How did Red Sox wind up signing Venezuelan shortstop prospect Marvin Alcantara? Eddie Romero explains

According to Baseball America, the Red Sox have signed 16 international free agents since the 2022 signing window opened last Saturday.

Among the 16 prospects signed thus far, Dominican shortstops Fraymi de Leon and Freili Encarnacion and Venezuelan catcher Johanfran Garcia stick out as the headliners since they received attention from either Baseball America or MLB Pipeline.

With that being said, though, there may be another shortstop the Red Sox signed out of Venezuela who is worthy of some recognition as well. His name? Marvin Alcantara.

In a recent conversation with The Athletic’s Chad Jennings, Red Sox executive vice president and assistant general manager Eddie Romero identified Alcantara as someone that was not necessarily getting a ton of attention from other teams, but was still doing some eye-opening things on the field.

More specifically, it was the team’s Venezuelan area scout — Alex Requena — who made the case for Boston to sign Alcantara. Requena, per Romero, saw that Alcantara was a confident infielder who made solid contact at the plate, was an average runner on the base paths, and had the ability to play shortstop and second base if needed.

“Just pounding the table for him,” Romero said of Requena’s interest in Alcantara when speaking with Jennings. “He’s one of these guys that the crosscheck group really didn’t get to see much, but he made it to signing day and our area scout was just like, ‘You need to sign this guy!’”

And so the Red Sox did sign Alcantara for a reported $30,000, according to MLB.com. The right-handed hitter is one of eight prospects Boston has added out of Venezuela so far this winter.

As noted by Jennings, however, the $30,000 Alcantara has reportedly signed for represents less than 0.6 percent of the $5,179,700 in signing bonus pool space the Sox have to work with this year. The signing period opened on January 15 and does not close until mid-December.

“The signing class isn’t made on January 15,” said Romero. “The signing class is really made throughout the year when you have some more of these flexible signings. … We hammer the passed over and the (overlooked players) just as much as we do trying to make sure we’re on top of the premium, priority players in each class.”

The Red Sox will hope the modest price they paid for Alcantara’s services will prove to be even more of a bargain in the long run. In the interim, the 17-year-old is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 season — and his professional career — in the Dominican Summer League.

(Picture of Eddie Romero: Angela Rowlings/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

Red Sox’ Brayan Bello nearly made Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list

Four Red Sox prospects were included in Baseball America’s top 100 rankings heading into the 2022 season earlier this week. It turns out another Sox prospect nearly made the cut and joined the likes of Marcelo Mayer, Triston Casas, Nick Yorke, and Jarren Duran as well.

According to Baseball America’s Geoff Pontes, Red Sox pitching prospect Brayan Bello was one of 15 minor-leaguers who finished just outside the publication’s top 100 list.

Bello, 22, is undoubtedly the top pitching prospect in Boston’s farm system and comes into the 2022 season ranked by Baseball America as the No. 5 overall prospect in the organization.

Last spring, Bello broke minor-league camp as a member of High-A Greenville’s starting rotation. The young right-hander posted a 2.27 ERA and 2.82 FIP to go along with 45 strikeouts to seven walks over six starts (31 2/3 innings pitched) for the Drive before earning a promotion to Double-A Portland in early June.

With the Sea Dogs, Bello pitched to the tune of a 4.66 ERA — but much more respectable 3.12 FIP — while recording 87 strikeouts and 24 walks across 15 starts spanning 63 2/3 innings of work. He also represented the Red Sox in the All-Star Futures Game at Coors Field in July and was later named the team’s minor-league starting pitcher of the year.

Originally signed out of the Dominican Republic for just $28,000 back in 2017, Bello was recently identified by MLB Pipeline as the top international prospect in Boston’s ranks.

As Pontes wrote on Friday, “few pitchers on the Top 100 miss as many bats with their secondaries as Bello. Both his plus slider and developing changeup generate whiffs at a plus rate, and his four-seam fastball sits 95-98 mph consistently. A true power pitcher, Bello fits into the tweener profile of a starting pitching prospect that could excel in a high-leverage bullpen role.”

