How did contingent of Red Sox prospects perform in Arizona Fall League this year?

The 2022 Arizona Fall League season came to a close over the weekend, as the Surprise Saguaros defeated the Glendale Desert Dogs by a final score of 7-6 in Saturday’s championship game at Scottsdale Stadium.

Orioles prospect Heston Kjerstad was named the league’s Most Valuable Player while Cardinals lefty Connor Thomas was named Pitcher of the Year. Colorado’s Zac Veen earned Offensive Player of the Year honors, Tampa Bay’s Evan Reifert was named Reliever of the Year, Minnesota’s Edouard Julien was named Breakout Player of the Year, San Francisco’s Luis Matos was named Defensive Player of the Year, and Oakland’s Lawrence Butler received the Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award.

The Red Sox sent eight of their own minor-leaguers to play for the Scottsdale Scorpions, who at 13-16 finished 1 1/2 games back of a playoff spot, this fall. Although none of these players were recognized in postseason award distribution, some certainly fared better than others.

Here is a rundown of how each of these eight prospects performed over the last six-plus weeks, starting with the four pitchers who made the trek out west:

Aaron Perry, RHP

Perry, 23, made 10 relief appearances for the Scorpions. The right-hander posted a 12.46 ERA and 2.86 WHIP with four strikeouts to 10 walks over 8 2/3 innings of work. Opponents batted .395 off him.

Boston originally selected Perry in the 14th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of Hurricane High School in West Virginia. Since then, the righty has been limited to 47 2/3 minor-league innings due to a number of injuries. He appeared in just three games for High-A Greenville this year.

Thad Ward, RHP

Ward, 25, made four appearances — three of which were starts — for Scottsdale. The righty suffered a left oblique strain after his second start of the fall on October 10 and was sidelined for nearly a month as a result. He returned in time to pitch in two more games and wound up posting a 2.84 ERA and 1.34 WHIP with 15 strikeouts to six walks over 12 2/3 innings of work. Opponents batted .234 off him.

Currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 25 prospect in Boston’s farm system, Ward was limited to 13 minor-league starts this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last June. The former fifth-round selection out of the University of Central Florida can become eligible for this winter’s Rule 5 Draft if the Red Sox do not add him to their 40-man roster on Tuesday.

Jacob Webb, RHP

Webb, 23, finished in a two-way tie for the team lead in saves (3) this fall. The hard-throwing righty pitched to a 3.60 ERA and 1.30 WHIP to go along with 12 strikeouts to five walks over nine relief appearances spanning 10 innings of work. Opposing hitters batted .222 (8-for-36) off him.

The Red Sox took Webb in the 14th round of last year’s draft out of Miami University of Ohio. The 6-foot-5, 246-pound hurler pitched at three different levels this season and ended the year at Double-A Portland. He possesses a three-pitch mix that consists of a high-90s fastball, a mid-80s slider, and a high-80s changeup.

Ryan Zeferjahn, RHP

Zeferjahn, 24, primarily came out of the bullpen for Scottsdale, but he also made one start. In nine total appearances, the right-hander produced a 4.80 ERA and 1.27 WHIP with 18 strikeouts to eight walks over 15 innings of work. He limited opposing hitters to a .208 batting average against.

Listed at 6-foot-5 and 209 pounds, Zeferjahn spent the majority of the 2022 minor-league season with Greenville before being promoted to Portland in late August. The former third-round pick out of the University of Kansas posted a 5.05 ERA between the two levels and, like Ward, is Rule 5 eligible this winter.

Moving on the four position players that made up this eight-man contingent…

Wilyer Abreu, OF

Abreu, 23, was one of two prospects the Red Sox acquired from the Astros in the Christian Vazquez trade. The left-handed hitter went just 9-for-54 (.167) with two doubles, 10 RBIs, eight runs scored, three stolen bases, 10 walks, and 18 strikeouts in 17 games for the Scorpions this fall. He made four appearances in left field and eight appearances in right.

After closing out the minor-league season with Portland, Abreu is another minor-leaguer who can become eligible for next month’s Rule 5 Draft if he is not added to Boston’s 40-man roster on Tuesday. The native Venezuelan does offer intriguing speed and possesses the ability to get on base at a respectable clip, so he has that going for him.

