How did Red Sox pitching prospect Juan Daniel Encarnación fare in 2022 and what can be expected from the righty this season?

In his evaluation of the Red Sox farm system, which he ranked 23rd out of 30, heading into the 2023 season, The Athletic’s Keith Law noted that Boston’s “group of pitching prospects is one of the weakest” in baseball.

“They might not have a future MLB starter anywhere on their full-season rosters,” wrote Law. “The best of those candidates all have huge reliever risk, at least.”

One under-the-radar prospect who could help change this narrative in 2023 is Juan Daniel Encarnacion, who is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 44 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks 16th among pitchers in the organization.

Encarnacion, 21, spent the majority of the 2022 minor-league season with Low-A Salem before earning a promotion to High-A Greenville in August. The right-hander posted a 4.09 ERA — but much more respectable — 3.34 FIP — with 119 strikeouts to 39 walks in 24 appearances (23 starts) spanning 103 1/3 innings of work for the Red Sox.

Among the 14 Carolina League pitchers who surpassed the 100-inning mark last year, Encarnacion ranked third in strikeouts per nine innings (10.36) and strikeout rate (26.7 percent), seventh in walks per nine innings (3.40) and walk rate (8.8 percent), first in home runs per nine innings (0.26), sixth in WHIP (1.30), seventh in ERA, second in FIP, and fourth in xFIP (4.12), per FanGraphs. He also allowed the highest batting average on balls put in play (.336), which suggests he may have been unlucky at times.

Upon making the jump from Salem to Greenville in late August, Encarnacion made two starts for the Drive before the season came to a close. His first start did not go so well, as he surrendered four earned runs in five innings against the Rome Braves on September 2. One week later, though, the righty bounced back by tossing five scoreless frames and striking out seven in a 2-0 win over the Asheville Tourists at hitter-friendly Fluor Field.

All things considered, it was a solid first full season in affiliated ball for Encarnacion after he impressed at the rookie-level Florida Complex League in 2021. The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier even wrote for Baseball America in November that he believed Encarnacion “already started to open eyes” in 2022.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Encarnacion originally signed with the Red Sox for $40,000 as an international free agent coming out of San Pedro de Macoris in Sept. 2018. Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, the wiry 6-foot-2, 173-pound hurler throws from a low three-quarters arm slot and operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of an 88-92 mph fastball that tops out at 94 mph, a 76-78 mph curveball, and an 84-86 mph changeup.

Encarnacion, who turns 22 late next month, is projected to return to return to Greenville for the start of the 2023 campaign. He can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time next winter, so he certainly could improve his standing as a prospect if he proves capable of holding his own against more advanced hitting.

(Picture of Juan Daniel Encarnacion: Gary Streiffer/Flickr)

How did Red Sox prospect Blaze Jordan fare between Low-A Salem and High-A Greenville in 2022?

Blaze Jordan may no longer be considered a teenager after celebrating his 20th birthday on Monday, but he is still one of the youngest and brightest prospects in the Red Sox farm system.

In 120 games between Low-A Salem and High-A Greenville this past season, Jordan batted .289/.363/.445 with 30 doubles, three triples, 12 home runs, 68 RBIs, 60 runs scored, five stolen bases, 48 walks, and 94 strikeouts over 521 total plate appearances.

The right-handed hitting infielder broke camp this spring with Salem, which is where he ended things last season. He slashed .287/.357/.446 with 29 doubles, three triples, eight homers, 57 runs driven in, 48 runs scored, four stolen bases, 37 walks, and 67 strikeouts in 95 games (415 plate appearances) with the Red Sox before earning a promotion to Greenville in early August.

While with the Drive for the remainder of the 2022 campaign, Jordan hit .301/.387/.441 with just one double, four home runs, 11 RBIs, 12 runs scored, one stolen base, 11 walks, and 27 strikeouts across 25 games spanning 106 trips to the plate.

Upon being promoted over the summer, Jordan was able to draw more walks, which in turn led to him getting on base more. He also punched out a higher clip (16.1 percent to 25.5 percent) and saw his power production curtail, so it was not necessarily the smoothest of transitions.

