The Boston Red Sox organization is one of the most aggressive teams in the Majors in terms of handing out above-slot deals to draft picks. During the three drafts spanning 2007-09, the club signed a Major League high 16 players to above-slot deals (outside the Top 3 rounds).
As a lover of everything prospects, I applaud this approach and even encourage it for organizations with strong scouting staffs. But how well have the multi-million dollar investments worked out for the Red Sox organization? Let’s have a look.
* For the sake of this article, I am focusing on over-slot deals for $200,000 or more.
7th round – Madison Younginer, RHP, S.C. HS ($975,000)
Challenged with an assignment to the New York-Penn League for his first taste of pro ball in 2010, the 19-year-old hurler currently has a 7.60 ERA (4.84 FIP) in 23.2 innings. He’s struggled a bit with his control but he’s shown a nice ground-ball rate at 59%. In the low minors, high ground-ball rates can hurt pitchers with poor defenses behind them (as well as poorly maintained fields).
9th round – Kendal Volz, RHP, Baylor U ($550,000)
At 22, Volz is on the old side for low-A and he’s not exactly dominating the league. The right-hander has a 4.11 ERA (3.74 FIP) in 81.0 innings of work. He’s given up 92 hits and struck out just 62 batters with an average-ish ground-ball rate at 42%. Volz has walked just eight batters, which suggests he has good control but perhaps poor command of his pitches in the strike zone, which has been hurting him against the overly aggressive young hitters in the low minors.
10th round – Brandon Jacobs, OF, Georgia HS ($750,000)
Another teenager assigned to the New York-Penn League, Jacobs is holding his own with a triple-slash line of .276/.333/.402 in 87 at-bats. He has 28 strikeouts in 24 games. The Sox stole him away from Auburn’s football program and the results have been encouraging so far, even if he has yet to truly display his raw power potential.
11th round – Jason Thompson, SS, Tenn HS ($300,000)
Known for having good speed, Thompson has attempted just three steals in 17 GCL games. The switch-hitter is batting .208/.203/.319 in 72 at-bats. For a player that profiles as a No. 1 or 2 hitter, it’s not a good sign to see a goose-egg in the walk column.
26th round – Miles Head, 3B, Georgia HS ($335,000)
Head managed to get 10 games of pro experience in during the ’09 season after signing and he moved up from the GCL to the New York-Penn League for 2010. He’s currently hitting .275/.381/.377 in 69 at-bats. Head is showing a pretty good eye at the plate with 12 walks to 10 strikeouts. Considered a very good amateur hitter, the knock on Head was a bad body and poor defense at the hot corner. The infielder has moved over to first base in ’10 so he’ll need to start showing some more power.
4th round – Pete Hissey, OF, Pennsylvania HS ($1 million)
It’s been a step-by-step ascent for Hissey, who has moved up one level each season since signing. The outfielder is not exactly tearing the Carolina League apart by hitting .245/.322/.329 in 319 at-bats. He’s shown limited power throughout his career but 20+ stolen base ability. Hissey needs to get on base a little more consistently.
5th round – Ryan Westmoreland, OF, R.I. HS ($2 million)
We probably all know the story of Westmoreland by now. Recovering from brain surgery, the former top prospect is reportedly hitting off of a tee in the hopes of resuming regular baseball activity in the future.
6th round – Ryan Lavarnway, C, Yale U ($325,000)
The decision to pay Lavarnway is looking pretty smart. The former Yale student is currently hitting .289/.392/.487 in 304 at-bats and showed a pretty good stick in low-A in ’09, as well. After hitting 24 homers last year, Lavarnway is on pace to hit 20+ homers yet again. Behind the dish, he’s thrown out 36% of base runners, but he’s still working on his receiving skills.
13th round – Tyler Wilson, RHP, Georgia HS ($300,000)
Wilson wasn’t on a lot of teams’ radars as a top pick, but the club obviously liked his solid pitcher’s frame, which is currently 6-5, 190 lbs. Wilson is pitching in the New York-Penn League and has a 4.84 ERA (4.38 FIP) with 26 hits allowed in 22.1 innings.
27th round – Hunter Cervenka, LHP, Texas HS ($350,000)
Cervenka has joined Wilson in the Spinners rotation. The lefty showed some command issues in 11 ’09 appearances by walking 26 batters in 22.1 innings. He’s made adjustments in ’10 with just 11 walks in 21.0 innings. Cervenka currently has a 4.29 ERA (4.38 FIP).
35th round – Carson Blair, SS, Texas HS ($200,000)
Since signing, Blair has moved from shortstop to catcher. After posting a .608 OPS in the Gulf Coast League in ’09, he was moved up to the New York-Penn League but he appeared in just one game before hitting the disabled list. The thumb injury required surgery, according to SoxProspects.com.
5th round – Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Texas HS ($925,000)
Slow and easy. Middlebrooks hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, but he’s shown improvements in each and every pro season. The third baseman is currently hitting .293/.353/.455 in 297 at-bats. He’s showing better power in ’10 (.162 ISO) but he’s still striking out a lot (26% K rate). Defensively, Middlebrooks is showing better range this season but he’s made his fair share of errors.
6th round – Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Florida HS ($325,000)
Like Westmoreland, Rizzo has faced some serious health issues since turning pro. His cancer is in remission, though, and the first baseman had a breakout year in ’09. Unfortunately, despite playing at two levels in ’10, he’s hitting just .246/.310/.447 combined between high-A and double-A. His OBP has slipped to just .297 in double-A, thanks in part to 17 walks in 225 at-bats.
7th round – David Mailman, 1B, N.C. HS ($550,000)
Mailman received more cash from the Sox to walk away from a college commitment than Rizzo did, but the former has yet to have the same success in pro ball. Mailman has basically hit the wall in high-A. In 199 at-bats in ’09, he hit just .186/.261/.221. In ’10, he was hitting just .130/.264/.273 in 77 at-bats before being sidelined by a broken wrist.
16th round – Austin Bailey, RHP, Alabama HS ($285,000)
A disappointing story, Bailey injured his shoulder in his first pro start in 2008 and hasn’t pitched since. He was then suspended in ’09 and released earlier this year.
23rd round – Drake Britton, LHP, Texas HS ($700,000)
On to happier news. Britton has been a real find for the organization. After spending parts of two seasons in short-season ball thanks to Tommy John surgery, the lefty moved up to low-A in ’10 and has posted a 3.15 ERA (3.26 FIP) in 34.1 innings and 12 starts. His innings are being closely monitored as he rebounds from the injury but he’s flashed good fastball velocity in his return.
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