The Boston Red Sox have acquired RHP David Aardsma from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for minor league RHPs Willy Mota and Miguel Socolovich. Aardsma, 26, who is known for his fastball that can reach 97 MPH and sometimes erratic control, has been placed on the 40-man roster and is expected to compete for a spot in the Boston bullpen. He split 2007 between Chicago (2-1, 6.40 ERA, 23 ER on 39 hits over 32.1 IP, 17 BB/36 K) and AAA Charlotte (3-2, 15 SV, 4.33 ERA, 17 ER on 26 hits over 35.1 IP [.198 OPPa], 11 BB/45 K). Aardsma opened the 2007 season hot, posting a 1.72 ERA out of the White Sox 'pen in 15.2 IP in April, posting an AL leading 23 K among relievers on the month, before struggling in May and June and being sent down. The 2003 first round pick of the Giants (#22 overall) from the national champion Rice Owls, Aardsma owns a 6-1 record in 81 major league appearances with the Giants (10.2 IP in '04), Cubs (53.0 IP in '06) and White Sox, with allowing 55 ER on 100 hits in 96 IP (5.16 ERA), walking 55 and striking out 90. Socolovich, 20, was 5-4 with a 3.56 ERA over 68.1 IP in 13 starts at Lowell (short season A), and 2-2 with a 6.65 ERA in 11 appearances over 21.2 IP at low-A Greenville. Mota, 22, converted from the outfield in the 2006-07 off season, pitched out of Lowell's bullpen in '07, going 5-3 (1 SV) with a 2.60 ERA in 17 appearances, allowing eight ER on 23 hits, walking 15 and striking out 22. While both possess some upside, neither is regarded as more than a fringe prospect.
The Red Sox signed veteran relievers RHP Dan Kolb and RHP Dan Miceli to minor league deals Tuesday. Kolb, 32, made a name for himself saving saving 60 games in Milwaukee with a 2.55 ERA over 2003-2004, but after declining performances spent the bulk of 2007 at AAA Indianapolis (Pirates) going 2-1 with a 3.15 ERA in 18 appearances (19 H, 7 ER, 9 BB/16 K, 20 IP), and pitching three innings with the Pirates (3 H, 3 ER, 2 BB/16 K). Miceli, 37, last toed the mound for Tampa Bay in 2006 (he spent 2007 out of baseball by choice), compiling a 1-2 record with an 3.94 ERA in 33 appearances, allowing 14 ER on 25 hits over 32 IP, walking 20 and striking out 18. Both will provide veteran depth at Pawtucket. The team also announced the signings of RHP Miguel Asencio, RHP David Thorne, C Steve Torrealba and OF Rich Thompson.
Deric McKamey of BaseballHQ recently took the time to answer some questions from the SoxProspects community. A long-time Bill James disciple and a graduate of Major League Baseball's scout school, Deric provides his unique brand of scouting and statistical analysis for over 1000 minor leaguers. He is the Minor League Director for BaseballHQ, where he has worked for thirteen years, and he also contributes to the Sporting News Baseball Annual. Deric’s annual publication, the 2008 Minor League Baseball Analyst, will be available for purchase early next week at this link. It’s a must read for all minor league followers. Thanks for taking our questions Deric!
DM: Thank you so much for the opportunity, it was a real pleasure answering these questions.
TheGoldenGreek33:It seems Lars Anderson's approach has been to go the other way a lot over the past couple seasons. As a power hitter, how hard do you think it will be for him to adjust and turn on inside pitches given his approach now? And do you think Lancaster will have any effect on this?
DM: Through my coaching experience, I’ve always been of the opinion that it is easier to teach a hitter to pull the ball than to go to the opposite field. Pulling the ball is more natural unless you possess an inside-out swing, and I wouldn’t classify Anderson (#5) as having that type of swing. In his brief career, Anderson has shown the willingness to embrace instruction and show a mature approach to hitting, so I have little doubt that he can easily be taught to pull the baseball. Though the ballpark at Lancaster doesn’t do much for hitters, other than give them confidence, I believe Anderson might actually be helped by playing in an extreme hitters park. Knowing that he has the opportunity to put-up monster numbers may give him the extra push to want to pull the ball and increase his home run totals.
PasadenaSox: How do you weight the "Lancaster Effect" in your projections for players who spent substantial time there? I'm especially curious about how you feel the numbers translate going forward for the likes of Zach Daeges.
