February 23, 2015 at 12:00 PM
The Fort Report is back for another year! Every Monday during spring training, we will be detailing all the Red Sox minor league news and notes from the week that was down in Fort Myers. With all but one player already reporting to camp, baseball is officially back.
Here are this week's minor league notes:
- After countless hours of work, SoxProspects.com unveiled new scouting reports last week for the top 20 prospects. The reports can be accessed by clicking on any player on the home page, and Blake Swihart's (pictured) is linked here for your convenience. Ian Cundall and Chaz Fiorino did incredible work on these, and they are a great resource for fans to see the strengths and weaknesses of each prospect as we head into the 2015 season.
- Speaking of Swihart, he has been down in Fort Myers for over two weeks where he is getting a head start on learning the major league pitching staff. He told Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe that he wants to know each pitcher in case he is called up to Boston during the season. He also discussed his relationship with Jason Varitek, who has mentored Swihart on both catching and switch-hitting.
- Joining Swihart in major league camp are fellow prospects Henry Owens and Brian Johnson. This will be Owens second trip to big league camp, while Johnson will be attending for the first time. The Red Sox have a full list of non-roster invitees on their website, and SoxProspects.com has more background on these players.
- Owens, who told Rob Bradford of WEEI.com that he now weighs 220 pounds after weighing only 174 pounds when he was drafted in 2011, is looking to prove to the Red Sox this spring that he is ready for a spot in the big leagues. While the major league rotation is already full, Owens can position himself to be the first member of the loaded PawSox rotation to get a shot in Boston if the need arises.
- While Major League Baseball has added some small pace-of-game changes at the big league level, the more drastic changes are coming at the minor league level. With reports of a 20-second pitch clock coming to Triple-A and Double-A, pitchers will need to adapt the way they pitch to make sure they are adhering to the new rules. One pitcher this will not affect is Johnson, who routinely takes about eight to 12 seconds between pitches. Alex Speier of The Boston Globe talked with Johnson, who was very adamant that the faster a pitcher works, the bigger the advantage they have over the hitter.
- While much of the focus relating to Mookie Betts has been on his competition with Shane Victorino to see who will be Boston's right fielder, Speier came out with a very interesting article in the Globe last week discussing neuroscouting, and how it led to the Red Sox drafting Betts in 2011. The Red Sox made players use a computer program to see their reaction time to pitches, and Betts scored near the top. While fans know now that Betts has an uncanny ability to get the barrel of the bat on the baseball, the Red Sox had data before they even drafted him that his brain gave him an advantage over other players.
- Garin Cecchini spent last year splitting time between third base and left field, but with the Red Sox handing out over $200 million worth of contracts to fill those positions, it would be natural for him to be frustrated. Peter Abraham asked him about this, and Cecchini said that he is excited to work with players like Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, and he is looking forward to creating his own opportunity to contribute in Boston.
- Another player who is blocked as they enter 2015 is Jackie Bradley, Jr. (pictured). After a very disappointing 2014, Bradley has been training down in Florida for about two months, and John Tomase of WEEI.com details a unique hitting drill that Bradley has been doing with Red Sox assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez. A trade is very possible for Bradley, and Peter Gammons has mentioned that the Atlanta Braves have strong interest in the center fielder.
- The 2015 draft order is now set, with the Red Sox selecting seventh overall. Due to the signings of Sandoval and Ramirez, they do not have another selection until the third round, where they will be picking 81st overall. Despite picking so early, the Red Sox are projected to have the ninth-smallest bonus pool according to Baseball America.
- Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal talked with the man who will be responsible for that seventh-overall selection, new Amateur Scouting Director Mike Rikard. Rikard mentioned how the Red Sox learned what it was like to pick this early in the draft two years ago when they also drafted seventh, and that experience will only help them this year as they narrow down their list.
- Part of the reason why the Red Sox are picking so high in the draft is due to the failures of the young prospects in 2014. Speier wrote a four-part series examining the struggles of Red Sox prospects in the big leagues in 2014 and their implications going forward. Part one discussed what the Red Sox learned from prospect struggles in 2014, part two detailed the growing gap between Triple-A and the major leagues, part three lays out the challenge of developing prospects into productive major leaguers, and the final installment discusses how the Red Sox roster construction will change going forward.
- Rankings season continued this month, with Baseball Prospectus releasing its top 101 prospects for 2015, and Baseball America releasing its top 100 prospects. The Red Sox were well-represented on both lists, with Baseball Prospectus rating five Red Sox players in the top 101, and Baseball America ranking seven.
- Jon Denney, who received an $850,000 bonus as a third round pick in 2013, was not invited to minor league spring training this year. Denney spent all of last year on the restricted list after getting arrested in spring training.
- In one of the least surprising moves of the offseason, Drake Britton was claimed by the Chicago Cubs after he was designated for assignment by the Red Sox earlier this month. Joining Britton will be Ryan Dent, who signed with the Cubs as a minor league free agent last week.
- The Red Sox signed several minor league free agents as well last week, headlined by old friend Oscar Tejeda (pictured), who is back after spending some time with the Pirates and Nationals. Some other players they signed are Deryk Hooker, Henry Rodriguez, and Jess Todd.
- In addition, our Digital Correspondent Jonathan Singer reported that the Red Sox signed 17 players who are expected to be part of the 2015 DSL Red Sox. The players are: RHP Denyi Reyes (DR), SS Imeldo Diaz (VZ), LHP Edilson Batista (Brazil), OF Marino Campana (DR). 2B Eduard Conde (VZ), RHP Eduard Bazardo (VZ), C Marcos Martinez (VZ), LF/1B Hemerson Serven (VZ), LHP Angel Padron (VZ), RHP Gary Calvo (DR), LHP Ryan Oduber (Aruba), RHP Victor Familia (DR), LHP Yorvin Pantoja (VZ), INF Freiberg Marin (VZ), RHP Jeison Medrano (DR), SS Ricardo Cubillan (VZ) and CF Willis Figueroa (VZ). They also released RHP Samir El Halaby, who played the last two years in the DSL.
- With all these signings, and the 2015 DSL roster already projected to be full, the Red Sox will either need to make a big wave of cuts, or they will look to establish a second DSL team, which teams like the Yankees have already done.
Photo Credit: Blake Swihart, Jackie Bradley, Jr., and Oscar Tejeda by Kelly O'Connor