Top Red Sox Outfield Prospect Jarren Duran Set To Play Winter Ball in Puerto Rico

Top Red Sox outfield prospect Jarren Duran will be competing in the Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente in Puerto Rico this winter for Los Criollos de Caguas, the club announced earlier Tuesday.

Duran, who turned 24 last month, is regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s No. 8 overall prospect and top outfield prospect.

The 2018 seventh-round draft pick out of Long Beach State was added to the Sox’ player pool back in July and put on quite a show at the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket in what would have been his second full minor-league season.

In joining Caguas, Duran will be managed by Red Sox coach Ramon Vazquez, while Alex Cora’s brother-in-law Jesus Feliciano serves as the team’s general manager.

“Jarren Duran has a great chance to play in the big leagues next year. A player who has hit for average, has strength and has stolen 70 bases in his two seasons as a professional,” Feliciano said (in Spanish) of the speedy outfielder. “He is a versatile player who we are going to like a lot because of the strong way he plays and he will help us with the experienced outfielders we have on our team.”

According to FanGraphs, Duran, who has swiped 70 bags in 199 career minor-league games, has the second-best speed tool (70) in the Sox’ farm system behind only fellow outfielder Gilberto Jimenez (80).

With that speed, as well as the uptick in power he put on display at McCoy Stadium, the California native may have a legitimate shot to crack Boston’s Opening Day roster come next spring.

Many around the organization seem impressed with what they have seen out of Duran in the relatively short period of time he has been a professional. Worcester Red Sox manager Billy McMillon is no exception.

“He had an unbelievable offensive camp. Stole a lot of bases, hit a lot of home runs. Impacted the baseball hard day in and day out,” McMillon said of Duran earlier this month. “I think he continues to get better in the outfield and as that continues to get better, I think that’s going to help clear the path for him. He’s okay, he’s solid, but you can see there’s some room for improvement there. We did some things working on footwork and routes to balls and he kind of cleaned that up a little bit. For me, the question is, can he do that consistently? If he hits a lull with his offense, is he going to stay as positive as we was all camp? I never saw him down during the camp. He hit really well for the entirety of the camp. He’s a very intriguing, very interesting guy.”

Because of what he did in Pawtucket this summer, the Red Sox likely felt that Duran did not need to attend fall instructs, which are currently underway in Fort Myers. Instead, the young speed merchant will take the field for Los Criollos de Caguas down in Puerto Rico in the coming weeks.

Barring any COVID-19-related setbacks, the 2020-2021 Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente season should begin sometime in mid-November.

Could Red Sox Welcome Soon-To-Be Free Agent Stephen Gonsalves Back in 2021?

Excluding position players, 27 different pitchers took the mound for the Red Sox in 2020. Left-hander Stephen Gonsalves was not one of them.

The 26-year-old was claimed off waivers by Boston from the Mets early in the season and was subsequently optioned to the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket, where he remained on the Sox’ 40-man roster up until August 19.

At that point, Gonsalves was designated for assignment in order to make room on the 40-man roster for veteran right-hander Andrew Triggs.

A week went by and Gonsalves went unclaimed, which resulted in his being outrighted to Pawtucket.

As he spent the final few weeks of his 2020 campaign working out at McCoy Stadium, the San Diego native was actually very impressive, which is important when you consider the fact that he will become a minor-league free agent this winter. Worcester Red Sox pitching coach Paul Abbott made that much clear when speaking with reporters via Zoom last week.

“Gonsalves is a guy that can make an impact next year if we bring him back,” Abbott said. “I know he’s a minor-league free agent. His velo went from 89-90 mph — and he already had a highly rated fastball that had some carry — the velo jumped up to 94-96 mph. He got better as we went along and I know he was close to getting an opportunity because they brought him up there.”

A former fourth-round pick of the Twins out of high school in 2013, Gonsalves only has seven major-league outings under his belt. In those seven appearances, four of which were starts, towards the end of the 2018 season, the one-time University of San Diego commit posted a 6.57 ERA and .822 OPS against over 24 2/3 innings pitched.

