Boston Red Sox: Top 15 Prospects
Yes, welcome back to the top 15 prospects series. I have been looking into the 2009 amateur draft, and got motivated to get back on the prospect series. I would like to note that all of my rankings were made many months ago. So, if players have since left the organization, i.e. the rule 5 draft, I may not be on the ups of that. The ages of some players may also be a year off, as I did this late last year, and do not wish to look up the birthdates of a couple hundred players. However, I will do my best. I also have no idea how most of the players are doing this spring. This series is a continuation of the prospect series I started last October. So, it is each team’s top prospects, following the 2008 season, if you get what I mean by my wording. The series is targeted more towards casual fans, than hardcore prospect followers. I also value experience experienced, low upside prospects. MLL = minor league level last season – A+ is a high A team, A- is a low A team, A (no +/-) means the prospect played at both high A and low A levels last season, “a” is short season A league, and R is rookie league. Something else of note, that you will notice, is that I like to stay pretty objective and “professional” when writing capsules but, will break out of character, and display my own thoughts, and personality as well, especially when in parentheses. Enjoy, and please comment your thoughts.
15. Che-Hsuan Lin Age: 20 MLL: A-
Lin won out this spot amongst some tough competition, guys like Oscar Tejada, Anthony Rizzo, Felix DuBront, and Chris Carter will not be found on this list. Anyways, Lin’s greatest strengths are on defense, as he possesses the glove, range, and strong arm of a big league centerfielder. Lin has good speed, and is capable of stealing a bag or thirty three, which is how many he stole in 2008. Lin has struggled with his bat, he hit .249 with a .359 SLG%, his on base percentage however, was a respectable .342, thanks to good plate discipline. Lin wins out the last spot on this list, because of his excellent defensive ability, and, even though his offense wasn’t great, it was still better than Oscar Tejada’s. I also like Lin’s advanced plate discipline, and speed, and he has time to develop more power, his 27% XBH% needs to get hiked up a bit. It’s too early to tell if Lin can be a starter, or defensive specialist backup, that will depend on the growth of his bat.
14. Kyle Weiland RHSP Age: 22 MLL: a
Weiland was a closer in college but, the Red Sox have decided to stretch him out as a starter. The transition to starter has gone well, as Weiland pitched a total of 90 pitches between college and the minors. In 60 minor league innings he posted a 1.50 ERA and struck out 68 batters. Weiland’s fastball reaches 95 mph; it has downward movement causing groundballs. The other two pitches are a slider with a slurvy movement, and a solid changeup. It will be interesting to see how many innings Weiland will be able to throw in his first season as a starter. Weiland has the tools to become a starter in the big leagues, and he is good thus far, results wise.
13. Yamacio Navarro SS Age: 21 MLL: A
Navarro is the second of four international prospects on this list. He showed good hitting ability in 2008, with a .304 batting average and .359 on base percentage. He added a good SLG% of .447, and hit 11 homeruns. However, Navarro’s XBH% was a low 29%. With more experience Navarro should develop average power, and possibly better than average contact skills. One part of his offensive game that needs his work is his plate discipline, as he struck out 103 times, with a K: BB ratio of over 2:1 (103 Ks to 41 BBs). Navarro has average speed but, giving him the ability to steal a few. Navarro is defensively sound, with adequate range for short, and an above average to plus arm. Navarro also has some versatility, with the ability, and experience to play second and third as well. Navarro’s ceiling is an above average shortstop on offense, and average or better defensively, I believe his floor is as a big league utility player, and good bat off the bench. This season will be big for Navarro as he faces the AA test.
12. Bryan Price RHSP Age: 22 MLL: a
Price was a supplemental first round pick in the 2008 draft. Like Weiland, he was a reliever in college but, the Red Sox will try to stretch him into a starter for the time being. Price’s repertoire includes five pitches. He throws his fastball in the low-mid 90s, and was able to reach high 90s in relief; his 2-seamer is thrown in the high 80s to low 90s. Price’s second plus pitch is a slider, he throws in the mid 80s. The other two pitches are his changeup and a curveball that shows some promise. Price commands his pitches well for the most part. In 40 innings last summer Price recorded an ERA of 3.83, striking out 43 batters. Price certainly has the stuff to become a starter in the big leagues but, it is too early to get specific; a number three starter is certainly a possibility, especially if his curveball becomes a plus pitch. Again, like Weiland, Price’s durability over the course of a full season (starting) is something to watch out for.
