Red Sox catching prospect Ronaldo Hernández has been red-hot at the plate for Double-A Portland

After a torrid month of July, Red Sox catching prospect Ronaldo Hernandez got his August off to a solid start for Double-A Portland on Sunday.

Though the Sea Dogs ultimately fell to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats by a final score of 7-6 at Hadlock Field, Hernandez certainly did his part to prevent that from happening.

Starting at designated hitter and batting out of the six-hole, the 23-year-old went 2-for-4 with a two-run home run and two runs scored on the afternoon.

The tw0-run homer, which came off Fisher Cats reliever Graham Spraker, was Hernandez’s 11th big fly of the year and it cut Portland’s deficit down to two runs at 7-5. Tanner Nishikoa followed with a solo shot of his own to make it a one-run game, but New Hampshire was ultimately able to hold and take the series finale in a close contest.

Hernandez’s two-hit outing raised his batting line on the season to a respectable .252/.296/.467 (103 wRC+) to go along with 12 doubles, 11 home runs, 25 RBI, 24 runs scored, eight strikeouts across 59 games (223 plate appearances) on the year.

The Red Sox originally acquired Hernandez — as well as infield prospect Nick Sogard — from the Rays back in February in exchange for relievers Chris Mazza and Jeffrey Springs as well as cash considerations.

Hernandez, who does not turn 24 until November, signed with Tampa Bay for $225,000 as an international free agent out of Colombia during the 2014 signing period.

After five years in the organization, the Rays added Hernandez to their 40-man roster in November 2019 in order to protect him from that winter’s Rule 5 Draft, though he did not play another game in their system after that (but spent time on the club’s taxi squad and postseason player pool) with the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since he was a member of Tampa Bay’s 40-man roster at the time of the four-player trade from this past February, Hernandez immediately joined Boston’s 40-man roster and received an invite to major-league spring training as a result.

The right-handed hitting backstop was optioned to the Sox’ alternate training site in early March and later began the 2021 minor-league campaign with Portland.

Through his first several weeks as a member of the Sea Dogs, Hernandez — for the most part struggled — as he hit just .210/.248/.384 (67 wRC+) over 138 trips to the plate from the beginning of May until the end of June.

As soon as the calendar flipped to July, however, Hernandez seemed to turn a corner offensively, and it started with a three-hit performance against the Fisher Cats in Manchester on July 4.

Over the next four weeks, Hernandez simply lit it up at the plate. In five games between the Reading Fightin Phils from July 13-18, he amassed a total of eight hits while boasting an OPS of 1.318 thanks to putting together three multi-hit outings.

By the time the month of July came to a close over the weekend, not only had Hernandez not been traded, but he also posted a stellar .324/.378/.588 slash line (158 wRC+) in addition to clubbing four homers, driving in 13 runs, and scoring 11 of his own over his last 22 games and 68 plate appearances dating back to July 1.

Among Double-A Northeast catchers with at least 50 at-bats over the course of July, Hernandez ranked first in batting average, first in on-base percentage, first in slugging percentage, first in OPS, tied-first in hits (22), second in doubles (6), tied-second in home runs, and second in RBI.

On the other side of the ball, it appears as though Hernandez still has room to develop when it comes to what he does defensively. So far this season, the 6-foot-1, 237 pound backstop has committed six errors while allowing 10 passed balls to elude him while behind the plate. He has also thrown out 13 of 49 (26.5%) runners attempting to steal off him.

Per his Baseball America scouting report, “Hernandez has a plus arm behind the plate and moves well for a big catcher, but his receiving is fringe-average and needs to continue to improve.”

Regarded by Baseball America as the No. 13 prospect in Boston’s farm system — which ranks tops among catchers in the system, Hernandez is currently one of four backstops on the Sox’ 40-man roster alongside veterans like Christian Vazquez and Kevin Plawecki and fellow prospect Connor Wong.

Given his standing on the Red Sox’ 40-man roster, one has to wonder if Hernandez could be in line for a promotion to Triple-A Worcester before season’s end if he continues to produce at a consistent level.

Not only would promoting Hernandez to the WooSox give the Red Sox a chance to evaluate how the young backstop adjusts to a new level of competition and new pitching staff, it would also grant them the opportunity to see if Hernandez is worthy of his 40-man spot, or if it would be better suited for another prospect in need of protection from December’s Rule 5 Draft.

