Ceddanne Rafaela named Baseball America’s 2022 Red Sox Minor League Player of the Year

Ceddanne Rafaela was named Baseball America’s Red Sox 2022 Minor League Player of the Year on Tuesday.

That should come as no surprise. Rafaela, who just turned 22 over the weekend, entered Baseball America’s Top 100 rankings back in July and is now regarded by the publication as the No. 81 prospect in the sport

Between High-A Greenville and Double-A Portland this season, Rafaela batted .299/.342/.538 (134 wRC+) with 32 doubles, 10 triples, 21 home runs, 86 RBIs, 82 runs scored, 28 stolen bases, 26 walks, and 113 strikeouts over 116 total games (522 plate appearances). The right-handed hitter slashed .278/.324/.500 (119 wRC+) with 12 homers, 50 runs driven in, 45 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases in 71 games (313 plate appearances) with the Sea Dogs upon being promoted in early June.

On the other side of the ball, Rafaela saw the majority of his playing time this season come at either shortstop or center field. In Portland in particular, the versatile 5-foot-8, 152-pounder logged 103 innings at short and 498 2/3 innings at center while making highlight reel plays at both positions.

“I truly believe this: You put him in the big leagues right now, he wins the Gold Glove as an outfielder,” Red Sox infield coordinator Darren Fenster told The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier recently. “He’s not there yet as an infielder, but talent-wise and with some more reps and some more polish, he has Gold Glove potential as a shortstop as well. It’s wild the talent that this kid has.”

The Red Sox originally signed Rafaela for just $10,000 as an international free-agent coming out of Curacao in July 2017. Shortly after the five-year anniversary of his signing passed, the Willemstad native represented Boston in the All-Star Futures Game in Los Angeles.

On the heels of such an impressive minor-league season, Rafaela is a sure bet to be added to Boston’s 40-man roster this fall in order to receive protection from the Rule 5 Draft. He is also slated to play winter ball in Puerto Rico for he Criollos de Caguas, who are managed by Red Sox first base coach Ramon Vazquez.

Alex Cora, who previously managed the Criollos and spends his off-seasons in his hometown of Caguas, told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith) last week that he was looking forward to getting to know Rafaela better this winter.

“We’re going to be able to enjoy it,” Cora said. “Just try to meet him, know who he is as a person. That’s something that I’m looking forward to. We had that opportunity with Jarren (Duran) a few years ago, but it was limited because of the whole pandemic and the restrictions. But now that we can actually interact with others, it would be fun just to have him around, bring him to the house and talk to him and embrace him.”

In the meantime, Rafaela will look to lead the Sea Dogs to an Eastern League title. After winning 17 of its last 20 regular-season games, Portland opens a best-of-three playoff series against the Somerset Patriots at Hadlock Field on Tuesday night.

(Picture of Ceddanne Rafaela: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox’ Brian Abraham on Nick Yorke playing in Arizona Fall League: ‘He’s continued to improve in the second half, and this would be an opportunity to continue that’

Second baseman Nick Yorke will be among the 12 youngest prospects to play in the Arizona Fall League this year, according to Baseball America.

Yorke, 20, was one of eight Red Sox prospects named to the Scottsdale Scorpions’ preliminary roster this past Friday. He is slated to the join the likes of right-handers Aaron Perry, Thaddeus Ward, Jacob Webb, and Ryan Zeferjahn, catcher Stephen Scott, first baseman Niko Kavadas, and outfielder Wilyer Abreu in Arizona next month.

Originally selected by Boston in the first round of the 2020 draft out of Archbishop Mitty High School (San Jose, Calif), Yorke entered 2022 as a consensus top-100 prospect after earning Red Sox Minor League Offensive Player of the Year honors in his first full professional season.

Journeying back to High-A Greenville to kick off the 2022 campaign, Yorke got off to a slow start. The right-handed hitting infielder batted .245/.319/.361 (89 wRC+) with just nine extra-base hits in his first 34 games before being placed on the injured with turf toe towards the end of May.

Yorke returned to the Greenville lineup on June 7, going 1-for-4 with a run scored and two strikeouts in a 6-3 loss to the Asheville Tourists. He then missed an additional two weeks because of back stiffness.

From June 21-July 3, Yorke went 7-for-39 (.205) at the plate with 13 strikeouts and three walks. His next in-game appearance did not come until after the All-Star break, as the native Californian was experiencing left wrist soreness that the Red Sox wanted to be cautious about.

