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February 20, 2012 at 9:25 AM

2012 Prospect Previews: Alex Hassan and Frank Montas

Alex Hassan
Position: Outfield
2011 Team: Portland Sea Dogs
2012 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs/Pawtucket Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 24

Hassan displays excellent control of the strike zone and strong plate discipline. He typically grinds through at-bats, methodically working to get an offering he can drive. Hassan shows solid pitch recognition, which allows him to sit back comfortably on breaking balls. While his swing is on the long side, he compensates for it by crowding the plate and choking up on the bat depending on the situation in the count. His confidence in his strike zone management skills allow him to spoil tough pitches with two strikes or take a strike in a hitter’s count if it's not in the area he was zoning in on. Hassan has improved quickening up his swing load. This has helped him get the head of the bat out in front of higher velocity fastballs with more frequency and drive pitches on the inner third. He projects as an average-to-solid-average hitter for batting average with continued experience against upper level pitching. Hassan slots in as a corner outfielder defensively. His plus, accurate arm is his biggest asset in the field. Hassan charges balls well and also does a good job of setting himself up in throwing position to release the ball quickly.

Development Needs: While Hassan has natural strength and a well-filled out frame, he has to learn how to tap into it further if he is to produce consistent power at the major league level. He hits mostly with his upper body and arms, unable to get a lot of drive from his lower body to create leverage with his swing. Hassan has been improving with muscling up on the ball in favorable counts though. He also tends to create too much topspin when squaring fastballs up, which reduces the amount of carry he gets on drives. His power projection looks to be about average. Hassan covers the plate well with his swing, but at times struggles with outside fastballs. He carves these offerings to the opposite field rather than driving them. The early extension in his swing makes it difficult for him to stay inside of the baseball and he typically slices balls out-and-away from him. This bears watching as the caliber of pitching keeps increasing. Hassan looks better suited for left field defensively. He is a fringe-average runner and does not have the footspeed to cover a lot of ground in the outfield. His defensive ceiling is that of an average left fielder. Hassan’s bat will have to carry him to stick on a major league roster.

2012 Outlook: Spring Training will be a strong determining factor in where Hassan is placed to start the 2012 season. While he handled the Eastern League well in 2011, there is competition for spots on the Pawtucket roster and some outfielders in front of him more ready to serve as depth to the major league club. Wherever Hassan is assigned to start the season, expect him to continue to bring his grinding approach to the plate. This is his greatest asset and enables him to produce high contact rates. I would expect Hassan to pick up right where he left off if he returns to Double-A for the season. He looked ready for the next step at the end of the 2011 season. Hassan’s test will come when he reaches Triple-A and whether he can continue to adjust to maintain his contact rates. This is big for him due to his limited defensive value. His ability to stick on a big league roster will be driven by his offensive value and showing it in Triple-A will prove he is ready for a look. Hassan projects as a bench player at the major league level. With more improvement generating power in 2012 and continued strong contact rates, he can push that towards a projection as a second division starter.

Frank Montas
Position: Starting Pitcher
2011 Team: Dominican Summer League
2011 Projected Team: Gulf Coast Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 19

Strengths: Montas has a sturdy frame and a strong lower body that allows him to get solid drive during his delivery. Throwing from a ¾ arm slot, his fastball operates 95-98 MPH and tops out at 100 MPH. Montas possesses excellent arm strength. When in the lower reaches of his velocity, his heater shows some late tail and downward movement, but exhibits ride and explodes on hitters when he reaches back. His fastball also has late life in the lower tier of the strike zone. It does flatten out in the upper tier of the strike zone, but hitters will have a tough time getting on top of the ball due to the plus-plus velocity he generates. His fastball has the potential to develop into an elite pitch as he learns to command the offering. Montas has the ceiling of a closer at the major league level. He looks ideal throwing in short bursts, where he can over-power hitters with his fastball and mix in secondary offerings.

Development Needs: Montas is very crude and rough on the mound. Both his command and control are below-average. He will be prone to spells of wildness as he works to iron out his delivery. Montas tends to jerk his head off target when throwing his fastball. This causes him to lose sight of where the pitch is going and miss spots consistently. He is presently very much a thrower out on the mound. He will need to learn how to spot up with his heater and control the pitch if he is to make strides during his initial exposure to the lower levels of the Red Sox organization. Montas also throws a mid-80s slider, but the pitch is very raw. It lacks tight rotation and depth, spinning flatly up to the plate. While he may get by against inexperienced hitters in short-season with his slider because of the difference in velocity from his fastball, the offering needs to get much tighter to be effective against the more advanced hitters in full-season baseball.

2012 Outlook: Montas will get his first experience with baseball in the United States this season. Expect him to participate in Extended Spring Training before playing in the Gulf Coast League. The instruction time down in Florida will be a good transitional period for Montas. Besides getting a chance to work on smoothing out his delivery and sharpening his slider, it allows him time to adjust to the new environment and culture before jumping into game action. 2012 will most likely be a year of subtle progress for Montas. I do not expect him to suddenly burst onto the scene or put up performance numbers that are going to jump off the page. He is just learning how to pitch. Gradual improvement with his command and control as he pitches in game action is reasonable. Montas may also struggle for stretches in 2012, especially if he is falling into patterns of wildness. The progress he can make tightening up his slider will help him begin to get comfortable with mixing pitches during sequences. Montas has an outstanding arm and has power reliever potential. This coming season is a chance for him to start polishing his stuff and taking steps towards becoming a more refined pitcher.

Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen