Red Sox invite Michael Feliz, Zack Kelly, Rob Refsnyder, and Christin Stewart to spring training

The Red Sox have added four non-roster invitees to their 2022 spring training roster, the club announced earlier Tuesday afternoon. In other words, the signings of right-handers Michael Feliz and Zack Kelly and outfielders Rob Refsnyder and Christin Stewart to minor-league deals have all been made official.

Feliz originally joined the Red Sox on a minor-league pact back in August, at a time when the club was navigating its way through a COVID-19 pandemic and was in need of additional depth.

The 28-year-old had his contract selected from Triple-A Worcester on September 6 and appeared in four games for Boston, allowing a total of two runs on four hits, one walk, and five strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings of relief.

11 days after getting called up, Feliz lost his spot on the Sox’ 40-man roster when he he was designated for assignment. The Dominican-born righty was claimed by the Athletics on Sept. 20, but was designated and subsequently released by Oakland before season’s end.

Since making his major-league debut in 2015, Feliz has posted a 5.33 ERA and 4.14 FIP to go along with 324 strikeouts to 107 walks across 227 appearances (one start) spanning 246 2/3 innings of work between the Astros, Pirates, Reds, Red Sox, and Athletics. He operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a four-seam fastball, slider, and changeup, per Baseball Savant.

Kelly, on the other hand, also spent at least part of the 2021 season with the Red Sox organization, though he did not and has yet to pitch at the major-league level.

Originally signed to a minors pact by Boston last December, Kelly impressed many this year by putting up a 2.18 ERA, 2.64 FIP, and 69:18 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 36 outings (45 1/3 innings) between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Worcester.

The 26-year-old reliever went undrafted out of Division II Newberry College in 2017 and previously spent time in the Athletics and Angels organizations. After such a successful 2021 campaign, Kelly re-signed with the Sox last month and could very well be on the cusp of making his big-league debut in 2022.

Turning to the position players now, both Refsnyder and Stewart figure to provide the Red Sox with upper-minors outfield depth.

Refsnyder, who turns 31 in March, was initially selected by the Yankees in the fifth round of the 2012 amateur draft and broke in with New York in 2015. Since then, the right-handed hitter has spent time with eight different organizations (Yankees, Blue Jays, Guardians, Rays, Diamondbacks, Reds, Rangers, Twins) while appearing in a total of 232 major-league games over that stretch.

This past season with Minnesota, Refsnyder slashed .245/.235/.338 with seven doubles, two home runs, 12 RBIs, 21 runs scored, one stolen base, 17 walks, and 40 strikeouts over 51 games (157 plate appearances) while seeing time at all three outfield positions. He also posted a 1.046 OPS in 18 games for the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate.

Stewart, who turned 28 earlier this month, was selected by the Tigers in the first round of the 2015 draft out of the University of Tennessee. He made his major-league debut for Detroit in 2018 and spent parts of three seasons (2018-2020) with the club.

Over the course of those three seasons, Stewart batted .225/.300/.376 with 29 doubles, two triples, 15 home runs, 59 RBIs, 45 runs scored, 49 walks, and 146 strikeouts over 157 games spanning 587 trips to the plate. He did so while strictly playing left field.

Right before the start of the 2021 season, the Tigers designated Stewart for assignment and later outrighted him off their 40-man roster after he cleared waivers. The left-handed hitter spent the entirety of the year with Triple-A Toledo and wound up slashing .254/.339/.538 (127 wRC+) to go along with 13 doubles, five triples, 21 homers, 58 RBIs, 51 runs scored, two stolen bases, 33 walks, and 100 strikeouts in 89 games and 343 plate appearances.

With the additions of Kelly, Feliz, Refsnyder, and Stewart, the Red Sox now have 43 players on their spring training roster. This includes the 39 players currently on Boston’s 40-man roster.

(Picture of Michael Feliz: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

How Red Sox’ Zack Kelly went from undrafted out of college to cusp of big leagues

Zack Kelly may be on the verge of the major leagues, but he has never considered himself a highly-touted prospect.

