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March 8, 2010 at 9:27 AM

2010 Prospect Previews: Luis Exposito and Jason Place

This installment of the series features two players that will spend the majority of the 2010 season with the Portland Sea Dogs. Both players are looking to continue to refine their skills with an eye on making a push to Triple-A.

Luis Exposito

Position: Catcher
2009 Teams: Salem Red Sox/Portland Sea Dogs
2010 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs
Opening Day Age: 23

Strengths: Exposito put together a solid 2009 season and ended up finishing off the year in Double-A. An extremely strong and well-filled-out player, he profiles to have above-average power from the right side of the plate as he continues to develop his skills. Exposito generates good lift with a smooth and fluid swing that has solid extension to the point of contact. An excellent fastball hitter, he likes to get his arms extended on ones out and over the plate, and can drive the ball to all fields with power. He’s also quick enough to clean out balls on the inside third and drive them down the left-field line. During his first couple of seasons in the Red Sox system, Exposito needed work at the plate, so he has been honing a more relaxed approach the last couple of seasons, making strides in 2009 towards becoming a more patient hitter. He generally makes good contact and has maintained lower strikeout totals in the low minors. Exposito has the makings of an above-average offensive catcher. Behind the dish, he shows excellent raw skills and potential. His throwing arm grades out as plus and his quick reactions allow him to block balls extremely well. He’s put in a lot of work towards improving his craft, especially with how he handles a pitching staff. Extremely popular with his teammates, Exposito has the leadership traits that an organization looks for in a catcher and projects as an above-average catcher at the major league level.

Development Needs: Exposito will have to make some offensive adjustments now that he is in Double-A, and he must continue to refine his approach at the plate. While showing good contact rates in the low minors, he can struggle with off-speed pitches, get overaggressive at times, and become pull-happy on occasion. Improvement with his pitch selection and work with managing counts are needs going forward, along with driving more balls on the outer third of the plate to the opposite field. He showed an up-the-middle approach in his brief time with Portland in 2009, and continued focus with that will allow him to minimize the adjustment period in facing more advanced pitching. Defensively, Exposito struggles with throwing runners out despite his strong arm. His release is on the long side and he rushes his throws, which leads to balls tailing into the runners. He needs some work cleaning up his release and getting the ball out faster to take advantage of his plus arm strength. Now in the upper minors, Exposito will be challenged with more on the game management side and some of the finer points of catching. These rough edges are something that comes with continued work and exposure to advanced minor league baseball.

2010 Outlook: Exposito has the inside track on breaking camp with Portland in 2010 and should see a lot of action at the Double-A level this season. After finishing up 2009 with Portland, he should be able to settle in a bit quicker to start the season. Look for him to continue to make strides with his approach in 2010. While working on pitch selection and approach, he could see some reduction in his power, but it will show more as he is able to take advantage of pitches he can handle. Positive signs of development will include lower strikeout totals and more use of the whole field. The big need for him defensively in 2010 is to improve upon his throwing mechanics, which should result in a boost in his caught stealing rates. Exposito is a player on the rise within the Red Sox organization and is making a push to become an everyday player at the major league level. With the demands and difficulties of the catching position, expect Exposito to spend much, if not all, of the season at Double-A working on polishing off his game, with an eye on being more of a complete player heading into the 2011 season, entering the big league catching mix in the process.

Jason Place

Position: Outfield
2009 Teams: Salem Red Sox/Portland Sea Dogs
2010 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs
Opening Day Age: 21

Strengths: A first-round pick in 2006, Place returned to High-A in 2009 after spending the entire 2008 season with the Lancaster Jethawks, and earned a mid-season promotion to Portland to close out 2009. With an improving swing, he has excellent raw power and can drive balls out of the ball park with what seems like relative ease. He has above-average power potential down the line. Since entering the Red Sox system, he’s worked very hard on improving his approach, pitch recognition, and swing mechanics, seeing some improvements in these areas as he has progresses up the ranks. Things have been a grind for Place at times, but he’s been able to put together some solid stretches at the plate, and the organization has recognized his work with promotions during the past couple of seasons. An above-average athlete, Place has played all three outfield positions in his career and looks to have the makings of a solid corner outfielder. His arm plays well in right field and he covers a good amount of ground, tracking balls well into the gaps. As a very raw player coming into the system, Place has made strides in all aspects of his game and shown a strong wiliness to improve his craft and buy into the philosophies that the organization preaches.

Development Needs: Contact has historically been a problem for Place, and his strikeout totals have been on the extreme side. This stems from his below-average pitch recognition and raw approach at the plate. Both of these aspects have been improving, but he is still a bit behind the curve in these important skills for his level of placement, and he will be challenged by advanced pitching. Off-speed pitches give him a lot of trouble, and he chases a lot of balls off the plate, especially when he is down in the count. He’s shown more pitch selection and the ability to work counts, especially with Salem in 2009, but needs more work if he is going to sustain positive results in Double-A going forward. His swing mechanics can revert back to old habits when he is scuffling, but this has improved significantly in recent years. After flashing some home-run power in 2008, Place saw his power totals dip in 2009. A lot of this is tied into him trying to be more selective and patient at the plate, but it remains to be seen as to whether he is going to be able to show good power while being more selective.

2010 Outlook: 2010 will be a challenging year for Place to continue to make improvements and adjust to the advanced pitching at the Double-A level. He’s set to break camp with Portland and will man one of the outfield positions on a daily basis. The keys to sustaining success are his approach and trust in that approach. Positive signs of development at this level for Place will be a reduction in his strikeout totals and a boost in the amount of solid contact he makes, resulting in line drives. He should continue to improve upon his patience as he settles into his season for the Sea Dogs. Place is a very talented baseball player with offensive and defensive skills that can round out as above average with continued refinement. His success, though, will always be tied into how well he can improve upon his approach, patience, and pitch recognition. Strides here in 2010 will go a long way towards proving he can be a productive player at the upper levels of the Red Sox system and project him as an everyday outfielder at the major league level in the next couple of seasons.