DM: I do a couple of things to account for ballpark effects. One is to determine the actual ballpark factor and apply that to the home statistics. Finally, I look at the home/road splits and make a determination from those. Lancaster is one of the more extreme ballparks in the minor leagues, which most Red Sox fans know. Playing half of his games at Lancaster had a tremendous effect on Zach Daeges, who in my opinion is a marginal prospect. Daeges not only led the California League, but also the entire minor leagues in doubles, extra-base hits, and runs scored. His home stats (.396/.476/.702) were as different as night and day from his road stats (.260/.369/.448). Going forward, I would say it is safe to assume that his road splits would be in-line with what you could expect at the Double-A level, considering he’ll move to a neutral park and face better competition. Daeges certainly has good bat speed and has fair plate discipline, but has an extreme platoon split (.352 versus .256) which will limit his overall effectiveness. I don’t think his bat will carry him as a starter in the Majors, especially when he’ll be at the bottom of the defensive spectrum (1B or LF) due to his deficiencies on defense.
Steve of Charlotte: Do you think Will Middlebrooks will be able to stay at short? Where do you see him starting this year? Any ideas on how high he may projects an offensive player? DM: Due to his size (6’4”/215#) and likelihood of him getting bigger and stronger, I doubt Middlebrooks (#13) will be able to stay at SS. His arm strength is very good (draftable as a pitcher) and possesses soft hands, but he is a fringe-average runner (4.3 seconds to first base) right now, giving him below average range. His infield actions are good enough that he could probably be an above average fielder at 3B. Power is going to be the basis of Middlebrooks’ offensive game, with his excellent bat speed and natural strength. His swing doesn’t appear to be conducive to a high batting average and we’ll have to see how well he draws walks to get a grip on his OBP. Without any professional experience, it would be nothing more than a guess to project his batting average, but he has the potential to hit 30-40 homers. I see the Red Sox getting aggressive with him and let him begin the year in Greenville.
left coast bosox fan: Thanks for taking the time to do this again this year. I loved your book last year, nice approach, I especially like how you use scouting and hard data to rate the specific tools for both hitters and pitchers. I'd recommend it to anybody that follows minor league baseball. I find myself constantly looking up players to see how they stack up. Now the question, Masterson or Bowden, and why? A year has past since the last edition, how have they progressed/regressed in the past year?
DM: I ranked Masterson as the Red Sox’ #3 prospect and Bowden at #6. It was more of Masterson making a solid leap developmentally, whereas I believe Bowden pitched up to expectations. Masterson showed a real power sinker at 88-93 MPH and good downward plane to his delivery that helped him generate a ridiculously low G/F ratio. He gains deception to RH batters with his low ¾ slot and his slider is an above average pitch. His command and ability to miss bats were solid at both levels (AA and high Class-A), when adjusting for his home ballparks, and alleviated any stamina concerns by pitching 153.2 innings. I would like to see him repeat the arm speed on his change-up more frequently. Bowden pitched at the same levels as Masterson with similar success and is a year and half younger, but I just feel Masterson’s stuff is more conducive to getting outs at the Major League level and Bowden’s arm action isn’t nearly as smooth (recoil at finish). Bowden touches 94 MPH with his fastball and has a solid curveball, showing he could get outs with both. His circle-change improved, which gives him three pitches at his disposal, and he repeats his overhand delivery which attenuates his command. I think both have the upside of a #3 starting pitcher, with Masterson arriving slightly ahead of Bowden.
HiTek33: How important is Che-Hsuan Lin as a prospect to the Red Sox organization? Is his arm and speed alone enough to get him to the Majors?
DM: I assume you mean how the Red Sox view Lin as a prospect. The team is very high on Lin. He is highly athletic with excellent speed. His fluid swing and ability to use the whole field should allow him to hit for batting average and drives the ball well for his slender build. His range and arm strength are excellent, giving him the ability to play a solid CF. His speed and CF defense should get him to the Majors in a reserve outfield role if he doesn’t hit, but I think he’ll hit and be an eventual starter.
PrahaSMC: To what extent does Jason Place's erratic 2007 season at Greenville temper future expectations? Or, is it too early to be seriously concerned about his high strikeout totals and lack of strike zone judgment?
