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September 30, 2011 at 3:28 PM

2011 Fall Instructs Scouting Notes: 9.30.11

After a couple of days of taking in the game action down in Fort Myers, here is a rundown of some of the happenings. It has been a solid two days of scouting so far, with one more to go tomorrow starting at 10:00am. Follow me on twitter here for live updates.

-Jose Vinicio has been more than holding his own the last two days, especially batting left-handed. Vinicio has displayed plus batspeed from the left side and the ability to turn around a good fastball. With a compact swing as a lefty, he uses his hands well to get the head of the bat out in front of the ball. Vinicio has some work to do as a righty. His swing is on the long side and he tends to tie himself up against inside fastballs. Vinicio has also been extremely fluid at shortstop, but has needlessly rushed a few plays that caused his throws to sail on him.

-Raul Alcantara worked 2.0 innings yesterday against Tampa's group and labored through his outing. Alcantara had a lot of trouble throwing strikes with his fastball. When he did get his fastball into the zone, it was grabbing too much of the upper tier and he gave up some hard contact. Alcantara's lack of fastball command yesterday can be attributed to failing to consistently find his release point. His heater worked 91-93 MPH and he also tried to throw his low-80s slider from time to time, with mixed results.

-Heiker Meneses put a charge into a first pitch fastball yesterday, driving it deep over the fence in left-center field for a home run. Meneses was quick getting the head of the bat through the hitting zone and did a good job getting his hands above the baseball to drive it with backspin. He did make an error on a routine play at shortstop and also looked a bit too laid back going after a couple of other balls hit out his way.

-Sean Coyle chased two high fastballs yesterday that resulted in a sky-high popup to the shortstop and a lazy flyball out to left field. Coyle looked too impatient in those plate appearances, going after offerings he had little chance to make good contact against. He showed off his quick bat in picking up a single on a fastball lower in the zone and also demonstrated better plate coverage with his swing than previously observed.

-Recently back to baseball activities, Garin Cecchini had two impressive batting practice sessions yesterday and this morning. Cecchini sprayed line drives around the field, driving the ball hard from gap-to-gap. In today's session, he rifled quite a few balls hard with strong backspin, showing little restriction from the broken hand that ended his 2011 season with Lowell.

-Jason Garcia sat 92-93 MPH with his fastball in yesterday's outing against Tampa, but had a tough time keeping the ball down and consistently throwing his fastball for strikes. Garcia rushed through his delivery frequently. He also worked in his 83-85 MPH slider, which was inconsistent and on the loopy side when he threw it. Garcia did snap off one very good slider to the last batter he faced. He's an intriguing arm to keep an eye on though and has shown solid mound presence for a pitcher his age.

-Jackie Bradley, Jr. has appeared in both games out in center field. Against Tampa yesterday, Bradley, Jr. tied himself up three times on inside fastballs to produce relatively weak contact in the process. He has a tendency to dive too far into the ball and this left him prone to hitting the ball off the handle yesterday. Today, he was diving less into the ball and picked up two hits against Baltimore's Instructs team. Bradley, Jr. used a fluid inside-out swing to line a single to center field and then drove a fastball away hard off the left field wall for a double, just missing the home run.

-Jordan Weems shows good reactions and fluid movements behind the dish. He has been tested on a lot of offerings in the dirt by the pitchers throwing in games. Weems moves well laterally and is also firm with his target when receiving the ball. He was slow coming out of his crouch when challenged by a runner today though. Weems recorded a 2.22 pop time down to second base on the play, which also was not helped by his slow release with his throw.

-Blake Swihart has a very fluid swing from both sides of the plate. Despite being on the lean side, the ball has come off his bat well in his batting practice sessions and he demonstrates plus batspeed, with the ability to produce solid backspin. On both days, Swihart has just gotten under fastballs batting right-handed to produce flyouts to left field. Down the line, with added strength due to physical maturation, these are balls that will have a better chance of carrying out of the ballpark.
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at 9:00 AM

2011 Staff Season Wrap-Up, Part 3

OK, so the past couple days have sucked. Same for us, trust me. (Director of Scouting Chris Mellen, presently in Fort Myers for the Fall Instructional League, perhaps excepted. Follow his observations from the Fort on Twitter and here at SoxProspects News!) But what better way to get past it by getting your thoughts off of Wednesday night by switching your focus back to the farm system? 

Today, we conclude our three-part staff wrap-up by looking to the future, as we list our sleepers, the 2011 draft picks we're most excited to watch, and some bold predictions and thoughts on what's to come for the Red Sox farm system.

We would also like to thank all of our readers for a successful season! Our fall and winter league coverage will be starting up soon, so don't go away!

My prospect sleeper is:

Heiker Meneses
Heiker Meneses. He could be the next Yamaico Navarro. – Andrews 

Heiker Meneses – Cundall 

Sergio Gomez. He was under the radar a bit this year behind Raul Alcantara, but put up numbers that weren't too far behind and at a younger age. – Hatfield 

Alex Hassan and Justin Erasmus – Gray 

Cody Koback and Miguel Pena – Crowell 

Henry Ramos – Mellen 

Travis Shaw – Singer 

Christian Vazquez (hitter), Keith Couch (pitcher) – Adam 

Keith Couch – Huegel

Jose Vinicio – Josh

2011 draft pick who you're most excited about:

Matt Barnes
Matt Barnes, with Cody Kukuk not far behind – Mike Andrews, Executive Editor

Matt Barnes – Josh, Moderator (chavopepe2)

Matt Barnes – Chris Mellen, Director of Scouting

The UConn homer in me wants to say Matt Barnes, but in reality it is Blake Swihart. He is the best high school talent the Sox have drafted since Ryan Westmoreland. – Jim Crowell, Project Administrator

Blake Swihart and Cody Kukuk – Matt Huegel, Staff Editor & Writer

Blake Swihart. I think he'll be developed slowly, but I also think he might force the club to move him quickly given his bat. – Chris Hatfield, Senior Editor & Columnist

Blake Swihart – Jonathan Singer, Affiliate Correspondent

Blake Swihart – John Gray, Staff Writer

Henry Owens. I thought he would have been a solid pick at 19. I expect him to exceed expectations as an advanced high school pitcher. – Adam, Moderator (amfox1)

Henry Owens and Cody Kukuk. You can never have enough projectable left-handers in your system. – Ian Cundall, Northeast Scout

A crazy idea that readers may not be considering: 

Kendrick Perkins
Kendrick Perkins had a better season than the numbers show. He has excellent present strength, and the fact that he focused on plate discipline (.105 ISOD) and didn't swing for the fences every at-bat shows me that he's buying into the Red Sox approach. I'd like to see him continue the trend of not worrying about power while cutting down on the strikeouts next year with Lowell. – Andrews 

Some of the best development strides prospects make are during times of struggle or failure. After level of talent, one of the big keys is how well a player learns to adjust and push their game to the next level. Some never get to that level, but the ones that do are better because of the struggles and their future success is the by-product of them. – Mellen 

Did the Sox sell high on Casey Kelly? He repeated Double-A and put up OK numbers in San Antonio, but I wonder if the production will ever match his tools on the mound, given how little experience he has there. What will San Diego do with him next year? Have him repeat AA again? Send him to Tucson, which was a launching pad this year? I honestly don't know if he'd be in my top 5 Sox prospects right now, and he almost certainly wouldn't if Anthony Rizzo were still here as well. – Hatfield 

