The summer camp, as dubbed by former FanGraphs writer and current Rays front office member Jeff Sullivan, or second spring training, or whatever you want to call it, starts this week. It’s been a long few months with the players and owners publicly fighting as they were trying to come to a deal for a new season, but now that can temporarily be put behind us — that fight will happen again soon on a bigger scale with the CBA set to expire after the 2021 season — as baseball is set to get started.
The first step of that process was for the transaction freeze the be lifted on Friday, but nothing has really happened on that front to this point. I’d expect a few moves to be made around the league this week before camp. The next step took place on Sunday as the Red Sox and all other teams were required to submit their initial 60-man player pool for the season. Remember, the season will start with a 30-man active roster and teams can have up to 30 players on their “taxi” squad.
However, not all 60 players needed to be added right away. More players can be added later, but if a player is removed from the roster then they need to go through waivers or be outright released. The Red Sox were one of the teams that opted to take it a little bit slower, naming 47 players to the roster on Sunday. They will surely be adding more over the next week or two. Here’s who made the roster so far.
Christian Vázquez, Kevin Plawecki, Juan Centeno, Jett Bandy, Connor Wong
Perhaps the biggest surprise on this entire initial roster submission is a lack of a catcher, with Jonathan Lucroy’s name being curiously absent from this list. He was, of course, getting a lot of buzz for making the Opening Day roster in the original spring training before the pandemic shut the league down. However, it appears this is a clerical move — the exact reasoning is unclear to me at this point — and he will be added shortly.
As for the players that did make it, there are no real surprises here. Vázquez and Plawecki are major leaguers. Centeno and Bandy are solid depth who have defensive skills and major-league experience. Wong is a prospect who is probably at least a year away from ideally contributing but old enough to carry him on the roster now in these weird circumstances.
Mitch Moreland, Michael Chavis, José Peraza, Tzu-Wei Lin, Jonathan Araúz, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, C.J. Chatham, Bobby Dalbec, Marco Hernández, Yairo Muñoz
Again, I think the story here is more who didn’t get selected than who did, but this is another example of players who will be added later. Starting with who did make it, though, everyone on the 40-man did, including Chatham and Dalbec who aren’t necessarily shoo-ins for the Opening Day 30-man active roster. Those two, Hernández and Muñoz are, in my estimation, on the outside looking in for that roster so far.
As far as who did not make it, the focus is likely on the prospects, most notably Triston Casas and Jeter Downs. Most people’s top two prospects in the organization in some order, they were assumed to be on the roster and that is still the case. It is pretty clear looking at this roster that they have not included the prospects yet. My guess is that they want to see if there are any free agents they can bring in before using those roster spots on prospects who likely won’t contribute this year. Remember, as I said above, you can’t just remove players from the 60-man pool for no reason, so you don’t want to add a prospect unless you know how much room you have.
Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Pillar, Alex Verdugo, J.D. Martinez, John Andreoli, César Puello
Here we have the first player to make the roster who did not make my initial projection in Andreoli. He was certainly considered given the lack of outfielders in my projection, but I thought they would save room for other players. He and Puello are the only players on this initial list who would be on the taxi squad to start the season if everyone is healthy. Of course, others will be added. Jarren Duran is most notable, and Marcus Wilson, Nick Longhi and Rusney Castillo are other options. Speaking of Wilson, he is one of two players on the 40-man roster not to make this initial roster.
Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Martín Pérez, Ryan Weber, Collin McHugh, Brian Johnson, Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Josh Taylor, Marcus Walden, Darwinzon Hernandez, Heath Hembree, Ryan Brasier, Austin Brice, Colten Brewer, Matt Hall, Kyle Hart, Robinson Leyer, Chris Mazza, Josh Osich, Mike Shawaryn, Jefferey Springs, Domingo Tapia, Phillips Valdez
There are 24 pitchers on this initial roster, taking up a touch more than half of the player pool overall. I have it divided into who I think will make the initial active roster, ending with Brewer, and then who I have pegged for the taxi squad. There are a couple of surprises to me here, with Tapia being the number one surprise for me. He spent all of last season with the Red Sox organization in Triple-A and frankly he was pretty bad with a 5.18 ERA, fewer than eight strikeouts per nine innings and over four walks per nine. I’m surprised he made it over someone like Mike Kickham. Leyer was a little bit of a surprise as well, but I think that is a more defensible choice.
As for who will be added, there are a few prospects who should be in the mix when the Red Sox find out how many spots they have to play with. Bryan Mata is number one among them, but also Tanner Houck, Thad Ward and Jay Groome. Yoan Aybar could be added later as well, as he joins Wilson as a 40-man player who did not make this initial roster.
In addition to all of this, the Red Sox did make another roster move on Sunday to clear a 40-man spot, putting Chris Sale on the 60-day injured list. Remember, he underwent Tommy John surgery after the transaction freeze, so this is just the Red Sox doing this now that they’re able to. He was obviously never going to pitch this year.