Red Sox select TCU right-hander Caleb Bolden with seventh-round pick in 2022 MLB Draft

With the 219th overall pick in the 2022 MLB first-year player draft, the Red Sox selected Texas Christian University right-hander Caleb Bolden.

Bolden, 23, is a fifth-year senior who spent the first four years of his collegiate career at the University of Arkansas before transferring to TCU for the 2022 season. In 23 appearances (one start) with the Horned Frogs, the Texarkana native posted a 6.23 ERA and 1.44 WHIP with 46 strikeouts to 19 walks over 39 innings of work.

Standing at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, Bolden underwent Tommy John surgery three years ago, which resulted in him missing the entirety of the 2019 season at Arkansas.

Per his Baseball America scouting report, Bolden “is a low slot sinker/slider pitcher with a low effort delivery and solid arm talent. His stuff has never played as good as the pitch-mix that he has.”

This is the second time Bolden has been drafted, as the righty was previously taken by the Rays in the 16th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of high school. Rather than sign with Tampa Bay, though, Bolden elected to go to college.

The Red Sox last drafted a TCU pitcher in 2018, when they took fellow reliever Durbin Feltman in the third round. Bolden, on the other hand, becomes the fourth college hurler Boston has selected in this year’s draft, joining the likes of Dalton Rogers, Noah Dean, and Alex Hoppe.

The expectation seems to be that Bolden, who turns 24 in December, will sign for less than the $208,600 that is allotted to the 219th overall selection in the 2022 draft. The Red Sox have until August 1 to sign Bolden, as well as the rest of their draft picks.

(Picture of Caleb Bolden: Texas Christian University Athletics)

Red Sox outfield prospect Phillip Sikes homers twice, drives in 4 runs for Low-A Salem as impressive month of May rolls on

Red Sox outfield prospect Phillip Sikes had a monster game in Low-A Salem’s 8-2 win over the Fredericksburg Nationals at Virginia Credit Union Stadium on Wednesday night.

Batting eighth and starting in center field, Sikes went 3-for-4 at the plate with two home runs, one double, four RBIs, three runs scored, and one walk. He also picked up an outfield assist and helped turn an inning-ending double play by gunning down top Nationals prospect Brady House at first base in the bottom of the third.

Both of Sikes’ homers were solo shots that came off two different Nationals relievers in the fourth and sixth innings. His double came in the top half of the seventh and plated an additional two runs to lift Salem to their 21st win of the year.

After getting his first full professional season off to a rough start in April (73 wRC+), Sikes — like many in Salem’s lineup — has turned things around for the better in May. Following Wednesday’s performance, the right-handed hitter has slashed .265/.351/.592 (152 wRC+) with five doubles, one triple, three home runs, nine RBIs, nine runs scored, two stolen bases, five walks, and 15 strikeouts over 14 games (57 plate appearances) this month.

Defensively, Sikes has already seen playing time at all three outfield positions this year, logging 71 2/3 innings in left, 123 innings in center, and 40 innings in right. The 6-foot-2, 190 pounder recorded his second outfield assist of the season on Wednesday.

Back on May 4, Sikes made his professional debut as a pitcher in Salem’s 24-6 loss to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. The right-hander needed just nine pitches (seven strikes) to toss a perfect ninth inning in what was his first appearance on a mound since 2019.

Sikes, 23, was selected by the Red Sox in the 18th round of last year’s draft out of Texas Christian University. The native Texan is not yet regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system, though he may be already be one of the quickest players in the organization.

According to FanGraphs, Sikes has posted a Speed Score of 8.3 this season. First developed by Bill James, Speed Score measures a player’s speed and baserunning ability on a 0 to 10 scale. Sikes’ 8.3 Speed Score, then, is quite good.

Among Carolina League hitters with at least 110 plate appearances under their belt in 2022, Sikes ranks 13th in Speed Score and 14th in isolated power (.194). Among minor-leaguers in the Red Sox organization who have made 110 or more trips to the plate, Sikes ranks fourth in Speed Score and 12th in isolated power, per FanGraphs.

