Red Sox Top Draft Pick Nick Yorke Talks Alternate Training Site Life

At 18 years and 173 days old, Nick Yorke is by far the youngest player at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket. The 2020 first-round draft pick received an invite to the alternate site earlier this month and first reported to McCoy Stadium last Thursday.

Since then, Yorke has gone 3-for-4 at the plate with two doubles and two walks in simulated game action while also getting acclimated to a whole new level of baseball far different than what he had grown accustomed to at Archbishop Mitty High School out in San Jose.

In a brief period of time, Yorke, a west coaster, has seen his life essentially flip upside down after signing his first professional contract back in July. Even so, the right-handed hitting infielder is just glad to be playing baseball in some capacity in what has already been an unprecedented year.

“I’ve been having so much fun getting on the field again,” Yorke said when speaking with reporters via Zoom earlier Tuesday. “Competitiveness-wise, it’s just fun getting to be on the field against another pitcher and have some at-bats. So, I’ve been having a great time out here.”

One of those pitchers Yorke got the chance to face in his Pawtucket debut on Saturday was top prospect Bryan Mata, who wound up dazzling the youngster with his velocity a bit before eventually yielding an opposite-field single.

“I remember that first pitch he threw me,” Yorke said of his encounter with the 21-year-old Mata. “He threw it for a ball but I was like ‘I didn’t know a ball could move like that!’ So then I put on the batting gloves and it was time to compete, put a barrel on the ball, and let him do the work.”

While Yorke is still adjusting to this new level of baseball, he is also getting better familiarized with his peers, such as fellow prospect Triston Casas, veteran infielder Jose Peraza, and PawSox manager Billy McMillon.

“They’ve been really good about getting my feet wet,” the one-time University of Arizona commit added.” I took the first 2 – 2 1/2 days kind of just taking BP and working out with the guys. Triston Casas has been really good with me. I go and hit with him before we report everyday to come hit off the machine and get the [velocity] in before the games.”

Regarding Peraza, who was optioned to the alternate site on September 9, Yorke says the ex-Red was surprised about his age and has been one of several players with major-league experience who have doled out some wisdom or advice if needed.

“It’s amazing. I mean, they’re all so welcoming,” Yorke said of the veteran presence in Pawtucket. “I’ve tried to be a sponge. They’re really good about letting me in and showing me the ropes. I’ve had a great time with them.”

When discussing what his interactions with McMillon have been like, Yorke described the PawSox skipper as an ‘amazing’ individual.

“[McMillon’s] very funny,” he continued. “He always puts smiles on guys’ faces… and just makes transitions a lot easier, introducing myself to new guys through Billy and whatnot. He’s been great with me.”

Yorke, as well as the other 32 or so players in Pawtucket, will presumably continue their workouts at McCoy through the end of the 2020 major-league season this coming Sunday. From there, as noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Red Sox are planning to invite about 60 players to a fall training camp in Fort Myers. The California native could very well be one of those 60 players who receive an invite. We will have to wait and see on that.

Red Sox Rookie Tanner Houck Planning on Attacking Strike Zone Against Yankees in First Fenway Park Start

Red Sox rookie right-hander Tanner Houck is coming off a superb major-league debut against the Marlins last Tuesday in which he collected seven strikeouts over five scoreless innings en route to picking up his first career victory.

Following that impressive showing, a new challenge for Houck awaits on Sunday, as the 24-year-old hurler will be going up against a red-hot Yankees team in the finale of a three-game series at Fenway Park.

With a 6-5, 12-inning win over Boston on Friday, New York extended their current winning streak to a season-best nine consecutive games. Over that dominant stretch, which goes back to September 9, the Bronx Bombers are slashing an absurd .314/.401/.711 against opposing right-handed pitchers while clubbing 25 home runs and posting a 194 wRC+. These numbers are something Houck will have to keep in mind when he takes the Fenway Park mound for the first time.

