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February 28, 2011 at 7:44 AM

2011 Prospect Previews: Jose Vinicio and Kendrick Perkins

Today's installment of the series takes an in-depth look at two of the younger, higher ceiling prospects within the lower ranks of the Red Sox system looking to continue honing their skills in 2011.

Jose Vinicio
Position: Shortstop
2010 Team: Gulf Coast Red Sox
2011 Projected Team: Gulf Coast Red Sox/Lowell Spinners
Opening Day Age: 17

Strengths: An energetic and enthusiastic player, Vinicio flashes outstanding defensive tools and shows the makings of a future above-average defender in the middle infield. Possessing excellent instincts and innate anticipation, he covers tremendous ground to either side, while getting good reads initially off the bat to put himself in the proper position to make plays. Featuring soft hands, Vinicio fronts balls well at an early age and has good reactions to adjust to the ball’s path when making plays. He shows a solid-average arm when throwing across the diamond, with the potential to gain more arm strength as he continues to physically mature. A switch hitter, Vinicio displays a quick and compact stroke when attacking pitches. He brings the head of the bat fluidly through the strike zone with solid batspeed and can generate some gap power presently. Despite being well ahead of the curve in terms of age, he’s shown a level of comfort against older competition and has adjusted well against higher velocity fastballs, able to turn many of them around. With continued instruction and practice, Vinicio can hone his base stealing skills as he rises up the ranks allowing him to use his plus speed to his advantage once reaching base.

Development Needs: Much of Vinicio’s future offensive projection lies in how much he fills out down the line. With a smaller frame, it doesn’t look like there is potential for huge physical gains, but some added strength is necessary to improve his ability to drive pitches into gaps with authority. He most likely profiles for below-average power down the line, with his game centered on high contact rates. Still very raw with his approach and selectivity, Vinicio’s near-term development should focus on improving his discipline and working to bring a more concentrated plan to the plate. Right now, he tends to swing at most offerings close to the plate and expands his strike zone too much, causing him to chase off-speed pitches or make weak contact on fastballs in tough locations. The type of strides he starts to make offensively over the course of the next few seasons will be a good clue as to whether he is going to be able to project as an everyday player once reaching the upper minors. A natural in the field, Vinicio is still learning how to slow the game down defensively and not needlessly rush on plays he has plenty of time to make. As is common with young players, he can get himself off-balance and try to do too much, which leads to wild throws or errors on routine plays.

2011 Outlook: After making his debut in the United States last season in the Gulf Coast League, and showing that he can hold his own against the older competition, Vinicio will push for an assignment with the Lowell Spinners once their season gets underway. Due to infield numbers and the need for him to play every day, there is a chance he stays back in Florida in the Gulf Coast League, but this will sort itself out as the season gets going. Regardless of where he is placed, Vinicio will look to continue to hone his offensive game and work on developing a more consistent approach at the plate. Signs of this starting to improve will show with a rise in the amount of walks he draws and more instances of consistent contact in at-bats. Although gains in the physical area are a few years away, Vinicio should pile up some extra-base hits due to his plus speed and ability to hit fastballs into the gaps. Just starting out his career and raw in various aspects of the game, slow and steady progress is what to look for out of him during these early development stages. 2011 is another season of instruction and continued learning to put those practices into game action. An exciting talent, by season’s end Vinicio should show that he is trending towards the full-season ranks and ready to take the next step, in the process giving followers a glimpse of what he can potentially become in future seasons.

Kendrick Perkins
Position: Outfield
2010 Team: Gulf Coast Red Sox
2011 Projected Team: Gulf Coast Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 19

Strengths: Perkins was selected in the 6th Round of the 2010 Draft and is another of the two-sport athletes that the Red Sox organization has targeted in recent years. He brings an offensive package that has the chance to center around plus power as he develops his offensive game. Unleashing his swing from the left side of the plate, he already generates good lift and extension as he brings the bat to the point of contact, capable of driving the ball a long way with backspin when he squares pitches up. Well filled-out and physically developed, Perkins has the potential to show solid power numbers in his early career as he begins to learn the strike zone and develop his approach. A good athlete, he’s fluid and smooth with his actions, showing around solid-average speed once he gets going and a plus arm out in the outfield. Projecting as a corner outfielder, he has the type of arm that can play up nicely in right field if he can make strides with how he tracks and judges balls hit his way. Now able to fully concentrate on baseball after splitting time between football and baseball in high school, Perkins has the ability to make quick gains against the learning curve. He has the type of offensive package to profile as an impact power hitter as his skills begin to mature.

Development Needs: In the early stages of developing his approach and coming up to speed against professional pitching, Perkins has a lot of work to do in order to become a complete hitter. One of the first steps for him is improving on his selectivity and how he handles off-speed offerings. Without much sense for his strike zone presently, he chases a lot of balls and is hesitant on pitches with break to them. Perkins also needs some work with keeping his weight back, which shows in an over-commitment of his hands and hitting out in front of his body. In order for his power to show consistently in games, he will first need to master making strong contact and focus on hitting the ball up the middle. Resisting the urge to try to pull everything will help him react more naturally to balls being thrown at him. Perkins has the potential to have good power to all fields and improvement on how he hits inside the baseball should allow him to develop a sweet spot of power into the left-centerfield gap. An overall raw player with work ahead of him in the coming seasons, Perkins may experience a longer adjustment period closing the gap between himself and the opposing pitching he will see.

2011 Outlook: Making a brief appearance in the Gulf Coast League at the tail end of 2010, Perkins is a likely candidate to stay back in Extended Spring Training before assessing where he is for a placement in 2011. The instruction and close attention he is slated to see will be a good chance for him to concentrate on his needs and slowly begin to develop the necessary approach to graduate into the full-season leagues next season. Once Perkins gets going in game action, signs to look for over the course of the season that his work is starting to trend towards positive results down the line include more consistent contact rates and reducing strikeout rates. A rise in the amount of balls he hits the other way is a good clue that he’s becoming more relaxed at the plate and not just looking to pull the ball. Brand new to the Red Sox system and professional baseball, Perkins is all about projection and potential at the moment. The next couple of seasons will focus on honing his raw skills, with an eye on showing that he’s making progress towards reaching his projections. While 2011 shouldn’t be expected as a season with a stat line that jumps off the page, flashes of things to come can show through with steady work on improving the initial development goals and push Perkins closer to being ready for an assignment in full-season baseball to start next season.
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February 27, 2011 at 3:10 PM

Fort Report: February 27

Today’s minor league notes:

The Sox minor leaguers got a bulk of the work in Saturday's college exhibitions. Stolmy Pimentel opened the first game with 2 strikeouts in 2 perfect innings against Boston College, and he was followed by Michael Bowden, Jason Rice, Clevelan Santeliz, and Matt Fox, none of whom allowed a hit in an inning a piece. Left-hander Randy Williams closed the game, allowing BC's only hit en route to a 6-0 victory for the Red Sox. On offense, infielder Brent Dlugach had 2 singles and an RBI.