Still, Jordan was among the most productive hitters in the lower-minors and in the Red Sox organization this year. Of the 39 players in the system who reached the necessary number of plate appearances to qualify as a league leader, Jordan ranked seventh in strikeout rate (18.0 percent), 12th in swinging strike rate (14.0 percent), eighth in batting average, 15th in on-base percentage, 13th in slugging percentage, 11th in OPS (.808), 18th in isolated power (.156), eighth in line-drive rate (24.4 percent), and 12th in wRC+ (124), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Jordan split time between first and third base at both of his stops this season. Altogether, the burly 6-foot-2, 220-pounder logged 402 2/3 innings at first and 499 1/3 innings at the hot corner. He committed six errors at each position and unsurprisingly posted a higher fielding percentage at first (.983) than he did at third (.939).

A native of Southaven, Miss., Jordan was originally selected by the Red Sox in the third round of the 2020 amateur draft out of DeSoto Central High School. He graduated a year early after reclassifying in 2019 and was committed to play college baseball at Mississippi State. But with the help of area scout Danny Watkins, Boston was able to sway Jordan away from his commitment by offering him a lucrative $1.75 million signing bonus.

Jordan officially put pen to paper that July, but he did not make his professional debut until the following June on account of the COVID-19 pandemic wiping out the 2020 minor-league season. He has since appeared in a total of 148 games across three different levels and owns a slash line of .296/.364/.472 to go along with 18 home runs and 94 RBIs in that span.

MLB Pipeline currently ranks Jordan as the No. 9 prospect in Boston’s farm system while SoxProspects.com has him at No. 15. He still has room to grow from a developmental point-of-view on both sides of the ball, but the potential — especially when it comes to his raw power — is certainly there.

If Jordan makes it through the winter without being involved in any sort of trade, he is projected to return to Greenville for the start of the 2023 season and would seemingly have the chance to make the jump to Double-A Portland at some point next summer.

(Picture of Blaze Jordan: Gwinn Davis/Greenville Drive)

How did Red Sox outfield prospect Phillip Sikes fare in first full pro season?

Red Sox outfield prospect Phillip Sikes enjoyed a productive first full season of pro ball in 2022.

Selected by Boston in the 18th round of the 2021 amateur draft out of Texas Christian University, Sikes played strictly in the Florida Complex League last summer after signing for just $97,500 as a college senior. He broke minor-league camp this spring with Low-A Salem.

In 50 games with the Carolina League affiliate, the right-handed hitting Sikes batted .258/.390/.516 (148 wRC+) with 18 doubles, four triples, five home runs, 28 RBIs, 36 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, 28 walks, and 55 strikeouts over 195 plate appearances before earning a promotion to High-A Greenville in early July.

With the Drive, Sikes’ production took a dip but he still managed a .248/.351/.446 slash line (118 wRC+) to go along with 11 doubles, one triple, six homers, 20 runs driven in, 21 runs scored, eight stolen bases, 25 walks, and 44 strikeouts across 44 games spanning 95 trips to the plate.

When taking these numbers from the second half of the season into consideration, it is worth mentioning that Sikes posted a .931 OPS in his first 17 games in Greenville before struggling to the tune of a .181/.302/.347 clip in the month of August. The 23-year-old did end his year on a solid note, though, as he went 8-for-23 (.348) in September with a pair of doubles, five walks, and five swiped bags.

All told, Sikes was one of 26 Red Sox minor-leaguers who accrued at least 350 total plate appearances this year. Among that group, he ranked sixth in walk rate (13.9 percent), fifth in on-base percentage (.371), seventh in slugging percentage (.481), fourth in OPS (.852), fifth in isolated power (.228), third in speed score (8.3), second in line-drive rate (29.5 percent), and fourth in wRC+ (132), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, saw playing time at all three outfield positions in his stints with Salem and Greenville. Between the two affiliates, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound speedster logged 136 2/3 innings in left, 315 innings in center, and 324 innings in right. He registered a total of 10 outfield assists and also displayed his arm strength on the mound by making two relief appearances in mop-up duty for the Salem Sox.

Sikes, who turns 24 in April, is not currently regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system. The native Texan is projected by SoxProspects.com to return to Greenville for the start of the 2023 campaign. That being said, one would have to imagine an early-season promotion to Double-A Portland could be in play for Sikes next spring if he picks up where he left off for the Drive.