From July 22 through the end of the season, Yorke was a regular in the Drive lineup who appeared in 35 of their final 40 games. He hit just .224 over that stretch, though he did slash a more respectable .320/.414/.480 (148 wRC+) in six September contests.

Put it all together, and it was a sophomore slump of sorts for Yorke. In 80 real games, he posted a .231/.3o3/.365 line to go along with 10 doubles, one triple, 11 home runs, 45 runs driven, 48 runs scored, eight stolen bases, 33 walks, and 94 strikeouts across 373 total trips to the plate.

Although his 84 wRC+ indicates he was a below-average hitter this season, internal metrics show that Yorke was better than the numbers suggest, according to Red Sox director of player development Brian Abraham.

In a recent conversation with The Athletic’s Chad Jennings, Abraham revealed that the motive behind sending Yorke to Arizona simply goes back to getting him more at-bats after an injury-plagued season that did not yield great results.

“We have some things we were working with him on that we want to see through in the Fall League,” said Abraham. “He’s continued to improve in the second half, and this would be an opportunity to continue that.”

Yorke, who committed just one error in 593 1/3 defensive innings at second base this season, will be competing with other infielders such as the Braves’ Cal Conley, the Angels’ Kyren Paris, and the Orioles’ Cesar Prieto for playing time at the keystone position. It also helps that he will have direct access to Triple-A Worcester assistant hitting coach Michael Montville, who will be a member of the Scorpions’ coaching staff.

The 2022 Arizona Fall League season begins on October 3 and concludes with the championship game on Nov. 12 at Scottsdale Stadium, which is where the Scorpions will play their home games.

(Picture of Nick Yorke: Gwinn Davis/Greenville Drive)

Nick Yorke headlines group of 8 Red Sox prospects who will play in Arizona Fall League

For the second consecutive year, the Red Sox will send eight prospects to play in the Arizona Fall League next month.

Catcher Stephen Scott, first baseman Niko Kavadas, second baseman Nick Yorke, outfielder Wilyer Abreu, and right-handers Thaddeus Ward, Aaron Perry, Jacob Webb, and Ryan Zeferjahn will join fellow minor-leaguers from the Braves, Orioles, Angels, and Giants organizations in suiting up for the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Of the eight, Yorke (No. 4), Abreu (No. 22), Ward (No. 25), and Kavadas (No. 30) all crack Baseball America’s Top 30 Red Sox prospects list. Abreu, Perry, Ward, and Zeferjahn can all become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft at the end of the year as well.

Yorke, Boston’s top pick in the 2020 draft, had a tough season at High-A Greenville. Limited to just 80 games due to a number of injuries (including turf toe, back stiffness, and left wrist soreness), the right-handed hitting 20-year-old batted .231/.303/.365 (84 wRC+) with 10 doubles, one triple, 11 home runs, 45 RBIs, 48 runs scored, eight stolen bases, 33 walks, and 94 strikeouts over 373 plate appearances. If there’s any consolation, he did hit .320 with a 148 wRC+ in the month of September.

Abreu, one of two prospects acquired from the Astros in last month’s Christian Vazquez, has been on an absolute tear with Double-A Portland. Going back to the start of September, the left-handed hitting 23-year-old has slashed .300/.492/.550 (184 wRC+) with one double, three home runs, 11 RBIs, 10 runs scored, six stolen bases, 17 walks, and 13 strikeouts in his last 13 games (59 plate appearances) for the Sea Dogs. He has also played all three outfield positions.

Ward, 25, is regarded by Baseball America as the ninth-ranked pitching prospect in Boston’s farm system. The Florida-born right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery last June and has been limited to just 51 1/3 innings this season as a result.

Since making the jump from Greenville to Portland in early August, Ward has posted a 2.43 ERA and 3.57 FIP to go along with 41 strikeouts to 14 walks over seven starts spanning 33 1/3 innings of work for the Sea Dogs. He was placed on the 7-day injured list on Wednesday because of back stiffness but is not expected to be sidelined for long, according to SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield.

Kavadas, who turns 24 next month, was selected by the Red Sox in the 11th round of last year’s draft out of the University of Notre Dame. In his first full professional season, the burly left-handed hitter has made it all the way to Portland after batting a combined .295/.460/.603 (186 wRC+) with 24 home runs and 76 RBIs in 96 games (415 plate appearances) between Low-A Salem and Greenville.

