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.

Former Red Sox Prospect and Cubs Star Anthony Rizzo Donates Meals to Doctors and Nurses Across Maine

Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo has not been part of the Red Sox organization for more than nine years, but that did not stop the three-time All-Star from keeping his past in mind as part of his efforts to aid in coronavirus containment efforts through the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation.

On Friday, Rizzo donated lunches and dinners to several hospitals across the state of Maine, including the Central Maine Heart and Vascular Institute in Lewinston.

Dr. Paul Weldner, whose family hosted Rizzo when Rizzo played for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs in 2010, is a cardiologist at CMHVI. The two still stay in touch to this day, and Rizzo recently reached out to his former host parent about how he could help in the midst of this pandemic.

“He basically reached out to me and said, ‘Paul I am giving out meals to a bunch of hospitals in your area and I would like your unit to benefit from it,'” Weldner told the Sun Journal’s Nathan Fournier. “So, we arranged it and that happened [Friday].”

Food was ordered from a popular local spot among the nurses, and “They ordered two sets of meals,” Weldner said. “One for the afternoon shift and I guess another meal is coming for the evening shift. And they just ordered a whole bunch of individual meals so people didn’t have to gather in one place.”

Weldner, who went to see Rizzo play in Game 4 of the 2016 World Series in Chicago and attended Rizzo’s wedding in 2018, was also gifted an engraved baseball from the first baseman.

Per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal:

“As of Friday, the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation will have delivered approximately 3,500 meals to front-line workers at 23 hospitals in six different states (Florida, Arizona, New York, New Jersey and Maine), according to executive director Abby Suarez.

Friday’s efforts also will include a shipment of 1,000 boxes of medical gloves to Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, with 50 gallons of hand sanitizer set to be delivered to the same facility on Monday. Next week, the foundation plans to expand its delivery of meals to nursing homes. It also is preparing care packages for pediatric cancer families and seeking to purchase a large amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) to donate, Suarez said.”

For a little more background, the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation was founded in 2012, four years after Rizzo was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma as an 18-year-old in April 2008, just as he was about to begin his first full season as a professional in the Red Sox organization.

Fortunately, Rizzo was able to overcome that adversity and was told by his doctor that he “could live a normal life” again that November.

The main goal of Rizzo’s foundation is to “support pediatric cancer patients and their families,” but in these unprecedented times, it’s certainly encouraging to see them broadening their horizons.

For more information on the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation, click here.

Red Sox Bring Back Six Minor-League Free Agents, Including Austin Maddox and Daniel McGrath

The Red Sox brought back six minor-league free agents on minor-league deals on Saturday, per The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Depending on how you look at things, the most significant of the six free agents mentioned above who were brought back could either be Austin Maddox or Daniel McGrath.

Starting with Maddox, the 28-year-old right-hander is the only one of the bunch who has seen major league action, which came in five different stints with Boston over the course of the 2017 season.

In those five stints, Maddox yielded just one earned run on 13 hits, two walks, and 14 strikeouts over 13 relief outings and 17 1/3 total innings pitched, which in turn earned him a spot on the Sox’ ALDS roster, where he tossed two innings of one-run ball against the Houston Astros.

With that strong showing, the former 2012 third-round pick out of the University of Florida figured to play a key role in Boston’s bullpen plans for the 2018 campaign, but persistent right shoulder issues prevented that from happening, ultimately leading to Maddox undergoing rotator cuff surgery last September. A procedure that held him out for all of 2019.

As for McGrath, the 25-year-old left-hander was one of the better pitchers in the Eastern League this past season, posting a 1.68 ERA and .184 batting average against over 27 total outings (15 starts) and 112 1/3 innings pitched for Double-A Portland. He also had two brief stints with Triple-A Pawtucket in June and early September, where he allowed a total of six runs over 10 /13 frames of work.

McGrath is fascinating in that he signed with the Sox as a 17-year-old out of Melbourne, Australia back in January 2013. The contract the southpaw signed at that time was good for seven years, and now he figures to vie for a rotation spot with the PawSox in 2020.

These moves come just days ahead of the start of the GM Meetings in Scottsdale, Az on Monday.

 

Red Sox’ Second-Ranked Prospect Bobby Dalbec Will Be Working out with Team During Homestand This Week

When major league rosters expanded this past Sunday to kick off the month of September, the Red Sox did not call up their second-ranked prospect in first baseman Bobby Dalbec.

Instead, the 24-year-old finished off the minor league season with the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox, where he slashed .257/.301/.478 with seven home runs and 16 RBI over 30 games after being promoted from Double-A Portland on August 3rd.

The Sox very well could have made the decision to call up Dalbec, but with Mitch Moreland and Sam Travis already on the roster, playing time for the Washington native would most likely be hard to come by.

So, instead of starting his service time clock now, Dalbec will get familiar with the big leagues in a different fashion, according to Alex Speier of The Boston Globe.

The same sort of thing happened in Los Angeles last season, when the Dodgers brought up then-top catching prospect Will Smith in September without actually adding him to their active roster.

Per Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times, Smith, “traveled with the team. He was given a locker. He watched film and attended pregame meetings as the Dodgers charged their way to a sixth straight division title. But when the games started, Smith wasn’t allowed in the dugout. He watched them in the club’s video room — at home and on the road — alongside the team’s video coordinator.”

Through 38 games with the Dodgers in 2019 the 24-year-old Smith is slashing .282/.356/.684 with 13 home runs and 34 RBI and has been worth 1.8 fWAR in that time, second-most among rookie catchers across baseball behind Carson Kelly of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“It made this transition way easier for me,” Smith said back in June. “I was kind of bombarded with everything but I didn’t have to stress about playing. This year, I wasn’t bombarded. I’m used to it.”

