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February 23, 2011 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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