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March 9, 2009 at 11:39 AM

2009 Prospect Previews: Felix Doubront and Argenis Diaz

The 12th installment of the Prospect Previews series takes a look at a promising left-handed starting pitcher making his way up the ranks, and an exciting defensive shortstop prospect looking to round out his game in the higher levels of the Red Sox organization.

Felix Doubront

Position: Starting Pitcher
2008 Teams: Greenville Drive and Lancaster Jethawks
2009 Projected Team: Salem Red Sox

Strengths: This Venezuelan lefty features a fastball and curveball as the best pitches in his arsenal. With his fastball sitting in the high 80’s and topping out at 91 MPH, Doubront pounds the zone to get ahead of hitters. Although his fastball is not overpowering, it sneaks up on hitters due to his deceptive delivery. Doubront uses his fastball to set up his very good curveball, with a sharp break that bears inside on the hands of right-handed batters. He’ll turn to this pitch later in the count to finish batters off after keeping their eye level elevated with his fastball. Doubront also has very good control and does not walk a lot of batters. In 2008, he performed very well in full-season baseball after struggling with injuries in 2007. Aggressive and confident, Doubront executed very good command of his stuff in 2008 and made some strong developmental strides that resulted in a promotion to Lancaster at the end of the season. To cap off his strong season, the Red Sox added him to the 40-man roster in November, and Doubront will now look to build on last season’s success.

Development Needs: Doubront also features a slider, but this pitch is behind his other offerings and will need to become sharper to keep batters off-balance, but the pitch has been improving and showed some potential in 2008. Despite being a lefty, Doubront struggles against left-handed batters and will have to work on getting them out more consistently as he makes his way to higher levels within the Red Sox organization. Lefties tend to get a better look at Doubront’s stuff as it approaches the plate as the angle he delivers the ball allows them to see it better. He gets hit hard when his offerings are up in the zone and grab too much of the plate, and he will have to continue to spot his pitches on corners and get hitters to chase his off-speed stuff to succeed. When he is missing his spots, there is a lot of contact against him because he does not have overpowering stuff. As he advances to higher levels within the organization, he’ll have to miss some more bats and limit the contact against him.

2009 Outlook: Doubront looks like he will break camp with the Salem Red Sox and take a spot in their starting rotation. He has been working in major league camp this Spring Training, seeing some action against the college teams. Look for Doubront to continue his aggressive approach on the mound and pound the strike zone with his fastball. One of the main areas of positive development to watch for is how well he continues to hit his spots and keep the ball out of the fat part of the plate. Success in this area will lead to nice results for Doubront on the mound at this level. He shouldn’t hurt himself with walks, and he will strike batters out due to the deception in his delivery. Another important area to watch for is how well his slider can come up to speed, as adding another weapon to his arsenal that he can rely on to finish batters off would go a long way for him. Coming off of a strong 2008, Doubront is another young Red Sox minor leaguer looking to make that next step, and he should be an intriguing prospect to follow.

Argenis Diaz

Position: Shortstop
2008 Teams: Lancaster Jethawks and Portland Sea Dogs
2009 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs

Strengths: Diaz is an elite defender. Smooth and extremely fluid, he moves naturally at his position and looks like a big leaguer in the field. Possessing plus range and an outstanding arm, Diaz makes spectacular plays on a routine basis and gets to balls that few, if any, others can get. He takes excellent routes to ground balls and has solid footwork as well. A complete package in the field, many believe that Diaz could play an outstanding shortstop in the major leagues and be one of the top defenders at his position. A slap hitter at the plate, he gets the bat on the ball at a decent clip and has about average on-base ability. Diaz is also an excellent bunter and adept at laying down a sacrifice bunt to move runners along. During the off-season prior to the 2008 season, Diaz made some nice strides at the plate and developed some consistency in his offensive game. After being promoted to Portland mid-season in 2008, he swung the bat well to finish the year and had a good first experience in AA. An exciting defensive player, Diaz has risen through the ranks of the Red Sox organization during the past season and has begun to position himself as a position player who could make an impact on the major league team in the future.

Development Needs: Diaz can sometimes lose his concentration in the field and make errors on rather routine plays. The Red Sox have stressed to him the importance of keeping his focus and bringing the same intensity to every play, spectacular or routine. Diaz will make some errors due to his range, but he could stand to improve on the wild, off-balance throws that end up off the mark. He may be better served by pocketing some balls he gets to, but he’ll take away his fair share of hits as well. At the plate, Diaz must improve on his contact rates and cut down on his strikeouts. Lacking patience at the plate and without much power, a lot of his value as a prospect is tied into his defensive ability, and it remains to be seen whether he’ll be able to consistently hit enough to be a major league regular. He’ll need to continue to put the ball in play and square up on the ball better to produce line drives. His swing sweeps through the zone and can improve on its path to the point of contact. Diaz improved on limiting his slumps, but he still experienced a prolonged dry spell at the plate to start the season in Lancaster. There isn’t much speed in his game, so he projects as a bottom-of-the-order hitter down the line.

2009 Outlook: Diaz should return to the Sea Dogs and begin the season as their starting shortstop. Expect him to continue to make spectacular plays in the field and be an exciting defensive player to watch. Pitchers love having a guy like Diaz up the middle, and he should take away a lot of hits for the pitching staff. Watch for how well he can keep his concentration and bring better focus to every play in the field; a sign of positive development in this area will be a reduction in the amount of errors he makes on routine plays. After putting together a strong performance at the plate after his promotion, Diaz should be able to continue to improve on his hitting and shouldn’t be overmatched at this level. An increase in his contact rates and subsequent drop in his strikeouts will be a good sign of positive development for him offensively. When Diaz is hitting well at this level, look for a shorter path to the point of contact. If he can maintain these hitting mechanics, he should limit the length of his slumps at the plate and be more of a consistent player. 2009 should be an important year of development for Diaz. After being added to the 40-man roster in November of 2007, he will burn his second option this season and the Red Sox will be looking at how close he is to earning a spot on the 25-man roster.