What to expect from Red Sox infield prospect Luis Ravelo heading into 2022 season

Red Sox infield prospect Luis Ravelo could be a player to watch this year, tweets SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall.

Ravelo, 18, signed with Boston for $545,000 as an international free agent coming out of the Dominican Republic in January 2021.

At that time, Baseball America’s Ben Badler noted that Ravelo was one of the top defensive shortstops to come out of the Dominican Republic, writing that the Santo Domingo native “has excellent hands and likes to show them off with ball tricks and fielding grounders between his legs, but in games he’s also a smart, instinctive defender. He has good actions and the ability to make both the routine play and the challenging ones, along with a plus arm.”

Upon signing his first professional contract, Ravelo remained on his home island and spent the entirety of the 2021 season in the Dominican Summer League. Across 43 games for the DSL Red Sox Red affiliate, the switch-hitter batted .243/.333/.319 (91 wRC+) with four doubles, two triples, one home run, 13 RBIs, 20 runs scored, 19 walks, and 22 strikeouts over 168 plate appearances.

Obviously, a below-average 91 wRC+ is not exactly an eye-popping statistic. That being said, Ravelo did strike out in just 13.1% of his plate appearances last year, which ranked 32nd among qualified DSL hitters, per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Ravelo unsurprisingly saw all his playing time in 2021 come at shortstop. The 6-foot-1, 187 pounder committed a total of nine errors and turned 24 double plays while logging 337 1/3 innings at the ever-important position.

After participating in the team’s fall performance program during the off-season, Ravelo returned to Fort Myers for the start of minor-league spring training earlier this month. He is projected by SoxProspects.com to start the 2022 campaign out in the rookie-level Florida Complex League.

Ravelo, who does not turn 19 until November, is not yet regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system. Given his age and lack of experience, though, it feels safe to assume that Ravelo will rise through the ranks as he continues to develop both physically and developmentally.

(GIF of Luis Ravelo via Ian Cundall)

Has Ryan Fitzgerald been the MVP of spring training so far for the Red Sox?

Has Ryan Fitzgerald been the MVP of spring training so far for the Red Sox?

The left-handed hitting infielder has batted .364/.462/1.182 with a team-leading three home runs, seven RBIs, three runs scored, one stolen base, two walks, and two strikeouts through his first seven games (13 plate appearances) in the Grapefruit League.

Fitzgerald, 27, has the unique distinction of not being drafted out of college or high school. The Creighton University product instead began his pro career by playing one season with the Gary SouthShore RailCats of the independent American Association.

The following spring, Fitzgerald signed with the Red Sox as an undrafted free agent. The Illinois native was assigned to the then-Low-A Greenville Drive out of the gate and really has not looked back since.

In 2019 with the then-High A Salem Red Sox, Fitzgerald posted a .721 OPS across 127 games while making at least one appearance at all four infield positions en route to being named a Carolina League mid- and post-season All-Star. He was also recognized as the organization’s Minor League Defensive Player of the Year that September.

After not being able to do much of anything in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Fitzgerald broke minor-league camp last year with Double-A Portland and proceeded to slash .282/.365/.543 (144 wRC+) with 11 homers and 36 RBIs through his first 70 games with the Sea Dogs. He earned a promotion to Triple-A Worcester on July 29.

In a brief stint with the WooSox that lasted all of 13 games, Fitzgerald hit .262/.340/.571 (138 wRC+) with three home runs and nine RBIs before getting sent back down to Portland on August 17. He closed out his year at a .241/.313/.402 clip leading into the end of September.

Between the Double-A and Triple-A levels, Fitzgerald produced a .270/.350/.512 slash line (131 wRC+) while clubbing a total of 16 home runs, driving in a total of of 58 runs, scoring a total of 55 runs, stealing a total of four bases, drawing a total of 37 walks, and striking out a total of 81 times over 108 games (412 plate appearances) in 2021.

Defensively, the versatile 6-foot, 185 pounder made his pro debut as an outfielder last year, logging 10 innings in left, 79 innings in center, and eight innings in right field with the Sea Dogs and WooSox. He once again saw playing time at all four infield positions between the two affiliates, but none more than shortstop (619 2/3 combined innings).

