Red Sox’ Enmanuel Valdez takes home International League Player of the Week honors

Red Sox infield prospect Enmanuel Valdez was named the International League Player of the Week for the week of August 29-September 4, Minor League Baseball announced on Monday.

In Triple-A Worcester’s last series against the Buffalo Bisons at Polar Park, Valdez appeared in all six games and went 10-for-24 (.417) with four doubles, one triple, two home runs, 10 RBIs, eight runs scored, one stolen base, three walks, and four strikeouts. He finished a single shy of the cycle on Sunday.

Since making his WooSox debut on Aug. 3, Valdez has batted .236/.325/.500 (114 wRC+) to go along with six doubles, one triple, seven homers, 27 runs driven in, 22 runs scored, two stolen bases, 15 walks, and 31 strikeouts over 28 games (127 plate appearances). Among those in the International League who have made at least 120 trips to the plate this season, the left-handed hitter ranks 51st in slugging percentage and 16th in isolated power (.264), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Valdez has seen playing time at three different positions in his time with the WooSox. After starting at second base on Sunday, the 5-foot-9, 191-pounder has logged 213 innings at second, 15 innings at third, and 17 innings in left field.

Valdez, 23, was originally signed by the Astros for $450,000 as an international free-agent coming out of the Dominican Republic in July 2015. The Red Sox acquired the San Juan de la Maguana native and fellow prospect Wilyer Abreu from Houston in exchange for catcher Christian Vazquez ahead of last month’s trade deadline.

Now, Valdez is regarded by Baseball America as the 16th-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system. The publication describes him as “a bat-first infielder with a good combination of power and contact.” While there are some defensive concerns, he is “a tough out that grinds out at-bats, can hit for contact and punish mistakes.”

Valdez, who turns 24 in December, can become eligible for this winter’s Rule 5 Draft if he is not added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster by the November deadline. Unlike Eddinson Paulino, who has yet to play above Low-A, Valdez seems like more of a lock to be added given his experience and level of production at Triple-A.

“If he were going to get called up tomorrow, I think his ability to play [multiple] positions would be very valuable for a major-league clubhouse and a major-league bench,” Red Sox director of player development Brian Abraham said of Valdez in a recent conversation with The Athletic’s Chad Jennings. “He can play infield. He can play a corner (outfield) spot. And he can run into baseballs with power. So, I think the skillset lends itself really well to being an impactful major-league player. We’ve seen athleticism, and we’ve seen some areas that can be improved upon. I know our Triple-A staff already feel they’ve made some strides ins some of the smaller motor learning skills that he can improve upon while being in the infield, whether that be first-step quickness or the way he moves from left to right. And same thing in the outfield, some of the first step and quickness, I think he’s shown improvement on.”

“But, I think we’ve got a twitchy guy who has power, who drives the baseball, and the better he’s able to have an understanding of the strike zone and what he needs to do to consistently drive the baseball to all fields will allow him to be more impactful,” added Abraham. “But I think in a lot of ways he’s someone who’s incredibly unique, who can do all of those things (that profile well as a utility man) and still be someone who can play one position and play there for a consistent amount of time. I think that’s incredibly valuable these days. As we know, our Major League team has a bunch of those guys, our Triple-A team has a bunch of those guys. Getting yourself in the lineup to make an impact is really important.”

(Picture of Enmanuel Valdez: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox lose Phillips Valdez on waivers to Mariners

The Red Sox lost reliever Phillips Valdez on waivers to the Mariners over the weekend. Seattle claimed Valdez on Friday and promptly optioned him to its Triple-A affiliate in Tacoma, Wash.

Boston had designated Valdez for assignment three days prior in order to create space for Josh Winckowski, who did not count against the club’s 40-man roster while he was out on the COVID-19 related injured list.