Coming into play on Thursday, Sikes has multiple hits in three of his last seven games. He will look to keep things going as Salem goes for its fourth straight win beginning at 7:05 p.m. eastern time.

(Picture of Phillip Sikes via the Salem Red Sox)

Who is Phillip Sikes? Red Sox outfield prospect batted .392 in Florida Complex league last year after being taken in 18th round of 2021 draft

The Red Sox selected 10 college players from Power Five schools in the 2021 amateur draft, including Texas Christian University outfielder Phillip Sikes.

Sikes, 22, began his college career at the University of New Mexico in 2018. He then transferred to Pima Community College in Arizona for his sophomore season and was taken by the Diamondbacks in the 33rd round of the 2019 draft.

Rather than go pro as a draft-eligible sophomore, Sikes opted to transfer to TCU for his junior and senior seasons. After being taken by Boston in the 18th round of last summer’s draft, the Paris, Texas native ultimately signed with the club for $97,500.

Regarded by Baseball America as the 465th-ranked prospect in the 2021 draft class, Sikes’ first assignment as a professional came in the rookie-level Florida Complex League. The right-handed hitter debuted for the Sox’ FCL affiliate on August 5 and proceeded to slash a stout .392/.464/.622 to go along with eight doubles, three home runs, 18 RBIs, 18 runs scored, five stolen bases, eight walks, and 24 strikeouts over 24 games (84 plate appearances) to close out the minor-league season.

In 63 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers, Sikes posted a 1.227 OPS but only produced a .679 OPS in 22 plate appearances against lefties.

Although he was admittedly older for the level he was playing at, Sikes was still one of the top hitters in the lower-minors last year. Among FCL hitters who made at least 80 trips to the plate in 2021, the former Horned Frog ranked third in batting average, third in on-base percentage, fourth in slugging percentage, fourth in OPS (1.086), 18th in isolated power (.230), and fifth in wRC+ (185), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Sikes had played all three outfield positions while in college and things remained that way — albeit to a lesser degree — during his first pro season. The 6-foot-2, 190 pounder logged 158 2/3 innings in center, seven in left, and nine in right while recording two outfield assists and turning one double play.

A former two-way player as an amateur, Sikes profiles best as a corner outfielder moving forward. According to his Baseball America scouting report from before last July’s draft, Sikes “has a solid, well-rounded tool set. He’s a plus runner who has demonstrated that he can catch up to a good fastball, although he can be enticed to chase a tantalizing slider.

“Sikes has a short, direct swing that is geared more for hitting for average than power, but he has enough strength to drive balls to the right field power alley as well,” his scouting report continues. “Sikes is a well-rounded outfielder who can play center field in a pinch and is average in the corners. His arm is fringe-average but accurate.”

Sikes, who turns 23 next month, is not listed on any major publication’s top Red Sox prospects list heading into the 2022 campaign. That being said, the speedy outfielder is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin his first full season as a pro at High-A Greenville, which is certainly interesting when you consider the fact he did not play at the Low-A level last year.

(Picture of Phillip Sikes: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox pitching prospect Durbin Feltman one of 22 non-roster invitees added to club’s spring training roster

Right-handed pitching prospect Durbin Feltman was one of 22 non-roster invitees that the Red Sox added to their spring training roster earlier Friday evening. He will be one of 30 players the club invited to major-league spring training when camp begins next week.

The 23-year-old, like a majority of minor-leaguers, did not have any sort of season to take part in last year.

Some had the luxury of being invited to their respective team’s alternate training sites over the course of the 2020 season, but Feltman was not one of them.

Instead, the former 2018 third-round draft pick out of Texas Christian University was on his own, and he was rather disappointed to not be included in the Sox’ 60-man player pool at any point last season.

