February 27, 2017 at 9:00 AM
The Red Sox began playing games on Thursday, opening up with Northeastern. On Friday, Grapefruit League action got underway. This is the second edition of the Fort Report, and we will quickly be moving to two editions per week. The next Report will be coming in one week's time.
Here are this week's minor league notes:
- Baseball is officially back. Including their game against Northeastern, the Red Sox have played four games so far, with minor leaguers getting plenty of action. Right-hander Ben Taylor has stood out so far, tossing 2 1/3 innings without allowing a run, a hit, or a walk to go along with five strikeouts. Jamie Callahan, Luis Ysla, and Ty Buttrey also saw action on the mound Sunday against Tampa Bay. Rafael Devers, Marco Hernandez, Jordan Procyshen, Cole Sturgeon, Nick Longhi, Heiker Meneses, and Kyri Washington also got in the game against the Rays, with Sturgeon poking a two-run single to left. Hernandez roped a triple off the right field fence against a left-hander on Sunday as well. He will be a very important depth piece for the Red Sox in 2017.
- Newly acquired right-handed pitcher Hector Velazquez got the start on Sunday, allowing one run in two innings while striking out four. Jen McCaffrey of MassLive.com writes that six members of the Red Sox front office were there to watch Velazquez pitch. Velazquez is a candidate to help out the rotation in Pawtucket this year.
- Sam Travis, SoxProspects.com's fourth-ranked prospect, is back from an ACL injury and has gone 2 for 7 with a home run and a double in the early going. Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe writes about Travis and how the injury affected him, as well as his connection with 2016 World Series star Kyle Schwarber.
- With Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech traded and Andrew Benintendi tabbed as Boston's starting left fielder, Rafael Devers has taken over a majority of the spotlight among Red Sox players who will begin the year in the minors. Alex Speier of The Boston Globe takes a look at why the Red Sox are so high on Devers and why Dave Dombrowski refused to include him in the Chris Sale trade. The Red Sox are impressed with how Devers has grown defensively and how he was able to rebound from a tough start in 2016. Devers ended 2016 with a line of .282/.335/.443 with 32 doubles, eight triples, and 11 home runs.
- As for the number one prospect, Benintendi, his sweet swing was crafted at a young age in the backyard with his father. Scott Lauber has more at ESPN.com here. The Red Sox have already seen a young, undersized outfielder become a star in Mookie Betts. It's difficult to expect another player repeat Betts' early success, but there is still a lot of hype around Benintendi. He dominated in the SEC, tore through the minor leagues, had success at the major league level, and has been called the best prospect in baseball by numerous outlets. Jason Mastrodonato of The Boston Herald details how Benintendi approaches the game and what the Red Sox are expecting of him in 2017. Benintendi is also not seen as a rookie by his teammates, as Ian Browne of MLB.com writes.
- Right-handed reliever Chandler Shepherd is coming off a very nice 2016 season that was split between Portland and Pawtucket. It's possible the Red Sox see him as somebody who can help the big club soon, as Abraham writes in The Boston Globe about how Shepherd has been working with Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello this spring.
- Brian MacPherson wrote a very interesting piece about left-handed reliever Robby Scott. Although he does not throw very hard, Scott is able to find success because of the spin rate on his fastball and his different arm slots. Brian Bannister offers some great insight on the topic in MacPherson's piece. Scott threw six innings for the Red Sox late last season after a tremendous year with the PawSox.
- The Salem Red Sox have announced a coaching addition. Familiar face Reed Gragnani, who was drafted by the Red Sox twice (2009 out of high school, 2013 out of Virginia), will join Salem as a coaching assistant. The 26-year-old reached Pawtucket in 2015 and played most of 2016 with Salem. He was a career .273/.370/.353 hitter in 224 minor league games in the Red Sox system.
Photo Credit: Rafael Devers by Kelly O'Connor