Red Sox’ Nathan Hickey quickly emerging as one of top catching prospects in Boston’s farm system

The Red Sox have an extensive history when it comes to drafting amateur prospects out of the University of Florida.

Dating back to the 2012 draft, the Sox have selected 12 players from Florida. Of that group of Gators, four (Austin Maddox, Brian Johnson, Bobby Poyner, and Shaun Anderson) went on to make it to the major-leagues.

Most recently, Boston selected Florida outfielder Jud Fabian and Florida catcher Nathan Hickey with its second- and fifth-round picks in last summer’s draft, respectively.

While Fabian ultimately made the decision to return to Gainesville for his senior season, Hickey wound up signing with the Red Sox for an over-slot deal of $1 million last July.

Upon inking his first professional contract, Hickey — a native of Jacksonville — reported to Fort Myers to begin his debut season with the rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox.

Across eight games in the FCL, the left-handed hitting backstop slashed .250/.429/.350 (124 wRC+) to go along with two doubles, one RBI, four runs scored, six walks, and eight strikeouts over 28 plate appearances before earning a promotion to Low-A Salem on August 27.

Hickey appeared in two games on Aug. 27 and 28, but was placed on the temporary inactive list on September 5. After a near-two-week hiatus, the 22-year-old returned to the field and made his final appearance of the season for Salem on Sept. 17. All told, he went 1-for-8 at the plate in his first exposure to the Low-A level.

Shortly after the conclusion of the minor-league season, it was revealed that Hickey’s father, Mark, passed away in early October.

On the heels of what was presumably an emotional 2021, Hickey comes into 2022 regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 19 prospect in Boston’s farm system — which ranks tops among catchers in the organization.

Per his MLB Pipeline scouting report, Hickey’s best carrying tool is his raw power. He also utilizes “a mature approach at the plate” that could help him “develop into a solid hitter, though his swing can get long and too uphill at times.”

That being said, Hickey also comes with some questions in regards to his defensive abilities behind the plate. The 6-foot, 210 pounder’s “receiving and blocking will have to improve significantly, and his solid arm strength plays down and resulted in 39 steals in 41 attempts against him during the spring.”

On that note, Hickey does have experience at other positions besides catcher. He saw time at both corner infield positions with the Gators in the spring before catching a total of five games between the FCL and Low-A over the summer.

Whether Hickey — who does not turn 23 until November — is able to stick at catcher has yet to be determined. He does however have an appealing offensive profile, and that should only help him in the long run.

Going off of SoxProspects.com’s roster projections, Hickey is slated to begin the 2022 campaign where he left off in 2021: with Salem. He will likely have a chance to earn a midseason promotion to High-A Greenville depending on the kind of start he gets off to.

(Picture of Nathan Hickey: Bryan Green/Flickr)

 

Red Sox prospect Nick Northcut quietly put together powerful 2021 season with Low-A Salem

When thinking of the more highly-touted infield prospects in the Red Sox farm system, Nick Northcut may not be the first name you come up with since he is not ranked by any major publications.

That being said, Northcut was actually one of the better hitting minor-leaguers in the organization last year, and he may have put together a productive 2021 season while flying under the radar a bit.

Coming out of minor-league spring training, Northcut began the year with Low-A Salem and remained there throughout what was his just his second full professional season.

Across 96 games for the Salem Red Sox, the 22-year-old slashed a sturdy .261/.352/.513 to go along with 32 doubles, two triples, 17 home runs, 77 RBIs, 68 runs scored, 46 walks, and 91 strikeouts over 402 plate appearances en route to being named a Low-A East Postseason All-Star.

Among qualified hitters in the Low-A East, Northcut ranked first in doubles, third in home runs, second in RBIs, ninth in runs scored, 16th in on-base percentage, first in slugging percentage, fourth in OPS (.865), first in isolated power (.252), and sixth in wRC+ (129), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, the right-handed hitting corner infielder appeared in a total of 38 games at first base and 47 games at third base with Salem. He committed three errors in 329 innings at first base and 11 errors in 383 innings at the hot corner.

Well before the 2021 season began, the Red Sox selected Northcut in the 11th round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Mason High School. At that time, the Ohio native was a well-regarded two-way prep prospect (ranked 69th overall by Baseball America) and was committed to play college baseball at Vanderbilt University.