“I was frustrated, upset,” Feltman told BloggingtheRedSox.com back in December. “Just not being invited [after] thinking I was going to go — I was frustrated the whole time because I figured ‘Hey, I’m going to use this time the best I can.’ I’m not going to get time like this again, barring another pandemic, to be able to do whatever I want and work on things. So, I used it the best I could and figured out some stuff. I feel like I figured out a lot.”

By figuring a lot out on his own time over the summer, the flame-throwing reliever was able to bring with him to the Sox’ fall instructional league a chip on his shoulder. He was out to show the club what they missed out on by not inviting him to the alternate site.

“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. “Hopefully I showed enough, I felt like I did. And I’m carrying that into 2021 as well.”

According to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, Feltman “put in the work at instructs, as he looked much closer to the pitcher we saw in 2018 than he did at any time in 2019. Feltman’s velocity came back, as he was up to 96 mph, mostly sitting 93-94 mph. His 85-87 mph slider flashed above-average potential, and even though it was not as crisp as it used to be, he still was able to use it to get swinging strikes. He also mixed in his low-80s curveball, which was a good change of pace to his slider.”

While Cundall noted that Feltman’s ability to control and command the strike zone are still long-term concerns, he also wrote that “the stuff he showed at Instructs definitely could play in a middle relief role at the major-league level.”

Feltman, who turns 24 in April, is eligible for this year’s Rule 5 Draft in December unless he is added to Boston’s 40-man roster by November 20.

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

Having pointed that out, it would appear that Feltman would not be opposed to making his major-league debut this year, or at the very least impress enough to make the Sox’ 40-man roster by the November deadline.

With those goals in mind, Feltman — currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the organization’s No. 29 prospect — being invited to Red Sox spring training as a non-roster invite is surely a step in the right direction.

(Picture of Durbin Feltman: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox pitching prospect Durbin Feltman intends to be more aggressive in the strike zone in 2021

Right-hander Durbin Feltman entered the 2019 season as the Red Sox’ No. 11 prospect according to Baseball America.

Fresh off an inaugural 2018 campaign in which he split time between short-season Lowell, Low-A Greenville, and High-A Salem and posted a miniscule 1.93 ERA over 22 total appearances, the third-round draft pick out of Texas Christian University was facing rather lofty expectations as he embarked on his first full professional season.

Spending the entirety of the 2019 season with Double-A Portland, Feltman struggled to the tune of a 5.26 ERA and 5.02 FIP over 43 outings and 51 1/3 innings of work.

This summer, after the 2020 minor-league season had already been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Red Sox decided against including Feltman in its 60-man player pool while a number of the organization’s top pitching prospects, such as Tanner Houck, Bryan Mata, and Jay Groome were.

These prospects spent their summers working out and playing in intrasquad games at the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket. Prospects such as Feltman, meanwhile, remained at their respective homes.

The 23-year-old recently spoke with BloggingtheRedSox.com about this experience.

“I was frustrated, upset,” Feltman said of not being included in the 60-man pool. “Just not being invited [after] thinking I was going to go — I was frustrated the whole time because I figured ‘Hey, I’m going to use this time the best I can.’ I’m not going to get time like this again, barring another pandemic, to be able to do whatever I want and work on things. So, I used it the best I could and figured out some stuff. I feel like I figured out a lot.”

Having seemingly turned a corner on his own time, Feltman went into the Red Sox’ fall instructional league in Fort Myers and thoroughly impressed thanks to some added motivation.

“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,'” he added. “Hopefully I showed enough, I felt like I did. And I’m carrying that into 2021 as well.”

While he had to wait a little bit to report to fall instructs in early October, Feltman was able to hone his craft while at home as opposed to the alternate training this summer. The Red Sox even gave him some things to work on.

