Red Sox infield prospect Cam Cannon off to strong start (.917 OPS, 158 wRC+) with High-A Greenville

For as much talk as there has been about what top Red Sox prospects Triston Casas and Nick Yorke have done since the start of the 2021 minor-league season, it’s easy to look past what another Sox infield prospect — Cam Cannon — is doing this month.

Like Casas and Yorke, Cannon was the first player the Red Sox selected in his respective draft. Unlike Casas and Yorke, though, Cannon was taken in the second round of the 2019 amateur draft, while Casas and Yorke were taken in the first rounds of the 2018 and 2020 amateur drafts.

The reason the Sox had to wait until the second round of the 2019 first-year player draft to make their first selection was due to the fact that they were penalized for exceeding the luxury tax threshold by more than $40 million the previous year.

Had they not incurred such a harsh penalty, Boston would have made their first pick in 2019 at No. 33 overall, but the luxury tax violation resulted in that pick falling 10 spots to No. 43 overall.

At that point, the Red Sox took Cannon, then a 21-year-old junior at the University of Arizona, off the board and ultimately signed him for $1.3 million that June.

After three games in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, Cannon was called up to short-season Lowell, where he slashed .205/.289/.335 with three home runs, 21 RBI, 17 runs scored, 12 walks, and 37 strikeouts over 42 games to close out his first summer as a pro.

Like all 2019 draft picks, the Arizona native’s ongoing development was suddenly halted when the 2020 minor-league season was cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

With no minor-league season and no invitation to the Sox’ alternate training site, Cannon was limited to the fall instructional league last year, where he “garnered generally tepid reviews from scouts who saw him” there, according to FanGraphs‘ Eric Longenhagen.

Coming into 2021, Cannon — unlike Casas and Yorke — also did not receive an invite to major-league spring training, so he had to wait until minor-league camp began in April to get back into the swing of things.

Despite the long layoff, the 23-year-old was assigned to High-A Greenville at the beginning of May and has gotten his 2021 campaign off to a strong start.

Through 17 games with the Drive, Cannon — who has primarily been batting out of the leadoff spot — is hitting a solid .313/.365/.552 to go along with three home runs, seven doubles, eight RBI, 12 runs scored, two stolen bases, five walks, and 12 strikeouts over 74 plate appearances thus far.

Among the top qualified hitters in the High-A East, the right-handed hitter ranks first in doubles, first in extra-base hits (10), third in total hits (21), 11th in runs scored, ninth in batting average, 24th in on-base percentage, eighth in slugging percentage, 10th in OPS (.917), 14th in weighted on-base average (.405), and 14th in wRC+ (158), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Cannon was drafted as a shortstop. But questions about his arm strength have resulted in him making the shift over to the right side of the infield, as he has played 11 games at second base compared to just three at shortstop for Greenville so far this season.

In those 14 games between second base and shortstop, the 5-foot-10, 196 pound infielder has committed a total of two errors over 114 total defensive innings.

There also seems to be some speculation that he could see playing time in left field if he were to make the move to the outfield down the line.

Back in March, SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall wrote of Cannon: “Early returns from 2021 will tell a lot about where his development is going.”

Just under three weeks into the 2021 minor-league season, and early returns on Cannon’s performance in Greenville appear to indicate that the young infielder is trending in the right direction.

(Picture of Cam Cannon: 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)

Brian Van Belle a Red Sox pitching prospect to watch as minor-league season begins this week

Of the 16 undrafted free agents the Red Sox signed following last June’s draft, none might stick out more than right-handed pitching prospect Brian Van Belle.

Van Belle was reportedly one of the most sought-after seniors in the 2020 unsigned free agent class before inking his first professional contract with the Sox in June.

Regarded at the time by Baseball America as the 16th-ranked draft-eligible senior, the 6-foot-2, 187 pound hurler had just put the finishing touches on a successful college career at the University of Miami.

In two seasons with the Hurricanes (2019-2020) after transferring from Broward College, Van Belle emerged as Miami’s Friday night ace while posting a 2.74 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, and a 122:28 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 20 starts and 121 2/3 total innings pitched.

