Red Sox Grant Left-Hander Brian Johnson His Release

Following up on this story from earlier Monday, the Red Sox have granted left-hander Brian Johnson his unconditional release, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo and Christopher Smith.

As previously mentioned, Johnson had departed from the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket to return to his home in Florida.

Although it appeared as though he could have been opting out of the 2020 season at the time that news was originally reported, it now looks like Johnson is unhappy with his role within the Red Sox organization more than anything.

That being the case because, despite having one of the more unstable starting rotations in the American League, the Sox have yet to give Johnson another shot at the major-league level this season.

The 29-year-old southpaw was outrighted off the 40-man roster and demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket last November following a shaky 2019 campaign, but after putting together a decent spring training and Summer Camp as a non-roster invitee, it seemed like Johnson had a legitimate shot to make Boston’s Opening Day roster last month.

Instead, the Florida native was assigned to the alternate training site at McCoy Stadium, was limited to simulated games and live BPs, and must have had enough of that once he realized he was listed relatively low on the Sox’ internal starting pitching depth chart.

Now, with his release being made official, Johnson will be free to pursue a new opportunity with another club if he so chooses.

Originally drafted by Boston in the first round of the 2012 amateur draft out of the University of Florida, Johnson had spent the previous eight-plus years in the Red Sox organization. He will be missed.

Red Sox’ Brian Johnson Reportedly Leaves Club’s Alternate Training Site in Pawtucket for Undisclosed Reason

Red Sox left-hander Brian Johnson has left the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket to return home to Florida, according to MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith.

Per Smith, the reason Johnson departed from Pawtucket is not yet known, but the “speculation is he could opt out of the rest of the 2020 season.”

The 29-year-old hurler was originally added to Boston’s 60-man player pool last month as a non-roster invitee and most recently worked 5 1/3 one-run innings in a simulated game at McCoy Stadium this past Friday.

This all comes as Johnson, who was outrighted to Pawtucket last November after clearing waivers, looked like a legitimate candidate to start once again for the Red Sox seeing how the club’s starting rotation is not in the best of shape.

Of course, the Florida native would have had to been added back to Boston’s 40-man roster in order to make that happen, but that now appears unlikely at least for the time being given this recent news.

Last year, Johnson missed significant time on the injured list due to left elbow inflammation and a non-baseball related medical matter. He’s also been very open about his past battles with depression and anxiety. I’m not trying to speculate on anything by bringing that up, but given this report, I sincerely hope Johnson is in a good place right now. That’s it.

 

Could Michael Chavis Be at Risk of Losing Spot on Red Sox Roster?

Major-league rosters across baseball on Thursday will shrink down from 30 players to 28 players for the remainder of the 2020 season, meaning most clubs will have to demote two players from their active rosters within the next 24 hours.

The Red Sox, of course, are no exception to this rule, and will be subject to doing the same on Thursday, which just so happens to be an off-day for the last-place club.

That being said, a team averaging just over 4.2 runs per game through its first 11 games of the season may be willing to shake things up offensively, and in order to do that, a player struggling at the plate may have to take a back seat for the time being. That player, in this scenario, is Michael Chavis.

Fresh off making his first career Opening Day roster last month, Chavis has gotten his first full season in the majors off to a dreadful start. Through seven games played, six of which have been starts, the 24-year-old is 3-for-his-first-21 at the plate, resulting in a dismal .143/.182/.286 slash line to go along with just one home run and one RBI thus far.

In those 21 at-bats, or 22 plate appearances to be more specific, Chavis has struck out nearly 41% of the time, which according to FanGraphs is the sixth-highest mark in the American League among hitters who have accrued at least 20 plate appearances at this point in the season.

On top of that, the former first-round pick has the second-highest swing-and-miss rate (22.5%) in the junior circuit behind only White Sox rookie phenom Luis Robert (26.2%).

Long story short, Chavis, who still has three minor-league options remaining on his current contract, seems like the “perfect” candidate to get sent down to the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket so that he can sort some things out in a less stressful environment.