With the help of then-area scout John Pyle, however, Boston was able to land Northcut by signing him to an over-slot deal of $565,000 in June 2018. He made his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League (now the Florida Complex League) shortly thereafter.

After spending the entirety of the 2019 campaign in Lowell, Northcut suffered the same fate as many minor-leaguers when the 2020 season was wiped out of the COVID-19 pandemic. He did not receive an invite to the Sox’ alternate training site that summer, but seemingly took advantage of his time at fall instructs later in the year in Fort Myers.

On the heels of such an impressive year at the plate in 2021, the 6-foot-1, 206 pounder is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the upcoming season at High-A Greenville, though he will likely face plenty of competition for playing time there.

Northcut, who turns 23 in June, can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career next winter. In other words, he could be added to Boston’s 40-man roster by November depending on the type of year he has and/or how the team feels about him.

(Picture of Nick Northcut: Gary Streiffer/Flickr)

Should Red Sox view pitching prospect Wyatt Olds as starter or reliever moving forward?

Over the summer, the Red Sox selected 20 players in the revamped version of the 2021 amateur draft.

Of the 16 draftees Boston wound up signing, eight were pitchers. This piece in particular will focus on University of Oklahoma right-hander Wyatt Olds and the year he put together.

Taken in the seventh round (and with the 196th overall pick) in the draft, Olds signed with the Sox for $239,000 in late July and was promptly sent out to the club’s spring training complex in Fort Myers.

After making just one appearance for the rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox, Olds was promoted to Low-A Salem on August 20. The 22-year-old closed out his first professional season by posting a 2.45 ERA and 2.52 FIP to go along with 20 strikeouts to six walks over five outings (three starts) spanning 11 innings of work.

Among the 334 pitchers who accrued at least 10 innings on the mound last season, Olds ranked 11th in strikeouts per nine innings (16.4), 23rd in strikeout rate (40%), 26th in FIP, and 43rd in xFIP (3.26), per FanGraphs.

Olds, who was signed out of college by area scout Lane Decker, was used as both a starter and reliever in his three seasons with the Sooners. Most recently, the Oklahoma native opened the 2021 campaign in the team’s starting rotation, but he was moved back to the bullpen in mid-April.

Coming into the draft, Olds was regarded by Baseball America as the 422nd-ranked draft-eligible prospect. According to his Baseball America scouting report from that time, the righty’s “lower arm slot can make it hard for hitters to pick up the ball, and he misses bats, but he also misses the strike zone. He has a long arm action that he has struggled to repeat consistently, especially in longer stints. His fastball picked up a tick after his move to the bullpen, as he went from sitting 91-94 mph to sitting 93-96 mph and touching 97 mph.

In addition to his high-octane fastball, SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall writes that Olds works with an 85-88 mph slider and a changeup that still has room for improvement.

Listed at 6-foot and 183 pounds, Olds does not turn 23 until August. He “has definite major-league potential” as a reliever, per Cundall. But he needs “to improve his changeup and show he can stay healthy over a full season as a starter to be considered in that role.”

On that note, Olds is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 minor-league season in Salem’s starting rotation. Cundall suggests that this would force the young hurler “to use all of his pitches and refine his fastball command.”

(Picture of Wyatt Olds: Edward Reali/OU Daily)

Reviewing the year Red Sox pitching prospect Wilkelman Gonzalez had between the Florida Complex League and Low-A Salem

Of the 39 pitchers who took the mound for the Red Sox’ Florida Complex League affiliate this year, none (outside of Chris Sale) might have stuck out more than right-hander Wilkelman Gonzalez.

The 19-year-old began the 2021 minor-league season in Fort Myers and was outstanding throughout the summer. In eight appearances (seven starts), he posted a 3.60 ERA and 2.83 FIP to go along with 46 strikeouts to eight walks over 35 innings of work.

On August 27, Gonzalez earned himself a promotion to Low-A Salem, where he closed out his year by putting up a miniscule 1.53 ERA and 3.98 FIP in addition to 20 strikeouts and eight walks across four starts spanning 17 2/3 innings pitched.

