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SoxProspects News

March 16, 2009 at 11:26 PM

2009 Organization Outlook: Outfield, Upper Minors

For the first half of our outfield preview, we will look at those players expected to start the season in High-A or higher. The Pawtucket outfield should feature a number of players capable of filling-in at the major league level in the event of an injury. In Portland and Salem, the outfield should be chalk full of players with major league potential, including a couple who could be Major League-ready soon. In fact, the outfield in the upper minors is so crowded that the front office may need to make trades or cuts before the season starts.

Here’s the list of outfielders currently in the system that made it to full-season ball last year, sorted by the highest level they reached:
Majors: Chip Ambres, Jeff Bailey, Rocco Baldelli, Jason Bay, Chris Carter, J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mark Kotsay, Paul McAnulty, Jonathan Van Every, Brad Wilkerson
AAA: Jeff Corsaletti, Sean Danielson, Bryan Pritz
AA: Bubba Bell, Zach Daeges, Jay Johnson, Josh Reddick
A+: Chih-Hsien Chiang, Reid Engel, Daniel Nava, Ryan Kalish, Jason Place, Matt Sheely
A: Rafael Cabreja, Carlos Fernandez, Che-Hsuan Lin, David Mailman, David Marks, Jered Stanley
Gone: Coco Crisp, Mickey Hall, Bobby Kielty, Jason Lane, Brandon Moss, Manny Ramirez, Yahmed Yema

Majors: The starting lineup in Boston is set, with former SoxProspect.com top prospect Jacoby Ellsbury flanked by All-Stars Jason Bay and J.D. Drew. Ellsbury will be looking to develop more consistency after hitting .280/.336/.394 and stealing 50 bases in his first full Major League season … On the bench, the Sox signed former Ray Rocco Baldelli, a right-handed bat who can play all three outfield positions, and re-signed lefty hitting Mark Kotsay to back up first base and the outfield. However, with Kotsay out until at least May after back surgery, the Sox are auditioning Brad Wilkerson, Paul McAnulty, Chris Carter, and Jeff Bailey to fill his role … Wilkerson would seem to have the best shot at winning the role given his experience, but he has arguably been the weakest of the four at the plate in Spring Training … Bailey, the 2008 International League MVP, has had the best spring at the plate, but as the only right-handed hitter in the group he has a disadvantage.

AAA: The three runners-up in the battle for Kotsay’s bench spot will begin the season in Pawtucket, likely as the team’s starters in left field, at first base, and at designated hitter … Carter, whose only action in the field last season came in left, is being given another shot at first base as well this year. His ascension to the Majors will continue to depend on his ability to improve his defense … McAnulty has hit well in Triple-A over parts of four seasons (.310/.391/.516), but has not been able to carry that success over to the Major Leagues (.208/.324/.330) … Jonathan Van Every will return to the Pawtucket outfield, where he excelled defensively last season and showed great power at the plate (26 home runs), earning IL All-Star status … Chip Ambres played much of the 2005 season in Pawtucket before being traded for Tony Graffanino. With Van Every on the roster, he should see most of his innings in right field, waiting for an opportunity at the Major League level … Jeff Corsaletti had always shown great plate discipline, putting up on-base percentages of .429, .400, and .385 in his first three years in the system. However, after being held back in Extended Spring Training last year, he added some power to his game, bumping his slugging percentage from .364 to .529 in his second stint in Portland. Corsaletti struggled after a promotion to Pawtucket, but was starting to turn things around in the final weeks of the season. He will start in Pawtucket and back up every outfield position if there are no injuries or cuts, but could stand to get starter’s at-bats … The speedy Danielson got his first taste of Triple-A last season after being acquired from St. Louis for Joel Pineiro. Although he has solid speed and defensive ability, he will have to battle for a roster spot … Bryan Pritz finds himself in a similar situation. He struggled with injuries last season, is no longer a base-stealing threat, and may not have the bat to stick in a corner.

