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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Red Sox pitching prospect Durbin Feltman on Rule 5 Draft getting cancelled: ‘It was kind of a gut punch’

Under normal circumstances, Red Sox pitching prospect Durbin Feltman likely would have been targeted by other clubs this off-season. Not via trade, but via the Rule 5 Draft.

After a bounce-back 2021 season in which he posted a 2.96 ERA and 3.87 FIP with 62 strikeouts to 14 walks over 39 relief appearances (51 2/3 innings pitched) between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Worcester, Feltman was left off Boston’s 40-man roster last November.

That decision left the right-handed reliever up for grabs in the 2021 Rule 5 Draft, which was set to take place the following month. Instead, the months-long MLB lockout postponed the Rule 5 Draft indefinitely until it was cancelled altogether last week.

As a result of that move, players who could be on the verge of the major-leagues but are blocked by others in their organization were denied the opportunity to go elsewhere and potentially thrive with a new team. The Red Sox were the beneficiaries of this last year when they scooped up Garrett Whitlock from the Yankees.

Unable to live out his own Whitlock-like dream as a Rule 5 pick this year, Feltman — who turns 25 next month — recently expressed his frustration to WEEI’s Rob Bradford.

“It was frustrating and disappointing when they made that decision to not put me on the 40-man in November,” Feltman said. “So my goal my whole off-season was do everything I can to be a Rule 5 Draft pick. And then to see that canceled was kind of a gut punch — kind of like making the playoffs and them canceling the whole postseason. That’s out of my control now, so now it’s going back to work and trying to debut with the Red Sox.

“It was really frustrating when they came out with the news,” he added. “It’s kind of heart-breaking. You can’t control it anymore, so just keep going from there. Everybody hopes for an opportunity, especially with the Rule 5. It’s almost like a lottery ticket. … [When the lockout was extended], I could kind of read the writing on the wall, but I didn’t want to believe it until they actually came out with it and then it hurt even more. Yeah, it sucks.”

A former third-round draft pick of the Red Sox out of Texas Christian University in 2018, Feltman is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 48 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

While he may not have been added to the Sox’ 40-man roster last fall, the hard-throwing righty did just receive an invite to major-league spring training in Fort Myers after participating in minor-league camp. Earlier last week, Alex Cora remarked that Feltman “physically looks really good.”

The 24-year-old hurler is projected by SoxProspects.com to return to Worcester’s bullpen for the start of the 2022 season. As he told Bradford, though, his goal is to make his big-league debut with the Red Sox this year.

(Picture of Durbin Feltman: Katie Morrison/MassLive)

What to expect from power-hitting Red Sox prospect Tyreque Reed in 2022

Red Sox first base/outfield prospect Tyreque Reed was recently identified by Baseball America’s Geoff Pontes as a minor-league hitter who displayed power and on-base skills in 2021 and should be worth monitoring in 2022.

Reed, 24, was selected by the Sox in the minor-league phase of the 2020 Rule 5 Draft after spending the first four years of his professional career in the Rangers organization.

A former eighth-round draft pick of the Rangers out of Itawamba Community College in 2017, Reed had made it as far as the High-A level in his time with Texas before the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 minor-league season.

Upon joining the Red Sox organization that December, Reed returned to the High-A level for the start of the 2021 campaign as he broke minor-league camp with the Greenville Drive.

In his first 48 games for Greenville, the hulking right-handed hitter batted an impressive .296/.405/.587 (160 wRC+) to go along with eight doubles, one triple, 14 home runs, 50 RBIs, 40 runs scored, four stolen bases, 30 walks, and 55 strikeouts across 215 plate appearances.

Following a 3-for-3 showing against the Asheville Tourists on July 15, Reed was promoted to Double-A Portland on the very same day fellow first baseman Triston Casas left the Sea Dogs to play for Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics.

With an uptick in competition level, Reed saw his strikeout rate rise (25.6% to 33.5%) and his walk rate fall (14.0% to 11.2%) with Portland while slashing .239/.335/.370 (95 wRC+) with nine doubles, three homers, 21 RBIs, 20 runs scored, 18 walks, and 54 strikeouts over 44 games spanning 161 trips to the plate.

On the 2021 season as a whole, Reed interestingly fared far better against right-handed pitching (.933 OPS in 291 PAs) than he did against lefties (.634 OPS in 85 PAs).

Defensively, the 6-foot-1, 250 pounder saw the majority of his playing time between Greenville and Portland come at first base. He committed a total of three errors while logging 499 innings at that position and also logged 148 innings as a left fielder in Portland.

