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Red Sox Jose Vinicio’s Value On The Upswing

As if the Boston Red Sox really needed to add another shortstop prospect to their impressive collection, Jose Vinicio made a successful, but injury shortened full season debut in Greenville. At 18, the Dominican product posted a .281/.324/.375 triple slash line at a time when Vinicio should have been completely overwhelmed due to an overall lack of strength. With a strong hit tool and the athleticism to become a plus defensive shortstop, Vinicio presents with a strong foundation to develop from.

Video after the jump

Signed for 1.95 million in 2009, Vinicio has the slightest build of any prospect I’ve come across. To put it in perspective, the diameter of his legs at the quadricep is similar to that of a bat barrel. This lack of size negatively affects his overall strength and leaves me wondering if Vinicio is more prone to injury because of it. When watching Vinicio field ground balls during batting practice, I remember thinking to myself, “how can this guy stay on the field being so thin?” To my chagrin, that game was the only time I saw a healthy Vinicio all season.

In batting practice, Vinicio demonstrates strong bat control ability by peppering soft line drives to all fields from both sides of the plate. Unfortunately, “soft” is the operative word as his lack of strength was easily noticeable in the cage. During his rounds, Vinicio’s hardest hit ball was to routine left field. At 18, he has plenty of time to develop physically, but one has to wonder just how much weight can be added to such a slight frame. For as much as I liked his quick hands and balanced approach, It’s impossible to not have questions about how Vinicio handles more consistent velocity and outfield defenders who challenge him to burn them deep.

During the game, Vinicio batted from his weaker side and the inconsistencies showed. Extra pre-swing movement, as well as his hands starting very low prior to loading to the hitting position will make consistency an uphill battle until adjustments are made. Additionally, his pitch selection left plenty to be desired. But for all his flaws, Vinicio still had an uncanny ability to make contact and consistently stayed inside the baseball. His lone hit on the evening was a well placed drag bunt where Vinicio posted a 3.6 second run time from home-to-first. It was a glimpse into how Vinicio could potentially succeed as a hitter should his ability to drive the baseball not develop much further.

On defense, Vinicio has the agility, range and arm strength to develop into a plus shortstop. To his credit, Vinicio also adds a bit of flash and style to his defensive play which makes him enjoyable to watch. At present, he displays strong body control, but Vinicio’s footwork struck me as choppy and inefficient. As with most teenagers, his lack of refinement is something which will improve with reps and experience.

In terms of speed, Vinicio should develop into much better than a base stealer with a 69% success rate. He projects for above average to plus speed and should add explosion to his first step with added strength. The opportunity is there for Vinicio to become the best base stealer in the organization.

On the surface, one might read this report and think I’m not a fan of Vinicio going forward. Nothing could be further from the truth. Vinicio is a fine shortstop prospect with significant room to grow if things break correctly. Of course with prospects, things rarely do go perfectly and injuries have already played a role in his full season debut. The best thing about Vinicio as a prospect is that he has no glaring weakness beyond a general lack of strength which will limit his power potential. Should he find a way to pack on 20-25 pounds of muscle, his prospect status improves significantly and he becomes one of the more exciting shortstop prospects in baseball.