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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.