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March 22, 2010 at 10:25 AM

SoxProspects Mailbag, March 22

In the third installment of the SoxProspects Mailbag, we answer another ten questions submitted via the Mailbox. As always, thanks to everyone that submitted questions. We're essentially out of questions now, so if you have any questions, fire away! The next round of questions and answers may also be posted on ESPNBoston.com as part of our collaboration with that site.

Have the Sox ever been beaten by a college team in spring training? More importantly, has a college player ever gained a significant draft boost as a result of a big day against the Red Sox? -- Niko from Los Angeles
SoxProspects: This question really interested me as I’m a Northeastern alum and have a number of alumni of both Northeastern and Boston College in my family, so I tried to dig up as much info as I could find. As you might imagine, it was tough to find definitively full records on Boston’s history in college exhibitions. I was able to find, however, that the first game ever played at Fenway Park featured the Sox beating Harvard 2-0 in a spring exhibition on April 9, 1912. The Sox also played Boston College in 1916 and 1933, and Northeastern in 1977, winning each time. In 1993, when the Sox were being run by Boston College grad John Harrington, the club made Boston College a regular part of its annual spring training schedule. In 2004, the Sox added Northeastern to the annual slate. Neither BC nor NU have beaten the Sox during that time, but the closest games appear to be BC’s 9-6 loss in 2003 and NU’s 9-2 loss in 2006. In terms of whether any college player has gained a significant draft boost as a result of the exhibitions, my inclination is to say no, as that one game probably means very little in terms of scouting and it’s doubtful whether the Sox scouts are even in attendance at those games. But just for argument’s sake, here’s a list of BC and NU players drafted during the tenure of their respective exhibition schedules: (1) Joseph Hayward, OF, Boston College – 45th round, 1993 (did not sign); (2) Curtis Romboli, LHP, Boston College – 21st round, 1995; (3) Jed Rogers, RHP, Boston College – 22nd round, 2001; and (4) Dan Milano, C, Northeastern – 20th round, 2007. None of these four players went on to have long pro careers. But while we’re on the topic, four other alumni who have recently played in the Sox organization include Carlos Pena (NU ’98), Sean McGowan (BC, ‘99), Greg Montalbano (NU ’99), and Justin Hedrick (NU, ’04). -- Mike Andrews, SoxProspects.com

Q: In the past few years the Red Sox have taken some high-risk high school players early in the draft, only to see them struggle in their first few years in the minors, specifically Jason Place, Will Middlebrooks, Ryan Dent, and Caleb Clay. Of these prospects who are you the most optimistic about? -- Ray from Boston
SP: Interesting question, Ray. There are always high expectations from people who follow the system surrounding the type of players you have pointed out. What sometimes gets lost is the amount of development that these players have in front of them, and their developmental needs really get exposed early in their careers. For the hitters, things are usually centered on developing a patient approach and stimulating their pitch recognition through continued experience against professional pitching. Young pitchers deal with improving their fastball command and working on the consistency of their mechanics to constantly repeat that optimal release point. A lot of times, these strides take time to show, and you start to see the real gains three or even four seasons into their careers. With regards to the specific players that you mentioned, each have made some gains in their first few seasons in the minors that may not fully show up on a stat sheet or box score. I was pretty impressed with the improvements that Dent made last season. Seeing a lot of him at Lowell in 2008 and how raw he was then, it was good to see him make some strides with his approach, and his defensive game went from being pretty rough to now being a key strength for him. He won the Red Sox 2009 Minor League Defensive Player of the Year Award for his efforts. Dent still strikes out with too much frequency, but he took some big steps in my opinion, and that has me optimistic about him continuing to round out the rough edges with his offensive game, and continue to push towards the upper levels of the system. --Chris Mellen, SoxProspects.com

