Red Sox promote speedy outfield prospect Phillip Sikes to High-A Greenville

The Red Sox have promoted outfield prospect Phillip Sikes from Low-A Salem to High-A Greenville, per the team’s minor-league transactions log.

Sikes made his debut for the Drive in their game against the Greensboro Grasshoppers on Monday night and went 1-for-4 with a single and strikeout. The 23-year-old was originally selected by the Red Sox in the 18th round of last summer’s draft out of Texas Christian University.

After signing with Boston for $97,500 last July, Sikes began his first full professional season in Salem. In 50 games with the Red Sox, the right-handed hitting speedster batted .258/.390/.516 (150 wRC+) to go along with 18 doubles, four triples, five home runs, 28 RBIs, 36 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, 28 walks, and 55 strikeouts over 195 plate appearances.

He was sidelined for approximately 10 days (June 16-25) due to an undisclosed injury, but made his impact felt upon his return to Salem’s lineup by slashing a stout .385/.462/.846 in his last six games leading up to Monday’s promotion.

Among Carolina League hitters who have made at least 190 trips to the plate this season, Sikes ranks 17th in walk rate (14.4%), eighth in on-base percentage, fourth in slugging percentage, third in OPS (.905), third in isolated power (.258), second in speed score (9.1), and fourth in wRC+ (150), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Sikes started in right field while making his debut for Greenville on Monday. With Salem, the 6-foot-2, 190 pounder logged 102 2/3 innings in left field, 226 innings in center, and 72 innings in right. He also made two scoreless appearances as a pitcher.

Sikes, who does not turn 24 until next April, is not yet regarded by any major publication as one of the top outfield prospects in the Red Sox’ farm system. That being said, the native Texan has gotten his professional career off to a solid start and should figure to spend the rest of the 2022 campaign in Greenville.

On that note, Sikes becomes the latest member of Boston’s 2021 draft class to suit up for the Drive so far this season, as he joins the likes of Tyler McDonough, Nathan Hickey, Wyatt Olds, Niko Kavadas, and Jacob Webb.

(Picture of Phillip Sikes via the Salem Red Sox)

Red Sox outfield prospect Wil Dalton returns to Double-A Portland’s lineup

Red Sox outfield prospect Wil Dalton has been activated from the 7-day injured list and is back in Double-A Portland’s up for their game against the Hartford Yard Goats on Friday night.

Dalton was originally placed on the injured list on April 25, one day after suffering an apparent injury while making a diving catch in the seventh inning of a 13-5 win over the Binghamton Rumble Ponies at Hadlock Field.

Prior to being sidelined for nearly three weeks, Dalton had gotten his 2022 season off to a hot start. In his first eight games of the year with the Sea Dogs, the right-handed hitting 24-year-old batted .348/.385/.696 with two doubles, two home runs, six RBIs, six runs scored, one stolen base, two walks, and 10 strikeouts over 26 plate appearances.

Defensively, Dalton had already seen playing time at all three outfield positions. The 6-foot, 182 pounder has logged 19 innings in left field, 18 innings in center, and 24 innings in right.

The Red Sox selected Dalton, who turns 25 in August, in the eighth round of the 2019 amateur draft out of The University of Florida. He is not currently regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system, though he does possess plus raw power from the right side of the plate.

As he makes his return to Portland’s lineup at Dunkin’ Donuts Park on Friday, Dalton will be batting ninth while getting the start in right field alongside Devlin Granberg and Tyler Dearden.

(Picture of Wil Dalton: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox outfield prospect Eduardo Lopez celebrates 20th birthday by hitting third home run in his last 5 games

Red Sox outfield prospect Eduardo Lopez celebrated his 20th birthday on Sunday by having a very productive day at the plate for Low-A Salem in their doubleheader against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

Batting sixth and starting in center field for both contests at Haley Toyota Field, Lopez went a cumulative 3-for-6 with one double, one home run, three RBIs, and one run scored as Salem split the twin bill with Myrtle Beach.

Over his last five games, Lopez has hit three home runs and collected six RBIs. On the 2022 season as a whole, the switch-hitter is batting .306/.364/.531 to go along with two doubles, all three of his homers, seven runs driven in, four runs scored, three stolen bases, five walks, and 19 strikeouts over 13 games spanning 55 plate appearances. He began the year on the injured list and did not make his 2022 debut until April 23.

