Thursday, February 4, 2010

TEAM #3 – Boston Red Sox

Westmoreland must prove he can stay healthy in 2010

Our 2010 Prospect eGuide is less than a week away. If you have enjoyed this series, then check out the details here: .

We are down to the final three teams, and all of them stand apart from the rest of the league—especially when it comes to the quality that runs deeply throughout each system. The Boston Red Sox check in at #3, and while they have more prospects that grade out at each grade between ‘B+’ thru ‘C’ than any system that we have rated thus far, they finish in third because they aren’t quite as strong at the top as the final two organizations. But that is taking nothing away from Theo Epstein and the Red Sox management, because this organization has been run near flawlessly for close to a decade. They do it all: Make the right trades, sign the right free agents, hit the Latin American and Pacific Rim markets hard, draft quality players—and develop them right. It must be a joy to be a Red Sox fan these days. Their Minor League system is filled with players that tend to be highly athletic—yet have proven production. Their position players, in large part, have a history of playing in the middle of the field and transition easily to other positions. They not only make solid draft picks in the early rounds, but the spend money to acquire early round talent—much later in the draft. While the top of this list is a bit weighted toward position players, there is good balance throughout between hitters and pitchers. There is a nice mix between players that are near ready and players that are quite a ways off. Finally there is a nice mix between high-ceiling and high-floor types. If I have to pick nits, the only criticism I can level is that the Red Sox tend to be a bit overly aggressive in their promotion strategy. All in all, this is one of, if not, the best run system in baseball, and it is well positioned for years to come.

Grade A

1) Ryan Westmoreland, OF (2009 Performance Scores – Power 76; First Base Rate 74; Discipline 54; Speed 80)

Westmoreland is an example of Boston’s strategy of finding premium talent throughout the draft, as he was the Red Sox 5th round pick in 2008, who the Red Sox signed away from Vanderbilt by paying him top of the first round money. Shortly after signing, it was discovered that Westmoreland would need shoulder surgery, so he didn’t make his professional debut until this summer. What we saw was worth the wait though, as Westmoreland posted the Top Performance Score in the NYP, and one of the top scores overall of the 2009 season. Unfortunately, his season was cut short when he broke his collar bone late in the season. A tremendous athlete, Westmoreland shows above average power and on-base skills to go along with his plus-plus speed. Although he did strike out in 19% of his PA’s he shows precocious awareness for the strike zone. Defensively he has tremendous range, solid instincts, and when healthy, a plus arm. Westmoreland’s ceiling is among the highest of position players in the Minor Leagues. However, he will now have to shake the ‘fragile’ label and demonstrate that he can remain healthy for an entire season. Look for him to open 2010 in the SAL, but could move rapidly.

2) Casey Kelly, RHP (2009 – Dominance 51; Stamina 72; HRrate 67; Control 72)

Many teams passed on Kelly in the 2008 draft, because they saw him as a pitcher and Kelly saw himself as a shortstop. The Red Sox tabbed him at the end of the first round, paid him high first round money and created a unique arrangement that allowed Kelly to play the first half of the season as a pitcher and the second half as a shortstop. One season later, Kelly is a convert. With the shortstop experiment behind him, Kelly can focus on developing what is truly a special arm. At an athletic 6’3, 195lbs, there is still projection in what is an already polished prospect. Kelly possesses a low-90s fastball, with a curve and a change that both show plus potential. Perhaps more significantly he keeps the ball low in the zone, and commands all of his pitches well. In 2009, Kelly posted the #8 Performance Score in the SAL, and was even better in the Carolina League (CAR) where he posted the #2 Performance Score. He is likely to open up the 2010 in the ESL—as a 20yo. Boston has loads of pitching talent at the Major League level, so there is no need to rush Kelly. However, it may be difficult to hold back what is potentially front of the rotation, star, material.

Grade A-

3) Ryan Kalish, OF (2009 – Power 69; First Base Rate 74; Discipline 53; Speed 72)

Kalish is another of Boston’s premium talent finds in the later rounds, as they selected Kalish in the 9th round of the 2006 draft, but paid him second round money. After an injury-plagued first few years, Kalish had a breakout 2009, when he posted the #2 Performance Score in the CAR and followed that up with the #9 score in the ESL after his promotion. Kalish possesses sound baseball instincts, and above average power, on-base and speed skills. While he did fan in 19% of his plate appearances last season, he has a solid approach to plate management. Defensively, he has the speed to play CF, but in a system loaded with premium CF defensive talents, he is nearly certain to end up on an outfield corner—potentially RF, but most likely LF. Kalish has the upside to be an above average, everyday, Major League OF. The positive here is that moving to AAA to open 2010, as a 22yo, his floor appears to be no worse than a Major League 4th OF type, capable of playing all three positions.

