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May 1, 2010 at 7:24 PM

May 1 Rankings Report - Lars to #2

As we enter the fourth week of the minor league season, we've been able to update our scouting reports and take in a 20+ game sample of 2010 stats, resulting in a few changes in the SoxProspects rankings since Opening Day. While the statistics thus far are certainly a small sample size, it's my belief that under certain circumstances one can learn a lot from 20 games, especially when those sample are coupled with updated first-hand reports. For example, those games could be fairly noteworthy if a player is facing age-appropriate competition for the first time. Similarly, that sample could be telling when a player is coming into an injury-free season for the first time. There are several other examples, but it's needless to say that it's not always appropriate to extrapolate from such a sample size. That being said, here are the noteworthy movers over the first month of the season:

At the top of the rankings, Lars Anderson and Josh Reddick switched spots between #2 and #4, with Ryan Kalish remaining at #3. The Staff and I had some extended discussions about this proposed change earlier in the week, even before Anderson's promotion to Pawtucket. The primary factor that contributed to Anderson's increase was Chris Mellen's scouting report, which is covered in detail in the most recent installment of The Ladder. Additionally, Mike Hazen recently commented on the first baseman's impressive off-season and performance in minor league spring training. The 22-year-old hit .355/.408/.677 in seventeen games with Portland before earning his promotion to Triple-A. On the other hand, Reddick has struggled a little bit out of the gate this season. While he certainly has somewhat of an excuse with being moved up and down between Pawtucket and Boston, we looked at a much larger sample size in making our rankings determination. In 666 at-bats since leaving A-Ball behind in July 2008, Reddick has hit .221/.281/.426 - not exactly the two-year figures you'd expect out of he top-ranked hitting prospect in the system. While we're still very high on the outfielder, we're just slightly higher on Anderson and Kalish right now.

Elsewhere in the top ten, Felix Doubront moved up from #11 to #8, leapfrogging his teammates Yamaico Navarro, Luis Exposito, and Che-Hsuan Lin. Although his teammates have higher ceilings than the left-hander, Doubront is showing flashes of major league readiness at the age of 22 in Double-A, and has a steadier track record over his minor league career.

Looking on down the line, third baseman Will Middlebrooks moved up from #26 to #15 and Ryan Lavarnway pushed his way to #22 from #28. Middlebrooks has always had the tools, and in fact has been ranked as high as #9 in May 2008. His main issue has always been pitch recognition. So far in 2010, he has cut his strikeout rate down to 20.5%, after striking out 28.8% of the time in 2009 and 32.3% of the time in 2008. As for Lavarnway, he is obviously off to a hot start at the plate, putting up a .355/.424/.658 line. And while he has only caught in 8 of his first 19 games, Hazen recently spoke well of the catcher's defensive progress behind the plate.

Two other early risers are Oscar Tejeda, up to #24 from #35, and Manny Rivera, up to #30 from #45. The toolsy Tejeda peaked at #5 in May 2008, while Rivera is presently at his highest ranking. One thing to watch on Tejeda, however, is his strikeout-to-walk ratio - he has struck out 17 times and only walked once in 80 at-bats for Salem, leading many to believe that his current .375/.378/.638 is far from sustainable. Meanwhile, Rivera shows minimal signs of stalling out from his hot start for Greenville, where he is 2-1 with a 2.37 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 19 innings. Both players have put up their impressive lines at age-advanced levels, with Tejeda at 2.17 on our Age-Advancement Scale and Rivera at 0.85.

Three players that lost some steam in April were Pawtucket reliever Dustin Richardson (#32), Portland outfielder Jason Place (#43), and Salem outfielder David Mailman (#46). Richardson peaked at #12 in May 2008, Place at #9 in April 2007, and Mailman at #18 in June 2009. While Richardson has pitched respectably for the PawSox, a 26-year-old reliever really needs to dominate Triple-A to maintain a high prospect status, and walking 9 batters in 12.1 innings just does not equal domination. As for Place, he appears to be stuck in neutral at Double-A, putting up a paltry .127/.226/.218 line so far his season. Similarly, Mailman has been overmatched by Carolina League pitching to this point, hitting just .172 in 244 at-bats between 2009 and 2010.

Special thanks to Dick Duggan for his detailed statistical analysis and records-keeping.