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Brian Abraham Talks Prospects and How the Red Sox “Feed the Monster” 

The Boston Red Sox Director of Player Development speaks to a crowd of Worcester Red Sox fans, front office staff, and media about the current state of Red Sox player development and discusses the processes behind the organization’s philosophies.
June 24, 2024

This season, the Boston Red Sox are celebrating the 20th anniversary of winning their first World Series in 84 years. As the organization works towards winning their next championship, Brian Abraham, the Red Sox Director of Player Development, spoke to a field of guests at Polar Park regarding the state

This season, the Boston Red Sox are celebrating the 20th anniversary of winning their first World Series in 84 years. As the organization works towards winning their next championship, Brian Abraham, the Red Sox Director of Player Development, spoke to a field of guests at Polar Park regarding the state of the team’s developmental process. Additionally, he provided updates on the club’s top prospects and if WooSox fans can expect any promotions to Worcester in the near future.

An alumnus of St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury and the College of the Holy Cross, Abraham was the Red Sox bullpen catcher when the team won the World Series in 2013. Since, he has risen quickly through the Red Sox Player Development department, becoming the Director in 2020.

In the four years he has led the department, the club has seen an influx of young talent rise through the farm system and make an impact on the Major League roster. Among the players to make their big league debut under Abraham are Jarren Duran, Brayan Bello, Tanner Houck, Ceddanne Rafaela, Wilyer Abreu, Triston Casas, Kutter Crawford, and Connor Wong––with many more on the way.

“The goal is to win a World Series every year,” Abraham said. “Player development is a major piece of that––as we are seeing in Boston this year. That is kind of the fabric of what we embody on a daily basis.”

Winning the World Series is not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination. The Red Sox organization has won nine in their 123-year history, with four coming in the last 20 years. Five teams––the Colorado Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, and Tampa Bay Rays––have never won one.

Yet, at the dawn of every season, it is the one and only goal of all 30 MLB teams.

The path towards building a sustainable winning team begins with player development. There is no instruction manual––it’s a complex series of decisions that starts with an organizational philosophy. For Abraham and the Red Sox, the philosophy can be described by a simple metaphor: Feed the Monster.

“Any big organization is going to have mission values, and it’s no different within the player development model of the Red Sox,” said Abraham. “We use the name ‘Feed the Monster’ for a couple of reasons. Obviously, the green monster is a nice play on words, but also the monster being the team.”

To “Feed the Monster”, the Red Sox rely heavily on data-driven decision making when evaluating players and constructing programs to develop individual skillsets. This may include bat speed training, reshaping pitch types, increasing velocity, or, simply, adding mass to develop a player’s ability to impact the baseball. The easy part is recognizing which areas of progression a player needs the most. The hard part is identifying the appropriate strategy to develop a player’s skillset efficiently and effectively to give the player and organization the best chance at long-term success.

“At the end of the day, we’re training our players for success in Boston over the long term,” Abraham said. “Not just for a cup of coffee or go up there and play for a couple of months. It’s for long term success.”

Amid player development’s complexity, the Red Sox simplify it for their players into a goal-oriented, step-by-step process.

The minor leagues are divided into five levels that increase in difficulty as a player moves through their team’s farm system. Typically, the starting point is Rookie level, followed by Class-A, High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A before a player reaches MLB.

To make it easier on their prospects, the Red Sox development team meets with each player periodically to discuss individual goals––that of the player, and that of the team. When a player reaches their developmental goal for a particular season, the team begins discussing the possibility of promoting them to the next level.

For example, Zach Penrod is a left-handed pitcher that Abraham and the Red Sox are very high on. Possessing a fastball in the mid-90s, the 27-year-old entered the season focusing on improving command after finishing last year with a high 4.8 BB/9. In Double-A Portland this year, Penrod lowered his BB/9 to 3.3––an enormous 31% drop. His improvement earned him a promotion to Worcester where he is now on the doorstep of pitching at Fenway Park.

Another Sea Dog who was recently promoted to Triple-A is Nick Yorke, but he was given his promotion to change his environment. The former first-round pick amassed over 700 plate appearances at Double-A and hit just .263––a decent number, but not up to the standard he set in 2021, where he hit .325 across two Single-A levels.

In 16 games since his promotion, the 22-year-old has dominated Triple-A pitching, slashing .355/.460/.532 at the end of the play on June 23.

“He has hit the ball really well since getting [to Worcester],” Abraham said. “Yorke is a good example of a player that just needed a change of scenery...Getting to Worcester has been a major step in his development and I think a positive step for this organization.”

As Abraham explains, sometimes a player’s goals are not met at a particular level from a statistical standpoint. However, if the organization believes they can create an environment for that player to be successful at the next level, then that player might earn a promotion.

“There is a subjective piece when we do our promotions,” he said. “We talk to the manager, talk to the coaches, talk to the trainers. We have to have an understanding of this player, and how they’re working towards their goals.”

Three other players that have been talked about regarding promotions are the organization’s top three: Marcelo Mayer, Roman Anthony, and Kyle Teel. Abraham spoke about the trio’s progression and the next steps in their developmental process.

Mayer, the Red Sox top prospect according to MLB Pipeline, has slashed .309/.373/.482 in 63 games this season while leading all of Double-A with 25 doubles. Abraham believes he is an above-average defender at shortstop and will continue to increase his power output as he grows stronger. According to Abraham, the 21-year-old's current area of focus is improving swing decisions and in-zone contact.

Drafted in the second round out of high school just two years ago, Anthony has impressed Abraham and the Red Sox player development group at Double-A.

“Incredible kid, incredible worker,” Abraham said. “It’s really hard to find words to describe him sometimes because he just does everything really well. He trains hard, he works hard, he’s a good teammate––everything you could want out of a young player.”

Abraham mentions the final step for the outfielder in his progression is lifting the ball to his pull-side more frequently. Still only 20 years old, Anthony has plenty of time to fill out his 6’2” and 200 pounds frame and add the power tool in his skillset.

Teel, the Red Sox third overall prospect, ranks in the top five in the Eastern League in runs scored, RBI, and OPS at the end of play on June 23. Though he’s an offensive-first catcher, Abraham emphasized him as a quality defender that calls a great game and handles the pitching staff well. Standing at 6’0” and 190, the Red Sox would like to see him continue to add mass to his already athletic frame as he looks to develop his power stroke.

Regardless of when the trio gets the call to Worcester, Abraham stressed the importance of keeping them––and the rest of the organization’s propects––in a position where they can reach their goals.

“As long as they’re in an environment that allows them to develop, then they’re in a good spot, Abraham said. “When we need to move them, then we’ll create an environment where they can continue to develop.”

It’s a long road to the big leagues, but the current state of Red Sox player development is set up to continue to Feed the Monster.