Red Sox add 5 prospects, including Ceddanne Rafaela and Brandon Walter, to 40-man roster to protect them from Rule 5 Draft

The Red Sox have selected five prospects to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from next month’s Rule 5 Draft, the club announced earlier Tuesday evening.

Left-handers Chris Murphy and Brandon Walter, super-utility player Ceddanne Rafaela, outfielder Wilyer Abreu, and infielder David Hamilton were all added. In order to make room for these five on the 40-man roster, which sat at 37 players coming into Tuesday’s deadline, right-hander Jake Reed and catcher Caleb Hamilton were both designated for assignment.

Murphy, 24, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 8 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking third among pitchers in the organization. The Red Sox originally selected the Californian-born southpaw in the sixth round of the 2019 amateur draft out of the University of San Diego.

In 15 appearances (13 starts) with Double-A Portland to begin the 2022 minor-league season, Murphy posted a 2.58 ERA and 3.35 FIP with 91 strikeouts to 31 walks over 76 2/3 innings of work. He was promoted to Triple-A Worcester in late June and pitched to a 5.50 ERA (5.26 FIP) with 58 strikeouts to 41 walks in 15 starts (75 1/3 innings) for the WooSox.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, Murphy operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a 92-94 mph fastball that can reach 96-97 mph, an 83-85 mph changeup, a 73-76 mph curveball, and an 80-84 mph slider.

Walter, 26, is ranked right behind Murphy as Baseball America’s No. 9 Red Sox prospect. The University of Delaware product was taken by Boston in the 26th round of the 2019 draft and burst onto the scene last year. He began the 2022 campaign in Portland and produced a 2.88 ERA (2.73 FIP) with 68 strikeouts to just three walks in his first nine starts (50 innings) with the Sea Dogs.

That level of performance netted Walter a promotion to Worcester in late May. But the 6-foot-2, 200-pound lefty made just two starts for the WooSox before a bulging cervical disk prematurely ended his season in early June. Walter works with a 90-93 mph heater that tops out at 95 mph, an 80-83 mph changeup, and an 80-83 mph slider. If healthy, he could provide the Red Sox with starting rotation depth next season.

Rafaela is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 4 prospect in Boston’s farm system and the No. 78 prospect in all of baseball. The Red Sox originally signed the versatile 22-year-old for just $10,000 as an international free agent in July 2017. He has since emerged as one of the organization’s brightest prospects and was alone in representing the Sox at this year’s All-Star Futures Game in Los Angeles.

After earning Red Sox Minor League Defensive Player of the Year honors for the first time in 2021, Rafaela could have been added to Boston’s 40-man roster but was instead left off. The major-league phase of the 2021 Rule 5 Draft was then cancelled as a result of the ongoing lockout, meaning other teams would not have the opportunity to pry Rafaela away from the Red Sox.

Rafaela broke minor-league camp with High-A Greenville this spring. The right-handed hitter batted .330/.368/.594 with 17 doubles, four triples, nine home runs, 36 RBIs, 37 runs scored, 14 stolen bases, 10 walks, and 51 strikeouts in 45 games (209 plate appearances) with the Drive.

Upon making the jump from High-A to Double-A in early June, Rafaela proceeded to slash .278/.324/.500 with 15 doubles, six triples, 12 homers, 50 runs driven in, 45 runs scored, 14 stolen bases, 16 walks, and 62 strikeouts over 71 games (313 plate appearances). Though his production at the plate dipped with the Sea Dogs, Rafaela still led all Red Sox minor-leaguers with 63 extra-base hits and was the only member of the organization to put together a 20-20 season.

On the other side of the ball, Rafaela saw the majority of his playing time in Portland come in center field. The 5-foot-8, 152-pounder logged 498 2/3 innings and recorded three outfield assists in center while also logging 103 innings at shortstop.

“I truly believe this: You put him in the big leagues right now, he wins the Gold Glove as an outfielder,” Red Sox infield coordinator Darren Fenster said of Rafaela, who was named the organization’s Defensive Player of the Year for a second time back in September. “He’s not there yet as an infielder, but talent-wise and with some more reps and some more polish, he has Gold Glove potential as a shortstop as well. It’s wild the talent that this kid has.”