At the start of the 2019 campaign, Gonsalves suffered an elbow strain in April and a stress reaction to that same elbow in May, which resulted in the former top prospect accruing just 13 innings of work across three minor-league levels last year prior to ultimately getting designated by Minnesota in November.

Since joining the Red Sox organization over the summer, Gonsalves obviously has not had the chance to showcase himself in any real, meaningful games. But, as Abbott mentioned, an uptick in the 6-foot-5 southpaw’s fastball velocity could mesh well with his other three pitches — changeup, slider, curveball — moving forward.

With that being said, in addition to how highly Abbott spoke of him, Gonsalves may be someone the Red Sox look to bring back early on in free agency this offseason.

Assuming he is brought back by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. on a minor-league deal, Gonsalves could prove to be an interesting hurler to monitor during spring training next year given the fact he has experience as both a starter and reliever.

Red Sox Prospect Hudson Potts Made Positive First Impression in Pawtucket This Year, Has Chance To Be ‘Interesting’ Player in 2021

Infielder Hudson Potts was a late addition to the Red Sox’ player pool this season on account of the fact he was acquired from the Padres on August 30.

The 21-year-old arrived at the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket in early September and, unlike the majority of players and prospects who were already there, did not have a ton of time to get acclimated to a completely new environment.

Still, Potts impressed and showed glimpses of promises in his first go-around as a Red Sox prospect. PawSox manager Billy McMillon, who was one of the main authority figures at the alternate site these past two-plus months, made that much clear when speaking with reporters via Zoom on Friday.

“I was really, really impressed with his approach at the plate,” McMillon said of Potts. “He would hit a ball to the pull side 400 feet and then hit a line drive to right-center field. Big, strong kid. He showed a little bit of defensive versatility, too. We played him some at second base. The lion’s share of his work was at third base.”

Originally drafted by San Diego as a shortstop out of high school in the first round of the 2016 amateur draft, Potts is listed at 6-foot-3 and 218 lbs. Those measurements seemed to remind McMillon of a former Red Sox prospect who could play third base.

“If you look at him physically, body type, he kind of reminds you of a Will Middlebrooks,” the Pawtucket skipper added. “That’s the first person I thought about when I saw him. Good kid. Very, very hard worker. I like him. He’s going to be an interesting person when we try to slot him in next year with a full year of Double-A under his belt. We got something from San Diego with him.”

Potts, who along with outfielder Jeisson Rosario was dealt to Boston in the trade that saw Mitch Moreland go to the Padres, is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 20 prospect in the Sox’ farm system.

As McMillon mentioned, Potts played a full season’s worth of Double-A baseball last year. In 107 games for the Amarillo Sod Poodles, the Southlake, Texas native posted a .227/.290/.406 slash line to go along with 16 home runs and 59 RBI over 448 plate appearances.

Going back to 2017, Potts has clubbed at least 15 homers in each of his last three minor-league seasons, so he has rightfully earned the reputation of being a power-hitting prospect. On top of that, FanGraphs regards the young infielder’s power tool as one of the best in the organization.

Despite those accolades, Potts is striving to improve his approach at the plate to show that he is capable of being an all-around hitter opposed to just a power hitter.

“I know that’s probably one of the things that has been one of my better things throughout my career,” he said in regards to his slugging abilities back in September. “But, once I learn and make adjustments to my approach that I need to make, I feel like I can be a lot more than just a power guy. I feel like I can be a complete hitter and I just need to work on that and get to that spot I know I’m capable of doing. That’s what I’m striving to be, an all-around hitter, not just a power hitter.”

Because he signed with the Padres as a 17-year-old back in 2016, Potts is now eligible for this year’s Rule 5 Draft in December. In order to not expose him to that, the Red Sox will have to add Potts to their 40-man roster by late November.

