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.

Red Sox’ Jonathan Lucroy Clears Waivers, Gets Outrighted to Club’s Alternate Training Site in Pawtucket

Three days after being designated for assignment by the Red Sox, veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy cleared waivers and was subsequently outrighted to the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket on Saturday.

Lucroy, 34, originally inked a minor-league deal with Boston back in February and was one of three backstops to make the club’s Opening Day roster late last month.

That being said, even despite enjoying a fair amount of success during spring training and Summer Camp, Lucroy got the short end of the stick in terms of playing time behind Christian Vazquez, as Kevin Plawecki emerged as the Sox’ true backup.

Prior to getting DFA’d, the two-time All-Star appeared in just one regular season game for Boston as a defensive replacement on Opening Day and never got an at-bat.

Now, after no other team put in a claim for him, Lucroy will remain with the Sox organization as serviceable roster depth at the catching position if he so chooses. Of course, seeing how he has accrued more than nine years of major-league service time, it would not shock me if Lucroy has the choice to become a free agent, either. We’ll have to wait and see on that.

For the time being, as the above tweet states, the Red Sox have 60 players in their 60-man club player pool.

Top Red Sox Pitching Prospect Bryan Mata Impresses in Sim Game in Pawtucket

Before the Red Sox endured more pitching troubles in a 5-1 loss to the Yankees on Friday night, one of the organization’s top pitching prospects impressed in a simulated game that took place about 180 miles northeast of Yankee Stadium at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, RI.

There, at the Sox’ alternate training site, Bryan Mata recorded three strikeouts (two looking, one swinging) and one walk over two scoreless innings of work against other players in Boston’s 60-man player pool.

Per SoxProspects’ Ian Cundall, the 21-year-old right-hander “faced seven hitters overall” while “mix[ing] in all of his pitches.”

Bobby Dalbec, another top prospect in Boston’s farm system and a member of the player pool, was on hand to watch Mata work. And although the 25-year-old slugger did not hit against him on Friday, he did say that Mata “had electric stuff.”

Regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s top pitching prospect and No. 4 overall prospect, Mata originally signed with the Sox for $25,000 out of Venezuela as a 16-year-old back in January 2016.

Between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland last season, Mata posted a 3.43 ERA and .237 batting average against over 21 games started and 105 total innings of work.

At one time Boston’s lone representative in the 2018 All-Star Futures Game in Washington, D.C., Mata has filled out considerably since then and is now listed at 6-foot-3 and 240 lbs.

Based off his SoxProspects scouting report, the righty throws from a three-quarters arm slot and works with a pitch mix that includes a 94-96 mph fastball that tops out at 98 mph, an 86-90 mph cutter, a 78-80 mph curveball, and an 84-86 mph changeup.

Given the current state Red Sox pitching is in at the major-league level, Mata is one of several potential candidates who could start games for Boston at some point this season. Of course, like fellow right-handed prospect Tanner Houck, he would need to be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster before that can happen.

Still, as is the case with Houck, Mata is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft later this year, so he would need to be added to Boston’s 40-man roster by late November in order to be protected from that.

With that in mind, if the Red Sox are out of contention come late August or early September, it may be in Chaim Bloom and Co.’s best interest to give guys like Mata, Houck, and even Kyle Hart, who is on the 40-man roster, looks at the big-league level.

Darwinzon Hernandez Could Start Games for Red Sox Again by End of 2020 Season, Ron Roenicke Says

The idea that Darwinzon Hernandez could once again start for the Red Sox has been out there ever since the left-hander was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket for good last July.

Hernandez made his first career major-league start against the Rangers last June at Fenway Park, but never again made an appearance as a starter at the big-league level for the rest of the season.

Instead, as previously mentioned, the now-23-year-old was called up for good in July and proved to be quite effective out of the bullpen for the Red Sox, posting a 4.32 ERA, a .693 OPS against, and a 3.33 xFIP over 27 relief outings and 25 innings of work.