Reed, who turns 25 in June, is not regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system. As noted by Pontes, the Mississippi native’s “carrying tool has long been his power, but his struggles with contact have led to struggles against spin and more advanced pitching.”

With all that being said, Reed is projected by SoxProspects.com to return to Portland for the start of the 2022 season, which begins in one month. Perhaps he can use what he learned last year and make the necessary adjustments to get off to a fast start this spring.

(Picture of Tyreque Reed: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Don’t forget about Red Sox prospect Devlin Granberg

Even with the ongoing lockout delaying the start of the 2022 Major League Baseball Season, the 2022 minor-league season remains unaffected. And while prospects on the 40-man roster are still impacted by the work stoppage, all other Red Sox minor-leaguers begin their version of spring training this Sunday.

Out of the dozens of players who have been and who will be pouring into the Fort Myers-area in the coming days, one name to watch for is first baseman/outfielder Devlin Granberg.

Granberg, 26, is admittedly older for your prototypical prospect. The Sox originally drafted the Dallas Baptist University senior in the sixth round of the 2018 amateur draft and later signed him for just $40,000.

After beginning his professional career with the Lowell Spinners and splitting the 2019 campaign between Boston’s two Class-A affilates, Granberg was met with somewhat of a roadblock when the 2020 minor-league season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He did not receive an invite to the Red Sox’ alternate training site that summer, nor did he participate in the team’s fall instructional league. Still, according to director of player development Brian Abraham, Granberg was one of several players who came into camp last year and “immediately impressed with the strides they’d made during a year away.”

On the heels of such an impressive spring, Granberg opened the 2021 minor-league season with High-A Greenville. The right-handed hitter got off to a scorching start for the Drive, batting .326/.416/.642 (174 wRC+) with seven doubles, one triple, seven home runs, 29 RBIs, 21 runs scored, one stolen base, 12 walks, and 16 strikeouts over 27 games (113 plate appearances) before earning a promotion to Double-A Portland on June 16.

Upon arriving in Portland, Granberg picked up right where he left off in terms of offensive production. He cooled down for a bit in August, but rebounded in September to end his year by slashing .286/.331/.469 (117 wRC+) with 16 doubles, one triple, 10 homers, 45 RBIs, 48 runs scored, four stolen bases, 11 walks, and 54 strikeouts across 69 games (281 plate appearances) with the Sea Dogs.

In a conversation with FanGraphs’ David Laurila last July, Granberg described himself as “immobile” and his short, compact swing as “one of the more interesting swings out there” since it is unconventional.

“I would say it’s pretty rotational, yet not totally rotational,” he said. “It’s kind of like those combo swings — not too crouched, maybe a little bit open, and then I stride into it. I’m trying to hit the ball middle/opposite field most of the time.”

Defensively, Granberg saw playing time at four different positions between Greenville and Portland in 2021. The 6-foot-2, 224 pounder logged 138 innings at first base, 194 innings in left field, nine innings in center field, and 303 1/3 innings in right field while recording a total of two outfield assists.

Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, Granberg “has more defensive upside at first base” than he does in the outfield since he possesses fringe-average arm strength and average range.

Granberg, who does not turn 27 until September, is not regarded by SoxProspects.com as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system. The Colorado native is currently projected by the site to begin the 2022 season where he left off in 2021: Portland.

That being said, Granberg is still eligible for the Rule 5 Draft since he was left off the Red Sox’ 40-man roster in November. On Friday, Baseball America’s Josh Norris reported that the Rule 5 Draft “is expected to take place a week after a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is in place,” though it could end up getting cancelled if the lockout continues to drag on.

(Picture of Devlin Granberg: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Where do things stand with Red Sox outfield prospect Gilberto Jiménez heading into 2022 season?

After showing out at fall instructs in 2020 and receiving his first invite to big-league camp the following spring, it really seemed like Red Sox outfield prospect Gilberto Jimenez was primed for a breakout year in 2021.

Jimenez came into the year regarded by Baseball America as the No. 7 prospect and top athlete in Boston’s farm system. Upon completion of minor-league spring training, Jimenez opened and ultimately spent the entirety of the 2021 season with Low-A Salem.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the minor-league season in 2020, the highest level Jimenez had reached was short-season Lowell. As a member of the Salem Red Sox, the switch-hitting outfielder batted .306/.346/.405 with 16 doubles, six triples, three home runs, 56 RBIs, 64 runs scored, 13 stolen bases, 19 walks, and 86 strikeouts over 94 games and 408 plate appearances.

