Red Sox prospect Devlin Granberg lighting it up at the plate since promotion to Double-A Portland

Chris Sale understandably stole the headlines in Portland on Sunday afternoon, but it was Devlin Granberg who ultimately played the hero for the Sea Dogs in their 6-5 walk-off victory over the Harrisburg Senators at Hadlock Field.

As part of a 3-for-5 day at the plate, Granberg reached base on a fielding error in the third inning and ultimately came into score on a two-run home run off the bat of Tyreque Reed, laced an RBI single in the fifth that at the time gave the Sea Dogs a 5-3 lead, and came through with the hit of the game in the bottom of the 10th.

There, with no outs and the automatic runner at second base to begin each extra inning in a 5-5 contest, Granberg wasted no time in sending that runner home.

Matched up against Senators reliever Jhon Romero, the right-handed hitter ripped the game-winning single to right-center field that drove in Pedro Castellanos and sealed a 6-5 win for the Sea Dogs to mark their third straight walk-off victory.

In racking up three more hits on Sunday, Granberg bumped his batting line on the season with Portland up to an impressive .345/.363/.564.

Granberg, 25, was originally selected by the Red Sox in the sixth round of the 2018 amateur draft as a senior out of Dallas Baptist University in Dallas, Texas.

The 6-foot-2, 225 pound first baseman/outfielder opened the 2021 minor-league season with High-A Greenville and tore the cover off the ball, slashing .326/.416/.642 (178 wRC+) to go along with seven doubles, one triple, seven home runs, 21 runs scored, 29 RBI, one stolen base, 12 walks, and 16 strikeouts over 27 games (113 plate appearances) for the Drive before earning a promotion to Double-A Portland on June 16.

Sunday marked Granberg’s 28th game with the Sea Dogs, and the level of production the soon-to-be 26-year-old put up while in Greenville has hardly dropped off at all since he moved up the minor-league ladder.

As previously mentioned, the Hudson, Colo. native is now hitting .345/.363/.564 with seven doubles, one triple, five homers, 21 runs scored, 22 RBI, three stolen bases, three walks, and 22 strikeouts as a member of the Sea Dogs. In the month of July alone, he has posted a slash line of .370/.395/.616 and has hit four of his five home runs within the last 25 days.

To put it simply, Granberg is enjoying a breakout season of sorts in his second full year of pro ball. He may not be regarded as one of the top 30 or so prospects in Boston’s farm system, but he has caught the attention of some within the industry, such as FanGraphs‘ David Laurila.

In a conversation with Laurila earlier this month, Granberg delved into several aspects of his approach at the plate, including his unique swing that SoxProspects.com describes as short and compact as well as very direct to the ball.

“I’ve got one of the more interesting swings out there,” Granberg said. “It’s not very conventional. I would say it’s pretty rotational, yet not totally rotational. It’s kind of like those combo swings — not too crouched, maybe a little bit open, and then I stride into it. I’m trying to hit the ball middle/opposite field most of the time.”

Granberg, who turns 26 in early September, can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this winter if he is not added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster by the November 20 deadline.

(Picture of Devlin Granberg: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Danny Santana will join Red Sox in Philadelphia on Friday for series against Phillies, per report

The Red Sox are expected to activate veteran utility man Danny Santana ahead of Friday’s series opener against the Phillies in Philadelphia, according to ESPN’s Enrique Rojas.

MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo confirmed the report.

Santana, who has been rehabbing with Triple-A Worcester since May 12, was not in the WooSox’ starting lineup for their game against the Buffalo Bisons at Polar Park on Thursday.

When asked by reporters if Santana was going to be activated by the club on Friday, Red Sox manager Alex Cora couldn’t offer a comment on the report.

“He’s still in Worcester,” Cora said. “I don’t think he’s in the lineup tonight but he’s working out down there. So that’s all I can give you.”

Boston originally signed the 30-year-old switch-hitter to a minor-league deal back in March, but he wound up missing a significant amount of time in the spring after sustaining a right foot infection that required a stay in the hospital.

