In his first traditional spring training with the Red Sox, Yairo Munoz is off to a hot start.
Following a 1-for-3 performance against the Rays on Tuesday that was highlighted a hard-hit two-run home run to the opposite field, the 26-year-old came off the bench as a pinch-runner in Wednesday’s contest against the Twins and collected another RBI by lining a run-scoring single in his only trip to the plate in the sixth inning of an eventual 14-6 victory for the Sox.
Through his first four Grapefruit League games of the year, Munoz is 5-for-9 (.555) at the plate with that one homer, one double, and four RBI while playing left field and third base.
The Dominican native is coming into the spring without a spot on Boston’s 40-man roster, meaning he is one of 33 non-roster invitees currently at big-league camp in Fort Myers.
The Sox outrighted Munoz off their 40-man roster in December. That decision was met with much surprise considering the fact that the utilityman impressed over the course of the final month of the 2020 campaign and the team had just signed him a one-year contract for the 2021 season.
After spending a healthy chunk of July and the entirety of August at the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket, Munoz was called up by Boston on August 31 and made his team debut on September 1.
From that point forward, the right-handed hitter — listed at 5-foot-11 and 200 lbs. — slashed an impressive .333/.333/.511 to go along with one home run, five doubles, four RBI, and two stolen bases over 12 games played before a lower back strain prematurely ended his year on September 19.
Given the fact he performed well and proved more than capable of playing multiple defensive positions (was worth positive-4 defensive runs saved in left field), it, again, was somewhat shocking to see Munoz stripped of his 40-man roster spot three months ago.
Having said that, it might be even more shocking that the ex-St. Louis Cardinal managed to clear waivers without getting claimed by another organization beforehand.
At just 26 years old, Munoz is still relatively young, under team control through 2024, and has one minor-league option remaining. All while just a few years removed from being one of the top prospects in the Athletics’ farm system, which is the organization he originally signed with back in 2012.
In Chaim Bloom’s tenure as chief baseball officer thus far, the Red Sox have clearly placed an emphasis on bringing in — whether by trade, waiver claim, or free agency — versatile players who can be put to the test on the field. Christian Arroyo, Enrique Hernandez, and Marwin Gonzalez are among those on the team’s projected Opening Day roster who fit that mold.
While Munoz may have taken a step back this offseason and still has some work to do in order to crack Boston’s Opening Day roster, he seems to fit that mold, too.
At the end of the day, it’s as MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith wrote earlier Wednesday: “The Red Sox are lucky Yairo Munoz remains in the organization.”
Smith also wrote that Munoz “is one of the top outfield depth options heading into 2021. He will play for Boston at some point this season.”
(Picture of Yairo Munoz: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)