May 11, 2009 at 12:29 PM
The Red Sox selected centerfielder Ryan Westmoreland in the fifth round of the 2008 MLB draft out of Portsmouth High School in Rhode Island. As one of the most highly-regarded prep players in all of New England in 2008, Westmoreland was offered a full scholarship to Vanderbilt University, but ultimately opted to go pro after being selected by his favorite team and coming to terms on a $2-million signing bonus in August 2008. Due to a partially torn labrum, Westmoreland has yet to make his professional debut, but expects to do so in June. Mike Andrews of SoxProspects.com recently had the chance to talk shop with Westmoreland.
Mike Andrews: Heading into the 2008 season, you were considered one of the top high school players in New England. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience playing high school ball? How do you think the talent pool differs in New England versus the rest of the country?
RW: Playing high school baseball in New England was a blast. I was lucky enough to have great coaching during and even prior to high school. I believe that New England baseball players are very competitive with the rest of the country, but we just don't receive as much exposure to college and pro scouts as the southern schools do. If I hadn't played summer ball down south from ages 15-18, I don't think most of the scouts from southern colleges such as Vanderbilt would've ever seen me.
MA: As a highly regarded prep centerfielder coming out of Rhode Island, you’ve undoubtedly drawn comparisons to Rocco Baldelli. What are your thoughts on those comparisons? Had you ever met Rocco prior to this year? Did you have a chance to talk with him at all this spring?
RW: I have heard a lot of people compare me to Rocco, and I think that's awesome. Growing up in Rhode Island, and being an outfielder, I've always looked up to Rocco as a player and a person. I've known him since I was about 13, after being the Rays' bat boy in spring training in 2002. He's a great player and an even better person. I got to talk to him this spring a few times, and its good to see him in a Red Sox jersey. Especially being the player he is, and also an outfielder from Rhode Island, its an honor being compared to him.
MA: What was the scouting and recruitment process like for you? How many pro teams did you receive serious attention from? How many NCAA schools did you give serious consideration?
RW: The college recruiting process was a hectic one, but a very good experience. I talked with a few schools pretty seriously, but it wasn't a tough decision when I signed to play at Vanderbilt. The schools I was most interested in were Clemson, Virginia, Mississippi State, Boston College, and Vandy. As far as pro teams, pretty much every team came out to a high school game, but once I put my bonus number out there, pretty much every team dropped out and stopped coming besides the Red Sox and Yankees.
MA: Tell us about your draft day experience.
RW: Draft day was the most nervous I have been in my entire life. I had heard so many different things about where I was going in the draft that I went golfing in the morning to get my mind somewhere else. But while I was golfing I received a call saying a team not to be named was going to take me as their first round pick. I was stunned, but didn't want to get my hopes up. So I watched the draft anxiously waiting for my name to get called, and eventually I was lucky enough that the Sox took me in the fifth round, which was a dream come true for me. Being from Rhode Island, I couldn't have asked for anything better than to be drafted by my lifelong favorite team.
MA: Your tools were highly regarded prior to the draft, but you really turned heads during your summer with the Bayside Yankees. What parts of your game do you think helped you excel against such high levels of competition? If the draft hypothetically took place in August after a full Bayside season, do you think your draft stock would have increased?
RW: This past summer, I really focused on taking every single pitch of every single game to work on every aspect of my game - baserunning, outfield reads, throwing, and becoming a more mature hitter. I definitely think if the draft had been later, my stock would have risen because even to this day, I constantly hear "he faced Rhode Island pitching" and the "northeast baseball isn't any good" lines from many people. Which is fine, they can have their opinions, but I feel like I proved myself to everyone out there with my play this summer against a high level of competition.
MA: Prior to the draft, one publication reported that you were only signable by Boston. Did the fact that it was the Red Sox who drafted you factor into your decision? How difficult was it to decide to go pro over attending Vanderbilt?
RW: A lot of factors played into my decision to sign and forgo college, but the fact that it was the Red Sox, my life long favorite team, made it a little easier to pass up college. However, passing up a scholarship to Vandy wasn't easy. I have tremendous respect for Coach Tim Corbin and his program, and I wish the best for everyone that plays there for him.
MA: It’s been reported that you had surgery in November 2008 to repair a partially torn labrum. What can you tell us about the injury and how it occurred? What has the rehab process been like? Have you returned to full game action in Extended Spring Training, or are there still some restrictions in place? Do you expect to be ready for the start of short-season ball?
RW: I actually had no idea that I was even hurt until the day before I went down to Ft. Myers for the GCL. I was taking BP with my dad when I just felt some discomfort. So when I went to Ft. Myers, I miserably failed some strength test, and they shut me down. So pretty much for August through October I rehabbed the muscles around the labrum to try to avoid surgery. I ended up playing for about a week in the Dominican Republic, but still felt some pain, mainly throwing. Two days after I got home, I went to Boston and made the decision to have surgery. The rehab process has been extremely long and at times monotonous, but as I get closer to being 100%, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. For the last week or so I've been DH'ing the extended spring training games. I'm still working on getting my timing back against live pitching, but it's great to be back out there. I'm not game ready throwing-wise yet, as I'm still progressing in the throwing program. I feel like at this pace, I should definitely be 100% ready to go by the time the Lowell season starts.
MA: What are your personal goals for the remainder of the year? Have there been any discussions as to whether you’re headed to Lowell, or is there a possibility you could see some time in Greenville in 2009?
RW: I haven't heard for sure where I'll be going when I am 100%, but I'm ready for wherever they want to send me, whether it's Fort Myers, Lowell, or Greenville. As for my goals, I just want to keep my shoulder healthy and help whatever team I'm on win. I'm not big on setting statistical goals for myself, I'm just trying to get back into the swing of things and try to win.
MA: Please give us a scouting report on a healthy Ryan Westmoreland.
RW: Good speed and plate discipline, but sometimes will lunge out for the ball instead of staying back. As an outfielder, pretty good range and arm, but is still fairly new to the outfield, so fly ball reads may need more time to become a more mature outfielder.
MA: What one teammate has impressed you the most since you’ve been drafted, and why?
RW: Nick Hagadone, no question about it. I have never seen a player work so hard in my life, and I know for a fact that any player can get better just watching his work ethic. We've been rehabbing together since August and he's shown me what it takes to be successful. I know he'll be a successful pitcher for a long time.