Top Red Sox pitching prospect Bryan Mata returns to throwing program after suffering slight UCL tear in early March

After suffering a slight tear of his ulnar collateral ligament in early March, Red Sox top pitching prospect Bryan Mata has recently restarted his throwing program, manager Alex Cora said earlier Sunday morning.

Mata, who experienced soreness behind his right triceps during the early stages of spring training, underwent an MRI last month that revealed a slight tear in his UCL.

At that time, the right-hander was to be shut down for at least three weeks as the Sox opted for rest and treatment as opposed to surgery.

Since then, Mata has apparently been progressing at a steady pace. On March 24, Red Sox pitching coach Dave Bush revealed that the young hurler would “get back into a throwing program before too long” to test out his elbow.

On April 4, Cora revealed that Mata had indeed restarted his throwing program.

“He started his throwing program towards the end [of camp],” Cora said Sunday. “I’m not sure where he’s at right now as far as [distance], but I know he started his throwing program when we left camp.”

Mata, who turns 22 in May, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No.4 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking tops among pitchers in the organization.

The 6-foot-3, 227 pounder out of Venezuela was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster in November 2019. With no minor-league season in 2020, the righty spent his year developing at the club’s alternate training site — where his fastball reached 97 mph — and fall instructional league and was viewed as arguably the top starting rotation depth option the Red Sox had to offer at the minor-league level.

With this recent setback, though, it would seem to be in the Sox’ best interest to not rush Mata back and instead see how he responds to the throwing program he has recently started again before determining the next steps in this rehab process.

(Picture of Bryan Mata: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox pitching prospect Josh Winckowski wraps up solid spring with 3 strong innings of work against Twins

In what was undoubtedly be his last start of the spring, Red Sox pitching prospect Josh Winckowski impressed against the Twins at JetBlue Park on Sunday afternoon.

Making his first start of the Grapefruit League campaign, the 22-year-old right-hander held Minnesota’s lineup — which included the likes of Josh Donaldson, Nelson Cruz, and Byron Buxton — to one earned run on two hits and one walk to go along with one strikeout over three solid innings of work.

That lone Twins tally came on an RBI groundout off the bat of Donaldson in the top half of the third after Willians Astudillo led off the frame with a double and advanced to third on a flyout.

Other than that, Winckowski wrapped up his day by getting Cruz to ground out to short to retire the side in the third.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 51, 33 of which went for strikes, the Ohio native finishes his first spring with the Sox having posted a 3.68 ERA and .154 batting average against over five total appearances spanning 7 1/3 innings pitched.

Boston acquired Winckowski — as well as outfielder Franchy Cordero and two players to be named later — in the three-team trade with the Mets and Royals that saw outfielder Andrew Benintendi land in Kansas City last month.

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 212 pounds, Winckowski was originally selected by the Blue Jays in the 15th round of the 2016 amateur draft out of Estero (Fla.) High School.

He signed with Toronto for $125,000 later that summer and proceeded to put up a 3.35 ERA over 54 appearances (50 starts) and 263 innings of work between rookie-league, Low-A, Class-A, and High-A over the next 3 1/2 seasons.

By that time, Winckowski had emerged as an intriguing prospect within the Jays’ minor-league pipeline, and even after not seeing any in-game at action at all (besides Toronto’s fall instructional league) on account of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he was one of three pitchers the Blue Jays traded to the Mets in January in exchange for left-hander Steven Matz.

Emerging as New York’s 26th-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline in the wake of that trade, Winckowski’s time with the Mets did not last all that long.

As previously mentioned, he, again, was traded — this time to the Red Sox — on February 10, prompting him to jokingly change his Instagram bio to ‘I guess Red Sox.’

Given that he grew up and still resides in the Fort Myers-area, Winckowski going from the Mets to the Sox meant being within closer proximity to his new team’s spring training complex, which led to him captioning his Instagram post reacting to the trade with: ‘Spring training drive won’t be too bad.’

