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March 14, 2012 at 7:35 AM

2012 Prospect Previews: Alex Wilson and Felix Doubront

Alex Wilson
Position: Starting Pitcher
2011 Teams: Portland Sea Dogs/Pawtucket Red Sox
2012 Projected Team: Pawtucket Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 25

Wilson operates out of a fluid delivery and has honed the consistency of his high ¾ arm slot over the course of the last two seasons. Featuring a four-seam fastball that sits 92-94 mph, he has improved his command of the offering to presently grade as solid-average. Wilson frequently works in the lower tier of the strike zone with his heater and has learned the importance of being able to spot it on both sides of the plate to limit solid contact against. He is also capable of reaching back to touch 95-96 mph in shorter spurts when looking to elevate past hitters, especially ahead in the count. Wilson’s 90-92 mph two-seam fastball showed solid improvement in 2011 to become an offering he trusts in sequences against opposing hitters. Running in on right-handed batters, he has become better equipped to jam righties and create movement with his fastball to produce more groundballs. This has also helped him be more efficient when churning through lineups. Wilson’s best pitch is his solid-average-to-better 81-84 mph slider and his go-to secondary offering to finish off hitters. Creating hard snap when delivering it, the slider shows tight rotation and hard bite out of the strike zone. With more consistency feeling the pitch, it can consistently grade as plus. Right-handed batters often bail towards third base when he buries it away from them. Wilson brings a mature demeanor to the mound and also is a tireless worker at honing his craft.

Development Needs: While Wilson is consistent repeating his delivery and has learned how to pace himself better, he does expend extra energy when generating velocity. He is not an overly loose thrower. Wilson has also improved his lower body strength, but his stuff still diminishes after he is forced to labor through an inning. It is important for him to continue focusing on being efficient and to further polish his two-seam fastball to limit high pitch count at-bats. Capable of throwing his four-seam fastball past hitters when ahead in the count, the pitch flattens out in the upper tier of the strike zone and can be easily elevated when batters are consistently looking for it in this area. He will have to pick his spots to work above the thighs with his heater at the major league level to avoid being too prone to giving up home runs. Wilson also works in a fringe-average 82-85 mph changeup, but it lacks strong fade or drop out of the strike zone. The pitch resembles a fastball he is taking something off of. Without an additional viable secondary offering, his slider becomes predictable after multiple trips through a lineup. He can also stand to command the slider better within the strike zone and pick up called strikes with it earlier in counts. During the starts Wilson is not feeling his slider, he struggles to create swings-and-misses and becomes very dependent on the ball being put in play.

2012 Outlook: Wilson slots into the starting rotation with Pawtucket and will continue to be stretched out in a starter’s role to begin the season. Working multiple times through Triple-A lineups will keep his focus on mixing in his two-seam fastball. When moving his fastball around the plate to pound the zone early in counts, he becomes tough for opposing hitters to get comfortable against due to his looming hard slider. Learning how to pitch since entering the upper minors, Wilson is likely to have effective outings when he is keeping the ball down at this level. He has made strong progress with the mental side of the game. Wilson gives the organization additional starting depth at the Triple-A level in 2012. Around mid-summer though, he is a candidate to begin transitioning to a bullpen role where his stuff is best suited long-term at the major league level. His fastball and slider combination play up much better in shorter stints where he can focus on getting 3-4 outs rather than churning multiple times through opposing lineups. There will be an adjustment to keep himself under control when in the situation of being able to air his stuff out more, but Wilson can begin to show in 2012 as an arm capable of getting high leverage outs and trending towards a future big league seventh of eight inning reliever.

Felix Doubront
Position: Starting Pitcher
2011 Teams: Pawtucket Red Sox/Boston Red Sox
2012 Projected Team: Boston Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 24

Strengths: A lefty out of Venezuela, Doubront has matured physically over the last three seasons and developed the type of body capable of handling the rigors of a starting pitcher. He utilizes an 89-93 mph fastball that he mixes between two-seam and four-seam variations, while also occasionally turning over his heater against right-handed hitters. His two-seamer shows strong arm-side run and can produce groundballs when he is working away to righties. Doubront hides the ball well during his easy delivery. His four-seam fastball jumps on opposing hitters and tops out at 94 mph when reaching back or working in shorter stints out of the bullpen to cause late swings. His fastball command grades as solid-average and he has learned how to be more efficient to get deeper into games by working his two-seam fastball consistently into sequences. After setting up opposing hitters with his heater, Doubront leans heavily on his plus 79-83 mph changeup. This offering is his best pitch and one he trusts to throw at any point in the count. Showing screwball action in the lower reaches of its velocity and arm-side fade in the upper reaches, his change keeps opposing hitters off-balance and produces weak contact on the ground or swings-and-misses. This is Doubront’s out-pitch and one that can be highly effective at the major league level.

Development Needs: Doubront came into spring training last season in poor shape, suffered an early arm strain, and was never able to get his season on track after losing the important arm strength building period of the spring. After regaining his velocity while ramping back up in Triple-A, he could not finish his fastball consistently. Doubront cleaned up his delivery in 2010 to repeat it well, but fell back into bad habits with his landing last season. While he opens a bit early and throws across his body, a square landing with his feet allows him to throw downhill. When choppy with his landing, he loses his ability to stay on top of the ball and his fastball sails on him. Regaining his prior form is key to consistently being able to throw his heater for strikes, which opens up the rest of his repertoire for being effective. Doubront can also struggle with the consistency of his 75-78 mph curveball. It shows tight rotation and teeth down through the strike zone, but at times he tips the pitch by opening early in his delivery. It also hangs and becomes more hittable for right-handed batters when he fails to finish the offering because of opening early. His curve can show to be a solid-average-to-better offering at the major league level with more consistency finishing through the pitch. Doubront’s maturity and level of focus came into question when he did not report to camp prepared, with a major league spot seemingly in his grasp last season.

2012 Outlook: Doubront is in the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation during spring training. He reported to camp in much better shape than last season and came ready to pitch. Given Doubront is out of options and has value as a left-handed arm to many organizations, it is tough seeing the club being able to pass him through waivers for an assignment in Triple-A. Barring a trade, he is likely to break camp on the big league roster and has a shot to get the first crack at holding down the fifth spot in the rotation. Doubront’s success at the major league level in either a starting or relieving role rests on being able to consistently command his fastball. When locked into his delivery, he is more than capable of throwing strikes in the lower tier of the zone to setup his secondary offerings. Doubront can be effective as a back-end rotation starter this season, but will need to focus on being efficient against major league hitters to prevent his pitch count from being driven up early in outings. His changeup and curveball give him reliable secondary pitches to keep hitters off-balance. A relief role may end up his best path to transition to the big leagues in a full-time capacity though. The next couple of weeks will determine whether Doubront wins a spot in the rotation, but he has the chance in front of him to be a contributor on a contender in 2012. Possessing the stuff, it comes down to his focus and attention to executing his delivery consistently this season to translate into the game production required to stick on a roster.

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