Boston topped Northeastern 13-2 in the nightcap, led by SS Jose Iglesias, who put up 2 hits, 3 RBI, and 2 runs. Sox starter Kyle Weiland allowed two hits in two innings, including a leadoff home run to Northeastern pitcher Ryan Maguire. Righty Matt Albers closed the game for the Sox with a 1-2-3 seventh, striking out 2 Huskies in the process. Infielder Hector Luna missed the game with tightness in his groin.

The non major league campers who saw game action on Saturday were Ryan Khoury, Will Middlebrooks, Alex Hassan, Bubba Bell, Aaron Bates, Matt Sheely, David Mailman, Pete Hissey, and Jorge Padron.

LHP Dennys Reyes finally arrived in Fort Myers Saturday morning after resolving his visa issues. While he may take a little longer to get up to speed, Red Sox manager Terry Francona has indicated that he'll add Reyes into the bullpen mix as soon as possible. As first reported by Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, Reyes has a March 26 opt-out, so the club has about three-to-four weeks to decide whether to give the left-hander a major league deal.

Bradford also spoke with LHP Lenny DiNardo on Thursday, and the 31-year-old appears content with his decision to return to the Red Sox organization, despite that he did not get an invite to major league camp. DiNardo is confident that he'll earn a major league shot at some point this season, and he may see action in tonight's game against the Twins.

PawSox broadcaster Dan Hoard brings us some interesting notes on reliever Jason Rice, who's likely slated for an assignment to Triple-A this April. Hoard talked to recently-promoted Red Sox V.P. of Player Development Mike Hazen, who is impressed with Rice's mid-to-high 90s fastball and hammer curveball, but indicated that Rice needs to continue working on being more consistent in the strike zone.

Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal reports on pitching prospect Junichi Tazawa, who is still in rehab attempting to work his body into pitching shape following March 2010 Tommy John Surgery.

Richard Breen of The Examiner talked to RHP Madison Younginer, who is excited about the prospects of playing in front of family and friends for his hometown Greenville Drive this season.

Among the prospects slated to start in tonight's game against Minnesota are Ryan Kalish, Lars Anderson, and Iglesias. Bullpen hopefuls Scott Atchison and Brandon Duckworth are also scheduled to pitch.

Over in minor league camp, about 100 players participated in workouts this weekend, including Bryce Brentz, Kolbrin Vitek, Brandon Workman, Zach Daeges, Garin Cecchini, Anthony Ranaudo, Sean Coyle, Miguel Celestino, and Adalberto Ibarra. The minor leaguers should take over the Player Development Complex tomorrow now that the major leaguers are moving their equipment to City of Palms Park. The players will likely begin participating in informal intra-squad scrimmages soon, until the official minor league exhibition schedule gets underway on March 16.

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February 26, 2011 at 9:41 AM

Red Sox announce front office promotions

On Friday, the Red Sox announced seven front office promotions, including four in baseball operations.

Craig Shipley, who was serving as Vice President of International Scouting, has been promoted to Senior Vice President of Player Personnel and International Scouting. Shipley has been a major force behind the Red Sox significant clout in the international market, including signing players like Oscar Tejeda, Jose Iglesias, Junichi Tazawa and Stolmy Pimentel.

Allard Baird, who had been serving as General Manager Theo Epstein's assistant, will now be the Vice President of Player Personnel and Professional Scouting. The General Manager of the Kansas City Royals from 2000-2006, Baird has had an immediate impact on the Red Sox since joining the team in 2006. He was an integral force behind the recent signing of Carl Crawford and has heavily scouted the independent leagues, leading to the development of legitimate prospects from an unlikely source.

Mike Hazen, the Director of Player Development, has been named the Vice President of Player Development and Amateur Scouting. Since joining Boston in early 2006, Hazen has overseen a farm system that has graduated many top major league players such as Daniel Bard, Clay Buchholz, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury.

Brian O'Halloran, who was serving as Director of Baseball Operations, has now been promoted to Vice President of Baseball Operations. O'Halloran plays a key role in contract negotiations and rules compliance. His biggest effect on the team has been the ability to construct creative contracts to entice players such as Adrian Beltre to come to Boston.

Other promotions included Troup Parkinson, who had served as Vice President of Client Services to Director of Corporate Partnerships. Mary Sprong who was serving as Vice President of Human Resources will continue to take care of all team operations management and leadership development. Mark Solitro, who joined the team in 2009, will manage the daily operations of the accounting department and will oversee taxation and financial reporting.
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February 25, 2011 at 9:19 PM

Minor league catching depth

At the outset of spring training, the Red Sox are content with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek handling the major league catching duties in 2011. But what type of insurance exists in case one or both of those players goes down with an injury? Beyond immediate depth, is there a starter-of-the-future in the system right now? 

Check out the rest at ESPNBoston
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at 9:12 AM

2011 Prospect Previews: Jason Rice and Jeremy Hazelbaker

The ninth installment of the Prospect Previews series focuses on one prospect pushing towards the highest level of the Red Sox system and another working to carve a path to the high minors in 2011.

Jason Rice
Position: Relief Pitcher
2010 Team: Portland Sea Dogs
2011 Projected Team: Pawtucket Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 24

Strengths: Despite his smaller frame, Rice is capable of generating excellent velocity with his fastball and likes to use the offering to his advantage. Generally sitting 92-93 MPH, he’s able to reach back when he needs to and can hit as high as 96 MPH when the situation calls for it. Rice also throws a two-seam version of his fastball, showing some run down in the zone and a little bit less velocity from the straighter four-seam fastball. When on with his fastball command, he can be very tough to hit and produce a lot of late swings, while also slicing through the corners of the plate in spots that batters have little chance of making hard contact against. His fastball is especially effective when thrown up and under the hands of right or left-handed hitters. Possessing an aggressive attitude on the mound, Rice isn’t afraid to come right after opposing lineups and likes to challenge opponents up in the zone with his heater. A former starter in his early career, he’s taken well to a full-time role as a reliever and has the potential to be a contributing piece of a major league bullpen with continued polishing of his arsenal.

Development Needs: Rice lacks a refined second pitch and is extremely dependant on his fastball. In instances where he does not have as fine of command, he tends to consistently get behind batters and they can sit all over the offering, producing hard contact against him. Rice throws a high 70s curveball, but it is primarily a look pitch and he does not appear to have enough confidence in the offering to use it for anything other than a wrinkle before going right back to his fastball. Tightening up his curve to get consistent snap with his wrist and gaining trust to use it to get outs will go a long way for him to be successful against the more advanced hitters he will see a level up in the Red Sox system. At times, Rice rushes his delivery and this is the root cause of his spells of wildness. His front shoulder typically flies open and it causes his fastball to sail out of the strike zone. Further work with keeping himself under control on the mound should allow him to limit the instances of his control deserting him and outings where he labors considerably to get through innings.

