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Winter Warmup offers Red Sox prospects a chance for some supervised on-field time

Red Sox top prospect Nick Yorke, who won minor league offensive player of the year, the award presented on the field in September, gets a hug from first base coach Tom Goodwin.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

In Fort Myers, the Red Sox are attempting to make up for lost time with a group of young prospects.

The last two years have represented a painful disruption to developing minor leaguers. The 2020 minor league season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and last year’s minor league season was delayed and subsequently shortened. Teams fretted about the lost opportunities to both instruct players and to let them learn on the field.

This year, MLB owners have locked out players on the 40-man roster — thus preventing programs such as the Rookie Development Program in Boston that the Sox have held frequently for near big league-ready prospects. And so, Red Sox officials are using this week to have minor league instructors work closely with a select group of 28 minor leaguers, most of whom will open this season in High-A or Double-A.


The program — called the “Winter Warm-Up” by the Sox — started on Monday and runs through Friday in Fort Myers. In moving the program to the team’s spring training complex rather than holding it in Boston, the club has a chance to offer players such as infielders Triston Casas and Nick Yorke as well as pitchers Brandon Walter and Chris Murphy supervised on-field time to prepare for the start of spring training.

“One of the things that we have definitely focused on … is a full year of development. There’s so much time that can be lost. We realized that with the COVID year,” said Red Sox farm director Brian Abraham. “Then you think about the time that happens after a regular season. There’s four or five months in between sometimes the last time a pitcher throws a baseball or a hitter hits a baseball from an affiliate to when we see them in spring training.


“This is just another stepping stone,” Abraham added. “To really be able to see and converse with these players, to be able to do it in person I think is great. There’s no getting back that lost year. I think we can only take advantage of the time we have and really be around them and maximize the chance to help them improve face-to-face.”

Red Sox prospect Triston Casas made headlines as a member of Team USA last summer.Koji Watanabe/Getty

Casas is the prospect in the group who is both well-known — he’s a consensus top-three prospect in the Red Sox system, with some rankings pegging him as the team’s top prospect — and likely the closest to a big league role. The 22-year-old, who finished last year with Triple-A Worcester, could emerge as a big league option as soon as this year.

But most of the players in Fort Myers will open the season in either High-A or Double-A. In addition to top young prospects such as Yorke (likely to open the year in High-A) and slugging corner infielder Blaze Jordan (likely to open 2022 in Low-A), organizational newcomers Alex Binelas (a slugging corner infielder) and David Hamilton (a fast, athletic middle infielder) — both acquired from the Brewers in the Hunter Renfroe trade in December — are taking part in the program.

“Today was the first time we were able to see them in person and really just to get them on the field,” said Abraham. “[It’s] obviously a lot to handle for both these guys. But I think in a lot of ways having this camp with a smaller group of players and a small group of staff is really a nice introduction into the organization where it doesn’t feel like everything’s thrown at them at once.”


While the Winter Warm-Up program is just one week, Abraham said most of the participants will remain in Fort Myers through a mini-camp in late February and then into the start of full minor league spring training in early March.

Alex Speier can be reached at alex.speier@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @alexspeier.