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Boston Red Sox: Top 10 Prospects

General Manager: Theo Epstein
Farm Director: Mike Hazen
Scouting Director: Amiel Sawdaye

FanGraphs’ Top 10 Prospects:
(2009 Draft Picks/International Signees Not Included)

There are no can’t-miss, once-in-a-decade talents on this Top 10 list, but there are a number of players who have the opportunity to really explode in 2010. You also have to love the fact that all 10 players on the list were drafted or originally signed by the Red Sox organization. You can’t fake good scouting and development.

1. Casey Kelly, RHP, High-A
DOB: October 1989 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2008 1st round – Florida HS
MLB ETA: Mid-2012 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 88-93 mph fastball, plus curveball, change

The organization faced a difficult, and well-document, problem in ’09 when Kelly expressed a desire to hit and play shortstop. A compromise was made and the talented prospect spent the year as a two-way player. After hitting just .224/.305/.313 with a 29% strikeout rate in low-A, though, Kelly gave in and announced he will be a full-time pitcher in 2010. It’s a good thing, too, because the right-hander showed a lot of promise for a player whose heart was not 100% on the mound last season. In low-A ball, he allowed 32 hits in 48.1 innings, while showing outstanding control with a walk rate of just 1.68 BB/9. He also did not allow a home run while posting a FIP of 2.14. That number jumped a bit with his promotion to high-A (3.33) but Kelly still showed excellent control (1.35 BB/9) with a modest strikeout rate of 6.75 K/9. With just 46.2 innings of experience above low-A, Kelly should head back to high-A in 2010, but he could see double-A before the end of the season.

2. Ryan Westmoreland, OF, Short-Season
DOB: April 1990 Bats: L Throws: R
Signed: 2008 5th round – Rhode Island HS
MLB ETA: Late-2012 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

Westmoreland’s season came to a crashing halt when he broke his collar bone, but the outfielder solidified himself as the organization’s best hitter… in just 223 at-bats. The 19 year old hit .296/.401/.484 and showed good power potential with an ISO of .188. He also displayed patience at the plate with a walk rate of 14.2%, far exceeding what you’d expect from a player his age. His strikeout rate was a little high, but his future power output could eventually justify the number. Westmoreland was also a force on the base paths by stealing 19 bases in as many attempts. Sure it was short-season ball but a .427 wOBA is impressive no matter how you slice it.

3. Junichi Tazawa, RHP, Majors
DOB: June 1986 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2008 non-drafted international free agent (Japan)
MLB ETA: Mid-2010 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 2
Repertoire: 88-92 mph fastball, plus splitter, curveball, slider

Tazawa’s mad mix of pitches cut a swath through double-A line-ups but the Japanese import found the going a little tougher in triple-A and the Majors (albeit in a smaller sample size). The right-hander allowed just 80 hits in 98.0 innings in double-A, while also posting a strikeout rate of 8.08 K/9. He was also aided by solid control (2.39 BB/9) and some luck (.277 BABIP, 79.8 LOB%). In six MLB appearances, Tazawa allowed 43 hits in 25.1 innings and his strikeout rate dropped to just 4.62 K/9. His ground-ball rate in the Majors of 24.5% was ugly, and hitters had little trouble with his 90 mph fastball (-2.54 runs “above” average per 100 pitches). Despite the bump in the road, Tazawa is still learning, as well as adjusting to life in North America, so his potential remains high.

4. Josh Reddick, OF, Majors
DOB: February 1987 Bats: L Throws: R
Signed: 2006 17th round – Middle Georgia College
MLB ETA: Mid-2010 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 2

Reddick got off to a solid start in ’09 at double-A and hit .277/.352/.520 in 256 at-bats. He showed outstanding power with an ISO rate of .242. His base running, after nabbing 14 bases in 17 ties in ’08, was almost non-existent as he was successful just five times in 10 attempts. Reddick’s numbers were terrible in 18 triple-A games and poor in 27 MLB games. His walk rate was good in double-A at 10.5%, but it dropped to 7.6% in triple-A and 3.2% in the Majors. On the plus side, six of his 10 MLB hits were for extra bases (59 at-bats). Reddick will certainly receive more seasoning in triple-A in 2010 but he should be ready to compete for a full-time gig in 2011… if there’s an opportunity.

