Connor Wong Impresses With His Versatility
It didn’t take long for Connor Wong to make a strong impression on his new organization.
Acquired from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts deal, Wong was appealing to Boston thanks to his combination of athleticism at catcher, potential defensive versatility at other positions and power.
The 24-year-old's power showed up quickly both in spring training and summer camp games. Wong—who hit .281/.336/.541 with 24 homers and 55 extra-base hits in 111 games between high Class A and Double-A in 2019—launched tape-measure homers.
“He’s got a lot of power. Batting practice, I stand out there and balls really jump off his bat,” Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said. “This guy can be a really nice player.”
The 6-foot-1, 178-pound Wong's power is significant, though it comes with an aggressive approach that leaves him vulnerable to swings and misses. He struck out 30.8% of the time in 2019 while walking just 6.9% of the time.
While Wong got time at both second and third base in the Dodgers system, the Red Sox focused his work behind the plate in summer camp and in the early weeks at the alternate training site at Pawtucket. While they believe Wong has the ability to move to other positions, the organization wants him to focus foremost on catching.
The Red Sox have seen evidence from Wong of calm and controlled actions behind the plate as well as an ability to adjust and learn quickly in such nuances as switching his receiving from an approach where he funnels pitches to the body to one where he works under the ball and receives pitches away.
While some believe that Wong, a 2017 third-rounder from Houston, has the profile of a versatile reserve, his skill set and athleticism allow for a belief that his upside could exceed that.
“There’s so much runway left with him,” one evaluator said.
— Righthander Tanner Houck was getting plenty of time to work at the alternate training site against lefthanded batters. Boston still hopes to develop Houck as a starter, with the ability to handle lefties representing the key determinant of whether the 2017 first-rounder can stay on that developmental track.
— Lefthander Jay Groome, 21, was included in the 60-player pool both out of a sense that he needed as much development time with Red Sox coaches as possible and because he’s Rule 5 draft eligible if not added to the 40-man roster this winter. The 2016 first-rounder—who had Tommy John surgery in 2018—has thrown just 66 career minor league innings.