Blogging the Red Sox presents: A conversation about the Florida Complex League with Ben Crockett

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to exchange emails with Red Sox senior vice president of baseball operations Ben Crockett.

Crockett, who is in the midst of his 15th season with the Red Sox organization after starting out as an intern, was promoted to his current role back in January after serving as the club’s vice president of player development the previous four years.

A native of Topsfield, Mass., Crockett was originally selected by Boston in the 10th round of the 2001 amateur draft as a right-handed pitcher out of Harvard University.

After returning to Harvard for his senior season, Crockett was taken by the Colorado Rockies in the third round of the 2002 draft and spent four seasons in their system before calling it a playing career in 2006.

In his time with the Red Sox as an executive, Crockett — now 41 — has undertaken a variety of roles that primarily revolves around player development. As the club’s senior vice president of baseball operations, Crockett “assists in all areas of baseball operations, with a focus on player development, performance, and baseball systems.”

One area in particular that Crockett assists in would be how Red Sox minor-leaguers are doing in the rookie-level Florida Complex League (formerly the Gulf Coast League) down at the team’s spring training facility in Fort Myers.

To this point in the season, the Florida Complex League Red Sox are 20-11 and owners of the fourth-best record in the FCL.

Among those within Boston’s farm system who have played for the club’s FCL affiliate so far this summer include include a number of the organization’s top prospects, such as 2021 first-round draft pick Marcelo Mayer, Wilkelman Gonzalez, and Brainer Bonaci.

I made sure to ask Crockett about the Sox’ premier prospects, but I wanted to ask about some under-the-radar-type players as well. So, without further ado, here is a quote-unquote transcript of the conversation we had through email.

Has the loss of the New York-Penn League changed the way the organization looks at how prospects just out of college are performing in the Florida Complex League? For instance, do you take [2021 18th-round pick] Philip Sikes batting .438/.500/.625 or [2021 ninth-round pick] Tyler Miller batting .409/500/.545 thus far with a grain of salt based off the level of pitching they faced while at Texas Christian University and Auburn University?

Ben Crockett: We try not to put too much stock in small samples of performance, especially in a player’s first year with a mid-July draft, but are happy with the debuts of many guys, including those you mentioned like Miller and Sikes.

The following question has to do with the players to be named later the Red Sox acquired from the Royals and Mets in June as part of the three-team trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City back in February:

With Josh Winckowski and Grant Gambrell pitching at more advanced levels, what have you made of the way right-hander Luis De La Rosa and outfielder Freddy Valdez have acclimated to a new organization after coming over mid-season?

Crockett: Both Luis and Freddy have made positive first impressions. They’ve worked hard, been willing to communicate, and shown the positive physical qualities our scouts identified prior to acquiring them.

What makes infielder Eddinson Paulino and right-hander Wilkelman Gonzalez stand out and what did they do during the COVID shutdown last year to get off to such a strong start this season? Paulino is hitting .377/.476/.609 while Gonzalez has posted a 3.90 ERA through seven starts.

Crockett: Both have taken steps forward in 2021, taking full advantage of their time with us and during their preparation at home. We’ve been really pleased with the underlying qualities that have led to the success they’ve seen on the field.

How has the organization gone about evaluating those prospects who had lost seasons last year because of the pandemic, such as former international signee Brainer Bonaci or former 2019 25th-round draft pick Karson Simas? Both Bonaci and Simas are infielders.

Crockett: Simas has done great work physically and has matured into his body, allowing some of his actions to translate into performance on the field. He’s shown great athleticism and versatility.

Bonaci has built on a positive 2020 at the academy, and has made some positive adjustments from his time in instructs last fall. He’s controlled the zone, made good contact from both sides, and continues to improve his defense at shortstop.

Has the addition of Marcelo Mayer to the Florida Complex League roster created any buzz around the Fenway South complex? What about when 2020 third-round pick Blaze Jordan was there prior to his promotion to Salem?

Crockett: The FCL group has done a great job keeping the energy high throughout the season, transitioning well from extended spring when their game reps were limited at times. I think they are really excited to be playing well and realize they have a very talented group of players.

The following question has to do with right-handed pitching prospect Eduard Bazardo, who made his major-league debut for Boston back in April, but had been sidelined with a right lat strain since late May. The 25-year-old was sent out on a rehab assignment with the FCL Red Sox last Friday:

How goes Eduard Bazardo’s rehab and would you expect him to get any more big-league consideration before season’s end?

Crockett: His rehab is going well, getting back into games now and bouncing back well.

Thank you to Ben Crockett for taking time out of his busy in-season schedule to answer these questions and for also making this possible in the first place.

