Sunday, June 27, 2010

Down on the Farm with the Red Sox - June 27

Last month, I looked at some Red Sox players who would be called up in the event of injury. Since that day, Josh Reddick, Daniel Nava, Felix Doubront, Angel Sanchez and Dustin Richardson have indeed made their debuts with the big club because of the plague-level maladies suffered by the Sox. Frankly, if you see any more injuries at the Major League level (I'm looking in your direction, Victor Martinez), then you'll probably just see the Sox swing some minor cash deals to pave over holes. The only other option in the minors at this point is rushing prospects like Jose Iglesias, Casey Kelly and Lars Anderson.

With that in mind, and since we're near the all-star break, I thought I'd take a look at how the Red Sox preseason top prospects are doing now at their respective levels. I've noted where they were on the Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America lists to start the season.

Ryan Westmoreland, outfielder
Rankings: BP #1, BA #1
Current Level: None

Well, if you haven't heard of Westmoreland's struggles, I imagine that you're not a Red Sox fan. He was diagnosed with a tumor on his brain stem, and underwent an operation on it in March. While it appeared successful, the severity of the operation means there is no guarantees about his future in life, nevermind baseball. I'm hoping the best for him, and you can read more about his progress back in an excellent Providence Journal article here.

Casey Kelly, pitcher
Rankings: BP #2, BA #1
Current Level: Portland, AA

Kelly has been inconsistent so far this year, which is surprising, since he agreed to focus on pitching instead of being a two-way player this year. (In previous years, Kelly also played shortstop once he hit his innings cap for pitching.) His overall ERA is 5.05 in 14 starts. Control is the big problem - He has gone from walking 1.5 batters per nine innings to 3.31 per nine this year. He is also giving up twice at many home runs. While this is a hiccup in his performance, he is still just 20, and he has minimal experience on the mound.

Josh Reddick, outfielder
Rankings: BP #3, BA #3
Current Level: Pawtucket, AAA

Reddick has been up to Boston twice because of injuries, and didn't really impress much there. After a demotion on June 25, he returned to Pawtucket, and he's 1-for-7 in two games. That hit was a home run, so that's good at least. BP's Kevin Goldstein said that he has a case of big league-itis, and his yearly line at Pawtucket has borne that out - a .215 average in 219 at-bats, with a .268 OBP and .370 slugging. He needs a strong second half to be seen as anything more than a fourth outfielder / emergency call-up now, since the next guy is hot on his heels...

Ryan Kalish, outfielder
Rankings: BP #4, BA #5
Current Level: Pawtucket, AAA

Kalish has played his way up to Pawtucket with a torrid streak at Portland. Assuming he doesn't get sent done, in 150 at-bats Kalish hit .293, with a .404 OBP and slugged .527. He was promoted to Pawtucket on June 1, but he's hit only .211 in 11 games. It isn't really cause for alarm yet though, as he spent a couple weeks on the Triple A disabled list because of a hip flexor issue. While he still needs to prove himself in Pawtucket, if he hits like he did in Portland, he probably makes Ellsbury or J.D. Drew expendable.

Anthony Rizzo, first base
Rankings: BP #5, BA #8
Current Level: Portland, AA

Rizzo is currently at Portland, although I'm not entirely sure why. In 29 games and 117 at-bats with Salem, he could only manage a .248 average, and a decent but not great slugging of .479. Those numbers have plummeted in Portland, which is generally viewed as a pitcher's park, to a slash line of 244 / 288 / 406. To be a decent first base prospect, you have to mash the #%@! out of the ball, and Rizzo is currently like a powerless Adam Dunn at the plate. He's averaging a strikeout a game so far this year.

Jose Iglesias, shortstop
Rankings: BP #6, BA #9
Current Level: Portland, AA

The rap on Iglesias coming into this season was that while he was the second coming of Alex Gonzalez or Orlando Cabrera with the glove, his offense left a lot to be desire. He's doing the best to dispel concerns about his bat though, as he is smoking the ball at Portland. He's hitting .306, and while he only has five walks and no homers, the average alone makes him an asset at shortstop. If this list was redone, he'd probably be vying for the #1 prospect honor with Kalish. With Marco Scutaro hitting well in Boston and signed through 2011, Iglesias can be left in the minors for now to solidify his progress at the plate.

Junichi Tazawa, pitcher
Rankings: BP #7, BA #6
Current Level: None

Tazawa had Tommy John surgery on his arm before the season began, and thus, he won't pitch at all this year. His upside looked to be more of a #2 or #3 starter, not a dominant ace, so the surgery probably knocks him down a spot or two from that peak.