Valdez, 30, was originally claimed by the Red Sox off waivers from the Mariners in February 2020. The right-hander made Boston’s Opening Day roster that summer and impressed during the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign by posting a 3.26 ERA with 30 strikeouts to 16 walks over a career-high 24 relief appearances (30 1/3 innings pitched).

After producing a 5.85 ERA in 2021, Valdez had spent much of the 2022 campaign with the Red Sox being shuttled between Boston and Triple-A Worcester. With the big-league club, the Dominican-born hurler pitched to a 4.41 ERA (3.92 FIP) with 13 punchouts to seven walks across 13 outings spanning 16 1/3 innings of work. With the WooSox, he yielded a 3.06 ERA to go along with 19 strikeouts to 14 walks over 17 2/3 innings of relief.

Equipped with a changeup, sinker, and slider, Valdez has but one option year remaining, meaning the Mariners could stash him away at Triple-A for the rest of the season if they so choose.

That being said, Valdez made his Rainiers debut on Sunday, pitching a scoreless eighth inning in an 8-3 win over the El Paso Chihuahuas. He was followed by another former Red Sox reliever in Fernando Abad, who worked a shutout ninth inning to preserve the victory.

(Picture of Phillips Valdez: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Former Red Sox left-hander Derek Holland signs minor-league deal with Blue Jays

Former Red Sox left-hander Derek Holland has signed a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays, per Holland himself on Twitter.

Holland, 35, originally signed a minors pact with the Sox back in March with the hopes of earning a spot in the bullpen out of spring training. After being informed he would not make Boston’s Opening Day roster, the southpaw elected to accept his assignment to Triple-A Worcester to begin the 2022 season.

In 10 appearances with the WooSox, Holland posted a 6.35 ERA and 4.22 FIP with 13 strikeouts to seven walks over 11 1/3 innings of work. Interestingly enough, his last two outings came against the Buffalo Bisons (the Triple-A affiliate of the Blue Jays) at Polar Park.

At present, the Red Sox already have three lefties in Austin Davis, Jake Diekman, and Matt Strahm in their major-league bullpen and have one more rehabbing from injury in Josh Taylor. With that, the club must not have felt a pressing need to call up Holland.

As an article XX(B) free agent, Holland had multiple opt-outs in his contract with the Red Sox and exercised one of them this past Sunday, thus allowing him to hit the open market once more.

A veteran of 13 big-league seasons between the Rangers (2009-2016), White Sox (2017), Giants (2018-2019), Cubs (2019), Pirates (2020), and Tigers (2021), Holland will now look to latch on with the Blue Jays in 2022. With Detroit last year,  he pitched to the tune of a 5.07 ERA and 3.96 FIP over 39 appearances (one start) spanning 49 2/3 innings.

(Picture of Derek Holland: Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

Red Sox claim Jaylin Davis off waivers from Giants, option outfielder to Triple-A Worcester

The Red Sox have claimed outfielder Jaylin Davis off waivers from the San Francisco Giants, the club announced earlier Thursday afternoon. A corresponding move was not needed since Boston had an opening on their 40-man roster.

Davis, 27, was designated for assignment by San Francisco last week after the Giants acquired right-hander Cory Abbott from the Cubs. Boston has optioned him to Triple-A Worcester.

A former 24th-round draft choice of the Twins out of Appalachian State University in 2015, Davis was dealt to the Giants in the same trade that sent Sam Dyson to Minnesota at the 2019 trade deadline. The North Carolina native made his major-league debut for San Francisco that September and appeared in 26 big-league contests with the club from 2019 to 2021.

In that 26-game span, the right-handed hitting Davis has batted .159/.221/.270 with one double, two home runs, four RBIs, five runs scored, one stolen base, three walks, and 18 strikeouts over 68 total trips to the plate. He has also seen playing time at both corner outfield positions with 139 1/3 of his 147 1/3 career defensive innings coming in right.

