Red Sox Sign Top Draft Pick Nick Yorke for $2.7 Million

The Red Sox officially signed top draft pick Nick Yorke on Tuesday, per Yorke himself.

According to MLB.com’s Jim Callis, the 17-year-old Yorke signed with Boston for $2.7 million, which is about $900,000 below the slot value assigned to the 17th overall pick in the 2020 first-year player draft.

By doing this, the Red Sox were able to sign third-round selection Blaze Jordan for $1.75 million, which is well past the 89th pick’s recommended slot value of $667,900.

Regarded by Baseball America as the 96th-ranked draft-eligible prospect ahead of this year’s draft, Yorke went as early as he did because, as Callis notes, the Sox “legitimately loved” his bat.

The prep second baseman out of Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, Calif. slashed .457/.552/.709 with 11 home runs and 77 RBI over four seasons and 94 games played for the Monarchs’ varsity baseball team.

Many were surprised that Boston went in the direction of taking Yorke with their top pick, but as previously mentioned, they had legitimate reasoning to do so.

When speaking with reporters after the 2020 draft, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said that Yorke “has a chance to be a special bat who is going to play the infield.”

On top of that, amateur scouting director Paul Toboni added, “We feel like if there would have been a full spring, there probably would have been industry consensus that this kid was a first-round pick.”

Yorke was committed to play college baseball at the University of Arizona. He will instead become a professional and will likely have to wait a while to actually start playing in organized minor-league games due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

On another note, as brought up by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Red Sox now have approximately $679,900 to work with to sign fourth-round pick Jeremy Wu-Yelland and fifth-round pick Shane Drohan.

Red Sox Sign Reliever Caleb Simpson, Add Him to Summer Camp Player Pool as Non-Roster Invitee

The Red Sox have signed right-handed reliever Caleb Simpson to a minor-league deal and have added him to their Summer Camp player pool as a non-roster invitee. The club made the signing official earlier Saturday.

Simpson, 28, was released by the Cubs back in May at that time when teams across baseball were parting ways with dozens of their minor-league players.

The former Giants farmhand was a 21st-round draft selection out of Seminole State Junior Colege (Okla.) by San Francisco back in 2013.

Across four minor-league levels spanning five seasons, Simpson owns a career 3.41 ERA and .180 batting average against over 121 relief appearances and 145 1/3 innings of work.

Most recently, the 6’4″, 231 lb. righty posted a 3.00 ERA over 34 outings and 42 innings pitched between High-A San Jose and Double-A Richmond last season.

Throughout his minor-league career, Simpson has dealt with his fair share of injury troubles. He underwent Tommy John surgery in March of 2015, which resulted in him missing the 2015 season and a portion of the 2016 season.

By adding Simpson to their player pool, the Red Sox now have 49 players at Summer Camp, meaning they still have 11 open slots to work with.

2020 Minor League Baseball Season Cancelled Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

This news does not come as a surprise, but the 2020 Minor League Baseball season has been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. MiLB released a statement addressing the matter earlier Tuesday evening.

 

Per league president and CEO Pat O’Connor, “This announcement removes the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season and allows our teams to begin planning for an exciting 2021 season of affordable family entertainment.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, heavy financial constraints were placed on minor-league clubs across the country due to the fact their primary source of revenue comes from ticket sales.

Unlike their parent major-league clubs, minor-league affiliates do not have lucrative television or other media contracts to rely on in the absence of ticket sales and other gameday revenue, so getting through an entire season with teams playing in empty or nearly empty ballparks would have been virtually impossible.

Back in May, the Red Sox committed to paying their non-40-man-roster minor-leaguers $400 per week through the end of August, or what would have been the end of the minor-league season.

Without a minor-league season, it has been reported by Baseball America that some teams will allow their minor-leaguers to pursue opportunities in independent league baseball.

It is also worth mentioning that the Red Sox’ Triple-A affiliate, the Pawtucket Red Sox, were supposed to play their final season at McCoy Stadium this year before relocating to Worcester.

With Polar Park making progress towards its completion before the start of the 2021 minor-league season, it would seem as though the PawSox have already played their last game at McCoy, which they have called home since 1969.

