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March 7, 2011 at 7:46 AM

2011 Prospect Previews: Juan Carlos Linares and Alex Hassan

Today's installment of the series takes an in-depth look at two outfielders working to hone their skills in 2011 and solidfy themselves as potential depth rising up the ranks.

Juan Carlos Linares
Position: Outfielder
2010 Teams: Gulf Coast Red Sox/Portland Sea Dogs
2011 Projected Team: Pawtucket Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 26

Strengths: Signed in July 2010 after defecting from Cuba, Linares has quickly impressed during his short time with the organization. Hitting out of a closed stance, he generates solid batspeed via a short and compact stroke, showing the ability to barrel up fastballs with authority by quickly driving his hands through the hitting zone. Pitchers have to be careful working inside to Linares as he cleans out those offerings well and makes a high rate of solid contact against them. Well filled out, Linares produces about average power presently and has the ability to tap into a bit more as he continues to adjust to professional pitching. With deceptive speed, his legs serve him well out in the outfield and he can cover solid ground at each of the outfield positions. A natural centerfielder, Linares gets good reads off the bat and displays good closing speed when tracking down balls in the gap. His solid-average arm looks to be able to play up well in a corner slot as well and he is able to get off throws with good accuracy when runners challenge his arm. Despite coming over to the United States later in his career, Linares has been able to settle in quickly and join the ranks of the upper minors outfield depth within the Red Sox organization.

Development Needs: An aggressive hitter, Linares can jump out at pitches too much and has some work to do with fine tuning his strike zone. He can chase elevated fastballs and often tries to hook outside pitching, rather than lead with his hands and go with what is being given to him. Trying to shoot fastballs running away from him to the opposite field will increase the amount of solid contact Linares can generate and lessen the instances of him rolling over on these pitches or popping them up. While he does not project as a hitter that is going to draw a ton of walks down the line, improvement with his selectivity and ability to work himself into hitter’s counts will be necessary for him to have consistent success against advanced pitching. This will also help him increase his hot zones for making good contact, which presently is limited to balls middle-in. While able to hold his own in centerfield, Linares looks more likely to be able to handle the position in short-term or fill-in duty at the major league level, and is best suited for rotating around the outfield in a backup role.

2011 Outlook: In camp with the major league team, Linares has been showing that he’s capable of handling an assignment in the upper minors once the teams head north and should push for a slot on the Pawtucket roster when the season begins. Regardless of where he begins the season, Linares has begun to solidify himself within the organization’s outfield depth chart and can further prove he’s ready to contribute at the major league level should the opportunity presents itself during the season by continuing to work on rounding out his approach. Good signs of this coming to fruition include more selectivity consistently displayed in at-bats, which should drive an increase in the amount of solid contact he makes to all fields. Linares has the ability to show some pop throughout the season as he continues to settle in against professional pitching and learn which pitches he can consistently drive. Unknown upon joining the organization later last season, followers are starting to get more of an idea of what he can do and may see Linares called upon during the 2011 season when the team needs to reach down into their depth.

Alex Hassan
Position: Outfield
2010 Team: Salem Red Sox
2011 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs
Opening Day Age: 23

Strengths: Possessing a solid frame and good baseball instincts, Hassan has made a quick initial adjustment to professional baseball and shown that he does not have much left to prove in the low minors. Hitting from an open stance, he stays back well on the ball and has a smooth swing that’s capable of generating hard contact when he squares up the ball. Adept at driving fastballs out and over the plate where he can extend his arms, Hassan also handles breaking balls well and is able to keep his hands inside the baseball to drive them to the opposite field as they break across the strike zone. With good strength, he has some natural loft in his swing and the potential to hit for solid-average power down the line. Patient and selective at the plate, his advanced understanding of the strike zone has allowed him to consistently work counts and gives him a good foot forward at making a quicker adjustment to more advanced pitching as he rises up the ranks of the organization. A former pitcher at Duke University, Hassan unleashes strong throws from a corner outfield position and takes good routes when tracking balls. Overall defensively, he’s a very fundamentally sound player and works hard at putting himself in the proper position to make plays.

Development Needs: Hassan’s swing gets very long at times and he can struggle to get around on inside fastballs and generate hard contact with them. He tends to get jammed when attacking higher velocity offerings and needs to make some adjustments with quickening up his load to display consistent success against high minors pitching. Without elite batspeed, finding a balance with his swing will help him handle high velocity fastballs better and drive them more consistently. Hassan also hits mostly with his upper body and incorporating his lower half more into his swing mechanics will be a must to allow him to tap further into his power, especially to the opposite field where he currently pushes the ball rather than driving it. While his plate discipline is a strength for him, it will be tested against advanced pitching as the amount of mistakes made are reduced. Hassan currently takes advantage of such mistake pitches well, but will have to prove he can make more contact on well-placed offerings and continue to handle secondary ones consistently. With about average speed and range, he looks best suited for leftfield, where more of a premium is going to be put on his offensive production.

2011 Outlook: After starting the 2010 season with the Salem Red Sox slow, Hassan began to find his groove in High-A as the summer got going and by season’s end showed that he was ahead of the curve handling low minors pitching. With a strong camp, he looks to have an inside track on earning a spot in Portland’s outfield and is likely to make the jump up to Double-A, where he’ll see his skills receive a good test in 2011. His plate discipline should serve him well with the initial transition and if he can further work on displaying a selective approach to go deeper into counts, consistent results should start to follow. A good tell that he is tweaking his swing mechanics will show with increasing power numbers as the summer heats up. Capable of generating power, rising home run numbers will be a good sign that he’s beginning to learn how to tap into his natural strength and use his entire body to drive the baseball. Still with work ahead of him, 2011 is a season for Hassan to continue to hone his offensive game and make the necessary adjustments to carry his success in 2010 to his next stop in the Red Sox ranks. Proving that he was advanced coming out of college, a strong display against pitching more in line with his stage of development will provide a better look at what type of role Hassan can potentially fulfill down the line.