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March 1, 2009 at 9:05 PM

2009 Prospect Previews: Dustin Richardson and Pete Hissey

The 9th installment of the Prospect Previews series takes a look at a pitcher making the transition to the bullpen, and an outfielder with his sights set on full season baseball.

Dustin Richardson

2008 Team: Portland Sea Dogs
2009 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs

Strengths: This tall left-handed pitcher features a 2-seam fastball that looks like it comes out of nowhere. Richardson’s delivery is extremely deceptive and he is able to hide the ball well from batters, showing the ball very late in his delivery to home plate. Sitting 88-90 MPH, Richardson gets on top of his fastball very nicely, creating hard downward movement. His fastball appears a lot faster than it is and generates a lot of swings and misses from batters. Richardson goes right after hitters with a very aggressive approach, constantly pounding the zone with his fastball. He has been able to strike out about a batter per inning at every level in the Red Sox organization. Richardson made the transition from starting games to pitching out of the bullpen in Hawaii Winter Baseball during the off-season and pitched well in his new role, seeing some improvement with his off-speed pitches.

Development Needs: Richardson relies heavily on his fastball, and while he features a curveball and a change-up as well, these pitches are still pretty raw for him. Richardson’s biggest need with these pitches is to keep them down in the zone because when he leaves them up, batters get very good swings given their lack of sharp break. He does not finish his off-speed pitches well and does not have a great feel for them either, but he has been improving since he entered the Red Sox organization. As a starter at Portland in 2008, he struggled considerably in the rotation and was very inconsistent with his control. This led the Red Sox to move Richardson to the bullpen, where he will start the season in 2009. It remains to be seen how Richardson will adjust to this role against advanced competition.

2009 Outlook: Richardson will likely begin 2009 with the Portland Sea Dogs in his new bullpen role. Look for Richardson to continue his approach of going right after hitters with his fastball. One of the main things to watch is how he adjusts to pitching out of the bullpen. While he does not need to mix in his off-speed offerings as much as he would have as a starter, Richardson should still be working on throwing these pitches a bit more in his shortened outings. Another thing to watch for is how his control improves in 2009; Richardson cannot afford to be wild coming into situations with runners on base. His fastball should still play the same way with hitters and should be more effective in shorter outings. 2009 will be a year of transition for Richardson, and one that could push him closer to the big leagues with success in the bullpen.

Pete Hissey

2008 Team: Lowell Spinners
2009 Projected Team: Greenville Drive

Strengths: A very good athlete, Hissey is a fundamentally sound player with above-average speed and a very patient approach at the plate. A selective hitter, Hissey seems to have a good understanding of the strike zone at a young age and has a short, smooth stroke. He is able to get the bat head through the zone quickly, and he squares up the ball very well, producing good contact rates while covering enough of the plate to reach pitches on the outside third. Hissey will work counts and take his fair share of walks as well. In the field, he has pretty good range in center field and a strong arm. Hissey tracks balls very well and sets himself up to make strong, accurate throws to the bases. Running the bases, he should be able to take advantage of his speed and pile up some steals in the minors while putting pressure on outfielders with the ability to take an extra base. Standing 6’1’’ and weighing 180 pounds, Hissey is on the lean side, but has a frame that can pack on some muscle as he matures.

Development Needs: There is very little power in Hissey’s game right now. This aspect of his game should develop as he gets older, but his power ceiling is still unknown. During his stint in Lowell last season, Hissey was behind the ball more than he was in front of it, and seemed to be feeling for the ball rather than driving it. As he gets more comfortable with professional pitching, Hissey should pick more pitches out he can drive and be a little more aggressive at the plate. Hissey is patient at the plate, but will have to walk the fine line between being patient and being passive. He will need to expand his zone to keep pitchers from setting him up on the corners. As with many young hitters, Hissey will also need to improve against breaking pitches, as he can chase them from time to time down and away and be caught looking on ones over the plate.

2009 Outlook: Look for Hissey to man a spot in the outfield for the Greenville Drive in 2009. One of the main things to watch for from the gritty outfielder is how well he adjusts to the pitching at this level, and whether he can stay ahead of pitches, driving balls into the gap and shooting balls the other way. While not expected to be a power threat early in his career, Hissey should start to pile up doubles as he plugs the gaps and uses his speed to his advantage. Expect him to be selective at the plate and work deep into counts. As Hissey becomes more and more comfortable with professional pitching, he should fare better against breaking pitches as the season goes along. 2009 should be a season of development for Hissey at the plate as he enters his first full season of professional baseball. Look for Hissey to be an exciting all-around player who brings a high level of competitiveness to every game.