Because of the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the southern Florida native really did not get the chance to work under the Red Sox’ watchful eye until the team began their fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

There, according to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, Van Belle showed why he was highly sought-after as an undrafted free agent.

“Van Belle’s bread and butter is his changeup, a plus offering and a potential difference maker,” Cundall wrote back in November. “Van Belle also showed an average fastball at 89-93 mph and below-average curveball at 77-80 mph. The changeup separated him from a lot of the younger arms who are still refining their secondary pitches and gives him a high floor of at least an organizational arm, especially with his command profile.”

Coming off that impressive showing at fall instructs, the 24-year-old came into the 2021 minor-league season ranked as the No. 53 prospect in Boston’s farm system, per SoxProspects.com.

Cundall recently updated Van Belle’s SoxProspects.com scouting report, writing that the righty “always competes [and is] used to pitching in big spots. [Possesses] strong pitchability and feel on the mound.”

As this highly-anticipated minor-league season is set to begin on Tuesday, Van Belle will start the year in High-A Greenville’s starting rotation.

The fact that Van Belle was assigned to Greenville makes him the only member of Boston’s 2020 undrafted free-agent class to begin the 2021 season at a level as high as High-A. The other 15 members are either starting at Low-A Salem or extended spring training.

(Picture of Brian Van Belle: Al Diaz/Miami Herald)

New Podding the Red Sox episode: SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall.

Among the topics Ian and I discussed are how he got his start in scouting, how he is looking forward to the return of minor-league baseball next week, what he thought about brand-new Polar Park in Worcester, his thoughts on what the Red Sox could do in this summer’s draft, his impression of the Sox’ farm system under Chaim Bloom heading into the 2021 minor-league season, and much more!

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

Thanks to Ian for taking some time out of his busy schedule to have a conversation with me. You can follow Ian on Twitter (@IanCundall) by clicking here. You can check out his work for SoxProspects.com 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 Polar Park: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Red Sox outfield prospect Armando Sierra could prove to be underrated member of team’s 2021 international signing class

The Red Sox made a splash in the international free-agent market this winter by signing Dominican outfield prospect Miguel Bleis for $1.5 million back in January.

Appearing on the SoxProspects.com podcast with Chris Hatfield and Ian Cundall in February, Red Sox executive vice president and assistant general manager Eddie Romero described Bleis as a “premium centerfield talent” who has “got all five tools” in addition to “surprising power” and “an absolute hose of an arm.”

While Bleis has stolen the headlines and has already shot up the prospect charts (Boston’s No. 22 prospect according to Baseball America), there is another 17-year-old outfielder the Sox signed out of the Dominican who deserves some attention as well.

That outfield prospect’s name? Armando Sierra, who hails from the same city as fellow outfielder Gilberto Jimenez and right-hander Denyi Reyes (San Cristobal).

In his review of what the Red Sox have done thus far during the 2021 international signing period, Baseball America’s Ben Badler identified Sierra as his ‘sleeper [to] watch.’

“Armando Sierra is a corner outfielder from the Dominican Republic with a chance to hit and hit for power,” Badler wrote of the right-handed hitter last week. “He’s a physically imposing 6-foot-3, 210 pounds with an advanced approach to hitting for his age, keeping the bat head in the hitting zone for a long time that helps him drive the ball with power to all fields. He’s a limited runner whose offensive game will drive his value.” 

Sierra, who signed with the Sox for a bonus of $150,000 on January 15, does not turn 18 until next January.

“Armando was a player we scouted later on in his signing year. After scouting him a few times, he stood out for his strong frame and his power,” Romero recently told BloggingtheRedSox.com via email. “As we continued to see him, it became apparent that not only did he have above average power for his signing class, but he also was developing a stronger approach.

“Since his signing, Sierra has lost close to 20 pounds while gaining muscle working out at our academy,” added Romero. “He continues to improve defensively and is also featuring an above average arm (which was not the case during his scouting trials).”

The young outfielder will likely begin the 2021 minor-league season with one of the Red Sox’ rookie-level, Dominican Summer League teams. In fact, as Romero indicated, he’s already training at the team’s Dominican academy in El Toro, a town just outside of Santo Domingo.

