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February 8, 2017 at 8:06 PM

Former top 20 prospect Acosta returns to camp with Red Sox in DR

Nineteen-year-old right-handed pitcher Christopher Acosta has reported to the Red Sox Dominican Academy and is working out with many of the organization's other young international players, sources confirm. Acosta, a former top-20 prospect in the SoxProspects.com rankings, did not pitch last season after being placed on the restricted list in June. 

It is unclear what the plan will be for Acosta going forward, and sources would not confirm whether there is one at this time. According to a report last June by Alex Speier of the Boston Globe, Acosta got in trouble during extended spring training in Fort Myers and left Florida for the Dominican without permission, resulting in the team placing him on the restricted list—in other words, suspending him. After returning to the Dominican, he did not report to the Dominican Academy as directed, and he missed the rest of the 2016 season.

Acosta was one of the top prospects in the 2014 international free agent class, signing with the Red Sox for $1.5 million out of the Dominican Republic during the same signing period as Anderson Espinoza and, much later, Yoan Moncada. MLB.com ranked him as the top pitcher in that class and sixth-best prospect overall, while Baseball America ranked him as the 11th-overall prospect in the class (and behind Espinoza).

Acosta debuted in 2015 in the Dominican Summer League, making nine starts and posting a 4.28 ERA, allowing 36 hits and 5 walks in 33 2/3 innings while striking out 22. While his line is uninspiring, he showed great improvement after coming back from an ankle injury suffered in his fourth start. After allowing 13 runs, 10 earned, in 12 2/3 innings for a 7.11 ERA on 21 hits and 3 walks in his first four starts, he returned after about a month and a half to allow just 7 runs, 6 earned, in 21 innings for a 2.57 ERA while giving up just 15 hits and 2 walks and striking out 13. 

Before the Red Sox suspended Acosta, he reached as high as number 18 in the SoxProspects.com rankings, that first coming in the 2016 season-opening rankings after a strong showing in Spring Training for our scouting staff. After reports of his suspension, he dropped to number 40, then number 60 in the SoxProspects rankings, admittedly as a hedge given his top-20 prospect talent but uncertain status. Going forward, the SoxProspects.com staff will likely wait until seeing Acosta pitchhopefully in Spring Trainingbefore deciding if and how far to move him back up the rankings. In the current farm system, thinned by trades, Acosta could easily jump back into the top 20 if he shows he has returned fully to form, showing the once-projectable three-pitch mix that made him look like a potential mid-to-back-rotation starter down the line. However, after a year off, it is unclear what condition he will be in returning to the mound.

Photo Credit: Christopher Acosta by Kelly O'Connor

Chris Hatfield is Executive Editor of SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @SPChrisHatfield.