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Boston Herald
Boston Herald
2 Sep 2023
Gabrielle Starr, Mac Cerullo


NextImg:Farm report: Even top prospect promotions couldn’t reverse Red Sox’s August skid

To paraphrase Taylor Swift, this baseball season’s August slipped away into a moment in time.

Yet for the Red Sox, watching this month fade in the rearview mirror couldn’t come soon enough.

Despite getting several key players back from the injured list – Chris Sale, Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock, to name a few – and promoting a couple of their top prospects, Boston finished the month 13-15, including 1-5 in their last homestand. They maintained their winning record (69-65) through the end of the month, but their postseason hopes look decidedly dashed; by Aug. 31, they’d fallen to 6.5 games back of the last Wild Card. Leapfrogging the other American League contenders for a playoff berth would require a miracle.

As such, it feels like the most meaningful moments in these dog days of summer were about the future, not the present; August saw the Major League arrivals of Wilyer Abreu and Ceddanne Rafaela, an impressive Triple-A pitching debut, and a notable, prolonged absence from Double-A.

The WooSox have been one of the best Triple-A teams this summer, entering Friday 31-22, good for sole ownership of the second-best record in the International League. They went 16-11 in August, and until Thursday evening, hadn’t lost three consecutive games since July 3.

That they’ve sustained this level of success while on the seesaw of losing and regaining several of the organization’s prospects from the Majors – and during the second-wettest summer since the city of Worcester began keeping records 130 years ago – only makes their campaign more impressive. It also speaks to the improved caliber of the farm system, which Baseball America named No. 5 in their midseason organizational rankings earlier in the month.

Boston Red Sox's Wilyer Abreu grounds out, driving in a run during the fifth inning of an Aug. 23 game against the Astros in Houston. (AP Photo/Kevin M. Cox)

Boston Red Sox’s Wilyer Abreu grounds out, driving in a run during the fifth inning of an Aug. 23 game against the Astros in Houston. (AP Photo/Kevin M. Cox)

The Red Sox called up Abreu on Aug. 22, just in time for him to make his Major League debut at Houston’s Minute Maid Park, home of the organization that dealt him to Boston at the ‘22 trade deadline. Over the first five games of his Major League career, the 24-year-old outfielder went 6-for-17 (.353) with two doubles, a home run, three runs and five batted in. He rejoined the squad for this weekend’s road trip.

When the Red Sox had to place him on the Paternity List less than a week later, they called up Ceddanne Rafaela. The organization’s No. 3 prospect spent his August hitting .305 with a massive 1.011 OPS in 23 WooSox games. He began August with a home run in each of the team’s first five games of the month, and by the time he got the call on Monday afternoon, he’d amassed 29 hits, including five doubles, a triple and eight home runs.

Hours later, the defensive standout made his debut as a late-inning center field substitute, then started and played all nine games at shortstop on Wednesday. In the latter, he collected his first career extra-base hit, run and RBI.

The Red Sox also seem to have struck gold with starting pitcher Grant Gambrell. Acquired from the Kansas City Royals in the Andrew Benintendi trade, the starting pitcher has dominated since his promotion to the top level of the farm on August 26. The 25-year-old right-hander pitched 5.2 shutout innings in his Triple-A debut, and followed that up with a strong five-inning, two-run Polar Park debut on Thursday night.

Much like the Red Sox and WooSox, the Portland Sea Dogs also finished August with a frustrating losing streak.

Yet despite the disappointing collective results, it was still a month full of impressive individual stretches for several Sea Dogs players.

After hitting .301 with a .825 OPS over 63 High-A Greenville games, Brainer Bonaci made his Double-A debut on Aug. 9, and wound up hitting .279 with a .787 OPS over 16 games – with three multi-hit contests – before the month was up. The 21-year-old infielder collected 17 hits, including three doubles and two homers, scored 10 times and drove in seven, and drew nine walks.

Fellow infielder Chase Meidroth showed some real improvement, raising his on-base percentage by over 30 points and his slugging by 20 points over his July numbers. In 24 games, he collected 20 hits, including five doubles and two home runs. The 22-year-old finished the month strong, with four doubles, a home run, six runs, six batted in, five walks, and seven strikeouts in his last 10 games.