Q: What does Bryan Peterson need to do to elevate out of GCL ranks and into the elite prospect ranks? -- Eric from Washington
SP: Peterson was drafted as a promising young outfielder in the 11th round of the 2008 draft. He followed that up with an impressive first run through the Gulf Coast League as an 18-year-old, hitting .277/.361/.394 in 137 at-bats and displaying plus power potential and speed. He is an excellent athlete who exhibited top-notch skills, primarily plate discipline, to go along with his plus tools. Unfortunately, 2009 was a lost year developmentally for Peterson, as numerous injuries kept him out of the lineup. This season will be a critical year in Peterson's development. First and foremost, he has to prove that he can stay on the field and that his injuries are fully healed. So far so good this spring, and we're also hearing that he has packed on about 20 pounds to his frame since last March. Though "elite" prospect status may be a long way off, staying healthy and building on his 2008 season will help to keep an ascent up the prospect ranks a strong possibility. Going into the season, it appears that the 20-year-old may be slated for Lowell in 2010, but a shot at Greenville at some point could also be in the cards. Look for Peterson to start translating his power potential into in-game production - a key stat to watch for him this season will be his isolated power. -- Josh Sweeney, SoxProspects.com

Q: Why are there only very rarely trades involving one top prospect for another to suit what the major league team's needs are at that time? -- Mark from Medford
SP: I think you answer that question within your question - when teams make trades involving prospects, it is because one is trying to fill a major league need right away, and acquiring prospects is not the way to do it. This dynamic helps teams agree to deals they think are "fair." Consider the rarity with which two teams would agree on a trade in which each values the other's prospect more than their own. With a major league-for-minor league deal, one team's immediate need for help and the other's desire to build for the future helps greatly to branch that gap. Even in a deal like the Toronto-Oakland Brett Wallace-Michael Taylor trade is the exception that proves the rule, as Toronto was likely willing to part with Taylor because they had just received him in the Roy Halladay deal. Major league front offices tend to be risk averse, perhaps with good reason - when you think of Lou Gorman, don't you immediately think of Jeff Bagwell for Larry Anderson? Remember, we Sox fans have been spoiled by the likes of Dustin Pedroia, who came up and was almost immediately a stud. Far more typical are the adjustment periods experienced by the likes of Clay Buchholz. A team trying to fill a need immediately is generally not willing to wait out that adjustment period if it is trying to win now, whereas a "seller" at the trade deadline that is a couple years away from contending can be patient with a prospect. -- Chris Hatfield, SoxProspects.com

Q: Everyone knows about the top prospects in the farm system, but which lesser know prospects should we keep an eye on? What prospects could possibly help the Sox in the short-term? -- Seth from Maine
SP: I'll throw two prospects out there for you to keep an eye on for 2010, Seth: right-handed pitchers Stephen Fife and Kyle Weiland. Both players have flown under the radar and have improving repertoires that will push them up through the Red Sox system. Fife is a potential workhorse in the starting rotation that features a nice low-90's sinking fastball, complimented by an improving change-up and a curveball with plus potential. He put in a lot of work harnessing the control of his curve, using it more ahead in counts to finish off hitters. Fife will start with Salem and has a chance to push Portland as the summer moves along. Weiland is a former reliever that the organization has brought along in a starting role, and he has responded very well to the transition. His 90-94 MPH fastball has excellent downward tilt and is one of the best fastballs in the system in my opinion. Weiland has been sharpening his breaking ball into a tight slider and making strides developing a low-80's change-up to keep hitters off-balance. He's slated to begin 2010 with Portland and is definitely a name to watch out for in the next couple of seasons to be in the mix for a contributing role with the major league team.

In response to your second question, besides Junichi Tazawa, Michael Bowden, and Josh Reddick, who have all been talked about a lot during the off-season as potential contributors in 2010, you also have reliever Dustin Richardson, catcher Mark Wagner, and outfielder Ryan Kalish who could be in the mix to contribute at the major league level this year. Kalish will most likely spend the whole season polishing off his offensive game at the upper levels of the system, but with injuries over the course of a season you could see him get a chance, much like Reddick made a quicker jump last season. Richardson was recently optioned to Triple-A, but he could definitely help in the short-term out of the bullpen if he can continue to improve upon the command of his fastball and throw more strikes with it earlier in the count. Wagner is interesting because he's an above-average defensive catcher who excels at throwing runners out. His bat needs to catch up a bit in terms of consistency, and he'll get a chance to prove that at Triple-A this year. However, should the opportunity present itself for short-term catching help over the course of 2010, he's the name to watch. -- Chris Mellen, SoxProspects.com