Fitzgerald, who turns 28 in June, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 38 prospect in Boston’s farm system and is currently participating in his first major-league spring training down in Fort Myers. He appears to be a longshot to make the Sox’ Opening Day roster, but he has been making an intriguing case as a potential bench option these last few weeks.

Based off SoxProspects.com’s roster projections, Fitzgerald is in line to return to Worcester for the start of the 2022 season. That being said, the fact that he can play just about anywhere — as well as major-league rosters expanding from 26 to 28 players through the end of April — certainly works in his favor.

While Fitzgerald still has a little less than two weeks to prove he is worthy of an Opening Day roster spot, the 27-year-old will bat eighth and start at second base for the Red Sox in their Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles on Thursday night.

First pitch from Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. eastern time on MASN.

(Picture of Ryan Fitzgerald:  Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)

Ranking the top 33 prospects in the Red Sox farm system

Using information from four different publications (Baseball America, FanGraphs, MLB Pipeline, and SoxProspects.com), BloggingtheRedSox.com has ranked the top 33 prospects in the Red Sox farm system heading into the 2022 season.

To nobody’s surprise, this group is headlined by the infield trio of Marcelo Mayer, Triston Casas, and Nick Yorke. This is certainly interesting when you consider the fact that Mayer (2021), Yorke (2020), and Casas (2018) were the last three players the Red Sox selected in the first round of the amateur draft.

Mayer is regarded by Baseball America and MLB Pipeline as Boston’s top overall prospect, while FanGraphs and SoxProspects have him at No. 2. Casas, on the other hand, is ranked No. 1 by FanGraphs and SoxProspects but No. 2 by Baseball America and MLB Pipeline. Yorke is ranked No. 3 by all four.

This is how the order was determined. For instance, the average of Casas’ four rankings and Mayer’s four rankings comes out to 1.5 [(1+1+2+2)/4)]. The tiebreaker went to Mayer since he is younger then Casas. From there, Yorke and 30 additional Red Sox prospects were ranked, with left-hander Jeremy Wu-Yelland rounding things out at No. 33.

With that, here is the full list of 33 beginning with Mayer and ending with Wu-Yelland. Let’s get to it.

1. Marcelo Mayer, SS

Baseball America organizational rank: 1
FanGraphs organizational rank: 2
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 1
SoxProspects organizational rank: 2

Average: 1.5

2. Triston Casas, 1B

Baseball America organizational rank: 2
FanGraphs organizational rank: 1
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 2
SoxProspects organizational rank: 1

Average: 1.5

3. Nick Yorke, 2B

Baseball America organizational rank: 3
FanGraphs organizational rank: 3
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 3
SoxProspects organizational rank: 3

Average: 3

4. Jarren Duran, OF

Baseball America organizational rank: 4
FanGraphs organizational rank: Not Ranked
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 4
SoxProspects organizational rank: 4

Average: 4

5. Brayan Bello, RHP

Baseball America organizational rank: 5
FanGraphs organizational rank: 8
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 5
SoxProspects organizational rank: 6

Average: 6

6. Jeter Downs, 2B

Baseball America organizational rank: 6
FanGraphs organizational rank: 11
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 6
SoxProspects organizational rank: 5

Average: 7

7. Blaze Jordan, 3B

Baseball America organizational rank: 7
FanGraphs organizational rank: 16
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 7
SoxProspects organizational rank: 7

Average: 9.25

8. Bryan Mata, RHP

Baseball America organizational rank: 8
FanGraphs organizational rank: 12
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 8
SoxProspects organizational rank: 10

Average: 9.5

9. Wilkelman Gonzalez, RHP

Baseball America organizational rank: 13
FanGraphs organizational rank: 4
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 10
SoxProspects organizational rank: 12

Average: 9.75

10. Jay Groome, LHP

Baseball America organizational rank: 10
FanGraphs organizational rank: 13
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 12
SoxProspects organizational rank: 8

Average: 10.75

11. Brandon Walter, LHP

Baseball America organizational rank: 11
FanGraphs organizational rank: 10
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 9
SoxProspects organizational rank: 17

Average: 11.75

12. Connor Seabold, RHP

Baseball America organizational rank: 21
FanGraphs organizational rank: 7
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 15
SoxProspects organizational rank: 11

Average: 13.5

13. Gilberto Jimenez, OF

Baseball America organizational rank: 23
FanGraphs organizational rank: 5
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 18
SoxProspects organizational rank: 9