(For what it’s worth, his Instagram bio now reads: ‘Crazy few weeks but I’m pumped to be a Sox.’)

Winckowski arrived at the Red Sox’ Fenway South complex last month as one of 30 initial non-roster invitees at big-league camp. He was ultimately reassigned to the minor-leagues on March 9, but not before leaving a positive first impression on some of his new teammates, like fellow right-hander Matt Barnes.

“I was standing right next to him as he was warming up,” Barnes said about Winckowski following his scoreless outing against the Braves on March 7. “The ball was coming out good. Obviously he had a really good inning. Commanded the ball in the zone. Got ahead of guys, attacked hitters. It looks like he’s got firm, good stuff. It looks like the ball jumps out of his hand — really heavy fastball. That’s what it looks like to me. Obviously I’m not on the other end of it. But watching him from behind in the bullpen warming up and obviously the results speak for themselves in the game today, it looks like he’s got really good stuff.”

Winckowski, who does not turn 23 until June 28, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as Boston’s No. 33 prospect, ranking 17th among pitchers in the organization.

FanGraphs‘ Eric Longenhagen wrote this about Winckowski back in January, “Winckowski has a chance to pop in 2021 because he was pitching hurt in 2019 and still got guys out. He looked rusty during instructs but was also up to 97 and added a new splitter to an already decent slider.”

Equipped with a fastball, slider, changeup, and slider in total, Winckowski is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season with Double-A Portland, though he could earn a promotion to Triple-A Worcester later in the year depending on how he progresses.

The 2021 campaign could prove to be a pivotal one for Winckowski, as he becomes eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career later on this winter.

The Red Sox will need to add the righty to their 40-man roster on or before November 20 of this year if they do not want to risk losing him to another club in the December draft.

(Picture of Josh Winckowski: Billie Weiss/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

New Podding the Red Sox episode: Pitching prospect Zach Bryant joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by newest Red Sox right-handed pitching prospect Zach Bryant, who the club acquired from the Chicago Cubs last weekend.

Among the topics Zach and I discussed were how he grew up a Red Sox fan despite being born and raised in Florida, how weightlifting helped turn him into a legitimate prospect, how he works out with Orioles outfielder Austin Hays and Rockies first-round draft pick Zac Veen in the offseason, how Driveline Baseball has helped him improve, how he faced off against Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani while at the Driveline facility, what Red sox fans can expect out of him in 2021, and much more!

The episode is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

Thanks to Zach for taking some time out of his busy schedule to have a conversation with me. You can follow him on Twitter by clicking here, and you can follow him on Instagram by clicking here.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Please make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of Zach Bryant: Aussiedi Photography)

Red Sox pitching prospect Andrew Politi, a potential sleeper for 2021, receives invite to major-league spring training

Along with Durbin Feltman, fellow right-handed pitching prospect Andrew Politi was one of 22 Red Sox minor-leaguers to receive an invite to major-league spring training on Friday.

The 24-year-old was originally selected by Boston in the 15th round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Seton Hall University. He signed with the team for only $25,000 that June, and according to The Athletic’s Keith Law, he could be a major sleeper this year.

“Politi was Boston’s 15th-round pick in 2018, a senior signed out of Seton Hall,” Law, who ranked Politi as the No. 15 prospect in the Sox’ farm system, wrote on Thursday, “but his stuff picked up over the last two years and he’s now showing mid-90s velocity with a curveball and cutter — even as he moved from a relief role to the rotation. He needs better control and command, and he’s on the smaller side for a starter, but there’s some starter upside here.

“Politi could make a jump this year, at least into their top 10 if not the global list,” Law added.

Last time he saw any organized minor-league action, the New Jersey native posted a 3.55 ERA and 3.17 xFIP over 33 appearances (five starts) and 78 2/3 innings of work for High-A Salem in 2019.

Politi emerged as a regular starter for Salem towards the tail end of the 2019 campaign in late August, and he dazzled by yielding just three runs (two earned) on three hits, five walks, and 17 strikeouts over his final three starts (13 1/3 innings pitched) of the season.

