Jim Callis took your Red Sox questions
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections
of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development
personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards
of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time)
are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2006.
Perhaps the Red Sox’ New Year’s resolution should be to
achieve resolution. As 2005 drew to a close, outfielder Manny Ramirez,
who demanded a trade Oct. 29 and threatened to not report to spring
training otherwise, remained Boston property.
But the burning question in Red Sox Nation is whether former general
manager Theo Epstein will be in the club’s employ in 2006. Talks
on a contact extension with team president Larry Lucchino broke down
after they agreed on a three-year, $4.5 million deal, and Epstein stepped
down on Oct. 31 without detailing the reasons behind his decision.
Yet rumors that Epstein, the architect of the 2004 championship team
and the first three-year streak of postseason appearances in Boston
history, will return in some capacity have persisted since he left.
When the Red Sox officially replaced him with former Epstein lieutenants
Ben Cherington and Jed Hoyer on Dec. 12, Lucchino said at the press
conference that Epstein was welcome to come back.
Cherington, 31, joined the Red Sox in 1999 as an area scout and was
promoted to farm director in December 2002. Hoyer, 32, was hired by
Cherington in 2002 and was an assistant to Epstein for the last two
Even if Epstein stays away, the in-house promotions mean that Boston
will keep a good chunk of its braintrust. Assistant GM Josh Byrnes took
the Diamondbacks’ GM job before Epstein resigned, and Byrnes brought
director of baseball operations Peter Woodfork with him. But Cherington
and Hoyer are obviously sticking around, as is scouting director Jason
McLeod. The Red Sox also would like to retain special assistants Bill
Lajoie and Craig Shipley, though Lajoie, 71, has health issues, and
Shipley may join Byrnes and Woodfork in Arizona.
All the front-office machinations and the sudden loss of Johnny Damon
have helped obscure the fact that the Red Sox system is percolating
with its most talent in years. Jonathan Papelbon came up at midseason
and quickly asserted himself as the top set-up man in a beleaguered
bullpen. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia, catcher Kelly Shoppach, righty
relievers Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen and lefty starter Jon Lester
may be counted on for key contributions in 2006. The Red Sox had the
prospect depth to not have to think twice about including shortstop
Hanley Ramirez, righthander Anibal Sanchez and two power arms in a November
blockbuster that landed them Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and Guillermo
Mota from the Marlins.
Boston also added plenty of talent in 2005. In his first draft as scouting
director, McLeod had five picks before the second round. All five of
his choices—outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, Hansen, righthanders Clay
Buchholz and Michael Bowden, infielder Jed Lowrie—had very promising
debuts. At the Winter Meetings, the Red Sox traded for a blue-chip prospect,
getting third baseman Andy Marte from the Braves for Edgar Renteria.
October 21, 1983 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-1 Wt: 195
Dominican Republic, 2000 Signed by: Rene Francisco/Julian
Background: After losing free agent Rafael Furcal
to the Dodgers, the Braves wanted Edgar Renteria as a replacement, and
the Red Sox were happy to oblige. The teams talked to the Devil Rays about
a three-team deal that would have sent Marte (Atlanta’s No. 1 prospect)
to Tampa Bay and Julio Lugo to Boston. But when the Rays asked for an
extra prospect, the Red Sox traded Renteria straight up for Marte. Signed
for $600,000 out of the Dominican Republic, he has ranked among the game’s
top third-base prospects since his first full U.S. season in 2002. Once
compared to Miguel Cabrera, he hasn’t developed quite as fast but
still is just 22. Marte’s biggest problem in Atlanta was that Chipper
Jones is entrenched at the hot corner and doesn’t want to return
to the outfield. He got his first big league opportunity in June after
Jones strained a ligament in his left foot, but Marte hit just .200 with
three RBIs in 12 games before returning to the minors.
Strengths: Marte has everything teams want in a third baseman,
starting with tape-measure power. His stroke has a natural uppercut
that generates plenty of loft, and the ball jumps off his bat to all
fields. He’s an aggressive hitter who punishes mistakes, and he
has the bat speed and aptitude to hit for a solid average. His walk
rate has increased in each of the last three seasons. Marte also provides
quality glovework at the hot corner. Managers rated him the best defensive
third baseman in the Triple-A International League—the fourth
consecutive year he earned that honor in his league. He moves well to
both sides and has a strong, accurate arm. His 15 errors and .950 fielding
percentage in 2005 were career bests. The Braves gave him high marks
for his maturity and approach.
