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SoxProspects News

June 25, 2010 at 9:33 AM

The Ladder: 6.25.10

RHP Kyle Weiland

The Line: Since finding his footing in Double-A at the end of April, Weiland has been very difficult for hitters to make good contact against. Covering his last 45.0 innings, he’s only given up 28 hits while fanning 41 batters and issuing 19 walks. On June 4 against Reading, Weiland fired 5.0 solid innings of 1-run ball, scattering 3 hits and striking out 5 without allowing a walk. After a stint on the disabled list for a bruised knuckle, he came back on June 15 against Erie to pitch 5.1 shutout innings, limiting the lineup to 4 hits to go along with 5 strikeouts and 2 walks. Weiland kept things rolling in his June 20 start against Akron, picking up 7 strikeouts in 5.0 innings of work while allowing 3 hits and 1 earned run. He’s held opposing batters to a .181 batting average since they hit .322 against the right-hander in April.

The View: Weiland went through an adjustment period during his first month of Double-A similar to the one he experienced in 2009 with Salem. Plagued by inconsistent command in the early going, he was leaving far too many of his sinking fastballs in the middle of the plate, and batters were getting very good swings at him. His 89-91 MPH two-seam fastball has excellent run back in to right-handed batters, but he was having trouble controlling it. Unable to consistently get ahead in counts, Weiland was forced to come in with his four-seam fastball, and hitters were sitting all over it. Since harnessing his two-seamer and spotting up on the corners with his 92-94 MPH four-seamer much better, he’s been locked into a groove and able to work all of his pitches into at-bats. Weiland also features a breaking ball with two different variations and an improving changeup. When he takes something off his breaking ball, it shows sharp backdoor curveball break and the ability to catch the back corner of the plate for strikes. This offering is especially effective against left-handed hitters, as they tend to give up on the pitch or get fooled as they commit their swing. Weiland will lean on a harder variation of the pitch to right-handed batters, where it shows more power break across the strike zone towards the left-handed batter’s box. He can either try to nip the corner or bury the offering into the dirt. A below-average pitch when he entered the Red Sox system, Weiland’s changeup has been progressing towards an average offering and one that he can start to lean on. Showing good feel for the pitch, it exhibits tumbling action with the bottom following out and has the potential to continue to improve. The development of a good changeup is key to Weiland being able to stick in the starting rotation at the major league level. Despite his continued success as a starting pitcher, he has the look and feel of a future reliever at the major league level, as his fastball can be very effective in short stints, and he has the ability to be a multi-inning pitcher out of the bullpen. The organization will continued to allow him to develop his arsenal in the role of a starting pitcher, but don’t be surprised to see him converted to a reliever down the line when an opening presents itself.

2B Oscar Tejeda

The Line: Absolutely scorching in June, Tejeda has posted a .415/.453/.492 line in the month, good for an OPS of .946. Overall on the season, he’s produced 28 extra-base hits after collecting 19 all of last season with Greenville. Tejeda has been especially hot in his last 10 games, picking up hits in 8 of them, including 5 multi-hit efforts. Against Wilmington on June 15, he went 3 for 4 with an RBI and 2 runs scored. Tejeda followed that up for a 1 for 2 performance with another 2 runs scored and an RBI the next day, along with a 2 for 4 effort on June 17 to wrap up a strong series. A 4-hit day against Kinston on June 19 put a wrap on a very strong first half of the season in High-A, which culminated with an appearance in the Carolina League All-Star Game.