Among those in the FCL who accrued at least 35 innings in 2021, Gonzalez ranked eighth in strikeouts per nine innings (11.83), sixth in strikeout rate (32.6%), ninth in walk rate (5.7%), eighth in WHIP (1.06), and third in FIP, per FanGraphs.

Originally signed out of Venezuela for $250,000 in July 2018, Gonzalez began his professional career in the Dominican Summer League the following year. After the 2020 minor-league season was wiped out due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 6-foot, 180 pound hurler made a strong impression in fall instructs and carried that momentum over into 2021.

Coming into the year, Gonzalez was not regarded by Baseball America as one of the top 30 prospects in Boston’s farm system. By early August (and a few weeks before getting promoted to Low-A), the athletic righty had moved up to No. 15 in BA’s midseason prospect rankings for the Red Sox organization.

Back in September, SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall offered some insight into the season Gonzalez had down at the Fenway South complex.

“Gonzalez has been 93-95 mph with his fastball, while his changeup at 86-88 mph has been his best secondary pitch,” wrote Cundall. “He has shown the ability to turn it over, and the pitch now projects as above-average at least, when last fall it was his third pitch. He also has refined his breaking ball, switching from a slow, loopy curveball to a slider in the high-70s with average-to-better potential.”  

While there is plenty to be encouraged about there, Cundall notes that scouts are somewhat concerned about Gonzalez’s unimposing frame and a delivery that requires some effort.

With that, Cundall writes, “there is some reliever risk, but regardless, he is a very exciting arm and one whose stock is well up this year.”  

Gonzalez, who turns 20 in March, is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 season where he ended the 2021 campaign: in Salem, and as a member of starting rotation there.

The 2022 season has the makings to be an important one for Gonzalez, as he can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career next winter.

(Picture of Wilkelman Gonzalez: Bryan Green/Flickr)

Nick Yorke recognized by MLB Pipeline as Red Sox’ breakout prospect in 2021

To nobody’s surprise, Nick Yorke was recently recognized by MLB Pipeline as the Red Sox’ breakout prospect in 2021.

Boston’s top pick — and 17th overall selection — in last year’s amateur draft, Yorke made a strong impression at major-league camp this spring before beginning the minor-league season with Low-A Salem.

After initially getting off to a slow start, Yorke wound up slashing an impressive .323/.413/.500 to go along with 14 doubles, four triples, 10 home runs, 47 RBIs, 59 runs scored, 11 stolen bases, 41 walks, and 47 strikeouts over 76 games (346 plate appearances) with the Salem Sox.

Around the same time he was named the Low-A East Player of the Month for August, Yorke earned a promotion to High-A Greenville on Aug. 24. The right-handed hitting infielder capped off his professional debut by batting .333/.406/.751 with six doubles, one triple, four home runs, 15 RBIs, 17 runs scored, two stolen bases, 11 walks, and 22 strikeouts across 21 games (96 plate appearances) with the Drive.

Among all qualified hitters who played at either Low-A or High-A this year, Yorke ranked fourth in batting average (.325), ninth in on-base percentage (.412), 25th in slugging percentage (.516), 13th in OPS (.928), and 12th in wRC+ (149), per FanGraphs.

As a result of such a strong campaign at the plate between Salem and Greenville, the 19-year-old was named Boston’s Offensive Player of the Year in September and was recognized at Fenway Park for earning the honor.

Defensively, Yorke was used strictly as a second baseman this season and committed a total of nine errors in 741 2/3 innings at the position. Despite there being some concerns that Yorke may not be able to stick at second base in the long-term, the Red Sox remain committed to keeping him there as he continues to develop.

“He showed how much improvement he can make in one offseason, just with his body, his athleticism, his improvements on defense,” Sox director of player development Brian Abraham said of Yorke when speaking with The Athletic’s Chad Jennings earlier this month. “To me, there’s no reason to think he couldn’t continue to improve and be an impact player there.”

Yorke, who does not turn 20 until next April, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 3 prospect in Boston’s farm system heading into 2022. The 6-foot, 200 pound California native is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin next season where he ended this season: Greenville.

That being said, it’s certainly possible Yorke could find himself at Double-A Portland sooner rather than later next year if he gets off to a hot start come April.

