Red Sox prospects in the Futures Game: How did Brayan Bello, Jeter Downs fare in showcase?

While the Red Sox were in the process of falling to the Phillies by a final score of 5-4 at Fenway Park on Sunday afternoon, two of the brightest prospects in Boston’s farm system were showcasing their talent nearly 2,000 miles away at Coors Field in Denver.

Infielder Jeter Downs and right-hander Brayan Bello both represented the Red Sox while playing for the American League in Sunday’s All-Star Futures Game, and both prospects were able to get into the game.

Bello, who is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 9 pitching prospect in the Red Sox farm system, came on in relief of Rangers prospect Cole Ragans with one out in the bottom of third inning.

Inheriting a situation in which the American League was already trailing 3-0 and the National League had a runner on first base, Bello’s first pitch — a 97.7 mph fastball — was sent flying off the bat of Cardinals prospect Nolan Gorman, who reached second base on a hard-hit double before advancing to third on a wild pitch.

With that potential run just 90 feet away from scoring, Bello proceeded to give up a sacrifice fly to Padres catcher Luis Campusano that plated Gorman, but then rebounded by getting the Braves’ Michael Harris to line out to second to put an end to an inning as well as his outing.

Of the 11 pitches the 22-year-old hurler threw on Sunday, seven went for strikes, though he only induced one swing-and-miss, which came on an 0-0 changeup to Campusano.

Besides that, Bello averaged 97.9 mph with the four four-seam fastballs he threw while topping out at 98.1 mph with his well-regarded heater. He also threw five sliders and three changeups in total.

Bello, who originally signed with the Sox out of the Dominican Republic for $28,000 back in 2017, is enjoying a breakout season in 2021.

Opening the year with High-A Greenville, the 6-foot-1, 170 pound righty went 5-0 while posting a 2.27 ERA and 2.62 xFIP with 45 strikeouts to just seven walks over six starts spanning 31 2/3 innings of work before earning a promotion to Double-A Portland on June 8.

Since then, Bello has produced an ERA of 3.06 and xFIP of 3.81 to go along with 22 strikeouts and eight walks in five starts (17 2/3 innings pitched) with the Sea Dogs.

Downs, meanwhile, came off the bench in the fifth inning of Sunday’s seven-inning exhibition, as he took over at second base for Rays prospect Xavier Edwards.

Facing off against Nationals 2020 first-round pick Cade Cavalli in his first trip to the plate, Downs was bombarded by a barrage of high-octane fastballs that ranged between 98.4 mph and 100.4 mph.

The talented right-handed hitter was able foul off five of the first seven pitches he saw from Cavalli, but ultimately went down swinging on a 2-2, 91 mph changeup in the dirt that caught him off-balance.

In the seventh inning, however, Downs bounced back against Brewers left-hander Ethan Small.

With one out and runners on first and second, Downs took an 0-1, 92 mph fastball up and on the inner half of the plate and ripped a two-run double to deep left field that left his bat at a scorching 107.7 mph, making it the fourth hardest-hit ball of the day between both sides.

Downs was responsible for two of the three runs the American League scored, as the National League went on to take the showcase by a final score of 8-3.

The soon-to-be 23-year-old — one of three players acquired from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts/David Price trade — is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 2 prospect in Boston’s farm system and trails only fellow infielder Triston Casas for the top spot.

2021 has marked Downs’ first exposure to the Triple-A level, and the first half of the minor-league season has proven to be an adjustment period for the native of Colombia.

Through 44 games (188 plate appearances) with Triple-A Worcester this year, Downs is boasting a .234/.309/.377 slash line (83 wRC+) to go along with three doubles, seven home runs, 17 RBI, 22 runs scored, 17 walks, and 55 strikeouts.

That said, Downs will look to get back on track after a decent showing in Denver, as the WooSox open up a seven-game series against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at Polar Park on Tuesday night.

(Picture of Brayan Bello: Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Red Sox pitching prospect Brayan Bello added to American League’s All-Star Futures Game roster

Red Sox pitching prospect Brayan Bello has been added to the American League’s All-Star Futures Game roster as an injury replacement, according to Baseball Americs’s J.J. Cooper.

Per Cooper, Bello will be replacing top Mariners pitching prospect Emerson Hancock, who suffered an apparent non-structural arm injury within the last few days.

