Of the 30 free agents the Red Sox have signed during the 2020-2021 international signing period, only one is listed as a catcher.
That catching prospect would be none other than Enderso Lira, who signed with Boston for approximately $850,000 last winter, making him the second-highest paid member of the club’s international signing class behind only Miguel Bleis.
At the time of his signing, Lira — then 17 — was heralded by Baseball America as one of the top young catchers to come out of Venezuela. With the help of signing scout Angel Escobar, he officially inked his first professional contract on January 15 and subsequently made his way to the Sox’ Dominican academy in El Toro.
A little less than six months after signing, Lira made his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League on July 13 — batting third and starting behind the plate for the DSL Red Sox Red affiliate in their contest against the DSL Royals Blue.
From that point forward, the right-handed hitting backstop proceeded to slash .246/.414/.336 with seven doubles, three triples, 15 RBIs, 16 runs scored, one stolen base, 32 walks, and 18 strikeouts over 41 games spanning 162 plate appearances.
Among hitters in the Dominican Summer League who made at least 160 trips to the plate last year, Lira ranked 10th in walk percentage (19.8%), 17th in strikeout percentage (11.1%), 26th in on-base percentage, and 57th in wRC+ (125), per FanGraphs.
Defensively, 32 of Lira’s 41 appearances last season came at catcher. In the process of logging 246 2/3 innings behind the plate, the San Felipe native was credited with 225 putouts, 34 assists, eight errors committed, three double plays turned, and four passed balls allowed. He also threw out 27 of the 70 (39%) of the base runners who attempted to steal against him.
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, Lira — like most prospects his age — still has plenty of room to grow both on and off the field. The 18-year-old is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 32 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks fourth among catchers in the organization.
Back in September, SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall identified Lira as “the most intriguing position player prospect in the DSL” besides the aforementioned Bleis.
“Lira has a great frame for a catcher, with projection remaining, and is athletic enough that one scout suggested to me he could even handle third base if he outgrows catcher,” Cundall wrote. “He has looked good behind the plate though and has an above-average arm already.
“Offensively, he has a very advanced approach for his age,” added Cundall. “His swing is short and direct, and he has quick hands. Right now, he mostly hits hard line drives, but he should grow into some power in the future, especially given his frame.”
As alluded to by Cundall, the Red Sox have had a tough time as of late when it comes to developing catchers. The additions of Lira and 2021 fifth-round draft pick Nathan Hickey could change the club’s fortunes in that area, though.
On that note, Lira — who does not turn 19 until October — is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 season as the Sox’ top backstop in the Florida Complex League.
(Picture of Enderso Lira via his Instagram)