Bandy, 31 in March, spent the entirety of the 2020 season in Boston’s 60-man player pool, though he never saw any major-league action and was instead limited to taxi squad duties.
The Sox originally signed the California native to a minor-league contract in December 2019, likely with the idea that he would serve as upper-minors catching depth with Triple-A Pawtucket alongside Juan Centeno.
That vision never came to fruition, though, as the 2020 minor-league season was eventually cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Bandy did however make the cut for Boston’s 60-man player pool, which resulted in him spending the year at the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket when he was not part of the aforementioned taxi squad.
Prior to signing with the Red Sox, the veteran backstop had spent parts of four big-league seasons with the Angels and Brewers from 2015-2018.
Over that span in which he appeared in 156 total games and accrued 492 plate appearances, Bandy slashed .218/.282/.365 to go along with 16 home runs and 45 RBI. He also threw out 31 of the 98 base runners (32%) who attempted to steal against him.
With the addition of Bandy, Boston now has nine catchers at big-league camp not named Kevin Plawecki, who is still on the team’s COVID-19 related injured list.
The addition of Bandy also increases the Sox’ spring training roster to 72 players (excluding Plawecki). Teams this spring are not allowed to carry more than 75 players at any given time.
Taking that into consideration, the Red Sox will likely need to do a little bit of roster shuffling once Plawecki is ready to come back and once the Marwin Gonzalez signing is made official. So stay tuned for that.
(Picture of Jett Bandy: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
While the Red Sox continue to build up their farm system under chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, one of the club’s most highly-touted minor-leaguers was recently ranked by MLB.com as one of the best first base prospects in baseball
His name? Triston Casas.
According to MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, Casas is the No. 2 first base prospect in the game behind only the White Sox’ Andrew Vaughn, who’s more than a full year older than him, headed into the 2021 season.
Among the top-10 first base prospects Mayo listed — Vaughn, Casas, Aaron Sabato (MIN), Seth Beer (ARI), Lewin Diaz (MIA), Michael Toglia (COL), Bobby Bradley (CLE), Nick Pratto (KC), Pavin Smith (ARI), Mason Martin (PIT) — Casas has one of the best power and arm strength tools.
“The 6-foot-5 Casas has the perfect combination of strength, size, bat speed and leverage for plus power, with the advanced approach to get to it consistently,” Mayo wrote of the 21-year-old’s slugging abilities.
Last we saw Casas in any organized minor-league action, the 2018 first-round draft pick clubbed 20 home runs and drove in 81 RBI in 120 games and 500 plate appearances between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem in 2019. He also posted a solid .256/.350/.480 slash line en route to being named an organizational All-Star.
As for what he is capable of doing defensively, Mayo notes that Casas pitched and played third base as an amateur at American Heritage High School in South Florida, which therefore “allows him to do more with his arm” while playing first base.
Per FanGraphs, Casas logged 834 2/3 total innings at first base with Greenville and Salem in ’19 as opposed to just 67 innings at the hot corner in Greenville alone.
With the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled on account of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Casas, like so many other prospects, were forced to continue their development in an unfamiliar setting.
The Red Sox added the left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing infielder to their player pool in late August, allowing him to participate at the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket for the remainder of the major-league season.
While in Pawtucket for just over a month, Casas again showed off his power at the plate as well as the rest of his skillset. Many came away impressed with what he did, including Worcester Red Sox manager Billy McMillon.
“Casas is very intriguing to me,” McMillon said when speaking with reporters back in October. “Can play both corner positions. I think he’s probably going to settle in at first base. His discipline at the plate is incredible. His approach was a little bit different than what you might see with some of the guys today. He spread out, he choked up. Wasn’t afraid to hit the ball the other way. He definitely has an idea at the plate. I really like how intelligent he was at the plate. He was a guy who really benefitted from coming up, facing Triple-A/Four-A type pitching. He held his own, had very good at-bats, walked a lot. Defense, I think he’s going to be solid. I think we’ve got a good one with Triston.”