I would promote Oscar Tejeda to AAA and groom him as the next Yamaico Navarro-like utility man. He'll do better in AAA than AA, as he'll perceive that he's closer to the majors and not stuck behind Dustin Pedroia. – Adam 

People were talking about J.C. Linares as a possibility to make the major league roster coming into this season. Could he be in the competition to be the everyday right fielder next year? Probably not right out of the gates, but if he can get healthy and consolidate gains from this season, he could have a major impact off the bench with so many left-handed bats in the outfield, including Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish. – Huegel 

My bold prediction(s) for 2012:

Jose Iglesias
The Red Sox open the door to the shortstop position for Jose Iglesias by mid-season – Mellen 

The Red Sox will try to switch High-A affiliates with the Twins, selling the Salem franchise and moving their affiliate to Fort Myers allowing them to consolidate five of their six affiliates into two geographical areas. Drake Britton will be moved to the bullpen by midseason. Will Middlebrooks will see significant time in Boston during a Kevin Youkilis DL stint. Jose Iglesias will be in Boston to stay by August 1. (Full disclosure – I also said, “Lars Anderson will be traded to Oakland and will be their starting first baseman by August 1,” but the A’s recent acquisition of Kila Ka’aihue ends that theory, in my opinion.) – Hatfield 

Dan Butler will catch more games in the big leagues than Ryan Lavarnway. Drake Britton will pitch more games in relief than as a starter. – Cundall 

Frank Montas will be next year's Raul Alcantara. Kolbrin Vitek will put up excellent numbers in the Eastern League. Not all that bold, but Sean Coyle will post eerily similar numbers in the Carolina League as he did in the SAL (mediocre batting average, high OBP, high SLG). His batting average will come around in Double-A. I'm a big Sean Coyle fan. – Andrews 

Kolbrin Vitek reemerges as a top-10 prospect. Junichi Tazawa has a significant impact on the 2012 major league team. – Huegel

Xander Bogaerts finishes the season in Portland – Singer 

Xander Bogaerts attains #1 prospect status in the Red Sox system – Gray 

Xander Bogaerts makes the Baseball America top 20 after a big 2012. – Josh

Brandon Jacobs makes the leap to elite (read: top 50 overall) prospect by the end of 2012 (but he still won't be the #1-ranked Red Sox prospect). – Adam 
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September 28, 2011 at 9:00 AM

2011 Staff Season Wrap-Up, Part 2

Today, we continue our look back at the 2011 season by asking our staff their personal thoughts on a number of questions. In Part 2 of our staff wrap-up, we ask everyone about specific players and developments in the system this season.

Fill in the blank: The most interesting development in the Red Sox farm system in 2011 was _____.

Brandon Jacobs
The number of offensive breakouts. I can't remember this many guys who "could" break out turning into guys who "did" break out, speaking of Will Middlebrooks, Ryan Lavarnway, Xander Bogaerts, Bryce Brentz, Brandon Jacobs, Miles Head, Sean Coyle, Garin Cecchini, and to a lesser degree, guys like Alex Hassan and Christian Vazquez. – Chris Hatfield, Senior Editor & Columnist

Offensive development by so many prospects with young hitters such as Brandon Jacobs and Xander Bogaerts establishing themselves as front line prospects with high ceilings and the impressive power development by players like Bryce Brentz, Ryan Lavarnway and Will Middlebrooks. – Ian Cundall, Northeast Scout

Xander Bogaerts skipping to Low-A Greenville and showing remarkable present power at 18 – Mike Andrews, Executive Editor

The amount of depth the system has and the development of some prospects toward the upper tier in baseball. The development of Bryce Brentz, Xander Bogaerts, Miles Head, Garin Cecchini, Brandon Jacobs, just to name a few. – John Gray, Staff Writer

All of the A-ball position players the burst onto the scene with great offensive seasons. – Josh, Moderator (chavopepe2)

The amount of power that is in the system – Jonathan Singer, Affiliate Correspondent

The glaring hole of pitchers that project as future major league starters, which was thin to begin the season. I also believe it speaks volumes towards the patience and time it takes for young arms to develop. – Chris Mellen, Director of Scouting

The backwards steps taken by a "developmental" organization in the development of its pitchers. The organization coddles pitchers instead of challenging them, with negative consequences this year – Adam, Moderator (amfox1)

The steps back by Drake Britton and Stolmy Pimentel. The Red Sox have had a lot of success developing pitching, and those two were arguably the highest pitching prospects in terms of ceilings and likelihood of reaching them outside of Anthony Ranaudo entering the year. Pimentel is less surprising considering he made the jump up to Double-A, but, externally and internally, in spring training people were raving about the shape he was in and his fastball velocity. I think his continued struggles when he was demoted back to High-A prove that it was a mental issue though (or at least that he's been a better pitcher in the past than demonstrated for most of this season), since he was successful there overall last year. Britton was expected to take off this year as the reigns were loosened following last season's controlled return from Tommy John. I look for bounce-back seasons from both of them next season, at which point their true prospect statuses will be a lot more clear. – Matt Huegel, Staff Editor & Writer

What player's performance surprised you the most?

Miles Head
Miles Head: on nobody’s radar coming into the year to put up really impressive numbers. – Cundall

Miles Head – Andrews

Miles Head – Josh

Miles Head & Brandon Jacobs – Singer

Chih-Hsien Chiang. His breakout came out of nowhere, and now his horrible slump in Jackson since the trade was equally puzzling. Was it as simple as getting his diabetes under control? – Hatfield

Chih-Hsien Chiang. I never thought he would produce offensively as he did. It was Brandon Moss-like. – Adam

Xander Bogaerts. I thought he was ticketed for Lowell and wasn't sure how he would respond to being aggressively placed. Obviously stellar results. – Gray

Xander Bogaerts. The tools are there for him to be a great player, but it is rare for those tools to translate to performance at such a young age in a full season league. With three-to-four more seasons in the minors to work on his plate approach and find a defensive home, he can turn into the blue-chip prospect the system has been lacking recently. – Jim Crowell, Project Administrator

Christian Vazquez – Mellen

What player's performance disappointed you the most?

Drake Britton

Drake Britton. Has all the tools to really be a top flight left-handed starter but seemed to get off track this season when he could have really taken a big step forward. – Gray

Drake Britton. While the strikeouts were there, there was no command at all and he got hit like a piƱata most of the year. At least Pimentel stemmed the bleeding at the end of the year. – Adam

Drake Britton – Andrews

Drake Britton – Josh

Stolmy Pimentel. I saw Stolmy pitch twice this season in Double-A, and both times it was hard to watch. He had no command or control, and he lost his composure far too easily. It seemed like he was lacking the maturity to deal with the failure he was encountering. The late season success he had in Salem is a good sign that he was figuring things out not only mechanically, but mentally as well. – Crowell

Stolmy Pimentel – Mellen

Anthony Ranaudo. I expected more considering the hype. – Cundall

Anthony Ranaudo. I expected more strikeouts and maybe for him to dominate the lower levels of the minors. Others include Stolmy Pimentel and Drake Britton – Singer

Felix Doubront. Drake Britton and Stolmy Pimentel are obvious here, so I'll go with Doubront, who I really thought could help Boston this year. I can't help but wonder what kind of shape he showed up in this year, as many of his injuries seemed to be of the tweak and pull variety. – Hatfield

Ryan Kalish. It was just a lost year in which he could have taken a hold of the right field job in Boston for the foreseeable future had he stayed healthy. – Huegel

What player's stock rose most, in your opinion?

Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts – Andrews

Xander Bogaerts – Singer

Xander Bogaerts – Josh

Xander Bogaerts – 18 year old ticketed for Lowell, instead jumps to Low-A and puts up impressive numbers that are backed up by scouting reports that include mentions of 70 tools. – Cundall

Xander Bogaerts. His year was historic on a number of levels - age relative to level, with his power, is extremely rare. – Adam

Xander Bogaerts and Brandon Jacobs – Gray

Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks, Ryan Lavarnway, and Bryce Brentz look like they can all slot in a starting major league lineup in the future. They need to work to become true middle-of-the order bats, but they all have the potential to become that kind of player. – Crowell

Bryce Brentz – Mellen

Outside of Xander Bogaerts, Bryce Brentz. He had a terrible first half-season in Lowell last year, and there were some rumors of off-field concerns coming into the season. I thought he might just never hit for enough average to allow his power to play up. It will be interesting to see whether he can keep that average up as he moves to the upper minors next season. – Huegel

Miles Head. I could have guessed Brentz and Jacobs breaking out like that, but not him. He struggled some at Salem, but was one of the youngest players in the Carolina League. – Hatfield

What player's stock fell most, in your opinion?

Stolmy Pimentel

Stolmy Pimentel – Josh

Stolmy Pimentel – Gray

Stolmy Pimentel. Only because he was higher ranked than Britton and fell further. – Adam

Stolmy Pimentel. I think Drake Britton will be successful as a reliever if that move is deemed necessary, I’m not so sure about Pimentel. It seems like he will either get the mental side of the game and be relatively successful as a starter, or bust. – Huegel

Stolmy Pimentel/Drake Britton – Singer

Drake Britton – The stuff is still there, but command is poor and nothing seemed to work this year. Went from a potential top end starter to some teams now view him as a reliever. – Cundall

Drake Britton, Stolmy Pimentel, Che-Hsuan Lin. The struggles of Britton and Pimentel have been well documented, but Lin has been frustrating as well. While he has maintained his gold-glove caliber defense, it is becoming increasingly likely that he is no more than a fifth outfielder due to his lack of power. – Crowell

Oscar Tejeda – Andrews

Oscar Tejeda – Mellen

David Renfroe. Not that his stock was that high, but I'm now afraid that he's not going to figure it out, unlike, say, a Will Middlebrooks. – Hatfield

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September 26, 2011 at 9:00 AM

2011 Staff Season Wrap-Up, Part 1

As we continue putting the finishing touches on the 2011 season here at SoxProspects.com, we present to you a three-part series in which our staff gives their thoughts on a number of questions regarding the year in the Red Sox system. Today, we will take a general look at the the up and down trends in the system. On Wednesday, we will look specifically at which players left the biggest impressions on us, for better or worse. Finally, on Friday, we'll look ahead to 2012, giving our predictions, listing some sleeper prospects, and even throwing some crazy ideas out for you to consider. Please, enjoy!

Fill in the blank: The 2011 season was _____ for the Red Sox farm system.

Will Middlebrooks
A year of transition: New names bursting on the scene while some of the prospects we had known for years fell off the table or were traded. – John Gray, Staff Writer

A year of transition for the Red Sox farm system following the Gonzalez trade. With little top-tier talent in the system, many people were down on the system as a whole going into the year. Throughout the year, some prospects took steps back (Stolmy Pimentel, Drake Britton, Ryan Kalish), but more took huge leaps forward establishing themselves as top-tier prospects (Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks, Brandon Jacobs) or as interesting players to watch and see how the handle more advanced assignments (Miles Head, Alex Hassan, Christian Vazquez). – Ian Cundall, Northeast Scout

A strong developmental year, with many lower-level prospects taking the first steps in honing their raw skills and established upper-level talent pushing for major league consideration in 2012. This season (including the past off-season) is a particularly good example of how the Red Sox have worked to blend high ceiling young talents with projectable college players to provide waves of prospects ready to either contribute to in the big leagues or used to acquire established major league players to bolster the roster. – Chris Mellen, Director of Scouting

A developmental year for many of the top prospects, and a breakout year for some of the low-to-mid-tier prospects. The hot names coming into the year like Oscar Tejeda, Drake Britton, Stolmy Pimentel, Ryan Kalish, Jose Iglesias, Felix Doubront, Kolbrin Vitek, and J.C. Linares all had middling-to-down years. If you told me coming in that this would be the case, I would have been very worried, but looking back many of those guys have a good chance to have strong bounce-back years. More importantly, it was a season of many lower-level prospects making that step forward that is always talked about, allowing some of them to now be projected as major leaguers with some confidence. It seems like in recent years, some of the high-upside/toolsy guys like Michael Almanzar and Jason Place have not panned out for the Red Sox, but this year that trend changed with those types making that jump to showing the tools in games, like Will Middlebrooks, Brandon Jacobs, and Xander Bogaerts. – Matt Huegel, Staff Editor & Writer

One of growth. The ranks were depleted a bit by the Adrian Gonzalez trade and some graduations (especially if you consider Ryan Kalish graduated). However, a strong draft and a number of breakouts have shown me that this system is still as deep as ever, and I think there will still be 3 or 4 Sox farmhands on the major outlets' Top 100 lists despite not having Anthony Rizzo and Casey Kelly in the system anymore. – Chris Hatfield, Senior Editor & Columnist

An offensive boon. – Mike Andrews, Executive Editor

Encouraging from an offensive standpoint, but disappointing from a pitching standpoint – Adam, Moderator (amfox1)

A great year for hitters, but a down year for pitchers. – Josh, Moderator (chavopepe2)

Fill in the blank: When I look back on the 2011 season in the Red Sox system, I'll think of _____.

Ryan Lavarnway
Will Middlebrooks', Ryan Lavarnway's, and Xander Bogaerts' steps up. Drake Britton's and Stolmy Pimentel's steps back. – Andrews

The year that Will Middlebrooks put a firm foothold on becoming the next homegrown player to break into the everyday lineup for future seasons to come. – Mellen 

How down this year was for the pitching prospects and how the Red Sox hitting prospects broke out like we have not seen before – Jonathan Singer, Affiliate Correspondent

The lack of pitching development with many of the higher ceiling arms taking major steps back and other supposedly polished prospects such as Anthony Ranaudo and Brandon Workman only putting up pedestrian numbers in leagues they supposedly where advanced for. – Cundall

Tommy Hottovy's perseverance and ultimate reward, the emergence of Xander Bogaerts, Brandon Jacobs, Sean Coyle and Garin Cecchini as "on the come" prospects, the immense power of Bryce Brentz and Ryan Lavarnway, the Rich Hill opportunity and subsequent injury and the incredible journey of Ryan Westmoreland back to the batting cage – Adam

Tommy Hottovy going from his seventh season in Portland to the Majors. A draft that could rival 2005 and 2006. Ryan Lavarnway becoming the first player I saw play in college to make the Majors. – Hatfield 

The presence of legit power prospects for the first time in a while, the performances of Bryce Brentz, Ryan Lavarnway, Brandon Jacobs just to name a few. The amazing season that Xander Bogaerts put up at his level relative to his age. – Gray 

The emergence of Xander Bogaerts. He has a chance to be the next top prospect and big-time star (obviously it's still early), but this is the year that put him on the map in terms of being a potential future top 50-100 MLB prospect. – Huegel 

(Images courtesy of Kelly O'Connor. For her gallery, click here.)
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September 20, 2011 at 1:22 PM

Why Kyle Weiland was best internal option

Heading into the 2011 season, I lauded the Red Sox minor league system for its depth. But as the season has progressed, it became apparent there was an absolute dearth of depth of starting pitching at the upper levels of the minor leagues.