(Picture of Ronaldo Hernandez: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Rule 5 picks Tyreque Reed (1.166 OPS at High-A), Kaleb Ort (0.00 ERA at Triple-A) among early Red Sox minor-league standouts

Back in December, the Red Sox selected right-hander Garrett Whitlock from the Yankees in the major-league phase of the 2020 Rule 5 Draft.

Since arriving in Fort Myers for the start of spring training in February, Whitlock has done nothing but impress in his time in a Red Sox uniform to this point.

Through his first 10 appearances out of Boston’s bullpen this season, the 24-year-old rookie owns an ERA of 1.77 and an xFIP of 2.92 in addition to 21 strikeouts to just three walks over 20 1/3 innings of work.

To say that Whitlock — who had not pitched above Double-A and underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2019 before joining the Red Sox — has been one of the club’s biggest and brightest surprises this year would be an understatement.

Having said that, though, Whitlock is not the only player the Sox selected in last December’s Rule 5 Draft that has gotten his 2021 campaign off to an impressive start.

In addition to taking Whitlock, Boston also selected first baseman Tyreque Reed from the Rangers and right-hander Kaleb Ort from the Yankees in the minor-league phase of the draft.

Reed, who turns 24 next month, is a former 2017 eighth-round draft pick who played for three Texas affiliates over three seasons before joining the Red Sox organization over the winter.

Known for his power, Reed — listed at 6-foot-1 and 250 pounds — has been crushing the ball with High-A Greenville so far this spring.

Over his first eight games with the Drive, the right-handed hitter is slashing .240/.406/760 with four home runs, nine RBI, nine runs scored, and five walks in 32 trips to the plate.

His latest home run was a walk-off piece that gave Greenville a 10-9 win over the Brooklyn Cyclones at Fluor Field on Sunday.

Among the top hitters in the High-A East (formerly the South Atlantic League), Reed ranks second in homers, 10th in RBI, 11th in on-base percentage, second in slugging percentage, and second in OPS (1.166).

The Mississippi native has also struck out in 25% of his plate appearances, which he has shown the tendency to do. But by getting on-base at a solid .406 clip, Reed has proven to be effective at the plate thus far, as evidenced by his early 207 wRC+.

“Power bat,” Red Sox vice president of pro scouting Gus Quattlebaum said of Reed this past December. “Big, physical right-handed hitting first baseman with big, big power that you see not only with the scout’s naked eye but also with the batted ball data. There’s a propensity from some strikeouts. We know he’s not immune to that. We really believe in the power potential. We’re really excited to bring him into the organization.”

Kaleb Ort, meanwhile, was selected by the Red Sox in the minor-league portion of the 2020 Rule 5 Draft after spending the previous four seasons as a member of the Yankees organization.

Unlike Reed, Ort was not drafted out of college and instead began his professional career in the Frontier League (independent) before signing as an undrafted free-agent with the Diamondbacks in 2016.

After being cut by Arizona the following spring, the Michigan native returned to the Frontier League before signing with New York in May 2017.

While with the Yankees, Ort appeared in a total of 90 games across five levels between 2017-2019 prior to getting scooped up by the Red Sox in December.

After receiving an invite to big-league camp in February, the 6-foot-4, 233 pound hurler opened the 2021 season at the Sox’ alternate training site and later Triple-A Worcester.

In six appearances out of the WooSox’ bullpen thus far, the 29-year-old has been lights out, as he has allowed just one unearned run on three hits and no walks to go along with nine strikeouts over six innings pitched. He has also converted four of a possible four save opportunities in the process of emerging as Worcester’s primary closer.

“Kaleb Ort is a guy who has really stood out to me, he took the closer role and ran with it,” WooSox pitching coach Paul Abbott recently told MassLive.com’s Katie Morrison. “He’s come in and slammed the door without really any threat of a hiccup at all. He’s throwing strikes, aggressive, and he’s been impressive.”

Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, Ort works with a two-pitch mix that consists of a mid-90s fastball that can top out at 98 mph and a slider.

That two-pitch mix has proven to be a potent combination for the righty reliever thus far, as he is holding opponents to a .150 batting average against while boasting a 40.9% strikeout rate, a 0.89 FIP, and a 2.20 xFIP.

What Ort has been doing in Worcester has caught the attention of Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who got to first know him earlier this year during spring training.

“He’s a good one,” Cora said before Tuesday’s game against the Blue Jays . “His stuff plays. I really like what I saw. Velocity got better in spring training and he was throwing the ball well down there. He’s a guy we’re looking at, obviously, for the right reasons. We’re very excited with what he’s doing, what he did in spring training and what he can do, probably, in the future.”