On the surface, a 21-year-old hitting .306 in his first full season of pro ball hardly seems like anything worth complaining about. In Jimenez’s case, however, 89 of his 114 hits (78%) went for singles and he only put up a slightly-above-average 105 wRC+. His 4.7% walk rate also ranked among the lowest in the Low-A East last year.

Defensively, Jimenez saw time at all three outfield positions for Salem. He logged 375 2/3 innings in center field, 247 1/3 innings in right field, and 126 1/3 innings in left field while committing a total of four errors.

Because of how he performed on both sides of the ball, scouts were relatively low on Jimenez as of last fall, according to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall.

“Scouts are down on him based on how he performed this year because he didn’t show the ability to impact the baseball,” Cundall wrote in November. “He made little progress with his approach and was inconsistent on defense.”

Baseball America’s prospect rankings reflect this as well considering the fact that Jimenez has fallen out of the Red Sox’ 2022 top 10 list, which was compiled by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

When asked by a reader back if his confidence in Jimenez took a hit in 2021, Speier responded by saying: “The fact that he’s not a top-10 guy suggests as much. He hasn’t made many strides in terms of plate discipline or driving the ball in the air, and the longer he goes without doing so, the harder it is to imagine him getting anywhere near the ceiling suggested by his exceptional athleticism and speed.”

Jimenez, who originally signed with the Red Sox for just $10,000 as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2017, is one of several minor-leaguers eligible for the Rule 5 Draft (if there is a Rule 5 Draft, that is) since he was not added to Boston’s 40-man roster last fall.

As many others (including The Athletic’s Keith Law) have already suggested, it would be surprising to see another team take Jimenez in the Rule 5 since he has only played as high as the Low-A level. Opposing clubs could attempt to stash the speedster on their bench for the entirety of the 2022 major-league season, but they would be risking his development by doing so.

Before the deadline to add Rule 5-eligible players to the 40-man roster came and went in November, there was some speculation that Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. would entertain the idea of trading a minor-leaguer like Jimenez if they were not going to include him.

That ultimately did not happen, but the possibility remains that Boston could move Jimenez as part of a bigger deal once the MLB lockout eventually comes to a close.

It does feel worth mentioning that Jimenez, who turns 22 in July, was one of three outfielders who participated in the team’s Winter Warm-Up program in Fort Myers last month alongside Nick Decker and Tyler Dearden.

Under the assumption that Jimenez remains with the Red Sox organization through the start of the 2022 minor-league season, the 5-foot-11, 212 pounder is projected by SoxProspects.com to start out the year with High-A Greenville.

(Picture of Gilberto Jimenez: Gary Streiffer/Flickr)

Could Red Sox lose pitching prospect Durbin Feltman in Rule 5 Draft?

If there is a Rule 5 Draft before the start of the 2022 MLB season, the Red Sox — like all other teams — will be at risk of losing some minor-league players.

After adding the likes of Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford, Josh Winckowski, and Jeter Downs to their 40-man roster in November, Boston now has 60 minor-leaguers who are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, according to SoxProspects.com.

The major-league phase of the 2021 Rule 5 Draft was scheduled to take place during December’s winter meetings, but was and remains indefinitely postponed as a result of the ongoing lockout.

As of now, there is no guarantee that a Rule 5 Draft will take place before the season starts or there will be a 2022 major-league season to begin with. Under the assumption that a deal gets between MLB and the MLBPA gets done within the next few weeks, FanGraphs’ Kevin Goldstein wrote on Monday that front offices believe “they will get somewhere in the neighborhood of seven days from the joint presser of an agreement and starting spring training.”

At the time the Red Sox protected the four previously listed prospects from the Rule 5 Drat last fall, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom had mentioned how it was difficult to determine how many players they would be protecting and how many they would wind up exposing.

“We had a few tough calls, and I think some of that is a credit to the depth we built up in the system,” said Bloom. “Any time you add someone or leave someone off, in some sense it’s a calculated gamble. Over time, you learn sometimes the best way to lose a player is to add somebody that you shouldn’t. It might lead to you being in a crunch down the road, experiencing that pain of losing a player in another way, whether it’s that [unprotected] player or someone else.

“Knowing there are other things we want to accomplish this off-season with our 40-man roster and players we’d like to bring in both during the off-season and as we get into next year, wanting to have as much space as possible, that’s something you have to factor into the decisions you make,” he added. “So there were a few that were not easy, but ultimately, this is how we felt most comfortable.”

