Why did Red Sox leave Rule 5 eligible prospects such as Gilberto Jiménez and Thaddeus Ward off 40-man roster? Chaim Bloom explains

The Red Sox were never going to be able to protect all 54 of their eligible minor-leaguers from next month’s Rule 5 Draft since they only had seven open spots on their 40-man roster to work with.

However, when the time came for the Sox to add those prospects they deemed worthy of protecting this past Friday, the club elected to fill just four of the seven vacancies they had on the 40-man.

While right-handers Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford, Josh Winckowski and infielder Jeter Downs were all added, 50 other Red Sox minor-leaguers were not and effectively became eligible for December’s Rule 5 Draft as a result.

Of those 50 who missed the cut, some notable prospects stick out, such as Kole Cottam, Durbin Feltman, Franklin German, Gilberto Jimenez, A.J. Politi, Ceddanne Rafaela, Victor Santos, Chase Shugart, and Thaddeus Ward, among others.

Within this group, Jimenez and Ward are regarded by SoxProspects.com as two of the top 20 prospects in Boston’s farm system and could be of interest to other clubs come December.

With that being said, though, Jimenez — a 21-year-old outfielder — has yet to advance past the Low-A level in the minors, while Ward — a 24-year-old right-hander — is only five-plus months removed from Tommy John surgery and is unlikely to pitch in 2022.

As FanGraphs‘ Eric Longenhagen recently wrote, Jimenez would “be a bold Rule 5 choice for a rebuilding club, who’d be putting his long-term development at risk by rostering him.”

Ward, on the other hand, “would also be an interesting Rule 5 choice” since his new team could stash him on the 60-day injured list for the entirety of the 2020 season while he rehabs in order to clear a 40-man roster spot of their own.

On Monday, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom explained to reporters (including MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith) just how difficult it was to leave a number of talented players off their 40-man roster going into the winter.

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

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

Put another way, by keeping three spots on their 40-man roster open, the Red Sox at present would not have to make a corresponding move if they were to sign a free-agent to a major-league contract.

Along those same lines, Bloom and Co. are essentially daring other teams to take any of the prospects Boston left unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft and attempt to keep them on their big-league roster throughout the 2022 season.

As SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall explains, if the Red Sox added an eligible prospect like Jimenez to their 40-man roster and wanted to remove him from it in the future, another club could then just claim him off waivers, option him to the minors, and keep him there.

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

Red Sox pitching prospect Thaddeus Ward plays catch for first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery

Red Sox pitching prospect Thaddeus Ward posted a video on social media of himself playing catch on Wednesday, marking the first time he has done so since undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Ward, 24, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 14 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking seventh among pitchers in the organization.

The right-hander was originally selected by the Sox in the fifth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Central Florida and had opened the 2021 minor-league season with Double-A Portland.

Just two starts and eight innings into his tenure with the Sea Dogs, however, it was revealed that Ward would require Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow after he suffered a forearm strain in mid-May. The procedure was later performed by Dr. James Andrews in Florida in early June, thus ending the righty’s year prematurely.

Fast forward six months later, though, and it appears that Ward is on the right track towards a full recovery. While it’s likely that he won’t pitch in a game again until late 2022 at the earliest, the Red Sox will still have an interesting decision to make regarding Ward’s status in the coming weeks.

Major-league clubs have until November 19 to add eligible minor-leaguers to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft, which is slated to take place during the winter meetings in December.

Along with the likes of Jeter Downs, Brayan Bello, and Gilberto Jimenez, Ward is one of several top Red Sox prospects who could become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if they are not added to Boston’s 40-man roster later this month.

A native of Fort Myers, Fla., the 6-foot-3, 192 pound hurler is certainly an interesting candidate to be added. In his first full professional season in 2019, he posted a 2.14 ERA and strikeout-to-walk ratio of 157:57 over 25 starts spanning 126 1/3 innings pitched between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem.

This past spring, he put up a 5.63 ERA and 2.64 FIP to go along with 11 strikeouts to five walks in his two outings for Portland prior to getting injured.