Though his production has dipped with the Sea Dogs (117 wRC+ in 22 games), Kavadas still represents one of the more intriguing prospects in the Red Sox farm system given his power potential and plate discipline.

As for the other four prospects Boston will be sending out west, Scott was originally drafted as an outfielder out of Vanderbilt University in 2019 but has since become a full-time catcher. The 25-year-old has thrown out 23 of 83 base stealers between Greenville and Portland this season.

Perry, 23, made just three relief appearances for the Drive this season and did not allow a run over three innings. Webb, also 23, was recently promoted to Portland after pitching to a 3.72 ERA (3.24 FIP) in Greenville. Zeferjahn, 24, has yielded just one run in his first five relief outings with the Sea Dogs after being promoted in late August.

The 2022 Arizona Fall League season kicks off on Monday, October 3 and concludes with the AFL Championship Game on Saturday, November 12. The Scorpions will play their home games at Scottsdale Stadium.

(Picture of Nick Yorke: Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Red Sox send power-hitting prospect Nick Northcut to Reds to complete Tommy Pham trade

The Red Sox have sent infield prospect Nick Northcut to the Reds to complete last month’s trade for outfielder Tommy Pham, the club announced earlier Wednesday afternoon.

Boston acquired Pham from Cincinnati in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations on August 1. It turns out that player to be named is Northcut.

Originally selected by the Red Sox in the 11th round of the 2018 amateur draft, Northcut is a Cincinnati-area native who attended William Mason High School in nearby Mason, Ohio. He forwent his commitment to Vanderbilt University by signing with Boston for $565,000.

Now 23 years old, Nortchut opened the 2022 season with High-A Greenville. The right-handed hitter batted 223/.286/.530 with 13 doubles, 26 home runs, 58 RBIs, 43 runs scored, 21 walks, and 118 strikeouts in 77 games (322 plate appearances) with the Drive before earning a promotion to Double-A Portland in late July.

From there, Northcut slashed .208/.245/.376 with five doubles, four home runs, 17 RBIs, 12 runs scored, one stolen base, four walks, and 37 strikeouts over 26 games (106 plate appearances) with the Sea Dogs. His 30 homers are currently the most in the organization.

Despite the impressive power numbers, Northcut was not regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system. That likely has to do with a .276 on-base percentage, a 35.3% strikeout rate, and a 5.8% walk rate between Greenville and Portland.

On the other side of the ball, Northcut has seen the majority of his playing time on the field this season come at either first or third base. The 6-foot-1, 206-pounder has logged 518 1/3 innings at third, 276 innings at first, and six innings at shortstop.

Northcut, who does not turn 24 until next June, can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this winter. The Reds will have until late November to add him to their 40-man roster if they intend on protecting him from it.

Pham, meanwhile, has slashed .262/.321/.416 with eight doubles, five home runs, 17 RBIs, 25 runs scored, one stolen base, nine walks, and 50 strikeouts in 36 games (162 plate appearances) with the Red Sox since the trade.

(Picture of Nick Northcut: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Speedy Red Sox prospect David Hamilton makes history with 65th stolen base of season for Double-A Portland

Red Sox infield prospect David Hamilton made history at Hadlock Field on Sunday afternoon.

In Double-A Portland’s 4-3 win over the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Hamilton went 3-for-5 with three RBIs, two runs scored, and one stolen base out of the leadoff spot.

After doubling in the first inning and belting a three-run home run in the fourth, Hamilton etched his name into the Sea Dogs’ record books in the bottom of the eighth. The speedy 24-year-old fittingly recorded his third hit of the contest by beating out a bunt single. He then took off for second and successfully stole his 65th base of the season without a throw.

By swiping 65 bags, Hamilton surpassed Julio Ramirez — who stole 64 in 1999 — for the most single-season stolen bases in Sea Dogs franchise history. His 65 stolen bases are also the most by a Red Sox minor-leaguer in a single season since Jeremy Hazelbaker stole 63 with the Greenville Drive in 2010.

To go along with all those stolen bases, the left-handed hitter is now batting .236/.327/.387 with 14 doubles, eight triples, 12 home runs, 40 RBIs, 74 runs scored, 54 walks, and 113 strikeouts over 113 games (501 plate appearances) for Portland this season.

