Red Sox sign left-hander Skylar Arias to minor-league deal

The Red Sox have signed free agent left-hander Skylar Arias to a minor-league contract for the 2023 season, per the club’s transactions log. Arias has been assigned to Double-A Portland.

Arias, 25, was originally selected by Cleveland in the 24th round of the 2016 amateur draft out of Tallahassee Community College. The Florida native spent parts of seven seasons in the Guardians organization before being released last June.

Shortly after being cut loose by the Guardians, Arias signed a minors pact with the White Sox. The 6-foot-3, 204-pound southpaw pitched across three different levels in 2022, though 24 of his 26 relief appearances were for Chicago’s High-A affiliate in Winston-Salem, N.C. He posted a 3.91 ERA and 3.88 FIP with 37 strikeouts to 17 walks over 23 innings of work for the Dash before becoming a free agent again in November.

Among the 238 pitchers who accrued at least 20 innings in the South Atlantic League last year, Arias ranked 11th in strikeouts per nine innings (14.48), 20th in strikeout rate (35.6 percent), and 18th in batting average against (.171), per FanGraphs. He also walked more than 16 percent of the batters he faced.

Arias, who turns 26 in June, has some experience above the High-A level. He made one appearance for Double-A Birmingham last August, allowing three runs (two earned) in a third of an inning. In 2021, the lefty forged a 6.92 ERA and 5.01 FIP with 53 strikeouts to 35 walks across 36 outings spanning 40 1/3 frames of relief for Double-A Akron.

According to a Baseball America scouting report from December 2021, Arias “deploys a trio of pitches in his low-90s fastball, low-80s slider and low-to-mid-80s changeup. He has an unusual four-seam fastball that’s heavy with side spin, but lacks hop, moving almost like a sinker from a flat vertical approach angle. This allows the pitch to play above his below-average velocity.

“His slider is far and away his go-to swing-and-miss offering, with a whiff rate above 50 percent despite accounting for a quarter of his usage,” it continues. “From a shape perspective his changeup may be his most intriguing pitch. It sits 82 mph with average velocity separation from his fastball. He does an excellent job of killing the lift on the pitch, which gives it plenty of tumble. It also has hellacious run.”

Arias becomes the latest left-hander the Red Sox have signed to a minor-league deal in recent weeks, joining the likes of Matt Dermody and Ryan Sherriff. Unlike Dermody and Sherriff, however, it does not appear as though Arias will receive an invite to major-league spring training.

(Picture of Fenway Park: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Red Sox re-sign Sterling Sharp to minor-league deal

The Red Sox have re-signed right-hander Sterling Sharp to a minor-league contract for the 2023 season, per his MiLB.com transactions log.

Sharp, 27, first signed with Boston as a minor-league free agent last August after spending the first half of the 2022 season in the Nationals organization. The lanky righty made seven starts for Double-A Portland down the stretch and posted a 3.18 ERA (3.59 FIP) with 31 strikeouts to 12 walks over 34 innings of work.

Washington originally selected Sharp in the 22nd round of the 2016 amateur draft out of Drury University (Springfield, Mo). The Michigan native rose through the prospect ranks in the Nationals’ farm system before being taken by the Marlins in the major-league phase of the 2019 Rule 5 Draft.

Sharp made his big-league debut for Miami the following August. He allowed six earned runs in 5 1/3 innings (10.13 ERA) out of the Marlins bullpen before being designated for assignment on Aug. 27. He was ultimately returned to the Nationals for $50,000 after clearing waivers.

Since that time, Sharp has made 34 appearances (27 starts) at the Triple-A level and 10 starts at the Double-A level. For his minor-league career, the 6-foot-3, 182-pound hurler owns a lifetime 3.77 ERA over 167 Double-A innings and a lifetime 5.77 ERA across 137 1/3 Triple-A innings.

