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February 19, 2010 at 8:05 AM

2010 Prospect Previews: Outfield Watch List

This installment of the series takes a look at four outfielders battling for at-bats in what is shaping up as a very crowded and competitive outfield in the lower minors of the Red Sox system.

Alex Hassan

Position: Outfielder
2009 Teams: Lowell Spinners/Greenville Drive
2010 Projected Team: Greenville Drive
Opening Day Age: 22

2010 Outlook: Hassan joined the Red Sox organization in the summer of 2009 and spent time with both Lowell and Greenville during this past season. A pitcher and outfielder in college at Duke University, the Red Sox decided that he was going to go the route of a position player in the professional ranks. Standing at 6’4’’ and 200 pounds, Hassan has a frame to pack on some muscle to improve his present power, which is fringe average right now. He likes to use all fields and sits back well on breaking balls. Hassan should start the season with the Greenvile Drive and spend time in the outfield, along with logging at-bats at designated hitter. Hassan makes pretty good contact and should put his fair share of balls in play. His swing is a bit on the long side, and improvement on that will be a need for him to consistently square the ball up at this level to produce hard contact. Hassan profiles as a corner outfielder and shows a plus arm with good accuracy when runners challenge him. He has the makings of a solid defensive right fielder. Hassan is just beginning his professional career, and this season should be one focused on working out the kinks with his swing mechanics, with an eye on advancing a level as he gets comfortable facing professional pitching on a regular basis.

Wilfred Pichardo

Position: Outfield
2009 Team: Lowell Spinners
2010 Projected Team: Lowell Spinners/Greenville Drive
Opening Day Age: 20

2010 Outlook: Pichardo faces some tough competition to break camp with a full-season team after spending 2009 with the Lowell Spinners. One of the fastest players in the Red Sox system, this switch hitter uses his speed to his advantage and looks to spray the ball around the field. Profiling as a bottom-of-the-order hitter with below-average power and not projecting to add much more, it will be important for him to cut down on his strikeouts as he moves up a level and continue to stay back on off-speed pitches to help his contact rates, which he showed good improvement on as the 2009 season progressed. Piling up stolen bases so far in his minor league career, he projects as a player that will be able to impact a game in that aspect down the line. Pichardo played all three outfield positions in 2009 and shows that he gets good reads off the bat, excellent range, and an accurate arm. Speed and defense are currently the big strengths in Pichardo’s game. It would be tough to see him not breaking camp with Greenville after the past season of development he had, but it’s a crowded outfield picture in the low minors of the Red Sox organization. A strong camp to show that he has made strides over the off-season will help cement his case for regular at-bats with the Drive and push him further into the mix of outfielders coming up the ranks.

Shannon Wilkerson

Position: Outfield
2009 Teams: Lowell Spinners/Greenville Drive
2010 Projected Team: Greenville Drive/Salem Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 21

2010 Outlook: Wilkerson came out of Division II college baseball after rewriting a lot of the record book, and the Red Sox took a chance on the outfielder in the eighth round of the 2009 draft. He has a nice set of tools that are all average to above-average, and he is an athletic player that plays the game at full-speed. Wilkerson’s biggest need in the 2010 season is to improve upon his approach at the plate, as he tends to look to get the head of the bat out too much at the expense of waiting back on the ball. Concentrating on going up the middle more with help him focus his approach to hitting through the ball and taking what pitchers are going to give him. Not facing the toughest competition in college, Wilkerson is going to have to adjust to higher velocity pitching, as at times he got beat on fastballs on the inside third in 2009. He can play all outfield positions and will most likely see time in right field and center field, where he can cover some good ground and shows a strong arm at either position. The Red Sox could bump Wilkerson up to Salem when the teams break camp to challenge his pitch recognition and to see what he can show against tough competition. Another member of the crowded lower minors outfield picture, a lot of the placements will stem from what happens during what should be a competitive Spring Training in 2010. Wilkerson is an interesting talent and one that should show where he stands with consistent at-bats.

Jeremy Hazelbaker

Position: Outfield
2009 Teams: Lowell Spinners/ Greenville Drive
2010 Projected Team: Greenville Drive
Opening Day Age: 22

2010 Outlook: The Ball State product spent three games with Lowell before heading up to the Greenville to play forty-five games in the South Atlantic League. In need of more adjustment to professional pitching, Hazelbaker struggled to make good contact and was generally over-matched, but was most likely bumped up quickly to fill an injury need in the outfield and get a jump start on where he’d be placed to start 2010. Look for him to get back to showing his good contact skills as he becomes more and more comfortable with professional pitching. He can drive balls on a line into the gaps and he should pile up some doubles in 2010. Hazelbaker has about average present power and could end up improving a bit on that if he can fill out his frame. His speed plays well in centerfield and he shows good range going into the gaps, with the makings of a solid centerfielder as he gains more experience playing the position. He was converted to the outfield in college and is still relatively new to the position. Hazelbaker should also be able to swipe some bases at this level and with more work on his reads should be able to steal bases with some frequency. 2009 was a tough season to get a read on him, but 2010 looks like a season where Hazelbaker can show his skills and push towards the next level of the system.