Since then, Santana has returned to full health, as he began a rehab assignment with High-A Greenville earlier this month.

Between Greenville and Worcester, the Dominican native posted a .433/.471/.833 slash line to go along with three home runs and six RBI over eight total games played dating back to May 5.

Prior to inking a minor-league pact with the Sox two months ago, Santana had spent the previous two seasons with the Texas Rangers, where he played every defensive position besides pitcher and catcher, enjoyed great success his first year there, and dealt with injury trouble his second.

In 2019, Santana clubbed 28 home runs, collected 81 RBI, and swiped 21 bases over 130 games (511 plate appearances) in the process of being named the Rangers’ Player of the Year.

In 2020, Santana was limited to just 15 games before suffering a season-ending elbow injury in late August that would later require a modified version of Tommy John surgery the following month.

Having played in 15 of Texas’ 60 games last year, the 5-foot-11, 203 pounder was non-tendered by the Rangers in December, making him a free-agent.

According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, Santana’s initial agreement with the Sox included a prorated $1.75 million big-league salary as well as an April 30 opt-out date if he were not added to Boston’s major-league roster.

Because of him being hospitalized in March, though, the two sides agreed to push back that opt-out date until this coming Sunday, per Cotillo.

Now that Santana is on the verge of joining the Red Sox in Philadelphia, the club will have some moves to make since Santana is not yet on Boston’s 40-man (or 26-man) roster.

In other words, expect the Sox to be busy on Friday afternoon. One player will need to be removed from the 40-man, while another will need to be optioned to clear a spot on the 26-man.

(Picture of Danny Santana: Katie Morrison/MassLive)

Brian Van Belle a Red Sox pitching prospect to watch as minor-league season begins this week

Of the 16 undrafted free agents the Red Sox signed following last June’s draft, none might stick out more than right-handed pitching prospect Brian Van Belle.

Van Belle was reportedly one of the most sought-after seniors in the 2020 unsigned free agent class before inking his first professional contract with the Sox in June.

Regarded at the time by Baseball America as the 16th-ranked draft-eligible senior, the 6-foot-2, 187 pound hurler had just put the finishing touches on a successful college career at the University of Miami.

In two seasons with the Hurricanes (2019-2020) after transferring from Broward College, Van Belle emerged as Miami’s Friday night ace while posting a 2.74 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, and a 122:28 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 20 starts and 121 2/3 total innings pitched.

Because of the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the southern Florida native really did not get the chance to work under the Red Sox’ watchful eye until the team began their fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

There, according to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, Van Belle showed why he was highly sought-after as an undrafted free agent.

“Van Belle’s bread and butter is his changeup, a plus offering and a potential difference maker,” Cundall wrote back in November. “Van Belle also showed an average fastball at 89-93 mph and below-average curveball at 77-80 mph. The changeup separated him from a lot of the younger arms who are still refining their secondary pitches and gives him a high floor of at least an organizational arm, especially with his command profile.”

Coming off that impressive showing at fall instructs, the 24-year-old came into the 2021 minor-league season ranked as the No. 53 prospect in Boston’s farm system, per SoxProspects.com.

Cundall recently updated Van Belle’s SoxProspects.com scouting report, writing that the righty “always competes [and is] used to pitching in big spots. [Possesses] strong pitchability and feel on the mound.”

As this highly-anticipated minor-league season is set to begin on Tuesday, Van Belle will start the year in High-A Greenville’s starting rotation.

The fact that Van Belle was assigned to Greenville makes him the only member of Boston’s 2020 undrafted free-agent class to begin the 2021 season at a level as high as High-A. The other 15 members are either starting at Low-A Salem or extended spring training.

(Picture of Brian Van Belle: Al Diaz/Miami Herald)

Red Sox’ Danny Santana to begin rehab assignment with High-A Greenville next Tuesday

UPDATE: Cora has confirmed that Santana will indeed begin a rehab assignment next week.