With that, it sounds as though Ort could garner big-league consideration at some point this season if he continues to turn heads while closing out games for the WooSox.

Because the 2021 minor-league season is less than two full weeks old, it’s no sure thing that either one of Reed or Ort will be able to keep up with the level at which they are performing at at the moment.

Still, what these two Red Sox minor-league Rule 5 picks have done in their first month with their new organization has been eye-opening to say the least. If they can keep it up over the course of the summer will be something worth monitoring for sure.

(Picture of Kaleb Ort: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox prospect Kutter Crawford tosses four scoreless innings for Double-A Portland in first start back from Tommy John surgery

On Saturday, Red Sox pitching prospect Kutter Crawford made his first start of the minor-league season for Double-A Portland.

Not only was it Crawford’s first start since August 24, 2019 with the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but it was also his first start since undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2019.

Matched up against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the Double-A affiliate of the Blue Jays, at Hadlock Field over the weekend, the right-hander turned in a solid outing in his 2021 debut.

Over four innings of work, Crawford kept the Fisher Cats off the scoreboard while scattering just three hits and no walks to go along with five strikeouts on the afternoon. He retired 12 of the 15 hitters he faced in the process of throwing 54 pitches, 40 of which were strikes.

Crawford, who turned 25 last month, was originally selected by the Red Sox in the 16th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of Florida Gulf Coast University, the same school Chris Sale attended.

Signing with Boston for $125,000, the Florida native rose through the ranks and came into the 2019 season ranked as the Sox’ No. 22 prospect according to Baseball America.

Crawford opened the 2019 campaign with High-A Salem and posted a 3.39 ERA and a 77:30 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 14 starts and 69 innings of work to earn Carolina League All-Star honors.

Promoted to Portland on June 20, Crawford provided six quality innings in two of his first three Double-A starts. But after lasting just 2 2/3 innings in his fourth start on July 12, he was placed on the injured list.

From that point forward, Crawford would be sidelined for a month before making one start in his return from the IL in August before once again getting shelved for the remainder of the season.

As he explained to MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith in February, Crawford had been experiencing elbow issues throughout the 2018 and 2019 seasons. He was able to pitch through it for a quite a while, but the discomfort got to a point in 2019 where he couldn’t throw every five days.

That led to an MRI on the hurler’s right elbow, which revealed a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament that would require Tommy John surgery.

Crawford had the procedure done by Dr. James Andrews on October 29. About nine months later, he began experiencing elbow pain again while getting back into his throwing program and would have to have bone spurs removed from his right elbow as a result.

Since then, Crawford has obviously been able to get back on track to the point where he was ready for the start of the minor-league season. His pitch arsenal still consists of a fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup.

“One of my main focuses with the rehab throwing was to shorten my arm action a little bit,” Crawford told Smith. “I had this little hitch in 2019. I don’t really know how it developed. I didn’t have it in college. But I started having this little hitch. And that was really one of my main focuses: getting rid of that hitch and also trying to shorten my arm path just to make it more efficient so it can work a little bit easier.” 

With that new arm action in tow, Crawford will look to re-establish himself as a legitimate pitching prospect that caught people’s attention in 2018 and 2019.

The 6-foot-1, 192 pound hurler out of Okeechobee, Fla. can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this December. The Red Sox would need to add him to their 40-man roster by November 20 in order to prevent that from happening.

(Picture of Kutter Crawford: Jill Brady/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Alex Cora on rookie Garrett Whitlock: ‘From what he does in the bullpens to the weight room to the training room — even carrying the beer on the plane. It’s kind of like perfect’

Regardless of the situation, Garrett Whitlock continues to get outs for the Red Sox on a consistent basis.

The latest instance of that came in Wednesday’s contest against the Mets, when the rookie right-hander was deployed in the sixth inning of a game the Sox had a one-run lead in.

Needing all of 31 pitches, Whitlock retired six of the eight batters he faced while striking out four over the course of two scoreless frames of relief in the sixth and seventh. He later picked up his third hold of the season.

Since making his major-league debut on April 4, the 24-year-old has yet to allow a run on just six hits and two walks to go along with 18 strikeouts over six outings and 13 1/3 innings pitched out of the bullpen.

“He keeps growing. He keeps getting better,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Whitlock on Thursday. “Yesterday was fun to watch. 1-0 game in New York, and to give us six outs where we were bullpen-wise, it was amazing. So he keeps growing, he keeps learning, he keeps getting better. And he’s an important piece of our bullpen.”

