Red Sox infield prospect Alex Binelas has plenty of raw power

Alex Binelas enters his first season with the Red Sox as the organization’s No. 17 prospect, according to Baseball America’s rankings.

After being selected by the Brewers in the third round of last year’s draft out of the University of Louisville, Binelas’ time with his hometown team came to an abrupt end when he (and fellow prospect David Hamilton) was traded to the Red Sox alongside outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. for Hunter Renfroe in early December.

It was a move that evoked plenty of emotion for Binelas, a Wisconsin native who grew up in the suburbs of Milwaukee and less than 20 miles away from American Family Field.

When he was taken by the Brewers last July, Binelas had just recently wrapped up his third and final season with Louisville. In 50 games with the Cardinals, the 21-year-old junior slashed .256/.348/.621 with 19 home runs and 63 RBIs across 230 trips to the plate.

Regarded by Baseball America as the 77th-ranked draft-eligible prospect in the 2021 class, Binelas signed with Milwaukee for $700,000 and was assigned to the rookie-level Arizona Complex League Brewers Gold out of the gate. It took all of seven games for the left-handed hitting infielder to earn a promotion to Low-A Carolina on August 16.

Spending the rest of his debut season with the Mudcats, Binelas batted a stout .314/.379/.636 to go along with 11 doubles, nine homers, 27 RBIs, 29 runs scored, 12 walks, and 33 strikeouts over 29 games spanning 132 plate appearances.

Among all Low-A East hitters who made at least 130 trips to the plate in 2021, Binelas ranked ninth in batting average, 35th in on-base percentage, fourth in slugging percentage, fifth in OPS (1.014), third in isolated power (.322), and fifth in wRC+ (163), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Binelas saw time at both corner infield positions in his first exposure to pro ball, as was the case throughout his college career. With Carolina in particular, the 6-foot-3, 225 pounder logged a total of 42 2/3 innings at first base and 167 innings at the hot corner.

Since he was unaffected by this off-season’s lockout, Binelas was one of several Red Sox minor-leaguers who participated in the team’s Winter Warm-Up program back in January. Spring training began shortly thereafter, allowing Binelas to see some action in one Grapefruit League game thus far.

Two days before making his Grapefruit League debut this past Thursday, Binelas was identified by Baseball America’s Geoff Pontes as one of the top raw power prospects in the game since he hit the ball hard and far on a consistent basis last year.

Binelas, who turns 22 in May, is projected by SoxProspects.com to make the jump to High-A Greenville for the start of the 2022 campaign. His first full season as a professional should be one worth watching.

New Podding the Red Sox episode: Red Sox infield prospect Nick Sogard joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by Red Sox infield prospect Nick Sogard.

Sogard, 24, was traded from the Rays to the Red Sox last February alongside catching prospect Ronaldo Hernandez. The switch-hitting infielder spent the 2021 season between High-A Greenville and Double-A Portland and batted .276/.346/.461 with 13 home runs, 42 RBIs, and eight stolen bases over 80 games.

Among the topics Nick and I discussed are how he found about the trade and his initial reaction to it, his relationship with his older cousin Eric Sogard, what he thought of his 2021 season, his defensive versatility, the key differences in the level of competition between High-A and Double-A, going back-and-forth between the two levels, how he spent part of his off-season in Nashville, what he has made of spring training in Fort Myers so far, getting to work with Alex Cora a little bit, his expectations for the 2022 season, and much more!

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

My thanks to Nick for taking some time out of his spring schedule to have a conversation with yours truly. You can follow Nick on Twitter (@NickSogard22) by clicking here and on Instagram (@Nick_Sogard) 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 Nick Sogard: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox infield prospect Nick Sogard did a lot of traveling in 2021

It was one year ago Thursday when the Red Sox acquired catching prospect Ronaldo Hernandez and infield prospect Nick Sogard from the Rays for recently-designated relievers Chris Mazza and Jeffrey Springs.

