A right-handed hitter who was scouted by Manny Nanita, Cespedes has drawn comparisons to a young Howie Kendrick in part because of his compact 5-foot-9, 188-pound frame. “He already shows an advanced approach at the plate and projects to be a solid everyday major-league player in the future because of his overall skill set,” his MLB Pipeline scouting report reads.
According to Baseball America’s Ben Badler, “some scouts consider [Cespedes] one of the best pure hitters in Latin America for this year, with excellent hand-eye coordination that leads to a high contact rate. He has an aggressive approach that he will have to rein in to become a more selective hitter, but he still has the bat-to-ball skills to make contact with pitches in the zone or off the plate.”
Defensively, Cespedes may be listed as a shortstop at present, but he may project best as a second or third baseman with average arm strength and average speed. Regardless of where he plays, though, Sanchez notes that Cespedes possesses a strong baseball IQ and a great work ethic.
Cespedes, who turns 18 in September, will presumably make his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League at some point later this year. He will account for roughly 30 percent of Boston’s $4.644 million bonus pool for the 2023 international signing period, which opened on Sunday and runs through December 15.
In addition to Cespedes, the Red Sox — as of Sunday night — have also officially signed Venezuelan shortstop Yoiber Ruiz and Venezuelan catcher Andruw Mussett.
(Picture of JetBlue Park: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
With the 2023 international signing period set to begin on Sunday, now feels like an appropriate time to reflect on how some key members of the Red Sox’ 2022 class fared in their first seasons of professional baseball.
Per SoxProspects.com, Boston signed 31 prospects for a combined $5.281 million between January 15 and December 15 of last year. Of those 31 prospects, one has already been traded, as left-hander Inmer Lobo was dealt to the Pirates in November in exchange for infielder/outfielder Hoy Park.
Just two members of the Sox’ 2022 signing class — Dominican shortstops Fraymi De Leon and Freili Encarnacion — received bonuses of more than $1 million. Two others (Venezuelan catcher Johanfran Garcia and Dominican shortstop Jancel Santana) signed for more than $500,000 while four additional players (Dominican outfielders Natanael Yuten and Cristofher Paniagua, Venezuelan shortstop Frayner Noria, and Venezuelan right-hander William Colmenares) netted between $125,000 and $400,000 in bonus money.
De Leon signed for $1.2 million last January and made his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League less than five months later. The switch-hitting 18-year-old batted .218/.332/.268 with one double, one triple, two home runs, 21 RBIs, 29 runs scored, 20 stolen bases, 21 walks, and 61 strikeouts over 50 games (214 plate appearances) with the DSL Red Sox Blue. He saw playing time at both middle infield positions.
Encarnacion signed for $1.1 million and spent the entirety of the 2022 campaign with the DSL Red Sox Red. In 41 games for the affiliate, the right-handed hitting 17-year-old (turns 18 later this month) slashed .255/.335/.369 with eight doubles, three home runs, 23 runs driven in, 31 runs scored, nine stolen bases, 15 walks, and 51 strikeouts across 173 trips to the plate. He saw playing time at third base and shortstop and is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the 35th-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system.
Garcia signed for $850,000 at the same time De Leon and Encarnacion did. The younger brother of Red Sox outfield prospect Jhostynxon Garcia, Johanfran compiled a .268/.367/.333 slash line to go along with seven doubles, one triple, 23 RBIs, 26 runs scored, 21 walks, and 25 strikeouts in 40 games (161 plate appearances) with the DSL Red Sox Red last season. The 18-year-old backstop also threw out 26 of 58 base stealers from behind the plate.
Santana, like De Leon and Encarnacion, hails from the Dominican Republic. The switch-hitting 17-year-old signed for exactly $600,000 last winter and proceeded to bat .184/.303/.203 with seven doubles, one triple, two home runs, 16 RBIs, 25 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, 18 walks, and 56 strikeouts in 43 games (179 plate appearances) for the DSL Red Sox Red. He logged 317 1/3 innings at second base and just 31 innings at shortstop.
Colmenares received the highest bonus ($125,000) of any of the 16 pitchers Boston signed in 2022. The 17-year-old (turns 18 next month) righty posted a 3.79 ERA and 3.79 FIP with 40 strikeouts to 18 walks over 13 outings (12 starts) spanning 40 1/3 innings of work for the DSL Red Sox Blue. He reportedly possesses a three-pitch mix that includes a 93 mph fastball.
