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SoxProspects News

March 31, 2007 at 1:51 AM

Jeremy West to change his Sox

The Red Sox today released the following players: RHP Ryan Baerlocher, RHP Gary Galvez, RHP Edgar Guaramato, RHP Chris Jaile, RHP William Mann, LHP Jeff Farrell, LHP Rob Henkel, LHP Justin Sturge, C Dennis Anderson, 3B Matt Mercurio, SS Dustin Kelly, SS Dominic Ramos, OF Alex Ochoa, OF Tike Redman, OF Jamal Strong, OF Matt Van Der Bosch, and OF Jeff Vincent. Additionally, the Sox traded 1B Jeremy West to White Sox for future considerations.
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March 29, 2007 at 11:44 AM

Buchholz starting against Devil Rays

Top prospect Clay Buchholz gets the start for the Red Sox today against Tampa Bay at City of Palms Park. It will be Buchholz's first stint with the big league club this spring. You can listen to the game live on MLB.com. SoxProspects.com also recently learned that Buchholz will be the opening day starter for the AA Portland Sea Dogs on April 5.
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March 27, 2007 at 11:59 PM

Sox make flurry of moves

In a busy day for the Red Sox, the team made a number of moves, bringing the opening day roster into focus. Theo Epstein announced four roster moves, Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen were optioned to AAA Pawtucket, non-roster RHP Bryan Corey was assigned to minor league camp, and non-roster C Alberto Castillo was traded to Baltimore for (minor league) OF Cory Keylor. Additionally, it was reported that relievers Javier Lopez and Kyle Snyder would round out the back end of the Boston bullpen, C Kevin Cash would be assigned to Pawtucket and that OF Alex Ochoa will accept reassignment there as well (forgoing his right to become a free agent). Jon Lester will begin the season on the disabled list, rehabbing at class-A Greenville, where he will make four starts and will then be reevaluated (in the meantime, Lester is expected to make one more spring start). Joining him on the DL will be Matt Clement and Mike Timlin. Keylor was the Orioles' 2006 Minor League Player of the Year.
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March 25, 2007 at 11:59 PM

Hansack to wait with Paw Sox

After a spring in which he drew quite a bit of attention, and the day after working three perfect innings against the Devil Rays, Devern Hansack was optioned to AAA Pawtucket, Sunday. The 29-year old Nicaraguan right-hander was supported by Peter Gammons as a dark horse closer candidate during the off season and his curious route to the brink of Boston's big league roster (out of baseball, Portland, Boston) was the subject of an ESPN feature in early spring. In the Sox 2006 season finale Hansack threw a rain shortened no-hitter against Baltimore (5 innings) ending a painful season on a high note. Hansack projects to be at the front of the line when pitching reinforcements are needed in Boston. Last season Hansack made two starts for the Red Sox earning a 2.70 ERA in 10 innings (6 hits, 2 ER, 1BB, 8K), and worked 8.2 innings over five appearances for a 2.05 ERA (6 hits, 2 ER, 2BB, 8K) this spring. In other roster moves, RHP Mike Burns (28) was reassigned to minor league camp. Burns was acquired from Cincinnati last Aug. 28 for RHP Tim Bausher, and in 7.2 innings with the Sox in 2006 he had a 4.70 ERA over seven appearances (10 hits, 4 ER, 1BB, 7K), and earned a 5.63 ERA this spring in eight innings over five games (9 hits, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2K).
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March 23, 2007 at 3:54 PM

Murphy to Pawtucket

This morning the Red Sox made two more roster moves, optioning David Murphy to AAA Pawtucket and assigning Jeff Bailey to minor league camp. Murphy will likely be the first outfielder called up to the majors if events dictate, and his name is routinely mentioned in trade rumors. It is unlikely that Murphy would be more than a fourth outfielder for the Sox, but he very likely could hold his own as a starter for another team, especially in the National League. Bailey, who spent the last two seasons with Pawtucket, is a 28-year old former catcher with some power relegated to DH/first base due to injury. In action this spring with the big league club Murphy went .235/.278/.292 in 34 ABs over 17 games and Bailey had a .167/.333/.292 line in 24 ABs in 18 games.
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March 22, 2007 at 1:56 PM

Closer Watch: Paps back to 'pen

Just a day after reports that the Red Sox were approaching a decision to name a closer, the team indicated that Jonathan Papelbon will be returning to the closers' role. Papelbon further stated that he would like to remain a closer for his entire career, and that there were no longer any additional health concerns around his closing rather than starting. On another note, Julian Tavarez will step in as the fifth starter.
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March 21, 2007 at 12:47 PM

Gabbard to AAA

The Red Sox optioned 24-year old lefty Kason Gabbard to AAA Pawtucket yesterday. In 2006 Gabbard pitched for AA Portland, earning a promotion to Pawtucket and was called up by the Red Sox as an injury replacement, serving as a starter (4 games) and reliever (3 games). He was 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA in three spring games.
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March 20, 2007 at 2:07 PM

Bard to start at Lancaster

Red Sox 2006 first rounder Daniel Bard will be assigned to the (high-A) Lancaster JetHawks according to Baseball America's Chris Kline in BA's Prospect Blog. Sox farm director Mike Hazen and Bard are quoted extensively in the posting. Both comment on Bard's development of his secondary pitches (a changeup and curve are mentioned) and Bard acknowledges working on his mechanics and ties them to improvement of the secondary pitches. Bard speaks confidently about pitching in the notoriously hitting-friendly California League and Lancaster's Clear Channel Stadium.
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March 19, 2007 at 5:07 PM

Report from the Fort

Minor League Spring Training Notes: 2006 Dominican signees Engel Beltre and Oscar Tejeda (pictured) look like they could be the real deal, both very athletic with sweet swings - just don't call them Angel or Moises ... Ryan Phillips injured his shoulder pitching in Hawaii Winter Baseball, is rehabbing and will be throwing off a mound again soon ... Rob Henkel resigned to a minor league deal and could grap a spot in Pawtucket's bullpen ... Players who won't be back in 2007 include Marc Deschnes, Tyler Minges, David Lee, Kevin Frederick, Kevin Jarvis, and Jason Richardson ... Both Willy Mota and Alberto Gil were converted to pitchers ... Justin Masterson recently went four innings in a AA Spring game, mixing in his full arsenal very well ... Tony Granadillo is being tried out at 2B and 3B, but hopes to stick at 3B ... Dominican prospect OF Jose Jose was in camp for a look - he cannot be signed until July under MLB rules; Lancaster's pitching staff might be fun to watch to start the 2007, possibly including top prospects Michael Bowden, Justin Masterson, Kris Johnson, Daniel Bard, and Mike Rozier.
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at 4:48 PM

Deric McKamey Q&A

Deric McKamey recently took time out of his busy schedule to answer several questions from the SoxProspects community. Deric has been writing about the minor leagues since 1994 for Major and Minor League Analyst and BaseballHQ.com. His new book, Minor League Baseball Analyst, is the first book to fully integrate sabermetrics and scouting. A long-term Bill James disciple and graduate of Major League Baseball's scout school, Deric provides his unique brand of analysis for over 1000 minor leaguers.

Red Sox Specific Questions:

1. Can you give your thoughts on Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden?
Two excellent pitchers and ones that I ranked #3 and #4 on the Red Sox prospect list. I don’t think they are as close as other analysts make them out to be, as I ranked Buchholz #36 and Bowden #57 on my top 100. Buchholz is more advanced developmentally, knows how to use his repertoire, and has exceptional arm action. He has more consistent velocity and can throw three pitches for strikes. Bowden has that powerful build and a lot of arm strength and may eventually show better velocity and be able to hold it longer once his mechanics become more consistent. Bowden really needs to develop his change-up further and establish better fastball command, and will have to prove his mediocre arm action will not be a factor. Both have upsides as #2 starters, but I feel Bowden will always be in Buchholz’ shadow.

2. What kind of pitcher could you see the Red Sox getting in a trade for David Murphy?
Likely not much more than a #5 starter or a matchup reliever. Murphy doesn’t do a whole lot exceptionally well and I believe that is the consensus of most baseball people. A good defensive outfielder and he can put the bat on the ball, but overall, his offense isn’t going to be good enough to start on a championship caliber team.

3. What Red Sox prospect has the highest ceiling? What prospects in the Red Sox organization do you see primed to have a breakout year?
I rated seven of the Red Sox’ top 10 prospects (Matsuzaka, Ellsbury, Buchholz, Bowden, Bard, Anderson, and Place) with a “9”, which in my rating system that I began using this year, states that I feel they can be elite players. Ignoring Matsuzaka for his previous experience in Japan, I would say Buchholz and Bard have the most pure upside of the Red Sox’ minor leaguers. Both of them can reach the mid-upper 90’s relatively easy, have good arm action, and have the durability and complementary pitches to be starting pitchers.

4. Thanks for taking the time Deric, loved the book. Two questions - (1) Craig Hansen: what happened/when does he turn it around/what can we expect when he does? (2) Who's your pick to win the Red Sox 2007 closer derby? Last man standing?
Hansen is still a fine pitcher, but I think a couple of things happened that has caused him to stall. He has deviated from being strictly a fastball/slider pitcher, which came at the Red Sox bequest from my understanding. He began tinkering with a change-up and was extended past two innings on a few occasions. His arm slot became much lower which flattened out all of his pitches. There was also some undue pressure put upon him from both the organization and the fans, as most thought he would be the closer by now, and I think he suffers from a lack of confidence. I think he’ll turn things around this season, but has to be put into a situation that he’s comfortable in. Without a third pitch, it is hard for me to predict he’ll be a dominating closer, but I think he can be an outstanding 7th/8th inning pitcher if he can get his pitches back on track.
You could see four or five pitchers get saves this season, but I don’t think any of them can get the job done consistently, so I think Papelbon will be the last man standing. The two youngsters (Hansen and Delcamern) have the best combination of base skills (H/IP, K/IP, BB/IP, and HR/9), but don’t have a lot of experience in the Majors. Mike Timlin would seem to be the favorite to start the season assuming he’s healthy, but I think you’ll see Piniero, Donnelly, and Okajima get some opportunities as well. If the front four starters get the job done, and I believe they will, or someone like Kyle Snyder pitches well enough to be the fifth starter, it will make it much easier to slide Papelbon back into the closer role, despite his early success in spring training as a starter.

