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April 2, 2012 at 7:30 AM

2012 Prospect Previews: Xander Bogaerts and Matt Barnes



Xander Bogaerts
Position: Shortstop
2011 Team: Greenville Drive
2012 Team: Salem Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 19

Strengths: With a wiry and lean body type, Bogaerts brings an element of power to the baseball diamond. He generates elite batspeed via extremely quick and strong hands. Bogaerts explodes through the ball with his swing. He creates solid lift as he extends with his arms to drive offerings with backspin and carry. Balanced during his stride, he does a good job of keeping his hands back to stay inside the baseball. This enables Bogaerts to utilize the whole field. He is capable of turning on balls to produce pull power and also go with pitches hard to the opposite field. Bogaerts has the potential to produce plus-to-better power at the major league level as he continues to physically mature. He has the frame and raw strength to develop into a home run bat. Although relatively inexperienced against professional pitching, his approach and pitch recognition have been making strides. Bogaerts is willing to go to the opposite field and attempts to work deeper into counts. His hit tool grades as solid-average. With further experience and strides made hitting secondary offerings, Bogaerts can develop into around a .285 hitter during his peak seasons. Defensively, he has been improving with his fluidity and fundamentals at the shortstop position. His footwork has been less tangled, aiding with keeping himself balanced and smoother in the field. Both Bogaerts’ arm and range grade as solid-average. Displaying impressive maturity and a high baseball IQ, he soaks in instruction from coaches and brings adjustments from practice sessions into game action quickly. Bogaerts has the ceiling of a power hitting, perennial All-Star infielder on a first division team.

Development Needs: Bogaerts can get long with his swing and display too much upper-cut at times. This leads to him coming up under fastballs at the belt and wrapping around breaking balls. He ties himself up against inside fastballs as well due to over-extending his arms. Bogaerts needs work keeping his swing consistent. In the short-term, this inconsistency can lead to lower rates of contact against the rise in pitching talent he is going to see. Bogaerts must work to adjust and cut down on his swing in certain counts to reduce the amount of swings-and-misses he produces. His work becoming more selective and quicker picking up the spin of breaking balls are important for developing his hitting tool to produce better than average batting averages as well. He gets over-zealous chasing elevated fastballs and fooled on sharp breaking balls away. Bogaerts may always strikeout at a relatively high clip, but can mitigate its impact on his contact rates by getting himself out less frequently as he reaches higher levels. Not overly filled-out presently, he has a frame that can pack on a lot of muscle as he matures into his mid-twenties. With average footspeed, he is at risk to lose some as he gets bigger and stiffens up. He has been improving at shortstop, but still can be choppy and rough at the position. Bogaerts is not as natural as players who typically stick. Compounded with his projected physical development, a move to third base seems likely at some point in his development. He can develop into a capable defender at the hot corner, but if his bat is really pushing him, a move to the outfield may happen to speed up his path to the major leagues.

2012 Outlook: Bogaerts is set for an assignment in High A to start the season. He looked very comfortable in the box during spring training and like his hitting talent was ready to take another step forward. Bogaerts will be challenged by the advanced pitching in the Carolina League though. His ability to adjust early in the season will be key to produce consistent contact throughout the year. His pitch recognition is likely to receive a jolt initially and he will be forced to be more selective to find himself in counts to attack fastballs. I see Bogaerts able to show solid in-game power by taking advantage of mistakes, but the area to watch is how he is improving handling secondary offerings. Improvement here is what will push the development of his hitting tool and allow him to produce ample levels of hard contact in 2012. With strides becoming more of a hitter and showing he is learning the strike zone, Bogaerts has a good chance to make strong gains this year. While his inexperience and age-advancement may show, especially early in the year in High A, I feel by season’s end he will be ready for an assignment in Double-A next season.

Matt Barnes
Position: Starting Pitcher
2011 Team: Did not pitch
2012 Team: Greenville Drive
Opening Day Age: 21

Strengths: Barnes utilizes his frame well when throwing and displays an easy delivery to generate velocity. A loose thrower, his fastball sits 93-95 mph and can top out at 96 when he is reaching back for more. Barnes uses his body well to throw downhill and creates strong leverage to locate his heater in the lower tier of the strike zone. His fastball shows solid downward finish when he is on top of it. Barnes understands how to pitch with his fastball and can throw to either side of the plate, while also knowing when to elevate past hitters ahead in the count. His command of the offering grades as solid-average. His go-to secondary offering is a tightly rotating 76-79 mph curveball with deep break and teeth through the strike zone. Barnes snaps the pitch off well, showing the type of feel to consistently produce hard snap. His curve misses bats when it is buried down and out of the strike zone, while also demonstrating the ability to freeze batters when he throws it in the lower reaches of its velocity for a strike. The pitch grades as plus and has the potential to be a strikeout inducing offering at the major league level. Barnes repeats his delivery well and paces himself smoothly through it. He keeps his speed consistent throughout his motion to land loosely on his front foot when delivering the heater. The ball comes out of his hand with minimal effort. With a body built for handling the rigors of starting as a professional, Barnes projects to stick in the role as he works his way up the ranks of the organization. He has the ceiling of a second or third starter on a first division team.

Development Needs: Barnes can get himself off-balance when delivering his curveball. This affects the command and crispness of the offering. Barnes can land awkwardly on his front foot and also lack control of his body when throwing the curve. This causes him to hold onto the ball too long and lose his release point. His momentum takes him towards first base, which makes it hard for him to do anything but pull it out of the strike zone into the left-handed hitter’s batting box. Barnes needs work keeping himself balanced when throwing it and staying more centered during his finish. Improvement with this will push his command to solid-average-to-better and reduce the instances of him hanging the offering as well. In his first year as a professional, Barnes will need to adjust to throwing in the five-man rotation. Building stamina is important for him to hold his mechanics deeper into outings and not get sloppy with his stuff. He will have to fight to not have his release point waver as he gets worn down this year, especially in his legs. Barnes’ 86-87 mph changeup shows arm-side fade, but is inconsistent at creating deception. It presently grades as fringe-average-to-average. The change needs the most work out of his arsenal to develop into a viable offering at the major league level. Syncing his arm-speed to that of his fastball and burying the pitch deeper in his hand will push the pitch towards solid-average.

2012 Outlook: Barnes is set to break camp with the Greenville Drive and begin his professional career in the South Atlantic League. This initial assignment is a good transition for him. Barnes is a polished pitcher out of college and should over-match the hitters at this level with his pure stuff. His fastball and curveball combination are going to lead to many easy trips through lineups for him. Barnes’ biggest adjustments will be to pitching every fifth day and learning a routine that works for him. It will take some time for him to become comfortable with this. While it may not show initially in his results with Greenville, Barnes is going to have to fight through the wall as he gets to the middle of the season. If all goes well with his initial transition, I expect him to receive a promotion to High A before the All-Star break. He can still get by relying heavily on his heater and curve at this level, but he will begin to be pressed to incorporate the changeup into outings more often. The progress this pitch makes during the season will serve him well at preparing for the upper levels of the minors. One of the top pitching prospects in the system, 2012 is a year for Barnes to build his stamina and put more polish on his arsenal. He has a strong chance to show that he is ready for Double-A in 2013, where he is likely to have his stuff fully tested by professional hitters for the first time.

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

 
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