After Four-Hit Debut, Jose Peraza Moving up in Red Sox Lineup

After going 4-for-5 with two doubles and two RBI in his Red Sox debut on Friday night, second baseman Jose Peraza has moved up in Boston’s lineup for Saturday’s contest against the Baltimore Orioles.

For the first time in his Red Sox career, Peraza will be hitting out of the five-hole less than 24 hours after he was the club’s No. 9 hitter on Opening Day.

In his five plate appearances on Friday, Peraza saw a total of just eight pitches, proving a patient approach might not work best for every hitter.

“He doesn’t waste a lot of time,” Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said of Peraza postgame. “First pitch, if he sees it and it’s in there, he rips it.” The average exit velocity of Peraza’s four hits was 95.6 mph off the bat.

Prior to coming over to Boston in December, the Venezuela native accrued 19 plate appearances out of the five-hole over four seasons with the Reds and posted a .316 batting average in that spot.

Cincinnati non-tendered Peraza back in December after he mustered an OPS+ of 62 in 2019, which prompted the Red Sox to sign the infielder to a one-year deal just days later.

During Summer Camp workouts earlier this month, Peraza seemed very confident that he would be able to bounce back offensively in 2020 when speaking with reporters via Zoom on July 14.

“Offensively I feel like I’m a completely different person,” he said. “Because I put in so much work during the offseason and then obviously during (spring training) camp and even during this pandemic while we were waiting, just making the minor tweaks. Offensively I’m a different person than I was back in Cincinnati.”

It was only one game, but Peraza could prove to be a key piece of the Red Sox’ infield puzzle this season and beyond seeing how he is under team control through 2022.

Red Sox’ Michael Chavis Helping Teammate Alex Verdugo Get Acclimated to New Club

Upon getting traded from the Dodgers to the Red Sox in February, Alex Verdugo never could have expected what was in store for him or the 2020 Major League Baseball season. That being Opening Day getting pushed back nearly four months because of a global pandemic.

At the time he first reported to the Fenway South complex in Fort Myers on February 15, it looked as though Verdugo would miss the opening stages of the 2020 season due to a stress fracture in his lower back.

Now though, in part because of the long, pandemic-induced layoff, the young outfielder is just about all systems go as Opening Day 2.0 approaches.

Verdugo, along with the rest of the Red Sox for that matter, have been getting back into playing shape these past few weeks at Summer Camp in Boston, and it has given him the opportunity to get closer, but not too close, to some of his new teammates.

As a matter of fact, one of those new teammates reached out to Verdugo and asked if he would want to share a Fenway Park suite with him during camp. That teammate’s name? Michael Chavis.

When speaking with NESN’s Jahmai Webster on Thursday night’s installment of After Hours, Verdugo went into detail about how that over-the-phone exchange between Chavis and him played out.

“He texted me ‘Hey bro, did you have anyone you wanted to room with?'” Verdugo recounted to Webster. “I was like, ‘Man, I don’t really know anybody…I don’t know…no?’ And he was like, ‘All right, I’m putting your name down for mine.’ I was like, ‘All right, cool, man. It’s all good.’ I think it helps. It’s made this transition easy, cool. We kind of already knew each other. We’ve been messing around with each other, talking hitting and just picking each other’s brains. I know when I’m getting frustrated he’s there to be like, ‘Hey man, I know you can hit, bro. Just relax, you’re good.’ So, it’s cool to have that.”

Seeing as how they were both drafted out of high school in 2014, I would assume that’s how Verdugo and Chavis knew each other a little bit prior to them being on the same major-league ballclub.

Both players are also 24 years of age, and both are coming into a season where they will be competing for at-bats in a rather crowded Red Sox infield and outfield. Fortunately, they can both play multiple positions, as Verdugo is more than capable of moving around the outfield when necessary, while Chavis can play a little bit of first and second base depending on different pitching match-ups.