Obviously, coming up as a catcher comes with more challenges than coming up as an infielder, but if Smith’s 2018 experience is any indication, the next few weeks could shape how Dalbec comes into big league camp next February. Definitely something worth keeping an eye on.

Red Sox’ Second-Ranked Prospect Bobby Dalbec Crushes First Home Run for Triple-A Pawtucket

One day after outfield prospect Jarren Duran mashed his first home run for Double-A Portland on Thursday, Red Sox infield prospect did the same for Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday as part of a 3-for-4 night in a 7-6 loss to the Toledo Mud Hens.

Hitting out of the six-hole and starting at first base, the 24-year-old’s first International League homer came in the top half of the eighth inning, when with two outs and a runner at second following a Rusney Castillo RBI double, Dalbec took right-hander Austin Adams deep to center off a 1-2 fastball right down the heart of the plate.

That two-run blast cut the PawSox’s deficit down to 7-6, but that would go on to be Friday’s final score.

Ranked as the number-two prospect in Boston’s farm system behind only Triston Casas on MLB.com, Dalbec is slashing .391/.417/.565 with that one homer and two RBI over his first six Triple-A contests since being promoted from Double-A Portland on August 3rd.

He has started at both first and third base and has only hit out of the six-hole with the PawSox to this point.

Perhaps now that Dalbec has crushed his first Triple-A big fly, the home runs will start coming in bunches for the power-hitting prospect.

The International League is using the same balls Major League Baseball is using this season, so many expected that Dalbec’s offensive production would increase once he got the call up to Pawtucket.

 

Red Sox’ Fourth-Ranked Prospect Jarren Duran Blasts First Home Run for Double-A Portland

Red Sox outfield Prospect Jarren Duran crushed his first Eastern League home run as part of a 1-for-3 afternoon in a 9-0 win for the Portland Sea Dogs over the Erie SeaWolves on Thursday.

Now ranked as the fourth-best prospect in Boston’s farm system, it appears that Duran has started to figure it out at the Double-A level.

Since his promotion from High-A Salem to Portland on June 3rd, the 22-year-old is slashing .262/.320/.323 over his last 58 games.

Those numbers may not seem all that impressive when you consider how Duran tore up the Carolina League to begin 2019, but they have been on the rise in the recent weeks.

For instance, the California native came into the month of July with a .211/.279/.263 slash line to go along with three stolen bases and six RBI in his first 24 games with the Sea Dogs.

Once the calendar flipped to July though, Duran began to turn a corner at the plate. That much is evident by how he is slashing a gaudy .386/.421/.486 with that one homer, seven RBI, and nine stolen bases in his last 18 games going back to July 20th.

Given how much he has rose through the prospect rankings this year, it’s easy to forget that Duran is still in his first full season of professional baseball after being selected by Boston in the seventh round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Long Beach State.

Duran was the Sox’ lone representative at the 2019 Futures Game in Cleveland last month, where he went 1-for-2 off the bench with a seventh inning single.

 

Red Sox Promote Second-Ranked Prospect Bobby Dalbec to Triple-A Pawtucket

The Red Sox have promoted third baseman Bobby Dalbec from Double-A Portland to Triple-A Pawtucket, per the PawSox’ official Twitter account.

Dalbec, 24, is ranked as Boston’s number-two prospect behind Triston Casas on MLB.com, and has slashed .234/.371/.454 to go along with an Eastern League-leading 20 home runs and 57 RBI over 105 games with the Sea Dogs this season.

Selected by the Sox with the 118th overall pick in the fourth round of the 2016 amateur draft out of the University of Arizona, Dalbec made quite the impression in his first major league camp earlier in the year.

With the PawSox, Dalbec should have the chance to display even more of his power tool, since the same baseballs being used in the majors this year are also being used across the Triple-A level.

In what will be his Triple-A debut, the Washington native is set to start at third and bat sixth against the Rochester Red Wings, the Triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, on Saturday night at McCoy Stadium.

 

 

Red Sox Promote Seventh-Ranked Prospect Bryan Mata to Double-A Portland

For the second time in less than two weeks, the Red Sox have promoted a top right-handed pitching prospect within their organization, this time with right-hander Bryan Mata getting the call up from High-A Salem to Double-A Portland on Monday, per The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Mata, 20, is currently ranked as Boston’s seventh-best overall prospect and second among right-handed pitchers on MLB.com.

Signed as an international free agent as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela, Mata began the 2019 campaign with the High-A Salem Red Sox, where he posted a dazzling 1.75 ERA and .201 batting average against over 10 starts and 51 1/3 innings of work.

Selected as the Red Sox’ lone representative in the 2018 Futures Game in Washington D.C., Mata has done a great deal to cut down on walks since then.

In 72 full frames with Salem last year, the young hurler handed out 58 free passes, or averaged 7.25 per nine innings.

This year, in those aforementioned 51 1/3 innings pitched, Mata has allowed just 18 walks total, or 3.16 per nine.

According to his SoxProspects.com profile, Mata features a four-seam fastball that hovers between 94-96 MPH and tops out at 98 MPH, a slider/cutter hybrid he added this season that hovers around 86-90 MPH, a curveball that hovers between 78-80 MPH and has an 11-5 break, and a changeup that hovers between 84-86 MPH.

Mata will join fellow right-handed prospect Kutter Crawford (No. 19), who was promoted on June 21st, in Portland’s starting rotation and will also make his Eastern League debut in the second game of a doubleheader against the Trenton Thunder on Tuesday.