5. What’s your opinion of Bryce Cox and his short term success with his reworked delivery?
I haven’t had the opportunity to see his new delivery yet, so I won’t pass judgment on that. I really like Cox and think he has the chance to be a very solid reliever. His slider is incredible and throws hard enough to keep hitters’ honest. He has been able to limit the home run, but I’d like to see him establish better fastball command. At worst, he’s a quality setup man, but I think he has the stuff to eventually close if he can develop something to get LH batters out.

6. Who are the most overrated/underrated Red Sox prospects in your opinion? Which players could you see taking a large step forward in 2007?
Overrated- George Kottaras. He swings the bat well enough, at least from an AVG/OBP perspective, but don’t think he’ll hit for much power. Defensively, his receiving skills are marginal and he has a slow release, which doesn’t help his average arm strength. To me, he’s a reserve catcher.

Underrated- Justin Masterson. He has a really fresh arm and the determination to succeed. His stuff is just a notch below Bryce Cox and I think he could be a solid reliever if placed in that role. He’ll need to develop his circle-change and be more consistent with his mechanics if he is to succeed as a starting pitcher.Large step forward- Kris Johnson. Even though he has already tasted success, posting an incredible 0.88 ERA in 30.2 IP at Lowell in 2006, I think he has the ability to take the biggest step forward. I’m not sure he was still 100% from his elbow surgery and should be able to maintain his velocity better than he did last season. I like his polish and ability to throw three pitches for strikes, and though his arm action is not as pretty as you’d like to see, he does have repeatable mechanics and some projection to his frame.

7. First, thanks for taking the time to do this. I am personally not familiar with your work but soon will be. The write-up on your book looks interesting enough to have ordered it. Nice approach. Here's my question, another publication projects the Sox 2010 pitching staff as follows:S#1 Matsuzuka; S#2 Papelbon; S#3 Beckett; S#4 Lester; S#5 Buchholz; Closer: Bryce Cox. Do you agree with the selections and projected firing order ?
Yes, I agree with the selections, if you’re going by who is currently inside the Red Sox organization. I still think Papelbon returns to the closer role at some point. If those were indeed the five starters, I’d probably move everyone up and put Papelbon in the #5 spot. He can be a good starter, but has already proven that he is a great closer. I just don’t think he’s going to be one that shows a lot of stamina and I don’t buy the decision that the move to the rotation will lessen the stress on his arm. Lester and Buchholz both project to #2 starters, so that would be an impressive starting staff. 8. Some baseball enthusiasts are placing Bard ahead of Bowden in their rankings. Bowden is younger and performed very well in low A last year, but has questions about his delivery. Bard last year performed nearly as well but against college competition, but has more velocity and is said to have one of the smoothest deliveries in the game. How would you compare the two and how much value do you place on stuff/mechanics vs. results? Bowden was #57 and Bard #91 on my top 100, so obviously, I do like Bowden a bit better for the same reasons you stated. Bard has tremendous upside, that is no secret, but his role is still undefined and he still has a lot of work to do to polish up his game. I’m a big believer in stuff/mechanics, especially at the amateur level and lower levels of the minors, but at some point, it becomes a matter of results. Both of these players are solid and young, but I’m ranking Bowden slightly ahead of Bard based on his developmental level and performance to date.

9. What do you think of the Red Sox's apparent strategy of taking mainly pitching prospects in the early rounds of the draft in recent years? How would you compare that strategy with those who select mostly position players, such as the Devil Rays?
I’m not so sure that is the case, at least from a strategy standpoint. I think most teams try to take the best available talent and factor the depth of the organization as well. That being said, there is such a premium on young pitching in this day and age, and I think the Red Sox realize that. I know if I were running a team, I would probably lean towards pitching early, as I believe the difference between pitching prospects is much greater than hitting prospects in the early stages of the Draft.

General Baseball Questions:

10. Who do your rankings feel is the most overrated prospect in baseball? Underrated?
Adam Jones (OF, SEA) is going to be a solid player, but I don’t feel he will be the All-Star caliber outfielder that some are projecting. He is an incredible athlete with plus arm strength, but his speed is just average and there are still a lot of exploitable holes in his swing. His value took a real hit when he was moved off of shortstop, which I thought he could play reasonably well.Brian Barton (OF, CLE) quietly put together one of the more impressive performances in 2006. Not only did he show power, the ability to hit for average, and speed, but he is an incredible athlete and highly intelligent. He can play anywhere in the outfield and can beat you in a number of ways.

11. What present or past MLB player would you give as a comparison for Alex Gordon? Phil Hughes?
Gordon (Chipper Jones)- I see him being a player that will hit .300 consistently, along with above average power and the ability to steal bases. His defense at 3B will be much better.Hughes (Curt Schilling)- I love his ability to mix above average velocity and pitch movement. Also, like a young Schilling, he hasn’t proved he can pitch a ton of innings, and until last season, had a tough time keeping his arm fresh.

12. Who has the "prettiest" swing in the minor leagues? Any way to define that?
Colby Rasmus (OF, STL) and James Loney (1B, LAD) have the prettiest swings amongst minor league players. To me, pretty means a fluid stroke in appearance, with the ball jumping off the bat and the batter appearing to not have exceptional bat speed. These players do have good bat speed, but have such perfect hitting mechanics (short to baseball, proper hip rotation, good extension) that bat speed can be deceiving.

