Right now, the main concern on all fans’ minds is just how long MLB is going to be in this lockout and the league will be on freeze. It’s certainly less than ideal to have nothing going on right now, which should be Hot Stove season, but the real damage would come from games being missed, or even spring training being delayed. It’s still up in the air as to whether or not that will happen, but teams are making some spring plans already, and that includes the Boston Red Sox. On Tuesday, the team announced four players who will be invited to major-league spring training. Michael Feliz, Rob Refsnyder, Christin Stewart, and Zack Kelly will be getting the nod.
To start with, I’m sure some are wondering why this is allowed during a lockout when teams are not even allowing themselves to mention players on Twitter. That only applies to players on the 40-man roster, and by definition anyone being invited to spring training is not on the 40-man. If they were, they wouldn’t need the invitation and would be automatically included on that roster. With that out of the way, let’s briefly touch on the four players who are getting the invite.
Michael Feliz was with the Red Sox organization down the stretch last season having been signed to a minor-league deal late in August, even making a few major-league appearances. He re-upped with the team on a minor-league deal early in the offseason as well. Overall in 2021, appearing in the majors for a whopping four teams, the righty pitched to a 7.20 ERA over 20 innings with 22 strikeouts and seven walks. At his best he can miss bats at a high rate, but he’s always had issues with command that have shone through either by way of walks or home runs.
Rob Refsnyder just joined the organization this winter having signed a minor-league deal last month. A former Yankee and Twin, among other clubs, he started his career as an infielder but has moved into a super utility role, though more recently he’s been spending the vast majority of his time in the outfield. Playing with Minnesota this past season, Refsnyder got 157 plate appearances and hit .245/.325/.338 for an 86 wRC+. He provides some emergency outfield depth with big-league experience, but over his career he’s been 29 percent worse than league-average (by wRC+) at the plate.
Christin Stewart has spent the entirety of his career up to this point with the Tigers organization after being selected with the 34th overall pick in 2015. He’d shown plenty of promise throughout his minor-league career as a potential impact power bat, but he’s struggled putting it all together at the highest level. There’s not a whole lot of defensive value here, so the Red Sox are looking for some late blooming at the plate from the 28-year-old. This past season in Triple-A he hit .254/.339/.538. If he spends the entire 2022 season in Worcester he may hit 80 home runs. (I’m only slightly exaggerating.)
Zack Kelly probably has the least name recognition of this group, but he may also have the best chance at making a legitimate big-league impact in 2022. A sneaky Rule 5 candidate in my mind, he was left unprotected, but the Red Sox like him enough to have him among the first spring training invites. The righty joined Boston’s organization last season, and between Double-A and Triple-A he pitched to a 2.18 ERA over 45 1⁄3 innings, striking out 69 and walking 18. He only made 15 appearances at Triple-A so they may want to see more before getting too excited, but his peripherals actually improved when he moved up the ladder.