2011 Outlook: Invited to Spring Training in the major league camp, Rice will get valuable exposure to how big league pitchers go about their routines, while also getting a chance to test his arsenal against the best competition he has seen to date. After returning to minor league camp, most likely in the earlier round of cuts, Rice will be in line for a placement with Pawtucket’s bullpen once the season gets underway. After proving himself in Double-A during the 2010 season, the next step for him is to show that he can consistently get batters out in the International League. More use and trust in his curveball is a key driver in making this happen. If Rice can keep hitters from sitting on his fastball by creating better deception with his curve, he should maintain his high strikeout rates at this level. After settling in to his placement in Triple-A, a good sign that Rice is keeping his delivery under control will show with a reduction in the amount of walks issued and more at-bats where hitters have to earn their way on base. After joining the Red Sox organization in 2008 via the Triple-A phase of the Rule V Draft, he’s solidified himself within the system and offers the major league team another potential contributing bullpen piece down the line. With further refinement of his arsenal and putting the finishing touches on his package, Rice has a chance to push himself in line for major league consideration over the course of the summer.

Jeremy Hazelbaker
Position: Outfield
2010 Team: Greenville Drive
2011 Projected Team: Salem Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 23

Strengths: An athletic and lean outfielder with some room left to pack on a little bit more muscle, Hazelbaker brings a package of plus speed and solid-average power potential to the baseball diamond. Hitting from the left side of the plate, he gets out of the batter’s box extremely well and has shown to be far ahead of the curve in the low minors with his base stealing instincts. With a slight upper cut to his swing, Hazelbaker can generate some good lift, especially when turning on inside pitches. He shows strong power in batting practice and has started to translate that power into game action. After having a rough time adjusting to professional pitching when signing with the organization in 2009, he began to make strides with his pitch recognition and approach during the 2010 season. Hazelbaker is much more willing to go deeper into counts, rather than jumping at the first fastball he sees close to the strike zone. Relatively new to the outfield, his speed gives him excellent range at any of the outfield positions, and the potential to round into a capable defender with continued experience tracking balls off the bat.

Development Needs: Hazelbaker has some holes in his swing that he needs to address as he moves up the ranks of the system. He also displays some over-aggressiveness in deciding which pitches to attack once he gets himself into a count where he can do some damage. Both issues lead to a lot of instances of no contact at-bats, meaning a focus on making more contact is a must for him to project as a major league player upon reaching the upper levels of the minors. Hazelbaker struggles with balls on the outer third of the plate and either rolls over or swings through them with frequency. He’s made improvement with hitting the ball the other way, but further attention to go with offerings and use his hands will allow him to expand the zone where he can handle pitches. Defensively, despite having plus speed and excellent range, Hazelbaker looks best suited for a corner outfield spot unless he can make strong strides with his route-taking and judgment in center field. Although accurate, his arm is about average and looks to play up best in left field, which is going to put a greater emphasis on the offense he can produce. Hazelbaker most likely profiles as a fourth outfielder or late inning replacement as he gets to the later stages of his development track.

2011 Outlook: Hazelbaker appears to have the inside track on breaking camp with the Salem Red Sox and manning one of the starting outfield spots. A placement in High-A this season is going to be a good test for him to make some further adjustments and produce better levels of contact against more advanced pitching. Now in his second full year with the organization, 2011 can shape up as a season of bigger strides for Hazelbaker as he has a better idea of his plan at the plate and more experience seeing the expanded repertoires of professional pitchers. The biggest positive development sign to look for is a reduction in the amount of strikeouts he logs, which should enable him to produce more solid contact and take consistent advantage of the backspin he creates when squaring the ball up. He has the potential to produce strong extra-base hit totals and hit his fair share of home runs at this level if he can continue to work at picking better pitches to attack. Looking to carve out his track within the organization, Hazelbaker has a clear set of goals to work on in 2011. With more polish of his hitting skills, he can move more quickly towards the next level this season to prove he’s a prospect trending into the organization’s outfield depth in the upper minors.
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February 24, 2011 at 4:09 PM

Fort Report: February 24

Today’s minor league notes:

  • Pitching prospect and big league bullpen candidate Felix Doubront has been shut down for at least 10 days with tightness in his elbow, as Joe McDonald of ESPNBoston.com reports. While he is viewed as a potential impact reliever for Boston in the near-future, Doubront was likely to begin the season in the Triple-A rotation. It is unknown how this will affect his status for opening day.
  • Alex Speier of Weei.com brings us his latest installment of excellent reporting on the farm system, this one focused on recovering outfielder Ryan Westmoreland. Speier details Westmoreland's often monotonous rehabilitation from brain surgery last spring and gives a clearer picture of his status coming into this season.
  • Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes on Milton, Mass. native Rich Hill's transition to pitching sidearm this spring. Hill says the motion is natural for him, and that he would often drop his arm down during long toss sessions for that reason. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe also wrote on Hill's new delivery, which has drawn positive reviews from Terry Francona so far. Francona also discussed Andrew Miller, saying the Red Sox are taking somewhat of a hands-off approach to allow Miller to enjoy pitching again.
  • Speaking of Miller, Speier wrote an in-depth piece on his unusual decision to sign with the Red Sox this off-season. In it, Speier reports on some interesting details of his contract, including a club option for next year that vests should Miller “be assigned to another club,” meaning that should he be promoted to Boston, then exposed to waivers when he is sent back to minors, any club picking him up would have to be committed to his long-term success and not just taking a flier.
  • Cafardo caught up with Lars Anderson in Fort Meyers and discussed his take on the Red Sox bringing in Adrian Gonzalez during the off-season. While Anderson sees his path to majors as somewhat more blocked, he knows his big league future ultimately comes down to how he performs at Triple-A. The article also features quotes from Gonzalez and his struggles with being blocked in a similar fashion during his time with the Florida, Texas, and San Diego organizations.
  • Daniel Nava is astonished with some of the attention from fans he is getting this spring, according to MacPherson. Nava talked about being unsatisfied with just making it to the big leagues and how he is working to improve defensively.
  • Kyle Weiland and Jason Rice discuss the pressure of being prospects in big league camp, in this piece penned by Tony Lee of NESN.com. Weiland explains that its hard to keep the adrenaline down when he knows higher-ups in the organization are watching, while Rice talks about just trying to play baseball regardless of who may be viewing his throwing sessions.
  • Here are some further details on how the pitchers will lineup for the early exhibition games, as reported by the Boston Herald:
  • Saturday vs. BC: Stolmy Pimentel, Michael Bowden, Jason Rice, Clevelan Santeliz, Matt Fox, Randy Williams.
    Saturday vs. NU: Kyle Weiland, Alex Wilson, Rich Hill, Tony Pena, Matt Albers.
    Sunday at Twins: Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Brandon Duckworth, Hideki Okajima, Scott Atchison, Dan Wheeler.
    Monday vs. Twins: Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield, Andrew Miller, Daniel Bard.
    Tuesday at Twins: Jon Lester, Alfredo Aceves.
    Wednesday vs. Braves: John Lackey, Weiland.
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February 23, 2011 at 11:59 PM

SoxProspects.com Podcast #12

The calendar is winding down towards opening day and baseballs are being thrown in Ft. Myers. All is right in the world.