Other recent Red Sox international signees highlighted by Badler include catcher Enderso Lira, right-handers Alvaro Mejias and Jedixson Paez, and shortstops Luis Ravelo and Ahbram Liendo.

(Picture of Chaim Bloom: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Ranking the top 37 prospects in the Red Sox farm system heading into the 2021 season

The Red Sox are heading into the 2021 season with the 20th-ranked farm system in baseball according to Baseball America. That’s the same ranking they received going into the 2020 campaign as well.

Despite finishing with the fourth-worst record in baseball last year at 24-36, the 2020 season did net some positives for the Sox in terms of producing new, young, and controllable talent.

Just in terms of prospects, Boston acquired the likes of right-hander Connor Seabold from the Phillies, right-hander Jacob Wallace from the Rockies, and infielder Hudson Potts and outfielder Jeisson Rosario from the Padres.

They also drafted infielders Nick Yorke and Blaze Jordan and righties Shane Drohan and Jeremy Wu-Yelland with their four picks in last year’s amateur draft.

From the time the 2021 season ended until now, the Sox have added the likes of catcher Ronaldo Hernandez, infielders Christian Koss and Nick Sogard, right-handers Garrett Whitlock, Frank German, Josh Winckowski, and Zach Bryant.

To put it simply, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has not only addressed his club’s depth at the major-league level; he’s done it on the minor-league side of things as well.

Taking that point into consideration, it would not be too shocking to see Boston rise through the farm system rankings this year, especially with someone like Yorke getting to play in actual, organized minor-league games at some point.

Having written all that, I would like to present to you who the experts believe are the top prospects in the Red Sox organization at the moment.

To compile this list of Boston’s brightest and youngest talent, I took prospect lists from four baseball or Red Sox-centered publications — Baseball America, SoxProspects.com, FanGraphs, MLB Pipeline — and took the averages of where each of these sites had particular prospects ranked.

For example, Triston Casas was regarded as the Sox’ top prospect by three sites, but the other had him as their No. 2 prospect in the system.

With those numbers in mind, I added 1+1+1+2 to get 5, then divided that number by the total number of sources (4) to get Casas’ average ranking: 1.25, which rounds down to 1.

I hope that makes sense, because here are the top 37 prospects in the Red Sox farm system based off that math heading into the 2021 season.

ProspectBaseball AmericaSoxProspectsFanGraphsMLB PipelineAverage Rank
Triston Casas11211
Jeter Downs22122
Bryan Mata43353
Jarren Duran54744
Bobby Dalbec36935
Gilberto Jimenez75466
Tanner Houck87677
Jay Groome6121288
Thaddeus Ward10813109
Noah Song121151410
Connor Seabold11981511
Nick Yorke91315912
Ronaldo HernandezN/A14N/A1213
Brainer Bonaci1815171614
Aldo Ramirez2210142015
Blaze Jordan1620211116
Matthew Lugo1417281317
Brayan Bello1923111918
Connor Wong1522191719
Jeisson Rosario2016162220
Hudson Potts2418182421
Eduard Bazardo2827102822
Chris Murphy1319431823
Jonathan Arauz2126N/AN/A24
Nick Decker2921242325
Jacob Wallace2524262926
Frank GermanN/A2825N/A27
Garrett Whitlock 1732303028
Chih-Jung Liu2334332129
Durbin FeltmanN/A3031N/A30
Cameron CannonN/A43232631
Ryan ZeferjahnN/A2538N/A32
Jorge RodriguezN/A2934N/A33
Juan ChaconN/A52222534
A.J. Politi2749372735
Ceddanne Rafaela2645N/AN/A36
Jeremy Wu-Yelland30N/A47N/A37
*The N/A you see next to some of these names means that that particular prospect was not included on a specific site’s list.

All in all, it’s not too shocking to see Casas, Jeter Downs, Bryan Mata, Jarren Duran, and Bobby Dalbec come in as the Red Sox’ top five prospects, though Dalbec is surely going to graduate from his prospect status this year.