On another note, the short-season affiliate of the Red Sox, the Lowell Spinners, probably won’t be affiliated with the Red Sox for that much longer, as the entire infrastructure of minor-league baseball appears to be headed towards rapid turnover. That much was made evident by this year’s amateur draft, which consisted of only five rounds to make it the shortest in MLB’s history to this point in time.

Minor-league baseball is an important aspect of the game for developing players and young fans alike. Despite that notion, the landscape of MiLB will probably never be the same beginning in 2021 if those aforementioned changed do take place.

Red Sox Will Pay Minor-League Players $400 per Week Through End of August

The Red Sox will pay their minor-league players $400 per week through the end of August, or what would have been the end of the 2020 minor-league season, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

This news comes a day after the club released 22 minor-league players amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minor-leaguers have been financially supported by Major League Baseball since March, but that commitment only runs through the end of May.

From there, it will be up to the major-league clubs to extend the salaries of their minor-league players, and it appears that the Red Sox are one of several teams who will be doing so beginning next month.

Per Speier, “All minor leaguers in the Red Sox system who aren’t covered by a major-league contract — meaning who aren’t on the 40-man roster — will receive the $400 weekly stipend.”

As noted by ESPN’s Jeff Passan on Thursday, up to 1,000 minor-leaguers could be released in the next week or so. The majority of these cuts were expected to be made before spring training was suspended, but it is still a tough time for the sport nonetheless, as many professional baseball careers may be coming to an end sooner than expected.

 

Red Sox Release 22 Minor-League Players Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

The Red Sox released 22 minor-league players on Thursday, per a team release.

It’s worth noting that these cuts would have likely still been made before spring training was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but with it looking more and more probable that there will be no minor-league baseball season at all in 2020, it’s very likely the minor-leaguers who were released on Thursday’s may have just seen their professional baseball careers come to a close.

The 22 players released by the Red Sox include 10 pitchers, three catchers, five infielders, and four outfielders:

Right-handed pitchers: Matthew Gorst, Dylan Thompson, Robbie Baker, Chris Machamer, Connor Berry, Eddie Jimenez, Zach Schneider and Mason Duke.

Left-handed pitchers: Alex Demchak and Kelvin Sanchez.

Catchers: Joe DeCarlo, Samuel Miranda, and Breiner Licona.

Infielders: Nick Lovullo, Juremi Profar, Korby Batesole, Andre Colon, and Nilo Rijo.

Outfielders: Edgar Corcino, Keith Curcio, Trenton Kemp, and Marino Campana.

Among the notable cuts are Nick Lovullo, son of former Red Sox bench coach and current Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo, and Juremi Profar, the younger brother of Padres infielder Jurickson Profar.

Lovullo, who turned 26 last December, was drafted by Boston in the 20th round of the 2016 amateur draft out of Holy Cross in Worcester. He played 79 games across three minor-league levels last season.

Profar, meanwhile, signed a minor-league deal with Boston back in November after previously spending time in the Rangers farm system.

These cuts come at a time where hundreds, if not thousands of minor-leaguers are losing their jobs all across baseball as clubs continue to cut costs due to the ongoing pandemic.

This is just an assumption, but I think it’s fair to say that what goes down in minor-league baseball this week is a precursor for what’s to come in 2021 and/or 2022. To put it simply, the infrastructure of minor-league baseball as we know it will soon be changing in drastic fashion.

Red Sox Prospects: The Ultimate Top 30 Rankings for 2020

You ever visit those fantasy sports sites like ESPN or FantasyPros and notice how they compile their rankings into one elaborate chart that curates information from multiple sources/analysts? Well, I decided to do that with the top 30 prospects in the Red Sox farm system.

There might not even be any minor-league baseball played this year due to the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, but I thought it would nonetheless be interesting to compare how different sites–MLB Pipeline, SoxProspects, and FanGraphs–view the top talent that Boston has to offer at the minor-league level.

The following Red Sox prospects were ranked by one of the aforementioned three sites, but not the other two: SS Ceddanne Rafaela, 1B Pedro Castellanos, OF Bryan Gonzalez, OF Eduardo Lopez, OF Juan Chacon, and C Naysbel Marcano.

Prospects Danny Diaz and Tyler Esplin, meanwhile, were ranked by two of the aforementioned sites and left off by the other. They made the list.

