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SoxProspects News

April 27, 2011 at 7:07 AM

The Ladder: 4.27.11

RHP Brandon Workman

The Line: Struggling through his first two outings of the season with Greenville, Workman began to show signs of finding his form in his outing on April 20, firing 5.0 innings while picking up 4 strikeouts against Charleston. However, he was unable to follow this performance up and got hit hard on April 26 against Greensboro, allowing 5 hits and 4 earned runs in 3.1 innings, including a long first inning home run. Covering 14.1 innings on the season, Workman has been touched for 16 hits, 3 of which have left the yard.

The View: Selected by the Red Sox in the second round of the 2010 Draft, Workman signed at the deadline last season and made his professional debut this year with Greenville. Without having the luxury of spending the summer with the Lowell Spinners to begin coming up to speed with working on the five day pitching cycle, his initial adjustment in A-ball has centered on getting used to his new routine. Featuring a four-seam fastball that sits 92-93 MPH and can top out around 95 MPH when he reaches back, his command of this offering has been in and out thus far, causing him to labor through innings in the early going of the season and work too much in the middle of the plate. When on with his fastball, Workman throws downhill from a ¾ arm slot and can create some late run away from right-handed batters with the pitch, but he’s been inconsistent with his release point and his heater has been very flat. One of the early tells that he has been continuing to build arm strength and settle into throwing every fifth day has been a 2 MPH drop in velocity his second time through the order. His out-pitch currently is a mid-to-high 80s cutter, that shows sharp finish and slight break across the strike zone. Workman has good feel for this offering and as he becomes more consistent commanding his fastball it can play well off of it due to the movement at the last moment upon approach to the plate. His cutter is close to a plus pitch presently and still has some room for improvement. As Workman continues to get comfortable with his routine, it can be expected that more consistent outings will follow. Much of his work throughout the season rests on sharpening his curveball and changeup. Showing good depth and knee-bending break at times, his 75-78 MPH curve can be loopy and inconsistent out of his hand as well. Improvement with the amount of snap he produces with this offering can push it towards a solid-average-to-better weapon at his disposal. Inexperienced with throwing a changeup, much of the progress Workman can make with this pitch will determine whether he can stick in a starter’s role as he reaches the upper minors in the next couple of seasons. Beginning his development as a professional pitcher this season, Workman has some clear near-term work ahead of him. As the summer months begin to heat up he should be in the midst of finding a nice groove, which will point to initial progress being made in his development.

1B Reynaldo Rodriguez

The Line:
Picking up where he left off last season with Greenville, Rodriguez is off to a torrid start at the plate in High A, posting a triple slash of .397/.457/.776 through 16 games, with an eye popping 15 extra-base hits. He turned in back-to-back two hit performances April 18-19 against Lynchburg, helping pace Salem’s attack with 2 doubles, 1 home run, 6 runs scored, and 5 runs driven in during the two game series. Rodriguez has kicked it into high gear in his last four games, turning in multi-hit efforts in each game, highlighted by 5 doubles and 2 home runs to anchor the middle-of-the-order.

The View: Signed by the Red Sox out of the Golden Baseball League in 2009 after washing out of the New York Yankees organization due to injury problems, Rodriguez has been an interesting find for the team. He started out in Extended Spring Training last season, but once he joined Greenville in May the offensive production soon followed and he has been off to an impressive clip to start 2011. The main caveat to what Rodriguez is currently doing lies with his age, turning 25 years of age this past February and well ahead of the curve for the level of competition he is presently facing. While it’s expected that he should dominate the more inexperienced pitching and be able to take advantage of the many mistakes he sees, Rodriguez has some clear hitting talent. Using more of a compact stroke, he shows quick wrists and is especially adept at pulling his hands inside the baseball on offerings running in on him to clean out them out effectively. Rodriguez produces nice upward loft with his swing and generates good lift when attacking offerings in his hitting zone to drive the baseball with backspin. Thus far, he’s shown to be quick with his load and lead with his hands on pitches running away from him to use the whole field effectively. Rodriguez is going to experience a much tougher challenge when he reaches the upper minors and have to prove himself against competition more in line with his age, but the early returns point to a hitter trending towards being ready to take on that challenge. Presently, it’s unclear as to how well he will be able to hit better spotted pitches and effectively pick up the spin of advanced secondary offerings, but for now Rodriguez is doing what is expected from him and showing he’s advancing past another rank of the Red Sox system.

