Recapping how contingent of 8 Red Sox prospects performed in Arizona Fall League

The 2021 Arizona Fall League season came to a close on Saturday night, with the Mesa Solar Sox besting the Surprise Saguaros by a final score of 6-0 in the championship game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

With the Arizona Fall League making a triumphant return and closing out another exciting season in the desert, now is the time to reflect on how the contingent of prospects the Red Sox sent out west did in what is regarded by many as Major League Baseball’s “finishing school.”

Back in October, it was revealed that the Sox would be sending eight prospects to Arizona to play for the Scottsdale Scorpions alongside Guardians, Twins, Giants, and Rays minor-leaguers.

That initial list included catching prospect Connor Wong, but the backstop was ultimately replaced on Scottsdale’s roster by Christian Koss since he was a member of Boston’s taxi squad for the majority of their postseason run.

That said, the eight prospects who wound up representing the Red Sox were right-handers A.J. Politi, Connor Seabold, Josh Winckowski, left-hander Brendan Cellucci, catcher Kole Cottam, first baseman Triston Casas, and infielders Jeter Downs and Koss.

So, without further ado, here is how each of those players fared during their time with the Scorpions, who finished the 2021 AFL campaign with a record of 12-18.

A.J. Politi, RHP

Politi began the minor-league season in Double-A Portland’s starting rotation, but ultimately transitioned back to the bullpen towards the end of the summer and remained there upon reporting to Scottsdale.

In 11 relief appearances this fall, the 25-year-old posted a 5.84 ERA and 1.86 WHIP to go along with 10 strikeouts to eight walks over 12 1/3 innings of work.

Originally selected by the Red Sox in the 15th round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Seton Hall University, Politi is eligible for this winter’s Rule 5 Draft since he was left unprotected and not added to Boston’s 40-man roster on Friday.

Connor Seabold, RHP

Seabold had quite the eventful first full season in the Red Sox organization after coming over from the Phillies alongside fellow righty Nick Pivetta in the same trade that sent relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree to Philadelphia last August.

The 25-year-old hurler was already a member of Boston’s 40-man roster coming into 2021, but missed the first several weeks of the minor-league season due to right elbow inflammation and did not make his first start for Triple-A Worcester until July 23.

On September 11, Seabold made his major-league debut against the White Sox and allowed two earned runs in three innings before being optioned back to Worcester the following day and closing out the year with the WooSox.

With the Scorpions, Seabold led the team in innings pitched (20 1/3) while putting up a 4.87 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in addition to 32 strikeouts and 12 walks over six starts.

Josh Winckowski, RHP

One of five players the Red Sox acquired in the three-team trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Royals in February, Winckowski emerged as one of the organization’s more intriguing pitching prospects in 2021 and was just protected from the Rule 5 Draft as a result of doing so.

Now a member of the Sox’ 40-man roster, Winckowski split the minor-league season between Portland and Worcester while mainly being used as a starter, but was strictly utilized as a reliever in the fall league.

Over six appearances out of Scottsdale’s bullpen, the 23-year-old produced a 6.55 ERA and 1.73 ERA while recording three strikeouts and four walks in his 11 innings of relief. He was also involved in a benches-clearing brawl with Pirates prospect Canaan Smith-Njigba earlier this month that resulted in both players getting ejected.

Brendan Cellucci, LHP

The lone southpaw representing the Red Sox in the AFL, Cellucci spent the entirety of the 2021 season at High-A Greenville and was one of six lefties on Scottsdale’s roster this fall.

In 10 outings out of the Scorpions bullpen, Cellucci yielded an ERA of 6.94 and WHIP of 1.89 while striking out 11 batters and walking seven over 11 2/3 innings pitched.

A native of Philadelphia who the Red Sox took out of Tulane University in the the 12th round of the 2019 draft, Cellucci does not turn 24 until next June and can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career next winter.

Kole Cottam, C

Cottam began the year in Greenville and later earned himself a midseason promotion to Portland on July 29 while being regarded by Baseball America as the top defensive catcher in the Red Sox farm system.

A 2021 Arizona Fall League Fall Star, the 24-year-old backstop out of the University of Kentucky batted a solid .275/.356/.510 with three doubles, three home runs, 10 RBIs, seven runs scored, five walks, and 13 strikeouts over 15 games (59 plate appearances) for Scottsdale.

Like Politi, Cottam could have been added to Boston’s 40-man roster last week in order to receive protection from next month’s Rule 5 Draft. But the club elected not to do so, thus leaving him exposed if other teams are interested.