When watching Casas go to work at the plate, you will likely notice that he takes a unique approach to doing things, especially with two strikes in the count, as McMillon alluded to in the above quote.
That would be the case because as a left-handed hitter, Casas tries to somewhat take after Cincinnati Reds star and fellow first baseman Joey Votto.
“Growing up, I loved watching Joey Votto,” Casas said via Zoom this past September. “I love his approach, I love his swing, I love the way he approaches the game, and the way he he takes his at-bats are second to none. The stats speak for themselves. He was one of the best hitters of the 2010s, and that’s when I was growing up watching baseball. Being a left-handed first baseman, Joey Votto’s not a bad guy to emulate. I don’t really try to copy everything that he does, but the other day I hit a home run in a sim game and looking back on it, I was like, ‘Wow, I actually do look like Joey Votto.’ So, growing up I really liked watching him play
“The choke-up on the bat and the two-strike approach, it was just something that I watched him do and I tried it out for myself and I liked the results that I was getting,” he added. “I liked the way it felt in the box. I liked the way I would compete when I did formulate a good two-strike approach, and I’m looking to keep hearing that because I’m feeling really comfortable right now.”
Following the conclusion of alternate training site workouts, Casas was one of about 63 minor-leaguers who were invited to take part in the Red Sox’ fall instructional league down in Fort Myers.
There, per SoxProspects.com’s Ian Cundall, the Florida native was arguably the best infielder at camp and the most impressive position player behind only outfield prospect Gilberto Jimenez.
Currently regarded by SoxProspects as Boston’s top-ranked prospect, the 6-foot-5, 250 lber is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season with Double-A Portland.
That said, it seems possible that the Sox would want to include Casas and some of their other top prospects in major-league spring training for MLB/Triple-A players starting next month with minor-league camp for Class-A/Double-A players being pushed back until later in the spring.
With that scenario in mind, prospects such as Casas and Jeter Downs, among others, could potentially start the year at Triple-A Worcester. @RedSoxStats was one of the first to put that possibility out there.
That scenario remains just a mere possibility at this point, though, and as most things have gone regarding minor-league baseball recently, we will have to wait and see how it all transpires before determining which player will go where.
When the Red Sox selected prep infielder Nick Yorke with their top pick in the shortened 2020 MLB first-year player draft, they were met with quite a bit of blowback from fans and the general public alike.
Going into the June draft, which was cut down to five rounds due to the financial constraints created by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Yorke was not necessarily seen as a bona fide first-rounder.
A recent graduate of Archbishop Mitty High School in the San Jose Area, the 18-year-old was committed to play college baseball at the University of Arizona and it appeared as though that commitment was a strong one.
With that, and perhaps other factors, in mind, Yorke slipped through the draft rankings to the point where Baseball America had him as the No. 96 draft-eligible prospect in the early stages of the summer.
While other clubs targeted more hyped-up and well-known prospects with their respective top selections, the Sox did not shy away from Yorke — a player they had already liked — when they were put on the clock at pick No. 17.
Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said as much when speaking with SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield and Ian Cundall on the SoxProspects.com podcast earlier this week.
“I think at the end of the day, what it came down to is not us trying to do something that was off the board because we got a kick out of doing something that was off the board, but believing in it and not being scared off of it just because it was different,” Bloom said. “If the only reason that we don’t do something is that we’re worried about criticism, that’s not a good enough reason. We should never operate like that. We have to be willing to do what we believe is right, even if we’re going to get criticized.
“We knew that it would come with some blowback,” continued Bloom. “Because Nick wasn’t a hyped player. We also had a lot of belief in the player and there was also belief that if we had had a normal spring, he would have been seen. A lot of things kind of conspired with him having been hurt the year before and not having played the infield the year before. And if you weren’t there really all over him those first few weekends, you did not have enough information on Nick Yorke to really think anything about him.”