Bello, who is listed at 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, will turn 23 years old in May. He was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster in November in order to receive protection from the Rule 5 Draft, but has not been allowed to be in contact with the club due to the MLB lockout.

That being said, Bello is projected to begin the 2022 campaign with Portland, though “a late-season major league debut with the Red Sox is very much a possibility.” On top of that, Pontes hints that the Samana native could pitch his way into BA’s top 100 if he continues to refine his command.

Besides Bello, other Red Sox prospects who could land on Baseball America’s top 100 list this year include fellow right-handers Josh Winckowski and Wilkelman Gonzalez and infielders Blaze Jordan and Jeter Downs.

(Picture of Brayan Bello: Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Red Sox unveil roster for Winter Warm-Up minicamp in Fort Myers; Triston Casas and Nick Yorke among prospects who will be in attendance

Beginning next week, the Red Sox will be running a minicamp for minor-leaguers who are not currently on the club’s 40-man roster.

This mini-camp, which is otherwise known as the Winter Warm-Up, essentially serves as precursor to spring training. It will consist of strength training, conditioning, and on- and off-field instruction and will be held at the Fenway South complex in Fort Myers.

On Thursday evening, the Sox revealed who will be attending this mini-camp. The contingent heading down to Southwest Florida consists of 28 players — 12 pitchers, four catchers, nine infielders, and three outfielders.

Breaking down the 28-man pool even further, the pitchers who will be participating include left-handers Brendan Cellucci, Austin Lambright, Chris Murphy, Brandon Walter, and Jeremy Wu-Yelland, and right-handers Michael Feliz, Franklin German, Brian Keller, Zack Kelly, A.J. Politi, Chase Shugart, and Thaddeus Ward.

The group of catchers attending includes Kole Cottam, Jaxx Groshans, Nathan Hickey, and Stephen Scott. The infielders who will be going are Alex Binelas, Brainer Bonaci, Triston Casas, David Hamilton, Blaze Jordan, Christian Koss, Matthew Lugo, Ceddanne Rafaela, and Nick Yorke.

The outfield composition, on the other hand, will be made up of the likes of Tyler Dearden, Nick Decker, and Gilberto Jimenez.

Of these 28 players, Feliz is the only one with prior major-league experience. The Red Sox re-signed the right-handed reliever to a minor-league deal back in December and invited him to big-league spring training. The same can be said for a fellow righty in Kelly as well.

Additionally, four of the players identified above (excluding Feliz) were acquired by the Red Sox just last month. Binelas and Hamilton were the two prospects Boston picked up alongside Jackie Bradley Jr. in the trade that sent Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers, and Lambright and Keller were the two pitchers they selected in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft.

Besides that, the likes of Casas, Jordan, Yorke, and Jimenez represent just a few of the well-regarded prospects in the Red Sox farm system who will be at this minicamp.

As noted by SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield, the idea of the Winter Warm-up is to include players who have already made it to full-season ball, which is why someone like Marcelo Mayer — who only played in the Florida Complex League last year — was not included.

On top of that, prospects on Boston’s 40-man roster — such as Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford, Jay Groome, Bryan Mata, Connor Seabold, Josh Winckowski, Ronaldo Hernandez, Connor Wong, Jeter Downs, Hudson Potts, Jarren Duran, and Jeisson Rosario — cannot attend on account of the MLB lockout.

With that being said, The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey writes that the group of players who will be in Fort Myers will be receiving on-hand instruction from the Red Sox’ minor-league coaching and player development staff.

Katie Krall, who was recently hired as a development coach for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs, will be among the staff members in attendance as they plan ahead for the 2022 season.

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

Former Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo signs minor-league deal with Nationals

Former Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo is returning to the United States, as he has signed a minor-league contract with the Washington Nationals, per the team’s transaction log. It does not appear as though the deal includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Castillo, 34, spent the 2021 season in Japan after signing a one-year, $650,000 contract with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball last January.

In 33 games with the Golden Eagles, the right-handed hitter batted .225/.282/.276 with one double, one home run, three RBIs, four runs scored, four walks, and 17 strikeouts over 76 plate appearances. He also appeared in 17 games with Rakuten’s farm team of Japan’s Eastern League.