Triston Casas, 1B

The top prospect the Red Sox sent to Arizona, Casas put the finishing touches on an impressive year by putting his talent and skills on full display with the Scorpions.

Among qualified hitters in the AFL this year, Casas ranked fifth in batting average (.372), first in on-base percentage (.495), 26th in slugging percentage (.487), and 12th in OPS (.982) in the process of joining Cottam in the Fall Stars Game.

A former first-round pick out of American Heritage High School (Plantation, Fla.) in 2018, the left-handed hitting Casas — who turns 22 in January — figures to make his big-league debut for Boston at some point during the 2022 season.

Jeter Downs, 2B/SS

There was always going to be pressure on Downs since he was the top prospect acquired from the Dodgers in the infamous Mookie Betts/David Price trade last February, but the 23-year-old infielder got his first taste of the Triple-A level this year and it did not go all that swimmingly.

Still, the Red Sox sent Downs to play in the fall league despite the struggles he endured over the summer and it now appears as though that decision paid off.

Across 16 games (72 plate appearances) for the Scorpions, Downs slashed .228/.389/.491 with five homers, 14 RBIs, nine runs scored, four stolen bases, 14 walks, and 18 strikeouts while playing both middle infield positions.

Like Winckowski, Downs was added to Boston’s 40-man roster on Friday, which came as no surprise.

Christian Koss, INF

Acquired from the Rockies in exchange for pitching prospect Yoan Aybar last December, Koss enjoyed a solid 2021 season with Greenville and later received an invite to play in the Arizona Fall League in order to replace the aforementioned Wong.

In 14 games with Scottsdale, the versatile infielder batted .229/.275/.250 to go along with one double, six RBIs, four runs scored, two stolen bases, three walks, and eight strikeouts across 51 total trips to the plate.

A product of University of California, Irvine who played on the Cape in 2017 and 2018, Koss has proven he is capable of playing second base, third base, and shortstop in the minors.

The right-handed hitter turns 23 in January and can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his professional career next winter.

(Picture of Triston Casas: Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Red Sox prospects in the Fall Stars Game: How did Triston Casas, Kole Cottam fare in Arizona Fall League showcase?

The East Division Fall Stars took care of business against the West Division Fall Stars in the 2021 Fall Stars Game on Saturday night, holding them off for a 6-5 victory in front of 3,575 spectators at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Red Sox prospects Triston Casas and Kole Cottam both appeared in the one-run win for the East Division while representing the Scottsdale Scorpions, with the former getting the start at first base and the latter coming off the bench as a defensive replacement at catcher.

Batting sixth for the East, Casas went 1-for-3 with a ground-rule double and run scored while also leaving runner on base. The left-handed hitter began his night by lacing a line-drive double down the right field line off Angels right-hander Coleman Crow with two outs in the bottom of the first inning.

The ball left Casas’ bat with an exit velocity of 97 mph and very well could have scored Gabriel Moreno all the way from first base. It instead rolled under the right field wall in foul territory and went for a ground-rule double that momentarily kept Moreno at third.

Both Moreno and Casas scored moments later, though, with Rays prospect Curtis Mead driving them in on a two-run single that gave the East Division an early 4-2 lead.

From that point on, Casas came up to the plate two more times and softly grounded out in both appearances. He was replaced at first base by Rockies prospect Michael Toglia in the beginning of the sixth.

Casas, who turns 22 in January, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the top prospect in Boston’s farm system. He was selected to the Fall Stars Game after slashing an impressive .356/.472/.479 to go along with six doubles, one home run, 10 RBIs, 17 runs scored, 14 walks, and 18 strikeouts over 19 games (73 plate appearances) for Scottsdale.

Cottam, meanwhile, was a late addition to the East Division’s Fall Stars roster on Saturday. He was dispatched in the top of the eighth inning as he took over behind the plate for Giants prospect Patrick Bailey.

The right-handed hitting backstop got one at-bat in the bottom half of that frame and went 0-for-1 as he grounded into a fielder’s choice out at third base and was stranded at first base himself. He additionally caught the final two frames of Saturday’s contest, both of which were scoreless to close out the 6-5 win for the East Division.

Cottam, 24, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the top defensive catcher in the Red Sox farm system. The 6-foot-3, 235 pounder out of the University of Kentucky was added to the East Division’s roster after posting a stout .283/.370/.543 slash line with three doubles, three home runs, 10 RBIs, seven runs scored, five walks, and 11 strikeouts through 14 games (54 plate appearances) with the Scorpions.