Undrafted out of Division II Newberry College (Newberry, S.C.), Kelly signed with the Oakland Athletics for just $500 in 2017. His first assignment as a pro was in the rookie-level Arizona League.

“The A’s, they provided us with apartments in Arizona for the AZL, and [rent] was $300 a month,” Kelly recently recalled. “And so, the day we got our signing bonuses was also the first day we had to pay rent. So, I got my check and after taxes it was $323. I walk out of the building and I see on the big whiteboard: ‘RENT IS DUE TOMORROW: $300.’ So, I had to go cash my check, put away $300 for rent, then I had $23. And I kid you not, I took it to Applebee’s and I got a 2 for $20 for myself. So, I essentially signed for a plane ticket and an Applebee’s 2 for $20.”

From the beginning, Kelly’s journey through the minors has been riddled with hurdles, and he was still presented with challenges even after graduating from rookie ball.

After reaching the Double-A level with the Angels organization in 2019, Kelly tore the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his throwing elbow the following spring.

While he was ultimately able to avoid Tommy John surgery, the timing of Kelly’s injury was still far from ideal. Around the same time he was rehabbing, the COVID-19 pandemic was ravaging the United States. Citing financial losses caused by the pandemic, MLB teams began releasing minor-league players en masse.

Kelly was one of those casualties, as he was officially released by the Angels on May 29 — shortly after he told the team he was going to require some form of surgery in order to pitch pain-free moving forward.

“Getting surgery at my age was not something I thought was beneficial to me,” Kelly said. “Towards the end of May, when I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to get back to 100% without pain, I told them. And I was talking about bad timing, because I got released right after that. But I understood. Everybody had to make cuts for the most part. At that time, I thought I was going to have to get full-blown Tommy John surgery, … which wouldn’t have benefited them.

“So, I don’t blame them,” he added. “But, luckily for me, I didn’t have to get the full-blown elbow reconstruction and I was able to play this year. I was able to sign with Boston and be in a really good organization that I like and think has a bright future. It paid off.”

Kelly signed his first minor-league contract with the Red Sox last December. The right-handed reliever began the 2021 minor-league season at Double-A Portland, but earned his first promotion to Triple-A Worcester in late July. Between the two levels, he posted an impressive 2.18 ERA over 36 appearances spanning 45 1/3 innings of work.

Shortly before the conclusion of the Triple-A season, Kelly expressed interest in remaining with the Red Sox on another minor-league pact for the 2022 campaign. It did not take long for the two sides to reach an agreement.

“Probably two or three days after the season ended, we were already in talks, which is a little bit sooner than I thought it was going to be,” recalled Kelly. “A lot of it was done through my agent. Eventually, we came to an agreement. It was a no-brainer. So, I’m happy to be back.”

One thing in particular that Kelly enjoyed about his first year in the Red Sox organization was the way the team’s coaches communicate with one another — even at different minor-league levels. Take Sea Dogs pitching coach Lance Carter and WooSox pitching coach Paul Abbott, for instance.

“I like this organization because the coaches talk,” Kelly explained. “From the stuff me and Lance were working on in Portland, the day I got to Worcester with [Abbott], he brought that up and we were able to keep the same thing going. The other places I’ve been at, going from level to level, that hasn’t happened. It seems to be like that from the top down. Just talking to different people, kind of picking other guys’ brains, that was something that I was really happy to see. It makes the promotion that much easier.”

While still under contract for the 2022 season, Kelly’s status with the Red Sox is technically up in the air. Last month, Boston had the opportunity to add the 26-year-old to their 40-man roster but elected not to.

That decision has left Kelly eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, which usually takes place during the last day of the Winter Meetings but has since been postponed indefinitely due to Major League Baseball’s work stoppage.

“I thought I might have a chance to get added, but ultimately I didn’t, which I’m fine with,” said Kelly. “I trust Chaim [Bloom]. He’s proven himself over and over throughout the years and he knows what his plan is for this off-season.”