More recently, Castillo suited up for Naranjeros de Hermosillo of the Mexican Pacific Winter League this off-season and posted an OPS of .727 in 13 games (60 plate appearances) with the club.

A native of Ciego de Avila, Cuba, Castillo famously signed with the Red Sox as a highly-coveted international free agent in August 2014. Touted as one of the top players available at the time, Castillo — then 27 years old — inked a lucrative seven-year, $72.5 million deal with Boston.

That blockbuster contract proved to not work out for both player and team. Castillo debuted for the Sox in late September of the 2014 season and showed promise by slashing .333/.400/.528 with two homers and six RBIs over the course of a brief 10-game sample.

The following year, Castillo was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket for the first time in late May. He was sent back down in June, but spent the rest of the season in the majors after getting called up again in late July, though he did so while struggling to the tune of a .647 OPS.

Less than halfway into the 2016 campaign, Castillo was outrighted off Boston’s 40-man roster on June 20 after clearing waivers. He made his first Opening Day roster and appeared in just nine games with the Sox that season. It goes without saying that the decision to take him off the 40-man roster was an impactful one.

That being the case because Castillo played out the rest of his contract in the minor-leagues as a result of Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement at that time. Since he was not on the 40-man roster, Castillo’s salary did not count against the Red Sox’ luxury tax threshold. Were he to be added to the 40-man again, the remainder of his contract would then count against the threshold.

Financially speaking, having Castillo on the 40-man roster was not in the Sox’ best interest. And despite providing solid production for the PawSox and receiving regular invites to big-league camp in the spring, Castillo became a free agent at the conclusion of the 2020 season after going more than four years without an MLB plate appearance.

All told, Castillo hit an underwhelming .262/.301/.379 to go along with 12 doubles, two triples, seven home runs, 35 RBIs, 45 runs scored, seven stolen bases, 16 walks, and 63 strikeouts across 99 games (337 plate appearances) in his three seasons with the Red Sox.

Now, Castillo will look to find his footing in the United States once more. The 5-foot-9, 205 pounder turns 35 in July and could provide the Nationals with some intriguing veteran outfield depth in the upper-minors for the 2022 season.

(Picture of Rusney Castillo: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

4 Red Sox prospects recognized in Baseball America’s top 100 rankings heading into 2022 season

The Red Sox have four of the top 100 prospects in baseball, according to the preseason rankings Baseball America released on Wednesday.

Of the 100 players who were selected, Red Sox prospects such as shortstop Marcelo Mayer (No. 15), first baseman Triston Casas (No. 19), second baseman Nick Yorke (No. 31), and outfielder Jarren Duran (No. 91) all made the cut.

Mayer, 19, was Boston’s top selection in last summer’s draft. The Eastlake High School (Chula Vista, Calif.) product was taken with the fourth overall pick and ultimately signed with the Sox for $6.64 million as opposed to honoring his commitment to the University of Southern California.

After being assigned to the rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox out of the gate, Mayer got his pro career off to a solid start. The right-handed hitting infielder slashed .275/.377/.440 with four doubles, one triple, three home runs, 17 RBIs, 25 runs scored, seven stolen bases, 15 walks, and 27 strikeouts over 26 games (107 plate appearances) in the FCL.

Casas, 22, became Boston’s top selection in the 2018 draft when the club took him with the 26th overall pick out of American Heritage High School (Plantation, Fla.).

The 2021 season proved to be an eventful one for Casas, who played at two different minor-league levels, for Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics, and for the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League.

Between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Worcester last year, the left-handed slugger batted a stout .279/.394/.484 to go along with 15 doubles, three triples, 14 home runs, 59 RBIs, 63 runs scored, seven stolen bases, 57 walks, and 71 strikeouts over 86 games spanning 371 trips to the plate. Elsewhere, he was recognized as the top first baseman in the Summer Games as well as an Arizona Fall League All-Star.

This is not the first time Casas has been recognized by Baseball America as one of the game’s top prospect. In fact, the 6-foot-4, 252 pounder has effectively been one of — if not the best prospect in the Sox’ farm system since joining the organization and could very well make his big-league debut at some point in 2022.