Prior to being selected by the Red Sox from the Yankees in last December’s Rule 5 Draft, Whitlock had not pitched above the Double-A level and had last pitched in a minor-league game in 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery that summer.

In his three seasons as a Yankees minor-leaguer, the 2017 18th-round draft pick never once swung a bat, but he nearly had to do so on Wednesday in a National League ballpark.

Cora asked Whitlock how many hits he had in the minor-leagues because his spot was coming up in the Sox’ lineup. The righty told him he had zero.

“And I was like, ‘Well, you better be ready. You might have to hit in the big-leagues,'” recalled Cora. Whitlock responded with a simple, “Whatever you need.”

To say Cora and the rest of the Red Sox brass have been impressed with Whitlock to this point would probably be an understatement. Not only is the Georgia native, who Cora described as “a cool individual,” dazzling while on the mound. He is making positive impressions off the field as well.

“He just goes about his business,” said Cora. “He trusts his stuff. He has a clean delivery. He throws a lot of strikes. And the stuff is that good. You saw it yesterday. That two-seamer in to [Jonathan] Villar, that was really good. We talked about it the first week. You guys asked me, ‘Who caught your attention? ‘ It was him. From what he does in the bullpens to the weight room to the training room — even carrying the beer on the plane. It’s kind of like perfect. Everything’s so structured. So we’ve got a good one.”

Per Baseball Savant, Whitlock currently ranks in the 98th percentile in expected weighted on-base average, the 98th percentile in expected ERA, the 89th percentile in expected batting average, the 93rd percentile in expected slugging percentage, the 93rd percentile in strikeout rate, and the 90th percentile in chase rate.

In simpler terms, he has done an effective job of mixing his sinker, changeup, four-seam fastball, and slider thus far.

“He’s competing since day one in spring training,” Cora said. “It wasn’t a given that he was going to make the team. Since day one, he’s been competing. He never showed hesitation about his work or what we were preaching to him. He just keeps going and it’s fun to watch. In an era that everybody puts pressure on people and everybody’s in the spotlight and everybody knows what you are doing because of social media, he’s just the same Garrett as when we got to spring training February 11.”

Whitlock, who turns 25 in June, would be under team control with the Red Sox through 2026 if he sticks on the club’s big-league roster for the remainder of the season.

(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: David Berding/Getty Images)

Rule 5 pick Garrett Whitlock makes Red Sox’ Opening Day roster; ‘His reaction was priceless,’ Alex Cora says

It goes without saying that Garrett Whitlock has been one of the feel-good stories at Red Sox camp throughout the spring.

Selected from the Yankees organization in the Rule 5 Draft over the winter, Whitlock came into camp with the proposition of having to stick on the Sox’ active roster throughout the entirety of the 2021 season or he would otherwise be offered back to his former club.

That may seem like a daunting task for a 24-year-old right-hander who hadn’t pitched in an organized minor-league game since 2019 and was working his way back from Tommy John surgery, but Whitlock has clearly been up to the challenge.

Through four Grapefruit League appearances this spring, the Georgia native has allowed just one earned run on eight hits and no walks to go along with 12 strikeouts over nine total innings of work.

To say Whitlock has been impressive would be an understatement, and he was informed on Thursday that he made the Sox’ Opening Day roster.

“Yesterday we informed Garrett Whitlock that he made the team,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora announced Friday morning. “With everything he’s done throughout camp, not only on the field but also the way he acts, the way he conducts himself. That adds to the equation, and we were very pleased to tell him yesterday.”

Whitlock, a former 18th-round draft pick of the Yankees out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2019. His recovery from the procedure coincided with the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re going to be careful with him, obviously,” Cora said. “He’s a Rule 5 pick and he hasn’t pitched in a while. But everything we’ve seen has been good. So he’ll be with us. It’s another addition, and obviously we have to make decisions in the upcoming days, but I do believe this is a solid bullpen.”

While Cora added that the game will dictate how Whitlock will be used, it does seem likely that the lanky righty — despite having 38 career minor-league starts under his belt — will be used in a swingman role with more of an emphasis on pitching multiple innings out of the bullpen when needed.

The Red Sox are planning on carrying 14 pitchers on their 26-man Opening Day roster. For Cora, informing Whitlock that he would be one of those 14 pitchers was a very enjoyable experience.

“He can be a Rule 5 or a 10-year vet, but the way he threw the ball — you guys saw it — he’s getting better and better,” said the Sox skipper. “It’s one of those that as a manager, as a president of baseball operations, GM, whatever, it’s a great moment when you tell somebody that you’re going to be a big-leaguer.