While he was not included in the Sox’ 60-man player pool nor invited to the Sox’ alternate training site any point in 2020, the 6-foot, 191 lb. hurler did participate in the club’s fall instructional league.

There in Fort Myers, according to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, Politi put his diverse pitch mix on display for scouts to see.

“Though he worked his way into the Salem rotation at the end of 2019, scouts see right-hander Andrew Politi as a reliever all the way,” Cundall wrote back in November. “His delivery has a lot of effort, and his command was inconsistent at Instructs. His fastball sat 93-95 mph and he mixed in an average slider. He also showed a changeup and curveball, and seemed to be working on a cutter as well. “

What Cundall gathered about Politi seems to differ from what Law gathered, but one thing is clear: Politi has potential. Whether that be as a starter or reliever has yet to be determined, but that notion became clear on Friday when he received an invite to big-league camp.

Like Feltman, Politi is also eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this December, so it goes without saying that 2021 will be an important year for him.

Projected to begin the upcoming minor-league season with Double-A Portland, Politi, who turns 25 in June, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the organization’s 40th-ranked prospect.

(Picture of Andrew Politi: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Chaim Bloom on newest Red Sox prospect Frank German: ‘We’re excited to get him in here and keep molding him’

Right-handed pitching prospect Frank German may be the lesser-known of the two players the Red Sox acquired from the Yankees on Monday, but don’t let that fool you into believing he has little to offer his new club.

The 23-year-old was originally drafted by New York in the fourth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of North Florida, though he did also get looks from a few of the Yankees’ fiercest division rivals during the pre-draft process.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said as much himself when speaking with reporters on Monday.

“He’s an interesting prospect that I know this organization has had an eye on since he was in the draft,” Bloom said of German via Zoom. “I remember talking about him in our draft room when I was with the Rays. He was at North Florida and was kind of a pop-up guy that spring.”

Last time German saw any organized minor-league action (excluding rehab stints), he posted a 3.79 ERA and 3.56 xFIP over 16 outings (15 starts) and 76 innings pitched for the High-A Tampa Tarpons in 2019.

The native of Queens put up those numbers while working with a high-velocity four-seam fastball in addition to an evolving repertoire of secondary pitches that includes a changeup.

“He’s a power arm with a really good fastball that has good velo, good life,” said Bloom. “The secondaries are coming. The fastball is certainly the foundation right now, but that’s a great place to start. When a guy shows that he has a fastball that has the power and the life to be effective, and it’s a big-league fastball.

“A good body, athletic,” he continued. “A guy who improved a lot in a short period of time starting near the end of his college career. The type of guy that you would bet on to be able to make more improvement, so we’re excited to get him in here and keep molding him.”

One caveat that comes with the Red Sox acquiring a prospect such as German is the fact that there was no minor-league season last year.

On top of that, German was not included in the Yankees’ 60-man player pool, nor did he participate in a fall instructional league since New York did not have one. So, he was basically left to further his development with his own resources.

Having said all that, the Sox were essentially working with little to no new data and instead had to rely on information pertaining to German from 2019 and earlier, which can make these sorts of transactions a bit unnerving.

“This was one of the more interesting aspects of a trade like this, and frankly one of the more uncomfortable aspects of a trade like this is that there’s not as much information on his 2020,” Bloom stated. “This required a lot of legwork from a lot of different people in our organization, especially [vice president of professional scouting] Gus Quattlebaum and [director of professional scouting] Harrison Slutsky and their group.

“And then, really marshalling different resources to get as much intel as we could,” he added. “There’s no question when you’re acquiring a prospect right now — especially one that didn’t participate in an instructional league — there’s more unknowns. Now, we don’t want to be scared off too much by that because those can play in both directions. We felt we had enough intel on his situation to be comfortable making the trade, but it was definitely something that we had to work through and we had to get comfortable with.”

With the start date of the minor-league season below the Triple-A level getting pushed back until later in the spring, where German will began his Red Sox career — likely Greenville or Portland — has yet to be discussed.