The same cannot be said for Yorke, who is fresh off his first full season in pro ball after being taken by the Red Sox with the 17th overall selection in the shortened 2020 draft out of Archbishop Mitty High School (San Jose, Calif).

At that time, Boston’s selection of Yorke was met with much surprise since the infielder was not regarded as one of the country’s top draft-eligible prospects. It now appears as though the Red Sox made a smart decision by drafting Yorke when they did.

After drawing praise from the likes of Alex Cora throughout spring training, Yorke initially got off to a slow start with Low-A Salem, but he turned things around and wound up tearing the cover off the ball across both Class-A levels in 2021.

In 97 total games between Salem and High-A Greenville, the right-handed hitting 19-year-old slashed a scorching .325/.412/.516 with 20 doubles, five triples, 14 homers, 62 runs driven in, 76 runs scored, 13 stolen bases, 52 walks, and 69 strikeouts over 442 plate appearances.

Finally, we arrive at Duran, the lone Red Sox prospect on this last who was not selected by the club in the first round of his respective draft. He was instead taken in the seventh round of the 2018 draft and opened the 2021 season in Worcester.

Duran got off to a hot start with the WooSox as he batted .270/.365/.561 (144 wRC+) through his first 46 games (219 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. That impressive stretch resulted in his first big-league call-up in mid-July, though he struggled to make the most of that opportunity.

In his two stints with the Red Sox, the speedy 25-year-old hit an underwhelming .215/.241/.336 with three doubles, two triples, two home runs, 10 RBI, 17 runs scored, two stolen bases, four walks, and 40 strikeouts over 33 games and 112 plate appearances. He was placed on the COVID-19 related injured list on September 3 after testing positive for the virus and did not appear in another major-league contest.

Despite the disappointing debut, there is still plenty of upside with Duran, and his speed has plenty to do with that. With that being said though, the Red Sox’ outfield picture is already quite crowded at the moment, so it may be difficult for the left-handed hitter to find consistent playing time in Boston to begin the 2022 season.

According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, this is the first time since 2016 in which Baseball America has included at least four Red Sox prospects in its preseason top-100 list. Heading into the 2016 season, the likes of Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, Anderson Espinoza, and Michael Kopech were among the publication’s top 100.

The fact that the Red Sox have as many as four prospects featured in Baseball America’s top-100 list speaks to how much the team’s farm system has improved since Chaim Bloom was named chief baseball officer in October 2019.

Given how all four of Mayer, Casas, Yorke, and Duran were drafted by the Sox, it also speaks to how well-run the club’s amateur scouting department is run. Vice president of scouting Mike Rikard can be credited with the selections of Casas and Duran, while director of amateur scouting Paul Toboni can be credited with the selections of Mayer and Yorke.

Of course, the area scouts who initially scouted these prospects when they were still amateurs deserve recognition as well. J.J. Altobelli is credited with signing Mayer, Willie Romay is credited with signing Casas, Josh Labandeira is credited with signing Yorke, and Justin Horowitz is credited with signing Duran.

(Picture of Marcelo Mayer: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Red Sox pitching prospect Victor Santos’ debut season with Double-A Portland was a solid one

It was one year ago Tuesday (January 18) when the Red Sox traded infielder C.J. Chatham to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

The trade allowed the Sox to create an opening on their 40-man roster, which enabled them to acquire veteran reliever Adam Ottavino and pitching prospect Frank German from the Yankees the following week.

Nearly four months after the initial trade between Boston and Philadelphia was finalized, it was revealed on July 17 that the Red Sox would be acquiring another pitching prospect in Victor Santos from the Phillies to complete the Chatham deal.

Santos, 21, originally signed with Philadelphia as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2016. The young right-hander opened the 2021 minor-league season with High-A Jersey Shore before earning a promotion to Double-A Reading in late June.

In 13 appearances (five starts) between Jersey Shore and Reading to begin the year, Santos posted a 2.20 ERA and 3.69 FIP to go along with 40 strikeouts to nine walks over 41 innings of work.