After failing to make the Giants’ Opening Day roster out of spring training this year, Davis was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento, where he hit .295/.340/.500 (109 wRC+) to go along with three doubles, two homers, seven RBIs, 10 runs scored, three stolen bases, three walks, and 14 strikeouts over 10 games (47 plate appearances) with the River Cats.

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds, Davis, who turns 28 in July, should provide the Red Sox with some intriguing outfield depth in Worcester given the fact he has plus speed and power. It also helps that he has one minor-league option year remaining.

While Boston did not need to make a corresponding move to accommodate the addition of Davis on Thursday, they will need to make room on their 40-man roster on Friday when Tanner Houck and Kutter Crawford are activated from the restricted list in Baltimore.

(Picture of Jaylin Davis: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Kutter Crawford in the mix for spot in Red Sox bullpen, Alex Cora says: ‘Stuff-wise, he’s one of the best that we have’

Although the Red Sox have optioned a number of their top prospects to the minor-leagues in recent days, Kutter Crawford remains at major-league camp and in the mix for an Opening Day bullpen spot, manager Alex Cora said Wednesday.

Crawford, who turns 26 on Friday, enters the 2022 season regarded by Baseball America as the No. 15 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks eighth among pitchers in the organization.

A former 16th-round draft pick out of Florida Gulf Coast University in 2017, Crawford made his major-league debut under unique circumstances with the Red Sox last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Nick Pivetta was scratched from his start against the Guardians on September 5, Crawford was called up and started in his place. The right-hander had a forgettable debut, allowing five runs in two-plus innings.

The Red Sox removed Crawford from their 40-man roster and returned him to Triple-A Worcester the following day. Since he was filling in for a player on the COVID-19 related injured list, though, they did not have to expose him to waivers.

After closing out his 2021 season with the WooSox, Crawford was added to Boston’s 40-man roster in November in order to receive protection from the Rule 5 Draft, which wound up getting cancelled due to the lockout. He then spent part of his off-season pitching in the Dominican Winter League and posted a 0.42 ERA in five starts (21 1/3 innings pitched) for Estrellas Orientales.

Coming into the spring with his first invite to major-league camp in tow, Crawford has made the most of his time in Fort Myers thus far by pitching to the tune of a 2.25 ERA and striking out eight of the 16 batters he has faced over three Grapefruit League appearances.

In the Red Sox’ 6-2 loss to the Pirates in Bradenton on Tuesday, Crawford offered a glimpse of what could make him effective as a reliever at the big-league level. Over two scoreless innings of relief, the 25-year-old righty scattered just one hit and one walk while recording five strikeouts. Of the 38 pitches he threw, 24 went for strikes with his four-seam fastball hovering around 95-97 mph.

“He has good stuff,” Cora said. “He’s throwing 97 mph with a good cutter, good split. He’s in the mix.”

Crawford has primarily been a starter throughout his pro career; only one of his 67 appearances in the minors have been in relief. The Sox, however, believe Crawford can make the transition from starting rotation to the bullpen because of the arsenal he has.

“We’re trying to win ballgames, right?” said Cora. “And we’re going to try to take the best 28 [players] that fit the program right now. Let’s put it that way because, as you guys know, this isn’t the final product.”

With just over a week to go until Opening Day on April 7, Crawford still has some work to do before knowing if he will be traveling with the Red Sox to the Bronx or meeting up with the WooSox in Jacksonville for their first series of the season.

“We do believe that he’s good, really good,” Cora said. “Last year, that outing, he was ahead in the count 0-2 a lot of times and it just happened. But, stuff-wise, he’s one of the best that we have. So, we still have a week, he still has a few innings, and we’ll make decisions when we have to.”

(Picture of Kutter Crawford: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Former Red Sox first baseman Josh Ockimey signs minor-league deal with hometown Phillies

Former Red Sox first baseman Josh Ockimey has signed a minor-league deal with the Phillies, he announced on Twitter. It’s a homecoming of sorts for Ockimey, who hails from the Philadelphia-area.

