Former Red Sox top prospect Ryan Westmoreland announced his retirement from baseball today in a statement he emailed to members of the media.
Westmoreland, 22, hadn't played in a game since doctors detected a cavernous malformation in his brain in March 2010, and performed five hours of surgery to repair it. After making significant progress in his comeback and targeting a return to the diamond by the end of last season, he developed complications related to the malformation (an abnormal cluster of blood vessels) and had a second surgery last July.
"With a clear mind and heart, as well as the unwavering support and friendship of my family, friends, agent(s), doctors, therapists and the Boston Red Sox, I have decided to voluntarily retire as a professional baseball player," Westmoreland said in his statement. "Although it is a very difficult decision for me, it has become clear that the neurological damage caused by the most recent cavernous malformation and surgery leaves me with physical challenges that make it impossible to play the game at such a high level."
A fifth-round pick out of Portsmouth (R.I.) High in 2008, Westmoreland signed for $2 million. He played his lone pro season in 2009, when he batted .296/.401/.484 at short-season Lowell and rated as the New York-Penn League's No. 1 prospect. We ranked him as Boston's No. 1 prospect after that season, filing this scouting report:
Background: Westmoreland drew relatively little interest as a high school senior in 2008. He showed interesting athleticism at the Area Code Games the summer before, but didn't stand out. His commitment to Vanderbilt, $2 million asking price and the weather-related difficulties of scouting a Rhode Island prep player meant that few teams focused on him in the spring. One of just four clubs to talk to him directly, Boston selected him in the fifth round. Westmoreland joined the Bayside Yankees, one of the nation's top amateur teams, for the summer, giving the Red Sox more time to evaluate him. After watching him hit .557/.658/.918 for Bayside, they considered him the equivalent of a top-five-overall pick and gladly paid him $2 million at the Aug. 15 signing deadline. A pre-existing injury to his throwing shoulder turned out to be a torn labrum and required surgery in November, so Boston had him mostly DH during his pro debut at short-season Lowell in 2009. Westmoreland rated as the New York-Penn League's top prospect after exuding five-tool potential. The only negative came on Aug. 28, when he broke his collarbone crashing into the outfield wall while making a catch. Westmoreland didn't do any further damage to his shoulder and should be healthy for spring training.
Strengths: Former Red Sox scouting director Jason McLeod says Westmoreland has more upside than any player the club selected in his five years running its drafts. His skills are just as impressive as his considerable tools. Westmoreland has an advanced approach for a teenager, with a short stroke, control of the strike zone and a willingness to use the entire field. His hand-eye coordination allows him to barrel balls consistently, and he has above-average power potential. He has plus-plus speed and knows how to use it, swiping 19 bases without getting caught at Lowell. Westmoreland has above-average range and should be a quality defender in center field. He also starred as a pitcher in high school, and his arm should grade as at least average once it's back to 100 percent. He's an intelligent player with the makeup to succeed.
Weaknesses: Westmoreland basically just needs to get healthy and soak up pro experience. An all-state soccer player and basketball star, he never concentrated on baseball year-round before turning pro. Boston has had him take it easy on his shoulder, so his arm isn't back to full strength yet. He used a low-three-quarters delivery when he pitched in high school and needs to raise his arm angle as an outfielder. While he has the tools for center field, he has yet to play there in pro ball.
The Future: After watching the hype get to their last two No. 1 prospects, Clay Buchholz and Lars Anderson, the Red Sox are trying to temper expectations for Westmoreland. That's hard to do with such a polished athlete, especially one with New England roots. He'll probably open 2010 at low Class A Greenville but is talented enough to force a promotion to high Class A Salem by season's end. He's a potential 30-30 player who one day could bat third in the Boston lineup.
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