Upon getting assigned to Double-A Portland in mid-July, the 6-foot-1, 191 pound hurler proceeded to put up a 2.58 ERA and 3.49 FIP with 45 strikeouts and six walks across 10 outings (eight starts) spanning 45 1/3 innings pitched to close out his 2021 campaign.

Among all pitchers who accrued at least 60 innings in the Double-A Northeast last year, Santos ranked 33rd in strikeouts per nine innings (8.18) second in walks per nine innings (1.36), 29th in strikeout rate (22.2%), second in walk rate (3.7%), 16th in batting average against (.233), seventh in WHIP (1.06), sixth in ERA (2.73), 10th in FIP (3.62), and 14th in xFIP (4.00), per FanGraphs.

A native of Villa Tapia, Santos works from a three-quarters arm slot and operates with a three-pitch mix of a 90-92 mph fastball that tops out at 94 mph, a 77-79 mph split-changeup, and a “slurvy” 77-81 mph slider, according to his SoxProspects.com scouting report.

This off-season, Santos returned to his home island to pitch for Leones del Escogido of the Dominican Winter League. Working strictly as a reliever, he pitched to the tune of a 2.45 ERA and 1.20 WHIP with 17 strikeouts and six walks over 14 appearances (18 1/3 innings) out of the bullpen for Escogido.

Santos, who turns 22 in July, is still technically eligible for the 2021 Rule 5 Draft since the Red Sox did not add him to their 40-man roster by last November’s deadline. However, due to the nature of the MLB lockout, the major-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft has been postponed indefinitely and a makeup date has not yet been determined.

If there is eventually a Rule 5 Draft and Santos goes unselected, the Dominican-born righty is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 season in the starting rotation for the Sea Dogs. If that winds up being the case, an eventual promotion to Triple-A Worcester cannot be ruled out depending on how he performs in the spring.

(Picture of Victor Santos: Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Northeastern’s Sebastian Keane one of Baseball America’s top 100 draft-eligible prospects heading into 2022 season

Baseball America released the first installment of its annual top 100 prospect rankings for the upcoming 2022 MLB Draft on Monday. Of the 100 draft-eligible high school and college players that were selected, North Andover native and Northeastern University right-hander Sebastian Keane made the cut at No. 96.

As you might recall, Keane was selected by the Red Sox in the 11th round of the 2019 amateur draft out of North Andover High School. Rather than go pro and sign with Boston, though, the young righty elected to honor his commitment to Northeastern University.

Now a 21-year-old junior, Keane is coming off an eventful 2021 season in which he pitched for both the Huskies and the Chatham Anglers of the Cape Cod Baseball League.

In 12 starts for Northeastern during the spring, Keane posted a 4.09 ERA and 1.19 WHIP to go along with 73 strikeouts to 20 walks over 70 1/3 innings of work. In seven appearances — three of which were starts — for Chatham, he produced a 3.86 ERA and 1.57 WHIP with 25 strikeouts to seven walks across 21 total innings pitched.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 187 pounds with room to grow, Keane operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a fastball that has reached 96 mph, a low-80s slider, a mid-70s curveball, and a low-80s changeup, per his Baseball America scouting report.

“Keane has always been a lean, wiry pitcher who might struggle to add weight in the future,” Baseball America’s Carlos Collazo wrote on Monday. “He had plenty of interest out of high school and has only gotten more since, given his performance and solid package of stuff and average control.”

Considering that he is currently regarded by BA as the 96th-ranked prospect in this year’s draft class, you could make the case that Keane — who turns 22 in November — is a projected third-round pick at the moment.

Of course, plenty will change once the high school and college baseball seasons begin in the spring. Whether Keane will be able to improve his draft stock or sees it take a hit remains to be seen as he prepares for his third season with the Huskies — which begins next month and includes an exhibition against the Red Sox in Fort Myers on February 25.

In a separate piece for Baseball America, Collazo cited that major-league scouting directors feel as though college pitching is the clear wink link heading into the 2022 draft.

“There are few established pitchers with starting track records and first round stuff to match as we enter the 2022 season,” he wrote. “Teams are hoping to look up five months from now and have much different feelings about the college pitching than they do presently.”  

