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SoxProspects News

April 21, 2010 at 1:06 PM

The Ladder: 4.21.10

Back for its second season, The Ladder returns to provide an in-depth look at how select Red Sox prospects are progressing as they move up the ranks of the Sox system. Look for a new edition every week until the final pitch has been thrown in the minor league season.

C Ryan Lavarnway

The Line: Off to a blistering start with the Salem Red Sox, Lavarnway has hit to a tune of .419/.444/.744 through his first 10 games in High-A, with 8 extra-base hits to post an impressive 1.189 OPS. Lavarnway exploded on April 15 against Lynchburg to rock 2 home runs and drive in 5 runs. He followed that up on April 16 against Myrtle Beach with another 5 runs batted in and a long home run. He’s amassed 7 multi-hit games during the stretch, including a 4-hit game against Potomac on April 11 and back-to-back 3-hit performances against Myrtle Beach.

The View: After showing above-average power and a strong bat with Greenville in 2009, Lavarnway is quickly demonstrating that his bat is advancing past the pitching of the low minors. Generating his best power on balls out and over the plate that he can extend on, he’s also tightened things up on the inside corner and reduced what had been somewhat of tough spot for him after signing with the Red Sox organization in 2008. A hitter with an advanced understanding of the strike zone, Lavarnway is able to attack pitches and take advantage of mistakes, usually driving them a long way. He’s still prone to elevated fastballs, but has made strides to lay off more of them. Lavarnway shows excellent power to all fields and the willingness and ability to use the whole field. Breaking balls away tend to give him trouble, and as he moves to upper levels that will be something to keep an eye on. The biggest question centers on whether his defense will develop enough to keep him at catcher, and what position he may slide into if things don’t work out in that area. Not agile enough for a corner outfield spot and with little experience at first base, Lavarnway’s best path lies at the catcher position, and the offensive potential he brings as a catcher is very appealing. With fellow catching prospect Tim Federowicz also in Salem and handling the bulk of the catching duties, he’s been seeing time mostly as a designated hitter in the early going. Time will tell how Lavarnway progresses defensively, but if he continues to polish his hitting skills and can produce at the upper levels like he has thus far into his career, the team will find a way to get his bat into a lineup.

RHP Stolmy Pimentel

The Line: Covering 11.0 innings of work, Pimentel has gotten off to a solid start in High-A and has limited batters to 6 hits so far in his outings. After having his opening day start suspended due to rain, he came back on April 13 against Lynchburg to fire 5.0 shutout innings while allowing 2 hits and fanning 5 batters without issuing a walk. Not quite as sharp in his next outing against Myrtle Beach on April 18, Pimentel worked around a couple of early solo home runs to go 5.0 innings while giving up just those 2 runs on 4 hits, and pick up his second win of the young season.

The View: Pimentel is another highly regarded young arm rising up through the low minors in the Red Sox system. With an impressive arsenal of secondary pitches that includes a plus changeup and improving curveball, his main area of focus centers on the development of above-average command of his low-90s fastball. Pimentel has a tendency to leave his fastball up too much, which results in a lot of the hits and the hard contact he gives up. He’s been progressing in this aspect of his game, especially during an extended stretch with Greenville last season, but towards the end of the year ran out of gas and saw a rise in the number of home runs he allowed. He could stand to incorporate his lower body more into his delivery, and this will help with his command, along with grabbing a little bit more velocity. Pimentel is very tough on batters when he is spotting up with his fastball to get ahead in the count, and can then lean on his changeup to finish hitters off later in the count. He displays excellent arm action and buries this offering with excellent drop. It projects as a true plus pitch and a devastating out-pitch for him. Although his curveball can be inconsistent at times, the pitch shows knee-buckling bend and the ability to generate swings and misses. With continued work to stay on top of his curveball and finish through the pitch, Pimentel should be able to develop it as another solid out-pitch with the ability to drop it in the strike zone to straighten hitters up. Now in High-A this season, he’s going to be challenged to tighten up the command of his fastball even more and use it to set up his secondary pitches, occasionally blowing it past hitters ahead in the count as well. Much of the success that Pimentel will have going forward stems from putting this polish on his fastball and will propel him that much closer to being ready for the upper minors. When he’s on with his fastball and keeping it down, expect to see lower hit totals and higher strikeout totals. And, with a consistent run of outings like this with Salem, it’s a good sign that Pimentel is mastering his fastball and making the jump towards the next level.

Trending Up

Oscar Tejeda has gotten off to a hot start with the Salem Red Sox, hitting .375 in his first 10 games while belting out 2 home runs after hitting 3 all of last season. The athletic 21-year-old has transitioned over to second base this season in High-A, and it has seemed to agree with him. Struggling to sustain stretches of consistent, hard contact in the past two seasons at Greenville, Tejeda is off to a promising start and has been hitting line drives to all fields during the stretch. Something to watch going forward is his 8 strikeouts to 1 walk on the season. If the trend can reverse towards more walk totals as the season progresses, Tejeda could be in for the type of breakout season many have been expecting…With an OPS of .955 in the early going, Lars Anderson looks to be bouncing back from a tough 2009 season to the form that made him the top hitting prospect rising up the Red Sox ranks. Staying back better in the box and keeping his hands back as he starts his hitting load, Anderson has cranked 3 home runs on the season, including a towering blast this past Sunday with a smooth, fluid swing that created a lot of lift. After miniscule extra-base hit totals in the second half of last season, Anderson has already produced 6 on the season…Greenville lefty Manny Rivera bounced back from a tough first outing to fan 9 batters over 5.0 innings against Rome while only allowing 1 hit and punch out 4 more hitters in 4.0 innings of work against West Virginia on April 20…Veteran outfielder Darnell McDonald has 9 extra-base hits in the early going down in Pawtucket. He’s impressed with his ability to square balls up and shows some pop in his bat.

Trending Down

Chih-Hsien Chiang has started the season 4 for 38 and generally has been overmatched in terms of squaring balls up in Double-A. The 22-year-old outfielder has been mostly out in front of pitches, resulting in a lot of weak choppers and grounders. Chiang hasn’t been striking out at a robust clip, with only 5 on the season, but he hasn’t been able to hit much on a line thus far and looks like he’s going through an adjustment period from advancing a level…After hitting just .186 in 199 at-bats with Salem last season, David Mailman has gotten off to a similarly slow start in High-A this year and is just 2 for 22 on the young season. Mailman has been making contact, as he has only 3 strikeouts, but has yet to figure out how to get the fat part of the bat on the ball at this level and has recently seen his playing time cut back as he tries to work himself out of what has been a little more than a half season funk with Salem…Young righty Roman Mendez has gotten hit hard in his first 2 starts with the Greenville Drive. The 19-year-old, who can get his fastball up into the mid-90s, has struggled with his command in 3.2 innings of work and has given up 10 hits while walking 6 batters. Mendez has shown good command of his fastball in his previous seasons and looks to be over-throwing right now as he adjusts to full-season baseball.