(Picture of Phillip Sikes: Gwinn Davis/Greenville Drive)

Red Sox prospect Brainer Bonaci walked as many times as he struck out (89) in 2022

The Red Sox did not lose infield prospect Brainer Bonaci in the major-league phase of Wednesday’s Rule 5 Draft.

Bonaci, 20, ended the season ranked by Baseball America as the No. 20 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The switch-hitter spent the entirety of the 2022 campaign with Low-A Salem and batted .262/.397/.385 (125 wRC+) with 19 doubles, six triples, six home runs, 50 RBIs, 86 runs scored, 28 stolen bases, 89 walks, and 89 strikeouts over 108 games spanning 494 trips to the plate.

Among qualified Carolina League hitters, Bonaci ranked second in walk rate (18 percent), ninth in strikeout rate (18 percent) sixth in swinging-strike rate (8.1 percent), 19th in batting average, second in on-base percentage, 23rd in slugging percentage, 11th in OPS (.782), 11th in stolen bases, 12th in speed score (7.8), eighth in line-drive rate (24.4 percent), and sixth in wRC+, per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Bonaci saw playing time at three different positions this year. The 5-foot-10, 164-pounder expectedly logged 477 1/3 innings at second base, 67 innings at third base, and 267 2/3 innings at shortstop. But he also made one appearance as an outfielder for the first time in his career as he logged one inning in right field back on April 17.

Born in Venezuela, Bonaci originally signed with the Red Sox for $290,000 as an international free agent on his 16th birthday in 2018. The Catia La Mar made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League the following year and then impressed evaluators at fall instructs after the 2020 minor-league season was cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. He spent the majority of 2021 in the Florida Complex League before earning a late-season promotion to Salem and — as previously mentioned — put together a solid year at Low-A in 2022.

In a virtual chat with Baseball America subscribers last month, The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier wrote that Bonaci did garner some consideration as a potential top 10 prospect in the Red Sox farm system heading into the 2023 season, but questions surrounding his bat-to-ball skills put him behind No. 10 prospect (and fellow versatile infielder) Eddinson Paulino.

The Red Sox were at risk of losing both Bonaci and Paulino in this week’s Rule 5 Draft since neither was added to the 40-man roster last month. Fortunately for them, Bonaci and Paulino went unclaimed, which likely has something to do with their lack of experience in the upper-minors. That said, the two infielders will again be Rule 5-eligible again next winter.

Bonaci, who does not turn 21 until next July, currently grades as a superior defender to Paulino, according to Speier. Both are projected to make the jump to High-A Greenville for the start of the 2023 minor-league season in April.

(Picture of Brainer Bonaci: Robert Simmons/RTS Photography)

Red Sox re-sign relievers Oddanier Mosqueda, Michael Gettys to minor-league deals

The Red Sox have re-signed relievers Oddanier Mosqueda and Michael Gettys to minor-league deals for the 2023 season, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

Mosqueda, 23, spent the entirety of the 2022 campaign with Double-A Portland. The Venezuelan-born left-hander posted a 4.30 FIP — but much more respectable 4.05 FIP and 3.40 xFIP — with 76 strikeouts to 20 walks over 45 appearances (58 2/3 innings) for the Sea Dogs.

Among the 99 Eastern League pitchers who tossed at least 50 innings this season, Mosqueda ranked 13th in strikeouts per nine innings (11.66), 11th in strikeout rate (31.4 percent), 28th in swinging-strike rate (13.8 percent), 22nd in batting average against (.211), WHIP (1.12), and groundball rate (46 percent), and eighth in xFIP, per FanGraphs.

A native of Caracas, Mosqueda originally signed with Boston as an international free agent in July 2015. The 5-foot-10, 155-pound southpaw operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 90-92 mph fastball that tops out at 94 mph, a 78-80 mph curveball, and an 83-84 mph changeup, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report. He is projected to make the jump to Triple-A Worcester next spring.

Gettys, meanwhile, split the 2022 season between High-A Greenville and Double-A Portland. After posting a 3.34 ERA (4.33 FIP) in 22 outings (29 2/3 innings) with the Drive, the 27-year-old right-hander earned a promotion to Double-A in mid-July. As a member of the Sea Dogs bullpen, he pitched to a 0.48 ERA and 4.00 FIP to go along with eight strikeouts to eight walks over 18 appearances spanning 18 2/3 innings of work.

