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SoxProspects News

March 24, 2010 at 10:46 AM

2010 Organization Outlook: Starting Pitchers, pt. 2

In the lower half of the system, the Red Sox philosophy regarding starting pitchers is similar to the one the club employs with shortstops, as the best arms are given the opportunity to stay in the rotation until pitching their way off, even if their future is likely in the bullpen. This gives pitchers greater opportunity to work on things like secondary pitches, command, and the mental aspect of attacking hitters than would come from one- or two-inning stints, and occasionally a player like Justin Masterson even bucks the “future reliever” label and proves an ability to start in the majors. To accommodate the resulting atypically large number of starters, the club employs a “piggyback starter” system at Greenville and Lowell, with the starter going five innings to be followed by another pitcher on a five-day schedule who will pitch the remaining four. With a number of promising young arms like Stolmy Pimentel, Alex Wilson, Madison Younginer, Drake Britton and Roman Mendez, this means there are enough innings to go around for everyone.

MLB: Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jon Lester^, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield
AAA: Randor Bierd, Michael Bowden, Fabio Castro^, Kris Johnson^, Adam Mills, Junichi Tazawa
AA: Travis Beazley, Felix Doubront^, Kason Gabbard^, Ryne Lawson, Blake Maxwell, Ryne Miller
A+: Stephen Fife, Seth Garrison, Casey Kelly, Eammon Portice, Kyle Weiland
A: Yeiper Castillo, Caleb Clay, Brock Huntzinger, Jeremy Kehrt, Mike Lee, Stolmy Pimentel, Fabian Williamson^
SS-A: Drake Britton^, Cesar Cabral^, Pedro Perez, Ryan Pressly, Alex Wilson
Rk: Hunter Cervenka^, Randy Consuegra, Roman Mendez, Manny Rivera^, Pete Ruiz, Tyler Wilson
DSL: Nestor Lastreto^, Yunior Ortega, Juan Rodriguez, Francisco Taveras^, Raynel Vellette
YTD: Mario Alcantara, Raul Alcantara, Richardo Betancourt^, Renny Parthemore, Kendal Volz, Madison Younginer
DNP: Austin Bailey
Gone: Paul Byrd (MLB), Brad Penny (MLB), John Smoltz (MLB), Enrique Gonzalez (AAA), Charlie Zink (AAA), Jarod Plummer (AA), Jose Capellan (A+), Dave McKae (A+), Bryan Price (A+), Nick Hagadone (A), Hunter Strickland (A), Jose Alvarez (SS-A)

The Lead Story: Possibly the Red Sox prospect with the highest breakout potential is Pimentel, the 2007 Latin Program Pitcher of the Year who held his own as a 19-year-old in Greenville last season. He certainly has work to do on his game, but he is quite advanced for a pitcher his age, so he should be able to handle his likely promotion to Salem. If he can match or improve upon his numbers from last season, Pimentel could start appearing on lists of the top prospects in baseball. Another international free agent with tons of upside, Mendez was impressive in the Gulf Coast League last season, hitting 96 mph and posting dominant numbers. Based on his dominance in the GCL, Mendez could get his first taste of full-season ball with Greenville this spring, but if the club thinks his secondary pitches still need some work, me may stay behind in extended spring training and pitch for Lowell.

Britton came back from Tommy John surgery throwing harder than he had in his entire life, sitting in the mid-90’s. He was not challenged in seven short starts split between the GCL and New York-Penn League, so he will start the season with Greenville in his first taste of full-season ball. Since he will likely be on a relatively short innings limit, the piggyback system would allow him to throw shorter outings at first without taxing the bullpen. Alex Wilson was nearly unhittable in his first pro action for the Lowell Spinners, even moreso than is typical for the college arms the Red Sox so love to draft. The typical progression for a player with his profile would be to skip a level and begin the season in the rotation in Salem, where he will be challenged to get hitters out using more than his fastball. We will also see if Wilson can sustain his stuff over longer outings, as he was limited to two- to three-inning stints as a Spinner. Younginer was the other prize arm from the Sox 2009 draft, but he did not see any game action after signing at the August 15 deadline. The young righty’s 2010 assignment will depend on how advanced he proved to be during the Fall Instructional League and Spring Training – consider him perhaps a 65/35 bet to start in Lowell instead of Greenville.

