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.