With the conclusion of the 15th installment of the Fall Stars Game, the 2021 Arizona Fall League season is less than a full week away from wrapping up for the year.

The Scorpions (11-16) trail the first-place Mesa Solar Sox (13-11) by 3 1/2 games) and play three more regular season games beginning on Tuesday. The championship game between the top teams from each division will then take place on Saturday, November 20, and be broadcasted on MLB Network.

Picture of Kole Cottam and Triston Casas: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox catching prospect Kole Cottam selected to 2021 Fall Stars Game, joining Triston Casas

Red Sox catching prospect Kole Cottam has been added to the East Division’s roster for Saturday night’s Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game, per his agency True Gravity Baseball.

Cottam will join fellow Red Sox prospect Triston Casas in representing the Scottsdale Scorpions in the 15th installment of Fall Stars Game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

The 24-year-old backstop was one of eight prospects Boston sent to Arizona last month to participate in the fall league. Through 14 games with Scottsdale, he has slashed an impressive .283/.370/.543 to go along with three doubles, three home runs, 10 RBIs, seven runs scored, five walks, and 11 strikeouts over 54 plate appearances.

Among all Arizona Fall League hitters this year, Cottam ranks 31st in doubles, 12th in home runs, 32nd in RBIs, 64th in runs scored, 39th in batting average, 53rd in on-base percentage, 19th in slugging percentage, 29th in OPS (.914), 16th in isolated power (.261), and 14th in at-bats per home run (15.33), per MLB.com.

Regarded by Baseball America as the top defensive catcher in the Sox’ farm system, Cottam will be one of three backstops on the East Division’s roster alongside the likes of Blue Jays prospect Gabriel Moreno and Giants prospect Kole Cottam.

The 6-foot-3, 235 pound right-handed hitter was originally selected by the Red Sox in the fourth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Kentucky. After receiving an invite to major-league spring training, he opened the 2021 minor-league season with High-A Greenville and earned a promotion to Double-A Portland in late July.

With the Scorpions, Cottam has caught six games for a total of 51 innings behind the plate. He has also played one game at first base while primarily serving as Scottsdale’s designated hitter.

The Red Sox likely sent Cottam, who does not turn 25 until next May, knowing that he can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this winter. Boston would need to add the native Tennessean to their 40-man roster by November 19 — or next Friday — in order to prevent that from happening.

While Cottam is starting Saturday’s Fall Stars Game on the bench, Casas is in Scottsdale’s starting lineup, batting sixth while getting the start at first base. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. eastern time on MLB Network, MLB.com, and the MLB app.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and senior vice president of baseball operations Ben Crockett are among those expected to be in attendance.

(Picture of Kole Cottam: Arizona Fall League)

Red Sox catching prospect Kole Cottam crushes walk-off home run in Arizona Fall League

For the second time this month, Red Sox catching prospect Kole Cottam lifted the Scottsdale Scorpions to a come-from-behind win, with this one coming over the Surprise Saguaros in Arizona Fall League action on Tuesday afternoon.

Batting eighth and serving as his team’s designated hitter, Cottam went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs, one run scored, and one strikeout in what would turn out to be a 2-1 walk-off victory for the Scorpions at Scottsdale Stadium.

With approximately 477 spectators in attendance, the Scorpions lineup was initially held in check by Saguaros pitching. Through the first eight innings of Tuesday’s contest, Scottsdale failed to put up a single run.

Down to their final three outs in the bottom half of the ninth of a 1-0 game, the Scorpions were tasked with facing off against Yankees right-hander Zach Greene for the Saguaros.

Cottam, who had gone 1-for-3 at the plate up until that point, was due to hit second in the inning for Scottsdale. He did not have to wait long after Twins outfielder Matt Wallner led things off with a hard-hit single to right field.

Representing the potential winning run, Cottam did not waste any time in coming through with his second walk-off hit of the AFL season. On the very first pitch he saw from Greene, the right-handed hitter drilled a two-run home run to right-center field, allowing the Scorpions to improve to 9-15 on the year in the process of doing so.

Following Tuesday’s impressive showing, Cottam is now slashing a stout .286/.380/.548 to go along with two doubles, three home runs, 10 RBIs, seven runs scored, five walks, and nine strikeouts through 13 games (50 plate appearances) with Scottsdale.