Unlike Mosqueda, Gettys is not your prototypical relief prospect. The Georgia native was originally selected by the Padres in the second round of the 2014 draft out of Gainesville High School. At that time, Gettys was a highly-touted outfield prospect who quickly rose through the ranks of San Diego’s farm system.

After reaching minor-league free agency for the first time at the conclusion of the 2020 season, Gettys inked a minors pact with the Red Sox that November. The right-handed hitter was used exclusively as an outfielder by the WooSox before being placed on the development list last August. By the end of the month, Gettys was with the rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox in Fort Myers making his professional debut as a pitcher.

Boston first re-signed Gettys to a minor-league deal last November. Between last season and this season, the 6-foot-1, 217-pound hurler owns a lifetime 2.36 ERA in 45 relief career appearances (53 1/3 innings) across three different levels. SoxProspects.com notes that his arsenal consists of a 92-94 mph heater that tops out at 95 mph and a 77-82 mph breaking ball that resembles a slider or curveball.

Gettys, who does not turn 28 until next October, is expected to return to Portland for the start of the 2023 minor-league season in April. By bringing back both Gettys and Mosqueda, the Red Sox have reduced their minor-league free agent pool by two.

According to SoxProspects.com, Boston has 14 minor-league free agents who remain unsigned. Notables from that group include Pedro Castellanos, Geoff Hartlieb, Brian Keller, Johan Mieses, Hudson Potts, and Christin Stewart. Minor-league free agency just began on Thursday, so it should be interesting to see which of these players are re-signed or which opt to sign elsewhere.

(Pictures of Oddanier Mosqueda and Michael Gettys: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox prospect Eddinson Paulino proved to be dynamic with Low-A Salem this season

Eddinson Paulino was among the Red Sox’ top performers in the Florida Complex League last year. He showed why that was no fluke as he made the transition to full-season ball in 2022.

Coming out of minor-league spring training, Paulino was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 28 prospect in Boston’s farm system. He then broke camp and spent the entirety of the campaign at Low-A Salem.

In 114 games with the Salem Red Sox, the versatile left-handed hitter batted .266/.359/.469 with 35 doubles, 10 triples, 13 home runs, 66 RBIs, 96 runs scored, 27 stolen bases, 64 walks, and 105 strikeouts over 539 plate appearances.

When the All-Star break arrived in mid-July, Paulino was hitting just .239/.327/.451 through his first 80 games. From July 22 onward, though, the 20-year-old slashed a stout .331/.432/.559 with 18 extra-base hits in his final 34 games of the season.

Among 51 qualified Carolina League hitters, Paulino ranked 24th in walk rate (11.9 percent), 14th in strikeout rate (19.5 percent), 14th in swinging-strike rate (11.2 percent), fourth in line-drive rate (25.6 percent), 14th in batting average, 17th in on-base percentage, fourth in slugging percentage, fifth in OPS (.827), fifth in isolated power (.203), fifth in speed score (8.5), and fifth in wRC+ (128), per FanGraphs.

“He can impact the game in several ways,” Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero told MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith in September. “He can launch one if needed. He’s just become a good hitter.”

Defensively, Paulino made appearances at five different positions (not including designated hitter) for Salem this season. The 5-foot, 155-pounder logged 301 innings at shortstop, 289 innings at third base, 243 2/3 innings at second base, 98 1/3 innings in center field, and eight innings in left. Both of his outfield assists came in center.

“Just to have that skillset being a left-handed hitter,” said Romero.

The Red Sox originally signed Paulino for $205,000 as an international free agent coming out of the Dominican Republic in July 2018. The Santiago native made his professional debut in his home country the following summer but his career was put on hold in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It now turns out that Paulino likely took advantage of the lost 2020 minor-league season by honing his craft in his own way. Whether it be his ability to make hard contact or steal bases at a high rate, the Red Sox were pleased with what they saw from Paulino this year.

“We’ve always liked his hitting ability,” Romero said. “He hits the ball hard in all quadrants. He’s another guy who jumps on fastballs but I think has really increased his recognition skills. He’s made a big jump in that. He’s got a good number of walks. The on-base percentage is good.

“And also the speed element of the game,” he added. “He’s got 26, 27 stolen bases. All that makes him a very dynamic player. … Another player who it’s been really cool to see his development.”