Topics discussed:

- Do the Sox currently have a potential top prospect in the system?

- Who can step up and become the next great pitching prospect?

- Theo and his clever contract tricks.

- The physical development of prospects.

- How much patience is too much patience?

And much more.

Players discussed:

Anthony Ranuado, Kolbrin Vitek, Jose Iglesias, Ryan Kalish, Lars Anderson, Drake Britton, Bryce Brentz, Brandon Workman, Stolmy Pimentel, Sean Coyle, Ryan Lavarnway, Chad Spann, and many, many more.

Direct MP3 link

Blog link

Podcast Archive

Subscribe to podcast

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at 12:18 PM

2011 Prospect Previews: Watch List- Arms

Today's edition of the Prospect Previews series is the first of the Watch List segments, taking a look at some of the pitching depth within the Red Sox system.

Chris Hernandez
Position: Starting Pitcher
2010 Team: Lowell Spinners
2011 Projected Team: Greenville Drive
Opening Day Age: 22

2011 Outlook: After making a brief cameo appearance with the Lowell Spinners during the tail end of 2010, Hernandez is likely to start his first full season of professional baseball with the Greenville Drive to begin honing his arsenal and show he’s ready for a short stay in the lower levels of the Red Sox system. A lefty out of the University of Miami, he features a low 90s fastball with tailing action and a high 80s cutter that he runs in on right-handed hitter’s hands. Hernandez displays strong command of these offerings and uses them to pound the strike zone, which should lead to him having good success against hitters at this level. If he can consistently spot these pitches down in the zone, batters will have trouble making hard contact against him. Hernandez also mixes in a low 80s changeup and will look to use his time with Greenville to further sharpen this pitch as a weapon that he can use effectively against advanced hitters. Given Hernandez’s level of polish and experience upon signing with the organization, he can quickly show that he needs more of a challenge and push for a promotion to the next level by mid-season. While he’ll most likely experience his true test when he reaches Double-A in the coming seasons, 2011 will be a first glimpse of where his stuff currently stands and a good chance for him to focus on his development needs while easing into the professional ranks.

Kendal Volz
Position: Starting Pitcher
2010 Team: Greenville Drive
2011 Projected Team: Salem Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 23

2011 Outlook: Spending the 2010 season throwing out of Greenville’s rotation and beginning to work on cleaning up his mechanics, Volz should reprise that development plan a level up with the Salem Red Sox in 2011. Flashing a heavy, sinking 88-91 MPH fastball, this offering is currently the best in his repertoire and has the potential to be a plus pitch for him down the line. With improved command in the strike zone and more focus on staying out of the middle of the plate through continued mechanical adjustments, Volz’s fastball can produce strong groundball totals as he continues to rise towards Double-A. Besides fine tuning his fastball command, he stands to make the biggest strides during this coming season if he can further sharpen his low 80s breaking ball, which currently acts as a slurve and can be loopy at times. While operating out of the rotation to start his career, Volz’s major league potential and future path lies in a bullpen role. A good indication of him making strong strides in 2011 with his needs will show with a reduction in the amount of hits he gives up while maintaining his strikeout rates against more advanced hitters. After having a season under his belt and a lot of instruction with improving his mechanics, Volz has a chance to show he’s getting more comfortable, and in the process put himself in the mix for a promotion to Portland during the summer.

Juan Rodriguez
Position: Starting Pitcher
2010 Team: Gulf Coast Red Sox
2011 Projected Team: Lowell Spinners
Opening Day Age: 22

2011 Outlook: Still on the raw and unpolished side, Rodriguez impressed with his live arm in 2010. Possessing a fastball that sits 92-95 MPH, and can touch higher when he reaches back, he has the potential to overmatch hitters with the offering in his likely placement with the Lowell Spinners, if he can continue to iron out his mechanics in order to find more consistency with his release point and enhance his command. During his time in Extended Spring Training, Rodriguez should also get a chance to hone his secondary stuff, which is a bit behind the curve presently. The development of his curveball will go a long way towards a projection as a starting pitcher down the line, while learning how to keep the same arm speed when throwing his changeup will improve the separation between his hard fastball and allow him to pull the string on hitters. Rodriguez signed at a later age than most Latin prospects and is currently a work-in-progress, but shows some projectability and potential. 2011 is a season for him to continue putting the pieces together and prove that he’s trending towards making his way out of the Red Sox system’s short-season ranks. A strong showing with Lowell, in the form of displaying improving fastball command and tightening of his secondary stuff to limit the hard contact against it, can make Rodriguez an intriguing arm to start keeping an eye on.

Brock Huntzinger
Position: Starting Pitcher
2010 Team: Salem Red Sox
2011 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs
Opening Day Age: 22

2011 Outlook: Making a steady rise through the low minors after signing with the Red Sox organization in 2007, Huntzinger has positioned himself for an assignment in Double-A, with a good camp to solidify his spot. Working from an easy and well-balanced delivery, his low 90s fastball sneaks up on hitters and also shows some late life. Huntzinger uses his fastball to get ahead of batters early in the count and exhibits good control with it, but hitters create a lot of contact against the offering as it doesn’t miss a ton of bats. This season with Portland will be a good test for him to fine tune his fastball command since he’s going to have to work the corners with consistency to have sustained success at this level. Further enhancement of the tightness of his slider by working to snap it off more routinely can help him create more swings and misses, especially when ahead in the count, and can alleviate some of the dependency on creating outs with his fastball. While projected to work out of the rotation in 2011, a move to the bullpen may not be too far down the line as Huntzinger’s stuff looks to play up better in shorter stints and allow him to reach back to create better velocity with his fastball. This coming season should be a good challenge for him to continue improving his arsenal against advanced hitters. Signs of strides and adjustments being made for Huntzinger lie with limiting the amount of hits he gives up, especially his home run totals. Good steps in 2011 can lead to him pushing himself up the organization’s depth chart and giving the major league team another arm rounding into the potential mix down the road.

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February 22, 2011 at 5:52 PM

Fort Report: February 22

Today’s minor league notes:

Spring training games get underway on Saturday with the annual scrimmages against Boston College and Northeastern, followed by the start of Grapefruit League action on Sunday. Here are some of the pitchers already lined up to throw in those games: Saturday vs. BC: Stomly Pimentel, Michael Bowden and Jason Rice; vs. Northeastern: Kyle Weiland, Alex Wilson, and Rich Hill; Sunday at Twins: Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, and Brandon Duckworth; Monday vs. Twins: Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Joe McDonald of ESPNBoston caught up with outfielder Ryan Westmorleand this past weekend. The 20-year-old is ahead of schedule in terms when his doctors expected he'd be able to take batting practices. Westmoreland is back in New England now, but will head back to camp later this week after an examination at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital earlier today. Results of the examination have not been disclosed.

After working out with Red Sox shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias over the winter, Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez had glowing reviews according to a report on Boston.com. According to the report, Rodriguez said “that kid is going to be sensational,” and came away particularly impressed with Iglesias’s work ethic, personality, hands, and glovework.