Abreu, 23, was one of two prospects the Red Sox acquired from the Astros in the August trade that sent Christian Vazquez to Houston. The other prospect from that deal (Enmanuel Valdez) was added to the 40-man roster last Thursday so that he would not become a minor-league free agent.

As for Abreu, Baseball America currently ranks the native Venezuelan as the No. 22 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The left-handed hitting outfielder closed out the 2022 season by batting .242/.399/.375 with five doubles, four home runs, 19 RBIs, 25 runs scored, eight stolen bases, 36 walks, and 45 strikeouts across 40 games (168 plate appearances) with Portland. He also played in the Arizona Fall League and made appearances at both corner outfield spots for the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Hamilton is undoubtedly the most surprising addition listed here. The 25-year-old was acquired from the Brewers alongside Alex Binelas and Jackie Bradley Jr. in last December’s Hunter Renfroe trade. He spent the entirety of his first season in the Red Sox organization in Portland.

With the Sea Dogs, the left-handed hitting Hamilton batted .251/.338/.402 with 16 doubles, nine triples, 12 home runs, 42 RBIs, 81 runs scored, a franchise-record 70 stolen bases, 56 walks, and 119 strikeouts over 119 games spanning 531 trips to the plate. He is capable of playing adequate defense at either second base or shortstop.

Given that his speed is his standout tool, Hamilton’s addition to the 40-man roster may have something to do with the rule changes that are coming to Major League Baseball. Larger bases, a pitch timer, limiting throws to first base, and limits on defensive shifts certainly make speedsters such as Hamilton more appealing moving forward.

Following Tuesday’s series of moves, the Red Sox’ 40-man roster is at full capacity. That will likely change between now and the non-tender deadline on Friday.

(Picture of Ceddanne Rafaela: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

How did contingent of Red Sox prospects perform in Arizona Fall League this year?

The 2022 Arizona Fall League season came to a close over the weekend, as the Surprise Saguaros defeated the Glendale Desert Dogs by a final score of 7-6 in Saturday’s championship game at Scottsdale Stadium.

Orioles prospect Heston Kjerstad was named the league’s Most Valuable Player while Cardinals lefty Connor Thomas was named Pitcher of the Year. Colorado’s Zac Veen earned Offensive Player of the Year honors, Tampa Bay’s Evan Reifert was named Reliever of the Year, Minnesota’s Edouard Julien was named Breakout Player of the Year, San Francisco’s Luis Matos was named Defensive Player of the Year, and Oakland’s Lawrence Butler received the Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award.

The Red Sox sent eight of their own minor-leaguers to play for the Scottsdale Scorpions, who at 13-16 finished 1 1/2 games back of a playoff spot, this fall. Although none of these players were recognized in postseason award distribution, some certainly fared better than others.

Here is a rundown of how each of these eight prospects performed over the last six-plus weeks, starting with the four pitchers who made the trek out west:

Aaron Perry, RHP

Perry, 23, made 10 relief appearances for the Scorpions. The right-hander posted a 12.46 ERA and 2.86 WHIP with four strikeouts to 10 walks over 8 2/3 innings of work. Opponents batted .395 off him.

Boston originally selected Perry in the 14th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of Hurricane High School in West Virginia. Since then, the righty has been limited to 47 2/3 minor-league innings due to a number of injuries. He appeared in just three games for High-A Greenville this year.

Thad Ward, RHP

Ward, 25, made four appearances — three of which were starts — for Scottsdale. The righty suffered a left oblique strain after his second start of the fall on October 10 and was sidelined for nearly a month as a result. He returned in time to pitch in two more games and wound up posting a 2.84 ERA and 1.34 WHIP with 15 strikeouts to six walks over 12 2/3 innings of work. Opponents batted .234 off him.

Currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 25 prospect in Boston’s farm system, Ward was limited to 13 minor-league starts this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last June. The former fifth-round selection out of the University of Central Florida can become eligible for this winter’s Rule 5 Draft if the Red Sox do not add him to their 40-man roster on Tuesday.

