Red Sox promote 2021 draft picks Nathan Hickey, Niko Kavadas to High-A Greenville

With infielder Alex Binelas and catcher Stephen Scott earning promotions to Double-A Portland on Friday, the Red Sox also promoted first-base prospect Niko Kavadas and catching prospect Nathan Hickey from Low-A Salem to High-A Greenville, per the club’s minor-league transactions log.

Kavadas, 23, was originally selected by the Sox in the 11th round of last year’s amateur draft out of the University of Notre Dame. The Indiana native came into his first full professional season ranked by FanGraphs as the No. 28 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

In 59 games with Salem this year, the left-handed hitting Kavadas batted .286/.453/.609 (188 wRC+) with 18 doubles, one triple, 14 home runs, 48 RBIs, 35 runs scored, one stolen base, 54 walks, and 70 strikeouts over 254 plate appearances. Ten of his 14 homers have come in the month of June.

Among qualified Carolina League hitters this season, Kavadas ranks second in walk rate (21.3%), first in on-base percentage, first in slugging percentage, first in OPS (1.062), first in isolated power (.323), and first in wRC+, per FanGraphs.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds, Kavadas has seen all his playing time as a pro come at first base. He should help fill the gap left behind by Binelas in Greenville.

Hickey, meanwhile, was selected by Boston in the fifth round of last year’s amateur draft out of the University of Florida. The Jacksonville native is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 23 prospect in the Sox’ farm system, which ranks tops among catchers in the organization.

With the Salem Sox this season, the left-handed hitting Hickey slashed .271/.429/.507 (160 wRC+) to go along with 12 doubles, seven home runs, 39 runs driven in, 31 runs scored, 39 walks, and 39 strikeouts across 41 games spanning 182 trips to the plate.

Among qualified catchers at the Low-A level, Hickey ranks first in walk rate (21.4%), first in on-base percentage, second in slugging percentage, first in OPS (.936), second in isolated power (.236), and first in wRC+, according to FanGraphs.

Defensively, the 6-foot, 210 pound backstop has logged 227 2/3 innings behind the plate so far this season and has thrown out three of a possible 34 base stealers. In Greenville, he will join a group of catchers that includes Alex Erro and Jaxx Groshans.

(Picture of Nathan Hickey: Gary Streiffer/Flickr)

Red Sox’ Pedro Castellanos, Niko Kavadas earn Eastern League, Carolina League Player of the Week honors

A pair of Red Sox first-base prospects took home weekly honors from the respective leagues they play in. Earlier Monday afternoon, Minor League Baseball announced that Double-A Portland’s Pedro Castellanos and Low-A Salem’s Niko Kavadas were named Eastern League and Carolina League Players of the Week for the week of June 13-19.

Castellanos appeared in all six games of Portland’s most-recent series against the Reading Fightin Phils. In those six contests at FirstEnergy Stadium, the right-handed hitter went 12-for-28 (.429) at the plate with two doubles, one home run, five RBIs, two runs scored, zero walks, and four strikeouts.

By recording at least one hit in all six of those games, Castellanos extended his hitting streak to 16 consecutive games. On the 2022 campaign as a whole, the 24-year-old is batting .283/.307/.465 (109 wRC+) with 16 doubles, one triple, eight homers, 42 RBIs, 22 runs scored, seven walks, and 52 strikeouts over 58 games (244 plate appearances) for the Sea Dogs.

Among qualified Eastern League hitters this season, Castellanos ranks eighth in doubles, fourth in RBIs, ninth in batting average, 22nd in slugging percentage, 29th in OPS (.773), and 34th in wRC+, per FanGraphs.

Defensively, the 6-foot-3, 195 pounder has seen playing time at first base and both corner outfield positions this season. He has logged 257 1/3 innings at first, 26 innings in left, and 113 innings in right.

The Red Sox originally signed Castellanos for just $5,000 as an international free agent coming out of Venezuela in July 2015. Always known for his ability to hit for average, the Carora native is eligible to become a free agent again this winter.

Castellanos, who turns 25 in December, becomes the first member of the 2022 Portland Sea Dogs to earn Eastern League Player of the Week honors this year.

Kavadas, meanwhile, had a monster week for Salem in its series against the Delmarva Shorebirds at Carillion Clinic Field. Over the course of six games, the left-handed hitting slugger went 9-for-17 (.529) with three doubles, four homers, 11 RBIs, 10 runs scored, nine walks, and just seven punchouts.

Selected by Boston in the 11th round of last year’s draft out of the University of Notre Dame, Kavadas has enjoyed a moderate amount of success in his first full professional season. Following a 2-for-3 performance on Sunday, the 24-year-old is now slashing a stout .279/.456/.570 (182 wRC+) to go along with 17 doubles, one triple, 11 home runs, 42 RBIs, 31 runs scored, one stolen base, 54 walks, and 68 strikeouts across 56 games (241 plate appearances) for the Salem Sox.