In the meantime, the Sox have some things to figure out themselves in terms of roster construction at the major-league level. Top prospect Bobby Dalbec, who has fully recovered from his asymptomatic bout with COVID-19, is “swinging the bat better all the time” while playing in intrasquad games in Pawtucket, according to Boston manager Ron Roenicke.

“[It’s] still hard to tell because they aren’t real games that they’re playing in,” Roenicke said of Dalbec’s performance. “We just get reports on how he does and hopefully that translates into, if you need to, good at-bats in the game.”

Swapping Chavis for Dalbec does not seem too far out of the realm of possibilities for the Sox seeing how the latter can play both corner infield positions relatively well. Then again, a straight swap wouldn’t mean as much with roster sizes shrinking down to 28 players on Thursday.

All in all, whether it is Chavis or another pair of players that get demoted, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. certainly have their work cut out for them over the next few hours.

Red Sox Top Pitching Prospect Jay Groome Faces Live Hitters at McCoy Stadium

For the first time since being added to the Red Sox’ 60-man player pool last month, Jay Groome, the club’s top left-handed pitching prospect, faced live hitters at McCoy Stadium earlier Tuesday morning.

Getting some work in during a live batting practice session, Groome threw 25-30 pitches and faced the likes of other top prospects in the organization such as Jarren Duran, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong, as well as Jhonny Pereda, and reached 94 mph with his fastball while also mixing in his curveball and changeup.

There were no umpires and very few fielders around him, but as WEEI’s Rob Bradford puts it, “Tuesday represented a big step forward” for Groome.

Turning 22 years old later this month, the New Jersey native was originally taken by Boston with the 12th overall pick in the 2016 amateur draft out of Barnegat High School and later signed for $3.65 million.

Since that time, though, Groome has only made 20 professional starts across three minor-league levels as he has been hampered with different arm ailments, most recently undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2018.

Upon recovering from TJS, the 6-foot-6 southpaw was able to make three starts with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox and short-season Lowell Spinners last year, and now, he’s inching closer to appearing in a simulated game in Pawtucket.

Of course, under normal circumstances, Groome would likely be pushing for a promotion to Double-A Portland right about now, but because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the hurler’s development path has certainly been disrupted.

PawSox pitching coach Paul Abbott said as much about Groome when speaking to reporters via Zoom on Tuesday.

“Obviously he needs to log innings,” stated Abbott. “He’s missed some valuable development periods for him to get on the mound and learn how to pitch as you go every step of the way.  Here’s a way how everything is looking, how everything is working so we have a good, solid idea going into spring training next year.”

With that in mind, the plan over the next six weeks is to see how Groome handles facing different levels of hitters so that the Red Sox have a good idea on where he will be at going into spring training next year.

Red Sox Left-Handed Pitching Prospect Kyle Hart Retires 18 Hitters Over Five Scoreless Innings in Pawtucket

Red Sox left-handed pitching prospect Kyle Hart did something at McCoy Stadium on Monday that you will probably never see in a major or minor-league game: He retired 18 batters in five innings.

Yes, the 27-year-old got some work in during an intrasquad scrimmage in Pawtucket to kick off the week, and he was dominant, working five scoreless, perfect frames while getting an extra out in each of his last three innings.

In regards to spectators who were in attendance to watch Hart’s outing, PawSox broadcaster Mike Antonellis tweeted that the Cincinnati native “threw well,” while fellow broadcaster Jim Cain tweeted, as previously mentioned, that “the lefty was so efficient that in his final three innings, he stayed out to face an extra batter, and he retired all three.”

Originally drafted by Boston in the 19th round of the 2016 amateur draft out of The University of Indiana, Hart was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster last November and their 60-man roster pool last month.

The former Hoosier has never been a big-name prospect since becoming a professional four years ago, but seeing how he is already on the club’s 40-man roster, he certainly has a chance to make the jump to the majors this year.