Jacob Webb, RHP

Webb, 23, finished in a two-way tie for the team lead in saves (3) this fall. The hard-throwing righty pitched to a 3.60 ERA and 1.30 WHIP to go along with 12 strikeouts to five walks over nine relief appearances spanning 10 innings of work. Opposing hitters batted .222 (8-for-36) off him.

The Red Sox took Webb in the 14th round of last year’s draft out of Miami University of Ohio. The 6-foot-5, 246-pound hurler pitched at three different levels this season and ended the year at Double-A Portland. He possesses a three-pitch mix that consists of a high-90s fastball, a mid-80s slider, and a high-80s changeup.

Ryan Zeferjahn, RHP

Zeferjahn, 24, primarily came out of the bullpen for Scottsdale, but he also made one start. In nine total appearances, the right-hander produced a 4.80 ERA and 1.27 WHIP with 18 strikeouts to eight walks over 15 innings of work. He limited opposing hitters to a .208 batting average against.

Listed at 6-foot-5 and 209 pounds, Zeferjahn spent the majority of the 2022 minor-league season with Greenville before being promoted to Portland in late August. The former third-round pick out of the University of Kansas posted a 5.05 ERA between the two levels and, like Ward, is Rule 5 eligible this winter.

Moving on the four position players that made up this eight-man contingent…

Wilyer Abreu, OF

Abreu, 23, was one of two prospects the Red Sox acquired from the Astros in the Christian Vazquez trade. The left-handed hitter went just 9-for-54 (.167) with two doubles, 10 RBIs, eight runs scored, three stolen bases, 10 walks, and 18 strikeouts in 17 games for the Scorpions this fall. He made four appearances in left field and eight appearances in right.

After closing out the minor-league season with Portland, Abreu is another minor-leaguer who can become eligible for next month’s Rule 5 Draft if he is not added to Boston’s 40-man roster on Tuesday. The native Venezuelan does offer intriguing speed and possesses the ability to get on base at a respectable clip, so he has that going for him.

Niko Kavadas, 1B

Kavadas, 24, split time at first base with San Francisco’s Logan Wyatt and Atlanta’s Cade Bunnell. The left-handed hitting slugger slashed .239/.417/.435 with three doubles, two homers, six runs driven in, seven runs scored, 13 walks, and 24 strikeouts in 15 games (60 plate appearances) with the Scorpions.

The Red Sox originally selected Kavadas in the 11th round of the 2021 amateur draft out of The University of Notre Dame. The Indiana native earned Minor League Offensive Player of the Year honors in his first full professional season. He is currently regarded by Baseball America as the 30th-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Stephen Scott, C

Scott, 25, was one of two Red Sox minor-leaguers to make it to this year’s AFL Fall Stars Game. The left-handed hitter also took part in the league’s first-ever home run derby in the process of batting .298/.394/.614 with one double, one triple, five home runs, 16 RBIs, 15 runs scored, one stolen base, nine walks, and 11 strikeouts across 15 games (66 plate appearances) this fall. He started 13 games at catcher and threw out four of 22 base stealers en route to being named to the 2022 All-Arizona Fall League Team.

A former 10th-round pick in 2019 out of Vanderbilt University who was signed as an outfielder, Scott has since emerged as a full-time backstop. The 5-foot-11, 207-pound North Carolina native split the 2022 campaign between Greenville and Portland. He is a candidate to be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster on Tuesday given his upcoming Rule 5 eligibility.

Nick Yorke, 2B

Yorke, 20, played in last week’s Fall Stars Game alongside Scott. Before that, the right-handed hitting infielder missed some time with left wrist soreness. But he wound up batting a stout .342/.424/.526 with eight doubles, two home runs, 18 RBIs, 18 runs scored, one stolen base, 12 walks, and 16 strikeouts over 19 games (92 plate appearances) with the Scorpions.