Average: 13.75

14. Miguel Bleis, OF

Baseball America organizational rank: 20
FanGraphs organizational rank: 6
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 17
SoxProspects organizational rank: 15

Average: 14.5

15. Josh Winckowski, RHP

Baseball America organizational rank: 9
FanGraphs organizational rank: 27
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 14
SoxProspects organizational rank: 13

Average: 15.75

16. Tyler McDonough, 2B/OF

Baseball America organizational rank: 16
FanGraphs organizational rank: 14
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 19
SoxProspects organizational rank: 21

Average: 17.5

17. Thaddeus Ward, RHP

Baseball America organizational rank: 19
FanGraphs organizational rank: 18
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 16
SoxProspects organizational rank: 20

Average: 18.25

Ward underwent Tommy John surgery last June and will not be ready for the start of the 2022 season. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

18. Alex Binelas, 3B

Baseball America organizational rank: 17
FanGraphs organizational rank: 17
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 22
SoxProspects organizational rank: 18

Average: 18.5

19. Chris Murphy, LHP

Baseball America organizational rank: 12
FanGraphs organizational rank: 38
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 11
SoxProspects organizational rank: 14

Average: 18.75

20. Brainer Bonaci, SS

Baseball America organizational rank: 18
FanGraphs organizational rank: 20
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 21
SoxProspects organizational rank: 22

Average: 20.25

21. Ronaldo Hernandez, C

Baseball America organizational rank: 27
FanGraphs organizational rank: 9
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 24
SoxProspects organizational rank: 23

Average: 20.75

22. Matthew Lugo, SS

Baseball America organizational rank: 14
FanGraphs organizational rank: 31
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 13
SoxProspects organizational rank: 28

Average: 21.5

23. Kutter Crawford, RHP

Baseball America organizational rank: 15
FanGraphs organizational rank: 21
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 25
SoxProspects organizational rank: 27

Average: 22

24. David Hamilton, INF

Baseball America organizational rank: 25
FanGraphs organizational rank: 15
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: Not Ranked
SoxProspects organizational rank: 26

Average: 22

25. Connor Wong, C

Baseball America organizational rank: 29
FanGraphs organizational rank: 23
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: Not Ranked
SoxProspects organizational rank: 16

Average: 22.67

26. Noah Song, RHP

Baseball America organizational rank: 30
FanGraphs organizational rank: 19
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: Not Ranked
SoxProspects organizational rank: 19

Average: 22.67

27. Ceddanne Rafaela, IF/OF

Baseball America organizational rank: 22
FanGraphs organizational rank: Not Ranked
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 28
SoxProspects organizational rank: 24

Average: 24.67

28. Nathan Hickey, C

Baseball America organizational rank: 24
FanGraphs organizational rank: Not Ranked
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 23
SoxProspects organizational rank: 29

Average: 25.33

29. Eddinson Paulino, INF

Baseball America organizational rank: 28
FanGraphs organizational rank: 34
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 20
SoxProspects organizational rank: 25

Average: 26.75

30. Christian Koss, INF

Baseball America organizational rank: 26
FanGraphs organizational rank: Not Ranked
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 27
SoxProspects organizational rank: 31

Average: 28

31. Nick Decker, OF

Baseball America organizational rank: 39
FanGraphs organizational rank: 29
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 29
SoxProspects organizational rank: 30

Average: 31.75

32. Chih-Jung Liu, RHP

Baseball America organizational rank: 32
FanGraphs organizational rank: 30
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: 30
SoxProspects organizational rank: 39

Average: 32.75

33. Jeremy Wu-Yelland, LHP

Baseball America organizational rank: 31
FanGraphs organizational rank: 41
MLB Pipeline organizational rank: Not Ranked
SoxProspects organizational rank: 35

Average: 35.67

Other prospects who missed the cut but are still worth monitoring this season include pitchers Eduard Bazardo, Durbin Feltman, Luis Perales, and Jacob Wallace as well as position players like Cameron Cannon, Tyler Dearden, Ryan Fitzgerald, Niko Kavadas, Enderso Lira, and Stephen Scott, among others.

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

Red Sox pitching prospect Brayan Bello looking to make most of first invite to major-league spring training

Brayan Bello enters the 2022 season regarded by Baseball America as the No. 5 prospect in the Red Sox farm system, which ranks first among pitchers in the organization.

