2024 Worcester Red Sox (AAA)

JM3

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In 2023, the Worcester Red Sox finished 79-68, but missed the International League playoffs. In 2024, Chad Tracy, 38 returns for his 3rd season as WooSox manager, but have made several coaching staff changes so far:

Pitching Coach - in Dan DeLucia, out Paul Abbott
Bullpen Coach - in Noah Junis, out Matt Wheeler
Assistant Hitting Coach - in Doug Clark (co-hitting coach with Rich Gedman), out Michael Montville

Worcester plays their home games in Polar Park which opened in 2021 & boasts a capacity of 9,508. Last season, the WooSox reported an attendance of 519,651 (about 7,070 per game).

Here is the history of the Red Sox AAA affiliates from a post I made last October:

Their 1st AAA affiliate was Louisville, KY in 1946 after they were promoted (kinda) from AA. They featured a wide variety of one-time players at the highest level who I have not heard of. For one year only, in '47, they added a 2nd AAA affiliate, the Toronto Maple Leafs. From '48 to '55, Louisville was the Red Sox only AAA affiliate. The final team included 2 LHP named Bob Smith. The Red Sox were without a AAA affiliate until the Minneapolis Millers were revived in 1958. They were player managed by a 32 y/o Gene Mauch. This was Mauch's 2nd of 29 years as a Manager (his 1st was 5 years prior for the AA Atlanta Crackers, & his 1st MLB gig coming 2 years later for the Phillies). In '61 they moved to Seattle & became the Rainiers. They were managed by Johnny Pesky & players included Dick Radatz. In '65, the Toronto Maple Leafs were reborn & were managed by Dick Williams, who was promoted to Red Sox manager in '67. The team included Jack Lamabe (this deep dive is helping me understand more about certain screen names).

They moved back to Louisville in 1968 until '73 when they 1st made Pawtucket, RI their home (after 3 years as the AA affiliate). That team included Jim Rice, Rick Burleson & Cecil Cooper. For one year, in '76, they were known as the Rhode Island Red Sox, but they stayed in Pawtucket until the move to Worcester in '21 (Casas). I believe this 47 season run ending in '19 is the longest of any Red Sox affiliate. I guess it's technically 50 consecutive if you include the AA years.
The 50 years in Pawtucket is over twice as long as the 2nd longest tenured Red Sox affiliate - Lowell, which lasted 24 years.

It is probably a bit early to speculate as to what the 2024 roster will look like, but these are SoxProspects projections (https://www.soxprospects.com/2024.htm):

SP Josh Winckowski (40)
SP Max Castillo (40)
SP Brandon Walter (40)
SP Richard Fitts
SP Grant Gambrell
SP Brian Van Belle

I would be a bit surprised if Winck doesn't start the year with the Red Sox in one capacity or another. I don't think they'll make keeping him stretched out that high of a priority. I also would expect Chris Murphy to be in the AAA rotation instead of the bullpen. Cooper Criswell seems like another guy they may want to keep stretched out in the rotation (he started 17 of 23 games with the Rays AAA team last year). I kind of think one of Walter or Castillo will be gone before the season starts, so my AAA projected rotation right now is Gambrell/Fitts/Murphy/Castillo/Criswell, with BVB being the swing guy if they go to a 5-man rotation from the start, & the 6th guy if they use 6. Or they could move on from him, too.

Hopefully we'll see Wikelman in AAA during the season, as well as Dobbins & Coffey. & there's always a chance Drohan is returned.

SoxProspects projects the bullpen as follows:

RH Cooper Criswell (40)
LH Chris Murphy (40)
RH Greg Weissert (40)
RH Zack Kelly (40)
LH Cam Booser
RH Franklin German
RH Luis Guerrero
RH Justin Hagenman
RH AJ Politi

MLB Inactive
RH Zack Weiss (40)
LH Joe Jacques (40)

Inactive
RH Chase Shugart
RH Andres Nunez

As mentioned, I would have Criswell & Murphy in the rotation, which frees up some room. I was thinking some people from Portland should be ready, & hopefully people like Troye, Hoppe, Zeferjahn, Cellucci & new acquisitions Helcris Olivarez & Jorge Benitez will be knocking on the door before too long. Even guys like CJ Liu, Theo Denlinger & Wyatt Olds have a chance to make an impact in the Worcester bullpen as the season goes on & attrition occurs. Ryan Fernandez could also be returned, but it seems not that likely.