It was a down year for Yorke offensively, as he posted a .668 OPS in Greenville after being named the Red Sox’ Minor League Offensive Player of the Year in 2021. Perhaps what he just did in Arizona is a positive sign of what is to come. The 2020 first-round pick is still regarded by Baseball America as the No. 5 prospect in Boston’s farm system. He is projected to be on Portland’s Opening Day roster next spring.

(Picture of Nick Yorke: Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

Red Sox add Enmanuel Valdez to 40-man roster, activate 5 players from 60-day injured list

UPDATE: The Red Sox have officially selected Valdez to the major-league roster. They also activated left-handers James Paxton, Chris Sale, and Josh Taylor, right-hander Tanner Houck, and first baseman/outfielder Franchy Cordero from the 60-day injured list.

The 40-man roster is now at 37 players.

The Red Sox will add versatile prospect Enmanuel Valdez to their 40-man roster on Thursday, according to MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith. The move prevents Valdez from reaching minor-league free agency.

Valdez, who turns 24 next month, was acquired from the Astros along with outfield prospect Wilyer Abreu in the August trade that sent catcher Christian Vazquez to Houston.

The Astros originally signed Valdez for $450,000 as an international free agent coming out of the Dominican Republic in July 2015, so the San Juan de la Maguna native was eligible to become a minor-league free agent this winter after spending seven years in the minors.

At the time the trade was made, Valdez was batting .327/.410/.606 with 26 doubles, one triple, 21 home runs, 77 RBIs, 66 runs scored, five stolen bases, 45 walks, and 73 strikeouts in 82 games (378 plate appearances) between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Sugar Land to begin the 2022 season. Upon switching organizations for the first time in his career, the left-handed hitter proceeded to slash .237/.309/.422 with nine doubles, one triple, seven homers, 30 runs driven in, 26 runs scored, three stolen bases, 19 walks, and 48 strikeouts over 44 games (195 plate appearances) for Triple-A Worcester.

Defensively, Valdez saw the majority of his playing time with the WooSox come in the infield. The 5-foot-9, 191-pounder logged 330 innings at second base and 24 innings at third base. He also made three starts in left field and has one career start as a right fielder under his belt.

As things stand now, Valdez is ranked by Baseball America as the No. 16 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The Red Sox will not have to make a corresponding move to add Valdez to their 40-man roster since it currently sits at 31 players.

Valdez has spent his offseason playing for the Toros del Este of the Dominican Winter League. In 12 games with the club, he has gone just 6-for-32 (.188) at the plate with one extra-base hit, two RBIs, three runs scored, one walk, and nine strikeouts.

(Picture of Enmanuel Valdez: Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

Red Sox need to add Enmanuel Valdez to 40-man roster this month in order to prevent him from reaching free agency

Enmanuel Valdez is eligible to become a minor-league free agent this offseason. The Red Sox, therefore, have until five days following the conclusion of the World Series to add the versatile 23-year-old to their 40-man roster in order to prevent him from hitting the open market.

Boston acquired Valdez and fellow prospect Wilyer Abreu from the Astros in the August trade that sent veteran catcher Christian Vazquez to Houston. Both players can become eligible for December’s Rule 5 Draft if they are not added to the Sox’ 40-man roster in the coming weeks.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, the Red Sox could elect to re-sign Valdez to a minor-league contract. But that would still leave him (and Abreu) exposed to the Rule 5 Draft if they were not added to the 40-man prior to the November deadline.

In 2016, the Red Sox saw Josh Rutledge leave for the Rockies via minor-league free agency. They then re-acquired Rutledge by selecting him from Colorado in the major-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft. The following year, they added Bryce Brentz to the 40-man roster after the 2017 World Series in order to block him from reaching minor-league free agency. These are just a few past examples provided by Smith.

Valdez, who turns 24 next month, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 16 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The native Dominican originally signed with Houston for $450,000 as an international free agent coming out San Juan de la Maguna in July 2015.

At the time the three-player trade between the Red Sox and Astros was made this summer, Valdez was batting .327/.410/.606 with 26 doubles, one triple, 21 home runs, 77 RBIs, 66 runs scored, five stolen bases, 45 walks, and 73 strikeouts in 82 games (378 plate appearances) between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Sugar Land.