4) Lars Anderson, 1B (2009 – Power 47; First Base Rate 56; Discipline 33; Speed 44)

Anderson entered 2010 as a consensus Top 25 prospect, only to fail miserably in a League that he had already shown success in—over 133 ABS. We wish we could explain the result, but we are just as baffled as anyone. An 18th round pick, to whom the Red Sox gave second round money in 2006, Anderson has some of the highest power potential in the Minors. Despite his enormous power, he has the ability to put up solid on-base numbers, and shows above average plate management skills—all of which were absent in 2009. Prior to 2009, it was his lack of speed and questionable defense that were his negatives. Still only 22yo, we are going to issue Anderson a mulligan for the 2009 season. He’ll likely return to the ESL, for a third stint, in 2010, and hopefully we’ll see a return of the 2008 version.

Grade B+

5) Derrik Gibson, 2B/SS (2009 – Power 38; First Base Rate 77; Discipline 70; Speed 80)

We find Gibson, the Red Sox’s 2nd round pick in 2008, one of the more underrated prospects in the game. Highly athletic and hard-nosed, with a high baseball IQ and sound instincts, Gibson is the protypical disruptive force that a team wants in the top portion of the lineup—the quintessential #2 hitter. Gibson possesses plus on-base skills, plus strike zone management skills and plus-plus speed. With a highly projectable 6’1”, 170lb, frame, he even projects to show average power for a middle infielder. Defensively, he has great range and a strong arm, but may end up moving to second base because of the depth of shortstop talent in the system. Gibson’s ceiling is that of an above average, everyday, middle infielder, however he also possesses a high-floor, as he is a near certainty to end up no worse than a solid Major League utility player. Barley 20yo, Gibson will take his considerable skill set to the SAL to open 2010.

6) Jose Iglesias, SS -

While we had Iglesias rated among the Top 10 Latin American prospects available this past summer, we never expected either the $6.25MM bonus that the Red Sox gave him, or the standout debut he had in this fall’s AZFL. Iglesias is a defense-first shortstop, with amazing quickness and range, tremendous instincts, soft hands and a solid arm. The knock on him has always been his bat, which showed more in the AZFL than was expected. Iglesias will likely never have more than below average power, and lacks patience to draw many walks, but he makes good contact, with above average pitch recognition skills and above average speed. His upside is that of an average, every day, Major League shortstop—with premium defense, but more than likely will end up a tick below average offensively. Look for Iglesias to start 2010 in AA, and make his debut in Boston sometime in 2011.

7) Josh Reddick, RF (2009 – Power 46; First Base Rate 27; Discipline 47; Speed 37)

Reddick was somewhat of a victim of the Red Sox tendency to be a tad over aggressive in their promotion strategy, as he started 2009 off with a performance that earned him the #14 Performance score in the ESL, and then struggled mightily against the better pitching of AAA and the Majors. Reddick possesses above average power and speed skills with average contact and strike zone management skills. Defensively, he has the range to play CF, but has a phenomenal arm, that allows him to best fit in RF. On the downside, Reddick lacks any exceptional offensive skills, and was tremendously overmatched (36% strikeout rate) against AAA and Major League pitchers. Reddick’s ceiling is that of an average, everyday, Major League RF, but he will have to show more against better pitching. Look for Reddick to return to what promises to be a stacked ESL lineup to open 2010.

8) Junichi Tazawa, RHP (2009 – Dominance 65; Stamina 70; HRrate 45; Control 69)

Signed out of the Japanese Industrial League in 2008 for $3.3MM, Tazawa performed precisely as expected in his 2009 debut, posting the #16 Performance Score in the ESL before AAA and Major League promotions. The 23yo’s calling card is an extremely advanced four-pitch repertoire that features three potentially plus pitches, but lacks a true puchout offering. At 5’11”, 180lbs, there is little remaining projection for an extremely polished pitcher. While Tazawa possesses the ceiling of a back of the rotation starter, he may lack both the durability, and raw stuff to succeed in that role in the long-term and may become an exceptional middle relief pitcher. Tazawa will likely return to the AAA rotation in 2010, waiting for a Major League opportunity.

