New Podding the Red Sox episode: The Providence Jorunal’s Bill Koch joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by Bill Koch, who covers the Red Sox for The Providence Journal.

Among the topics Bill and I discussed were how his New England roots shaped his interest in sports journalism, what led him to covering the Red Sox for The Providence Journal, how he goes about writing and tweeting about the Red Sox, his thoughts on Boston’s season thus far, what Alex Cora will have to deal with in the Bronx this weekend, his prediction for what Chaim Bloom will do before next month’s trade deadline, when Jarren Duran could be making his major-league debut, and much more!

The episode is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

Thank you to Bill for taking some time out of his busy in-season schedule to have a conversation with me.

You can follow Bill on Twitter (@BillKoch25) by clicking here. You can check out his work for the Providence Journal by clicking here.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Please make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of Fenway Park: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Top Red Sox prospects Triston Casas, Jarren Duran named to Team USA’s Olympic qualifying roster

It should not come as much of a surprise, but Red Sox top prospects Triston Casas and Jarren Duran were both named to USA Baseball’s Olympic qualifying roster on Sunday.

Team USA’s roster, which is comprised of 26 players, consists of 14 pitchers and 12 position players, with Casas being one of six outfielders and Duran being one of four outfielders on the squad.

The United States will open group play of the Baseball Americas Qualifier against Nicaragua in Port St. Lucie, Fla. on Monday before facing off against the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico the next two days.

The top two teams from each of the two groups participating will advance to the Super Round and play two games against one another. The team with the best record (including in group play) following the Super Round will be declared the winner of the tournament and join the likes of Israel, Japan, Korea, and Mexico as teams who have already qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games this summer.

The second- and third-place teams, meanwhile, will compete in another tournament in Mexico in late June to determine who will get the final Olympic qualifying spot.

This latest installment of Team USA is led by longtime big-league manager Mike Scioscia, who has Red Sox minor-league outfield and baserunning coach Darren Fenster on his staff as the third-base coach.

When speaking with Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser during Team USA’s training camp last week, Scioscia described just how thoroughly impressed he has been with Duran.

“Looking at video ever since he was selected for our club, you just see the talent jump off the screen,” Scioscia said. “Seeing him in person, his first step is incredible everywhere, whether he’s trying to steal a base or he’s in center field. He’s a five-tool player. When you call a guy a five-tool player you’re saying that he’s special. He’s in an elite group. I think that Jarren has that that skill set that can make him an impact player very quickly in the major-leagues.”

Duran, 24, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 4 prospect in Boston’s farm system and the No. 90 prospect in all of baseball.

The left-handed-hitting outfielder had been hitting .278/.366/.625 to go along with four doubles, seven home runs, 12 RBI, 14 runs scored, 10 walks, 21 strikeouts, and four stolen bases through 18 games played (82 plate appearances) for Triple-A Worcester prior to heading down to Florida to join Team USA.

“Having USA across my chest, I don’t know if anything ever compares to that,” Duran told The Boston Globe’s Julian McWilliams via text message. “I feel honored to represent this great country, and having the Red Sox back me up on that means a lot. I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity and I will forever be grateful to the Red Sox for letting me have this opportunity.”

Casas, on the other hand, is the top prospect in the Sox’ farm system and the 39th-ranked prospect in all of baseball, per Baseball America.

The 21-year-old first baseman is currently slashing an impressive .328/.400/.552 with four home runs and 16 RBI across 17 games (75 plate appearances) with Double-A Portland.

(Picture of Triston Casas: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Jarren Duran drawing praise from manager Mike Scioscia, veteran teammates during Team USA training camp

Former Angels manager Mike Scioscia managed the best player in baseball for eight years (2011-2018) in the form of Mike Trout.

Trout, a three-time American League MVP, eight-time All-Star, and eight-time Silver Slugger Award winner, is without a doubt the textbook definition of a five-tool player, and has been for quite some time.

So when Scioscia, who is currently managing Team USA ahead of an Olympic qualifying event in Florida, describes one of the top prospects in the Red Sox farm system as a five-tool player, that is saying something.

Who is that Red Sox prospect exactly? None other than outfielder Jarren Duran, of course.

Duran, like fellow top Sox prospect Triston Casas, is one of 13 major-league prospects currently taking part in Team USA’s training camp down in southwest Florida.

As of now, Team USA’s roster — which also consists of a plethora of big-league veterans — is made up of 28 players, but will be whittled down to 26 by Sunday (May 30).

Since the training camp began earlier this week, Team USA has played a total of three exhibition games as of Friday. In those three games, Duran is the only player on the team who his hit a home run to this point.