Hernandez, 24, had a solid 2021 season with Double-A Portland and wound up finishing the year with Triple-A Worcester. For the purposes of this article, though, we will strictly be focusing on the year Sogard had.

The younger cousin of veteran big-league infielder Eric Sogard, Nick was originally selected by the Rays in the 12th round of the 2019 amateur draft out of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

After the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out what would have been his first full season of pro ball in 2020, Sogard was traded from Tampa Bay to Boston and opened the 2021 minor-league campaign with High-A Greenville.

In his first 47 games (208 plate appearances) with the Drive, the switch-hitter batted .262/.339/.473 (109 wRC+) with 10 doubles, one triple, eight home runs, 24 RBIs, 32 runs scored, five stolen bases, 20 walks, and 36 strikeouts through July 22.

The following day, Sogard traveled from Greenville, S.C. to Portland, Maine to make his Double-A debut for the Portland Sea Dogs in their contest against the Harrisburg Senators at Hadlock Field. He went 1-for-4 with an RBI single and then remained with the Sea Dogs to fill in for players who left for the Summer Olympics. .

For the next two-plus weeks, Sogard appeared in a total of 15 games for Portland and hit .280/.345/.320 (84 wRC+). 13 of his 14 hits went for singles and he was sent back down to Greenville when Triston Casas returned from Tokyo on August 10.

Sogard’s second stint with the Drive began when he was inserted back into Iggy Suarez’s lineup on Aug. 11. This time around, the California native impressed to the tune of a .341/400/.568 (155 wRC+) over 11 games and exactly 50 trips to the plate. He clubbed three homers and collected 12 RBI during that stretch before receiving another call-up to Portland on the final day of August.

With the Sea Dogs for a second time, Sogard appeared in just two games and went 1-for-5 with a single during a doubleheader against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in Manchester on September 3. He was again sent down to Greenville and returned to the Drive’s lineup on Sept. 15.

From there, Sogard closed out his first season in the Red Sox organization on a solid note, going 4-for-13 (.308) with a pair of home runs and four RBI in four games against the Aberdeen IronBirds.

To summarize, Sogard — who turned 24 in September — posted a .279/.349/.500 (123 wRC+) slash line with 12 doubles, one triple, 13 homers, 40 RBI, 44 runs scored, seven stolen bases, 27 walks, and 48 strikeouts across 62 games (275 plate appearances) at the High-A level last year.

At the Double-A level, he slashed .263/.333/.298 (76 wRC+) to go along with one triple, two runs driven in, eight runs scored, one stolen base, five walks, and 11 strikeouts across 18 games spanning 63 plate appearances.

Defensively, Sogard saw playing time at three different infield positions between Greenville and Portland over the course of the 2021 campaign. In total, the 6-foot-1, 180 pounder logged 309 innings at second base, 192 innings at third base (all at High-A), and 138 innings at shortstop.

Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, Sogard has an “advanced feel for the game and strong instincts.” It also notes that he has average arm strength, but still has the ability to make throws from all over the infield, thus allowing him to stick at shortstop and play second and third base.

As things currently stand, Sogard is not regarded by any major publication (like Baseball America or MLB Pipeline) as one of the top prospects in the Red Sox farm system.

That being said, Sogard is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 season with Double-A Portland. The 24-year-old speedster can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this winter, meaning he would need to be added to Boston’s 40-man roster by the November deadline if the club wants to prevent that from happening.

(Picture of Nick Sogard: Greenville Drive/Twitter)

How did former Red Sox infielder Michael Chavis fare this season after getting traded to Pirates?

A little less than five months ago, the Red Sox traded infielder Michael Chavis to the Pirates in exchange for left-handed reliever.

To that point in the 2021 season, the Sox had used Chavis sparingly after not including him on their Opening Day roster. Across five stints with Boston, the 26-year-old batted an underwhelming .190/.207/.342 with four doubles, one triple, two home runs, six RBIs, 12 runs scored, one stolen base, one walk, and 32 strikeouts over 31 total games spanning 82 plate appearances.

