Red Sox add right-hander Zac Grotz on minor-league deal

The Red Sox have signed free-agent right-hander Zac Grotz to a minor-league contract for the 2021 season, according to MLB.com’s transaction wire.

The deal includes an invite to major-league spring training, per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

Grotz, who turns 28 next month, was originally drafted by the Astros in the 28th round of the 2015 amateur draft out of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Shortly after getting drafted, though, Houston released the righty the following April, and it wasn’t until August 2016 when he was picked up by the Dodgers.

Since then, Grotz has spent time with the Dodgers, Mets, and Mariners organizations as well as three independent league teams. He made his major-league debut for Seattle on August 2, 2019.

In 19 appearances out of the Mariners bullpen between the 2019 and 2020 seasons, the California native posted a 7.30 ERA and 6.45 FIP to go along with 22 strikeouts and 19 walks over 24 2/3 innings of work. It is worth noting that he was far better in 2019 than he was in 2020, as was the case with many players.

Looking at what he’s done in the minors, Grotz owns a lifetime 3.29 ERA over 65 outings, 21 of which were starts, and 180 1/3 innings pitched across five levels.

Per Baseball Savant, the 6-foot-2, 195 lb. hurler’s pitch mix consists of a slider, a curveball, a split-finger fastball, and a slider.

With his addition, Grotz figures to vie for a spot in the Red Sox’ bullpen at the onset of spring training next month. In all likelihood, though, he’ll probably begin the 2021 season with Triple-A Worcester.

So far this offseason, the Red Sox have either signed or re-signed the following players to minor-league deals:

C Roldani Baldwin
C Jhonny Pereda
1B Joey Meneses
1B Josh Ockimey
INF Jeremy Rivera
OF Cesar Puello
OF Michael Gettys
OF Johan Mieses
LHP Emmanuel De Jesus
LHP Stephen Gonsalves
RHP Kevin McCarthy
RHP Seth Blair
RHP Raynel Espinal
RHP Caleb Simpson
RHP Zack Kelly
RHP Jose Disla
RHP Daniel Gossett
RHP Zac Grotz

(Picture of Zac Grotz: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Longtime Red Sox farmhand Jantzen Witte signs minor-league deal with Mariners

Lost in the madness that saw Francisco Lindor get traded to the Mets and Tomoyuki Sugano return to Japan, former Red Sox farmhand Jantzen Witte signed a minor-league contract with the Seattle Mariners on Thursday night.

Witte, who turned 31 on Monday, was originally selected by Boston in the 24th round of the 2013 amateur draft out of Texas Christian University.

Before the 2020 minor-league season was lost due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the infielder had put together a solid 2019 campaign between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket.

Over 118 total games with both clubs, Witte posted a .271/.333/.390 slash line to go along with nine home runs and 51 RBI on the year while seeing time at first base, second base, third base, left field, and even an inning of mop-up duty on the mound.

Perhaps even more important than his play on the field, though, is the fact that the Dallas-area native had proven to be a vital veteran presence for some of the organization’s younger minor-leaguers. And he did so while seemingly being on the cusp of getting called up to the majors.

The Athletic’s Chad Jennings highlighted this trait of Witte’s in a fascinating story back in March, in the middle of the first version of spring training.

“He’s a freaking really good player,” Red Sox prospect Bobby Dalbec said of Witte, his spring training roommate, when speaking to Jennings. “And he’s a glue guy for a clubhouse. So, those guys are special … He’s a really good balance of care-free, but still getting his shit done when he needs to get his shit done. Never says a mean thing.”

In addition to Dalbec, Sox minor-leaguers such as Josh Ockimey, C.J. Chatham, and Chad De La Guerra, all of whom have shared the infield with Witte at one point in their professional careers, had positive things to say about their teammate as well.

Ockimey: “(Coaches) always talk about how to be a professional. But it’s different when you have a guy like him to show you how to be a professional.”

Chatham: “He’s the guy you go to when you’re not sure if something is right or wrong. There’s little things in baseball that can annoy people that (you don’t know) when you’re young. You just ask him, and he always has the right answer.”