Because of the aforementioned pandemic, Yorke’s senior season at Archbishop Mitty was prematurely cut short after just five games. The right-handed hitter went 8-for-15 (.533) with two home runs and six RBI in those five games, though, to finish his high school career with an otherworldly .457/.552/.709 slash line over 94 total games played at the varsity level.
Still, even if Yorke, who is listed at 6-foot and 200 lbs., was able to play a full season’s worth of high school ball in 2020, perceptions of him around the game would have still likely varied.
“We could have had a full spring and there still would have been a lot of different opinions in the industry about the player, about the profile,” said Bloom. “But, we had a really strong belief in the evaluation that we had and we went through a very rigorous process about how to build our board. And look, there’s certainly ways the draft could have fallen where we might have ended up taking someone else. It wasn’t that we were hellbent on saving money in that round to go spend it later.
“But, given what the board looked like when it got to our pick, we felt very, very clearly that it made sense to us to take Nick there,” Bloom added. “We liked the player a lot and also felt like we had some savings we could do damage with later in the draft.”
A little less than a month after drafting him, the Sox managed to sign Yorke for $2.7 million, which fell well below the recommended slot value for the 17th overall pick in the 2020 draft ($3.6 million).
This, in turn, allowed the club to draft and sign fellow prep prospect Blaze Jordan, who was selected in the third round with the 89th overall pick.
With a full ride to Mississippi State University to use to his advantage, Jordan received $1.75 million in signing bonus money from Boston, well above the recommended slot value assigned to pick No. 89 ($667,900).
As you may recall, the reason the Red Sox were docked a second-round pick in last year’s draft was due to their illegal use of the video replay room during the 2018 season, hence the long wait in between their first and second selections.
“It really has to start with believing in the player,” Bloom said of Yorke, his first draft pick as Boston’s CBO. “Because it was going to be a long time before we were going to pick again, and you can’t necessarily count on what you’re going to be able to do with those savings. But, we also felt like we had enough intel — that there were enough clubs that were aligned with us on Nick — that waiting for him to be around at pick No. 89 was also not a good strategy. This was a player we wanted.”
Following impressive showings at both the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket and fall instructional league in Fort Myers last year, Yorke has worked his way up to becoming the No. 13 prospect (No. 6 among position players) in Boston’s farm system, per SoxProspects.
The Newport Beach native is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season — whenever it begins — with Low-A Salem, where he will have the chance to show off his highly-touted hit tool and continue to develop in organized games against other teams for the first time as a professional.
In case you missed it, the Red Sox added nine non-roster invitees to their spring training roster on Tuesday afternoon. Those nine players?
C Roldani Baldwin C Jhonny Pereda 1B Josh Ockimey OF Cesar Puello LHP Stephen Gonsalves RHP Kevin McCarthy RHP Seth Blair RHP Raynel Espinal RHP Caleb Simpson
Besides McCarthy, all players listed here spent the 2020 season with the Red Sox organization in some capacity.
The likes of Pereda, Ockimey, Puello, Gonsalves, Blair, and Simpson spent time at the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket, while the likes of Baldwin and Espinal did not.
Puello was the only one who saw major-league time with the Sox last year, as the 29-year-old appeared in five games for Boston in September and went 3-for-8 (.375) at the plate with one run scored while also recording a pair of outfield assists in limited action.
McCarthy, meanwhile, yielded three earned runs over five appearances and six innings of work for the Royals this past season, his fifth in the majors. The 28-year-old inked a minor-league pact with Boston last month after being outrighted from Kansas City’s 40-man roster in October.
Another pitcher listed here with big-league experience is Gonsalves, a former top prospect of the Twins organization. The former fourth-round draft pick appeared in seven contests (four starts) for Minnesota in 2018, posting a 6.57 ERA and 5.71 FIP over 24 2/3 innings pitched.