Scouting v. Sabermaetrics

13. Describe your experience at MLB Scout School. How was the school organized? How were your days spent? What the greatest thing you learned? In what ways does that experience help you in your current role? What things do you look for in a prospect now that you might not have thought to look for before you went?
The Scouting Development Program was an outstanding experience. It is organized by the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau and utilizes their scouts as instructors. Students participated as a whole for all of the lectures/lessons, but were broken down in groups of four with an instructor for a more individualized approach. The program lasted 12 days with no allowances for “free time”.A typical day would entail a two-three hour interactive lecture/lesson (hitting mechanics, pitching mechanics, identifying tools, body types, etc…), followed by a ballgame, and then another lecture/lesson after dinner. Our evenings were spent writing-up a couple of scouting reports on players that we had seen that day. Students were encouraged to work together. The following morning, our head instructor would go over their interpretation of the players we were to report on. All of our reports were graded, just like we were in school.Most of the games we saw were instructional league games, but we also got to see some Arizona Fall League games, college games, and high school games.The greatest thing I learned was indentifying proper pitching mechanics and to a lesser degree, projecting amateur players from a body type standpoint. Those two things, along with hitting mechanics help me indentify the better players sooner and help in projecting players because of their good or bad mechanics.I can’t really say that there was any one thing that I look for now that I didn’t before the experience, but I believe I improved in all areas of evaluation. Scouting is a constant learning experience. None of us have all the right answers, but you have to be strong in your convictions and continue to want to learn.

14. BP has included a new "upside" feature with PECOTA. Can you explain your "Upside" rating, how it differs from BP's version, and what is seeks to achieve? If you had to identify the one difference between your other rankings and most mainstream scouting services, what would it be?
I’m not that familiar with the new upside feature of BP’s PECOTA. I am familiar with how PECOTA works, so I will assume their upside feature is computer generated and based mainly on statistics, and that’s where there is a likely divergence. My Potential Ratings are a two-part system in which a player is assigned a grade based on his upside potential and a second grade rating the probability of that player achieving his upside potential.

PLAYER POTENTIAL RATING Scale of (1-10) representing a player’s upside potential
10 – Hall of Fame-type player
9 – Elite player
8 – Solid regular
7 – Average regular
6 – Platoon player
5 – Major League reserve player
4 - Top minor league player
3 - Average minor league player
2 - Minor league reserve player
1 - Minor league roster filler

Scale of (A-E) representing the player’s realistic chances of achieving their potential
A - 90% probability of reaching potential
B - 70% probability of reaching potential
C - 50% probability of reaching potential
D - 30% probability of reaching potential
E - 10% probability of reaching potential

The main difference between my rankings and most others is in the way the information is generated. I try to see as many players as possible, attending minor league, college, and games, as well as going to Spring Training and instructional league, and watching video. The opinions are my own, for better or worse. Obviously, it is impossible to see every player, as I’m just one individual, so I do have to rely on sources within the game to fill-in the cracks. When I do solicit information from clubs, I ask just for the facts, not opinions. Information gathered from different sources can provide different takes, but I’m the one on the field three hours prior to the first pitch taking in batting/fielding practice and making face-to-face contacts, and I’m the one out there with the radar gun and stopwatch. I’d much rather be at the ballpark than talking on a cell phone.

15. Can you briefly tell us how you are able to combine statistical analysis and traditional scouting methods and what fans should look for when evaluating minor league talent?
There is no magic formula of fusing those two, but I feel I have a good deal of experience in both areas. For each player I evaluate, I look at his physical abilities, body type, mechanics, and makeup, and project what type of player he can become from that perspective. I then apply statistical analysis to each player, knowledge that I’ve gained from working for Baseball HQ for 12 years and absorbing most of Bill James’ work. I really don’t think I lean heavily to any one side, but try to look at each player subjectively, to come-up with a confident projection. Bottom line, I want to know why. Why does a player succeed? Why does a player fail?

16. In evaluating prospects, what problems arise by purely using scouting methods, or from purely using sabermetrics? How exactly do you correct any issues that arise from either in your work? (NOTE: this is your chance to sell books.)
By judging players purely on their scouting information, you get a sense of what their upside could be, if things break their way, but unless you judge their performance on the field, you can’t really tell if their physical skills translate to baseball skills. Oftentimes a player will have a full slate of tools, but lack the learned skills like plate discipline, baserunning instincts, and proper defensive techniques. Pitchers that possess a lot of velocity and movement may lack command or the ability to setup their pitches.Players who may lack above average tools yet continue to get it done on the field aren’t quite as problematic, though oftentimes these players are continually forced to prove themselves. These players, for the most part, lack the upside potential (offensively and/or defensively) of their tool-laden counterparts, and are at best, solid regulars. Neither approach is ideal by itself, which is why I, and most every team, evaluate players using both systems. At the amateur level and lower levels of the minors, you’ll see a focus on athleticism, projectability, and tools, as these are the players that were likely drafted higher and that teams really want to develop. Athletic players have that upside and are better equipped to make physical/mechanical changes to their game. The further you move up the minor league ladder, the more consistency and statistics are emphasized. The success/failure rate of both probably aren’t too different, but I think you get a better quality player if he has more tools. Bottom line, teams need players that produce.Corrections come about by taking each player individually, assessing all aspects of his game, and using every bit of your knowledge to figure-out what plays at the Major League level and what might come up short. This game is full of judgments, at all levels of development. You have to trust your beliefs and go with the best information that you have.