Red Sox minor-league signee Danny Santana will begin a rehab assignment with High-A Greenville when the 2021 minor-league season starts next Tuesday, according to SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield.

Santana, 30, signed a minor-league deal with the Sox last month that included an invite to big-league spring training.

Shortly after signing, however, Santana suffered a right foot infection in mid-March that required surgery as well as a stay in the hospital.

Since then, the Dominican native has been able to return to the field and has been rehabbing in Fort Myers. It would appear that he is now at a point where he can take it up a notch in regards to the level of competition he is facing.

“He’s going through his progression. He’s getting his at-bats,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Santana over the weekend. “He’s feeling good. Actually, I’ve been in touch with him every other day. And he’s progressing well.”

Originally signed by the Twins as an international free agent back in 2007, Santana has proven to be a super-utilityman of sorts over the course of a seven-year major-league career.

Over the last two seasons with the Rangers alone, the switch-hitter has played every defensive position besides pitcher and catcher.

In addition to playing everywhere in his time with the Rangers, Santana also put together one of the best season of his career with Texas in 2019.

Across 130 games spanning 511 plate appearances, the 5-foot-11, 203 pounder slashed .283/.324/.534 with 28 home runs, 81 RBI, and 21 stolen bases en route to being named the Rangers’ Player of the Year.

Last year, though, Santana was limited to just 15 games on account of a right elbow sprain and was ultimately non-tendered by Texas in December.

“A switch-hitter with speed and power,” Cora said Thursday afternoon. “We saw it two years ago. He was amazing. Against us he was really good. I do believe he’s a quality at-bat from the left side. He brings speed. We can run a little bit more. That’s what he does… Let’s see where it takes us. We need him to get healthy and get his repetitions. And we have to be patient and see where it takes.

“But he’s a good player,” added Cora. “He’s a player we recognized during the offseason just like the other two (Kiké Hernández and Marwin Gonzalez). It just happened his situation was a little bit different with the surgery. It’s a player we really like. And we do feel when he’s right, he can contribute to a championship-caliber team.”

Before going down with that right foot infection this spring, Santana seemed to have a legitimate shot at cracking the Sox’ Opening Day roster as a bench piece given his defensive versatility and ability to hit from both sides of the plate.

Now that he is on the cusp of getting back into game action, Santana’s Red Sox debut could come sooner rather than later if Franchy Cordero (.191/.255/.234, 25 K in 51 PAs) continues to struggle at the plate.

That being the case because Cordero can be optioned to the minors and — as noted by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier — the Triple-A season begins next week.

Speier also notes that Santana’s initial pact with the Sox included an April 30 opt-out if he is not called up to the big-leagues, but that opt-out date has now been pushed back “by a couple of weeks” to mid-May.

(Picture of Danny Santana: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Red Sox cut ties with Lowell Spinners for 2021, extend invites to four other minor-league affiliates

As part of Major League Baseball’s new minor-league player development structure, the Red Sox’ farm system got a bit shaken up earlier Wednesday afternoon.

Boston invited four of its previous affiliates — Worcester Red Sox, Portland Sea Dogs, Greenville Drive, Salem Red Sox — “for continued professional affiliation,” per a team release.

While the Sox’ Triple-A club will be moving from Pawtucket to Worcester next season and its Double-A affiliate will remain in Portland, the full-season, Class-A affiliates were the ones reshuffled the most.

For starters, Boston’s High-A affiliate had been Salem and its Low-A affiliate had been Greenville. Those two clubs will now switch roles for 2021 and beyond, with the Drive being the Red Sox’ new High-A team and the Salem Sox being its new Low-A team.

Greenville will be a part of the new Mid-Atlantic League, while Salem will head to the South Atlantic League.

On top of that, the short-season Lowell Spinners will not be affiliated with the Red Sox in 2021, though the club and the City of Lowell “are in the early stages of evaluating various opportunities for the 2021 season, and will continue to discuss longer-term options in the weeks ahead.”

