In the coming weeks, NESN.com will profile some of the more noteworthy prospects in the Red Sox system, utilizing insight and analysis from industry experts who know the players best. Next up: Connor Seabold, acquired last August from the Philadelphia Phillies.
Chaim Bloom’s first trade deadline as chief baseball officer of the Boston Red Sox will be remembered for its unique circumstances, as it occurred a month into a condensed 60-game regular season.
It’ll also might be remembered for Bloom flipping two relievers — an impending free agent in Brandon Workman and an expendable middle-inning arm in Heath Hembree — for two pitchers who could factor into Boston’s long-term rotation plans: Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold.
Pivetta, with three-plus seasons of major league experience, drew most of the attention, which makes sense since he had some success with the Philadelphia Phillies and figures to potentially make a more immediate impact in Boston. But Seabold could be the real gem of the deal.
So, when might we see Seabold debut with the Red Sox? Here’s everything you need to know about the 25-year-old right-hander ahead of the 2021 season.
The Baltimore Orioles drafted Seabold out of Newport Harbor High School (Newport, Calif.) in the 19th round in 2014. But rather than sign with the O’s, Seabold attended Cal State Fullerton, where he helped the Titans reach the College World Series in 2015 and 2017.
Seabold, who interestingly enough pitched for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod Baseball League in 2016, joined the professional ranks in 2017 as a third-round pick of the Phillies. He debuted with the Williamsport Crosscutters of the New York-Pennsylvania League but reached Double-A in 2018, his first full season in Philadelphia’s system.
That’s where Seabold’s development hit a bit of a snag. He missed several months of the 2019 season with an oblique injury, and then the 2020 minor league campaign was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic. Seabold impressed in his most recent game action, though, first going 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA in seven starts (40 innings) with Double-A Reading in 2019 and then going 1-0 with a 1.06 ERA in four starts (17 innings) in the Arizona Fall League after that season.
Seabold spent 2020 at the Phillies’ and Red Sox’s alternate training sites. He’s on Boston’s 40-man roster and spent time at major league camp this spring before being optioned to the ATS, where he’ll presumably open 2021 ahead of the minor league season.
Seabold, listed at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, isn’t overpowering. Instead, he leans on above-average command and control, resulting in low walk rates and quality strikes.
One could describe Seabold as a “finesse” pitcher, although that might be a bit disingenuous given that his fastball velocity has increased amid his development. He now tops out around 95 mph after sitting in the low 90s in recent years.
“The velocity was impressive,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said earlier this spring. “I didn’t expect that one. But you can see his changeup, and it’s a good one.”
The changeup is Seabold’s best pitch, largely because he can throw it with the same arm speed as his fastball but create ample velocity separation between the two pitches. His changeup typically registers in the low 80s and simply falls off the table for hitters.
“His changeup is a potential 65 (grade on the 20-80 scouting scale); it’s a plus to better pitch,” SoxProspects.com director of scouting Ian Cundall recently told NESN.com. ” … The velocity (of his fastball) is increasing. He usually sits in the low 90s. He’s up to like 93, 94 now, and I think there’s a chance for more because it’s a loose, athletic delivery. His slider is the work-in-progress pitch, but if he can get to average, you’re talking about a 55 fastball, 65 changeup, 50 slider.”
Minor league stats can be whatever. But it’s notable Seabold has walked only 2.1 batters per nine innings across 196 2/3 frames down on the farm. He also generates a decent amount of swings and misses for someone with middle-of-the-road velocity, striking out 9.3 batters per nine innings.
“The key for him — and this is I think the biggest separator — is his command projection is really good,” Cundall said. “He’s athletic. He throws a ton of strikes, but it’s quality strikes. He has a really good idea of what he wants to do on the mound. And he really can locate. If he locates, 94 (mph) located I’ll take over 98 (mph) with no idea where it’s going every day. And he just doesn’t walk guys.”
Most-likely outcome: Back-end starter.
You’ll need to look elsewhere for flash. Seabold doesn’t possess jaw-dropping stuff, although his changeup has the makings of a legitimate “out” pitch and a real weapon at the highest level.
Will this ultimately hold him back in the majors? Maybe. He certainly won’t be able to get away with mistakes the way more overpowering hurlers can.
But the command and control are good enough that those mistakes could be few and far between, giving him a relatively high floor despite a lower ceiling.
“I really like him. He’s someone we’ve had in our top 10 (Red Sox prospect rankings) pretty much since the trade happened. And that was based on just the reports I got at the time of the deadline,” Cundall said. “Immediately, as soon as that trade went down, I had people texting me, being like, ‘This is a steal. This is the guy we’ve been targeting from the Phillies for months.’ And he was someone who kinda seemed under the national radar, because he hasn’t pitched a lot and his stuff is more, it really grades out really well analytically.”
“As soon as that trade went down, I had people texting me, being like, ‘This is a steal.'”Ian Cundall, SoxProspects.com, on industry reaction to Boston acquiring Connor Seabold
Best-case scenario: Mid-rotation starter.
It’s entirely possible national prospect gurus are sleeping on Seabold by omitting him from their rankings. While high velocity and raw stuff have become commonplace among today’s up-and-coming pitchers, Seabold has the ability to successfully navigate at-bats with impressive strike-throwing and an effective game plan.
“Seabold really impressed me,” a National League evaluator recently told Boston Sports Journal’s Sean McAdam. “I like Seabold a lot. I think he’s a legit guy personally. I think he’s at least a No. 3. I saw him pitch and he reminds me of guys like (David) Cone, those compact right-handers, good delivery guys. He can spin the ball. He’s got some imagination for a youngster. I don’t think the Phillies realized what they had; I think he’s better than they thought he was.
“Guys like that can dice the strike zone and Seabold looks like he’s got a chance to be out of that mold, like Zac Gallen (of the Arizona Diamondbacks). Guys who aren’t afraid to throw strikes and pitch inside, work the zone (can be very successful). I think he’s at least a No. 3; he might be a No. 2 on a staff at some point. But comfortably, a No. 3, or a No. 4 as his floor.”
“I think he’s at least a No. 3 (starter). I saw him pitch and he reminds me of guys like (David) Cone… “NL evaluator, to Boston Sports Journal, about Connor Seabold
SoxProspects ranking: No. 9
Here’s their summation:
“Potential back-end starter. Ceiling of a mid-rotation starter. Stuff has improved in professional ball and will now show a plus pitch and two other average ones. Strong pitchability. Throws a lot of strikes. Able to generate whiffs with all his pitches. Consistent command and control will be key to his success at the major league level because his stuff is not overpowering.”
Seabold almost certainly will debut with Boston in 2021. He’ll presumably report to Triple-A Worcester, whose season is scheduled to begin May 4, but likely will be among the first starters called up if something happens in the major league rotation — perhaps the second option behind Tanner Houck.
“When you combine the true major league quality out pitch with the command projection, I think he’s a potential back-end starter. And I think he’s someone who could be up this year,” Cundall said. “It would not surprise me, based on just talking to sources around the game — not with the Red Sox, but with other teams who have said to me, ‘If Seabold comes up and plays a key role this year, don’t be surprised. He’s someone who could start in a major league rotation and pitch deep into games, even this season.’ “