“His reaction was priceless,” added Cora. “It’s all about him. The organization did their homework and we decided to draft him. From there on, it was up to him and he did everything possible to make the team. And I know he’s not going to stop. Trying to keep getting better, studying the game, doing all the right things for him to get to the next level.”

It’s been a unique journey for Whitlock to get to where he is today being on the cusp of making his major-league debut at some point next month.

The 6-foot-5, 190 pound hurler mentioned earlier this spring that getting “to play a kid’s game for a living” is extremely fun and that he’s looking forward to embracing whichever role he is given with his new team out of the chute.

“My college coach told me the best pitching advice I’ve ever had,” Whitlock said while reflecting on his time at UAB. “And that was: ‘When they hand you the ball to go get outs, you go get outs until they come take the ball away from you.’ And so whatever role that is, that’s always going to be my mindset.”

(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Rule 5 pick Garrett Whitlock shaping up to be potential ‘secret weapon’ for Red Sox pitching staff

It wasn’t too long ago that Garrett Whitlock was at a crossroads in his professional baseball career.

The lanky right-hander — originally selected by the Yankees in the 18th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of University of Alabama — had his 2019 season cut short after undergoing Tommy John surgery that July.

He didn’t know it at the time, but Whitlock had pitched in his last game as a member of the Yankees organization on July 3, 2019 as his recovery from Tommy John coincided with the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The deadline for clubs to add Rule 5-eligble players to their 40-man rosters came and went in November, and Whitlock — who was eligible — was not added by New York, meaning he was now eligible for the 2020 Rule 5 Draft.

The following month, the 24-year-old was taken off the board by the Red Sox, breathing new life into his baseball journey as a kid from Snellville, Ga.

By being selected by Boston in the Rule 5 Draft, Whitlock was now tasked with making Boston’s Opening Day roster out of spring training and sticking there for the entirety of the 2021 season or he would otherwise have to be offered back to his former club.

Prior to joining the Red Sox over the winter, Whitlock had primarily served as a starter in his time with the Yankees organization, but given the fact his new team is flush with starting pitching depth, a spot in Boston’s Opening Day rotation was essentially out of the question.

Instead, the 6-foot-5, 190 pound righty was to be made a swingman of sorts who could pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen or make a spot start or two when needed.

He was to still be stretched out over the course of the spring, but not with the intentions of being a fulltime starter once the season begins.

Thus far, handing down that role to Whitlock has netted nothing but positive results at big-league camp in Fort Myers.

Through his first four Grapefruit League appearances, the Georgia native has yielded just one earned run on eight hits, no walks, and 12 strikeouts over nine total innings of work, most recently fanning five Rays hitters over three scoreless, no-hit frames at JetBlue Park on Friday afternoon.

“What Garrett did today, that was impressive,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “But he’s been doing that the whole spring. It’s a good fastball. He’s able to elevate with it late in counts, and it was a great day for him.”

For someone who had not pitched in a competitive environment in nearly two years, the way in which Whitlock has gone about his business on and off the mound has stood out to Cora.

“He was hungry to compete,” said the Sox skipper. “He hasn’t been able to compete in a while. And he’s bought into the concept of the things that we do here, and he’s executing. He’s very talented… He watches every bullpen, he watches the B games, he goes to sim games, and he goes to the dugout when he’s not pitching. That makes you a better baseball player, and in his case it makes him a better pitcher.

“I think it’s that confidence that he has,” Cora added. “First of all, we trust him, right? Because we decided to pick him in the Rule 5 after coming from surgery. Second, with the things that we’re preaching and what he’s doing, he has to feel great. But one thing about him, he’ll show up tomorrow and he’ll ask a question: ‘What can I do better?’ That’s the key of this thing and he’s done that the whole camp.”

Working the sixth through eighth innings of Friday’s contest against the Rays, Whitlock, donning the No. 72, was one of three pitchers who relieved starter Nathan Eovaldi.

A fellow right-hander who knows the ins-and-outs of Tommy John surgery, it’s safe to say Eovaldi has been impressed with what he’s seen from Whitlock so far at camp.

“I’m very excited for him,” Eovaldi said during his in-game media availability. “The first time I saw him throw at spring training, it was early in camp and I was impressed. He’s got a great changeup, he’s got great command, he’s quiet, he’s very quiet and determined to be a part of this team, and he’s going about his business the right way.