Among all Arizona Fall League hitters this year, Cottam ranks 11th in home runs, 26th in RBIs, 21st in slugging percentage, 26th in OPS (.928), 31st in total bases (23), 13th in isolated power (.262), and 11th in at-bats per home run (14.00), per MLB.com.

Cottam, 24, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the top defensive catcher in Boston’s farm system. The Red Sox originally selected the 6-foot-3, 235 pound backstop in the fourth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Kentucky.

After receiving an invite to major-league camp this spring, Cottam opened the 2021 minor-league season at High-A Greenville. He batted .276/.386/.487 (135 wRC+) with 13 doubles, one triple, six home runs, 24 RBIs, 22 runs scored, 25 walks, and 64 strikeouts across 46 games (190 plate appearances) for the Drive while also throwing out six of the 35 (17.1%) of the base runners who tried to steal against him.

On July 29, Cottam — a native Tennessean — earned himself a promotion to Double-A Portland, where he produced a .282/.337/.526 (131 wRC+) slash line to go along with five doubles, one triple, four homers, nine runs driven in, 11 runs scored, three walks, and 33 strikeouts over 25 games (86 plate appearances) with the Sea Dogs. He also threw out two of the 15 (13.3%) of the base runners who tried to steal against him to close out the year.

In total, Cottam logged 439 innings behind the plate during the 2021 minor-league season, which likely explains why he has only caught for the Scorpions on five separate occasions so far this fall.

That being said, Cottam — who does not turn 25 until next May — can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this winter. The Red Sox would need to add him to their 40-man roster by November 19 if they intend to protect him from becoming Rule 5 eligible.

(Picture of Kole Cottam: Arizona Fall League)

Red Sox catching prospect Kole Cottam homers twice, delivers walk-off hit for Scottsdale Scorpions in Arizona Fall League action

Red Sox catching prospect Kole Cottam enjoyed a monster day at the plate while leading the Scottsdale Scorpions to a 10-9 walk-off victory over the Salt River Rafters in Arizona Fall League action Tuesday afternoon.

Batting out of the eight-hole while serving as the team’s designated hitter, Cottam went 4-for-5 with a pair of singles, a pair of home runs, four RBI, two runs scored, and one strikeout for the Scorpions in front of 291 spectators at Scottsdale Stadium.

After singling and being stranded at second base in the bottom of the third inning and striking out in the bottom of the fifth, Cottam truly got his productive afternoon started when leading off the bottom half of the seventh inning.

With newly-inserted reliever J.T. Hintezen pitching for Salt River, Cottam greeted the right-hander by crushing a solo shot to deep right-center field off him, thus marking his first home run of the Arizona Fall League campaign.

An inning later, Cottam immediately doubled his home run total when he clubbed a towering, go-ahead two-run homer off Rafters righty Taylor Floyd that gave the Scorpions their first lead of the day at 9-8.

Salt River managed to knot things up at nine runs a piece in their half of the ninth, however, meaning this one headed into extra innings with Scottsdale in search of their seventh win of the season.

Following a scoreless top of the 10th, Cottam came to the plate in the bottom half with the game in his hands, as the Scorpions had loaded the bases for him while only recording one out.

Matched up against Rockies pitching prospect Jake Bird this time around, Cottam worked a full count before taking the sixth pitch he saw from the opposing right-hander and promptly ripping a line-drive single to the opposite field that plated Curtis Mead from third to secure the come-from-behind, walk-off win for the Scorpions.

In going 4-for-5 on Tuesday, Cottam raised his slash line on the Arizona Fall League season to a solid .294/.405/.529 to go along with two doubles, those two homers, eight RBI, six runs scored, five walks, and eight strikeouts over 11 games (42 plate appearances) with Scottsdale so far.

Cottam, 24, was originally selected by the Red Sox in the fourth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Kentucky. The former Wildcat may not be regarded by Baseball America as one of the top 30 prospects in Boston’s farm system, but he has been recognized as the best defensive catcher in the organization.

This past season, after spending a good chunk of the spring at major-league camp, the right-handed hitting backstop out of Tennessee opened the year with High-A Greenville. He batted a stout .276/.386/.487 (135 wRC+) to go along with 13 doubles, one triple, six home runs, 24 RBI, 22 runs scored, 25 walks, and 64 strikeouts across 46 games (190 plate appearances) for the Drive before earning a promotion to Double-A Portland on July 29.

