Red Sox appear to have signed North Carolina State commit Bryant Zayas

UPDATE: The Red Sox have officially signed Zayas, per the club’s transactions log.

The Red Sox appear to have signed undrafted free-agent shortstop Bryant Zayas to a minor-league contract. That is based on Zayas’ recent Instagram activity and this post from one of his coaches, Ricardo Sosa of Team Sosa Baseball in Hialeah, Fla.

Zayas, 18, went undrafted out of Miami Christian School earlier this week despite being ranked nationally by Perfect Game USA as the No. 214 prospect in this year’s high school class. The Miami-area native was committed to play college baseball at North Carolina State University.

As a senior at Miami Christian, the right-handed hitting Zayas batted .323/.405/.548 with five doubles, three triples, four home runs, 19 RBIs, 30 runs scored, 15 stolen bases, 13 walks, and 25 strikeouts over 31 games (111 plate appearances) for the Victors, per MaxPreps.

Listed at 6-foot and 178 pounds, Zayas possesses quality bat speed and hits solid line drives when he is on time. On the other side of the ball, the quick infielder has “excellent actions at shortstop with a good combination of high level footwork and soft hands.” According to Perfect Game USA, the defense is what stands out.

Zayas, who turns 19 in October, would become the second undrafted free-agent to sign with the Red Sox this week, joining University of Connecticut catcher Matt Donlan. Clubs can sign undrafted players for up to $125,000 without dipping into their bonus pool.

(Picture of Bryant Zayas: Bryan Green/Flickr)

Who is Joey Stock? Red Sox pitching prospect has posted 2.20 ERA in first 7 appearances with Low-A Salem this season

Not including Juan Daniel Encarnacion, Red Sox pitching prospect Joey Stock currently leads Low-A Salem in innings pitched a little less than four weeks into the minor-league season.

In seven appearances (one start) for Salem so far this year, the right-hander has posted a 2.20 ERA and 3.80 xFIP to go along with 19 strikeouts to seven walks over 16 1/3 innings of work.

Among Carolina League pitchers who have accrued at least 10 innings on the mound to this point in 2022, Stock ranks 23rd in batting average against (.161), 22nd in WHIP (0.98), 29th in ERA, and 40th in xFIP, per FanGraphs.

Stock, 24, originally signed with the Red Sox as an undrafted free agent coming out of Division III Saint John’s University (Collegeville, Minn.) in August 2020. The Cold Spring native was slated to attend Division I University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to pursue his master’s degree beginning in the fall, but instead opted to go pro then and there.

After being used as a two-way player in college, Stock transitioned strictly to the mound with Boston. He made his organizational debut in the rookie-level Florida Complex League last summer before being promoted to Salem in mid-August.

Since that time, Stock has produced a 2.15 ERA and 4.01 FIP with 34 punchouts and 13 walks across 16 outings (29 1/3 innings) at the Low-A level. The 6-foot-5, 210 pound hurler has yielded such results while working with a 91-93 mph fastball that can reportedly reach 96 mph, a 79-81 mph curveball, and an 80-81 mph changeup, according to his SoxProspects.com scouting report.

Stock, who turns 25 in September, is older for his level and seems to be taking advantage of that by pitching well for Salem. Because of this, one has to wonder if the righty could be on the verge of a new challenge in the form of a promotion to High-A Greenville sooner rather than later.

(Picture of Joey Stock: Bryan Green/Flickr)

What the Red Sox saw in Ryan Fitzgerald before signing him out independent ball in 2018

Ryan Fitzgerald is off to a blazing hot start with the Worcester Red Sox. After homering on Opening Day, the versatile prospect went deep twice as part of 2-for-showing in Jacksonville on Thursday night.

Through his first three games of the Triple-A season, Fitzgerald is batting .636 (7-for-11)/.667/1.455 with three homers, five RBIs, four runs scored, one walk, and four strikeouts over 12 trips to the plate.

This comes on the heels of a spring training in which Fitzgerald was one of the Sox’ standouts in Fort Myers. While making a strong case to make Boston’s Opening Day roster, the left-handed hitter clubbed a team-leading four home runs and posted a 1.513 OPS across 11 Grapefruit League contests.

Although the Red Sox sent Fitzgerald down to Triple-A Worcester on March 27, there is no doubt the 27-year-old could be on the verge of a big-league call-up sooner rather than later.