It has been quite the rise for Bello, who at this time last year was Baseball America’s 20th-ranked Boston prospect.

The 22-year-old right-hander is coming off a 2021 season in which he posted a 3.87 ERA and 3.02 FIP to go along with 132 strikeouts to 31 walks over 21 starts (95 1/3 innings pitched) between High-A Greenville and Double-A Portland. He also represented the Red Sox in last July’s All-Star Futures Game and was named the team’s Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year.

As a reward for his exceptional campaign, Bello was added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster last November so he would receive protection from the Rule 5 Draft. The lockout began shortly thereafter, though, which barred the former international signee from communicating with his club since he was now considered a major-leaguer.

Forced to spend his off-season and work out at home in the Dominican Republic instead of Fort Myers, Bello was about as excited as anyone when the lockout ended earlier this month since it meant he would be receiving his first-ever invite to big-league spring training.

“I’m really happy because that just shows the hard work that I put in to be able to even be invited to big-league camp,” Bello recently told The Boston Globe’s Julian McWilliams. “Like, that’s really what was the goal to be able to have this opportunity. So now that I’m here, like, I’m trying to just take advantage of it.”

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, Bello has a repeatable delivery and operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a mid-90s four-seam fastball that touches 98 mph, a changeup that is considered to be a plus offering, and an improving slider. He is also working on developing a two-seamer, per his Baseball America scouting report.

“Everybody raves about him,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Bello, who will likely be making his spring debut on either Tuesday or Wednesday. “[He doesn’t have] a physical presence. But what they said stuff wise, he’s really good.”

Bello, who turns 23 in May, is projected by SoxProspects.com to return to Portland for the start of the 2022 minor-league season next month. He should, however, make it as far as Triple-A Worcester this year and could be on the cusp of making his major-league debut sooner rather than later.

(Picture of Brayan Bello: Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)

What to expect from Red Sox outfield prospect Armando Sierra heading into 2022 season

It was exactly 14 months ago Tuesday when the Red Sox signed outfielder Armando Sierra for $150,000 as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic.

Although he was not the headliner of Boston’s 2021 international signing class (hello, Miguel Bleis), Sierra still received some attention from evaluators within the industry.

Last April, Baseball America’s Ben Badler identified Sierra as a potential sleeper prospect within the Sox’ international ranks, noting that the then-17-year-old had “an advanced approach to hitting for his age” as well as the ability to hit for power.

As a follow-up to that, Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero all but confirmed Badler’s observations in an email exchange with BloggingtheRedSox.com.

“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 said at the time. “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.”

In the months following his signing, Sierra continued to work out at the Sox’ Dominican academy in El Toro before making his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League last July.

Across 53 games for the club’s DSL Blue affiliate, the young right-handed hitter batted a respectable .284/.373/.379 (117 wRC+) to go along with 10 doubles, two home runs, 35 RBIs, 24 runs scored, 21 walks, and 41 strikeouts over 193 plate appearances.

Against left-handed pitching, Sierra slashed .296/.424/.370. Against right-handed pitching, he slashed .284/.365/.383 with both of his home runs and 33 of his 35 runs driven in.

Among all Dominican Summer League hitters who made at least 190 trips to the plate last year, Sierra ranked 27th in batting average, 48th in on-base percentage and slugging percentage, 51st in OPS (.752), and 54th in wRC+, per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Sierra was labeled as a corner infielder even before signing with Boston. In his introductory course to pro ball, the 6-foot-2, 189 pounder logged 95 innings in left field and 115 innings in right while recording a total of two outfield assists. He also appeared in eight games (seven starts) as a first baseman.

Shortly before the 2021 DSL summer came to a close last fall, SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall wrote in September that Sierra’s “power potential is impressive. He is a below-average athlete and does not project to add much defensive value, but he has big-time raw power. He gets his whole body into his swing, but there are significant questions with his hit tool that could limit his power utility against more advanced pitching.” 

Sierra, who turned 18 in January, is not regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system. Given his age, the Sabana Grande de Palenque presumably still has room to grow physically and as a baseball player.

SoxProspects.com projects that Sierra will return to the Dominican Summer League for the start of the 2022 minor-league season. That being said, a promotion to the Florida Complex League later in the year certainly seems plausible.

