We are now only 17 days away from pitchers and catcher reporting for Fort Myers for the official start of spring training for the Red Sox. There is no guarantee who will be at the top of the roster at this point. Hell, there is no guarantee if there will even be a manager in place! What we do know, however, is that there are going to be plenty of new faces among the depth. That certainly includes all of the new bottom-of-the-40-man additions made this winter, and it also includes some minor leaguers coming up to join the big leaguers, at least for the start of camp.
Earlier in the offseason, the Red Sox announced a bunch of non-roster invitees for spring training, which included a mix of players already with the organization as well as some new signees. On Friday, they announced a group of 13 players already with the organization who will be with the big-league team to start camp.
Just want to note how wild it is that they listed outfielders above infielders here. Who does that?
Let’s go one by one and get a little more familiar with each.
Roldani Baldwin, C
Baldwin is certainly the most surprising name on this list. He is a guy who I have been intrigued by in the past, and while that has waned some there is still some interest. He showed real promise as a 21-year-old in Greenville back in 2017 when he hit .274/.310/.489. Since then, however, he has battled injuries and only played in 61 games over the last two seasons. On top of that, his defense is below-average. This invitation probably speaks more to the lack of upper-level catching depth — early in camp you need bodies to catch all the pitchers who are up — but I’m still surprised he got an invite while Austin Rei did not. Baldwin is likely to start the year in Portland.
Rusney Castillo, OF
Castillo’s invitation to spring training is just a formality at this point, though this will be the last year as his contract does run out after this season. Castillo will always be one of the more interesting what-ifs in the organization. I don’t have a ton of faith that he would have been much of anything if he got another chance, but we’ll never know. Anyway, I hope he has a good spring and gets a real chance in 2021, though at that point he’ll be 33 and he hasn’t played in the majors since 2016. Castillo will spend the year, once again, in Pawtucket. In a way, it’s fitting that his last year with the organization will also be their last year in Pawtucket.
Jarren Duran, OF
It’s Duran SZN, baby. Duran is a no-doubt top ten prospect in the Red Sox farm system and arguably a top five. The ceiling isn’t massive, mostly due to a relative lack of power, but he has a solid hit tool (I think it could be plus and should at least be above average, others think it’s closer to average) along with big-time athleticism that shows itself the most on the bases. I’m less worried about his lack of power, particularly for the Red Sox, because he can take advantage of Fenway’s weird dimensions and be an extra-base machine. He’ll start the year in Portland, and if he has a good first half an August call-up to Pawtucket is not at all out of the question, though it should be noted he struggled in a half-season in Portland last year. There’s even a chance at a 2020 call-up, though 2021 is more likely unless he’s used as a later-season pinch runner.
Chad De La Guerra, UTL
If I were to pick one prospect who does not at all seem to be on the radar who should be getting some helium leading into spring, it’s De La Guerra. He’s not a top prospect, but when you get to Pawtucket if you can fill a role that is enough to become interesting. He was a sneaky hot commodity a couple of years ago before having a terrible 2018, but he quietly bounced back this year. There’s a lot in front of him in terms of middle infield depth — De La Guerra can play all over, but he’s mainly a second baseman — but none of it is a sure-thing. He’ll start the year in Pawtucket.
Marco Hernández, 2B
This one was pretty obvious. Hernández entered the offseason on the 40-man but was then non-tendered before being re-signed before being designated for assignment and eventually outrighted to Pawtucket. There was never any doubt he’d get an invite to camp, and there’s an argument to be made he is the non-roster invitee with the best chance of making the Opening Day roster. If not, he’ll be in the lineup for Pawtucket, but he’ll get a chance in the majors again at some point.
Tommy Joseph, 1B
I think it flew under the radar in what was a miserable end of the season for the Red Sox last year, but they added Joseph for the end of the minor-league season. Once a fairly regarded prospect at the start of last decade, he had back-to-back 20-homer seasons in the majors in 2016 and 2017. There’s not much here beyond the power, though. He’s a depth right-handed bat, but he needs multiple injuries to get a real chance in the majors. He’ll be in Pawtucket’s lineup.
Josh Ockimey, 1B
I wrote a bunch about Ockimey not too long ago. I won’t go over all that again.
Trevor Hildenberger, RHP
Hildenberger was recently signed by the Red Sox and should get a real chance to try and earn himself a big-league job in camp this year. As with Ockimey, I wrote about Hildenberger recently.
Tanner Houck, RHP
Houck seems a whole lot like Darwinzon Hernandez did last year, at least in terms of path. I’m less concerned about Houck’s floor and also less intrigued by the upside. Houck is going to start the year as a starter, but most agree that his eventual path to the majors is in the bullpen and I suspect the Red Sox will come to that conclusion in 2020 as well. Hernandez was put in the bullpen in early summer, and I think Houck should see a similar timeline.
Bryan Mata, RHP
Oh, look, it’s another player about whom I recently wrote. All I’ll add here is that I would be surprised by a 2020 debut, but it’s not totally out of the question.
Brian Johnson, LHP
Johnson has been a mainstay on the Red Sox 40-man for a few years now, but he is out of minor-league options and was snuck through waivers earlier this winter. So, he’s off the 40-man now, but he’s still very much part of the lackluster rotation depth. If, whether it be due to injury trade, there is an opening in the rotation to start the year, he’ll very much be in the mix.
Daniel McGrath, LHP
McGrath is a guy who made some waves last season with his long scoreless streak, and his overall numbers on the year, too. He finished the year with the 1.98 ERA over 122 2⁄3 innings. The scouting reports don’t really match the results, though, and he is more likely an up-and-down arm than someone that sticks in a rotation long-term. He’ll start the year in Pawtucket.
Bobby Poyner, LHP
Poyner is yet another guy who was snuck through waivers this year and is being kept as depth off the 40-man. He saw a major drop in his command last year that saw him fall from a potential long-term middle reliever to someone who has to fight for his spot back on the roster. If he pitches well in Pawtucket he’ll get another chance, but he’s going to have to earn it.