Per MiLB.com, top Sox prospect Ryan Kalish spent a large chunk of his off-season working out at Athlete’s Performance Institute in Arizona. So far this spring, the outfielder has been working on approaching his at-bats with a clear head. For now, the 22-year-old has accepted that he is likely headed to Pawtucket to start the 2011 season barring injuries to the major league roster, but hopes to be ready to contribute if and when the phone rings from Fenway.

Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal sees Brent Dlugach as a candidate to be the 2011 version of Darnell McDonald or Nick Green if he catches a few breaks. A 27-year-old infielder who spent the last seven seasons in the Detroit organization, Dlugach can play shortstop, second base, and third base adequately, but has average-to-below average offensive tools. More than likely, Dlugach will serve as insurance depth in Triple-A this season.

According to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland-Plain Dealer, the Red Sox have approached Cleveland twice about reacquiring Justin Masterson. Probably not new news, but the big righty sure would make a great addition as the long-man out of Boston’s bullpen.

PawSox broadcaster Dan Hoard brings us an update on old friend Charlie Zink, who recently signed with the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League after recovering from shoulder and neck injuries. Zink will be playing under the tutelage of former PawSox and Red Sox manager Butch Hobson, now the skipper for the Barnstomers.

Tony Thomas, acquired from the Cubs last week for reliever Robert Coello, did not receive an invitation to major league camp. Regardless, the 24-year-old second baseman is expected to report to camp in the next day or two.

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February 21, 2011 at 12:19 PM

2011 Prospect Previews: Stephen Fife and Tim Federowicz

Today's installment of the Prospect Previews series focuses on two prospects slated for assignments within the upper levels of the Red Sox system in 2011 looking to make a push up the organization's depth chart during the coming season.

Stephen Fife
Position: Starting Pitcher
2010 Team: Portland Sea Dogs
2011 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs/Pawtucket Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 24

Strengths: A big right-hander with an ideal pitcher’s frame, Fife uses his entire arsenal to pound the strike zone and get batters to produce weak contact when they put the ball into play. Throwing from a high ¾ arm slot, his 88-90 MPH two-seam fastball is his bread and butter offering to right-handed hitters, and shows good run in on their hands. When Fife can keep this pitch moving down through the strike zone and pound the lower portion of it, hitters have a tough time elevating the offering. He also works in a 90-93 MPH four-seam fastball during sequences to raise the eye level of hitters or spot across the plate, usually showing strong command of the pitch and good feel for when to mix the pitch in. Fife is at his best when he is pounding the zone with his fastball and then using his secondary offerings to keep hitters off-balance. Over the last couple of seasons, he’s sharpened his 76-79 MPH curveball to become a viable out-pitch for him, improving his command and the depth of the offering. Fife also can throw a low 80’s change-up, but uses this pitch with less frequency and more as a look pitch before going back to his fastball. With an understanding on how to pitch, he’s become adept at mixing all of his pitches into counts and become less dependent on throwing his fastball when needing outs.

Development Needs: Fife generally shows good command of his repertoire, but needs to work on further improving his fastball command. He can go through stretches where he’s unable to locate the pitch lower in the zone and batters typically make him pay when his fastball is elevated. His four-seam fastball is relatively flat when it comes in around the belt and is more easily squared up, which makes it important for Fife to work ahead in counts with frequency and avoid situations where he is forced to challenge batters. Despite the improvement he’s made with his secondary offerings, he doesn’t have a pitch in his arsenal that is capable of missing bats consistently. Fife typically pitches to contact and relies on being very fine with his stuff. Now in the upper levels of the minors and pushing towards the major league level, he looks to project more as a middle relief type arm at the big league level to have the best future success. With work on fine tuning his arsenal, he may be able to push himself towards a back-of-the-rotation starter, but that looks like his ultimate ceiling as a pitcher. Somewhere down the line, Fife may re-incorporate his slider into the mix, which he shelved in favor of working on his curveball a couple of seasons ago.

2011 Outlook: Fife heads into minor league camp with a chance to head north with Pawtucket, but is more likely to head back to Portland to further work on his stuff and show that he has completely mastered the Double-A level. The amount of strides he’s made since the 2010 season’s end and how his stuff looks will likely be strong determining factors in his placement. Regardless of where he is placed, Fife’s work to begin 2011 will be focused on fine tuning his arsenal and working to consistently operate down in the strike zone, which will show in an improvement in the amount of hits he gives up and a rise in the strikeouts he piles up. Development gains in these areas during the first couple months of the season will be a good indication that Fife is showing to be ready for a promotion to the next level. While Fife will continue to work out of the starting rotation, a potential move to the bullpen towards the end of the season may not be out of the question as the organization assesses the needs at the big league level. This is most likely another season away, but does look like his ultimate path to the major league level. Now entering the final stages of his development and looking to push himself as a potential contributor on the big league roster down the line, 2011 is an important season for Fife to prove he’s putting the finishing touches on his stuff and capable of getting advanced hitters out on a consistent basis.

Tim Federowicz
Position: Catcher
2010 Team: Salem Red Sox
2011 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs
Opening Day Age: 23

Strengths: Known for his strong defensive capabilities, Federowicz has continued polishing his skills behind the dish and begun to work on the finer nuances of the position. With excellent reflexes and anticipation, he blocks balls in the dirt well and exhibits plus range when going after balls wide of the strike zone. Possessing soft hands, he receives balls well and provides a solid target for pitchers to throw to. A need for him coming into 2010, Federowicz worked hard at controlling games and becoming more vocal in the game management area, taking a lead with dictating situations and reinforcing defensive calls over the course of a game. Featuring a plus and accurate arm, he projects as an above-average thrower from behind the plate and overall is trending towards reaching his projection as a plus defender at the major league level. Offensively, Federowicz flashes a compact and fluid stroke that is capable of producing hard line drives when he squares pitches up. A very good fastball hitter, he can turn on them quickly and shows strong gap power, especially when he pulls the ball. He has made some strides with becoming more selective at the plate and improvement with going deeper into counts, not chasing as many pitches early in sequences and waiting for better offerings he can handle. Well-filled out and with a solid base, Federowicz has natural power that he can still further tap into and potentially produce around average home run levels down the line.

Development Needs: While beginning to show better levels of selectivity and patience at the plate in 2010, this area is where Federowicz needs his most improvement if he is going to consistently produce enough solid contact and hit enough to profile as an everyday player at the major league level. Now beginning to work himself into better counts and being more relaxed at the plate, the next step for him is to take advantage more of the pitches he gets and drive them hard to all fields. Federowicz is still a pull hitter and tends to fight balls off the other way, rather than lead with his hands and drive the head of the bat out to meet offerings on the outer third of the plate. A focus on cleaning up this aspect of his offensive game will allow him to produce more hard contact in the form of line drives to all fields. Advanced defensively, entering the upper levels of the Red Sox system will be a good test on how far he has come with the finer points of catching and challenge him to step up his game management skills further. While he has shown the makings of being on the track to polish off these skills, some adjustments may be needed during the first portion of his career at this level and he will need to display a firm mastery before moving up another level. Federowicz has excellent defensive potential at the major league level, but some of the questions and scope of work needed with his bat have lent clues that he’s more likely to project as a future backup even with the fulfillment of his offensive talent.