(Picture of Red Sox cap: Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Don’t forget about Red Sox catching prospect Kole Cottam

When it comes to how the Red Sox view the catching position in the long-term, they already have some intriguing prospects on the 40-man roster in Connor Wong and Ronaldo Hernandez. Boston also used a fifth-round pick on former University of Florida catcher Nathan Hickey in last year’s draft.

With that being said, do not forget about fellow backstop and SEC alumnus Kole Cottam, who the Sox originally selected in the fourth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Kentucky.

Cottam, who turns 25 in May, may not be one of the more well-known catching prospects in baseball. Still, the Tennessee native is coming off a 2021 season that was inarguably productive.

After the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out Minor League Baseball in 2020, Cottam broke camp last spring with High-A Greenville. The right-handed hitter proceeded to bat a stout .276/.386/.487 (135 wRC+) with 13 doubles, one triple, six home runs, 24 RBIs, 22 runs scored, 25 walks, and 64 strikeouts over 46 games (190 plate appearances) for the Drive.

On July 29, the Red Sox promoted Cottam to Double-A Portland, where he slashed .282/.337/.526 to go along with five doubles, one triple, four homers, nine runs driven in, 11 runs scored, three walks, and 33 strikeouts across 25 games (98 plate appearances) with the Sea Dogs.

Though Cottam’s walk rate fell and strikeout rate increased upon his promotion to Portland, he still finished the year with a .871 OPS and 133 wRC+, meaning he created 33% more runs than the average hitter in 2021.

Defensively, Cottam logged a total of 439 innings behind the plate with the Drive and Sea Dogs last year. The 6-foot-3, 235 pounder threw out eight of a possible 50 base stealers and also saw some time at first base with Portland.

While the Double-A season may have concluded in September, Cottam’s year was not done. He was one of eight Red Sox prospects who made the trek out west to play in the Arizona Fall League.

Suiting up for the Scottsdale Scorpions, Cottam and his moustache crushed three homers, collected 10 RBIs, and posted an OPS of .866 in 15 games. He was named an Arizona Fall League All-Star alongside teammate Triston Casas in November.

Shortly after the AFL season came to a close, Cottam very well could have been added to Boston’s 40-man roster in order to receive protection from the Rule 5 Draft. The Red Sox, however, elected to not include the 24-year-old.

At the time that decision was made, it’s safe to assume Cottam was disappointed with the news. That said, not being added to the 40-man allowed Cottam to stay in contact with Sox coaches throughout the lockout and participate in the team’s Winter Warm-Up program in January.

Not being on the club’s 40-man roster also allowed Cottam to report to minor-league spring training in Fort Myers earlier this month. When the lockout ended, he was one of 12 minor-leaguers who received an invite to big-league camp this past Thursday.

As he takes part in major-league spring training for a second consecutive year, Cottam enters the 2022 season ranked by SoxProspects.com as the No. 56 prospect in the organization.

The former Kentucky Wildcat is projected by the site to return to Portland for the start of the upcoming campaign, though it would not be surprising to see him earn a promotion to Triple-A Worcester at some point this year.

(Picture of Kole Cottam: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox)

Who is Jedixson Paez? Red Sox prospect was named team’s Latin Program Pitcher of the Year in 2021

Last season, the Red Sox had 39 minor-league pitchers who threw at least 50 innings at their respective levels. One of those 39 was young pitching prospect Jedixson Paez.

Paez, who turned 18 in January, spent the entirety of the 2021 campaign in the Dominican Summer League as a 17-year-old. In 13 starts for the DSL Red Sox Blue affiliate, the right-hander posted a 2.86 ERA and 3.79 FIP to go along with 49 strikeouts to just nine walks over 50 1/3 innings of work.

Among all qualified hurlers in the DSL last year, Paez ranked 11th in walks per nine innings (1.61), ninth in walk rate (4.4%), 22nd in WHIP (1.03),31st in swinging strike rate (36.7%), and 26th in xFIP (3.12), per FanGraphs.

The Red Sox originally signed Paez as an international free agent out of Venezuela for $450,000 last January, making the Tinaquillo native one of the more notable additions from Boston’s 2021 signing class.

With 2021 marking his first exposure to pro ball, it is noteworthy that Paez was named the Sox’ Latin Program Pitcher of the Year back in September. Around that same time, SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall wrote that the righty “has the potential to be an interesting long-term prospect” if he can continue “to add strength and improve the velocity on his pitches.”