Among qualified hitters in the Carolina League this season, Kavadas ranks 15th in batting average, first in on-base percentage, second in slugging percentage, second in OPS (1.026), first in isolated power (.291), first in walk rate (22.4%), and first in wRC+, per FanGraphs.

On the other side of the ball, Kavadas has logged 343 innings at first base this year and has otherwise served as Salem’s designated hitter. The 6-foot-1, 235 pounder out of Granger, Ind. is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 44 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Given what he has done at the Low-A level this season, it seems like Kavadas could be on the verge of a promotion to High-A Greenville. He becomes the second member of the 2022 Salem Red Sox to earn Carolina League Player of the Week honors and joins fellow infielder Blaze Jordan by doing so.

(Picture of Pedro Castellanos: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox first base prospect Niko Kavadas boasting top walk rate (27.5%) and fourth-best on-base percentage (.475) in Carolina League

You could say that Red Sox first base prospect Niko Kavadas is in the midst of a slump. Over his last six games with Low-A Salem dating back to April 27, Kavadas is batting just .133 (2-for-15) with one extra-base hit.

While a .133 batting average is certainly not an eye-opener, Kavadas has still managed to get on base as of late despite the lack of hits. In his last 24 trips to the plate, the left-handed hitter has drawn nine walks, which translates to a 37.5% walk rate as well as a .458 on-base percentage.

Through the first month of the 2022 minor-league season, which is also his first full professional season, Kavadas is slashing .263/.475/.474 with six doubles, two home runs, six RBIs, 10 runs scored, one stolen base, 22 walks, and 25 strikeouts over 18 games spanning 80 plate appearances with Salem.

Among qualified Carolina League hitters, the 23-year-old currently ranks second in walks, first in walk rate (27.5%), 29th in batting average, fourth in on-base percentage, 17th in slugging percentage, ninth in OPS (.949), 10th in isolated power (.211), and seventh in wRC+ (174), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Kavadas has unsurprisingly seen all of his playing time on the field this year come at first base. The 6-foot-1, 235 pounder has logged 111 innings at the position thus far and has registered four assists while turning seven double plays.

The Red Sox originally selected Kavadas in the 11th round of last summer’s amateur draft out of the University of Notre Dame. The Indiana native officially signed with the club for $250,000 on the first day of August. Around that same time, Kavadas was identified by Baseball America as an underrated draft selection on account of his power and ability to draw walks.

While he has only hit four home runs in 33 professional games, Kavadas has already shown that he can be productive in other ways via ball four. Since being promoted from the Florida Complex League to Salem on August 25 of last year, Kavadas has drawn 30 walks while only striking out 32 times.

Kavadas, who does not turn 24 until late October, is currently regarded by FanGraphs as the No. 28 prospect and by SoxProspects.com as the No. 48 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Under the assumption that he can break out of his quote-unquote slump and continue to get on base at a high rate, it seems likely that Kavadas could make his way to High-A Greenville before season’s end.

(Picture of Niko Kavadas: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox prospects Marcelo Mayer, Niko Kavadas hit first home runs of professional careers in Florida Complex League action

A pair of Red Sox prospects and 2021 draft picks each belted the first home runs of their professional careers down in Fort Myers earlier Saturday morning.

Marcelo Mayer, Boston’s first-round selection, and Niko Kavadas, Boston’s 11th-round selection, both homered for the Florida Complex League Red Sox as part of their 11-5 victory over the Florida Complex League Twins at JetBlue Park.

Mayer’s homer came as part of a productive day at the plate, as the 18-year-old went 2-for-6 with his first home run, two runs scored, and four RBI.

It was Mayer who got the Red Sox on the board first on Saturday, with Eddinson Paulino kicking things off in the bottom of the first inning with a leadoff double off Twins starter Develson Laria and Mayer following with an RBI single to center field.

In the bottom of the third, Kavadas got his solid day at the plate started out of the cleanup spot by taking Twins reliever Elpidio Perez extremely deep to right field for his first home run of the season, which put his side up 3-0.

Fast forward to the fifth, and Mayer came through with a big fly of his own, this time clubbing a three-run shot off left-hander John Wilson for what was also his first home run of the year.

After a double off the bat of Nathan Hickey, Kavadas — who led off the bottom of the fifth by drawing a walk — drove in the former University of Florida catcher by drilling an RBI double to right field and giving the Red Sox a commanding 10-0 lead in the process of doing so.