Over the past few months, the club has been presented with several opportunities for a young starting pitcher to take the reins, help the club in the race for the wild card spot, and potentially earn a spot in Boston’s rotation for 2012. The best -- and only -- option the front office has been able to put on the mound is former third-round pick Kyle Weiland. In 6 major league appearances, the 25-year-old right-hander is 0-3 with a 7.99 ERA.

This isn’t a referendum on Weiland or his future, as he’s posted a 3.51 ERA at four levels of the system since 2008, and has shown the potential to have three major league pitches with continued refinement. Over time, he could certainly develop into a very good late-inning reliever and perhaps even a decent spot starter at the major league level. But the fact that he’s been the only go-to option from the minor leagues for the big club down the stretch speaks to the lack of depth of starting pitching at the upper levels of the system.

Check out the rest of the column on ESPN Boston.
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September 16, 2011 at 2:28 PM

2011 SoxProspects.com Players of the Year

During the 2011 season many players had impressive individual performances. The players listed below were voted by the SoxProspects.com community as Players of the Year based on their outstanding seasons.

Offensive Player of the Year: Ryan Lavarnway
For the third straight year, Ryan Lavarnway ran away with the vote for best offensive player in the Red Sox system. In 116 games split between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket, the 24-year-old catcher batted .290/.376/.563 with 32 home runs and 93 RBI. In addition to the great offensive season, coaches have commended his strong work ethic and strides made defensively since entering the system. Lavarnway earned his first call-up to the Majors Leagues on August 18 as a result of his strong showing. In 8 games with the Red Sox, Lavarnway is 7 for 28 with 2 doubles, 4 RBI and 4 walks. He ends the season ranked sixth in the Red Sox system by SoxProspects.com.

Pitcher of the Year: Alex Wilson
After being promoted to Double-A Portland mid-way through the 2010 season, Alex Wilson struggled to a 6.66 ERA in his 16-start debut. He turned that around in a major way this season, holding opponents to a 3.05 ERA in 21 starts with the Sea Dogs while striking out 99 in 112.0 innings. With the success came accolades, including a SoxProspects.com Player of the Week and Month award in May along with being named an Eastern League and SoxProspects.com All-Star. He received a late season promotion to Triple-A, in which he held his own with 24 strikeouts in 21.0 innings and a 3.43 ERA. He also received one SoxProspects.com Player of the Week award during this time. Having undergone Tommy John surgery in 2008, Wilson has battled back to become one of the most reliable pitchers in the Red Sox system. The right-hander ends the season ranked 15th on SoxProspects.com

Rookie of the Year: Sean Coyle
Appearing in just three games for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox in 2010, Sean Coyle put together an impressive rookie campaign for the Low-A Greenville Drive in 2011. In 106 games, Coyle showed an impressive combination of power and speed with 14 home runs, 27 doubles, and 7 triples, along with 20 stolen bases. It was an up-and-down season for Coyle who struggled out of the gate and in June, but still managed to post a line of hit .247/362/.464 for the season. The 5'8” 19-year-old battled through injuries to win the SoxProspects.com All-Star award as the top second baseman in the system for the season. Lowell third baseman Garin Cecchini finished second for Rookie of the Year with 22-percent of the vote. Coyle ends the 2011 season ranked 11th on SoxProspects.com.

Breakout Player of the Year: Xander Bogaerts
One of the younger players in the system at 18 years old, shortstop Xander Bogaerts followed up his SoxProspects.com Rookie of the Year award in 2010 by breaking out in a big way in 2011. In 72 games for the Low-A Greenville Drive, Bogaerts hit .260/.324/.509 with 16 home runs and 14 doubles. The aggressive promotion directly from the Dominican Summer League to Greenville proved to be the right move for Bogaerts who excelled as one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League. In a close vote, outfielder Bryce Brentz trailed Bogaerts by about nine-percent for Breakout Player after hitting 31 home runs on the season. Regarded by many as one of the players with the highest ceiling in the Red Sox system, Bogaerts ends 2011 ranked fourth on SoxProspects.com.

Comeback Player of the Year: Tommy Hottovy
Drafted by the Red Sox in the fourth round of the 2004 Draft, left-hander Tommy Hottovy spent eight years in Boston's system, making it to Triple-A only briefly for the first time in 2010. The Red Sox essentially took a flier offering him a minor league contract during Spring Training this season, but with a tweak to his mechanics, dropping his arm slot, he pitched well enough to earn a brief call-up to The Show this season. Following Tommy John surgery in 2008, Hottovy never seemed to be able to consistently get Double-A hitters out and began his sixth season with Portland this year. The 29-year-old finished with a 2.75 ERA in 36.0 innings pitched with Pawtucket. He pitched 4.0 innings with the Big League team, mostly utilized in a left-handed specialist role.
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September 14, 2011 at 11:06 AM

Season Wrap-up Podcast

In our latest podcast, Mike Andrews, Chris Mellen, Chris Hatfield, and Jon Meoli wrap up the 2011 minor league season and provide an early look forward to the 2012 season.  The podcast should also be available on iTunes in the next 24 hours. 

Direct Link 
Podcast Archive
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September 11, 2011 at 12:00 PM

2011 SoxProspects.com All-Stars

The 2011 minor league season was certainly a memorable one for many prospects. The SoxProspects.com community has voted and wishes to honor the following players with 2011 All-Star honors.

Catcher: Ryan Lavarnway
Winning the honors for catcher for the second season in a row, Lavarnway used the 2011 season to prove he was one of the top prospects in the Red Sox system. Lavarnway terrorized opposing pitching this season, hitting .290/.376/.563 with 32 home runs and 93 RBI in 116 games split between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. The impressive season from the 6-4 catcher led to an August 18 call up to Boston. In 8 games with the Red Sox, Lavarnway is 7 for 23 with 2 doubles, 3 RBI and 4 walks. He ends the season ranked 6th in the Red Sox system by SoxProspects.com.

First Base: Miles Head
Rather unheralded following a pedestrian 2010 season in Lowell, Head broke out in a big way in 2011, rocketing him up prospect charts and the Red Sox system. The 20-year-old out of Georgia slugged his way to a .299/.372/.515 performance at the plate with 22 home runs and 82 RBI in 88 games between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem. A 2011 South Atlantic League All Star and three time SoxProspects Player of the Week winner, Head checks in as the 18th best prospect in the Red Sox system after previously being unranked.