Q: Hey guys, before hearing of the downsizing, I had only heard tidbits about the proposed new spring facility. Can you compare it to the current one in terms of size and location? Will it be easier to get ST tickets now, and will they still be cross-town rivals with the Twins? -- Niko from Los Angeles
SP: Boston’s current major league facility, City of Palms Park, opened in 1993. It’s a nice looking park with a Floridian feel that sits 8,000 fans with a limited number of luxury boxes and subpar parking options. It’s also located in a fairly rough part of downtown Fort Myers. Its dimensions do not mirror Fenway Park. Meanwhile, Boston’s present minor league facility, the Player Development Complex, is located 2.5 miles east on Edison Avenue in an even less pleasant part of town, to put it nicely. The Player Development Complex has ample parking most of the year when it’s reserved for the minor leaguers, but for the two-to-three weeks each spring that the major leaguers take over, parking is essentially impossible, requiring fans to park at City of Palms and take the shuttle. The minor league complex includes five practice fields, eight batting cages, several bullpens, and a decent-sized clubhouse. The new complex, scheduled to open in 2012, will combine the major league and minor league facilities in one place. It will be located in a woodsy area near the intersections of Route 75 and Daniels Parkway, about six miles northeast of the airport. There are a lot of restaurants and shopping destinations within a short driving distance, and there is also a slew of golf courses and higher-end cul-de-sacs in the general area. I suspect that the Sox may also eventually build up the surrounding area with their own hotels and restaurants, but there has been little in terms of official announcements to that respect. The new state-of-the-art complex will sit about 11,000 fans, have ample parking, and will include six practice fields in addition to the primary playing field. The outfield dimensions of the playing field will mirror Fenway Park, right down to the Green Monster. The home clubhouse will also be very large - about 50,000 square feet. In terms of tickets, I’m going to speculate that it will not be easier to get spring training tickets, at least in the first few years, as I expect that fans will flock down to the Fort to check out the new digs. That being said, I don’t think that it’s terribly difficult to get spring training tickets now, as long as you make your plans well in advance. As to your last question, the Sox will indeed still be cross town rivals with the Twins, perhaps even more so, as the two complexes will now be less than four miles apart. The Twins’ lease on Hammond Stadium runs through 2020. -- Mike Andrews, SoxProspects.com

Q: I've read that the Sox have shown interest in Cuban first baseman Jose Julio Ruiz. If they sign him, how would it affect the development path of Lars Anderson and Anthony Rizzo? -- Al from Massachusetts
Ruiz is an interesting prospect, though he has drawn mixed reviews from scouts. It is clear the Red Sox have seen promise in this athletic first baseman, as evidenced by their reported $2.5 million offer to him earlier this year. However, the rumor is that Boston's interests may have cooled earlier this month
due to concerns with Ruiz' conditioning. The most important thing to take away from this is that the Sox will continue to be active on all fronts to bring talent into the organization. The attrition rate of prospects is so high that the presence of one or two good prospects is rarely a reason not to bring in more talent at the same position. The Sox front office has also shown a tendency to try players at several positions late in their development in order to improve their chances of having an impact at the big-league level. With Ruiz's reported athleticism, he could conceivably play a corner outfield position. Though the potential presence of Ruiz would force the Red Sox to get creative with lineups, I don't think that it would cost either Anthony Rizzo or Lars Anderson at-bats. Rizzo is likely to start the year in Salem and Anderson in Portland. Should Ruiz and the Red Sox come to terms, he would likely settle into the Portland lineup as well, but as evidenced by last year's early-season shuffling of Anderson, Aaron Bates, and Jon Still, the team would find a way to get players the necessary playing time. I think that the players most affected by Ruiz's signing would be Still, Mike Jones, and posibly Daniel Nava. -- Josh Sweeney, SoxProspects.com