What is clear now, however, is that the flame-throwing, 6-foot-2, 195 lb. hurler will remain a starter for the time being even if his path to the next level involves a move to the bullpen somewhere down the line.

“As far as his role, I think generally speaking, when a guy has had success in a starting role, you don’t want to cut off the upside of him continuing to have that success, absent some critical, immediate need,” Bloom said. “There are exceptions, but a lot of those exceptions come from really knowing the person and the player, and obviously we need to get to know him better. But, I could see him doing either in the future. It really depends on where he goes. But, like I said, he’s got a really good foundation with the athleticism and the fastball that he has, and we want to keep him developing.”

German, who does not turn 24 until September, is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s No. 27 prospect. He will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this coming December, so he is probably someone you want to get familiar with between now and the November 20 deadline.

(Picture of Frank German: Jon Monaghan/Broken Bat Media)

Red Sox in ‘serious trade talks’ with other teams regarding Andrew Benintendi, per report

The Red Sox have reportedly been engaged in serious trade talks regarding outfielder Andrew Benintendi, per The Athletic’s Jim Bowden.

Per Bowden, the Sox are in serious talks with multiple teams and are looking for a prospect-centered return focused on young pitchers and outfielders. It is worth noting that nothing is imminent as of this moment.

Benintendi, 26, is coming off his worst season in the majors in 2020.

Over just 14 games played, the former first-round pick posted an abysmal .103/.314/.128 slash line to go along with just one extra-base hit and one RBI.

That lone extra-base hit, a double, came against the Rays on August 11, the same night Benintendi suffered a right rib cage strain on the base paths, which would place him on the injured list and wind up costing him the rest of the year.

Benintendi’s struggles in 2020 added on to an underwhelming 2019 campaign in which he yielded a wRC+ of 100 (league average), adding on to the notion that the Cincinnati native has been trending in the wrong direction recently.

Even with that concerning trend in mind, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom spoke quite highly of Benintendi during his end-of-the season presser back in September.

“I think talent-wise, I wouldn’t factor this year into an evaluation of his talent at all,” Bloom said of Benintendi’s performance in 2020. “I mean, this guy has great all-around ability. It’s just unfortunate how the year started. He actually looked great at Summer Camp, and then for whatever reason the season opened and he wasn’t operating on all cylinders. He had a couple bad weeks and then got hurt, so I wouldn’t let that change anyone’s mind.

“This is a guy who has shown the ability to perform at a really high level, including in some really critical situations,” added Bloom. Still young, still has all that ability. It’s just a shame that his year kind of got wiped out.”

Benintendi’s manager for the time being, Alex Cora, also appeared confident that the young outfielder could return to form in 2021 when speaking with reporters last month.

“The Andrew that we saw in October 2018, that’s the Andrew we want,” Cora said. “The swings-and-misses — we talked about it in ’19, we saw it in ’20 — we need to find a balance between driving the ball and not swinging and missing. I’ll take Andrew Benintendi, the complete player. I don’t want Andrew to hit 35-40 home runs. I want him to get on base, be fast in the base paths, steal bases, play better defense — the way he played in October [2018] — and if we get that guy back, we’re in a good position.”

Seeing how Benintendi has not lived up to his promising potential over the past few seasons, it would seem like if the Red Sox were to trade the former top prospect now, they would be selling relatively low on him.

There is still plenty of optimism that Benintendi can bounce back in 2021, which would lead to the belief that 2020 was a fluke.

With that in mind, “the Sox wouldn’t want to sell [Benintendi] at a low-value point. Given his potential upside and the likely modest return [he] would bring, the risk of dealing him likely exceeds the payoff,” as The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier noted back in November.

Benintendi, who does not turn 27 until July, is under team control for two more seasons. He is set to earn $6.6 million in 2021, which will mark his sixth season in the major-leagues.

UPDATE: WEEI’s Rob Bradford adds that “at least one interested team is more interested in what happened [for Benintendi] in ’19 rather than small sample ’20.”