De La Guerra: “I think he’s probably the biggest clubhouse guy, the most important one, for Pawtucket. He’s super popular. I think everybody sees him the same way. He’s just one of those guys. He’s probably even seen the same as the coaching staff. There’s no difference.”

Before becoming a minor-league free agent in November, Witte was one of the last members of the Red Sox’ 2013 draft class who was still with the organization, as noted by SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield.

Witte originally signed with Boston for significantly less than $100,000 as a fifth-year senior out of TCU. He appeared in 661 games across six minor-league levels spanning seven seasons as a member of the Red Sox.

All the best to Witte as he embarks on this new chapter of his career with the Mariners. It would appear that he will have the opportunity to remain in the game even after his playing days come to an end.

(Photo of Jantzen Witte: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Red Sox re-sign infielder Jeremy Rivera to minor-league deal

The Red Sox have re-signed minor-league infielder Jeremy Rivera to a minor-league contract for the 2021 season, per MLB.com’s transaction wire.

Rivera, who turns 26 later this month, was originally selected by Boston in the 17th round (524th overall pick) out of El Paso Community College.

Signed by the club in early July that year, the switch-hitting Puerto Rican has since played all over the infield across five different minor-league levels, most recently spending the 2018 and 2019 seasons in Double-A Portland.

SoxProspects.com’s Ian Cundall wrote last May that Rivera “can really pick it at shortstop, but his bat lags behind, capping his ceiling and leading to his stalling out in Portland for the past couple seasons.”

This winter, Rivera has been playing in the Puerto Rican Winter League for a seventh consecutive offseason.

Through 14 games with Indios de Mayaguez, the infielder is slashing .238/.353/.310 with six RBI and seven runs scored over 52 plate appearances.

So far this offseason, the Red Sox have either signed or re-signed the following players to minor-league deals:

C Roldani Baldwin
C Jhonny Pereda
1B Joey Meneses
1B Josh Ockimey
INF Jeremy Rivera
OF Cesar Puello
OF Michael Gettys
OF Johan Mieses
LHP Emmanuel De Jesus
LHP Stephen Gonsalves
RHP Kevin McCarthy
RHP Seth Blair
RHP Raynel Espinal
RHP Caleb Simpson
RHP Zack Kelly
RHP Jose Disla
RHP Daniel Gossett

(Top picture of Rivera: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox make Bianca Smith hiring official, making her first Black woman to coach in history of professional baseball

In case you missed it, the Red Sox officially announced their hiring of Bianca Smith as a minor-league coach on Monday.

Smith, 29, becomes the first Black woman to coach in the history of professional baseball, which goes back to 1869.

“The opportunity is amazing,” Smith told MLB Network’s Matt Vasgersian and Harold Reynolds on Monday’s installment of Hot Stove. “I’m still wrapping my head around it. I probably won’t have it really sink in until I’m actually there.

“But, I think it’s a great opportunity also to inspire other women who are interested in this game,” she added. “This is not really something I thought about when I was younger, and I kind of fell into it being an athlete. So I’m excited to get that chance to show what I can do.”

Prior to signing on with the Red Sox, Smith played college softball at Dartmouth College from 2011-2012. She also has experience as director of baseball operations and a graduate assistant at Case Western Reserve from 2013-2017 as well as an assistant hitting coach at the University of Dallas in 2018.

Currently, Smith operates as an assistant baseball coach and hitting coordinator for Carroll University (Wisc.). She will remain in that role for the next few weeks before joining the Red Sox.

“Preparing for the season, I’m doing exactly what I’ve been doing for the last several years,” she said. “Just continue to keep learning, continue to keep researching. Doing as much as I can. I’ve still got several weeks here at Carroll, so I get to work with my players here. So that will be great preparation. I’m going to be nonstop coaching for about the next seven or eight weeks before I get started with the Red Sox.”

In her role with Boston, Smith will primarily work with minor-league position players at the club’s player development facility in Fort Myers.

The Pennsylvania native does also have prior experience working within major-league organizations, interning for both the Cincinnati Reds and Texas Rangers’ baseball operations departments in recent years.

“She was a great candidate coming in,” Red Sox vice president of player development Ben Crockett said of Smith. “She’s had some really interesting experiences and has been passionate about growing her skill set and development herself… It’s a meaningful, meaningful thing for the organization.”