5. Lars Anderson, 1B, Double-A
DOB: September 1987 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2006 18th round – California HS
MLB ETA: Mid-2011 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

It was an ugly, ugly year for Anderson… and his struggles were well-documented. After hitting .316 in 41 double-A games in ’08, the first-base prospect spent the entire season at that level but hit just .233/.328/.345 with an ISO of .112 in 447 at-bats. There were a few good signs, including the fact that he maintained a solid walk rate (12.3%) and his strikeout rate did not skyrocket (25.5%, similar to his career norm – which admittedly is high to begin with). Anderson’s wOBA of .315 was .060 below his previous low of .374 at low-A in ’07. As a slow-footed player whose game requires plus power output, he needs to get that ground-ball rate up from 54.8%. Anderson will be just 22 for much of 2010, so he has time to turn things around.

6. Stolmy Pimentel, RHP, Low-A
DOB: February 1990 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2006 non-drafted international free agent (Dominican Republic)
MLB ETA: Mid-2012 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 88-92 mph fastball, plus change-up, curveball

Pimentel’s ’09 numbers do not wow. He allowed a lot of hits: 135 in 117.2 innings, but he put a lot of pitches in the strike zone (2.22 BB/9) at a level where players pretty much hack at everything. He also had some bad luck with a BABIP of .350. His strikeout rate was solid at 7.88 K/9 and his FIP was OK at 3.62. Pimentel’s ground-ball rate of 39.5% needs to improve if he’s going to survive the upper levels of the system. He turns 20 in February so time is on his side.

7. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, High-A
DOB: August 1989 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2007 6th round – Florida HS
MLB ETA: Mid-2012 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

Simply getting back to the baseball diamond after dealing with a cancer scare would have been impressive enough, but Rizzo went out and turned himself into one of the best prospects in the system. The first baseman hit .298/.365/.494 in 245 low-A at-bats before moving up to high-A where he hit .295/.371/.420. Rizzo’s power output dropped from .196 to .125 ISO with the move, but his walk rate improved (9.1 to 10.9%), as did his strikeout rate (24.5 to 19.5%). Rizzo, though, was aided by some nifty BABIPs of .364 and .354. Although he held his own against both right-handed and left-handed pitchers, his OPS was .862 against righties and just .721 against southpaws. He should open 2010 back in high-A but could move up to double-A as he prepares to breathe down Anderson’s neck.

8. Derrik Gibson, SS, Short-Season
DOB: December 1989 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2008 2nd round – Delaware HS
MLB ETA: Mid-2013 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

A personal favorite of mine, Gibson received his second straight year of short-season ball and looked over-matched in a brief 14-game trial in low-A ball. In short-season ball, Gibson hit .290/.395/.380 and had a .386 wOBA in 255 at-bats. He showed good patience for a future top-of-the-order MLB hitter with a walk rate of 12.9% and his strikeout rate was reasonable at 16.5%. He’s performed poorly against southpaws for two straight seasons (.566, .621 OPS). After nabbing 14 steals in as many tries in ’08, Gibson was successful in 28 of his 33 tries in ’09. Defensively, he’s expected to move off of shortstop, which takes a bite out of his value.

9. Ryan Kalish, OF, Double-A
DOB: March 1988 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2006 9th round – New Jersey HS
MLB ETA: Mid-2011 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

I’m a little more bearish on Kalish than a lot of evaluators because he has yet to do anything really spectacular in four seasons. The outfielder had a nice year in ’09 and he hit .304/.434/.513 in 115 high-A at-bats. Moved up to double-A, his numbers normalized a bit with a line of .271/.341/.440. At the senior level, he posted a walk rate of 9.6% and a strikeout rate of 22.3%, which is a tad high given his career power numbers. I will certainly jump on the Kalish train in 2010 if he can maintain a solid batting average while also at least equaling his ’09 power numbers. After stealing 21 bases in 27 attempts in ’09, he could develop into a 20-20 player in the Majors if everything clicks. With everything said, I wouldn’t be shocked if he broke out in a big way in 2010 and made me look foolish for doubting him.

10. Michael Bowden, RHP, Majors
DOB: September 1986 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2005 supplemental 1st round – Illinois HS
MLB ETA: Mid-2010 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 2
Repertoire: 88-92 mph fastball, plus curveball, change-up

The knock on Bowden is that he’s not flashy. But there is something to be said for consistent and reliable. Pitching at double-A or higher since ’07, Bowden has posted solid numbers, although his FIP broke 4.00 for the first time while pitching for triple-A (4.08). Even so, he took advantage of some luck (.262 BABIP) and allowed just 106 hits in 126.1 innings, while showing OK control (3.35 BB/9) and a modest strikeout rate (6.27 K/9). He’ll do himself a favor if he can get the ball down in the zone more often and increase his ground-ball rate from the 31.1% he posted in triple-A. Called up to Boston to eat up some innings in the bullpen, Bowden did not have much fun – or luck. His 9.56 ERA was softened by his 5.16 FIP and he posted a LOB% rate of 48.4.

Up Next: The Philadelphia Phillies