Red Sox promote minor-league outfielder Johan Mieses, who leads organization with 11 homers, to Triple-A Worcester

The Red Sox have promoted minor-league outfielder Johan Mieses from Double-A Portland to Triple-A Worcester, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Mieses, who turns 26 next month, originally signed a minor-league contract with the Sox back in November 2019, but did not play at all in 2020 on account of the minor-league season being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Re-upping with Boston on another minor-league pact this past fall — after not receiving an invite to the team’s alternate training site or fall instructional league — the Dominican native opened the 2021 campaign with Double-A Portland and has done nothing but mash since then.

Over 23 games with the Sea Dogs, Mieses slashed .286/.368/.714 (188 wRC+) to go along with three doubles, a team-leading 11 home runs, 22 RBI, 19 runs scored, nine walks, and 19 strikeouts in 95 trips to the plate.

While primarily batting cleanup in his time in Portland, the 6-foot-2, 185 pound right-handed hitter played 11 games in right field, three games in left field, and nine games at designated hitter.

A former top prospect of the Dodgers organization who was signed out of the Dominican at 17, Mieses was part of the trade that sent infielder Breyvic Valera from the St. Louis Cardinals to Los Angeles in April 2018.

In his tenure with the Cardinals, Mieses appeared in 22 games for Triple-A Memphis across multiple stints with the affiliate during the 2019 season. In those 22 games, he hit .339/.414/.677 with six homers and 17 RBI.

Throughout his professional career, the slugging outfielder has shown a propensity for hitting home runs. That much is made evident by his 120 career homers at the minor-league level.

“It’s real power. The homers are legit,” Red Sox farm director Brian Abraham told The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. “His ability to drive the baseball and overall production at the plate has been consistent all season for Portland in the middle of their lineup. We felt now was a good opportunity to challenge him at the next level.”

As he prepares to embark upon this next phase of his career with the WooSox, one has to wonder if Mieses — who will be donning the No. 40 — will be able to take advantage of the way the ball has been flying out of Polar Park so far this season.

(Picture of Johan Mieses: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Who is Johan Mieses? Red Sox minor-league outfielder currently leads Double-A Northeast with 11 homers in 22 games

When thinking about which Red Sox minor-leaguers may lead the organization in home runs slightly less than a full month into the 2021 minor-league season, one might guess it’s either one of top prospects Triston Casas or Jarren Duran, or maybe even slugging first baseman Josh Ockimey.

The truth is, neither of those three lead the Red Sox farm system in long balls to this point in the minor-league season. That honor would fall to perhaps a less recognizable name in the form of outfielder Johan Mieses.

Through 22 games with Double-A Portland this spring, Mieses is slashing .288/.374/.725 (190 wRC+) to go along with two doubles, a team-leading 11 home runs, 22 RBI, 18 runs scored, nine walks, and 17 strikeouts over 91 plate appearances.

In six games this past week alone, Mieses went 9-for-23 (.391) at the plate in the process of hitting two doubles, clubbing four home runs, collecting 10 RBI, and scoring five times to be named the Double-A Northeast League Player of the Week.

Mieses, who turns 26 next month, originally signed a minor-league deal with Boston back in November 2019 after spending the first seven years of his professional career between the Dodgers and Cardinals organizations.

While he did not spend any time at the team’s alternate training site or fall instructional league last year in the wake of the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dominican native did re-sign with the Sox in November.

A former top prospect of the Dodgers who was involved in the trade that sent infielder Breyvic Valera from St. Louis to Los Angeles in 2018, Mieses hits from the right side of the plate, throws with his right hand, and is listed at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds.

Among the top hitters in the Double-A Northeast (formerly the Eastern League), Mieses comes into play Tuesday ranking fifth in runs scored, 11th in hits (23), first in home runs, RBI, and slugging percentage, and third in OPS (1.099).

In addition to primarily batting out of the cleanup spot, Mieses has seen the majority of his playing time come in right field with some left field and designated hitter mixed in there as well.

Prior to joining the Red Sox organization two falls ago, the right-handed hitting outfielder had played 22 games at the Triple-A level while with the Cardinals in 2019. In those 22 games, he posted a .339/.414/.677 slash line with six homers and 17 RBI in 70 plate appearances.

Considering the fact that he is performing well in Double-A this season and has a solid — albeit small — track record of success at the next level, one has to wonder if Mieses could be on the verge of earning himself a promotion to Triple-A Worcester sooner rather than later.

(Picture of Johan Mieses: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox top prospect Triston Casas has homered 3 times in his last 2 games for Double-A Portland

Red Sox top prospect Triston Casas followed up one of the best performances of his young career with another impressive showing for Double-A Portland on Thursday.

