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SoxProspects News

March 4, 2010 at 7:00 AM

2010 Organization Outlook: Corner Infielders

The corner infield positions are in two different states for the Red Sox. At first base, there are the two blue-chip prospects, Lars Anderson and Anthony Rizzo, and a few more intriguing players, like Chris McGuiness and Aaron Bates. Third base, however, once again looks a bit spare after appearing to be on the rise last offseason. Will Middlebrooks and Michael Almanzar are both former top 20 prospects looking to regain their luster, and both could still reach their considerable potential. However, after the selection of Jorge Jimenez in the Rule 5 Draft, there are no homegrown third basemen in the system with experience above High-A.

First Base
MLB: David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis
AAA: Aaron Bates, Brett Harper^
AA: Lars Anderson^, Jon Still
A+: Mike Jones^, Anthony Rizzo^
A: Ty Weeden*
SS-A: Drew Hedman^, Chris McGuiness^
Rk: Boss Moanaroa^
DSL: Pedro Chourio
Ind: Reynaldo Rodriguez (Golden Lg.)
Gone: Casey Kotchman (MLB), Adam LaRoche (MLB), Sandy Madera (AAA), Paul McAnulty (AAA), Jered Stanley* (A+), DeShaun Brooks (SS-A), Eddie Lora (Rk)

Third Base
MLB: Adrian Beltre, Bill Hall, Mike Lowell
AAA: Christian Colonel, Nate Spears^
AA: None
A+: Jon Hee#
A: Will Middlebrooks
SS-A: Michael Almanzar*, Tom Di Benedetto*
Rk: Miles Head, Roberto Ramos#
DSL: Aly Gonzalez, Juan Ugas
Gone: Angel Chavez (AAA), Jorge Jimenez** (AA), Zak Farkes (A+)

* - We usually list players at the highest level reached here, but these placements are at “highest level completed”, as all three were demoted during the season with purpose.
** - Rule 5 selection. Could be returned.

The Lead Story: At all four full-season levels, things are set at first. Bates pulled himself back from the edge of irrelevance with two great months in Portland to start 2009, despite playing out of position in left field in deference to Anderson (and Still). He slumped upon his promotion to Pawtucket, but made his major league debut and will get the chance to start for the Pawsox to begin the season. Anderson’s struggles last year are well documented. While Rizzo’s stock is rising right behind him, it is still far too soon to give up on Lars, who has reportedly been impressive in spring training. Anderson and Rizzo will start in Portland and Salem, respectively, and could possibly be part of a “tandem promotion” sometime in July if everything goes perfectly. Meanwhile, after a New York-Penn League All-Star campaign in his pro debut, McGuiness will likely man first base in Greenville for most, if not all, of 2010.

At third, Almanzar and Middlebrooks are still the Sox’ best hopes of having a true prospect at that position (barring someone shifting from shortstop that is – David Renfroe, Yamaico Navarro, and Oscar Tejeda have all been speculated to move over, but we will have more on that this weekend). After reaching Greenville at age 17 in 2008, Almanzar’s progress got put in reverse last year, as he was demoted to Lowell following a half-season of splitting time with Middlebrooks. Still, he is so young that he has plenty of time to get things back on track. Note, however, that he may have to move over to first due to a combination of factors including his size. As for Middlebrooks, he started his year a few weeks late due to injury and, for the second year in a row, got hot at the plate late in the season after scuffling early. He has earned a promotion to Salem, but could stand to have some sustained, full-season success.

Below the Fold: Miles Head signed too late to get much playing time in the GCL, so expect him to go the Middlebrooks route and spend Extended Spring Training getting ready for an assignment to Lowell. He received a $300k+ signing bonus after signing, and with his plus power, he has the potential to move quickly up prospect lists. Boss Moanaroa has great power potential, but was unable to tap into it in his stateside debut in the GCL while splitting time with the departed Eddie Lora. Perhaps with more playing time – likely in Lowell, although a second spin in the GCL is not out of the question – he could break out this year. After finding success in varying degrees with Golden League signees Daniel Nava and Derrick Loop, the Red Sox are hoping that Reynaldo Rodriguez, Baseball America’s top Independent League Prospect after 2009, is another older player ready to make a successful return to the affiliated minors. At age 24, he will be playing above rookie ball for the first time. Expect him to debut in Salem (at the same level Nava and Loop began after they were signed), but since his skill set and build are atypical for first base, it is possible that he will stay behind in Extended Spring Training for a month or two to learn the outfield. As covered in our catchers installment, Still and Weeden are in different stages of being moved from behind the plate. Still caught just once in 2009, and after stalling in Portland last year, he will hope for an early-season renaissance along the lines of the one Bates had last year. Weeden may be looking to get his career back on track at first base, where he can hopefully avoid the injury problems that have plagued him the last two years.

Sidebars: Harper, Colonel, and Spears are all PCL ex-pats signed as depth for the upper levels, and all carry some positional flexibility. Harper brings some power to the table, as well as the ability to play a bit of left field if needed. Colonel has been primarily a third baseman through his career, but has seen significant time at first and in left field as well. Still just 25, Spears has yet to truly reach post-prospectdom. After beginning his career at shortstop and moving to second base, he split last year between third and second for the first time while getting a handful of games at short. Expect to see all three players in Pawtucket … Jones is the owner of the Drive’s record for longest hitting streak, but with Anderson and Rizzo monopolizing first base in Portland and Salem, DH appears to be his best bet for at-bats. He may battle Weeden for at-bats in Salem to start the year, but Jones will be fighting for a promotion to Portland starting in the spring … Hedman performed admirably in his debut in Lowell after being the Sox’ final draft pick in the 2009 draft. He will back up McGuiness in Greenville … Hee and Di Benedetto have both been moved around the system to serve as infield depth. If they receive the luxury of playing at one level this year, they will do so at Salem and Greenville, respectively … Ramos signed as a free agent out of high school without a position in 2008, but settled in at third base last year in his second GCL season. He will fight for a spot with Lowell during Extended Spring Training … In the DSL, Chourio was a league all-star after moving from third base to first, but his final numbers were not impressive. Now 20, he needs to make it stateside this year to stay in the organization. Aly Gonzalez and Ugas split time at third, but were both unimpressive at the plate and should repeat the level again this year.