17. As someone with a background in both scouting and sabermetrics, how do you compare prospects with less than stellar scouting reports but great sabermetric stats to those with phenominal scouting reports but troubling sabermetrics? example: Pedroia/ Brandon Wood
The comparison is really done at the end, after I’ve gone over the scouting reports and statistics. You weigh upside potential, which usually favors the scout-type player, against performance, which is present in the stat-oriented player. As I mentioned above, I favor the athletic, tool-laden type player at the lower levels. At the upper levels, a player needs to be producing, and at that point, it matters little how he’s getting the job done. In comparing players like a Brandon Wood versus a Dustin Pedroia, Wood has the potential to be a great player, but there is also a higher risk of failure. Pedroia, on the other hand, is pretty much what he is already, but I feel more confident that he’ll reach his ceiling.

18. I'd like to know how you project positions for players, and how difficult that task might be. Since the value of a player's offensive contribution can vary drastically depending on the position they play, how do you incorporate that into your thinking as you look at young players, who they are, and who they might become?
I project players’ position based on physical skills initially, and then judge performance. I don’t find it that difficult when you understand the physical skills. Obviously, players have to have certain skills to handle certain positions, such as speed, arm strength, proper footwork, and hands. Players that lack speed (range) are going to find it tough to play the middle spots on the diamond, just as it is tough to play on the left side of the diamond and in rightfield without adequate arm strength. It doesn’t mean that they can’t play those spots, but to maximize defense, it is better that they possess those skills.One of the exercises that I do, especially at the lower levels, is to predict a player’s future position. Staying as high on the defensive spectrum is extremely important and I believe a player should stay at the highest possible position unless a situation at the Major League level dictates otherwise.

19. What are your favorite statistics to use to evaluate hitters and pitchers? Are there any differences based on level?
Hitters- RC/G would be my stat of choice if limited to one stat, but I use a combination of stats, which I’m sure most teams and analysts do. I utilize OBP for all players and use a mix of power stats (SLG, ISO, and extra-base hit percentage) to gauge power potential. Plate discipline (BB/K) and contact rate (AB-K/AB) are good markers for batting average and OBP.
Pitchers- I am a believer in analyzing the stats that the pitcher has control of (K/BB, K/9, BB/9, and HR/9), though I use expected ERA (xERA), hit rate (H-HR/AB-HR-K), and strand rate (H+BB-ER/H+BB-HR) to supplement the primary base skills.
There is no difference based on level for pitchers, though I’m not so concerned with the power numbers at lower levels for the hitters.

20. Is there any way to quantify bat speed, pitch quality, etc.?
As far as quantifying bat speed and pitch quality, yes, that can be accomplished. Through video and high-tech equipment, I suppose it is possible to get highly accurate if someone were to put in the requisite time. In my work, I grade each player that I see on his tools/abilities, in the same vein to the 20-80 scouting scale. That forms the basis of my evaluation. As mentioned above, I then apply any appropriate statistical measures to get the final projection. As we know, having great bat speed doesn’t always ensure success. You have to factor pitch recognition, plate discipline, and contact ability. Same for pitchers. A pitcher can have all the velocity and pitch movement in the world, but without command, the ability to set-up his pitches, and poise he isn’t going to maximize his potential.
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March 18, 2007 at 5:49 PM

2007 Pre-Season Rankings

The 2007 SoxProspects.com 2007 Preseason Top 40 prospect rankings were released today after votes were tallied from the SoxProspects community. Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden topped the list. There were only sparse changes from the 2006 rankings, but there was indeed some movement based on winter ball success and Spring Training scouting reports. Check out the home page for the new rankings! The site will be updated daily throughout the season, and the rankings will be updated every Friday once the season starts. Also, keep in mind that certain Red Sox players were no longer eligible as "prospects", including Jon Lester, Craig Hansen, Manny Delcarmen, Craig Breslow, and Devern Hansack.
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March 17, 2007 at 7:08 PM

Moss, Kottaras, Breslow to PawSox

The Red Sox optioned OF Brandon Moss , C George Kottaras and LHP Craig Breslow to AAA Pawtucket today. Also, RHP Runelvys Hernandez, RHP Travis Hughes and IF Ed Rogers were reassigned to minor league camp. Moss was effective with a line of .308/.438/.500 in 14 games (6H/26/AB), while Kottaras struggled struggled in more limited time being held hit less in 12 at bats (he drew three walks). Breslow, a lefty former Ivy Leaguer, was regarded as having an outside shot at winning a spot in the Sox bullpen as a specialist, but will now wait at Pawtucket for an opening. He allowed no runs and one hit over three innings, walking two and striking out four. As effective as Hughes (O ER, 2 hits 3.0 IP) and Rodgers (.400/.455/.600--15/20) were, that's how ineffective Hernandez was (15.19 ERA, 5.1 IP, 10 hits). Hughes, Rodgers and Hernandez signed as minor league free agents during the offseason and will represent organizational depth (likely at Pawtucket).
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March 14, 2007 at 8:29 PM

Closer Watch: Tough day for Tavarez

Julian Tavarez stumbled today against Pittsburgh, hitting Luis Matos and allowing two runs in two innings. Joel Pineiro was much more effective striking out two in his single frame of work, while Brendan Donnelly pitched a scoreless 9th in a losing cause.