All told, Kavadas finished his day having gone 2-for-2 with a double, two walks, two RBI, and two runs scored before being replaced at first base by Cuba Bess in the seventh inning.

Kavadas, who signed with Boston for $250,000 earlier this month, made his professional debut on August 10.

Including Saturday’s solid showing, the 22-year-old first baseman out of the University of Notre Dame is now slashing .286 (4-for-14)/.500/.643 with one home run, two doubles, two RBI, four runs scored, six walks, and four strikeouts through his first five games (20 plate appearances) in the Florida Complex League.

Mayer, meanwhile, signed with the Sox for $6.664 million after becoming the club’s highest draft pick (fourth overall) in more than 50 years last month.

Regarded by many as the top prep prospect coming into this summer’s draft, the left-handed hitting shortstop out of Eastlake High School (Calif.) is currently ranked by Baseball America as the No. 3 prospect in Boston’s farm system, trailing only Triston Casas and Jarren Duran.

By notching two hits in his six trips to the plate on Saturday, Mayer — who does not turn 19 until December — raised his batting line on the season with the FCL Red Sox to .214/.313/.357 to go along with one double, one home run, five RBI, five runs scored, four walks, and seven strikeouts over his first seven games (32 plate appearances) as a pro.

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

Red Sox’ 11th-round pick Niko Kavadas identified by Baseball America as underrated draft selection

Of the 15 college players the Red Sox selected in the 2021 MLB first-year player draft this week, 10 attended schools that are in Power Five conferences (the ACC, Big 12, Big 10, Pac-12, and SEC).

While the likes of University of Florida outfielder Jud Fabian stick out in regards to big names Boston took from the college ranks in this year’s draft, their 11th-round selection has garnered some attention as well.

To kick off the third and final day of the draft on Tuesday, Boston took University of Notre Dame first baseman Niko Kavadas with the 316th overall pick.

Kavadas, 22, was regarded by Baseball America as the 158th-ranked draft-eligible prospect coming into the week, and one BA writer in particular views the Fighting Irish slugger as perhaps the most underrated member of Boston’s 20-man draft class.

“Calling Kavadas underrated seems odd considering he was one of the best and most successful players in college this year,” Baseball America’s Ben Badler wrote on Wednesday. “But he was an 11th-round pick, so he fits the bill. Kavadas has massive power and he draws walks. That’s pretty much the extent of his plus tools, but it’s a very important skill and one that can carry a player all the way to the big-leagues.”

In his senior season for Notre Dame this spring, Kavadas — an Indiana native — produced a slash line of .302/.473/.767 with eight doubles, 22 home runs, 64 RBI, 42 runs scored, two stolen bases, 50 walks, and 55 strikeouts over 47 games (220 plate appearances).

While Kavadas is known for what he can do at the plate, there is some concern regarding the left-handed hitter’s defensive range as well as his speed on the base paths.

Per his Baseball America scouting report from earlier this year, Kavadas “is a well below-average runner with limited range who will be limited to first base or DH at the next level. He has the raw power to profile there and he can send the ball out of the park in any direction, and he did a nice job getting into hitter’s counts and then hammering fastballs this spring.

“He did struggle more against breaking and offspeed stuff and was also less successful than scouts would have liked to see against 93-plus mph velocity, which are valid concerns for his pure hit tool at the next level.”

On top of that, Kavadas turns 23 in October, so he is a bit older than the prototypical college prospect. That being said — or as BA noted, “there’s real power for a team that thinks he’ll be able to regularly get to it at the next level with a wood bat.”

Red Sox amateur scouting director Paul Toboni seems to buy into this philosophy as well, as he told reporters (including The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier) on Tuesday that Kavadas’ power tool is at “the top of the scale” already.

“If he were in the major-leagues right now, my guess is that the power would line up with the best of them,” Toboni said. “He’s an interesting player and a great kid.”

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds, it’s safe to say Kavadas is an intimidating presence when he steps in the batter’s box.

By taking Kavadas in the 11th round of this year’s draft, the Red Sox can sign the slugging corner infielder for up to $125,000 without tapping into their bonus pool total.

If they do exceed the $125,000 limit in order to sign Kavadas (which seems to be a legitimate possibility based off speculation within the industry), or any other Day 3 pick, that would require them to dip into their bonus pool.

As things currently stand, Boston has $11,359,600 in total bonus pool space to work with, though that cap could increase to approximately $11,927,580 if the club was willing to incur some tax-related penalties by surpassing the limit by up to 5%.

The Red Sox, like all major-league teams, will have until 5 p.m. eastern time on Sunday, August 1 to sign as many of their draft picks as possible, though Toboni did say he only expects 13-15 of the club’s draftees to actually sign.

(Picture of Niko Kavadas: Michael Caterina/South Bend Tribune via AP)