Niko Kavadas, 1B

Kavadas, 24, split time at first base with San Francisco’s Logan Wyatt and Atlanta’s Cade Bunnell. The left-handed hitting slugger slashed .239/.417/.435 with three doubles, two homers, six runs driven in, seven runs scored, 13 walks, and 24 strikeouts in 15 games (60 plate appearances) with the Scorpions.

The Red Sox originally selected Kavadas in the 11th round of the 2021 amateur draft out of The University of Notre Dame. The Indiana native earned Minor League Offensive Player of the Year honors in his first full professional season. He is currently regarded by Baseball America as the 30th-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Stephen Scott, C

Scott, 25, was one of two Red Sox minor-leaguers to make it to this year’s AFL Fall Stars Game. The left-handed hitter also took part in the league’s first-ever home run derby in the process of batting .298/.394/.614 with one double, one triple, five home runs, 16 RBIs, 15 runs scored, one stolen base, nine walks, and 11 strikeouts across 15 games (66 plate appearances) this fall. He started 13 games at catcher and threw out four of 22 base stealers en route to being named to the 2022 All-Arizona Fall League Team.

A former 10th-round pick in 2019 out of Vanderbilt University who was signed as an outfielder, Scott has since emerged as a full-time backstop. The 5-foot-11, 207-pound North Carolina native split the 2022 campaign between Greenville and Portland. He is a candidate to be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster on Tuesday given his upcoming Rule 5 eligibility.

Nick Yorke, 2B

Yorke, 20, played in last week’s Fall Stars Game alongside Scott. Before that, the right-handed hitting infielder missed some time with left wrist soreness. But he wound up batting a stout .342/.424/.526 with eight doubles, two home runs, 18 RBIs, 18 runs scored, one stolen base, 12 walks, and 16 strikeouts over 19 games (92 plate appearances) with the Scorpions.

It was a down year for Yorke offensively, as he posted a .668 OPS in Greenville after being named the Red Sox’ Minor League Offensive Player of the Year in 2021. Perhaps what he just did in Arizona is a positive sign of what is to come. The 2020 first-round pick is still regarded by Baseball America as the No. 5 prospect in Boston’s farm system. He is projected to be on Portland’s Opening Day roster next spring.

(Picture of Nick Yorke: Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Red Sox pitching prospect Ryan Zeferjahn tosses 3 scoreless innings in first career relief appearance for High-A Greenville

Red Sox pitching prospect Ryan Zeferjahn made the first relief appearance of his professional career for High-A Greenville on Wednesday night. Making his season debut for the Drive, the right-hander allowed just one hit and struck out two over three scoreless — albeit low-leverage — innings of work.

Zeferjahn needed just 35 pitches (24 strikes) to retire nine of the 10 batters he faced while earning the win in Greenville’s 17-3 trouncing of the Asheville Tourists (Astros affiliate) at McCormick Field.

The Red Sox originally selected Zeferjahn, now 24 years old, in the third round (107th overall pick) of the 2019 amateur draft out of the University of Kansas. At that time, Zeferjahn was regarded by Baseball America as the 57th-ranked draft-eligible prospect. The Topeka native signed with the club for $500,000.

Upon signing his first pro contract, Zeferjahn was assigned to short-season Lowell out of the gate and made 12 starts for the Spinners to close out the year. Coming into the 2020 season, the former Jayhawk was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 19 prospect in the Sox’ farm system.

Unfortunately, the 2020 minor-league season was wiped out on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, so the only real in-person guidance Zeferjahn received from the Red Sox that year came later on at fall instructs.

Falling out of Baseball America’s Boston prospect rankings the following spring, Zeferjahn broke camp with Low-A Salem. He posted a dismal 6.91 ERA — but much more encouraging 3.86 FIP — to go along with 41 strikeouts to 15 walks over 12 starts (41 2/3 innings pitched) for Salem before being sent down to the Florida Complex League in mid-July.

According to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, Zeferjahn was sent to Fort Myers in order to work on his mechanics. He made four starts for the FCL Red Sox beginning on August 31 and pitched to the tune of a 3.21 ERA and 4.29 FIP with 18 strikeouts to three walks across 14 innings of work.

Listed at 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, Zeferjahn operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a 93-95 mph fastball with sink, an 84-87 mph slider, an 83-86 mph changeup, and a 76-80 mph changeup, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report.

