Sunday Notes: Matthew Lugo Has Been Boston’s Top Performing Prospect

The Portland Sea Dogs roster includes three Top 100 prospects, but neither Roman Anthony (15), Marcelo Mayer (42), nor Kyle Teel (83) has been the Double-A affiliate’s best player so far this season. That distinction belongs to a 23-year-old, shortstop-turned-left-fielder whom the Boston Red Sox drafted 69th overall in 2019 out of the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy. Along with playing stellar defense at a new position, Matthew Lugo is slashing .306/.404/.653 with 10 home runs and an Eastern League-best 191 wRC+.

Markedly-improved plate discipline has played a big role in his breakout. Last year, Lugo logged a 5.9% walk rate and a 27.6% strikeout rate. This year those numbers are 13.4% and 22.5%.

The key to his newfound ability to dominate the strike zone?

“Timing,” explained Lugo, who takes his cuts from the right side. “Last year, I had a lot of movement with my hands, which made me inconsistent being on time with the pitcher. My hands were very low, and then when I got to the launch position they were very high; there was a lot of distance for my hands to go through. This year, I’m closer to my launch position before I swing. I also had a [bat] wiggle and this year I just get to my spot with no wiggle. I’m getting into my spot early and have more time to see the pitch, so I’m making better swing decisions.”

The decision to move Lugo off of his natural position and into an outfield corner wasn’t based on defensive shortcomings, but rather on the arrival of Mayer. The high-ceiling shortstop was promoted to Portland last year on Memorial Day weekend, and given his first-round pedigree, he wasn’t going to be the one moving.

That Lugo’s primary position had been shortstop is itself notable. Ceddanne Rafaela was the displaced infielder’s teammate at multiple levels coming up through the Red Sox system, and it was he, not Lugo, who found himself shuttling among multiple positions. Along with being the best defensive centerfielder in the organization, Rafaela is now arguably its best defensive shortstop other than currently-injured Trevor Story.

Lugo was pragmatic when asked what he considers to be his best position.

“Left,” the Manati, Puerto Rico native told me. “My defensive numbers have been very good this year, and I’m comfortable out there. I like playing the outfield, and hopefully I’ll get to play some right field, as well. I mean, I’m very athletic. I can play short. I can play third. I can play wherever you put me, whatever the manager needs.”

Positional versatility will not only help Lugo reach the big leagues, it befits his overall skillset. While not elite in any one area, he does most things well.

“I’ve always had a little bit of everything.” concurred Lugo, who is comes off as equal parts humble and confident. “I’m not a guy that has the most power, but I do have power. And I’m not the fastest guy, but I can steal some bases (he has nine this year in 10 attempts). I also feel that I’m an intelligent player who knows how to make adjustments; I’m very conscious of what I need to work on.”

As for his chances of one day playing in Boston alongside Rafaela — and/or some combination of Story, Mayer, Anthony, and Teel — let’s just say that his eyes have been firmly on the prize since his days as a young amateur.

“When I was 12 or 13, I went to a game at Yankee Stadium,” recalled Lugo. “I remember telling my dad, “I know I’m only 13, but I feel like I can play here, that I can make it to this level.’ So, I’ve always felt in my heart that I could do it. It was just a matter of figuring things out, and this year I’m feeling very comfortable both offensively and defensively. There’s no doubt in my mind that, with God’s will, I will play in the big leagues.”

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Aaron Judge is 5 for 5 against Ryan Pressly.

Joe Judge went 8 for 9 against Johnny Miljus.

Billy Jurges went 11 for 18 against Orville Jorgens.

Arndt Jorgens went 9 for 23 against Rube Walberg.

Rube Lutzke went 12 for 23 against George Mogridge.

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Braiden Ward is having one of the best seasons in the Colorado Rockies system. The 25-year-old speedster slashed .340/.426/.550 in 115 plate appearances for High-A Spokane, and since being promoted to Double-A Hartford earlier this week he’s gone 6-for-18 with a double, a triple, and a bunt hit. All told, his five three-baggers and 18 stolen bases are tops among Rockies farmhands, as is his 184 wRC+..

A 16th-round senior sign in 2021 out of the University of Washington, Ward has just seven home runs as a professional, and at a listed 5-foot-9, 160-pounds he’s anything but a bopper. The left-handed-hitting outfielder/second baseman knows that as well as anybody.

“I’m not going to be a power hitter, so I need to get on base any way I can,” said Ward, whose 16 times reaching base via HBP is the most in the minors. “Getting on base and stealing bags is my game. If I’m not doing that, I’m not in the game.”