“For me, nothing really changes,” Houck said of his mindset going into his first home start of the season. “As long as you go out there and attack the zone, I think good things happen. If you go right at people, get them on their heels early, it sets up a lot more. Typically, whenever you’re behind in the count, a lot of people become more dangerous. So, go out there, attack right away and I’ll definitely real confident.”

In his debut against Miami last Tuesday, Houck faced 19 batters. Among those 19 batters, the former first-round pick fell behind the count on several occasions, but he did manage to limit the opposition to just three walks while mixing in his four-seam and split-finger fastball as well as his sinker and slider.

Limiting traffic on the base paths could prove to be pivotal for the Illinois native on Sunday, as the Yankees have accrued the second-highest walk percentage in the American League (11.9%) going back to the start of their current winning streak.

To construct a proper game plan for a team as dangerous as New York, Houck will need to be diligent in his preparations. He does however have one tool that he did not have available to him in the minor-leagues: advanced analytics.

“It’s definitely got its new challenges with everything,” the Mizzou product said of his introduction to the majors. “There’s a lot more scouting report info to take in, which I love. Being able to go out there and know my opponent just a little bit more helps me set up a game plan a lot.”

On top of the insights he has received from the Red Sox’ analytics department, Houck has also gotten some helpful advice from fellow former Missouri Tigers in the majors, such as Nationals ace Max Scherzer and Rangers right-hander Kyle Gibson.

“Having guys like that reach out is truly an honor,” Houck added. “I’m truly blessed to be a part of that brotherhood. I’ve definitely gotten to talk to Gibson and Scherzer over the years having that Mizzou connection, and just kind of bouncing ideas off them is truly great. It’s more people to learn from and this is a game that you got to learn from your elders a little bit, see what they’ve done and just try to learn from that.”

Houck will get the ball against the Yankees and fellow rookie righty Deivi Garcia on Sunday afternoon.

Red Sox Call up Top Prospect Bobby Dalbec From Pawtucket

In the wake of trading Mitch Moreland to the Padres, the Red Sox are calling up top prospect Bobby Dalbec, manager Ron Roenicke announced Sunday.

Dalbec, who is regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s No. 3 prospect behind only Jeter Downs and Triston Casas, could be in Sunday’s starting lineup against the Nationals depending on what time he arrives at Fenway Park from Pawtucket.

The 25-year-old corner infielder was originally drafted by Boston in the fourth round of the 2016 amateur draft out of the University of Arizona and in that time has established himself as one of the most dangerous power hitters in the organization.

In 135 games between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket last season, Dalbec slashed .239/.356/.460 while clubbing 27 home runs and collecting 73 RBI. As was the case when he was in the minor-leagues, the Washington native will be competing with Michael Chavis for playing time at first base. Roenicke is very much looking forward to that.

“I think it’s really important to see the possibility of what the future could look like,” Roenicke said of Dalbec. “Getting Bobby up here, who has been a guy who has been on our radar for a long time as one of our top prospects. Knowing the upside to what we think this guy can become. I think it’s important to see him, to see what he can do, and for him also to get comfortable with being in the big leagues. It’s still a weird atmosphere. It’s not the same as it was. I still think the atmosphere, knowing you’re in the big leagues will be important to him.”

Red Sox Trade Mitch Moreland To Padres in Exchange for Prospects Hudson Potts, Jeisson Rosario

The Red Sox have traded first baseman Mitch Moreland to the Padres in exchange for infield prospect Hudson Potts and outfield prospect Jeisson Rosario, the club officially announced Sunday.

Moreland, who just reached 10 years of major-league service time on Saturday, is currently slashing .328/.430/.746 with eight home runs and 21 RBI through his first 22 games of the 2020 season.

The soon-to-be 35-year-old signed a one-year deal with Boston back in January and his contract includes a $3 million club option for 2021.

With San Diego, Moreland will presumably see time at first base and DH, although he likely will not be playing everyday or close to everyday like he was doing with the Sox.

As for who the Red Sox got back in this deal, let’s start with Potts.