Still just 26 years old, Gonsalves was claimed off waivers by the Mets last fall before again being claimed off waivers by the Sox over the summer.
Some within the organization still believe the left-hander has plenty of upside, which was made evident by his impressive performance at the alternate site as well as the club re-signing him to a minor-league deal in November.
“Gonsalves is a guy that can make an impact next year if we bring him back,” Worcester Red Sox pitching coach Paul Abbott said in October. “His velo went from 89-90 mph — and he already had a highly rated fastball that had some carry — the velo jumped up to 94-96 mph. He got better as we went along and I know he was close to getting an opportunity because they brought him up there.”
With the additions of these nine players, the Red Sox currently have 49 players on their 2021 spring training roster as February draws closer. That number of players is likely to change between now and then, though, since chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. still have plenty of time for roster shuffling if they so choose.
Right-hander Durbin Feltman entered the 2019 season as the Red Sox’ No. 11 prospect according to Baseball America.
Fresh off an inaugural 2018 campaign in which he split time between short-season Lowell, Low-A Greenville, and High-A Salem and posted a miniscule 1.93 ERA over 22 total appearances, the third-round draft pick out of Texas Christian University was facing rather lofty expectations as he embarked on his first full professional season.
Spending the entirety of the 2019 season with Double-A Portland, Feltman struggled to the tune of a 5.26 ERA and 5.02 FIP over 43 outings and 51 1/3 innings of work.
This summer, after the 2020 minor-league season had already been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Red Sox decided against including Feltman in its 60-man player pool while a number of the organization’s top pitching prospects, such as Tanner Houck, Bryan Mata, and Jay Groome were.
These prospects spent their summers working out and playing in intrasquad games at the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket. Prospects such as Feltman, meanwhile, remained at their respective homes.
The 23-year-old recently spoke with BloggingtheRedSox.com about this experience.
“I was frustrated, upset,” Feltman said of not being included in the 60-man pool. “Just not being invited [after] thinking I was going to go — I was frustrated the whole time because I figured ‘Hey, I’m going to use this time the best I can.’ I’m not going to get time like this again, barring another pandemic, to be able to do whatever I want and work on things. So, I used it the best I could and figured out some stuff. I feel like I figured out a lot.”
Having seemingly turned a corner on his own time, Feltman went into the Red Sox’ fall instructional league in Fort Myers and thoroughly impressed thanks to some added motivation.
“I came in there with a chip on my shoulder and was like ‘Hey, this is what you missed out on at the alternate site,'” he added. “Hopefully I showed enough, I felt like I did. And I’m carrying that into 2021 as well.”
While he had to wait a little bit to report to fall instructs in early October, Feltman was able to hone his craft while at home as opposed to the alternate training this summer. The Red Sox even gave him some things to work on.
“I was in a sticky situation,” said Feltman. “They were taking MLB depth and they didn’t see me as MLB depth yet because I’m obviously really young. They gave us stuff to work on, stuff I had been working on — having a repeatable delivery and just getting back to what I used to do in 2018. I feel like I’m closing in, and I’m not trying to revert back to , but I’m also trying to get better. So, I feel like I’m in a really good spot right now, going down there and working with them and then working on my own.”
An aspect the Red Sox would like to see Feltman improve upon, as he mentioned, was having a more repeatable delivery. The flame-throwing righty went into more depth with that.
“I worked a lot on making things easier — more repeatable and easier,” the Houston-area native said. “I got into the mindset of trying to create more with everything, just trying to create more, and that’s not what I needed to do. So now, it’s just being easy and letting it go. The velocity’s ticking back up, it’s not quite where I want it to be yet, but it’s getting back up there. The ball’s coming out better now just playing catch than it was in instructs and even during the summer.
“Just continuing to work and figuring out those little things,” Feltman continued. “Just making it smooth and basically just being an athlete on the mound instead of worrying about every little thing.”