Upon switching organizations for the first time in his career, the left-handed hitter proceeded to slash .237/.309/.422 with nine doubles, one triple, seven homers, 30 runs driven in, 26 runs scored, three stolen bases, 19 walks, and 48 strikeouts over 44 games (195 plate appearances) for Triple-A Worcester.

Though his production dropped off with the WooSox, Valdez still posted a 131 wRC+ on the 2022 season as a whole and was named to MLB Pipeline’s Prospect Team of the Year as a result.

Defensively, Valdez saw the majority of his playing time in Worcester come in left field. The 5-foot-9, 191-pounder logged 330 innings at the keystone and 24 innings at third. He also made three starts in left field and has limited experience in right field as well.

Given that he is only one promotion away from the big-leagues, it seems unlikely that the Red Sox would risk losing Valdez this winter and will instead add him to their 40-man roster sooner rather than later. It is also worth mentioning that, after outrighting Tyler Danish on Monday, Boston currently has 39 players on its 40-man roster. Perhaps that spot will go to Valdez.

In the meantime, Valdez has been playing winter ball in his native Dominican Republic. Coming into play on Tuesday, he has gone 6-for-28 (.214) with one double, two RBIs, three runs scored, one walk, and six strikeouts in nine games with the Toros del Este.

(Picture of Enmanuel Valdez: Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

Nick Yorke headlines group of 8 Red Sox prospects who will play in Arizona Fall League

For the second consecutive year, the Red Sox will send eight prospects to play in the Arizona Fall League next month.

Catcher Stephen Scott, first baseman Niko Kavadas, second baseman Nick Yorke, outfielder Wilyer Abreu, and right-handers Thaddeus Ward, Aaron Perry, Jacob Webb, and Ryan Zeferjahn will join fellow minor-leaguers from the Braves, Orioles, Angels, and Giants organizations in suiting up for the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Of the eight, Yorke (No. 4), Abreu (No. 22), Ward (No. 25), and Kavadas (No. 30) all crack Baseball America’s Top 30 Red Sox prospects list. Abreu, Perry, Ward, and Zeferjahn can all become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft at the end of the year as well.

Yorke, Boston’s top pick in the 2020 draft, had a tough season at High-A Greenville. Limited to just 80 games due to a number of injuries (including turf toe, back stiffness, and left wrist soreness), the right-handed hitting 20-year-old batted .231/.303/.365 (84 wRC+) with 10 doubles, one triple, 11 home runs, 45 RBIs, 48 runs scored, eight stolen bases, 33 walks, and 94 strikeouts over 373 plate appearances. If there’s any consolation, he did hit .320 with a 148 wRC+ in the month of September.

Abreu, one of two prospects acquired from the Astros in last month’s Christian Vazquez, has been on an absolute tear with Double-A Portland. Going back to the start of September, the left-handed hitting 23-year-old has slashed .300/.492/.550 (184 wRC+) with one double, three home runs, 11 RBIs, 10 runs scored, six stolen bases, 17 walks, and 13 strikeouts in his last 13 games (59 plate appearances) for the Sea Dogs. He has also played all three outfield positions.

Ward, 25, is regarded by Baseball America as the ninth-ranked pitching prospect in Boston’s farm system. The Florida-born right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery last June and has been limited to just 51 1/3 innings this season as a result.

Since making the jump from Greenville to Portland in early August, Ward has posted a 2.43 ERA and 3.57 FIP to go along with 41 strikeouts to 14 walks over seven starts spanning 33 1/3 innings of work for the Sea Dogs. He was placed on the 7-day injured list on Wednesday because of back stiffness but is not expected to be sidelined for long, according to SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield.

Kavadas, who turns 24 next month, was selected by the Red Sox in the 11th round of last year’s draft out of the University of Notre Dame. In his first full professional season, the burly left-handed hitter has made it all the way to Portland after batting a combined .295/.460/.603 (186 wRC+) with 24 home runs and 76 RBIs in 96 games (415 plate appearances) between Low-A Salem and Greenville.

