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 Make First Round of Spring Roster Cuts

Before they took on the Detroit Tigers in some Grapefruit League action earlier Wednesday, the Red Sox made their first round of spring roster cuts and reassigned five players to minor-league camp.

Those five players were first baseman Tommy Joseph, left-handed pitchers Daniel McGrath and Bobby Poyner, and right-handed pitchers Bryan Mata and Denyi Reyes.

Joseph has gotten off to a far from ideal start this spring, slashing .133//235/.133 with two RBI through his first seven games played and 17 plate appearances.

The 28-year-old, who has major-league experience with the Phillies, signed a minor-league deal with Boston last August after coming back over to the states from the Korean Baseball Organization. Depending on how the rest of the team’s depth at first base shakes out, he’ll likely start the 2020 season in either Double-A Portland or Triple-A Pawtucket.

As for the left-handed pitchers, McGrath has made two relief appearances for Boston so far this spring, allowing two earned runs on four hits, one walk, and one strikeout over four total innings of work.

Signed out of Australia as an 18-year-old back in January 2013, McGrath, now 25, will likely serve as starting pitching depth with the PawSox this season. He was brought back on a minor-league deal last October.

Poyner, meanwhile, was taken off the Sox’ 40-man roster and outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket in January after clearing waivers. The 27-year-old does own an ERA of 18.00 through two relief appearances this spring, but it would not shock me if he does make his way back to the majors with the Red Sox at some point this season. Even if it is just a short stint.

Turning to the right-handed pitchers now, I’m going to start with Denyi Reyes because I want to discuss Bryan Mata in more depth later.

Like Poyner, Reyes was designated for assignment and eventually outrighted to Triple-A to make room for another player on the Sox’ 40-man roster. In Poyner’s case, that player was left-hander Jeffrey Springs. In Reyes’ case, it was the re-signing of Mitch Moreland.

The 23-year-old out of the Dominican Republic has surrendered four runs over four innings spanning two relief appearances so far this spring. He has experience as both a starter and reliever since signing with the Sox as an international free agent in 2016, so I would not be against the idea of him starting the 2020 season in the PawSox’ bullpen.

Finally, we’ll end with arguably the most talented player on this list in Bryan Mata, who is the top pitching prospect in Boston’s farm system, according to MLB Pipeline.

Given the current state of the Sox’ starting rotation with Chris Sale’s season currently in limbo, Mata could be one of the names Boston is evaluating to take the left-hander’s spot to begin the year.

Per The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey, the 20-year-old was among a group of hurlers that included Chris Mazza and Matt Hall, all of whom tossed three innings each in an intrasquad game at JetBlue Park on Tuesday, the same day it was revealed that Sale had been dealing with soreness in his left elbow.

Granted, Mata has yet to pitch above the Double-A level in his young career, but the potential is certainly there for him to be a middle of the rotation starting pitcher in the majors in the near future. That much is for sure.

Following Wednesday’s slew of transactions, the Red Sox now have 62 players at major-league camp. That number will eventually have to be trimmed down to 26 before March 26th. More moves are likely to come this weekend, I would guess.