After crushing two home runs as part of a four-hit, six-RBI night at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford, Conn. on Wednesday, Casas belted a three-run homer — his third big fly in his last two games — while going 2-for-4 with three runs driven in.

Matched up against Rockies minor-league left-hander Nick Kennedy, the left-handed hitting first baseman came to the plate with runners at the corners in what at the time was a 3-2 game in favor of Portland.

On the fifth pitch he saw from Kennedy, Casas unloaded on a 93 mph fastball and deposited it to deep right-center field to clear the bases and put the Sea Dogs up 6-2.

He had previously singled in the first inning and also struck out twice to finish the night with two hits in four trips to the plate in what would go down as a narrow 6-5 victory for Portland.

What Casas has done these last two games against the Hartford Yard Goats is nothing short of a breakthrough considering the start he had gotten off to in his debut season in Double-A.

After making Portland’s Opening Day roster out of minor-league spring training earlier this month, the 21-year-old was slashing a measly .182/.280/.182 with no extra-base hits and just two RBI through his first six games of the year.

By going 6-for-10 with three home runs and nine RBI in his last two games, though, Casas has raised his batting average on the season 131 points to .313 and his OPS on the season 534 points all the way up to .996.

Casas was originally selected by Boston in the first round (26th overall pick) of the 2018 amateur draft out of American Heritage High School (Fla).

Even with no minor-league season last year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Miami-area native was still able to impress Red Sox officials while at the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket and even received an invitation to big-league camp earlier this spring.

“He’s a good hitter,” Red Sox manager Cora said of Casas before Thursday’s game against the Athletics. “He hasn’t played much baseball since he signed but it’s good to see him putting good swings. He knows the game, he knows his swing and he knows what to do with his swing. This is a guy — the future is bright, the way we see it, and he’s a very important piece of this organization.”

Listed at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, Casas is currently regarded by Baseball America as the top prospect in Boston’s farm system and the 37th-ranked prospect in all of baseball.

Because he is still so young and has only played a handful of games above Single-A, Casas is still likely a long ways away from making his major-league debut with the Red Sox. He even said that at this point in time, he is not yet major-league ready.

“I’m not putting any expectations on myself this year. I don’t have any specific numbers in mind,”  Casas told MiLB.com’s Michael Avallone on Wednesday. “I just want to stay healthy, go out there every day and play hard to see where it gets me. I’m not Major League ready yet. I have a lot of work to do, but I’m happy to do it and get where I want to go.”

(Picture of Triston Casas: Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Triston Casas, top Red Sox prospect, belts 2 homers, drives in 6 runs as part of breakout performance for Double-A Portland

Triston Casas had gotten off to a rough start to begin the 2021 minor-league season.

After the 2020 season was cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Casas made Double-A Portland’s Opening Day roster out of minor-league spring training earlier this month.

Coming into Wednesday night, the 21-year-old was carrying with him a .182/.280/.182 slash line with no extra-base hits and just two RBI through his first six games of the young season.

Wednesday served as somewhat of a springboard for Casas though, as the first baseman put together his best performance with the Sea Dogs to this point in Hartford, Conn.

Matched up against the Hartford Yard Goats, the Double-A affiliate of the Rockies, at Dunkin’ Donuts Park, Casas crushed his first two home runs of the year as part of a 4-for-6 night at the plate.

The first homer came off Rockies minor-league right-hander Will Gaddis in the top of the fourth inning and was an absolute no-doubter to right-center field.

The second homer came off righty Nate Harris with runners at the corners in the top of the sixth and was hit to nearly the same location.

Casas also knocked in two more runs on a two-run double in the seventh to finish the evening with six RBI as part of a commanding 14-3 victory for the Sea Dogs.

After Wednesday’s impressive showing, the left-handed hitting Casas raised his batting average on the season to .286 and now sports an OPS of .891.

“I’m feeling really good physically and mentally,” Casas told MiLB.com’s Michael Avallone following Wednesday’s contest. “Tonight I just shortened up my approach, didn’t go out of the [strike zone] and had some success. Hopefully I’ll keep riding this as long as I can, but I’m really happy to be back out there. I feel good.”

Casas, a native of Miami, was originally selected by the Red Sox with the 26th overall pick in the first round of the 2018 amateur draft.

Since then, the American Heritage High School product has risen through the ranks to the point where he is now regarded by Baseball America as the top prospect in Boston’s farm system and the 39th-ranked prospect in all of baseball.