Bello, 22, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 20 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking ninth among pitchers in the organization.

The young right-hander initially opened the 2021 minor-league season with High-A Greenville, where he went 5-0 across six starts and posted a 2.27 ERA and 2.62 xFIP to go along with 45 strikeouts to just seven walks over 31 2/3 innings of work.

Those consistently strong performances throughout May and into early June resulted in Bello getting promoted to Double-A Portland on June 8.

In the four weeks since that move, the lanky 6-foot-1, 170 pound hurler has pitched to the tune of a 3.45 ERA and 3.89 xFIP in four starts spanning 15 2/3 total innings for the Sea Dogs. He struck out a season-high of 10 batters in his second outing with Portland back on June 18.

“I saw through social media that he was dominant and then I saw the report today,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Bello’s performance the following day while the team was in Kansas City (via MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith). “I haven’t seen video (of him). Just got the report and he’s been very good so far this season. Yesterday was eye-opening. The report said he was very aggressive, very efficient and with good stuff. So I should probably start watching video and see what we have in him.”

Originally signed out of the Dominican Republic for $28,000 during the 2017 international signing period, Bello’s pitch mix consists of a high-octane fastball that has reached triple digits this season, a plus changeup, and an improving slider, per Smith.

In being selected to play this weekend’s All-Star Futures Game, which takes place at Coors Field on July 11, Bello joins fellow prospect Jeter Downs as the two players who will be representing the Red Sox in the seven-inning exhibition.

The showcase certainly represents an enticing opportunity for Bello, as he will have the chance to show the baseball world what he is capable of ahead of what has the makings to be an extremely important offseason for the righty.

That is the case because Bello, who does not turn 23 until next May, can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this December if he is not added to the Sox’ 40-man roster by the November 20 deadline.

As has been written on here before, that is definitely something worth keeping in mind as the minor-league season continues.

(Picture of Brayan Bello: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox infield prospect Jeter Downs to represent Boston in All-Star Futures Game on July 11

Red Sox infield prospect Jeter Downs will represent the Red Sox in the 2021 All-Star Futures Game on July 11, Major League Baseball announced on Wednesday.

Downs will serve as Boston’s lone representative for the American League squad in one of the hallmark events that will lead up to the 91st MLB All-Star Game at Coors Field in Denver on July 13.

“I think it’s great, honestly,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Wednesday when asked about Downs’ selection. “It’s a showcase. He’s going to be around the best of the best prospects in the league. This is a guy that we believe is going to be a good big-league player. Just to be in that environment he has to be special. So, looking forward for Jeter to go over there, do his thing, and enjoy the whole experience.”

This year’s American League team will be managed by former big-league reliever LaTroy Hawkins. The game itself is a seven-inning exhibition that features some of the top prospects in baseball that will begin at 3 p.m. eastern time on Sunday, July 11.

Downs, who turns 23 in late July, is regarded by both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline as the No. 2 prospect in Boston’s farm system, trailing only fellow infielder Triston Casas for the top spot in the organization.

One of three players acquired from the Dodgers in the infamous Mookie Betts/David Price trade last February, Downs has certainly experienced the trials and tribulations of playing at the Triple-A level for the first time in his career this season.

Coming into play on Wednesday, the right-handed hitting middle infielder is slashing .243/.323/.410 with three doubles, seven home runs, 16 RBI, 20 runs scored, 16 walks, 51 strikeouts, and 10 stolen bases over his first 38 games (164 plate appearances) for Triple-A Worcester.

In just his last seven games, though, Downs has seemed to turn a corner offensively, as he is hitting .320/.379/.440 (.819 OPS, 118 wRC+) since June 20.

That said, Downs was forced to exit the WooSox’ latest game on Tuesday after an awkward collision at home plate with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders catcher Rob Brantly. He was later checked for a head injury, per MassLive.com’s Katie Morrison.

With that in mind, it should be noted that Downs will be held out of Worcester’s lineup on Wednesday, though Morrison notes that ‘he looks to be fine’ and was out taking ground balls at shortstop earlier in the afternoon.