(Picture of Nick Yorke: Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Red Sox add intriguing infield prospects Alex Binelas, David Hamilton in trade with Brewers: ‘We’re excited about the minor-league players that we got,’ Chaim Bloom says

The Red Sox may have traded Hunter Renfroe for Jackie Bradley Jr. on Wednesday night, but they did so while also acquiring two intriguing prospects from the Brewers.

As highlighted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Sox basically dealt Renfroe and took on Bradley Jr.’s $9.5 million salary for 2022 (plus an $8 million buyout in 2023) in order to add infield prospects Alex Binelas and David Hamilton.

“Having two premium defensive center fielders is a huge boost to our roster,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said Wednesday. “And we’re also excited about the minor-league players that we got. So we felt like this was something that made sense for us right now and also had a chance to pay dividends down the road.”

Binelas was recently selected by the Brewers in the third round of the 2021 amateur draft out of the University of Louisville, where he belted 19 home runs and posted a .968 OPS in his final season with the Cardinals.

Going into this summer’s draft, Binelas was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 76 draft-eligible prospect and was assigned to Milwaukee’s Arizona Complex League affiliate upon signing with the organization for $700,000.

After just seven games in the rookie-level complex league, Binelas was promoted to Low-A Carolina on August 16. In 29 games with the Mudcats to close out the year, the left-handed hitter slashed .314/.379/.636 (163 wRC+) with 11 doubles, nine home runs, 27 RBIs, 29 runs scored, 12 walks, and 33 strikeouts over 132 plate appearances.

Among hitters who accrued at least 130 plate appearances in the Low-A East this season, Binelas ranked fifth in OPS (1.014), third in isolated power (.322), and fifth in wRC+, per FanGraphs.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, the 21-year-old is capable of playing both corner infield positions. At the midway point of the 2021 season, he was regarded by Baseball America as the 20th-ranked prospect in Milwaukee’s farm system.

“A left-handed hitter with power,” Bloom said of Binelas. “He plays both infield corners. But the bat is really his calling card. A good hitter with really special power. Obviously it’s just early in his professional journey but he had a tremendous debut and really showed a lot in his acclimation to pro ball. A really nice power left-handed bat to bring into the system.”

Hamilton, on the other hand, was selected by the Brewers in the eighth round of the 2019 amateur draft out of the University of Texas at Austin despite suffering a ruptured Achilles in a scooter accident that resulted in him missing the entirety of the 2019 season at both the college and pro levels.

With the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hamilton did not make his professional debut as a member of the Brewers organization until this spring.

The 24-year-old, who is also a left-handed hitter split the 2021 season between High-A Carolina and Double-A Biloxi. He batted .258/.341/.419 (110 wRC+) with 19 doubles, 11 triples, eight homers, 43 RBIs, 66 runs, 52 stolen bases, 50 walks, and 90 strikeouts in 101 games spanning 459 total plate appearances.

Formerly regarded by Baseball America as the No. 15 prospect in Milwaukee’s farm system, Hamilton just wrapped up a solid campaign in the Arizona Fall League by slashing .293/.453/.463 with three doubles, two triples, five RBIs, five runs scored, four stolen bases, 12 walks, and six strikeouts over 14 games (53 plate appearances) for Salt River.

Listed at 5-f00t-10 and 175 pounds, Hamilton is obviously well-regarded for his speed and athleticism, which were his carrying tools coming out of college. The middle infielder’s 52 stolen bases were the sixth-most in the minor-leagues this season.

“David Hamilton has premium speed and he’s a really good middle infielder,” Bloom said. “Plays a good shortstop. Interesting trajectory. Highly-touted high school player who went to the University of Texas. Had a tough injury and recovered from it, and kept his speed. He has great speed and athleticism and is a very exciting player to add to our system.”

Unlike Binelas, Hamilton can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career in 2022. The Red Sox will need to add the speedster to their 40-man roster by next November if they want to prevent that from happening.

(Picture of Alex Binelas: Michael Clevenger/Courier Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC)

Red Sox trade Hunter Renfroe to Brewers for package including Jackie Bradley Jr.; Boston also acquires prospects Alex Binelas and David Hamilton in deal

In a stunning turn of events, the Red Sox have traded outfielder Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers for infield prospects Alex Binelas and David Hamilton and a familiar face in Jackie Bradley Jr, the club announced late Wednesday night.