The 21-year-old third baseman was regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 16 prospect in the Padres’ farm system.

A former first-round selection of San Diego in 2016, Potts most recently posted a .227/.290/.406 slash line to go along with 16 homers and 59 RBI over 107 games with Double-A Amarillo in 2019.

Rosario, meanwhile, was signed by the Padres as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic back in 2016.

In 120 games for High-A Lake Elsinore last season, the 20-year-old outfielder drew 87 walks, posted a .686 OPS, and swiped 11 bags while working his way to become San Diego’s 19th-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline.

In acquiring both Potts and Rosario, the Red Sox appear to have added two quality prospects to their ranks. And one of the two will likely be added to the club’s 60-man player pool seeing how infielder Marco Hernandez was also released on Sunday.

Red Sox Trade Rumors: Astros Have Inquired About Matt Barnes, Rays Have Interest in Christian Vazquez as Monday’s Deadline Looms

The 2020 Major League Baseball season has reached its final weekend leading up until the August 31 trade deadline. With that, a few key contributors on the Red Sox popped up in trade rumors on Friday.

According to The Athletic’s Eno Sarris and Brittany Ghiroli, the Astros have “inquired” on right-hander Matt Barnes, while the Rays “have interest” in catcher Christian Vazquez “with early discussions centering around Tampa’s pitching prospects.”

Barnes and Vazquez, who are both 30 years old, are under club control through the end of the 2021 season, with Vazquez having a $7 million team option for 2022.

Coming into Friday with the second-worst record in the American League at 10-21, the Sox seem primed to be sellers between now and Monday afternoon. They made that much apparent last week by dealing both Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman to the Phillies.

Barnes, who is good friends with both Hembree and Workman, could be the next Boston reliever to get moved.

Through his first 12 appearances of the year, the UCONN product has struggled thus far, posting a 6.00 ERA and 6.65 FIP over 12 innings of work. Still, Barnes was among the nastiest relievers in the American League in 2019, and a pitching-savvy club such as the Astros, led by renowned pitching coach Brent Strom, may be able to unlock something in the fireballer.

Vazquez, meanwhile, has a case to be made that he is more valuable to the Red Sox than Barnes is seeing how he anchors an ever-changing pitching staff.

Coming off a career year last season, the Puerto Rico native entered the weekend owning a .260/.295/.430 slash line to go along with four home runs and 12 RBI through 28 games and 105 plate appearances.

Just recently, Vazquez expressed his desire to end his career with the Red Sox, the organization he was originally drafted by 12 years ago.

“I think it’s going to be sad if I left Boston because all my career we’re here,” he said this past Tuesday. “From (2008), a young kid, I’ve been here. Only one organization. And my goal is retire here. That’s my goal in my career. Be part of one organization, have one jersey on my chest all my career. But we don’t control that.”

If chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, who used to work for the Rays, were to entertain trading Vazquez to Tampa Bay, who have the top farm system in baseball according to Baseball America, not only could the Sox possibly get a quality pitching prospect back, but they could also open the door to sign free agent-to-be J.T. Realmuto this winter if the Phillies don’t re-sign the All-Star backstop first.

That is just a distinct possibility, however, and Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy even classified Vazquez as someone “we want in Boston” when speaking with NESN’s Tom Caron on Wednesday.

With less than 72 hours to go until the trade deadline, Bloom and Co. are certainly on the clock. Even with all that has transpired over the past few days, it would be quite surprising to see the Red Sox not make any additional moves by Monday.

Former Red Sox Catcher Blake Swihart Released by Rangers

Former Red Sox catcher and top prospect Blake Swihart has been released by the Rangers, the club announced Tuesday.

Swihart, 28, originally signed a minor-league pact with Texas back in December after spending the first eight-plus years of his professional career with Boston.

Last April, the Red Sox designated Swihart, a former 2011 first-round draft pick, and dealt him to the Diamondbacks in exchange for outfield prospect Marcus Wilson.