One thing Feltman does have to worry about while on the mound is which pitch he is going to throw and where said pitch is going to end up. The former Horned Frog’s pitch arsenal currently consists of a fastball, a slider, and a curveball. He discussed how he can use each of those pitches to his advantage.
“Obviously I have my fastball,” Feltman stated. “It has a little bit of a cut to it sometimes when I throw it to the glove side, so I try to throw it up in the zone and then to my glove side. Then I have my slider. I’m finally getting back to how I throw my upper-80s power-slider and just getting a feel for that, being able to throw it in any count. And then, I switched back my grip to my old curveball, just a 12-6 to play off that high fastball or drop it in when I need a get-me-over strike to show them something else. I don’t throw any changeups or anything that moves arm-side, so just being able to show a change of speed from hard to power breaking ball and then flip in a low-80s curveball. It just puts that in the back of the mind that ‘Hey, you got to watch out for that, too.'”
Despite this sound strategy, there were instances last year in Portland where Feltman would regularly fall behind in counts, which in turn led to 13.9% walk rate. He attributed this to a tendency to nibble the corners of the strike zone after falling behind in counts, and is now aiming to be more aggressive in the strike zone moving forward.
“I feel like it was just a snowball effect of one thing led to another led to another led to another,” Feltman said. “I go up there and it’s cold, so my velo’s down a little bit, so I’m trying to create more. Obviously, I’m getting in hitter’s counts because I’m not commanding like I should and then you’re obviously going to have higher batting averages in hitter’s counts. So, I’m giving up hits here and there, so I’m like ‘Okay, they’re hitting me.’ Well, no, you’re doing it to yourself, getting in 3-0, 3-1 counts. That kind of led to ‘I’ve got to nibble here, nibble there.’ I can’t let him hit it early in the count and that’s just getting away from what I do.
“I’ve gone back to ‘Hey, get ahead early in the count, don’t try to nibble, just be aggressive in the strike zone. My stuff’s going to play in the strike zone,'” he added. “It’s amazing what happens, you get swings and misses left and right if you’re confident throwing it in the strike zone. That’s kind of the mentality I’ve gone back to: Get ahead early. You get ahead early, it’s a whole different ballgame. It makes it so much easier… The odds are in your favor if you’ve got two strikes.”
With this more aggressive approach in mind, Feltman is going to take what he learned from 2019 and work to throw more strikes earlier in counts in 2021.
“That’s going to help two things,” he said. “It’s going to help increase strikeouts, so your strikeout rate, and it’s also going to help decrease my walk rate. What I’m working on is being able to throw all three of my pitches for strikes — and not just strikes — quality strikes, and then just keeping that same mentality: Be aggressive early, be aggressive early. I feel like if I do that, everything will take care of itself.”
Feltman, who turns 24 in April, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as Boston’s No. 28 prospect. The TCU alum, listed at 6-feet and 205 lbs., will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft next December, but he has not thought about that too much and is more focused on getting to the big-leagues as soon as possible.
“Obviously, I don’t want to have to go through the Rule 5 Draft, because if you’ve been in the big-leagues you’re not getting Rule 5 drafted,” he said.
(Top photo of Feltman: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)
Top Red Sox outfield prospect Jarren Duran will be competing in the Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente in Puerto Rico this winter for Los Criollos de Caguas, the club announced earlier Tuesday.
Duran, who turned 24 last month, is regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s No. 8 overall prospect and top outfield prospect.
The 2018 seventh-round draft pick out of Long Beach State was added to the Sox’ player pool back in July and put on quite a show at the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket in what would have been his second full minor-league season.
In joining Caguas, Duran will be managed by Red Sox coach Ramon Vazquez, while Alex Cora’s brother-in-law Jesus Feliciano serves as the team’s general manager.
“Jarren Duran has a great chance to play in the big leagues next year. A player who has hit for average, has strength and has stolen 70 bases in his two seasons as a professional,” Feliciano said (in Spanish) of the speedy outfielder. “He is a versatile player who we are going to like a lot because of the strong way he plays and he will help us with the experienced outfielders we have on our team.”
