On Wednesday, the Boston Red Sox finally gave people the roster news they’ve been waiting for.
Just kidding, they announced six non-roster invitees to Spring Training.
The group includes catchers Caleb Hamilton and Ronaldo Hernández, pitchers Norwith Gudino and Oddanier Mosqueda, outfielder Narciso Crook, and the recently-signed utilityman, Niko Goodrum.
A few of these names may be familiar to fans, either from their previous time in the Sox system or play around the majors. It’s not exactly a thrilling assortment, though non-roster invitees rarely are.
Here’s what to know about each player’s career thus far and what the Sox may see in them that prompted an invite to Fort Myers:
C Ronaldo Hernández
Hernández has been in the Red Sox organization for the last two seasons – and even spent time on the taxi squad in 2022 – but Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom has seen him in action for much longer; Hernández began his professional career in the Tampa Bay Rays organization from 2015-19 and was their top catching prospect at one time. He came to Boston in the February 2021 trade that sent Jeffrey Springs and Chris Mazza to the Rays.
Over 105 games in Triple-A this year, Hernández hit .261/.298/.451 with 50 runs scored, 63 RBI, 27 doubles, and 17 home runs, the second-most on the WooSox roster. He’s a self-proclaimed “very aggressive batter,” but has done well limiting strikeouts. Unfortunately, he rarely draws walks; only 21 this season. His defense leaves something to be desired, but he’s been self-aware about needing to improve receiving.
C Caleb Hamilton
Hamilton is another option for catching depth, and he offers a small sample size of major-league experience. He debuted with the Minnesota Twins in 2022, but struck out 14 times in 23 plate appearances, drew four walks, and only managed one hit. It was a home run, though.
In 62 games with the Triple-A St. Paul Saints, he hit 11 home runs, 10 doubles, and collected 43 RBI. Hamilton and Hernández have the opposite issue at the plate; Hamilton struck out 67 times in Triple-A, but also drew an impressive 43 walks.
The Red Sox claimed Hamilton off waivers in mid-October but designated him for assignment a month later.
Bloom maintains that the Sox are trying to improve their catching situation, which currently consists of Reese McGuire and Connor Wong. However, the top free-agent catchers are off the board, and several others have already been traded. Barring a surprise trade, it looks like Hernández and Hamilton are Bloom’s idea of trying to upgrade behind the dish.
RHP Norwith Gudino
Gudino comes from the San Francisco Giants organization, with whom he signed as an international free agent in 2014. The Red Sox are clearly willing to look past the righty’s 8.87 ERA and 47 earned runs allowed on 46 hits in 47 2/3 innings this season. The 27-year-old from Venezuela struck out 60 batters, but also issued 31 walks and gave up 13 home runs. Across 82 2/3 career innings in Triple-A, Gudino has a 7.51 ERA and 69 earned runs. He’s worked as a starter and reliever.
LHP Oddanier Mosqueda
As a teenager, Mosqueda signed with the Red Sox as an international free agent in 2015. Now 23 years old, he most recently pitched in Double-A Portland. Over 45 appearances in 2022, the southpaw posted a 4.45 ERA and struck out 76 batters across 58 2/3 innings.
The Caracas native is a consistent strikeout machine, averaging over 11 strikeouts per nine innings in five of his six Red Sox MiLB seasons, but his command can be shaky. However, after averaging 4.8 walks per nine innings in 2021, he lowered his rate to 3.1/9 this year. SoxProspects.com notes that he’s “excelled” against lefty hitters in the minors, so he could prove to be an invaluable specialist in a righty-heavy bullpen.
OF Narciso Crook
Crook is another player who brings a smidge of major-league experience to the table. He made his big-league debut this year with the Chicago Cubs, and collected two hits (including a double), scored a run, and drove in two RBI in four games. The Cubs waived him in November, and the Sox signed him to a minor-league deal right before Thanksgiving.
Originally drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 23rd round of the 2013 draft, Crook offers the Red Sox some versatile outfield depth. Over his minor-league career with the Reds and Cubs organizations, he’s played 272 games in right, 162 in left, and 94 in center.
2023 will be Crook’s 10th professional season, and he’s spent three of them in Triple-A. Over 101 games with Triple-A Iowa this year, he hit 21 doubles and 19 home runs. The Red Sox need an infusion of power in their lineup, but Crook will have to prove he can lower his strikeout rate if he wants to be seen as a viable option.
OF/IG Niko Goodrum
Goodrum’s name will be the most familiar to fans, as he’s spent more time in the majors than anyone else on this list. His 402 career games in the big leagues include stints with the Twins, Tigers, and Astros.
In his major-league career, the 30-year-old infielder/outfielder is a .226/.299/.389 hitter. He hit well for extra bases with the Tigers in 2018 and 2019, accumulating 56 doubles and 28 home runs across the two seasons, but has only collected 20 doubles and 14 home runs total since then. Over 15 games with the Astros in 2022, he went 5-for-43 with a pair of doubles, drew two walks, and struck out 23 times.
What do the Red Sox see in Goodrum? He’s generally average or better at drawing walks, and that element has been a clear priority for Boston this offseason; they signed Chris Martin, currently the best of all active pitchers when it comes to limiting walks, and added plate discipline to the lineup in Masataka Yoshida and Justin Turner.
But as the seminal baseball film Moneyball shows us, walks will only get a team so far. And does an okay walk rate cancel out the fact that Goodrum has always struck out well above league average and isn’t a solid defender?
It’s a minor-league deal to add depth, but it’s unclear how much there is below the surface.