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SoxProspects News

March 25, 2009 at 4:02 PM

2009 Prospect Previews: Ryan Westmoreland and George Kottaras

The 17th installment of the Prospect Previews series features a 2008 Draft Pick set to make his debut midway into the season, and a catcher on the verge of breaking camp with the Boston Red Sox.

Ryan Westmoreland

Position: Outfield
2008 Teams: Portsmouth High School (RI)
2009 Projected Team: Lowell Spinners/Greenville Drive

Strengths: An exciting 5-tool prospect, Westmoreland has all of the skills to be a top player at the major league level. One of the fastest players within the organization, he projects to be a player who can impact the game with his wheels and steal a good amount of bases as he rises through the system. Westmoreland has strong, quick wrists, which generate tremendous bat speed as he whips the head of the bat through the hitting zone, and he has a knack for consistently squaring up the ball to produce hard contact to all fields. Given his excellent bat speed and strong athletic frame, Westmoreland has excellent power potential and projects as a player who will drive the ball out of the ballpark as he follows his development path. His plate discipline has been reported as being advanced for his age. In the field, he is more than capable of patrolling centerfield, and his defensive skills are highlighted by excellent range along with a strong arm. Committed to Vanderbilt, the Red Sox lured Westmoreland away from college with a $2 million signing bonus after selecting him in the 5th round of the 2008 draft.

Development Needs: Westmoreland underwent surgery on his labrum this off-season and will probably be sidelined until mid-May. He is expected to make a full recovery, but it remains to be seen how this injury will effect his development and how long it will take for him to get comfortable at the plate again. Playing his high school baseball in Rhode Island, there are some concerns about the level of competition he faced and how smooth his transition against professional pitching will be, but the Red Sox heavily scouted Westmoreland, including a personal trip from Theo Epstein. While he possess all of the tools, including an advanced approach at the plate, he is still a raw hitter and growing into his body. It can be expected that there will be some developmental needs surrounding his pitch recognition, which is driven by more and more repetition against advanced pitching. However, Westmoreland put up excellent summer baseball numbers against top competition, and was the hitting star of the Red Sox Dominican Instructional League just prior to having surgery on his shoulder.

2009 Outlook: Given his rehabilitation from surgery, Westmoreland will not be ready to break camp with a full-season team; had he been healthy, he most likely would have started the year with the Greenville Drive. Swinging a bat and beginning his work on getting his throwing strength back, look for Westmoreland to begin appearing in some game action in mid-May or early June with the Lowell Spinners. He could also debut with the Greenville Drive if there are openings there or the Red Sox feel inclined to challenge him right off the bat. One of the main areas to watch for this season with Westmoreland is the development of his pitch recognition. 2009 will be his first go-around with professional pitching and some adjustment in this area can be expected. Watch for Westmoreland to be an exciting player all-around. His athleticism and feel for the game should project while he is out on the field. 2009 marks the beginning of Westmoreland’s development, and while there are some growing pains to be expected, expect some flashes of the things to come, things that made him an exciting signing for the Red Sox.

George Kottaras

Position: Catcher
2008 Teams: Pawtucket Red Sox
2009 Projected Team: Boston Red Sox

Strengths: Kottaras’ strongest assets at the plate are his power potential and his plate discipline. Hitting from the left side of the plate and from an open stance, he works counts and sees a lot of pitches during his at-bats. He goes deep into counts and jumps all over pitchers’ mistakes. Kottaras displayed his power potential with 22 home runs in the IL last season. After a disappointing 2007 season at AAA, he came back in 2008 with a much more productive season and looked a lot more comfortable than he did in his first go-around. Behind the dish, Kottaras has done a lot of work to improve his defensive game, which had been a knock on him since being acquired for David Wells back in August of 2006. A hard worker, he’s developed the reputation as a catcher that his pitchers are comfortable throwing to and a player who takes well to instruction. His game-calling skills have improved since his arrival, and he’s generally worked to focus on the finer points of catching. Kottaras has always been adept at blocking balls in the dirt and quick behind the plate in his reactions. He has good experience catching knuckleball pitchers, which has kept him in the picture to handle those duties at the major league level

Development Needs: Out of options in 2009, Kottaras is at a make or break point with the Red Sox. Because of this, he skipped representing his home country of Canada in the WBC to report to Spring Training on time. Despite his strong arm, Kottaras has struggled with throwing runners out due to a slower release on his throws. His throwing attempts down to second base tend to tail back into the runner and have seemed rushed. In the past, especially in his 2007 season with Pawtucket, Kottaras has been pull happy at the plate, which shows in the number of ground balls he hits to the right side. If he is going to have success in the batter’s box in the major leagues, he’s going to have to be more conscious of going with the offerings given to him and focus on keeping his hands back to prevent him from rolling over on pitches. Kottaras can also go into extended dry spells where he doesn’t make enough contact. Improvement on his contact rates is another area of needed development for him to be successful at the major league level. Kottaras made improvements on driving the ball more in 2008, and with some added work on keeping his swing consistently fluid, he can take another step at the plate.

2009 Outlook: Kottaras entered camp in a battle with Josh Bard and Dusty Brown for the back-up catcher’s position with the Red Sox. As camp has gone along, Kottaras has seen more time handling Tim Wakefield and with Bard being released, it appears that he has the inside track on breaking camp with the major league team. Expect him to catch Wakefield’s starts and give Jason Varitek some days off during the season. His handling of the knuckleball will be his first and foremost priority, but expect him to be an upgrade offensively over last year’s back-up Kevin Cash. One of the main areas to watch for is how consistent Kottaras can be in the batter’s box at the major league level. His plate discipline is a strong advantage for him, and as he gets comfortable some power may start to play in his game. Kottaras could struggle some in his first go-around in the league, as he has seemed to have periods of adjustment as he’s made his way to the upper levels in the organization. Spreading the ball around the field and taking what pitchers give him will be a good sign of some positive development in his offensive game. At least to start the season, he has a grasp on the back-up catcher’s spot, and it looks like his spot to lose.