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SoxProspects News

March 15, 2013 at 2:18 PM

Fort Report: The Jackie Bradley show takes center stage

Here are this week's minor league notes:

  • Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (pictured) continues to be the hottest thing in Fort Myers. The 22-year old has dominated Grapefruit League pitching to the tune of .517/.611/.690 in 14 games, and has moved up to second in the SoxProspects.com rankings. 
  • Initially projected to begin the year back in Double-A Portland, it now seems likely that Bradley will be assigned to Pawtucket. Many observers think the Red Sox should go a step further, and bring the 2011 supplemental first round pick north to Boston to begin the season. The Boston Herald's John Tomase argues that Bradley is the most exciting Red Sox prospect since Jacoby Ellsbury, and should begin the year in the starting lineup. Alex Speier of WEEI.com looks for lessons applicable to Bradley in the Angels development of 2012 Rookie of the Year Mike Trout. 
  • One observer with no question whether Bradley could handle the the majors right now is his Ray Tanner, his coach at the University of South Carolina. In an interview with Scott Lauber of the Herald, Tanner says his 2010 College World Series MVP has all of the tools: "For me, the maturity - check; the ability to run bases - check; play defense - check; show up every day - check. Everything else, the press, the ability to play, he's way beyond his years. Can he handle it? Absolutely."
  • Steve O'Grady, however, makes a well-reasoned pitch for patience with the phenom. His most convincing argument is his breakdown of how spring training statistics have little carry-over to regular season performance.
  • Beyond Bradley, there are is a lot of depth in the system to get excited about. Chris Mellen, Director of Scouting here at SoxProspects.com, continues his fantastic Prospect Previews series. On Monday, he discussed a pair of 2012 signees, pitcher Pat Light and shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin. Wednesday was a look at two of the highest upside players in system, pitcher Ty Buttrey and outfielder Manuel Margot. This morning, he checks in on two pitchers taken in the 2010 draft making their climb into the upper levels, Anthony Ranaudo and Brandon Workman.
  • Meanwhile, SoxProspects.com Editor-in-Chief Mike Andrews continues his series for ESPNBoston on depth in the Red Sox system. This week, he takes a look at the catcher position, identifying Blake Swihart and Ryan Lavarnway as potential major league starters. 
  • Prospect guru Jonathan Mayo, a senior writer at MLB.com, has a must-read story on right-hander Matt Barnes. After a dominant first half in his pro debut, Barnes hit some speed bumps in the second half. Rather than a discouragement, however, Barnes sees those struggles as part of his learning experience, making him better prepared for season two: "People can tell you as much as they want how long the season is and how tiring it can get, but until you go through it, you really don't know. After going through that, you learn how to handle the workload and what to do in the offseason to prepare for those later months." 
  • Barnes looks to be part of a very intriguing starting rotation at Double-A Portland, alongside Ranaudo, Workman, and Drake Britton, writes Speier.
  • Top prospect Xander Bogaerts delivered a big hit to help send the Netherlands into the semi-finals of the World Baseball Classic. After falling behind 0-2, Bogaerts fought back, fouling off a tough slider from Cuban pitcher Raciel Iglesias, and laying off a fastball off the plate. Bogaerts then stayed on a 1-2 slider, knocking it into right field for a single to load the bases, setting the stage for a walk off sacrifice fly. 
  • Many observers have an opinion on whether Bogaerts can continue at shortstop. Only one of them is a baseball legend who was also considered too tall to remain at the position when he was a phenom himself. Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. opines "small guys that have shorter legs and better quickness could appear to be covering more ground and making those plays, but, in the end, if you position yourself correctly and you make those plays in a different style, if you make the plays, that’s what matters.” The 6-foot-4 Ripken played in over 2300 games at shortstop across 16 years before eventually moving to third base as a 36-year-old.
  • Along with Bradley, the prospect getting the most attention in Fort Myers has been Allen Webster, acquired in the August 2012 mega-deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Tim Britton of the Providence Journal details Webster's rise from high school shortstop getting discovered by accident by scout Lon Joyce to his current position as one of the Red Sox top prospects. How far has he risen? A scout tells Maureen Mullen of Comcast Sports Net that Webster is "the best pitcher, at any age, and any level, he has seen this spring."
  • Christian Vazquez has also been opening eyes this spring - particularly with his arm. Britton reports that his pop time has been measured at a spectacular 1.8 seconds. Vazquez has spent the last three offseasons in Puerto Rico working with major league veterans Jose and Yadier Molina.
  • Salem Red Sox announcer Evan Lepler reports that reliever Jeremiah Bayer has retired. An alumnus Deerfield Academy and Trinity College and native of Northampton, Mass., Bayer was taken in the 30th round of the 2009 draft. He made 102 appearances in the Red Sox system, compiling a 3.56 ERA. Lepler also checks in with the recently-retired Andrew Jones, and former Sox farmhand James Kang.
  • Jose Iglesias spent his offseason working on strength, and the 11 pounds he added is contributing to his added confidence at the plate, writes Tim Britton. 
  • Tuesday at the World Baseball Classic, reliever Jose De La Torre tossed a very impressive inning for Puerto Rico against the United States, Tim Britton relays. After allowing a pair of baserunners, De La Torre struck out major league All-Stars Jimmy Rollins, Brandon Phillips and Ryan Braun on 13 pitches, 10 of which were sliders.
  • Speier reports that Bryce Brentz is back to 100 percent and ready to play in games after an offseason incident where he accidentally shot himself in the leg while cleaning his gun. If he proves himself ready to go, the 2010 first rounder is likely to be assigned to Pawtucket to start the 2013 season.
  • The spring training roster is down to 51 after six players were cut. Steven Wright and Alex Hassan were optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket, while Jeremy Hazelbaker, Juan Carlos Linares, Mark Hamilton, and Pedro Beato were reassigned to minor league camp. 
  • Checking in on Rule 5 picks, Josh Fields had a tough week for the Astros, allowing three runs on five hits in 2 innings of work in his pair of appearances. Fields is still likely to make the Astros roster. Ryan Pressly has continued to impress for Minnesota, with a pair of scoreless outings, including two perfect innings on Thursday against the Red Sox. Pressly has allowed only one run on five hits in 10 innings of work.
  • Several minor league players who are not in major league camp have gotten one-day calls and appeared in game action, including Ronald Bermudez, Ryan Dent, Marco Duarte, Heiker Meneses, Henry Ramos, David Renfroe, Pete Ruiz, and Shannon Wilkerson.
  • The PawSox have tabbed Bob Socci to team with Jeff Levering in the radio booth this season. The all-new pair replaces the duo of Aaron Goldsmith and Steve Hyder.
  • For those of you heading down to Fort Myers that would like the chance to check out some minor league action, Kevin Pereira has put together the game schedule.
Photo credit: Jackie Bradley, Jr. by Kelly O'Connor.

James Dunne and John Gray are Staff Writers for SoxProspects.com. Follow James on Twitter @JamesMDunne and John @JohnRGray.