Before the 2022 season began last week, Zeferjahn had only been used as a starter throughout his pro career as he made 28 starts between three different levels from 2019-2021. The last time the righty was used out of the bullpen came in the summer of 2017, when he made 13 appearances for the Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod Baseball League.

When used in shorter stints, though, it appears as if Zeferjahn can further tap into his fastball velocity. While information from Wednesday’s outing is not currently available, Zeferjahn did reach 98 mph with his heater when making starts of one to three innings with Lowell in 2019.

Zeferjahn, who turned 24 in February, comes into the 2022 campaign not ranked by any major publication as one of the top pitching prospects in the Red Sox organization. He can, however, become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this winter.

(GIF of Ryan Zeferjahn via the Greenville Drive)

Jaxx Groshans evaluates some of the top pitching prospects in the Red Sox farm system

He’s caught them. He’s hit against them. When it comes to some of the more intriguing pitching prospects in the Red Sox organization, there aren’t many better people to ask about them than catching prospect Jaxx Groshans.

When speaking with BloggingtheRedSox.com earlier this week, the 22-year-old backstop shared his thoughts on the likes of Jay Groome, Noah Song, and Ryan Zeferjahn, all of whom are regarded by SoxProspects.com as top-15 pitching prospects within Boston’s farm system.

Here are those thoughts put into writing.

LHP Jay Groome (SoxProspects’ No. 7 pitching prospect)

“I’ve faced off against Groomy multiple times and I got to catch him when I was in Lowell and at fall instructs both years (2019 and 2020). His stuff has grown a long way, man. He’s got big-league caliber shit, and I think that’s going to carry him for a while.”

RHP Noah Song (SoxProspects’ No. 6 pitching prospect)

“I caught Noah in his debut in Aberdeen… As far as Songy is concerned, that’s some of the best pure stuff I think I’ve ever seen. I applaud him for going back and serving [in the Navy] like he was supposed to, but that’s a damn shame because that kid probably could have been in the big-leagues this coming year. He probably could have made an appearance in the league out of the ‘pen last year to be honest with you, because his stuff is that good.”

RHP Ryan Zeferjahn (SoxProspects’ No. 11 pitching prospect)

“Zef’s a good dude, man. He’s got some electric stuff, too. I’m very, very excited to see how his career pans out because I think he can be a successful big-leaguer for a long time, especially if he figures out control of all his pitches and finetunes them. We’ll just have to wait and see from here. Like I said, he’s got a lot of special stuff and he’s very blessed with the arm he has.”

Groshans and Zeferjahn both played college baseball together at the University of Kansas. They were both selected by the Red Sox within hours of each other during Day 2 of the 2019 MLB first-year player draft.

“Before we got drafted, we were in Bricktown (Oklahoma City) playing Kansas State in the Big-12 tournament,” Groshans recalled. “Me and Zef were sitting on the bench, and Zef was like ‘Man, how cool would it be if the both of us got drafted by the same team? It would be sick because I’d get to throw to you and we’d be teammates again.’

“And I was like ‘Yeah, dude. That would be sick. That would be awesome,'” continued Groshans. “Then I saw Zef got picked by the Sox in the third [round], and I was like ‘Damn, okay. What’s going to happen? How’s this going to go?’ Then my agent texted me and he was like ‘Red Sox.’ So, I kind of kept it in for a second and as soon as my name got called, Zef was one of the first people to text me. He was like ‘Let’s freaking go! That’s awesome, man!’ I was like ‘Yeah, meet me in Florida and let’s have some fun.'”

BONUS: Former University of Oklahoma outfielder and Oakland Athletics first-round draft pick Kyler Murray, who is currently the starting quarterback for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals

“I know Kyler. I grew up around the same area — before I moved to Houston — that he was from. So I was from Plano, he was from Allen (Texas). I met him off and on the field, too. He’s a freak athlete, man.

“I saw something the other day where they were putting out on SportsCenter: Who of these NFL athletes would be successful in the minor-leagues if they played?’ It’s Kyler 100% hands down,” Groshans said. “He’s said it before. I don’t believe his time in baseball is done yet. I think if at any point he decides to come back, he could definitely do it. 100%.”

(Picture of Jaxx Groshans: Kelly O’Connor/ sittingstill.smugmug.com)