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November 1, 2013 at 8:00 AM

Top 40 Season in Review: Anthony Ranaudo


SoxProspects.com is counting down its season-end top 40 prospects, recapping their seasons and previewing what's ahead in 2014. You can find all of the entries in this year's series here.

2013 Teams: Portland Sea Dogs/Pawtucket Red Sox
Final Stats: 140 IP, 11-5, 2.96 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 127 SO, 47 BB

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Pre-2013: After a dominant sophomore campaign in 2009 at Louisiana State University (LSU), many projected Ranaudo to be a top-five pick in the 2010 draft. After battling through injuries and ineffectiveness in his junior season, Ranaudo fell to the 39th pick in the draft, where the Red Sox selected him with the compensation pick they received for Billy Wagner. Ranaudo agreed to a $2,550,000 deal minutes before the signing deadline, so he did not make his first professional appearance until 2011. Ranaudo opened the 2011 season in Greenville, and he made only 10 starts with the Drive, only allowing runs in half of those, before getting bumped up to Salem. Ranaudo pitched well after his promotion, allowing seven runs in 23 innings over his first four starts, but he appeared to tire as the summer went on. In his next 35 2/3 innings over 7 starts, Ranaudo allowed 26 earned runs and struck out only 24 batters, a disappointing number for a pitcher who finished third in the nation in strikeouts during his sophomore season at LSU. He bounced back from this rough stretch to end the season strong, giving him something to build on as he entered 2012.

The 2012 season was tough for Ranaudo. After an impressive showing in spring training, a groin injury suffered just before the season delayed his Portland debut until May, and he was shut down in July due to dead-arm. When he did pitch, he battled with his mechanics and did not have the same stuff or command that he did in 2011. He threw only 37 2/3 innings, walked as many as he struck out (27) and had an ERA of 6.69. He attempted to salvage something from the end of the year by pitching for Caguas in Puerto Rico’s winter league, but he re-injured the groin after four starts and just 9 1/3 innings. It was a lost season for Ranaudo, and after two years in the system, he had failed to live up to the lofty expectations fans had after the 2010 draft.

2013 Season in Review: The 6-foot-7 right-hander came out on a mission in 2013, taking out all his frustration from 2012 on the Eastern League hitters. Ranaudo was the SoxProspects.com Pitcher of the Month for April and May, totaling 56 innings with a 1.45 ERA, striking out 58 and walking 15 in that span. Ranaudo was rewarded for his success, starting in the Eastern League All-Star game, as well as representing the United States in the All-Star Futures Game at Citi Field. While he was not able to keep the pace he set over the first two months of the season, Ranaudo showed the Red Sox that he was ready to be challenged, and they promoted him to Pawtucket on August 2. Ranaudo was a bit inconsistent with the PawSox, allowing one run or less in 4 of his 6 starts, but he allowed nine runs in the other two starts. Ranaudo did throw six innings of one-run ball in game one of the Governors’ Cup, a game which put an exclamation point on a terrific season. The accolades kept coming after the season, as he was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year as well as a year-end All-Star.

First-Hand Report and 2014 Outlook: Early in the season, Portland manager Kevin Boles said that Ranaudo deserved a pass for his injury-plagued 2012 campaign. In several looks this year, Ranaudo showed a level of quality that, while not up to deserved hype from his LSU days, put him firmly onto the major-league radar. In May, he was able to maintain and command his fastball down in the zone at 93-95 mph. In a July start, he sat in the low 90s, but still with the same solid command.

Ranaudo’s breaking ball, a hammer curve that sits between 78-82 mph, grades as plus, and he can locate the pitch both for swinging and looking strikes. Key to his development, however, will be his changeup, which also sits in the low 80s but can be inconsistent.

Developing his third pitch will ultimately dictate Ranaudo’s future role with Boston. Though they’re isolated outings, his struggles in short stints both in the MLB Futures Game and Eastern League All-Star Game raised concerns about his arsenal in short stints. Ranaudo performs best when he gets into a rhythm and doesn’t overthrow, but to succeed as a starter, a reliable third pitch is necessary. Ranuado’s promotion to Triple-A late in the season was well-earned, and he’ll likely begin there as he solidifies himself as a candidate for the major-league staff. – Jon Meoli

Photo Credit: Anthony Ranaudo by Kelly O'Connor

 
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