Defensively, Lopez has seen all of his playing time to this point in the year come in either center or right field. Taking Sunday’s showing into account, the 6-foot, 187 pounder has now logged 72 innings in center and 17 innings in right while recording a total of three outfield assists.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Lopez originally signed with the Red Sox as an international free agent in July 2018 and received a hefty $1.150 million bonus — the largest of the class — by doing so. He made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League the following June.

After the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 minor-league season and injury limited him to just 11 games between the Florida Complex League and Salem in 2021, Lopez came into the 2022 campaign ranked by SoxProspects.com as the No. 35 and by FanGraphs as the No. 33 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, Lopez possesses a high baseball IQ and has “solid overall instincts” for his age. FanGraphs, on the other hand, notes that Lopez “is a fluid athlete with a smooth, well-connected swing from both sides of the plate and decent feel for contact” who also is an average runner “with good outfield instincts and a plus arm.”

Given his history, it feels safe to assume that the Red Sox will exercise patience when it comes to Lopez’s development. In other words, it would not be surprising if he spent the rest of the year with Salem regardless of how he performs. Could a late-season promotion to High-A Greenville be possible? Perhaps, but only time will tell.

(Picture of Eduardo Lopez courtesy of the Salem Red Sox)

Baseball America’s latest mock draft has Red Sox selecting prep outfielder Justin Crawford with top pick

In his latest 2022 mock draft for Baseball America, Carlos Collazo has the Red Sox selecting Bishop Gorman High School outfielder Justin Crawford with their top pick at No. 24 overall.

Crawford, Collazo writes is “a premium position player with professional bloodlines who has taken a step forward with his strength after the offseason. He’s an elite runner who should provide plenty of defensive value and he’s got a nice swing with power potential.”

The son of former Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford, Justin is regarded by Baseball America as the 29th-ranked draft-eligible prospect in this year’s class. He is set to graduate from the baseball powerhouse in Las Vegas that is Bishop Gorman High School, which has produced the likes of Joey Gallo as well as 2020 first-rounder Austin Wells.

Crawford, who turned 18 in January, is listed at 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds and has a projectable frame. In 30 games played for Bishop Gorman this spring, the left-handed hitter has batted .451/.529/.804 with 11 doubles, five triples, five home runs, 30 RBIs, 44 runs scored, 13 stolen bases, 15 walks, and five strikeouts over 121 plate appearances.

Per his Baseball America scouting report, Crawford is “a great runner now with long and fluid strides and has posted exceptional run times in the 60-yard dash. He’s at least a 70-grade runner and should be able to cover massive swaths of ground in center field.”

MLB Pipeline, which has Crawford as their No. 37 draft prospect, notes that the left-handed hitting outfielder “has very good bat-to-ball skills” and is willing to make adjustments. He also “has the chance to be a plus defender in center field when all is said and done.”

A native of Nevada himself, Crawford is currently committed to play college baseball for the esteemed Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. It may take quite the signing bonus to sway him away from his commitment even if he is taken in the first round of this summer’s draft, which begins on July 17.

In prior mock drafts, the Red Sox have been linked to high school infielders, a college catcher, a college outfielder, and a college pitcher. The last time Boston used a first-round pick on a natural prep outfielder was 2009, when they took Rey Fuentes out of Fernando Callejo High School in Puerto Rico.

(Picture of Justin Crawford via his Instagram)

Red Sox outfield prospect Tyler Esplin set to make Double-A debut for Portland Sea Dogs

Red Sox outfield prospect Tyler Esplin will make his Double-A debut for the Portland Sea Dogs on Wednesday night when they go up against the Somerset Patriots (Yankees affiliate) at TD Bank Ballpark in New Jersey.

Esplin, who will bat eighth and start in right field for Portland, was promoted from High-A Greenville on Tuesday after the Sea Dogs placed fellow outfielder Wil Dalton on the 7-day injured list.

In his first eight games of the 2022 season with Greenville, where he spent the entirety of the 2021 campaign, the left-handed hitting Esplin batted .323/.400/.581 (158 wRC+) with four doubles, two triples, seven runs scored, four walks, and 11 strikeouts over 35 trips to the plate.

Defensively, the 6-foot-3, 230 pounder has played all over the outfield with the Drive while logging 17 innings in left, nine innings in center, and 45 innings in right. He has committed one error and registered one outfield assist thus far.