The New Mexico native appeared in 30 games for Arizona from April 22 until May 31, going a measly 9-for-64 at the plate (.141) with three home runs and nine RBI before getting placed on the injured list with an oblique strain.

From there, Swihart was eventually activated from the IL on August 7, got into one game on August 11 against the Dodgers where he went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts off the bench, and was subsequently DFA’d a day later.

After clearing waivers and getting outrighted, the one-time University of Texas commit played 16 games and posted a .143/.234/.304 slash line for the DBacks’ Triple-A affiliate in Reno from the middle of August until the beginning of September. At that point, Swihart opted to become a free agent, leading to his joining the Rangers on a minor-league contract, as previously mentioned.

In his brief stint with Texas, Swihart had a decent spring training, going 5-for-16 at the plate with one home run and four RBI prior to the COVID-19-induced shutdown.

Assigned to the Rangers’ alternate training site last month, Swihart had been one of four non-roster backstops in Texas’ 60-man player pool.

Now a free agent for the second time in 11 months, Swihart will have the opportunity to sign wherever he so chooses depending on how much interest he garners on the open market.

Red Sox Top Prospect Jarren Duran ‘Definitely’ Making Developmental Strides in Pawtucket, Ben Crockett Says

Jarren Duran has been a professional baseball player for just over two years, and in that rather brief period of time has emerged as one of the top outfield prospects in the Red Sox farm system.

Coming off his first full minor-league season in which he slashed .303/.367/.408 with 212 total bases, 90 runs scored and 46 stolen bases in 132 games between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland in 2019, the California native received an invite to major-league spring training earlier this year and impressed there as well.

When the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced major-league clubs to shut down their spring training facilities in March and Minor League Baseball to cancel its season altogether in June, one may have thought prospects like Duran may have lost a step in the development process.

That did not happen, however, as the soon-to-be 24-year-old picked up where he left off in Fort Myers by showing out even more at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket.

When speaking with reporters via Zoom on Monday, Red Sox vice president of player development Ben Crockett acknowledged just how exciting Duran has been to watch over the last month-plus.

“Jarren’s made great progress,” Crockett said. “One of the reasons we wanted to bring him in here is because he’s a guy we obviously thought really highly of from the get-go. He made fast progress to get to Double-A in his first full season. And then in the offseason, he undertook a swing change, I think, to make him even better. What we saw in spring training 1.0 was really encouraging and showed great progress. For us, it was important for us to continue to see that and to continue to help him take those strides forward. I think he’s definitely done that.”

Duran himself addressed the changes he made during this past offseason and when speaking to reporters last Friday.

“Working on my swing with Lance everyday here, Lance Zawadski, and I worked with Doug Latta a little bit,” the outfielder said via a Zoom call. “Just my swing path and cleaning things up, making things much simpler than they used to be, and just having a simple approach. I kind of owe it to those guys because I come here everyday and I grind it out with Lance everyday. Everyday’s a struggle to find your swing. You can go home, not play baseball for a day, and it feels like you haven’t swung in two weeks.”

On his new-and-improved swing path that has resulted in somewhat of a power surge in Pawtucket, Duran attributed that to just how direct his approach at the plate is now.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say lowering my hands,” the Long Beach State product added. “I would just say I have a better path. I have more of a line to the ball and extension through the ball and I’m not coming through the zone and getting outs super quickly. I think lowering my hands helps because my hands always come up. If I can keep them low, they’re just naturally going to come up for me. But, I think just keeping a direct path has really been my success.”

As Duran mentions, making a change that disrupts old habits or routines can be extremely frustrating, but given how much improvement the 2018 seventh-round draft pick has shown this year in light of those changes, it may very well be a sign that there are even more encouraging things to come. Crockett brought this point up, or at least the opening part of it, on Monday.

“Anytime you’re doing something that’s a little bit new or different than what you were doing in the past, it takes a number of reps to get that ingrained, to become natural,” he said. But, I think anything from a mechanical standpoint, it certainly comes down to reps and refining it and continuing to really hone in on exactly what’s going to be the right fit for the individual.”