(Picture of Andrew Benintendi: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Right-hander Aldo Ramirez ‘most underrated’ prospect in Red Sox farm system, according to MLB front offices

In his most recent work for The Athletic, former Reds and Nationals general manager Jim Bowden writes that he reached out to all 30 major-league front offices “to  uncover the most underrated and undervalued prospects” in baseball for 2021.

By doing this, Bowden identified 30 under-the-radar prospects across the minor-leagues.

Who from the Red Sox’ minor-league pipeline made this exclusive list? None other than rising right-hander Aldo Ramirez.

“Ramirez performed well in the New York/Penn League in 2019 as an 18-year-old, as shown by his 63 strikeouts and 16 walks in 61.2 innings,” writes Bowden. “However, he was noticeably stronger this year in instructional league, with his fastball up to 96 mph with riding life. He’s a physical, athletic pitcher with a repeatable delivery and a three-pitch mix that includes a fastball, curveball and changeup. He profiles as a future mid-rotation-type starter.”

Regarded by SoxProspects.com as Boston’s No. 10 prospect (No. 5 among pitchers), Ramirez was one of the stars of the club’s fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

The 19-year-old hurler, originally signed out of the Mexican League for $550,000 in 2018, “was the consensus top pitcher at Red Sox Fall Instructs,” according to SoxProspects‘ director of scouting Ian Cundall.

“Ramirez sat 92-95 mph [with his fastball], with a potential plus changeup at 85-89 mph and average curveball at 77-81 mph,” Cundall wrote of the young righty last month. “His changeup is a potential weapon and could develop into a plus-to-better pitch given he already shows advanced feel for it and has a lot of confidence in it.”

Bowden gave the following scouting grades (20-80 scale) for each of Ramirez’s three pitches as well as his control and command:

Fastball: 60
Curveball: 55
Changeup: 50
Control: 50
Command: 45

After missing out on a minor-league season to further continue his development in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Ramirez — who is listed at 6-foot, 180 lbs. — is projected to begin the 2021 campaign with Low-A Salem as a member of their starting rotation.

A starting role is one the fiery right-hander could maintain for the foreseeable future, too.

“[Ramirez] has a very good chance to remain a starter and has already shown solid strike-throwing ability,” Cundall added. “[He] was on the younger side of the arms in camp but is remarkably polished for his age and gives the Red Sox someone to dream on as a back-end starter with a chance for more given his youth and constantly improving stuff.” 

(Photo of Aldo Ramirez: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Jaxx Groshans evaluates some of the top pitching prospects in the Red Sox farm system

He’s caught them. He’s hit against them. When it comes to some of the more intriguing pitching prospects in the Red Sox organization, there aren’t many better people to ask about them than catching prospect Jaxx Groshans.

When speaking with BloggingtheRedSox.com earlier this week, the 22-year-old backstop shared his thoughts on the likes of Jay Groome, Noah Song, and Ryan Zeferjahn, all of whom are regarded by SoxProspects.com as top-15 pitching prospects within Boston’s farm system.

Here are those thoughts put into writing.

LHP Jay Groome (SoxProspects’ No. 7 pitching prospect)

“I’ve faced off against Groomy multiple times and I got to catch him when I was in Lowell and at fall instructs both years (2019 and 2020). His stuff has grown a long way, man. He’s got big-league caliber shit, and I think that’s going to carry him for a while.”

RHP Noah Song (SoxProspects’ No. 6 pitching prospect)

“I caught Noah in his debut in Aberdeen… As far as Songy is concerned, that’s some of the best pure stuff I think I’ve ever seen. I applaud him for going back and serving [in the Navy] like he was supposed to, but that’s a damn shame because that kid probably could have been in the big-leagues this coming year. He probably could have made an appearance in the league out of the ‘pen last year to be honest with you, because his stuff is that good.”