For Verdugo, coming into a new organization after only knowing one for the last 5 1/2 years of your life has to be somewhat of a daunting task. That being said, it’s encouraging to see that the Arizona native appears to be getting more comfortable with his new club with the help of a fellow 2014 draft class member.

Also, it was quite amusing when, on the subject of not being able to access the home clubhouse at Fenway Park due to COVID-19 concerns, Verdugo said, “We’re so used to having no space, now we have all the space in the world” when referencing the aforementioned suites that have been converted into locker rooms on the pavilion level.

 

Red Sox Sign Former Cardinals Utilityman Yairo Muñoz to Minor-League Deal

The Red Sox have signed former Cardinals utilityman Yairo Munoz to a minor-league deal, according to Major League Baseball’s official transaction wire. He was assigned to Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday.

Munoz, 25, was released by St. Louis earlier this month after he “left the team” and “flew home” without ever contacting the Cardinals. His agent apparently told the club that his client was frustrated with his role, something Cards manager Mike Shildt said on multiple occasions last season.

According to The Athletic’s Mark Saxon, that frustration did not hamper Munoz’s chances of making the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster this year, as Shildt told him that the Dominican Republic native had an “inside track” to landing a roster spot.

That vote of confidence did not stop Munoz from receiving his unconditional release from St. Louis though, and less than three full weeks after essentially excusing himself from the Cardinals, he has joined the Red Sox on a minor-league deal for the 2020 season.

Originally signed by the Athletics as an international free agent out of the DR back in 2012, Munoz was part of the trade that sent outfielder Stephen Piscotty to Oakland in December 2017.

The former top prospect is capable of playing second base, third base, and shortstop, as well as all three outfield positions. That sort of versatility is something the Red Sox have seemed to value immensely lately.

In 88 games with the Cardinals last season, Munoz slashed .267/.298/.355 with two home runs and 13 RBI. That rather underwhelming performance for Munoz was coming off an impressive rookie campaign where he posted an OPS+ of 109 over 108 games in 2018.

Munoz still has five years of team control remaining and is not arbitration eligible until the 2021 season.

If baseball is played in 2020, Munoz could provide the Red Sox with solid infield and maybe even outfield depth at the Triple-A level.

Predicting the Red Sox’ Opening Day Roster

One month from Wednesday, the Red Sox will open their 2020 season with the first of four against the Toronto Blue Jays north of border. As things stand right now, a solid portion of the club’s 26-man Opening Day roster is set, but with questions surrounding injuries and depth aplenty, there could still be a handful of spots up for grabs.

With that, I thought it would be a good time to take a crack at what the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster could look like this time next month. Let’s get to it, shall we?

The Starting Rotation:

Eduardo Rodriguez
Nathan Eovaldi
Martin Perez
Ryan Weber
Kyle Hart

According to interim manager Ron Roenicke, left-hander Chris Sale might need to throw two live batting practice sessions before throwing in an actual game, leaving the 30-year-old’s status for Opening Day up in the air since he wouldn’t have a ton of time to ramp up his workload.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding Sale, that leaves two spots in Boston’s rotation up for grabs. Right-hander Ryan Weber seems like a likely candidate, and I went with left-hander Kyle Hart over pitching prospect Tanner Houck for the fifth spot.

Hart, 27, was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster back in November, while Houck, who is not on the 40-man roster, could use more time to develop as a starter in Triple-A.

Hector Velazquez and Brian Johnson have prior experience starting for the Red Sox, although Johnson would need to be added back to the 40-man roster after being outrighted in November.

The Bullpen:

Matt Barnes
Ryan Brasier
Brandon Workman
Darwinzon Hernandez
Josh Taylor
Heath Hembree
Marcus Walden
Austin Brice

As far as I am concerned, Barnes, Workman, Hernandez, Taylor, Hembree, and Walden are all locks to make the Opening Day roster.

