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May 11, 2011 at 8:02 AM

The Ladder: 5.11.11

RHP Stolmy Pimentel

The Line: After getting roughed up in his first career Double-A start against Reading to the tune of 5 earned runs in 3.0 innings on 6 hits, Pimentel bounced back on April 15 against New Britain to fire 5.0 innings shutout innings, allowing 2 hits and striking out 3 batters. Over his next 3 starts he yielded 12 earned runs in 13.1innings, getting tagged for 18 hits while issuing 5 free passes against 9 strikeouts. In his last outing on May 9, Pimentel had his best start to date with Portland, spinning 6.0 shutout innings while picking up 7 strikeouts and only giving up 3 hits.

The View: At times masterful and other times struggling considerably through outings, Pimentel has thus far been up and down to start the season in Double-A. Working to establish consistency inning-to-inning and outing-to-outing, much of this work going forward centers on keeping his release point consistent. Pimentel is at his best when he is able to repeat his optimal high ¾ release point, which enhances his overall command and allows him to get good downward action on his 92-94 MPH four-seam fastball. By staying on top of the ball and throwing downhill, his fastball slices through the strike zone and shows solid late finish to keep batters from squaring it up frequently. Pimentel runs into trouble when he drops his wrist a bit throwing his fastball and it comes in straighter to opposing hitters. This causes him to also lose command, often missing his spots in the strike zone or throwing it wide.

Much of Pimentel’s plan on the mound relies on establishing his fastball and being able to pound the zone initially to pick up early strikes. While capable of dialing his heater up to 95 MPH when reaching back and getting late swings, his swing and miss offering is a 77-82 MPH plus changeup. Fading down and in to right-handed batters in the lower ranges of its velocity and more straight bottom dropping action in the upper reaches, he’s consistently shown excellent feel and arm action when throwing it over the course of his career. Capable of throwing his change for a strike and using it early in the count, this pitch becomes virtually unhittable when Pimentel is setting it up by commanding his fastball and then burying it when ahead of hitters. The development of his curveball is a key aspect for him to continue to project as a future starting pitcher down the line. At times coming in with true 12-to-6 break at 70-73 MPH and excellent depth, he’s inconsistent with how much snap he gets with the pitch and it can spin towards the plate. Pimentel also wraps around the ball, which leaves it up in the zone with less break at 74-76 MPH. At 21 years old and one of the younger players in the Eastern League, it can be expected that he’s going to continue to experience some growing pains while continuing to work on locking into his arm slot and establishing a bit more drive in his delivery to become more consistent with his overall arsenal from start-to-start.

3B Kolbrin Vitek

The Line: Getting out of the gate slow in the first couple of weeks in April, Vitek has put together a .321/.392/.462 line in 28 games this season with Salem. Collecting a hit in 7 of his last 10 games, he put up a 2 for 4 performance against Potomac on April 30, which included a double. Vitek followed that up with a solid three game series against Myrtle Beach starting on May 5, going 4 for 11 with a triple and a run batted in. His power numbers have been down in the last 10 games, but he’s seen a drop in his strikeouts recently.

The View: Since he was more polished as a hitter than other draftees upon entering the system last season and coming from the college ranks, Vitek received a placement in High-A to start the season to push his skills against advanced competition. A bit raw with his pitch recognition and needing to come up to speed with it during his time with Lowell last season, he’s been steadily adjusting to seeing top pitching on a daily basis. With a very fluid swing and excellent bat control, Vitek is able to produce a lot of contact due to how well he hits inside the baseball and his mature approach in the batter’s box. A line-to-line hitter, he has the ability to drive offerings to all fields with authority and does a nice job using his hands to guide fastballs running away from him into right field on a line. At times, he hits with a bit too much top hand and can rollover fastballs or breaking balls on the outer third, which causes him to beat too many choppers into the ground. Overall, Vitek he has the hitting skills to project as a plus hitter for average at the major league level and should continue to show that potential as he reaches the upper levels of the Red Sox system.

Currently getting the chance to show he can stick in the infield as a third baseman, Vitek is rough around the edges at the hot corner. Making strides and becoming more comfortable at the position this season, there are still some hesitations about whether he projects as a future major league third baseman. His instincts appear just average and his hands are not on the quick side. While some rust and re-learning the angles of the position come into play, he doesn’t look overly natural in the field. A potential move into the outfield seems likely when he’s closer to being major league ready if his bat continues on its projected course. With a flat swing path through the strike zone presently, it will be interesting to see how Vitek’s home run power develops. He’s been producing extra-base power with Salem and can put a charge into the baseball, but he has yet to hit a home run thus far. Vitek has good strength, creates backspin when he drives the ball, and a frame that can put on some muscle as he matures into his mid-20s, but also has some mechanical tweaks to make to produce solid-average power down the line. Still learning how to use his lower body to drive the ball now that he is hitting with wood, a rise in home runs over the course of the season is a good tell that he is beginning to tap into his lower half. Still early and only six weeks into the season, there is a lot of baseball to go, but so far Vitek has been proving to be able to handle Carolina League pitching and that by season’s end his offensive skills may be pushing him to the next rank within the organization.

