The Red Sox organization has a funny system… There are a number of top prospects in Double-A and Triple-A, as well as some very interesting names in short-season ball and the rookie league. The two A-ball teams, though, don’t have a whole lot of obvious talent.
If it were not for the Red Sox’ strong starting-pitcher depth, Michael Bowden would probably be opening the year in the Major Leagues. The added time in Triple-A should not hurt him though, considering he spent just 40 innings there last year (as well as five in the Majors). The right-hander spent most of the year in Double-A, where he allowed 72 hits in 104.1 innings of work and posted rates of 2.07 BB/9 and 8.71 K/9. Bowden is not the type of pitcher who will put up a lot of flashy strikeout numbers but he knows how to pitch and should be a reliable No. 3 starter in the Majors. His repertoire includes an 88-93 mph fastball, curveball and change-up.
The story of Daniel Bard may be one of the reasons why the Red Sox organization is no longer associated with High-A ball Lancaster, which is an extreme hitter’s park. Bard’s entire 2007 season was ruined after he was hit around while playing for the minor league club and posted a 10.17 ERA. Moved to the bullpen in 2008 and kept clear of Lancaster, he thrived. Bard, 23, began the year in A-ball and allowed just 12 hits in 28 innings of work with a strikeout rate of 13.82 K/9. The organization then jumped him over High-A ball and challenged him in Double-A, where he allowed 30 hits in 49.2 innings with rates of 4.71 BB/9 and 11.60 K/9. Bard’s control still needs a lot of work and he gets away with throwing one pitch most of the time: a dominating fastball that can hit triple-digits. He also has a slider.
Lars Anderson is the club’s top prospect and he could be knocking on the big-league door by mid-2009. The former 18th-round pick out of high school was stolen by the Red Sox after he was viewed as a first- or second-round talent but fell due to signability concerns. The 21-year-old first baseman has had no trouble adjusting to pro ball with a career line of .304/.404/.480 in two years. Last season, he split the year between High-A and Double-A. At the higher of the two levels, Anderson hit .316/.436/.526 with five home runs in 133 at-bats. He had an impressive walk rate of 17.9 BB%, but struck out at a rate of 32.3 K%. He’ll likely open 2009 back in Double-A.
Josh Reddick’s results are catching up to his potential and athletic ability. The 22-year-old left fielder played at three levels in 2008 and topped out in Double-A, where he struggled by hitting just .214 in 117 at-bats. He spent most of the season in High-A ball where he hit .343/.375/.593 with 17 homers and nine stolen bases in 312 at-bats. In total, Reddick hit 23 homers and stole 14 bases. He’ll likely return to Double-A in 2009 where he’ll attempt to curb his aggressive nature at the plate, which leads to low walk totals. On the plus side, he keeps the strikeouts down because he makes good, consistent contact. Defensively, he has a canon for an arm, which makes right field his best position.
There is not a whole lot known about Junichi Tazawa and what he’ll bring to the table in 2009. The Japanese amateur import will likely start his pro career in Double-A after a solid showing in spring training. He allowed just five hits and one walk in nine innings, while striking out 10. His repertoire includes an 88-93 mph fastball, plus splitter, slider and curveball.
The Red Sox system has produced a number of key middle infield prospects in recent years (Hanley Ramirez, anyone?) and Yamaico Navarro is one more name to remember. The 21-year-old Dominican had a breakthrough 2008 season and he split the year between two A-ball affiliates. His numbers in Lancaster were helped by the good hitting environment and he hit .348/.393/.508 with four home runs as well as rates of 6.2 BB% and 16.6 K% in 181 at-bats. Navarro is also a good fielder and should have no problem staying at shortstop.
Stolmy Pimentel was considered advanced enough by the Sox to go directly to short-season ball in his North American debut in 2008. He had a solid season by allowing 51 hits in 63 innings of work. He also posted rates of 2.43 BB/9 and 8.71 K/9. Home runs were a bit of a problem and he allowed seven of them (1.00 HR/9). The right-hander has an 88-92 mph fastball, plus change-up and developing curveball. Pimentel is just 19 years old.
Casey Kelly was a first-round draft pick in 2008 out of a Florida high school. The two-way player (SS and RHP) hit .173/.229/.255 in 98 rookie ball at-bats and .344 in 32 short-season at-bats in his debut. Kelly did not pitch last year but he will do both in 2009 as a compromise. Kelly prefers to play the field, while the organization likes his power arm. His repertoire includes an 87-91 mph fastball, curveball and developing change-up. He would likely move quicker through the system if he committed to playing just one position but his story will be an interesting one to read about in 2009.
Michael Almanzar, like Kelly, is the son of a former Major League Baseball player. He was signed out of the Dominican Republic to a huge contract and had a nice North American debut as a 17 year old. He hit .348/.414/.472 with one home runs in 89 rookie ball at-bats. Obviously too advanced for the league, Almanzar moved up to A-ball where he hit just .207/.238/.314 in 140 at-bats. The third baseman should return to A-ball in 2009 and will probably spend the entire season there.
Like Almanzar, Derrik Gibson had no problems hitting rookie-ball pitchers in 2008. He batted .309/.411/.394 with 14 steals in 94 at-bats. Moved up to short-season ball, the right-handed hitting shortstop hit just .086 in 35 at-bats. The most impressive part about the 19 year old is that he embraces the walk as a means of getting on base to utilize his plus-plus speed. He posted a walk rate of 13.0 BB% in rookie ball.
Ryan Westmoreland did not sign in time to make his pro debut during the regular season in 2008. He signed a seven-figure contract as a fifth-round draft pick out of high school, who had borderline first-round talent but a strong commitment to college. The 18-year-old prospect has an outside shot of beginning the year in A-ball.
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