With the help of Zawadski, a former minor-leaguer-turned-assistant hitting coach for the Portland Sea Dogs out of Framingham, and Latta, a renowned hitting instructor based in southern California, Duran may have unlocked some potential that could make him an even better prospect than he already was.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom is certainly impressed with what Duran has to offer, saying last Wednesday that “he’s spent a lot of time working on his body from a physical standpoint and that’s looked great.”

All that being said, don’t expect a major-league call-up for Duran anytime soon even though outfielders Jackie Bradley Jr. and Kevin Pillar are both on expiring contracts. For one, Duran is not on Boston’s 40-man roster, which is not too huge of a deal but is still a factor nonetheless.

Secondly, as Bloom puts it, “one of the worst things you can do, especially if you’re doing it because you’re unsatisfied with the on-field product at the big-league level or you want to get a jolt…sometimes the worst thing you can do is take shortcuts in a player’s development. That can lead to short-term results that are not which you want and it can also lead to long-term difficulties.”

Red Sox Outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. ‘Should Be on Move’ Before Trade Deadline Passes, per Report

The Red Sox could trade Jackie Bradley Jr. before next week’s trading deadline, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.

Per Nightengale, the Sox “have let everyone know that there are no untouchables, meaning that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. should be on the move, but unlikely shortstop Xander Bogaerts.”

Bradley Jr., 30, is one of two Red Sox outfielders who will become free agents at the end of the season, with the other being Kevin Pillar.

After a hot start to 2020, Bradley Jr. has come back to earth and is currently slashing .235/.300/.358 to go along with two home runs and eight RBI through his first 25 games of the year. Both of those homers came in Baltimore this past weekend.

In terms of where he stands defensively, the 2018 Gold Glover ranks 10th in UZR/150 (-15) and 10th in Defense among qualified American League center fielders so far this season, per FanGraphs.

On a one-year deal that was originally worth $11 million but was brought down $4.074 million due to the shortened season, Bradley Jr. would only cost approximately $1.63 million for the month of September.

That being said, Bradley Jr. could prove to be a valuable addition for a contending club looking to shore up it’s outfield defense, especially if the former Gamecock were to get hot at the plate once more to close out the 2020 campaign.

Even if Bradley Jr. were to be productive for his new organization in this scenario, he likely would not fetch too hefty of a return considering the fact he would only be under team control for less than a full month not counting the postseason.

Over the weekend, the Red Sox were presumably able to get more in their trade with the Phillies by dealing Brandon Workman, who will become a free agent this winter, AND Heath Hembree, who is under club control through 2021, as well as cash considerations, in exchange for right-hander Nick Pivetta and right-handed pitching prospect Connor Seabold.

If chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom were to attempt to move Bradley Jr. and/or Pillar within the next week, would it be out of the realm of possibilities for the Sox to attach a controllable player or a considerable dollar amount to sweeten the deal and garner a more significant return?

In other words, could the Red Sox use an expiring contract to essentially buy a well-regarded prospect? There was a chance of that happening over the winter, and it looks like it could happen for real before the end of the month. We’ll have to wait and see.

Red Sox Trade Heath Hembree, Brandon Workman, Cash To Phillies in Exchange for Right-Handers Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold

The Red Sox have traded right-handed relievers Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman, as well as cash considerations and a player to be named later or cash considerations, to the Phillies for right-hander Nick Pivetta and right-handed pitching prospect Connor Seabold, the club announced Friday night.

With this trade made, the first domino has fell for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. leading up to the August 31 trading deadline.

Workman was set to become a free agent this winter, while Hembree is under team control through the end of the 2021 season.

The Phillies, who came into the weekend with the worst bullpen ERA in baseball (8.07), are clearly trying to upgrade their pen as they look to vie for a playoff spot despite a 9-12 start to the season.

By acquiring Hembree and Workman from Boston, Philadelphia has accomplished this in at least some capacity.