Renfroe, who turns 29 next month, originally signed a one-year deal with the Sox shortly after being let go by the Rays last December.

In his debut season with Boston, the right-handed hitter slashed .259/.315/.501 with 33 doubles, 31 home runs, 96 RBIs, 89 runs scored, 44 walks, and 130 strikeouts over 144 games spanning 572 relief appearances.

While seeing the majority of his playing time come in right field, Renfroe finished the year tied with Rangers rookie Adolis Garcia for the most outfield assists in the American League (16), but also led all big-league outfielders in errors committed with 12.

Upon signing with the Sox last winter, Renfroe earned $3.1 million in what was his first season of arbitration eligibility. MLB Trade Rumors projected that the 28-year-old would receive $7.6 million in his second year of arbitration eligibility in 2022, which obviously represents a significant raise from the amount he earned in 2021.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom must have felt that this price was too steep to pay, leading the club to deal Renfroe to the Brewers for a pair of prospects and an established veteran such as Bradley Jr.

Regarding the two prospects Boston acquired from Milwaukee, Binelas and Hamilton were regarded by Baseball America as the No. 20 and No. 15 prospects in the Brewers’ farm system, respectively.

Binelas, 21, was selected by the Brewers in the third round of this summer’s amateur draft out of the University of Louisville.

A Wisconsin native, Binelas appeared in just seven Arizona Complex League games before earning a promotion to Low-A Carolina on August 16. He batted a stout .314/.379/.636 (136 wRC+) to go along with 11 doubles, nine home runs, 27 RBIs, 29 runs scored, 12 walks, and 33 strikeouts across 29 games (132 plate appearances) with the Mudcats.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, the left-handed hitter can play both corner infield positions and well regarded for his power, as evidenced by his .322 ISO at Low-A this year.

Hamilton, 24, was also selected by Milwaukee in the eighth round of the 2019 amateur draft out of the University of Texas at Austin.

After not playing any affiliated baseball in 2019 and missing out on the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hamilton made his professional debut for High-A Wisconsin this spring and ultimately made his way to Double-A Biloxi by early August.

In 33 games with the Shuckers, the left-handed hitting infielder produced a .248/.322/.414 slash line (104 wRC+) with five doubles, four triples, three homers, 12 RBIs, 16 runs, 11 stolen bases, 15 walks, and 32 strikeouts over 150 plate appearances while seeing playing time at second base and shortstop.

Unlike Binelas, Hamilton is not known for his power, but for his speed, as the 5-foot-10, 175 pounder has already stolen 52 bases through his first 101 games in the minor-leagues.

Neither Binelas nor Hamilton were immediately added to Boston’s 40-man roster, though the latter can become eligible for the 2022 Rule 5 Draft if he is not added to the 40-man by next November.

Finally, we arrive at what is the most fascinating aspect of this deal in Bradley Jr., who the Red Sox, of course, took with the 40th overall pick in the 2011 draft out of the University of South Carolina.

After spending the first eight years of his big-league career with the Sox, Bradley Jr. became a free agent last winter and effectively signed a two-year, $24 million contract with the Brewers in March.

Bradley Jr.’s first season with a new team did not go as swimmingly as it did for Renfroe. Despite remaining an elite defender in center field, the 31-year-old struggled at the plate to the tune of a .163/.236/.261 slash line with 14 doubles, three triples, six home runs, 29 RBIs, 39 runs, seven stolen bases, 28 walks, and 132 strikeouts in 134 games (428 plate appearances) with the Brewers.

By swapping Renfroe’s projected 2022 salary of $7.6 million for Bradley’s 2022 salary of of $9.5 million (plus an $8 million buyout in 2023), Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. — per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo — took on about $10 million in additional salary to add Bradley Jr. and two promising prospects in Binelas and Hamilton.

In addition to acquiring Bradley Jr., the Red Sox also announced the signings of left-handers James Paxton and Rich Hill to one-year deals for the 2022 season, meaning their 40-man roster is now up to 39 players.

(Picture of Jackie Bradley Jr: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Red Sox pitching prospect Kutter Crawford tosses 3 strong innings in final Dominican Winter League start

Red Sox pitching prospect Kutter Crawford’s contract with Estrellas Orientales of the Dominican Winter League has expired, the club announced Wednesday morning.