Paulino, who does not turn 21 until next July, is now regarded by Baseball America as the 18th-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system. He is Rule 5-eligible this winter, but is not a sure bet to receive protection by being added to the 40-man roster later this month.

While the tools and talent are certainly there, Paulino has yet to play above A-ball. And so the Red Sox may elect to protect prospects who have already reached the upper levels of the minor-leagues like Ceddanne Rafaela, Christian Koss, Enmanuel Valdez, Wilyer Abreu, Brandon Walter, and Thad Ward, among others.

Assuming that Paulino remains in the organization through the winter, he is projected to make the jump to High-A Greenville at the start of the 2023 minor-league season in April.

(Picture of Eddinson Paulino: Robert Simmons/RTS Photography)

How did Red Sox pitching prospect Chih-Jung Liu fare in 2022?

Last Saturday marked the three-year anniversary of the Red Sox signing right-hander Chih-Jung Liu as an international free agent out of Taiwan.

Formerly a two-way player in high school and a switch-hitting shortstop in college, Liu received a signing bonus of $750,000 from the Red Sox to work strictly as a pitcher. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tainan City native did not make his professional debut until last July. He made one start in the Florida Complex League before spending the rest of the 2021 campaign with Low-A Salem.

After compiling a 4.29 ERA in 12 starts with the Salem Red Sox, Liu broke camp with High-A Greenville earlier this spring. In many ways, this season was a sophomore slump of sorts for the 23-year-old righty.

Through July 3, Liu had posted an unsightly 7.07 ERA and 6.30 FIP with 59 strikeouts to 25 walks in his first 15 appearances (13 starts) and 56 innings for the Drive. He was allowing more than two home runs per nine innings while yielding a .286 batting average against.

On July 6, Liu was placed on the development list. He did not appear in a game for the next nine days before returning to the mound on July 15. From that point forward, Liu pitched better, though the results were still not great.

In his next 10 outings (eight starts) for Greenville, Liu produced a 4.87 ERA and 6.84 FIP to go along with 47 strikeouts to 21 walks across 44 1/3 innings of work. His strikeout rate rose and his batting average against fell, but he still surrendered 2.64 homers per nine innings and walked nearly 11 percent of the batters he faced.

All told, Liu pitched to a 6.10 ERA and 6.54 FIP in 25 appearances (21 starts) and 100 1/3 innings with the Drive. Among the 18 South Atlantic League pitchers who tossed at least 100 frames this season, Liu ranked ninth in strikeouts per nine innings (9.51), 10th in strikeout rate (23.7 percent), and fourth in swinging-strike rate (14.9 percent). Yet he also ranked 14th in walks per nine innings (4.13) and walk rate (10.3 percent), 17th in batting average against (2.82), and dead last in homers per nine innings (2.42), WHIP (1.57), ERA, and FIP, per FanGraphs.

As inconsistent as those numbers may be, Liu still earned a late-season promotion to Double-A Portland. He made one start for the Sea Dogs on the road against the Somerset Patriots on September 18 and allowed two runs over 3 2/3 innings. Fittingly, one of those two runs came by way of the long ball.

Listed at 6-feet and 185 pounds, Liu possesses an athletic delivery and operates with a five-pitch mix that consists of a 93-95 mph four-seam fastball that tops out at 98 mph, a mid-90s two-seam fastball, an 80-82 mph changeup, an 83-86 mph slider, and a 78-80 mph curveball. He also used to throw a splitter as an amateur.

Liu, who turns 24 in April, spent his first two seasons in pro ball ranked by Baseball America as one of the top pitching prospects in Boston’s farm system. He has since fallen off the publication’s rankings, but he is still young enough that he could get back with a bounce-back effort in 2023.

On that note, SoxProspects.com projects that Liu will return to Portland for the start of the 2023 season. He can become Rule 5-eligible for the first time in his career next fall, so pitching his way onto the Sox’ 40-man roster could serve as some form of motivation for him.

(Picture of Chih-Jung Liu: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox pitching prospect Shane Drohan has swing-and-miss stuff

Because Jeremy Wu-Yelland underwent Tommy John surgery in April, Shane Drohan was the only member of the Red Sox’ 2020 draft class to pitch competitively this season.

Drohan, who was taken in the fifth round out of Florida State University two years ago, broke camp with High-A Greenville this spring after spending the entirety of the 2021 campaign at Low-A Salem.

