Red Sox pitching prospect Victor Santos’ debut season with Double-A Portland was a solid one

It was one year ago Tuesday (January 18) when the Red Sox traded infielder C.J. Chatham to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

The trade allowed the Sox to create an opening on their 40-man roster, which enabled them to acquire veteran reliever Adam Ottavino and pitching prospect Frank German from the Yankees the following week.

Nearly four months after the initial trade between Boston and Philadelphia was finalized, it was revealed on July 17 that the Red Sox would be acquiring another pitching prospect in Victor Santos from the Phillies to complete the Chatham deal.

Santos, 21, originally signed with Philadelphia as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2016. The young right-hander opened the 2021 minor-league season with High-A Jersey Shore before earning a promotion to Double-A Reading in late June.

In 13 appearances (five starts) between Jersey Shore and Reading to begin the year, Santos posted a 2.20 ERA and 3.69 FIP to go along with 40 strikeouts to nine walks over 41 innings of work.

Upon getting assigned to Double-A Portland in mid-July, the 6-foot-1, 191 pound hurler proceeded to put up a 2.58 ERA and 3.49 FIP with 45 strikeouts and six walks across 10 outings (eight starts) spanning 45 1/3 innings pitched to close out his 2021 campaign.

Among all pitchers who accrued at least 60 innings in the Double-A Northeast last year, Santos ranked 33rd in strikeouts per nine innings (8.18) second in walks per nine innings (1.36), 29th in strikeout rate (22.2%), second in walk rate (3.7%), 16th in batting average against (.233), seventh in WHIP (1.06), sixth in ERA (2.73), 10th in FIP (3.62), and 14th in xFIP (4.00), per FanGraphs.

A native of Villa Tapia, Santos works from a three-quarters arm slot and operates with a three-pitch mix of a 90-92 mph fastball that tops out at 94 mph, a 77-79 mph split-changeup, and a “slurvy” 77-81 mph slider, according to his SoxProspects.com scouting report.

This off-season, Santos returned to his home island to pitch for Leones del Escogido of the Dominican Winter League. Working strictly as a reliever, he pitched to the tune of a 2.45 ERA and 1.20 WHIP with 17 strikeouts and six walks over 14 appearances (18 1/3 innings) out of the bullpen for Escogido.

Santos, who turns 22 in July, is still technically eligible for the 2021 Rule 5 Draft since the Red Sox did not add him to their 40-man roster by last November’s deadline. However, due to the nature of the MLB lockout, the major-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft has been postponed indefinitely and a makeup date has not yet been determined.

If there is eventually a Rule 5 Draft and Santos goes unselected, the Dominican-born righty is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 season in the starting rotation for the Sea Dogs. If that winds up being the case, an eventual promotion to Triple-A Worcester cannot be ruled out depending on how he performs in the spring.

(Picture of Victor Santos: Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Is Tanner Houck’s future with the Red Sox as a starter or reliever?

Earlier this month, Bleacher Report’s Joel Reuter identified Tanner Houck as a potential breakout candidate for 2022, citing that the Red Sox right-hander has “proven he has the stuff to miss bats at the MLB level” and it is now “just a matter of doing it over a full season” in Boston’s starting rotation.

After a stellar — albeit brief — three-start debut in 2020, Houck embarked upon his first full big-league season earlier this year. The 25-year-old made the Sox’ Opening Day starting rotation out of spring training and made his impact felt immediately by striking out eight while allowing just three runs (two earned) on six hits and one walk over five innings of work against the Orioles on April 3.

Houck was used out of the bullpen in a game against the Rays two days later and was then optioned to the Red Sox’ alternate training site. He was recalled from the alternate site to serve as the 27th man and start Game 1 of a doubleheader against the White Sox on April 18, but that would mark his last major-league outing for quite some time.

Upon getting sent back down to the alternate site, Houck was lined up to start the first game of the minor-league season for Triple-A Worcester against the Buffalo Bisons on May 4. He did just that, but wound up suffering a sore flexor muscle in his right arm that resulted in him getting shut down.