Crawford, 25, made five starts for Estrellas, with his final outing coming against Tigres del Licey at Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal in Santo Domingo on Tuesday night.

Over three innings of work, the right-hander yielded just one unearned run on three hits and two walks to go along with five strikeouts on the night. He retired nine of the 15 batters he faced, worked around a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the second, and finished with a final pitch count of 65 — 37 of which went for strikes.

Estrellas topped Tigres by a final score of 3-2 to improve to 13-8 on the season.

In his five Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana starts, Crawford wound up posting a 0.42 ERA and 1.08 WHIP while recording 23 strikeouts and eight walks across 21 1/3 innings pitched.

As for why Crawford’s contract expired when the LIDOM regular season runs through December, SoxProspects.com’s executive editor Chris Hatfield suggests that the righty hit an innings limit set by the Red Sox on Tuesday.

The Red Sox added Crawford — as well as three other players — to their 40-man roster last Friday in order to protect them from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.

After undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2019 and missing all of 2020 as a result, Crawford opened the 2021 minor-league season with Double-A Portland and earned a promotion to Triple-A Worcester in late July.

In the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak in early September, the Red Sox selected Crawford’s contract from Worcester so that he could start in place of Nick Pivetta against the Guardians at Fenway Park on Sept. 5.

While he got shelled for five runs over two innings in his major-league debut, the Red Sox were still encouraged with what they saw from Crawford, who displayed a five-pitch mix that consisted of a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup.

Because he was added to Boston’s big-league roster for COVID-19-related purposes, the Sox were able to remove Crawford from the 40-man without exposing him to waivers, thus allowing him to close out the year in Worcester.

Now that he is back in the fold, Crawford, who turns 26 in April, figures to make his return to the majors at some point in 2022. Whether the former 2017 16th-round draft pick out of Florida Gulf Coast University makes his impact felt as a starter or reliever has yet to be determined.

(Picture of Kutter Crawford: Estrellas Orientales/Twitter)

Recapping how contingent of 8 Red Sox prospects performed in Arizona Fall League

The 2021 Arizona Fall League season came to a close on Saturday night, with the Mesa Solar Sox besting the Surprise Saguaros by a final score of 6-0 in the championship game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

With the Arizona Fall League making a triumphant return and closing out another exciting season in the desert, now is the time to reflect on how the contingent of prospects the Red Sox sent out west did in what is regarded by many as Major League Baseball’s “finishing school.”

Back in October, it was revealed that the Sox would be sending eight prospects to Arizona to play for the Scottsdale Scorpions alongside Guardians, Twins, Giants, and Rays minor-leaguers.

That initial list included catching prospect Connor Wong, but the backstop was ultimately replaced on Scottsdale’s roster by Christian Koss since he was a member of Boston’s taxi squad for the majority of their postseason run.

That said, the eight prospects who wound up representing the Red Sox were right-handers A.J. Politi, Connor Seabold, Josh Winckowski, left-hander Brendan Cellucci, catcher Kole Cottam, first baseman Triston Casas, and infielders Jeter Downs and Koss.

So, without further ado, here is how each of those players fared during their time with the Scorpions, who finished the 2021 AFL campaign with a record of 12-18.

A.J. Politi, RHP

Politi began the minor-league season in Double-A Portland’s starting rotation, but ultimately transitioned back to the bullpen towards the end of the summer and remained there upon reporting to Scottsdale.

In 11 relief appearances this fall, the 25-year-old posted a 5.84 ERA and 1.86 WHIP to go along with 10 strikeouts to eight walks over 12 1/3 innings of work.

Originally selected by the Red Sox in the 15th round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Seton Hall University, Politi is eligible for this winter’s Rule 5 Draft since he was left unprotected and not added to Boston’s 40-man roster on Friday.

Connor Seabold, RHP

Seabold had quite the eventful first full season in the Red Sox organization after coming over from the Phillies alongside fellow righty Nick Pivetta in the same trade that sent relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree to Philadelphia last August.

The 25-year-old hurler was already a member of Boston’s 40-man roster coming into 2021, but missed the first several weeks of the minor-league season due to right elbow inflammation and did not make his first start for Triple-A Worcester until July 23.