“So I’m not surprised with what he’s been able to do out there on the field just because of the way he’s handling himself in and around the clubhouse and out there in the bullpen,” the fireballer added. “He’s kind of our secret weapon right there, so he’s looking great.”

Whitlock himself is not taking anything for granted this spring. He explained on Friday how undergoing Tommy John surgery changed his perspective on multiple facets of his life — including his faith — and how he is just overjoyed to be playing baseball for a living.

“When you have an operation like Tommy John, it’s never given that you’re going to play again,” he said. “I promised to myself that if I was going to get a second chance and I was going to be back out on the field, I would never take a day for granted again. Because every little kid’s dream is to play professional baseball, and I don’t care if it’s in the [Gulf Coast League] level or the major-league level, I get to play a kid’s game for a living. It’s so much fun.”

Given how he has performed this spring, Whitlock, as previously mentioned, is a sure bet to make the Sox’ Opening Day roster as a swingman/hybrid-type reliever who can also start when necessary.

Regardless of what role he undertakes beginning April 1, though, Whitlock will just be going out there to do his job, or in other words, get outs. That is something that was drilled into him during his time at UAB.

“My college coach told me the best pitching advice I’ve ever had,” he recalled. “And that was: ‘When they hand you the ball to go get outs, you go get outs until they come take the ball away from you.’ And so whatever role that is, that’s always going to be my mindset.”

(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Matt Andriese, Garrett Whitlock already proving to be interesting pieces of Red Sox’ 2021 pitching staff puzzle

In going about upgrading their pitching staff over the winter, one thing the Red Sox clearly targeted was versatility.

Looking past the additions of traditional starters such as Garrett Richards and Martin Perez and traditional relievers such as Adam Ottavino and Hirokazu Sawamura, two names that stand out in this particular category of pitcher are right-handers Garrett Whitlock and Matt Andriese.

Whitlock, 24, was acquired by Boston in the major-league phase of the 2020 Rule 5 Draft from the Yankees organization.

A former 18th-round draft selection of New York back in 2017 out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Whitlock comes into Red Sox camp having never pitched above the Double-A level. He also has not appeared in an organized minor-league game since undergoing Tommy John surgery in July 2019.

Having said all that, the 6-foot-5, 190 lb. hurler out of Georgia does bring with him a lifetime 2.41 ERA and 1.16 WHIP over 42 total appearances (38 starts) and 205 1/3 total innings pitched across four minor-league levels since 2017.

Equipped with a groundball-inducing pitch mix that consists of a mid-90s fastball, a low-80s slider, and a changeup (per Baseball America), Whitlock must make Boston’s Opening Day roster and remain on the major-league roster for the entirety of the season if the Sox do not want to offer him back to their division rivals.

With that in mind, the Red Sox will surely find a way to utilize Whitlock properly in 2021. His new manager, Alex Cora, already seems pretty high on him.

“Whitlock is a guy that I’ll be paying a lot of attention to,” Cora said Saturday when speaking with reporters via Zoom. “He plays the part. He threw a bullpen yesterday (Friday). It was very impressive. The most impressive thing about him is the way he acts. The way he takes care of his body and what he does. He’s a very quiet kid. He knows what he wants to do. I’m looking forward to see him pitch and see where he takes us.”

As for Andriese, the Red Sox signed the 31-year-old right-hander to a one-year, $1.85 million contract for the 2021 season back in December. The deal also includes a $3.5 million club option for 2022 or a $250,000 buyout is said option is declined.

Over the course of a six-year major-league career between the Rays, Diamondbacks, and Angels, Andriese owns a lifetime ERA of 4.57 and a lifetime FIP of 4.23 over 183 total outings — 50 of which were starts — and 460 2/4 innings of work dating back to 2015.

Like Whitlock, Andriese could carve out a role for himself as a swingman for the Sox in 2021.

At the time his signing was made official over the winter, the California native said he believed his role with Boston going into the spring would be to compete for a starting rotation spot, but he also acknowledged that “being in the bullpen is also an option to help the team.”

Going off the notion that he is flexible with his role, Cora said Tuesday that the Red Sox would stretch Andriese out as a starter this spring, but have him ready to do anything once the season begins in April.

“He’s a good pitcher. Good stuff, good fastball, good changeup,” said Cora in regards to the 6-foot-2, 215 lb. hurler. “Actually today, me and Christian [Vazquez] were talking about him. Important role. We’re going to stretch him as a starter and see where we go throughout spring training. He’ll be ready to do anything. He’ll be our utility guy in the pitching staff, and you need those guys. We saw it in ’18, we saw it in ’19 when it didn’t work. Guys like that, they save bullpens, they save the rotation, they help the manager a lot to get some sleep at night. He’s been good.”

