The Red Sox have taken their first step toward establishing an Opening Day roster, naming 47 of the 60 members of their designated player pool for the 2020 season. The 60-man pool — which is new to baseball as one of many unprecedented changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic — will be the group of players from which the Red Sox will choose their 30-man Opening Day roster.
Some teams, like the Rays (60) and Yankees (58) either filled their pools or came close before Sunday’s 4 p.m. deadline to submit an initial list to Major League Baseball. Others, like the Cardinals (44) and Orioles (44) played it more like the Red Sox, naming an initial batch while leaving room for further additions down the road.
The Red Sox, according to industry sources, decided to name 47 players, leaving 13 spots that can be filled in the coming days and weeks. It’s important to note that the 47 players who were named to the pool are not all guaranteed to report to preseason camp at Fenway Park, which begins this week.
Boston will likely take a smaller group and send some extra players to an alternate site, likely at Boston College to start and then Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium once the season begins.
Some takeaways from the Red Sox’ list:
Perhaps the most notable omission from the 47-man pool was Jonathan Lucroy, the veteran catcher who impressed during the first edition of spring training and was thought to have an inside track on a roster spot. The reason for Lucroy’s absence, according to a source, is procedural and the expectation is that he will be in Boston for big-league camp by the end of the week.
Lucroy’s original minor-league deal with the Red Sox gave him the ability to opt out at the end of camp in March. With everything upended, it appears the Sox will have to release Lucroy and sign him to a new minor-league deal to avoid some contractual issues.
The expectation is that the club will do that in the coming days. Lucroy will be added to the player pool once that happens.
Only two healthy members of the 40-man roster were left out of the pool: pitcher Yoan Aybar and outfielder Marcus Wilson. Aybar and Wilson were probably the two members of the 40-man who are farthest away from the majors, so their absence isn’t too much of a surprise.
The Sox took 10 players who aren’t on the 40-man roster for the pool: pitchers Brian Johnson, Robinson Leyer and Domingo Tapia; catchers Jett Bandy, Juan Centeno and Connor Wong; infielders Marco Hernandez and Yairo Munoz and outfielders John Andreoli and Cesar Puello. If any of those players were to make the active roster, they’d need to be added to the 40-man roster before being activated. The Red Sox have an open 40-man spot after placing Chris Sale on the 60-day injured list Sunday.
Of the non-roster guys, Johnson is the most likely to make the Opening Day roster. Hernandez and Munoz have a shot, too, even if Munoz never reported to camp this spring. Wong, who was acquired from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts/David Price trade, is an intriguing, versatile piece. Leyer has some upside, but the rest of the players included are mostly viewed as veteran depth.
Assuming Lucroy will join the group, there are 15-20 players vying for the last 12 spots in the pool. That group will likely be a mix of further depth pieces and highly rated prospects who the Red Sox would keep for developmental purposes.
The original 47-man list was largely devoid of prospects, not counting those who are on the 40-man roster (Bobby Dalbec and C.J. Chatham) and Wong. That will likely change when the Red Sox decide who to add.
For pitchers, prospects Tanner Houck, Bryan Mata, Thad Ward and Jay Groome are likely in consideration, along with veteran depth pieces Bobby Poyner and Trevor Hildenberger. In the infield, a couple of the organization’s very best prospects — Triston Casas and Jeter Downs — would seem to be likely to get spots while depth pieces Josh Ockimey, Nick Longhi and Jantzen Witte would seem to have a shot, too. In the outfield, Wilson is a candidate along with Jarren Duran, who was extremely impressive at the beginning of spring training.
The biggest surprises on the initial list are Bandy and Tapia, who seem redundant in the current mix. The Red Sox could take those guys out of the pool by releasing them at any point but can’t retain their rights if they remove them from the pool.
My shot-in-the-dark guesses for the final 13 spots: Lucroy, Houck, Mata, Ward, Groome, Poyner, Hildenberger, Casas, Downs, Ockimey, Duran, Wilson and Witte. Of course, the Red Sox might decide never to fill the pool to its maximum of 60.
Story by Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com.