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Sunday, February 10, 2019

2019 Boston Red Sox Non-Roster Invitees to Watch

Winter may be showing no signs of slowing down, but the impending 2019 Major League Baseball season, is about to kick off with the commencement of spring training. The Boston Red Sox are riding high coming off their dominant 2018 season that culminated with a resounding World Series victory. Outside of their bullpen there aren’t many roster questions. However, like any team, they bring a number of non-roster invitees each spring to camp, who may well end up playing a valuable role in the upcoming season. Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting non-roster players this year.

Gorkys Hernandez, Outfielder: The 31-year-old right-hander is nothing to get excited about. However, he plays all three outfield position adequately and would be able to hold his own if Boston’s already stacked outfield (spearheaded by 2018 American League MVP Mookie Betts) were beset by injuries.

A light-hitting speedster in the past, Hernandez never received regular work in the majors until the past two years, where he has played as a partial regular with the San Francisco Giants, accumulating 724 at bats during that time. He no long possesses the same speed that saw him steal as many as 54 bases in a single minor league season. However, he has come into some power, as evidenced by the career-high 15 home runs (almost doubling his previous high of eight) he hit last year to go along with a .234 batting average and 40 RBIs in 414 at bats. Signed to a minor league deal, he is a solid insurance policy for the team with lofty expectations like the Red Sox.

Zach Putnam, Relief Pitcher: With Boston’s 2019 bullpen facing many questions, it’s possible that opportunities could exist for those who are barely on the radar at this point. One such candidate is the 31-year-old right-handed Putnam. He missed the entire 2018 season recovering from Tommy John Surgery and is joining Boston on a minor league deal.
Putnam spent the previous four seasons before his surgery with the Chicago White Sox. An unfortunate close acquaintance with injuries, he has pitched well when he is able to take the mound. During his tenure in the Windy City, he was a combined 9-6 with a 2.71 ERA and six saves in 130 relief appearances. He struck out 149 in 139.1 innings, while yielding 56 walks and just 108 hits.

Never a hard thrower, his average fastball velocity has typically been around 90 MPH. He relies on a split-finger pitch that he throws more than half the time. That has all contributed to him getting a lot of swings and misses and softer contact. If, and that is a big if, he can come in healthy he could be a pleasant surprise in middle relief.

Carson Smith, Relief Pitcher: Excitement was high when Boston obtained the right-hander after a standout 2015 season with the Seattle Mariners in the Wade Miley trade. That season, just 25 years of age, he had posted a 2.31 ERA with 13 saves in 70 relief appearances with 92 strikeouts in 70 innings. In the three years since, significant injuries have limited him to a 2.66 ERA in just 29 appearances, spanning 23.2 innings with the Red Sox.

Possessing a fastball in the low 90s and a wipeout slider, he could go a long way to shoring up the pen if he could only stay healthy. He was outrighted off Boston’s 40-man roster after the World Series, but the team remains intrigued enough by his potential to have brought him back to give him another crack to fulfill the confidence they showed in him when he was first acquired. Don’t hold your breath on Smith’s health, as he will not play in any spring games and it could be a while before he sees the field due to his most recent recovery. However, don’t be surprised if he pops up at some point later in the year and proves himself to be an asset down the stretch.

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