Regarded by SoxProspects as Boston’s 42nd-ranked prospect, Hart posted a 3.86 ERA and 4.32 FIP over 18 appearances (15 starts) and 100 1/3 innings pitched with Triple-A Pawtucket last season.

The 6-foot-5, 200 lb. southpaw works with an 87-90 mph fastball that can max out at 92 mph, an 85-86 mph cutter, a 76-79 mph curveball, and an 81-82 mph changeup, per SoxProspects.

Given the current state of the Red Sox’ pitching staff at the major-league level, it certainly couldn’t hurt to give a guy like Hart a look out of the starting rotation or as a “bulk” reliever.

One thing Hart has over other minor-league pitchers in Boston’s pipeline, like Bryan Mata or Tanner Houck, is that he is already on the club’s 40-man roster, so getting him to the majors wouldn’t be too much of a hassle if that is the route chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. wanted to take.

Red Sox Should Consider Calling up Right-Handed Pitching Prospect Tanner Houck

On Tuesday, the Red Sox saw left-hander David Peterson make his major-league debut for the New York Mets. On Wednesday, if they’re paying attention, they’ll see right-hander Nate Pearson make his long-awaited major-league debut for the Toronto Blue Jays in Washington, D.C.

One thing Peterson and Pearson have in common, other than being two of the more touted pitching prospects in their respective organizations, is that they were both taken in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft.

With that being said, it may be time to for the Red Sox to give their own 2017 first-round pick a look at the big-league level. Who might that be, you ask? Well, that would be none other than Tanner Houck.

Houck, 24, was taken by Boston with the 24th overall selection in the 2017 amateur draft out of the University of Missouri. Since then, he has emerged as the fourth-ranked right-handed pitching prospect in the Sox’ farm system behind only Bryan Mata, Noah Song, and Thad Ward, according to MLB Pipeline.

A former 12th-round draft pick of Toronto coming out of high school, Houck has yet to be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster, but he was added to the club’s 60-man player pool earlier this month and his since been working out at their alternate training site in Pawtucket, where he tossed two innings in an intrasquad game on Tuesday. (Houck pitching starts at around the 40:30 mark)

Per PawSox manager Billy McMillon, this was the first time Houck had faced live hitters since spring training in March.

“He looked like he was under control,” McMillon said of the 6-foot-5, 230 lb. righty. “He was not laboring. He mixed up his pitches. I think the emphasis for him is going to be controlling the strike zone a little bit better, particularly against lefties.”

SoxProspects’ scouting report for Houck says the Illinois native utilizes a 92-95 mph fastball that can top out at 98 mph, a 83-86 mph slider, and an 86-88 mph changeup, all while throwing from a low three-quarters arm slot.

In 16 appearances (two starts) with Triple-A Pawtucket after being promoted from Double-A Portland last July, Houck posted a 3.24 ERA and .209 batting average against over 25 innings of work. He spent parts of the offseason pitching in the Arizona Fall League and for Team USA in the Premier-12 tournament as well.

Given the current state the Red Sox pitching staff is in at the major-league level just five games into the new season, Houck could be a welcome addition as an opener or reliever seeing how he hasn’t exactly been stretched out to this point in time.

Calling up Houck now would also work out in the sense that he needs to be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster by late November in order to avoid being eligible for this year’s Rule 5 draft.

Of course, because Boston’s 40-man roster is currently at full capacity, a corresponding move would need to be made in order to get Houck to the majors this season.

 

 

Red Sox Claim Right-Hander Robert Stock off Waivers From Phillies

While dropping their second straight to the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday afternoon, the Red Sox made a roster move in claiming right-hander Robert Stock off waivers from the Philadelphia Phillies.

As the above tweet mentions, Stock has been optioned to the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket.

Now the 40th player on Boston’s 40-man roster, Stock was designated for assignment by Philadelphia on Thursday.