On the pitching side, Wikelman Gonzalez held opposing batters to a .206 average and .286 slugging percentage in four starts. His 17.1 innings included 13 hits (only three for extra bases), nine runs (eight earned), 12 walks and 24 strikeouts.

Despite struggling to limit runs for most of the season, Angel Bastardo moved up to Portland on Aug. 24. He began the month by allowing a combined 13 earned runs on 15 hits over three Greenville starts (11.2 innings) then made two starts for Portland. Though he lasted at least five innings in each of his Sea Dog games, he also gave up a combined seven earned runs, matching his total strikeout count for the two contests.

Isaac Coffey’s month went smoother. The 23-year-old righty – who earned a promotion in mid-June – made five August starts (28 innings) in which he held opposing batters to a .192 average and .394 slugging percentage. He struck out 33 batters, but needs to work on reducing free passes (10 walks).

Top Boston Red Sox prospect Marcelo Mayer watches batting practice for the MLB All-Star game on July 12, 2021 in Denver. He's currently sidelined with an injury. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Top Boston Red Sox prospect Marcelo Mayer watches batting practice for the MLB All-Star game on July 12, 2021 in Denver. He’s currently sidelined with an injury. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

This month was almost entirely bereft of Boston’s No. 1 prospect. Marcelo Mayer began the month 0-for-9 in his first two games, and hasn’t played for Portland since Aug. 2. The 20-year-old shortstop is battling shoulder inflammation, and though he’s progressing, the organization isn’t going to rush their top prospect back into games.

The Greenville Drive have become a must-see attraction over the past few weeks, as many of Boston’s top prospects and recent draft picks have all coalesced to help lead the Drive into next month’s playoffs.

First-round pick Kyle Teel is the obvious highlight. Upon his promotion to Greenville on Aug. 8 Teel proceeded to bat .405 with a .986 OPS and more walks (9) than strikeouts (7) in his first 11 High-A games. Fellow 2023 draftee Kristian Campbell, chosen with the compensatory selection acquired from losing Xander Bogaerts, was promoted to High-A earlier this week as well.

Virginia catcher Kyle Teel waits for a pitch during an NCAA game on Saturday, June 10, 2023 in Charlottesville, Va. A top Red Sox prospect, he's off to an excellent start to his pro career. (AP Photo/Mike Caudill)

Virginia catcher Kyle Teel waits for a pitch during an NCAA game on Saturday, June 10, 2023 in Charlottesville, Va. A top Red Sox prospect, he’s off to an excellent start to his pro career. (AP Photo/Mike Caudill)

Roman Anthony has also continued his meteoric rise. The 19-year-old outfielder is now Baseball America’s No. 19 overall prospect and entering Thursday was batting .290 with a .968 OPS and 11 home runs in 50 games since his promotion to Greenville.

Mikey Romero and Cutter Coffey, Boston’s top two picks in last year’s draft ahead of Anthony, have moved up to Greenville as well. Romero missed the first half with a lower back issue and played 23 games at Low-A Salem before getting called up to Greenville, but after that he lasted only three more games before re-injuring his back.

Boston’s most notable pitching prospect in Greenville by far is Noah Song, who recently returned to the organization after being taken by Philadelphia in last winter’s Rule 5 Draft. Once considered a first-round talent, Song was out of baseball for three years while fulfilling his U.S. Navy obligations but was still tantalizing enough for the Phillies to take a flier on.

Philadelphia’s attempt to shotgun the prospect straight to the majors didn’t work out, so now Boston is slowing things down and letting Song develop at a more reasonable pace. The early returns have been good, as Song posted a 2.81 ERA over 16 innings in his first five outings back.

Boston’s top two draft picks this summer after Teel, high school shortstops Nazzan Zanetello and Antonio Anderson, have both been promoted to Low-A after brief cameos in rookie ball.

The pair made their debuts with Salem last Thursday, and while neither has posted particularly noteworthy numbers as professionals, they are also still 18 years old and likely won’t see meaningful action in Salem until next spring.

Another notable recent call-up from rookie ball was catcher Johanfran Garcia. An 18-year-old catcher, Garcia was one of Boston’s top international free agent signings in 2022 and is ranked as the Red Sox No. 14 prospect, according to SoxProspects.com.

Jedixson Paez, a 2021 international free agent signing, has been Salem’s top pitcher over the past month. The 19-year-old right-hander led the club in innings pitched (22) while posting a 2.86 ERA over four outings (three starts).