By adding four prospects to their 40-man roster in November, the Sox brought up the size of their 40-man to 37 players. They then non-tendered outfielder Tim Locastro, signed a trio of veteran pitchers (Michael Wacha, Rich Hill, and James Paxton) to major-league deals, and traded Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers for fellow outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. as well as a pair of prospects.

That flurry of moves increased the size of Boston’s 40-man roster to 39 players right before the lockout commenced on Dec. 2. It remains that way to this day thanks to the work stoppage.

Based off what Goldstein wrote, though, it does appear that the Rule 5 Draft is still on and will be completed before Opening Day — whenever that may be.

With that being said, The Athletic’s Keith Law recently suggested that the Red Sox could lose pitching prospect Durbin Feltman in the Rule 5 Draft if it does indeed happen.

Feltman, who turns 25 in April, was originally selected by Boston in the third round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Texas Christian University. The right-handed reliever opened the 2021 season with Double-A Portland and closed it with Triple-A Worcester.

Between the two levels, Feltman posted a 2.96 ERA and and 3.87 FIP to go along with 62 strikeouts to just 14 walks over 39 appearances spanning 51 2/3 innings of work.

Despite those solid numbers, the 24-year-old was not added to the Sox’ 40-man roster in November, thus leaving him eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.

“Feltman had a solid year between Double and Triple A, working more in the low 90s now, topping out at 95 mph instead of the upper 90s he showed in college,” Law wrote of the righty. “He walked just four guys in 24 Triple-A innings to close out the season, and since the Red Sox declined to add him to their 40-man roster, he seems likely to be a Rule 5 pick for someone.”

Given the fact that he was left off the Red Sox’ 40-man roster, it does seem like the club is relatively low on Feltman at this point. This is reflected by him not receiving an invite to the team’s Winter Warm-Up program in Fort Myers last month and that he has fallen down to No. 48 in SoxProspects.com’s prospect rankings.

“He was trending down based on looks and reports last season and he was in danger of this kind of drop in the spring if his stuff was the same,” SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield tweeted on January 24. “When he wasn’t invited to the Winter Warm-Up, comparing to those who were, that was sort of telling.”

Coming out of TCU, Feltman had the projection of a high-leverage reliever who could work his way through the minors quickly. After four years in pro ball, it now appears that the Texas-born hurler has the ceiling of a middle reliever at the big-league level.

As SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall wrote last year, “middle relievers like [Feltman] are often left unprotected.” The Red Sox must have felt this way, but could another team be willing to poach Feltman away from Boston if they felt he had some untapped potential?

Only time will tell.

(Picture of Durbin Feltman: Katie Morrison/MassLive)

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)

In Brian Keller, Red Sox add intriguing right-hander who found success out of the bullpen at Triple-A in 2021

The Red Sox have seemingly made an annual tradition of poaching prospects away from the Yankees in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft, and they did so again on Wednesday.

After selecting Royals left-hander Austin Lambright with their top pick, the Sox took Yankees right-hander Brian Keller with their second and final pick of the day.

Keller, 27, was originally selected by New York in the 39th round of the 2016 amateur draft out of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He has been used as both a starter and reliever throughout his professional career, but what he did out of the bullpen in 2021 stands out.

On the heels of the 2020 minor-league season getting cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Keller opened the 2021 campaign at Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre as a member of the RailRiders’ starting rotation.

Out of the gate, Keller managed to keep runs off the board as evidenced by his 2.57 ERA through his first six starts. However, the Wisconsin native did so while walking as many batters as he struck out (21) and putting up a sky-high 6.36 FIP over 21 innings of work.

Beginning June 15, Keller was moved to Scranton’s bullpen on a near-full-time basis, as 15 of his 20 appearances from that point forward came as a reliever. As a result of that switch, the righty proceeded to post a 2.88 ERA and 3.16 FIP to go along with 44 strikeouts to 25 walks across 34 1/3 innings pitched to close out the season.

All told, Keller pitched to the tune of a 3.56 ERA, 1.88 WHIP, and .781 OPS against in 11 starts spanning 30 1/3 innings in 2021. Out of the bullpen, he produced a much lower 1.80 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and .535 OPS against in 15 outings spanning 25 innings in 2021.

Not only that, but Keller’s strikeout rate increased from 19.7% as a starter to 34% as a reliever, while his walk rate slightly decreased from 19.7% as a starter to 16% as a reliever.

Per a recent report from Baseball America, Keller “gave up very little hard contact as a reliever” this year. He also “works up and down in the strike zone with a four-seam 91-95 mph fastball and a downer curveball, but he also can mix in a slider and cutter.”