Of the 23 international prospects who received bonuses of less than $100,000 last year, Venezuelan infielder Marvin Alcantara may have made the strongest first impression. After signing for just $30,000, the right-handed hitting 18-year-old batted .302/.406/.397 with 15 doubles, one home run, 29 runs driven in, 49 runs scored, 14 stolen bases, 29 walks, and 33 strikeouts in 53 games (224 plate appearances) with the DSL Red Sox Blue. He put up those numbers while playing every infield position besides first base.
“Just pounding the table for him,” Romero said of Requena’s interest in Alcantara. “He’s one of these guys that the crosscheck group really didn’t get to see much, but he made it to signing day and our area scout was just like, ‘You need to sign this guy!’”
Outside of Encarnacion, Alcantara is presently the only prospect included on SoxProspects.com’s top-60 rankings, as he comes in at No. 37 within the organization.
Alcantara, like many other players listed here, are projected to make the jump to the Florida Complex League for the 2023 minor-league season. Others will return to the Dominican Summer League and continue to hone their skills at the Red Sox’ academy down in El Toro.
Batting ninth and starting at first base, James went 2-for-3 with a three-run double, a walk, and one run scored. The right-handed hitter is now batting .429/.529/.595 to go along with five doubles, one triple, 11 RBIs, seven runs scored, eight walks, and four strikeouts through 14 games (51 plate appearances) this season.
Among FCL hitters who have made at least 50 trips to the plate this year, James ranks first in batting average, second in on-base percentage, fifth in slugging percentage, third in OPS (1.125), fifth in strikeout rate (7.8%), 25th in walk rate (15.7%), and first in wRC+ (207), per FanGraphs.
The younger brother of prospect Axel James, Lyonell is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the 56th-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system. The Red Sox originally signed the 19-year-old for $440,000 as an international free-agent coming out of the Dominican Republic in July 2019.
At that time, Baseball America’s Ben Badler noted that James “stood out for his offensive upside. He uses his hands well at the plate, whipping his barrel through the zone with quick, snappy wrists to generate fast bat speed. Those wrists and hand-eye coordination help him put the ball in play with doubles power that should tick up given his hand speed and physical projection. James is an offensive-minded player with a chance to play third base, where he has solid hands and an average arm.”
That being said, James has seen the majority of his playing time this season come at third base. The 6-foot-3, 165 pounder has logged 99 innings at the hot corner and just 17 innings at first base following Monday’s action.
Considering that he does not turn 20 until October and has plenty of projection left, it’s certainly possible James spends the majority — if not the entirety — of the 2022 season at the complex in Fort Myers. Of course, there is always a chance he could earn a promotion to Low-A Salem at some point this year, particularly on the other side of the draft later this month.
In the meantime, though, James and the FCL Red Sox will take on the FCL Orioles squad in Sarasota beginning at noon on Tuesday.
While these three may be the early headliners, there are other young prospects worth keeping in mind as well. In his annual review of the Sox’ most-recent signing class, Baseball America’s Ben Badler identifies infielder Marvin Alcantara and right-hander Denis Reguillo as two possible sleepers to watch.
Alcantara, 17, was signed out of Venezuela by area scout Alex Requena back in January. The right-handed hitting shortstop did not receive much attention as an amateur and thus signed with Boston for a modest $30,000.
From the time he officially put pen to paper in January, Alcantara has made adding a muscle a priority over the last two months.
“Alcantara has started to add weight to his slender frame, standing out as a hit collector in games from the right side of the plate,” wrote Badler. “He’s a solid all-around player who could play at different spots around the infield, with his bat his calling card.”
Reguillo, on the other hand, was signed out of the Dominican Republic for just $10,000. There is not as much information available on the righty as there is on Alcantara, however.
“Reguillo was mostly in the mid-to-upper 80s as an amateur, but he has been adding weight to his slender frame since then and has the projection to be throwing in the low-to-mid 90s,” Badler wrote. “Adding more power behind his fastball would make him more intriguing, as he already has good feel for pitching and throws strikes from a good delivery with loose arm action.”
Both Alcantara and Reguillo are presumably raw and early on in their development. The Red Sox doled out a total of $40,000 for the two prospects, which accounts for less than one percent of their $5,179,700 bonus pool this year.