On September 11, Seabold made his major-league debut against the White Sox and allowed two earned runs in three innings before being optioned back to Worcester the following day and closing out the year with the WooSox.

With the Scorpions, Seabold led the team in innings pitched (20 1/3) while putting up a 4.87 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in addition to 32 strikeouts and 12 walks over six starts.

Josh Winckowski, RHP

One of five players the Red Sox acquired in the three-team trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Royals in February, Winckowski emerged as one of the organization’s more intriguing pitching prospects in 2021 and was just protected from the Rule 5 Draft as a result of doing so.

Now a member of the Sox’ 40-man roster, Winckowski split the minor-league season between Portland and Worcester while mainly being used as a starter, but was strictly utilized as a reliever in the fall league.

Over six appearances out of Scottsdale’s bullpen, the 23-year-old produced a 6.55 ERA and 1.73 ERA while recording three strikeouts and four walks in his 11 innings of relief. He was also involved in a benches-clearing brawl with Pirates prospect Canaan Smith-Njigba earlier this month that resulted in both players getting ejected.

Brendan Cellucci, LHP

The lone southpaw representing the Red Sox in the AFL, Cellucci spent the entirety of the 2021 season at High-A Greenville and was one of six lefties on Scottsdale’s roster this fall.

In 10 outings out of the Scorpions bullpen, Cellucci yielded an ERA of 6.94 and WHIP of 1.89 while striking out 11 batters and walking seven over 11 2/3 innings pitched.

A native of Philadelphia who the Red Sox took out of Tulane University in the the 12th round of the 2019 draft, Cellucci does not turn 24 until next June and can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career next winter.

Kole Cottam, C

Cottam began the year in Greenville and later earned himself a midseason promotion to Portland on July 29 while being regarded by Baseball America as the top defensive catcher in the Red Sox farm system.

A 2021 Arizona Fall League Fall Star, the 24-year-old backstop out of the University of Kentucky batted a solid .275/.356/.510 with three doubles, three home runs, 10 RBIs, seven runs scored, five walks, and 13 strikeouts over 15 games (59 plate appearances) for Scottsdale.

Like Politi, Cottam could have been added to Boston’s 40-man roster last week in order to receive protection from next month’s Rule 5 Draft. But the club elected not to do so, thus leaving him exposed if other teams are interested.

Triston Casas, 1B

The top prospect the Red Sox sent to Arizona, Casas put the finishing touches on an impressive year by putting his talent and skills on full display with the Scorpions.

Among qualified hitters in the AFL this year, Casas ranked fifth in batting average (.372), first in on-base percentage (.495), 26th in slugging percentage (.487), and 12th in OPS (.982) in the process of joining Cottam in the Fall Stars Game.

A former first-round pick out of American Heritage High School (Plantation, Fla.) in 2018, the left-handed hitting Casas — who turns 22 in January — figures to make his big-league debut for Boston at some point during the 2022 season.

Jeter Downs, 2B/SS

There was always going to be pressure on Downs since he was the top prospect acquired from the Dodgers in the infamous Mookie Betts/David Price trade last February, but the 23-year-old infielder got his first taste of the Triple-A level this year and it did not go all that swimmingly.

Still, the Red Sox sent Downs to play in the fall league despite the struggles he endured over the summer and it now appears as though that decision paid off.

Across 16 games (72 plate appearances) for the Scorpions, Downs slashed .228/.389/.491 with five homers, 14 RBIs, nine runs scored, four stolen bases, 14 walks, and 18 strikeouts while playing both middle infield positions.

Like Winckowski, Downs was added to Boston’s 40-man roster on Friday, which came as no surprise.

Christian Koss, INF

Acquired from the Rockies in exchange for pitching prospect Yoan Aybar last December, Koss enjoyed a solid 2021 season with Greenville and later received an invite to play in the Arizona Fall League in order to replace the aforementioned Wong.

In 14 games with Scottsdale, the versatile infielder batted .229/.275/.250 to go along with one double, six RBIs, four runs scored, two stolen bases, three walks, and eight strikeouts across 51 total trips to the plate.