“Looking at video ever since he was selected for our club, you just see the talent jump off the screen,” Scioscia recently told Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser. “Seeing him in person, his first step is incredible everywhere, whether he’s trying to steal a base or he’s in center field. He’s a five-tool player. When you call a guy a five-tool player you’re saying that he’s special. He’s in an elite group. I think that Jarren has that that skill set that can make him an impact player very quickly in the major-leagues.”

Duran, 24, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 5 prospect in the Red Sox farm system, which ranks tops among outfielders in the organization.

After turning heads last summer at the alternate training site, over the winter in Puerto Rico, and in Fort Myers during spring training, the 6-foot-2, 202 pound left-handed hitter opened the 2021 minor-league season with Triple-A Worcester.

Prior to heading down to Florida to join Team USA, Duran was carrying with him a .278/.366/.625 slash line to go along with four doubles, seven home runs, 12 RBI, 14 runs scored, 10 walks, 21 strikeouts, and four stolen bases through 18 games played (82 plate appearances) for the WooSox.

Per Glaser, “USA Baseball identified Duran as a player it wanted last spring for the qualifier that was originally scheduled to take place in March 2020,” but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed everything back by a year.

Even with that delay, Team USA still took interest in Duran, as general manager Eric Campbell explained to Glaser.

“He makes you stop and watch,” Campbell said. “He’s a great player.”

The manager and general manager of Team USA are not the only ones who have been impressed with what they have seen from Duran, as longtime big-league third baseman has also been awestruck by the young outfielder.

“This kid Duran from the Red Sox has opened my eyes,” said Frazier. “I talk about work ethic with these kids. I mean, head and shoulders way above where I was at that age.”

Assuming both Duran and Casas — who was playing for Double-A Portland — make the 26-man roster, Team USA will open this upcoming qualifying tournament for the summer games against Nicaragua in Port St. Lucie on Monday.

Jeter Downs, Boston’s No. 2 prospect according to Baseball America, is also slated to play for his home country of Colombia in the same ‘ 2021 Baseball Americas Qualification Event.’

“It’s a good learning experience,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said last weekend in regards to Casas and Duran playing for Team USA. “Obviously, to play for your country is an honor. It’s a great opportunity for them to learn from some guys who were very successful at this level. I hope for them that they can contribute and do the job.

“I think it’s a great experience,” added Cora. “Being around (Scioscia)… what an honor. He’s going to help them to be better. … This is part of, actually, player development. You’re going to be around some guys who have done it at the highest level of competition — one of the highest levels. It will be great for them.”

(Picture of Jarren Duran: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox demote struggling outfielder Franchy Cordero to Triple-A Worcester

The Red Sox optioned outfielder Franchy Cordero to Triple-A Worcester following Wednesday’s 9-5 win over the Braves, the team announced earlier Thursday afternoon.

Cordero, one of five players the Red Sox acquired as part of the trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Royals back in February, has gotten his Red Sox career off to a slow start.

Through 34 games played with Boston this season, the 26-year-old is slashing a measly .179/.228/.274 with just one home run, nine RBI, six walks, and 37 strikeouts over 102 plate appearances thus far.

With the emergence of the versatile, switch-hitting Danny Santana, Cordero began to see his playing time decrease prior to his demotion. As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the left-handed hitter has only started four of his club’s last 11 games.

With that in mind, it would appear that the Red Sox would like Cordero to get more regular at-bats with the WooSox, who are currently taking on the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in Allentown, Pa.

For his minor-league career, the Dominican native owns a lifetime .305/.357/.567 slash line to go along with 21 homers and 73 RBI in 115 games at the Triple-A level, so perhaps some time in Worcester will do him good.

In Cordero’s place, the Red Sox will need to make a corresponding roster move and call someone up from the minors to get back to a 26-man major-league roster.

It’s unlikely that top outfield prospect Jarren Duran — who is currently playing for Team USA in an Olympic qualifying event in Florida — will take Cordero’s place on the active roster, per Cotillo.

Instead, Cotillo suggests that the Sox will likely call up a reliever ahead of Friday’s series opener against the Marlins at Fenway Park.

More specifically, one of Brandon Brennan or Colten Brewer — both of whom are on Boston’s 40-man roster — appear to be the most likely to get promoted since that would allow the Red Sox to go back to carrying 14 pitchers and 12 position players. We will have to wait and see on that.

(Picture of Franchy Cordero: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

New Podding the Red Sox episode: MassLive.com’s Katie Morrison joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by Katie Morrison, who covers the Worcester Red Sox for MassLive.com.