SoxProspects projects the WooSox lineup & bench as follows:

C Roberto Pérez
1B Niko Kavadas
2B Nick Yorke
3B Chase Meidroth
SS David Hamilton
LF Mark Contreras
CF Ceddanne Rafaela
RF Wilyer Abreu
DH Enmanuel Valdez

C Stephen Scott
C Mark Kolozsvary
IF Jamie Westbrook
OF Corey Rosier
UT Nick Sogard
UT Eddy Alvarez

Taking this by position:

C - Seems right. I wouldn't be surprised if one of Pérez or Kolozsvary have moved on before long and an Elih Marrero is the other catcher (or Mickey Gasper). & of course hopefully Teel earns a promotion before too long. Hickey could be promoted...but he really needs to find a new position.

1B - Niko is the incumbent. I would expect Scott to get time there, too. SP currently has Dalbec projected for the MLB team, but I'm hopeful that doesn't end up happening & he will be part of this mix, too (or traded). In an ideal world, Blaze would force his way up this season. Alex Binelas is also a possibility.

2B - Hopefully Yorke does start the year here. It's likely time to see how he handles it after a full season in AA. He doesn't turn 22 until April & his 116 wRC+ last season in Portland was non-elite, so it wouldn't be too surprising if he starts the year at Portland. Valdez, Sogard, Alvarez & Westbrook are definitely in the mix for 2B, as well as Meidroth if he really does start the year in AAA...

SS - This seems a bit less option-full after Hamilton. C-Note could be in the mix if he does start the season in Worcester & Sogard can handle the position. SP has Christian Koss & Tyler McDonough projected to start in AA, but either could start the season in Worcester & get SS time, too. & of course the dream is that Mayer gets up to AAA ASAP.

3B - I would be kind of surprised if Meidroth starts the year in AAA. He did spend most of the season in AA last year & did hit for a higher wRC+ than Yorke (119), but I don't really see him as a guy who is on the brink of being ready & could probably do with 100 PAs or so in Portland so he has the equivalent of a full season. I would of course be down if they think he's ready, though. If they don't, I'd expect some combo of Sogard/Alvarez/Westbrook/Koss/McDonough/Dalbec.

OF - I think it's pretty pretty unlikely that neither of Rafaela or Abreu start the season in Boston, & they might both. I would kind of expect Rosier to be a regular starter along with the one that stays & a mix of Contreras, Westbrook/Alvarez/Sogard/Dalbec wending through. OF isn't really a position of depth in the Red Sox system, but guys like McDonough & Sikes could rotate through, too. & of course the hope is that ROMAN forces his way up ASAP.

Anyway, hopefully these guys will have lots to add this season...

@byAndrewParker
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@Chris "HEN-ri-KAY"
 

zenax

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Before 1946 the highest level was Double-A and the Red Sox had relationships with the Kansas City Blues--1934; San Diego Padres, Syracuse Chiefs--1936; Minneapolis Millers--1938; Louisville Colonels--1939-'45.
From 1946-'62 there were six levels (AAA, AA, A, B. C, D) but from 1952-'56 the PCL was changed to Open as it was hoping to become a third major league.
From 1963-'89 MLB again reorganized: AAA; AA; A; A-Short Season; Rookie (some teams were reassigned to different leagues).
Another reorganization took place from 1990-'2020 when Class-A Advanced was added along with some Foreign Summer Leagues.
Finally, in 2021, MLB restricted clubs to four affiliates (AAA, AA, High-A, Single-A) above the Rookie Level.
 

moondog80

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I'd prefer if Valdez didn't get a lot of time at DH, but Yorke does need to be the priority at 2B. Maybe get Valdez time at 3B and LF as a possible super-sub, and start Meidroth at AA?
 