Weaknesses: As with most power hitters, Marte will pile up some
strikeouts to go with his homers. His swing can get long at times, and
he occasionally gets overanxious and chases breaking balls out of the
strike zone. His speed is slightly below average, and he’ll get
slower as he continues to fill out. However, he’s a smart runner
who’s not a liability on the bases. Marte’s elbow bothered
him slightly during the season but it wasn’t considered a serious
problem. There were reports that the Devil Rays backed out of the three-way
trade over concerns that Marte had a torn ligament. But the Red Sox
found his medical records to be clean, and he played without problems
in the Dominican League this offseason.
The Future: While he has the tools to become a star, his immediate
future remains uncertain. Marte’s best chance of cracking Boston’s
lineup is to wrest the first-base job from Kevin Youkilis. But Marte
never has played first base. He doesn’t have anything left to
prove in Triple-A, but may have to open the season in Pawtucket. It’s
also possible that the Red Sox will spin him in another trade to address
needs at first base, shortstop or center field.
2005 Club (Class)
January 7, 1984 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-4 Wt: 210
HS—Puyallup, Wash., 2002 (2nd round) Signed by:
Background: Lester’s long-awaited breakout
finally came in 2005, when he was Boston’s minor league pitcher
of the year. He won the same award in the Double-A Eastern League, which
he led in ERA, complete games and strikeouts. He was part of the failed
Alex Rodriguez trade talks in 2003, but the Red Sox refused to part with
him in the Josh Beckett deal.
Lester is a big, physical lefthander with a chance for three plus
pitches. His fastball has late life and has risen from 87-88 mph
in 2003 to 90-91 in 2004 to 92-93 last year, when he topped out
at 95. He has turned his cut fastball into a true slider that’s
now his No. 2 pitch. He can get both swings and misses and called
strikes with his changeup.
Once Lester gets a little more consistent with his secondary pitches
and his command, he’ll be ready for the big leagues. He’ll
keep batters off balance by throwing an occasional curveball,
but it lags behind his other offerings.
Boston doesn’t have an opening in its rotation, so Lester
will head to Triple-A. He should be ready if needed by the second
half, and he has the stuff to become a frontline starter.
2005 Club (Class)
PAPELBON, rhp Born:
November 13, 1980 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-4 Wt: 230
Mississippi State, 2003 (4th round) Signed by: Joe Mason
Background: The Red Sox wouldn’t have
made the playoffs last year without Papelbon. Boston won all three of
his starts after his July promotion, and in September, he became its primary
Papelbon’s best pitch is a 92-93 mph fastball that sits
at 95 when he works in relief, and his heater’s late life
makes it seem quicker. He can locate it to both sides of the plate
and blow it by hitters upstairs. Papelbon honed his fosh changeup
into a nasty splitter. His slider rates as a 55 on the 20-80 scouting
scale at times. He showed no fear as a rookie thrust into a pennant
Papelbon rarely had three pitches working for him at the same
time in the majors. His splitter and slider still can be refined.
He throws a curveball as a starter, but it’s a distant fourth
The Future: The Red Sox have greater need for relievers
than starters, so Papelbon should open 2006 in the bullpen. In
the long term, he should front Boston’s rotation along with
Josh Beckett and Jon Lester.
St. John’s, 2005 (1st round) Signed by: Ray Fagnant
Background: Hansen made the Diamondbacks’
short list to be drafted No. 1 overall but ultimately fell to the Red
Sox at No. 26 because of signability concerns. He landed a four-year,
$4.4 million big league contract with a $1.325 million bonus in July,
and overcame a tired arm to pitch for Boston in September.
Hansen has two dominant pitches and the makeup to be a big league
closer. He usually pitches at 93-95 mph with plus sink on his
fastball, and he’s capable of reaching 97. His slider was
the best breaking ball in the 2005 draft, a nasty mid-80s pitch
that seems allergic to bats.