Among the topics Katie and I discussed were how she got into writing about baseball and her background in photojournalism, what she has made of brand-new Polar Park and the overall fan experience there, which Red Sox prospects (like Jarren Duran and Jeter Downs) and minor-leaguers (like Kaleb Ort) have stood out to her in Worcester so far, how she believes the 2021 WooSox will perform the rest of the season, and much more!

The episode is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

Thanks to Katie for taking some time out of her busy schedule to have a conversation with me.

You can follow Katie on Twitter (@KatieMo61) by clicking here. You can check out her WooSox coverage for MassLive.com by clicking here.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Please make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of Polar Park: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

New Podding the Red Sox episode: SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall.

Among the topics Ian and I discussed are how he got his start in scouting, how he is looking forward to the return of minor-league baseball next week, what he thought about brand-new Polar Park in Worcester, his thoughts on what the Red Sox could do in this summer’s draft, his impression of the Sox’ farm system under Chaim Bloom heading into the 2021 minor-league season, and much more!

The episode is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

Thanks to Ian for taking some time out of his busy schedule to have a conversation with me. You can follow Ian on Twitter (@IanCundall) by clicking here. You can check out his work for SoxProspects.com by clicking here.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Please make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of Polar Park: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Red Sox prospect Jarren Duran spending time in left field at team’s alternate training site

Red Sox outfield prospect Jarren Duran has started to see playing time in left field at the team’s alternate training site in Worcester, as evidenced by his participation in Monday’s simulated game at Polar Park.

During the live stream of Monday’s sim game, Worcester Red Sox broadcaster Josh Maurer said that Duran has “been transitioning to playing corners over the past few days, not just in today’s game (h/t SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield).

The 24-year-old was originally drafted by the Red Sox as a second baseman out of Long Beach State in 2018.

The area scout who had signed Duran, Justin Horowitz, thought that the speedster played second base well, but saw an opportunity for him to move to center field given his freakish athleticism.

“I just thought his athleticism was a little bit bottled up at second base,” Horowitz told MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith last month. “He could play second base. He did it fine. I had no issues with it. I just thought there was a chance for impact in center field if you could kind of let this kid go be himself and run around out there and be a ball hog. So that’s what I recommended.”

Since making the move to center field, Duran has emerged as the top outfield prospect in Boston’s farm system and came into the 2021 season regarded by Baseball America as the organization’s fifth-ranked prospect overall.

Of the 1,645 1/3 defensive innings Duran has played in the minor-leagues since making his pro debut in 2018, 164 have come at second base, 1,220 2/3 have come in center field, and 260 2/3 have come in right field.

Over the course of the spring, the 6-foot-2, 202 pounder only played left field on a few occasions after exclusively playing center during the 2019 minor-league season as well as at the alternate site last year.

The fact that the Red Sox have Duran exploring a new position comes at an interesting time considering the fact that corner outfielders Franchy Cordero and Hunter Renfroe have gotten their 2021 campaigns off to slow starts.

Cordero, who the Sox acquired from the Royals in February as part of the trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City, is struggling to the tune of a .200/.265/.244 slash line out of the gate to go along with a 47% strikeout rate.

Renfroe, who signed a one-year, $3.1 million with Boston in December, is currently slashing .176/.241/.255 with just one home run and eight RBI over his first 58 plate appearances.

Despite the offensive struggles, Renfroe has proven to be the best defensive outfielder on the Red Sox’ major-league roster. The same cannot be said for Cordero, who at 26 only has 112 career big-league games under his belt over five seasons.

The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier wrote Monday that “the Red Sox aren’t at the point of giving up on either [Cordero or Renfroe], but their outfield situation hardly seems settled for the long haul.”

If Cordero and/or Renfroe’s struggles do continue, Duran would then represent a potential solution to Boston’s outfield problems, but only after immediate holes on the big-league club have been filled.

That’s why the Sox have made sure to get Duran acquainted with a new position while he is in Worcester as opposed to under the lights in Boston. Red Sox farm director Brian Abraham said as much in a recent conversation with Speier.

“If there is an opportunity for [Duran] to get to the big leagues at some point this season or in the future, if he gets put in left field at Fenway Park, we don’t want that to be the first time he’s playing left field in a professional baseball game,” explained Abraham. “We want players to feel comfortable in an uncomfortable spot and to prepare guys for the potential for there to be different things that happen, whether it be a transaction or an injury. The more versatile the player, the better chance they have of impacting the big league club.”

To put it simply, the Red Sox want to put Duran in a position (no pun intended) where he is capable of being a big-league contributor for an extended period of time.

