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Red Sox Minor League Players of the Week: Yairo Muñoz is coming on strong

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While Jorge Rodriguez leads the way for the pitchers.

Yairo Muñoz
Kelly O’Connor

Welcome to a new feature here at Over The Monster in which we will be looking at the best players on the farm from the past week. With the new minor-league schedule being implemented this year that has teams playing six-game series every week with Mondays off, there are no Minor Lines on Tuesdays. We figured rather than just leaving that timeslot blank every week, we’d hand out some fake, virtual hardware. Each week, we’ll pick players of the week for both position players and pitchers, as well as an honorable mention in each category. (See Previous Winners Here)

Position Player of the Week

Yairo Muñoz, Worcester

There have been a lot of familiar faces coming up in this space over the course of the season as players have started to settle into grooves and big weeks are turning into big months, but this week is highlighted by new faces. With Muñoz, though, that term doesn’t feel like it should apply. We obviously know him from his time in the majors this season, but he got off to a tough start in 2021 before starting to heat up of late. This past week was particularly strong, with the utility man slashing .400/.455/.667, grabbing a home run and tallying five doubles over the course of the week. While others had higher overall lines, they didn’t do it in the playing time Muñoz received.

As I was saying, though, it hasn’t been this way for Muñoz all season. The veteran was a bit of a surprise DFA this past winter, with the only bigger surprise being that nobody claimed him. He stayed in the Red Sox organization, and looked like he might fight his way onto the Opening Day roster. That didn’t end up happening, and he further buried himself with the start of his season. Over the last month or so, however, Muñoz is turning it on. In July he’s hitting .425/.468/.630, and that has upped his overall season line to .303/.336/.444.

At this point, it’s probably too late for Muñoz to get back up to the majors this season unless the Red Sox hit a barrage of injuries, which clearly no one is rooting for. That said, the rest of this season is not meaningless for the 26-year-old. Other teams are paying attention to these things, and if he keeps hitting like this he’ll get a chance to really compete for a job in someone’s camp next spring, even if it’s not necessarily with the Red Sox.

Honorable Mention: Ceddanne Rafaela, Salem

We’re all about the super utility men this week, I suppose. Rafaela expeirenced a little bit of hype over the last offseason with some pointing to his athleticism as a catapult to him potentially having everyday potential. That wasn’t a conensus opinion, and his season has been similar to that of Muñoz, but this past week he showed why there was that excitement. Rafaela hit .286/.348/.762, smacking a pair of homers and grabbing two triples on top of that as well.

Pitcher of the Month

Jorge Rodriguez, Salem

This was a difficult week to pick the best pitcher of the week, as a lot of pitchers had good weeks but no one really stood out. To me, with this kind of thing I’m looking for the closest thing to dominance, which means I want strikeouts, and preferably a lack of walks. That brings us to the week that was for Rodriguez, which saw the most innings (9 13) and most strikeouts (11) in the system, non-Chris Sale edition. Rodriguez paired those 11 strikeouts with a total absence of free passes while allowing three runs. The 12 hits against him are certainly a ding, but again, I want dominance and 11 strikeouts to no walks is pretty damn good.

The lefty was one of a number of intriguing arms graduating from the 2019 Lowell rotation, a group that also included Aldo Ramirez, Noah Song, and Chris Murphy. Rodriguez had the least hype of that group of four, but he also had pitchability and command beyond his years and good enough stuff that a future as a back-end starter was certainly within reach, even being so far away. That made his full-season debut this year intriguing, but he’s been a little more inconsistent than you’d like to see. In all, he’s pitched to a 4.94 ERA over 51 innings, striking out 46 to go with 11 walks.

The hope is that Rodriguez can get some of that intrigue back attached to his name in the second half of this season. The southpaw is still 20, with his birthday coming in about a month, so it’s obviously too early to write him off even with an uneven 2021. The stuff isn’t so dominant that he can get by just on that, however, and that can lead to some risk with that kind of profile. That said, I’ve seen enough flashes so far this year that I’m still keeping an eye on him, and am keeping him in mind as a potential sleeper for 2022.

Honorable Mention: Yuzreel Burnet, DSL

I always have a hard time trying to figure out how to contextualize FCL and DSL performances in these types of posts, because it is a different animal. That said, in a week without clear top performers on the mound I think Burnet deserves a mention. He tossed six scoreless innings across two outings on the week, allowing only two hits without a walk while striking out eight. This is the righty’s first professional season, and he’s 1.12 ERA through three appearances. He got a $125,000 bonus out of Curacao this past January.