“The signing class isn’t made on January 15 (when the market opens),” Romero told Jennings. “The signing class is really made throughout the year when you have some more of these flexible signings. … We hammer the passed over and the (overlooked players) just as much as we do trying to make sure we’re on top of the premium, priority players in each class.”
On that note, both Alcantara and Reguillo are projected by SoxProspects.com to begin their professional careers in the Dominican Summer League. the 2022 DSL season is slated to begin sometime in July.
(Picture of JetBlue Park: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
Red Sox infield prospect Ahbram Liendo certainly made the most of his Grapefruit League debut on Tuesday afternoon.
With the majority of Red Sox minor-leaguers leaving Fort Myers for the start of the 2022 season with their respective affiliate, Liendo was one of eight players Boston added to its roster ahead of Tuesday’s spring finale against the Twins at JetBlue Park.
After replacing Trevor Story at second base at the onset of the fifth inning, Liendo got his first crack at the plate in the bottom of the sixth. With two outs in the frame and runners at second and third, Liendo kept things going by ripping a line-drive, two-run single off Twins reliever Griffin Jax. He scored from third base himself later in the inning.
Fast forward to the seventh, and Liendo again came to the plate with two outs and runners on base. This time around, he drove in Jonathan Arauz on an RBI groundout to second. That gave Boston a 9-6 lead in what would turn out to be a 10-6 victory over Minnesota.
All told, Liendo went 1-for-2 off the bench with his single, one run scored, and a team-leading three RBIs in the Sox’ final exhibition game of the spring.
Liendo, 18, was originally signed by the Red Sox as an international free agent coming out of Venezuela last January. The Maracay native received a signing bonus of $450,000, making him one of the more notable additions from the 2021 class.
Upon going pro last winter, Liendo had to wait a bit to make his organizational debut. In July, the Sox assigned Liendo to their Dominican Summer League Red affiliate and he debuted for the team on July 13.
Over the next two-plus months, the switch-hitting infielder slashed .251/.349/.353 (102 wRC+) with six doubles, four triples, one home run, 21 RBIs, 26 runs scored, 11 stolen bases, 25 walks, and 30 strikeouts across 46 games spanning 195 plate appearances.
Among the 90 DSL hitters who made at least 190 trips to the plate last season, Liendo ranked 45th in stolen bases, 43rd in walk percentage (12.8%), 33rd in strikeout percentage (15.4%), and 28th in speed score (7.6), per FanGraphs.
Defensively, Liendo saw the majority of his playing time come at second base last year and logged 338 1/3 innings at the position. But the 5-foot-8, 170 pounder also made two appearances (17 innings) at third base and one appearance (7 innings) at shortstop while recording six errors and turning 23 total double plays.
At the time of his signing, Baseball America’s Ben Badler noted that Liendo was “a baseball rat with an outstanding arm. He’s a headsy player who could move all around the field — some scouts thought about him as a catching conversion candidate — and an average runner. He’s a switch-hitter with gap power who is more advanced from the right side of the plate.”
Liendo, who just turned 18 in February, is not currently regarded by any major publication, including Baseball America, as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system. That is understandable given his age and lack of experience.
With that being said, though, Liendo still has plenty of room to grow physically and developmentally on the field. He is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 season in the rookie-level Florida Complex League and could be an intriguing player to watch once the FCL gets underway in June.
Upon signing his first professional contract, Ravelo remained on his home island and spent the entirety of the 2021 season in the Dominican Summer League. Across 43 games for the DSL Red Sox Red affiliate, the switch-hitter batted .243/.333/.319 (91 wRC+) with four doubles, two triples, one home run, 13 RBIs, 20 runs scored, 19 walks, and 22 strikeouts over 168 plate appearances.
Obviously, a below-average 91 wRC+ is not exactly an eye-popping statistic. That being said, Ravelo did strike out in just 13.1% of his plate appearances last year, which ranked 32nd among qualified DSL hitters, per FanGraphs.
Defensively, Ravelo unsurprisingly saw all his playing time in 2021 come at shortstop. The 6-foot-1, 187 pounder committed a total of nine errors and turned 24 double plays while logging 337 1/3 innings at the ever-important position.
After participating in the team’s fall performance program during the off-season, Ravelo returned to Fort Myers for the start of minor-league spring training earlier this month. He is projected by SoxProspects.com to start the 2022 campaign out in the rookie-level Florida Complex League.