2011 Outlook: Invited to Spring Training as a non-roster player, Federowicz will be experiencing his first go-around working with the major league pitchers and have a chance to test his defensive skills, getting a taste of what areas he’ll need to push in 2011 and a glimpse of what it takes day in and day out at the big league level. Looking set to break camp and head north with Portland, a placement in Double-A will be a solid all-around challenge for him both offensively and defensively. Once settled in, Federowicz will look to show that he’s continuing the work with his approach, and improvement with the instances of solid contact will be a good clue that he is making strides at working himself into good counts and displaying better control of the strike zone. As the season moves along, expect Federowicz to start flashing his gap power and potentially can pile up higher totals of extra-base hits. Defensively, most, if not all, of his development centers on improving how he handles the ins and outs of being a catcher in the upper levels of the minor leagues. Given his aptitude and where he currently stands, he has the potential to show he’s ready to handle an advanced assignment in that department as the season comes to a close. 2011 is a big season of making strides at the plate for Federowicz and to show that his offensive is beginning to catch up to his defensive. With natural improvements defensively and a push in rounding out his needs with his approach, he can start entering the mix as a potential contributor behind the plate during the 2012 season.
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February 20, 2011 at 7:25 PM

Fort Report: February 20

Today's minor league notes:

  • Top pitching prospects Kyle Weiland and Stomly Pimentel will get the starts for the big club this weekend against Boston College and Northeastern, respectively. According to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal, Weiland will be reincorporating his cutter, a pitch he used at Notre Dame, back into his arsenal this season. Per Alex Speier of WEEI.com, the 21-year-old Pimentel reported to camp at 6’4”, 225.  Compare that to July 2006, when the Dominican right-hander was listed at 6’2", 170, upon signing his first professional contract with the Red Sox at the age of sixteen.  

  • Speier also reports that 2010 eighth-round pick Mathew Price, a right-handed pitcher out of Virginia Tech, underwent Tommy John Surgery this past September.  Price, 21, will spend the 2011 season rehabbing.

  • PawSox broadcaster Dan Hoard reports that two position players - Nate Spears and Oscar Tejeda - reported to camp all the way back on January 17, the first day that the Player Development Complex opened for the season.  Spears and Tejeda could be the starting second-baseman for Triple-A Pawtucket and Double-A Portland this season. 

  • Jason Bergmann, a reliever with major league experience likely tabbed for the Pawtucket bullpen to start 2011, was shut down early in camp due to shoulder issues and has not yet been permitted to resume pitching.

  • Lefty reliever Dennys Reyes is still struggling with visa issues, and has yet to report to camp.  He’s expected to report on Thursday.

  • The college baseball season got underway this weekend. Pitcher Eric Jaffe, a well-regarded amateur prospect and Boston’s 19th round pick in 2010, transferred from Cal-Berkeley to UCLA this semester.  Earlier this off-season, Cal announced that it will cut its baseball program following the 2011 season.  A few other ex-Sox draftees to keep an eye on this season are Kentucky RHP Alex Meyer, Southern Cal 1B Ricky Oropesa, Texas LHP Sam Stafford, and Vanderbilt RHP Navery Moore.

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February 18, 2011 at 2:21 PM

2011 Prospect Previews: Luis Exposito and Che-Hsuan Lin

Today's installment of the Prospect Previews series takes a look at two prospects within the Red Sox organization in the final stages of their development paths, with an eye on pushing towards being ready to make contributions at the major league level in 2011.

Luis Exposito
Position: Catcher
2010 Team: Portland Sea Dogs
2011 Projected Team: Pawtucket Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 24

Strengths: A veteran within the Red Sox system, Exposito is in the fine-tuning stages of his development track. With a broad frame and excellent strength, he is capable of generating solid-average present power and has the potential to develop a bit more as he continues to hone his approach. Exposito creates good extension and lift with his swing through the hitting zone, and has been improving with not trying to swing for the fences on every ball that he attacks. An excellent fastball hitter, he is capable of turning around most fastballs, and excels at driving ones out over the plate. More of a free swinger and on the undisciplined side in the low minors, he has made a noticeable attempt in Double-A to be more selective and try to grind out at-bats, looking for pitches he can handle in his hot spots. With further strides in this area, Exposito has the potential for solid offensive production out of the catcher’s position. Behind the dish, he possesses the type of skills to become an average-to-better defensive catcher at the major league level, highlighted by his plus throwing arm. Agile for a player his size, Exposito moves from side-to-side well and has quick reactions on offerings thrown wide of the zone. Over the last couple of seasons, he has taken steps towards becoming a leader on the field and improving his game management skills.

Development Needs: While making good strides with his approach in the last couple of seasons, Exposito can revert back to old habits and his swing can get extremely long for extended stretches. He has improved with his handling of off-speed pitches, but still fights them or gets fooled on them and doesn’t drive them with consistent authority. A pull hitter, he could stand to go the opposite way more with fastballs on the outer portion of the plate. He does a good job of working himself into hitter’s counts or getting deep in sequences, but tends to pull off fastballs and try to do much with them. Continued work with being patient and taking what pitchers offer him will go a long way towards boosting the amount of hard contact he makes. In order for Exposito to reach his full offensive potential and make enough contact to play regularly in the major leagues, he must find more balance with the length of his swing and stop looking to just jerk balls into leftfield. Despite having a strong arm, Exposito struggles to throw runners out due to a long and slow release. However, he has made improvements in this area, and when he is short and fluid coming out of his crouch, his arm plays up very well.

2011 Outlook: Added to the 40-man roster this past November, Exposito will spend about the first half of spring training with the big club before returning to the minor league camp and most likely heading to Pawtucket to start the season. Still developing his offensive and defensive game, an assignment in Triple-A will challenge him to push his skills to the next level in order to have consistent success in 2011. When on at the plate, Exposito is capable of driving the ball to all fields with power and makes pitchers work hard to get him out. Signs of him getting closer to be major league-ready offensively and polishing off his rough edges should show with a rise of consistent, hard contact and more instances of going with offerings on the outer third of the plate. Exposito could also experience a natural rise in the amount of home runs he hits due to staying on the ball longer and added selectivity. Still adjusting to catching in the upper levels, continued work with the finer points of the game will be the key focus for him this season with Pawtucket, along with some further cleaning up of his throwing mechanics. Strides in these aspects can lead to him being a viable option behind the plate during the summer, should the need arise in Boston. Now approaching the final stop of the system, Exposito will be looking to show that he can round into a backup catching candidate in the near future, with an eye on pushing his skills to prove he can handle a bigger role in the long term.