Prospect MLB Pipeline SoxProspects FanGraphs Average
IF Jeter Downs 1 2 1 1.33
1B/3B Triston Casas 2 1 2 1.67
RHP Bryan Mata 4 3 3 3.33
1B/3B Bobby Dalbec 3 6 4 4.33
OF Gilberto Jimenez 5 5 6 5.33
RHP Noah Song 6 9 5 6.67
OF Jarren Duran 8 7 10 8.33
LHP Jay Groome 7 4 15 8.67
RHP Tanner Houck 10 8 9 9
RHP Thad Ward 9 11 11 10.33
SS Matthew Lugo 11 15 7 11
OF Nick Decker 12 17 14 14.33
IF Cameron Cannon 17 18 8 14.33
IF C.J. Chatham 13 10 21 14.67
C/IF Connor Wong 16 12 16 14.67
RHP Brayan Bello 18 19 12 16.33
IF Brainer Bonaci 14 20 18 17.33
RHP Chih-Jung Liu 15 27 13 18.33
SS Antoni Flores 19 21 17 19
LHP Chris Murphy 20 16 23 19.67
RHP Ryan Zeferjahn 22 13 29 21.33
3B Brandon Howlett 23 25 20 22.67
OF Marcus Wilson 21 23 25 23
RHP Aldo Ramirez 27 14 31 24
IF Jonathan Arauz 30 28 22 26.67
RHP Durbin Feltman 25 29 28 27.33
IF Danny Diaz 24 32 NR 28
RHP Andrew Politi 26 37 27 30
LHP Yoan Aybar 29 31 34 31.33
OF Tyler Esplin 28 60 NR 44

So, to boil it all down, here’s a more simplified top-30 list based off the math you see in the chart above.

  1. IF Jeter Downs
  2. 1B/3B Triston Casas
  3. RHP Bryan Mata
  4. 1B/3B Bobby Dalbec
  5. OF Gilberto Jimenez
  6. RHP Noah Song
  7. OF Jarren Duran
  8. LHP Jay Groome
  9. RHP Tanner Houck
  10. RHP Thad Ward
  11. SS Matthew Lugo
  12. OF Nick Decker
  13. IF Cameron Cannon
  14. IF C.J. Chatham
  15. C/IF Connor Wong
  16. RHP Brayan Bello
  17. IF Brainer Bonaci
  18. RHP Chih-Jung Liu
  19. SS Antoni Flores
  20. LHP Chris Murphy
  21. RHP Ryan Zeferjahn
  22. 3B Brandon Howlett
  23. OF Marcus Wilson
  24. RHP Aldo Ramirez
  25. IF Jonathan Arauz
  26. RHP Durbin Feltman
  27. IF Danny Diaz
  28. RHP Andrew Politi
  29. LHP Yoan Aybar
  30. OF Tyler Esplin

In total, 26 of the above 30 players were either drafted or signed by the Red Sox, while three were traded for, and one was acquired in the Rule 5 Draft.

For more in-depth analysis, information, and scouting reports on these prospects and even more players, check out one of the sites I used for this piece in SoxProspects.com. Those guys do a great job in covering the Red Sox farm system. You can even read more abut them and how they got their start here.

What If There Is No Minor-League Baseball at All in 2020?

The Pawtucket Red Sox, Portland Sea Dogs, Salem Red Sox, and Greenville Drive should all be a little more than two weeks into their season right about now.

Instead, the COVID-19 pandemic has put the baseball season, major and minor-league alike, on hold for the time being.

Recently, there have been reports about Major League Baseball potentially putting together a plan that would involve having all 30 clubs play their games this season in one central location, such as Arizona, Florida, or even Texas.

As encouraging as those proposals may seem, what has not been discussed much since MLB suspended spring training last month is when the minor-league season will start, or if there will even be one at all.

According to Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper, “In off-the-record discussions with people all around the game, there is a near-universal acknowledgement that there are a massive amount of hurdles that have to be overcome to make any MiLB season happen.”

Cooper gets into more of the financial and logistical side of things in his article, but in this case, I want to focus on the developmental side. More specifically, if no minor-league games are played in 2020, how would that impact a prospect’s development and career trajectory?

