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SoxProspects News

May 12, 2010 at 10:42 AM

The Ladder: 5.12.10

C Luis Exposito

The Line: Struggling to find his footing in April, Exposito has been coming on strong in May and the results have been much more positive. He has posted a .333/.457/.500 line since the calendar turned. After walking 27 times in 2009, he’s improved on his patience at the plate and has already drawn 16 walks on the young season. Exposito has been working the extra-base stroke recently, piling up 6 doubles in May while controlling the strike zone to work 8 walks versus only 5 strikeouts. On May 5 against Reading, he drilled 2 doubles in a 2-for-4 performance, and followed that up the next day with a 3-for-3 showing, with another double to drive in 2 runs and 2 walks as well. Exposito has raised his season OPS from .636 to .760 during his hot stretch at the plate.

The View: On the surface, Exposito’s overall line is a bit down right now due to his slow start, but there have been many signs of improvement in his offensive game in 2010, most notably centered on the work he is putting into his approach. More of an early-in-the-count hitter and dead fastball swinger in the low minors, he’s been making a conscious effort this season to see more pitchers and not chase balls outside of the strike zone, which has resulted in going deeper into counts to work more pitches he can drive. Improvement in this area was a big need for him as he reached the upper levels of the Red Sox system and pitchers tried to take advantage of his free-swinging ways. Thus far, he’s been a much different looking hitter at the plate, and the results have begun to show for him as he has built the foundation of a stronger approach. Still a bit prone to chasing breaking balls that sweep across the plate, Exposito will have to continue to push himself to improve against these offerings and demonstrate that he can produce solid contact against secondary pitches to ease the number thrown to him. In the early going in 2010, Eastern League pitchers have made it a point to throw him a lot of off-speed pitches, and much of his early struggles stemmed from adjusting to these pitching patterns. While his home-run power has been slow to show up this season, Exposito projects as a batter with above-average power and is more than capable of driving balls to all fields when he gets a hold of his pitch. The rise in extra-base hits is a good sign that he is getting more comfortable unleashing his swing. His patience is paying off, as he’s been able to get himself into more situations to attack fastballs, where he excels at producing solid contact. With the skills to be a solid defender at the major league level, Exposito has been working to polish off the finer points of catching since entering Double-A, along with working to be more consistent with his release to improve his caught stealing rates. Possessing both the skills in the field and at the plate to round into a potential starting catcher in the big leagues, Exposito has been making strides towards pushing his game to the next level thus far in 2010, and making himself a more complete hitter to prepare for the next challenge within the Red Sox ranks in the process.

RHP Alex Wilson

The Line: Despite a couple of rough outings, Wilson has made a smooth transition to High-A after a fast-tracked placement coming out of spring training. His command and control have been pretty strong in his 6 starts this season, issuing 7 walks in 28.1 innings while striking out 31 batters. After being held to a strict pitch count in 2009 with Lowell, Wilson has gone 5.0 innings in 4 of his 6 outings, including the last 3 starts. He picked up his first win of the season on April 17 against Myrtle Beach, allowing 2 earned runs over 5.0 innings while striking out 4 without issuing a free pass. Wilson had his best outing to date on April 28, limiting Wilmington to a lone hit in 5.0 shutout innings while fanning 6 and only walking 1 batter.

