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April 4, 2023 at 8:00 AM

Minor Notes: Let the games begin!

Baseball is officially back! Last week the organization finished spring training and we wrapped up the Fort Report and are now we are on to the first Minor Notes of the season. Released every Tuesday throughout the season, Minor Notes is the SoxProspects.com weekly update that is designed to give you a quick rundown of all the things that happened up and down the farm over the past week. 

Spring training is over and the minor league affiliates get set to open their seasons, with Worcester starting this past Saturday, April 1st, followed by the rest of the full-season squads on Thursday, April 6th. The big club has also gotten underway and opened up the season by going 2-1 in their first series of the year against the Baltimore Orioles. 


Worcester set 2023 opening-day roster

Worcester made their 2023 opening day roster official in advance of their first game on the 1st and sent out SoxProspects eighth-ranked player, lefty Brandon Walter (pictured, left), to start the season. The WooSox pitching struggled all day with Walter giving up five runs on seven hits and two walks while only striking out one as each of the five pitchers on the day gave up at least a run and the team ultimately lost 16-6. They rebounded on Sunday winning 8-1 on the back of a great start by Norwith Gudino who threw five scoreless innings without recording a strikeout. 

Worcester will roll out a team with significant experience as six of their nine positional starters on opening day have big leave experience including Bobby Dalbec and Jarren Duran who saw significant time with the big league squad last season and were optioned to Worcester earlier in the week. Their rotation features upside, showcasing three pitchers inside the SoxProspects top 15 rankings with Chris Murphy (13), Walter (8), and Bryan Mata (6).

Brayan Bello and Garrett Whitlock begin the season on the Injured List

Garrett Whitlock is listed on the Worcester roster so the expectation is he will get a couple of rehab starts as he continues his recovery from hip surgery this past September after a successful 2022 spent mostly with the Red Sox as a swingman, starting nine games and appearing in 31 with six saves. Brayan Bello came into spring training expected to push for a spot in the rotation after he went 2-8 with a 4,71 ERA and 1.78 WHIP. However, that stat line underplays his improvement with the big-league club that saw him post a 2.59 ERA over his final six starts and 31 and 1/3 innings with 31 strikeouts. The Portland Sea Dogs announced over the weekend that Whitlock would start the club's opener on Thursday followed by Bellow on Friday. 

Politi returns

After being selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2022 Rule 5 Draft, AJ Politi was ultimately returned to the Red Sox when he did not make the big league roster. The six-foot reliever was coming off a very strong season where he was named a 2022 SoxProspects.com All-Star after going 4-1 with a 2.34 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 83 strikeouts to 22 walks over 69 and 1/3 innings combined between Portland and Worcester. The lefty returns to Worcester where he should have a late-inning role after securing eight saves last year. 

End of spring training cuts

Several players who took part in spring training ultimately fell short and were released this past week. This includes Henry Nunez-Rijo, Alex Zapete, and Eduardo Vaughan. Nunez-Rijo was brought in as a free agent in 2020 out of Puerto Rico and spent two years in the FCL pitching about 30 innings in each season. Zapete was signed as in international free agent in 2018 and signed for $45,000. He played two seasons with the DSL Red Sox and last year with the FCL Red Sox where he only hit .246 over 26 games. Outfielder Eduardo Vaughan was the highest profile of this group after receiving a large bonus of $550,000 signing out of Panama in 2018. While he made it up to Salem to start 2022, it was short-lived as he was ultimately demoted to extended spring training in late May being assigned to the Florida Coast League. 

Key Links

Make sure to head over to the news page on SoxProspects.com each morning for the Cup of Coffee, a daily recap of all the minor league action throughout the system.

With the start of the Triple-A season, it became official that Ceddanne Rafaela (pictured, right), the fourth-ranked prospect on the SoxProspects rankings, would begin the season with the Portland Sea Dogs. The 22-year-old started the 2022 season with the Greenville Drive and after hitting .330/.368/.594 he was promoted to Portland. Despite being almost three years younger than the average Eastern League positional player, Rafaela continued to succeed with a .824 OPS over 284 at-bats while taking home the 2022 SoxProspects.com, Player of the Year, Breakout Player of the Year, and All-Star honors, and also being named a 2022 Futures Game All-Star and the 2022 Red Sox Minor League Defensive Player of the Year. He enters the season ranked in #71st by Baseball America, #86 by MLB Pipeline, and #73 by Baseball Prospectus. 

For the first time in baseball history, the MLBPA and MLB have reached a tentative agreement on a minor league collective bargaining agreement, as first reported by The Athletic's Evan Drellich. There are many changes as part of this deal including significant raises for players at every level, reduced club control, updates to housing policy, drug testing, transportation, and more. 

The Red Sox announced another series of updates to Fenway Park in advance of opening day as Katie Mogg chronicles for The Boston Globe. Updates included an enhanced Kid's Concourse, kid's ticket rates for as low as $9, updated concession offerings, new LED lighting, and an updated locker room for the home team

Players of the Week

With only two games on last week's schedule, there will be no pitcher and hitter of the week this week, but look forward to those selections each week throughout the season!

Photo Credit: Brandon Walter and Ceddanne Rafaela by Kelly O'Connor. 

Will Woodward is a Co-Owner and Senior Staff Writer for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @SPWill.