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June 4, 2009 at 7:47 AM

The Ladder- 6.4.09

David Mailman

The Line: After a slow start in the month of April, Mailman caught fire in May for the Greenville Drive, posting a .375/.423/.545 line good for an OPS of .968 over 88 at-bats. Driving the ball more frequently, he hit 12 extra-base hits in the month after tallying only 3 in April. Mailman increased his rate of contact and struck out only 7 times in the stretch while walking 8 times, demonstrating an improvement in his patience and pitch recognition at the plate. Over his last 10 games, the left-handed outfielder has gone 15 for 40 with 5 extra-base hits, including his first home run of the season against Ashville on June 2. Riding a 9-game hitting streak, he’s had 5 multi-hit games in that stretch, which included 3 straight games to close out the month of May. Mailman has hit right-handed pitching to a tune of .313 on the season and has pushed his overall OPS up to .826 on the year with his strong May performance.

The View: The sweet-swinging lefty looked solid in Spring Training this season and much more comfortable at the plate, a far cry from his first spring in professional baseball where he was feeling things out. After starting slowly, he has found that level of comfort again and begun to drive the ball with much more authority. Billed as a hitter who had a good feel for the strike zone at an early age when drafted, Mailman struggled a bit early with Class-A Greenville Drive last season before turning things on in the second half of the season. Back with the Drive this season, he’s ramped up to speed a bit quicker and has begun a push to the next level, one that he should see at some point this summer with sustained success in the month of June. Of some concern is how Mailman struggles against left-handed pitching, and this trend will be something to continue to monitor as the season goes on. He has not been able to hang in well against them, and there has been a large drop-off in his comfort level during his at-bats against southpaws. Improvement in this area is a must as he progresses to higher levels within the Red Sox organization. His home run stroke has been a bit behind this season, but the extra-base power has been there and the contact rates have been on the way up. After being a bit overmatched in 2008, Mailman has made some adjustments in his game and taken a step forward this year.

Mark Wagner

The Line: Wagner has gotten off to a strong start in 2009 for the Portland Sea Dogs despite suffering a hamstring strain running the bases back in April. Through 96 at-bats he’s posted a .313/.432/.532 line, good for an OPS of .963, while walking 18 times and only striking out 16 times thus far. Wagner’s heated up since his return from the disabled list and is 15 for his last 42 with 7 extra-base hits during his last 10 games. On May 25, he tallied 3 hits against Connecticut, hitting to all fields in the game. Wagner followed it up with another 3-hit game on June 1 against Binghamton in which he also drove in 2 runs. His patience at the plate this season has been a noticeable improvement after only walking 38 times in 94 games last season with the Sea Dogs. Wagner has hung in tough against right-handed pitching on the season, stroking 2 of his 3 home runs against righties and hitting .303 on the season against them.

The View: Wagner struggled for much of 2008 and seemed to plateau a bit. His offensive game took a step back and there were reports that his defensive game was not as advanced as previously thought. Wagner has been working counts extremely well and has been making pitchers work extremely hard to get him out. His ability to stay back on an off-speed pitch has jumped out this season, and he has been driving the balls he has attacked, mostly working in favorable counts. Behind the dish Wagner has been strong defensively. He is still prone to some lapses in concentration, which sometimes result in a passed ball or pitch he could have blocked, but these instances have been fewer and further between this season than in seasons past. Wagner has looked like a leader on the field and embraced the role of being a team leader this season. He has looked comfortable and confident, with these traits driving his performance. In the past, he has tended to fade down the stretch due to the wear and tear of being an everyday catcher. A strong 125-150 at-bats over the course of the next 6 weeks or so will lend a big clue to whether Wagner can buck the trend this season, while in the process putting him in contention to make the jump to the next level of the organization.

Trending Up

Stephen Fife made his 2009 season debut with the Greenville Drive on May 30, firing 4 innings of 1-hit baseball. Fife also walked 1 batter, struck out 1 batter, and gave up an unearned run. He stayed back in Florida when the season began due to a shoulder injury. Look for Fife to control hitters at this level with his sinking fastball and hard breaking curveball…Jason Rice continues to strike hitters out at an excellent clip down in Salem. He’s struck out 39 batters in 27 innings on the season, including 20 batters in his last 12 innings of work while walking 5 batters during that span. The hard-throwing righty has limited batters to a .161 average on the season…Tim Federowicz is 16 for his last 42 and continues to make hard contact for the Drive. He finished off his hot month of May with an OPS of .866.

Trending Down

Lars Anderson went 15 for 93 in the month of May with 28 strikeouts. A lot of the strikeouts have been coming on off-speed pitches, and Anderson’s timing at the plate has looked off. He hasn’t been getting good swings on fastballs and has been unable to lay off breaking balls outside of the strike zone…Michael Bowden has given up 11 earned runs in his last 10 1/3 innings after giving up 4 earned runs in his previous 42 innings with Pawtucket. Batters have been getting better swings off of Bowden in his last 3 starts, and he hasn’t lasted more than 4 1/3 innings in any of them…Batters have hit .322 against Stolmy Pimentel on the season, collecting 57 hits in 43 innings. Pimentel has been able to wiggle out of jams, but has also given up 12 unearned runs that skew his numbers a bit. Batters are making a lot of contact against Pimentel and his strikeouts are down as well.