Listed at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, Casas is still a ways away from garnering any big-league consideration. But if he shows that Wednesday’s performance was not a fluke and he can start to handle Double-A pitching on a consistent basis, then he might just be knocking on the door sooner rather than later.

“I’m not putting any expectations on myself this year. I don’t have any specific numbers in mind,” Casas said to Avallone. “I just want to stay healthy, go out there every day and play hard to see where it gets me. I’m not Major League ready yet. I have a lot of work to do, but I’m happy to do it and get where I want to go.”

Red Sox manager Alex Cora was among those who was impressed with what Casas did on Wednesday night, as he told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo) Thursday afternoon.

“He’s a good hitter,” Cora said. “He hasn’t played much baseball since he signed but it’s good to see him putting good swings. He knows the game, he knows his swing and he knows what to do with his swing. This is a guy — the future is bright, the way we see it, and he’s a very important piece of this organization.”

(Picture of Triston Casas: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Red Sox prospect Kutter Crawford tosses four scoreless innings for Double-A Portland in first start back from Tommy John surgery

On Saturday, Red Sox pitching prospect Kutter Crawford made his first start of the minor-league season for Double-A Portland.

Not only was it Crawford’s first start since August 24, 2019 with the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but it was also his first start since undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2019.

Matched up against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the Double-A affiliate of the Blue Jays, at Hadlock Field over the weekend, the right-hander turned in a solid outing in his 2021 debut.

Over four innings of work, Crawford kept the Fisher Cats off the scoreboard while scattering just three hits and no walks to go along with five strikeouts on the afternoon. He retired 12 of the 15 hitters he faced in the process of throwing 54 pitches, 40 of which were strikes.

Crawford, who turned 25 last month, was originally selected by the Red Sox in the 16th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of Florida Gulf Coast University, the same school Chris Sale attended.

Signing with Boston for $125,000, the Florida native rose through the ranks and came into the 2019 season ranked as the Sox’ No. 22 prospect according to Baseball America.

Crawford opened the 2019 campaign with High-A Salem and posted a 3.39 ERA and a 77:30 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 14 starts and 69 innings of work to earn Carolina League All-Star honors.

Promoted to Portland on June 20, Crawford provided six quality innings in two of his first three Double-A starts. But after lasting just 2 2/3 innings in his fourth start on July 12, he was placed on the injured list.

From that point forward, Crawford would be sidelined for a month before making one start in his return from the IL in August before once again getting shelved for the remainder of the season.

As he explained to MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith in February, Crawford had been experiencing elbow issues throughout the 2018 and 2019 seasons. He was able to pitch through it for a quite a while, but the discomfort got to a point in 2019 where he couldn’t throw every five days.

That led to an MRI on the hurler’s right elbow, which revealed a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament that would require Tommy John surgery.

Crawford had the procedure done by Dr. James Andrews on October 29. About nine months later, he began experiencing elbow pain again while getting back into his throwing program and would have to have bone spurs removed from his right elbow as a result.

Since then, Crawford has obviously been able to get back on track to the point where he was ready for the start of the minor-league season. His pitch arsenal still consists of a fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup.

“One of my main focuses with the rehab throwing was to shorten my arm action a little bit,” Crawford told Smith. “I had this little hitch in 2019. I don’t really know how it developed. I didn’t have it in college. But I started having this little hitch. And that was really one of my main focuses: getting rid of that hitch and also trying to shorten my arm path just to make it more efficient so it can work a little bit easier.” 

With that new arm action in tow, Crawford will look to re-establish himself as a legitimate pitching prospect that caught people’s attention in 2018 and 2019.

The 6-foot-1, 192 pound hurler out of Okeechobee, Fla. can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this December. The Red Sox would need to add him to their 40-man roster by November 20 in order to prevent that from happening.

(Picture of Kutter Crawford: Jill Brady/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Thaddeus Ward, top Red Sox pitching prospect, set to make Double-A debut Friday

For the first time since August 27, 2019, Red Sox pitching prospect Thaddeus Ward will toe the rubber in a minor-league game on Friday.

Ward, 24, will be making his first start of the season for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs as they go up against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats — the Double-A affiliate of the Blue Jays — at Hadlock Field.

The young right-hander is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 10 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking fourth among pitchers behind only Bryan Mata, Jay Groome, and Tanner Houck.

The Red Sox selected Ward, a native of Fort Myers, in the fifth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Central Florida.

Since then, Ward has been solid at every level he has pitched at, most recently posting a 2.33 ERA, a .203 batting average against, and a 70:32 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 12 starts and 54 innings pitched with High-A Salem in 2019 after earning a promotion from Low-A Greenville in June of that year.

