SoxProspects News

November 26, 2014 at 1:38 PM

SoxProspects Staff Announcement: Promotions and new hires!


As we're getting into the full swing of hot stove season, I want to take a minute to thank all of our readers for reading the site, and I also want to thank the SoxProspects.com Staff for all their hard work this year.  We're on pace for approximately 15 million pageviews in 2014, which will make it one of our best years ever. I also want to make a bunch of site announcements that will surely top the Red Sox' announcement of the signings of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez yesterday.

First, in the scouting world, Chaz Fiorino has been promoted to Assistant Director of Scouting. A graduate of MLB Scouting Bureau Scout School, Chaz just joined the SoxProspects staff this past January. He hit the ground running and attended dozens of games over the course of the year, making monstrous contributions to our scouting reports. Chaz will continue to report to Director of Scouting Ian Cundall, who has fairly recently taken a more active role in the management of the site. Chris Mellen, now the Co-Director of the Prospect Team at Baseball Prospectus, remains a valued scouting adviser. 

Over in the writing department, James Dunne has been promoted to Senior Staff Writer. James joined the SoxProspects staff in November 2011. In 2014, he grabbed more breaking news stories than anyone on the staff. Jim Crowell has also been promoted to Senior Staff Writer. He has been with us since July 2011, contributing to breaking news, notes columns, the Cup of Coffee, and columns. John Gray, Will Woodward, Brian Gagnon, and Harry Burnham are all also back for 2015, rounding out a fantastic returning writing and editing staff, managed by Executive Editor Chris Hatfield and Managing Editor Matt Huegel, both of whom also serve as columnists and scouts. Additionally, Jon Meoli and Tim Healey will stick around as emeritus columnists, contributing if and when they can.  

I'm also very excited to announce that we've added four new writers to the Staff. Katie Morrison recently graduated from Northeastern (go Huskies) with a degree in communications. She has worked as an online content contributor for WEEI.com and a broadcast statistician for WEEI Radio, and came highly recommended. Jack Mitchell is a journalism student at the University of Connecticut, currently in his junior year. He has worked as an associate managing editor for The Daily Campus and done freelance work for the Hartford Courant and the Ipswich Chronicle. Eric Gendron is a reporter for The Darien Times. He has a communications degree from the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College (go Bombers). Nick Rabasco is a junior at East Stroudsburg University, majoring in communications and minoring in English. He’s also a 2B/OF on the school’s baseball team. 

It’s also bittersweet to announce that Dan Hanson and Luke Lavoie will no longer be with the staff in 2015. Dan had been with us for a while, but with a fourth child recently arrived and an expert taste in wine, he has much higher callings to attend to. Luke is writing for the Howard County Times and the Laurel Leader.

On the web editing side, I’m happy to announce that longtime stalwarts Mike Reynolds and Steve Henley will be around for another year. Additionally, Jonathan Singer was promoted to Senior Correspondent earlier this year. Jon has been with the site for about ten years, so long that I can't even nail down his start date. Additionally, JP Kitson, Andrew Kolodziej, Matt Picard, Rebecca Fishbein, and Keith Wade will return for another year as web editors in 2015. Matt will be taking on a much larger role covering player transactions, replacing Alex Skillin, who’s moving on to focus his writing with SB Nation, Hardball Times, and Beyond the Box Score.

Last but not least, the forum moderators. I’m sad to report that Adam Fox has decided to step down after over ten years as a moderator. I want to thank Adam for all his hard work and contributions to the site over the past ten years.  He will truly be missed.  The returning moderating staff for 2015 includes Josh (chavopepe2), a longtime Senior Moderator, John (jmei), a newly-promoted Senior Moderator, Norm (oregonnorm), and Matt Picard. We’re also adding two new moderators – longtime readers Norberto (pedroelgrande) and Joel (iakovos11)

With all of the new additions, I’m very excited about the "prospects" for 2015. See what I did there? 

Cheers,
Mike Andrews
Founder & Editor-in-Chief
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at 7:30 AM

Hanley Ramirez: A former top prospect returns


Since SoxProspects.com launched in September 2003, fans have seen several elite prospects come through the Red Sox system. Our newer readers have followed players like Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts from the beginning of their careers, but only our longtime readers will remember the days when Hanley Ramirez (pictured) was the crown jewel of a top-heavy system. With Ramirez officially returning to the Red Sox on Monday, what better time to look back at the talented, at times mercurial star’s rise through the minors with the club.

2000-2001

Ramirez was signed in July 2000 at age 16 out of the Dominican Republic for a mere $20,000 by scout Levy Ochoa. He made his professional debut in 2001 in the Dominican Summer League, where he hit .345 with a .533 slugging percentage, hitting five home runs. For a player who received such a meager bonus, he certainly put himself on the map, and the Red Sox named him the Player of the Year for the DSL team.
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November 25, 2014 at 1:14 PM

Ryan Lavarnway designated for assignment as Sandoval signs


With the Red Sox making the signing of third baseman Pablo Sandoval official, and the club has designated Ryan Lavarnway (pictured) for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster.