With that being said, Collazo adds that prospects such as Keane do have an opportunity “to come out with better stuff and impress in a starting role all season to cement themselves in the first round because of the lack of marquee names in the group.”

Over the course of last summer’s 20-round draft, the Red Sox took a total of seven college pitchers in Wyatt Olds (seventh round), Hunter Dobbins (eighth round), Matt Litwicki (10th round), Christopher Troye (12th round), Jacob Webb (14th round), Luis Guerrero (17th round), and Tyler Uberstine (19th round).

At this point, it is too early to determine what sort of strategy the Red Sox — whose amateur scouting efforts are led by Paul Toboni — will implement going into this summer’s draft.

If college pitching becomes a priority, though, then perhaps they could target someone who is local and someone they already have a history with in Keane. Only time will tell.

(Picture of Sebastian Keane: Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Brayan Bello recognized by MLB Pipeline as top international prospect in Boston’s farm system

With the 2021-2022 international signing window officially opening this weekend, MLB Pipeline recently identified each team’s top international prospect across Major League Baseball.

For the Red Sox, that was none other than pitching prospect Brayan Bello, who signed with Boston out of the Dominican Republic for just $28,000 back in July 2017.

Then just 18 years old, Bello has since emerged as one of the premier young hurlers in the Sox’ farm system at the age of 22.

This past season, the right-hander began the year in the starting rotation High-A Greenville and quickly made strides there. He posted a 2.27 ERA and 2.82 FIP to go along with 45 strikeouts to seven walks over six starts (31 2/3 innings pitched) for the Drive before earning a promotion to Double-A Portland in early June.

With the Sea Dogs, Bello picked up where he left off by pitching to the tune of a 4.66 ERA — but much more respectable 3.12 FIP — with 87 strikeouts and 24 walks across 15 starts spanning 63 2/3 innings of work.

During his run in Portland, Bello was selected to represent the Red Sox in the All-Star Futures Game at Coors Field alongside infielder Jeter Downs. He allowed one run on one hit while recording the final two outs of the third inning of that contest on July 11.

At the conclusion of the 2021 minor-league season, Bello was recognized by the Sox and was named the organization’s starting pitcher of the year. The fiery righty was subsequently added to the club’s 40-man roster in November in order to receive protection from the Rule 5 Draft.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, Bello operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a mid-90s four-seam fastball that touches 98 mph, a changeup, and a slider. He is also in the midst of developing a two-seamer, according to Baseball America.

In terms of prospect ranks, Bello is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 5 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks tops among pitchers in the organization. The Samana native is also ranked by MLB Pipeline as the top pitching prospect the Red Sox have in the fold.

Bello, who turns 23 in May, is presently projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the upcoming 2022 campaign with Portland. That being said, an early promotion to Triple-A Worcester certainly seems possible depending on the kind of start he gets off to in the spring.

(Picture of Brayan Bello: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox infield prospect Matthew Lugo closed out his 2021 season with Low-A Salem on a high note

One of the youngest players the Red Sox selected in the 2019 amateur draft was second-round pick Matthew Lugo.

Lugo, then just 18 years old, was fresh out of the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico and ultimately forwent his commitment to the University of Miami to sign with the Sox for an over-slot deal of $1.1 million that June.

After beginning his professional career in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League and closing out the year with the short-season Lowell Spinners, Lugo — like many minor-leaguers had his 2020 season taken away from him due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Lugo had the chance to participate in some organized baseball activities during the Sox’ fall instructional league in Fort Myers, the young infielder came into the 2021 campaign having not seen any real in-game action in nearly two years.

Now 20 years old, Lugo broke minor-league camp with Low-A Salem last spring and spent the entirety of the year there. In 105 games for Salem, the right-handed hitter batted .270/.338/.364 (95 wRC+) to go along with 21 doubles, three triples, four home runs, 50 RBIs, 61 runs scored, 15 stolen bases, 38 walks, and 94 strikeouts over 469 trips to the plate.