Defensively, Hamilton made his 60th start of the year on Sunday. The 5-foot-10, 175-pounder has logged 523 2/3 innings at second, 426 1/3 innings at shortstop, and 18 innings in center field for the first time in his professional career.

Hamilton, who turns 25 later this month, is not currently regarded by Baseball America as one of the top 30 prospects in Boston’s farm system. He was, however, recently identified by the publication as the fastest base stealer in the Eastern League.

SoxProspects.com, which lists Hamilton as its 49th-ranked Red Sox prospect, notes that he possesses “plus-to-better speed” and “solid baserunning instincts. FanGraphs grades Hamilton’s speed tool as a 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale.

The Red Sox acquired Hamilton (as well as fellow prospect Alex Binelas and outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr.) from the Brewers in exchange for Hunter Renfroe last December. Milwaukee originally selected the former Longhorn in the eighth round of the 2019 amateur draft out of the University of Texas at Austin.

Even after missing the entirety of his junior season and first professional season while recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon, it appears as though Hamilton has regained the elite speed that makes him stand out on the field.

As the minor-league season winds down and Hamilton looks to add to his record, it is worth mentioning that the San Marcos native can become Rule 5-eligible for the first time in his career this winter. The Red Sox would need to add him to their 40-man roster by the November deadline in order to prevent that from happening.

If he sticks with the organization through the off-season, one would have to think Hamilton will open the 2023 campaign with Triple-A Worcester. A lot can happen between now and then, though.

(Picture of David Hamilton courtesy of the Portland Sea Dogs)

Red Sox’ Matthew Lugo named South Atlantic League Player of the Month for August

Red Sox infield prospect Matthew Lugo has been named the South Atlantic League Player of the Month for August, Minor League Baseball announced on Wednesday.

Lugo batted .353/.405/.608 with five doubles, seven home runs, 24 RBIs, 22 runs scored, nine stolen bases, eight walks, and 21 strikeouts over 25 games (111 plate appearances) for High-A Greenville in the month of August. Since the calendar flipped to September, the right-handed hitter has gone 4-for-11 (.364) in his last three games to extend his hitting streak to eight games.

On the 2022 season as a whole, Lugo has slashed a respectable .289/.344/.504 (126 wRC+) to go along with 24 doubles, nine triples, 18 homers, 76 runs driven in, 74 runs scored, 18 stolen bases, 33 walks, and 90 strikeouts across 109 games (489 plate appearances) with the Drive.

Among qualified South Atlantic League hitters, Lugo ranks eighth in batting average, 29th in on-base percentage, third in slugging percentage, 10th in OPS (.849), sixth in isolated power (.215), sixth in speed score (7.3), and 10th in wRC+, per FanGraphs.

Compared to last year with Low-A Salem, Lugo has been able to cut down on his strikeout rate (20 percent to 18.4 percent), but he is also drawing fewer walks (8.1 percent walk rate to 6.7 percent) and making solid contact less frequently (27.3 percent line-drive rate to 18.4 percent) in Greenville.

On the other side of the ball, Lugo has seen playing time at three different positions this season. The 6-foot-1, 187-pounder has logged 628 2/3 innings at shortstop, 180 1/3 innings at third base, and 58 innings at second base. While the versatility is nice, he has committed a total of 26 errors.

Lugo, 21, was originally selected by the Red Sox with the 69th overall pick in the 2019 amateur draft out of the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico. The nephew of the former All-Star outfielder, Lugo signed for $1.1 million and is now regarded by Baseball America as the No. 13 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Given that the minor-league season is almost over, it seems unlikely at this point that Lugo will receive a late promotion to Double-A Portland, though the Sea Dogs are scheduled to play six more regular season games after the Drive wrap things up on Sunday.

Regardless of that happens there, Lugo seems like a sure bet to break camp next spring with Portland. He may also be considered a candidate to play in the Arizona Fall League beginning next month even though he is not Rule 5-eligible until 2023.

(Picture of Matthew Lugo: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox’ Enmanuel Valdez takes home International League Player of the Week honors

Red Sox infield prospect Enmanuel Valdez was named the International League Player of the Week for the week of August 29-September 4, Minor League Baseball announced on Monday.

In Triple-A Worcester’s last series against the Buffalo Bisons at Polar Park, Valdez appeared in all six games and went 10-for-24 (.417) with four doubles, one triple, two home runs, 10 RBIs, eight runs scored, one stolen base, three walks, and four strikeouts. He finished a single shy of the cycle on Sunday.