It took a little more than a month for Houck to return to the mound, and he ultimately found his way back to the Red Sox’ pitching staff on July 16. From that point forward, the 6-foot-5, 230 pound righty was used as a starter 11 times and as a reliever four times across five separate stints with Boston to close out the regular season.

All told, Houck posted a 2.58 ERA and 3.52 FIP to go along with 87 strikeouts to 21 walks over 18 appearances (13 starts) and 69 innings pitched in 2021. He also put up a 5.23 ERA (5.30 FIP) in 10 1/3 innings of relief in the postseason.

Houck’s first full season in the majors may have been a productive one, but it was also one that left us with some lingering questions. For starters, can Houck make it in the big-leagues as a starting pitcher?

This has been a prevalent topic since the Red Sox selected Houck with the 24th overall pick in the 2017 amateur draft out of the University of Missouri, and it is one that remains relevant today.

In the 13 starts Houck made for Boston this past season, he averaged less than five full innings per start and only made it to the sixth inning on two occasions. The primary reason Houck was held back in his starts had to do with his struggles when facing the same lineup multiple times.

When going through a lineup for the first time as a starter in 2021, Houck pitched to the tune of an impressive 1.50 ERA and 2.04 ERA across 30 innings. When going through a lineup for a second time as a starter, he still produced a respectable 3.81 ERA and 2.09 FIP across 26 innings.

Once Houck faced the same lineup a third time through is where things started to get dicey, though. In a small sample size of 2 2/3 innings pitched, the young hurler got lit up for nine runs (eight earned) on seven hits, no walks, and two strikeouts. That’s good for an ERA of 27.00 as well as a FIP of 9.01 and OPS against of 1.489.

What led to the difficulties Houck encountered when going through a lineup multiple times? Well, the answer to that question may lay within Houck’s pitch usage.

Since debuting for Boston last September, Houck has very clearly favored his fastball and slider, but has also been working to incorporate a splitter as a third pitch that he first began throwing last year.

This past season alone, the Missouri native threw 443 four-seam fastballs, 426 sliders, 195 sinking fastballs, and 85 split-finger fastballs, per Baseball Savant. Of those offerings, Houck’s slider was undoubtedly his best pitch as he held opposing hitters to an expected batting average of .144 while producing a 42.4% whiff rate with it.

As far as the splitter is concerned, Houck relied on the pitch in 2021 (7.4%) more than he did in 2020 (3%) and yielded positive results with it by allowing just one hit in 19 attempts while inducing a swing-and-miss 36.8% of the time.

“It’s a pitch that I feel confident in, and I’ve grown very much with it, so I’m excited to see where it takes me in the future,” Houck said of his splitter when speaking with FanGraphs’ David Laurila back in September. “I’ve had success with it as of late, throwing it off my slider, my two-seam, and my four-seam. I’m continuing to develop it, so I imagine that the usage will go up over time.”

Despite the success Houck enjoyed with his splitter and other pitches this year, the question remains as to whether he can stick with the Red Sox as a rotation regular or is rather best suited for a bullpen role.

During last month’s GM meetings, Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom was — as MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith wrote — noncommittal to Houck or fellow righty Garrett Whitlock as members of the team’s 2022 starting rotation.

“I would say possibilities,” Bloom said when asked about Houck and Whitlock starting in 2022. “I have said this before, I think the ceiling (is for them) to be really good major-league starters. There are steps on the way to establishing themselves as that. I think it’s great that they have that upside. They’ve done it. They’ve came up as starters. … It gives us options and flexibility heading into the winter. So we’ll see how it all shakes out. We certainly want to have more depth either way. I have no doubt that if that ends up being their role, they would be very capable. It just might not be the best alignment for our team.”

Since that time, the Red Sox have obviously been busy in free agency when it comes to stockpiling rotation depth. In the wake of Eduardo Rodriguez departing for the Tigers, Bloom and his staff have added veteran pitchers with starting experience such as Michael Wacha, Rich Hill, and James Paxton leading up to Major League Baseball’s lockout taking effect in early December.