9) Anthony Rizzo, 1B (2009 – Power 67; First Base Rate 65; Discipline 52; Speed 39)

2009 was a comeback of the greatest kiond for Rizzo, after a nearly year-long battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Rizzo didn’t miss a beat, as he posted the #4 Performance Score in the SAL, before finishing the year with the #7 score in the CAR. Although it hasn’t yet produced many home runs, Rizzo shows above average power and on-base skills, with at least average strike zone management skills. Defensively, he rates as a plus defender at first base. The downside to Rizzo is that, at 6’3”, 220lbs, he isn’t very fast, and will likely end up with base-clogging speed. Additionally, while we expect his doubles power to evolve into home runs, he will have to demonstrate more power to be offensively successful at first base in the Major Leagues. With Lars Anderson, likely to open up in AA, expect Rizzo to return to the CAR to open 2010.

10) Reymond Fuentes, CF (2009 – Power 40; First Base Rate 46; Discipline 67; Speed 61)

Viewed as a likely second round pick for most of the spring, Fuentes shot up the draft boards with a couple of head-turning U.S. workouts the week before the draft. We had Fuentes as the #19 player on draft day and felt it a solid pick when Boston selected him at #28 overall. Plus-plus speed, and phenomenal center field defense are Fuentes’ calling cards. An aggressive, attacking, hitting style doesn’t allow for much patience, but he showed advanced pitch recognition and solid contact skills in his debut. While we don’t expect him to ever be a power threat, at 6’0”, 160lbs, there is significant projection in him as he matures and we expect his power skills to end up average. The downside is that Fuentes is probably the most ‘raw’ player drafted in June’s first round. He doesn’t appear to be tremendously instinctual, or possess a significant baseball IQ, but remember he is still just 18yo. Fuentes has a tremendous ceiling, but is also tremendously far from reaching it. Expect him to open 2010 in the SAL.

Grade B

11) Michael Bowden, RHP (2009 – Dominance 45; Stamina 66; HRrate 47; Control 45)

Bowden has basically found himself the odd-man out in Boston’s embarrassment of pitching riches, and has regressed over the past year. After a 2008 season that saw Bowden post the #3 and #4 Performance scores in the ESL and International League (INT), respectively, Bowden slipped to the #19 score in the INT this past season, and was hit hard in his brief Major League call-up. The biggest difference between the two seasons was Bowden’s 2009 struggle with control and keeping the ball down. The 23yo Bowden possesses a low-90s fastball and an above average change. Neither of his breaking pitches have evolved to Major League caliber at this juncture. Bowden’s upside remains that of a solid mid-rotation starter, but is bordering on be labeled with the 4A designation. While Bowden will compete for a bullpen spot this spring, he is likely to return for a third stint in the AAA rotation.

12) Jose Vinicio, SS -
We had Vinicio rated as one of the Top five Latin American talents this past signing period, as he was the best offensive shortstop that was likely to remain at that position. Vinicio rates as a plus defender, possessing sound instincts, soft hands, solid range and a strong arm. Offensively, he offers potential above average power and contact skills for the position. Though, like many young Latin American prospects, Vinicio is aggressive at the plate, he shows more patience than most. His 6’0”, 155lb, frame offers substantial projection. Although tremendously far off, Vinicio has a significant ceiling. He will make his debut this summer—likely in the GCL.

13) Che-Hsuan Lin, CF (2009 – Power 40; First Base Rate 74; Discipline 70; Speed 74)

Potentially Boston’s first legitimate Pacific Rim position prospect, Lin is a gifted athlete, and possesses some of the Minor League’s best center field defensive skills. With amazing instincts, seemingly boundless range, and a plus arm, Lin is unquestionably the best CF defender in an organization that is loaded with them. Unfortunately, his bat is not nearly as advanced. Although 2009 was his best offensive showing of his career, with the #6 Performance Score in the CAR, Lin still lacks a charge when making contact and has only 16 Home runs in nearly 1200 PAs. The good news is that is his only offensive weakness, as he makes consistent contact, combined with a patient approach at the plate that leads to solid on-base skills, and has exceptional strike zone management skills. Lin will begin 2010 in AA. While he has the potential to be a slightly below average Major League CF, offensively, and a plus defender, the Boston organization has too much talent at that position to envision Lin in their Major League lineup without additional power production.