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, Paez clearly still has plenty of room to grow both physically and developmentally. According to his SoxProspects.com scouting report, Paez throws from a three-quarters arm slot and works with a fastball that hovers around 84-86 mph and a curveball that sits at 69-71 mph.

Coming into the 2022 season, Paez is not regarded by any major publication as one of the top pitching prospects in Boston’s farm system. He did, however, receive a shoutout from FanGraphs’ Kevin Goldstein and Tess Taruskin last week for being projectable, having advanced command, and “promising” secondary stuff.

On that note, Paez is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin his age-18 season in the rookie-level Florida Complex League later this summer. It should be fascinating to see how he handles the transition from the Dominican Republic to the United States.

(Picture of Jedixson Paez via his Instagram)

Nathanael Cruz identified by Baseball America as Red Sox prospect ‘who could make a leap forward’ in 2022

Red Sox pitching prospect Nathanael Cruz was recently identified by Baseball America as a sleeper “who could make a leap forward” heading into the 2022 season.

Cruz, who turned 19 last month, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 34 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The right-hander originally signed with the Sox for $200,000 as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2019.

While he missed out on his first full pro season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cruz was one of the youngest arms at the Red Sox’ fall instructional league in 2020.

The following spring, Cruz remained in Fort Myers and spent the entirety of the 2021 minor-league season with the rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox. In four appearances (three starts) for Boston’s FCL affiliate, the righty posted a 3.18 ERA and 4.89 xFIP to go along with eight strikeouts to three walks over just 5 2/3 innings of work. He threw just four pitches in his final outing of the year on August 6 and did not appear in another game.

Although Cruz was listed on the club’s 2021 fall instructional league roster, it is unclear how much he participated in the program.

Listed at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, Cruz operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 93-95 mph, an 85-87 mph changeup, and an 80-82 mph curveball, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report. Back in September, SoxProspects.com’s Ian Cundall noted that Cruz “still has a long way to go with his command and control, and his low-80s breaking ball is a work in progress, but he intrigued scouts and there is upside given his age.”

On that note, Cruz is projected to return to the Florida Complex League for the start of the 2022 minor-league season. If healthy, there is certainly a lot to like about the 19-year-old hurler given his youth, potential, and remaining projection.

(Picture of Nathanael Cruz: Bryan Green/Flickr)

Don’t forget about Red Sox outfield prospect Juan Chacon

After the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 minor-league season, the Red Sox did not get their first official look at outfield prospect Juan Chacon until fall instructs began that October.

Boston originally signed Chacon, then a 16-year-old outfielder, out of Venezuela for $900,000 in July 2019 to make him the highest-paid player in their 2019-2020 international signing class.

Though the pandemic forced Chacon to miss what would have been his first taste of pro ball, he clearly did enough while at home to earn an invite to fall instructs and impress the Red Sox in Fort Myers.

With Minor League Baseball returning in full last year, Chacon — now 18 — was assigned to the Dominican Summer League Red Sox Blue affiliate in early June and spent the entirety of the 2021 season there. Across 47 games, the right-handed hitter batted .311/.426/.384 to go along with five doubles, two triples, one home run, eight RBIs, 45 runs scored, 11 stolen bases, 26 walks, and 26 strikeouts over 197 plate appearances. He also went 37-for-127 (.291) against right-handed pitchers and 14-for-36 (.389) against lefties.

Among all DSL hitters who made at least 190 trips to the plate in 2021, Chacon ranked fourth in runs scored, 22nd in strikeout rate (13.2%), 14th in batting average, ninth in on-base percentage, 30th in OPS (.811), and 24th in wRC+ (136), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Chacon saw action in both center and right field while splitting time at each position with fellow Venezuelan Jhostynxon Garcia. All told, the 6-foot-2, 171 pounder logged 216 2/3 innings in center and 119 1/3 in right in the process of registering four outfield assists and turning a pair of double plays.

As far as how evaluators feel about his game, SoxProspects.com’s Ian Cundall wrote in September that “scout feedback on Chacon has been tepid, with scouts praising the looseness in his swing but worried about a lack of physical projection and power potential.”

On the other side of the ball, Cundall notes that Chacon profiles best as a corner outfielder due to his average speed and arm strength as well as a need to improve in the route-running department.

