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SoxProspects News

June 22, 2011 at 7:53 AM

The Ladder: 6.22.11

C Ryan Lavarnway

The Line: Portland- 55 games, .284/.360/.510
Pawtucket- 7 games, .393/.452/.714

The View: Despite getting off to a slow start to the season in his return to Double-A, Lavarnway ended up picking up where he left off last season, which resulted in a recent promotion to Triple-A. A strong right-handed bat, he demonstrates solid control of the strike zone and shows the knack for barreling up offerings with authority, especially ones out and over the plate. Possessing plus raw power and a swing with upward plane through the hitting zone, he unloads on mistake pitches, but also has enough bat control to shorten up with two strikes. He can get beat on the inner third, which bears watching as the pitching gets that much better. When Lavarnway was struggling early in the season his hips were opening up too soon and he was rolling over a lot of balls or pulling them foul. As he started to correct himself and stay closed on offerings, the instances of solid contact increased. Prior to his promotion to Pawtucket, he was looking very much like a hitter ahead of the curve for the Eastern League and in need of a new challenge offensively.

The balance for Lavarnway comes when bringing his catching skills into the discussion. Making improvements with his defensive skills, especially his catch-and-throw mechanics since signing with the organization, he’s come a long way over his career. But, his overall skills appear limited, highlighted by his slow footwork, difficulty controlling pitches in the dirt, and rough overall receiving skills. There are times when it is hard to project Lavarnway as becoming even a fringe-average catcher at the major league level and he presently grades as below-average. Just how much more his skills can progress and whether they have reached their ceiling is the burning question. Lavarnway’s bat should play well at Triple-A and with turning 24 years old this August, it was time to push his hitting skills. The best-case scenario for him is that his defensive skills push close to average and his bat carries him as a regular at the big league level. With the power projection to hit about 20 home runs and maintain around a .280 batting average as a regular, his offense is an attractive option behind the plate. Most likely, however, Lavarnway projects as a DH and bat off the bench that can provide depth at catcher, and potentially play some first base if he can learn to handle himself around the bag a bit.

RHP Anthony Ranaudo

The Line:
Greenville- 46.0 innings, 35 hits, 50 strikeouts, 16 walks
Salem- 22.2 innings, 18 hits, 17 strikeouts, 8 walks

The View: The top pitching prospect within the Red Sox organization, Ranaudo has made a smooth transition to professional baseball this season. After making his first 10 starts in the South Atlantic League with the Greenville Drive, he’s picked up where he left off in High-A since being promoted on June 1. Featuring a plus 91-93 MPH fastball that touches up to 95 MPH and a plus 76-79 MPH hammer curveball, Ranaudo has been controlling at-bats well with these offerings. At his best when he is using his 6’7’’ frame to create downward leverage with his fastball, he can at times open his shoulder too quickly, but has shown the mound presence to adjust himself mid-outing and not get out of whack for too long. Using his heater to effectively pound the strike zone and spot on the corners, Ranaudo leans heavily on his curve after establishing his fastball. With tight rotation and the ability to create hard snap, he can either bury this offering out of the strike zone in the upper reaches of its velocity or drop in a deep, knee-bending variety in the lower end. Ranaudo feels both his fastball and curveball extremely well, and can dictate long stretches of his outings primarily using these two pitches.

As Ranaudo reaches the upper ranks of the Red Sox organization, it will be important for him to push the development of his changeup to the level of his other two offerings. While he feels his change well, it is presently around a fringe-average offering for him and he has yet to develop a strong trust in it. Most of this is due to not having a huge need to throw it in the low minors and being able up until this point to be successful with his fastball and curveball combo. That will change when he starts facing more advanced hitters. The sooner Ranaudo can begin to hone this offering, the better chance he has to assimilate into Double-A without much of an adjustment period. Just 21 years of age and building his stamina as a professional pitcher, his fastball has the projection to gain velocity. It is not out of the realm of possibilities that he sits closer to 94-95 MPH as he gets into his mid-20s and matures physically. A very projectable arm and possessing an above-average fastball and curveball, with continued development of his changeup and maturation Ranaudo can project to slot in as a second-to-third starter in a major league rotation down the line.