Tavarez: 1 IP, 2 hits, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K (9.2 IP, 8 hits, 5 ER, 6 BB, 5 K, 4.66 ERA)

Pineiro: 1.0 IP, 1 hit, 0 ER, 2 K (7.1 IP, 10 hits, 4 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 4.91 ERA)

Donnelly: 1.0 IP, 2 hits, 0 ER, 1 K (6.2 IP, 9 hits, 5 ER, 3 BB, 7 K, 6.75 ERA)

In addition, it was reported today that team physician Dr. Thomas Gill examined (nominal) contender Mike Timlin, who had been scheduled to resume throwing tomorrow, and pushed back his return for at least two more days.
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March 13, 2007 at 5:42 PM

Closer Watch: Darkhorse Hansack makes his case

With so many of the contenders having pitched recently, today was bound to be a slow day in the closer steeplechase. Dark horse candidate Devern Hansack took to the hill for a perfect 6th inning in a losing cause.

1 IP, 0 hits, 0 ER, 1K (4.2 IP, 5 hits, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 3.86 ERA)
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at 12:50 AM

Closer Watch: Young arms shine

It was a banner day in SoxProspects-land as, against their bitter rivals, former prospects Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen got the win and the save, respectively. Presumptive front runner Brendan Donnelly also was effective in one inning's work.

Delcarmen: 1 IP, 1 K
(5.2 IP, 7 hits, 5 ER, 2 BB, 4K, 7.94 ERA)

Hansen: 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 K (2.0 IP, 4 hits, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 9.00 ERA)

Donnelly: 1 IP, 1 hit
(5.2 IP, 7 hits, 5 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 7.94 ERA)
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March 12, 2007 at 5:38 PM

Jackson to Portland, Debarr returned

GM Theo Epstein announced today that the Red Sox have optioned RHP Kyle Jackson to AA Portland, Rule 5 draftee Nick Debarr has been returned to the Devil Rays and that Abe Alvarez, Dusty Brown and Kerry Robinson have been assigned to minor league camp. All three pitchers made the most of the one scoreless inning they each pitched in big league camp; Jackson striking out one, Debarr allowing one hit, and Alvarez picking up a save while also striking out one. Robinson, an outfielder, had a .313/.353/.438 line in 16 ABs (5 hits) while Brown, a catcher, went .167/.375/.167 in 6 ABs (1 hit).
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at 1:00 AM

Closer Watch: 2007

Since pitchers and catchers reported to Ft. Myers the (chronically shifting) conventional wisdom regarding the identity of the 2007 Red Sox closer had coalesced around a few leading candidates: Mike Timlin, Brendan Donnelly, and Joel Pineiro. Devern Hansack has his devotees and drew high profile mention as a candidate for the role by Peter Gammons but is probably not a top tier candidate (if there is such a candidate, sadly). In some circles Julian Tavarez was submitted as a pitcher with the requisite guts and grit of which closers are made, others championed young arms such as hometown kid Manny Delcarmen or a rebounding Craig Hansen. A few true believers keep candles lit for a second coming of Jonathan Papelbon.

Coming into the spring Pineiro was expected to be given every opportunity to step in and claim the role and his contract was reported to contain incentives with that idea in mind. Late last season Pineiro altered his delivery, lowering his arm angle and shifted to the bullpen adding movement to his pitches. After a rough start, Pinerio has settled down and has not allowed a run since a disastrous appearance March 3.

The most recent flavor of the week, Timlin, who turned 41 Saturday, experienced a major set back when he underwent an MRI and the team announced that he will be sidelined for at least a week due to a strained oblique, without appearing in a game this spring. Some have speculated that the injury may set him back so far as to begin the season on the DL. Regardless, even a swift return would leave Timlin little time to reclaim the lead in the closer derby.

By attrition, rather than by design, the felling of Timlin may have moved Brendan Donnelly de facto into the lead. He is routinely cited as owning the highest career k/9 (9.0) of the leading candidates, although it declined to the mid-7s during his last two seasons in Anaheim (still good enough for the lead, Delcarmen excepted). For several years in Anaheim, Donnelly was very effective as a top set up man, even appearing in the 2003 All Star Game, although his last significant stint as a closer came in the minors (AAA 2002). Consistent with the other candidates, Donnelly’s performance also has been uneven so far this spring, although he was effective in his most recent appearance against Detroit (March 10).

Early in camp Manny Delcarmen was roughed up and was cited as having a tough time making adjustments, but by the time of this writing has basically righted the ship. Fellow ex-prospect Craig Hansen was late in making his spring debut due to injury (although in a box score error he was credited with an earlier dismal appearance). In his first game appearance Friday (March 9) he showed the rust that might be expected and was roughed up. While he is still nominally in the chase, he is most likely tabbed to (at least) begin the season at AAA.

