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SoxProspects News

March 5, 2011 at 9:48 AM

2011 Prospect Previews: Dan Butler and Adalberto Ibarra

Today's installment of the series features two catching prospects looking to continue their development work in 2011, with an eye on proving they're ready to approach the upper minors.

Dan Butler
Position: Catcher
2010 Teams: Greenville Drive/Salem Red Sox
2011 Projected Team: Salem Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 24

Strengths: Signing with the organization as an undrafted free agent in 2009, Butler brings a solid all-around defensive game to the diamond, highlighted by strong instincts behind the dish and polished technique. He shows good reactions and fluid footwork when handling balls in the dirt, while also displaying soft hands when receiving balls from pitchers. Able to control the running game, Butler enhances his solid-average arm with a quick release and good accuracy, putting his throws in good spots for infielders to make tags. He has the potential to round into an above-average defender with continued experience and fine tuning as he approaches the upper levels of the Red Sox system. Offensively, Butler displays a patient and relaxed approach that allows him to get into better hitting counts. His swing is on the shorter and compact side, which helps him make good contact and drive balls into the gaps. He has shown a lot of improvement handling professional pitching and made strong adjustments to work out some initial kinks with his swing, consistently getting the head of the bat on the ball with more frequency in the process.

Development Needs: On the older side for the low minors, Butler will need to prove himself offensively in the upper minors and show that he can consistently make contact against more advanced pitching. Further adjustments with his swing will be needed to continue the improvements he has made with quickening it up and being able to handle higher velocity offerings. Untested against strong secondary offerings, Butler will most likely experience an adjustment period upon first initial exposure to them and have to work to be able to drive them, rather than fight breaking balls off. With average offensive tools as a whole, his offensive projection is more in line for him to profile as a potential backup catcher down the line, but he has the type of glove to continue to carry him up the ranks. Showing good game management skills, his next step defensively is to take further charge out on the field and begin to work on the finer points of being a professional catcher.

2011 Outlook: Finishing up 2010 in High-A, Butler will most likely return to Salem once camp ends and look to show that he can build on the initial offensive success he displayed at this level. Given his age and more advanced approach, he should continue to show he can handle the pitching in High-A and put up strong contact rates, while producing his fair share of extra-base hits. By mid-season, Butler can begin to push for a promotion to Double-A, where his skills will receive a good test and he’ll be pushed to make further adjustments. Upon entering this level he will begin to give a good glimpse of where his offensive potential lies and signal that his defensive skills are ready for the rigors of the upper levels. If Butler can continue to display an improving offensive game throughout 2011, by season’s end he can find himself moving up the organization’s depth chart at the catcher position and put himself in the mix as a more potential depth.

Adalberto Ibarra
Position: Catcher
2010 Team: Gulf Coast Red Sox/Salem Red Sox
2011 Projected Team: Rehab/Salem Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 23

Strengths: A lefty with a smooth and fluid swing, Ibarra possesses high offensive potential and the type of ability to become a well-rounded hitter as he comes up to speed against professional pitching. Able to wait back and stay deep on the ball, he shows a good opposite field stroke and can produce strong levels of line drives to all fields. Ibarra uses his hands well to guide the head of the bat to the point of contact and handle what is given to him. With some added lift in his swing and more feel for the strike zone, he can project to hit for solid-average power as he continues to mature as a hitter. A patient hitter in the style the Red Sox organization likes to preach, Ibarra has the makings of a grinding approach and shows a willingness to go deep into counts to work pitchers for offerings in his hot spots. A former infielder when he was coming up in Cuba, he has good athleticism for a catcher, while displaying soft hands and solid baseball reactions. These traits should serve him well as he continues to learn the catching position after moving behind the plate in 2009.

Development Needs: Ibarra underwent labrum surgery in November 2010 and will first need to complete his rehab before getting back to work at honing his overall game. Very raw defensively, he has a long way to go in becoming a solid defender behind the plate and needs considerable work with how he blocks balls in the dirt, along with handling all types of pitches consistently. Initially, it can be expected that he’s going to make a lot of mistakes and be brought along slowly behind the plate. Given his athletic ability and good instincts, he can round into at least an average defensive catcher, but his potential won’t begin to show until down the road. It is also unclear how his arm will respond to the surgery and what type of arm strength he has given the injury had been lingering since prior to signing with the Red Sox organization. Still new to professional baseball and seeing advanced pitching on a consistent basis, Ibarra has developmental work ahead of him offensively in regards to his pitch recognition and shrinking down his strike zone.

2011 Outlook: Poised to get a late start to the season and on the rehab track at the moment, Ibarra is first focusing on getting back to full health before he begins his 2011 assignment, most likely with Salem when he is ready to return to game action. He’ll initially continue with his adjustment to the professional ranks after logging minimal at-bats last season, but once settled in and more comfortable, Ibarra should begin to prove that he’s able to spray a lot of balls around the field at this level, while producing strong contact rates and showing a high level of plate discipline. Given that he was more advanced with the bat upon joining the system than most prospects, it shouldn’t be too long before he starts handling the pitching in High-A with consistent success. With a lot of defensive work to be done, it can be expected that he will stay here for the entire season to ease him into things and allow him to work on building his defensive skills at his own pace. He has the potential to make good strides during the season as he shows strong fundamentals and nice raw tools to be polished. Brand new to the organization and looking to start making his mark, Ibarra’s season will be an interesting one to track as he begins to show what he’s capable of becoming down the line. While progression will be slow and steady, by season’s end Ibarra can be in position to push into the upper minors in 2012.