Once the lockout eventually ends and MLB’s transaction freeze is lifted, the Sox figure to be active in free agency and the trade market for starting pitchers yet again.

“I think the big thing for us is that we do know we want a number of capable arms, but it didn’t necessarily have to fall the way that it did,” Bloom recently said in regards to the additions of Wacha, Hill, and Paxton. “We love the guys we got, but we were in touch with the whole market. I think the key for us is to use our resources as best we can. We want to make sure we’re making what, in our mind, are good deals. Those can be small deals or they can be big deals.”

If the Red Sox were to sign another free-agent starter such as Carlos Rodon or deal for a controllable arm like Frankie Montas, that would only push Houck further down the club’s rotation depth chart.

Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, Nick Pivetta, and Hill should be penciled in to be Alex Cora’s top four starters next spring. After that, it gets a bit murky since Paxton is coming off Tommy John surgery and Wacha may wind up in the bullpen.

With that, Houck will presumably have an opportunity to compete for a spot in the Sox’ 2022 Opening Day starting rotation once spring training arrives in a few months. Whether he comes out on top in that competition has yet to be determined.

(Picture of Tanner Houck: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Red Sox acquire right-hander Yacksel Rios from Mariners, add him to 40-man roster

The Red Sox have acquired right-handed reliever Yacksel Rios from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for cash considerations, the team announced before Monday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Rios, who turns 28 later this month, will be added to Boston’s 40-man roster after the club designated fellow righty Ryan Weber for assignment to create an opening on its major-league roster for Michael Chavis earlier Monday afternoon.

Per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, “it appears Rios may take Chavis’ active roster spot when he is ready to join the team.”

The 27-year-old hurler allowed an earned run in each of his three appearances out of Seattle’s bullpen this month before he, too, was designated for assignment on June 11 despite having a minor-league option remaining.

A former 12th-round draft pick of the Phillies back in 2011, Rios made his major-league debut for Philadelphia during the 2017 campaign.

Since then, the 6-foot-3 hurler has made a total of 69 appearances in parts of four big-league seasons between the Phillies, Pirates, and Mariners. He owns an ERA of 6.47, a FIP of of 4.82, and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 70:36 in those outings dating back to August 2017.

After being let go by Pittsburgh over the winter, Rios inked a minor-league pact with the Rays in February, though his time in Tampa Bay did not last long considering the fact he was dealt to the Mariners for cash considerations on June 4.

With that being said, Rios’ tenure in Seattle lasted all of a week.

Per Baseball Savant, Rios works with a sinker, a four-seam fastball, a slider, a split-finger fastball, and a rarely used curveball.

A native of Puerto Rico, Rios — a former catcher — hails from the same home town as Red Sox manager Alex Cora in Caguas.

(Picture of Yacksel Rios: Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Red Sox acquire right-handers Luis De La Rosa and Grant Gambrell from Royals as players to be named later to complete three-team Andrew Benintendi trade; Freddy Valdez also acquired from Mets

In addition to acquiring outfield prospect Freddy Valdez as the player to be named later from the Mets in the three-team Andrew Benintendi trade, the Red Sox have also received right-handed pitching prospects Luis De La Rosa and Grant Gambrell as the two players to be named later from the Mets, according to The Boston Globe’s Julian McWilliams.

De La Rosa, who turns 19 next month, was originally signed out of the Dominican Republic for approximately $147,500 by Kansas City in July 2018.

While he is not listed at the top of many prospect boards, De La Rosa did impress in his professional debut in 2019.

In 12 outings (11 starts) in the Dominican Summer League, the lanky 6-foot-1, 170 pound righty posted a 2.33 ERA and 1.92 xFIP to go along with seven walks and 52 strikeouts over 38 2/3 innings of work en route to being named the Dominican Royals 1 Pitcher of the Year.