Though his production has dipped with the Sea Dogs (117 wRC+ in 22 games), Kavadas still represents one of the more intriguing prospects in the Red Sox farm system given his power potential and plate discipline.

As for the other four prospects Boston will be sending out west, Scott was originally drafted as an outfielder out of Vanderbilt University in 2019 but has since become a full-time catcher. The 25-year-old has thrown out 23 of 83 base stealers between Greenville and Portland this season.

Perry, 23, made just three relief appearances for the Drive this season and did not allow a run over three innings. Webb, also 23, was recently promoted to Portland after pitching to a 3.72 ERA (3.24 FIP) in Greenville. Zeferjahn, 24, has yielded just one run in his first five relief outings with the Sea Dogs after being promoted in late August.

The 2022 Arizona Fall League season kicks off on Monday, October 3 and concludes with the AFL Championship Game on Saturday, November 12. The Scorpions will play their home games at Scottsdale Stadium.

(Picture of Nick Yorke: Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Red Sox prospect Wilyer Abreu homers for first time since being acquired from Astros

Wilyer Abreu hit his first home run as a member of the Red Sox organization on Sunday afternoon. It came in the third inning of Double-A Portland’s 4-1 win over the Hartford Yard Goats at Hadlock Field.

Following Sunday’s 1-for-3 performance in which he also drew a walk, Abreu is now batting .205/.341/.288 with three doubles, the one homer, seven RBIs, 11 runs scored, two stolen bases, 16 walks, and 29 strikeouts in 23 games (91 plate appearances) with the Sea Dogs.

While those numbers do not stand out by any means, Abreu appears to be showing some signs of life at the plate lately. In his last five games, for the instance, the left-handed hitting outfielder has gone 4-for-15 (.267) with an on-base percentage of .400 and wRC+ of 136.

On the other side of the ball, Abreu made his fifth start in center field for Portland on Sunday. All together, the 6-foot, 217-pounder has logged 61 innings in center, 71 innings in left, and 56 innings in right since joining the Sea Dogs earlier this month.

The Red Sox acquired Abreu and fellow prospect Enmanuel Valdez from the Astros in exchange for catcher and free-agent-to-be Christian Vazquez on August 1. While Valdez was assigned to Triple-A Worcester out of the gate, Abreu has spent the entirety of his organizational tenure to this point in Portland.

Abreu, 23, originally signed with the Astros for $300,000 as an international free agent coming out of Venezuela in July 27. At the time of the trade, the Maracaibo native was regarded by Baseball America as the No. 21 prospect in Houston’s farm system. He is now ranked by the publication as the No. 22 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Interestingly enough, Abreu was supposed to sign with the Red Sox as a 17-year-old in 2016. He had already established a relationship with assistant general manager Eddie Romero, but Boston was banned from signing international prospects during the 2016-17 period after breaking signing bonus rules the year before.

“I was supposed to sign here with the Red Sox in 2016,” said Abreu, who added that Romero was one of the first people to call him after the trade was made in a recent conversation with MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith.

“I love it,” Abreu said of joining the Red Sox organization. “It’s a new team. A lot of guys who have a good makeup. And I like this city (Portland) because of the weather. I love the weather.”

Per his Baseball America scouting report, Abreu is “an extremely patient hitter with a discerning eye at the plate, leading to high walk totals and some strikeouts due to passivity. Overall it’s high level swing decisions with above-average game power. He has enough bat-to-ball skills to avoid the three-true-outcome label, but his average will fluctuate due to his flyball heavy approach.

“Defensively he can handle centerfield and tests highly on the Astros internal athleticism measurements. He has an unusual build as he’s a bigger bodied player for centerfield, but he has the ability to hit and provide versatility in the outfield.”

Abreu, who does not turn 24 until next June, can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter if the Red Sox do not add him to their 40-man roster by the November deadline. It remains to be seen if that will happen. In the meantime, a late-season promotion so that Abreu can join Valdez in Worcester certainly cannot be ruled out.

(Picture of Wilyer Abreu: Christopher Smith/MassLive)