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SoxProspects News

April 7, 2010 at 12:09 PM

2010 Prospect Previews: Casey Kelly and Ryan Westmoreland

Today’s preview marks the final installment of this year’s Prospect Previews series. Based on a predetermined schedule set during the off-season, the last edition was slated to feature the top two prospects in the Red Sox organization. While baseball is currently on hold for Ryan Westmoreland, I made the decision to include him in the run with the hopes that he can one day return to the organization and resume his baseball career. It was great seeing him able to take in the opening game at Fenway Park this past Sunday, and even better news that he’s returning to New England to begin the next stage of his rehabilitation. As someone who got a chance to watch a lot of him last season with Lowell, I want to wish Ryan the best in his recovery, and to keep pushing every day for his goal.

Casey Kelly
Position: Starting Pitcher
2009 Teams: Greenville Drive/Salem Red Sox
2010 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs
Opening Day Age: 20

Strengths: Spending 2009 in the unique situation splitting time between starting pitcher and shortstop, Kelly put together an impressive season on the mound in the low minors that led to the ultimate decision that he should be pursuing the pitching path full-time. Featuring an 88-92 MPH fastball that he throws in two varieties, Kelly shows excellent command of his fastball for a young age and effectively spots the ball on either side of the plate. Kelly’s four-seam fastball works in the upper reaches of his velocity, and he’ll use the offering to elevate out of the strike zone later in the count or pound the strike zone to get ahead of hitters. He has some projection to add a little bit of velocity as his arm matures and he works to consistently repeat his delivery with more pitching experience. Kelly’s two-seam fastball can run in on right-handed batters under their hands and displays downward movement that enables him to generate groundballs as batters get on top of the pitch. He relies on his two-seam fastball with men on base when he’s trying to limit solid contact or induce a double-play. Rounding out Kelly’s arsenal are an advanced low-80’s change-up and classic 76-78 MPH 12-to-6 curveball that he shows excellent feel for, and trust to use at any point in the count. With good fade and depth, his deceptive change-up dives out of the strike zone, while his hard curveball features good bite and tight rotation as it breaks through the strike zone. During the off-season, Kelly made some strong strides in terms of physical development and has filled out his frame quite a bit. After bursting onto the scene in his first professional season, Kelly headlines the next wave of high-impact prospects rising up the ranks of the Red Sox organization and has many projecting him as the next homegrown mainstay in the major league rotation.

Development Needs: While commanding his fastball like a much more seasoned pitcher, there are some questions as to how his fastball velocity is going to project and whether his fastball is going to generate enough swings and misses as he reaches the upper levels of the Red Sox system. For now, Kelly will be challenged to continue to spot his fastball with the precision he showed in 2009 and keep it away from the middle part of the plate, where more advanced hitters will get better swings. He’ll need to set hitters up better and pick his spots to come in with his four-seam fastball, which can reach as high as 94 MPH in a short burst. This will put more of an emphasis on his secondary pitches to finish off hitters, and he’ll need to sharpen his command of the pitches as he progresses through the ranks to drop them in for strikes and keep hitters from laying off of them out of the strike zone. At times, he can show his curveball a little bit early out of his delivery, and remaining consistent with his release points will allow the different pitches in his arsenal to play off each other better. A focus on finishing out of his delivery will add even more bite to his secondary pitches and propel them to true plus or potentially plus-plus pitches at the major league level. Relatively inexperienced on the mound and unchallenged, a big need going forward is to see how Kelly reacts to any sustained stretches of not being on top of his game.

2010 Outlook: After a cameo in major league camp that drew rave reviews, Kelly is set to begin his 2010 season in Portland and take the ball every fifth day for the Sea Dogs. In the early portion of the season, expect him to be on more of a regulated pitch count, with an eye on keeping his innings down and ramping him up into the summer months. Once settled in, he should continue to flash the stuff and poise that lead him to excellent results in 2009. With the continued development of his fastball, Kelly’s strike out totals should rise, and he’ll be able to finish off hitters later in counts with his secondary offerings. At 20 years of age, Kelly is on a very advanced track and will be tested against much more seasoned competition in the Eastern League. 2010 will be a good litmus test for him to adjust and rise to the challenge presented to him. Development will be the theme, but we should also get a glimpse of what kind of potential impact can be expected in the next couple of seasons to come.

Ryan Westmoreland
Position: Outfield
2009 Team: Lowell Spinners
2010 Status: On Medical Leave
Opening Day Age: 20

Strengths: Flashing the five-tool potential that lead to his anticipated debut in 2009, Westmoreland ignited the Lowell Spinners and quickly rose to the top of the positional player class within the Red Sox organization. Demonstrating an extremely advanced and selective approach, his control of the strike zone rivals that of a player coming out of college and leads to him constantly working deep into counts to get swings at pitches he can drive. With the ability to stay back and cover both sides of the plate, Westmoreland can wait until the last instant to recognize pitches and unleash his compact swing to produce hard, solid contact, while showing the bat control to hit for average as he matures. Not afraid to take a tough pitch, he’s able to draw walks with his patience and gets on base at a very good clip. Able to turn on a fastball with relative ease, he flashes the type of easy power to all fields that projects him as an above-average hitter for power down the line. He’s already adept at driving the ball to the opposite field with good carry and backspin. An exceptional athlete, Westmoreland possesses well above-average speed that translates well on the base paths, and he shows the instincts to be an impact base stealer at the highest levels. A player that always goes at full tilt and plays with no fear, he endears himself to teammates and fans with the example he sets, and way he goes about approaching the game of baseball.

Development Needs: Breaking balls can give Westmoreland trouble, especially when he is deeper into the count. He struck out at a decent clip in 2009, and with work holding back on sweeping breaking balls across the strike zone he should be able to enhance his contact rates and become that much tougher of an out at the plate. A good number of his swinging strike outs resulted from balls diving down and out of the strike zone. Westmoreland struggled some with tough lefties, but does hang in the box well against them, keeping his lower body from bailing on most occasions. Unable to play the field for most of the season due to his recovery from shoulder surgery in the off-season of 2008, it remains to be seen what type of outfielder Westmoreland can become and how his arm is going to play after the surgery. He showed good range and ball tracking ability in his brief stint in left field, but did not get any time in center field where most scouts project him to play. Westmoreland also did not reach the point of throwing at full strength to get a read on his arm and his season ended pre-maturely due to a broken collarbone he sustained diving into a wall in left field.