“I was in a sticky situation,” said Feltman. “They were taking MLB depth and they didn’t see me as MLB depth yet because I’m obviously really young. They gave us stuff to work on, stuff I had been working on — having a repeatable delivery and just getting back to what I used to do in 2018. I feel like I’m closing in, and I’m not trying to revert back to [2018], but I’m also trying to get better. So, I feel like I’m in a really good spot right now, going down there and working with them and then working on my own.”

An aspect the Red Sox would like to see Feltman improve upon, as he mentioned, was having a more repeatable delivery. The flame-throwing righty went into more depth with that.

“I worked a lot on making things easier — more repeatable and easier,” the Houston-area native said. “I got into the mindset of trying to create more with everything, just trying to create more, and that’s not what I needed to do. So now, it’s just being easy and letting it go. The velocity’s ticking back up, it’s not quite where I want it to be yet, but it’s getting back up there. The ball’s coming out better now just playing catch than it was in instructs and even during the summer.

“Just continuing to work and figuring out those little things,” Feltman continued. “Just making it smooth and basically just being an athlete on the mound instead of worrying about every little thing.”

One thing Feltman does have to worry about while on the mound is which pitch he is going to throw and where said pitch is going to end up. The former Horned Frog’s pitch arsenal currently consists of a fastball, a slider, and a curveball. He discussed how he can use each of those pitches to his advantage.

“Obviously I have my fastball,” Feltman stated. “It has a little bit of a cut to it sometimes when I throw it to the glove side, so I try to throw it up in the zone and then to my glove side. Then I have my slider. I’m finally getting back to how I throw my upper-80s power-slider and just getting a feel for that, being able to throw it in any count. And then, I switched back my grip to my old curveball, just a 12-6 to play off that high fastball or drop it in when I need a get-me-over strike to show them something else. I don’t throw any changeups or anything that moves arm-side, so just being able to show a change of speed from hard to power breaking ball and then flip in a low-80s curveball. It just puts that in the back of the mind that ‘Hey, you got to watch out for that, too.'”

Despite this sound strategy, there were instances last year in Portland where Feltman would regularly fall behind in counts, which in turn led to 13.9% walk rate. He attributed this to a tendency to nibble the corners of the strike zone after falling behind in counts, and is now aiming to be more aggressive in the strike zone moving forward.

“I feel like it was just a snowball effect of one thing led to another led to another led to another,” Feltman said. “I go up there and it’s cold, so my velo’s down a little bit, so I’m trying to create more. Obviously, I’m getting in hitter’s counts because I’m not commanding like I should and then you’re obviously going to have higher batting averages in hitter’s counts. So, I’m giving up hits here and there, so I’m like ‘Okay, they’re hitting me.’ Well, no, you’re doing it to yourself, getting in 3-0, 3-1 counts. That kind of led to ‘I’ve got to nibble here, nibble there.’ I can’t let him hit it early in the count and that’s just getting away from what I do.

“I’ve gone back to ‘Hey, get ahead early in the count, don’t try to nibble, just be aggressive in the strike zone. My stuff’s going to play in the strike zone,'” he added. “It’s amazing what happens, you get swings and misses left and right if you’re confident throwing it in the strike zone. That’s kind of the mentality I’ve gone back to: Get ahead early. You get ahead early, it’s a whole different ballgame. It makes it so much easier… The odds are in your favor if you’ve got two strikes.”

With this more aggressive approach in mind, Feltman is going to take what he learned from 2019 and work to throw more strikes earlier in counts in 2021.

“That’s going to help two things,” he said. “It’s going to help increase strikeouts, so your strikeout rate, and it’s also going to help decrease my walk rate. What I’m working on is being able to throw all three of my pitches for strikes — and not just strikes — quality strikes, and then just keeping that same mentality: Be aggressive early, be aggressive early. I feel like if I do that, everything will take care of itself.”

Feltman, who turns 24 in April, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as Boston’s No. 28 prospect. The TCU alum, listed at 6-feet and 205 lbs., will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft next December, but he has not thought about that too much and is more focused on getting to the big-leagues as soon as possible.

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

(Top photo of Feltman: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)