Red Sox Top Draft Pick Nick Yorke Talks Alternate Training Site Life

At 18 years and 173 days old, Nick Yorke is by far the youngest player at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket. The 2020 first-round draft pick received an invite to the alternate site earlier this month and first reported to McCoy Stadium last Thursday.

Since then, Yorke has gone 3-for-4 at the plate with two doubles and two walks in simulated game action while also getting acclimated to a whole new level of baseball far different than what he had grown accustomed to at Archbishop Mitty High School out in San Jose.

In a brief period of time, Yorke, a west coaster, has seen his life essentially flip upside down after signing his first professional contract back in July. Even so, the right-handed hitting infielder is just glad to be playing baseball in some capacity in what has already been an unprecedented year.

“I’ve been having so much fun getting on the field again,” Yorke said when speaking with reporters via Zoom earlier Tuesday. “Competitiveness-wise, it’s just fun getting to be on the field against another pitcher and have some at-bats. So, I’ve been having a great time out here.”

One of those pitchers Yorke got the chance to face in his Pawtucket debut on Saturday was top prospect Bryan Mata, who wound up dazzling the youngster with his velocity a bit before eventually yielding an opposite-field single.

“I remember that first pitch he threw me,” Yorke said of his encounter with the 21-year-old Mata. “He threw it for a ball but I was like ‘I didn’t know a ball could move like that!’ So then I put on the batting gloves and it was time to compete, put a barrel on the ball, and let him do the work.”

While Yorke is still adjusting to this new level of baseball, he is also getting better familiarized with his peers, such as fellow prospect Triston Casas, veteran infielder Jose Peraza, and PawSox manager Billy McMillon.

“They’ve been really good about getting my feet wet,” the one-time University of Arizona commit added.” I took the first 2 – 2 1/2 days kind of just taking BP and working out with the guys. Triston Casas has been really good with me. I go and hit with him before we report everyday to come hit off the machine and get the [velocity] in before the games.”

Regarding Peraza, who was optioned to the alternate site on September 9, Yorke says the ex-Red was surprised about his age and has been one of several players with major-league experience who have doled out some wisdom or advice if needed.

“It’s amazing. I mean, they’re all so welcoming,” Yorke said of the veteran presence in Pawtucket. “I’ve tried to be a sponge. They’re really good about letting me in and showing me the ropes. I’ve had a great time with them.”

When discussing what his interactions with McMillon have been like, Yorke described the PawSox skipper as an ‘amazing’ individual.

“[McMillon’s] very funny,” he continued. “He always puts smiles on guys’ faces… and just makes transitions a lot easier, introducing myself to new guys through Billy and whatnot. He’s been great with me.”

Yorke, as well as the other 32 or so players in Pawtucket, will presumably continue their workouts at McCoy through the end of the 2020 major-league season this coming Sunday. From there, as noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Red Sox are planning to invite about 60 players to a fall training camp in Fort Myers. The California native could very well be one of those 60 players who receive an invite. We will have to wait and see on that.

Red Sox To Add Top Prospect Triston Casas To Alternate Training Site, per Report

The Red Sox are reportedly adding top prospect Triston Casas to the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo. As Cotillo notes, this would suggest that Casas will also be added to the club’s 60-man player pool.

Regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s second-ranked prospect behind only Jeter Downs, Casas was somewhat surprisingly not added to the Sox’ initial Summer Camp roster pool last month after putting together a solid 2019 campaign in the minors.

In 120 games between full-season Greenville and High-A Salem last year, the 20-year-old posted a .256/.350/.480 slash line to go along with 20 home runs and 80 RBI over 500 total plate appearances.

Taken by the Sox with the 26th overall pick in the 2018 amateur draft out of American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla., Casas forwent his commitment to the University of Miami and signed with Boston for $2.55 million. He has seen the majority of his playing time as a professional come at third base but he can play a little first base as well.

While in Pawtucket, Casas will be under the watchful eye of Red Sox minor and major-league staffers alike as he continues to develop and hone his craft at McCoy Stadium. Of course, the move to add Casas to the player pool doesn’t necessarily mean the Red Sox think he is almost ready for the majors, but rather with no minor-league season, this time is pivotal for young prospects across baseball and the organization clearly think highly of Casas.

