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SoxProspects News

August 5, 2009 at 8:07 AM

The Ladder- 8.5.09



Will Middlebrooks

The Line: Covering the month of July, Middlebrooks posted a line of .337/.391/.558, good for an OPS of .949 in the month. He cracked 13 extra-base hits during the stretch, including 5 home runs, while driving in an impressive 26 runs in 27 games played. Over the last 10 games, Middlebrooks has been white hot, hitting .459 with 3 home runs, 10 runs batted in, and 9 runs scored. On July 28 against Lakewood, he clubbed 2 home runs and drove in 4 runs in a 2-for-4 performance. Middlebrooks followed that up with back-to-back 3-hit games against Augusta on July 30-31 to close out the month on a strong note. Since June, he’s seen his OPS steadily climb to.768 after a tough 16-for-90 start to the 2009 season. Middlebrooks has currently hit in 15 of his last 16 games heading into action on August 5.

The View: Middlebrooks got off to an extremely tough start after coming back late in April from a torn hamstring injury suffered early in Spring Training. During the rocky start, he failed to make much contact at all and piled up a lot of strikeouts in the process. Since June, Middlebrooks has been a different hitter at the plate and has been ramping back into the late-season form he flashed at Lowell in 2008. With quick wrists and strong hands, he generates plus bat speed, and the ball jumps off his bat with the classic crack when he squares it up. Struggling as an extreme pull hitter to start his career, Middlebrooks started going to the right side of the field with greater frequency, and that is when things turned for him in 2008. After showing sporadic power last season, Middlebrooks has begun to flash his power potential in 2009, and the extra-base hits have begun to pile up for him; he’s even been driving the ball out of the ballpark on occasion. Possessing a compact and fluid stroke at the plate, the root cause of his struggles stems from his below-average pitch recognition and struggles with off-speed pitches. Once locked in at the plate, Middlebrooks can turn around just about anyone’s fastball, but has a difficult time with off-speed pitches, especially ones that sweep across the strike zone. Still striking out at a frequent clip, the next step in his development is to cut down on the strikeouts, and his success at upper levels in the Red Sox system will be tied into how well he can improve on this need in his game. A hard worker and dedicated player, Middlebrooks has made strides during his early career within the organization and the results have been showing since June. While he still has a lot of work to do with his strike-zone judgment and count management, his patience at the plate has been much improved thus far in 2009, and we’ve seen the type of hitter he can become on a more consistent basis this season.

Seth Garrison

The Line: Over his last 57 2/3 innings of work, Garrison has been shutting down the opposition and turned his season around in the process. He’s given up 8 earned runs during the stretch while limiting batters to 41 hits with 38 strikeouts and only 8 walks. Going deep into games, Garrison has gone 6 innings or more in 7 of his last 10 appearances and has only given up more than 1 earned one in 1 of those appearances. On July 24 against Potomac, he fired 6 innings while giving up 1 earned run on 2 hits to pick up the win. Garrison struck out 6 batters and only issued 1 free pass on the night. He followed that up on July 31 with his finest outing of the season, going 7 innings without allowing an earned run while striking out 7 hitters and allowing only 2 hits. Garrison was named SoxProspects.com Pitcher of the Month for July after going 4-1 with a 1.48 ERA with 30 strikeouts, 5 walks, and an opponents’ batting average against of .218.

The View: The big right-handed pitcher served as Lowell’s closer in 2008 after signing with the organization and reporting to short-season baseball. Coming off of Tommy John surgery in 2007, Garrison was held to 1-2 inning outings in his initial transition to professional baseball. After being assigned to High-A Salem following Spring Training this year, Garrison found himself in the starting rotation, and the initial results were not all that great. Since settling in, however, Garrison has found his groove on the mound and has been using his 88-91 MPH fastball to his advantage. Standing 6’5’’ tall, he creates a lot of downward motion on the ball through the leverage he creates with his frame. His fastball can be very heavy, cutting down through the zone, and can top out around 93 MPH when he reaches back for some extra zip. Garrison also features close to a 12/6 curveball that he has been steadily featuring more and more as he gets further removed from his surgery. The pitch can flash some hard break and straighten up hitters when he gets on top it. His curveball is about an average offering right now, but with continued sharpening can be a consistent out-pitch for him. In his role as a starter, the development of his third pitch, a change-up, is crucial to keeping hitters off-balance and allows him to show another look to hitters, since he isn’t going to constantly throw his fastball by them. The development of his change-up will determine whether he stays in the rotation down the line or if he will ultimately move into a bullpen role. Right now, Garrison’s most likely path projects as a reliever when he reaches higher levels of the Red Sox system, but he’ll continue on the starter’s path for now, and the results since June have shown the progress his repertoire has been making in that role. A bit of a surprise addition to the ranks of the starting pitchers the Red Sox organization, Garrison has been showing that he can handle the assignment and is another entry on the list of depth at the pitching position in the system.

Trending Up

Right-handed pitcher Stephen Fife has gotten off to a strong start after his promotion to High-A Salem and has handled the transition well. In his first 22 2/3 innings, Fife has given up 21 hits while striking out 21 batters and only issuing 2 free passes in the stretch. With four pitches in his arsenal, which already includes a plus curveball, Fife has been focusing on sharpening his change-up and developing the offering into another strikeout pitch for him. When Fife is on, he gets ahead of hitters with his 88-91 MPH sinking fastball and turns to his secondary offerings to finish them off when they are down in the count. Given the movement on his fastball, batters routinely pound the pitch into the dirt, as Fife excels at keeping the ball out of the middle of the plate to limit the hard contact against him…Portland outfielder Ryan Kalish struggled with his initial transition to Double-A, but has recently been back on the ball and keeping himself more controlled at the plate. Kalish is 15 for his last 40 and has struck out only 6 times in that stretch while walking 5 times. His excellent control of the strike zone allows him to keep his weight back and unleash his quick swing when he gets his pitch. Kalish finished off July hitting .304 with an OPS of .863 and hit 4 home runs while driving in 19 runs for the Sea Dogs in the month…When the dust settled from this year’s trade deadline, Portland’s Josh Reddick found himself promoted to Boston to fill in because of injury and had an excellent weekend in his first taste of big league baseball. Reddick belted 2 doubles in his first career start August 1 and followed that up with his first career home run on August 2, adding a run scoring single as well.

Trending Down

Portland first baseman Lars Anderson’s struggles at the plate continue. Anderson is currently 5 for 41 and hasn’t homered in his last 27 games. For much of the year, he’s looked over-matched and generally out of whack with his timing at the plate. After making a splash in his initial appearance in Double-A towards the end of the 2008 season, Anderson has had a much tougher time in 2009 and has some adjustments to make in his offensive game. Still only 21 years of age and possessing excellent skills at the plate, Anderson continues to be a bright fixture in the organization’s future, but has been learning how to deal with adversity for the first time in his professional career…Salem outfielder David Mailman has hit a bit of a roadblock since his promotion to High-A after the all-star break. After posting an OPS of .824 for Greenville, Mailman has gotten off to a 19-for-115 start and has only 4 extra-base hits. He’s been striking out at a greater frequency and has been having a tough time squaring balls up in his initial exposure to a more advanced level…Salem catcher Tim Federowicz is 2 for his last 26 and has had a rough go of things in High-A after putting up a strong performance in the first half of the season for Greenville. Now being challenged more consistently, Federowicz hasn’t been able to square a lot of balls up and create the hard contact he was producing earlier in the year. Although he has only struck out 3 times during the stretch, he has only walked 3 times as well in 82 at-bats since his promotion.