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February 18, 2010 at 6:56 AM

SoxProspects Mailbag, February 18

In the second installment of the SoxProspects Mailbag, we answer ten questions submitted via the Mailbox. As always, thanks to everyone that submitted questions. We couldn't get to all of the questions, but we will keep the unanswered ones in reserve. If you have another question for the staff, please submit it and we'll add it to the queue for the next installment.

Question: I know this question is tough and perhaps impossible to call right now, but who do you think has the better chance to succeed with the Red Sox – Josh Reddick or Ryan Kalish? -- Justen from Cutler Ridge
SoxProspects: Interesting question, Justen, and one that has been talked about a lot this off-season. Both Kalish and Reddick are nice talents in the outfield for the Red Sox. Kalish put together a strong run with Portland to close out 2009 after initially struggling following his promotion. Reddick got off to a hot start in April, had an injury setback in May, and then ended up in the big leagues with Boston as an injury fill-in. Kalish and Reddick bring different skill sets to the table right now. Reddick has the stronger arm and is a bit better defensively, along with having better power at the plate. Kalish is a much more disciplined hitter, manages the strike zone well, and has good pitch recognition. Reddick struggled in his initial exposure to Triple-A and major league pitching, and has some work to do with regaining his approach that had been getting better prior to his call-up. Because of that, I’ll give Kalish the nod right now because of the perceived strength with his approach. It is tough to tell since Kalish hasn’t been tested at the highest level and Reddick can certainly make strides in this department, but Kalish is more advanced in that area, and I think that gives him a better chance to succeed right now. --Chris Mellen, SoxProspects.com

Q: David Renfroe - I'd like your ideas on his upside, whether he will stick at shortstop or third base, and where he will be at the end of this season. -- Steve from Charlotte
SP: Some saw Renfroe as a late first-round talent, and he has arguably the most upside in Boston's 2009 draft class. He could have pitched in the pros, but he will start his career at shortstop, where he has average range and a great arm. However, as he grows into his 6'3" frame he will likely move to third base, where he has the potential to be a very good defender. At the plate, he has slightly above-average present power in a smooth, short swing, and sprays the ball to all fields. MLB.com threw David Wright out as a ceiling before the draft, but that's stretching it - perhaps a poor-man's David Wright is the better way to put it. Renfroe actually reminds me of Will Middlebrooks - both were selected in the final round of the draft's first day as shortstops who would likely move to third base, received above-slot bonuses, and both could have pitched. Both even could have walked onto their respective football teams in college. But I expect Renfroe to have an easier time adjusting to hitting in the pros than Middlebrooks, due to what we have heard is a solid plate approach. Renfroe should also get more of an opportunity at shortstop, in part because there does not appear to be anyone blocking him from doing so. Renfroe will compete for a spot in Greenville in spring training, but there is also a possibility that he will stay in extended spring training and debut in Lowell. As for where he will end the year, there aren't many promotions from Lowell to Greenville, and he won't be promoted to Salem at age 19 unless he truly dominates, so he should finish the year wherever he starts it - I'll give you even odds on Greenville vs. Lowell. -- Chris Hatfield, SoxProspects.com

Q: What is the process by which changes in the prospect rankings are made, who has direct input, and what system is used for the definitive placement? -- Ray from Acton, MA
SP: A lot of factors go into the rankings, including our own scouting reports, information from the professional scouting services, statistical performance, and also input from the community, particularly from those members with first-hand reports. Generally, I set the rankings myself every Friday during the season, using the factors outlined on our FAQs page. During the off-season, I’ll make slight tweaks to the rankings taking updated scouting data into consideration, as well as fall and winter league performance, transactions, and injury information. As the SoxProspects Forum members know, we also poll the community twice a year regarding the rankings, and those results are also taken into consideration. There is also regular discussion of the rankings in the SoxProspects Meta-Forum, and all comments in that sub-forum are considered. I also occasionally poll the staff, especially regarding any proposed changes at the top of the rankings. As you might imagine, we often have varying opinions and projections on certain players, but I think the broad range of perspectives helps form a more well-rounded outlook. I consider all of these things in setting the rankings, but ultimately I make the final call. So when you ask, “how could SoxProspects possibly rank Abe Alvarez ahead of Jon Lester?” that falls on me, and I’ll take my lumps when I deserve it. -- Mike Andrews, SoxProspects.com

