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February 15, 2009 at 12:17 PM

2009 Prospect Previews: Stephen Fife and Oscar Tejeda

The fourth installment of the Prospect Previews series takes an in depth look at the Red Sox 3rd Round Draft Pick from the 2008 Draft, and an exciting young shortstop looking for a breakout season in 2009.

Stephen Fife

2008 Team: Lowell Spinners
2009 Projected Team: Salem Red Sox

Strengths: Fife’s live 4-seam fastball and curveball are the two best pitches in his arsenal at this point in time. His fastball works 90-93 MPH topping out at 95 MPH with hard down-and-in run at right-handed batters. Batters routinely broke their bats on this pitch or pounded it into the ground at Lowell in 2008. When he turns the pitch over, he gets some nice sink on it as well. Fife is able to avoid solid contact with his fastball because of its movement, and he doesn’t make too many mistakes with the pitch up in the zone given his good command. His curveball is extremely sharp and has excellent snap, appearing in the strike zone and then quickly fading into the dirt. The pitch can come as hard as 80 MPH, but usually sits 76-78 MPH with hard bite. Batters don’t have much of a comfort level against Fife as the ball appears out of his uniform via his jerky delivery. A reliever until 2008 at Utah, Fife made a successful transition to the starting rotation his Junior Year, going deep into games for the Utes.

Developmental Needs: Fife’s slider has excellent potential, but is slightly behind his fastball and curveball. Sitting 80-83 MPH, the pitch can be slurvy and inconsistent at times, grabbing a bit too much of the plate. He got hit almost exclusively with his slider in one appearance for the Spinners last season. When Fife does throw his slider effectively, it should be effective against both left-handed and right-handed batters, as the pitch sweeps out of the strike zone. Fife also has a change-up in his repertoire, but this is the least advanced of his offerings and a pitch that he didn’t really throw all that much after signing with the Red Sox. He will need to work on his change-up to gain trust and feel for the pitch to give him another weapon in his arsenal. Fife’s delivery hides the ball well from batters, but it is somewhat violent, snapping the ball as it comes out of his hand with some jerky motions. There could be a need to tweak the delivery a little bit to take some stress off of his shoulder, but the Red Sox didn’t have him change anything as of last season.

2009 Outlook: The Red Sox were protective of Fife last season, having him work structure innings out of the bullpen, usually going 2-3 innings as he threw a lot of innings prior to being drafted. This season, Fife looks set to work out of the starting rotation for the Salem Red Sox. Expect Fife to mix in all of his pitches in his outings, get a lot of groundballs, and break some bats with his fastball. One of the main things to watch with Fife’s development is how quickly his change-up will come up to speed with his other pitches. An established change-up would give Fife a fourth pitch in his arsenal and really make him tough for batters to establish a rhythm against. When Fife picks up a strikeout, it will most likely be on his hammer curve. Another area to keep a watch on is how well he finishes off batters with his slider; Fife could potentially have two out pitches to lean on deeper into counts with some more refinement on the pitch. 2009 will give us a good look at Fife, and he could prove to be a player that could rise quickly through the Red Sox system.

Oscar Tejeda

2008 Team: Greenville Drive
2009 Projected Team: Salem Red Sox

Strengths: With quick wrists, Tejeda possess excellent bat speed and has a smooth swing through the hitting zone. The bat head whips through the zone to the point of contact and he makes hard contact, producing line drives. Tejeda has no problem catching up to fastballs despite being age-advanced and one of the younger players in each league in which he’s played. An exceptional athlete, Tejeda has above-average speed and an excellent arm in the field. He is very smooth and agile both the plate and in the field. Standing at 6’1’’ and 177 pounds, Tejeda has the potential to fill out his frame as he gets older and increase his power potential. He’s picked up the English language quickly and impressed those around him with his intellect. Being so young and age-advanced, Tejeda has a high ceiling as a baseball player and a lot of professional experience under his belt for a player his age. His skills and talent make him an intriguing player to follow and one who can become an impact player if things come together.

Developmental Needs: Currently, there is not much power in Tejeda’s game and it is not really known how it is going to project. On-lookers have noted how he appears physically behind the curve, but he was able to hold his own last season with the Greenville Drive. He struggles with off-speed pitches and will chase them down and away in the dirt, but he has been improving on his pitch recognition to let these pitches go. He’ll make a spectacular play in the field, showing off his strong arm, and then on the next play botch a routine grounder or throw a ball into the stands. The majority of his errors are usually on routine grounders or off balance throws that he may have had time to get his feet set on. Despite his above-average speed, the stolen base totals have not been there as of yet for Tejeda. Overall, Tejeda is still on the raw side and needs a lot of refinement in his game, but has been making strides with his improvements and has the reputation as a player who picks things up quickly.

2009 Outlook: Tejeda looks ready to make the jump to the next level with the Salem Red Sox. He’s had a healthy off-season after battling some injuries during the last one and into Spring Training in 2008. He appears a little more muscular and looks to have added some weight this off-season. 2009 will be an interesting year for Tejeda. Advancing another level, he’ll once again be one of the younger players in his league, and this could mask some of his progress during the season. It will be key to watch how he handles the strike zone and if he has improved on picking out the pitches he can handle while letting the ones he can’t go by. Strong improvement in this area could produce some really nice results for him this season After seeing some time at the hot corner in 2008, Tejeda could once again see some time over there this season with Salem along with his natural position at shortstop. Tejeda should hit the ball hard into the gaps and use the whole field more in 2009. With his body maturing, an increase in his power numbers could follow in 2009, but that part of his game is still far from being a huge factor.