Red Sox catching prospect Jhonny Pereda takes home Venezuelan winter ball Rookie of the Year honors

Red Sox catching prospect Jhonny Pereda took home Rookie of the Year honors in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League Saturday night.

The 24-year-old, playing for Leones del Caracas, slashed an impressive .338/.421/.421 to go along with one home run and 16 RBI over 39 games and 153 plate appearances this season, which ended on January 10.

He also threw out six of a possible 13 runners on the base paths, which translates to a 46% success rate.

Pereda received 37 of 50 possible first-place votes in the league’s MVP race while also finishing with 205 voting points, 105 more than the runner-up.

“This makes me very happy because last year was a strong year because of the virus. There were no minor-leagues and that affected many players, both me and many, because there was no season,” Pereda said (in Spanish) of winning the award. “But I kept working to come to Venezuela. Thank God and Leones, who gave me the opportunity to play here.”

The Red Sox originally acquired Pereda from the Cubs back in March as the player to be named later in a January trade that involved right-hander Travis Lakins.

The club briefly released the Venezuelan from his contract on July 15 only to re-sign him to a two-year minor-league deal on July 17 and promptly add him to their 60-man player pool. He would go on to spend the rest of the summer at the alternate training site in Pawtucket.

After baseball activities ended at the alternate training site in late September, Pereda did not attend the Red Sox’ fall instructional league in Fort Myers, but he did receive an invite to major-league spring training in December.

In addition to his catching abilities that netted him a minor-league Gold Glove Award in 2019, the right-handed hitting backstop can play a little first base as well, as evidenced by what he did this winter.

Going into spring training next month, Pereda should figure to be an intriguing component of the Red Sox’ catching depth equation given the fact Deivy Grullon was lost on a waiver claim by the Cincinnati Reds in December.

As of this writing, the 6-foot-1, 202 lb. catcher is Boston’s top backstop not included on their 40-man roster, according to SoxProspects.com’s depth charts.

Pereda, along with fellow catching prospect Connor Wong, is expected to begin the 2021 minor-league season with Triple-A Pawtucket.

“I know that this season here in Venezuela will help me. It gave me many experiences that I will put into practice in the training field,” said Pereda (in Spanish) of his time in his home country. “I played with a very experienced team. I had teammates who have played in the major-leagues, who have been in pro ball for many years and I always tried to listen to what they talked about baseball, and those little details that can help me.”

(Picture of Jhonny Pereda: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox re-sign Josh Ockimey, 8 others to minor-league contracts

The Red Sox made their first (minor) splash of the offseason on Tuesday, as the club re-signed nine minor-league free agent to minor-league contracts for the 2021 season, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo and SoxProspects’ Chris Hatfield.

Those nine minor-leaguers, as indicated in the above tweet from Hatfield, are right-handers Seth Blair, Raynel Espinal, and Caleb Simpson, left-hander Stephen Gonsalves, catchers Jhonny Pereda and Roldani Baldwin, first baseman Josh Ockimey, first baseman/outfielder Joey Meneses, and outfielder Johan Mieses.

Five of these nine players were at one point or another part of the Sox’ 60-man player pool this past season, and therefore spent some time at the alternate training site in Pawtucket.

Ockimey and Baldwin, meanwhile, are the only two listed here who have been with the Red Sox since before the 2019 Rule 5 Draft last December.

Speaking of Ockimey, the recently-turned 25-year-old slugger may just be the most notable name here, at least among Red Sox fans, despite having yet to make his major-league debut.

The former fifth-round draft selection out of Philadelphia has been with Boston since 2014. Most recently, he clubbed 25 home runs and collected 57 RBI over 122 games (468 plate appearances) for Triple-A Pawtucket in 2019.

Power has never been the problem for Ockimey, as he has crushed 14 or more homers in each of the last four seasons, excluding 2020, of course. Despite being such a threat at the plate, the left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing first baseman has yet to get a shot at the next level.

The Red Sox, led by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, clearly like Ockimey enough to keep him around as depth at a fairly important position, but do they value him enough to eventually purchase his contract and see what he can do in the majors?

All signs point to no on that front thus far, but it should be somewhat interesting to watch Ockimey next spring considering the light tower power he is capable of providing at any given moment.

Red Sox Top Pitching Prospect Jay Groome Faces Live Hitters at McCoy Stadium

For the first time since being added to the Red Sox’ 60-man player pool last month, Jay Groome, the club’s top left-handed pitching prospect, faced live hitters at McCoy Stadium earlier Tuesday morning.

Getting some work in during a live batting practice session, Groome threw 25-30 pitches and faced the likes of other top prospects in the organization such as Jarren Duran, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong, as well as Jhonny Pereda, and reached 94 mph with his fastball while also mixing in his curveball and changeup.

There were no umpires and very few fielders around him, but as WEEI’s Rob Bradford puts it, “Tuesday represented a big step forward” for Groome.

Turning 22 years old later this month, the New Jersey native was originally taken by Boston with the 12th overall pick in the 2016 amateur draft out of Barnegat High School and later signed for $3.65 million.

Since that time, though, Groome has only made 20 professional starts across three minor-league levels as he has been hampered with different arm ailments, most recently undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2018.

Upon recovering from TJS, the 6-foot-6 southpaw was able to make three starts with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox and short-season Lowell Spinners last year, and now, he’s inching closer to appearing in a simulated game in Pawtucket.

Of course, under normal circumstances, Groome would likely be pushing for a promotion to Double-A Portland right about now, but because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the hurler’s development path has certainly been disrupted.

PawSox pitching coach Paul Abbott said as much about Groome when speaking to reporters via Zoom on Tuesday.