Still, despite that success, the Sox view Hernandez as a starter in the long run. At least, that’s what manager Ron Roenicke said on his weekly segment with WEEI’s Ordway, Merloni, and Fauria on Wednesday.

“Eventually, we think this guy could end up being a starter,” said Roenicke in regards to Hernandez’s future. “Who knows? Maybe he’s starting games by the end of the year.”

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves here, it is worth mentioning that Hernandez is still technically recovering from a bout with COVID-19, which he tested positive for while at home in Venezuela earlier this month.

Since that time, Hernandez reported back to the Red Sox in Boston in last week and has been working out at the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket in the meantime while he’s on the 10-day injured list.

At McCoy Stadium, the flame-throwing southpaw is set to throw a live batting practice session on Wednesday, then he’ll throw another one on Saturday before preparing for a simulated game this coming Monday, according to Roenicke.

From there, the Red Sox will evaluate where things stand with him as well as fellow left-hander Josh Taylor before taking any further action.

The most important thing here, particularly in Hernandez’s case, is to build up his workload so he can get stretched out in order to handle two to three innings at a time. That way, he could be more prepared to start at some point this season if that’s the direction the Red Sox decide to go.

Red Sox Should Consider Calling up Right-Handed Pitching Prospect Tanner Houck

On Tuesday, the Red Sox saw left-hander David Peterson make his major-league debut for the New York Mets. On Wednesday, if they’re paying attention, they’ll see right-hander Nate Pearson make his long-awaited major-league debut for the Toronto Blue Jays in Washington, D.C.

One thing Peterson and Pearson have in common, other than being two of the more touted pitching prospects in their respective organizations, is that they were both taken in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft.

With that being said, it may be time to for the Red Sox to give their own 2017 first-round pick a look at the big-league level. Who might that be, you ask? Well, that would be none other than Tanner Houck.

Houck, 24, was taken by Boston with the 24th overall selection in the 2017 amateur draft out of the University of Missouri. Since then, he has emerged as the fourth-ranked right-handed pitching prospect in the Sox’ farm system behind only Bryan Mata, Noah Song, and Thad Ward, according to MLB Pipeline.

A former 12th-round draft pick of Toronto coming out of high school, Houck has yet to be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster, but he was added to the club’s 60-man player pool earlier this month and his since been working out at their alternate training site in Pawtucket, where he tossed two innings in an intrasquad game on Tuesday. (Houck pitching starts at around the 40:30 mark)

Per PawSox manager Billy McMillon, this was the first time Houck had faced live hitters since spring training in March.

“He looked like he was under control,” McMillon said of the 6-foot-5, 230 lb. righty. “He was not laboring. He mixed up his pitches. I think the emphasis for him is going to be controlling the strike zone a little bit better, particularly against lefties.”

SoxProspects’ scouting report for Houck says the Illinois native utilizes a 92-95 mph fastball that can top out at 98 mph, a 83-86 mph slider, and an 86-88 mph changeup, all while throwing from a low three-quarters arm slot.

In 16 appearances (two starts) with Triple-A Pawtucket after being promoted from Double-A Portland last July, Houck posted a 3.24 ERA and .209 batting average against over 25 innings of work. He spent parts of the offseason pitching in the Arizona Fall League and for Team USA in the Premier-12 tournament as well.

Given the current state the Red Sox pitching staff is in at the major-league level just five games into the new season, Houck could be a welcome addition as an opener or reliever seeing how he hasn’t exactly been stretched out to this point in time.

Calling up Houck now would also work out in the sense that he needs to be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster by late November in order to avoid being eligible for this year’s Rule 5 draft.

Of course, because Boston’s 40-man roster is currently at full capacity, a corresponding move would need to be made in order to get Houck to the majors this season.