DM: Obviously, his mediocre performance negatively affects his prospect status, but with a player with Place’s physical tools, I’m more inclined to dismiss his stats at the low Class-A level. His wiry strength, short path to the baseball, and bat speed should allow him to hit for power, though there is some concern that he won’t hit for batting average due to his mediocre contact rate, plate discipline, and tendency to pull the ball. He has average speed (4.3 seconds to first base), but runs the bases intelligently and has enough range to play CF at the moment. Long-term, I see him as a corner outfielder who will be noted for his power. His numbers will certainly rebound playing at Lancaster in 2008, but I think the focus needs to be on his approach rather than his raw numbers.
left coast bosox fan: According to a poster here, Hansen was hitting 93-96 mph late in the year with good command. Could you confirm? How has his slider been?
DM: Hansen hitting 96 MPH is correct, and though his fastball command improved over the course of the season, it is still below average. The slider was inconsistent for much of the season and was the main culprit behind his 5.6 BB/9, but he broke-off a couple of nasty ones in the outing I witnessed in the AFL, so the potential is still there. He will need to learn to throw the slider for strikes instead of trying to get hitters to chase it out of the strike zone (a la Ryan Wagner).
TheGoldenGreek33: I know you touched over MLB's Scout School last year, but I have some more questions as someone who hopes and dreams to become one someday. What are the first steps you should take in becoming a scout? Since scouting obviously isn't a major in college, what would you recommend talking to someone wanting to break into a major/minor league team? How difficult would it be for someone who hasn't played professional ball to break into scouting compared to someone who has? Where are the scout schools currently and is it by invitation only? What is the pay range for pro scouts? Any additional information would be greatly appreciated.
DM: The key to getting a scout job is getting noticed and/or having contacts. A person with no professional or college baseball experience would have to get acquainted with a scout, which would be more easily accomplished at the amateur (high school/college) level. They’re not going to be real interested in what you know or think you know, but developing a relationship would be the primary step. I do know of scouts that began working for clubs in other capacities (sales, media relations, etc), that after several years of working and developing relationships, were given jobs as amateur scouts. There are others who have served as high school baseball coaches for a few years and then moved-on to scouting through their contacts as a coach. It is very difficult to break into scouting without having played professionally or at the college level. Those who played professionally have an advantage because their abilities (knowledge/work ethic) are better known and they have more contacts. I could name all the scouts that I know on one hand who did not have either professional or college baseball experience. The Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau runs the Scout Development Program twice during the fall (Phoenix and Dominican Republic) and you need to be sponsored, either by a Major League team or, in my case, a major media affiliation. Starting salaries for scouts range between $25,000-55,000, depending on level (amateur or pro), coverage area, and experience. Some scouts who have been with a club for a long period of time and some of the advance (Major League) scouts can earn six figures.
TheGoldenGreek33: David Pauley is a guy who has been pretty over-looked in the organization particularly because of his low K rates and really no dominating pitch. He has two pitches that could potentially become above-average pitches, the sinker and the curve. What are your thoughts on Pauley and could you see him as an innings eater for a major league team as a 4 or 5 starter?
DM: You pretty much nailed Pauley; marginal stuff, low strikeout rate, solid curveball. I project Pauley as a middle reliever/spot starter. He has average velocity (86-92 MPH),changes speeds, and does the little things well (fielding position, holding runners), however, he lacks command within the strike zone, doesn’t have a repeatable delivery, and is prone to the long-ball (1.1 HR/9). His sinker isn’t good enough to miss bats and I just don’t think he has the consistency or the ability to get Major League hitters out the second/third time through a lineup as a starting pitcher.
norbit14: How good do you think Ryan Kalish and Oscar Tejeda can be? DM: I project their upsides as elite players. Kalish (#7) is an incredible athlete with plus speed and the ability to hit for batting average. His plate discipline is very solid for his experience level and should be able to hit for power as he matures. He ranges well in CF with above average arm strength. Tejeda (#9) is wiry strong and makes good contact at the plate, but hasn’t shown much from a power perspective. As he matures, the power is likely to come, as he possesses good bat speed. His speed isn’t great, but good enough to steal the occasional base. He has soft/quick hands and solid arm strength, but his range is just average, which may present problems at SS as he develops physically.