Trending Up

Enjoying a breakout first half with the Greenville Drive, first baseman Miles Head has posted an impressive .341/.414/.606 line, good for an OPS of 1.020 through 62 games this season. Showing strong present power in A-Ball, Head has collected 23 doubles and launched 14 home runs during his run. Loud with his hands pre-pitch last season in Lowell, he adjusted things heading into Spring Training and has been much quieter this season. This adjustment has allowed Head to be quicker getting his swing started and cut down on the instances where he would be caught in-between. Showing the makings of a good batting eye during his time with the Spinners in 2010, Head has continued to improve with his pitch recognition and patience at the plate to work himself into favorable counts. Already well-filled out and with a bigger body type, it will be important for him to be mindful of keeping himself from becoming too stiff as he matures and losing some of his mobility at first base, where he has some work to do to become an adequate defender. Head also has a tendency to over-extend his arms during his swing, which makes him prone being exposed by higher velocity fastballs on the inner third. With continued work hitting inside the baseball as he moves up the ranks of the system his power can continue to play up and project to be plus as he develops into a well-rounded hitter…Just 18 years of age and receiving a surprise promotion to Greenville on June 9 after being projected to start his career in the United States with the Lowell Spinners, shortstop Xander Bogaerts has held his own during his first 10 games in the South Atlantic League. An outstanding athlete and oozing with raw talent, Bogaerts has put up a line of .306/.375/.472 during the stretch. With the type of frame that can pack on lean muscle and the ability to drive the baseball to all fields with excellent backspin, he has the makings of a hitter that can develop good power as he matures and learns to control the strike zone in the coming seasons…PawSox righty Kyle Weiland continues to impress in the starting rotation in Triple-A, piling up 80 strikeouts in 73.1 innings of work on the season. Always featuring a plus 91-94 MPH two-seam fastball since signing with the organization in 2008, the strides Weiland has made with his high-70s curveball and re-incorporation of his cutter have pushed him on the cusp of the major leagues. A bulldog on the mound, his tough mentality and understanding of how to pitch lend strong clues that he can successfully transition into a role on the big league club when the opportunity presents itself…After a rocky month of April adjusting to the five-man rotation, Greenville right-handed starter Brandon Workman has begun to find a groove in his last 10 starts. Covering 48.0 innings of work, Workman has struck out 45 batters while only issuing 10 free passes. While he’s been touched for 55 hits as he is around the plate often, his stamina has been improving and his overall stuff has been looking much crisper. Featuring a 92-93 MPH fastball and a hard 86-88 MPH cut fastball, Workman’s been able to repeat his delivery much better and spot these offerings lower in the zone recently. With the need to sharpen his mid-70s curveball and develop a changeup to stick as a starter in the upper minors, his near term development should focus on honing these offerings, with the fall-back option of moving into a late inning bullpen role as he becomes major league ready in the next two to three seasons.

Trending Down

After being considered the consensus top prospect within the Red Sox system heading into the 2009 season, PawSox first baseman Lars Anderson continues to battle inconsistency in the upper minors. Despite a .369 on-base percentage in Triple-A thus far on the season, Anderson has seen an alarming drop in his power production and has just 22 extra-base hits in 67 games. A player who has always demonstrated a strong batting eye and the ability to let the ball get deep on him before unleashing his swing, Anderson’s hands have looked slow recently and a less than fluid load has prohibited him from getting the fat part of the bat on the ball, often hooking at pitches due to how he loops his hands during his swing and is unable to drive offerings with backspin consistently because of it. Also struggling to turn on inside fastballs, Anderson has some key adjustments to make in Triple-A to prove he can hit enough against major league pitching to be in contention for a potential role with the Red Sox or another organization…Starting off well in High-A during the month of April, third baseman Kolbrin Vitek has seen things turn in the other direction and is currently in the midst of a six-week slump at the plate that has dropped his season line to .264/.332/.352. Vitek has yet to hit a home run in 66 games with Salem and has had a tough time consistently driving the ball to produce extra-base hits. Possessing a fluid, compact swing, much of his troubles have stemmed from getting his hands too far out in front of the ball, which causes him to roll over pitches or drag the bat head to produce lazy flies. Showing strong separation with his hands and the ability to hit inside the ball last season, some of his struggles can also directly tied into his experience level and the need to continue to adjust to professional pitching…Since firing 6.0 shutout innings on May 9 against New Hampshire and having excellent command of his stuff during the outing, things have considerably derailed for right-handed starter Stolmy Pimentel in Double-A. With the need to sharpen his fastball command heading into the season, Pimentel has struggled to throw strikes early in counts with his 92-93 MPH fastball and also keep his composure when things aren’t going well for him on the mound. Only 21 years of age, some growing pains were to be expected, but the lack of adjustments during his string of rocky outings in May and so far in June has jumped out. Possessing a plus-to-better changeup, his inability to consistently spot his fastball has made it tough for him to work it into sequences and allow him to finish hitters off. Pimentel also wavers with his arm slot from pitch-to-pitch and this has looked like his key need to harness his fastball command…Playing mostly a corner outfield position in the low minors, Jeremy Hazelbaker has been given a chance to play center field after being promoted to Portland with mixed results. Showing his inexperience, Hazelbaker’s reads and jumps have been shaky at times. Having the speed and range to play a solid center field, improvement with how he sees the ball off the bat will be a must to project him to be able to play the position at the major league level.