A product of University of California, Irvine who played on the Cape in 2017 and 2018, Koss has proven he is capable of playing second base, third base, and shortstop in the minors.

The right-handed hitter turns 23 in January and can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his professional career next winter.

(Picture of Triston Casas: Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Red Sox add Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford, Jeter Downs, and Josh Winckowski to 40-man roster to protect them from Rule 5 Draft

The Red Sox have added four prospects to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft, the club announced earlier Friday evening.

Right-handers Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford, and Josh Winckowski and infielder Jeter Downs were all added to Boston’s 40-man roster, which now increases from 33 to 37 players.

Clubs had until Friday at 6 p.m. eastern time to add eligible minor-leaguers to their respective 40-man rosters or otherwise risk losing them in the Rule 5 Draft, which usually takes place during the last day of the Winter Meetings in December.

By adding just the four names listed above, the Red Sox could now be faced with losing other notable prospects such as Thaddeus Ward, Durbin Feltman, Ceddane Rafaela, Frank German, Victor Santos, Kole Cottam, and Gilberto Jimenez in next month’s Rule 5 Draft.

Of the quartet of prospects the Sox did add, one made it as far as the major-leagues under unique circumstances, two made it as far as Triple-A Worcester, and one made it as far as Double-A Portland this past minor-league season.

Bello began the year in High-A Greenville’s starting rotation, but earned a promotion to Portland on June 8. In 15 starts for the Sea Dogs, the 22-year-old righty posted a 4.66 ERA and 3.12 FIP to go along with 87 strikeouts to 24 walks over 63 2/3 innings of work.

Originally signed out of the Dominican Republic for $28,000 in July 2017, Bello is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 5 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking first among pitchers in the organization. He was named the team’s minor-league Starting Pitcher of the Year in September.

Crawford, on the other hand, started out in Portland this spring as he was coming off Tommy John surgery that he underwent in October 2019. The 25-year-old ultimately earned a promotion to Worcester in late July, signaling that he was on the verge of a big-league call-up.

In the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak, the Red Sox called up Crawford from Worcester to fill in for Nick Pivetta against the Guardians on Sept. 5 at Fenway Park.

He allowed five earned runs in two innings and was promptly returned to the WooSox the following day, but Boston was able to remove the former 16th-round draft pick from their 40-man roster since he was a COVID-19 replacement.

Since the minor-league season ended last month, Crawford has been dominating in the Dominican Winter League. In four starts for Estrellas Orientales, he has allowed just two runs (one earned) on 12 hits, six walks, and 18 strikeouts over 18 1/3 innings pitched. That’s good for an ERA of 0.49.

Winckowski, meanwhile, was one of five players the Red Sox acquired in the three-team trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Royals back in February.

Like Crawford, Winckowski began the 2021 campaign with the Sea Dogs and pitched to the tune of a 4.14 ERA and 4.02 FIP over 21 appearances (20 starts) and exactly 100 innings before getting promoted to Worcester in late September.

In his brief stint with the WooSox that spanned two starts, the 23-year-old produced a 2.25 ERA and 3.28 FIP while recording 13 strikeouts and three walks in 12 innings pitched. He worked strictly as a reliever in the Arizona Fall League and is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 9 prospect in Boston’s farm system heading into 2022 season.

As for Downs, the move for Boston to add him to the 40-man roster comes at no surprise considering he was the top prospect acquired from the Dodgers in the infamous trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles last year.

After the minor-league season was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Downs began 2021 with the WooSox and stuck their throughout the year while slashing .190/.272/.333 with nine doubles, 14 home runs, 39 RBIs, 39 runs scored, 18 stolen bases, 38 walks, and 131 strikeouts over 99 games spanning 405 trips to the plate.

Despite the difficulties Downs encountered in his first exposure to Triple-A pitching, there was never really any doubt when it came to the Red Sox adding the talented 23-year-old infielder to their 40-man roster.

Capable of playing both middle infield positions, Downs, like Bello, represented the Sox in this summer’s All-Star Futures Game in Denver. He also enjoyed some success in the Arizona Fall League these last few weeks — as evidenced by his .880 OPS for the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Downs, who does not turn 24 until next July, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 6 prospect in the Red Sox farm system.

(Picture of Brayan Bello: Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images