The Red Sox announced this evening they’ve added four players to the 40-man roster. Infielder Jeter Downs and right-handers Josh Winckowski, Brayan Bello and Kutter Crawford have all been added to keep them from selection in the Rule 5 draft.
Downs has been one of the game’s higher profile prospects for a while. A supplemental first-rounder of the Reds out of a Florida high school in 2017, he’s since been involved in two blockbuster trades. Downs was part of the package sent from Cincinnati to the Dodgers in December 2018 for Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, then got traded to the Red Sox as part of the Mookie Betts deal the following winter.
Over his first few seasons, Downs offered a steady combination of bat-to-ball skills, power and second base defense. He’d projected as a potential everyday second baseman and twice ranked among the game’s top 100 overall prospects at Baseball America. But Downs struggled through an uncharacteristically poor 2021, leaving his stock a bit more uncertain. Over 405 plate appearances with Triple-A Worcester, the right-handed hitting Downs managed just a .190/.272/.333 mark with 14 home runs. Most alarming, he struck out in a massive 32.3% of his plate appearances — his first season fanning at greater than a 21% clip.
Winckowski has been involved in a pair of trades himself, both occurring last offseason. The Blue Jays sent him to the Mets as part of the Steven Matz deal, and New York flipped him to Boston in the three-team Andrew Benintendi/Khalil Lee swap not long after. A 16th-round pick by Toronto back in 2016, Winckowski has slowly climbed the minor league ladder as a starter. He split the 2021 campaign between Double-A Portland and Worcester, working to a cumulative 3.94 ERA in 112 innings with a below-average 21.3% strikeout rate but a quality 6.9% walk percentage.
Bello, a former amateur signee out of the Dominican Republic, is considered one of the organization’s more promising young pitchers. BA slotted the 22-year-old fifth in the farm system this offseason, praising his three-pitch mix and calling him a potential mid-rotation starter. Bello split this past season between High-A Greenville and Portland, working to a combined 3.87 ERA in 95 1/3 innings. He punched out a stellar 32.8% of hitters along the way against a solid 7.7% walk rate. Bello seems likely to start next season at Triple-A and could plausibly be an option for the big league club at some point in 2022.
Crawford made a two-inning cameo at the major league level in September, showing a five-pitch mix led by a 93.8 MPH fastball. The righty had been selected as a COVID replacement, though, so he was removed from the 40-man roster not long after. He’ll now stake a more longstanding spot on the roster after combining for a 4.28 ERA with great strikeout and walk numbers (34.4% and 5.2%, respectively) between Portland and Worcester.