SoxProspects News

September 29, 2009 at 11:27 AM

Q&A with Mike Hazen


In our annual tradition, Red Sox Director of Player Development Mike Hazen took some questions from Mike Andrews of SoxProspects.com to wrap up the 2009 minor league season. For our newer readers, Hazen is the head of the farm system, responsible for overseeing the development of Boston's minor league talent. Special thanks to Mike for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Thanks as well to Chris Hatfield, who contributed to this interview.

Mike Andrews:
Could you compare and contrast the defensive tools of Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish? What factors will be the most determinative as to what outfield positions they will play at the next levels?
Mike Hazen: Josh and Ryan are both good defensive outfielders. We think Josh is a little quicker in his first step to the ball and has a quicker release on his throws. Both players have solid-average arms from the outfield. Ryan is very sound defensive outfielder with good closing speed. He's also bigger than Josh physically, and may continue to fill out over the course of his career. That could likely be the ultimate decision-maker. Both players will continue to play center in the near future in the minor leagues, but ultimately how they physically end up filling out will play a large role in their final major league position.

MA
: What can we make of Lars Anderson's 2009 season?
MH: Lars had a tough year with some inconsistent performances. We’ve talked a lot about this in the past; not every developmental path is a linear one. During the course of their respective careers, players are going to have periods – sometimes seasons – of inconsistent play and growth. Sometimes it’s hard to reason, but there are times when good seasons emerge and players are able to ride that run of positive performance. Then there are seasons that go in the other direction and players can have a difficult time digging themselves out of holes. Lars is a very good player and is going to perform at his accustomed levels again. There were probably similar feelings about Dan Bard after 2007 and Clay Buchholz after 2008 as well. Not to say that we expect that type of turn around, but Lars works as hard as anyone we have, and we are confident that he is going to process 2009 and be better for it next year.

MA
: You must be very proud of Anthony Rizzo’s accomplishments in 2009. Please discuss his development over the course of the last year.
MH: Anthony had a very good season with solid performances at two levels. At this age, the majority of development is focused on repetition and foundation building. Anthony has done a good job of continuing to get his swing more consistent from a timing standpoint and defensively he has always been very good at first base. Thankfully he has been healthy and cancer-free now for over a year and he should be able to focus on getting stronger in instructional league in preparation for 2010.

MA
: Can you discuss the relative strengths and developmental needs of Luis Exposito, Tim Federowicz, and Ryan Lavarnway?
MH: Exposito is very strong and has a good catcher’s frame. He probably has the best raw arm strength and raw power in the system for catchers. With Expo, we are just getting started working with the upper level pitchers, which is always a challenge for any young catcher. Fed is a little quicker behind the plate with a very good release, ability to run the pitching staff, and call games. With Fed, we are working on the finer points of his blocking and receiving skills. Ryan probably had the best overall offensive year for our catchers. We are working with Ryan on receiving technique and overall throwing mechanics. Ryan’s ability to stay behind the plate will be very important for his career.

MA
: Felix Doubront and Stolmy Pimentel are two of the more successful international pitchers in the organization. What are the keys to their respective successes?
MH: Hard work. Both players came into 2009 in Fort Myers in extremely good shape. Felix had worked harder than we have ever seen last off-season. His body is starting to add considerable muscle and that helped with his ability to repeat his delivery even more, translating into higher velocities for his fastball. Stolmy put on a lot of size and strength last off-season as well. Stolmy had always shown a pretty good feel for his fastball command and the ability to throw his changeup. The emergence of his breaking ball this year was a big separator.

MA
: Che-Hsuan Lin appears to have some of the best tools in the organization, particularly his defense and speed. How well did his bat come along in 2009?
MH: As you know, Lin got off to a little bit of a rough start in 2009. While he had a lot of very good months after that, his overall numbers obviously suffered as a result. He has all the tools we look for in a good young hitter: plate discipline, balance, strength, and bat speed. As you mentioned, his defense and speed are going to be his calling card in the majors, but we feel strongly that he is going to hit as well.

MA
: The young Greenville infield from early 2009 went in various directions over the course of the season. Could you contrast the development of Will Middlebrooks, Ryan Dent, Oscar Tejeda, and Michael Almanzar over the 2009 season?
MH: As we have talked about in the past, young players equals inconsistency. I think this group is a microcosm of that. Middlebrooks struggled for most of the first half before getting a little more luck in the second half and turning his season around. Will improved his at bat management tremendously this season. Ryan had a solid year start-to-finish. There were still some ups-and-downs, but those were much less noticeable than 2008. He really emerged at shortstop where he played very well, and that gives us a lot to think about moving into this off-season. Oscar had a pretty good year – not what a lot of people expect we realize – but a year of growth at the plate. We made some fundamental adjustments with his swing during the year which can always be a challenge to immediate performance. Michael’s season was disappointing in the aspect of having to move him back to Lowell . We just didn’t feel that keeping Will and Michael at the same level was going to be productive for the second half and neither player had shown enough to move up to fill the hole in Salem. As you look at this group, realize that they all played well below the average age of the South Atlantic League (very fluid number as you would imagine, but the average age sits slightly above 21). There are always a number of players that excel regardless of age such as Rizzo or Jason Heyward, but that is more the exception. It does present challenges to younger players that are working on building more of a developmental foundation with regard to their approach or swing mechanics.

MA
: Daniel Nava and Derrick Loop are two independent league signees who have had some real success in the Sox system over the past couple years. How did they come onto the Red Sox' radar, and where do they stand in terms of being potential major league contributors?
MH: Allard Baird and Jared Porter scour the independent leagues every year and we have been fortunate to have scouted and signed two of the better players over the last couple of years. We monitor good performances in those leagues and send scouts in to see them play. Nava and Loop both had very good seasons and have performed as well as our younger prospects. They will continue to get more opportunities to perform in the future.

MA
: In that same vein, what aspects of their respective games do Bryce Cox and Chris Province need to work on to excel at the next levels?
MH: Bryce and Chris are both hitting that point of their careers where they need to separate themselves from the others within their group. Both need more consistency with regard to command of their secondary pitches. This becomes the separator at the highest levels. Next year as they move into a possible major league protection role, this will become very important. At this point moving forward, promotion and opportunity are a function of performance and little else.

MA
: We ask this every year, but you've given us great names like Stolmy Pimentel, Roman Mendez, and Manny Rivera in the past, so we'll ask again: what players coming out of the Latin American program should we keep an eye on next season?
MH: Juan Rodriguez and Keury De La Cruz were our pitcher and player of the year respectively. We feel both have a good amount of upside and are excited to see them perform in the states.

 
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