The same can be said about right-hander Tanner Houck, who comes in at No. 7 on this list.

Other names worth mentioning include outfielder Gilberto Jimenez (No. 6), right-hander Noah Song (No. 10), infielder Brainer Bonaci (No. 14), catcher Connor Wong (No. 19), right-hander Eduard Bazardo (No. 22), right-hander Chih-Jung Liu (No. 29), and outfielder Juan Chacon (No. 34).

One notable snub on here would be 17-year-old outfielder Miguel Bleis, who the Red Sox recently signed out of the Dominican Republic for $1.5 million back in January.

Because I made this list myself, I cannot say with certainty that it is perfect. But, I enjoyed compiling the information to create it, and I hope it can serve as some use to those who find this sort of thing interesting.

(Picture of Jarren Duran: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox pitching prospect Bryan Mata has slight tear in his UCL

The MRI Red Sox pitching prospect Bryan Mata underwent on Thursday revealed a slight tear in his ulnar collateral ligament, manager Alex Cora announced Saturday morning.

Mata, 21, was originally slated to pitch in Wednesday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Twins, but was ultimately scratched from that appearance due to soreness behind his right triceps.

After undergoing that aforementioned MRI the following day, it turns out that Mata has a slightly torn UCL. The Red Sox will try to treat the ailment without surgery for the time being.

“Unfortunately with Bryan, he has a slight tear in his UCL,” Cora told reporters earlier Saturday. “So we’re going to shut him down. The way we’re going to go with him is going to be treatment. The doctors and the physicians feel that it’s small enough that with treatment and doing that, he should be fine.”

A fiery right-hander out of Venezuela, Mata came into spring training as the top pitching prospect — and the No. 4 overall prospect — in the Red Sox farm system according to Baseball America.

There is currently no timetable set for his return, but it would appear that the Sox have already created a roadmap of sorts for their young hurler.

“There’s no timetable,” said Cora. “There’s going to be a few checkpoints throughout the process, and if he’s disciplined and follows everything that we are set to do, the hope is for him to come back.”

Boston originally signed Mata out of Venezuela for just $25,000 back in early 2016. Since making his pro debut later that year, the 6-foot-3, 238 lb. righty has compiled a 3.40 ERA and 1.35 WHIP over 69 career starts spanning 315 innings pitched across four minor-league levels.

With there being no minor-league season in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and all, Mata spent time at both the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket and fall instructional league in Fort Myers last year. He was added to the club’s 40-man roster in November.

Given how he has risen through the prospect ranks, it appeared that Mata was primed to make his big-league debut at some point this season, but that may now have to wait due to this unexpected hurdle.

“As you guys know, he’s very important for us,” said Cora. “It’s a tough one, but at the same time we do believe that he’s going to bounce back and he’s going to be OK.”

Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, Mata’s pitch mix consists of a high-octane fastball, a curveball, a slider, and a changeup. His fastball sat between 96-97 mph at the alternate site over the summer and tops out at 100 mph.

“Obviously we have to be patient and see how he reacts,” Cora said in regards to Mata’s road to recovery. ““When you start talking about the UCL, obviously it’s something that we don’t feel comfortable, of course, because it’s the UCL. We’ve just got to be patient. And he has to be patient. He’s young enough that probably everything’s going fast for him right now. But he’s mature enough, too, to understand that these things happen over the course of your career. He did an amazing job in the offseason to get in shape and get his arm where it’s supposed to be. It’s an obstacle in his career. But we do feel like he’s going to bounce back and he’s going to be OK.”

(Picture of Bryan Mata: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Alex Cora looking forward to seeing top prospect Gilberto Jimenez in action at spring training: ‘It should be fun to see him run around the bases’

In case you missed it, the Red Sox added top outfield prospect Gilberto Jimenez to their major-league spring training roster as a non-roster invitee Friday afternoon.

Jimenez, who does not turn 21 until July, is now the second-youngest player at Red Sox camp behind 2020 first-round draft pick Nick Yorke.

Manager Alex Cora has had high praise for the 18-year-old infielder since he arrived in Fort Myers for his first ever big-league spring training last month. His attention now shifts to another youngster at the Fenway South complex in the form of Jimenez.

