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Kyle Teel’s impressive pop time doesn’t only refer to how swiftly he gets out of his catcher’s stance to throw out would-be basestealers.
Teel appears poised to move equally fast in his rise through the Red Sox’s farm system.
The team’s catcher of the future -- rated No. 4 in Boston’s farm system by MLB Pipeline -- might not be far off in the distance.
On Aug. 3, just days after Teel signed his first professional contract, he reported to Boston’s Florida Complex League affiliate, where he played all of three games.
By Aug. 8, he was making his debut for High-A Greenville. He was there less than a month.
For Teel, the promotion to Double-A Portland came on Sept. 5, less than three months after the left-handed hitter finished his college career with Virginia’s 4-3 loss to TCU in the College World Series.
Even though Teel’s rise might be part of an increasing trend, it is nonetheless impressive and says something about his advanced skillset.
“It’s unique within recent Red Sox history from what I’ve read, but if you look league-wide -- at least in 2023 -- there have been close to 10 players that have reached Double-A so far this year in the Draft class,” said Red Sox director of player development Brian Abraham.
What kind of player makes such a swift jump?
“Generally I think it represents teams wanting to take advantage of players that are more mature, advanced on and off the field and put them at a level where they compete against comparable competition skill and age-wise,” Abraham said. “That is the case with Kyle -- he is advanced on both sides of the ball and has also performed to the point where we want to continue to challenge him this year.
“Not only is he advanced on the field, but his preparation, his understanding of the game, and his maturity as a young person has been something we’ve been excited to incorporate into the organization so far and Double-A at this point in the year best allows that.”
Teel played his first two games for the Sea Dogs on Tuesday and Wednesday, going 1-for-4 both days with an RBI.
The Sox always prioritize defense when at the catching position, but Teel’s offensive ability gives him the chance to become a two-way star at a position that doesn’t have many of those.
“With only a couple of months within the organization, a lot of what we are seeing is the same Kyle Teel we’ve seen at Virginia -- an advanced approach with the ability to hit to all fields, manipulate the barrel and get on base,” said Abraham. “He has shown the ability to drive the ball as well, especially to the pull side. We’ve been pleased with his ability to work at-bats, attack pitches he can handle and constantly make adjustments, game to game, at-bat to at-bat and even pitch to pitch.”
And about that pop time behind the plate?
“There is so much that goes into making a good throw to second base for a catcher -- getting yourself into a position to throw, quick feet, hands, accuracy, arm strength, and consistency,” Abraham said. “Kyle’s work that he puts in before games and in-game athleticism allows all of those things to work together and so far, we have seen positive results.
“There are always new challenges at each level -- better instincts, more speed, improved advance reports -- so we are looking forward to seeing more opportunities for him to be challenged in the running game.”
ANTHONY ALSO MAKES JUMP TO PORTLAND
Teel wasn’t the only prominent Sox prospect who got a promotion to Double-A Portland this past week. Joining him was Roman Anthony, the outfielder who has had a breakout season.
Anthony, who is 19, was the No. 79 pick in the 2022 Draft. The Red Sox got him as compensation for losing lefty starter Eduardo Rodriguez to the Tigers.
The left-handed hitter is moving fast for a player who graduated from high school 15 months ago.
“He has continued to grow and mature throughout the year -- that starts with his routine, his preparation, his willingness to challenge himself daily within competitive training environments,” said Abraham. “He has focused on swinging the bat fast, hitting the ball hard, with a consistent approach in the heart of the zone and has done that very well.
“While his numbers to start year on the surface weren’t earth-shattering, his process, the impact he was doing to the baseball, allowed us and him to realize production would be on its way if he continued to stick to his plan.”
Boston’s No. 2 prospect takes pride in working as hard on his defense as he does on his offense.
“Defensively, the athleticism allows him to play everywhere in the outfield and as he gets a better feel for his footwork, his first step and his range continues to improve and jumps on the ball become quicker and smoother,” Abraham said. “In all of these areas he’s never satisfied and is always looking to get better. That [desire] to improve allows for current success and success down the road.”
MAYER HEADS SOUTH TO STRENGTHEN SHOULDER
The buzz in Portland a couple of months ago centered on No. 1 Red Sox prospect Marcelo Mayer after he was promoted to Double-A.
But Mayer’s initial experience didn’t go as well as planned. The shortstop played in 43 games after the promotion, hitting .189 with six homers and 20 RBIs. Early struggles at Double-A for a player two years out of high school isn’t uncommon. The shame of it is that Mayer started experiencing inflammation in his left shoulder, forcing him to go to the 7-day injured list on Aug. 5.
On Wednesday, Abraham confirmed that Mayer won’t play again before the Double-A season ends on Sept. 17.
“Marcelo will not play again this year in Portland. He will focus on his rehab in Fort Myers and the strengthening of his shoulder, so he can have a full, normal offseason,” said Abraham. “We are very pleased with the progress he has made so far.”
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