Q: Love the mailbag. Where do you think Anthony Rizzo breaks camp this spring? I look at his plus defense and high LD% as signs of him continuing the climb to the top of the organization. At his young age, do you expect him to pass Lars on the depth chart this year? -- Bill from Florida
SP: Despite having his first full season all but wiped out due to cancer treatment, Rizzo has already advanced quickly through the system. He was able to reach Salem before his twentieth birthday and is a whopping 2.35 years ahead on the age-advancement scale. Rizzo impressed in his half-season in Salem with a line of .295/.371/.420. Despite his success, there is no reason to rush him to Double-A to start the 2010 season. With only 200 at-bats in Salem, Rizzo could use another half-season in High-A before making the most-difficult jump in the minors. As of right now, Rizzo and Lars Anderson are neck-and-neck as the top first basemen in the organization. Rizzo has succeeded at every level and is coming off an excellent season. Anderson, on the other hand, is coming off a season that can only be considered a let down. This makes it very easy to discount Anderson’s abilities and past success. However, it is important to keep in mind that Anderson was every bit as productive as Rizzo at the same points in their development. If Anderson continues to struggle in 2010 and Rizzo maintains his success, it is safe to say Rizzo will pass him on the rankings. With a bounce-back year from Anderson and continued development by Rizzo, it is entirely possible that the two remain in a horse race and both see their stocks rise. -- Josh Sweeney, SoxProspects.com

Q: Will Michael Bowden have a chance to compete in the spring for a bullpen spot? What do you think the future holds for him? Is he still working on his slider? -- Troy from Louisville and Thomas from Delaware
At the moment, Bowden looks more likely to continue his work as a starting pitcher during spring training to give the Red Sox depth at the Triple-A level in the rotation. Every year the team starts off with a plethora of starting depth that erodes over the course of the season. At the major league level, the Sox currently have six starting pitchers, but we have seen how that can change quickly through injuries or poor performance, so Bowden looks pegged to provide depth in this key position in 2010. He did pitch a few innings out of the bullpen for the Sox in May of last season against the Yankees, and did look sharp in the process. Is the bullpen something he may transition towards as the season moves along? It is possible, especially with the emergence of another starter like Junichi Tazawa, which could lead to the Red Sox preparing Bowden for a bullpen role to help during July and August at the major league level. The team could also ultimately package him in a deal at the deadline to help the club in another area. As for Bowden’s slider, yes, he is still working on the pitch and featured it a good amount as the 2009 season went along. Some scouts who saw him throw later in the summer said that the slider gives him a different look in his arsenal and will make him more effective against right-handed hitters. --Chris Mellen, SoxProspects.com

Q: I don't see Kris Johnson on any prospect lists. I know he was highly thought of before he struggled last year, but what happened to him? -- Chuck from Wichita
SP: After a horrific 2009 season, Johnson has become something of an afterthought. However, note that the former first-round supplemental pick's stock did not just suddenly fall off the table. Entering 2009, this site had him ranked 29th, while Baseball America had him ranked a bit higher at 16th. Part of the problem is that the control and curveball he had before undergoing Tommy John surgery at Wichita State simply have not returned. Although he hasn't shown great control in his time in the system, he also got hit hard last year - after a good month of April that carried him back into the site's top 20, he gave up 111 hits in his next 84 innings before being demoted to Portland. Johnson has shown a good fastball and changeup, and an aptitude for getting left-handers out - they hit 54 points lower against him in Pawtucket last year. He has also shown a tendency to get rattled once opposing lineups get to him. Given these factors, one wonders if he might find more success in the bullpen. Considering the rotation picture in Pawtucket, which should include Michael Bowden and Junichi Tazawa, along with names like Doubront and Kelly coming up behind him, such a move might also provide a clearer path to the majors. The Red Sox still believe in him enough that they gave him a non-roster invite to spring training, but ultimately this could be a make-or-break year for KJ. --Chris Hatfield, SoxProspects.com

Q: Blake Maxwell has been used in all three roles during his career in the minors. His splits seem to be way better when coming in from the bullpen, but they still use him as a starter. He's got 87-90 mph stuff with his two-seamer and a nasty slider. In my opinion, his sidearm delivery could be used as an awesome setup man or right-handed specialist. What will his role be as he progresses? -- David from North Carolina
SP: Maxwell has indeed shown a lot of versatility over his pro career, serving as a starter, a swing man, and a reliever. As you mentioned, he has performed better in relief, putting up a 1.18 WHIP in 275.1 relief innings, while putting up a 1.32 WHIP in 173.2 innings as a starter over his career. His groundball rates (59% in relief vs. 51% as a starter) and strikeout rates (4.90 K/9 as a reliever vs. 4.61 as a starter) are also better in relief. Heading into 2010, Maxwell is likely headed back to Portland’s bullpen. Some have him on the bubble for a roster spot, but my belief is that the Red Sox highly value his versatility and his clubhouse presence (he also won the Sea Dogs Citizen of the Year Award in 2009). That being said, he’ll still likely work as a long-reliever given that he can handle the innings and that there should be several pitchers competing for late-inning roles with Portland, including Richie Lentz, Bryce Cox, and Jason Rice. There also seems to be a crowded situation in the Pawtucket bullpen in 2010, so Maxwell will need to outperform these pitchers to earn a promotion this season. He probably also needs to improve his performance against lefties to earn a promotion, an aspect of his game where he has struggled over the years (opposing lefties have hit .293 against Maxwell over his career). However, if he settles into a permanent relief role and is able make it to Triple-A in 2010, he’ll be one step from a major league call-up, and that’s really impressive for a 40th-round pick. -- Mike Andrews, SoxProspects.com