Take Red Sox infield prospect Jeter Downs for instance. The top prospect acquired by Boston from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts and David Price trade is projected by FanGraphs to make his big-league debut at some point during the 2022 campaign. Would having no minor-league games to play in this year result in Downs’ ETA being pushed back another year?

That probably still depends on what the 21-year-old does in 2021, but taking away a year to develop and continue to improve in actual games while being under the eyes of the organization is something worth thinking about nonetheless.

As odd as it would be to see MLB games played in front of no fans in one neutral location this year, it might be even weirder to have no minor-league baseball to look forward to in 2020 at all.

Who Is J.T. Watkins? Red Sox Video Replay Coordinator Violated MLB Regulations During 2018 Regular Season, per Commissioner Rob Manfred

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred finally released his findings into the 2018 Red Sox and the club’s “improper use of the video replay room” on Wednesday, and fall guy or not, Red Sox video replay coordinator J.T. Watkins took most of the blame for what went down two years ago.

Watkins’ name is mentioned approximately 125 times in the commissioner’s 15-page report, starting with the following statement:

“I find that J.T. Watkins, the Red Sox video replay system operator, on at least
some occasions during the 2018 regular season, utilized the game feeds in the
replay room, in violation of MLB regulations, to revise sign sequence information
that he had permissibly provided to players prior to the game.”

Listed in the Sox’ media guide as the team’s advance scouting assistant, Watkins first joined the organization in 2012 as a 10th-round draft pick out of West Point.

An Alabama-born first baseman, Watkins, now 30 years old, retired from baseball in November 2016 after three minor-league seasons (he missed the 2013 and 2014 seasons while serving in the military for two years) and transitioned into a role with Boston’s advance scouting staff that winter.

A little more than three years after being offered that position, Watkins will be suspended without pay for the 2020 regular and postseason and will not be able to retain his role as replay room operator until the conclusion of the 2021 postseason.

Along with former manager Alex Cora, who was handed down a one-year ban for what he did as Astros bench coach in 2017, Watkins was the only Red Sox employee, player or staff, to be disciplined by Manfred.

Per the commissioner’s report, Watkins “was responsible for attempting to decode an opposing team’s sign sequences prior to and after the completion of the game, which was (and is) permissible under the rules. Watkins conveyed the sign sequence information he learned from his pregame work to players in a meeting prior to the game, or sometimes during the game. The issue in this case stems from the fact that Watkins—the employee responsible for decoding an opponent’s signs prior to and following the game—also was the person stationed in the replay room during the game to advise the Manager on whether to challenge a play on the field. (It was not uncommon for those two roles to be combined in this manner by Clubs in 2018). Therefore, Watkins, who was an expert at decoding sign sequences from video, had access to a live feed during the game that he could have—if he so chose—used to supplement or update the work he had performed prior to the game to decode an opponent’s signs.”

There’s a lot to digest in the report, which you can read in full here, but I did find it interesting that, “Of the 44 players who provided information, more than 30 stated that they had no knowledge regarding whether Watkins used in-game video feeds to revise his advance sign decoding work. However, a smaller number of players said that on at least some occasions, they suspected or had indications that Watkins may have revised the sign sequence information that he had provided to players prior to the game through his review of the game feed in the replay room.”

Despite losing Watkins as video replay coordinator for the next two seasons, it is fair to say that the Red Sox got off lightly here. So much so that Alex Cora will probably be back as manager in 2021.

All in all, it’s just nice to say that after three-plus months of speculation and waiting, it’s nice to say that this league-led investigation into the Red Sox is, at least to my knowledge, complete. They were punished for their actions, now it’s time to move on.

 

 

That Time Hank Aaron Nearly Began His Major-League Career When the Braves Were Still in Boston

Over the course of his 23-year major-league career, Hall of Famer Hank Aaron is most notoriously known for his contributions to the game of baseball in the cities of Milwaukee, Atlanta, and Milwaukee again.

Despite being a legend in those two cities though, it’s worth mentioning that the 25-time All-Star begin his professional career with the city of Boston more than likely on his mind.

That being the case because as an 18-year-old who had just led the Indianapolis Clowns to a Negro League World Series title in 1952, Aaron had two major-league offers on the table from two northeast teams in the Boston Braves and New York Giants.