According to his Baseball America scouting report from when he first signed with the Royals three years ago, De La Rosa — a former shortstop — “has an array of positive projection indicators, with some of that projection already starting to bear out.” As of that writing, the young hurler was working with a fastball, a slider, and an “advanced changeup for his age.”

A native of Santo Domingo, De La Rosa will become Rule 5 eligible for the first time in December 2022.

Gambrell, meanwhile, was originally selected by the Royals in the third round of the 2019 amateur draft out of Oregon State University. He later signed with the club for $647,500.

The 23-year-old came into the 2021 campaign regarded by FanGraphs as the No. 21 prospect in Kansas City’s farm system even after not pitching at all the previous year due to the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling the minor-league season.

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Gambrell’s FanGraphs scouting report goes as follows (courtesy of Eric Longenhagen):

“At his best, Gambrell sits in the mid-90s with a plus breaking ball (there might be two, but if so, they’ve run together in my looks) and a tailing, mid-80s changeup that he uses in some clever ways, including as a means to jam righties. His stuff has been inconsistent and he missed considerable time with injury during college, which creates some relief risk. We’re talking about a pitcher who only worked about four innings per outing during his sophomore year, and struggled when the Royals asked him to work as a starter and blow way past his previous single-year innings total after they drafted him in 2019. 

“But Gambrell was sitting 94-96 during 2021 spring action and looked to me to be in much better shape than the last time I saw him. The 2020 layoff means the innings increase piece of Gambrell’s developmental track still feels harrowing, but he has a power-pitcher’s repertoire and a chance to really blow up this year because he came to camp with a totally different body.”

Opening the 2021 season with High-A Quad Cities, Gambrell produced a 4.37 ERA and 4.06 xFIP to go along with seven walks and 28 strikeouts through his first five starts (22 2/3 innings pitched) of the year.

Upon his integration into the Red Sox organization, it seems likely that Gambrell would report to High-A Greenville. We will have to wait and see on that.

The three-team trade between the Red Sox, Royals, and Mets, which was initially agreed to back on February 10, has now been made completely official.

Here are the full returns for all three teams:

Red Sox get: OF Franchy Cordero (from KC), RHPs Luis De La Rosa and Grant Gambrell (from KC), RHP Josh Winckowski (from NYM), and OF Freddy Valdez (from NYM)

Royals get: OF Andrew Benintendi (from BOS)

Mets get: OF Khalil Lee (from BOS via KC)

What a journey it has been.

(Picture of Andrew Benintendi: Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)

Red Sox could be nearing decision on which 2 players to be named later they will be acquiring from Royals to complete Andrew Benintendi trade; player to be named later from Mets due June 4, per report

UPDATE: According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Red Sox “are due to acquire the remaining three players to be named later” in the near future, while “the player from the Mets — assumed to be the best player of the three — is due by Friday,” June 4.

The Red Sox could soon decide on the two players to be named later they will be acquiring from the Royals as part of the three-team trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City, according to The Kansas City’s Star Lynn Worthy.

Per Worthy, the Sox could very well make their decision within the next week or two.

Boston originally dealt Benintendi to the Royals back in February in exchange for outfielder Franchy Cordero, outfield prospect Khalil Lee, and two players to be named later. They then traded Lee to the Mets in exchange for right-handed pitching prospect Josh Winckowski and another player to be named later.

According to @RedSoxStats on Twitter, the two players the Sox receive from the Royals will likely be of the “lower-level” variety in regards to prospect rankings, while the player they get from the Mets “is likely to be a higher quality prospect.”

Of the five players Boston will eventually get back in this three-team swap, they have gotten mixed results from the two who have already joined the organization.

Cordero, who made the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster out of spring training, hit a disappointing .179/.228/.274 with just one home run, six doubles, nine RBI, six walks, and 37 strikeouts in 34 games before being demoted to Triple-A Worcester on May 26.

Since being sent down, though, Cordero has shown some signs of life. The 26-year-old has gone 5-for-12 with a pair of homers and three RBI in his first three games with the WooSox.

Winckowski, meanwhile, has been one of the organization’s most impressive pitching prospects to this point in the minor-league season.