Upon arriving in Pittsburgh in late July, Chavis assigned to the Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis, and it took him a little more than three weeks for him to make his way back to the big-leagues.

On August 23, the Pirates recalled Chavis from Triple-A Indianapolis and he made his National League debut that very same day against the Diamondbacks at PNC Park while batting seventh and starting at second base.

For the next week or so, Chavis was a regular in Pittsburgh’s lineup and even made his first career start in right field against the Cardinals on Aug. 28. In the third inning of that contest, however, the Georgia native suffered a right elbow strain while sprawling out for a sharply-hit fly ball off the bat of Edmundo Sosa.

Chavis was removed from the game at the beginning of the fifth inning and was subsequently placed on the 10-day injured list because of it the following day. He was sidelined for more than two weeks before being sent out on a rehab assignment with Indianapolis on September 16 and later returning to the Pirates on Sept. 28.

In the process of starting four of Pittsburgh’s final six games, Chavis ended an eventful year on a high note. All told, the right-handed hitter slashed a scorching .357/.357/.500 to go along with three doubles, one homer, five RBIs, four runs scored, zero walks, and 10 strikeouts across 12 games (42 plate appearances) in his debut with the Pirates.

Chavis, who does not turn 27 until next August, is heading into his final year of pre-arbitration eligibility in 2022, meaning he remains under club control for at least the next four seasons.

When the Red Sox originally selected Chavis in the first round of the 2014 amateur draft, they did so while Ben Cherington was still heading the team’s baseball operations department. Cherington, of course, now serves as general manager of the Pirates, so there is a level of familiarity there.

In his time with the Red Sox, Chavis logged time at every infield position besides shortstop and made 12 appearances in left field during the compressed 2020 campaign. He briefly added right field to his repertoire this past season, making it seem as though the Pirates value his defensive versatility.

While Chavis will likely get the opportunity to compete for a utility tole on Pittsburgh’s Opening Day roster next spring, there are still some areas of his game he needs to improve on, such as faring better against right-handed pitchers (.547 OPS this year) or better handling off-speed and breaking pitches.

To that end, Chavis does have one minor-league option year remaining, so the Pirates could shuttle him between Indianapolis and Pittsburgh next season if they so choose.

(Picture of Michael Chavis: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Red Sox add intriguing infield prospects Alex Binelas, David Hamilton in trade with Brewers: ‘We’re excited about the minor-league players that we got,’ Chaim Bloom says

The Red Sox may have traded Hunter Renfroe for Jackie Bradley Jr. on Wednesday night, but they did so while also acquiring two intriguing prospects from the Brewers.

As highlighted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Sox basically dealt Renfroe and took on Bradley Jr.’s $9.5 million salary for 2022 (plus an $8 million buyout in 2023) in order to add infield prospects Alex Binelas and David Hamilton.

“Having two premium defensive center fielders is a huge boost to our roster,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said Wednesday. “And we’re also excited about the minor-league players that we got. So we felt like this was something that made sense for us right now and also had a chance to pay dividends down the road.”

Binelas was recently selected by the Brewers in the third round of the 2021 amateur draft out of the University of Louisville, where he belted 19 home runs and posted a .968 OPS in his final season with the Cardinals.

Going into this summer’s draft, Binelas was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 76 draft-eligible prospect and was assigned to Milwaukee’s Arizona Complex League affiliate upon signing with the organization for $700,000.

After just seven games in the rookie-level complex league, Binelas was promoted to Low-A Carolina on August 16. In 29 games with the Mudcats to close out the year, the left-handed hitter slashed .314/.379/.636 (163 wRC+) with 11 doubles, nine home runs, 27 RBIs, 29 runs scored, 12 walks, and 33 strikeouts over 132 plate appearances.

Among hitters who accrued at least 130 plate appearances in the Low-A East this season, Binelas ranked fifth in OPS (1.014), third in isolated power (.322), and fifth in wRC+, per FanGraphs.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, the 21-year-old is capable of playing both corner infield positions. At the midway point of the 2021 season, he was regarded by Baseball America as the 20th-ranked prospect in Milwaukee’s farm system.