Since making his WooSox debut on Aug. 3, Valdez has batted .236/.325/.500 (114 wRC+) to go along with six doubles, one triple, seven homers, 27 runs driven in, 22 runs scored, two stolen bases, 15 walks, and 31 strikeouts over 28 games (127 plate appearances). Among those in the International League who have made at least 120 trips to the plate this season, the left-handed hitter ranks 51st in slugging percentage and 16th in isolated power (.264), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Valdez has seen playing time at three different positions in his time with the WooSox. After starting at second base on Sunday, the 5-foot-9, 191-pounder has logged 213 innings at second, 15 innings at third, and 17 innings in left field.

Valdez, 23, was originally signed by the Astros for $450,000 as an international free-agent coming out of the Dominican Republic in July 2015. The Red Sox acquired the San Juan de la Maguana native and fellow prospect Wilyer Abreu from Houston in exchange for catcher Christian Vazquez ahead of last month’s trade deadline.

Now, Valdez is regarded by Baseball America as the 16th-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system. The publication describes him as “a bat-first infielder with a good combination of power and contact.” While there are some defensive concerns, he is “a tough out that grinds out at-bats, can hit for contact and punish mistakes.”

Valdez, who turns 24 in December, can become eligible for this winter’s Rule 5 Draft if he is not added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster by the November deadline. Unlike Eddinson Paulino, who has yet to play above Low-A, Valdez seems like more of a lock to be added given his experience and level of production at Triple-A.

“If he were going to get called up tomorrow, I think his ability to play [multiple] positions would be very valuable for a major-league clubhouse and a major-league bench,” Red Sox director of player development Brian Abraham said of Valdez in a recent conversation with The Athletic’s Chad Jennings. “He can play infield. He can play a corner (outfield) spot. And he can run into baseballs with power. So, I think the skillset lends itself really well to being an impactful major-league player. We’ve seen athleticism, and we’ve seen some areas that can be improved upon. I know our Triple-A staff already feel they’ve made some strides ins some of the smaller motor learning skills that he can improve upon while being in the infield, whether that be first-step quickness or the way he moves from left to right. And same thing in the outfield, some of the first step and quickness, I think he’s shown improvement on.”

“But, I think we’ve got a twitchy guy who has power, who drives the baseball, and the better he’s able to have an understanding of the strike zone and what he needs to do to consistently drive the baseball to all fields will allow him to be more impactful,” added Abraham. “But I think in a lot of ways he’s someone who’s incredibly unique, who can do all of those things (that profile well as a utility man) and still be someone who can play one position and play there for a consistent amount of time. I think that’s incredibly valuable these days. As we know, our Major League team has a bunch of those guys, our Triple-A team has a bunch of those guys. Getting yourself in the lineup to make an impact is really important.”

(Picture of Enmanuel Valdez: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox’ Eddinson Paulino named Carolina League Player of the Week

Red Sox infield prospect Eddinson Paulino has been named the Carolina League Player of the Week for the week of August 29-September 4, Minor League Baseball announced on Monday.

In Low-A Salem’s last series on the road against the Augusta GreenJackets, Paulino went 8-for-20 (.400) with two doubles, three home runs, 10 RBIs, eight runs scored, two stolen bases, four walks, and three strikeouts over five games. All three of those homers came within a two-game span on Aug. 31 and Sept. 2.

On the 2022 season as a whole, the left-handed hitter is slashing .265/.358/.469 to go along with 34 doubles, 10 triples, 13 home runs, 66 runs driven in, 94 runs scored, 27 stolen bases, 63 walks, and 27 strikeouts across 112 games (531 plate appearances) for Salem.

Among qualified Carolina League hitters, Paulino ranks 24th in walk rate (11.9%), 15th in strikeout rate (19.4%), 15th in swinging-strike rate (11%), 14th in batting average, 18th in on-base percentage, fifth in slugging percentage, sixth in OPS (.828), fifth in isolated power (.204), fourth in line-drive rate (25.6%), sixth in speed score (8.5), and sixth in wRC+ (127), per FanGraphs.

On the other side of the ball, Paulino has proven to be a versatile weapon for Salem this season. After making his 11th start of the season in center field on Sunday, the 5-foot-10, 155 pounder has now logged 98 1/3 innings in center, eight innings in left field, 243 2/3 innings at second base, 275 innings at third base, and 301 innings at shortstop.