“Obviously he needs to log innings,” stated Abbott. “He’s missed some valuable development periods for him to get on the mound and learn how to pitch as you go every step of the way.  Here’s a way how everything is looking, how everything is working so we have a good, solid idea going into spring training next year.”

With that in mind, the plan over the next six weeks is to see how Groome handles facing different levels of hitters so that the Red Sox have a good idea on where he will be at going into spring training next year.

Top Prospects Jeter Downs, Jarren Duran Among Nine New Additions to Red Sox’ Summer Camp Player Pool

As expected, the Red Sox have added nine players to their Summer Camp player pool, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom announced Friday. Those nine players — R.J. Alvarez, Jeter Downs, Jarren Duran, Jay Groome, Tanner Houck, Bryan Mata, Josh Ockimey, Jhonny Perada, and Bobby Poyner — will report to the Sox’ alternate training site at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket.

On top of those additions, the Red Sox have also reassigned four players — Mike Kickham, Mike Shawaryn, Domingo Tapia, and Connor Wong — to that same alternating training site.

With all that being said, the Sox now have 56 players in their Summer Camp roster pool and will likely have 57 relatively soon seeing how the club is reportedly in agreement with right-hander Zack Godley on a minor-league contract.

More on that later. For now, let’s talk about the nine guys who were added to the Summer Camp player pool.

Jeter Downs, Bryan Mata, Jay Groome, Jarren Duran, and Tanner Houck represent five of those nine players, and all five are regarded by MLB Pipeline as top-10 prospects in the Red Sox’ farm system.

Downs, Boston’s top-ranked prospect, was one of three players acquired from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts and David Price trade back in February. The soon-to-be 22-year-old out of Colombia is capable of playing both middle infield positions and has quite a bit of pop despite a 5-foot-11, 195 lb. frame, as he finished with the fourth-most homers (24) among all Dodgers minor-leaguers in 2019.

Mata, Boston’s top-ranked pitching prospect, originally joined the organization as an international free agent out of Venezuela in January 2016. He signed for just $25,000 back then, but the 21-year-old right-hander has worked his way to becoming somewhat of an oddity in the Sox’ farm sytem in that he could become a middle-of-the-rotation starter at the major-league level.

Unlike Downs and Mata, Jay Groome has yet to reach the Double-A plateau, and that’s mainly due to injuries. Boston’s top pick in the 2016 amateur draft, Groome underwent Tommy John surgery two Mays ago and has amassed just 20 starts and 66 innings pitched as a professional despite being with the organization for four years. Although the likelihood of Groome, who turns 22 next month, making it to the majors this year, is slim to none, it was obviously still important for the Sox to get the touted prospect time to develop under their watchful eye by whatever means possible. Groome is Boston’s No. 3 pitching prospect, by the way.

One thing Jarren Duran shares in common with Bryan Mata is that the two have been the Red Sox’ lone representative in MLB’s All-Star Futures Game the last two years, with the former making the cut in 2019 and the latter making the cut in 2018. Another thing the pair of prospects have in common is that they both somewhat came out of nowhere. As previously mentioned, Mata signed with Boston for a mere $25,000 four years ago. Duran, meanwhile, burst onto the scene as a seventh-round selection out of Long Beach state in ’18, finished his first full professional season with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs, and was one of six Red Sox prospects invited to play in the Arizona Fall League. Despite not being on his parent club’s 40-man roster, Duran, the Red Sox’eight-ranked prospect, did get added to the Summer Camp player pool over fellow outfielder Marcus Wilson, who is on the 40-man. So, it would appear that the Red Sox have high hopes for the speedster moving forward, especially when considering how well he looked earlier this year in spring training.

Finally, we arrive at another 2019 Arizona Fall Leaguer in the form of Tanner Houck, the Sox’ 10th-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline. Recently turning 24 years old last month, the 2017 first-round pick out of Mizzou has experience as both a starter and reliever. He undertook both roles in the minors last year, but likely projects as a rotation man moving forward.

As for the other four players added on Friday, Josh Ockimey and Jhonny Perada are without a doubt the most interesting of the bunch.

At one point in time, Ockimey was left off the Sox’ 40-man roster ahead of the 2018 Rule 5 draft and very well could have been snatched up by another club that December. He wasn’t though, and the 24-year-old first baseman in turn slugged 25 home runs over 122 games for the PawSox last year.

Perada, as you may remember, was acquired by Boston from the Cubs as the player to be named later in the Travis Lakins trade back in January. Like Connor Wong, he certainly adds to the level of catching depth the Sox have at the minor-league level.

After all was said and done, the Red Sox now have 56 players on their 60-man Summer Camp roster pool. 30 of those players will make the team’s Opening Day roster, while the other 26-30 will report to the alternate training site in Pawtucket as some already have.

Red Sox Acquire Catcher Jhonny Pereda From Cubs to Complete Travis Lakins Trade

The Red Sox have acquired minor-league catcher Jhonny Pereda from the Cubs to complete the trade that sent right-hander Travis Lakins to Chicago back in January. The club made the transaction official earlier Monday.

Pereda, who turns 24 in April, was originally signed by the Cubs as an international free agent out of Venezuela in April 2013.

In 98 games with Double-A Tennessee last year, the backstop slashed .241/.336/.305 with two home runs and 39 RBI. He was also the recipient of the 2019 Minor League Rawlings Gold Glove Award for catcher, as he threw out 44 of the 132 (33.3%) of the runners who attempted to steal against him last year.

A right-handed hitter, Pereda also played eight games at first base in 2019 as well as two games at third base in 2017.

As for Lakins, the 25-year-old was dealt to the Cubs in January in exchange for cash considerations or a player to be named later. Pereda turned out to be that PTBNL, but Lakins has since been waived by Chicago and claimed off waivers by the Baltimore Orioles.