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SoxProspects News

April 6, 2009 at 3:13 PM

2009 Prospect Previews: Michael Bowden and Lars Anderson

The final installment of the Prospect Previews series features a starting pitching looking to make the final step to the big leagues, and a first baseman working on rounding out his overall game to push himself into the major league lineup.

Michael Bowden

Position: Starting Pitcher
2008 Teams: Portland Sea Dogs, Pawtucket Red Sox, and Boston Red Sox
2009 Projected Teams: Pawtucket Red Sox/Boston Red Sox

Strengths: This big and strong righty features a polished three-pitch repertoire that makes him tough on hitters. Bowden’s heavy fastball sits 90-92 MPH, with the ability to reach 94 MPH from time to time and late, sinking movement that has produced a lot of groundballs in his time within the Red Sox organization. The pitch is more effective when it is down and darting through the zone at knee level. Bowden mixes in a sharp 74-76 MPH curveball and an 80-82 MPH circle change-up to round out his arsenal. His twelve-to-six curveball comes in with great rotation and tight spin, producing swings and misses when it quickly drops out of the strike zone into the dirt. Bowden also has excellent arm action on his change-up and he uses it to keep hitters off-balance. Bowden can use his change-up as an effective weapon against left-handed batters because of the pitch’s tailing action that runs down and away from them. All of his pitches are much more effective when he is working down in the strike zone and able to stay on top of them. A bulldog on the mound, Bowden goes right after hitters with an aggressive style. Despite his unconventional delivery, the Red Sox have not been inclined to change anything with his mechanics, as he has had success with them throughout his career in the system. Bowden is extremely strong and has a frame built to withstand the rigors of a full season as a starting pitcher. He has always been ahead of the curve for his age and produced excellent results at every level so far in his career. Bowden made his major league debut in September with the Red Sox and held his own, picking up the win in five innings of work.

Development Needs: Bowden is a pitcher that relies on command and control. His fastball does not have enough life on it to consistently try to challenge hitters or work up in the zone. Most of the damage done against Bowden is when he does leave his pitches up or when his command isn’t as sharp. At the major league level, Bowden will have to rely on hitting his spots with his fastball, changing speeds, and keeping hitters off balance with his off-speed stuff. He will need to work on missing more bats, but this improved during his 2008 season with the Sea Dogs. There isn’t one dominant pitch in his arsenal that he can consistently rely on to get outs, and he can sometimes have really bad outings where hitters make a lot of hard contact against him. Bowden generally has excellent command and control, but this can desert him from time to time and he will need to continue his work on being more consistent on the mound. He’s put in a lot of work to sharpen the finer points on his game, and the results have been showing in the last season plus. He should continue to make progress on his developmental areas with periods of adjustment as he works through them.

2009 Outlook: Bowden is known as a slow starter and he struggled a bit in his first invitation to major league camp this spring. Red Sox officials were still impressed with the way he handled himself, and he is slated to begin season in the rotation for the Pawtucket Red Sox. Expect Bowden to continue his aggressive approach on the mound and to pound the strike zone with his fastball. After decent results in his first stint with Pawtucket last season, look for him to improve on his performance after getting more comfortable in the IL. Bowden should demonstrate excellent control and command while decreasing the amount of contact against him. The main area of development to watch for with Bowden is a better feel for the strike zone and better location with his pitches. This should result in less contact overall and fewer instances of hard contact. A sign that he is keeping the ball down, especially with his fastball, is a reduction in the number of home runs he gives up this season in Triple-A. Bowden is on the cusp of the major leagues, and given the nature of pitching he will probably be counted on to contribute at the major league level at some point this season.

Lars Anderson

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

Strengths: The top prospect within the Red Sox organization and one of the top hitting prospects in all of baseball, this California native has the total package at the plate. Hitting from the left side, Anderson has a smooth and fluid swing that rifles through the strike zone to produce excellent bat speed and consistent contact. The ball jumps off his bat when he makes contact, and his overall hitting intellect is very age advanced. Anderson has a keen batting eye and is extremely patient at the plate as well, working through long at-bats to find the pitch he can drive and usually putting a great swing on it. Because Anderson is able to wait a long time at the plate before starting his swing, he hits extremely well to the opposite field and has the power to take an inside pitch out to left field. Anderson has been improving his ability to turn on the ball, pulling more home runs last season after struggling to do so in his first season in professional baseball. He has above-average power potential at the plate overall, and projects to have excellent power to all fields. Standing 6’4’’ and weighing 210 pounds, Anderson also has the potential to fill out his frame a bit more and add even more power to his game. His swing looks ready-made for Fenway Park, and he should be able to use the left-field wall to his advantage routinely. In the field, Anderson digs throws out of the dirt well and has improved around the bag since signing with the Red Sox. He projects to be an average to slightly above-average defender at the major league level. After making it to Double-A in his second full season in the system in 2008, Anderson produced nice results at Portland and was able to adjust well to the advanced pitching of the EL. A hard worker and a player that takes direction well, he has rapidly taken to the Red Sox philosophies on hitting.

Development Needs: Anderson can sometimes be too patient at the plate, and the Red Sox would like to see him expand his strike zone a bit more as he progresses up the ranks to limit the number of times he is called out on strikes. This improved for him in 2008, but he will still need to continue to improve as he pushes to the big league level. At twenty-one years of age, Anderson has excellent power potential but he has just begun to tap into it. He struggles a bit with balls on the inside third of the plate, and could stand to pull the ball a bit more. With the adjustments he has already been working on in this area, Anderson should see an increase in power and a climb in his home run totals. Anderson already piles up doubles, and the Red Sox are confident that some of these balls will carry out of the ballpark as he learns to lift the ball more while dropping the head of the bat on inside pitches. His work around the bag has improved, but he still isn’t as fluid as he can be in the field. As he progresses in his development, he’ll need to improve defensively to show he can handle the job at the big league level. Anderson is very advanced for a player at his age, and most of his needed development is in the finer points of being a baseball player.

2009 Outlook: Anderson spent some time in the big league camp this spring and struggled a bit against the advanced pitching. He is set to break camp with the Portland Sea Dogs and play first base on an everyday basis. Look for Anderson to pick up right where he left off in 2008 and improve some more on the excellent results he displayed last season. The main area to watch for is how hitting for power translates more into his game. A sign of positive development will be for him to pull the ball with more power and authority while increasing his home run rates. Anderson should maintain a high contact rate along with his high on-base percentage in 2009. After logging 133 at-bats last season with Portland, expect him to get another 300 or so this season in Double-A to get a good idea of how he is developing. There is no rush to get Anderson into the lineup at this point in time, so the Red Sox can be patient with him and allow him to fully develop at the minor league level. In an ideal scenario, look for Anderson to make a September cameo with Boston this season and come into camp in 2010 with a shot to push into the lineup. The future looks bright for Anderson, and 2009 will be a season of working to realize all of these projections.