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April 3, 2009 at 2:14 PM

2009 Prospect Previews: Daniel Bard and Josh Reddick

This installment of the Prospect Previews series features a relief pitcher on the cusp of contributing to the major league team in 2009, and an outfielder looking to fine tune his skills in order to break into the Red Sox lineup in the near future.

Daniel Bard

Position: Relief Pitcher
2008 Teams: Greenville Drive and Portland Sea Dogs
2009 Projected Teams: Pawtucket Red Sox/Boston Red Sox

Strengths: Bard’s high-octane fastball is the best offering in his arsenal and a dominant plus pitch. Working out of a free and easy delivery, the ball explodes out of his hand to overpower hitters. Sitting in the high-90’s, Bard can reach back to top 100 MPH with what seems like relative ease. After working on his arm slot prior to the 2008 season, Bard developed some more movement on this offering to make it that much more difficult for batters to square up. When his fastball is down in the zone and he is on top of the pitch, it has extremely hard, downward movement and batters have a tough time handling it in general. When the pitch is up and out of the strike zone, batters have trouble getting on top of it. Upon arriving at Portland after a tune up with Greenville, he dominated the competition by striking out more than a batter an inning and scattering hits in his outings. Bard suffered through severe control problems as a starter in 2007, but he came back in 2008 in a bullpen role to have a strong season. His improvement has been dramatic and he is back on track to make an impact at the major league level after a disastrous first professional season. Bard projects as a dominant set-up man in the majors, and he could be a potential closer with some more sharpening of his arsenal.

Development Needs: Bard’s secondary pitches could use some more polish before he arrives at the major league level. When he first entered the Red Sox organization, he featured a curveball and change-up. His curveball was more of a slurve—one of the rolling variety—while his change-up lacked deception. In 2008, Bard scrapped his curveball in favor of a mid-80’s slider The pitch has looked above-average at times, but there is still some inconsistency in the offering and he will need to sharpen it in order to throw it more for strikes. Improving this pitch would keep Bard from having to throw fastball after fastball. Bard struggled with his confidence in his first season and will need to keep himself from getting too bogged down given the up/down nature of a baseball season. However, Bard has shown a lot of improvement in this area in the past year plus and has been developing more of an aggressive demeanor when he is on the mound. Lacking a strong third pitch, his path to the majors likely lies in the bullpen and limits the possibility of the Red Sox moving him back into the rotation down the line. He’s seemed to get over the control and command issues he faced in the past, but more improvement on these areas will be a need as he works his way up to the Boston roster. Bard can sometimes lose his release point through rushing his delivery, which causes him to miss high and to the arm side. He has been working to slow things down this spring with excellent results so far.

2009 Outlook: Bard finished up a strong spring in the major league camp as a non-roster invitee and looks poised to break camp with the Pawtucket Red Sox. Watch for Bard to continue to overpower batters with his fastball at this level. One of the main areas to key in on for this season is how well his slider improves and whether it becomes a strong complimentary pitch. Consistency with this pitch should lead to excellent results for Bard and a chance at a call-up to the major league level some time in the summer. Look for Bard to catch the strike zone with his slider and to fool hitters that cannot distinguish between the pitch and his fastball as signs of positive development. Another area to watch is how well his command and control improve during the season. Having seemingly overcome his prior struggles, keeping a consistent delivery will be a good sign that Bard is on his way to becoming a dominant bullpen arm. Bard is on the cusp of a great 2009 season, one that didn’t seem likely after the 2007 season. His success so far is a testament to his talent and determination to turn things around.

Josh Reddick

Position: Outfield
2008 Team: Greenville Drive, Lancaster Jethawks, and Portland Sea Dogs
2009 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs

Strengths: Reddick combines a high contact rate with above-average power at the plate. Hitting from the left-side, he has a smooth swing that generates max lift as he whips the bat through the zone. The ball jumps off his bat upon contact, and he has a knack for getting the bat on the ball consistently to produce low strikeout rates. Reddick’s hand-eye coordination enables him to get the bat on a lot of pitches that other hitters would have trouble handling. Pitchers struggle getting fastballs by Reddick, and he is very adept at turning on the ball on the inside third of the plate where he displays the most power. Since joining the organization, Reddick has been one of the leading hitters at every level he has played at, and his home run totals display the type of power he has despite his wiry frame. He still has the potential to add more strength and power to his game. Reddick is capable of manning all three outfield positions, but seems best suited for right field because of his above-average range and strong, accurate arm. Reddick has led in the organization in outfield assists since he arrived, and he isn’t afraid to show off his arm. Selected in the 17th round of the 2006 draft out of Middle Georgia, he has burst onto the scene and positioned himself as one of the top prospects in the Red Sox organization.

Development Needs: Reddick is extremely aggressive at the plate and the Red Sox have worked hard with him to improve on his patience. He doesn’t project as a hitter that will walk very much, but the organization would like to see him be a bit more selective as he moves into the advanced ranks of the system. Things caught up with Reddick a bit after his promotion to Portland and he struggled with the advanced pitching of the EL. He struck out much more frequently at this level, and this tendency carried over to the AFL as well. However, Reddick is still young and somewhat of a raw hitter, and he seems to be more keen on working on the Red Sox patient approach after initially showing some resistance to the philosophy. The main area of improvement for him is to focus on which pitches he can handle, attacking the ones he can drive to all fields. Reddick can get pull-happy and needs to look to drive the ball a bit more to left field. He also struggles with breaking pitches when he gets too far out front and tries to jerk them, but he had a much more relaxed and patient approach during his time in the major league camp. Reddick’s success at the major league level and how much of an impact he will have strongly hinges on his ability to sharpen his approach at the plate. He’s shown the skills and talent throughout his minor league career, and now he needs to round out some of the finer points of hitting.

2009 Outlook: After a strong major league camp that drew praise from Red Sox coaches and officials, Reddick is set to begin the 2009 season with the Portland Sea Dogs. Expect him to be a lot more comfortable with Eastern League pitching after his initial exposure. The main area of development to watch for is how well he improves his approach during the season. Signs of positive development will be an increase in his walks and driving the ball to all fields at this level. When things come together, expect Reddick to continue putting up the outstanding results he produced prior to his 96 at-bat stint with the Sea Dogs. Look for Reddick to continue to play a solid right field and display the type of arm that base runners respect. As a player that can flat out hit, there is every reason to believe that he can make the needed adjustments in his game and further push himself toward cracking the Red Sox lineup in the future. 2009 is shaping up to be a challenging season of development and adjustment for Reddick, but one that has already begun with his work in the spring. Despite some growing pains, Reddick’s progress should continue when the regular season begins.