With no minor-league season in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Ward was left to work out on his own — with some guidance from the Red Sox — before being invited to the team’s fall instructional league at the Fenway South complex in his hometown.

Despite not having the opportunity to further develop during a traditional minor-league season last year, Ward is confident that he will be able to put his best foot forward in 2021 regardless of the circumstances.

“I think it is going to be difficult for everybody,” Ward told MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith last October. “But at the same time, I do have the confidence that I put in the work. I really committed to making sure I stayed on top of myself, made sure I kept doing what I was supposed to be doing and not let circumstances dictate if I get better or not… I’ve got to be better at the end of the day than when I woke up. That’s how I approached every single day. So hopefully when we get back into the games come spring training, or next season, whatever, hopefully I’ll be ready for it.”

Ward came into spring training this year having received an invitation to big-league camp as a non-roster invitee. He was later reassigned to minor-league camp on March 9.

In four Grapefruit League appearances, the 6-foot-3, 193 pound hurler allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits, four walks, and two hit batsmen to go along with four strikeouts in four innings of work.

“First things first, slow down. He doesn’t have to impress people,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Ward back in March. “We know the player. We know the stuff. We love the tempo on the mound. But we need him to be careful. Sometimes you come into spring and you want to open eyes. He doesn’t have to do that. We know what he can do.

“He’s a very likable guy, a great competitor,” added Cora. “He pays attention to details on the mound: slowing down the running game, great tempo. He knows what it takes. And stuff-wise, it’s pretty good. It’s pretty good. So excited to see him compete. I’ve been hearing about him for a few years. It’s to go out there and have a blast. That’s the most important thing.”

As he prepares to make his first career Eastern League start on Friday, Ward — who works with a sinker, cutter, slider, changeup, and curveball — is entering a somewhat pivotal year in his young career considering the fact that he is Rule 5 eligible for the first time come December.

In other words, the Red Sox will need to add Ward to their 40-man roster by November 20 if they want to protect him from this winter’s Rule 5 Draft.

Given Ward’s potential, that is almost certainly a lock to happen at the moment. Still, in what is sure to be an unprecedented season of minor-league baseball, how the righty performs this year will be something worth monitoring nonetheless.

(Picture of Thaddeus Ward: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox cut ties with Lowell Spinners for 2021, extend invites to four other minor-league affiliates

As part of Major League Baseball’s new minor-league player development structure, the Red Sox’ farm system got a bit shaken up earlier Wednesday afternoon.

Boston invited four of its previous affiliates — Worcester Red Sox, Portland Sea Dogs, Greenville Drive, Salem Red Sox — “for continued professional affiliation,” per a team release.

While the Sox’ Triple-A club will be moving from Pawtucket to Worcester next season and its Double-A affiliate will remain in Portland, the full-season, Class-A affiliates were the ones reshuffled the most.

For starters, Boston’s High-A affiliate had been Salem and its Low-A affiliate had been Greenville. Those two clubs will now switch roles for 2021 and beyond, with the Drive being the Red Sox’ new High-A team and the Salem Sox being its new Low-A team.

Greenville will be a part of the new Mid-Atlantic League, while Salem will head to the South Atlantic League.

On top of that, the short-season Lowell Spinners will not be affiliated with the Red Sox in 2021, though the club and the City of Lowell “are in the early stages of evaluating various opportunities for the 2021 season, and will continue to discuss longer-term options in the weeks ahead.”

According to The Boston Globe’s Michael Silverman, Lowell could host either an independent league team or a team in the brand new MLB Draft League next year. The possibility also still remains that Lowell could once again realign itself with the Red Sox in 2022.

The Spinners had been part of the Sox’ minor-league pipeline since 1996.

Top Red Sox Pitching Prospect Bryan Mata Impresses in Sim Game in Pawtucket

Before the Red Sox endured more pitching troubles in a 5-1 loss to the Yankees on Friday night, one of the organization’s top pitching prospects impressed in a simulated game that took place about 180 miles northeast of Yankee Stadium at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, RI.

There, at the Sox’ alternate training site, Bryan Mata recorded three strikeouts (two looking, one swinging) and one walk over two scoreless innings of work against other players in Boston’s 60-man player pool.

Per SoxProspects’ Ian Cundall, the 21-year-old right-hander “faced seven hitters overall” while “mix[ing] in all of his pitches.”

Bobby Dalbec, another top prospect in Boston’s farm system and a member of the player pool, was on hand to watch Mata work. And although the 25-year-old slugger did not hit against him on Friday, he did say that Mata “had electric stuff.”

Regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s top pitching prospect and No. 4 overall prospect, Mata originally signed with the Sox for $25,000 out of Venezuela as a 16-year-old back in January 2016.