Through his first five starts with Double-A Portland, the 22-year-old hurler has posted a miniscule 1.33 ERA and 0.89 WHIP to go along with a 26:9 strikeout-to-walk-ratio over 27 innings of work thus far.

His latest start was unquestionably his best, as he twirled seven scoreless frames of one-hit baseball against the Hartford Yard Goats on Saturday en route to picking up his second win of the season for the Sea Dogs.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, Winckowski operates with a fastball, slider, changeup and splitter.

“There’s a good foundation there,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told reporters (including Smith) when speaking about Winckowski last month. “The changeup shows a lot of promise. It’s a pretty hard changeup right now but you can still have success with that. It’s more of a power change. And that pitch is going to evolve but I think his other stuff will evolve, too. And he’s going to learn different ways to use it as he goes.”

(Picture of Andrew Benintendi: Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)

Red Sox pitching prospect Josh Winckowski wraps up solid spring with 3 strong innings of work against Twins

In what was undoubtedly be his last start of the spring, Red Sox pitching prospect Josh Winckowski impressed against the Twins at JetBlue Park on Sunday afternoon.

Making his first start of the Grapefruit League campaign, the 22-year-old right-hander held Minnesota’s lineup — which included the likes of Josh Donaldson, Nelson Cruz, and Byron Buxton — to one earned run on two hits and one walk to go along with one strikeout over three solid innings of work.

That lone Twins tally came on an RBI groundout off the bat of Donaldson in the top half of the third after Willians Astudillo led off the frame with a double and advanced to third on a flyout.

Other than that, Winckowski wrapped up his day by getting Cruz to ground out to short to retire the side in the third.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 51, 33 of which went for strikes, the Ohio native finishes his first spring with the Sox having posted a 3.68 ERA and .154 batting average against over five total appearances spanning 7 1/3 innings pitched.

Boston acquired Winckowski — as well as outfielder Franchy Cordero and two players to be named later — in the three-team trade with the Mets and Royals that saw outfielder Andrew Benintendi land in Kansas City last month.

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 212 pounds, Winckowski was originally selected by the Blue Jays in the 15th round of the 2016 amateur draft out of Estero (Fla.) High School.

He signed with Toronto for $125,000 later that summer and proceeded to put up a 3.35 ERA over 54 appearances (50 starts) and 263 innings of work between rookie-league, Low-A, Class-A, and High-A over the next 3 1/2 seasons.

By that time, Winckowski had emerged as an intriguing prospect within the Jays’ minor-league pipeline, and even after not seeing any in-game at action at all (besides Toronto’s fall instructional league) on account of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he was one of three pitchers the Blue Jays traded to the Mets in January in exchange for left-hander Steven Matz.

Emerging as New York’s 26th-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline in the wake of that trade, Winckowski’s time with the Mets did not last all that long.

As previously mentioned, he, again, was traded — this time to the Red Sox — on February 10, prompting him to jokingly change his Instagram bio to ‘I guess Red Sox.’

Given that he grew up and still resides in the Fort Myers-area, Winckowski going from the Mets to the Sox meant being within closer proximity to his new team’s spring training complex, which led to him captioning his Instagram post reacting to the trade with: ‘Spring training drive won’t be too bad.’

(For what it’s worth, his Instagram bio now reads: ‘Crazy few weeks but I’m pumped to be a Sox.’)

Winckowski arrived at the Red Sox’ Fenway South complex last month as one of 30 initial non-roster invitees at big-league camp. He was ultimately reassigned to the minor-leagues on March 9, but not before leaving a positive first impression on some of his new teammates, like fellow right-hander Matt Barnes.

“I was standing right next to him as he was warming up,” Barnes said about Winckowski following his scoreless outing against the Braves on March 7. “The ball was coming out good. Obviously he had a really good inning. Commanded the ball in the zone. Got ahead of guys, attacked hitters. It looks like he’s got firm, good stuff. It looks like the ball jumps out of his hand — really heavy fastball. That’s what it looks like to me. Obviously I’m not on the other end of it. But watching him from behind in the bullpen warming up and obviously the results speak for themselves in the game today, it looks like he’s got really good stuff.”