According to MLB.com’s Ian Browne, the Red Sox are expected to introduce Smith to the media via Zoom conference sometime this week.

The Boston Globe’s Julian McWilliams was the first to report last week that the Red Sox were hiring Smith as a minor-league coach.

Information from MLB.com, MLB Network, and The Boston Globe was used in this article.

Red Sox sign right-hander Jose Disla to minor-league deal

The Red Sox have signed free-agent right-hander Jose Disla to a minor-league contract, per Baseball America’s minor-league transaction wire.

Disla, 24, was originally signed by the Rays as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2013.

The 6-foot-2, 165 lb. hurler most recently appeared in six contests (one start) for Double-A Montgomery in 2019, posting a 3.38 ERA and 5.92 xFIP over just eight innings of work due to multiple stints on the injured list.

In seven career minor-league seasons across seven different levels, Disla owns a lifetime 4.55 ERA over 94 outings, 30 of which have been starts, and 221 1/3 total innings pitched.

He was also handed down a 50-game suspension in 2013 for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program after testing positive for metabolites of stanozolol and nandrolone.

Based off what his agency posted on Twitter exactly one month ago Sunday, it would appear that Disla actually signed with Boston back in late November, but the transaction is just coming into the forefront now.

In an Instagram post from November 20, Disla wrote the following:

“Thanks to the Rays organization for the time I was in that organization. I feel proud for all the time I had wearing that uniform and give thanks to everyone who helped me in that organization. Thanks to the Red Sox for allowing me to do [what] I really love again. Thanks Boston for giving me this new opportunity.”

Having come over from the Rays’ organization, Disla may or may not have a connection to Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom. That much is unclear at this point.

What is clear, though, is that Disla becomes the 15th minor-league free agent Bloom and Co. have either signed or re-signed since the start of the offseason. He joins the likes of:

C Roldani Baldwin
C Jhonny Pereda
1B Joey Meneses
1B Josh Ockimey
OF Cesar Puello
OF Michael Gettys
OF Johan Mieses
LHP Emmanuel De Jesus
LHP Stephen Gonsalves
RHP Kevin McCarthy
RHP Seth Blair
RHP Raynel Espinal
RHP Caleb Simpson
RHP Zack Kelly

(h/t SoxProspects.com)

Red Sox sign right-hander Zack Kelly to minor-league deal

The Red Sox have signed free-agent right-hander Zack Kelly to a minor-league contract, according to PNY Sports. It’s unclear at this point if this deal includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Kelly, 25, was cut loose by the Angels organization back in May when most clubs released a good number of their minor-leaguers in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Virginia native was originally signed by the Oakland Athletics for just $500 as an undrafted free agent out of Newberry College (SC) in June 2017. He posted a 3.77 ERA and 4.07 xFIP over 13 appearances and 28 2/3 innings pitched for the Arizona League A’s that summer before getting released the following April.

Signed to a minor-league pact by Los Angeles later that month, Kelly had worked his way up to the Double-A level as recently as 2019.

Across 2o outings (13 starts) and 75 1/3 innings for Double-A Mobile, the righty posted a 3.82 ERA and a much more impressive 3.17 xFIP while averaging nearly 10 punchouts per nine frames of work.

Having put up those numbers in ’19, Kelly likely thought big things were on the horizon this year. Instead, he suffered an elbow injury in spring training which would later require surgery and, as previously mentioned, was released by the Angels in May as part of that mass exodus of minor-league cuts across baseball.

“It’s kind of frustrating because I felt like I had a career that wasn’t worthy of getting released at this point,” Kelly told The New York Times’ James Wagner in June.

Though it’s not clear which kind of surgery Kelly underwent over the summer, he was apparently throwing off a mound in November.

So, it would appear that the 6-foot-3, 205 lb. hurler could be ready for spring training workouts in Fort Myers come February.