Ravelo, who does not turn 19 until November, is not yet regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system. Given his age and lack of experience, though, it feels safe to assume that Ravelo will rise through the ranks as he continues to develop both physically and developmentally.
Headlined by the likes of Triston Casas, Marcelo Mayer, and Nick Yorke, the prospect who rounded out the list at No. 51 was right-hander Reidis Sena.
Sena, who turns 21 next month, originally signed with Boston as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic for just $10,000 in December 2018.
After making his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League in 2019, Sena was unable to pitch at the organizational level in 2020 since the minor-league season was cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The young righty instead picked up where he left off last year by spending the entirety of the 2021 campaign in the rookie-level Florida Complex League. He made his season debut on July 24 and made a total of nine appearances (three starts) for the FCL Red Sox.
In those nine outings that spanned anywhere from one to four innings in length, Sena posted a 3.22 ERA and 3.83 FIP to go along with 31 strikeouts to 13 walks over 22 1/3 innings of work.
Among all FCL pitchers who threw at least 20 innings last year, the 20-year-old ranked 21st in strikeouts per nine innings (12.49), 23rd in strikeout rate (32.3%), 21st in swinging strike rate (33.7%), 29th in FIP, and 26th in xFIP (3.99), per FanGraphs.
With a listed height and weight of 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, there is not much else available on Sena besides what FanGraphs’ Kevin Goldstein and Tess Taruskin have on him.
“Sena is pretty raw for a pitching prospect who will be 21 in 2022,” they wrote. “He has huge arm strength, sitting 95 mph on the complex last year, and he makes very heavy use of that fastball. His slider has plus raw spin but Sena throws his heater 85% of the time right now, suggesting he and the Sox are just trying to get him to throw a viable rate of strikes more than anything else. He walked over five hitters per nine innings in 2021. If things click for him, he’ll move very quickly.”
As Goldstein and Taruskin indicated, Sena does need to work on his command considering the fact he averaged more than five walks per nine innings and walked more than 13% of the batters he faced last year.
That being said, there does seem to be some intrigue with Sena based off his current arsenal that consists of a high-octane fastball and slider. It will be interesting to see if the Red Sox view the Neiba native as a potential starter or reliever in the long-term.
On that note, though, Sena is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 season in Low-A Salem’s starting rotation. He will have the opportunity to rise through Boston’s prospect ranks beginning in April.
It was exactly 14 months ago Tuesday when the Red Sox signed outfielder Armando Sierra for $150,000 as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic.
Although he was not the headliner of Boston’s 2021 international signing class (hello, Miguel Bleis), Sierra still received some attention from evaluators within the industry.
Last April, Baseball America’s Ben Badler identified Sierra as a potential sleeper prospect within the Sox’ international ranks, noting that the then-17-year-old had “an advanced approach to hitting for his age” as well as the ability to hit for power.
“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 said at the time. “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.”
In the months following his signing, Sierra continued to work out at the Sox’ Dominican academy in El Toro before making his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League last July.
Across 53 games for the club’s DSL Blue affiliate, the young right-handed hitter batted a respectable .284/.373/.379 (117 wRC+) to go along with 10 doubles, two home runs, 35 RBIs, 24 runs scored, 21 walks, and 41 strikeouts over 193 plate appearances.
Against left-handed pitching, Sierra slashed .296/.424/.370. Against right-handed pitching, he slashed .284/.365/.383 with both of his home runs and 33 of his 35 runs driven in.
Among all Dominican Summer League hitters who made at least 190 trips to the plate last year, Sierra ranked 27th in batting average, 48th in on-base percentage and slugging percentage, 51st in OPS (.752), and 54th in wRC+, per FanGraphs.
Defensively, Sierra was labeled as a corner infielder even before signing with Boston. In his introductory course to pro ball, the 6-foot-2, 189 pounder logged 95 innings in left field and 115 innings in right while recording a total of two outfield assists. He also appeared in eight games (seven starts) as a first baseman.
Shortly before the 2021 DSL summer came to a close last fall, SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall wrote in September that Sierra’s “power potential is impressive. He is a below-average athlete and does not project to add much defensive value, but he has big-time raw power. He gets his whole body into his swing, but there are significant questions with his hit tool that could limit his power utility against more advanced pitching.”
Sierra, who turned 18 in January, is not regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system. Given his age, the Sabana Grande de Palenque presumably still has room to grow physically and as a baseball player.
