who the Sox have in mind and would like to speak to.

That being said, how Boston proceeds with their managerial search could very well make for an exciting weekend depending on how things play out from here. My guess is Cora is named manager by next Friday. We will have to wait and see on that, though.

Red Sox Agree to Deal With Two-Way Taiwanese Prospect Chih-Jung Liu

The Red Sox have reportedly signed 20-year-old two-way player Chih-Jung Liu as an international free agent out of the Chinese Professional Baseball League, per CPBLStats.com.

The signing was made on Wednesday, with Liu receiving a signing bonus of $750,000, according to The Boston’s Globe Pete Abraham.

A native of Taiwan, Liu played college ball at Culture University in Taipei City, where he excelled as a hitter after taking a few years off from pitching due to injuries suffered in high school.

Returning to the mound this fall, the right-hander continued to impress, at one point reaching 97 MPH with his four-seam fastball during an October 3rd start and 101 MPH in his latest start this past Sunday for Team Taiwan in the Asian Baseball Championship Gold Medal game against Japan.

As indicated by CPBL Stats, Liu is currently training with the Taiwanese National Team in preparation for the World Baseball Softball Confederation’s Premier12 tournament, which begins on November 2nd.

Red Sox infielder and Taiwan native Tzu-Wei Lin is also part of those preparations and the two already appear to have a solid relationship.

“I’m glad I have the opportunity to play professional baseball overseas,”Liu told reporters Wednesday. “There is also Lin Tzu-Wei in the organisation, he will look after me.”

Despite the fact that the Sox have yet to name a head of baseball operations to this point, the quartet of Brian O’Halloran, Eddie Romero, Raquel Ferreira, and Zack Scott appear to have things under control for the time being, at least in the international signing department.

Once this signing does become official, more details are sure to come, so make sure to stay tuned for that.

Theo Epstein Shoots Down Red Sox Rumors Amid Speculation Surrounding Potential Reunion

In the last few weeks following the firing of now ex-president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, rumors had been swirling that the Red Sox were interested in a potential reunion with former general manager and current Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein.

Epstein himself shut down those reports on Wednesday, telling reporters before the Cubs took on the Pittsburgh Pirates that, “I’m here. We have a lot we need to work on to get back to the level we’re accustomed to. I’m invested in that. That’s what I’m focused on.”

The Brookline, Ma. native’s current contract with Chicago runs through the end of the 2021 season. He initially joined the Cubs back on October 21st, 2011, the same day he resigned from the post as GM of the Red Sox for a second time.

At just 45-years of age, Epstein has already established himself as one of the more accomplished baseball executives of the 21st century, snapping an 86-year World Series drought with the Sox in 2004, winning another in 2007, and snapping a 106-year drought with the Cubs in 2016.

As you may have already guessed, the Red Sox are going to need someone to lead their baseball operations department ahead of what looks to be a crucial winter for the club with plenty of important decisions to be made.

And with that bit of knowledge, Epstein also confirmed Wednesday that, “neither he, GM Jed Hoyer or executive Jason McLeod were linked to the Red Sox position,” per the Chicago Sun-Times’ Gordon Wittenmyer.

“I have really good relationships with a lot of people there,” Epstein said. “And I certainly wish them the best, but there’s nothing to that story.”

So, unless something dramatic happens relatively soon, it seems as though the Red Sox will have to look elsewhere for a new head of baseball operations. Perhaps Eddie Romero, an internal option, is a viable choice?