The 30-year-old hurler out of the University of Southern California has 42 career major-league relief appearances under his belt since making his big-league debut with the San Diego Padres in June 2018.

Between those 42 outings with the Phils and Pads, Stock owns a career 4.11 ERA and 3.67 FIP over 50 1/3 total innings of work. Granted, he surrendered 12 earned runs in just 10 2/3 innings pitched last year.

A former second-round selection of St. Louis back in the 2009 draft, Stock has spent time in the Cardinals, Astros, Pirates, Reds, Padres, and Phillies organizations. In other words, he’s been around.

Per his Statcast page, the 6-foot-1, 214 lb. righty works with a high-velocity four-seam fastball, a slider, a changeup, and a sinker.

The addition of Stock for the Red Sox comes less than 24 hours after the club claimed left-hander Stephen Gonsalves off waivers from the Mets.

If the Sox intend to add Stock to their player pool, which is currently at its full capacity, another player who is currently in the pool will have to be removed.

Red Sox Prospect Jarren Duran Belts Two Doubles, Shows off Speed in Fenway Park Debut

Despite not seeing any live pitching during the pandemic-induced shutdown period, Red Sox prospect Jarren Duran had himself quite the night in the Red Sox’ final intrasquad game of Summer Camp at Fenway Park on Monday.

Making the trek up from Pawtucket along with Jeter Downs and Josh Ockimey, Duran started in center field and hit out of the nine-hole for the Home Sox in Monday’s contest and went 2-for-3 with a pair of hard-hit doubles, the first of which drove in two runs off left-hander Jeffrey Springs in the second inning.

On the defensive side of the ball, Duran was just as impressive, as the Sox’ eighth-ranked prospect put his speed on full display while robbing Marco Hernandez of an extra-base hit off Martin Perez in the top half of the sixth.

That flash of the leather prompted Perez to tell reporters after the game that “[Duran’s] really good, man.”

As for what Duran himself thought about his performance, the 23-year-old led off by saying that it was “just surreal” to play at Fenway Park and that “he couldn’t stop looking around” the ballpark.

“I wasn’t really thinking,” Duran added when speaking to reporters via Zoom. “I missed baseball so much. It was an honor just to be here.”

Before spring training was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March, Duran was opening up eyes around Red Sox camp as it looked like he was going to start the year with Double-A Portland.

Instead, the 2020 minor-league season was eventually cancelled last month, and Duran, like so many other prospects across baseball, lost the chance to continue to hone his craft in actual games.

Still, the southern California did not view that cancellation as a massive road block and instead opted for a more optimistic outlook on things.

“I think it just depends on how bad you want it,” he said. “We have the resources to push ourselves.”

For Duran, those resources were made available at Long Beach State, his alma mater, where he hit during the layoff before the Angels took over the facility for their own workouts.

Because there will be no organized minor-league baseball at all in 2020, Duran will likely spend his second professional season as a member of the Red Sox organization in Pawtucket at the club‘s alternate training site, otherwise known as McCoy Stadium. 

The former Dirtbag was taken by Boston in the seventh round of the 2018 amateur draft and is regarded by FanGraphs as the second-fastest prospect in the Sox’ farm system behind only Gilberto Jimenez.

Like Duran, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke is also a native of southern California. The Sox skipper liked what he saw from the speedster during spring training earlier in the year, and he certainly liked what he saw from him at Summer Camp on Monday.

“How do you do that?” Roenicke asked rhetorically. “You sit for 3 1/2 months and you come back right where you left off. If he figures it out he’s going to be some kind of player.”

 

 

Top Prospects Jeter Downs, Jarren Duran Among Nine New Additions to Red Sox’ Summer Camp Player Pool

As expected, the Red Sox have added nine players to their Summer Camp player pool, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom announced Friday. Those nine players — R.J. Alvarez, Jeter Downs, Jarren Duran, Jay Groome, Tanner Houck, Bryan Mata, Josh Ockimey, Jhonny Perada, and Bobby Poyner — will report to the Sox’ alternate training site at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket.