In 22 appearances (20 starts) for the Drive, the left-hander posted a 4.00 ERA and 4.21 FIP to go along with 136 strikeouts to 40 walks over 105 2/3 innings of work. He allowed just two earned runs in his final three outings with Greenville before earning a promotion to Double-A Portland on August 16.

With the Sea Dogs, Drohan pitched to a 3.38 ERA with 21 strikeouts to 11 walks over five starts (24 innings). While he gave up runs less frequently, the 23-year-old southpaw saw his strikeout rate fall and his walk rate rise, which led to a higher FIP of 5.75.

It was certainly an adjustment period for Drohan, but he at least ended the year on a strong note by fanning eight of the 20 batters he faced in a 10-9 win over the Somerset Patriots in mid-September.

Between the two stops (Greenville and Portland), Drohan produced a cumulative 3.89 ERA and 4.49 FIP with 157 strikeouts to 51 walks across 27 appearances (25 starts) and 129 2/3 innings pitched. His 28.5 percent punchout rate ranked 50th among the 311 minor-league pitchers who threw at least 100 innings this season. His 16 percent swinging-strike rate ranked 15th, per FanGraphs.

On the heels of such a productive year on the mound, Drohan was named to SoxProspects.com’s 2022 All-Star team earlier this week. The Fort Lauderdale native is now regarded by the site as the No. 28 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks 10th pitchers in the organization.

What makes Drohan so effective and capable of inducing whiffs in bunches? Well, he stands at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds and operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of an 88-92 mph four-seam fastball that tops out at 94 mph, a 75-77 mph curveball, and a 78-81 mph changeup.

Drohan, who turns 24 in January, will be entering an important season in 2023 as the former Seminole can become Rule 5-eligible for the first time in his career. He is projected by SoxProspects.com to return to Portland next spring and the Red Sox will have until next November to add him to their 40-man roster.

As things stand now, Drohan has the upside to a be a back-end starter at the big-league level. Pitching his way onto Boston’s 40-man roster next season would certainly go a long way in solidifying — or maybe even surpassing — that projection.

(Picture of Shane Drohan: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox catching prospect Nathan Hickey turns in impressive first full pro season

Nathan Hickey came into his first full professional season ranked by Baseball America as the top catching prospect in the Red Sox farm system. He showed why he was worthy of that ranking over the last six months.

Selected by Boston in the fifth round of last year’s amateur draft out of the University of Florida, Hickey broke camp this spring with Low-A Salem, which is where he ended things in 2021.

In 41 games with Salem this season, the left-handed hitter batted .271/.429/.507 with 12 doubles, seven home runs, 39 RBIs, 31 runs scored, 39 walks, and 39 strikeouts over 182 plate appearances. That level of production prompted a promotion to High-A Greenville in late June.

With the Drive, Hickey hit for more power, though he also got on base less frequently. The 22-year-old slashed .252/.397/.539 with six doubles, nine homers, 23 runs driven in, 19 runs scored, 24 walks, and 39 strikeouts across 34 games (146 plate appearances). He was sidelined for a week in early August due to a concussion.

Between the two affiliates, Hickey produced a cumulative .263/.415/.522 slash line to go along with 18 doubles, 16 home runs, 62 RBIs, 50 runs scored, a walk rate of 19.2 percent, and a strikeout rate of 23.8 percent. Overall, his 155 wRC+ ranked third among minor-league catchers who made at least 100 trips to the plate this season, per FanGraphs.

On the other side of the ball, Hickey made 57 starts at catcher for Salem and Greenville this year. The 6-foot, 210-pound backstop logged 4585 2/3 innings behind the plate and threw out 10 of 75 base stealers. He also committed eight errors and allowed 10 passed balls.

Defense has been an issue with Hickey since before being drafted. The Jacksonville native came up as an infielder in high school but moved to catcher with the Gators so that he could regularly get his bat into the lineup.

Despite the lack of experience at a demanding position, the Red Sox still drafted Hickey as a catcher and signed him to an over-slot deal of $1 million. The doubts people had about his defensive abilities did not sit well with Hickey, as he explained to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier earlier this summer.