Winckowski, who does not turn 23 until June 28, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as Boston’s No. 33 prospect, ranking 17th among pitchers in the organization.

FanGraphs‘ Eric Longenhagen wrote this about Winckowski back in January, “Winckowski has a chance to pop in 2021 because he was pitching hurt in 2019 and still got guys out. He looked rusty during instructs but was also up to 97 and added a new splitter to an already decent slider.”

Equipped with a fastball, slider, changeup, and slider in total, Winckowski is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season with Double-A Portland, though he could earn a promotion to Triple-A Worcester later in the year depending on how he progresses.

The 2021 campaign could prove to be a pivotal one for Winckowski, as he becomes eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career later on this winter.

The Red Sox will need to add the righty to their 40-man roster on or before November 20 of this year if they do not want to risk losing him to another club in the December draft.

(Picture of Josh Winckowski: Billie Weiss/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Jeter Downs, top Red Sox prospect, is a ‘workaholic,’ Alex Cora says; ‘His bat is going to play’

Jeter Downs collected his second home run of the spring in the Red Sox’ 7-3 loss to the Rays in Port Charlotte on Friday afternoon.

Starting at shortstop and batting out of the seven-hole, the 22-year-old infielder went 1-for-3 at the plate with a walk, a strikeout, and that aforementioned home run.

Downs’ homer came in the top half of the second, when with one out and a runner on first he took a 2-2 changeup at the bottom of the zone from Rays starter David Hess and clobbered it well over the left-center field wall.

Though the wind was blowing hard in that particular direction at Charlotte Sports Park, Downs’ display of power was impressive nonetheless.

“He does a good job of controlling the strike zone,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Downs’ plate discipline. “He knows what he wants to do at the plate. Even in the last at-bat when he chased a pitch up, he knew right away he was out of the zone. “That’s something that we’ve been impressed [by].

Following Friday’s showing, Downs is now slashing .357/.500/.786 with a pair of homers and five RBI through his first 15 games and 18 plate appearances of Grapefruit League play while primarily playing shortstop.

A bruise to his left side suffered during a game against the Twins on March 14 resulted in Downs being held out of in-game action for a little more than week, but the Colombian-born prospect returned to action this past Monday and has gotten back into the swing of things.

Throughout the spring, Cora has not shied away from commending some of the organization’s top prospects — like Downs, catcher Connor Wong, and infielder Nick Yorke — for their ability to seemingly slow down what’s going on around them. He did more of the same while praising Downs on Friday.

“The bat will play,” said the Sox skipper. “He’s a good defender. I know he had that tough game the second game of spring training, but he’s a workaholic. One thing is for sure: He has a very slow pulse, and that helps him out. People might see him and they’ll be like, ‘Oh, low-energy guy. He’s not into it.’ That’s not the case.

“Offensively, he understands what he wants to do,” Cora added. “He understands the strike zone, and that’s why his bat is going to play.”

Downs, who like Cora has connections to the city of Miami, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 2 prospect in the Sox’ farm system behind only Triston Casas.

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 193 pounds, the right-handed hitter was reassigned to the minor-leagues on March 12. He is projected to begin the year at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Worcester.

Downs, of course, was one of three players the Sox acquired from the Dodgers in the blockbuster trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles last February — with Wong and outfielder Alex Verdugo being the other two.

Verdugo, the only one of the three with any major-league experience to this point, seemed impressed with what he has seen from both Downs and Wong at camp thus far when speaking with reporters earlier this week.

“They’re great players. Obviously, Downs, a middle infielder, and I love his swing,” Verdugo said this past Tuesday. “I think his swing is really good. I think it’s going to play in the big leagues. The same goes with Wong. Wong is a really good catcher and has a really good arm back there. He can fire it and he can swing it, too.