(Picture of Marcelo Mayer: Bryan Green/Flickr)

Red Sox outfield prospect Miguel Bleis off to hot start in Dominican Summer League: ‘He’s the real deal’

The 2021 Dominican Summer League season may only be five weeks old, but one Red Sox prospect in particular is already drawing early praise from scouts who are on hand to watch the action unfold.

Miguel Bleis, Boston’s top international signing of 2021, has gotten his first professional season off to a hot start down in the Dominican.

Through eight games with the Dominican Summer League Red Sox Red team, the 17-year-old outfielder has slashed an impressive .391/.462/.652 (205 wRC+) to go along with three doubles, one home run, four RBI, five runs scored, two walks, two strikeouts, and three stolen bases in 26 plate appearances thus far.

In addition to what he has done at the plate, Bleis has also played 50 defensive innings in center field, has recorded 14 put outs, and one outfield assist while only committing one error.

While Bleis has played in just eight of the DSL Red Sox Red’s 22 games to this point in the season, he has been able to garner positive feedback from scouts and other evaluators.

According to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, the consensus among scouts seems to indicate that Bleis “is the real deal.”

The Red Sox originally gave Bleis a lucrative $1.8 million signing bonus back in January, making him the highest-paid member of their 2021 international free-agent class.

Bleis, who was regarded by Baseball America as the No. 20 prospect coming into this year’s international signing period, which began on January 15, is now regarded by BA as the 20th-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system, per their midseason organizational rankings update.

According to his Baseball America scouting report, the right-handed hitting, right-handed throwing center fielder “has a lean, lively frame that’s sleek and athletic with high physical upside. His tools have trended up over the past year as projected, with plus speed and a plus arm now. He has long, gliding strides with an easy gait, covering a lot of ground in center field with the physical projection for his arm to potentially develop into a 70-grade tool.

“Bleis has fast bat speed and his power has jumped up from a little below-average to now showing above-average raw power, driving the ball fairly easily with backspin from center field over to his pull side,” the Dominican native’s scouting report reads. “With room to put on another 25-30 pounds of good weight, there could be more power in the tank. Bleis isn’t an advanced pure hitter, but he isn’t raw either, so if he can develop into an average hitter, he has the secondary tools to be a dynamic center fielder.”

Currently listed at 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds, Bleis — who does not turn 18 until next March — hails from San Pedro de Marocis, a city on the Dominican Republic’s southeastern coast that has produced major-league stars such as Fernando Tatis Jr., Robinson Cano, Johnny Cueto, Tony Fernandez, Alfonso Soriano, and Sammy Sosa, among others.

Back in February, Red Sox executive vice president and assistant general manager Eddie Romero appeared on the SoxProspects.com Podcast with Cundall and Chris Hatfield and described Bleis as a “premium center field talent” who has “all five tools” in addition to “an absolute hose” of an arm.

“He’s got surprising power,” Romero said of Bleis. “Being so young and being able to have above-average raw power is something we don’t see often for a center field player given his body type and athleticism. So, really, what we need to hone in on with him is approach. He performed well offensively in competition for us, and he’s continued to do that in the academy.”

As Bleis looks to build off his strong start to the Dominican Summer League campaign as the summer continues, it should be noted that the young outfielder is still a ways away from netting any sort of major-league consideration.

That said, it should be interesting to see if Bleis at any point this summer earns a promotion to the Florida Complex League. If not, he will still likely receive an invite to participate in the Sox’ fall instructional league in Fort Myers later this year.

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

Red Sox outfield prospect Armando Sierra could prove to be underrated member of team’s 2021 international signing class

The Red Sox made a splash in the international free-agent market this winter by signing Dominican outfield prospect Miguel Bleis for $1.5 million back in January.

Appearing on the SoxProspects.com podcast with Chris Hatfield and Ian Cundall in February, Red Sox executive vice president and assistant general manager Eddie Romero described Bleis as a “premium centerfield talent” who has “got all five tools” in addition to “surprising power” and “an absolute hose of an arm.”

While Bleis has stolen the headlines and has already shot up the prospect charts (Boston’s No. 22 prospect according to Baseball America), there is another 17-year-old outfielder the Sox signed out of the Dominican who deserves some attention as well.

That outfield prospect’s name? Armando Sierra, who hails from the same city as fellow outfielder Gilberto Jimenez and right-hander Denyi Reyes (San Cristobal).

In his review of what the Red Sox have done thus far during the 2021 international signing period, Baseball America’s Ben Badler identified Sierra as his ‘sleeper [to] watch.’