TNS: What are your thoughts on Anthony Rizzo? Did he fall to the 6th round because of signability issues or are there any red flags? What does he need to work on? How does Rizzo compare to Lars Anderson?
DM: Rizzo has very strong wrists and has excellent bat speed, which should allow him to hit for power, but scouts I’ve talked to like his approach at the plate, and think he’ll hit for average too. His swing can get lengthy and will have to make adjustments as he gets promoted. He offers nothing from a speed or defensive standpoint. He has a chance to be a starter based on his bat, but I’m going to be pessimistic and say he’ll be a platoon 1B/DH. There were some signability issues with Rizzo, but he wasn’t projected to go much more than round 5 or 6 anyway. His swing needs to get shorter in order to handle inside fastballs and will need to work on his defense. Anderson has a more athletic frame, is more prone to use the whole field, and his swing is a little more fluid. He also gains a significant defensive advantage.
TNS: What do the Red Sox have in Jon Still? What does he need to improve to remain at catcher and is it realistic to believe that he can?
DM: Still has a very intriguing bat, with moderate bat speed and strike zone judgment. His power is more to the pull field, but makes good contact and can hit for average. I don’t believe he can catch on a full-time basis due to a lack of agility and mediocre receiving skills, but the latter is something he can improve upon with hard work. His arm strength is above average, but isn’t always accurate and his footwork needs to be cleaned-up. I could see him make the Majors as a reserve 1B/C.
PrahaSMC: Which prospect has a greater chance to stick at their assumed position, Ty Weeden as a catcher, or Will Middlebrooks as a SS?
DM: I don’t think either will stay at the position they are playing now, at least not on a full-time basis, but I’m going to give the greater chance to Weeden because of the position (catcher) and the fact that Middlebrooks is the better prospect and will likely be given some preference when that decision needs to be made. Weeden has enough arm strength and his footwork isn’t too bad despite below average speed, but he has a long way to go with his receiving and game-calling skills. I think he ends-up as a reserve DH/1B/C.
left coast bosox fan: Down the road, George Kottaras or Mark Wagner and why? Who has the highest upside? How are you rating these two, or will I have to wait to see the book?
DM: Wagner, as he is better defensively and offensively, though Kottaras is two levels higher and they are both roughly the same age. Both catchers are adept at hitting for average and are disciplined hitters, but Wagner has more power, even accounting for playing in Lancaster last season. Defense is where the big difference is for me. Wagner possesses solid receiving skills and arm strength, with his only negative being his agility. Kottaras is more of an athletic type, but I’m not sold on his defense. His receiving skills are marginal, has just average arm strength, and has a slow release (2.05 seconds), which contributed to his 20% CS%. Using the ratings in my book, I gave Wagner an 8D (nearly made my top 15) and Kottaras a 6B.
Jantl: What can you tell us about David Mailman? I've heard that he has a pretty swing from the left side, but haven't heard much else about him. Is there any significant upside here?
DM: Mailman is a tall, lean player with fluid swing mechanics and good extension. Because his swing is so fluid and has all of his body parts working together, it doesn’t appear that he has a lot of bat speed, but he is capable of moderate power. His defense is above average, showing soft hands and the ability to scoop low throws, but lacks speed/agility. A good comp for him might be Adam LaRoche, but he is several years away.
Jantl: What did the Red Sox see in Chris Province to have taken him in the 4th round? What's his ceiling?
DM: Province’s arm strength and fastball velocity (90-97 MPH) were as good as any collegiate reliever, and his strong frame helps his arm retain some resiliency. Serving as the closer at Southeastern Louisiana, he showed solid command and ability to induce groundball outs, though his strikeout rate wasn’t that high considering his plus velocity. He adds an 85-87 MPH slider which is tough on RH batters, but is pretty much a one-trick pony to LH batters, which makes him hittable. If he could bring the slider to the average level, he has enough ability to be a setup reliever.
Duffman545: 2007 9th rounder Kade Keowen was one of the more interesting prospects for me, mostly because he is listed as a 6-6 centerfielder with great speed and 5-tool potential. With a body like his, it seems like the sky is the limit, but is there really much hope for a 21 year old 6'6" player who already has trouble making contact in Short Season A?