The Red Sox originally selected Ockimey in the fifth round of the 2014 amateur draft out of Saints John Neumann and Maria Goretti Catholic High School. He debuted in the Gulf Coast League that summer and made it as far as the Triple-A level.

After the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 minor-league season, Ockimey re-signed with Boston that December and opened the 2021 campaign with Triple-A Worcester.

In 98 games for the WooSox, the left-handed hitter batted .225/.358/.416 with 11 doubles, 15 home runs, 45 RBIs, 35 runs scored, 62 walks, and 117 strikeouts over 360 plate appearances. He became a minor-league free agent in November.

Since the time he was drafted nearly eight years ago, Ockimey has established himself as a power threat from the left side of the plate. His 40 home runs since the start of the 2019 season are tied for the 15th-most in Triple-A over that stretch.

Off the field, Ockimey quickly became a fan favorite in Worcester for his community service last year and was named the WooSox Foundation’s inaugural “Heart of the Heart” winner as a result. Even after becoming a free agent in the fall, the 26-year-old still took the time to join the WooSox Foundation on their Holiday Caravan in December.

On the heels of spending seven seasons with the Red Sox organization, Ockimey will now look to make it to the major-leagues for the first time with his hometown team in the Phillies in 2022.

It’s unclear at this point in time if Ockimey’s deal with Philadelphia includes an invite to big-league spring training, thought it feels safe to assume it probably does.

As for the Red Sox, it seems like the idea of a reunion with Ockimey was ruled out when they signed fellow first baseman Roberto Ramos to a minors pact last week. Ramos and top prospect Triston Casas hit from the left side of the plate and both figure to begin the upcoming season in Worcester.

(Picture of Josh Ockimey: Katie Morrision/MassLive)

Former Red Sox infielder Yairo Muñoz signs minor-league deal with Phillies

The Philadelphia Phillies have signed former Red Sox infielder Yairo Munoz to a minor-league contract for the 2022 season, according to the team’s transaction log. It’s likely the deal includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Munoz, who turned 27 last month, spent the last two seasons with the Sox after originally inking a minors pact with the club in March 2020, just a few weeks after he was released by the St. Louis Cardinals.

With Boston, Munoz appeared in 12 games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign and five games last season when the Red Sox were in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak. He batted .286/.286/.429 with five doubles, one home run, four RBIs, six runs scored, two stolen bases, zero walks, and 13 strikeouts over 17 games (56 plate appearances) in that stretch.

More notably, Munoz enjoyed quite the year at the plate for Triple-A Worcester in 2021. There, the right-handed hitter slashed an impressive .308/.340/.444 (109 wRC+) with 18 stolen bases across 88 games. From July 1 through August 14, Munoz notched a hit in 35 consecutive contests to set a new Red Sox organizational record. That historic hitting streak surely helped him take home the WooSox’ Most Valuable Player Award in September.

Since Munoz was outrighted off the Red Sox’ 40-man roster in October, he was eligible to become a minor-league free agent. The Phillies are his fourth organization after he first signed with the Oakland Athletics out of the Dominican Republic in 2012.

Over the course of his professional career, Munoz has proven to be a versatile defender. Last year alone in Worcester, the 5-foot-11, 200 pounder logged 70 innings at first base, 33 innings at second base, 437 2/3 innings at third base, 92 innings at shortstop, 15 innings in left field, 21 innings in center field, and 22 innings in right field.

The Phillies have assigned Munoz to their Triple-A affiliate in Lehigh Valley, so it should be interesting to see if the 27-year-old can make it back to the majors for a fifth consecutive season in 2022.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, have lost a somewhat significant amount of infield depth in minor-league free agency when you consider the fact that both Munoz and Jack Lopez (Tigers) have signed elsewhere this off-season.

That being said, the Sox did gain some experienced infield depth when they signed former Gold Glove Award winner Yolmer Sanchez to a minors pact earlier this week.

