As we wait for the action to pick up around baseball, it’s hard to forget that there is still so much up in the air regarding the 2021 season in general. We don’t know how many roster spots each team will have. We don’t know whether or not both leagues will have the DH. And, most importantly, we don’t know when the season will start or how many games it will be. That affects spring training as well, of course. If the season is pushed back, camp will be as well. But as of now, with nothing decided, teams sort of have to go along under the assumption things will progress as normal, even if that is not particularly likely.
That brings us to Tuesday, when the Red Sox made their first non-roster additions to their spring training roster. There will presumably be more where this came from, but the team extended their initial invitations to camp on Tuesday, with nine players from the organization being added to the list. We’ll go through them quickly on an individual basis below in the order they’re listed on the team’s transaction page.
- Stephen Gonsalves was a waiver wire pickup by the Red Sox last summer who was later taken off the 40-man roster, but re-signed with the organization on a minor-league deal right at the start of the offseason. A former top prospect, he impressed in Pawtucket with his stuff over the summer and after battling injuries in recent years he could be a depth option in 2021 if he remains healthy, either out of the bullpen or perhaps even in the rotation.
- Raynel Espinal has not pitched an organized game for the Red Sox, having signed a minor-league deal with the organization prior to last season after spending his entire career to that point in the Yankees system. He’s a potential swingman option who has shown an ability to miss bats at the upper levels with strikeout rates over 30 percent.
- Josh Ockimey is at the point where it feels like he’s essentially a Red Sox lifer at this point, but he’s still only 25 years old. He’s a bat-only player who is limited to decent first base defense and no other positions. He also struggles against left-handed pitching, but there is a path to him carving out a role at some point as a platoon bat and late-game option from the left side of the plate.
- Roldani Baldwin is a former personal favorite of mine who has had injury and circumstance derail progress the last couple of seasons, having missed almost all of 2019 before the 2020 minor-league season was canceled. The catcher is a bat-first backstop, and he’ll have to make a big impression in the spring after all the missed time to get back on track in the organization.
- Caleb Simpson was a minor-league signing by the organization at the start of camp this past summer. He pitched in Pawtucket, but never made it up to the majors. He’s missed a lot of time with injury over his career, but when healthy he’s shown big stuff along with some control issues. If he can harness the stuff a bit, he can find a role in a major-league bullpen at some point.
- Kevin McCarthy is the lone player on this list who was not in the organization prior to this winter. A major-league veteran, he was let go by the Royals early in the offseason in his first year of arbitration eligibility. The righty is not a big arm in terms of stuff, but has shown an ability to get weak contact and ground balls at the highest level, and likely has the best chance of making the Opening Day roster of anyone on this list.
- Seth Blair was another addition to the organization over the summer, and is a really interesting story having retired after the 2014 season before beginning his comeback attempt in 2019. His stuff gives him a chance to get back to the majors as soon as this season.
- Jhonny Pereda was acquired by the Red Sox late last spring, after the shutdown but before the transaction freeze, to finish the Travis Lakins deal with the Cubs. The catcher does not provide a ton on offense, but he’s impressed with the glove and has a minor-league Gold Glove on his mantle to prove it.
- César Puello joined the organization last spring and got a cup of coffee in the majors at the end of last season. A former Mets prospect, he has never been able to latch on in the majors for a full-time role, but he represents the top line of outfield depth outside the major-league roster as of right now.