RHP Ryan Zeferjahn (SoxProspects’ No. 11 pitching prospect)

“Zef’s a good dude, man. He’s got some electric stuff, too. I’m very, very excited to see how his career pans out because I think he can be a successful big-leaguer for a long time, especially if he figures out control of all his pitches and finetunes them. We’ll just have to wait and see from here. Like I said, he’s got a lot of special stuff and he’s very blessed with the arm he has.”

Groshans and Zeferjahn both played college baseball together at the University of Kansas. They were both selected by the Red Sox within hours of each other during Day 2 of the 2019 MLB first-year player draft.

“Before we got drafted, we were in Bricktown (Oklahoma City) playing Kansas State in the Big-12 tournament,” Groshans recalled. “Me and Zef were sitting on the bench, and Zef was like ‘Man, how cool would it be if the both of us got drafted by the same team? It would be sick because I’d get to throw to you and we’d be teammates again.’

“And I was like ‘Yeah, dude. That would be sick. That would be awesome,'” continued Groshans. “Then I saw Zef got picked by the Sox in the third [round], and I was like ‘Damn, okay. What’s going to happen? How’s this going to go?’ Then my agent texted me and he was like ‘Red Sox.’ So, I kind of kept it in for a second and as soon as my name got called, Zef was one of the first people to text me. He was like ‘Let’s freaking go! That’s awesome, man!’ I was like ‘Yeah, meet me in Florida and let’s have some fun.'”

BONUS: Former University of Oklahoma outfielder and Oakland Athletics first-round draft pick Kyler Murray, who is currently the starting quarterback for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals

“I know Kyler. I grew up around the same area — before I moved to Houston — that he was from. So I was from Plano, he was from Allen (Texas). I met him off and on the field, too. He’s a freak athlete, man.

“I saw something the other day where they were putting out on SportsCenter: Who of these NFL athletes would be successful in the minor-leagues if they played?’ It’s Kyler 100% hands down,” Groshans said. “He’s said it before. I don’t believe his time in baseball is done yet. I think if at any point he decides to come back, he could definitely do it. 100%.”

(Picture of Jaxx Groshans: Kelly O’Connor/ sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox pitching prospect Bradley Blalock reflects on unique 2020 for minor-leaguers, looks ahead to 2021

This year was supposed to serve as Bradley Blalock’s springboard into professional baseball.

After being selected by the Red Sox in the 32nd round of the 2019 amateur draft, the right-hander made just four appearances (three starts) in the Gulf Coast League on account of how much he had pitched earlier in the spring while still in high school.

2020 was going to be the year in which Blalock formally introduced himself as a legitimate pitching prospect, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic prevented that from fully happening.

Rather than pitch a full season at one or multiple minor-league levels, Blalock was limited to just the fall instructional league in terms of throwing in front of team officials.

The 20-year-old hurler recently spoke with BloggingtheRedSox.com about how this year has gone for him as well as a number of other topics.

“Once I got [to fall instructs], I definitely started working,” Blalock said. “Got to pitch in two intrasquad games. First one, just threw one inning but it was a little rough since I got hit around a little bit. In my second outing, I pitched six innings — went six up, six down — so it was definitely really exciting to do that in front of everyone that was there. And my third one, I was supposed to throw three innings on the last day, but it got rained out. But, I was able to throw a bullpen, so it was good.”

While fall instructs this year were certainly different from fall instructs the year before, Blalock has enjoyed his time with the Red Sox organization thus far. The Georgia native signed with the club for $250,000 last July as opposed to attending Kennesaw State University.

“It was a personal decision for me,” Blalock said of his choice to go pro out of high school. “Me and my family talked about it, and we thought that was the best decision because you don’t know if three years down the road, you’re ever going to get that opportunity [again]. You might get hurt or something, so we just took a chance and we love it so far. I do.”

As a 32nd round pick, Blalock could have signed with Boston for just $125,000, that round’s assigned slot value, but he actually managed to sign for double that amount last summer.

“We just did some negotiations and we found a price that worked for both of us: me and the Red Sox,” said Blalock. “So we definitely came to an easy deal, quick deal on that.”