14) David Renfroe, RHP -

We had Renfroe rated as a likely second round pick on draft day, and were not the least bit shocked that the Red Sox tabbed him in round three and signed him to first round money. A tremendous athlete, Renfroe possesses above average power and contact skills and projects to have solid plate discipline skills. Defensively, while he has good hands and a strong arm, he lacks speed and lateral quickness. Already at 6’3” and 200lbs, it is probable that Renfroe will outgrow shortstop and end up at third base. While his offensive skill set projects as a plus at shortstop, they may be a tad light for third base. Renfroe will debut this summer—likely in the NYP.

15) Stolmy Pimentel, RHP (2009 – Dominance 46; Stamina 66; HRrate 26; Control 63)

We have been watching Pimentel since he posted a top 15 Performance score in the DSL in 2007. He really caught our attention when he followed that up with the top Performance Score in the NYP, in his U.S. debut last season. With his first taste of full-season ball coming this year, Pimentel , posted a Top 25 score in the SAL, but we found it a bit lacking. With a low-90s fastball, a plus change, and a solid curve, Pimentel has all the makings of a mid-rotation starter. At 6’3”, 185lbs, there is still significant projection here. His control is solid. One of Pimentel’s downfalls last season was leaving his fastball up. He will have to improve upon this as he climbs the ladder. Barely 20yo, Pimentel should open 2010 in Hi-A.

16) Yamaico Navarro, SS (2009 – Power 64; First Base Rate 30; Discipline 64; Speed 51)

After posting the #17 Performance Score in the CAL in 2008, Navarro was poised for a big season in 2009, but broke his hammate bone early in the season. While not a significant long-term concern, that injury takes nearly a year to fully recover one’s strength, so we are given Navarro a pass on his disappointing 2009 performance. With above average power for the position, and solid plate discipline and contact skills, Navarro has the potential to be an above average offensive shortstop. Defensively, however, he lacks tremendous quickness, and may end up eventually moving to secondbase with the likes of Jose Iglesias around. Navarro should be fully healthy when he begins 2010 in AA.

17) Michael Almanzar, 3B (2009 – Power 37; First Base Rate 34; Discipline 43; Speed 31)

Almanzar was the highest profile Latin American signing of the summer when Boston inked him to a $1.5MM deal in 2007. While he posted a solid debut in the GCL, with the #7 Performance Score, Almanzar has struggled mightily against full-season pitching. Projected to eventually produce plus power, thus far Almanzar has produced only 7 home runs in nearly 650 professional at bats. His biggest problem thus far though has been an inability to make consistent contact, as he batted only .220 and struck out 24% of the time last season. Just barely 19yo, there is still plenty of time for Almanzar to mature and develop. Defensively he is likely destined for first base. Look for Almanzar to make a third appearance in the SAL in 2010—hoping for a much improved result.

Grade B-

18) Felix Doubront, LHP (2009 – Dominance 51; Stamina 62; HRrate 54; Control 41)

We first became aware of Doubront when he posted the best Performance Score in the VSL in 2005. A year later he followed that up with the #6 Performance Score in the GCL. 2007 was marred by a series of injuries, and was by far his most disappointing season, but he came back strong with a Top 10 score in the SAL in 2008 and the #17 score in the ESL last season. The point—Doubront has a track record of significant success, yet finds himself as a relative after thought in the deep Red Sox system. With a low-90s fastball and solid change, Doubront is two-thirds the way to becoming a solid #3/#4 starter. To achieve that, his curve will have to improve and he will need to tighten up his command. Look for Doubront to open 2010 as a 22yo, and realize that he would be ranked much higher in many systems.

19) Madison Younginer, RHP -

We had Younginer projected as a second round pick on draft day, and Boston was able to snare him in the 7th round, by paying him sandwich round money. Already possessing a mid-90s fastball, and a plus curve, he has the one-two punch that would make him a lights out closer. However, Boston intends to work on him with his change and keep him in the rotation where he has top of the rotation potential. Reports from instructional were extremely positive. The downside is that Younginer possesses unusual mechanics, and there were pre-draft whispers about makeup concerns. Sources that have weighed in with us, have also expressed the belief that his future lies in the bullpen. We will have a much better idea on things once he gets some game action this summer—likely in the NYP.