The View: Wilson cruised through his season with the Lowell Spinners in 2009, rarely seeing his arsenal challenged and having his way with the more inexperienced hitters in the New York-Penn League. Heading into this season, it was going to be much more of a test for him in full-season baseball, and thus far his stuff has translated well at this level in a starting role. He’s been especially good at limiting contact. Wilson features a fastball that sits 92-93 MPH and can top out at 95 MPH when he reaches back for a little bit extra. His strength lies with his ability to pitch to both sides of the plate and command his fastball within the strike zone. While he’s had a couple of outings where he has grabbed too much of the plate, resulting in solid contact, Wilson is generally able to keep the ball down well and live on the corners, while elevating his heater ahead in the count. His fastball lacks above-average late finish, but batters are unable to sit on his fastball too much due to the tight, late-breaking low-80s slider he can flash at any time in the count. Wilson likes to use this pitch to finish batters off later in at-bats by burying it across the strike zone with wipeout action, but has also shown the knack for taking a little bit off of the offering to drop it into the strike zone. The Red Sox have been inclined to bring Wilson along as a starting pitcher to allow him to continue to sharpen his arsenal, which also includes a developing change-up and average curveball that he shows occasionally. To determine what role lies in his future, we will have to see whether or not he can develop a consistent third pitch in his repertoire to be effective in the higher levels on the organization. Given his plus slider and fastball combination, the projection as a late-inning reliever down the line seems a more likely path for Wilson, where his fastball could play up in the mid-90s in short burst outings. Whether it is later in the summer or to start next season, Wilson seems destined to spend a shorter amount of time in the low minors, and will really get a chance to cut his teeth as a pitcher when he enters Double-A. Right now, he’s been showing he can handle the workload of a starting pitcher, and with continued work on his overall arsenal during his stay with Salem, he should get more than a chance to prove he can stick as a starter in the upper minors when the opportunity arises, with a path in the bullpen to the major leagues also in the equation.

Trending Up

Salem outfielder Alex Hassan has stormed into May to post a 1.140 OPS, hitting 2 doubles and 2 triples while driving in 6 runs during the stretch, after only hitting .140 in April. Struggling with his timing and squaring pitches up, Hassan has tightened things up at the plate and is once again displaying the stroke that was very adept at producing solid contact during his time in camp this spring. Drafted as a pitcher, he showed enough as a position player in the Cape Cod League last summer for the Red Sox to decide to bring him along as an outfielder after signing with the organization in July, 2009. With the ability to keep his weight back on off-speed pitches and drive his hands through on fastballs, Hassan should continue to profile as a hitter that can produce a lot of solid contact as he continues to settle in against advanced pitching after skipping the South Atlantic League and receiving an aggressive placement in High-A to start his career in full-season baseball…With 22 strikeouts and only 3 free passes issued in 23.2 innings of work on the season, right-handed pitcher Eammon Portice has been showing he is up to the challenge in Double-A thus far in 2010. Featuring a low 90’s sinking fastball and solid-average split-fingered fastball, Portice mixes his offerings to produce a blend of strikeouts and ground balls to work through opposing lineups. One scout who follows the Eastern League recently came away impressed with his arsenal, and commented that Portice shows the potential to be an effective arm coming out of a major league bullpen down the line…First baseman Anthony Rizzo found his stay with Salem to be short this season and has been recently promoted to Double-A. The sweet-swinging 20-year-old faces a stiff challenge in the Eastern League, but has shown the Red Sox enough during his time in High-A to push him up the chain. Projecting as a solid defender at first base, Rizzo will continue to sharpen his approach at the plate while working to tap into his natural power and push his projection as a power bat in the middle of a lineup…Portland reliever Jason Rice is un-scored upon in his last 5 outings and has picked up saves in three of those appearances for the Sea Dogs. Relying on a 93-94 MPH fastball and a good slider, Rice continues to demonstrate the ability to strike hitters out, with 16 in 13.2 innings this season.

Trending Down

The early season has not been kind to Michael Bowden, as he’s been hit hard of late and has not been able to find his control thus far with the PawSox. Bowden has walked 15 batters in 25.1 innings, spending too much time in his outings working with men on base and trying to get out of self-created jams. The right-handed starter re-worked his mechanics a little bit heading into the season, but is going to need to find a comfort zone with them soon and get back into a groove to show he’s ready to have a contributing role in some aspect this summer, should the team need to make the call for a spot-starter or arm in the bullpen…After a solid April, center fielder Pete Hissey is 7 for his last 40 and has hit a stretch of failing to produce much solid contact. Solid with his patience during the skid, Hissey has drawn 7 walks, but has also struck out 9 times. Hissey has been streaky in his professional career thus far, and will continue to be challenged to bring consistency to the plate with his placement in High-A this season…Ken Roque has found his first go-around in full-season baseball to be a tough adjustment, and is hitting .171 through his first 25 games with 28 strikeouts. The second baseman strung together a nice season last year between the Gulf Coast League and Lowell Spinners, compiling a .316/.398/.510 line in 155 at-bats, but has been over-matched to produce much contact with Greenville in 2010.