SoxProspects News

February 17, 2012 at 2:43 PM

First Take: Another Aussie, another Ivy Leaguer, another guy I missed


Time for one last clean-up edition of First Take before pitchers and catchers officially report on Sunday.

2/6: 
The Move: Red Sox sign LHP Daniel McGrath

Even after the departure of former international scouting director Craig Shipley, the Sox showed they still have a presence in Australia with the signing of 17-year-old Aussie McGrath for a reported $400,000 signing bonus. McGrath, the youngest player to play in the Australian Baseball League, will come to Fort Myers this spring to check out the facilities, but he will finish high school this year and won't report to the club full-time in 2013. In case you're curious, that is standard procedure for past Sox signings out of Oceania.

Pacific Rim scout Jon Deeble, along with Shipley during his time with the Sox, has given the club a strong presence in Australia, as evinced by this signing, as McGrath and his family reportedly preferred the Sox to as many as 15 other potential suitors in part because the family are all fans of the team. Here's a list of Sox signings out of that area dating back to 2003:

Feb. 2011: C Beau Bishop, New Zealand, $60,000
June 2008: OF Moko Moanaroa, Australia
May 2008: 1B Boss Moanaroa, Australia, $120,000
March 2007: RHP Justin Erasmus, Australia
Feb. 2007: RHP David Harriott, Australia
Aug. 2006: 3B/RHP Michael Lennox, Australia, $100,000
Feb. 2006: C Matthew Kent, Australia
Sept. 2005: OF Mitch Dening, Australia
Oct. 2004: LHP Tim Cox, Australia
2003: LHP James Albury, Australia
2003: LHP Adam Blackley, Australia

McGrath won't come to camp until 2013, so be prepared to forget about him for a little bit. However, McGrath is a another great example of why building a presence in an area can pay dividends down the road, as he appears to be the highest-ceiling Aussie the Sox have signed.

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2/16:
The Move: Red Sox sign RHP Ross Ohlendorf with an invitation to spring training

For the sake of full disclosure: I hate Princeton. This has nothing to do with Ohlendorf - from everything I read, he's a swell guy. However, in my life, I've nearly universally found myself disliking nearly every Princeton student or graduate that I've met, with a begrudgingly-admitted few exceptions. Don't worry though, if you're reading this and went/go to Princeton, I'm sure you're, uh, one of those exceptions. Yeah...

But back on topic, Ohlendorf has pitched exclusively as a starter for the past three-plus seasons for the Pirates after breaking in with the Yankees as a reliever, and there is little reason to think that will change. His numbers during that period aren't shimmering or anything, as he walks too many guys and doesn't strike out enough (3.1 BB/9, 6.0 K/9 from 2009-2011). He's coming off an injury that he says hampered him for nearly all of last season, so this is another low-risk, medium-reward signing by the Sox to add to the Great Spring Training Rotation Competition. To be frank, his chances may hinge on whatever opt-out clauses he may or may not have in his contract - the guys that can leave first tend to get the first shots, all other things relatively equal. I like the signing from a practical standpoint, but could see him holding down a rotation spot in Pawtucket just as easily as I could see him making it to Boston at all this year.

Neat side note: Ohlendorf wrote his senior thesis at The-School-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named on an analysis of the MLB Draft. Pretty neat stuff, which you can check out in this article by ESPN's Tim Kurkjian.

Players affected
Throw another log into the rotation competition fire. Ohlendorf joins Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves, Vicente Padilla (if he's coming to camp?), Aaron Cook, and Carlos Silva among those with a legitimate shot at winning a starting job this spring, perhaps with Andrew Miller, Brandon Duckworth, and Felix Doubront as darkhorses. 

(Another tangent: I can't get over how much Doubront may have hurt his career by coming into last season out of shape. If he were in shape, stayed healthy, and pitched well last year, he might have been near the front of this list instead of near the back. Now he needs to make up for lost time in the span of a month.)

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1/13:
The Move: Red Sox sign 1B/OF Josh Kroeger with an invitation to spring training

Forgive me, like Jason Repko last time, I appear to have missed another minor league free agent signing in 29-year-old Josh Kroeger. However, I deny fault, as the Red Sox apparently missed it too - his 1/13 signing is strangely coming up last chronologically for January on their own transactions page, making me think they went back in and added it later, as I had not seen anything on this until he was listed on the non-roster invite list this week.

Kroeger's major league experience consists of 24 games with Arizona way back in 2004, back when I was in college learning to hate Princeton. (Have I mentioned that I hate Princeton?) He'd spent his whole whole career with the D-Backs from his selection in the fourth round of the 2000 draft to that year, but since has bounced around to the Phillies, Cubs, White Sox, and last year, Marlins organizations, looking for another shot. Although looking at his Triple-A stats is tough, given he has mostly played in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, he still showed a good deal of pop in his three International League seasons in 2006, 2009, and 2010, putting up between about a .160 IsoP in each season. That said, his on-base skills have fluctuated greatly depending on league, never topping a .319 OBP in the IL even though he's had three seasons above .370 out in the PCL. Defensively, he can play all three outfield positions and first base, not really having a consistent home in any spot the past few seasons after coming up primarily as a right fielder.

In Pawtucket, Kroeger would provide depth at first base and in the outfield. I mentioned last time that the Mauro Gomez signing shored the Sox up at first base, where they were thin. Kroeger now completes the depth chart, for spring training at least, there and in the outfield. His ability to stick on the roster will depend largely on the Sox' health coming out of the spring.

Players Affected
Kroeger adds to what is now a crowded situation at first base and in the outfield. His fate likely depends on whether Carl Crawford's health and whether Lars Anderson is dealt before camp breaks. I'm not sure how the Pawtucket roster holds all of Kroeger, Repko, Gomez, J.C. Linares, Che-Hsuan Lin, AND Daniel Nava. Those first three likely come into camp so that the Sox can get a look at them for the Triple-A roster, and for insurance in the case of a trade.

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Thanks for reading folks. I'll be back next week with an analysis of the non-roster invite list.

Chris Hatfield is the Executive Editor of SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @SPChrisHatfield.

 
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