Second Base: Sean Coyle
After appearing in just 3 games for the GCL Red Sox in 2010, Sean Coyle put together an impressive rookie campaign for the Low-A Greenville Drive in 2011. Appearing in 106 games, Coyle hit .247/362/.464 with 14 home runs, 64 RBI and 20 stolen bases. It was an up-and-down season for Coyle who struggled out of the gate and hit just .185/.229/.369 in June, but had impressive months of May, July and September. The 5-8 Coyle also battled through injuries to pound out 27 doubles and 7 triples. Coyle ends the 2011 season ranked 11th on the SoxProspects rankings.

Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts
One of the younger players in the system, Bogaerts followed up a stellar 2010 with a 2011 season that put him high on many prospect lists. In 72 games for the Low-A Greenville Drive, Bogaerts, 18, hit .260/.324/.509 with 16 home runs, 14 doubles and 45 RBI. The aggressive placement proved no problem for Bogaerts who excelled as one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League. Regarded by many as one of the players with the highest ceiling in the Red Sox system, Bogaerts ends 2011 ranked as Boston’s 4th best prospect.

Third Base: Will Middlebrooks
The 2011 season was a major turning point for Will Middlebrooks. Struggling to live up to the hype that surrounded him upon his arrival in the Red Sox system in 2008, Middlebrooks had been written off by some as another prospect who couldn’t realize his potential. 2011 quieted the critics, as Middlebrooks had a breakout year split between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. In 112 games, Middlebrooks hit .285/.328/.506 with 23 home runs, 25 doubles and 88 RBI. The impressive season led to Middlebrooks appearing in the MLB Futures Game and claiming #1 prospect status.

Outfield: Bryce Brentz
A first round selection in the 2010 draft, Brentz disappointed in 2010 as a member of the Short Season-A Lowell Spinners hitting just .198/.259/.340 with 5 home runs and 39 RBI. The 22-year-old slugger lived up to his billing in his sophomore season in 2011, hitting .306/.365/.574 with 30 home runs, 25 doubles and 94 RBI in 115 games split between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem. Brentz had the rare distinction of being named an All-Star in both the South Atlantic and Carolina Leagues in 2011. Brentz ends 2011 ranked 8th on SoxProspects.com.

Outfield: Brandon Jacobs
Brentz’s teammate and fellow outfielder Brandon Jacobs also bounced back from a difficult freshman season in Lowell, where he hit .242/.308/.411 with 6 home runs and 31 RBI. 2011 saw Jacobs, a 10th round selection in the 2009 draft, hit .303/.376/.505 with 17 home runs, 32 doubles, 80 RBI and 30 stolen bases. Doing it all for Low-A Greenville this season led Jacobs to be named to the South Atlantic League All-Star squad. Jacobs’ impressive season moved him from 33rd to 9th on SoxProspects rankings.

Outfield: Chih-Hsien Chiang
Perhaps the most impressive season from any prospect in the Red Sox system came from an unlikely source, outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang. Previously unranked and unheralded after struggles at five stops in the Red Sox system, Chiang burst on to the prospect scene in 2011. Finally figuring out a way to best manage his diabetic condition, Chiang carried Double-A Portland on his back, hitting .340/.402/.648 with 18 home runs, 37 doubles and 76 RBI in 88 games. The monster season for the left-handed hitting Chiang led to an appearance in the 2011 Futures Game as well as him being traded to the Seattle organization on July 31 as part of the Erik Bedard deal. Chiang struggled after the deal, hitting just .208/.255/.262 with 0 home runs and 10 RBI as a member of the Double-A Jackson Generals. Previously unranked, Chiang topped out at 18th on the SoxProspects rankings during 2011.

Starting Pitcher: Alex Wilson
A second round selection out of Texas A&M in 2009, Alex Wilson cruised to a near perfect debut with Short Season Lowell in 2009 before struggling with Double-A Portland in 2010. Having underwent Tommy John surgery in 2008, Wilson has battled back to become one of the most reliable pitchers in the entire Red Sox system, compiling a 10-4 record with a 3.11 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 133.0 innings pitched between Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket in 2011. The right-hander ends the season ranked 16th on SoxProspects.com

Starting Pitcher: Raul Alcantara
One of the younger players in the Red Sox system, Alcantara looked to make an impression in his first action on American soil in 2011. The 6-3 right-hander easily achieved his goal as a member of the Rookie GCL Red Sox, going 1-1 with a 0.75 ERA in 9 starts (48.0 innings), allowing just 4 earned runs and striking out 36 batters. The lights-out campaign led to his promotion to Short-Season Lowell, where he struggled to a 0-3 record with a 6.23 ERA in 4 starts. After being previously unranked, Alcantara checks in at number 26 on the SoxProspects rankings.

Starting Pitcher: Keith Couch
A player that flew under the radar for a last place Lowell team in 2010, Keith Couch proved to be one of the more dominant pitchers in the Red Sox system in 2011. Couch’s sophomore season with the Low-A Greenville Drive saw him compile a 7-5 record with a 3.54 ERA in 137.1 innings, striking out 123 batters and walking just 19. The 13th round selection out of Adelphi in 2010 is currently ranked 40th on SoxProspects.com.

Starting Pitcher: Kyle Weiland
As questions arose about whether Weiland would profile better as a starter or a reliever, he hushed doubters with an impressive 2011 season. In 24 starts for Triple-A Pawtucket, Weiland went 8-10 with a 3.58 ERA and 126 strikeouts in 128.1 innings pitched. The stellar season led to Weiland making his major league debut on July 10 and being called on again by the Red Sox in September. Weiland is currently ranked the 13th best prospect in the Red Sox system by SoxProspects.

Relief Pitcher: Michael Bowden
Seemingly stuck behind a Red Sox rotation that had a lot of depth, Michael Bowden made the transition to the bullpen in 2011. A first round selection in 2005 that was once regarded as one of Boston’s best prospects, Bowden reinvented himself as a reliever for Triple-A Pawtucket. Bowden compiled a 3-3 record with a 2.73 ERA and 16 saves and 61 strikeouts in 52.2 innings pitched. Seeing time in Boston, Bowden has put together a 3.52 ERA in 15.1 innings of relief for the Red Sox.

Relief Pitcher: Justin Erasmus
Following two stellar seasons as a member of the GCL Red Sox, Erasmus looked to replicate his success as a member of the Low-A Greenville Drive in 2011. One of Greenville’s most important players, Erasmus compiled a 4-1 record with a 1.11 ERA and 1 save in 40.2 innings of relief. The 21-year-old right-hander out of Johannesburg, South Africa currently ranks 56th on SoxProspects.com

Relief Pitcher: Chris Martin
One of the best stories of the 2011 season, Chris Martin came out of nowhere to impress followers in his first season in the Boston organization. Drafted in 2005 by Colorado, Martin tore his labrum during his sophomore season and struggled to come back from the injury, leading him to give up on a professional career. After working at UPS and Lowe’s, Martin began to throw again and realized he no longer felt pain in his shoulder. He signed with the independent league Grand Prairie AirHogs and went 4-0 with a 1.96 ERA in 36.2 innings. The impressive return to the mound led to the Red Sox signing the 6-7 right-hander for the 2011 season. Martin continued his newly found success in his first professional season, compiling a 6-2 record with 4 saves and a 2.55 ERA in 74.0 innings pitched between Greenville, Salem and Portland. Martin currently ranks 44 on SoxProspects.com.
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at 5:00 AM

Season comes to a close as Pawtucket gets swept away by Lehigh Valley

9/11 Cup of Coffee: The 2011 season officially came to a close on Saturday evening as Pawtucket was swept out of the playoffs.