By having Duran patrol unfamiliar territory in left field, the Sox are hopeful that the experience will open more doors for the California native to make an impact in the majors sooner rather than later.

That being said, Duran receiving a callup anytime soon is no sure thing. As Speier notes, the young outfielder “still has yet to play an official minor-league game above Double-A.”

The last minor-league game he played in also took place more than 19 months ago, too.

Because he is already in Worcester, it seems more than likely that Duran will begin the 2021 minor-league campaign with the WooSox, who are slated to kick off their inaugural season on May 4.

And while there is no timetable as for when Duran could be getting called up, the Red Sox will be sure to closely monitor how the left-handed hitter adjusts to a new tier of competition at the Triple-A level as he is coming off a year in which he made several improvements to his game on both sides of the ball.

(Picture of Jarren Duran: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

What do Franchy Cordero and Hunter Renfroe’s offensive woes mean for Red Sox’ outfield picture?

22 games into the 2021 season, it’s fair to say the Red Sox are not getting the results they had hoped for from two significant outfield additions they made over the winter.

Those two additions would be a pair of former Padres outfielders in Hunter Renfroe and Franchy Cordero.

Renfroe, who signed a one-year, $3.1 million deal with Boston back in December, did not play in the Sox’ 8-2 loss at the hands of the Mariners on Saturday afternoon.

Through 14 games this season, the 29-year-old is slashing a dismal .188/.241/.271 with just one home run and seven RBI over 54 plate appearances.

What Renfroe has lacked in offensive production, he has made up for it with his glove thus far as he came into play Saturday ranked seventh among qualified American League outfielders in ultimate zone rate per 150 games (22.7).

The same cannot be said for Cordero, whom the Sox acquired from the Royals as part of the trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City back in February.

Cordero did play in Saturday’s loss to the M’s while starting in left field and batting out of the eight-hole, but struck out swinging in all three of his trips to the plate.

The 26-year-old out of the Dominican has now punched out 23 times in 49 plate appearances this season while watching his slash line dip to an underwhelming .200/.265/.244 with just two extra-base hits and five RBI to his name so far.

While he has yet to put his power on full display in Boston, Red Sox manager Alex Cora attributed Cordero’s early struggles and high strikeout rate to the notion that the left-handed hitter was trying to make too much contact rather than stay within himself at the plate.

“I do believe he’s actually trying too much to make contact instead of staying on his swing,” Cora said of Cordero prior to Saturday’s loss. “Instead of recognizing your pitch and put a good swing on it, he’s not actually doing that. He’s late on the fastball. Now he’s out in front of offspeed pitches.”

Despite an 0-for-3 showing with three strikeouts in Saturday’s contest, Cora still remains confident that Cordero will be able to turn things around and prove to be a valuable member of this Red Sox team.

“You’ve got to keep coaching the player and giving him confidence,” said Cora. “He’s working on his craft every day with (hitting coaches) Timmy (Hyers) and Peter (Fatse). He’s in a bad stretch right now. But this is a guy that we trust and we believe he’s going to make contact. And when he makes contact, good things happen.”

Prior to being dealt to Boston in February, Cordero accrued 315 plate appearances with the Padres and Royals from 2016-2019. He crushed 12 total home runs in those 315 plate appearances, but — as previously mentioned — has yet to hit a homer in a Red Sox uniform.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom described Cordero as someone who “hits the ball about as hard as anyone in the big-leagues,” upon acquiring him from Kansas City this winter.

So far this season, the 6-foot-3, 232 pound pound outfielder has yet to barrel a ball and is averaging an exit velocity of just 87.8 mph on the balls he has put in play, per FanGraphs.

It should be said that the Red Sox invested in both Cordero and Renfroe with the idea that they could prove to quintessential low-risk, high reward players.

Besides Renfroe’s fine defense, there really has not been much of a reward from either outfielder thus far. Again, it’s still relatively early on in the season, but that point begs the question: How long will the Red Sox wait before making a significant change in the outfield?

And by make a significant change, I mean call up Jarren Duran.

Duran, 24, is regarded by Baseball America as the top outfield prospect in Boston’s farm system and is currently waiting in the wings at the club’s alternate training site in Worcester.

With the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the former seventh-round draft pick has not played in a competitive (non-spring training game) since 2019 and has yet to play above Double-A.

The Red Sox initially drafted Duran as a second baseman out of Long Beach State, but converted him to an outfielder on account of his speed and power potential.

This spring, the left-handed hitter clubbed three home runs, collected seven RBI, and slashed .340/.367/.702 across 47 Grapefruit League appearances.

