Farm Report: Promotions and Player of the Month honors abound for Red Sox prospects

May was a rough month for the Red Sox, but it brought new and exciting developments down on the farm.

Several prospects earned promotions. Others earned various honors, clear indications that they, too, are on track to level up.

Less than a year after being drafted by Boston in the first round, their top catching prospect – No. 3 in the Red Sox rankings and No. 29 in MLB – Kyle Teel, is already knocking at Triple-A’s door. He earned both Eastern League Player of the Week and Player of the Month honors in May, slashing .357/.443/.560 on the month and leading the league in average, OPS (1.003), and runs batted in (22). He had seven- and eight-game hitting streaks and nine multi-hit games.

Not since Jason Varitek has Boston had such a promising catching prospect.

“I know he had a little bit of struggles for a little while, but he’s been pretty good,” Varitek told the Herald last week. “And learning fast.”

The captain-turned-coach has only gotten to spend time with Teel in “tidbits” so far, but he’s impressed by what he’s seen of the young catcher in-person and in footage.

“I’ve seen a lot of video,” Varitek said. “Very athletic, moves very well, really good player.”

Teel capped off his stupendous May with a game-tying three run homer in the ninth inning of Portland’s May 31 game.

How’d he begin this month? With a go-ahead grand slam in the ninth inning on June 1.

Triple-A: Lugo and Yorke move up and show out

Much like their Major League counterpart, the Worcester Red Sox are a talented team with a disappointing record (29-34).

They have, however, received an influx of talent this week in the form of two top-prospect promotions. Matthew Lugo and Nick Yorke made their respective Triple-A debuts last week and impressed immediately.

Lugo, 23, debuted Tuesday, June 4 and went 1-for-3 with a double, hit-by-pitch, and pair of runs. The next day, he collected his first homer. Over his first four games at the top level of the farm, the outfielder – who happens to be the nephew of retired Major Leaguer Carlos Beltrán, a nine-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove outfielder – is 4-for-11 (.364) with seven runs, two doubles, two homers, four RBI, a walk, stolen base, and just one strikeout.

However, Lugo has already been hit by a pitch three times, and Friday’s beaning was concerning. In his first at-bat against the Washington Nationals affiliate Rochester Red Wings, he took a pitch off his wrist from Red Sox 2018 fifth-rounder Thad Ward. After taking his base and coming around to score, he left the game for X-rays. He “definitely dodged a bullet,” WooSox manager Chad Tracy told reporters; no break, just a bone bruise.

Yorke, too, has started his WooSox career off with a bang. Since getting promoted the day after Lugo, he’s 7-for-19 (.368) through his first five games, with a double and two homers – including an opposite-field grand slam on Sunday, the second slam of his professional career – five runs, six driven in, 14 total bases, and one steal. His plate discipline hasn’t faltered, either: he’s drawn four walks and only struck out three times.

Niko Kavadas and Nick Sogard continue to rake and take. Not only are Kavadas’ 61 hits, 42 runs, 37 RBI, .290 average (qualified players), and 12 homers leading the roster, but he’s the only player with round-trippers in the double-digits. Sogard leads the roster with 98 total bases, and he owns a 26-game on-base streak, but Chase Meidroth is hot on his heels with 23 and a team-leading 48 walks, with only 27 strikeouts. With the big-league bats scuffling and Triston Casas still a ways away from beginning a rehab assignment, the Red Sox could use a bat or two like these.

Mickey Gasper, a Minor League Rule 5 Draft pickup from the Yankees during the offseason, was promoted to Worcester alongside Lugo. The 28-year-old first baseman and catcher hit .282/.403/.458 in 44 games with Double-A before getting moved up.

On the pitching side, Richard Fitts got knocked around in the sixth inning of his Sunday start, but he was excellent in May. Aside from getting pummeled by the Yankees’ Triple-A club to the tune of six earned runs on eight hits in just three innings on May 17, the righty, 24, allowed no more than one earned run or four hits in any of his other four games. He capped off the month with a seven-inning one-unearned-run start in Charlotte, his longest performance of the season by a full inning.

Jason Alexander, who had a cup of coffee with the ‘22 Milwaukee Brewers, has been a machine, leading the pitching staff with 12 starts and 57 innings; he tossed six shutout innings of two-hit ball on June 8, his third scoreless start of the season. Alexander and Grant Gambrell, the pitching prospect sent to the Red Sox as the player to be named later in the Andrew Benintendi trade, are tied for the strikeout crown with 59 apiece.

Double-A: Sea Dogs stacked with talent

It’s been a long time since a Red Sox minor league affiliate was loaded with as much talent as the Portland Sea Dogs have right now.

In addition to Teel, fellow “Big Three” prospects Marcelo Mayer and Roman Anthony are also enjoying stellar seasons. Mayer currently leads the Eastern League in doubles (21) and ranks second in hits (63) while batting .300 with an .856 OPS, and Anthony ranks among the league leaders in walks (30) to go along with a .263 average, a .835 OPS and five home runs as a 19-year-old.

