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March 17, 2010 at 9:28 AM

2010 Prospect Previews: Kendal Volz and Brandon Jacobs

This installment of the series features two newcomers to the Red Sox organization that will begin their professional careers in the lower levels of the system in 2010. Both players should lend clues as to where they are in their development as the season moves along, with an eye on sharpening specific areas of their games to start rising up the ranks.

Position: Starting Pitcher
2009 Team: Did not play
2010 Projected Team: Greenville Drive
Opening Day Age: 22

Strengths: A 2009 draftee, Volz joins the Red Sox organization out of Baylor University. With a fastball that works 92-95 MPH, he can dial the offering past hitters, but he can also use the pitch to split corners effectively. In shorter stints his fastball plays up very well and may sit closer to 95 MPH. Volz also mixes in a low-80’s slider that shows plus potential with some tightening. This is the pitch he’ll lean on ahead in the count to finish a hitter off by snapping it off out of the strike zone. Volz can also take some velocity off to drop it in for a strike to keep batters from sitting on his fastball. He has nice feel for his slider and shows a lot of confidence to use it in different ways. Volz will be stretched out as a starting pitcher in the beginning of his career in the Red Sox organization, with the chance to continue along that path and sharpen his arsenal in that role.

Development Needs: Volz lacks a third pitch that he can mix in with his fastball and slider. His change-up is inconsistent and lacks good fade out of the strike zone. There isn’t a lot of deception off of his fastball, and Volz has had trouble honing the feel of the pitch. He could stand to clean his mechanics up as well, as he slings the ball a bit too much and has more of a max-effort delivery. These factors and his success as closer for Team USA in 2008 project him as being better suited for a bullpen role down the line. Volz will need to put in more work with his change-up, but operating out of a starter’s role will be good for him, allowing him to throw the pitch more and more in game action. He’ll be able to throw all of his pitches and build more arm strength as well. After coming into the 2009 season with high expectations, his performance slipped in his last season with Baylor, and his stuff was erratic. Volz will need to find that consistency with his arsenal again, especially with his overall command.

2010 Outlook: Volz enters his first spring training with the organization and will get a good introduction to life as a professional. He should head out with a full-season team, and Greenville looks like the likely destination. The team could tweak his mechanics a bit, and this could lead to some inconsistent results in the beginning as he gets comfortable with throwing across his body less. Volz has a live arm and nice potential with his stuff. He’ll begin on the path of a starting pitcher in 2010, but could be a fast riser through the system should the team decide to move him into the bullpen in following seasons. Like most players starting out in their professional careers, Volz will have adjustments to make this season and will be getting used to the routine of a professional. This season will be one for developing a more complete arsenal and to see what type of future role is going to be the best fit for him.

Brandon Jacobs

Position: Outfield
2009 Team: Gulf Coast Red Sox
2010 Projected Team: Lowell Spinners
Opening Day Age: 19

Strengths: A newcomer to the Red Sox system, Jacobs’s biggest assets right now are his excellent power potential and raw strength. He projects to have above-average power as he develops at the plate with an even higher ceiling. The ball soars off his bat when he squares pitches up, and he shows good lift, maximum extension, and the ability to elevate the ball. A football star in high school, Jacobs is an excellent athlete and passed on a chance to compete as a running back for Auburn University to sign with the Red Sox after being drafted in the tenth round of the 2009 draft. Jacobs has above-average speed and shows quickness for someone with a large body. The team inked him to a $750,000 signing bonus, which shows how impressed the Red Sox were with his potential.

Development Needs: Jacobs is very raw overall as a baseball player given that he committed most of his time to a future in football prior to signing. It can be expected that he is going to need work centering on his approach and pitch recognition in his first couple of seasons. The needs with this aspect of his offensive game will determine how quickly Jacobs is going to start off and how much solid contact he can make when challenged with advanced pitching. Beginning as a selective hitter will allow him to make better contact and reduce the amount of times he works behind in the count. As with many power hitters, Jacobs can be expected be maintain strikeout totals on the higher side, and these totals could be extreme for him in the early going with his relative inexperience in the sport. His defense is more of a work in progress entering the system as well, and he projects as a left fielder with an arm that will play as average for the position.

2010 Outlook: Jacobs is a candidate to stay back in Florida after the full-season teams leave Ft. Myers in the beginning of April. The team will look to give him a lot of instruction in Florida, with an eye on building his offensive game from the ground up. Jacobs has a shot to head north to Lowell in June and spend the summer playing in the New York-Penn League. He’ll be challenged at this level, but should be able to begin to put the instruction from Florida into practice. High home run totals are not expected out of Jacobs right out of the gate. He will, however, flash some of that raw power when he squares a pitch up, and as he becomes more comfortable with his pitch selection the amount of hard, solid contact he produces will increase. 2010 will be a season of development in all baseball areas for Jacobs. Many of the foundations going forward will be started this season, and the beginning stages will start to lend some clues into the type of progression he is going to make in his first couple of seasons in professional baseball.