A native of Illinois, Fitzgerald played four seasons at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. but went undrafted. Rather than take his talents to affiliated ball right away like other amateur prospects, Fitzgerald signed with the Gary SouthShore RailCats of the independent American Association in 2017.

It was Gary, Ind. where Fitzgerald was first seen by Red Sox pro scout David Scrivines. Scrivines, who has been with the team since 2008, initially took note of Fitzgerald’s plate discipline and ability to move around the infield.

“He seemed like someone who had real quality at-bats and knew the strike zone well,” Scrivines told BloggingtheRedSox.com. “Knowing the ballpark in Gary is a pitcher-friendly ballpark, players don’t put up power numbers in that park.  So I wasn’t sure how the power would project in the future. We saw someone with a steady glove and arm and athleticism.”

In his first season with the RailCats in 2017, Fitzgerald slashed .239/.301/.395 with seven home runs and 20 RBIs over 84 games while seeing playing time at every infield position besides first base. He was also well-liked by his teammates and coaches, including manager Greg Tagert.

“Former Gary manager Greg Tagert raved about his makeup,” said Scrivines. “So we knew he’s a top-notch person and teammate.”

The following spring, Fitzgerald signed with the Sox as an undrafted free agent and debuted with the Greenville Drive in June. He made it as far as High-A before the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the minor-league season in 2020.

Last year, Fitzgerald broke camp with Double-A Portland and made it up to Worcester for a spell over the summer. The 6-foot, 185 pounder also made his pro debut as an outfielder in 2021.

So far this season, Fitzgerald — who turns 28 in June — has made starts at second base, third base, and shortstop. Combine what he has done at the plate with his versatility, and it has been an impressive start to the 2022 campaign for the utility man.

“It’s great to see him get off to such a good start this spring – both offensively and moving around the field on the defensive end – and watching his progress the past four years,” Scrivines said.

(Picture of Ryan Fitzgerald: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Who is Jake MacKenzie? Red Sox infield prospect may be one of fastest players in organization

Jordan DiValerio was not the only undrafted free agent the Red Sox signed out of an Atlantic 10 school following the pandemic-shortened 2020 draft.

In addition to the St. Joseph’s University right-hander, Boston also signed Fordham University infielder Jake MacKenzie for $20,000 in June 2020.

A junior at the time of signing, MacKenzie had earned quite the reputation as a speed merchant at Fordham by stealing a total of 77 bases in his first two seasons with the Rams.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic cut the 2020 college baseball season short, MacKenzie had gotten his junior campaign off to a solid start by posting a .958 OPS and swiping seven bags in his first 16 games of the year.

After becoming one of 16 undrafted free agents to sign with Boston that summer, MacKenzie did not receive the benefit of acclimating himself to the minor-league lifestyle from the get-go. He instead had to wait until last spring to make his professional debut after breaking camp with Low-A Salem.

In 29 games for Salem, the right-handed hitter batted .228/.347/.329 (94 wRC+) with two doubles, two home runs, four RBIs, 12 runs scored, one stolen base, 12 walks, and 18 strikeouts over 95 plate appearances.

On paper, that sort of slash line obviously does not stick out. Still, the Red Sox promoted MacKenzie to High-A Greenville on July 23 and some of his numbers actually improved upon facing a stiffer level of competition.

While his walk rate (12.6% to 9.6%) dipped and his strikeout rate (18.9% to 21.7%) rose, MacKenzie slashed a stout .265/.375/.353 (107 wRC+) to go along with four doubles, one triple, three RBIs, 14 runs scored, three stolen bases, eight walks, and 18 strikeouts across 25 games (83 plate appearances) for the Drive.

Although he only stole three bases in four attempts with Greenville, MacKenzie was unsurprisingly one of the fastest baserunners in the High-A East last year. Among the 222 hitters who made at least 80 trips to the plate in 2021, the 22-year-old ranked 11th in Speed score, per FanGraphs.

Defensively, MacKenzie saw playing time at four different positions between Salem and Greenville. The 5-foot-10, 195 pounder logged a total of 280 2/3 innings at second base, 81 1/3 innings at third base, 40 innings at shortstop, and nine innings in right field.

Given his versatility and quickness on the basepaths, MacKenzie profiles as an intriguing infield depth option for the Sox. The Wallingford, Conn. native has “strong baserunning instincts” per his SoxProspects.com scouting report and is still relatively young as he does not turn 23 until May.