(Picture of Yairo Munoz: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Worcester Red Sox name Chad Tracy as new manager

The Worcester Red Sox have named Chad Tracy as their new manager for the 2022 season, the team announced on Monday.

Tracy, 36, had spent the last seven seasons in the Angels organization, most recently serving as the club’s minor-league field coordinator since 2018 before being let go towards the end of September.

A former third-round draft choice of the Rangers out of Pepperdine University in 2006, Tracy played in the minor-leagues for eight seasons with three different organizations. He played 390 games at the Triple-A level but never got the call up to the majors and wound up finishing his playing career with the York Revolution of the Atlantic League in 2013 and 2014.

The following year, Tracy officially joined the Angels’ coaching ranks by becoming the manager of Low-A Burlington and followed that up by managing High-A Inland Empire from 2016-2017 before being promoted to minor-league field coordinator.

A native Illinoisan, Tracy is the son of former Dodgers, Pirates, and Rockies manager Jim Tracy, who managed Red Sox manager Alex Cora during his time with Los Angeles.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, when Cora was first hired as Boston’s manager in November 2017, he considered two candidates (Jim Tracy and Ron Roenicke) to become his bench coach before ultimately landing on Roenicke. So there is somewhat of a connection there.

In being named the next man to lead the WooSox, Tracy becomes the 18th manager in team history while taking over for Billy McMillon. McMillon, who had served as PawSox/WooSox manager since 2019, was let go by Boston at the conclusion of the 2021 campaign.

Joining Tracy’s staff will be Jose David Flores, who has been named as Worcester’s bench coach. The soon-to-be 51-year-old most recently spent the 2018 season as the Phillies’ first base coach and served as the Orioles’ third base coach from 2019-2020.

Flores is a native of Puerto Rico and spent five seasons in the Astros’ organization after being selected by Houston in the 38th round of the 1990 draft. He has coached and managed in the Puerto Rican Winter League and managed Team Puerto Rico in international play from 2011-2012.

Besides the additions of Tracy and Flores, the rest of the WooSox’ coaching staff will look very similar to the one they rolled out in 2021. Hitting coach Rich Gedman and pitching coach Paul Abbott are both back for the 2022 season, while Mike Montville has been promoted to assistant hitting coach after serving as a coach this year.

(Picture of Polar Park: Christine Peterson/Telegram & Gazette / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Red Sox top prospect Triston Casas homers in Triple-A debut

Red Sox top prospect Triston Casas wasted no time in introducing himself to a new level of competition in his debut for Triple-A Worcester on Wednesday night.

After earning a promotion from Double-A Portland earlier this week, Casas batted third and started at first base for the WooSox in their series opener against the Rochester Red Wings (Nationals affiliate) on a rainy night at Polar Park.

Matched up against 2020 first-round pick Cade Cavalli to begin things on Wednesday, the 21-year-old struck out in his first at-bat in the first inning and also fell behind 0-2 in his second at-bat following a two-out double from Jonathan Arauz two innings later.

At that time, the WooSox found themselves trailing the Red Wings by a score of 2-0, but Casas changed that rather quickly after he stepped out of the box to recompose himself.

As he stepped back into the box, the left-handed-hitting first baseman proceeded to take three straight balls from Cavalli before crushing a game-tying, two-run shot over the wall in left field for his first Triple-A home run.

“I knew I was one take away from settling in,” Casas told reporters Wednesday night. “I got behind 0-2 pretty quick in that second at-bat and I was like, ‘Man, I don’t want to go down like this again.’ So I had a couple good takes, and I know he’s got put-away stuff on the other side. He’s a really good pitcher, he made a mistake, and I capitalized on it.”

Franchy Cordero followed with a homer of his own to give Worcester their first lead of the night, as they would go on to take Wednesday’s contest by a final score of 4-3.