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Keller — who does not turn 28 until next June — was identified by Baseball America as someone who could provide a team with pitching depth given his experience in the minors.

Since Chaim Bloom took over as Boston’s chief baseball officer in 2019, the Red Sox have made a habit of combing the Yankees’ farm system for both major- and minor-league pitching depth.

In 2019, the Sox selected right-hander Raynel Espinal from the Yankees in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft and did the very same thing with fellow righty Kaleb Ort the following winter.

Both Espinal and Ort made their big-league debuts this past season, but Boston’s biggest discovery was undoubtedly Garrett Whitlock, who they poached from New York in the major-league portion of last year’s Rule 5 Draft.

On that note, it is worth mentioning that the big-league phase of the 2021 Rule 5 Draft has been postponed indefinitely while Major League Baseball remains in a lockout.

(Picture of Brian Keller: Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Red Sox select pitchers Austin Lambright, Brian Keller in minor-league phase of Rule 5 Draft

The major-league phase of the 2021 Rule 5 Draft may be postponed indefinitely while Major League Baseball remains in a lockout, but the minor-league phase still took place as scheduled on Wednesday afternoon.

The Red Sox used Wednesday’s version of the Rule 5 Draft to add left-hander Austin Lambright from the Royals and right-hander Brian Keller from the Yankees organizations, respectively. Boston added these two pitchers without losing any of their own prospects to other teams.

Lambright, 27, was originally selected by Kansas City in the 10th round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Central Oklahoma. He posted a 4.84 ERA in 16 appearances at rookie ball that year, but enjoyed more success in his first full season as a pro.

Across 33 relief appearances between the Royals’ Low-A and High-A affiliates, Lambright put up a 2.85 ERA and 2.37 FIP to go along with 74 strikeouts to 25 walks over 47 1/3 total innings of work in 2019.

Although he did not pitch in 2020 (COVID-19 pandemic) or 2021 (unknown reasons), Lambright is intriguing in that he has proven to be effective against left-handed hitters.

Back in May, FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen wrote that Lambright had “relief potential” and noted that the southpaw had reached 95 mph with his fastball two years ago.

A native of Washington, Lambright underwent Tommy John surgery while in college at Abilene Christian University. He later transferred to Central Oklahoma for his senior season.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Lambright has a twin brother, Brandon, who was drafted by the Rockies out of Abilene Christian in 2017.

Keller, on the other hand, is a 27-year-old who was originally selected by New York in the 39th round of the 2016 amateur draft out of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Born in Wisconsin himself, Keller has experience as both a starter and reliever and made it as far as Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre while a member of the Yankees organization.

In 26 outings (11 starts) for the RailRiders in 2021, the 6-foot-3, 210 pound righty pitched to the tune of a 2.77 ERA and 4.37 FIP while recording 65 strikeouts and 46 walks over 55 1/3 innings pitched.

The Red Sox poaching Keller away from the Yankees does not come as much of a surprise. Since Chaim Bloom took over as chief baseball officer in 2019, Boston has selected righties Raynel Espinal (2019) and Kaleb Ort (2020) in the minor-league phase and righty reliever Garrett Whitlock (2020) in the major-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft.

All three of Whitlock, Espinal, and Ort made their big-league debuts in 2021.

(Picture of Chaim Bloom: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

New Podding the Red Sox episode: Red Sox reliever Zack Kelly joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by Red Sox minor-league reliever Zack Kelly.

Kelly, 26, spent the 2021 season between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Worcester. The right-hander posted a 2.18 ERA and strikeout-to-walk ratio of 69:18 over 36 relief appearances (45 1/3 innings pitched) across both levels. He re-signed with Boston on another minor-league contract for 2022 in October and has received an invite to major-league spring training.

Among the topics Zack and I discussed in this week’s episode are how he initially drew interest from the Red Sox last year, the differences between pitching at Double-A and Triple-A, the congruency within the Red Sox organization, how he made made his way as an undrafted free agent who signed with the Athletics out of a Division II school for $500, undergoing and recovering from elbow surgery, getting cut loose by the Angels during the pandemic, getting interviewed by the New York Times, his upcoming Rule 5 candidacy, his expectations for the 2022 season, and much more!

The episode is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

Thank you to Zack for taking some time out of his offseason schedule to have a conversation with yours truly. You can follow Zack on Twitter (@Zack_Kelly) by clicking here and on Instagram (@Zack_Kelly19) by clicking here.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Please make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of Zack Kelly: Katie Morrison/MassLive)