MacKenzie’s ties to New England run deeper than where he was born and raised. During his time at Fordham, the Choate Rosemary Hall product also spent two summers (2018 and 2019) playing for the Bourne Braves of the Cape Cod Baseball League.

Taking his age and level of experience into account, MacKenzie is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 season where he left off in 2021: Greenville. He may not be one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system as of now, but perhaps the speedster can work his way up to Double-A Portland before the year is over.

(Picture of Jake MacKenzie via the Greenville Drive’s Twitter)

Who is Jordan DiValerio? Red Sox pitching prospect walked just 5.1% of the batters he faced with Low-A Salem in 2021

Jordan DiValerio was one of 16 undrafted free agents the Red Sox signed in the wake of the pandemic-shortened 2020 amateur draft.

Two days before officially signing with the club, DiValerio received a phone call and recruiting pitch from Boston ace Chris Sale, which made the decision to put pen to paper that much easier.

“It was definitely really surprising,” DiValerio told MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo at the time when describing his conversation with Sale. “It means so much to just be wanted by such a great organization.”

A right-handed senior coming out of St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, DiValerio signed with the Sox for $20,000. Due to the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the Nescopeck, Pa. native was unable to make his professional debut in 2020 since the minor-league season had already been cancelled.

Instead, DiValerio got his first taste of pro ball during fall instructs in Fort Myers. He took what he learned there into minor-league camp the following spring and opened the 2021 season with Low-A Salem.

In 31 appearances (one start) for Salem, the righty posted a 5.72 ERA and 4.21 FIP to go along with 72 strikeouts to just 16 walks over 72 1/3 innings of work. The length of his outings ranged from 2/3 of an inning to four full frames.

On the surface, a 5.72 ERA is not exactly an eye-popping statistic. But, in DiValerio’s case, his ERA does not tell the full story when you consider the fact that he also put up a 4.21 FIP and much more respectable 3.95 xFIP.

Among the 35 pitchers who accrued at least 70 innings in the Low-A East last year, DiValerio ranked ninth in FIP, seventh in xFIP, fourth in walks per nine innings (1.99), fourth in walk rate (5.1%), and seventh in swinging strike percentage (14.6%), per FanGraphs. The 24-year-old hurler also yielded a .347 batting average on balls put in play, which suggests he might have been the victim of some bad luck behind him.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, DiValerio throws from a high three-quarters arm slot and operates with a five-pitch mix that consists of an 89-92 mph that tops out at 94 mph, a 77-79 mph curveball, an 80-83 mph changeup and splitter, and an 82-84 mph slider, according to his SoxProspects.com scouting report.

Like fellow right-hander Devon Roedahl, DiValerio — who does not turn 25 until October — may not be regarded by any major publication as one of the top pitching prospects in Boston’s farm system. That being said, he is projected by SoxProspects.com to kick off the 2022 season in the bullpen for High-A Greenville.

As is the case with Roedahl, perhaps DiValerio can earn himself a promotion to Double-A Portland before the end of the year.

(Picture of Jordan DiValerio via his Instagram)

Red Sox sign Clemson University outfielder Kier Meredith

The Red Sox have signed Clemson University outfielder Kier Meredith as an undrafted free agent, Clemson Baseball announced on Thursday.

Meredith, 21, is a redshirt sophomore who spent four years at Clemson after not signing with the Chicago Cubs despite being selected by them in the 28th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of Robert B. Glenn High School (N.C.).

This past spring with the Tigers, the North Carolina native slashed .283/.387/.422 with eight doubles, four triples, three home runs, 25 RBI, 33 runs scored, six stolen bases, 12 walks, and 28 strikeouts over 47 games spanning 218 trips to the plate.

Listed at 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds, Meredith — a left-handed hitter — has experience in both left and center field, though he missed a majority of the 2018 and 2019 campaigns due to a plethora of injuries.

Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, Meredith “has the speed and defensive profile you look for, but future potential will be determined by how much he hits. Has a knack for getting on base and solid feel at the plate. Strong makeup and work ethic. Strong leadership skills, leaves it all on the field night after night. Type of person every organization strives to have.”

While 15 total stolen bases over 86 career games with Clemson may not seem like much, Meredith is certainly well-known for his speed, as he explained to The Clemson Insider on Thursday.