So far this offseason, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have either signed or re-signed the following players to minor-league contracts (h/t SoxProspects.com):

C Roldani Baldwin
C Jhonny Pereda
1B Joey Meneses
1B Josh Ockimey
OF Cesar Puello
OF Michael Gettys
OF Johan Mieses
LHP Emmanuel De Jesus
LHP Stephen Gonsalves
RHP Kevin McCarthy
RHP Seth Blair
RHP Raynel Espinal
RHP Caleb Simpson
RHP Zack Kelly

Red Sox re-sign outfielder César Puello to minor-league contract, per report

The Red Sox have re-signed outfielder Cesar Puello to a minor-league contract for the 2021 season, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. It’s likely this contract includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Puello, 29, appeared in five games — two in left field, three in right — for Boston this past season after initially inking a minor-league pact with the club in February. He previously spent time with the Angels, Rays, and Marlins after making his big-league debut with Los Angeles in 2017.

In those five contests in 2020, the Dominican national went 3-for-8 (.375) at the plate with one run scored, two walks drawn, and two strikeouts from September 19 through September 27. He was outrighted from Boston’s 40-man roster on October 28

Prior to having his contract purchased in late September, Puello was added to the Sox’ 60-man player pool in late June and took part in workouts at the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket throughout the summer.

Now that he is back with the organization, Puello will once again look to provide valuable outfield depth for a club in need of it at the moment. Expect him to start the 2021 minor-league campaign with Triple-A Worcester.

So far this offseason, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have either signed or re-signed the following players to minor-league contracts (h/t SoxProspects.com):

C Roldani Baldwin
C Jhonny Pereda
1B Joey Meneses
1B Josh Ockimey
OF Cesar Puello
OF Michael Gettys
OF Johan Mieses
LHP Emmanuel De Jesus
LHP Stephen Gonsalves
RHP Kevin McCarthy
RHP Seth Blair
RHP Raynel Espinal
RHP Caleb Simpson

Red Sox cut ties with Lowell Spinners for 2021, extend invites to four other minor-league affiliates

As part of Major League Baseball’s new minor-league player development structure, the Red Sox’ farm system got a bit shaken up earlier Wednesday afternoon.

Boston invited four of its previous affiliates — Worcester Red Sox, Portland Sea Dogs, Greenville Drive, Salem Red Sox — “for continued professional affiliation,” per a team release.

While the Sox’ Triple-A club will be moving from Pawtucket to Worcester next season and its Double-A affiliate will remain in Portland, the full-season, Class-A affiliates were the ones reshuffled the most.

For starters, Boston’s High-A affiliate had been Salem and its Low-A affiliate had been Greenville. Those two clubs will now switch roles for 2021 and beyond, with the Drive being the Red Sox’ new High-A team and the Salem Sox being its new Low-A team.

Greenville will be a part of the new Mid-Atlantic League, while Salem will head to the South Atlantic League.

On top of that, the short-season Lowell Spinners will not be affiliated with the Red Sox in 2021, though the club and the City of Lowell “are in the early stages of evaluating various opportunities for the 2021 season, and will continue to discuss longer-term options in the weeks ahead.”

According to The Boston Globe’s Michael Silverman, Lowell could host either an independent league team or a team in the brand new MLB Draft League next year. The possibility also still remains that Lowell could once again realign itself with the Red Sox in 2022.

The Spinners had been part of the Sox’ minor-league pipeline since 1996.

Red Sox prospect Juan Chacon ‘caught some attention’ at fall instructs, Eddie Romero says

Like fellow prospect Chih-Jung Liu, Juan Chacon’s baseball experience in 2020 was anything but normal.

The 17-year-old was likely going to spend the majority of the year playing in the Dominican Summer League, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that caused the minor-league season to be cancelled prevented that from happening.

Instead of getting more exposure in the Dominican, where he played in the Tricky League last summer, Chacon had to wait until early October to get his first real opportunity of 2020.

Up until then, Chacon had been working out a facility in Miami, which likely gave him an edge in preparedness when he received an invite to the Sox’ fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

“It was our official version of seeing him, finally under supervision,” Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero said of Chacon when speaking with WEEI’s Rob Bradford. “He has a tool-set. He is a plus-runner. It was something when we first saw him he kept getting faster every time and by signing day he was running a 6.6 60. He’s got above-average arm strength. We think he’s somebody who can stay in the middle of the field and cover a lot of range. He’s got a strong arm. And offensively, right now he’s got a projectable frame. He’s very athletic. He’s somebody from an offensive standpoint, he uses the whole field.”