DM: You hit the nail on the head. Keowen possesses excellent tools, though I’d stop short on calling him a 5-tool player as he lacks the ability to hit for average and is just an average defender. His bat speed and natural strength are tremendous, but his poor contact rate, tendency to pull the ball, and plate discipline won’t allow his power to be game-usable. RH pitchers just chewed him up (.195 AVG and a 0.10 BB/K). He runs well with long strides, but his instincts aren’t there to allow him to steal bases. He would have to improve in several facets to realize his potential, but I’d like to wait to see what he does in a full-season league before making a definitive judgment.
JC: Only 14 questions? I expected tougher grilling from Soxprospects.com! With that said, I'll throw in two bonus answers to a couple of things people have discussed on message boards or emailed me about: Masterson vs. Lowrie, and Bowden ranking as low as No. 7.
A.) Ranking prospects is purely subjective, and a lot of times there's no right answer. We know, with 99.999999 percent certainty, that Clay Buchholz is a better prospect than Michael Rozier. But Masterson vs. Lowrie, especially because it comes down to a pitcher vs. a position player, really it comes down to gut feel. Just because I put Lowrie after Masterson, it doesn't mean I don't like Lowrie. I do. I've talked to enough people who think he can play a passable shortstop in the majors (though you'd want someone better defensively) and he'll hit more than most infielders. I think he'll hit enough to play second base and third base if you wanted him to. And though I projected Masterson as a setup man in Boston, that doesn't mean that's all he could be. I think he has a special sinker with an uncanny combination of velocity and movement and that he could be a No. 3 starter if needed or a closer if needed. Both guys are probably more valuable to other teams than they are to the Red Sox (other than as trade bait) because the Red Sox don't have the openings to maximize their talents. Including them both in the various rumored Johan Santana trade proposals is what makes Boston's offers the best I've seen rumored, and you could rank them in either order and defend that decision easily. My gut feel said Masterson.
B.) I don't understand why so many fans seem to think that Bowden had a disappointing performance at Portland. His hits allowed were a little up, but his other numbers were just fine--and he was a 20-year-old in Double-A. He was obviously outstanding at Lancaster, probably the most difficult place to pitch in the minors. I think he's a solid prospect, and he ranked seventh on my list only because of the depth of the system. I think there's a good chance that Ryan Kalish will be a star, and that's why I put him ahead of Bowden. The other guys were all no-brainers: Buchholz, Ellsbury (don't need to explain those two), Anderson (you guys know I love him), Masterson (as explained above, while he may be a setup man in Boston, he's really more than that; his sinker is better than any of Bowden's pitches and he has the same strong makeup), Lowrie. Bowden has a chance to be a No. 3 starter, as he has two solid pitches (fastball, curveball) and really competes. He doesn't have that one true out pitch to profile him as better than that. Nick Hagadone (whom I ranked at No. 8) has better pure stuff and he's a lefty, and Oscar Tejeda (No. 9) could be Miguel Tejada if he reaches his ceiling. Those guys have better chances of becoming stars than Bowden, but I gave Bowden the nod because he has had success in Double-A.
SP:You had Argenis Diaz rated 12th in the Red Sox farm system. Is this because of his performance in the HWL and what are your overall views on him?
JC: I wouldn't say it's just because of how well he played in Hawaii, but that did open my eyes. The Red Sox touted Diaz last year as a spectacular defender, and his performance in Hawaii led to some encouragement about his bat. (Though how good overall competition is in HWB, that's hard to say.) Boston sees him as the kind of guy who can develop into a Gold Glove shortstop and hit for a high average, though he won't have much in the way of power and doesn't walk a ton.
SP: Josh Reddick had an excellent year in his first full season of professional baseball. What do scouts see as his key development needs as his progresses up the levels? Where do you see him compared to the Sox other highly regarded OF prospects?
JC: Reddick is a tremendous pure hitter, and as I wrote, the Red Sox initially took him as a draft-and-follow in 2006, then signed him immediately after watching him homer off Ross Detwiler (the No. 6 overall pick in 2007) in a summer game. I have little doubt he'll hit, and he'll have some power, too. He makes contact so easily that the biggest key will be toning down his aggressiveness a little bit. He gets himself out on pitcher's pitches early in the count at times, when he'd be better off letting them go by, and more advanced pitchers will be more than happy letting him do that. He's not the all-around athlete and player that Jacoby Ellsbury or Ryan Kalish is, but Reddick might be a better pure hitter and he definitely has more power. The guy he's most similar to is Brandon Moss, but Reddick's bat is better. He doesn't have the strongest arm in the system, but it's solid and incredibly accurate.