Che-Hsuan Lin
Position: Outfield
2010 Team: Portland Sea Dogs
2011 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs/Pawtucket Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 22

Strengths: A smooth and fluid outfielder with exceptional athleticism, Lin makes it look easy when tracking balls out in center field and turns difficult plays into routine ones frequently. He shows excellent instincts and an innate ability to read balls off the bat, which enables him to get excellent jumps and close in quickly on fly balls. Rounding out Lin’s refined defensive package is a well above-average arm, currently the best in the system, that profiles to be a valuable asset in a major league outfield. In short, he could currently play an above-average center field in the big leagues. Lin hits with a short, compact stroke and generates solid bat speed, highlighted by quick and strong wrists. After coming into the system raw with his pitch recognition and approach, he has honed this area into his biggest strength at the plate, becoming a high-contact player in the process. Demonstrating excellent control of the strike zone, Lin has become adept at working counts and spoiling tough pitches. Very rarely does he expand his strike zone when going after offerings, and he has improved considerably with how he handles breaking balls. Lin shows the makings of a high on-base player because of his elite batting eye. With added work in his reads and jumps, he could take advantage of his plus speed to be an impact baserunner as well.

Development Needs: Lin has made strong strides with his offensive game, but still needs work to create consistent hard contact. A lot of his troubles lie in having swing mechanics that can easily get out of whack and a timing step that can leave him too far out in front on his foot, with his hands also committing with his body instead of staying back. This causes him to drag the head of the bat through the zone to either roll over or chop balls. It is hard to project him maintaining his high on-base rates if he can’t drive balls enough to find gaps or holes through the infield at higher levels. Further simplification of his mechanics can help him square balls up with more frequency. Despite being filled out and possessing good upper body strength, Lin’s game power is below-average, and he doesn’t have much lift in his swing path. He tends to hit with his upper body, and if he is going to tap more into his power, incorporating his lower body into his swing will get more drive behind balls. The amount of improvement with these needs will determine whether Lin can evolve into a potential everyday outfielder at the major league level or if he becomes more of a fourth outfielder/late-inning type.

2011 Outlook: Lin had a good season with Portland in 2010 and made a lot of adjustments by the end of the year, but with the Red Sox’ outfield depth in the high minors, he could find himself back with Portland to start the season. This will give him a chance to further work out the kinks with his swing at a level he is comfortable at and play every day. The first thing to look for with Lin this coming season is a rise in his extra-base hit totals. This would be a good indication that he is creating more solid contact and plugging gaps with line drives, reducing the amount of weak contact he makes in the process. By mid-season, Lin should be challenging for a promotion to Triple-A, if not already there. He appeared to be well ahead of the Eastern League in terms of his discipline and approach, and if he can reproduce the hard contact he started to make towards the end of last season, he will not be challenged for very long in Double-A. An advanced defender and seemingly ready in that area, making him a player likely to help the major league team in some capacity come September, 2011 is all about offensive development for Lin. By the season’s end, we should have a good read on what type of role he will be able to fill at the major league level.
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February 17, 2011 at 5:37 PM

Fort Report: February 17

Here are your minor league notes for the last two days:

  • Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston talked to Pawtucket catcher Mark Wagner on Wednesday. The backstop, who missed a lot of time in 2010 after having the hamate bone removed from his left hand, had another surgery this off-season to remove a second bone from the same hand. Wagner feels like he’s back to full health this spring.

  • John Thomase of the Boston Herald reports that outfielder Daniel Nava, who added some noticeable bulk to his frame this off-season, has his sights on a backup role with Boston when camp breaks, but understands that he may end up back in Triple-A Pawtucket to begin the 2011 season.

  • Alex Speier notes that second baseman Oscar Tejeda reported to camp at 6’2”, 205 pounds. When Tejeda signed as an international free agent at the age of 16 in 2006, he was listed at 6’0”, 167. One of the top positional prospects in the system, the 21-year-old Dominican infielder will likely start the 2011 season in Double-A Portland.

  • Earlier this week, Dominican Summer League pitcher William Abreu was the first Red Sox prospect to receive a suspension for PEDs since 2005. The 19-year-old Dominican right-hander was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for an anabolic steroid known as Deca-Durabolin. Abreu has never played in a game in the Red Sox system, and in fact was just signed to his first professional contract on December 3, 2010. Not the best way to make a first impression.

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February 16, 2011 at 2:07 PM

2011 Prospect Previews: Bryce Brentz and David Renfroe

Today's installment of Prospect Previews takes a look at one of the 2010 draftees beginning his first full season with the organization and another one of the young hitters within the low minors looking to round out his rough edges in 2011.

Bryce Brentz
Position: Outfield
2010 Team: Lowell Spinners
2011 Projected Team: Greenville Drive
Opening Day Age: 22

Strengths: Well filled out and possessing solid upper body strength, Brentz’ power ceiling highlights his offensive game. Short and compact with his stroke, he quickly brings the head of the bat through the hitting zone with natural lift and the ability to drive balls with authority when he squares them up. Coming out of the college ranks, Brentz is more advanced with incorporating his lower half into his swing mechanics and fluidly uses his hips to add drive behind his swing. An excellent fastball hitter, he’s extremely dangerous on ones left over the plate and can quickly turn on heaters on the insider corner, effectively using his hands to clean out higher velocity offerings in this area. His power projects to play well to all fields and he will not have to rely on pulling the ball to produce hard contact. Not a hitter with a long swing path and big arm extension, Brentz should be able to generate higher rates of contact as he gets going in his career and be a multi-dimensional hitter who doesn’t just lean on his power. Featuring a plus arm in the outfield, runners will have to be wary of challenging him when trying to take an extra base or during plays at the plate. Brentz displays excellent accuracy and is adept at charging balls to put himself in good position to get everything behind his throws, while cutting down his transfer time. With solid-average speed, Brentz profiles as a rightfielder in the professional ranks and over time has the potential to round into an above-average fielder as he continues to make strides with his route-taking and judgment on balls.

Development Needs: Brentz struggled with the conversion to wood bats during his summer with the Lowell Spinners and displayed some mechanical kinks with his swing, especially with how he wraps the head of the bat around breaking balls moving down and away from him. Given the improvement in secondary offerings he will now see, he’ll have to work on leading more with his hands on balls on the outer corner and won’t be able to hook pitches in this area like he did in college hitting with an aluminum bat. Brentz can also over commit with his hands during his stride and will need to improve on the separation with his hands if he is going to fully tap into his power potential as he moves up the ranks. By keeping his hands back more during his stride, he’ll be able to handle breaking balls better and not hit so much out in the front of his body. An aggressive hitter, he needs work with his selectiveness on which pitches to attack, as he currently displays more of a “grip it and rip it” approach at the plate. With further experience seeing advanced pitching, Brentz should start to develop strong pitch recognition, but he is going to have to fully focus on developing more of a relaxed approach at the plate. He does not profile to produce high walk totals as he reaches his advanced development stages, but in order to create strong rates of solid contact he must cut down considerably on the instances he gets himself out due to chasing any offering close to the plate or not in an area he can handle effectively.