The Lehigh Valley IronPigs (PHI) completed a three game sweep of the PawSox, eliminating Pawtucket with a 3-1 victory. Alex Wilson received the loss despite a solid 7.0 innings of work, allowing 3 runs on 3 hit and 1 walk while striking out 6. Trevor Miller added 2.0 inning of flawless relief, striking out 2. Pawtucket struggled mightily all night on offense, receiving its only run of the contest on a Will Middlebrooks sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth. The PawSox were 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position and left 8 men on base. The loss officially closes the book on the 2011 minor league season for the Red Sox affiliates. Look for the Cup of Coffee to return during Arizona Fall League action in early October.
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September 10, 2011 at 7:36 AM

Top 10 prospects in Sox system

Heading into the minor-league offseason, here are the top 10 prospects in the Red Sox system, as compiled by the site management team at SoxProspects.com:

1. Will Middlebrooks (23 years old)
3B, Triple-A Pawtucket/Double-A Portland/Short-Season Lowell (rehab)
How acquired: Drafted in the 5th round, 2007. $925,000 bonus.
2011 Stats: .285/.328/.506 with 23 home runs.
Scouting Report: Middlebrooks is a solid all-around athlete with an ideal third-baseman’s frame. He has packed on a lot of muscle since signing in August 2007, but has managed to maintain above-average athleticism. On offense, he has plus bat speed with a nice upward plane through the strike zone, and he hits the ball hard with backspin when he squares it up. With improving bat control and pitch recognition, Middlebrooks projects to have plus power to all fields at the major-league level. However, he’s an aggressive hitter who will need to learn to be a bit more selective at Triple-A before making the jump to the big leagues. He also tends to over-extend his arms during his swing, which causes him to be susceptible on the inner third of the zone. He will need to refine his approach with inside pitches to produce more consistent contact and reduce the strikeouts. He also has the tendency to over-pull the ball during extended stretches, and has proven to be at his best when he’s using the whole field. Defensively, Middlebrooks is rounding toward becoming a plus overall defender. He has a plus-to-elite arm, as he was a highly-regarded pitcher in high school. He’s light on his feet defensively with strong anticipation, reaction, and first step skills. He shows solid footwork and typically stays square to the ball. He could stand to improve range to his left by stabbing less at the ball and taking another step or continuing to become comfortable throwing on the move. Overall, he’s a hard worker who has shown an exemplary ability to make adjustments each season.
Projection: Long-term above-average starter at third base
Ceiling: Perennial All-Star, middle-of-the-order bat
Projected 2012 assignment: Pawtucket with a late-season call-up to Boston

Check out the rest of the column at ESPN Boston
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at 7:00 AM

Loss brings Pawtucket one game away from elimination as Brandon Moss gets his revenge

Cup of Coffee 9/10: The Pawtucket Red Sox fell to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (PHI) 3-2 in 10 innings, and are now down two games in the series. They need to win three consecutive games to move on to face the Columbus Clippers (CLE) for the International League title.

The PawSox got out to an early lead as Lars Anderson doubled home Jose Iglesias in the bottom of the first. The lead would not last long however as Brandon Moss, a former Red Sox player who was sent to Pittsburgh in the Jason Bay trade, hit a solo home run to dead center in the bottom of the 2nd to tie the game at 1. In the bottom of the 3rd, Moss delivered again as he hit an RBI double to give the IronPigs a 2-1 lead. That score held until the 8th when Daniel Nava doubled home Che-Hsuan Lin to tie the game at 2. With Nava in scoring position and only one out, the PawSox were in a great position to take the lead, but pitcher Phillippe Aumont struck out Lars Anderson and got Hector Luna to ground out to end the threat. In the bottom of the 10th, the IronPigs got a runner to third thanks to a single and 2 sacrifice bunts. With 2 outs and first base open, pitcher Randy Williams intentionally walked Kevin Frandsen to set up a lefty-lefty mathup with Brandon Moss. Moss made him pay as he lined a single to center to drive in the winning run and push Pawtucket one step closer to elimination. Tony Pena Jr. got the start for the PawSox, and he allowed 2 runs on 6 hits in 4.2 innings. He walked 3 and struck out 4. Hideki Okajima relieved him, throwing 1.0 inning allowing no hits and striking out 2. Junichi Tazawa followed Okajima, tossing 1.2 innings whilecallowing 0 hits and striking out 3. Randy Williams got the loss throwing 1.2 innings and allowing the game winning run. Game 3 of the series will be played tonight (9/10) at 6:05PM in Pawtucket.
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September 9, 2011 at 2:00 PM

SoxProspects Site Management/Community Top 40 Lists

With another minor league (regular) season reaching its end, it is time to take stock of the year that was in 2011 in the Red Sox farm system. Over the next few weeks, we will reveal our yearly all-star and end-of-season award-winners, as well as several other new season wrap-up pieces for you to enjoy.

Today, we start with one of these new features, as the three members of the SoxProspects.com site management team share their respective end-of-season top 40 prospect lists. We also include a yearly tradition, the SoxProspects.com community’s end-of-season top 40, as voted on by members of our forum. The brass and community all agree that third baseman Will Middlebrooks has become the top prospect in the system, but the four lists diverge from there. As common as it is for our forum members to have differences of opinion on players, so to do the three of us, who each bring different perspectives to the table when we collaborate to make the site’s official ranking.

Without further adieu, on to the lists!

Mike Andrews, Executive Editor

1. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
2. Ryan Kalish, OF
3. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP
4. Ryan Lavarnway, C/DH
5. Xander Bogaerts, SS
6. Jose Iglesias, SS
7. Matt Barnes, RHP
8. Bryce Brentz, OF
9. Brandon Jacobs, OF
10. Blake Swihart, C
11. Sean Coyle, 2B
12. Garin Cecchini, 3B
13. Kyle Weiland, RHP
14. Felix Doubront, LHP
15. Alex Wilson, RHP
16. Drake Britton, LHP
17. Stolmy Pimentel, RHP
18. Miles Head, 1B
19. Kolbrin Vitek, 3B
20. Oscar Tejeda, 2B
21. Jackie Bradley, Jr., OF
22. Raul Alcantara, RHP
23. Henry Owens, LHP
24. Junichi Tazawa, RHP
25. Alex Hassan, OF
26. Lars Anderson, 1B
27. Henry Ramos, OF
28. Brandon Workman, RHP
29. Jeremy Hazelbaker, OF
30. Christian Vazquez, C
31. Cody Kukuk, LHP
32. Jose Vinicio, SS
33. Kendrick Perkins, OF
34. Noe Ramirez, RHP
35. Cesar Cabral, LHP
36. Che-Hsuan Lin, OF
37. Reynaldo Rodriguez, 1B
38. Williams Jerez, OF
39. Jordan Weems, C
40. Keith Couch, RHP