Even before signing with the Sox, Blalock started to garner at least a little major-league interest starting his junior year of high school in Loganville, Ga. He provided some insight on what that whole process was like.

“I didn’t really talk to a lot of pro scouts my junior year,” Blalock said. “I talked to one [with the Minnesota Twins] and we built a close bond. My senior year, I definitely had a lot more attention. Had to fill out a couple questionnaires that I had to fill out from each team.”

One of those interested teams was obviously the Red Sox, and their interest in Blalock gave the righty the chance to get to know his eventual signing scout Brian Moehler, who covers Georgia and South Carolina for the team as an amateur scout.

“Once I met him, we built a close bond,” Blalock said of Moehler. “He was the one that was really talking to my dad, because I don’t have an agent right now so my dad’s really my agent. So, we built a close bond and we talk a couple times every month.”

The Red Sox viewed Blalock, who originally committed to Kennesaw State as a two-way player, as a pitcher from the get-go. That likely had something to do with his pitch selection, which the 6-foot-2, 190 lb. righty broke down in-depth.

“In high school, I threw a four-seam fastball, a slider, a changeup, and a knucklecurve,” he explained. “When I got to the GCL, I didn’t bring the slider along because my curveball was definitely my better offspeed pitch as the year advanced. So, I had my fastball, curveball, changeup — but my changeup wasn’t really there so I was really just a two-pitch guy.

“After instructs last year, they were like ‘Hey, let’s work on a changeup,'” Blalock continued. “So, all instructs and all offseason I worked on getting my changeup back to where it needed to be. I came into spring training with a four-seam fastball, a knucklecurve, and a changeup. And during spring training — during my bullpens — my curveball was always down for a strikeout pitch. It was like an 0-2 or 1-2 pitch, so we working on trying to get that and land it for a strike.

“But then I realized I need something better that I know I can land for a strike,” he added. “So I talked to [Lowell Spinners pitching coach Nick Green] and [performance pitching coordinator] Shawn Haviland about going back to my slider and figuring that back out. During quarantine, I worked on getting my feel back for my slider. They were excited, and I brought that into instructs with me.”

While he was able to hone his pitch mix in the weeks leading up to fall instructs thanks to tools such as video and Rapsodo, Blalock also continued to use training methods inspired by Driveline Baseball, which is something he has done since his freshman year of high school.

“At the facility I train at, it’s called Full Count Baseball, we do Driveline stuff,” he stated. “We have all the Driveline balls, shoulder tubes, wrist weights, and we have core velocity belts, which helps you get your core engaged.”

The use of Driveline’s weighted balls specifically seemed very important to Blalock, as he attributed them to his uptick in fastball velocity over the past few years.

“To think my freshman year, I was probably [sitting at] 75 mph,” Blalock said. Just to think that then I was like ‘Hey, I don’t even know if I’ll get to play college baseball.’ Just to continue to work, keep staying with the process, and using the weighted balls and the jaeger bands. It’s definitely been [something] I really like and I’m going to keep doing it.”

Blalock’s fastball, which today tops out at 95 mph, can be attributed to the proper use of weighted balls, weight lifting, and two to three long toss sessions per week. He still believes his four-seamer has room to grow, though.

“That still has room to grow,” Blalock said of his heater. “I’ve been working this offseason still trying to gain some velocity. I mean, it’s always good to try and get some more. One of the guys I work out with, he throws 99-100 mph, so I’m trying to get there with him.”

As for how Blalock will get there, the 2021 season serves as a good first step. Though it’s unclear which affiliate he will start the season with, Blalock does not necessarily care about which role — starter or reliever — he undertakes as long as it helps him contribute at the major-league level sooner.

“I just want to be able to help [the Red Sox] get to the World Series. Starter or reliever, I just want to be able to make it to the bigs and help the Red Sox get there, again.”

Blalock, who does not turn 21 until next December, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the organization’s No. 35 prospect. He is projected to begin the 2021 campaign with the GCL Red Sox, though he certainly would not mind getting called up to Salem, or even Greenville, either.