Trending Up

Top pitching prospect Anthony Ranaudo has found an early groove to start his professional career with the Greenville Drive and has been showing he is quickly becoming ahead of the curve against South Atlantic League batters. Through 19.2 innings on the season, the 21-year-old right-handed starter has picked up 23 strikeouts and limited opposing hitters to just 10 hits. Utilizing a 92-94 MPH fastball that has topped out at 95 MPH thus far, Ranaudo can be overpowering when staying on top of the ball and using his heater to pound the strike zone early in sequences. Also snapping off his hammer curveball with frequency, this offering has shown excellent teeth and hard 12-to-6 break down through the zone. While Ranaudo is still working on feeling his changeup better and keeping himself controlled within his delivery to have more consistent command, the early returns have been very positive for last year’s top signing and a move to the next level in the Red Sox system could be on the horizon with continued mastery of Low-A…After getting a taste of the major leagues during a late season call up in 2010, Pawtucket infielder Yamaico Navarro has been out to prove he’s ready to contribute to the big league club should the opportunity presents itself. Posting a .936 OPS in 18 games this season with the PawSox, Navarro has ripped 8 extra-base hits and worked 13 walks in the process. Struggling with his plate discipline upon first entering the upper minors with Portland in 2009, he has steadily improved with his selectiveness to allow his natural batspeed and ability to create backspin generate more instances of solid contact. Still a bit rough with handling secondary offerings, Navarro will have to continue to focus on keeping his hands back and not guessing quite as much at the plate, but his versatility in the field and pop in his bat can provide the Red Sox with an attractive infield option should they need to reach down for help…Salem left-handed starter Chris Hernandez has been a groundball machine in High-A in his first three outings of 2011, with a whopping 80 percent of the balls put in play against him on the ground. Making use of a one-seam fastball that moves down and in against right-handed batters, Carolina League hitters have had a tough time making hard contact against Hernandez. While he will have to rely on changing speeds and pinpoint command, most likely posing a tough initial challenge of his stuff when he reaches Double-A, he should continue to show that he is ready for that challenge in the near future…With an impressive 21 strikeouts in 10 innings of work on the season, Greenville righty Juan Rodriguez has come out firing to start the 2011 season in Low-A. Possessing a live 93-94 MPH fastball that can touch 96 MPH when he reaches back, Rodriguez mainly operates with his heater at the moment. Working to improve the tightness of his high-70s curveball and round out the rough edges of his delivery, he is still very much a work in progress as a pitcher, but is an intriguing arm, especially if he can sharpen his breaking ball into more of a power slider.

Trending Down

Things have been slow out of the gate for Portland catcher Ryan Lavarnway, mainly stemming from his timing being off and getting caught between some pitches in the early going. 13 for his first 58 and with only 4 extra-base hits on the young season, Lavarnway has had some trouble keeping himself from opening up too soon, resulting in him rolling over a lot of balls and yanking the head of the bat too quickly through the hitting zone. After looking very comfortable during Spring Training and producing a lot of hard contact, he has yet been able to translate those results during the first month of 2011. An excellent hitter and one with cresting home run power, once Lavarnway works out the kinks with clearing his lower body early, expect an extended stretch of solid contact to follow…Left-handed starter Drake Britton has been adjusting to his move up another level of the Red Sox system to start the season and has yet to find his form through three outings with Salem. Giving up 15 hits in 9.1 innings of work thus far, Britton has struggled with his fastball command and keeping on top of the ball to fire it downward through the strike zone. While his velocity has been on par at 93-95 MPH and his curveball sharp at times, his overall command of his arsenal hasn’t been there as of yet to allow him to consistently work ahead of hitters for extended stretches. As he begins to feel his arsenal better and make less mistakes within the zone, Britton should be able to get deeper into outings with results more in line with what he did with Greenville last season…Playing regularly in High-A to start the season, Salem infielder Michael Almanzar has found it tough to make solid contact in his first 15 games. The 20-year-old right-handed hitter is just 9 for 54 with 13 strikeouts and only 3 walks. Almanzar has battled balance issues and keeping his swing short for most of his career with the Red Sox organization. The next steps in his development lie in translating the improvements he makes into game action and showing that his raw tools are trending into more consistent skills. Almanzar has high power potential and a lot of natural strength, but his mechanical issues have lead to him having trouble consistently driving offerings and being quick enough with the barrel on balls in good spots for him to handle…Greenville’s Lucas Leblanc has found the initial adjustment to professional baseball to be a steep one, logging 14 strikeouts in 14 games and a .194 average to start at the plate. Possessing a nice set of tools, highlighted by a plus throwing arm, solid speed, and strong hands, if Leblanc can make strides relaxing his approach at the plate and becoming more selective as a hitter, he’s an interesting low minors outfielder to keep an eye on.