“Just like the other kids, to be able to have him here, work out with us and learn the game,” Cora said of the 20-year-old outfielder following a 5-4 win over the Rays at JetBlue Park on Friday. “Hopefully, he can get some at-bats and see what he can do.”

Jimenez is currently ranked as the No. 5 prospect in Boston’s farm system by Baseball America.

Last time he saw any organized minor-league action, the Dominican national slashed .359/.393/.370 with three home runs, 19 RBI, and 14 stolen bases across 59 games for Low-A Lowell in 2019.

At that time, Jimenez was listed at 5-foot-11 and around 160 lbs. Since then, he has bulked up tremendously. And he put that added muscle on full display at the Sox’ fall instructional league last year (2020).

“The young Dominican is now listed at 212 pounds, up significantly from where he was with Lowell,” SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall wrote of Jimenez’s showing at fall instructs in December. “Even though he has added that much size, he still is an elite athlete and has only lost a little speed, now grading as a 70 runner rather than 80.”

Among minor-leaguers in the Red Sox system, the switch-hitting Jimenez is perhaps one of, if not the quickest prospect the organization has to offer.

That aspect of his game — as well as his strength — is something Cora is looking forward to seeing in action.

“This is the first time I’ve seen him,” the Sox skipper said. “Strong kid. Strong. Looking forward to him to go out there and learn from the guys. It should be fun to see him run around the bases.”

Cora wanting Jimenez to learn from the veterans around him at camp should come as no surprise. He did after all encourage Yorke to follow around Enrique Hernandez during workouts.

“He’s going to spend a lot of time with us, but that’s what I want him to do,” Cora said of Yorke late last month. “Just learn, keep working, understand what it takes to be a big-leaguer, and he’ll be a big-leaguer. He’ll be a big-leaguer.”

Though he did not say it on Friday, it’s safe to assume Cora wants Jimenez and Yorke to share the same sort of experience this spring.

Put another way, neither of the organization’s most talented prospects have a realistic shot of cracking Boston’s Opening Day roster or getting called up to the majors this year, but what they learn right now could help them down the line as they continue on with their development.

Jimenez, who signed out of the Dominican for just $10,000 back in 2017, is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season with High-A Greenville, whose season does not start until sometime in May at the earliest.

This year has the potential to be an important one for the speedster, as he is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his professional career this December.

At this point, one would have to assume that Jimenez is a favorite to secure a spot on Boston’s 40-man roster some time between now and November 20, but a strong season in Greenville — or wherever else he plays — certainly wouldn’t hurt, either.

(Picture of Gilberto Jimenez: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox add top outfield prospect Gilberto Jimenez to major-league spring training roster

The Red Sox have added outfield prospect Gilberto Jimenez to their major-league spring training roster as a non-roster invitee, the team announced Friday.

Jimenez, 20, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 7 prospect in the Red Sox farm system, ranking second among outfielders behind only Jarren Duran (No. 5).

Boston originally signed the young outfielder out of the Dominican Republic for just $10,000 back in August 2017.

Since then Jimenez has hit wherever he’s gone, most recently posting an impressive .359/.393/.470 slash line to go along with three home runs, 19 RBI, and 14 stolen bases over 59 games for Low-A Lowell in 2019.

With there being no minor-league season in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the switch-hitter was not included in the Sox’ 60-man player pool at any point last year, but he did participate in the organization’s fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

There, according to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, Jimenez was identified by scouts as “the top prospect” at instructs.

“The biggest development for Jimenez at Instructs was his newfound ability to drive the ball, especially from the right side of the plate,” Cundall wrote back in December. “Jimenez has tweaked his stance and filled out considerably, allowing him to impact the ball. He showed plus raw power from the right side and a vastly improved swing from the left, in which he no longer is just looking to slap the ball. While his right-handed swing likely will always be better than his left-handed swing, the improvements he made should help ensure he is not a liability from his weaker side against more advanced pitching. Defensively, Jimenez showed a solid all-around skill set with plus range and an above-average arm. He still will make the odd mistake out there, but given his speed and decent instincts, he has a chance to develop into a very solid defender.”