With that being said, there would be some caveats to adding Ward on account of the fact that he is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, which can take anywhere between 12-18 months to heal from.

Put another way, if the Red Sox were to add Ward to their 40-man roster before the Nov. 19 deadline, he would essentially be taking up a spot on their roster going into next season. Boston could place Ward, who turns 25 in January, on the 60-day injured list to temporarily clear a roster spot, but would subsequently be starting his service time clock as a result of doing so.

If Ward were to be left unprotected heading into next month’s Rule 5 Draft, other clubs would have the chance to select him. Any team that picks him up, though, would then ordinarily be tasked with carrying him on their active roster for a minimum of 90 days.

Since that would be unlikely to execute in Ward’s case, his new club would presumably place him on the 60-day injured list for the entirety of the 2022 campaign before being subject to the same set of rules in 2023.

Those rules being that once healthy, Ward will have to remain on his new team’s 26-man roster for the entire 2023 season or otherwise be offered back to the Red Sox.

It’s a fascinating situation, and one that can definitely be classified as unique and maybe even somewhat confusing. That said, all signs seem to point to the Red Sox not adding Ward to their 40-man roster by the Nov. 19 deadline and thus exposing him to this winter’s Rule 5 Draft.

(Picture of Thaddeus Ward: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox pitching prospect Thaddeus Ward undergoes Tommy John surgery

Red Sox pitching prospect Thaddeus Ward underwent Tommy John surgery on Thursday, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. The procedure was performed by Dr. James Andrews in Florida.

Ward, 24, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 10 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks fourth among pitchers in the organization.

The right-hander opened the 2021 minor-league season with Double-A Portland, where he allowed five runs on 11 hits, five walks, and 11 strikeouts over his first two starts and eight innings pitched prior to being placed on the injured list due to a forearm strain.

Per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, Ward “visited multiple doctors in recent weeks before surgery was recommended.”

Selected by the Red Sox in the fifth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Central Florida, Ward emerged as one of the organization’s top pitching prospects thanks in part to posting a 2.14 ERA over 25 starts (126 1/3 innings) between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem during his first full professional season in 2019.

While he did not pitch in 2020 on account of the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling the minor-league season, the Florida native did receive an invite to big-league spring training this year before getting reassigned to minor-league camp in early March.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 193 pounds, Ward — who works with a sinker, cutter, slider, changeup, and curveball — will miss the rest of the 2021 campaign and likely the majority of 2022 as well considering the typical timetable for pitchers to come back from Tommy John surgery is anywhere between 12-15 months.

Ward undergoing Tommy John is the latest instance of the Red Sox’ minor-league pitching depth taking a major hit so far this year.

Bryan Mata, the top pitching prospect in the system, underwent Tommy John surgery in April. Tanner Houck, the No. 3 pitching prospect in the system, has been on the injured list with a flexor muscle strain.

Connor Seabold, the No. 5 pitching prospect in the system, has been on the injured list with elbow inflammation. Eduard Bazardo, the 27th-ranked prospect in the system according to MLB Pipeline, has been on the injured list with a lat strain.

For the Red Sox, the silver lining with Ward is that they likely won’t need to add the young righty to their 40-man roster in November even though he will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time this winter.

(Picture of Thaddeus Ward: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Thaddeus Ward, top Red Sox pitching prospect, set to make Double-A debut Friday

For the first time since August 27, 2019, Red Sox pitching prospect Thaddeus Ward will toe the rubber in a minor-league game on Friday.

Ward, 24, will be making his first start of the season for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs as they go up against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats — the Double-A affiliate of the Blue Jays — at Hadlock Field.

The young right-hander is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 10 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking fourth among pitchers behind only Bryan Mata, Jay Groome, and Tanner Houck.

The Red Sox selected Ward, a native of Fort Myers, in the fifth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Central Florida.

Since then, Ward has been solid at every level he has pitched at, most recently posting a 2.33 ERA, a .203 batting average against, and a 70:32 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 12 starts and 54 innings pitched with High-A Salem in 2019 after earning a promotion from Low-A Greenville in June of that year.