Q: In your scouting report for Lars Anderson, there is a passing mention of injuries last year that may have contributed to his poor performance. Can you elaborate on this? Were any of those injuries serious? How much of his struggles can just be attributed to them as opposed to normal growing pains? -- Carl from Philadelphia
SP: We have heard some speculation that Anderson was slowed by a back injury in May. If true, we would expect this to have sapped his power, as he would have had trouble turning on the ball and generating much torque in his swing. There weren't many actual reports on such an injury, just some rumors of back pain here and there. What we do know, thanks to our crack moderator amfox1, is the following split from Anderson's 2009 campaign:

April 1 - May 2:
.291/.345/.468 (15 strikeouts)
May 3 - May 11 (possible injury): .065/.147/.097 (10 strikeouts)
May 12 - July 13: .298/.408/.441 (53 strikeouts)
July 14 - September 7: .154/.250/.208 (37 strikeouts)

So while Lars definitely did have issues with strikeouts most of the year, there were stretches when he was an otherwise effective hitter. This is purely conjecture, but my guess is that he had the one stretch in May when he was affected by pain and was unable to perform because of it - note the suddenly complete lack of power sandwiched between two extended stretches of solid power. While he was able to recover, I think he started pressing in that final stretch of the season, feeling the pressure to live up to being the system's top prospect. Either way, I believe it is way too early to give up on him, even despite his struggles this spring in major league camp. -- Chris Hatfield, SoxProspects.com

Q: As a German I am particularly interested in Jennel Hudson, although I know that he has a long way to go to become a serious prospect. What are your thoughts on him? How bad was his injury in 2009? -- Clemens from Bad Sobernheim, Germany
SP: Hudson is a tall, lanky, right-handed pitcher who signed with the Red Sox out of Germany during the summer of 2007. His fastaball currently tops out in the high-80s, though there is plenty of room for growth. Since signing, he has thrown a total of 15 professional innings due to arm problems, missing the entire 2009 season. The extent of Hudson's injuries at this point are a relative unknown. Here at SoxProspects.com, our resources include talking to insider sources, our own first-hand scouting, and statistical analysis, but in the case of Hudson, his lack of playing time really limits our ability to utilize the latter two. The most important thing for Hudson's development in 2010 will be getting on the field and pitching, since that is obviously the only way he can prove his readiness to advance in what likely will be his third year in the Gulf Coast League. At that point, we should be able to utilize our resources to gain a better understanding of his abilities, and perhaps better answer your questions regarding his ability. -- Josh Sweeney, SoxProspects.com

Is there any chance the site has plans for adding some video clips of the players? --Kevin from Chicago
Q: Mike, will there be any attempts to obtain interviews with Red Sox front office employees that have moved on to other organizations? -- Jason from Vermont

SP: A couple of good suggestions for the site, much appreciated. In terms of the video, I note that Ian Theodoridis has a YouTube channel with over 100 Red Sox prospect videos. Check it out
here. We also have a Pics & Vids Subforum on the message board where fans can embed their own prospect photos and videos. Beyond that, I’ve contemplated creating a “video” page where we would embed prospect videos all in one place. That idea is just in the early stages and could come to fruition at some point this year. With regard to interviewing former Red Sox front office employees, it's a decent idea on paper, but in practice it might not work. Front office members like Mike Hazen, Jason McLeod, Craig Shipley, and Eddie Romero are obviously really busy, but have historically taken time out of their schedules to answer our questions in an effort to bring some attention to and instruct the fan base on the Sox minor league system. To get a former front office member to agree to a Q&A may be a little tougher, as they would no longer have a real connection to the fan base. Also, I’m not really sure what direction we could go in if we got someone to agree to such an interview. While we might be able to discuss the general differences in approaches between front offices, other than that there may not be a whole lot of info that the interviewee could share. All that being said, I’ll keep the idea in mind. -- Mike Andrews, SoxProspects.com