“A left-handed hitter with power,” Bloom said of Binelas. “He plays both infield corners. But the bat is really his calling card. A good hitter with really special power. Obviously it’s just early in his professional journey but he had a tremendous debut and really showed a lot in his acclimation to pro ball. A really nice power left-handed bat to bring into the system.”

Hamilton, on the other hand, was selected by the Brewers in the eighth round of the 2019 amateur draft out of the University of Texas at Austin despite suffering a ruptured Achilles in a scooter accident that resulted in him missing the entirety of the 2019 season at both the college and pro levels.

With the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hamilton did not make his professional debut as a member of the Brewers organization until this spring.

The 24-year-old, who is also a left-handed hitter split the 2021 season between High-A Carolina and Double-A Biloxi. He batted .258/.341/.419 (110 wRC+) with 19 doubles, 11 triples, eight homers, 43 RBIs, 66 runs, 52 stolen bases, 50 walks, and 90 strikeouts in 101 games spanning 459 total plate appearances.

Formerly regarded by Baseball America as the No. 15 prospect in Milwaukee’s farm system, Hamilton just wrapped up a solid campaign in the Arizona Fall League by slashing .293/.453/.463 with three doubles, two triples, five RBIs, five runs scored, four stolen bases, 12 walks, and six strikeouts over 14 games (53 plate appearances) for Salt River.

Listed at 5-f00t-10 and 175 pounds, Hamilton is obviously well-regarded for his speed and athleticism, which were his carrying tools coming out of college. The middle infielder’s 52 stolen bases were the sixth-most in the minor-leagues this season.

“David Hamilton has premium speed and he’s a really good middle infielder,” Bloom said. “Plays a good shortstop. Interesting trajectory. Highly-touted high school player who went to the University of Texas. Had a tough injury and recovered from it, and kept his speed. He has great speed and athleticism and is a very exciting player to add to our system.”

Unlike Binelas, Hamilton can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career in 2022. The Red Sox will need to add the speedster to their 40-man roster by next November if they want to prevent that from happening.

(Picture of Alex Binelas: Michael Clevenger/Courier Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC)

Red Sox trade Hunter Renfroe to Brewers for package including Jackie Bradley Jr.; Boston also acquires prospects Alex Binelas and David Hamilton in deal

In a stunning turn of events, the Red Sox have traded outfielder Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers for infield prospects Alex Binelas and David Hamilton and a familiar face in Jackie Bradley Jr, the club announced late Wednesday night.

Renfroe, who turns 29 next month, originally signed a one-year deal with the Sox shortly after being let go by the Rays last December.

In his debut season with Boston, the right-handed hitter slashed .259/.315/.501 with 33 doubles, 31 home runs, 96 RBIs, 89 runs scored, 44 walks, and 130 strikeouts over 144 games spanning 572 relief appearances.

While seeing the majority of his playing time come in right field, Renfroe finished the year tied with Rangers rookie Adolis Garcia for the most outfield assists in the American League (16), but also led all big-league outfielders in errors committed with 12.

Upon signing with the Sox last winter, Renfroe earned $3.1 million in what was his first season of arbitration eligibility. MLB Trade Rumors projected that the 28-year-old would receive $7.6 million in his second year of arbitration eligibility in 2022, which obviously represents a significant raise from the amount he earned in 2021.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom must have felt that this price was too steep to pay, leading the club to deal Renfroe to the Brewers for a pair of prospects and an established veteran such as Bradley Jr.

Regarding the two prospects Boston acquired from Milwaukee, Binelas and Hamilton were regarded by Baseball America as the No. 20 and No. 15 prospects in the Brewers’ farm system, respectively.

Binelas, 21, was selected by the Brewers in the third round of this summer’s amateur draft out of the University of Louisville.