On the surface, those numbers may not look all that inspiring, but Lugo was among the youngest hitters to play in the Low-A East last year. Interestingly enough, the Manati native fared far better against right-handed pitchers (.294/.367/.402 slash line against in 387 plate appearances) than left-handers (.160/.198/.187 slash line in 82 plate appearances).

In spite of those reverse splits, Lugo saved his best for last in terms of offensive production by batting a scorching .349/.432/.587 (171 wRC+) with five doubles, two triples, two homers, 13 RBIs, 18 runs scored, one stolen base, eight walks, and 16 strikeouts over 17 games (74 plate appearances) in the month of September.

Defensively, Lugo saw time at both second base and shortstop with the Salem Sox in 2021. The 6-foot-1, 187 pounder logged 53 innings at second base and 797 1/3 innings at shortstop, committing a total of 35 errors while turning 44 double plays.

Going into the off-season, Lugo was assigned to Criollos de Caguas of the Puerto Rican Winter League back in November. He had previously played for his hometown Atenienses de Manati during the 2019-2020 off-season but has yet to appear in a game for Caguas.

Lugo, who turns 21 in May, is the nephew of former All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran — a close friend of Red Sox manager Alex Cora. He ended the 2021 season ranked by Baseball America as the No. 18 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Per his Baseball America scouting report, Lugo “is described as strikingly mature in his routines and work, including strength work that led one evaluator to describe him as, pound for pound, the strongest prospect in the system. While many expected him to move to second base in pro ball, he has made significant strides at shortstop and many with the Red Sox now believe he can stick at the position.”

On that note, Lugo is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 season at High-A Greenville. He will not become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft until next year.

Picture of Matthew Lugo: Gary Streiffer/Flickr)

Red Sox expected to sign pair of Dominican shortstops when international signing period opens this weekend

When the 2021-2022 international signing period opens this weekend, the Red Sox are expected to add some young and intriguing infield depth to their farm system.

According to Baseball America’s Ben Badler, Boston is in line to sign a pair of shortstops from the Dominican Republic in Fraymi De Leon and Freili Encarnacion beginning on January 15.

De Leon, who turned 17 in September, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 32 overall prospect and one of the best defensive shortstops in this year’s international signing class.

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 157 pounds, De Leon is a natural switch hitter who still has room to grow physically when it comes to adding strength. Per his Baseball America scouting report, De Leon is “a quick-twitch athlete who is light on his feet with smooth actions and good body control at shortstop. [He] has soft hands, a strong arm and good instincts, reading the ball well off the bat with a good internal clock for his age.”

MLB Pipeline, on the other hand, has De Leon penciled in as their 50th-ranked international prospect, noting that the teen is “already a fringe-to-average runner” who possesses “solid defensive actions and a decent arm that should keep him” at shortstop.

Turning to Encarnacion now, the 16-year-old infielder comes in as Baseball America’s No. 37 international prospect. Like De Leon, Encarnacion hails from Santo Domingo but is listed at a taller 6-goot-2 and 175 pounds.

Per Badler, Encarnacion “is strong for his age” and “an offensive-minded infielder who drives the ball with impact for extra-base and over-the-fence juice.

“He’s not a dead pull hitter either, with a sound approach for his age and the ability to hit to all fields,” adds Badler. “Encarnacion has trained as a shortstop, though he might end up sliding over to third base.”

Encarnacion, who actually turns 17 in a little over two weeks, hits from the right side of the plate. He is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 19 prospect in this year’s signing class and is described as a special individual with a great demeanor who is also consistent, confident, and one of the top hitters on the international market.

“He has shown the ability to spray the ball across the outfield, and has a knack for squaring up the ball and driving it up the middle,” Encarnacion’s MLB Pipeline scouting report reads. “On defense, he shows good hands, a plus arm potential and will have a chance to stay at shortstop. He could still make the switch to third base if he outgrows the position.” 

At the moment, it’s unclear how much either De Leon or Encarnacion will sign with the Red Sox for. However, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports that Boston will have approximately $5,179,700 to work with when it comes to their bonus signing pool.

(Picture of JetBlue Park: Mark Brown/Getty Images)