11. George Kottaras C Age: 25 MLL: AAA
First of all, it seems that Kottaras has the backup catcher position under wraps for the Red Sox. That being said he is a very solid catching prospect (and soon to be rookie). Kottaras’ best tool is his above average power. He hit 22 homeruns in 2008, he added a good .457 SLG%, and very good 42% XBH%. Kottaras also boasts pretty good plate discipline walking 64 times last season. Kottaras has been all over with his batting average over the years, and last season he hit .243, however, because of his ability to take walks, Kottaras did not have a problem getting on base, his on base percentage was .348, not a great number but, it will not hurt the team when he’s batting sixth or lower. He also strikes out quite a bit, 110 times in 2008 but, again, I am not worried too much about his ability to get on base, especially with his power. Kottaras can struggle on defense, although he does a great job blocking pitches, and he has a hard time throwing runners out. Kottaras does have experience catching knucklers, which certainly helped him when the backup/Wakefield catcher job. Kottaras may not have the highest of upsides but, I am very high on him. If he can manage on defense, and hit for a solid average, I think Kottaras can be an average offensively minded catcher, with above average power. I do not think his downside is any less than a decent backup, and bat off the bench.
10. Stolmy Pimentel RHSP Age 19 MLL: a
At only nineteen Pimentel put up solid numbers in the New York – Penn league. He pitched 63 innings with an ERA of 3.14 ERA, striking out 61 batters. He has good command and movement with his fastball but, he has only average velocity (88-92 mph). Pimentel has a good feel for his changeup, and throws it in the 78 to 82 range. His curveball has 12-6 movement, and has the chance to be a plus pitch, its average right now. Although it’s early in his career, and Pimentel will likely play his first full season this year, he could be a middle of the rotation starter.
9. Michael Almanzar 3B Age: 18 MLL: A-/R
Athletic and toolsy with limited playing experience; Almanzar must be a high upside Latin American player. Almanzar saw moderate success in rookie league last season before struggling in the South Atlantic League, in all he hit .262, with a .306 OBP, and .376 SLG%. Almanzar added a lousy 28% XBH%, and had a SO to BB ratio of 4:1. Summed up, he is raw offensively and defensively for that matter. Lucky for Almanzar and the Red Sox, he has all the tools and projection to be a very good player. His power grades as above average, as does his arm, while everything else seems to be average, except for below average speed. I am going to wait till he plays a full season before I say anything about just how good he can be.
8. Ryan Westmoreland OF Age: 18 MLL: NA
Westmoreland is not the type of player I usually rank high but, scouting reports are too high in his case. Ryan had labrum surgery late last year, and will likely be out till the summer. Still all his tools grade as potentially above average, including a plus arm. Westmoreland will have no problem being a top centerfielder on defense, and also possesses good plate discipline for his age. It’s tough to say anything else before he plays a game professionally, depending on his success in a shortened season he could jump into the top five though.
7. Ryan Kalish OF Age: 20 MLL: A
I actually had Kalish sixth until I wrote the blurb on Casey Kelly, I convinced myself to bump him ahead of Kalish… I must be a good persuader. Anyways, Kalish had mixed success in 2008, he hit .273, with a .365 OBP, and only a .363 SLG%. Kalish’s poor power numbers showed up across the board, as he hit only five homeruns over the course of the season, and hit just a 24% XBH%. Kalish did display good plate discipline, he had a K: BB of 1.5 to 1 (99 SOs to 61 BBs). Kalish also has above average speed, and stole 19 SBs last season. He is a good defender in center and has great range, and an average to above average arm. Kalish has tremendous upside as a top of the lineup batter. More power could come, as Kalish is still only 20. He will likely play most of the season in AA.
6. Casey Kelly RHP/SS Age: 19 MLL: a
Kelly was Boston’s first round pick last June. Coming into the draft he was highly touted as both a pitcher and shortstop. He played shortstop in short season A ball after signing but, Kelly will start the 2009 season as a pitcher. After Kelly pitches 100 innings he will return to the field as a shortstop. This new development makes Kelly a very interesting prospect. He could become a good shortstop with power, or a starting pitcher with a better than average pitches. After signing, Kelly hit .215 with only a .255 OBP, he showed good power, hitting a 49% XBH%. His plate discipline was bad however; he struck out 42 times in 130 at-bats, while walking only 6 times. Kelly is very athletic, possessing plus range and a plus arm. He should develop into an at least average defensive shortstop but, he may grow too big for the position, he is already 6-3/6-4 and 205ish. He has good power but, he has to work on making contact and his plate discipline. On the mound Kelly throws an average fastball in the 88 to 92 mph range, and the pitch has good sink. His fastball velocity should rise as he focuses on pitching, he has plenty of projection. His curveball is a 12-6er and is an above average pitch; his changeup is average at least right now. As stated before Kelly has a high upside as either a shortstop or pitcher, and the Red Sox are going to look into both options for now, we’ll see how he is doing at both positions at the end of the year.
5. Nick Hagadone LHSP Age: 22 MLL: A-
Hagadone was the Red Sox’ first pick in 2007, he was a college reliever (most of the time) but, the Red Sox have made him starter, although it would not be surprising if Hagadone ended up as a reliever before establishing a career in the majors. Before moving on, I should mention that Hagadone underwent Tommy John surgery last June but, his recovering has been going well, and he hopes to be pitching in games by June or May. He throws his fastball in the low-mid 90s with good movement. He also throws an above average to plus power slider in the low 80s, and a getting to average changeup in the low 80s. Hagadone’s stuff translates to him being a number two or three starter, and he has had success on the mound, when healthy. However, there is still talk of Hagadone becoming a reliever (how do you crack a rotation already consisting of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Dice K with Clay Buchholz and Justin Masterson floating around, not mentioning Michael Bowden?), and we have yet to see how Hagadone returns from injury.