(Picture of Jeter Downs: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/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)

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)

Jeter Downs, top Red Sox prospect, is a ‘workaholic,’ Alex Cora says; ‘His bat is going to play’

Jeter Downs collected his second home run of the spring in the Red Sox’ 7-3 loss to the Rays in Port Charlotte on Friday afternoon.

Starting at shortstop and batting out of the seven-hole, the 22-year-old infielder went 1-for-3 at the plate with a walk, a strikeout, and that aforementioned home run.

Downs’ homer came in the top half of the second, when with one out and a runner on first he took a 2-2 changeup at the bottom of the zone from Rays starter David Hess and clobbered it well over the left-center field wall.

Though the wind was blowing hard in that particular direction at Charlotte Sports Park, Downs’ display of power was impressive nonetheless.

“He does a good job of controlling the strike zone,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Downs’ plate discipline. “He knows what he wants to do at the plate. Even in the last at-bat when he chased a pitch up, he knew right away he was out of the zone. “That’s something that we’ve been impressed [by].

Following Friday’s showing, Downs is now slashing .357/.500/.786 with a pair of homers and five RBI through his first 15 games and 18 plate appearances of Grapefruit League play while primarily playing shortstop.

A bruise to his left side suffered during a game against the Twins on March 14 resulted in Downs being held out of in-game action for a little more than week, but the Colombian-born prospect returned to action this past Monday and has gotten back into the swing of things.

Throughout the spring, Cora has not shied away from commending some of the organization’s top prospects — like Downs, catcher Connor Wong, and infielder Nick Yorke — for their ability to seemingly slow down what’s going on around them. He did more of the same while praising Downs on Friday.

“The bat will play,” said the Sox skipper. “He’s a good defender. I know he had that tough game the second game of spring training, but he’s a workaholic. One thing is for sure: He has a very slow pulse, and that helps him out. People might see him and they’ll be like, ‘Oh, low-energy guy. He’s not into it.’ That’s not the case.

“Offensively, he understands what he wants to do,” Cora added. “He understands the strike zone, and that’s why his bat is going to play.”

Downs, who like Cora has connections to the city of Miami, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 2 prospect in the Sox’ farm system behind only Triston Casas.

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 193 pounds, the right-handed hitter was reassigned to the minor-leagues on March 12. He is projected to begin the year at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Worcester.

Downs, of course, was one of three players the Sox acquired from the Dodgers in the blockbuster trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles last February — with Wong and outfielder Alex Verdugo being the other two.

Verdugo, the only one of the three with any major-league experience to this point, seemed impressed with what he has seen from both Downs and Wong at camp thus far when speaking with reporters earlier this week.

“They’re great players. Obviously, Downs, a middle infielder, and I love his swing,” Verdugo said this past Tuesday. “I think his swing is really good. I think it’s going to play in the big leagues. The same goes with Wong. Wong is a really good catcher and has a really good arm back there. He can fire it and he can swing it, too.

“With those guys, it’s obviously tough because last year we didn’t have a minor leagues,” he added. “They weren’t able to go to Pawtucket and put up big numbers or whatever it may be. It kind of hurts them a little bit but these are guys who are professionals. They’re working in the cage, talking to guys and trying to learn more and more so in the next two years — maybe this year, we never know — we’ll start seeing them come up.”

(Picture of Jeter Downs: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Jeter Downs, top Red Sox prospect, ‘OK’ after leaving Sunday’s game with left side soreness, could be ready to get back into games by Wednesday

After being removed from Sunday’s game against the Twins due to left side soreness, Red Sox infield prospect Jeter Downs was evaluated by the team on Monday.

“He’s OK,” Sox manager Alex Cora said of Downs’ status following Monday afternoon’s 3-2 loss at the hands of the Rays. “We don’t feel it’s oblique-related. It was a bruise. So hopefully treatment tomorrow and be ready to play in two days.”

Downs, 22, landed hard on his left side after diving for a groundball in the bottom half of the seventh inning of Sunday’s contest against Minnesota at Hammond Stadium.

He was lifted at shortstop for Chad De La Guerra, and it now appears as though he won’t return to Grapefruit League action until Wednesday at the earliest.

The right-handed hitter — listed at 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds — is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 2 prospect in the Sox’ farm system behind only Triston Casas.

Through his first 11 games of the spring, Downs is 4-for-9 at the plate with one home run, three RBI, and two walks. He was reassigned to minor-league camp on Friday.