Since the Braves were offering a larger monthly salary than the Giants were, Aaron decided to sign with Boston and his contract was immediately purchased from Indianapolis in June 1952.

The Alabama native was assigned to Boston’s Class-C minor-league affiliate in Eau Claire, Wisc. shortly thereafter, where he promptly posted a .336 batting average and .493 slugging percentage to go along with nine home runs and 19 doubles over 87 games with the Bears.

As it turned out though, 1952 wound wind up being the last year the Braves called the city of Boston home.

At the major-league level, the Braves had struggled significantly since reaching the World Series in 1948. And that overall poor performance was met with dwindling attendance numbers at Braves Field.

Those two factors, along with the fact that the neighboring Red Sox had been gaining more and more popularity in the city, led club owner Lou Perini to make the decision to move the team to Milwaukee, the home of the Braves’ Triple-A affiliate at the time.

After Perini’s proposal was met with unanimous approval from the other National League owners, the Braves’ move to Milwaukee was made official on March 18th, 1953 while the club was still in spring training, much to the dismay of fans in Boston.

That April, the Braves opened the home portion of their 1953 schedule with a 3-2 walk-off win over the St. Louis Cardinals at brand-new Milwaukee County Stadium.

The newly-anointed Milwaukee Braves would go on to finish their first season in Wisconsin with a final record of 92-62, all while Aaron was still developing at the Class-A level in Jacksonville, where he mashed 22 home runs in 137 games for the Braves.

The following spring, Aaron broke camp by making his first career major-league Opening Day roster as Milwaukee’s starting left fielder.

At just 20 years old, he slashed .280/.322/.447 with 13 home runs and 69 RBI over his first 122 games in the majors and later finished fourth in National League Rookie of the Year voting. The Braves’ win total went down from the season prior, yet they led the NL in attendance for a second straight year.

Aaron would go on to have a superb career, winning his first and only MVP award and World Series trophy in 1957, winning two batting titles, three Gold Glove awards, and probably most significantly, breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record with his 715th career homer on April 8th, 1974.

Just five years after retiring from the game in 1975, Aaron was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982 after receiving 406 of 421 votes in his first year on the ballot.

Looking at things from a broader perspective, Aaron is without a doubt one of the best outfielders to ever play Major League Baseball. He’s most well-known in Atlanta and Milwaukee, but he was only a few years off from embarking on a legendary career in the city of Boston.

In 12 career games at Fenway Park, Hammerin’ Hank posted a .745 OPS to go along with one home run and three RBI over 49 total plate appearances.

 

Red Sox Sign Former Cardinals Utilityman Yairo Muñoz to Minor-League Deal

The Red Sox have signed former Cardinals utilityman Yairo Munoz to a minor-league deal, according to Major League Baseball’s official transaction wire. He was assigned to Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday.

Munoz, 25, was released by St. Louis earlier this month after he “left the team” and “flew home” without ever contacting the Cardinals. His agent apparently told the club that his client was frustrated with his role, something Cards manager Mike Shildt said on multiple occasions last season.

According to The Athletic’s Mark Saxon, that frustration did not hamper Munoz’s chances of making the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster this year, as Shildt told him that the Dominican Republic native had an “inside track” to landing a roster spot.

That vote of confidence did not stop Munoz from receiving his unconditional release from St. Louis though, and less than three full weeks after essentially excusing himself from the Cardinals, he has joined the Red Sox on a minor-league deal for the 2020 season.

Originally signed by the Athletics as an international free agent out of the DR back in 2012, Munoz was part of the trade that sent outfielder Stephen Piscotty to Oakland in December 2017.

The former top prospect is capable of playing second base, third base, and shortstop, as well as all three outfield positions. That sort of versatility is something the Red Sox have seemed to value immensely lately.

In 88 games with the Cardinals last season, Munoz slashed .267/.298/.355 with two home runs and 13 RBI. That rather underwhelming performance for Munoz was coming off an impressive rookie campaign where he posted an OPS+ of 109 over 108 games in 2018.

Munoz still has five years of team control remaining and is not arbitration eligible until the 2021 season.

If baseball is played in 2020, Munoz could provide the Red Sox with solid infield and maybe even outfield depth at the Triple-A level.