Q: Since I'm from the Netherlands I'm interested how Swen Huijer and Raoell Kortstam fare. Do you think they've the potential to reach the big leagues? -- Wessell from The Netherlands
SP: Over the last several years the Red Sox have scouted and signed several international players from non-traditional markets. This includes Germany, Curacao, Australia, Aruba, Brazil and the Netherlands. From the Netherlands the Red Sox signed Huijer in April 2008 and Kortstam in May 2009. Though neither is considered a blue chip prospect, both have projectable bodies and will have the opportunity to advance in the organization. Huijer is a 6-9 righty with impeccable control. In 43 professional innings pitched over his career, Huijer has walked only one batter. Prior to signing he was scouted by several other teams, including the Yankees, Cubs, Mets, Twins and Mariners. At least one – the Yankees – made an informal offer. Huijer’s primary development need is to add strength to his frame in order to improve his velocity and to continue to develop his secondary offerings. Raoell Kortstam is a bit more of an unknown. He will likely debut this coming season in the Gulf Coast League. He is an athletic outfielder with extremely raw tools. For players of his ilk, it is extremely important that they have a strong work ethic and take well to instruction. To answer your main question, I think it's far too early at this point to project either of these players' major league potential – it would simply involve way too much speculation. -- Josh Sweeney, SoxProspects.com

Q: How good is Stolmy Pimentel? Are the Sox really high on him and his potential? -- Ryan from Morgantown, West Virginia
SP: Pimentel is an intriguing arm within the Red Sox organization. After pitching with short-season Lowell in 2008, he spent the entire 2009 season with the Greenville Drive as a 19-year-old and held his own pretty well. Pimentel features a low-90’s fastball, a sharp curveball, and a plus change-up. He’s been improving his command with his fastball, but has a tendency to leave it up a bit too much in the strike zone right now. His secondary pitches look like they are going to progress into reliable out-pitches for him, with his curveball taking steps towards becoming a plus offering this past season. He’s an advanced pitcher for 20 years of age and has made the type of improvements the Red Sox have been looking for at this point in his career. With three potentially above-average pitches in his arsenal, he has a chance to be a solid major league starter with the ceiling of a second or third starter in a rotation. The Red Sox like his potential and were impressed with him enough as an 18-year-old with short-season Lowell in 2008 to insist that he not be included in the package that brought Jason Bay to Boston. After a season of strides in 2009, the organization’s opinion likely hasn’t changed. --Chris Mellen, SoxProspects.com

Q: Angel Sanchez: is he just passing through or is he the real deal? -- Jaime from Arizona
Sanchez has earned a reputation as a very good defensive shortstop, and in 2009, he seemed to put it together at the plate as well, hitting .305 in Triple-A in his second season after Tommy John surgery. He is also coming off strong performances at the Baseball World Cup, where he was named Best Defensive Player, and the Puerto Rican Winter League, where he was an All-Star. However, Sanchez has not shed the all-glove, no-bat shortstop label just yet. The only leagues in which Sanchez has ever hit for an OPS above .700 are the California League and Pacific Coast League, by far the two most hitter-friendly affiliated minor leagues. His 2009 line of .305/.363/.428 in the PCL was not far above the league average of .278/.341/.418. His equivalent line in Pawtucket (thanks to MinorLeagueSplits' MLE calculator) would have been .285/.311/.394 - not nearly as impressive. That said, I think he was a great depth signing. If Mike Lowell is traded, I think he will compete with Tug Hulett for a bench spot, as Jed Lowrie probably needs to get consistent at-bats in Pawtucket to start the year after his lost 2009. Sanchez is far better defensively, but Hulett is the better hitter and is more versatile. At any rate, before Sanchez sniffs a regular job in the majors, he needs to prove he can hit, and he is probably better off trying to do that in Pawtucket then trying to catch on with a second-division club next season. Don't get too attached - he's likely just passing through. -- Chris Hatfield, SoxProspects.com