“With those guys, it’s obviously tough because last year we didn’t have a minor leagues,” he added. “They weren’t able to go to Pawtucket and put up big numbers or whatever it may be. It kind of hurts them a little bit but these are guys who are professionals. They’re working in the cage, talking to guys and trying to learn more and more so in the next two years — maybe this year, we never know — we’ll start seeing them come up.”

(Picture of Jeter Downs: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Chaim Bloom explains what went into Red Sox acquiring Christian Arroyo last season

Christian Arroyo came into spring training this year looking to prove he deserved a spot on the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster.

The 25-year-old infielder was originally claimed off waivers by Boston from the Indians last August, and after finally making his team debut a month later, he showed flashes of his potential.

Over a limited 14-game sample, Arroyo posted a .240/.296/.446 slash line to go along with three home runs and eight RBI over 14 games and 54 plate appearances. He played second base and shortstop.

The Florida native made it through the offseason without losing his spot on Boston’s 40-man roster, but he came into the spring in a somewhat precarious position given the fact he is out of minor-league options.

In other words, Arroyo has to make the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster. Otherwise, he would have to be exposed to waivers if the club wanted to send him down to the minors.

With that proposition in mind, Arroyo has been one of Boston’s more impressive performers at the plate thus far in Grapefruit League play in southwest Florida.

Following a 1-for-2 showing in a pinch-hitting capacity on Wednesday, the right-handed hitter is slashing .290/.333/.516 with a pair of homers and four RBI through his first 33 plate appearances of the spring.

It wasn’t too long ago that Arroyo, formerly a first-round draft pick of the San Francisco Giants, was one of the top prospects in baseball. He was even included in the blockbuster trade that sent Evan Longoria from the Tampa Bay Rays to the Giants in December 2017.

Arroyo did not do much in his time in Tampa Bay, as he appeared in just 36 total games between 2018 and early 2019 on account of multiple stints on the injured list before being dealt to Cleveland in July 2019.

Despite not playing too much with the Rays, though, the young middle infielder still established a relationship with Chaim Bloom, then Tampa Bay’s senior vice president of baseball operations.

That relationship carried over to Bloom’s first season as Red Sox chief baseball officer last year, as was highlighted when Arroyo was claimed by the club.

Since then, the two have surely gotten to know each other even better, and Bloom’s been impressed with what he’s seen from Arroyo going back to September.

“He looks, to me, better than at any point that we had him when I was with the Rays,” Bloom told WEEI’s Will Flemming and Rob Bradford earlier Wednesday. “Body-wise, he came in looking good. And I’ve seen him — whether it was last year or this spring — drive pitches that I didn’t see him drive in the past and just hit them harder.”

Despite the obvious connection he was with Arroyo from their time in Tampa Bay, Bloom was quick to not take all the credit when it came to acquiring the Hernando High School product in the first place.

“This is one where I think because of the connection and with the past, to the extent that it works I’ll be getting a lot of credit,” Bloom said. “But I would want to credit a lot of our crew in the front office for when this guy became available. Identifying him, doing work to see what was under the hood, and seeing some bat potential in there that he hadn’t realized.

“It was tough for him because he couldn’t stay healthy — either at the major-league level or Triple-A — for a couple of years,” he added. “So you’re kind of piecing together different samples, trying to look under the hood, figuring is there still some life to his player, who has a very good prospect pedigree. And we all felt strongly that it was worth taking the chance.”

With Danny Santana being sidelined while recovering from a right foot infection and Yairo Munoz being reassigned to minor-league camp on Wednesday, Arroyo would seem to have the edge on obtaining one of the final spots on the Sox’ 26-man Opening Day roster.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora has already made it clear that the club is planning to roll with 14 pitchers and 12 position players to kick off the 2021 campaign, so it should be interesting to see how Arroyo plays into that equation in the coming weeks.

(Picture of Christian Arroyo: Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Alex Cora on outfield prospect Jeisson Rosario’s potential: ‘We believe that there’s more there’

Red Sox outfield prospect Jeisson Rosario was one of seven players the club optioned to their alternate training site over the weekend.