On top of those additions, the Red Sox have also reassigned four players — Mike Kickham, Mike Shawaryn, Domingo Tapia, and Connor Wong — to that same alternating training site.

With all that being said, the Sox now have 56 players in their Summer Camp roster pool and will likely have 57 relatively soon seeing how the club is reportedly in agreement with right-hander Zack Godley on a minor-league contract.

More on that later. For now, let’s talk about the nine guys who were added to the Summer Camp player pool.

Jeter Downs, Bryan Mata, Jay Groome, Jarren Duran, and Tanner Houck represent five of those nine players, and all five are regarded by MLB Pipeline as top-10 prospects in the Red Sox’ farm system.

Downs, Boston’s top-ranked prospect, was one of three players acquired from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts and David Price trade back in February. The soon-to-be 22-year-old out of Colombia is capable of playing both middle infield positions and has quite a bit of pop despite a 5-foot-11, 195 lb. frame, as he finished with the fourth-most homers (24) among all Dodgers minor-leaguers in 2019.

Mata, Boston’s top-ranked pitching prospect, originally joined the organization as an international free agent out of Venezuela in January 2016. He signed for just $25,000 back then, but the 21-year-old right-hander has worked his way to becoming somewhat of an oddity in the Sox’ farm sytem in that he could become a middle-of-the-rotation starter at the major-league level.

Unlike Downs and Mata, Jay Groome has yet to reach the Double-A plateau, and that’s mainly due to injuries. Boston’s top pick in the 2016 amateur draft, Groome underwent Tommy John surgery two Mays ago and has amassed just 20 starts and 66 innings pitched as a professional despite being with the organization for four years. Although the likelihood of Groome, who turns 22 next month, making it to the majors this year, is slim to none, it was obviously still important for the Sox to get the touted prospect time to develop under their watchful eye by whatever means possible. Groome is Boston’s No. 3 pitching prospect, by the way.

One thing Jarren Duran shares in common with Bryan Mata is that the two have been the Red Sox’ lone representative in MLB’s All-Star Futures Game the last two years, with the former making the cut in 2019 and the latter making the cut in 2018. Another thing the pair of prospects have in common is that they both somewhat came out of nowhere. As previously mentioned, Mata signed with Boston for a mere $25,000 four years ago. Duran, meanwhile, burst onto the scene as a seventh-round selection out of Long Beach state in ’18, finished his first full professional season with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs, and was one of six Red Sox prospects invited to play in the Arizona Fall League. Despite not being on his parent club’s 40-man roster, Duran, the Red Sox’eight-ranked prospect, did get added to the Summer Camp player pool over fellow outfielder Marcus Wilson, who is on the 40-man. So, it would appear that the Red Sox have high hopes for the speedster moving forward, especially when considering how well he looked earlier this year in spring training.

Finally, we arrive at another 2019 Arizona Fall Leaguer in the form of Tanner Houck, the Sox’ 10th-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline. Recently turning 24 years old last month, the 2017 first-round pick out of Mizzou has experience as both a starter and reliever. He undertook both roles in the minors last year, but likely projects as a rotation man moving forward.

As for the other four players added on Friday, Josh Ockimey and Jhonny Perada are without a doubt the most interesting of the bunch.

At one point in time, Ockimey was left off the Sox’ 40-man roster ahead of the 2018 Rule 5 draft and very well could have been snatched up by another club that December. He wasn’t though, and the 24-year-old first baseman in turn slugged 25 home runs over 122 games for the PawSox last year.

Perada, as you may remember, was acquired by Boston from the Cubs as the player to be named later in the Travis Lakins trade back in January. Like Connor Wong, he certainly adds to the level of catching depth the Sox have at the minor-league level.

After all was said and done, the Red Sox now have 56 players on their 60-man Summer Camp roster pool. 30 of those players will make the team’s Opening Day roster, while the other 26-30 will report to the alternate training site in Pawtucket as some already have.

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.