Paulino, 20, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 18 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The Red Sox originally signed the native Dominican for $205,000 as an international free-agent coming out of Santiago in July 2018.

Fast forward a little more than four years, and Paulino is now slated to become Rule 5 eligible for the first time in his career this winter. The Red Sox would need to add Paulino to their 40-man roster by the November deadline in order to protect him from December’s Rule 5 Draft.

In a recent conversation with The Athletic’s Chad Jennings, Boston’s director of player development Brian Abraham noted that these kinds of decisions are tougher to make since international players such as Paulino begin their careers much earlier than other prospects.

“Their clock starts a lot earlier and we’re having these conversations a lot sooner,” Abraham said. “I think you try to look at other players, and you’re always trying to compare where (other) guys were, body type physically, areas that we feel they can improve upon or have improved upon, vs. areas where we feel they might fall short. These decisions are always tough because there’s a limited number of spots.

“But I think, on our side (in player development), we are developing these players like they’re going to be with us for the long haul,” he added. “It’s always a balance in terms of the Rule 5, but some of the stuff with our staff and our coordinators and our (coaches), we’re not necessarily focused on that or worried about that. We’re just trying to get these guys ready for the next level.”

Barring a late-season promotion, Paulino is set to end the year in Salem. If he remains in the organization through the winter, he will likely break camp next spring with High-A Greenville.

(Picture of Eddinson Paulino: Gary Streiffer/Flickr)

Red Sox to promote top prospect Triston Casas, option Bobby Dalbec to Triple-A Worcester

The Red Sox are planning to promote top prospect Triston Casas ahead of Sunday’s series finale against the Rangers at Fenway Park, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo. In a corresponding move, fellow first baseman Bobby Dalbec will be optioned to Triple-A Worcester, reports The Boston Globe’s Julian McWilliams.

Casas, 22, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 3 prospect in Boston’s farm system and the No. 28 prospect in all of baseball. The Red Sox originally selected the Miami-area native with the 26th overall selection in the 2018 amateur draft out of American Heritage High School (Plantation, Fla.). They swayed him away from his commitment to the University of Miami by signing him for roughly $2.553 million.

After making his professional debut in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, Casas spent the majority of 2019 with Low-A Greenville before earning a late-season promotion to High-A Salem. With the 2020 minor-league season being wiped out as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Casas was limited to working out at the Sox’ alternate training site that summer.

Last year, Casas received his first invite to major-league spring training. He later broke camp with Double-A Portland, but was limited to just 77 games with the Sea Dogs while being away on international duty and helping Team USA win a silver medal in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Upon returning from Japan, Casas closed out the 2021 campaign in Worcester and also represented the Red Sox in the Arizona Fall League. He and teammate Kole Cottam were both named AFL All-Stars. And while the lockout dominated this past off-season, Casas was able to remain in contact with the Red Sox since he is not yet on the 40-man roster.

On the heels of such a busy year, it appeared as though Casas would be able to settle in with the WooSox on a full-time basis in 2022. But he sustained a high right ankle sprain on May 17 and wound up being sidelined for nearly two months as a result.

Following a brief rehab assignment in Fort Myers, Casas returned to Worcester’s lineup on July 22. The left-handed hitter was slashing .296/.404/.504 (140 wRC+) with 11 doubles, one triple, five home runs, 16 RBIs, and 23 runs scored over his last 36 games. On the 2022 campaign as a whole, he is batting .273/.382/.481 (127 wRC+) with 20 doubles, one triple, 11 homers, 38 runs driven in, 45 runs scored, 46 walks, and 60 strikeouts across 72 games (317 plate appearances) for the WooSox.

Listed at a hulking 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, Casas stands out both in the batter’s box and on the field. His hard-hit rates are to be reckoned with, as is his ability to play first base since he was recently identified by Baseball America as the best defensive first baseman in the International League.

Casas is slated to become the fifth player to make his major-league debut with the Red Sox this season, joining Josh Winckowski, Zack Kelly, Jeter Downs, and Brayan Bello, who is listed right ahead of Casas in Baseball America’s Red Sox prospects rankings.

While there will be plenty of buzz surrounding Casas’ debut, the Red Sox will first need to add the infielder to their 40-man roster. They can easily accomplish this by placing closer Tanner Houck, who will undergo season-ending back surgery next week, on the 60-day injured list.