Cora recently praised Downs for his ability to slow down what’s going on around him while on the field and at the plate.

“Just like I’ve been saying about Nick (Yorke) and (Connor) Wong, there’s something about them that the game doesn’t speed up on them,” the Sox skipper said. “He’s very calm. Sometimes, it looks like he’s too calm on the field. But that’s not bad.

“You can see the approach at the plate,” added Cora. “He makes great swing decisions. Defensively, he struggled (one) day but besides that, he has been solid and he has been good. He learned a lot last year working with (minor-league coach Bruce Crabbe) as far as defense, his set-up and his pre-pitch. He took all that into camp. I’m very happy with him. We just need him to keep working, keep getting stronger. I think that’s going to help him out. He’s a good, solid player.”

Downs, who turns 23 in July, is projected to start the 2021 minor-league season at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Worcester.

(Picture of Jeter Downs: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox top prospect Jeter Downs suffers injury to left side in Sunday’s game against Twins, will be evaluated on Monday

After coming on as a defensive replacement at shortstop for Marwin Gonzalez in the sixth inning of Sunday’s 5-5 draw against the Twins, Red Sox infield prospect Jeter Downs would have to leave the game an inning later.

Fielding a ground ball off the bat of Jose Miranda to lead off the bottom half of the seventh, the 22-year-old dove to his left, landed hard on his side, and as NESN’s Jerry Remy put it, “never got a handle on the baseball” as Miranda reached first base safely without a throw.

Upon getting back on his feet, it appeared that Downs was a bit shaken up as he crouched down in front of second base, leading to Red Sox manager Alex Cora and associate head athletic trainer Brandon Henry coming out to check up on the young infielder.

Following a brief conversation between the three, Downs exited the game and was replaced by Chad De La Guerra at shortstop while fellow top prospect Triston Casas took over at third base.

During his postgame media availability, Cora couldn’t get into the specifics about what was hampering Downs, only assuring that more information will be revealed on Monday.

“They checked him and it seems like he’s OK,” Cora said via Zoom. “They’re going to obviously wait for him tomorrow, see how he feels at night, and we’ll have more tomorrow.

“It was his left side,” he added. “We can’t say it’s an oblique injury or just a bruise. We’ll wait until tomorrow.”

Downs, who was one of three players the Red Sox acquired from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts/David Price trade last February, is currently regarded by Baseball America as Boston’s No. 2 prospect behind only Casas.

The right-handed hitting middle infielder out of Colombia was reassigned to minor-league camp on Friday and is projected to begin the 2021 season at the Sox’ alternate training site in Worcester.

(Picture of Alex Cora, Jeter Downs, and Brandon Henry: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Top prospects Jeter Downs, Gilberto Jimenez included in second round of Red Sox spring roster cuts

Following their 8-2 victory over the Rays at JetBlue Park on Friday afternoon, the Red Sox announced their second round of spring roster cuts, as the club optioned four players to their alternate training site and reassigned eight players to the minor-leagues.

Right-handed pitching prospect Connor Seabold, infield prospect Hudson Potts, and outfield prospects Jeisson Rosario and Marcus Wilson were optioned down to Boston’s alternate training site.

Left-handers Kyle Hart and Matt Hall, right-handers Caleb Simpson and Ryan Weber, catcher Jett Bandy, infielder Chad De La Guerra, infield prospect Jeter Downs, and outfield prospect Gilberto Jimenez, meanwhile, were all reassigned to the minors.

All four prospects who were optioned to the alternate site are currently on the Sox’ 40-man roster, while all eight players who were reassigned to the minors were taking part in major-league spring training as non-roster invitees.

Among those who were sent down to the alternate site, Baseball America ranks Potts as the No. 24 prospect, Rosario as the No. 20 prospect, and Seabold as the No. 11 prospect in Boston’s farm system heading into the 2021 season.

Among those who were reassigned to minor-league camp, Downs and Jimenez are regarded by Baseball America as the No. 2 and No. 7 prospects in the Red Sox farm system, respectively.

Following Friday’s flurry of moves, the Sox now have just 10 non-roster invitees at big-league camp, bringing the total size of their spring training roster down to approximately 53 players.

(Picture of Jeter Downs: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)