Between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland last season, Mata posted a 3.43 ERA and .237 batting average against over 21 games started and 105 total innings of work.

At one time Boston’s lone representative in the 2018 All-Star Futures Game in Washington, D.C., Mata has filled out considerably since then and is now listed at 6-foot-3 and 240 lbs.

Based off his SoxProspects scouting report, the righty throws from a three-quarters arm slot and works with a pitch mix that includes a 94-96 mph fastball that tops out at 98 mph, an 86-90 mph cutter, a 78-80 mph curveball, and an 84-86 mph changeup.

Given the current state Red Sox pitching is in at the major-league level, Mata is one of several potential candidates who could start games for Boston at some point this season. Of course, like fellow right-handed prospect Tanner Houck, he would need to be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster before that can happen.

Still, as is the case with Houck, Mata is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft later this year, so he would need to be added to Boston’s 40-man roster by late November in order to be protected from that.

With that in mind, if the Red Sox are out of contention come late August or early September, it may be in Chaim Bloom and Co.’s best interest to give guys like Mata, Houck, and even Kyle Hart, who is on the 40-man roster, looks at the big-league level.

2020 Minor League Baseball Season Cancelled Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

This news does not come as a surprise, but the 2020 Minor League Baseball season has been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. MiLB released a statement addressing the matter earlier Tuesday evening.

 

Per league president and CEO Pat O’Connor, “This announcement removes the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season and allows our teams to begin planning for an exciting 2021 season of affordable family entertainment.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, heavy financial constraints were placed on minor-league clubs across the country due to the fact their primary source of revenue comes from ticket sales.

Unlike their parent major-league clubs, minor-league affiliates do not have lucrative television or other media contracts to rely on in the absence of ticket sales and other gameday revenue, so getting through an entire season with teams playing in empty or nearly empty ballparks would have been virtually impossible.

Back in May, the Red Sox committed to paying their non-40-man-roster minor-leaguers $400 per week through the end of August, or what would have been the end of the minor-league season.

Without a minor-league season, it has been reported by Baseball America that some teams will allow their minor-leaguers to pursue opportunities in independent league baseball.

It is also worth mentioning that the Red Sox’ Triple-A affiliate, the Pawtucket Red Sox, were supposed to play their final season at McCoy Stadium this year before relocating to Worcester.

With Polar Park making progress towards its completion before the start of the 2021 minor-league season, it would seem as though the PawSox have already played their last game at McCoy, which they have called home since 1969.

On another note, the short-season affiliate of the Red Sox, the Lowell Spinners, probably won’t be affiliated with the Red Sox for that much longer, as the entire infrastructure of minor-league baseball appears to be headed towards rapid turnover. That much was made evident by this year’s amateur draft, which consisted of only five rounds to make it the shortest in MLB’s history to this point in time.

Minor-league baseball is an important aspect of the game for developing players and young fans alike. Despite that notion, the landscape of MiLB will probably never be the same beginning in 2021 if those aforementioned changed do take place.

What If There Is No Minor-League Baseball at All in 2020?

The Pawtucket Red Sox, Portland Sea Dogs, Salem Red Sox, and Greenville Drive should all be a little more than two weeks into their season right about now.

Instead, the COVID-19 pandemic has put the baseball season, major and minor-league alike, on hold for the time being.

Recently, there have been reports about Major League Baseball potentially putting together a plan that would involve having all 30 clubs play their games this season in one central location, such as Arizona, Florida, or even Texas.

As encouraging as those proposals may seem, what has not been discussed much since MLB suspended spring training last month is when the minor-league season will start, or if there will even be one at all.

According to Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper, “In off-the-record discussions with people all around the game, there is a near-universal acknowledgement that there are a massive amount of hurdles that have to be overcome to make any MiLB season happen.”

Cooper gets into more of the financial and logistical side of things in his article, but in this case, I want to focus on the developmental side. More specifically, if no minor-league games are played in 2020, how would that impact a prospect’s development and career trajectory?

Take Red Sox infield prospect Jeter Downs for instance. The top prospect acquired by Boston from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts and David Price trade is projected by FanGraphs to make his big-league debut at some point during the 2022 campaign. Would having no minor-league games to play in this year result in Downs’ ETA being pushed back another year?

That probably still depends on what the 21-year-old does in 2021, but taking away a year to develop and continue to improve in actual games while being under the eyes of the organization is something worth thinking about nonetheless.

As odd as it would be to see MLB games played in front of no fans in one neutral location this year, it might be even weirder to have no minor-league baseball to look forward to in 2020 at all.