Baseball America ranked Ward the fastest baserunner in the Rockies organization, and you won’t get any disagreement from the fleet-of-foot youngster. You might from a Triple-A outfielder whom the Rockies acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for Joe Rock during spring training, but that’s part of the fun.

“I’m the fastest guy in the org,” said Ward, who explained that he’s run the 60-yard dash in a snappy 6.18 seconds. “It’s between me and Greg Jones. He’s going to say it’s him. I’m going to say it’s me. We’d have to race and see.

Something that Ward’s organizational brethren have already seen is a clubhouse demeanor that differs from his no-nonsense approach between the white lines.

“Off the field, I’m Mr. Smile,” Ward told me. “I’m a goofball. I want to make my teammates laugh. And I also don’t play with a chip on my shoulder. I play calm and collected. I’m not a guy who is going to bat-flip and show up the pitcher. I’m going to do my thing and let him do his thing.”

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A quiz:

Which pitcher has the most wins in Milwaukee Brewers franchise history?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS NOTES

The Detroit Tigers announced two promotions and a hiring on Thursday.Ryan Garko has been promoted to Vice President, Assistant General Manager, while Georgia Giblin has been promoted to Vice President, Baseball Performance Science. Andrew Thomas has joined the organization as Vice President, Baseball Analytics.

Cuno Barragan, a catcher who appeared in 69 games for the Chicago Cubs across the 1961-1963 seasons, died earlier this month at age 91. A Sacramento native who logged 33 big-league hits, Facundo Anthony Barragan hit his lone home in his first-ever plate appearance, a two-run shot against San Francisco southpaw Richard LeMay at Candlestick Park.

John Upham, a native of Windsor, Ontario who played in 21 games for the Chicago Cubs across the 1967-1968 seasons, died on Wednesday at age 83. A two-way player, he made nine pitching appearances, started a game in center field, and was used as a pinch-hitter. Upham went 4-for-13 at the plate and allowed five runs in eight-and-a-third relief innings.

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The answer to the quiz is Jim Slaton, who was credited with 117 wins while pitching for the Brewers from 1971-1977, and again from 1979-1983.

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The Red Sox won two out of three when they played the Nationals at Fenway Park earlier this month, but Alex Cora was nonetheless impressed with Dave Martinez’s team’s young talent. After addressing the challenges that come with controlling Washington’s running game — the Nats currently have 77 steals, second-most in MLB behind Cincinnati’s 82 — Boston’s manager said the following:

“They’re very athletic,” Cora told reporters in his postgame presser. “They’re very good at what they do. They’ve got something good going on over there… it’s just a matter of time. They’re going to compete. They will compete. They’re trending in the right direction.”

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LATE-MAY STATISTICAL SNAPSHOTS

The Cleveland Guardians have hit 59 home runs so far this season. At this time last year they had 30 home runs.

The Kansas City Royals were 15-37 at this time last year. This season, Matt Quatraro’s well-balanced club — the KC offense has produced 53 home runs and 54 stolen bases — boasts the third-best record in the junior circuit at 34-19.

Kansas City’s Brady Singer has made 11 starts this season. In eight of them he has pitched five or more innings and allowed one or fewer earned runs.

Washington’s Trevor Williams has made 10 starts this season. In seven of them he has pitched five or more innings and allowed one or fewer earned runs.

When Boston’s Nick Pivetta fanned Milwaukee’s William Contreras in the third inning of yesterday’s game, he became the sixth Canadian-born pitcher in MLB history to reach 1,000 strikeouts. Pivetta joins Fergie Jenkins, Ryan Dempster, Erik Bedard, John Hiller, and Kirk McCaskill.

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The interference call that ended Thursday’s Orioles-White Sox game was, by the letter of the law, correct. Which isn’t to say the umpires should have enforced it. As anyone who has viewed the video can attest, the “interference” was minimal at best and had zero bearing on the play itself. The pitch was popped up, an infield fly rule was called, the Chicago runner casually retreated to second base, and the Baltimore shortstop effortlessly caught the ball. Again, the infraction-as-ruled was irrelevant to what transpired on the play.

Would Orioles manager Brandon Hyde have challenged — or even thought to challenge — had interference not been called? My guess is no. As he told reporters after the game, “[T]here was a lot of confusion about it. We escaped there.”

One thing that hasn’t escaped is criticism of the call. The ruling may well have been technically correct, but in terms of the spirit of the game, it was also wrong.

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks routed the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in back-to-back games this week, On Tuesday, Ryoya Kurihara homered twice and drove in six runs as the Hawks won 21-0. On Wednesday, Hotaka Yamakawa homered twice and drove in five runs to lead the 12-0 shellacking.