On the 20-80 scouting scale, Jimenez’s speed — or run tool — is graded at a 70, making him one of, if not the quickest prospect in the organization.

While maintaining his elite athleticism, Jimenez has also bulked up recently as he is now listed at 5-foot-11 and 212 lbs., which, as noted by Cundall, “is up significantly from where he was with Lowell.”

Now one of 34 non-roster invitees currently at big-league camp in Fort Myers, Jimenez is projected to begin the 2021 season with High-A Greenville, whose season does not start until sometime in May at the earliest.

For the time being, though, it should be fascinating to see what Jimenez, who turns 21 in July, can do once he gets into some Grapefruit League games this spring. One would assume he will have the opportunity to leave an impression on Red Sox manager Alex Cora and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom if he performs up to his standards.

(Picture of Gilberto Jimenez: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

What pitching in front of fans again meant for Red Sox prospect Durbin Feltman

Red Sox pitching prospect Durbin Feltman made his first appearance of the spring against the Orioles in Sarasota on Thursday afternoon.

Working in relief of fellow right-hander Tanner Houck, Feltman came on in the bottom half of the third inning with two outs to get and the bases loaded in what was at the time a one-run game in favor of Boston.

The 23-year-old managed to limit the damage, as he allowed just one inherited runner to score on a sacrifice fly before getting Ramon Urias to ground out to second to retire the side.

For Feltman, who made his 2021 Grapefruit League debut in front of approximately 1,700 spectators at Ed Smith Stadium, it was his first time pitching with fans in the stands since August 2019.

“It was just good to be out there in front of fans,” Feltman told BloggingtheRedSox.com Thursday night. “It brings back the atmosphere of the game and I couldn’t be happier to have people in the stands no matter the capacity. It causes you to have to lock in more during the game, which I think in turn helps you perform better. I love it.”

One of 30-plus non-roster invitees currently at big-league camp for the Red Sox, Feltman should find his way into more games between now and the end of the month.

Boston selected the flame-throwing righty in the third-round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Texas Christian University. He proceeded to post a 1.93 ERA over 22 relief appearances and 23 1/3 innings pitched between three different levels (short-season Lowell, Class-A Greenville, High-A Salem) in his inaugural season as a pro.

Feltman’s first full professional campaign, however, was a different story. The young reliever struggled to the tune of a 5.26 ERA and 5.02 FIP in 43 appearances and 51 1/3 innings of work out of the bullpen for Double-A Portland in 2019.

The inconsistencies Feltman displayed with the Sea Dogs in ’19 likely worked against him when the Red Sox were deciding who to include in their 60-man player pool the following summer after the 2020 minor-league season was cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

From the middle of July through the end of September, they had the opportunity to invite Feltman to their alternate training site in Pawtucket, but did not take it.

That, in turn, motivated the Texas native as he made preparations to participate in the team’s fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

“I came in there with a chip on my shoulder and was like ‘Hey, this is what you missed out on at the alternate site,’” Feltman said back in December. “Hopefully I showed enough, I felt like I did. And I’m carrying that into 2021 as well.”

Feltman did indeed show enough at instructs this past fall to get an invite to major-league camp this spring after not receiving one a year ago.

The 6-foot, 208 pounder is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 30 prospect in Boston’s farm system. He is projected to begin the year at the club’s alternate training site in Worcester after the start of the Triple-A season was recently pushed back to May.

2021 could prove to be a pivotal year for Feltman simply because he can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this December. The Red Sox would need to add the former Horned Frog to their 40-man roster before November 20 in order to prevent that from happening.

“Obviously, I don’t want to have to go through the Rule 5 Draft,” he said. “Because if you’ve been in the big-leagues you’re not getting Rule 5 drafted.”

With that thought in mind, it would appear that Feltman, who turns 24 next month, is shooting to make his major-league debut — or at the very least be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster — at some point this season. He has plenty of time to prove that he belongs.

(Picture of Durbin Feltman: Zachary Roy/Getty Images)