Sharp, who turns 28 in May, operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of an 88-90 mph sinker, an 80-81 mph changeup, and a 79-81 mph slider. He has been assigned to Portland. As noted by SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield, though, Sharp provides the Red Sox with upper-minors rotation depth in the event that they include one of their Triple-A starters (like Chris Murphy or Brandon Walter) in trade for a major-league ready player before the season begins.

In short, Sharp could very well wind up pitching for the WooSox at some point in 2023. We will have to wait and see on that.

(Picture of Sterling Sharp: Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Former Red Sox prospect Pedro Castellanos signs minor-league deal with Padres

Former Red Sox prospect Pedro Castellanos has signed a minor-league contract with the Padres, per the MiLB.com transactions log.

Castellanos, 25, originally signed with the Red Sox as an international free agent coming out of Venezuela in July 2015. The Carora native received a modest $5,000 signing bonus and made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League the following June.

After earning Red Sox Minor League Latin Program Player of the Year honors in 2016, Castellanos made the jump to the rookie-level Gulf Coast League (now the Florida Complex League) in 2017. From there, the first baseman/outfielder spent the entirety of the 2018 season in Greenville and the entirety of the 2019 season in Salem, where he was named a Carolina League All-Star.

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing Minor League Baseball to cancel its 2020 campaign, Castellanos was unable to make the jump to Double-A until 2021. In 87 games with the Portland Sea Dogs that season, the right-handed hitter batted .289/.364/.471 with 13 home runs and 44 RBIs over 87 games as he made starts at all three outfield positions.

Castellanos returned to Portland for the start of the 2022 season but got off to a rough start. Coming into play on May 3, he was hitting just .116 (8-for-69) with one homer and eight RBIs through his first 18 games. From that point forward, though, Castellanos turned a corner offensively and proceeded to slash a stout .345/.360/.561 with 16 doubles, seven home runs, 34 RBIs, and 20 runs scored over his next 43 games (178 plate appearances) before earning a promotion to Triple-A Worcester in late June.

In 60 games with the WooSox, Castellanos forged a .269/.307/.397 slash line to go along with 10 doubles, two triples, five homers, 29 runs driven in, 31 runs scored, one stolen base, seven walks, and 47 strikeouts across 241 trips to the plate. The 6-foot-3, 244-pounder put up those numbers while logging 314 1/3 innings at first base, 129 innings in right field, and seven innings in left field.

While he was never truly regarded as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system (topped out at No. 27 on Baseball America’s rankings in 2019), Castellanos did prove to be a quality hitter — as evidenced by his career .294 batting average — during his seven years as a member of the Red Sox organization.

Castellanos, who does not turn 26 until December, will now look to break in at the big-league level with the Padres. He has technically been assigned to San Diego’s Double-A Affiliate in San Antonio, but it would not be all that surprising if he began the 2023 season at Triple-A El Paso.

In the meantime, Castellanos has been playing winter ball for the Cardenales de Lara of the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League. He slashed .289/.344/.436 with five home runs and 26 RBI in 46 regular season games for the Cardenales, who are currently in that league’s playoffs.

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

How did Red Sox outfield prospect Phillip Sikes fare in first full pro season?

Red Sox outfield prospect Phillip Sikes enjoyed a productive first full season of pro ball in 2022.

Selected by Boston in the 18th round of the 2021 amateur draft out of Texas Christian University, Sikes played strictly in the Florida Complex League last summer after signing for just $97,500 as a college senior. He broke minor-league camp this spring with Low-A Salem.

In 50 games with the Carolina League affiliate, the right-handed hitting Sikes batted .258/.390/.516 (148 wRC+) with 18 doubles, four triples, five home runs, 28 RBIs, 36 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, 28 walks, and 55 strikeouts over 195 plate appearances before earning a promotion to High-A Greenville in early July.

With the Drive, Sikes’ production took a dip but he still managed a .248/.351/.446 slash line (118 wRC+) to go along with 11 doubles, one triple, six homers, 20 runs driven in, 21 runs scored, eight stolen bases, 25 walks, and 44 strikeouts across 44 games spanning 95 trips to the plate.