20) Tim Federowicz, C (2009 – Power 71; First Base Rate 34; Discipline 73; Speed 35)

Federowicz was considered a defense first catcher when the Red Sox selected him in the 7th round of the 2008 draft. However, Federowicz showed better than expected offensive skills last season, as he posted the #12 Performance score in the SAL and then a Top 20 Score in the CAR. Federowicz, doesn’t project for more than average power, on-base or plate discipline skills. While not a base-clogger, he doesn’t possess significant speed. Defensively, he has solid game management skills, a good arm, and decent movement. While there isn’t a tremendous upside here, Federowicz could become an average to slightly below, everyday, Major League backstop. A back-up role may be a more likely outcome. Expect Federowicz to return to Hi-A to begin the 2010 season.

21) Alex Wilson, RHP
(2009 – Dominance 72; Stamina 40; HRrate 73; Control 72)

After considering Wilson as a fringe first round prospect for much of the spring, some disappointing performances late caused him to fall to round two on our board—right where the Red Sox drafted him. While he didn’t get enough innings to qualify after signing, his 36 inning performance in the NYP would have ranked as one of the League’s top scores. Wilson’s plus slider is his best pitch, although he also has a low-90s fastball that can be a mid-90s offering in relief. He controls his pitches well and does a solid job of pitching down in the zone. While we felt Wilson profiles best as a back of the bullpen stud, Boston will send him to be part of the rotation in the CAR in 2010.

22) Luis Exposito, C (2009 – Power 63; First Base Rate 49; Discipline 39; Speed 39)
Exposito was thought to be a defense-first catcher when the Red Sox drafted him in 2005, but it is his offense that has been getting noticed the past two seasons. With above average power potential and one of the Minor’s better backstop arms, Exposito has the upside of an above average Major League catcher. Unfortunately, we remain skeptical of the likelihood, due to an over-aggressive approach at the plate that results in poor plate discipline and diminished contact ability. Additionally, his speed is below average even for the catching position. Look for Expositio to return to AA to begin the 2010 season.

23) Pete Hissey, CF (2009 – Power 29; First Base Rate 75; Discipline 48; Speed 71)

Hissey was the Red Sox 4th round pick in 2008, who they ended up signing for sandwich round money. Hissey possesses plus on-base and speed skills, and is a solid outfield defender, capable of playing any of the three positions. The downside is that Hissey is homerless through 424 professional ABs, and as of yet has shown little in the way of power. Additionally, his 22% strikeout rate is concerning for a hitter of his stature. We weren’t sold on the Hissey pick when it was made in 2008, and still remain skeptical. Nevertheless, Hissey’s tools require attention, as he just turned 20yo, and he will open 2010 in the CAR.

Grade C+ Prospects –

24) Ryan Lavarnway, C; 25) Kyle Weiland, RHP; 26) Will Middlebrooks, 3B; 27) Drake Britton, LHP; 28) Kendal Volz, RHP; 29) Chi-Hsien Chiang, DH; 30) Stephen Fife, RHP; 31) Chris McGuiness, 1B; 32) Ryan Pressley, RHP; 33) Oscar Tejeda, SS; 34) Brandon Jacobs, OF; 35) Raul Alcantara, RHP; 36) Manuel Rivera, LHP; 37) Alex Hassan, RF; 38) Roman Mendez, RHP; 39) Ryan Dent, 2B; 40) Jason Place, LF.

Grade C Prospects –

Aaron Bates; Anatanaer Batista; Chris Carter; Yeiper Castillo; Fabio Castro; Caleb Clay; Randy Consuerga; Keury de la Cruz; Jordan Flasher; Jeremy Hazelbaker; Miles Head; Brock Huntzinger; Jorge Jimenez; Richie Lentz; David Mailman; Leandro Marin; Adam Mills; Daniel Nava; Dennis Neuman; Yunior Ortega; Pedro Perez; Wilfred Pichardo; Eammon Portice; Dustin Richardson; Jason Richardson; Seth Schwindenhammer; Francisco Taveras; Jason Thompson; Lewis Urena; Mark Wagner; Shannon Wilkerson; Fabian Williamson.

Feel free to post any questions and or comments. We will try to answer them in our weekly Mailbag segment.

You can find an explanation of our grades here Diamond Futures Annual Prospect Rankings Series and an explanation of our 2009 Performance Scores here Do-It-Yourself - Understanding Performance Evaluation. The Performance scores represent the player’s performance relative to the leagues that they played in during the 2009 season. For additional information on our rankings methodology, see our recent Mailbag article here This Week's Mailbag - Prospect Rankings Questions.

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