Below the Fold: The Red Sox acquired Williamson in exchange for David Aardsma last offseason, and while the latter went on to have a great year as the Mariners’ closer, Williamson had a solid campaign himself in Greenville. After beginning the season as a piggyback starter, his success earned him a move into the rotation, where he became arguably the Drive’s top starter after the promotions of Casey Kelly and Stephen Fife. A promotion to Salem this year may show whether the soft-tossing lefty is the real thing or a one-year wonder. Huntzinger had a quietly strong season in 2009, showing he could succeed in the South Atlantic League after a short, weak showing there at the end of 2008. Now used to the rigors of a full professional season, he has some breakout potential and will move up to Salem. Clay’s sinker generates a lot of groundballs, but not many strikeouts. Although his 2009 numbers do not stand out, getting through a full season after rehab from Tommy John surgery was a step in the right direction. There is a significant chance the 2006 first-round pick, now 22, will be moved to the bullpen to see if that jumpstarts his development, as his sinker could be devastating in such a role. He is on the cusp of a promotion to Salem, but could begin the season with what would hopefully be a short stint in Greenville.

Volz’s stock soared following his performance as Team USA’s closer in the summer of 2008, but a disappointing spring at Baylor led to him dropping all the way to the ninth round. The Sox gave him $550k to sign, making him somewhat of a high-risk, high-reward pick depending on his ability to regain the mechanics that helped him dominate two summers ago. He should pitch for Greenville in his pro debut, but could stay behind in extended spring training for a month or so if the team feels he needs work on his mechanics first. Rivera and Consuegra combined with Mendez to give the GCL Sox a potent 1-2-3 Latin punch in the rotation in 2009 – frankly, the only three consistent starters at that level due to rainouts and scheduled off days. Rivera’s numbers were only slightly less mind-blowing than Mendez’s, as the 2008 Latin Program Pitcher of the Year carved up GCL hitters. Rivera may not light up the gun like Mendez, but he was successful enough that Greenville is a possible assignment for him. Consuegra, while not quite as impressive on the stat sheet, made a nice recovery from an injury-plagued 2008 campaign. In the interest of preserving his arm, Consuegra could move up to Lowell for one last year in short-season ball. Hoping to follow the footsteps of those two will be Rodriguez, but the 2009 Latin Pitcher of the Year may jump to Lowell in his U.S. debut. He dominated DSL hitters, but could stand to cut down on his walks.

Sidebars: Tyler Wilson’s 2009 debut was an anti-climax, as a heart condition discovered early in extended spring training limited him to eight innings at the tail end of the year. He will likely return to the GCL to get some innings under his belt, but a jump to Lowell is not out of the question with an impressive showing in extended this year … Pressly made strides in 2009 in his move from the GCL to Lowell, increasing his strikeout rate and cutting his walk rate. He is ready for the move to full-season ball with Greenville … Castillo began the ’09 season in Greenville, but was sent back to Lowell when he struggled there. He got back on his feet in short-season ball, but will need to carry that success over to his return trip to the SAL … Lee made most of his appearances for Greenville in a piggyback relief role after missing the start of the year with an injury, but was inconsistent. With two strong pitches, his future may be in the bullpen, and a possible promotion to Salem this year should show how soon that future comes … Kehrt was old for the GCL and NYPL when he dominated those circuits, but he may have at least forced his way up to an age-appropriate assignment to Salem. Whether there or back in Greenville, he may have to work in long relief in deference to other starters … Ruiz has spent two mediocre seasons in the GCL and will fight for a spot in the Lowell bullpen …

Cabral and Perez were unable to establish themselves in starter/piggyback roles in Lowell. Both enter their fifth seasons in the organization and may need to have success in Greenville at some point in 2010 to stick around … Cervenka got a $350k signing bonus but struggled mightily in the GCL in his pro debut, getting opportunities to start but failing to take advantage of his opportunities. Ideally, struggling at that level after missing a shot to win a job in Lowell motivated him to come into camp this year more prepared for the rigors of pro ball … Parthemore got a six-figure signing bonus in 2009 and should make his debut in Ft. Myers as well … Ortega arguably had as much success as Rodriguez in the DSL last year, but did not receive an invite to the U.S. for spring training. He could earn a chance to come State-side in workouts leading up to the DSL season, but if not, he should be the ace of the DSL staff this year … Vellette, Taveras and Lastreto, on the other hand, will be coming to the States to make their debuts. All should join the staff in the GCL, the first two likely as starters and the third perhaps dependant on how the draft falls … Both Alcantaras and Betancourt signed last summer during the International Signing Period and will debut in the DSL … Bailey, by most accounts, had attitude issues and chose to stop playing baseball in 2009, spending the year on the suspended list. His career is over barring a change of heart.