“First of all speed has always been my best tool so in order for me to have success at the next level I need to utilize that as much as I can,” said Meredith. “I need to continue to develop as a better defender and continue to develop as a better hitter. If I do those three things it will help me have as much success as I’m going to have.”

A three-time ACC Academic Honor Roll member, Meredith graduated from Clemson with a degree in psychology this past May. He will report to the Red Sox’ spring training complex in Fort Myers next week.

At the moment, Meredith is the only confirmed undrafted free-agent the Red Sox have signed thus far, according to Baseball America. Undrafted free-agents can sign with clubs for up to $20,000.

Last year, Boston was one of the more active teams in the UDFA market at the conclusion of the shortened 2020 draft, as they signed a grand total of 16 prospects.

When speaking with reporters earlier this week, Red Sox director of amateur scouting Paul Toboni hinted that the club would once again be right in the thick of things when it came to potentially scooping up those prospects who were passed on during the draft.

“We are going to try to be active to the extent that we can and to the extent that we can accommodate whatever number of players there are,” Toboni said on Tuesday. “We think it’s a really good opportunity to find undervalued players on a market where maybe the value — for whatever reason — might be suppressed a little bit.”

(Picture of Kier Meredith: Dawson Powers/TigerIllustrated.com)

Red Sox Placing Plenty of Emphasis on Undrafted Free Agent Market

The window for teams to sign undrafted free agents opened up a week ago Sunday. Since that time, the Red Sox have signed 13 undrafted free agents for no more than $20,000, according to Baseball America. That’s the most of any club thus far.

Not only that, but Boston, led by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and amateur scouting director Paul Toboni, are making sure they get the guys they want.

That being the case because two of the 13 UDFAs the Sox have signed so far have been recruited by a pair of All-Stars.

St. Joseph’s University (Philadelphia) right-hander Jordan DiValerio, a senior, already had the Red Sox at the top of his list after he realized he was not going to get drafted. A call from Chirs Sale last Sunday morning all but solidified which club the Nescopeck product was going to sign with.

“I was definitely nervous,” DiValerio said of his conversation with the Red Sox ace. “But he’s just a normal dude. When it boils down to it, he’s really normal, easy to talk to. We talked about Pennsylvania a little bit. He said he’s excited to have me as part of the club.”

On that same Sunday, Boston reached out to another undrafted college player in the form of Grand Canyon University’s Cuba Bess.

A first baseman by trade, the redshirt junior out of Fruita, Colo. received a call from Red Sox area scout Vaughn Williams that was accompanied by a recruitment video pitch from Xander Bogaerts.

One day later, Bess made the decision to forego his senior season and sign with the Sox.

“I took about a day to discuss it with family and coaches and even some of my teammates and former teammates,” Bess told WEEI’s Rob Bradford. “It was a tough decision, especially having eligibility back. It took about a day to say, ‘Yeah, I’m going to sign with you guys.'”

Along with DiValerio and Bess, the Red Sox have reportedly signed Jacinto Arredondo, Graham Hoffman, Jake MacKenzie, Juan Montero, Cole Milam, Henry Nunez-Rijo, Jose Garcia, Merfy Andrew, Brian Van Belle, Maceo Campbell, and Robert Kwiatkowski to undrafted free agent contracts.

Red Sox Sign University of Miami Ace Brian Van Belle

Since the window to sign undrafted free agents opened on Sunday morning, the Red Sox have signed 10 undrafted free agents, the most among all clubs, according to Baseball America.

The most notable of these additions to this point, at least in terms of BA’s draft-eligible prospect rankings, was made earlier Monday in the form of University of Miami (Fla.) right-hander Brian Van Belle.

Van Belle, 23, was regarded by Baseball America as the 16th-ranked senior in this year’s draft class.

The former JuCo product out of Pembroke Pines posted a 0.68 ERA and .168 batting average against over four starts and 26 1/3 innings of work as the Hurricanes’ ace in 2020 before the college baseball season was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Listed at 6’2″ and 187 lbs., Van Belle underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015 while a freshman in junior college and wound up missing his entire sophomore season because of it.

He transferred to Miami from Broward College in October 2017, and emerged as the Hurricanes’ Friday night starter on a team that featured two 2020 early-round draft picks in the form of Slade Cecconi and Chris McMahon.

Per SoxProspects‘ Ian Cundall, Van Belle’s pitching arsenal includes a fastball that can top out at 93 MPH as well as a quality circle changeup.