“Armando Sierra is a corner outfielder from the Dominican Republic with a chance to hit and hit for power,” Badler wrote of the right-handed hitter last week. “He’s a physically imposing 6-foot-3, 210 pounds with an advanced approach to hitting for his age, keeping the bat head in the hitting zone for a long time that helps him drive the ball with power to all fields. He’s a limited runner whose offensive game will drive his value.” 

Sierra, who signed with the Sox for a bonus of $150,000 on January 15, does not turn 18 until next January.

“Armando was a player we scouted later on in his signing year. After scouting him a few times, he stood out for his strong frame and his power,” Romero recently told BloggingtheRedSox.com via email. “As we continued to see him, it became apparent that not only did he have above average power for his signing class, but he also was developing a stronger approach.

“Since his signing, Sierra has lost close to 20 pounds while gaining muscle working out at our academy,” added Romero. “He continues to improve defensively and is also featuring an above average arm (which was not the case during his scouting trials).”

The young outfielder will likely begin the 2021 minor-league season with one of the Red Sox’ rookie-level, Dominican Summer League teams. In fact, as Romero indicated, he’s already training at the team’s Dominican academy in El Toro, a town just outside of Santo Domingo.

Other recent Red Sox international signees highlighted by Badler include catcher Enderso Lira, right-handers Alvaro Mejias and Jedixson Paez, and shortstops Luis Ravelo and Ahbram Liendo.

(Picture of Chaim Bloom: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Ranking the top 37 prospects in the Red Sox farm system heading into the 2021 season

The Red Sox are heading into the 2021 season with the 20th-ranked farm system in baseball according to Baseball America. That’s the same ranking they received going into the 2020 campaign as well.

Despite finishing with the fourth-worst record in baseball last year at 24-36, the 2020 season did net some positives for the Sox in terms of producing new, young, and controllable talent.

Just in terms of prospects, Boston acquired the likes of right-hander Connor Seabold from the Phillies, right-hander Jacob Wallace from the Rockies, and infielder Hudson Potts and outfielder Jeisson Rosario from the Padres.

They also drafted infielders Nick Yorke and Blaze Jordan and righties Shane Drohan and Jeremy Wu-Yelland with their four picks in last year’s amateur draft.

From the time the 2021 season ended until now, the Sox have added the likes of catcher Ronaldo Hernandez, infielders Christian Koss and Nick Sogard, right-handers Garrett Whitlock, Frank German, Josh Winckowski, and Zach Bryant.

To put it simply, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has not only addressed his club’s depth at the major-league level; he’s done it on the minor-league side of things as well.

Taking that point into consideration, it would not be too shocking to see Boston rise through the farm system rankings this year, especially with someone like Yorke getting to play in actual, organized minor-league games at some point.

Having written all that, I would like to present to you who the experts believe are the top prospects in the Red Sox organization at the moment.

To compile this list of Boston’s brightest and youngest talent, I took prospect lists from four baseball or Red Sox-centered publications — Baseball America, SoxProspects.com, FanGraphs, MLB Pipeline — and took the averages of where each of these sites had particular prospects ranked.

For example, Triston Casas was regarded as the Sox’ top prospect by three sites, but the other had him as their No. 2 prospect in the system.

With those numbers in mind, I added 1+1+1+2 to get 5, then divided that number by the total number of sources (4) to get Casas’ average ranking: 1.25, which rounds down to 1.

I hope that makes sense, because here are the top 37 prospects in the Red Sox farm system based off that math heading into the 2021 season.

ProspectBaseball AmericaSoxProspectsFanGraphsMLB PipelineAverage Rank
Triston Casas11211
Jeter Downs22122
Bryan Mata43353
Jarren Duran54744
Bobby Dalbec36935
Gilberto Jimenez75466
Tanner Houck87677
Jay Groome6121288
Thaddeus Ward10813109
Noah Song121151410
Connor Seabold11981511
Nick Yorke91315912
Ronaldo HernandezN/A14N/A1213
Brainer Bonaci1815171614
Aldo Ramirez2210142015
Blaze Jordan1620211116
Matthew Lugo1417281317
Brayan Bello1923111918
Connor Wong1522191719
Jeisson Rosario2016162220
Hudson Potts2418182421
Eduard Bazardo2827102822
Chris Murphy1319431823
Jonathan Arauz2126N/AN/A24
Nick Decker2921242325
Jacob Wallace2524262926
Frank GermanN/A2825N/A27
Garrett Whitlock 1732303028
Chih-Jung Liu2334332129
Durbin FeltmanN/A3031N/A30
Cameron CannonN/A43232631
Ryan ZeferjahnN/A2538N/A32
Jorge RodriguezN/A2934N/A33
Juan ChaconN/A52222534
A.J. Politi2749372735
Ceddanne Rafaela2645N/AN/A36
Jeremy Wu-Yelland30N/A47N/A37
*The N/A you see next to some of these names means that that particular prospect was not included on a specific site’s list.