In this, the first of a recurring series (until the matter is settled) we'll follow the fortunes of the contenders and do our best to keep you updated at least once a week.
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March 11, 2007 at 5:57 PM

Twelve Questions with Clay Buchholz

For the second installment of Twelve Questions with Top Prospects, we were lucky enough to chat with top Red Sox pitching prospect Clay Buchholz. Thanks a ton to Clay for answering our questions! Here are his responses to the questions from the SoxProspects Community.

1. Clay, thanks for answering our questions! Coming out of Angelina JC, one scouting report credited your athleticism as one of the reasons you could be taken in the 1st round as a pitcher or in the top 5 rounds as a hitter. Now that you're strictly a pitcher, we don't get as much of a chance to see you display your athleticism in conventional terms. Can you talk a little about your athleticism and how you think being such a good athlete has allowed you to improve as a pitcher?
Clay: The thing that helped me the most from converting is being able to actually think like a hitter. In some ways it could get you in trouble by trying to out-guess the hitter, but as far as I see it just gives me another advantage. Also, I think my athleticism shows up as a pitcher in my ability to change on the go, make adjustments quickly, and certainly in my ability to cover the bunt in both directions.

2. What kind of change up do you throw and what velocity range does it typically come in compared to your fastball?
Clay: For the most part I throw just a regular straight change, but I also throw a circle change. That is one of the pitches that I am working on trying to perfect. About the velocity, it usually has about 10-12 mph off of my fastball. So it sits around 78-82.

3. Is there a certain pitcher you model yourself after, or who you idolize, and why?
Clay: Well growing up I always loved watching Nolan Ryan pitch just because of the fact that he was so overpowering, from Texas, and fun to watch. But in the present I think I would have to say Roger Clemens for pretty much the same reason. I guess maybe it is somewhat natural for us Texans to challenge hitters and go right after people. At least that is how I was taught to pitch by my father.

4. Mike Hazen recently described your secondary pitches as "wipe-out", noting that working on your fastball command was your primary goal in 2006, and would be the key to your success and promotions. Has the organization expressed to you your goals for 2007? Is working on your fastball command still a top priority?
Clay: That is without doubt my main goal for spring training and during the season. In my own eyes I felt that I came a long way since the beginning of last season. I also found out pitching is a whole lot easier whenever the first pitch that you throw is a strike. If I have heard it once, I have heard it a thousand times from people close to me, the best pitch in baseball is strike one. And it never changes regardless of the level.

5. It's often been written and you've said yourself that you pitch better later in the game than early on. Your stats seem to support that as well -you strike out a lot more batters after the first inning. Are you thinking about making any changes to your pre-game routine to get yourself ready to dominate right from the first batter?
Clay: It is really weird why it happens that way. My concentration level in the 5th and 6th inning is no different than the 1st. So in the same sense I'm ready to dominate the first pitch I throw. I just throw a little bit harder later in the game. I've always been this way, be it in high school, college, or as I proved in high A last year during the playoffs when the game gets later and closer I tend to throw harder. The front office, mainly Jason and those that drafted me know this as they saw it a couple of times.

6. We've heard that draftees' first years in the organization go without a lot of major changes from the coaching staff and they don't start working a lot on tuning up players' games until their second year. How much did the coaching staff work with you when you first went to Lowell and how does that compare with the work they did with you in Greenville and Wilmington?
Clay: Right when I got to Lowell Alicia told me that they were just going to let me throw. I mean if I was doing something wrong in a bullpen they wouldn't hesitate to let me know, but no major changes were addressed. Last year Kip helped me a lot with my delivery. The first thing out of his mouth everyday had something to do with perfecting my delivery. I soon found out once you have the same delivery every pitch then you throw strikes on a more consistent basis.

7. I am curious if there is anyone on the major league team (or coaching staff) that has gone or is going out of his way to help you - whether it be advice on your approach to setting up hitters, teaching you a new pitch, or anything else along those lines.
Clay: Well the biggest thing that I look back on is actually getting to hang out with a couple of the guys that were in the Big Leagues last year, and just watching how they act and how they handle that role. I truly believe I can pitch at the major league level but I learned being a big leaguer is about a lot more than just pitching.

8. What do you do during games you're not starting? How has that (charting pitches or whatever) helped your development? Any amusing anecdotes from your between-start games?
Clay: The schedule lays out as: Day after start Hitters Chart, Day 2 Dugout, Day 3 Bullpen/ Dugout, Day 4 Pitching Chart, and Day 5 Pitching. But to answer the question about the chart. It is one of the biggest aids in my routine. Especially if I am facing the same team the next day. It just lets you see if any hitter in the lineup has a hole in his swing, likes to bunt,aggressive, can run, or is a free swinger.

9. What is your pitching/training routine between starts? Has that changed as you've progressed through the system, and will you be doing anything different this year?
Clay: It is a really simple routine. On the 3rd day after my start I throw a bullpen and that is really just about it. I also read up on hitters that I'm going to be facing my next start. I feel that the whole thing has worked pretty well so far. So I think I'm going to stick with the same thing this year.

10. What was your off-season like? What did you work on to try to improve yourself for this year? How did you stay in shape, and now that the off-season is over, how do you feel physically coming into camp?
Clay: First of all I lived in Dallas with a couple of other guys that also play ball, and we all worked out together. So we all had a little advice for each other. My main goal this off-season was to be in shape and have gained weight. I gained just about 12 lbs and I was in pretty good shape. I have lived in Dallas the last two off seasons and the clear focus was to get stronger and go to camp in great shape so I could show the front office I was committed to getting to the big leagues. The schedule I have been on has been very successful and I don't expect that to change. So I would say that the off-season was a success.