According to FanGraphs, Duran, who has swiped 70 bags in 199 career minor-league games, has the second-best speed tool (70) in the Sox’ farm system behind only fellow outfielder Gilberto Jimenez (80).
With that speed, as well as the uptick in power he put on display at McCoy Stadium, the California native may have a legitimate shot to crack Boston’s Opening Day roster come next spring.
Many around the organization seem impressed with what they have seen out of Duran in the relatively short period of time he has been a professional. Worcester Red Sox manager Billy McMillon is no exception.
“He had an unbelievable offensive camp. Stole a lot of bases, hit a lot of home runs. Impacted the baseball hard day in and day out,” McMillon said of Duran earlier this month. “I think he continues to get better in the outfield and as that continues to get better, I think that’s going to help clear the path for him. He’s okay, he’s solid, but you can see there’s some room for improvement there. We did some things working on footwork and routes to balls and he kind of cleaned that up a little bit. For me, the question is, can he do that consistently? If he hits a lull with his offense, is he going to stay as positive as we was all camp? I never saw him down during the camp. He hit really well for the entirety of the camp. He’s a very intriguing, very interesting guy.”
Because of what he did in Pawtucket this summer, the Red Sox likely felt that Duran did not need to attend fall instructs, which are currently underway in Fort Myers. Instead, the young speed merchant will take the field for Los Criollos de Caguas down in Puerto Rico in the coming weeks.
Barring any COVID-19-related setbacks, the 2020-2021 Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente season should begin sometime in mid-November.
Excluding position players, 27 different pitchers took the mound for the Red Sox in 2020. Left-hander Stephen Gonsalves was not one of them.
The 26-year-old was claimed off waivers by Boston from the Mets early in the season and was subsequently optioned to the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket, where he remained on the Sox’ 40-man roster up until August 19.
At that point, Gonsalves was designated for assignment in order to make room on the 40-man roster for veteran right-hander Andrew Triggs.
A week went by and Gonsalves went unclaimed, which resulted in his being outrighted to Pawtucket.
As he spent the final few weeks of his 2020 campaign working out at McCoy Stadium, the San Diego native was actually very impressive, which is important when you consider the fact that he will become a minor-league free agent this winter. Worcester Red Sox pitching coach Paul Abbott made that much clear when speaking with reporters via Zoom last week.
“Gonsalves is a guy that can make an impact next year if we bring him back,” Abbott said. “I know he’s a minor-league free agent. His velo went from 89-90 mph — and he already had a highly rated fastball that had some carry — the velo jumped up to 94-96 mph. He got better as we went along and I know he was close to getting an opportunity because they brought him up there.”
A former fourth-round pick of the Twins out of high school in 2013, Gonsalves only has seven major-league outings under his belt. In those seven appearances, four of which were starts, towards the end of the 2018 season, the one-time University of San Diego commit posted a 6.57 ERA and .822 OPS against over 24 2/3 innings pitched.
At the start of the 2019 campaign, Gonsalves suffered an elbow strain in April and a stress reaction to that same elbow in May, which resulted in the former top prospect accruing just 13 innings of work across three minor-league levels last year prior to ultimately getting designated by Minnesota in November.
Since joining the Red Sox organization over the summer, Gonsalves obviously has not had the chance to showcase himself in any real, meaningful games. But, as Abbott mentioned, an uptick in the 6-foot-5 southpaw’s fastball velocity could mesh well with his other three pitches — changeup, slider, curveball — moving forward.
With that being said, in addition to how highly Abbott spoke of him, Gonsalves may be someone the Red Sox look to bring back early on in free agency this offseason.
Assuming he is brought back by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. on a minor-league deal, Gonsalves could prove to be an interesting hurler to monitor during spring training next year given the fact he has experience as both a starter and reliever.