Shosei Togo threw the 101st no-hitter in NPB history on Friday as the Yomiuri Giants beat the Hanshin Tigers 1-0. The 24-year-old right-hander is 4-2 with a 1.84 on the season.

Yomiuri infielder Hayato Sakamoto hit his 450th career double earlier this week and is just the second player in NPB history to reach that mark. Kazuyoshi Tatsunami had 487 two-baggers with the Chunichi Dragons from 1988-2009.

Ronnie Dawson is slashing .369/.424/.581 with seven home runs in 224 plate appearances for the KBO’s Kiwoom Heroes. The 29-year-old outfielder played in three games for the Houston Astros in 2021, and in one game for the Cincinnati Reds in 2022.

Tae-in Won is 5-2 with a 2.35 ERA in 57-and-a-third innings for the KBO’s Samsung Lions. The 24-year-old right-hander, who played for Korea in the 2023 WBC, has 47 strikeouts and just 16 walks.

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Left on the cutting-room floor from Wednesday’s feature story on Tampa Bay Rays reliever Kevin Kelly were his thoughts on a possible post-playing-career job. Asked what he majored in at James Madison University, Kelly told me that it was computer science.

“I like video games, and my mom got her masters in computer science, so it was kind of a natural,” Kelly added. “Maybe I could be [an analyst in a front office] someday. That would be cool. Hopefully it wouldn’t happen for a long time, though.”

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A random obscure former player snapshot:

Tom Wiedenbauer finished his brief big-league career with a .667 batting average. Born in Menomonee, Wisconsin and drafted out of a Tucson, Arizona high school by Houston in 1976, the right-handed-hitting outfielder made his MLB debut with the Astros three years later at age 20. His success was both immediate and short-lived. Wiedenbauer came off the bench to hit a two-run double in his first-ever plate appearance, played in two more games without coming to bat, then went 3-for-5 in his fourth and final game at baseball’s highest level. He then spent four years in the minors before hanging up the spikes and becoming a coach and a manager down on the farm.

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FARM NOTES

Miguel Ugueto had back-to-back big games this week as the High-A Greenville Drive beat the Greensboro Grasshoppers 15-2 and 14-12. The 21-year-old outfielder in the Boston Red Sox system went a combined 7-for-10 with a double, a triple, a home run, six runs scored, five RBIs, and a stolen base. Ugueto is slashing .312/.356/.430 on the season.

Zebby Matthews is 4-0 with a 1.34 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 40-and-a-third innings between High-A Cedar Rapids and Double-A Wichita. The 24-year-old right-hander in the Minnesota Twins system has issued just one walk, that coming after his 49th K of the season.

Garrett Baumann is 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 40 innings for the Low-A Augusta GreenJackets. The 19-year-old right-hander was drafted in the fourth round last year by the Atlanta Braves.

Spencer Giesting has allowed just 20 hits and three earned runs, and has 46 strikeouts in 41 innings, for the High-A Hillsboro Hops. The 22-year-old left-hander was the Arizona Diamondbacks’ 11th-round pick in the 2022 draft.

Yasser Mercedes is 19-for-49 with three doubles, two triples, and four home runs with Minnesota’s Florida Complex League affiliate. Signed by the Twins in January 2022, the 19-year-old outfielder has swiped eight bases in nine attempts.

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Milwaukee manager Pat Murphy shared a pet-friendly anecdote prior to Friday’s game at Fenway Park. The affable skipper related the following when talking about Brewers outfielder Sal Frelick:

“One day in spring training, there was a cat or a dog — it was a dog, I think — in the complex parking lot. They tried to find the owner. They looked around. They put signs up. This was after a whole day of spring training. He ended up taking the dog home. [Later], he took it to the rightful owner. Or something. I mean, he spent hours with this dog. He took it home and fed it… he’s an amazing kid. I bust his balls on a regular basis, but he is a great human being.”

The “or something” caveat offered by Murphy proved prudent. MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy caught up to Frelick yesterday and learned that the dog’s owner was never located. With spring training coming to an end, man’s best friend was subsequently taken to a shelter.

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Listening to a recent game on Royals radio, I learned that Ryne Stanek holds the record for most “starts” of two innings or less. Now with the Seattle Mariners, the 32-year-old right-hander made 56 such appearances while serving as an opener for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018-2019.

Which pitcher holds the non-opener record for most starts of two innings or less? The answer is Hall of Famer Early Wynn, with 40 (he made 611 starts in all). Three pitchers — Tommy John, Johnny Podres, and Nolan Ryan — are tied for second-most with 35.