When taking these numbers from the second half of the season into consideration, it is worth mentioning that Sikes posted a .931 OPS in his first 17 games in Greenville before struggling to the tune of a .181/.302/.347 clip in the month of August. The 23-year-old did end his year on a solid note, though, as he went 8-for-23 (.348) in September with a pair of doubles, five walks, and five swiped bags.

All told, Sikes was one of 26 Red Sox minor-leaguers who accrued at least 350 total plate appearances this year. Among that group, he ranked sixth in walk rate (13.9 percent), fifth in on-base percentage (.371), seventh in slugging percentage (.481), fourth in OPS (.852), fifth in isolated power (.228), third in speed score (8.3), second in line-drive rate (29.5 percent), and fourth in wRC+ (132), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, saw playing time at all three outfield positions in his stints with Salem and Greenville. Between the two affiliates, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound speedster logged 136 2/3 innings in left, 315 innings in center, and 324 innings in right. He registered a total of 10 outfield assists and also displayed his arm strength on the mound by making two relief appearances in mop-up duty for the Salem Sox.

Sikes, who turns 24 in April, is not currently regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system. The native Texan is projected by SoxProspects.com to return to Greenville for the start of the 2023 campaign. That being said, one would have to imagine an early-season promotion to Double-A Portland could be in play for Sikes next spring if he picks up where he left off for the Drive.

(Picture of Phillip Sikes: Gwinn Davis/Greenville Drive)

Former Red Sox prospect Hudson Potts signs minor-league deal with Braves

Former Red Sox prospect Hudson Potts has signed a minor-league contract with the Braves for the 2023 season, per his Instagram page.

Potts, 24, was originally acquired from the Padres with outfielder Jeisson Rosario in the August 2020 trade that sent Mitch Moreland to San Diego. The former first-round draft selection was added to Boston’s 40-man roster that November and spent the entirety of his first full season in the organization at Double-A Portland.

Baseball America ranked Potts as the No. 27 prospect in the Red Sox’ farm system heading into the 2021 campaign. The right-handed hitting infielder was limited to just 78 games with the Sea Dogs and batted .217/.264/.399 (76 wRC+) with 18 doubles, 11 home runs, 47 RBIs, 33 runs scored, 16 walks, and 100 strikeouts over 307 plate appearances.

On the heels of such an underwhelming season, Potts found himself on Boston’s 40-man roster bubble coming into 2022. On March 22, the Red Sox needed to create an opening on their 40-man roster after claiming reliever Kyle Tyler off waivers from the Angels. They did so by designating Potts for assignment.

Potts cleared waivers three days after being designated and was outrighted to the minor-leagues. Remaining in the Red Sox organization as a non-40-man roster player, Potts proceeded to put up improved numbers in his return to Portland this season. He slashed .234/.297/.454 (101 wRC+) with 17 doubles, 14 homers, 44 runs driven in, 36 runs scored, one stolen base, 24 walks, and 100 strikeouts across 75 games (296 plate appearances) before being promoted to Triple-A Worcester in late September.

In two games with the WooSox, Potts went 1-for-5 (.200) with a double, run, walk, and strikeout. Since 2022 marked his seventh year in pro ball, Potts became a minor-league free agent for the first time in his career last month. As it now turns out, it took the Texas native less than a full month to find a new opportunity elsewhere.

Considering that he does not turn 25 until next October, Potts still has a relatively high ceiling. His raw power has always been his standout tool. On the other side of the ball, the 6-foot-3, 205-pounder initially came up as a shortstop but has since made the transition to the infield corners. This season, for instance, Potts started 52 games at first base compared to 20 at third.

All that being said, Potts should at the very least provide the Braves with some corner infield depth at either Double-A Mississippi or Triple-A Gwinnett next season. It will be interesting to see how he responds to a new change of scenery in 2023.