Casas wound up going 1-for-4 with just that one home run and two punchouts, but he certainly made his presence felt in his first exposure to Triple-A pitching.

“I try to take it as just another game, but I know this means a lot to me and it means a lot for the organization to bring me up here and get me playing time at this level,” he said following the WooSox’ win. “I just wanted to come out and contribute anyway I can, especially in the first game and it definitely settled the nerves, for sure.”

Casas, who was originally selected by the Red Sox with the 26th overall pick in the first round of the 2018 amateur draft out of American Heritage High School (Plantation, Fla.), is currently regarded by Baseball America as the top prospect in Boston’s farm system.

The Miami-area native initially opened the 2021 minor-league campaign at Portland after spending some time with the big-league club in spring training and held his own there, slashing .284/.395/.484 (142 wRC+) with 12 doubles, two triples, 13 homers, 52 RBI, 57 runs scored, six stolen bases, 49 walks, and 63 strikeouts over 77 games (329 plate appearances).

He also spent part of his summer in Tokyo, where he helped the United States’ Olympic baseball team win a silver medal at the 2020 Summer Games while being named the top first baseman of the tournament.

Casas’ promotion from Portland to Worcester came shortly after the Sea Dogs’ season ended this past Sunday, so the 6-foot-4, 252 pounder will now have the chance to get into some more games before the WooSox’ season comes to a close next weekend.

Given the progress he has made this year in the wake of the 2020 minor-league season getting cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Casas — who turns 22 in January — knows he is on the cusp of garnering serious consideration for a big-league call-up. Put another way, his time is coming.

“I felt it when they first gave me the call,” he said when asked if he has realized how close he is to the majors. “I was like, ‘Yeah, this is the last step, you know?’ I’m really close and it feels really good to know that my hard work is being appreciated.”

(Picture of Triston Casas: Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)

Red Sox outright Taylor Motter to Triple-A Worcester after infielder clears waivers

Three days after designating for assignment, the Red Sox have outrighted infielder Taylor Motter to Triple-A Worcester, the club announced earlier Friday afternoon.

Motter, who turns 32 next weekend, was initially claimed off waivers from the Rockies on September 2 — a point in time in which the Sox found themselves in need of experienced infield depth with the likes of Enrique Hernandez, Christian Arroyo, Xander Bogaerts, and Yairo Munoz all out on the COVID-19 related injured list.

After being activated on September 4, Motter made his Red Sox debut that same night, as he appeared as a pinch-runner in the ninth inning and scored the game-winning run in last Saturday’s 4-3 walk-off victory over the Indians at Fenway Park.

The versatile 31-year-old also appeared as a defensive replacement on Sunday and made his first start at second base for Boston in Monday’s 11-10 loss to the Rays, going 2-for-5 with a double, a triple, an RBI, and two runs scored while batting out of the leadoff spot.

Despite the bit of explosiveness he showed in his brief stint with the Red Sox, Motter lost his spot on the club’s major-league and 40-man rosters when both Hernandez and Danny Santana were activated from the COVID-19 related injured list on Tuesday.

Now that he has cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Worcester, the 6-foot-1, 195 pound right-handed hitter will look to provide the Red Sox with some upper-minors infield depth as a member of the WooSox.

Prior to being claimed off waivers from the Rockies last week, Motter had appeared in 68 games for Colorado’s Triple-A affiliate in Albuquerque.

In those 68 games, the former 17th-round draft pick slashed an impressive .335/.460/.759 to go along with 16 doubles, one triple, 24 home runs, 57 RBI, 54 runs scored, 49 walks, and 49 strikeouts across 267 trips to the plate for the Isotopes.

For his big-league career, which dates back to May 2016, Motter has gotten playing time at first base, second base, third base, shortstop, and both corner outfield positions over the course of four seasons spent with the Rays, Mariners, Twins, Rockies, and Red Sox.

(Picture of Taylor Motter: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)