Esplin, 22, was selected by the Red Sox in the seventh round of the 2017 amateur draft out of the esteemed IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Boston swayed the Illinois native away from his commitment to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte by signing him for $250,000.

Once regarded by Baseball America as a top-30 prospect within Boston’s farm system on two separate occasions (2018, 2020), Esplin — who turns 23 in July — is a lifetime .235/.316/.347 at four different minor-league levels since making his professional debut in July 2017. He has 12 career home runs and 16 career stolen bases under his belt.

(Picture of Tyler Esplin: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Latest mock draft has Red Sox taking University of Tennessee outfielder Drew Gilbert with top pick

In the latest version of their 2022 mock draft, Prospects Live has the Red Sox selecting University of Tennessee outfielder Drew Gilbert with their first-round pick at No. 24 overall.

Gilbert, 21, was originally selected by his hometown Twins in the 35th round of the 2019 amateur draft out of Stillwater Area High School, which is less than 30 miles east of Target Field. But the Minnesota native opted not to go pro at that time and instead took his talents to Knoxville, Tenn.

A former two-way player coming out of high school, Gilbert has since transitioned to become a full-time outfielder with the Volunteers. 30 games into his junior season, the left-handed hitter is batting a stout .370/.492/.663 with 12 doubles, three triples, three home runs, 36 RBIs, 30 runs scored, three stolen bases, 22 walks, and 15 strikeouts over 122 plate appearances.

Per his Prospects Live scouting report, “Gilbert gets extremely high marks for his competitive fire and is regarded as one of the more intense players in college baseball. He plays an above average centerfield with an average arm and plus run times. In total, we’re talking about a guy with a smattering of solid average tools, fantastic makeup, and bat speed that could translate into game power as he continues to get a feel for what he’s capable of.”

Coming into the 2022 season, Gilbert was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 149 draft-eligible prospect and by MLB Pipeline as the No. 82 draft-eligible prospect.

Listed at 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, Gilbert has served as the Vols’ primary centerfielder this year. Given his past experience as a pitcher, it is not surprising to see that Gilbert has been recognized for his arm strength as well as his ability to play all over the outfield.

On the basepaths, MLB Pipeline notes that Gilbert “has solid to plus speed and will steal and take extra bases. While he’s not a true burner, his quickness and instincts allow him to run down balls from gap to gap in center field.”

Gilbert, who turns 22 in September, has the chance to move quickly through whichever organization he joins this summer. As a reminder, Day 1 of the 2022 MLB Draft will take place in Los Angeles on July 17.

The Red Sox, for what it’s worth, have not used a first-round draft pick on an outfielder since 2015, when they took Andrew Benintendi out of another SEC school in the University of Arkansas.

(GIF of Drew Gilbert via University of Tennessee Athletics on GIPHY)

Red Sox outfield prospect Wil Dalton homers in Grapefruit League debut

Red Sox outfield prospect Wil Dalton homered in his Grapefruit League debut on Tuesday afternoon.

Hours after being added to the Sox’ roster for their contest against the Rays at Charlotte Sports Park, Dalton took over for Rob Refsnyder as a defensive replacement in left field in the middle of the sixth inning. He registered his first and only plate appearance of the day an inning and a half later.

Matched up against Rays reliever Jack Lobosky to lead off the top of the eighth, Dalton worked a 1-1 count before swinging away at the third pitch he saw. The right-handed hitter wound up drilling a solo shot over the left field wall to provide Boston with some much-needed insurance in an eventual 4-2 win over Tampa Bay.

Dalton, 24, was originally selected by the Sox in the eighth round of the 2019 amateur draft out of the University of Florida and signed with the club for $135,000 that summer.

A former junior college product from Tennessee, Dalton made his professional debut for the Lowell Spinners but had his first full season in pro ball wiped away because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last spring, Dalton broke minor-league camp with Low-A Salem and embarked upon what would turn out to be an eventful 2021 season in which he played at three different levels.

From May 4 through June 16, Dalton posted for Salem regularly and batted a solid .265/.354/.449 (118 wRC+) with four home runs, 17 RBIs, 14 runs scored, and four stolen bases over 31 games spanning 113 plate appearances.

On June 17, Dalton was promoted to High-A Greenville. He proceeded to struggle to the tune of a .631 OPS in 33 games with the Drive but was added to Double-A Portland’s roster (presumably for depth-related reasons) in late July.

