We’ve been talking a whole lot about the bullpen of late here at OTM, in part because there is quite literally nothing going on and it’s something to talk about, but also because it is a relatively unclear part of the Boston Red Sox roster. We assume there are going to be some additions from outside the organization to shore up the group, but there is enough uncertainty that the team will need to get some help from internal options as well.
That absolutely includes improvements from guys like Matt Barnes who have plenty of big-league experience, but it also includes a growing crop of solid depth the organization has built in the high minors. Below are 10 players who either have yet to pitch for the Red Sox, or who have had a short stint or two, who are names to remember for next year’s depth chart. Not all, if any, will start the season on the active roster, but whether by injury, under performance, or both in front of them on the depth chart, a handful could get a chance to contribute, and they have the talent to run with this chance.
Note that this list does not include players like Kutter Crawford and Bryan Mata, nominal starters who could end up getting a bullpen role in the majors in 2022.
Eduard Bazardo (RHP)
Bazardo could have also been included on this kind of list last season, and he did indeed get a chance early in 2021. The righty was placed on the 40-man roster prior to the year after showing a huge velocity spike in Fall Instructs, and was an under-the-radar breakout candidate. Unfortunately, he’d suffer a lat injury that would sideline him for most of the season. Now back healthy again ahead of the 2022 season, Bazardo should be part of the early bullpen picture assuming his stuff comes back at full strength. Featuring a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and can get up towards triple digits along with a very good curveball, he has the toolbox you look for from a modern short-stint reliever. It’s just about staying healthy now. From this whole list, he’s the best bet to be a top three reliever in this bullpen by the end of the season. (Not that we’re predicting that’ll happen.)
Durbin Feltman (RHP)
What a long, strange trip it’s already been for Feltman in his professional career. Coming out of TCU in the 2018 draft, he was seen by many as the most likely from that class to be the first player to make the majors and eventually had the potential to be a big-league closer. Instead, his first full season as a professional was a disaster marred by constant command issues, and then the 2020 season was cancelled. Heading into last season, he was in clear post-hype territory, and he made good on it. Though it’s probably not prudent to bank on him being a future closer, Feltman can be a major-league contributor as early as this season so long as he keeps the walks in check.
Kaleb Ort (RHP)
Garrett Whitlock got all of the Rule 5 attention in Boston last summer, and for well earned reasons, but Ort was also a big-time get for Chaim Bloom and company, and from the New York Yankees organization to boot. He’ll turn 30 before camp even opens and has just a third of an inning in the bigs, which is a red flag in and of itself, but his performance in Worcester last season was eye-opening, and he was gaining fans in the organization back in spring training. There are some control issues here, and like Feltman it’d be unwise to expect elite production, but Ort can miss bats at a high rate and looks the part of a solid middle reliever.
Michael Feliz (RHP)
Feliz is another pitcher who has already made his first appearance in the majors with the Red Sox, coming up for one outing during the late summer COVID outbreak in Boston’s clubhouse. He’s not exactly a new name as he’s carved out significant roles at the major-league level earlier in his career with both the Houston Astros and Pittsburgh Pirates. The stuff has always been there, but the quest to get his command in check enough to keep his results on the acceptable side of the line has always been a challenge. He chose to come back to the Red Sox as a minor-league free agent early this winter and will be in spring training with the big-league squad. Perhaps there’s some connection between him and the Boston coaching staff to harness that stuff on a more consistent basis.
Zack Kelly (RHP)
Kelly is my personal favorite on this list and a guy who flew a bit under the radar last year between Double-A and Triple-A. He was squeezed off a crowded Worcester roster to start the season and dominated in Portland, pitching to a 1.69 ERA with a 35 percent strikeout rate. He’d eventually get the call up to Worcester and pitched even better, with his FIP going from 3.14 in Double-A to 1.92 in Triple-A. Kelly, who also received an early camp invite, did everything he could in the minors last season to show he deserves a chance, and if you’re looking for a darkhorse contributor next summer, he’s where I’d look.
John Schreiber (RHP)
Schreiber is the final player on this list who has already pitched for the Red Sox, coming up during the COVID outbreak like Feliz. Joining the organization prior to last season, the righty reminds me a bit of Kelly in that he has always put up big numbers in the minors, though in his major-league stints it hasn’t carried over. Schreiber gets by largely on deception, throwing from a low arm angle that can keep batters off-balance and has given minor-league hitters fit. That’s the kind of profile that can get lit up in the majors against better hitters, but we’ve also seen plenty of relievers unlock their potential in their late-20s, which is where Schreiber will be heading into his age-28 season.
Rio Gomez (LHP)
One of only two lefties on this entire list, Gomez is most well-known nationally for being the son of the late Pedro Gomez (of ESPN), but on the mound he’s making a bit of a name for himself. The stuff doesn’t really stand out from a scouting perspective, though he did strike out 50 in 39 1⁄3 innings with the Sea Dogs last season. Overall, there’s not a huge ceiling here, but his feel for pitching has been enough to get him this far and it could get him a middle relief role for a time in the majors if things break right.
Joan Martinez (RHP)
Anyone who has read me over the last few years probably could have guessed Martinez would get a mention here because I just can’t help myself. The righty is certainly not a star reliever in waiting, and he’s dealt with command issues throughout his professional career. That said, he has the traditional fastball/slider combination you’re looking for in today’s game, and he’s had sustained flashes in the minors that indicate he can contribute at the highest level. He’d be a second half call-up if he were to get called up at all in 2022.
Jacob Wallace (RHP)
Wallace is a local kid from Methuen and a UConn alum for whom the Red Sox traded last winter with some lofty expectations. He was another recent college draftee from who, like Feltman, many were hoping for a quick ascent up the ladder. Instead, he had command issues of his own in High-A and spent the whole season there. Also like Feltman, it’s not too difficult to see a post-hype bounce-back next season, as even in his struggles he had very little trouble missing bats and did seem to make the necessary adjustments late in the year. Because he’ll likely be starting next season in Double-A he’s more likely another late-season call-up if he does get to the majors, but he has the modern traditional reliever profile.
Brendan Cellucci (LHP)
Cellucci is the other lefty on this list, but he’s the yin to Gomez’ yang. A 12th rounder in 2019, scouts have always pointed to him as a name to watch in the low minors as he made his way up the ladder, but the results never really followed. It’s not hard to see where the scout love comes from, to be fair, with a big fastball from the left side as well as a potentially good breaking ball, but he’s just struggled throwing strikes. If he puts it together, he could start to move quickly, though he’s on a similar trajectory right now timeline-wise as Wallace.