Also worth noting, as this is being typed, the Red Sox’ player pool is currently at full capacity at 60, so a roster move will likely need to be made in order for Casas to be added in the coming days.

Red Sox Activate Josh Taylor off Injured List, Option Chris Mazza To Pawtucket in Slew of Roster Moves

Before wrapping up a four-game series against the Yankees on Monday night, the Red Sox made a series of roster moves, activating left-hander Josh Taylor off the 10-day COVID-19 related injured list, optioning right-hander Chris Mazza to the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket, and placing newly-acquired infielder Christian Arroyo on the injured list retroactive to August 14.

Taylor had been on the IL since July 14 after testing positive for COVID-19 during intake screening in Boston before the start of Summer Camp. After getting cleared to return to baseball activities after self-isolating in a hotel room in the city, the 27-year-old had been building up his stamina while working out at McCoy Stadium prior to Monday’s announcement. His return to the Red Sox bullpen will be a welcome one.

Mazza, meanwhile, was optioned back down to Pawtucket shortly after making his first career major-league start at Yankee Stadium on Sunday night. The 30-year-old hurler surrendered four runs on eight hits and one walk over three innings pitched in his second appearance of the season with the Red Sox, and it now appears as though the club will turn to someone else next time through the rotation.

As for Arroyo, MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo suggests that the Sox placing the 25-year-old on the COVID-19 related  injured list does not imply a positive test, just that the intake process is not yet complete. Per Cotillo, the “hope is to activate him [Tuesday].”

A former top prospect selected in the first round of the 2013 amateur draft by the Giants, Arroyo was claimed off waivers by Boston from the Indians last Thursday.

The Florida native has not exactly lived up to that first-round hype to this point, as he owns a lifetime OPS+ of 66 through his first 71 major-league games dating back to 2017, but he is capable of playing all around the infield, so he certainly comes with plenty of versatility.

When the time comes for the Red Sox to activate Arroyo, which again could be as early as Tuesday, expect a 40-man roster move to be made then.

 

Red Sox’ Jonathan Lucroy Embracing ‘Dad’ Role While Working With Younger Players in Pawtucket

Upon signing a minor-league contract with the Red Sox back in February, veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy looked to get his career back on track with a new club.

Initially, the 34-year-old took the first steps towards revitalizing his career when he was one of three backstops to make Boston’s Opening Day roster last month. However, Lucroy’s first stint with the Sox did not last all that long, as he was designated for assignment on July 29 after getting just one major-league at-bat and was subsequently outrighted to the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket on August 1.

Since that time, Lucroy has been consistently working out at McCoy Stadium and is waiting for his chance to get back to the majors. Whether that is with the Red Sox or another club really does not matter.

“I cleared waivers, so there were no other teams that claimed me. That means no one wanted me,” he said during a Zoom call Friday. “That doesn’t mean that that can’t happen still. I’m here to continue to play games and continue to work to get better. If the Red Sox need me, I’ll be available. If another team needs me, then I’m sure we can figure something out where I can go play for them. It’s just a matter of opportunity and improving upon my game here. That’s all I’m worried about. I’m just happy to have a place to play and happy to have a place where I can work to improve.”

In the meantime, with all the knowledge and wisdom he has gained in 10-plus big-league seasons, Lucroy has embraced a mentorship role in Pawtucket while surrounded by younger players who eager to absorb as much information as possible.

“I try to leave myself open and I’ve told guys ‘Hey, I don’t want to smother anybody or try to force myself on people,'” said the veteran backstop. “I want them to come and ask me first. Like, if I see someone on the field I’ll say something to him once and leave it alone. But, I don’t want to go and just try and be all over them. They’ve been making fun of me, they call me ‘Dad’ in there. It’s just little things here and there. If guys want to come talk to me about anything, I’ll do my best to help them anyway I can.”