11. Have you developed a level of fame in your hometown as a possible future ace MLB pitcher? Do you consider yourself a private person who likes to stay out of the spotlight or do you think you would thrive on the attention that a typical Boston starting pitcher gets? What do you think of the obsessiveness of Red Sox fan websites in tracking both your baseball career and to some extent your private life?
Clay: I think there are a couple of people there that believe in me and have been behind me this whole time, but I don't know if it's to the "Fame" status just yet. I don't consider myself a private person, but I'm also not the type to want to steal the cameras away from everybody else. I think of it as if I do either good or bad I'm am going to take responsibility for my outing. Being in this organization for the last couple of years has really been more than I could have asked for. The fans are one of the biggest parts of the game. In saying that I don't mind at all about the stats or comments fans talk about. In fact I embrace "Red Sox Nation" and I look at is nothing but a positive for my development and I wouldn't want to be with anyone else.

12. Please talk about your relationship with the other 2006 Greenville starters - Michael Bowden, Ryan Phillips, Mike Rozier and Chris Jones. What did you learn from them last year and what do you think they learned from you?
Clay: We are all really close, and it has been an awesome time coming up with the same group of guys. I would be lying if I said that I taught any of them anything, but I do think that we all found out that even if you have a bad start that there is always tomorrow. I look forward to all of us going to Fenway together and I truly hope that happens.

Bonus Question: Clay, we're all big fans of yours but some people still misspell your name. Have you been tagged with any nicknames by your friends or teammates that you prefer?
Clay: I have seen my name spelled so many different ways, but it's sort of funny. Most of the team and staff call me Buck. So I would say that name has stuck for the past couple of years. However, to my friends and family I am known as Clayboy, so to them I will always be Clayboy and to my teammates, just Buck.

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at 5:53 PM

Vote for the Top 40 Prospects!

Want to put in your two cents for the pre-season Top 40 prospects rankings? Nows your chance. The vote is up now on the SoxProspects.com Message Board, and we're taking your opinions through Sunday March 18. If you're not presently a member, nows a great time to sign up!
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at 5:29 PM

2007 Preseason All-Stars

The votes are in, here are your 2007 SoxProspects.com Preseason All-Stars (votes in parentheses, 34 votes total).

1B: Aaron Bates (18)
2B: Jeff Natale (20)
3B: Chad Spann (18)
SS: Jed Lowrie (18)
DH: Jeff Bailey (17)
RHSP: Clay Buchholz (24)
LHSP: Kris Johnson (24)
RH-RP: Bryce Cox (23)
LH-RP: Craig Breslow (11)
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March 9, 2007 at 4:58 PM

Ellsbury, four others sent down

In a press release this afternoon the Boston Red Sox announced that Edgar Martinez and David Pauley have been optioned to AAA Pawtucket, and that non-roster invitees Jacoby Ellsbury, Chad Spann and Luis Jimenez were assigned to minor league camp. The moves were made in order to reduce the major league spring training roster to 52 players. Considered by many to be the Red Sox top prospect, Ellsbury impressed while in major league camp with his main tool, his speed, and did nothing to deter those who predict that he will be capable of patrolling centerfield at Fenway Park as early as 2008. Spann had an adventure at the hot corner, most memorably committing a team leading four errors in a 24-hour period. Neither Martinez nor Pauley allowed an earned run in 3 (E-Mart) or 4 (Pauley) innings pitched, respectively. Jimenez hit .250/.308/.333 in 12 AB. The same release stated that Adam Bernero has reported to minor league camp to begin his rehabilitation from elbow reconstruction surgery.
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at 1:52 PM

Four minor leaguers cut

Mid-March is the start of "cut" season in camp, and that unfortunately means the team has to say goodbye to some players who have been in the organization for some time. According to baseball sources, the Red Sox cut Claudio Arias (left), Mitch Stachowsky, Roberto Sosa, and Ryan Schroyer. Arias, an outfielder from the Dominican Republic, showed flashes of power potential but had a penchant for striking out too much. Catchers Stachowsky and Sosa both struggled with the bat, and former fifth round pick Schroyer demonstrated some nice pitching tools but was unable to put up quality stats in three years in the organization.
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March 2, 2007 at 2:02 PM

SoxProspects Store

Introducing the SoxProspects store, newly opened this morning. There are about 12 merchandise options. I tried to keep it as cheap as I could, but like I said before, the merchandise company basically pre-sets the prices. Check it out, there's some good stuff available and I'm open to any suggestions on improving it. It is also linked off of the homepage and eventually will be linked off of the pull down menu.
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March 1, 2007 at 4:17 PM

Bernero out for season

Recent minor league free agent pickup and non-roster invitee Adam Bernero underwent Tommy John Surgery this morning, performed by Dr. James Andrews. Bernero had experienced discomfort in his elbow earlier in the week and received the prognosis from Andrews on Wednesday. He is now expected to miss the entire 2007 season. When he signed with the organization in November, Bernero was expected to vie for a spot in the PawSox starting rotation after demonstrating some success at AAA and a few big league spot starts in 2006.
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