The Red Sox are set to kick off their fall instructional league in Fort Myers on Monday. And according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, several of the club’s top prospects will take part in these offseason activities.
Among the 62 minor-leaguers who will report to Fenway South starting this week, several had just spent at least part of their summers at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket. Those names, per Speier, include pitchers Bryan Mata and Jay Groome, infielders Triston Casas, Nick Yorke, and Hudson Potts, and outfielder Jeisson Rosario.
As for the prospects who did not receive an invite to the alternate site this season, there are right-handers Brayan Bello and Thad Ward, left-hander Chris Murphy, infielders Brainer Bonaci and Matthew Lugo, and speedy outfielder Gilberto Jimenez.
On top of that group of players, infielder Blaze Jordan and pitchers Shane Drohan and Jeremy Wu-Yelland — the rest of Boston’s 2020 draft class — are also expected to attend this offseason program that will run until November 12.
Although it is not yet clear if teams will be allowed to play games against one another due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, these instructional leagues do allow the Red Sox, as well as the other 29 clubs, to get back in contact with the core of their minor-league talent.
Speaking of minor-league talent, as of September 1, the Sox had the No. 25 farm system in baseball according to MLB Pipeline.
As underwhelming as that ranking may be, there appears to be optimism from within the organization that things in that developmental area are steadily improving. PawSox manager Billy McMillon opined as much when speaking with reporters this past Friday via Zoom.
“I think it’s very promising right now,” McMillon said regarding the state of the Red Sox farm system. “Some of the returns that we got back in some of the various trades and offseason acquisitions, I think that’s going to raise the level of our minor-leagues. We saw some guys develop, get a little bit better. There’s encouraging news from guys that impressed on the mound to seeing how some of the position players developed. I think the cupboard is getting full again, and I think there’s reason for optimism with some of the guys that we saw in the alternate camp.”
Expect the full list of Red Sox minor-leaguers who will be attending fall instructs to be released relatively soon.
UPDATE: Here’s the full list of the 62 Red Sox minor-leaguers who will be at full instructs, courtesy of SoxProspects.
Infielder Hudson Potts was a late addition to the Red Sox’ player pool this season on account of the fact he was acquired from the Padres on August 30.
The 21-year-old arrived at the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket in early September and, unlike the majority of players and prospects who were already there, did not have a ton of time to get acclimated to a completely new environment.
Still, Potts impressed and showed glimpses of promises in his first go-around as a Red Sox prospect. PawSox manager Billy McMillon, who was one of the main authority figures at the alternate site these past two-plus months, made that much clear when speaking with reporters via Zoom on Friday.
“I was really, really impressed with his approach at the plate,” McMillon said of Potts. “He would hit a ball to the pull side 400 feet and then hit a line drive to right-center field. Big, strong kid. He showed a little bit of defensive versatility, too. We played him some at second base. The lion’s share of his work was at third base.”
Originally drafted by San Diego as a shortstop out of high school in the first round of the 2016 amateur draft, Potts is listed at 6-foot-3 and 218 lbs. Those measurements seemed to remind McMillon of a former Red Sox prospect who could play third base.
“If you look at him physically, body type, he kind of reminds you of a Will Middlebrooks,” the Pawtucket skipper added. “That’s the first person I thought about when I saw him. Good kid. Very, very hard worker. I like him. He’s going to be an interesting person when we try to slot him in next year with a full year of Double-A under his belt. We got something from San Diego with him.”
Potts, who along with outfielder Jeisson Rosario was dealt to Boston in the trade that saw Mitch Moreland go to the Padres, is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 20 prospect in the Sox’ farm system.
As McMillon mentioned, Potts played a full season’s worth of Double-A baseball last year. In 107 games for the Amarillo Sod Poodles, the Southlake, Texas native posted a .227/.290/.406 slash line to go along with 16 home runs and 59 RBI over 448 plate appearances.