As is the case with all undrafted free agents, the most the Red Sox can sign Van Belle for is $20,0000.

Here are the other nine undrafted prospects the Red Sox have signed since Sunday.

 

Following 2020 Draft, How Should Red Sox Approach Pursuing Undrafted Free Agents?

The 2020 MLB first-year player draft has come and gone, and beginning the morning of June 14th, clubs will have the opportunity to sign an unlimited number of undrafted free agents for no more than $20,000.

Under normal circumstances, the Red Sox have signed anywhere between 25-35 players in past draft, but since the 2020 edition was limited to just five rounds and Boston was limited to just four picks, only four new additions were made over the past two days in the forms of Nick Yorke, Blaze Jordan, Jeremy Wu-Yelland, and Shane Drohan.

Because this year’s draft was cut to five rounds rather recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems likely that the Red Sox had an idea of who would be available over the course of a typical 40-round draft before that announcement was made.

It also helps that, since not much baseball was played at the high school or college level this spring, the Sox’ draft board probably hasn’t changed all that much since the 2019 season came to an end.

Only 160 players were drafted this year, meaning there is still plenty of mid-to-late-round level talent out there on the free agency market.

With chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and amateur scouting director Paul Toboni at the helm, the Red Sox are in a position where they are trying to revamp things on the player development side of the game. They should not limit themselves to just the four players they drafted this week.

Some local products Boston could pursue during this unique free agency period, as noted by SoxProspects‘ Mike Andrews, include:

  • Wake Forest outfielder Chris Lanzilli (Stoneham, MA)
  • Boston College outfielder Chris Galland (Sudbury, MA)
  • Northeastern catcher Teddy Beaduet (Franklin, NH)
  • Buckingham Browne & Nichols shortstop Jake Berger (Boston, MA)
  • Avon Old Farms outfielder/catcher Jake Deleo (Norwalk, CT)
  • Braintree High School right-handed pitcher Myles McDermott (Braintree, MA)
  • Halifax High School right-handed pitcher Michael Quigley (Halifax, MA)
  • East Greenwich High School right-handed pitcher/infielder Brad Lombardi (East Greenwich, RI)
  • Gilmanton High School right-hander Adrian Siravo (Gilmanton, NH)
  • South Portland High School left-handed pitcher Hunter Owen (South Portland, ME)

Some of these prospects, more specifically the ones graduating from high school, will likely opt to honor their college commitments rather than go pro, but for the college seniors with no eligibility left, this could be the opportunity they have been looking for after going overlooked in the draft.

When asked last week about what the Sox’ approach to recruiting undrafted free agents will look like, Toboni said, “The Red Sox brand carries weight itself,” so it will certainly be fascinating to see just how many additional prospects they sign in the coming weeks.

The deadline to sign both drafted and undrafted players is August 1st.

Red Sox Amateur Scouting Director Paul Toboni Gives Some Insight Into Club’s Post-Draft Plans

The 2020 MLB Draft begins on Wednesday. Upon its completion, clubs will have the chance to sign an unlimited number of unsigned free agents for no more than $20,000 beginning the morning of June 14th.

The Red Sox, who will be limited to just four picks in this year’s draft as a result of their illegal stealing of signs in 2018, could take advantage of this, but as amateur scouting director Paul Toboni notes, there are several factors involved in determining who the Sox may be able to bring on board.

“A couple of different variables are baked in,” Toboni told The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham recently. “How good are they? How much do we value them? How willing are they to sign for $20,000 after the draft, and how likely is it that they pick the Red Sox? Trying to properly game-plan that is challenging.”

In what will be likened to recruiting pitches typically seen in college sports, the Red Sox do not have the luxury other teams have in being within close proximity to baseball hotbeds like California or Florida. Instead, according to Toboni, Boston will rely more on the intangibles when pitching to undrafted prospects later this month.

“The history, the tradition, how we develop players, the family culture we have,” he explained. “Our facilities and the amount of money we put into strength and conditioning and technology and getting our players better. The Red Sox brand carries weight itself.”

Although it’s unclear how many undrafted free agents the Red Sox are planning on signing, Toboni did say that the club is “trying to prepare” for all sorts of different scenarios. The team’s post-draft plans likely hinge on how many prospects decide to leave school behind and instead opt to begin their professional baseball careers.

Don’t quote me on this, but I believe the deadline to sign undrafted players is August 1st.