The View: Tejeda came onto the scene in the United States and held his own as a 17-year-old in the New-York Penn League towards the tail end of 2007, but had a difficult time adjusting to full-season baseball and ended up repeating with the Greenville Drive last season. Possessing excellent all-around tools, the key needs for him centered on sharpening his skills and maturing physically as a player. With a whip-like swing, Tejeda generates excellent bat speed to the point of contact and shows pretty good lift with his swing path. His swing can tend to get a little bit too long, though, and his balance with his lower body has needed some tightening in the past, but those aspects of his game have been improving. An aggressive hitter, Tejeda is more of a free swinger, and his struggles in the past have come as a result of needing to be more selective in hitter’s counts, and not chasing pitches to get himself out. The surprise of the 2010 season for Tejeda has been the power he’s produced and the rise in his home run totals in High-A. Despite striking out at a higher rate, the contact rates have risen, and he has been driving balls hard into the gaps while also being able to muscle up to provide some push behind his swing. The number of times he has struck out are a bit of a red flag, and it will be interesting to see how he handles the tough Eastern League down the line, where hitters with aggressive approaches tend to run into a roadblock. Tejeda can project to hit for average to slightly-above average power as he continues to refine his approach and attack more pitches he can handle. If he is going to hit consistently at the major league level, he will have to improve on his selectiveness and adjust to Double-A once he reaches the level, as pitchers are going to look to take advantage of his free-swinging approach. The Red Sox moved Tejeda over to second base this season, and he’s shown the skills to round into a solid defender at the position. Most of his work in the field centers on slowing himself down and bringing the necessary focus to be a consistent, steady fielder. Extremely young and just starting to scratch the surface of what he can do offensively, Tejeda has a lot more development ahead of him, but the strides to start 2010 have been encouraging. The next steps lie in continuing to sharpen the selectiveness at the plate, with improvement in this aspect being crucial to having similar success at the next level up the chain.

Trending Up

After a sluggish start to the season in April when he posted a .481 OPS, Salem right-fielder Mitch Dening has come on strong in May and June to raise his season line to .302/.371/.395 while recently taking over the team’s leadoff spot. Red hot in his last 10 games, he’s seen a spike in his power during the month of June, including his first home run of the season along with 4 doubles and 2 triples. A standout offensively in 2008 with Lowell, Dening saw a decline in his overall offensive game last season with Greenville, struggling to make consistent hard contact for most of the season. Possessing a fluid, sweet stroke from the left side of the plate, he’s been much improved over the last two months in terms of getting the fat part of the bat on the ball, and has been spraying hits to all fields…Since going back to his old mechanics, PawSox righty Michael Bowden has started to get into a grove in 2010 and show that he is capable of being in the major league mix for the Red Sox during the summer. Struggling in April and starting to get things together in May, Bowden has been much more effective in his last 24.2 innings, limiting batters to 19 hits while striking out 18 and issuing only 4 free passes. Plagued by inconsistent command, especially with his fastball, he’s tightened things up as he’s gotten back into his comfort zone and the strong results have followed. Whether it is a spot start or a potential bullpen role, Bowden has been making a push should a need open up at the major league level down the line…While his strikeout numbers are down from 2009, right-handed starter Brock Huntzinger has been very effective in High-A and was rewarded with a spot in the Carolina League All-Star Game. Huntzinger has limited opposing batters to a .226 average, while showing improvement with keeping his fastball down in the zone and on the corners. When on top of his fastball, it shows some late sinking movement and can generate a lot of groundballs. Huntzinger had his best start of the season right before the break, logging 7.0 efficient innings while scattering 4 hits and cruising through the outing…Alex Wilson’s stay in the low minors was a short one, as he received a promotion to Double-A Portland on June 15. Struggling with his fastball command in his debut and getting knocked around as a result, Wilson came back in his second start with 5.2 innings giving up 5 hits and an earned run while striking out 4 and walking 2. His slider has looked more polished since the end of last season with Lowell, and shows very tight rotation along with sharp off-the-table dive out of the strike zone. Set up by his 92-94 MPH fastball, Wilson’s slider has been evolving into a devastating pitch.

Trending Down

Luis Exposito has hit a rough patch in June, highlighted by a reduction in the number of walks he’s drawn and working himself into fewer good hitter’s counts. Exposito has started to come back around recently, but still has some need to do more damage against the steady diet of breaking balls pitchers have been throwing him. Most of his development heading into the season centered on his improvement with his approach and being more of a selective hitter, which has been making strides in 2010. As Exposito continues to push and put the work in, more consistent results should be around the corner…Lars Anderson has been mired in a 1 for 34 slump the last two weeks and looks to be fighting it heavily at the plate. After having a resurgence in Double-A to start the season, Anderson has found adjusting to the pitching of the International League to be a challenge, as pitchers have changed their patterns against him. Receiving a heavy dose of off-speed pitches the second time through, his success at this level is tied into how he can improve against advanced secondary offerings and get back to working himself into more favorable hitter’s counts…Hard-throwing righty Roman Mendez has been dealing with shaky fastball command this season as a result of over-throwing, and is down with the Lowell Spinners to work himself into a groove. Mendez has an excellent live fastball and the potential for a plus slider, but his first experience in full-season baseball was a tough one. The recent assignment to the New York-Penn League should give him a fresh start to the season.