Red Sox draft slugging catcher Teel at No. 14: 'Now I bleed red'

Boston also takes high school shortstop Zanetello with 50th pick

July 10th, 2023

In search of their first true stud catcher since Jason Varitek was in his prime, the Red Sox snagged Kyle Teel, the No. 7-ranked amateur prospect by MLB Pipeline, with the 14th pick in the 2023 MLB Draft on Sunday night. They also drafted shortstop Nazzan Zanetello out of Christian Brothers (MO) College High School with the 50th pick.

“It’s a dream come true. I've always wanted to be a pro baseball player. I'm just so excited,” Teel said in a Zoom call. “I've always had a great relationship with some of the Red Sox scouts -- for example, Ray Fagnant. I wasn't entirely sure where I was going to go tonight, and I couldn't be happier that I'm going to Boston.”

Teel was known for his big bat during a strong college career at the University of Virginia.

“We were really excited,” said Red Sox director of amateur scouting Devin Pearson. “Any time you can add a premium position player like Kyle -- with the athlete that he is -- at pick 14, it’s a great pick. So we were really excited to get him there, and [we're] pumped to have him in the organization.”

The left-handed hitter is credited with having an advanced approach at the plate, which has allowed him to hit for average and power.

Behind the plate, Teel is known for a well-above-average arm, and athleticism that makes him a solid receiver.

“He can really throw. He can really block. He can slide. His hands are good. His framing continues to get better,” said Pearson. “I think he kind of touches all the boxes for us in terms of what we value from a development standpoint. He fits a lot of things that we value behind the plate.”

While Teel has some experience in the outfield and has the type of skills that could allow him to play second or third base, his highest value is as a catcher, a position where offense is at a premium.

“You know, that's my goal,” said Teel. “Just be a catcher for a long time, and that's where I want to stay. That's where I enjoy playing the game the most. And these past two years in college, I caught every single game. I didn't take one break, and my legs were fine. It didn't affect my bat, and that's what I want to keep doing.”

The fact that Teel grew up in New Jersey, where he had a stellar high school career until his senior year of 2020 was wiped out by the pandemic, should help him adapt to playing in the cold weather that can sometimes be prevalent in Boston and the club’s Double-A (Portland, Maine) and Triple-A (Worcester, Mass.) affiliates.

Those Jersey roots are also what made Teel a Yankees fan growing up.  But he will have no problem giving up that allegiance.

“Growing up, it’s kind of funny, because I was a Yankees fan, but now I bleed red,” Teel said. “I’m excited to get going.”

If Teel progresses the way many scouts expect, he could become the Red Sox’s first All-Star catcher since Victor Martinez in 2010. However, Martinez was known much more for his bat than his glove and only played a season and a half for Boston.

Varitek, a member of the Red Sox Hall of Fame and currently a key member of the team’s coaching staff, is the best-known Boston catcher of the 21st century, serving as a leader on and off the field for the championship clubs of 2004 and ‘07. Coincidentally, Varitek was the 14th pick in the 1994 MLB Draft by the Seattle Mariners.

“I've always looked up to him,” Teel said of Varitek. “He's awesome. It's really cool that I'm going to be able to play in the same organization as him.

Teel, however, thinks he is more similar to another retired All-Star catcher defensively.

“I would say athleticism-wise, I compare myself to Buster Posey,” Teel said. “He was just a great athlete back there. He was amazing. So I would compare myself to him.”

When Teel makes his Fenway Park debut for the Red Sox, it won’t be the first time he will have played there.

“In high school, I played a game in Fenway,” Teel said. “It was for a high school prospect thing. And to be honest with you, my favorite ballpark I've ever played at is Fenway up to this point in my career.”

In Zanetello, the Sox get a well-rounded athlete who hardly seems to lack confidence.

“I think he described himself as a five-tool player and a five-tool person,” said Pearson. “I think we would all agree with that. He is a great human and hard worker. Not only are we excited to bring the talent in, but we’re excited to bring the person in as well.”