Chacon, who turned 19 in December, still has plenty of room to grow physically and developmentally. The Valera native is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 60 prospect in Boston’s farm system. He is projected by the site to begin the 2022 season with the rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox and is already in Fort Myers for the start of minor-league spring training.

(Picture of Juan Chacon via his Instagram)

Who is Karson Simas? Red Sox infield prospect batted .310 and intrigued scouts in Florida Complex League last year

The Red Sox’ farm system is currently chock-full of talented, young infielders like Triston Casas, Nick Yorke, Marcelo Mayer, and Blaze Jordan, just to name a few. While those four represent some of the top prospects in the organization, fellow infielder Karson Simas should not be overlooked even if he is not part of that prestigious group.

The son of former big-league pitcher Bill Simas, Karson was originally selected by the Sox in the 25th round of the 2019 amateur draft out of Clovis West High School in Fresno, Calif.

At that time, Simas was committed to play college baseball where his father had at Fresno City College. He instead elected to go pro and signed with Boston for an over-slot $125,000 that July.

Red Sox area scout Josh Labanderia — a California native and former major-leaguer himself — was responsible for signing Simas. In an appearance on Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast last August, Labandeira explained how he was first drawn to Simas as a high school prospect.

“He was a slender-bodied, slick-fielding shortstop that I thought had some projection left,” Labandeira said. “I felt like he was going to get to an average capability with the bat, but be lighter on the power. Maybe not an everyday type-profile, but profiles as a solid utility type player. Maybe like a Jay Bell. He kind of had a Jay Bell build from back in the day with the Pirates.

“I felt like he’s going to fill out into his frame,” added Labandeira. “He ran well and he was always just a really smooth defender. Growing up in the clubhouse with dad, being around the ballpark, his mind worked a little bit different. The game came to him a little bit easier. I really enjoyed watching him play and felt like he had a lot of upside.

“Karson was a guy that was kind of under-the-radar,” he continued. “Not many scouts knew about him except a handful of guys. I had been working him out in the summers and he’d come and hit with me a couple times and take groundballs. His development kept progressing in the right direction, and I knew he didn’t want to go to college, which was another factor that helped out being able to sign him where we did. But, I just felt like he had a lot of projection left. He was just lacking some strength and once that strength would come on, he would turn into the type of player I envisioned.”

After signing with the Sox as an 18-year-old fresh out of high school, Simas made his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League on July 27, though he appeared in just 11 games before the 2019 minor-league season ended.

Because the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out Minor League Baseball in 2020, Simas had his first full season in pro ball effectively taken away from him. He did not receive an invite to the Red Sox’ alternate training site that summer, nor did he participate in fall instructs in Fort Myers.

Still Simas entered the following spring looking to finally get a full season of baseball under his belt. Once extended spring training came to a close in June, the 20-year-old spent the remainder of the 2021 season in the rookie-level Florida Complex League.

With the Sox’ FCL affiliate, Simas batted a stout .310/.381/.460 to go along with six doubles, two triples, one home run, 18 RBIs, 17 runs scored, four stolen bases, eight walks, and 22 strikeouts over 30 games spanning 98 plate appearances. The right-handed hitter surprisingly fared better against righties (.889 OPS in 68 PAs) than he did lefties (.729 OPS in 30 PAs).

Among all Florida Complex League hitters who made at least 90 trips to the plate last year, Simas ranked 18th in batting average, 36th in on-base percentage, 34th in slugging percentage, 32nd in OPS (.841), 17th in speed score (8.6), and 30th in wRC+ (126), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Simas proved in 2021 that he is more than just a shortstop. In addition to logging 56 1/3 innings at short, the 6-foot-6, 175 pounder logged one inning at first base, 138 1/3 innings at second base, seven innings at third base, and even one inning in left field.

As for how evaluators feel about Simas’ defense, SoxProspects.com’s Ian Cundall wrote over the summer that “scout feedback on his glove has been very encouraging.” Cundall also noted that Simas “has a good approach and his swing works, but scouts doubt he will hit for much power.”

Simas, who turns 21 in June, is not regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in the Red Sox’ farm system. He is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 minor-league season with Low-A Salem and is presumably preparing for the upcoming campaign in Fort Myers as we speak.

(Picture of Karson Simas: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)