A Wisconsin native, Binelas appeared in just seven Arizona Complex League games before earning a promotion to Low-A Carolina on August 16. He batted a stout .314/.379/.636 (136 wRC+) to go along with 11 doubles, nine home runs, 27 RBIs, 29 runs scored, 12 walks, and 33 strikeouts across 29 games (132 plate appearances) with the Mudcats.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, the left-handed hitter can play both corner infield positions and well regarded for his power, as evidenced by his .322 ISO at Low-A this year.

Hamilton, 24, was also selected by Milwaukee in the eighth round of the 2019 amateur draft out of the University of Texas at Austin.

After not playing any affiliated baseball in 2019 and missing out on the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hamilton made his professional debut for High-A Wisconsin this spring and ultimately made his way to Double-A Biloxi by early August.

In 33 games with the Shuckers, the left-handed hitting infielder produced a .248/.322/.414 slash line (104 wRC+) with five doubles, four triples, three homers, 12 RBIs, 16 runs, 11 stolen bases, 15 walks, and 32 strikeouts over 150 plate appearances while seeing playing time at second base and shortstop.

Unlike Binelas, Hamilton is not known for his power, but for his speed, as the 5-foot-10, 175 pounder has already stolen 52 bases through his first 101 games in the minor-leagues.

Neither Binelas nor Hamilton were immediately added to Boston’s 40-man roster, though the latter can become eligible for the 2022 Rule 5 Draft if he is not added to the 40-man by next November.

Finally, we arrive at what is the most fascinating aspect of this deal in Bradley Jr., who the Red Sox, of course, took with the 40th overall pick in the 2011 draft out of the University of South Carolina.

After spending the first eight years of his big-league career with the Sox, Bradley Jr. became a free agent last winter and effectively signed a two-year, $24 million contract with the Brewers in March.

Bradley Jr.’s first season with a new team did not go as swimmingly as it did for Renfroe. Despite remaining an elite defender in center field, the 31-year-old struggled at the plate to the tune of a .163/.236/.261 slash line with 14 doubles, three triples, six home runs, 29 RBIs, 39 runs, seven stolen bases, 28 walks, and 132 strikeouts in 134 games (428 plate appearances) with the Brewers.

By swapping Renfroe’s projected 2022 salary of $7.6 million for Bradley’s 2022 salary of of $9.5 million (plus an $8 million buyout in 2023), Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. — per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo — took on about $10 million in additional salary to add Bradley Jr. and two promising prospects in Binelas and Hamilton.

In addition to acquiring Bradley Jr., the Red Sox also announced the signings of left-handers James Paxton and Rich Hill to one-year deals for the 2022 season, meaning their 40-man roster is now up to 39 players.

(Picture of Jackie Bradley Jr: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Red Sox acquire speedy outfielder Delino DeShields Jr. from Rangers and assign him to Triple-A Worcester

The Red Sox have acquired outfielder Delino DeShields Jr. from the Texas Rangers in exchange for cash considerations, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

The reason the Sox were able to make a trade in the wake of the July 30 trade deadline is because of the fact that DeShields is on a minor-league contract and has not been on a major-league roster so far this season.

DeShields, who turns 29 later this month, initially inked a minor-league pact with the Rangers back in early February and opened the 2021 minor-league season with Triple-A Round Rock, where he slashed .263/.392/.368 (99 wRC+) with nine doubles, one triple, five home runs, 18 RBI, 46 runs scored, 16 stolen bases, 50 walks, and 62 strikeouts over 66 games (305 plate appearances) for the Express.

A former first-round pick of the Astros out of Woodward Academy (Ga.) back in 2010, DeShields was selected by Texas in the 2014 Rule 5 Draft and accrued five years of big-league experience with the Rangers prior to being part of a three-player trade with the Indians that saw Corey Kluber briefly head to the Lone Star state in December 2019.

Across just 37 games with Cleveland during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, the speedy right-handed hitter posted a modest .252/.310/.318 slash line (72 wRC+) to go along with three doubles, two triples, seven RBI, 10 runs scored, three stolen bases, nine walks, and 29 strikeouts over 120 total trips to the plate.