Chris Mellen, Director of Scouting

1. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
2. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP
3. Ryan Kalish, OF
4. Jose Iglesias, SS
5. Xander Bogaerts, SS
6. Bryce Brentz, OF
7. Brandon Jacobs, OF
8. Kyle Weiland, RHP
9. Matt Barnes, RHP
10. Ryan Lavarnway, C/DH
11. Drake Britton, LHP
12. Felix Doubront, LHP
13. Garin Cecchini, 3B
14. Alex Wilson, RHP
15. Kolbrin Vitek, 3B
16. Oscar Tejeda, 2B
17. Blake Swihart, C
18. Stolmy Pimentel, RHP
19. Jackie Bradley, Jr., OF
20. Sean Coyle, 2B
21. Henry Owens, LHP
22. Raul Alcantara, RHP
23. Henry Ramos, OF
24. Lars Anderson, 1B
25. Brandon Workman, RHP
26. Jeremy Hazelbaker, OF
27. Alex Hassan, OF
28. Miles Head, 1B
29. Junichi Tazawa, RHP
30. Noe Ramirez, RHP
31. Jose Vinicio, SS
32. Heiker Meneses, IF
33. Cody Kukuk, LHP
34. Cesar Cabral, LHP
35. Christian Vazquez, C
36. Che-Hsuan Lin, OF
37. Williams Jerez, OF
38. Reynaldo Rodriguez, 1B
39. Madison Younginer, RHP
40. Dan Butler, C

Chris Hatfield, Senior Editor

1. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
2. Ryan Kalish, OF
3. Xander Bogaerts, SS
4. Jose Iglesias, SS
5. Ryan Lavarnway, C/DH
6. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP
7. Matt Barnes, RHP
8. Blake Swihart, C
9. Bryce Brentz, OF
10. Brandon Jacobs, OF
11. Garin Cecchini, 3B
12. Sean Coyle, 2B
13. Kyle Weiland, RHP
14. Felix Doubront, LHP
15. Alex Wilson, RHP
16. Jackie Bradley, Jr., OF
17. Alex Hassan, OF
18. Henry Owens, LHP
19. Kolbrin Vitek, 3B
20. Miles Head, 1B
21. Junichi Tazawa, RHP
22. Lars Anderson, 1B
23. Drake Britton, LHP
24. Stolmy Pimentel, RHP
25. Raul Alcantara, RHP
26. Brandon Workman, RHP
27. Reynaldo Rodriguez, 1B
28. Oscar Tejeda, 2B
29. Jose Vinicio, SS
30. Henry Ramos, OF
31. Chris Martin, RHP
32. Che-Hsuan Lin, OF
33. Cody Kukuk, LHP
34. Williams Jerez, OF
35. Sergio Gomez, RHP
36. Christian Vazquez, C
37. Jeremy Hazelbaker, OF
38. Keith Couch, RHP
39. Noe Ramirez, RHP
40. Heiker Meneses, IF

SoxProspects.com Community Voting Results*

1. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
2. Ryan Kalish, OF
3. Xander Bogaerts, SS
4. Ryan Lavarnway, C/DH
5. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP
6. Matt Barnes, RHP
7. Jose Iglesias, SS
8. Bryce Brentz, OF
9. Brandon Jacobs, OF
10. Blake Swihart, C
11. Garin Cecchini, 3B
12. Kyle Weiland, RHP
13. Sean Coyle, 2B
14. Alex Wilson, RHP
15. Felix Doubront, LHP
16. Miles Head, 1B
17. Henry Owens, LHP
18. Jackie Bradley, Jr., OF
19. Oscar Tejeda, 2B
20. Junichi Tazawa, RHP
21. Kolbrin Vitek, 3B
22. Drake Britton, LHP
23. Stolmy Pimentel, RHP
24. Lars Anderson, 1B
25. Alex Hassan, OF
26. Raul Alcantara, RHP
27. Henry Ramos, OF
28. Che-Hsuan Lin, OF
29. Brandon Workman, RHP
30. Jeremy Hazelbaker, OF
31. Cody Kukuk, LHP
32. Jose Vinicio, SS
33. Noe Ramirez, RHP
34. Christian Vazquez, C
35. Williams Jerez, OF
36. Chris Balcom-Miller, RHP
37. Kendrick Perkins, OF
38. Chris Hernandez, LHP
39. Keith Couch, RHP
40. Madison Younginer, RHP

* - Michael Bowden was eligible for the community voting and was ranked 36th. However, since the community voting ended, Bowden reached the 50-inning threshold in the major leagues, and we thus considered him graduated for the purposes of this feature. That decision also considered that he is out of options, unlike, say, Ryan Kalish.
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at 12:20 PM

Fall Instructional League Schedule

The Red Sox Instrux schedule will kick off on Saturday, September 24 this year.  For those interested, the games are generally open to the public, and all games generally start at 1:00 pm, with the exception of Saturday games, which start at 10:00 am.  Also of note, SoxProspects Scouting Director Chris Mellen will be in Fort Myers scouting the Instructional League from September 29 to October 2.  Here's the schedule:

Sept. 18 - Reporting Date
Sept. 24 - vs. Mets
Sept. 25 -Camp Day
Sept. 26 - at Rays
Sept. 27 - Camp Day
Sept. 28 - Camp Day
Sept, 29 - vs. Rays
Sept. 30 - vs. Orioles
Oct. 1 - at Mets
Oct. 2 - Off Day
Oct. 3 - vs. Twins
Oct. 4 - Camp Day
Oct. 5 - Camp Day
Oct. 6 - at Orioles 
Oct. 7 - vs. Mets
Oct. 8 - at Mets
Oct. 9 - Camp Day
Oct. 10 - at Twins
Oct. 11 - vs. Twins (10:00 am)
Camp breaks after the Oct. 11 Twins game

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at 11:00 AM

Q&A with Jackie Bradley Jr.

Embarking on a professional career after compiling some of the most memorable college moments of any baseball player in history, Jackie Bradley, Jr. remains the same highly skilled and charismatic prospect he has been his entire life. A potential five-tool outfielder, Bradley, Jr. burst on to the national radar in 2009 as a freshman at South Carolina, hitting .349/.431/.537 with 11 home runs and 46 RBI. After spending the summer of 2009 in the Cape Cod League with the Hyannis Mets, Bradley, Jr. continued to take his game to the next level in 2010, hitting .368/.473/.587 with 13 home runs and 60 RBI for the World Series champion Gamecocks. He showed his ability to come through in the clutch with a key two-out, game-tying RBI single in the bottom of the twelfth inning against Oklahoma in the second round of the College World Series. His heroic efforts and superior performance led to Bradley, Jr. being named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.

Entering 2011, Bradley, Jr. was seen as one of the top prospects in the country, and a sure-fire bet to be a first round selection in the amateur draft this summer. However, a wrist injury forced Bradley, Jr. to miss 26 games and he hit just .259/.361/.468 with 6 home runs and 26 RBI in 37 games. The injury dampened Bradley, Jr.’s prospects in the draft, allowing him to fall to the Red Sox in the supplemental first round at pick 40. Known for his strong defensive prowess and throwing arm, Bradley, Jr. led South Carolina to a second straight World Series title before signing with Boston and beginning his professional career in Lowell on August 23. Before one of the Spinners last home games of the season, Bradley, Jr. took some time to speak to me about his career, love for the game, and passion for giving to others.