The Red Sox signed Chacon, a right-handed hitter, out of Venezuela for $900,000 last July, making him the club’s highest-paid international signee for the 2019-2020 international signing period.

That is quite the investment, and with that investment comes somewhat lofty expectations; expectations which Chacon lived up to at fall instructs.

“He performed well at instructs,” Romero added. “Which for a first-year signee, usually [with those] those guys, there aren’t many of them we push straight to the stateside instructional league. We wanted to see him and he did well and I know he caught some attention.”

Regarded by SoxProspects.com as Boston’s No. 49 prospect, the 6-foot-2, 170 lb. outfielder will have the opportunity to ascend the prospect ranks some more once he actually gets the chance to see some in-game action. That will presumably happen in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League at some point in 2021.

Red Sox prospects: right-hander Aldo Ramirez, outfielder Gilberto Jimenez among top performers at fall instructs

Among the 62 minor-leaguers who attended the Red Sox’ fall instructional league from October 5 through November 12, right-hander Aldo Ramirez and outfielder Gilberto Jimenez stood out the most, according to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall.

Per Cundall, evaluators who had the chance to attend fall instructs reported that Ramirez “showed advanced feel and should stick as a starter,” while Jimenez “has filled out considerably” and “has started to drive the ball at the plate.

Ramirez, 19, is regarded by SoxProspects as Boston’s sixth-ranked right-handed pitching prospect and 17th-ranked prospect overall.

The native of Mexico was signed from Rieleros de Aguascalientes of the Mexican League for $550,00 back in April 2018, with Sotero Torres, Eddie Romero, and Todd Claus being the scouts responsible for his signing.

Since that time, Ramirez most recently got a full season’s work in 2019 while spending time at short-season Lowell.

In 14 appearances (13 starts) for the Spinners, Ramirez posted a 3.94 ERA and a 2.95 xFIP over 61 2/3 innings of work. The 2020 minor-league season was, of course, a wash due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Per his SoxProspects scouting report, the 6-foot, 180 lb. righty works with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 91-95 mph fastball, a 77-80 mph curveball, and a 86-88 mph changeup with “splitterish movement.”

Typically pitching from a three-quarters arm slot, Ramirez currently projects to be a back-end of the rotation starting pitcher at the big-league level. At such a young age, though, he still has plenty of time to improve and further develop his craft before becoming Rule 5 eligible in 2022.

Jimenez, meanwhile, stood out as the best position player at fall instructs, and it’s easy to see why considering the 20-year-old is regarded by MLB Pipeline as the Red Sox’ top outfield prospect.

The speedster was signed out of the Dominican Republic for just $10,000 by Romero and Manny Nanita back in August 2017.

That investment has proven to pay off for the Red Sox in a tremendous way thus far, as Jimenez is without a doubt one of the more exciting players in the club’s minor-league pipeline.

On top of his 80-grade speed tool, the highest mark in the system according to FanGraphs, Jimenez has proven to be an on-base machine.

With short-season Lowell in 2019, the switch-hitting outfielder won the New York-Penn League batting title by slashing .359/.393/.470 to go along with three home runs, 19 RBI, and 14 stolen bases over 59 games played.

The one downside to Jimenez’s performance last year was that he primarily relied on his speed to turn groundballs into base hits, meaning he did not get the ball in the air all that much.

Despite that lone deterrent, Jimenez does have quick hands and plus bat speed to show for it. As mentioned above, he has also apparently filled out this year to the point where he is “now built like a running back.”

With that additional muscle, Jimenez has begun to show some flashes of power from the right side of the plate, which is the side of the plate he primarily hit from until converting into a switch-hitter in 2017.

Jimenez will become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft next winter, meaning there is a very good chance he will be added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster within the next 12-plus months.

As you may have already guessed upon reading this report, Jimenez has plenty of potential, and like Ramirez, plenty of room to grow as a player, too.

Neither Ramirez nor Jimenez were included in the Red Sox’ 60-man player pool this past season, so the fall instructional league provided the club with its first real opportunity since March to check in on many of its coveted prospects.

Information from FanGraphs, MLB Pipeline, and SoxProspects.com was used in this article.