Brasier struggled at times last year and has minor-league options remaining, while Brice, who was acquired from the Marlins last month, is out of options.

Outside candidates on the 40-man roster include Yoan Aybar, Matt Hall, Chris Mazza, Josh Osich, Mike Shawaryn, Jeffrey Springs, and Phillips Valdez.

The Catchers:

Christian Vazquez
Jonathan Lucroy

Although Kevin Plawecki is on a guaranteed deal for the 2020 season, it is only for $900,000, so it would not be a huge financial loss if the Sox went with Lucroy instead.

The two-time All-Star signed a minor-league deal with Boston earlier in February and has a far more impressive offensive track record than Plawecki does. He also appears to have a solid relationship with Roenicke from when the two were with the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Infielders:

Mitch Moreland
Michael Chavis
Jose Peraza
Xander Bogaerts
Rafael Devers
Jonathan Arauz
Tzu-Wei Lin

Lin is out of options, and as a Rule 5 selection, Arauz would have to be offered back to the Astros if he does not stick on Boston’s 26-man roster, so I believe those two will make it, especially with the defensive versatility Lin offers.

Bogaerts has been dealing with a sore left ankle since workouts began nearly two weeks ago, but it looks like that is a non-issue as far as his status for Opening Day is concerned.

Top prospect Bobby Dalbec is not listed here, but I would personally love to see him make it if he were to get adequate playing time at the big-league level. With Devers manning third and Moreland and Chavis handling first base duties though, that does not seem likely at this point.

Also, Dustin Pedroia will begin the year on the 60-day injured list.

The Outfielders:

Andrew Benintendi
Jackie Bradley Jr.
Kevin Pillar
J.D. Martinez

With Alex Verdugo likely to start the season on the injured list due to a lower back stress fracture, Kevin Pillar is likely to slide in as an everyday outfielder, which he is more than capable of doing.

As I mentioned, Lin, and even prospect C.J. Chatham, are capable of playing a little outfield if necessary. And the Red Sox may need a temporary fourth outfielder during Verdugo’s absence if they do not want Martinez to spend too much time in the outfield.

So there you have it. 26 roster spots. 26 predictions with a whole lot of other possibilities as well. I’ll leave you with my guess for what the Opening Day starting lineup could look like:

  1. Andrew Benintendi, LF
  2. Rafael Devers, 3B
  3. Xander Bogaerts, SS
  4. J.D. Martinez, DH
  5. Mitch Moreland, 1B
  6. Christian Vazquez, C
  7. Michael Chavis, 2B
  8. Kevin Pillar, RF
  9. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
    Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP

 

Red Sox Prospect C.J. Chatham Dealing With Right Shoulder Soreness

Red Sox infield prospect C.J. Chatham was slated to start at shortstop in Boston’s spring training opener against the Northeastern Huskies baseball team on Friday. Instead, the 25-year-old was a late scratch from the Sox’ lineup due to right shoulder soreness.

Jeter Downs, one of three players acquired in the trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers, got the start in Chatham’s place at short.

Ranked as Boston’s No. 10 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Chatham entered big-league camp with the chance to provide the Sox with some depth around the infield a few months after being added to the club’s 40-man roster for the first time back in November.

The former second-round pick out of Florida Atlantic University split time between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket last season, slashing .298/.333/.408 with five home runs, 46 RBI, and seven stolen bases over 110 total games in 2019.

Earlier in the week, Sox vice president of player development Ben Crockett told The Athletic’s Chad Jennings that Chatham has “been exposed to the outfield and could ‘potentially’ get some third base reps in preparation for a utility role.”

Depending on the severity of the soreness he is dealing with, Chatham could be held out of action for the next few days. There will probably be more news about once Friday’s contest comes to a close.

As for Downs, MLB Pipeline’s No. 44 prospect got the start at his natural position and already collected his first hit in a Red Sox uniform on a first inning infield single. He has also committed a fielding error.