Dalton made his Double-A debut on July 30 and remained with the Sea Dogs for the next two weeks. He slashed .240/.296/.400 (90 wRC+) to go along with four doubles, three RBIs, and three runs scored over eight games (27 plate appearances) for Portland before getting sent back down to Greenville on August 11.

The transition from Double-A back to Low-A was not a smooth one for Dalton, who limped to the finish line and managed just a .573 OPS in his final 27 games to close out the year.

All told, Dalton appeared in a total of 99 games between Salem, Greenville, and Portland last year. Over that 99-game sample, he hit a collective .211/.293/.377 (82 wRC+) with 21 doubles, one triple, 11 home runs, 49 RBIs, 47 runs scored, five stolen bases, 36 walks, and 101 strikeouts across 380 trips to the plate.

Defensively, the 6-foot, 182 pound saw playing time at all three outfield positions in his travels last season. The former Gator logged 261 innings in left, 273 1/3 innings in center and 280 1/3 in right while recording eight outfield assists.

According to FanGraphs, 137 different Red Sox minor-leaguers registered at least one plate appearance over the course of the 2021 season. Among that group, Dalton was one of just three who played with three or more affiliates. The other two who did so were Danny Santana and Ricardo Cubillan.

Dalton, who turns 25 in August, is not regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in the Red Sox’ farm system. He will need to improve against more advanced pitching, but the power he possesses from the right side of the plate is certainly intriguing.

On that note, Dalton is projected to return to Portland for the start of the 2022 season, which — for the Sea Dogs — begins on April 8.

What to expect from Red Sox outfield prospect Armando Sierra heading into 2022 season

It was exactly 14 months ago Tuesday when the Red Sox signed outfielder Armando Sierra for $150,000 as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic.

Although he was not the headliner of Boston’s 2021 international signing class (hello, Miguel Bleis), Sierra still received some attention from evaluators within the industry.

Last April, Baseball America’s Ben Badler identified Sierra as a potential sleeper prospect within the Sox’ international ranks, noting that the then-17-year-old had “an advanced approach to hitting for his age” as well as the ability to hit for power.

As a follow-up to that, Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero all but confirmed Badler’s observations in an email exchange with BloggingtheRedSox.com.

“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 said at the time. “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.”

In the months following his signing, Sierra continued to work out at the Sox’ Dominican academy in El Toro before making his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League last July.

Across 53 games for the club’s DSL Blue affiliate, the young right-handed hitter batted a respectable .284/.373/.379 (117 wRC+) to go along with 10 doubles, two home runs, 35 RBIs, 24 runs scored, 21 walks, and 41 strikeouts over 193 plate appearances.

Against left-handed pitching, Sierra slashed .296/.424/.370. Against right-handed pitching, he slashed .284/.365/.383 with both of his home runs and 33 of his 35 runs driven in.

Among all Dominican Summer League hitters who made at least 190 trips to the plate last year, Sierra ranked 27th in batting average, 48th in on-base percentage and slugging percentage, 51st in OPS (.752), and 54th in wRC+, per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Sierra was labeled as a corner infielder even before signing with Boston. In his introductory course to pro ball, the 6-foot-2, 189 pounder logged 95 innings in left field and 115 innings in right while recording a total of two outfield assists. He also appeared in eight games (seven starts) as a first baseman.

Shortly before the 2021 DSL summer came to a close last fall, SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall wrote in September that Sierra’s “power potential is impressive. He is a below-average athlete and does not project to add much defensive value, but he has big-time raw power. He gets his whole body into his swing, but there are significant questions with his hit tool that could limit his power utility against more advanced pitching.” 

Sierra, who turned 18 in January, is not regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system. Given his age, the Sabana Grande de Palenque presumably still has room to grow physically and as a baseball player.

SoxProspects.com projects that Sierra will return to the Dominican Summer League for the start of the 2022 minor-league season. That being said, a promotion to the Florida Complex League later in the year certainly seems plausible.

(Picture of Red Sox cap: Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Don’t forget about Red Sox outfield prospect Juan Chacon

After the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 minor-league season, the Red Sox did not get their first official look at outfield prospect Juan Chacon until fall instructs began that October.

Boston originally signed Chacon, then a 16-year-old outfielder, out of Venezuela for $900,000 in July 2019 to make him the highest-paid player in their 2019-2020 international signing class.