Going back to 2017, Potts has clubbed at least 15 homers in each of his last three minor-league seasons, so he has rightfully earned the reputation of being a power-hitting prospect. On top of that, FanGraphs regards the young infielder’s power tool as one of the best in the organization.
Despite those accolades, Potts is striving to improve his approach at the plate to show that he is capable of being an all-around hitter opposed to just a power hitter.
“I know that’s probably one of the things that has been one of my better things throughout my career,” he said in regards to his slugging abilities back in September. “But, once I learn and make adjustments to my approach that I need to make, I feel like I can be a lot more than just a power guy. I feel like I can be a complete hitter and I just need to work on that and get to that spot I know I’m capable of doing. That’s what I’m striving to be, an all-around hitter, not just a power hitter.”
Because he signed with the Padres as a 17-year-old back in 2016, Potts is now eligible for this year’s Rule 5 Draft in December. In order to not expose him to that, the Red Sox will have to add Potts to their 40-man roster by late November.
At 18 years and 173 days old, Nick Yorke is by far the youngest player at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket. The 2020 first-round draft pick received an invite to the alternate site earlier this month and first reported to McCoy Stadium last Thursday.
Since then, Yorke has gone 3-for-4 at the plate with two doubles and two walks in simulated game action while also getting acclimated to a whole new level of baseball far different than what he had grown accustomed to at Archbishop Mitty High School out in San Jose.
In a brief period of time, Yorke, a west coaster, has seen his life essentially flip upside down after signing his first professional contract back in July. Even so, the right-handed hitting infielder is just glad to be playing baseball in some capacity in what has already been an unprecedented year.
“I’ve been having so much fun getting on the field again,” Yorke said when speaking with reporters via Zoom earlier Tuesday. “Competitiveness-wise, it’s just fun getting to be on the field against another pitcher and have some at-bats. So, I’ve been having a great time out here.”
One of those pitchers Yorke got the chance to face in his Pawtucket debut on Saturday was top prospect Bryan Mata, who wound up dazzling the youngster with his velocity a bit before eventually yielding an opposite-field single.
“I remember that first pitch he threw me,” Yorke said of his encounter with the 21-year-old Mata. “He threw it for a ball but I was like ‘I didn’t know a ball could move like that!’ So then I put on the batting gloves and it was time to compete, put a barrel on the ball, and let him do the work.”
While Yorke is still adjusting to this new level of baseball, he is also getting better familiarized with his peers, such as fellow prospect Triston Casas, veteran infielder Jose Peraza, and PawSox manager Billy McMillon.
“They’ve been really good about getting my feet wet,” the one-time University of Arizona commit added.” I took the first 2 – 2 1/2 days kind of just taking BP and working out with the guys. Triston Casas has been really good with me. I go and hit with him before we report everyday to come hit off the machine and get the [velocity] in before the games.”
Regarding Peraza, who was optioned to the alternate site on September 9, Yorke says the ex-Red was surprised about his age and has been one of several players with major-league experience who have doled out some wisdom or advice if needed.
“It’s amazing. I mean, they’re all so welcoming,” Yorke said of the veteran presence in Pawtucket. “I’ve tried to be a sponge. They’re really good about letting me in and showing me the ropes. I’ve had a great time with them.”
When discussing what his interactions with McMillon have been like, Yorke described the PawSox skipper as an ‘amazing’ individual.
“[McMillon’s] very funny,” he continued. “He always puts smiles on guys’ faces… and just makes transitions a lot easier, introducing myself to new guys through Billy and whatnot. He’s been great with me.”
Yorke, as well as the other 32 or so players in Pawtucket, will presumably continue their workouts at McCoy through the end of the 2020 major-league season this coming Sunday. From there, as noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Red Sox are planning to invite about 60 players to a fall training camp in Fort Myers. The California native could very well be one of those 60 players who receive an invite. We will have to wait and see on that.