While he has provided that much offensive firepower at spring training, the Puerto Rican winter league, and the alternate training site this year and last, the Sox still feel as though Duran can improve upon his defense in center field, which is understandable given the fact he is still relatively new to the position.

Bloom has said before that the Red Sox do not want to skip any steps in a prospect’s development, which would certainly seem to indicate that Duran is bound to see playing time for the Triple-A Worcester Red Sox before garnering any big-league consideration.

On top of that, Duran — who turns 25 in September — has yet to be added to Boston’s 40-man roster, which as you might expect is full at the moment.

The California native needs to be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster before November 20 in order to avoid eligibility for the Rule 5 Draft, but that is yet another obstacle in the way.

Still, Duran is undoubtedly one of the more exciting prospects the Red Sox have to offer. He seems to be more big-league ready than the likes of outfielders Jeisson Rosario or Marcus Wilson (both of whom are on the 40-man roster), too.

So, if Cordero and Renfroe continue to sputter along, it would not be surprising to see the Red Sox give Duran a crack in the outfield sooner rather than later.

His time is coming, and maybe it will come sooner than expected.

(Picture of Hunter Renfroe, Franchy Cordero, and Alex Verdugo: Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

Red Sox prospects Triston Casas, Jarren Duran to play for Team USA in Olympic qualifying event

Two of the top prospects in the Red Sox farm system will be suiting up for Team USA in an Olympic qualifying event next month.

According to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham, both infield prospect Triston Casas and outfield prospect Jarren Duran will be playing for top-ranked Team USA in the WBSC Baseball Americas Qualifier, which will run from May 31 through June 5 in southeast Florida.

Casas, 21, is regarded by Baseball America as the top prospect in Boston’s farm system. The 6-foot-5, 250 pound first baseman was selected by the Sox in the first round of the 2018 amateur draft and is currently partaking in minor-league spring training in Fort Myers.

Duran, 24, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 4 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking tops among outfielders in the organization. The 6-foot-2, 202 pound speedy outfielder was selected by the Sox in the seventh round of that same draft and is currently at the team’s alternate training site in Worcester.

Team USA — one of eight teams in the tournament along with Canada, Cuba, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela — will be managed by longtime Angels skipper Mike Scioscia.

Darren Fenster, a minor-league outfield and base-running coordinator for the Red Sox who has been with the organization since 2012, will serve as Scioscia’s third base coach.

Per Abraham, the winner of the tournament will earn a trip to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, while the second- and the third-place teams will move on to another qualifying tournament in June.

The Red Sox have been plenty involved in Team USA’s efforts to qualify for the 2020 Summer Games to this point in time.

Bobby Dalbec, Tanner Houck, and Noah Song — as well as former prospect C.J. Chatham — all represented their country in the WBSC Premier12 tournament in November 2019.

Team USA wound up finishing fourth in that qualifying event, leading to their participation in the upcoming WBSC Baseball Americas Qualifier.

(Picture of Jarren Duran: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox option right-hander Tanner Houck to alternate training site

Following their 9-1 victory over the Twins on Wednesday, the Red Sox made their fifth round of spring roster cuts and, perhaps most significantly, optioned right-hander Tanner Houck to their alternate training site in Worcester.

The lone member of Boston’s 40-man roster involved in these moves, Houck was seen as a potential candidate to crack the team’s Opening Day starting rotation, but that no longer appears to be the case.

The 24-year-old righty impressed upon getting called up by the Sox last September, posting a 0.53 ERA and 3.25 FIP over his first three starts and 17 innings pitched in the majors.

Spring training thus far has been a different story for Houck, though, as the former first-round draft pick has struggled with his command to the tune of a 4:10 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

He has also yielded six earned runs in just 6 1/3 innings of work through his first three appearances of the spring.

Given those struggles, as well as the fact that the club has adequate, upper-level rotation depth in the form of Matt Andriese and Garrett Whitlock, the Sox will let Houck continue to develop at the alternate site to start the new season.

This does not mean that Houck — currently regarded by Baseball America as the Red Sox’ No. 7 prospect — won’t pitch in Boston this year; it just means that his 2021 debut may come later than some may have expected.

In addition to Houck being optioned, the Sox also reassigned seven players — right-hander Daniel Gossett, left-hander Stephen Gonsalves, catcher Kole Cottam, first basemen Triston Casas and Josh Ockimey, and outfielders Jarren Duran and Yairo Munoz — to minor-league camp.

This flurry of transactions leaves the Red Sox with 35 players on their major-league spring training roster. That number does not include Chris Sale or Franchy Cordero, who both remain on the injured list.

(Picture of Tanner Houck: Mark Brown/Getty Images)