SoxProspects.com projects that Sierra will return to the Dominican Summer League for the start of the 2022 minor-league season. That being said, a promotion to the Florida Complex League later in the year certainly seems plausible.
(Picture of Red Sox cap: Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Last season, the Red Sox had 39 minor-league pitchers who threw at least 50 innings at their respective levels. One of those 39 was young pitching prospect Jedixson Paez.
Paez, who turned 18 in January, spent the entirety of the 2021 campaign in the Dominican Summer League as a 17-year-old. In 13 starts for the DSL Red Sox Blue affiliate, the right-hander posted a 2.86 ERA and 3.79 FIP to go along with 49 strikeouts to just nine walks over 50 1/3 innings of work.
Among all qualified hurlers in the DSL last year, Paez ranked 11th in walks per nine innings (1.61), ninth in walk rate (4.4%), 22nd in WHIP (1.03),31st in swinging strike rate (36.7%), and 26th in xFIP (3.12), per FanGraphs.
The Red Sox originally signed Paez as an international free agent out of Venezuela for $450,000 last January, making the Tinaquillo native one of the more notable additions from Boston’s 2021 signing class.
With 2021 marking his first exposure to pro ball, it is noteworthy that Paez was named the Sox’ Latin Program Pitcher of the Year back in September. Around that same time, SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall wrote that the righty “has the potential to be an interesting long-term prospect” if he can continue “to add strength and improve the velocity on his pitches.”
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, Paez clearly still has plenty of room to grow both physically and developmentally. According to his SoxProspects.com scouting report, Paez throws from a three-quarters arm slot and works with a fastball that hovers around 84-86 mph and a curveball that sits at 69-71 mph.
Coming into the 2022 season, Paez is not regarded by any major publication as one of the top pitching prospects in Boston’s farm system. He did, however, receive a shoutout from FanGraphs’ Kevin Goldstein and Tess Taruskin last week for being projectable, having advanced command, and “promising” secondary stuff.
On that note, Paez is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin his age-18 season in the rookie-level Florida Complex League later this summer. It should be fascinating to see how he handles the transition from the Dominican Republic to the United States.
Red Sox outfield prospect Miguel Ugueto was among the organization’s top performers in the Florida Complex League last year.
Nicknamed “The Machine” like Albert Pujols, Ugueto appeared in 35 games for the Sox’ rookie-level affiliate. Over that stretch, the right-handed-hitting 19-year-old batted a stout .331/.370/.528 (135 wRC+) to go along with 15 doubles, two triples, two home runs, 20 RBIs, 26 runs scored, seven stolen bases, seven walks, and 26 strikeouts across 135 plate appearances.
He posted a .949 OPS against right-handed pitching compared to a .733 OPS against left-handed pitching.
Among FCL hitters who made at least 130 trips to the plate in 2021, Ugueto ranked 13th in strikeout rate (19.3%), third in batting average, 15th in on-base percentage, sixth in slugging percentage, fifth in OPS (.898), 15th in isolated power (.197), eighth in speed score (8.6), and seventh in wRC+, per FanGraphs.
Defensively, the 6-foot-2, 185 pounder saw playing time at all three outfield positions last year in Fort Myers. He logged 99 2/3 innings in left, 56 innings in center, and 104 in right while not committing a single error and recording three outfield assists.
A native of Venezuela, Ugueto originally signed with Boston for just $10,000 as an international free agent in August 2019. His first full professional season was wiped out because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but he certainly made up for lost time in 2021.
With that being said, though, there does seem to be some concern regarding Ugueto’s outlook in spite of the success he enjoyed last summer. As highlighted by SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall in September, “scouts are skeptical of his ability to hit more advanced pitching. His swing is ugly and he is a free swinger with poor pitch recognition and no approach at the plate. Unless his approach improves drastically, he will struggle to make contact as he moves up the system.
“Defensively, his profile also puts a lot of pressure on his bat, as he is slow-footed with a corner outfield profile,” added Cundall. “While he has played a significant amount of center field this year, he has moved to the corners in his last eight games.”
Ugueto, who does not turn 20 until this coming September, is not regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in the Red Sox’ farm system. He was, however, one of 11 outfielders to participate in the team’s fall performance program this past October.
On that note, Ugueto is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 minor-league season where he left off in 2021: the Florida Complex League. Of course, under that scenario, it would not be surprising if Ugueto were to earn a promotion to Low-A Salem at some point this summer.