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SoxProspects News

March 9, 2011 at 11:26 AM

2011 Prospect Previews: Watch List- Bats

Today's edition of the series is another Watch List segment, taking a look at some of the hitting depth within the Red Sox system.

Reynaldo Rodriguez
Position: First Base
2010 Team: Greenville Drive
2011 Projected Team: Salem Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 24

2011 Outlook: Signed out of the Golden Baseball Independent League at the end of 2009 after his first attempt at professional baseball stalled, Rodriguez came on strong for the Greenville Drive in 2010 and proved he’s ready to take the next step up the ranks of the Red Sox system. Highlighted by very strong and quick wrists, he’s compact with his stroke and generates good lift when he makes contact, and is especially adept at dropping the head of the bat on inside fastballs to pull them with authority. After being old for A-ball, Rodriguez will once again be older for his level in 2011. Given where he is developmentally, it seems likely that he will continue to put up strong results against this level of pitching. By proving that he is well ahead of the curve for the Carolina League and that 2010 wasn’t just a case of taking advantage of inexperienced pitching, Rodriguez has a chance to push himself into consideration for a promotion to Portland during the second half of the season. Getting a second chance in 2010, Rodriguez was able to seize the opportunity and make himself an interesting player to keep an eye on. While a repeat performance in High-A this season won’t necessarily bring his potential into a full focus, 2011 can be a season for him to put himself into a position to pass another test and get to a level where his skills will really be tried.

Lucas LeBlanc
Position: Outfield
2010 Team: Yet to Debut
2011 Projected Team: Lowell Spinners
Opening Day Age: 21

2011 Outlook: One of the newer additions to the Red Sox organization, Leblanc joins the professional ranks after spending last season in Junior College. Possessing solid all-around tools, he utilizes a compact and low maintenance swing to generate solid batspeed to the point of contact, with some natural loft in his swing. Given the depth within the system’s outfield in the low minors, Leblanc seems likely to stay back in Extended Spring Training to begin his transition to pro ball, and get a chance to start the first assignment of his career in the New York-Penn League with the Lowell Spinners. As he settles in and adjusts to more advanced pitching, LeBlanc has the potential to show some power and make a lot of consistent contact at this level as his approach comes up to speed. A good athlete with plus speed, he profiles as a centerfielder at least in the near term, but may end up moving over to a corner spot if his frame fills out a bit more as he matures. Brand new and unknown to followers, 2011 should begin to give a glimpse of what LeBlanc can do and how quick his skills are going to adjust to professional pitching.

Keury De La Cruz
Position: Outfield
2010 Team: Gulf Coast Red Sox
2011 Projected Team: Lowell Spinners
Opening Day Age: 19

2011 Outlook: Signed out of the Dominican Republic in March of 2009, De La Cruz has made steady progress in the Red Sox organization’s Rookie Leagues. With a solid Extended Spring Training, he has an inside track at heading north with the Lowell Spinners when their season gets going in June. Athletic and with a leaner build, he hits out of a crouched stance from the left side of the plate, showing loft and extension in his swing path. Despite having some room left in his frame and not being fully filled out, De La Cruz can generate some good drive when he squares the ball up with backspin. Still raw with his pitch recognition and on the aggressive side at the plate, his initial development in this level will center on working to build more of a selective approach. While he may experience an adjustment period as he settles in and works on getting into good counts, De La Cruz can show flashes of doubles power and stretches of consistent, hard contact as the summer moves along. Solid defensively, he’s capable of manning centerfield on a daily basis and uses his closing speed to cover ground in both gaps. With a chance to show he’s trending towards full-season baseball as 2011 comes to a close, De La Cruz will look to take the next steps with his development path and use his time with Lowell to continue to build the foundations of a polished overall game.

Michael Almanzar
Position: Third Base/First Base
2010 Team: Greenville Drive
2011 Projected Team: Salem Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 20

2011 Outlook: After spending the last two seasons continuing to work on polishing his rough edges with the Lowell Spinners and Greenville Drive, Almanzar appears likely to break camp with the Salem Red Soxto start the season. Making some strides with his approach and cleaning up his swing mechanics in recent seasons, these aspects of his offensive game will be challenged further with a placement in High-A. If Almanzar is to have consistent success in 2011, strong initial adjustments and continued work to improve his balance during his swing will go a long way towards making that happen. Signs of positive strides in these areas should show with more consistent contact and a rise in the amount of line drives he produces to all fields. Flashing impressive power in batting practice, by finding more consistency with his swing, Almanzar can begin to tap into his natural strength and drive the ball with all of his body. Presently, he hits mostly with his arms, which causes him to drag the head of the bat and push the ball on offerings on the inner third of the plate. Still young and entering the stages where development strides can begin to show themselves with stronger results, 2011 is an important year for him to push his game to the next level. While Almanzar will most likely be in some kind of rotation in Salem for playing time, if he can take advantage of his opportunity and bring more of his instruction to game action, by season’s end he can prove that he’s starting to trend in the right direction.