SP: The Sox have commented that they've seen improvements in Jason Place's "smoothed-out" swing in the HWL. Is this view shared by scouts, or is he the same player he was all season?
JC: I've heard the same, but I'll be honest . . . I think it's a huge red flag when there's a position player taken high in the draft and repeated comments that he's going to have to overhaul his swing or make major adjustments at the plate. Do those guys ever really work out? Greg Golson of the Phillies comes to mind, and I want to do a column on this at some point. After hitting .214 with 160 strikeouts in low Class A, Place doesn't just need to improve. He needs to improve drastically. I think 2008 will tell a lot about his future.
SP:Ryan Kalish showed great potential in 87 at-bats during his stint Lowell before breaking his hamate bone. Now that he has recovered from the injury what should we expect of him in 2008?
JC: I think he'll be the best hitter on the Greenville club. I could see him hitting .300 with about 10 homers, 25 steals and maybe more walks than strikeouts. He'll play a quality center field, too. There's a reason the Twins are trying to get him in the proposed Santana trade.
SP:Out of Brock Huntzinger, Austin Bailey, and Drake Britton which has the highest upside and why?
JC: Good question, and I can't believe I couldn't find room for any of those guys in the Top 30. The highest upside belongs to Britton, a lefthander who threw in the low 90s and touched 94 mph as an 18-year-old last summer. He did a better job of staying on top of his pitches, which made his slider better too. I've heard a lot of nice things about Bailey, who isn't a lefty and doesn't throw as hard, but he has a good arm and has had a lot of success in the vaunted East Cobb amateur program. I had one scout whom I really respect say Bailey reminded him a lot of fellow Alabama native Jake Peavy. And Huntzinger is pretty good too, similar to Michael Bowden, a fellow Midwest product.
SP: Can you talk about Che-Hsuan Lin's tools and the player he can become in the future?
JC: His other tools are ahead of his bat right now. He has the strongest outfield arm in the system, he has plus speed and he projects as an above-average center-field defender. At the plate, he has some projectable power and some willingness to use the whole field. Like a lot of young guys, he needs to improve against breaking balls. If he can, he should hit enough and become a pretty good player.
SP: Obviously they will never state it publicly, but do you sense any feeling of regret from the Sox regarding their inability to sign some big names in this year's draft? Who takes the blame for Hunter Morris?
JC: Not really, honestly. On Hunter Morris, that was a situation where the Red Sox felt he and his people had agreed to one price and Morris and his people believed they had not, and the two sides couldn't overcome that. I don't think Boston has much regret though, because they get the same pick (84a) in the 2008 draft and they signed a high school first baseman they're thrilled with in Anthony Rizzo. And though it seems like the Red Sox were somewhat more conservative in 2007 while the Yankees spent a lot more money, two things haven't gotten a lot of play. First, New York overspent on guys seeming because it can, and I don't think the Yankees' overall haul is that impressive for the cash spent. Second, Boston went over slot to get Ryan Dent, Will Middlebrooks, Rizzo, David Mailman, Bailey and Britton. I'm not saying this class will be as good as the Red Sox' 2006 draft class, but it could be similar in that a year from now, a lot of the later-round picks could look pretty good. Boston didn't sign a lot of intriguing names who slipped because of signability: Justin Grimm, Jake Cowan, Scott Green, Jaren Matthews, Matt Presley, Yasmani Grandal and Nick Tepesch. But in most of those cases, the Sox were taking a flier in case the players reduced their asking price and/or lessened their desire to go to college. I think those gambles are always worth taking. Tepesch was going to Missouri, even if he got offered $1 million. Grandal wanted $1 million, and his bat just isn't that good yet. Matthews agreed to terms, then changed his mind. The one Boston probably regrets the most is Green. He was good but not great in the Cape Cod League, and he wanted the same money Nick Schmidt got in the first round from the Padres ($1.26 million). The Red Sox went up to $800,000 on him, and they'll kick themselves if he emerges as a first-rounder this spring. Of course, you can make the argument that Boston can easily afford the extra $426,000 Green wanted, or the difference between the value they put on, say, Grandal and his asking price. I'd love to see a study that if a team (especially a wealthy team) thinks a player is worth X, how much higher over X it should go to make sure they get the player rather than lose him. Whew, that's a long answer.