JM3

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I'd prefer if Valdez didn't get a lot of time at DH, but Yorke does need to be the priority at 2B. Maybe get Valdez time at 3B and LF as a possible super-sub, and start Meidroth at AA?
They can try it. Lacking range, height, a strong throwing arm (8th percentile per Savant), or very good hands is a tough combo.

There is some chance of improving the range and especially the hands, but I'm not overly optimistic. He'll really need to rake. They might as well try, though (or trade him). They did it with Dalbec last year.
 

Brohamer of the Gods

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I really appreciate all of the work that people put into this thread. Because I'll be damned if I give those team-stealing bastards a dime of my money to check them out in person.
 

JM3

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Nice man. Looking forward to following these teams, love what you do!
Thx! Regardless of what happens with the Sox this year, there should be a lot of fun stuff happening at all the other levels.

I really appreciate all of the work that people put into this thread. Because I'll be damned if I give those team-stealing bastards a dime of my money to check them out in person.
Hopefully if people do want to give the team-stealers $$$ they at least use the opportunity to post some good pictures here & tell some fun stories.
 

JM3

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Christopher Smith did a piece on Cooper Criswell today which seems to indicate it's likely he'll start in AAA this year as mentioned in the OP.

Criswell has one minor league option remaining. And so he could begin the season in Triple-A Worcester’s starting rotation, providing big league starting depth. He’ll also compete for a role out of Boston’s bullpen.
Criswell’s sweeper has been his most effective pitch in his limited big league sample size. He threw 154 sweepers last year, holding opponents to a .211 batting average (8-for-38) and .166 expected batting average.

“I would consider a sweeper one of my best pitches, for sure,” Criswell said. “I feel comfortable throwing any of those, especially the three — sinker/slider/changeup — any pitch, any count. I’m getting the confidence in the cutter just as much as the other three pitches.”

He began throwing the cutter for the first time in-game last year.
He's definitely a guy who could be more effective with another velo bump...

He also said he has seen some velocity gains with his cutter and sinker. He has focused on becoming more rotational in his upper-half. He said his sinker was around 89-90 mph last year.
https://www.masslive.com/redsox/2024/01/red-sox-told-new-free-agent-signee-to-prepare-as-starter-entering-camp.html

& finally Smith makes a good point that just because we're not happy that the Red Sox aren't making the big signings shouldn't mean we're also unhappy when they make the smaller acquisitions.

View: https://twitter.com/SmittyOnMLB/status/1749111220580311129
 

simplicio

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I'd been assuming they'd have him work as a starter; he had 17 starts in AAA last year.
 

simplicio

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That made me think about who'd be on our AAAA all star team:
C: Ryan Lavarnway
1B: Jeff Bailey
2B: Nate Spears
3B: Mauro Gomez
SS: Marco Hernandez
LF: Chris Carter
CF: Rusney Castillo
RF: Alex Hassan
DH: Bobby Dalbec

SP1: Anthony Ranaudo
SP2: Henry Owens
SP3: Brian Johnson
SP4: Michael Bowden
SP5: Allen Webster

CL: Trevor Kelley
RP: Noe Ramirez
RP: Robert Manuel
RP: Fernando Cabrera
RP: Kaleb Ort
RP: Robby Scott
RP: Craig Hansen
RP: Jose De La Torre
 

simplicio

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He's more AA.5 hall of fame, he was already not great by the time he got to Pawtucket.
 