From there, Boston can simply swap Dalbec for Casas, who figures to split time at first base with the right-handed hitting Christian Arroyo while Eric Hosmer remains on the injured list because of low back inflammation.

Dalbec, on the other hand, will head to Worcester, meaning this is the first time the 27-year-old has been optioned since he made his major-league debut for Boston in August 2020.

After ending 2021 on a strong note, Dalbec has struggled mightily on both sides of the ball this year. The right-handed hitter is batting just .211/.282/.362 (78 wRC+) with nine doubles, two triples, 11 home runs, 36 RBIs, 38 runs scored, three stolen bases, 29 walks, and 113 strikeouts over 111 games (340 plate appearances). He has also posted negative-4 defensive runs saved across 635 innings at first base.

Although it took until the beginning of September, it seems as though Chaim Bloom, Alex Cora, and the rest of the Red Sox’ key decision makers were ready to send down Dalbec and see what Casas can do over the final few weeks of the regular season.

Because he is just being called up now, Casas — who turns 23 in January — will maintain his rookie status heading into next season. That is important when you consider the fact that, under MLB’s new collective bargaining agreement, the Red Sox could receive a compensatory draft pick if Casas makes the club’s 2023 Opening Day roster and finishes in the top three in American League Rookie of the Year voting.

(Picture of Triston Casas: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox prospect David Hamilton identified by Baseball America as fastest baserunner in Eastern League

In a recent poll conducted by Baseball America, Red Sox infield prospect David Hamilton was identified by his peers as the fastest baserunner in the Eastern League.

Coming into play on Wednesday, Hamilton has stolen 58 bases in 104 games with Double-A Portland this season. The left-handed-hitting speedster is also batting .225/.311/.369 with 12 doubles, eight triples, 10 home runs, 32 RBIs, 65 runs scored, 46 walks, and 105 strikeouts over 459 trips to the plate.

Among qualified Eastern League hitters, Hamilton ranks first in triples, sixth in runs scored, first in stolen bases, first in speed score (8.5), and first in weighted stolen base runs (8.7), per FanGraphs. Not only are his 58 stolen bases the most in the Eastern League, they are also the most at the Double-A level and the eighth-most in all of Minor League Baseball.

With 58 swiped bags under his belt, Hamilton is now just six shy of passing Jeremy Hazelbaker — who stole 63 for Class-A Greenville in 2010 — for the most by a Red Sox minor-leaguer in a single season dating back to 2006.

On the other side of the ball, Hamilton utilizes his speed while playing both middle infield positions and a little bit of outfield for the first time in his professional career. As a member of the Sea Dogs, the 5-foot-10, 175-pounder has logged 477 2/3 innings at second base, 390 1/3 innings at shortstop, and 18 innings in center.

Hamilton, who turns 25 in less than a month, was originally selected by the Brewers in the eighth round of the 2019 amateur draft out of the University of Texas at Austin. The former Longhorn missed the entirety of his junior season after rupturing his Achilles tendon in a scooter accident. With the COVID-19 pandemic being cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, he did not make his pro debut until last May.

In spite of the fact that he was coming off an Achilles injury that required surgery, Hamilton still managed to steal 52 bases in 101 games between High-A Wisconsin and Double-A Biloxi. He stole four more in the Arizona Fall League before being traded (alongside Jackie Bradley Jr. and fellow prospect Alex Binelas) to the Red Sox for outfielder Hunter Renfroe in early December.

The 24-year-old began the 2022 season as Baseball America’s 25th-ranked Red Sox prospect, but he has since been dropped from the publication’s top-30 list. SoxProspects.com lists Hamilton as its No. 49 prospect, noting that the native Texan possesses “plus-to-better speed” and “solid baserunning instincts.”

While those two traits stick out as his carrying tools, it remains to be seen how the rest of Hamilton’s skillset will develop as he continues to progress through the upper-minors. The Red Sox will have an important decision to make with Hamilton this fall, as he can become Rule 5 eligible for the first time if he is not added to Boston’s 40-man roster by the November deadline.

If protected, Hamilton will occupy a spot on the Sox’ 40-man roster while presumably spending the majority of the his age-25 season at Triple-A Worcester. If left unprotected, an opposing club could select Hamilton in this December’s Rule 5 Draft, though they would then need to carry him on their major-league roster for the entirety of the 2023 campaign. If those conditions could not be met, Hamilton would have to be offered back to the Red Sox.

(Picture of David Hamilton: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)