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

Two years after officially retiring, Andrew Miller has graduated with a Masters in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. Jerry Crasnick wrote about the erstwhile big-league southpaw’s accomplishment for the MLBPA’s website.

Winter Haven, Florida’s Chain of Lakes Park — the former spring training home of the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians — has been torn down. Kevin Reichard has the story at Ballpark Digest.

Pitcher List’s Carson Picard wrote about how Dylan Cease might have the most ridiculous pitch in baseball.

Does lightning-rod umpire Angel Hernandez deserve his villainous reputation? Sam Blum and Cody Stavenhagen teamed up to address that question at The Athletic (subscription required).

A group in South Texas is on a mission to preserve the history of a semi-professional offshoot of the Negro Leagues.that existed from the 1940s into the 1970s. Juana Summers has the story at NPR’s All Things Considered.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

The Red Sox and Tigers both joined the American League in 1901. Boston batters have hit 14,405 home runs. Detroit batters have hit 14,400 home runs.

There were 11,111 home runs hit at Tiger Stadium (1912-1999). There were 13,457 home runs hit at Fenway Park over that span.

Manny Ramirez had 555 home runs and a .338 BABIP
Harmon Killebrew had 573 home runs and a .254 BABIP.

Frank Robinson had 586 home runs and 1,757 singles.
Mark McGwire had 583 home runs and 785 singles.

In 2007, Ryan Howard had 26 doubles, 47 home runs, and 199 strikeouts. In 2008, Howard had 26 doubles, 48 home runs, and 199 strikeouts.

Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds is a combined 25-for-58 (.431) with eight home runs against the Red Sox and Yankees. He is a combined 15-for-84 (.179) with no home runs against the Blue Jays, Orioles, and Rays.

On today’s date in 1959, Pirates left-hander Harvey Haddix took a perfect game into the 13th inning before allowing a hit, and ultimately a run, in a 1-0 loss to the Milwaukee Braves. Lew Burdette surrendered a dozen hits in a complete-game effort for the winning side.

On today’s date in 1994, Lance Parrish hit a 13th-inning walk-off single to give the Pirates an 11-10 win over the New York Mets. Parrish had three of Pittsburgh’s 18 hits, including a home run.

Players born on today’s date include Jason Bere, who threw 1,111 innings while pitching for five teams from 1993-2003. Now a special assistant in player development for the Toronto Blue Jays, Bere was at his best early on, going a combined 24-7, 3.64 with the Chicago White Sox in 1993-1994.

Also born on today’s date was Stoney McGlynn, a right-hander who pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1906-1908. Thirty-four years old when he debuted, Ulysses Simpson Grant McGlynn went 14-25 with a 2.91 ERA in the middle of his three MLB seasons. He’d previously excelled with the Tri-State League’s York Penn Parks.





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Left of Centerfield
19 days ago

I figured the quiz answer had to come from those early 80s teams. But the only names I could come up with were Don Sutton and Pete Vuckovich.

Anyway, 3 of the top 4 win leaders did pitch for those early 80s teams – Slaton, Mike Caldwell, and Moose Haas, with Teddy Higuera in 3rd.

mordecaiconstant
19 days ago

Same logic, but I could only think of Vuckovich (40 wins). I went with Ben Sheets (86). Never even heard of Slaton or Caldwell!

Jason Bere, born and raised in Massachusetts, interestingly spent his whole career with both Chicago teams, the Brewers (practically a Chicago team in terms of proximity), and both Ohio teams. Pretty compact geography! Maybe that will help someone with a future Grid 🙂

sadtrombonemember
19 days ago

This is a good question because the Brewers have had a fair number of excellent hitters in their short history and the pitchers have been either not as good or a lot more transient. I went with Teddy Higuera (who was third) but I knew even he didn’t have a particularly long career. Corbin Burnes is fifth in fWAR, Brandon Woodruff is eighth.

The Brewers have had a lot more success with the hitters, particularly with Yount and Molitor, but Lucroy and Braun and Cecil Cooper were also very good.

synco
17 days ago

I went with Teddy Higuera, though I knew it wasn’t right and was surprised he was as high as he was.

PC1970
17 days ago

I actually guessed Slaton. I remember him because when I was a a kid The Tigers traded Ben Ogilvie to Milwaukee for him, Slaton pitched for Detroit for 1 year & then re-signed with Milwaukee as a FA & he continued to pitch for Milwaukee for years. That was when they were AL Central rivals, so we saw him a lot & I knew he pitched for them for 10+ years.

2nd guess was Higuera. Also did consider Mike Caldwell.