While his playing time took a dip upon arriving in Portland, Cottam still slashed .282/.337/.526 (131 wRC+) with five doubles, one triple, four homers, nine runs driven in, 11 runs scored, three walks, and 33 strikeouts over 25 games spanning 86 plate appearances for the Sea Dogs.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, Cottam — who does not turn 24 until next May — can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his professional career this winter. The Red Sox would need to add Cottam to their 40-man roster by the November 19 deadline if they intend on protecting him from it.

In the meantime, the 2021 Arizona Fall League season rolls on for Cottam and the 7-11 Scorpions. The Fall Stars Game will take place on Nov. 13, while the season itself will conclude with the championship game on Nov. 20.

(Picture of Kole Cottam: Michael Gonzales/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Garrett Richards makes Red Sox debut as sloppy defense leads to 5-3 loss at hands of Braves

The Red Sox opened the home portion of their Grapefruit League schedule on Monday by falling to the Braves by a final score of 5-3 in seven innings at JetBlue Park.

Newcomer Garrett Richards, who signed a one-year, $10 million deal with Boston last month, made his first start of the spring for Boston in this one.

Working two “full” innings, the veteran right-hander surrendered two earned runs on three hits and two walks to go along with one strikeout on the afternoon.

Both of those Atlanta runs came in the top half of the first, when Richards managed to record just one out before the rest of the inning was called off for pitch count purposes.

The 32-year-old was able to rebound in the second inning, however, as he retired the Braves’ 7-8-9 hitters in order to end his day on a more positive note.

Ultimately hit with the losing decision in what was his Red Sox debut, Richards will look to pick up where he left off in his next time out, which should come against the Braves once again on Sunday.

In relief of Richards, left-hander Kyle Hart, a non-roster invitee, came on for the third and yielded two runs — both of which were unearned thanks to a Bobby Dalbec fielding error — on a pair of walks and a two-run single.

From there, right-hander Kevin McCarthy — another non-roster invitee — worked a scoreless top half of the fourth, while right-handed pitching prospects Thad Ward and Connor Seabold combined to toss a pair of shutout frames in the fifth and sixth innings.

Zac Grotz, a right-hander, was responsible for the seventh, and he gave up one unearned run before being injuring his elbow on a pitch that required him to leave the game immediately.

All in all, Sox pitchers allowed five total runs, but only two of those runs were earned due to sloppy defensive play that resulted in five errors being committed; one from Dalbec, one from Ward, one from Marwin Gonzalez, and two from Jeter Downs.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup featured the likes of Christian Arroyo, Gonzalez, J.D. Martinez, Dalbec, Michael Chavis, Yairo Munoz, Cesar Puello, Jeisson Rosario, and Jett Bandy.

Matched up against right-hander Huascar Ynoa — one of the top pitching prospects in Atlanta’s farm system — Bandy kicked off the scoring for his side by drawing a bases-loaded walk with two outs in the bottom of the second.

Fast forward to the fourth, and the bases were loaded once more. This time with one out as Rosario, one of the two prospects Boston acquired from the Padres in the Mitch Moreland trade, came to the plate to face Touki Toussaint.

Rosario managed to pick up an RBI, but only by dribbling a grounder to the right side of the infield that gave Chavis enough time to score from third and make it a 4-2 contest in favor of Atlanta.

In the seventh, a leadoff double off the bat of catching prospect Kole Cottam resulted in another Boston run crossing the plate when Jonathan Arauz grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.

That sequence cut the Sox’ deficit to two runs at 5-3, and it allowed the tyring run to come to the plate in the form of Roldani Baldwin, who stuck out against Jasseel De La Cruz to put this one to bed.

Some notes from this one:

Nick Yorke, the Red Sox’ first-round pick in the 2020 draft, made his spring debut on Monday. The 18-year-old infielder went 1-for-1 off the bench with a walk and a fifth-inning single off Braves reliever A.J. Minter.

Ward and Seabold, ranked by Baseball America as the No. 10 and No. 11 prospects in Boston’s farm system, were probably the two most impressive pitchers the Red Sox threw out there on Monday.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll host the reigning American League champion Tampa Bay Rays at JetBlue Park on Tuesday afternoon.

Left-hander Martin Perez will get the ball for Boston, and he will be opposed by veteran righty Michael Wacha.

Garrett Whitlock, Joel Payamps, Ryan Weber, Josh Winckowski and Andrew Politi are also expected to pitch for the Sox.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time on ESPN, which means we are in for nine innings of baseball since this will be a nationally-televised game.

(Picture of Garrett Richards: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)