The Red Sox now have ten days to either trade Lavarnway or try to pass him trough waivers, but even if he were to clear waivers, he has the right to elect free agency if the club outrights him to Pawtucket. Thus, it is likely that the club will explore a trade for the catcher/first baseman first, although the return would probably be limited.

Lavarnway was selected out of Yale University in the sixth round of the 2008 draft after three years in the Ivy League. He began his professional career in Lowell that same year, and in 2009 was assigned to Greenville where he posted strong offensive numbers, earning the first of three consecutive Soxprospects.com Offensive Player of the Year honors after slashing .285/.367/.540 with 21 home runs.
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at 12:00 PM

Fall/Winter League Roundup: Vazquez shines in Puerto Rico


This week's roundup covers play from the period of November 17-23. For the full list of Red Sox prospects participating in offseason action, check out our Fall and Winter Leagues page, which will be updated continuously through the end of the offseason.

Venezuelan Professional Baseball League

Edwin Escobar made a pair of scoreless outings out of the bullpen for Cardenales de Lara. He struck out one in 1 2/3 perfect innings in Wednesday's loss to Margarita, then followed up by allowing just one hit in 2/3 of an inning on Sunday as Lara knocked off Caracas. Escobar did not issue a walk in either appearance.
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at 7:30 AM

2014 Graduates in Review: Xander Bogaerts


As a special extension of our Top 40 in Review series, are closing this year by featuring the six players who were ranked in the SoxProspects.com Top 10 during the 2014 season and graduated from prospect status.

Peak System Ranking: #1
Graduated: May 2 (#1)
2014 Teams: Boston Red Sox
Final Stats: 594 PA, .240/.297/.362, 28 2B, 1 3B, 12 HR, 39 BB, 138 SO, 2 SB

Links:

Season in Review: With incumbent shortstop Stephen Drew choosing to decline the Red Sox's qualifying offer last offseason, Bogaerts was cemented into the starting shortstop role for 2014. After the mega prospect impressed in 2013, forcing himself into the starting lineup during the Red Sox World Series run, expectations were high. However, it was an up-and-down season both with the bat and in the field for the young phenom, who played the entirety of the season as a 21-year-old. Through June 3, Bogaerts was Boston's most productive hitter, slashing .304/.395/.464 in 238 plate appearances and ranking in the top three in on-base percentage in the American League.
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November 24, 2014 at 7:30 AM

2014 Graduates in Review: Mookie Betts


As a special extension of our Top 40 in Review series, are closing this year by featuring the six players who were ranked in the SoxProspects.com Top 10 during the 2014 season and graduated from prospect status.

Mookie Betts, 2B/OF
Peak System Ranking: #1
Graduated: September 12 (#1)
2014 Teams: Portland Sea Dogs, Pawtucket Red Sox, Boston Red Sox
Final Stats: 213 PA, .291/.368/.444, 12 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 21 BB, 31 K, 7 SB (majors)
464 PA, .346/.431/.529, 30 2B, 5 3B, 11 HR, 61 BB, 50 K, 33 SB (minors)

Links:

Season in Review: In 2013, Betts raised his profile from a deep sleeper into a top-ten prospect in a deep system. After ranking outside the top 30 entering that season, the 21-year-old came into 2014 ranked 10th on the SoxProspects.com rankings and was a Preseason All-Star. The Red Sox continued their aggressive promotion of Betts and started him in Portland, where he was almost four years younger than the average position player. He immediately picked up where he'd left off in 2013, emerging on the national scene with a 66-game regular season on-base streak extending into the prior campaign. The Betts hype machine kicked into full gear in May, when he began playing games in center field, answering the often-asked question of how he would get to the majors with Boston while Dustin Pedroia mans second base.
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November 21, 2014 at 7:30 AM

2014 Graduates in Review: Christian Vazquez


As a special extension of our Top 40 in Review series, are closing this year by featuring the six players who were ranked in the SoxProspects.com Top 10 during the 2014 season and graduated from prospect status.

Peak System Ranking: #5
Graduated: September 12 (#5)
2014 Teams: Pawtucket Red Sox, Boston Red Sox
Final Stats: 201 PA, .240/.308/.309, 9 2B, 1 HR, 19 BB, 33 K (majors)
270 PA, .279/.336/.385, 17 2B, 3 HR, 21 BB, 52 K (minors)

Links: 

Season in Review: A strong 2013 campaign saw Vazquez’s bat begin to develop in the upper levels of the minors, culminating in a call-up to Triple-A at the end of the season. The Puerto Rico native began 2014 back in Pawtucket and continued his progress with the bat while displaying his trademark defensive mastery, throwing out 40 percent of would-be basestealers. Although Vazquez’s on-base percentage sat at just .313 through the season’s first two months, and he did not hit his first home run until June 6, a strong five-and-a-half-week stretch in which Vazquez batted .314/.376/.467 with three home runs and seven doubles over 29 games from the very end of May into July showed his readiness for his first taste of the big leagues. The 24-year-old got that chance on July 9, when the Red Sox designated A.J. Pierzynski for assignment and recalled Vazquez.

