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SoxProspects News

February 15, 2010 at 8:45 AM

2010 Prospect Previews: Stephen Fife and David Mailman

This installment of the series features two players that appear ticketed for Salem after receiving mid-season promotions to High-A in 2009 and who will look to continue their development in 2010 with an eye on pushing towards Double-A.

Stephen Fife

Position: Starting Pitcher
2009 Teams: Greenville Drive/Salem Red Sox
2010 Projected Team: Salem Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 23

Strengths: After a delay to the start of his season due to shoulder fatigue during Spring Training, Fife bounced back to pitch at two levels for the Red Sox in 2009. Featuring a heavy, sinking fastball, he pounds the strike zone effectively and shows good command of the pitch. Sitting mainly in the low-90s, the downward action of his fastball causes batters to mostly get on top of the pitch and allows Fife to produce a lot of groundballs when hitters make contact. His two-seam fastball shows good tail in on right-handed hitters and can break a lot of bats when he’s throwing it well. Fife is capable of dialing his four-seam fastball up to about 94 MPH, but generally only does so when he is looking to elevate out of the strike zone to finish a batter off. While relying a lot on his fastball, he showed improvement with the feel of his low-80’s change-up and gained trust in the offering as the season went along to be able to use it as an effective change of pace. Fife also features a hard breaking curveball and slider as secondary offerings. In 2009, he put a lot of work in to improving the command of his curveball and featuring it more as an out-pitch. Because of this, Fife put his slider aside, but could come back to the pitch as he continues to fine tune his arsenal. Standing a sturdy 6’3’’ and 215 pounds, Fife projects to be able to handle the rigors of throwing a full-season’s workload for a starter and has a very solid base that creates good drive.

Development Needs: Due to last year’s injury Fife was only able to log 87 1/3 innings and still hasn’t been totally stretched out over the course of a season of baseball. While showing improvement and more confidence in his change-up, Fife must continue to develop the pitch if he is to project as a starting pitcher at higher levels in the Red Sox system. He will also need to command his curveball to the point where he can become less fastball dependant. His command with his fastball slipped a bit after being promoted to Salem and he saw a rise in his home run totals while in High-A. To continue to utilize his strengths with his fastball, Fife must focus on keeping the ball down more against advanced hitters and picking his spots to elevate his four-seam fastball, as it tends to straighten out at higher velocities. He should work lower in the zone now that he’s been challenged at a level that tests his skills. The Red Sox are looking for Fife to round himself out more and to polish off his arsenal as he moves up the ranks to continue as a starting pitcher. The development of an above-average three-pitch arsenal is the big key for Fife, as he needs to keep upper level hitters guessing enough to prevent him from having to come into the middle of the strike zone too much with his fastball. 2009 was a good season of development once he got going, but he needs a strong workload of starting to put the finishing touches on his stuff and show he’s going to be a workhorse in the rotation.

2010 Outlook: Fife looks set to begin the season in the rotation with the Salem Red Sox. After getting a taste of the competition in High-A during the 2009 season, he should be ready to make the necessary adjustments to his pitching patterns against the hitters at this level. Look for Fife to continue to work on sharpening his curveball and change-up, as these are the keys to him sticking in the rotation as he rises towards Double-A. He’ll generate a lot of groundballs with his fastball and will pound the zone with the pitch to get ahead of hitters. He should see some more strikeouts come via his curveball and change-up as he feels the pitches more. Logging more innings is another key for Fife in 2010, and a strong half or so of pitching at this level could see him challenging for a spot in Double-A by the close of the season. A player that flies under the radar, Fife is another arm in the Red Sox system that could see a rapid rise in 2010 with some polishing of his repertoire.

David Mailman

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

Strengths: After breaking camp with the Greenville Drive for the second time in 2009, Mailman put up a solid first half of the season before being promoted to Salem. A left-handed hitter with a smooth and quick stroke, he shows good patience at the plate and the ability to put the bat on the ball. Mailman’s pitch recognition improved in 2009 and he was able to cut down on his strikeouts during his stint with the Drive, along with becoming more aggressive at the plate to pick out pitches to drive into gaps. This was a need for him entering the 2009 season as he was a bit too passive at the plate in his first season as a professional. A good fastball hitter, he can drop the head of the bat on the ball effectively and stays back well to hit pitches the other way on the outer-third of the plate. He has good fundamentals and mechanics with his swing. An above-average athlete, Mailman has manned all three outfield spots, but looks better suited to play a corner spot, showing an accurate, slightly above-average arm. He put a lot of work into his strength and conditioning heading into 2009, and he was able to pack on some more muscle to fill out what had been a slight build after signing with the Red Sox.

Development Needs: Mailman struggled and was generally over-matched after being promoted to High-A. He failed to make a lot of contact and strayed from his patient approach at the plate as he pressed in the batter’s box. More improvement with his pitch recognition is going to be a need for him to succeed at High-A, and he will need more trust in his skills to avoid bouts of lack of confidence at the plate. Mailman must stick with his patient approach to take advantage of the entire field like he does when he is going well at the plate. He’s had some trouble being consistent with his approach, but this is common in young hitters in the early stages of their development. His power projection is still questionable as a corner outfielder. He has a swing that generates good bat speed to the point of contact, but it lacks lift at this stage in his development and his strength has yet to translate into game action. Mailman could incorporate his lower body more into his swing, and he needs to continue to work on building strength in this area if he is going to show average to above-average power at the major league level. He also struggles against lefties and needs to hang in better against them to project as an everyday outfielder down the line. In the field, Mailman is an improving outfielder and he needs some more work on his route taking, but has made a smooth transition to the position after playing first base in high school.

2010 Outlook: The 2010 season should prove to be an important year for his development, as Mailman will get a chance to play a corner spot with the Salem Red Sox when the team leaves Florida. After struggling to adjust after being promoted last season, he should show improvements with his pitch recognition and have a better feel of the competition. Look for Mailman to go back to being a patient hitter at this level and let things come to him in the box. Confidence and trust are keys for him to remain consistent and avoid lulls of being passive at the plate. Mailman has the ability to drive balls well and with some improvement in his swing lift, he could see a rise in his home run totals in 2010. With a crowded outfield in the lower levels of the Red Sox system, this season will be an important one for Mailman. After a good first half of 2009 and strides in areas that had been weaknesses, he took a bit of a step back when he was challenged up a level. With similar improvements this season the second time through High-A, he’ll further solidify himself as capable of playing every day in the upper levels of the Red Sox organization.