Trending Up

After posting an OPS of 1.056 in April, outfielder Bryce Brentz has continued his assault on South Atlantic League pitching into May. Picking up 8 extra-base hits in his last 10 games, Brentz is currently riding a 22-game hitting streak and has reached base safely in 30 of 31 games thus far into the season. Possessing solid-average-to-better power potential and the ability to drive the ball to all fields with authority, he’s made strides with being more selective and keeping his hands back during his stride to wrap the bat around the ball less in the early goings of 2011. Brentz is likely to have his approach pushed further and have more of a challenge hitting better executed pitches when he moves up a level, but he’s been proving he can make adjustments early in his professional career…Spending last season being stretched out as a starter, Salem right-hander Kendal Volz has seen his stuff play up much better in a relief role to start 2011. Covering 16.0 innings of work, Volz has struck out 19 batters and continued to exhibit solid control in issuing only 4 free passes. Featuring a low-90s fastball with some late sink and the ability to touch higher when he is reaching back, he gets much more consistent movement with the pitch in shorter outings and it has been flattening out less within the strike zone. Also working in a low-80s slider, Volz has the potential to have two solid pitches at his disposal with which to attack hitters. At times, his slider can show more power break and if he can push his feel to constantly create that type of depth, it has the potential to become more of a swing and miss pitch…A standout in the Red Sox’ 2010 Fall Instructional League and earning an aggressive full-season placement out of Spring Training, Greenville second baseman Sean Coyle has drawn solid reviews so far on the season. Despite currently batting .233, Coyle has put up an impressive .383 on-base percentage and is slugging .467, which includes 4 home runs. Standing 5’8’’, he has surprising pop in his bat, mostly due to a very strong lower body and the excellent bat speed he generates via his compact stroke. Coyle shows a sweet spot for power into the left-center field gap and has the type of bat control to profile as a plus hitter for average as he continues to settle into his professional career…PawSox lefty Felix Doubront has struck out 13 batters in 7.2 innings since returning to the Minors. Seemingly in the mix for a spot in the major league bullpen prior to going down with elbow tightness early in Spring Training, Doubront has worked himself back into form after the injury and more of an emergency call-up to the big leagues. Making strong development strides with the crispness of his arsenal in the last couple of seasons, his next step lies with improving his command within the strike zone and limiting his bouts of wildness, which stem from landing too much off to the side out of his delivery and his arm dragging. With a string of consistent appearances in Triple-A, Doubront can push himself back into the mix as a contributor this season and solidify himself as a long-term member of the Red Sox pitching staff.

Trending Down

Out to a hot start in April, catcher Tim Federowicz has hit a recent skid in Double-A and is 9 for his last 41. Drilling fastballs during his hot stretch in the first month, Eastern League teams have been feeding him a steady diet of off-speed pitches lately and Federowicz has had trouble laying off of them, driving the instances of solid contact way down. An excellent defensive catcher and with the ability to be an above-average backstop at the major league level, much of his future role lies with how his bat can play against advanced pitching…In his first experience with Triple-A pitching, catcher Luis Exposito has found the adjustment to be a tough one and is off to a 12 for 66 start to his season, with only 5 extra-base hits. Exposito has been putting the ball into play as demonstrated by keeping his strikeouts down with 12, but has not been squaring the ball up with much consistency. With a longer swing and about average batspeed, it’s important for him to work to use more hands to get the head of the bat through the zone and reduce the amount he extends with his arms. Now going around the league for a second time, it’ll be interested to see if he can make some adjustments and prove he’s trending towards being capable of getting a shot in the major leagues down the line if the team needs catching help…After missing the majority of last season with a wrist injury, Salem outfielder David Mailman has yet to show he can make consistent, hard contact in High-A since first being promoted to the level halfway through 2009. 8 of his 11 hits on the season have gone for extra-bases, but there have been many instances of him rolling over fastballs most of the times he puts balls into play. Possessing a sweet swing from the left side of the plate and a good batting eye, Mailman has been unable to put much together outside of a solid 58 game stretch with Greenville in 2009 where he posted a line of .297/.357/.467…Suffering an injury to his side in Spring Training, right-handed starter Madison Younginer continues to rehab from the injury down in Extended Spring Training. Expected to break camp with Greenville and make his full-season debut after spending last season with the Lowell Spinners, things have been slow with Younginer. Needing work to clean up his delivery and learn how to consistently repeat it, some extra time of instruction is not necessarily a bad thing. With excellent raw stuff and a very live arm, he has the potential to make quicker strides once things mechanically click for him and could end up as a hard throwing late inning type in the future.