(Picture of Hudson Potts: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Will Red Sox protect Christian Koss from Rule 5 Draft by adding him to 40-man roster?

By this time next Tuesday, the Red Sox will have added a number of minor-leaguers to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from December’s Rule 5 Draft.

Ceddanne Rafaela will almost certainly be protected. Wilyer Abreu, David Hamilton, Chris Murphy, Brandon Walter, and Thad Ward are also eligible and have interesting cases to be made. The same can be said for Christian Koss, who MLB Pipeline recently identified as Boston’s toughest Rule 5 decision.

Koss, 24, spent the entirety of the 2022 season with Double-A Portland. The versatile right-handed hitter batted .260/.309/.430 with 22 doubles, five triples, 17 home runs, 84 RBIs, 69 runs scored, 16 stolen bases, 25 walks, and 137 strikeouts over 125 games (532 plate appearances) en route to being named the Sea Dogs’ Most Valuable Player.

Among qualified Eastern League hitters, Koss ranked fourth in hits (125), third in RBIs, 11th in runs scored, 19th in stolen bases, 18th in batting average, 16th in speed score (6.5). He also ranked 35th in strikeout rate (25.8 percent), 57th in walk rate (4.7 percent), 43rd in on-base percentage, 35th in wRC+ (99), 60th in line-drive rate (14.4 percent), 57th in groundball rate (48.9 percent), and 48th in swinging-strike rate (14.7 percent), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Koss saw playing time at five different positions in 2022. The 6-foot-1, 182-pounder logged 214 1/3 innings at second base, 185 innings at third base, 601 2/3 innings at shortstop, nine innings in left field, and 37 innings in right field. This year marked the first time he had ever played the outfield in his professional career.

Koss’ pro career dates back to June 2019, when he was selected by the Rockies in the 12th round of the amateur draft out of the University of California, Irvine. The Red Sox acquired the Riverside native from Colorado in exchange for left-hander Yoan Aybar the following December.

The Red Sox made that trade in order to clear a spot on their 40-man roster. Koss now finds himself in a similar position. As noted by MLB Pipeline, what makes Koss appealing is the fact that he “has solid raw power and speed, not to mention a high baseball IQ.” At the same time, however, Koss’ high strikeout rate and low walk rate indicate that “his lack of plate discipline could be a problem at higher levels” of the minor-leagues.

Koss, who turns 25 in January, is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 20 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The former Anteater has spent his offseason playing for the Criollos de Caguas of the Puerto Rican Winter League. There, he has been under the watchful eyes of Red Sox first base coach Ramon Vazquez (Caguas’ manager), WooSox bench coach Jose Flores (Caguas’ infield coach), and Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who hails from Caguas.

If the Red Sox were to add Koss to their 40-man roster by next Tuesday’s deadline, they would retain his rights moving forward. In that scenario, Koss would be in line to make the jump to Triple-A Worcester while providing Boston with infield and outfield depth in 2023.

If the Red Sox do not add Koss to their 40-man roster by November 15, another club could acquire him for $100,000 during next month’s Rule 5 Draft. That team would then be responsible for carrying Koss on their major-league roster for the entirety of the 2023 season. If they were unable to do so, Koss would have to be offered back to the Red Sox for $50,000.

(Picture of Christian Koss: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox re-sign relievers Oddanier Mosqueda, Michael Gettys to minor-league deals

The Red Sox have re-signed relievers Oddanier Mosqueda and Michael Gettys to minor-league deals for the 2023 season, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

Mosqueda, 23, spent the entirety of the 2022 campaign with Double-A Portland. The Venezuelan-born left-hander posted a 4.30 FIP — but much more respectable 4.05 FIP and 3.40 xFIP — with 76 strikeouts to 20 walks over 45 appearances (58 2/3 innings) for the Sea Dogs.