Though the pandemic forced Chacon to miss what would have been his first taste of pro ball, he clearly did enough while at home to earn an invite to fall instructs and impress the Red Sox in Fort Myers.

With Minor League Baseball returning in full last year, Chacon — now 18 — was assigned to the Dominican Summer League Red Sox Blue affiliate in early June and spent the entirety of the 2021 season there. Across 47 games, the right-handed hitter batted .311/.426/.384 to go along with five doubles, two triples, one home run, eight RBIs, 45 runs scored, 11 stolen bases, 26 walks, and 26 strikeouts over 197 plate appearances. He also went 37-for-127 (.291) against right-handed pitchers and 14-for-36 (.389) against lefties.

Among all DSL hitters who made at least 190 trips to the plate in 2021, Chacon ranked fourth in runs scored, 22nd in strikeout rate (13.2%), 14th in batting average, ninth in on-base percentage, 30th in OPS (.811), and 24th in wRC+ (136), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Chacon saw action in both center and right field while splitting time at each position with fellow Venezuelan Jhostynxon Garcia. All told, the 6-foot-2, 171 pounder logged 216 2/3 innings in center and 119 1/3 in right in the process of registering four outfield assists and turning a pair of double plays.

As far as how evaluators feel about his game, SoxProspects.com’s Ian Cundall wrote in September that “scout feedback on Chacon has been tepid, with scouts praising the looseness in his swing but worried about a lack of physical projection and power potential.”

On the other side of the ball, Cundall notes that Chacon profiles best as a corner outfielder due to his average speed and arm strength as well as a need to improve in the route-running department.

Chacon, who turned 19 in December, still has plenty of room to grow physically and developmentally. The Valera native is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 60 prospect in Boston’s farm system. He is projected by the site to begin the 2022 season with the rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox and is already in Fort Myers for the start of minor-league spring training.

(Picture of Juan Chacon via his Instagram)

Who is Miguel Ugueto? Red Sox outfield prospect batted .331 in Florida Complex League last year

Red Sox outfield prospect Miguel Ugueto was among the organization’s top performers in the Florida Complex League last year.

Nicknamed “The Machine” like Albert Pujols, Ugueto appeared in 35 games for the Sox’ rookie-level affiliate. Over that stretch, the right-handed-hitting 19-year-old batted a stout .331/.370/.528 (135 wRC+) to go along with 15 doubles, two triples, two home runs, 20 RBIs, 26 runs scored, seven stolen bases, seven walks, and 26 strikeouts across 135 plate appearances.

He posted a .949 OPS against right-handed pitching compared to a .733 OPS against left-handed pitching.

Among FCL hitters who made at least 130 trips to the plate in 2021, Ugueto ranked 13th in strikeout rate (19.3%), third in batting average, 15th in on-base percentage, sixth in slugging percentage, fifth in OPS (.898), 15th in isolated power (.197), eighth in speed score (8.6), and seventh in wRC+, per FanGraphs.

Defensively, the 6-foot-2, 185 pounder saw playing time at all three outfield positions last year in Fort Myers. He logged 99 2/3 innings in left, 56 innings in center, and 104 in right while not committing a single error and recording three outfield assists.

A native of Venezuela, Ugueto originally signed with Boston for just $10,000 as an international free agent in August 2019. His first full professional season was wiped out because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but he certainly made up for lost time in 2021.

With that being said, though, there does seem to be some concern regarding Ugueto’s outlook in spite of the success he enjoyed last summer. As highlighted by SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall in September, “scouts are skeptical of his ability to hit more advanced pitching. His swing is ugly and he is a free swinger with poor pitch recognition and no approach at the plate. Unless his approach improves drastically, he will struggle to make contact as he moves up the system.

“Defensively, his profile also puts a lot of pressure on his bat, as he is slow-footed with a corner outfield profile,” added Cundall. “While he has played a significant amount of center field this year, he has moved to the corners in his last eight games.”

Ugueto, who does not turn 20 until this coming September, is not regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in the Red Sox’ farm system. He was, however, one of 11 outfielders to participate in the team’s fall performance program this past October.

On that note, Ugueto is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 minor-league season where he left off in 2021: the Florida Complex League. Of course, under that scenario, it would not be surprising if Ugueto were to earn a promotion to Low-A Salem at some point this summer.

(Picture of Miguel Ugueto: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)