Cora added that he believed Andriese proved to be a valuable member of the Angels’ pitching staff last year, which is evident by the fact that he posted a 1.65 ERA and .373 OPS against over his final 10 relief appearances and 16 1/3 innings pitched of the season.

“Besides that, great teammate. Puts work in the weight room. Very smart about pitching,” Cora said. “Guys like that, they’re going to make us better.”

(Picture of Matt Andriese: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Newest Red Sox prospect Tyreque Reed someone club had ‘kept an eye on’ even before selecting him in minor-league phase of 2020 Rule 5 Draft

Even before selecting him in the minor-league phase of last week’s Rule 5 Draft, the Red Sox had been interested in former Texas Rangers first base prospect Tyreque Reed for quite a while, according to the club’s vice president of pro scouting Gus Quattlebaum.

“With Tyreque — a power bat — he’s going to enter his 24-year-old season. [He’s] currently 23,” Quattlebaum said of Reed when speaking with reporters via Zoom this past Thursday. “Big, physical right-handed hitting first baseman with big, big power that you see not only with the scouts’ naked eye, but also with the batted-ball data.”

A former eighth-round draft selection of the Rangers back in 2017 who was previously committed to Mississippi State, Reed has proven that his power tool has plenty of potential in his short time as a professional. The Itawamba Community College (MS) product hit exactly 18 home runs in each of his first two full minor-league seasons.

Before the 2019 campaign even began, Reed entered the year as Texas’ No. 21 prospect, per Baseball America.

In addition to the 18 home runs he belted, the Mississippi native also racked up 24 doubles and 67 RBI while slashing .270/.365/.487 over exactly 100 games played between three minor-league levels.

Despite posting a solid .852 OPS in 2019, Reed also dealt with his fair share of strikeouts, as he punched out in 28.6% of his 126 plate appearances with High-A Hickory. That aspect of his offensive approach is certainly something the Red Sox are aware of.

“There’s some prepotency for some strikeouts,” Quattlebaum added. “We know he’s not immune to that. But, we really believe in the power potential, so we’re excited to bring him into the organization. He’s been someone we’ve kept an eye on even outside of the Rule 5 context.”

A former three-sport athlete in high school, Reed initially played some corner outfield in his debut season upon signing with Texas in 2017, but he has since reverted to becoming a full-time first baseman due to a limited defensive profile.

As noted by SoxProspects.com’s Ian Cundall, Reed, who was not included in the Rangers’ 60-man player pool at any point this past year, is projected to begin the 2021 season with either Low-A Salem or High-A Greenville.

And although he was selected in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft, the 6-foot-1, 250 lb. infielder does not face any kind of roster restrictions moving forward now that he is a member of the Red Sox organization.

Red Sox select right-hander Garrett Whitlock from Yankees in major-league phase of 2020 Rule 5 Draft

For the second consecutive year under chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, the Red Sox partook in in the major-league portion of Major League Baseball’s Rule 5 Draft, selecting right-hander Garrett Whitlock from the Yankees organization.

Whitlock, 24, was originally drafted by New York in the 18th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

A native of Georgia, Whitlock most recently pitched at the Double-A level in 2019, posting a 3.07 ERA and 3.09 xFIP over 14 starts and 70 1/3 innings pitched for Trenton before undergoing Tommy John surgery last July.

The 6-foot-5, 190 lb. righty relies on a three-pitch mix that includes an average sinker, slider, and changeup, per his FanGraphs scouting report. He also works from a lower arm slot, which allows him to add more deception to his delivery.

Based off the fact he underwent Tommy John last summer, Whitlock should be ready for the start of the 2021 season, especially when you consider the fact he was up to 94 mph in August.

Assuming Whitlock is healthy and is still on the team come February, one might expect him to compete for a spot either at the back end of Boston’s starting rotation or as a swingman capable of providing multiple innings out of the bullpen. We will have to wait and see on that.

With the addition of Whitlock, the Red Sox’ 40-man roster currently sits at 39 players.

And of course, as noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, “Boston paid New York $100,000 for [Whitlock]. He must remain on the active roster the entire 2021 season (barring an injured list stint) or be offered back to his previous club, the Yankees, for $50,000.”

Red Sox could target minor-leaguers with local connections in upcoming Rule 5 Draft

The 2020 Rule 5 Draft, which provides clubs without a full 40-man roster to add unprotected, non-40-man roster players from other clubs, is this coming Thursday.