They’ve recently been joined by a handful of notable promotions. Kristian Campbell, who was selected in the fourth round last year with the compensatory pick acquired after losing Xander Bogaerts in free agency, has emerged as one of the fastest risers in the system.

The same is true for right-hander Luis Perales, now Baseball America’s No. 57 overall prospect who was recently called up from Greenville as well. Perales posted a 3.42 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 26.1 innings at High-A and struck out seven over five innings without allowing an earned run in his Sea Dogs debut. He was just placed on the 7-day injured list with right elbow inflammation, though according to Alex Speier of The Boston Globe the club is cautiously optimistic about his prognosis. A Red Sox source said he hadn’t yet undergone an MRI as of Monday morning.

Wikelman Gonzalez, who along with Perales was added to the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 Draft last offseason, is off to a tough start. The 22-year-old right-hander has posted an 8.00 ERA with 26 walks and 36 strikeouts over 36 innings through his first 10 outings.

High-A: Campbell is POTM

Kristian Campbell was named South Atlantic League Player of the Month for May last week. It was oddly fitting, as Campbell was the first position player to take home the honors since none other than Matthew Lugo in August 2022, and both were promoted on Tuesday.

Campbell led the SAL in average (.371) ranked second in on-base percentage (.467) and slugging (.663), and his 33 hits, six home runs, and 59 total bases all ranked third. The outfielder, 21, recorded 10 multi-hit games, including three consecutively at the end of the month, and he was one game away from tying the team record 35-game on-base streak (Mookie Betts, Bryce Brentz).

Bryan Gonzalez leads the Greenville roster with nine home runs and 26 RBI. By and large, the Drive aren’t a team that draws enough walks. Outfielder Allan Castro and infielder Ahbram Liendo are the exceptions, leading the roster with 41 and 28 free passes, respectively.

Just 25 days after coming off the injured list, Jhostynxon Garcia earned himself a promotion to Greenville on May 30. He’s handling the new environment well: after going 0-for-5 in his High-A debut, he put together a four-game hitting streak, and his nine hits through 10 games include four home runs.

Likewise for right-hander Jedixson Paez, who’s allowed three earned runs on eight hits, struck out 12, and hasn’t issued a walk over his two outings (nine innings) since being promoted from Low-A. (The earned runs are, however, all homers.)

Greenville is 22-35 on the season, but for the second Sunday in a row, they showed some serious fight in a comeback victory. After trailing the Hickory Crawdads 9-2 entering the seventh, they came back to win 10-9 thanks to clutch hits from Cutter Coffey (3-for-5, HR, 2 RBI), Garcia (HR, BB), Luis Ravelo (RBI single, run), Gonzalez – whose two-out, three-run homer put Greenville on top in the ninth – and Adam Smith, who set the Crawdads down in order in the bottom of the inning, capping off the comeback with back-to-back swinging strikeouts.

Low-A: Bleis promoted to Greenville

Since shaking off an underwhelming first month after missing nearly all of last season due to injury, top Red Sox prospect Miguel Bleis has caught fire and shown flashes of the type of five-tool talent scouts believe he can become.

Now he’s being promoted to High-A.

According to a Red Sox source, Bleis is being promoted to Greenville and will join the High-A affiliate this week. The 20-year-old earned the promotion after batting .257 with four home runs, 22 RBI, 16 stolen bases and a .747 OPS in 43 games with the Salem Red Sox. Since May 1 he’s batting .307 with an .867 OPS, and he’s also riding a 16-game hit streak.

Boston’s other top position player prospects currently at Low-A, Nazzan Zanetello and Antonio Anderson, have gotten off to comparatively slow starts. Zanetello is batting .224 with a .779 OPS through 16 games, and Anderson is batting .128 over 51 games. The pair were drafted in the second and third rounds of last summer’s draft, respectively.

On the pitching side, Jojo Ingrassia has emerged as one of the most intriguing arms in Salem. A 14th round pick last summer, the left-hander has posted a 2.56 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 31.2 innings to start his first full professional season. Nicholas Judice, one of the prospects acquired in last offseason’s Alex Verdugo trade, was recently assigned to Salem after making two appearances in rookie ball, and Ovis Portes, one of the breakout stars of the Florida Complex League, was also recently called up after throwing 13 consecutive scoreless innings in the FCL.

Rookie Ball: Cespedes turning heads

Yoeilin Cespedes, the top international free agent in Boston’s 2023 class, has been among the standouts of the Florida Complex League thus far. The 18-year-old shortstop is batting .315 with four home runs, 22 RBI and a 1.009 OPS through his first 20 games.

One other name to keep an eye on is right-hander Yeferson Vargas. The 19-year-old is currently 3-0 with a 3.21 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 14 innings through his first five outings.

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