Hembree, 31, carried a 1.86 ERA and .503 OPS against through his first 10 appearances and 9 2/3 innings of the year before getting lit up for four runs against the Phils on Tuesday.

Workman, meanwhile, turned 32 last week and had yielded three runs on eight hits, four walks, and eight strikeouts through his first seven outings and 6 2/3 innings of 2020. That’s good for a 4.05 ERA and 2.57 FIP.

The two now-former Sox hurlers will likely become two of the top late-inning relief options out of the Phillies bullpen from now until the end of the season.

As for what the Red Sox got back in this deal, let’s start with Nick Pivetta.

A 27-year-old right-hander out of British Columbia, Pivetta appeared in three games for the Phillies prior to being optioned to the club’s alternate training site on August 11.

In those three outings, the former fourth-round pick surrendered 10 earned runs over just 5 2/3 innings of work.

Prior to 2020, Pivetta owned a 5.34 ERA and 4.56 FIP through his first 89 appearances (71 starts) and 390 2/3 innings with the Phillies dating back to 2017.

Per Statcast, Pivetta, who is listed at 6-foot-5 and 214 lbs., is a four-pitch pitcher who primarily relies on his four-seam fastball and has a curveball, changeup, and slider in his arsenal as well.

Turning to Connor Seabold now, the 24-year-old was the Phillies’ third-round pick in the 2017 amateur draft out of Cal State Fullerton.

Regarded by MLB Pipeine as Philadelphia’s No. 23 prospect, Seabold, listed at 6-foor-2 and 190 lbs., posted a 2.24 ERA and .224 batting average against in 12 total appearances (11 starts) and 56 1/3 innings pitched between three minor-league levels in 2019.

Per his MLB Pipeline scouting report, Seabold “will always be a command and control pitcher, one who has to rely on changing speeds and keeping hitters off-balance. His swing-and-miss rate went up in the Arizona Fall League and if that’s for real, he could fit into the back end of a big league rotation soon.”

Because the Red Sox traded Hembree and Workman, they opened up two spots on their 60-man player pool, which will now presumably be filled by Pivetta and Seabold. The former was on Philly’s 40-man roster, while the latter was not.

Update: For clarity, Pivetta was optioned to the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket following the move.

Red Sox Trade Rumors: Phillies Have Spoken To Boston About Brandon Workman, per Report

With the 2020 trade deadline fast approaching, the Red Sox are already getting involved in some rumors, as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the club has been in contact with the Phillies about right-hander Brandon Workman.

Workman, who turned 32 last week, is set to become a free agent for the first time this winter.

The Texas native owns an ERA of 4.05 and a FIP of 2.57 through his first seven appearances and 6 2/3 innings pitched this year. He is also coming off a season in which he accrued 16 saves while finishing third among qualified American League relievers in fWAR (2.1) in 2019.

The Phillies, meanwhile, own the worst bullpen ERA (8.07) and fourth-worst FIP (5.61) in baseball through their first 21 games of the season, so the need to improve their ‘pen is certainly there.

Philadelphia also has a prior connection to Workman, as the club drafted him out of high school in the third round of the 2007 amateur draft. The Sox closer forwent going pro then, however, and instead played college baseball at the University of Texas for three seasons before getting drafted by Boston in the second round of the 2010 amateur draft.

Even though the Red Sox (8-18) only have one less win that the Philles (9-12) do at this point, it would appear as though one club is aiming to be sellers at the deadline while the other is leaning towards being a buyer.

In terms of what the Phils would be willing to give up in this potential deal, it would be difficult to see them part ways with any one of their four top-100 prospects seeing how Workman is on an expiring contract. I would venture to say that, from Philly’s point of view, they could give up far less in order to acquire just one to two months of Workman’s service.

Along with Workman, outfielders Jackie Bradley Jr. and Kevin Pillar are two more players on the Sox’ active roster who are set to become free agents at the end of the season, while first baseman Mitch Moreland and left-hander Martin Perez have club options for 2021.

If chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. feel any need to move any of these five players, they have until August 31 to do so.