2011 Outlook: After getting his feet wet in professional baseball with the Lowell Spinners upon signing with the Red Sox organization in 2010, Brentz is slated to break camp with the Greenville Drive and begin his career in full-season baseball. With the feeling-out process behind him and his first Spring Training under his belt, his placement in this level and upcoming season will be a better indication of where he currently stands in his development. As the year gets going and Brentz feels more comfortable hitting with wood, expect to see the flashes of power and consistent contact produced. The leading drivers behind improvement in these areas are the beginnings of developing a more relaxed approach at the plate and the cleaning up of his mechanical issues. Strong strides in these areas can lead to high home run totals at this level and an overall strong offensive season. By the end of the season, Brentz has the potential to display that he has pushed ahead of the curve and ready for a placement in the next level. 2011 is a season for him to prove that he is not long for a stay in the low minors and to work on some specific improvements with his offensive game, which can go a long way to pushing him towards a future as an everyday outfielder at the major league level.

David Renfroe
Position: Third Base
2010 Team: Lowell Spinners
2011 Projected Team: Greenville Drive
Opening Day Age: 20

Strengths: Naturally strong and with an ideal frame for a hitter who produces above-average power, Renfroe features the type of offensive tools that can be polished into the skills of a middle-of-the-order hitter as he matures. With a strong base and powerful hands, he can drive balls a long way with relative ease and produces a lot of backspin to all fields. Renfroe creates good extension with his swing and when fluid shows the type of batspeed that can allow him to handle all offerings as he continues to settle into his career. He already has a lot of loft in his swing path and possesses about average power at this stage, with a very high ceiling in this area. A good athlete and former shortstop, Renfroe has the reactions and overall defensive skill set to round into a more than adequate defender down at the hot corner. He’s showed an improving first step during his transition to the position and flashed better reads on his angles with more game experience. His plus arm allows him to make long throws from deep behind the bag on the fly or ones on the run quicker to first base. Renfroe has the overall baseball talent to round into an above-average player as he begins to learn to tap into his skills, slow the game down, and dictate how things come to him.

Development Needs: Renfroe proved to be extremely raw in his initial experience in professional baseball and has a lot of rough edges to be ironed out. The root causes of his offensive struggles, and biggest areas for future improvement, rests within his pitch recognition and lack of a developed approach, which hinders how he attacks balls and the amount of contact he currently produces. Because he is so raw with his recognition of pitches coming out him, he hesitates when beginning his load and can get himself so far out in front of the ball that he can do little with it when making contact. Renfroe also gets caught between pitches, starting to commit to what he thinks is a fastball, only for it to be a breaking ball and either makes weak contact or waves over the offering. His plus batspeed is zapped by the lack of fluidity the hesitation creates and the instances of solid contact are few and far between. Still young and with the potential for a strong learning curve as things start to click in front of him, Renfroe can make bigger strides in these areas with continued focus and experience. However, he’s got a long road in front of him towards becoming a polished hitter and will need to come up to speed quickly to close the gap between himself and opposing pitchers. In order for him to tap into his offensive potential, especially his power, the initial strides will come when he can push pitch recognition and bring a plan to the plate.

2011 Outlook: Spring Training is going to be a key time for Renfroe to show that he’s beginning to make bigger positive strides and is ready for an assignment the Greenville Drive. While statistically his 2010 season looked poor and he experienced a lot of failure, exposure of key flaws is the first steps for young hitters to get a grasp on what it takes to round out their tools. Renfroe will continue to be tested with his approach in 2011. Signs of improvement to look for first include an increased amount of contact and then an increased amount of solid contact. These are good tells that he is getting more comfortable with recognizing pitches and able to attack more offerings. Big gains should not be expected, especially with a placement in full-season baseball to start the year as it will take Renfroe some time to further adjust to advanced pitching. Followers should look for more subtle improvement and a gradual increase in contact rates over the course of the summer, along with a spike in the amount of extra-base hits. The tools are there for him to round into a prospect pushing towards the upper levels of the organization in the coming seasons with further development. 2011 is a season focused on polishing and putting teachings into practice during game action. With more of a push, adding up all of those parts throughout the year can lead to a young player hitting his development stride.
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February 15, 2011 at 6:07 PM

Coello traded to Cubs for infielder Thomas

The Red Sox this evening announced the trade of pitcher Robert Coello to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for infielder Tony Thomas.

Coello, 26, was designated for assignment last week to make room for Alfredo Aceves. He made his major league debut last season with the Red Sox, hurling 5.2 innings of relief while posting a 4.76 ERA after splitting time between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. Originally drafted in 2004 by the Cincinnati Reds as a catcher, Coello was signed by the Red Sox out of the Golden Baseball League in 2009 after he had success in his conversion to pitching.

Thomas, 24, was originally drafted by Chicago in the third round of the 2007 amateur draft. He is considered to be an athletic, high energy player who flashes gap-to-gap power while playing a solid second base. Last season as a member of the Double-A Tennessee Smokies (CHC), Thomas hit .276/.338/.485 with 11 home runs, 73 RBI and 15 stolen bases. Thomas also has a penchant for the strike out, having 100 or more in each of the past three seasons. He may see time in Double-A Portland in 2011.
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at 4:50 PM

Fort Report: Early minor league notes

Alex Speier of WEEI.com and Peter Abraham of Boston.com are putting in yeoman's work in the trenches down in Fort Myers this week, and they've reported several interesting minor league notes in the process. Here's a collection of minor league notes from the last couple days:

  • According to Speier, Red Sox RHP Michael Bowden added a cutter to his arsenal over the off-season.  Bowden hopes that the new pitch will be an effective tool against lefties, an area where he has struggled in the past. 

  • Speier was also the first to report that top prospect Jose Iglesias expects that his father will join him in the United States in about a month. That should help with the 21-year-old Cuban’s comfort level here in the States.  In other Iglesias news, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets that the shortstop spent three weeks working out with Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez earlier this off-season.

  • Abraham notes that pitchers Alfredo Aceves and Dennys Reyes are both experiencing visa issues. Reyes will be late to camp, and while Aceves reported on time, he may need to head to Miami for a day to resolve the issue. 

  • SoxProspects forum member sarasoxer was at camp today, and he notes that 2B prospect Oscar Tejeda bulked up over the off-season.  Tejeda looked solid in this morning’s drills, hitting a home run out of the complex and across the adjoining street.  If Tejeda continues to add size, he’s a candidate to move to third base down the line.  

  • A Harvard University reporter notes that Matt Kramer, a former Harvard catcher signed by the Red Sox last week to be a converted pitcher, is consistently throwing his fastball at 93-95 mph and working his slider at 87 mph.

  • Abraham reports that LHP Rich Hill is exclusively throwing sidearm now.  Hill feels comfortable with his new arm angle, which has altered his curveball from 12-6 to more of a frisbee curve. 

  • Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal reports that reliever Matt Fox is looking forward to his first major league camp.  Despite that the team designated him for assignment this off-season, the 28-year-old righty knew right away that he wanted to re-sign with Boston.

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