Vazquez became the club's primary catcher and played in 55 major league games over the season’s final few months, demonstrating why his defense had drawn such praise down in the minors. The catcher threw out 15 of 29 attempted basestealers and pitch framing numbers showed him to already be among the best in the game at stealing strikes. Even though his overall offensive numbers did not stand out, he did show some improvement down the stretch. In the month of September, Vazquez batted .277/.351/.385 in 21 games, making more consistent contact and drawing eight walks compared with 14 strikeouts, putting himself into position as the team's primary catcher entering 2015. - Alex Skillin

Scouting Report and 2015 Outlook: Coming into the season, the main thing holding Vazquez back was his hitting ability, as his defense was universally praised. Since joining the system, Vazquez has greatly improved at the plate to the point where it is no longer a stretch to project him as an everyday catcher capable of being an average hitter (.255-.274 average) with below-average power (10-14 home runs). The offensive projection might look a little light, but the bar at catcher is very low and Vazquez's defensive ability makes it so even if he hits like he did this past season he is still an extremely valuable player. At the plate, Vazquez has a short, compact swing, strong bat-to-ball skills, and average batspeed. He has a solid approach, but can get caught chasing fastballs up in the zone and good breaking balls down. Vazquez has more gap power than home run power right now, but as he matures it should develop more.

Vazquez’s calling card comes behind the plate, where he has the potential to be one of the best all-around defensive catchers in the game. He has a solid catcher's frame, listed at 5-foot-9, 195 pounds. He is maxed out physically with a thick lower half that will be able to withstand the rigors of a full season's workload behind the plate. His best attribute is his throwing ability; his arm profiles as elite, consistently popping sub-1.8 second times on throws to second (2.0 is average). He has a quick release and is very accurate with his throws. The other attributes of his defensive game have greatly improved since he joined the system, especially his receiving and game calling. He used to struggle with blocking balls in the dirt, for example allowing 23 passed balls in 2013, but has greatly improved in that area, nearly halving that number in 2014. Vazquez is liable, however, to sometimes cheat on with runners on to get in a better position to throw, leading to an occasional passed ball. Vazquez got a taste of the big leagues this year and put together a respectable line at the plate and showed off his excellent defensive ability. He is set to become the everyday catcher in 2015 with the Red Sox, or at worst someone who catches the majority of the games in a platoon. After that, things could get tricky, with Blake Swihart likely ready for the big leagues as well sometime in very late 2015. - Ian Cundall

Additional editorial support provided by Norm Cimon.

Photo credit: Kelly O'Connor


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at 12:04 AM

SoxProspects.com Podcast #67: Reserved at the Reserve List Deadline


Thursday's reserve list deadline came and went without much fanfare, but that doesn't mean there was nothing to talk about. While the roster additions were the four we all expected, Chris and Matt ran through those who were not added to the 40-man roster and may be potential selections in next month's Rule 5 Draft. Of course, that wasn't all that happened this week, so the guys said goodbye with a look back at Alex Hassan's time with the organization, then moved on to shiny new toy Juan Francisco and what he brings to the Red Sox. Finally, a pair of listener emails led to discussions of Cuban free agent Yoan Moncada and whatever happened to Jose Vinicio.

Click through for the links and player!
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November 20, 2014 at 3:13 PM

Swihart, Rodriguez, Coyle and Shaw added to 40-man roster


The Red Sox have announced the additions of four minor leaguers to their 40-man roster on Thursday, the deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft. As expected, Boston has added catcher Blake Swihart, left-handed pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, second baseman Sean Coyle and first baseman Travis Shaw. With the addition of these four, the 40-man roster is now full.

Swihart is coming off of a season that may have cemented him as the top catching prospect in all of baseball. The switch-hitting, 22-year-old hit .293/.341/.469 between 92 games for Portland and 18 for Pawtucket. In addition to being both a SoxProspects.com preseason and postseason All-Star, Swihart was an Eastern League All-Star and the Sea Dogs MVP in 2014. A first-round pick in 2011, Swihart projects to kick off next season as Pawtucket's starting catcher.
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at 12:07 AM

Red Sox to decide who to protect from Rule 5 Draft on Thursday


On Thursday, teams must set their reserve lists—the most well-known and most important of these, of course, being the major league 40-man roster—in preparation for December's Rule 5 Draft. By midnight, each team will set their rosters, deciding who to protect and who to expose to potential selection in a major league roster oddity that has grown increasingly less important in recent seasons. Indeed, an average of 12 players have been selected in the major league phase of the draft over the last three drafts, with a low of just nine selections in 2014. In this era, Thursday's roster deadline is arguably far more important than the Rule 5 Draft itself.

This year, the decisions facing the Red Sox are not quite as simple as some past years—for example, the 2013 offseason, in which Anthony Ranaudo, Bryce Brentz, and Garin Cecchini were protected—nor quite as difficult as other years—take 2012, when the Sox designated five players for assignment and added six on roster deadline day.
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