Among the 99 Eastern League pitchers who tossed at least 50 innings this season, Mosqueda ranked 13th in strikeouts per nine innings (11.66), 11th in strikeout rate (31.4 percent), 28th in swinging-strike rate (13.8 percent), 22nd in batting average against (.211), WHIP (1.12), and groundball rate (46 percent), and eighth in xFIP, per FanGraphs.

A native of Caracas, Mosqueda originally signed with Boston as an international free agent in July 2015. The 5-foot-10, 155-pound southpaw operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 90-92 mph fastball that tops out at 94 mph, a 78-80 mph curveball, and an 83-84 mph changeup, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report. He is projected to make the jump to Triple-A Worcester next spring.

Gettys, meanwhile, split the 2022 season between High-A Greenville and Double-A Portland. After posting a 3.34 ERA (4.33 FIP) in 22 outings (29 2/3 innings) with the Drive, the 27-year-old right-hander earned a promotion to Double-A in mid-July. As a member of the Sea Dogs bullpen, he pitched to a 0.48 ERA and 4.00 FIP to go along with eight strikeouts to eight walks over 18 appearances spanning 18 2/3 innings of work.

Unlike Mosqueda, Gettys is not your prototypical relief prospect. The Georgia native was originally selected by the Padres in the second round of the 2014 draft out of Gainesville High School. At that time, Gettys was a highly-touted outfield prospect who quickly rose through the ranks of San Diego’s farm system.

After reaching minor-league free agency for the first time at the conclusion of the 2020 season, Gettys inked a minors pact with the Red Sox that November. The right-handed hitter was used exclusively as an outfielder by the WooSox before being placed on the development list last August. By the end of the month, Gettys was with the rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox in Fort Myers making his professional debut as a pitcher.

Boston first re-signed Gettys to a minor-league deal last November. Between last season and this season, the 6-foot-1, 217-pound hurler owns a lifetime 2.36 ERA in 45 relief career appearances (53 1/3 innings) across three different levels. SoxProspects.com notes that his arsenal consists of a 92-94 mph heater that tops out at 95 mph and a 77-82 mph breaking ball that resembles a slider or curveball.

Gettys, who does not turn 28 until next October, is expected to return to Portland for the start of the 2023 minor-league season in April. By bringing back both Gettys and Mosqueda, the Red Sox have reduced their minor-league free agent pool by two.

According to SoxProspects.com, Boston has 14 minor-league free agents who remain unsigned. Notables from that group include Pedro Castellanos, Geoff Hartlieb, Brian Keller, Johan Mieses, Hudson Potts, and Christin Stewart. Minor-league free agency just began on Thursday, so it should be interesting to see which of these players are re-signed or which opt to sign elsewhere.

(Pictures of Oddanier Mosqueda and Michael Gettys: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

How did Red Sox pitching prospect Chih-Jung Liu fare in 2022?

Last Saturday marked the three-year anniversary of the Red Sox signing right-hander Chih-Jung Liu as an international free agent out of Taiwan.

Formerly a two-way player in high school and a switch-hitting shortstop in college, Liu received a signing bonus of $750,000 from the Red Sox to work strictly as a pitcher. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tainan City native did not make his professional debut until last July. He made one start in the Florida Complex League before spending the rest of the 2021 campaign with Low-A Salem.

After compiling a 4.29 ERA in 12 starts with the Salem Red Sox, Liu broke camp with High-A Greenville earlier this spring. In many ways, this season was a sophomore slump of sorts for the 23-year-old righty.

Through July 3, Liu had posted an unsightly 7.07 ERA and 6.30 FIP with 59 strikeouts to 25 walks in his first 15 appearances (13 starts) and 56 innings for the Drive. He was allowing more than two home runs per nine innings while yielding a .286 batting average against.

On July 6, Liu was placed on the development list. He did not appear in a game for the next nine days before returning to the mound on July 15. From that point forward, Liu pitched better, though the results were still not great.