According to The Boston Globe’s Michael Silverman, Lowell could host either an independent league team or a team in the brand new MLB Draft League next year. The possibility also still remains that Lowell could once again realign itself with the Red Sox in 2022.

The Spinners had been part of the Sox’ minor-league pipeline since 1996.

Red Sox To Add Top Prospect Triston Casas To Alternate Training Site, per Report

The Red Sox are reportedly adding top prospect Triston Casas to the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo. As Cotillo notes, this would suggest that Casas will also be added to the club’s 60-man player pool.

Regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s second-ranked prospect behind only Jeter Downs, Casas was somewhat surprisingly not added to the Sox’ initial Summer Camp roster pool last month after putting together a solid 2019 campaign in the minors.

In 120 games between full-season Greenville and High-A Salem last year, the 20-year-old posted a .256/.350/.480 slash line to go along with 20 home runs and 80 RBI over 500 total plate appearances.

Taken by the Sox with the 26th overall pick in the 2018 amateur draft out of American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla., Casas forwent his commitment to the University of Miami and signed with Boston for $2.55 million. He has seen the majority of his playing time as a professional come at third base but he can play a little first base as well.

While in Pawtucket, Casas will be under the watchful eye of Red Sox minor and major-league staffers alike as he continues to develop and hone his craft at McCoy Stadium. Of course, the move to add Casas to the player pool doesn’t necessarily mean the Red Sox think he is almost ready for the majors, but rather with no minor-league season, this time is pivotal for young prospects across baseball and the organization clearly think highly of Casas.

Also worth noting, as this is being typed, the Red Sox’ player pool is currently at full capacity at 60, so a roster move will likely need to be made in order for Casas to be added in the coming days.

2020 Minor League Baseball Season Cancelled Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

This news does not come as a surprise, but the 2020 Minor League Baseball season has been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. MiLB released a statement addressing the matter earlier Tuesday evening.

 

Per league president and CEO Pat O’Connor, “This announcement removes the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season and allows our teams to begin planning for an exciting 2021 season of affordable family entertainment.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, heavy financial constraints were placed on minor-league clubs across the country due to the fact their primary source of revenue comes from ticket sales.

Unlike their parent major-league clubs, minor-league affiliates do not have lucrative television or other media contracts to rely on in the absence of ticket sales and other gameday revenue, so getting through an entire season with teams playing in empty or nearly empty ballparks would have been virtually impossible.

Back in May, the Red Sox committed to paying their non-40-man-roster minor-leaguers $400 per week through the end of August, or what would have been the end of the minor-league season.

Without a minor-league season, it has been reported by Baseball America that some teams will allow their minor-leaguers to pursue opportunities in independent league baseball.

It is also worth mentioning that the Red Sox’ Triple-A affiliate, the Pawtucket Red Sox, were supposed to play their final season at McCoy Stadium this year before relocating to Worcester.

With Polar Park making progress towards its completion before the start of the 2021 minor-league season, it would seem as though the PawSox have already played their last game at McCoy, which they have called home since 1969.

On another note, the short-season affiliate of the Red Sox, the Lowell Spinners, probably won’t be affiliated with the Red Sox for that much longer, as the entire infrastructure of minor-league baseball appears to be headed towards rapid turnover. That much was made evident by this year’s amateur draft, which consisted of only five rounds to make it the shortest in MLB’s history to this point in time.

Minor-league baseball is an important aspect of the game for developing players and young fans alike. Despite that notion, the landscape of MiLB will probably never be the same beginning in 2021 if those aforementioned changed do take place.

What If There Is No Minor-League Baseball at All in 2020?

The Pawtucket Red Sox, Portland Sea Dogs, Salem Red Sox, and Greenville Drive should all be a little more than two weeks into their season right about now.

Instead, the COVID-19 pandemic has put the baseball season, major and minor-league alike, on hold for the time being.

Recently, there have been reports about Major League Baseball potentially putting together a plan that would involve having all 30 clubs play their games this season in one central location, such as Arizona, Florida, or even Texas.