Assuming the major-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft takes place sometime between now and the start of the 2022 season, Kelly says he is not sure what to expect, but is eager to contribute at the big-league level if that’s a possibility.

“I think regardless of what happens, the preparation doesn’t change as far as what I’m doing,” he said. “But, obviously, the goal is to be in the big-leagues. And to come up and help a big-league club, I would be all over that opportunity. But, I think whatever happens is a win-win situation for me. If I were to get selected, I would hopefully stay in the big-leagues all year. If not, I’m in a really good place with Boston where I’m completely happy being.”

In the interim, Kelly — who turns 27 in March — does have a major-league invite to Red Sox spring training to look forward to next year. If he remains with Boston through the winter, it will mark his first time attending a big-league camp.

“My goals are the same as they have been,” said Kelly. “It’s to make quality pitches, continue to pitch to my philosophies, ultimately make it to the big leagues, help the team win, and hopefully win a World Series.”

(Picture of Zack Kelly: Katie Morrison/MassLive)

New Podding the Red Sox episode: Red Sox reliever Zack Kelly joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by Red Sox minor-league reliever Zack Kelly.

Kelly, 26, spent the 2021 season between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Worcester. The right-hander posted a 2.18 ERA and strikeout-to-walk ratio of 69:18 over 36 relief appearances (45 1/3 innings pitched) across both levels. He re-signed with Boston on another minor-league contract for 2022 in October and has received an invite to major-league spring training.

Among the topics Zack and I discussed in this week’s episode are how he initially drew interest from the Red Sox last year, the differences between pitching at Double-A and Triple-A, the congruency within the Red Sox organization, how he made made his way as an undrafted free agent who signed with the Athletics out of a Division II school for $500, undergoing and recovering from elbow surgery, getting cut loose by the Angels during the pandemic, getting interviewed by the New York Times, his upcoming Rule 5 candidacy, his expectations for the 2022 season, and much more!

The episode is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

Thank you to Zack for taking some time out of his offseason schedule to have a conversation with yours truly. You can follow Zack on Twitter (@Zack_Kelly) by clicking here and on Instagram (@Zack_Kelly19) by clicking here.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Please make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of Zack Kelly: Katie Morrison/MassLive)

Red Sox re-sign Michael Gettys, Zack Kelly, and Caleb Simpson to minor-league deals, per report

The Red Sox have re-signed a trio of minor-league free agents who spent the 2021 season in the organization, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

Per Cotillo, the Sox have brought back right-handers Michael Gettys, Zack Kelly, and Caleb Simpson on minor-league pacts for the 2022 campaign.

SoxProspects.com executive editor Chris Hatfield adds on to this, noting that both Kelly and Simpson re-signed with Boston before actually becoming free agents, while Gettys signed more recently.

Gettys, a former second-round draft pick of the Padres coming out of high school in 2014, originally joined the Red Sox last November and received an invite to major-league spring training.

An outfielder by trade, Gettys broke camp with Triple-A Worcester, where he slashed .201/.271/.349 with seven doubles, five home runs, 14 RBIs, 24 runs scored, seven stolen bases, 12 walks, and 60 strikeouts in 46 games (166 plate appearances) for the WooSox.

After spending time on the development list throughout the month of August, the 26-year-old was assigned to the Florida Complex League and began making the transition to become a pitcher full-time.

Gettys made his professional pitching debut in Fort Myers on Aug. 31 and proceeded to post a 3.60 ERA and 7.15 FIP to go along with five strikeouts to four walks over five relief appearances spanning exactly five innings of work.

As noted by Hatfield, the Red Sox retaining Gettys means the 6-foot-1, 217 pound hurler is able to stay with the same coaching staff he began the transition process with. On that note, SoxProspects.com projects that Gettys will begin the 2022 minor-league season in the bullpen for High-A Greenville.