In his next 10 outings (eight starts) for Greenville, Liu produced a 4.87 ERA and 6.84 FIP to go along with 47 strikeouts to 21 walks across 44 1/3 innings of work. His strikeout rate rose and his batting average against fell, but he still surrendered 2.64 homers per nine innings and walked nearly 11 percent of the batters he faced.

All told, Liu pitched to a 6.10 ERA and 6.54 FIP in 25 appearances (21 starts) and 100 1/3 innings with the Drive. Among the 18 South Atlantic League pitchers who tossed at least 100 frames this season, Liu ranked ninth in strikeouts per nine innings (9.51), 10th in strikeout rate (23.7 percent), and fourth in swinging-strike rate (14.9 percent). Yet he also ranked 14th in walks per nine innings (4.13) and walk rate (10.3 percent), 17th in batting average against (2.82), and dead last in homers per nine innings (2.42), WHIP (1.57), ERA, and FIP, per FanGraphs.

As inconsistent as those numbers may be, Liu still earned a late-season promotion to Double-A Portland. He made one start for the Sea Dogs on the road against the Somerset Patriots on September 18 and allowed two runs over 3 2/3 innings. Fittingly, one of those two runs came by way of the long ball.

Listed at 6-feet and 185 pounds, Liu possesses an athletic delivery and operates with a five-pitch mix that consists of a 93-95 mph four-seam fastball that tops out at 98 mph, a mid-90s two-seam fastball, an 80-82 mph changeup, an 83-86 mph slider, and a 78-80 mph curveball. He also used to throw a splitter as an amateur.

Liu, who turns 24 in April, spent his first two seasons in pro ball ranked by Baseball America as one of the top pitching prospects in Boston’s farm system. He has since fallen off the publication’s rankings, but he is still young enough that he could get back with a bounce-back effort in 2023.

On that note, SoxProspects.com projects that Liu will return to Portland for the start of the 2023 season. He can become Rule 5-eligible for the first time in his career next fall, so pitching his way onto the Sox’ 40-man roster could serve as some form of motivation for him.

(Picture of Chih-Jung Liu: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox pitching prospect Shane Drohan has swing-and-miss stuff

Because Jeremy Wu-Yelland underwent Tommy John surgery in April, Shane Drohan was the only member of the Red Sox’ 2020 draft class to pitch competitively this season.

Drohan, who was taken in the fifth round out of Florida State University two years ago, broke camp with High-A Greenville this spring after spending the entirety of the 2021 campaign at Low-A Salem.

In 22 appearances (20 starts) for the Drive, the left-hander posted a 4.00 ERA and 4.21 FIP to go along with 136 strikeouts to 40 walks over 105 2/3 innings of work. He allowed just two earned runs in his final three outings with Greenville before earning a promotion to Double-A Portland on August 16.

With the Sea Dogs, Drohan pitched to a 3.38 ERA with 21 strikeouts to 11 walks over five starts (24 innings). While he gave up runs less frequently, the 23-year-old southpaw saw his strikeout rate fall and his walk rate rise, which led to a higher FIP of 5.75.

It was certainly an adjustment period for Drohan, but he at least ended the year on a strong note by fanning eight of the 20 batters he faced in a 10-9 win over the Somerset Patriots in mid-September.

Between the two stops (Greenville and Portland), Drohan produced a cumulative 3.89 ERA and 4.49 FIP with 157 strikeouts to 51 walks across 27 appearances (25 starts) and 129 2/3 innings pitched. His 28.5 percent punchout rate ranked 50th among the 311 minor-league pitchers who threw at least 100 innings this season. His 16 percent swinging-strike rate ranked 15th, per FanGraphs.

On the heels of such a productive year on the mound, Drohan was named to SoxProspects.com’s 2022 All-Star team earlier this week. The Fort Lauderdale native is now regarded by the site as the No. 28 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks 10th pitchers in the organization.