Known for his speed and defensive abilities, DeShields — who is listed at 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds — has been assigned to the Red Sox’ Triple-A affiliate in Worcester, where he figures to provide some experienced outfield depth for the WooSox alongside the likes of Michael Gettys and Tate Matheny.

As noted by Cotillo, Boston has seen its upper-minors outfield depth take a hit as of late with Jarren Duran being promoted last month and Marcus Wilson being claimed off waivers by the Mariners earlier this week.

That said, it should be fascinating to see if, in addition to providing organizational depth and insurance in the event of an injury, DeShields will garner any sort of big-league consideration with his new club once rosters expand in September. We will have to wait and see on that.

(Picture of Delino DeShields: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Red Sox acquire pitching prospect Victor Santos from Phillies to complete C.J. Chatham trade

The Red Sox have acquired right-handed pitching prospect Victor Santos from the Phillies to complete the trade that sent infielder C.J. Chatham to Philadelphia.

Boston dealt Chatham to Philadelphia in exchange for a player to be named later back on January 18 in order to clear a spot on their 40-man roster that would later allow them to acquire reliever Adam Ottavino from the Yankees.

As the six-month deadline for both sides to agree on which player the Red Sox would be acquiring was approaching, that PTBNL turns out to be a pitching prospect in the form of Santos.

Santos, who turned 21 on July 12, was originally signed by the Phillies out of the Dominican Republic for $150,000 back in November 2016.

Since that time, the 6-foot-2, 220 pound hurler has risen through the ranks and opened the 2021 minor-league season with High-A Jersey Shore, where he posted a 1.33 ERA and 1.08 WHIP over nine appearances (one start) spanning 20 1/3 innings pitched before earning a promotion to Double-A Reading on June 24.

In four starts with the Fightin Phils, Santos put up a 3.05 ERA, a 3.90 FIP and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 15:4 over 20 2/3 total innings of work.

Santos’ last outing as a member of the Phillies organization actually came against Double-A Portland this past Wednesday, as the young righty yielded four runs on six hits, one walk, and three strikeouts in five innings against the Sea Dogs in Reading, Pa. on July 14.

Back in early March, FanGraphs’ Eric Longengagen wrote that Santos has “a good changeup” and “slings in average stuff, some of which plays up because of his funky, long arm action. His realistic ceiling is that of a fifth or sixth starter.”

As noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, Santos has displayed exceptional control over the course of his professional career considering the fact that “he has averaged 8.2 strikeouts and 1.3 walks per nine innings in 254 ⅔ innings in the minors.”

According to his transactions page on MLB.com, Santos has been assigned to Portland, so it’s likely he will join the Sea Dogs’ starting rotation and could, in theory, make his organizational debut at some point next week. We will have to wait and see on that.

(Picture of C.J. Chatham: Miles Kennedy/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Andrew Benintendi crushes 2 homers for Royals; former Red Sox outfielder has found success since moving down in Kansas City’s lineup

Andrew Benintendi’s tenure with the Royals did not get off to the best of starts.

After being dealt from the Red Sox to Kansas City as part of a three-team, seven-player trade back in February, Benintendi struggled throughout his first spring training in Arizona, and that coincidentally carried over into the regular season as well.

Through his first 15 games as a member of the Royals, the 26-year-old put up an underwhelming .193/.270/.246 slash line with just three extra-base hits (all doubles), four RBI, three stolen bases, six walks, and 17 strikeouts over 63 plate appearances.

In that time, Benintendi — primarily Kansas City’s No. 2 hitter — failed to barrel up a single ball and posted a dismal wRC+ of 51 to show for his efforts.

As of the morning of April 21, it looked as though the former first-round pick was still on the path towards regression that started during the final month of the 2019 season.

But on that day against the Rays, Benintendi did something he had not done in a while: make significantly hard contact, and he did it twice by barreling up a pair of balls in the fourth and eighth innings.