Moving on to Simpson, he is someone who originally signed a minor-league deal with the Red Sox in July 2020, shortly before the start of the compressed 2020 season and shortly after getting released by the Cubs.

A former 21st-round selection of the Giants in 2013 amateur draft out Seminole State College (Seminole, Okla.), Simpson spent all of last summer at the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket and was assigned to Worcester coming out of spring training this year.

In 13 relief appearances for the WooSox, the hard-throwing righty pitched to the tune of a 3.86 ERA and 4.58 FIP while recording 21 strikeouts and eight walks across 14 innings pitched. His season ended prematurely when he was placed on the 60-day injured list at the end of July.

Kelly, meanwhile, is undoubtedly the most intriguing pitcher included in this round of transactions since he — like Simpson — can become eligible for this winter’s Rule 5 Draft.

The Red Sox signed Kelly, who turns 27 in March, to a minor-league contract this past January after he spent the previous four seasons in the Athletics, Angels, and Rays organizations.

Undrafted out of Newberry College, the Virginia native began the 2021 campaign at Double-A Portland before earning a mid-season promotion to Worcester in late July.

Out of the WooSox bullpen, Kelly put up a 2.89 ERA, 1.92 FIP, and 40:13 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 15 appearances spanning 18 2/3 innings of relief.

On Thursday, SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall wrote that Kelly “has a very heavy fastball in the mid-90s and a pair of average-ish secondaries. His has shown the ability to limit hard contact and miss bats, but was also repeating Double-A at the start of the year.”

Because the Red Sox re-signed him earlier in the off-season, Cundall opines that Kelly could be added to the 40-man roster by Friday’s deadline since the club clearly values him to some degree.

Any eligible minor-leaguer who is not added to their respective team’s 40-man roster by Friday can subsequently be picked up by another club in the Rule 5 Draft, which typically takes place during the winter meetings in December.

(Picture of Zack Kelly: Katie Morrison/MassLive)

Red Sox sign right-hander Zack Kelly to minor-league deal

The Red Sox have signed free-agent right-hander Zack Kelly to a minor-league contract, according to PNY Sports. It’s unclear at this point if this deal includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Kelly, 25, was cut loose by the Angels organization back in May when most clubs released a good number of their minor-leaguers in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Virginia native was originally signed by the Oakland Athletics for just $500 as an undrafted free agent out of Newberry College (SC) in June 2017. He posted a 3.77 ERA and 4.07 xFIP over 13 appearances and 28 2/3 innings pitched for the Arizona League A’s that summer before getting released the following April.

Signed to a minor-league pact by Los Angeles later that month, Kelly had worked his way up to the Double-A level as recently as 2019.

Across 2o outings (13 starts) and 75 1/3 innings for Double-A Mobile, the righty posted a 3.82 ERA and a much more impressive 3.17 xFIP while averaging nearly 10 punchouts per nine frames of work.

Having put up those numbers in ’19, Kelly likely thought big things were on the horizon this year. Instead, he suffered an elbow injury in spring training which would later require surgery and, as previously mentioned, was released by the Angels in May as part of that mass exodus of minor-league cuts across baseball.

“It’s kind of frustrating because I felt like I had a career that wasn’t worthy of getting released at this point,” Kelly told The New York Times’ James Wagner in June.

Though it’s not clear which kind of surgery Kelly underwent over the summer, he was apparently throwing off a mound in November.

So, it would appear that the 6-foot-3, 205 lb. hurler could be ready for spring training workouts in Fort Myers come February.

So far this offseason, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have either signed or re-signed the following players to minor-league contracts (h/t SoxProspects.com):

C Roldani Baldwin
C Jhonny Pereda
1B Joey Meneses
1B Josh Ockimey
OF Cesar Puello
OF Michael Gettys
OF Johan Mieses
LHP Emmanuel De Jesus
LHP Stephen Gonsalves
RHP Kevin McCarthy
RHP Seth Blair
RHP Raynel Espinal
RHP Caleb Simpson
RHP Zack Kelly