Red Sox

Meet Red Sox' undrafted free agents: A crazy delivery, Sale's call, and a Boyz n the Hood fan

Meet Red Sox' undrafted free agents: A crazy delivery, Sale's call, and a Boyz n the Hood fan

When the Patriots sign a class of undrafted free agents, at least one of them generally makes the team.

That's not the case in baseball, where the 40-round draft lasts forever and very few undrafted players make an impact. The most notable exception would be Hall of Fame closer Bruce Sutter, who was discovered in a semi-pro league after dropping out of Old Dominion and joined the Cubs for only $500.

This year is different, however. Because MLB shortened the draft to only five rounds, a deluge of talented players became available for bonuses of no more than $20,000 each. With only four picks after losing their second-rounder as punishment for stealing signs, the Red Sox have been active in the UDFA market, signing more players (12) than any other organization. 

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Here's a roundup of which players they've signed, according to published reports, press releases, Baseball America and announcements from the players or their schools. The Red Sox won't announce signings until the players have passed physicals.

Jacinto Arredondo, RHP, University of Tampa

The diminutive right-hander with a funky delivery was the best closer in Div. II last year, leading Tampa to a national title and being named tournament MVP. Standing only 5-foot-9, Arredondo pitches with a Carter Capps-style hop that allows him to generate power. He went 6-3 with a 1.95 ERA and seven saves in 30 games over two seasons. 

Jordan DiValerio, RHP, Saint Joseph's

The Red Sox signed a number of pitchers with big arms and spotty control, but DiValerio isn't one of them. He struck out 33 and walked just five in four starts this year at St. Joe's. The 6-foot-1 right-hander was already leaning towards the Red Sox when free agency began, but the team sealed the deal by putting him on the phone with ace Chris Sale, who pitched Boston as the best organization in baseball.

Graham Hoffman, RHP, South Florida

The Red Sox don't mind taking chances under new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom. They signed Hoffman even though he's only a year removed from Tommy John surgery, which limited him to one appearance in 2019. He returned for his junior season and struck out six in five innings of relief before the pandemic struck.

Jake MacKenzie, INF, Fordham

MacKenzie hit .356 in an abbreviated junior season at Fordham and an impressive .291 in the Cape Cod League last summer, but what clearly sets him apart are his wheels. He stole 84 bases in 101 chances in college, including 43 as a sophomore in 2019.

Cole Milam, RHP, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville

Milam is big, and so are his numbers. The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder from the unheralded school averaged over 16 strikeouts per nine inning during his college career, but he still only posted a 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk rate because of his high walk totals (nearly eight per nine innings pitched). 

Henry Nunez-Rijo, RHP, Puerto Rico High, Guaynabo, P.R.

Nunez-Rijo had committed to powerhouse San Jacinto Community College in Texas, but the Red Sox nabbed him in the belief that his fastball will continue to develop. According to Perfect Game, he has added 11 mph since 2016, boosting his fastball from 82 to 93 mph.

Juan Montero, C, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Guarabo, P.R.

A combination catcher/second baseman, the 5-foot-11, 175-pounder has the athleticism that teams seek behind the plate and well above-average bat speed that suggests he could eventually hit for power and average.

Jose Garcia, C/1B, Florida International

This is the second time the Red Sox have targeted Garcia. They also selected him in the 38th round of the 2017 draft out of Doral (Fla.) Academy. The 5-foot-11, 225-pounder instead attended FIU, where he was named Conference USA Freshman of the Year after slamming 13 homers in 53 games. He spent most of this shortened season at DH.

Merfy Andrew, RHP, St. Thomas (Fla.)

In his lone season at NAIA St. Thomas, Andrew went 3-0 with a 3.55 ERA, tossing a 13-strikeout one-hitter in his final start. He struck out 42 in six starts and ranked 15th nationally in batting average against (.149). The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder hails from the Dominican Republic.

Brian Van Belle, RHP, Miami

The biggest name on the list, Van Belle was the 16th-rated undrafted senior, according to Baseball America. A second-team Collegiate Baseball All-American this year and a second-team all-ACC selection last year as a junior when he went 10-2 with a 3.30 ERA, Van Belle followed an unconventional path to the Hurricanes, starting as a 140-pound right-hander at Broward College before undergoing Tommy John surgery and sitting out two seasons. He's now 6-foot-2, 187 with a 93 mph fastball.

Cuba Bess, 1B, Grand Canyon 

HIs real name is Johnny, but his dad -- a former Reds farmhand -- nicknamed him Cuba in honor of the actor Cuba Gooding Jr. after watching the 1991 classic "Boyz n the Hood." He lost his sophomore season to a torn ACL, but overall hit .315 with 12 homers in his career at Grandy Canyon.

Maceo Campbell, RHP, Longwood (Va.)

Campbell is all tools and potential. With a 96 mph fastball and a live arm, he's projectable, though the D.C. native's lack of command is a concern. He walked 32 in 22.2 career innings, and didn't pitch at all in 2019 as he transitioned from reliever to starter.

Red Sox vs. Rays Highlights: Alex Verdugo, Michael Chavis help Sox end losing skid

Red Sox vs. Rays Highlights: Alex Verdugo, Michael Chavis help Sox end losing skid

FINAL SCORE: Boston Red Sox 5, Tampa Bay Rays 0

IN BRIEF: The Red Sox got a much-needed impressive outing from left-hander Martin Perez, who didn't allow a run in his five innings of work. Alex Verdugo notched a two-run shot for his first Red Sox homer, and Michael Chavis had a three-hit night that included a three-run bomb in the sixth inning.

Boston's victory ends its four-game losing streak.

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BOX SCORE

RED SOX RECORD: 4-8

HIGHLIGHTS

Verdugo's first Red Sox homer

Chavis extends lead with three-run shot

UP NEXT
vs. Blue Jays, Friday, 7:30 p.m., NESN
vs. Blue Jays, Saturday, 7:30 p.m., NESN
vs. Blue Jays, Sunday, 1:35 p.m., NESN

WATCH: Alex Verdugo notches first home run with Red Sox

WATCH: Alex Verdugo notches first home run with Red Sox

Alex Verdugo tallied his first home run with the Boston Red Sox during Wednesday night's game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Verdugo's homer was a two-run shot in the fourth inning off of Rays starter Ryan Yarbrough that gave Boston the lead.

Watch below:


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Verdugo was, of course, acquired in the blockbuster trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 24-year-old hit .294 with 12 homers in 106 games with L.A. last year.

With home run No. 1 out of the way, Red Sox fans will hope to see many more where that came from during Verdugo's tenure in Boston.