With no minor-league season in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Ward was left to work out on his own — with some guidance from the Red Sox — before being invited to the team’s fall instructional league at the Fenway South complex in his hometown.

Despite not having the opportunity to further develop during a traditional minor-league season last year, Ward is confident that he will be able to put his best foot forward in 2021 regardless of the circumstances.

“I think it is going to be difficult for everybody,” Ward told MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith last October. “But at the same time, I do have the confidence that I put in the work. I really committed to making sure I stayed on top of myself, made sure I kept doing what I was supposed to be doing and not let circumstances dictate if I get better or not… I’ve got to be better at the end of the day than when I woke up. That’s how I approached every single day. So hopefully when we get back into the games come spring training, or next season, whatever, hopefully I’ll be ready for it.”

Ward came into spring training this year having received an invitation to big-league camp as a non-roster invitee. He was later reassigned to minor-league camp on March 9.

In four Grapefruit League appearances, the 6-foot-3, 193 pound hurler allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits, four walks, and two hit batsmen to go along with four strikeouts in four innings of work.

“First things first, slow down. He doesn’t have to impress people,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Ward back in March. “We know the player. We know the stuff. We love the tempo on the mound. But we need him to be careful. Sometimes you come into spring and you want to open eyes. He doesn’t have to do that. We know what he can do.

“He’s a very likable guy, a great competitor,” added Cora. “He pays attention to details on the mound: slowing down the running game, great tempo. He knows what it takes. And stuff-wise, it’s pretty good. It’s pretty good. So excited to see him compete. I’ve been hearing about him for a few years. It’s to go out there and have a blast. That’s the most important thing.”

As he prepares to make his first career Eastern League start on Friday, Ward — who works with a sinker, cutter, slider, changeup, and curveball — is entering a somewhat pivotal year in his young career considering the fact that he is Rule 5 eligible for the first time come December.

In other words, the Red Sox will need to add Ward to their 40-man roster by November 20 if they want to protect him from this winter’s Rule 5 Draft.

Given Ward’s potential, that is almost certainly a lock to happen at the moment. Still, in what is sure to be an unprecedented season of minor-league baseball, how the righty performs this year will be something worth monitoring nonetheless.

(Picture of Thaddeus Ward: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Durbin Feltman, A.J. Politi, Thaddeus Ward among 12 players included in Red Sox’ first round of spring roster cuts

Before taking on the Rays in Port Charlotte on Tuesday afternoon, the Red Sox announced their first round of spring training roster cuts.

In total, 12 players — two catchers, 10 pitchers — were reassigned by the club to the minor-leagues.

Catchers (2): Roldani Baldwin, Austin Rei

Pitchers (10): Seth Blair, Matt Carasiti, Raynel Espinal, Durbin Feltman, Frank German, Zac Grotz, Kaleb Ort, A.J. Politi, Thaddeus Ward, Josh Winckowski

All 12 players cut on Tuesday were initially invited to big-league camp as non-roster invitees, so these moves are not exactly surprising.

According to Baseball America, Ward is the No. 10 prospect and Politi is the No. 27 prospect in Boston’s farm system heading into the 2021 season. Both right-handers are projected to begin the year with Double-A Portland as part of the Sea Dogs’ starting rotation.

German and Winckowski, meanwhile, are two pitching prospects the Sox acquired via trade this offseason.

The 23-year-old German was part of the deal between the Red Sox and Yankees that brought Adam Ottavino to Boston, while the 22-year-old Winckowski was part of the three-team swap that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Kansas City Royals.

They, too, are right-handed pitchers and are both projected to start the 2021 campaign in Portland.

Just because these players were reassigned, that does not prevent them from appearing in additional Grapefruit League games this spring. Feltman and Ward are both expected to pitch against the Rays on Tuesday, for example.

When they are not playing in games, players reassigned to the minors will remain in Fort Myers, but will work out at different times than those who are still on the major-league roster.

Following Tuesday’s round of cuts, the Sox now have 22 non-roster invitees at big-league camp, bringing the total size of their spring training roster down to 62 players.

(Picture of Thaddeus Ward: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)