The 21-year-old has not seen much action this spring after suffering a left hamstring injury while running after the ball in the fifth inning of a game against the Twins back on March 3.

While Rosario has not played since then, the Red Sox still believe they have something in the centerfielder, who was one of the two prospects (Hudson Potts being the other) they acquired from the Padres in exchange for Mitch Moreland last August.

“Good athlete,” Sox manager Alex Cora said of the young outfielder on Saturday. “We believe that there’s more there. Physically, we need to get him in a better spot. It was a tough offseason for him with the birth of his child. He was here for [fall instructs] and then went back to Miami. It’s not that he was way out of shape, but he can do better.”

Per his Instagram, Rosario and his partner welcomed their first child into the world back in January, so that was the time frame Cora was referring to.

The Dominican native — listed at 6-foot-1 and 191 lbs. — comes into the 2021 season as the No. 20 prospect in Boston’s farm system, per Baseball America.

The last time he saw any organized minor-league action, the left-handed hitting, left-handed throwing Rosario slashed .242/.372/.314 (102 wRC+) to go along with three home runs, 35 RBI, and 11 stolen bases over 12o games played for High-A Lake Elsinore in 2019.

Upon acquiring him from the Padres last summer, the Sox sent Rosario to their alternate training site in Pawtucket and then to their fall instructional league in Fort Myers before adding the speedster to their 40-man roster in November in order to avoid being eligible for December’s Rule 5 Draft.

At fall instructs, Rosario got off to a decent start, but started to struggle as camp went on, according to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall.

“Rosario did not show a stand-out tool and did not seem like a potential difference maker,” Cundall wrote back in November. “His frame is not that projectable. His best tools were on defense, where his instincts stood out and he showed an above-average arm. His run times, however, were closer to average than plus, which is a concern — if his speed continues to decrease, it could limit his defensive upside.

“At the plate, Rosario’s approach was OK,” added Cundall. “He worked counts but did not seem to be seeing the ball that well and showed fringy contact ability and minimal raw power. The Instructs games were not the ideal showcase for Rosario — he lacks loud tools, but as one of the more advanced players there, scouts expected more out of him against inexperienced pitching.”

Taking that report into consideration, it would appear that Rosario — who does not turn 22 until October still has plenty of room to grow in regards to his development. He is currently projected to begin the 2021 season with Double-A Portland.

“He’s so young that we just got to get him in a good spot,” said Cora. “If he does that, his athletic ability is going to take over. He controls the strike zone, which is very important. And he’s a good athlete.”

(Picture of Jeisson Rosario: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox acquire right-handed pitching prospect Zach Bryant from Cubs to complete Josh Osich trade

The Red Sox have acquired right-handed pitching prospect Zach Bryant from the Cubs to complete the trade that sent left-hander Josh Osich to Chicago back in August, the team announced Saturday.

Boston originally dealt Osich to Chicago on August 31 in exchange for a player to be named later. Given six months to complete that deal, the deadline was fast approaching, and we now know Bryant is indeed the PTBNL.

The 22-year-old right-hander was selected by the Cubs in the 15th round of the 2019 amateur draft out of Jacksonville University.

In his debut season as a professional, Bryant — listed at 6-foot-1 and 210 lbs. — posted a 1.27 ERA and 1.17 WHIP over 12 total relief appearances and 21 1/3 innings of work between the rookie-level, Arizona League Cubs and short-season, Northwest League Eugene Emeralds in 2019.

A native of Port Orange, Fla., Bryant initially attended Daytona State College for two years before transferring to Jacksonville for the 2019 season, where he produced a 3.48 ERA over 28 outings and 31 innings pitched.

He also put up a 44:19 strikeout-to-walk ratio while recording 12 saves en route to being named to the All-ASUN second team.

Now a member of the Red Sox organization, Bryant joins the likes of Christian Koss and Nick Sogard as former 2019 draft picks that Boston has acquired via trade this offseason.

(Picture of Zach Bryant: Zach Bryant’s Twitter/@zbry34)