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SoxProspects News

March 30, 2009 at 4:44 PM

2009 Prospects Previews: Anthony Rizzo and Jorge Jimenez

This installment of the Prospects Previews series features a young first baseman looking to get back into the swing of baseball life, and a third base prospect looking to round out his game in the upper levels of the organization.

Anthony Rizzo

Position: First Base
2008 Team: Greenville Drive
2009 Projected Team: Greenville Drive

Strengths: Rizzo brings an excellent approach to the plate. He works pitchers while he is at bat, seeing a lot of pitches, and his command of the strike zone is advanced for his age. Rizzo seeks out his pitch and has a smooth, fluid stroke from the left side of the plate, producing hard, solid contact. With little movement as the pitch approaches the plate, Rizzo uncoils from a closed stance and hits through the ball very well, producing a lot of line drives. Standing at 6’3’’ and 230 pounds, his power potential is above average and he projects to have good power to all fields. With excellent bat speed, the ball jumps off Rizzo’s bat when he makes contact. His overall skills at the plate are well advanced for his age and he projects as a middle-of-the-order hitter at the major league level. Despite his size, Rizzo has excellent quickness and is nimble around the bag. He gets a good jump on balls his way and digs throws out of the dirt very well. Rizzo projects as a solid first baseman defensively down the line. A hard worker and great teammate, he leads by example and is the type of player that others look up to.

Development Needs: Rizzo was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in May of last season and missed the rest of the year. Given a clean bill of health in November, Rizzo is back on the field and ready to start the 2009 season. Because of his illness, Rizzo lost some developmental time and had his hot start at Greenville derailed. At the plate, he needs to work on tapping into his raw power and lifting the ball with his swing. However, Rizzo’s power was beginning to come around right before his diagnosis. With continued repetitions provided by a full-season of at bats, this is something that should come with time. While his approach is advanced at the plate, he still has some development ahead of him when it comes to his pitch recognition and command of off-speed pitches. Occasionally, Rizzo can get himself out at the plate, but during his short stint at Greenville last season he was producing a lot of hard contact. Rizzo’s developmental needs center on getting back in the flow of the game after his layoff and rounding out his skills as he starts to move up the ranks of the Red Sox organization.

2009 Outlook: Rizzo looks set to begin the 2009 season with the Greenville Drive. Watch for him to continue to bring a patient approach to his at-bats and display his sweet left-handed swing. While the Red Sox will most likely bring him along slowly, Rizzo should get plenty of at bats this season and his development should respond as he gets back in the flow. One of the main things to watch for is how he starts to tap into his natural power and lift the ball. Rizzo should start to hit some home runs at this level as he adjusts his swing more and more. Look for Rizzo to continue to display his solid contact rates as well. Another area to watch for is improvement in his pitch recognition and a better understanding of the pitches he can drive. While 2009 will be a season of getting back on the field and into the swing of things, watch for some nice developmental strides for Rizzo, as well as some flashes of the type of player he can be down the line.

Jorge Jimenez

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

Strengths: This athletic player brings a lot of fluidity to his game. Jimenez makes excellent contact at the plate and has a nice, smooth swing from the left side of the plate. He handles balls in the middle to outer third of the plate very well and likes to get his arms extended. His swing has some natural lift to it, and he drives balls into the gaps pretty well. With an excellent approach, Jimenez does not strike out much either. He’s generally aggressive at the plate and is able to take advantage of pitcher’s mistakes while not working himself into too many tough counts. Jimenez held his own after his promotion to Double-A last season, and he did not look overmatched in his first taste of advanced pitching. Jimenez is also athletic in the field and has good range at third base. He’s fluid and smooth at the hot corner with a sure glove and an accurate arm, andhe can also play first base. After spending the 2007 season with the Lowell Spinners, the Red Sox pushed Jimenez past low-A in 2008 and he responded with a nice season overall while making some strong developmental strides.

Development Needs: There isn’t much power in Jimenez’s game despite a strong frame and natural lift in his swing. The power he shows in batting practice has yet to really transfer into games, and he will need to produce some more power to make it as a corner infielder at the major league level. He does not project as a slugger down the line, but has the skills to add some to his game. Jimenez is not overly patient at the plate and does not wait around long in his at-bats. Now that he has advanced to Double-A, some added work in taking walks and being more selective will be necessary to keep pitchers from taking advantage of his aggressive nature. Jimenez has been excellent at producing contact in his career, but needs some work on creating harder contact and cleaning out pitches on the inner third of the plate rather than rolling over them. Some improvement in this area could produce a boost in his power and the number of balls he pulls with authority. His arm is only average for a third baseman, and he could be a little more fluid with his throws to make up for his lack of elite level arm strength.

2009 Outlook: Jimenez is set to man the hot corner for the Portland Sea Dogs this season. Expect Jimenez to continue to produce high contact rates and get the bat on the ball frequently. One of the main areas to watch for is how well his patience comes along at this level. Improvement in the number of walks he draws would be a sign of positive development in this area, as would an increase in hard contact on the balls he puts into the field of play. Look for Jimenez to play a solid third base, while his ability to move across the diamond gives the team some flexibility. Another area to watch for is whether he can add a little bit more power to his game and transfer his impressive batting practice results into live game action. An uptick in the amount of power he produces would further solidify his status as a prospect capable of holding down a starting role at the major league level. After a nice season of development in 2008 in which he got back on a more age-appropriate path, Jimenez is looking to sharpen his overall game and show he can produce over a full season in Double-A.