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SoxProspects News

March 11, 2009 at 7:44 AM

2009 Prospect Previews: Adam Mills and Zach Daeges

The 13th installment of the Prospect Previews series features a starting pitcher looking to prove himself in the upper levels of the Red Sox organization, and an outfielder working to polish his overall game to put himself into consideration for the major league roster.

Adam Mills

Position: Starting Pitcher
2008 Teams: Lancaster Jethawks, Portland Sea Dogs, and Pawtucket Red Sox
2009 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs

Strengths: Mills is a polished pitcher with a four-pitch repertoire, and he has an excellent understanding of how to mix up his pitches to get hitters out. His fastball generally sits in the high 80’s with the ability to operate in the low 90’s when he reaches back. Mills can throw his fastball in three different varieties: a four-seamer, a running two-seamer, and a heavy sinker. His two-seam fastball has some nice late movement that keeps hitters from squaring up the ball and limits solid contact against him. When Mills sinks his fastball in the lower third of the strike zone, batters tend to hit this ball into the ground; Mills gets a lot of groundballs when he is pitching effectively. His change-up is above average and keeps hitters off-balance. With a consistent and deceptive delivery, Mills is able to fool batters with good arm action on his change-up and he hides his other offerings well, causing batters to pick them up late. He can also lean on a low 80’s slider that breaks out of the strike zone into the dirt, and he has been known to throw an occasional knuckle curveball, but he usually only features these pitches to pick up a strikeout later in the count. Mills has excellent command, rarely missing his spots, and has shown outstanding control in his time in the Red Sox organization, exhibiting low walk totals for a starting pitcher. He held his own against advanced competition after a mid-season promotion to AA last season, and he was called up to AAA during the playoffs, although he did not see any action.

Development Needs: While Mills has mastered his four-pitch arsenal, none of the pitches stick out as a dominant pitch for him to consistently lean on. He must constantly change speeds and mix up his offerings to keep hitters at bay. Not much of a strikeout pitcher, Mills heavily relies on batters putting the ball in play against him, resulting in a lot of contact and forcing him to rely on his fielders to get most of his outs. As he starts to pitch in the higher ranks of the organization, he could stand to miss some more bats and sharpen some of his offerings to limit the contact against him. Mills could also stand to pitch inside more with his fastball so batters aren’t quite as comfortable against him, but he can’t afford to have it back up into the middle of the plate. His slider and curveball currently don’t project as consistent out pitches for him, and he must show these pitches a bit earlier in the count to mix up the look he gives to hitters. Although he has demonstrated excellent command, Mills must always walk the fine line by living on the corners, and he can’t grab too much of the plate. When he does, hitters are able to hit the ball hard against him and do a lot of damage. At 24 years old, Mills doesn’t project to add much more velocity on his fastball, and this has led some scouts to project him as a middle reliever as he gets closer to the major leagues.

2009 Outlook: A late invite to major league Spring Training, Mills has worked in a few games for the Red Sox in camp. He looks ticketed for Portland to start the season, and he will likely work out of their starting rotation. Mills should continue to get a lot of ground balls and demonstrate excellent command of his arsenal. One of the main things to watch for with him is whether any of his pitches start to stick out and become more dominant offerings. Being able to lean more heavily on a couple of pitches to limit the amount of contact against him would be a sign of positive development in his game. Expect Mills to exhibit excellent focus on the mound and have a good plan for getting hitters out. Another area to watch for is whether Mills can pitch inside a bit more at this level and back hitters off the plate. This would open up the outside corner for him and allow him to pound it with his 2-seam fastball, and use his slider with two strikes to get hitters to chase out of the strike zone. Mills made his way up the ranks of the Red Sox organization in 2008, and 2009 should provide a sharper focus on where he will eventually project as he gets closer to the major leagues. Look for Mills to continue to work as a starting pitcher until he proves that he can’t.

Zach Daeges

Position: Outfield
2008 Team: Portland Sea Dogs
2009 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs/Pawtucket Red Sox

Strengths: Daeges has a solid lower body and good strength, and he is able to generate good extension on pitches as he drives the bat head through the hitting zone. He can turn very well on inside pitches and has a nice stroke that produces solid contact, resulting mostly in line drives. An extremely patient hitter with a good understanding of the strike zone, Daeges rarely goes outside of the strike zone and he is rarely fooled into chasing bad pitches. In fact, his pitch recognition and understanding of the strike zone have been advanced since entering the organization. Daeges is a hitter that makes pitchers work to get him out, and he will see a lot of pitches in his at-bats. He doesn’t miss mistake pitches after working counts in his favor, and he attacks pitches he feels he can drive, resulting in a lot of extra base hits. Daeges has produced an on-base percentage of above .400 in each of his seasons in the Red Sox organization, piling up walks and proving to be a tough out at the plate. After moving around in the field, Daeges has settled in as right fielder, putting in a lot of work to improve his defensive game. His hitting style has meshed well with the Red Sox philosophies and he has taken well to instruction since joining the system. Daeges is another Red Sox minor league hitter who sees a lot of pitches, affording him the opportunity to pick one out and hit it hard somewhere. Standing at 6’4’’ and weighing 220 pounds, he has a solid frame and some power potential that he can still tap into.

Development Needs: While settling into right field in 2008, Daeges is at best an average fielder, and his value is heavily tied up into the development of his offensive game. His range is average and he gets decent jumps on balls hit out his way, but that has been improving with more time spent in the outfield. Improvement in his defensive game would further round him out as a prospect and quell some of the projections that see him as a DH at higher levels. With an open stance, Daeges makes up for not having elite bat speed on inside pitches, but leaves himself vulnerable on the outside pitches. He must improve his plate coverage to combat pitchers pounding the outside corner against him. Daeges cannot get too pull happy and will need to drive outside pitches more into the left-centerfield gap, but this is well within his skill set at the plate. Despite his strength, the home run totals have not been there for him outside of Lancaster, which has a ballpark that is very favorable for left-handed hitters. Daeges shows very good pull power in batting practice sessions, but this has yet to transfer into his game situations in AA. There is a lot of potential in his swing to add some more power if he can work on lofting the ball more and lifting the balls his drives out to right field with more backspin. Daeges was hampered by a wrist injury early in the season at Portland after diving for a ball in the outfield, and this may have affected his power while he found the comfort zone again.

2009 Outlook: Daeges has been spent Spring Training in major league camp and has been strong at the plate thus far. There is a chance he could open the season in AAA, but with a crowded outfield picture he may start back at AA. If he does indeed open in AA, Daeges will be looking for a quick promotion to AAA. Regardless of where he starts, look for Daeges to continue his patient approach at the plate and be that consistent tough out who works pitchers during each at-bat. One of the main areas to watch for is how much improvement there is in his power game. By working to produce more loft in his swing and drive through the ball with backspin, Daeges could see a sizable increase in the number of home runs he hits in 2009. Expect him to continue to pile up extra base hits and walks as he works his counts. With more and more time spent in the outfield, some improvement in his defensive game can be expected. Another area of development to keep an eye on is how well Daeges covers the outer third of the plate. An improvement in this area would further enhance his overall hitting package and limit the weaknesses that pitchers can exploit. Daeges made some nice steps in 2008, holding more than his own in AA, and with some continued improvements in 2009 he can show signs that he can have success at the major league level.