All in all, it’s not too shocking to see Casas, Jeter Downs, Bryan Mata, Jarren Duran, and Bobby Dalbec come in as the Red Sox’ top five prospects, though Dalbec is surely going to graduate from his prospect status this year.

The same can be said about right-hander Tanner Houck, who comes in at No. 7 on this list.

Other names worth mentioning include outfielder Gilberto Jimenez (No. 6), right-hander Noah Song (No. 10), infielder Brainer Bonaci (No. 14), catcher Connor Wong (No. 19), right-hander Eduard Bazardo (No. 22), right-hander Chih-Jung Liu (No. 29), and outfielder Juan Chacon (No. 34).

One notable snub on here would be 17-year-old outfielder Miguel Bleis, who the Red Sox recently signed out of the Dominican Republic for $1.5 million back in January.

Because I made this list myself, I cannot say with certainty that it is perfect. But, I enjoyed compiling the information to create it, and I hope it can serve as some use to those who find this sort of thing interesting.

(Picture of Jarren Duran: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox have an ‘extremely exciting’ prospect in Dominican outfielder Miguel Bleis, Eddie Romero says

Last month, the Red Sox made some headlines by giving Dominican outfield prospect Miguel Bleis a signing bonus of $1.8 million, making him the highest-paid player in their 2021 international signing class thus far.

Bleis, who turns 17 in early March, was regarded by Baseball America as the 20th-ranked international prospect headed into the international signing period, which began on January 15.

Per his Baseball America scouting report, the right-handed hitting, right-handed throwing center fielder “is one of the top athletes in the 2020-21 international class.

“He has a sleek, athletic frame with high physical upside. He glides around center field with an easy gait and long strides, with average speed that might tick up as he gets stronger along with a strong arm. He has a quick bat with gap power and a chance to turn more of his doubles into home runs once he gets stronger.”

Currently listed at 6-foot-2 and and 170 lbs., Bleis had been training in the Mejia Top 10 Program in his home country, but he is currently at the Red Sox’ Dominican Academy in El Toro, a town just outside of Santo Domingo.

On Monday’s installment of the SoxProspects.com podcast with Chris Hatfield and Ian Cundall, Red Sox executive vice president and assistant general manager Eddie Romero spoke at length about what Bleis brings to the table.

“He’s a premium center field talent,” Romero said of one of Boston’s newest prospects. “He’s got all five tools. He runs well. He’s got an absolute hose of an arm at an early age with really good mechanics and accuracy. So we think that he can stay in the middle of the field.

“He’s got surprising power,” Romero added. “Being so young and being able to have above-average raw power is something we don’t see often for a center field player given his body type and athleticism. So, really, what we need to hone in on with him is approach. He performed well offensively in competition for us, and he’s continued to do that in the academy.”

Bleis hails from San Pedro de Marocis, a city on the Dominican’s southeastern coast that has produced the likes of Sammy Sosa, Robinson Cano, Alfonso Soriano, Fernando Tatis, and Fernando Tatis Jr., among others.

“He’s a high-character kid that is all about baseball and he’s from San Pedro,” said Romero in regards to Bleis’ roots. “They put something in the water there to create baseball players. So we hope that he can continue the lineage of talent coming out of that area. He’s extremely exciting.”

Since he is still just 16 years old, Bleis is still obviously a long ways away from cracking a major-league roster as there is plenty of room for him to develop in a variety of areas over the next several years.

The young outfielder will likely begin the 2021 minor-league season with one of the Red Sox’ rookie-level, Dominican Summer League teams. That is, if there is a DSL season this year in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re actively discussing that with MLB right now,” Romero said when asked if there would be a DSL season in 2021. “Everybody hopes that there is. It’s just pandemic-affected. We’re still working on the best way to organize that: What the structure would be, how the testing would go. And so we really want to have another platform for these guys to develop after so many of them missed the entire season last year.”

One last note on Bleis for those who enjoy prospect lists: FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen has him ranked as Boston’s No. 32 prospect going into the 2021 campaign.

Using the 20-80 scouting scale, Longenhagen grades Bleis’ current tools as follows: 20 Speed, 45 Raw Power, 20 Game Power, 50 Run, 40 Fielding, 55 Throw.

“Bleis is a righty corner outfield power projection prospect with a whippy, low-ball swing and room for about 30 pounds on his frame,” Longenhagen wrote of the speedy outfielder.

(Picture of Eddie Romero: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)