Brohamer of the Gods

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That made me think about who'd be on our AAAA all star team:
C: Ryan Lavarnway
1B: Jeff Bailey
2B: Nate Spears
3B: Mauro Gomez
SS: Marco Hernandez
LF: Chris Carter
CF: Rusney Castillo
RF: Alex Hassan
DH: Bobby Dalbec

SP1: Anthony Ranaudo
SP2: Henry Owens
SP3: Brian Johnson
SP4: Michael Bowden
SP5: Allen Webster

CL: Trevor Kelley
RP: Noe Ramirez
RP: Robert Manuel
RP: Fernando Cabrera
RP: Kaleb Ort
RP: Robby Scott
RP: Craig Hansen
RP: Jose De La Torre
Please, you ain't even for real if you don't include this legend who spent parts of five (count 'em) seasons in Pawtucket. Say it with me: now batting, Chi-co Wal-ker

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/walkech01.shtml
 

yeahlunchbox

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Please, you ain't even for real if you don't include this legend who spent parts of five (count 'em) seasons in Pawtucket. Say it with me: now batting, Chi-co Wal-ker

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/walkech01.shtml
So Tim Naehring

https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.fcgi?id=naehri001tim

Eric Wedge only had four years in Pawtucket, but it was fun to chant Wedgie when he was at the plate and I'm counting that intangible, so he's in.

https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.fcgi?id=wedge-001eri#site_menu_link
 

Brohamer of the Gods

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So Tim Naehring

https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.fcgi?id=naehri001tim

Eric Wedge only had four years in Pawtucket, but it was fun to chant Wedgie when he was at the plate and I'm counting that intangible, so he's in.

https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.fcgi?id=wedge-001eri#site_menu_link
I was there for the Wedgie chants.

Putting together a Hall of Fame based on performance while with the club would be a lot more interesting than just calling out guys who went on to greater things. Like Clemens only pitched 9 games for Pawtucket, two on rehab assignments. So what? Ranking Dave Koza is where the real fun is.
 

JM3

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At about 44:40 of this Baseball Bar-B-Cast they talk about Farewell to Fitzy Fest:

https://open.spotify.com/episode/4lqYCbYUgNfdNyz4mHoo86?si=cyP0heghTIiDBNsepVb7UA

Basically how crazy it is, but how much they love that they did this for a guy who was with the team for 2 seasons & was drafted in the MiLB R5 & not even someone who's retiring.

& they're hoping Fitzy is on the Royals when they come to Boston July 12th to 14th for the reunion with Worcester fans.
 

JM3

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Niko Kavadas is the epitome of a 3 true outcomes guy.

View: https://twitter.com/brendan_camp/status/1752547117854285975


Red Sox power-hitting prospect Niko Kavadas drew more walks and struck out more times than any other minor-leaguer in the organization last year.

Kavadas, who split the 2023 season between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Worcester, batted .206/.377/.428 with 16 doubles, 22 home runs, 69 RBIs, 62 runs scored, two stolen bases, 98 walks, and 172 strikeouts over 117 total games (480 plate appearances) while producing eye-popping exit velocities.
While he has since fallen in those rankings, Kavadas still has a clear path to the big-leagues if he is able to improve in certain areas at the plate. As noted in his Baseball America scouting report from last February, Kavadas is “an intelligent hitter, and if he finds ways to limit his holes, he could be a DH who sees some time at first. If not, he may see time as an up-and-down left-handed bench bat.”

Kavadas, who does not turn 26 until October, is projected to return to Worcester for the start of the 2024 season and will likely provide WooSox manager Chad Tracy with a left-handed hitting option at first base/DH in doing so.
https://bloggingtheredsox.com/2024/01/30/red-sox-power-hitting-prospect-niko-kavadas-accomplished-this-unique-feat-in-2023/

I've never been a Niko guy...5'11 1B who strikes out 35% of the time isn't really my cup of tea. But hopefully he figures it out.
 

JM3

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Not really sure what to make of this. I guess that they don't think Yorke and/or Meidroth are ready to start the year in AAA? Weiss was always on borrowed time on the 40...but the fact that Romy & his career 2.1% walk rate, 36% strikeout rate & 60 wRC+, is what bumped him, kind of shows how this off season is tracking.
 