The Red Sox, having traded left-hander Yoan Aybar to the Rockies and outrighted utilityman Yairo Munoz to Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday, have opened up two spots on their 40-man roster as the (virtual) Winter Meetings’ closing event draws ever closer.

Opening up those two spots, which brings Boston’s 40-man roster down to 38 players ahead of Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft, would seem to indicate that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. are going to be busy the rest of the week.

Bloom’s general manager, Weymouth native Brian O’Halloran, was rather coy when asked about the possibility of the Sox targeting someone in the Rule 5 Draft.

“I would not rule that out,” he said when speaking with reporters via Zoom on Monday.

Right around this time last year, the Red Sox selected then-infield prospect Jonathan Aruaz from the Astros organization in the 2019 Rule 5 Draft. Arauz, 22, was able to remain on Boston’s active roster for the entirety of the 2020 season, meaning the club now has full control of him moving forward.

All things considered, it may have been easier for the Sox to keep Arauz on their major-league roster this past season considering how non-competitive they were. Given the team’s expectations for 2021, holding on to a Rule 5 player may be a tougher task for a club planning to contend for a World Series title.

“Generally speaking, it’s a little bit harder to carry a Rule 5 player when you have a team that’s built to compete for a championship and the postseason,” O’Halloran said. “It doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. Circumstances matter, certainly the player matters. Who the player is and whether he can compete and how you think he can hold his own in the big-leagues, what he brings to the table. But it definitely can be more of a challenge for sure.”

Again, in Bloom’s first offseason as chief baseball officer, the Red Sox did not hesitate to add a Rule 5 player. Doing so this year may be more of a challenge initially, but as O’Halloran said, that possibility cannot be ruled out. Especially when you consider the fact that Boston will have the fourth-highest priority, or fourth overall pick, in this year’s Rule 5 Draft since they finished with the fourth-worst record in baseball in 2020.

Regarding who the Red Sox could target in the upcoming Rule 5, there are two players I would like to highlight here, both of whom hail from Massachusetts.

First off, there’s Malden native Paul Campbell, who was left off the Rays’ 40-man roster last month.

The 25-year-old right-handed pitching prospect was originally drafted by Tampa Bay out of Clemson University in the 21st round of the 2017 amateur draft.

Regarded by MLB Pipeline as the Rays’ No. 24 prospect at the moment, Campbell most recently posted a 3.67 ERA and .238 batting average against over 27 outings (20 starts) and 144 2/3 innings of work between High-A Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery in 2019.

A graduate of Salisbury High School in Connecticut, Campbell worked almost exclusively as a long reliever in college, which would likely be his role on a major-league roster in 2021.

Per his MLB Pipeline scouting report, the 6-foot, 210 lb. righty’s pitch mix includes a 92-95 mph fastball with elite spin rate, an 89-90 mph cutter, a changeup, and a curveball.

Given the fact that he is still a member of the Rays organization, Campbell likely knows Bloom in some capacity, so there could be something there depending on the Sox’ level of interest.

Next, there’s West Roxbury native Packy Naughton, who was left off the Angels’ 40-man roster just months after being acquired from the Reds in exchange for outfielder Brian Goodwin.

Another pitcher, the 24-year-old left-handed pitching prospect was originally selected by Cincinnati in the ninth round of the 2017 amateur draft out of Virginia Tech.

Prior to getting dealt to the Halos, Naughton worked exclusively as a starter in 2019, posting a solid 3.32 ERA over 28 outings and 157 innings pitched between High-A Daytona and Double-A Chattanooga. He recorded 131 punchouts in those 157 frames of work.

An alumnus of Boston Latin School, the 6-foot-2, 195 lb. southpaw is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the Angels’ No. 12 prospect. Per his FanGraphs scouting report, Naughton, who has experience as a reliever in college, is “funky and deceptive, hides the ball well, creates tough angle in on righties’ hands, and then drops that changeup on them.”

His pitch mix — fastball, slider, changeup — may not be all that electric, but Naughton has shown the ability to record outs in crucial situations while also being quite athletic for a pitcher. At the major-league level, he could undertake “a multi-inning relief role a la Ryan Yarbrough.”

So, here we have just two candidates with local connections that the Red Sox could consider taking in Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft. There are other interesting unprotected prospects up for grabs as well, such as former first-round draft pick Riley Pint, but for the time being I simply wanted to highlight Campbell and Naughton.