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February 8, 2012 at 7:14 AM

2012 Prospect Previews: Williams Jerez and Heiker Meneses

With Spring Training set to get under way, SoxProspects.com will be taking an in depth look at many of the system's prospects with previews set for every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday leading up to Opening Day. The second installment of the series features a toolsy 2011 Draft Pick in the early stages of his development and an infielder looking to keep moving forward in 2012.

Williams Jerez
Position: Outfield
2011 Team: Gulf Coast Red Sox
2012 Projected Team: Lowell Spinners
Opening Day Age: 19

Strengths: A potential 5-tool player, Jerez is an impressive athlete with an ideal hitter’s frame. He generates plus batspeed from the left side of the plate and has the type of swing path to project out to generate average-to-better power as he matures in the professional ranks. His swing load shows a lot of fluidity to it, most likely requiring little tweaking as his pro career gets going. He demonstrates solid bat control, easily guiding the head of the bat through the hitting zone and has the hit tool to produce high levels of hard contact. A natural centerfielder with strong instincts reading balls off the bat, Jerez has long, powerful strides when tracking flyballs and quickly accelerates to his top speed, which grades out as plus. He covers both gaps well. His defensive game is accented by a plus throwing arm that has shown solid accuracy since Jerez controls his body well when getting himself into throwing position. He has the makings of an above-average defender. Jerez’s overall package of tools makes him a prospect with a lot of upside.

Development Needs: As with many young, high upside players, Jerez has a lot of rough edges that need to be polished off in the early portion of his career. He wasn’t overly challenged by strong competition in High School and his pitch recognition is presently well-below average. Jerez is in the early learning stages of picking up more advanced secondary offerings. He lunges against breaking balls, bringing his hands too far forward to cause him to either roll over the pitch or swing over the top of it. Further experience should help him relax more at the plate. His work improving both his pitch recognition and approach will be keys to allowing his solid-average hit tool to show. Despite having a strong body, Jerez will have to learn how to tap into his power potential, most notably incorporating his lower half into his swing mechanics. He presently tries to drive balls exclusively with his arms causing him to hit with too much topspin and not get enough carry behind his drives. Jerez has the defensive skills to stick in centerfield, but how much he fills out into his frame down the line will dictate whether he ends up moving to a corner outfield slot, which would put more of a premium on his bat.

2012 Outlook: After signing last summer and playing in the Gulf Coast League, Jerez looks likely to stay back in Extended Spring Training before heading north with the Lowell Spinners. His pitch recognition and approach could stand to get some more work in an instructional environment before being tested against pitchers with more experience and polish. However, if he shows signs of picking up things quicker in the spring, he could be in the mix for a placement with Greenville to break camp or earn a promotion before the New York-Penn League season begins. 2012 is a year of gaining experience for Jerez. His hit tool is most likely going to be suppressed, but he should show flashes of the ability to drive the ball hard around the ballpark. I do not expect strong in game power from Jerez out of the gate. It will take time for him to learn how to use his whole body in his swing mechanics and the power is a couple of seasons away from starting to show. By the end of the season, Jerez has a chance to be a rising young hitter within the ranks of the Red Sox organization. His numbers may not jump off the page when 2012 wraps up, but he has the type of tools to become a very well-rounded baseball player as the experience begins to accumulate.

Heiker Meneses
Position: Infielder
2011 Teams: Greenville Drive/Salem Red Sox/Portland Sea Dogs
2012 Projected Team: Salem Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 20

Strengths: Meneses utilizes a low maintenance, compact stroke that generates about solid-average batspeed through the hitting zone. With quick wrists, he does a solid job of barreling up pitches middle-to-in and shows some pop out to the left-center field gap. Meneses profiles as a gap hitter, capable of pulling balls with backspin and hitting pitches hard on a line when going after offerings in his hitting zone. He shows the ability to adjust more quickly against advancing competition, making strides improving his pitch recognition during the 2011 season. Possessing plus speed, he can impact the game on the base paths and has been improving with his reads when attempting to swipe a base. Meneses can play shortstop, second base, and third base defensively. He displays fluid actions and sound fundamentals at either of the positions. With a quick first step, he covers better-than-average ground at shortstop and has above-average range at the hot corner or second base. He projects out as a solid-average defensive infielder with continued work reading the ball off the bat.

Development Needs: On the smaller side and relatively filled out, Meneses has at best below-average power potential. Much of his offensive impact rests in his ability to make consistent, hard contact as he advances up the ranks of the organization. Meneses presently has a hole covering the outer third of the plate, which leaves him vulnerable to higher velocity fastballs away from him. To reach his potential as a gap-to-gap hitter, more work learning how to hit to the opposite field is needed to increase the zones to which he can drive offerings. If he can’t improve covering the entire plate, he most likely will not hit enough to be more than an organizational player. While showing improvement with his pitch recognition, Meneses still struggles with advanced secondary offerings. He has a tendency to get too far out on his front foot due to guessing in counts. When his weight is over-committed, his bat drags or yanks through the hitting zone. This causes him to produce weak contact on the ground. Meneses has solid defensive tools at shortstop, but looks better suited to play second base. His solid-average throwing arm is strained when making long plays from deep in the hole and his range to his right can be limited.

2012 Outlook: Meneses played at three levels in 2011, shuffling around some due to the injuries that hit the middle infield during the middle of the season. He should have an inside track at manning one of the infield positions with the Salem Red Sox. Offensively, 2012 is a season for him to continue his learning curve against more advanced secondary offerings and improve with how quickly he picks these offerings up out of opposing pitchers’ hands. By eliminating the instances he guesses in counts, Meneses has the ability to put up rising contact rates during the season. He will be tested to hit the other way with more frequency at this level. This will be a key developmental aspect for him to progress towards becoming a consistent contact hitter and show he can make it at higher levels. With strides made in these areas, I see him projecting as a future utility infielder at the major league level. Meneses showed developing skills in 2011, and 2012 is a season to continue gaining experience to push those skills towards being ready for a long-term assignment in Double-A.

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