 

 

Red Sox Claim Right-Hander Robert Stock off Waivers From Phillies

While dropping their second straight to the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday afternoon, the Red Sox made a roster move in claiming right-hander Robert Stock off waivers from the Philadelphia Phillies.

As the above tweet mentions, Stock has been optioned to the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket.

Now the 40th player on Boston’s 40-man roster, Stock was designated for assignment by Philadelphia on Thursday.

The 30-year-old hurler out of the University of Southern California has 42 career major-league relief appearances under his belt since making his big-league debut with the San Diego Padres in June 2018.

Between those 42 outings with the Phils and Pads, Stock owns a career 4.11 ERA and 3.67 FIP over 50 1/3 total innings of work. Granted, he surrendered 12 earned runs in just 10 2/3 innings pitched last year.

A former second-round selection of St. Louis back in the 2009 draft, Stock has spent time in the Cardinals, Astros, Pirates, Reds, Padres, and Phillies organizations. In other words, he’s been around.

Per his Statcast page, the 6-foot-1, 214 lb. righty works with a high-velocity four-seam fastball, a slider, a changeup, and a sinker.

The addition of Stock for the Red Sox comes less than 24 hours after the club claimed left-hander Stephen Gonsalves off waivers from the Mets.

If the Sox intend to add Stock to their player pool, which is currently at its full capacity, another player who is currently in the pool will have to be removed.

Red Sox Prospect Jarren Duran Belts Two Doubles, Shows off Speed in Fenway Park Debut

Despite not seeing any live pitching during the pandemic-induced shutdown period, Red Sox prospect Jarren Duran had himself quite the night in the Red Sox’ final intrasquad game of Summer Camp at Fenway Park on Monday.

Making the trek up from Pawtucket along with Jeter Downs and Josh Ockimey, Duran started in center field and hit out of the nine-hole for the Home Sox in Monday’s contest and went 2-for-3 with a pair of hard-hit doubles, the first of which drove in two runs off left-hander Jeffrey Springs in the second inning.

On the defensive side of the ball, Duran was just as impressive, as the Sox’ eighth-ranked prospect put his speed on full display while robbing Marco Hernandez of an extra-base hit off Martin Perez in the top half of the sixth.

That flash of the leather prompted Perez to tell reporters after the game that “[Duran’s] really good, man.”

As for what Duran himself thought about his performance, the 23-year-old led off by saying that it was “just surreal” to play at Fenway Park and that “he couldn’t stop looking around” the ballpark.

“I wasn’t really thinking,” Duran added when speaking to reporters via Zoom. “I missed baseball so much. It was an honor just to be here.”

Before spring training was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March, Duran was opening up eyes around Red Sox camp as it looked like he was going to start the year with Double-A Portland.

Instead, the 2020 minor-league season was eventually cancelled last month, and Duran, like so many other prospects across baseball, lost the chance to continue to hone his craft in actual games.

Still, the southern California did not view that cancellation as a massive road block and instead opted for a more optimistic outlook on things.

“I think it just depends on how bad you want it,” he said. “We have the resources to push ourselves.”

For Duran, those resources were made available at Long Beach State, his alma mater, where he hit during the layoff before the Angels took over the facility for their own workouts.

Because there will be no organized minor-league baseball at all in 2020, Duran will likely spend his second professional season as a member of the Red Sox organization in Pawtucket at the club‘s alternate training site, otherwise known as McCoy Stadium. 

The former Dirtbag was taken by Boston in the seventh round of the 2018 amateur draft and is regarded by FanGraphs as the second-fastest prospect in the Sox’ farm system behind only Gilberto Jimenez.

Like Duran, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke is also a native of southern California. The Sox skipper liked what he saw from the speedster during spring training earlier in the year, and he certainly liked what he saw from him at Summer Camp on Monday.

“How do you do that?” Roenicke asked rhetorically. “You sit for 3 1/2 months and you come back right where you left off. If he figures it out he’s going to be some kind of player.”

 

 

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.