SP: For an undrafted free agent, Hunter Jones has moved quickly through the system. Is there any chance that he could end up helping the big club by the end of 2008 and what does the future hold for him with the Red Sox?
JC: Yes, I think there's a good chance he'll be in Boston by the end of the year. He's a versatile reliever in that he can go 2-3 innings at a time. He won't be more than a middle reliever, but his deception and command can make him useful in that role. I think he offers more than Javier Lopez does, for instance.
SP: The Lancaster park effects are undeniable, but Zach Daeges put up big numbers there. What is your read in his (actual) offensive potential? Is he good enough to potentially hold down a corner OF spot?
JC: I liked Daeges even before Lancaster boosted his numbers. He has a legitimate bat. He's limited to left field, though, so he can really hit. I think he has the chance to develop into what Brandon Moss has become (though not a right fielder). Daeges is more of an extra outfielder for a contender like Boston.
SP: What do the Sox see in Michael Almanzar that caused them to pay so much more for an international free agent than they're usually willing to spend?
JC: They love the bat. He already has legitimate bat speed gap power as a 16-year-old, and as a 6-foot-5, 180-pounder, he can get a lot stronger. He could be a big-time power hitter five years from now. His arm is another plus tool.
SP: It’s obvious the Red Sox can dish out the cash. With that said how would you rate their signings on the international free agent market compared with other clubs and are they doing enough on that front?
JC: This is a hard area to evaluate, because with most of the signings, you don't really know how good the players are until five years down the road. But the Red Sox seem to be making a strong effort, landing Tejada, Almanzar, Lin and the since-trade Engel Beltre in just the last two years. They also made the huge investment in Daisuke Matsuzaka and a smart pickup in Hideki Okajima.
SP: Will George Kottaras or Mark Wagner be the heir apparent to Jason Varitek? Could it eventually be Ty Weeden even though that he is years away?
JC: I think Wagner is the best catching prospect in the system. He's the best defensive catcher in the system, and he has a solid bat. Kottaras came on in the second half last year, so his season wasn't as bad as it might have looked. He's still a fringy defender, though, and I don't see him as a regular. Weeden has the highest ceiling of all the catching prospects, with big-time power. Other guys worth watching are Dusty Brown, Jon Egan and Jon Still (though I see him as more of a first baseman).
SP: Would you say that 2008 seems like an important year for Kris Johnson? Do you expect him to take the next step now that there should be no lingering effects from Tommy John Surgery?
JC: I wouldn't say it's a crucial year, because he pitched well and made good progress in the last two-thirds of the 2007 season. Once he stopped being intimidated by Lancaster, he was fine. He has his velocity and command back, and his changeup is fine. He just needs to regain the curveball he had before the Tommy John surgery, and once he does that, I think he'll move quickly.
SP: Chris Carter....Does he have a place with the Red Sox in 2008?
JC: Only if an injury strikes and even then, he's brutal defensively. So if Kevin Youkilis got hurt at first base, I'm not sure Carter would be the no-brainer replacement. Even if Coco Crisp or Jacoby Ellsbury got traded, Brandon Moss would be next in line if an injury opened a spot on an outfield corner. Carter has an interesting minor league resume, but it's going to be very difficult for him to crack the Boston lineup.
The Boston Red Sox have signed RHPBen Howard, 29, to a minor league contract. Howard spent 2007 with AAA Iowa (Cubs) where he was 6-9 with a 4.28 ERA in 82 IP, allowing 39 ER on 84 hits over 55 appearances, striking out 68 and walking 24. In 83 big league innings, Howard is 2-5 with a 5.20 ERA with 63 K, last appearing with Florida in 2004. He will likely be assigned to Pawtucket.
The Red Sox have announced the signings of LHP Michael Tejera and LHP Jon Switzer to minor league contracts. Tejera, 31, posted a 3.90 ERA over 127 IP with AAA Indianapolis (Pirates), allowing 55 ER on 115 hits over 127 IP. Switzer, 28, split time between Tampa Bay and AAA Durham, allowing 17 ER on 27 hits over 19 IP (8.05 ERA) with the Devil Rays, but held hitters to an 0.82 ERA (3 ER) in 33 innings with the Bulls. Both were assigned to AAA Pawtucket.