Both balls the left-handed hitter squared up went for lineouts, but the fact he made more than solid contact on more than one occasion was encouraging — and a harbinger of positive things to come.

Since then, Benintendi has been on a roll as of late. He came into Saturday’s action riding an eight-game on-base streak and undoubtedly put together his best performance of the season to this point against the Twins at Target Field.

Batting seventh and starting in left field for Kansas City, the Cincinnati native went 3-for-4 at the plate with a pair of home runs — his second and third homers of the season, two RBI, and three runs scored while leading his side to an 11-3 victory over Minnesota.

At the time Benintendi hit his first big fly of the afternoon (about 4 p.m. eastern time), Red Sox manager Alex Cora was fielding questions from reporters during his pregame Zoom call at Globe Life Field.

Cora had the Royals-Twins game on the television playing in his office as well.. That being the case because at one point, while talking about Eduardo Rodriguez, he paused, saw Benintendi’s home run, and said, “Look at Benny. He hit a homer.”

Following Saturday’s showing, Benintendi raised his batting average on the season to .262 and his OPS on the season to .757.

Over his last seven games alone, Benintendi is slashing an unworldly .435/.519/.870 with three homers six RBI, seven runs scored, four walks, and one stolen base dating back to April 23.

The success Benintendi has enjoyed as of late can be linked to when he was dropped from second to seventh in the Royals’ lineup on April 19.

The Red Sox moved on from Benintendi over the winter after originally taking the outfielder in the first round of the 2015 amateur draft out of the University of Arkansas.

In exchange for Benintendi, the Sox acquired outfielder Franchy Cordero and two players to be named later from the Royals as well as pitching prospect Josh Winckowski and one player to be named later from the Mets.

Cordero, the only player Boston got back in that trade who has seen any major-league time to this point, came into Saturday’s game against the Rangers sporting a .176/.236/.216 slash line to go along with 26 strikeouts in 55 trips to the plate (47% strikeout rate).

(Picture of Andrew Benintendi and Michael A. Taylor: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Alex Verdugo experiencing first real spring training with Red Sox: ‘I’m feeling really comfortable and feeling really good about where I’m at right now’

Alex Verdugo’s first spring training as a member of the Red Sox was far from a conventional one.

After coming over from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts/David Price trade last February, the young outfielder — then 23 years old — reported to Fort Myers, where it was revealed that he was working his way back from a stress fracture in his lower back.

When the Red Sox began their Grapefruit League slate later that month, Verdugo was unable to play in any spring games and would instead spend his time rehabbing, getting treatment, or hitting in the cage.

The following month, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic really took off and eventually forced Major League Baseball and its clubs to shut down their spring training facilities on March 12.

Despite the shutdown, which would last into July, Verdugo was still able to go to the Sox’ Fenway South complex in order to continue getting treatment on his back.

By the time players reported to their respective teams’ summer camps, the 24-year-old was essentially a full-go, but he would have to prepare for a shortened season without the benefit of a spring training schedule to work off of.

“When we had the spring training 2.0, there still wasn’t very many games,” Verdugo explained on Tuesday via Zoom. “We were kind of just playing against ourselves. It was good because I was getting at-bats, I was seeing pitches. But physically, I felt a little bit off. When the season kicked in, it took me probably a week — maybe a week-and-a-half — into the season for me to finally get that adjustment and realize, ‘Oh, OK, this is what I got to do.’ And from there, I didn’t look back.”

In his first eight regular season games of 2020, Verdugo went a mere 6-for-26 (.231) at the plate with two walks and seven strikeouts from July 25 through August 23.

Starting on the night of August 4 — in which he went 1-for-2 at the plate against the Rays, the Arizona native put up an impressive .320/.378/.514 slash line to go along with six home runs and 15 RBI over 45 games and 193 plate appearances en route to leading the 2020 Red Sox in bWAR (2.2), per Baseball Reference.