What makes Drohan so effective and capable of inducing whiffs in bunches? Well, he stands at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds and operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of an 88-92 mph four-seam fastball that tops out at 94 mph, a 75-77 mph curveball, and a 78-81 mph changeup.

Drohan, who turns 24 in January, will be entering an important season in 2023 as the former Seminole can become Rule 5-eligible for the first time in his career. He is projected by SoxProspects.com to return to Portland next spring and the Red Sox will have until next November to add him to their 40-man roster.

As things stand now, Drohan has the upside to a be a back-end starter at the big-league level. Pitching his way onto Boston’s 40-man roster next season would certainly go a long way in solidifying — or maybe even surpassing — that projection.

(Picture of Shane Drohan: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox catching prospect Nathan Hickey turns in impressive first full pro season

Nathan Hickey came into his first full professional season ranked by Baseball America as the top catching prospect in the Red Sox farm system. He showed why he was worthy of that ranking over the last six months.

Selected by Boston in the fifth round of last year’s amateur draft out of the University of Florida, Hickey broke camp this spring with Low-A Salem, which is where he ended things in 2021.

In 41 games with Salem this season, the left-handed hitter batted .271/.429/.507 with 12 doubles, seven home runs, 39 RBIs, 31 runs scored, 39 walks, and 39 strikeouts over 182 plate appearances. That level of production prompted a promotion to High-A Greenville in late June.

With the Drive, Hickey hit for more power, though he also got on base less frequently. The 22-year-old slashed .252/.397/.539 with six doubles, nine homers, 23 runs driven in, 19 runs scored, 24 walks, and 39 strikeouts across 34 games (146 plate appearances). He was sidelined for a week in early August due to a concussion.

Between the two affiliates, Hickey produced a cumulative .263/.415/.522 slash line to go along with 18 doubles, 16 home runs, 62 RBIs, 50 runs scored, a walk rate of 19.2 percent, and a strikeout rate of 23.8 percent. Overall, his 155 wRC+ ranked third among minor-league catchers who made at least 100 trips to the plate this season, per FanGraphs.

On the other side of the ball, Hickey made 57 starts at catcher for Salem and Greenville this year. The 6-foot, 210-pound backstop logged 4585 2/3 innings behind the plate and threw out 10 of 75 base stealers. He also committed eight errors and allowed 10 passed balls.

Defense has been an issue with Hickey since before being drafted. The Jacksonville native came up as an infielder in high school but moved to catcher with the Gators so that he could regularly get his bat into the lineup.

Despite the lack of experience at a demanding position, the Red Sox still drafted Hickey as a catcher and signed him to an over-slot deal of $1 million. The doubts people had about his defensive abilities did not sit well with Hickey, as he explained to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier earlier this summer.

“I just hadn’t had enough time behind the plate to be able to show that was the spot for me,” Hickey said. “But I learned in one day more things about catching being here with Boston than I ever did at Florida.”

As detailed by Speier, Hickey did not call pitches at Florida and instead received the calls from his coaches. Since going pro, however, the Red Sox have let him call pitches on his own, which requires him to study up, implement a game plan, and be adaptable during games.

“It was a big step. Pitch-calling was kind of the thing that was stumping me a little bit at the beginning [of the season],” said Hickey. “But [being a catcher] is not really [about] me being successful, it’s making [the pitcher] look as successful as you can.”

In a separate, more recent piece for Baseball America, Speier relayed that pitchers enjoyed throwing to Hickey this season. And while Hickey has embraced becoming a game-caller, there is still more work to do in order to improve as a defender.

Hickey, who turns 23 in November, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 26 prospect in Boston’s farm system. That unsurprisingly ranks tops among catchers in the organization. He is projected by SoxProspects.com to return to Greenville for the start of the 2023 minor-league season next spring.

With that being said, it certainly seems feasible for Hickey to make the jump to Double-A Portland before the end of the next campaign. We will have to wait and see on that.

(Picture of Nathan Hickey: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)