As encouraging as those proposals may seem, what has not been discussed much since MLB suspended spring training last month is when the minor-league season will start, or if there will even be one at all.

According to Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper, “In off-the-record discussions with people all around the game, there is a near-universal acknowledgement that there are a massive amount of hurdles that have to be overcome to make any MiLB season happen.”

Cooper gets into more of the financial and logistical side of things in his article, but in this case, I want to focus on the developmental side. More specifically, if no minor-league games are played in 2020, how would that impact a prospect’s development and career trajectory?

Take Red Sox infield prospect Jeter Downs for instance. The top prospect acquired by Boston from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts and David Price trade is projected by FanGraphs to make his big-league debut at some point during the 2022 campaign. Would having no minor-league games to play in this year result in Downs’ ETA being pushed back another year?

That probably still depends on what the 21-year-old does in 2021, but taking away a year to develop and continue to improve in actual games while being under the eyes of the organization is something worth thinking about nonetheless.

As odd as it would be to see MLB games played in front of no fans in one neutral location this year, it might be even weirder to have no minor-league baseball to look forward to in 2020 at all.

Red Sox’ Seventh-Ranked Prospect Jay Groome Punches out Two in 2019 Gulf Coast League Debut

Red Sox left-handed pitching prospect Jay Groome tossed a scoreless first inning for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox on Wednesday in what was his first professional appearance in nearly two years.

Facing off against the Atlanta Braves’ GCL team in North Port, Fla. earlier Wednesday morning, the soon to be 21-year-old hurler needed only eight pitches, all of which were strikes, to punch out two and yield one hit in a nearly-perfect frame of work.

Selected by Boston with the 12th overall pick in the 2016 amateur draft out of Barnegat High School in New Jersey, Groome had been out since the 2017 campaign, where he injured his throwing elbow late into the year and eventually underwent successful Tommy John surgery in May of 2018.

Before all that went down, Groome posted a 2.70 ERA and .125 batting average against over his first three professional starts and 6 2/3 innings pitched between the GCL Red Sox and short-season Lowell Spinners in 2016.

In 2017, the New Jersey native showed some signs of struggle, pitching to the tune of a 5.69 ERA and .234 batting average against through 14 starts and 55 1/3 total innings of work between Lowell and Class-A Greenville before being sidelined.

Per his MiLB.com page, Groome is on a rehab assignment with the GCL Sox, and given how the minor league season wraps up in under two weeks, it’s hard to imagine the lefty pitching anywhere else this year.

Despite all the time he has missed, Groome is still ranked as the No. 7 prospect in the Red Sox’ farm system, according to MLB Pipeline.

 

 

Red Sox’ Ninth-Ranked Prospect Jarren Duran Promoted to Double-A Portland

Less than a full calendar year after being selected with the 220th overall pick in the seventh round of the 2018 amateur draft, the Red Sox have promoted speedy prospect Jarren Duran from High-A Salem to Double-A Portland, according to SoxProspects’ Chris Hatfield.

Duran, 22, is currently ranked as Boston’s ninth-best prospect, according to MLB.com.

Drafed out of Long Beach State in 2018, the California native has done nothing but hit since reporting to Low-A Lowell last June.

In 67 total games split between the New York-Penn and South Atlantic Leagues, Duran made a great first impression by slashing .357/.394/.516 with three home runs, 35 RBI, and 24 stolen bases.

This season, after breaking minor league camp with the High-A Salem Red Sox, the 2018 organizational All-Star came out of the gate running, leading the Carolina League, and all of minor league baseball for that matter, in hitting with a .387 batting average.

He also posted a .456 on-base and .543 slugging percentage to go along with four homers, 19 runs driven in, and 18 swiped bags over 50 games played.

Without a doubt, Duran is the most intriguing outfield prospect in the Red Sox’ system. How he adjusts to Eastern League pitching will be something to keep an eye on moving forward.