Having solidified himself as an everyday big-league outfielder who was on the rise, Verdugo came into the 2021 season with the opportunity to actually play in some Grapefruit League games for the first time in his career.

Leading up to Tuesday’s contest against the Braves in North Port, though, the left-handed hitter carried with him an OPS of .508 through his first 11 games of the spring.

“For the spring I’m having, it’s been a different one,” Verdugo said. “I think if we go performance-wise and batting average-wise, it’s not quite where I would want it. But physically and all that, I’m in a lot better position than I was last year. I think right now, it’s just getting up there and just letting my eyes see the pitches, having some at-bats. I’ve been having better at-bats, working the count deep. Maybe 3-2, couple of pitches have gotten me. But I’m feeling really comfortable and feeling really good about where I’m at right now.”

Despite the statistical struggles so far this spring, Verdugo did go 1-for-2 with a single, an RBI forceout, a run scored, and a walk while playing six innings of center field against Atlanta on Tuesday afternoon.

“He’s been getting better. He’s making good decisions at the plate,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora in regards to the progress Verdugo is making this spring. “He’s not chasing pitches — in the first at -bat he did — but the walks, trying to stay up the middle, the other way, that’s what he does… He’s feeling good about his swing and he’s been getting a lot of at-bats in the backfields, too.”

Verdugo reinforced some of these points himself when discussing how he should be more locked in when the 2021 season begins as opposed to where he was at in late July last year.

“I’ve been kind of going through some things, fighting some stuff at the plate,” he said. “My biggest thing for me is I use the entire field. So I just got to get back to using left field, letting the ball travel just a split-second more, and then just throwing the hands at it. Like I said, the last couple games, I hit a line-drive over the shortstop, been having better at-bats, walking a little bit more. So we’re right on the final path. This next week, we got to just lock it in a little bit more and get it ready.”

Last season, Verdugo went 22-for-39 (.564) at the plate with a pair of home runs and four RBI when pushing the ball to the opposite field. He will look to replicate that sort of production this year, as he will likely slot into the No. 2 spot in the Sox’ regular lineup behind former Dodgers teammate Enrique Hernandez.

Defensively, Verdugo figures to see the lion’s share of his playing time come in either center or right field.

The former second-round draft pick out of Sahuaro High School only played eight innings in center field in 2020, but he said Tuesday that he’s had no problems getting more acclimated with a position that can be a little more challenging to play inside Fenway Park as opposed to other ballparks.

“The biggest thing, like I said health-wise, is taking care of my body and making sure my legs and everything’s under me,” said Verdugo. “Really, the position doesn’t matter. Center, we do have a little bit more run since it’s gap-to-gap, but there’s no problem with that yet. With our corner outfielders and everybody, we all do a really good job of communicating, shifting, and going where we need to be.”

Outside of J.D. Martinez, Verdugo is technically the longest-tenured outfielder on the Red Sox’ major-league roster following the Andrew Benintendi trade and Jackie Bradley Jr. signing with the Brewers.

One of the reasons Boston has gone through such a seismic shift in regards to roster construction this offseason is because of how poorly they played in 2020. Another reason for it is because the organization, spearheaded by the return of Cora as manager, clearly expects to be more competitive in 2021.

With the infusion of talent chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have added to the mix, the Sox are a group this spring that has generated a lot of internal positive energy and excitement.

And with the prospect of a limited number of fans returning to Fenway Park for Opening Day on April 1 and beyond, that leaves someone like Verdugo — who can feed off that energy from the crowd — feeling excited for what’s on the horizon.

“It just kind of felt like gut-punch after gut-punch,” Verdugo said about the 2020 season. “This year, going through the trials and errors last year, we got some new pitchers, got some new guys, got some new talent. I think everybody’s just excited. We’re all excited to have fans back, excited to get back into this normality. We’re excited to get back to this normal life that we’re living in.

“This year, we know that we can be pretty good and be competitive,” he added. “We’re just keeping a positive mindset and everybody’s working and doing what we need to do.”

(Picture of Alex Verdugo: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)