3 Florida Complex League Red Sox pitchers combine for 22 strikeouts in 4-3 win over FCL Braves

The rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox pitching staff combined for an unprecedented 22 strikeouts in Thursday’s 4-3 win over the FCL Braves at CoolToday Park in North Port.

Nathanael Cruz got the start and struck out four of the six batters he faced over two scoreless, no-hit innings. The 19-year-old right-hander began the 2022 season with Low-A Salem but made just one start for the affiliate before being placed on the 7-day injured list on April 21.

Last Saturday, Cruz was officially sent out on a rehab assignment with the FCL Red Sox and has since allowed one earned run on three hits, no walks, and five strikeouts across two starts and three total innings of work.

Originally signed out of the Dominican Republic for $200,000 as an international free agent in July 2019, Cruz is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 48 prospect in Boston’s farm system. Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, the 6-foot-2, 175 pound hurler works with a 93-95 mph fastball, an 85-87 mph changeup, and an 80-82 mph changeup.

Jose Ramirez, not to be confused with the Guardians All-Star, pitched in relief of Cruz. The 21-year-old righty yielded three earned runs on three hits, no walks, and two hit batsman. He also fanned 12 of the 20 batters he faced over five innings to set a new career-high in that category.

In four appearances (three starts) for the FCL Red Sox this season, Ramirez has posted has posted a 5.14 ERA and 1.43 WHIP with 18 strikeouts to eight walks across 14 frames. He is, however, holding opposing hitters to a .642 OPS against.

The Red Sox originally signed Ramirez out of Santo Domingo in May 2018. While not regarded as one of the team’s top pitching prospects, the 6-foot-2, 170 pounder and operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 90-95 mph fastball, a mid-70s curveball, and a late, fading changeup.

Lastly, Henry Nunez closed things out and earned the win by punching out six and walking only one over two more scoreless, no-hit innings. The 21-year-old right-hander has yet to allow a run through his first three relief outings (6 2/3 innings) of the 2022 season. He has done so while holding the opposition to a .248 OPS against.

Like Ramirez, Nunez is not regarded as one of the Red Sox’ premier pitching prospects. The native Puerto Rican originally signed with the club as an undrafted free agent coming out of Escuela Central High School in June 2020.

Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, Nunez — who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 212 pounds, sits at 90-93 mph with his fastball and also works with a breaking ball and changeup that sit in the mid-70s and low-80s, respectively.

With Thursday’s victory over the Braves, the FCL Red Sox are now 8-4 on the young season. They will play two against the FCL Twins in Fort Myers on Friday.

(Picture of Nathanael Cruz: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Nathanael Cruz identified by Baseball America as Red Sox prospect ‘who could make a leap forward’ in 2022

Red Sox pitching prospect Nathanael Cruz was recently identified by Baseball America as a sleeper “who could make a leap forward” heading into the 2022 season.

Cruz, who turned 19 last month, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 34 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The right-hander originally signed with the Sox for $200,000 as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2019.

While he missed out on his first full pro season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cruz was one of the youngest arms at the Red Sox’ fall instructional league in 2020.

The following spring, Cruz remained in Fort Myers and spent the entirety of the 2021 minor-league season with the rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox. In four appearances (three starts) for Boston’s FCL affiliate, the righty posted a 3.18 ERA and 4.89 xFIP to go along with eight strikeouts to three walks over just 5 2/3 innings of work. He threw just four pitches in his final outing of the year on August 6 and did not appear in another game.

Although Cruz was listed on the club’s 2021 fall instructional league roster, it is unclear how much he participated in the program.

Listed at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, Cruz operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 93-95 mph, an 85-87 mph changeup, and an 80-82 mph curveball, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report. Back in September, SoxProspects.com’s Ian Cundall noted that Cruz “still has a long way to go with his command and control, and his low-80s breaking ball is a work in progress, but he intrigued scouts and there is upside given his age.”

On that note, Cruz is projected to return to the Florida Complex League for the start of the 2022 minor-league season. If healthy, there is certainly a lot to like about the 19-year-old hurler given his youth, potential, and remaining projection.

(Picture of Nathanael Cruz: Bryan Green/Flickr)