John Gray: You were a member of the Hyannis Mets of the Cape Cod League in 2009 after your freshman season at South Carolina. What was the difference between playing in the Cape League versus college?
Jackie Bradley, Jr.: It was a lot of fun, my host family really made the experience great for me. My host parents actually came up to see me play and get my first hit here in Lowell. They are really special to me and it was great to play in such a competitive league and see how passionate baseball was in New England.

JG: You were drafted 40th overall by the Red Sox in this year’s draft, what were your expectations heading into the draft and how did you feel when it was Boston who ended up selecting you?
JB: Yeah, I knew Boston was looking at me very closely. There were a number of teams who showed a lot of interest, but I always felt the Red Sox were the ones who really wanted me the most. I didn’t have expectations going into the draft, just letting the chips fall where they may and see how things worked out. I wanted to be prepared for whatever situation I found myself in, but I am very happy to be a member of such a great organization here in Boston.

JG: Was there ever any doubt in your mind that you would sign? Did you think there was a possibility you would head back to South Carolina for your senior year?
JB: I had two very good options on the table for me and I actually did think about heading back to college. The honest truth is that I loved being a part of such a great program at South Carolina, but I was also ready to begin my professional career. I was able to strike a deal with the Red Sox right before the deadline and everything worked out for the best.

JG: In 2010, you led your team to the National Championship, being named Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series. What was it about your team that made them champions and what are your lasting memories of the entire season?
JB: The thing that sticks out about our team was that we weren’t a bunch of highly touted prospects or individuals; we really just played as a team. We were really close in the clubhouse; we would hang out together and really pull for each other. A lot of teams we faced were all business-like and very serious. We were different because we went out and just had fun, we loved playing baseball and having fun with each other.

One of the coolest things about winning the CWS was going to the White House and meeting the president. He told me that he was watching the games on TV and shook my hand, it was really an unforgettable experience.

JG: 2011 had a tough beginning for you as you sustained a wrist injury. How devastating was the injury to you and how much of an effect do you feel it had on your junior season?
JB: The worst thing about the injury was that it didn’t give me a chance to play. I didn’t have a chance to get into a groove and get locked in. I was struggling early on in the season and then I got injured. I was out seven weeks and sat on the bench hoping my team would be able to replicate what we did in 2010. I wanted to be able to get back out on the field and help the guys out and win another title. The fact we were able to win back-to-back championships just speaks to how amazing the program at South Carolina really is.

JG: Once you returned to play after the injury, did you try to make up for lost time?
JB: Of course! The game is hard enough already, try going out there and playing the game hurt. It’s very difficult having to battle through injuries. I would strongly advise anyone not to try and play when you are badly hurt; it’s no walk in the park.

JG: I have seen that you admire Torii Hunter. What is it about Torii you admire and how do you think you compare to him in the field?
JB: Torii is a true leader. He’s a very vocal guy and lets his voice be known in the clubhouse. I am not a very vocal guy myself, but I admire how Torii can pull his team together. He really goes to get it in the outfield. Climbing walls, making diving plays, he can just do it all and make it look easy. I’ve always been proud of my defensive ability, making a great throw or taking away extra bases with a diving catch. I feel like the highlight for me of any game is a great defensive play. Defense just comes easy for me, and it’s what I feel is my best asset.

JG: What led you to choose retail management as a major during college?
JB: Virginia doesn’t offer retail management as a major and South Carolina did. It was also one of the majors that helped me out financially as well. If baseball doesn’t work out for me, I always thought I could be a pretty good entrepreneur.

JG: You’re a prolific user of Twitter, what is it about Twitter that you enjoy most?
JB: It gives people a chance to get to know me. I like to let people live vicariously through me. I want them to know the type of person I am. Hopefully one day I get to meet all my followers. I also just really like having fun with it and being able to provide good solid messages to everyone. Being able to spread good faith and positive messages hopefully helps everyone who reads my tweets. My quote on Twitter is from Jackie Robinson, my favorite baseball player of all time. Without Jackie doing what he did, I am not here playing baseball. I try to give baseball as well as life my all each and every day because you can’t take anything for granted. When I see someone who needs a little boost or help, I want to be that person to lend them a hand to bring them to a better place in their lives. (Follow Jackie on Twitter @JackieBradleyJr)

JG: Having just arrived in Lowell, what has it been like to acclimate to pro ball, what are the major differences from college?
JB: At the professional level, baseball is an everyday thing. Since I’ve gotten here, we have had a game every single day. There’s very little down time and you are constantly working. I really like that constant aspect of it because it keeps me going and keeps me motivated. We always like to say that we enjoy the games more than practice, so having a game all the time is a welcome change over practice.

JG: I’ve seen that you like to give back to the community as much as you can. What types of things do you do in terms of community service and why?
JB: I’ve been around a couple of different baseball fields and surprised a couple of different teams and kids by handing out trophies and awards. I remember during college I went to a middle school and talked to a lot of kids about staying strong and determined. I know that I was focused and mature at such a young age because I knew what I wanted to do in life. A lot of kids these days don’t know what they want to do and I want to let them know that they can do whatever they want, but they have to give it their all. If you do everything you can to get to where you want to be, you won’t have to have any doubts about yourself. Something as simple as signing an autograph for a kid can be one of the most cherished memories in their lives. While it may be something I do all the time, that one child that you signed an autograph for will never forget it. Being able to lift someone up and brighten their day is something I have always strived to do.

JG: You collected your first professional hit last evening (August 26). Can you walk us through how that moment felt and did you get the ball back?
JB: It was a surreal feeling. I got the hit and then they stopped the game and threw the ball in to the dugout, so I got the ball back. The coaches wrote my name and put “first professional hit” as well as the team and pitcher I faced on the ball for me. Getting that first hit out of the way was a relief and hopefully now I can get on a roll. I am just really trying to see the ball deep and get used to the pitching at this level.

JG: You, Noe Ramirez and Matt Barnes all arrived in Lowell at around the same time. Have you guys developed a bond since you were all members of the 2011 draft class going through a new experience for the first time?
JB: Yeah we actually do. We travel together; we always ride together (Barnes drives us) and hang out. We also have our lockers next to each other so it was really helpful to walk in to a new situation and clubhouse and see familiar faces. Having played with Noe and Matt before, it has helped the transition for me go more smoothly knowing that I am not in it alone and with guys that have been there with me before.

JG: What is your walk up music and why did you select it?
JB: I use two different songs, "Yeah Ya Know" by TI because I like the beat on it and "Power" by Kayne West. It has a great beat to it and it really gets me pumped up for my at-bats.

JG: You’ve stated before that you have a lot of fun playing baseball and don’t worry about the business side of the game. Has that changed a bit now that you are a professional?
JB: I still am going to have all the fun in the world playing this game. I am a little different because I don’t go out a whole lot, I am a homebody. I like to hang out at the house, watch a lot of movies and just enjoy my time. I do realize that I’m a professional now, but I am ready to get out there and show what I can do. Just as an FYI, my favorite movie is Man on Fire with Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning.
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