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June 25, 2009 at 2:09 PM

The Ladder- 6.25.09

Che-Hsuan Lin

The Line: After starting out on the season 8 for 59 with 19 strikeouts and only 5 walks, Lin has turned things around at the plate, posting a .276/.385/.387 line since his extremely slow start. Lin’s been able to work counts much better since April and has turned his trends around, walking 29 times and only striking out 21 times during the months of May and June. He’s been especially hot over his last 10 games, going 12 for 37 with 2 home runs, 11 runs scored, and 6 stolen bases in the stretch. Lin turned in his finest performance of the season on June 19 against Potomac, reaching base 6 times via 3 hits and 3 walks while belting 2 home runs and driving in 4 runs in the game. After posting a .378 OPS in the month of April, Lin has pushed his season mark up to .674 with his 2 month turnaround, while his 14 stolen bases and 34 walks on the season rank him within the Top 10 in the Carolina League.

The View: Lin was all out of whack to begin the season, and some of his struggles can be attributed to the fact that he was coming back from injury in April. The key to his turnaround has been his improvement in his patience and increase in contact rates along with an improvement in his balance at the plate. Lin hits with a timing step at the plate, and a lot of his balance issues come from this portion of his load getting too big or causing him to lunge at balls. Despite having some experience playing International baseball, Lin’s pitch recognition was on the raw side when he arrived in the United States, and he struggled with chasing breaking balls out of the strike zone early in his career. With increased experience, he’s improved on this aspect of his game and the moving trends of his strikeouts to walks are a key indication of the positive development he has made. Lin has always been defensively polished and gets excellent reads on balls, highlighted by his elite range and plus plus arm in centerfield. One scout who recently saw Lin came away extremely impressed with his arm and said it was not only the best outfield arm within the Red Sox system, but also one of the best arms he has seen in the minors to date. The key going forward for Lin will be to continue to keep himself together mechanically at the plate, as his batting eye will allow him to continue to drive balls like he has for the last 2 months. An improving hitter, he’s made some nice strides this season despite a difficult April and has started to show flashes of his potential as a major league top-of-the-order hitter.

Stolmy Pimentel

The Line: Pimentel has put together a solid first half in his first season of full-season baseball, logging 58 1/3 innings while giving up 68 hits and striking out 50 against 15 walks. The number of hits against him in the early going was a bit concerning, but that has trended down each month, with his batting average against dropping from .338 in April to .227 in June. His strikeouts have also been on the rise. Pimentel has demonstrated good control the entire season and has generally been around the strike zone in all of his outings. He has been especially strong in his last 4 outings, firing 21 1/3 innings while allowing 3 earned runs on 17 hits and striking out 24 batters against only 5 free passes. He posted his strikeout high in an outing on June 12 against Asheville with 7 and followed that up 5 days later against the same lineup with 6 strikeouts over 5 innings of work.

The View: Pimentel has flown under the radar this season, which is a testament to the strength of the Red Sox organization’s young arms. After more than holding his own in the NYPL last season, he’s picked up where he left off and has been strong as a 19 year old in the SAL. Pimentel’s strengths are his above-average change-up and 12/6 curveball. Both of these pitches generate a lot of swings and misses while fooling batters and keeping them off-balance. The deception that he creates with his change-up makes it very tough on hitters and the sharp, improving break of his curve cause batters to go fishing outside of the zone. His low 90’s fastball is behind these pitches, though, but the key to his success this season has been the improvement in his command of this pitch. Pimentel can’t afford to live up in the zone with his fastball right now, and the majority of the hard contact against him occurs when this pitch grabs the fat part of the plate. As the season has progressed, he’s been able to keep this pitch down, and the drop in the number of hits against him (along with having only given up 1 home run on the season) demonstrates how he’s been moving his fastball around the strike zone. As he fills out, some believe that he’ll add velocity to his fastball given his arm speed and arm action, so this bears watching as his career progresses. Pimentel will look to keep things going as the second half of the season begins and if the trends of the month of June continue, followers can expect him to push his development to the next step.

Trending Up

Will Middlebrooks has found his stride in June, posting a .946 OPS so far this month. After struggling with strikeouts to start the season, he has been cutting down on them and producing a lot more solid contact. The biggest need for Middlebrooks has been to improve his raw pitch recognition and patience at the plate. These look to be taking a step forward, as he’s been much more patient this season and has drawn 20 walks in 141 total at-bats after only walking 12 times in 209 at-bats with Lowell last season. Middlebrooks has flashed some of the power that he is projected to develop down the line in the month of June, cracking 4 doubles, 1 triple, and 2 home runs, good for a .549 slugging percentage…Mike Lee has been off to a good start after packing up from Florida and heading to Greenville. The 6’7’’ right-hander has struck out 20 batters in 19 innings of work, and despite a rough outing in his last appearance, has given up only 6 earned runs in that stretch. Lee’s been using his fastball, which can get up to 95 MPH, to overpower hitters and has been generating some chase swings with his 9-3 curveball…Salem’s Ryne Miller picked up 5 strikeouts in 2 innings during the recently played Carolina League All-Star Game. The hard-throwing reliever has fanned 51 batters in 45 innings this season, including 24 over his last 20 2/3 innings pitched…Sally League All-Stars David Mailman, Anthony Rizzo, and Tim Federowicz all were recently promoted to Salem and are set to begin the second half in the Carolina League after finishing up strong with Greenville.

Trending Down

After a tough run in Greenville, Michael Almanzar has been assigned to the Lowell Spinners. Almanzar has looked off-balanced at the plate for much of the season and needs some work keeping his balance. Still only 18 years of age, he’s been showing his inexperience, along with just how raw his skills still are, both at the plate and in the field. Almanzar’s swing is mostly on the long side and he doesn’t get his hands through the hitting zone quick enough at the moment to consistently square up the advanced pitching he has been seeing and will continue to see with Lowell…Michael Bowden has hit a rough patch in June and has given up 6 earned runs in 2 of his last 5 starts, including a 1 inning clunker against Durham on June 19. Bowden has given up 28 hits over his last 24 innings along with 16 earned runs after only giving up 29 hits and 11 earned runs in his first 48 2/3 innings on the season…After hitting 19 home runs in 484 at-bats last season, Jason Place has only hit 2 home runs in 241 at-bats this season. Place has been more selective and chased fewer off-speed pitches at the plate, but his drop in power has jumped out this year and is of some concern. It remains to be seen how his power will be ultimately affected by his work on his approach.