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Checking in on the Red Sox’s early undrafted free agent signings

They were busy on Sunday

2019 Major League Baseball Winter Meetings Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Everything about baseball is so out of whack right now that it’s hard to focus on any one abnormality at a time. Sunday was a particularly strange day, though. As it seemed like negotiations for the 2020 season were coming to a halt with players stopping talks, teams were in action trying to sign players who were not selected in last week’s joke of a five-round draft. As a quick reminder, anyone who was not drafted was eligible to sign as early as 9:00 AM on Sunday and could only sign for a maximum signing bonus of $20,000. Given that the NCAA has allowed all players, including seniors, come back for another year of eligibility next season there was no class of player who had to sign now.

This is a totally unprecedented situation, and that can always be scary as an analyst. Usually you can find something at least slightly analogous and form an idea of what is going to happen. That has been impossible here, particularly leading up. We had no idea how many players were going to sign and what kinds of teams were going to be the most successful in signing them. As it turns out, the Red Sox were among the most aggressive, making six signings according to Baseball America’s tracker of these signings. That will, by the way, be a very valuable resource as these signings continue to trickle in. Today, though, let’s take a look at the initial six signings.

Jacinto Arredondo, RHP, University of Tampa

The Red Sox made a couple of signings from South Florida, including a Division II closer in Arredondo. The small righty, listed at 5’9, 170 pounds on the University of Tampa website, was a top 500 prospect on Perfect Game coming out of high school but went undrafted in 2016. He went to community college in the Tampa area for a couple of years after that, serving as a swing man and putting up solid enough numbers and looks to be mentioned as an honorable mention among Baseball America’s top JuCo draft prospects in 2018. He again went undrafted, however, and went to Tampa where he served as the team’s closer. In his two-year career there he appeared in 30 games and tossed 73 23 innings with a 1.95 ERA, 85 strikeouts in 27 walks. This past spring, before the season was cancelled, he pitched to a 1.23 ERA over 29 13 innings with 38 strikeouts and eight walks. He also has a pretty funky hop style delivery.

Jordan DiValerio, RHP, Saint Joseph’s University

There’s not a whole lot of information out there on DiValerio, who was a four-year pitcher at St. Joseph’s. His numbers tell a pretty interesting story that shows the ability to grow at the D-I level, though. After pitching as a sparsely-used swingman in his first two years, with his sophomore year being a slog that finished with a 6.48 ERA, the righty went to pitch in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, a summer wooden bat league that’s a couple notches below the Cape Cod League. He pitched very well there for the Upper Valley Nighthawks, and parlayed that performance into his first season as a full-time starter with St. Joseph’s. He made 12 starts in 2019 as a junior, finishing with a 3.80 ERA as well as 67 strikeouts and 19 walks over 73 13 innings. That summer would be a disappointment, though, as DiValerio thought he’d get drafted, then didn’t, then planned to go to the Cape but found his roster spot had been taken. So, he went back to the NECL, pitched extremely well again and then returned to St. Joseph’s this spring and pitched to a 2.38 ERA over his first four starts with 33 strikeouts and five walks over 22 23 innings.

Graham Hoffman, RHP, University of South Florida

Hoffman was a top 500 prospect on Perfect Game coming out of high school in Clearwater, Florida in 2017, but like Arredondo above went undrafted. This righty didn’t go the JuCo route, though, instead committing to USF as a two-way player. He played a little bit as a freshman, pitching to a 6.92 ERA in 12 appearances over 13 innings with 14 strikeouts and five walks in that first year. He also hit just .133/.188/.233 on the other side of the ball. He was looking to take a step forward as a sophomore, but made just one appearance before going down with an injury that required Tommy John Surgery. Hoffman would come back healthy for 2020 and looked solid before the season got cancelled, though, making five one-inning appearances, allowing two runs on six strikeouts and a walk.

Jake MacKenzie, INF, Fordham University

MacKenzie might be the most interesting player on this list in terms of pure performance, having performed very well for Fordham all three years he was there. He was a top 1000 Perfect Game prospect coming out of high school in 2017 as a two-way player, but he settled in as an infielder for Fordham, playing mostly shortstop but also some second base. MacKenzie started his college career in 2018 and hit right away, finishing that first season with a .291/.389/.523 line. He then used that performance to get a spot in the Cape Cod League, though he played sparingly that summer. After coming back to Fordham in 2019, he hit .305/.361/.451 that year before once again going to the Cape, playing for Bourne for the second straight year. This time he played in 30 games on the Cape, hitting .291/.417/.481 while playing a lot of outfield and really making a name for himself. He entered 2020 as a finalist for the Bobby Bragan Collegiate Slugger Award, which goes to a top college hitter while also taking academics and personal integrity into account. Before the 2020 season was canceled, MacKenzie was off to a scorching start, hitting .356/.433/.525 over 16 games.

Juan Montero, C, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy

There’s not as much information about Montero since he was playing in Puerto Rico and not at the collegiate level. He was, however, committed to play JuCo ball next spring for Kansas City Kansas Community College, per Perfect Game. Perfect Game also writes that he is an aggressive hitter with a lot of bat speed who hits the ball hard, and also is a good athlete behind the plate. He is ranked number nine on Latin site Beisbol101’s list of top Puerto Rican prospects.

Jose Garcia, C/1B, Florida International University

Garcia has some connection to the Red Sox, as far as I can tell the only one among this class with that being true. He was a top 500 player in the 2017 high school class according to Perfect Game, and was drafted with Boston taking the Doral Academy star in the 38th round. He opted to go to college instead, and he has been great at FIU. Garcia showed off big power as a freshman, hitting .264/.385/.551 that first year and was a freshman All-American. He then came back as a sophomore and hit .285/.365/.521 before hitting .311/.475/.489 this season before things got cancelled. Defensive, he did play both catcher and first base in college, though this past season he was mostly a DH which might be some indication of his defensive value, or potentially lack thereof.