“I just hadn’t had enough time behind the plate to be able to show that was the spot for me,” Hickey said. “But I learned in one day more things about catching being here with Boston than I ever did at Florida.”

As detailed by Speier, Hickey did not call pitches at Florida and instead received the calls from his coaches. Since going pro, however, the Red Sox have let him call pitches on his own, which requires him to study up, implement a game plan, and be adaptable during games.

“It was a big step. Pitch-calling was kind of the thing that was stumping me a little bit at the beginning [of the season],” said Hickey. “But [being a catcher] is not really [about] me being successful, it’s making [the pitcher] look as successful as you can.”

In a separate, more recent piece for Baseball America, Speier relayed that pitchers enjoyed throwing to Hickey this season. And while Hickey has embraced becoming a game-caller, there is still more work to do in order to improve as a defender.

Hickey, who turns 23 in November, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 26 prospect in Boston’s farm system. That unsurprisingly ranks tops among catchers in the organization. He is projected by SoxProspects.com to return to Greenville for the start of the 2023 minor-league season next spring.

With that being said, it certainly seems feasible for Hickey to make the jump to Double-A Portland before the end of the next campaign. We will have to wait and see on that.

(Picture of Nathan Hickey: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

How did Red Sox top prospect Marcelo Mayer fare in first full pro season?

Marcelo Mayer, arguably the top prospect in the Red Sox farm system and one of the brightest young talents in all of baseball, wrapped up his first full professional season last month.

Originally selected by Boston with the fourth overall pick in last summer’s amateur draft out of Eastlake High School in Chula Vista, Calif., Mayer appeared in four Grapefruit League games earlier this spring before breaking minor-league camp with Low-A Salem.

With the Salem Red Sox, the 19-year-old infielder batted .286/.406/.504 with 26 doubles, one triple, nine home runs, 40 RBIs, 46 runs scored, 16 stolen bases, 51 walks, and 78 strikeouts over 66 games (308 plate appearances). Despite missing a significant chunk of time with a sprained right wrist in late April and most of May, Mayer earned a promotion to High-A Greenville in early August.

Making the jump from Salem to Greenville alongside fellow top prospect Blaze Jordan, Mayer initially got off to a rough start with the Drive and was batting just .179 in his first 17 games as the calendar flipped to September. But the left-handed hitter ended the year on a strong note by registering multiple hits in six of the eight games he played in.

All told, Mayer slashed .265/.379/.449 with four doubles, one triple, four homers, 13 runs driven in, 15 runs scored, one stolen base, 17 walks, and 29 strikeouts in 25 games (116 plate appearances) with Greenville. Between the two Class-A affiliates, he hit a respectable .280/.399/.489 to go along with 30 doubles, two triples, 13 home runs, 53 RBIs, 61 runs scored, 17 stolen bases, 68 walks, and 107 strikeouts across 91 games spanning 424 total trips to the plate.

As a result of such a productive season, Mayer was recently named to Baseball America’s Age 19 Prospect All-Star Team. He and fellow 2021 draftees Harry Ford, Jordan Lawlar, and James Wood were all recognized for what they did during their age-19 seasons.

On the other side of the ball, Mayer was coming off a debut season in the Florida Complex League in which he committed 10 errors in just 177 2/3 innings at shortstop. He later told The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey that improving defensively had “been a focal point of his offseason work” and he put that on display this year.

In Salem, Mayer made 10 errors over 505 1/3 innings at his primary position and was named the best defensive shortstop in the Carolina League. In Greenville, the 6-foot-3, 188-pounder logged 189 innings at short and committed just two errors there. While defensive metrics for minor-leaguers are not made public, Mayer did see his fielding percentage rise from .956 with the Red Sox to .974 with the Drive.

Mayer, who turns 20 in December, is currently regarded by Baseball America, MLB Pipeline, and SoxProspects.com as the No. 1 prospect in Boston’s farm system. In terms of top-100 prospect rankings, Baseball America has him at No. 12, MLB Pipeline has him at No. 7, and FanGraphs has him at No. 19.

It goes without saying that Mayer is an exciting player who possesses All-Star potential. While the native Californian is still a ways away from making it to the major-leagues, he is projected to return to Greenville next spring. Depending on how things go there, he could make it up to Double-A Portland by the end of the 2023 campaign.

(Picture of Marcelo Mayer: Gwinn Davis/Greenville Drive)