If for whatever reason the Red Sox find themselves in a position where Lucroy could get another crack of things in the majors this season, the two-time All-Star would again have to be added to Boston’s 40-man roster in order to make that happen.

 

Red Sox Add Right-Hander Seth Blair, Release Outfielder John Andreoli From Player Pool

Before opening up a three-game weekend series against the Blue Jays on Friday, the Red Sox made a minor roster shake-up, as the club added right-handed pitcher Seth Blair to their player pool and in a corresponding move released outfielder John Andreoli.

Blair, 31, was originally drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round of the 2010 amateur draft out of Arizona State University and spent six years in the organization before getting released in April 2015.

From there, according to this New York Times feature on Blair, the Illinois native “took a five-year break from baseball” before signing a minor-league deal with the Padres last May.

While in San Diego’s farm system, Blair posted a 4.11 ERA and 3.64 xFIP over 17 outings (two starts) and 35 innings pitched for High-A Lake Elsinore before once again getting released on August 9.

Since then, again going back to that NYT piece, the former Sun Devil had been running a training facility for major and minor-leaguers in the backyard of his Scottsdale home to provide players a place to work out during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Based off said article and Blair’s own Instagram page, it would appear that the flame-throwing right-hander has bought into the whole Driveline revolution in baseball that was started by the likes of Trevor Bauer and Kyle Boddy in Washington state. What he’s learned there could be useful to other pitchers in the Red Sox organization who are currently working out in Pawtucket.

As for Andreoli, the 30-year-old outfielder out of Worcester, Mass. inked a minor-league pact with Boston back in December after spending the 2019 season with the Giants, Twins, and Mariners organizations.

The UCONN product was added the Sox’ 60-man player pool last month, but his stint there obviously did not last too long seeing how he was cut loose on Friday.

By essentially swapping Andreoli for Blair, the Red Sox’ 60-man player pool is still at full capacity. Blair will presumably report to McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket within the next few days.

 

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.

Red Sox Left-Handed Pitching Prospect Kyle Hart Retires 18 Hitters Over Five Scoreless Innings in Pawtucket

Red Sox left-handed pitching prospect Kyle Hart did something at McCoy Stadium on Monday that you will probably never see in a major or minor-league game: He retired 18 batters in five innings.

Yes, the 27-year-old got some work in during an intrasquad scrimmage in Pawtucket to kick off the week, and he was dominant, working five scoreless, perfect frames while getting an extra out in each of his last three innings.

In regards to spectators who were in attendance to watch Hart’s outing, PawSox broadcaster Mike Antonellis tweeted that the Cincinnati native “threw well,” while fellow broadcaster Jim Cain tweeted, as previously mentioned, that “the lefty was so efficient that in his final three innings, he stayed out to face an extra batter, and he retired all three.”

Originally drafted by Boston in the 19th round of the 2016 amateur draft out of The University of Indiana, Hart was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster last November and their 60-man roster pool last month.

The former Hoosier has never been a big-name prospect since becoming a professional four years ago, but seeing how he is already on the club’s 40-man roster, he certainly has a chance to make the jump to the majors this year.

Regarded by SoxProspects as Boston’s 42nd-ranked prospect, Hart posted a 3.86 ERA and 4.32 FIP over 18 appearances (15 starts) and 100 1/3 innings pitched with Triple-A Pawtucket last season.

The 6-foot-5, 200 lb. southpaw works with an 87-90 mph fastball that can max out at 92 mph, an 85-86 mph cutter, a 76-79 mph curveball, and an 81-82 mph changeup, per SoxProspects.

Given the current state of the Red Sox’ pitching staff at the major-league level, it certainly couldn’t hurt to give a guy like Hart a look out of the starting rotation or as a “bulk” reliever.

One thing Hart has over other minor-league pitchers in Boston’s pipeline, like Bryan Mata or Tanner Houck, is that he is already on the club’s 40-man roster, so getting him to the majors wouldn’t be too much of a hassle if that is the route chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. wanted to take.