AA: The top outfield prospect in the system, Josh Reddick, made it to Portland last season at just 21 years old. However, after tearing up Greenville and Lancaster, he slowed down significantly in Double-A, seeing his batting average fall from .343 in Lancaster to .214. He also struggled in the Arizona Fall League, striking out 36 times in 95 at-bats. He did play center field regularly for the first time in his pro career while in Portland, but with his cannon arm, he still may be a better fit in right. Reddick will spend most, if not all of the season in Portland honing his approach at the plate … Zach Daeges was the Sea Dogs’ MVP last season and was an Eastern League All-Star, but with the acquisitions made by the Red Sox at the Triple-A level, he may have to start the season in Portland again. He has been a doubles machine the past two seasons, but that will have to evolve into more home run power if he will stick in left field, where his defense needs to improve … Bubba Bell’s numbers were not as eye-popping last season as they were in 2007, but he did hit .285/.363/.478 and was an Eastern League All-Star at age 25. He was due for a promotion to Triple-A last season, but suffered a season-ending stress fracture. Like Daeges, he may be forced back to Portland to start the year, although it is hard to see him spending much longer there … Daniel Nava was signed by the Sox last season after being named Baseball America’s top independent league prospect. Although he started 2008 as a backup in Lancaster, he forced his way into the starting lineup and went on to win the California League batting title. He was relatively old for the league at 25, and will have to repeat that performance in Portland to truly break onto the prospect radar … Jay Johnson missed nearly all of 2008 after rupturing his Achilles tendon in April and spent much of the year in Ft. Myers rehabbing. He also would be headed for Double-A, but likely will stay behind in Extended Spring Training to continue his rehab and shake off the rust.

A+: Chih-Hsien Chiang has been young at each level. With the 21-year-old’s body filling out and his defense at second base already in question, Chiang was moved to the outfield during the Fall Instructional League. After representing Taiwan in the World Baseball Classic, Chiang may be held back in Extended Spring Training to work on his outfield defense before being assigned to either Portland or Salem … Chiang’s teammate on the Taiwanese team, Che-Hsuan Lin, is regarded by most as the best outfield defender in the system. Lin could stand to improve with the bat, as he hit .249/.342/.359 in his full-season debut in Greenville last year, but that was at age 19. He will be young for the Carolina League as Salem’s primary center fielder this season … Former first-round pick Jason Place improved on his 2007 numbers last season, but still hit just .246/.320/.432 in Lancaster, striking out 147 times. Although he has played nothing but center field as a pro, he may have to defer to Lin, as it is tough to see him beginning in Portland with the amount of work he still has to do on his swing. … Ryan Kalish showed very little power last season as he worked to come back from a wrist injury. He earned a late-season promotion to High-A last season and will start there this year, where he should see most of his time in right field again in deference to Lin and Place … Reid Engel hit .292 as a 20 year old in Greenville in 2007, and began last season well, hitting .326 in April, but he hit just .217 the rest of the way. He battled injuries, missing some time in June and playing sporadically the rest of the season. He should begin the season in Salem as a backup … David Mailman struggled for most of last season as a 19 year old in A-ball, but he put it together in August, hitting five of his eight home runs and a .294/.350/.492 line. After playing left field all season, he also saw time in center field in August. He could begin the season in either Salem or Greenville, depending on where there is an opening… After showing some intriguing power last season in Greenville, Jered Stanley was moved to first base in the Instructional League, which may benefit him given the number of outfielders. He will begin the season in Salem … Matt Sheely got just over 200 at-bats in Lancaster as a backup last year. The speedster’s best chance to stick with the organization is to stay in Extended Spring Training and wait for an opening due to injuries and/or promotions … Rafael Cabreja, David Marks, and Carlos Fernandez will fight for spots on Salem’s roster in Spring Training. However, none will see significant time there as long as Mailman, Lin, Kalish, and Place are healthy.

So Long, Farewell: Nothing more really need be said about Manny Ramirez, who was traded to the Dodgers at the trade deadline. Prospect Brandon Moss was also included in the trade, heading to Pittsburgh, where he should get the opportunity to play every day that he would not likely have had in Boston … Coco Crisp was traded to the Royals in the offseason for reliever Ramon Ramirez … Bobby Kielty spent the first half of the season rehabbing injuries, and by the time he was healthy, he had little chance at making the Sox’ Major League roster and asked for his release. He signed with the Twins for a month, playing for their Triple-A affiliate before again being released. He is currently in camp with the Mets … Mickey Hall spent six seasons in the Sox organization before being traded to Cleveland as the player to be named in the Paul Byrd deal … Jason Lane was signed in mid-August as Triple-A outfield depth. He signed in the offseason with Toronto … After missing all of last season with undisclosed injuries, Yahmed Yema retired in February.

MLB: LF Starter – Bay; CF Starter – Ellsbury; RF Starter – Drew; Backups – Baldelli, Wilkerson; DL – Kotsay
AAA: 1B/LF/DH Rotation – Bailey/Carter/McAnulty; CF Starter – Van Every; RF Starter – Ambres; Backup – Corsaletti; XST – Danielson, Pritz
AA: LF Starter – Daeges; CF Starter – Bell; RF Starter – Reddick; Backup – Nava; XST – Johnson
A+: LF Starter – Mailman; CF Starter – Lin; RF Starter – Kalish; DH Starter/OF Spot Starter – Place; Backup: Engel; Backup 1B – Stanley