Michael Bowden, pitcher
Rankings: BP #8, BA NR
Current Level: Pawtucket

Remember Abe Alvarez? He was a finesse lefty who threw strikes for Pawtucket in three full seasons with them, but he only made one Major League start and four appearances. He was finally cut from Pawtucket in 2008, and he hasn't resurfaced since then. He was always on the fringe for an emergency start in Boston, but he didn't really have overpowering stuff. (Dear Michael Bowden: You might want to study up on ole Abe's career, and ask for your release as soon as you can. In a pitching-poor organization like Kansas City or Houston, you would have already made a dozen or so Major League starts by now.)

Lars Anderson, first base
Rankings: BP #9, BA #4
Current Level: Pawtucket

Anderson was seen as a great prospect following a 2008 season where he hit 317 / 417 / 517, but since then, some injuries in 2009 really hurt his prospect status. He has recovered a bit this year, hitting .355 in 17 games with Portland to force a promotion to Pawtucket. So far though, he hasn't been able to solve Triple A pitching, hitting just .210 in 51 games and 176 at-bats. On the plus side, he has drawn 21 walks, which has elevated his OBP to .307. Unfortunately, he's not hitting for much power, with a slugging of .358. While his prospect status has been revived this year, he needs to start hitting at Pawtucket to be seen as anything more than a bench bat.

Reymond Fuentes, center field
Rankings: BP #10, BA #7
Current Level: Greenville

Fuentes is essentially Ellsbury v2.0, although this doesn't necessarily mean he is an improvement on the original model. In his first full season, he's batting .273, but his OBP is only .325. He has just 10 walks in 227 at-bats, and a slugging of .396, so he needs to work on taking pitches to get something he can mash. His speed isn't in question though - He has 27 steals and has only been caught once. Assuming he can maintain his average as he moves up the chain, he projects as an average center fielder because of his insane stolen base ability, which is what Ellsbury is now as well.

Derrik Gibson, second / short
Rankings: BP #11, BA #10
Current Level: Greenville

In 2008 and 2009, Gibson flashed an extreme eye, with more than 100 points of on-base solely from walks. That has dissipated a bit though in Greenville, as (I'm assuming) pitchers challenge him directly more. As a result, he's still hitting for little average (.239) without the walks to inflate his OBP (.308). He still isn't hitting for any power, as his slugging is a paltry .307, so it looks like he'll be stuck with the Drive until he can hit some of his own. (Ha ha, see what I did there? Priceless, I know.)

David Renfroe, pitcher / third
Rankings: BP #12, BA NR
Current Level: Lowell

Renfroe's first professional season is this year, and so far, it has been rough for the righty at the plate. He's only played nine games and has just 36 at-bats, and only has seven hits and 11 strikeouts. None of the hits have been for extra bases, which is a bit of a disappointment, considering that Renfroe is listed at 6'3" and 200 pounds. He was a high school pitching prospect as well, so there is some who think he might also give that a go, but so far he's only played in the field. Small sample size applies, but so far, Renfroe isn't doing much to prove he deserved the big bonus he got to sign for the Sox.

Alex Wilson, pitcher
Rankings: BP #13, BA NR
Current Level: Portland

Although he's only in his second professional season, Wilson is already at Portland because he's 23 and dominated Salem earlier this year. In 11 starts and 55 innings there, he struck out 50 and only walked 15. While Prospectus thinks his future is as a reliever, the Sox are letting him start for now. He needs to build on his success at Salem with Portland. His overall line of a 6.28 ERA is deceptive - He got shelled for seven runs in his first start, but in his two starts since then, he's given up three earned runs in 11 innings. Stamina is definitely a concern, since he didn't make it past the sixth in either start.

Stolmy Pimental, pitcher
Rankings: BP #14, BA NR
Current Level: Salem

Pimental hasn't excelled so far this year, continuing a trend of disappointing performances as he has moved up the Red Sox chain. He has gone from a 2.90 ERA in 2007 to 3.14 in 2008, 3.82 in 2009 and 4.54 this year. His strikeout rate has fell and walk rate risen along the way, suggesting that he's no longer a starting pitching prospect without a significant breakout.

Che-Hsuan Lin, left field
Rankings: BP #15, BA NR
Current Level: Portland

Speaking of continuing trends, Lin still isn't hitting for nearly enough power in the minors to be seen as a viable corner outfielder in the majors. While his on-base is 100 points higher than his average (.261 vs. .366) thanks to a good batting eye, his slugging is a paltry .310. He either needs to move to shortstop or bat .300 to be a viable option in the majors. Lin doesn't add enough on the basepaths (seven steals vs. nine caught stealing) to make up for his lack of power in a corner, especially with Kalish ahead of him on the depth chart.

The old prospector photo is from here.

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