4. Daniel Bard RHRP Age: 23 MLL: AA/A-
Bard pitched in 78 innings in 2008, all in relief; he struck out 107 batters in that time, recording an ERA of 1.51. As you can tell from the numbers, Bard is a very special reliever, which will give Boston two of those as early as this summer. Bard throws his fastball in the mid to high 90s, reaching triple digits; the pitch has a lot of movement on it. He also throws a plus slider, which has almost sluve-like movement, there’s a curveball and changeup in his repertoire as well but, Bard doesn’t have to throw those two pitches in relief. As I said, Bard will be a special reliever; it just may not be as a closer, because Papelbon is there.
3. Josh Reddick OF Age: 21 MLL: AA/A
Reddick is a guy a like, his scouting reports are solid, and his stats back them up beautifully. In 2008 he hit .311 with a .356 OBP. His power was great, and can be found in three places: he hit a .544 SLG%, 23 homeruns, and a solid XBH% of 36%. Reddick lacks plate discipline, his SO: BB rate was about 2.5 SOs to BB. Reddick has good speed, and used it to steal 14 bases last year. He is an above average outfielder with the ability to play center or a corner, and he possesses a plus arm. Unlike many centerfield prospects, Reddick’s value would not dissipate with a permanent move to right field, as he has above average power. Reddick has the ability to become an above average outfielder in the majors but, not an elite outfielder.
2. Michael Bowden RHSP Age: 22 MLL: AAA/AA
Bowden throws his fastball in the low 90s. He also throws an above average hard 12-6 curve in the mid 70s, and an above average circle change in the low 80s. He complements his stuff with excellent control of all three pitches. In the minors last year he pitched 144 innings, posting a 2.62 ERA, and striking out 130 batters. He also had success in stints in Boston. Bowden is major league ready but, there isn’t a place for him in the big league rotation, which means Michael is either on his way to the bullpen, like Justin Masterson, bouncing back-and-forth between AAA and the majors regardless of his performance, like Clay Buchholz, or headed out of the organization. Bowden would likely develop into a mid rotation starter if given a chance, and could be a low-end number two starter.
1. Lars Anderson 1B Age: 21 MLL: AA/A+
There is some debate as to whether Anderson is just an above average first basemen, or if he is an All Star at the position. I tend to agree with the latter. In 2008 he hit .317, with a .417 OBP, and .517 SLG%. He also hit 18 homeruns, and an XBH% of 37%. Like most power hitters Anderson does strike out a lot, 107 times in 2008 but, he also drew a lot walks, 75. Anderson’s hitting numbers are all there, and his power should even rise, as he continues to gain experience. Anderson is at least average defensively, and works hard at improving, he is fairly athletic for a first basemen. I see Anderson as a .300BA/.400BP guy, with 30 homerun potential. Now seems as a good a time as any to say that a hitter usually does not peak until 27, which is well known for those of you who play fantasy baseball. So, when I say Anderson has 30 homerun potential, he likely will not reach that number for awhile, even if he plays in the majors everyday next year at 22.
Final Thoughts: The Red Sox’ list has two good things going for it, check that, three: 1. they have great talent at the top in Anderson and Bowden 2.They have a very deep list; all fifteen prospects are quality prospects 3. Their list is littered with diversity. They have a solid prospect covering each position, a good mix of pitchers and hitters, and they also have a good mix of near ready prospects, and high upside guys who are a long way from the majors. The biggest strength of Red Sox’ group of ‘top prospects’ is their diversity and pitching. The Red Sox already have Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Dice K as locks in their rotation for the foreseeable future, not including Clay Buchholz (who would rank second after Lars Anderson if he still qualified for this list), and currently the Red Sox have Brad Penny, John Smoltz, and Tim Wakefield for at least a year, possibly two. Bowden is ready to start in the majors, Justin Masterson would be a solid starter, and Hagadone, Price, Weiland, and Pimentel (not including the versatile Casey Kelly) are well on their way to becoming starting options in the next 2-3 years. The Red Sox also will have two of the best relievers in baseball in Papelbon and Bard. Let’s speculate the entire pitching staff for the end of the 2011 season, five-man-rotation: Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Dice K, Buchholz, Bowden, and Justin Masterson, the seven in the bullpen: Papelbon, Bard, Hideki Okajima, Nick Hagadone, Bryan Price, Kyle Weiland, and Junichi Tazawa (who I did not include on my list, he is a good enough prospect but, when I created the list way back when, I didn’t know much about him, and decided to stick with what I know). I want to know how the Yankees (or anyone else) expect(s) to hit against a pitching staff like that.
Next Up: The Yankees