JM3

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View: https://twitter.com/ByAndrewParker/status/1760022919848104428


I'm curious what happened to Dalbec at the end of last season in Worcester & Boston...

From September 2nd on...

Worcester
12 games
10-44
2 doubles
2 homers
6 walks (12%)
19 strikeouts (38%)
.227/.320/.409, .729 OPS

Boston
11 games
8-37
2 doubles
1 homer
2 walks (5.1%)
20 strikeouts (51.3%)
.216/.256/.351, .607 OPS
Another thing on Dalbec in the OF...yes he has a strong arm & had 4 OF assists last year...but he also had 4 errors in 308 innings.

For reference purposes, Red Sox OF last season:

Duvall - 0 errors in 692.1 innings
Duran - 1 error in 731 innings
Verdugo - 3 errors in 1,170 innings
Yoshida - 3 errors in 713.1 innings
Refsnyder - 0 errors in 435 innings
Rafaela - 0 errors in 116.2 innings
Abreu - 1 error in 168.2 innings

Errors aren't like that valuable of a stat... but it's still pretty alarming. Even if they don't bother to acquire an MLB RHH 1B, I don't really see Dalbec as part of the OF mix barring emergency.
 

zenax

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Errors aren't like that valuable of a stat.
Another thing to take into consideration (but something I don't believe is tracked) is how many throws were off-line or to the wrong base but not counted as errors.
 

JM3

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Another thing on Dalbec in the OF...yes he has a strong arm & had 4 OF assists last year...but he also had 4 errors in 308 innings.

For reference purposes, Red Sox OF last season:

Duvall - 0 errors in 692.1 innings
Duran - 1 error in 731 innings
Verdugo - 3 errors in 1,170 innings
Yoshida - 3 errors in 713.1 innings
Refsnyder - 0 errors in 435 innings
Rafaela - 0 errors in 116.2 innings
Abreu - 1 error in 168.2 innings

Errors aren't like that valuable of a stat... but it's still pretty alarming. Even if they don't bother to acquire an MLB RHH 1B, I don't really see Dalbec as part of the OF mix barring emergency.
To me this makes a lot more sense if the price is reasonable...

View: https://twitter.com/ChrisCotillo/status/1760397276982227057


Urshela played the following last year...

3B - 270 innings (6 DRS, 0 OAA)
1B - 150.2 innings (-1 DRS, 1 OAA)
SS - 71 innings (-1 DRS, -1 OAA)
2B - 5 innings (0, 0)

... with a 136 wRC+ against lefties.

Dalbec plays worse defense at those positions & actually also had a 136 wRC+ against lefties... but -10 against righties (compared to 78 for Urshela).

For their careers, Urshela is 109 against lefties & 101 against righties. Dalbec is 128 against lefties, 80 against righties.

For his career Dalbec strikes out 36% of the time against lefties & 36% of the time against righties, while Urshela strikes out 19% against each.
 

Ale Xander

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If Rafaela and Dalbec aren’t going to make the big club (due to options/contracts), I’m looking forward to watching a lot of WooSox games in person. This would be the first year in my life I will likely see more minor league games than Major League. Also great on the wallet.
I don’t even care that they won’t have starting pitching. 10-9 games are fun too especially when it includes great CF defensive plays to keep it from a 11-10 game.
 

JM3

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If Rafaela and Dalbec aren’t going to make the big club (due to options/contracts), I’m looking forward to watching a lot of WooSox games in person. This would be the first year in my life I will likely see more minor league games than Major League. Also great on the wallet.
I don’t even care that they won’t have starting pitching. 10-9 games are fun too especially when it includes great CF defensive plays to keep it from a 11-10 game.
I actually think WooSox starting pitching should be ~fine.

Choices include Fitts, Murphy, Walter, Criswell, Gambrell, BVB, & maaaaaybe Winck (although I don't really buy it), with chances that guys like Wikelman, Dobbins, Penrod & Coffey will be up later in the year.