Hansen’s tired arm was simply the result of a two-month
layoff after his college season ended, and his stuff wasn’t
as explosive as usual. When he dropped his arm angle trying to
add some bite on his slider, he lost some command with his fastball.
Hansen held his own in the majors despite not being at his best.
He could use more time in the minors but also could make the Red
Sox out of spring training. He’s their closer of the (near)
Arizona State, 2004 (2nd round) Signed by: Dan Madsen
Background: Boston’s top pick in 2004,
Pedroia hit .357 and played errorless ball in his pro debut. The Red Sox
gave him their minor league offensive player of the year award in 2005.
A wrist injury shortly after a promotion to Triple-A kept him from getting
called up to Boston.
Pedroia has extraordinary hand-eye coordination. He’s able
to swing from his heels yet make consistent contact with gap power.
Managers rated his strike-zone discipline and second-base defense
the best in the Eastern League last year. His instincts and makeup
Pedroia’s arm and range weren’t quite up to par at
shortstop, though Boston would have kept him there if he hadn’t
teamed with Hanley Ramirez at Double-A Portland last year. Pedroia’s
speed is a step below average, but he runs the bases well. He
needs to get stronger to hold up over a full season.
The Red Sox wouldn’t mind giving Pedroia some more time
in Triple-A. Tony Graffanino’s acceptance of arbitration
lessens Pedroia’s chances of winning the second-base job
this spring, but there’s also a hole at shortstop that he
2005 Club (Class)
of Born: September
11, 1983 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-1 Wt: 190
Oregon State, 2005 (1st round) Signed by: John Booher
Background: Ellsbury led Oregon State to its
first College World Series since 1952, and the Red Sox were elated that
he slipped to them as the No. 23 overall pick in the 2005 draft. Signed
for $1.4 million, he finished second in the short-season New York-Penn
League in steals despite getting a late start and missing two weeks with
a hamstring injury.
Ellsbury draws Johnny Damon comparisons because he’s a lefthanded-hitting
center fielder who can run and defend. Ellsbury has the bat-handling
ability, on-base skills and speed to hit atop the order. He’s
intelligent and has a solid work ethic.
Ellsbury’s arm is below-average but playable in center field,
and he plays shallow to compensate. He doesn’t have much
home run power, though he had no problem reaching the right-field
bullpen during a Fenway Park workout after big league hitting
coach Ron Jackson tinkered with his setup to get his swing started
The Future: There’s no reason Ellsbury shouldn’t
move quickly through the minors. He’ll begin his first full
season at high Class A Wilmington and could be pushing for a big
league job by 2008.
2005 Club (Class)
April 29, 1980 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-1 Wt: 210
Baylor, 2001 (2nd round) Signed by: Jim Robinson
Background: When the Red Sox re-signed free
agents Jason Varitek and Doug Mirabelli after the 2004 season, they sentenced
Shoppach to repeating Triple-A. He was named the International League’s
all-star catcher for the second straight year and led the league in homers
Shoppach has some similarities to Varitek in that he has above-average
power and strong leadership skills. Shoppach doesn’t hit
for average but draws enough walks to post respectable on-base
percentages. A strong arm and quick release allowed him to throw
out 44 percent of IL basestealers. His receiving and game-calling
skills are solid.
He’s pull-conscious and sells out for power, so Shoppach
strikes out a lot. Pitchers had their way with him in his first
brief taste of the majors last year, so he’ll have to make
some adjustments. He’s a slow runner.
By trading Mirabelli to the Padres, the Red Sox have cleared the
way for Shoppach to become Varitek’s backup with a good
HS—West Roxbury, Mass., 2000 (2nd round) Signed
by: Ray Fagnant
Background: Delcarmen was one of the system’s
top starting pitching prospects before requiring Tommy John surgery in
May 2003. He remained in the rotation when he came back in 2004, but switched
to the bullpen in the Arizona Fall League after the season. He rocketed
to Boston in his new role last year, though he was used sparingly in his
seven weeks in the majors.
Delcarmen regularly throws 94-95 mph and tops out at 97 as a reliever.
His fastball explodes through the zone, and he also can strike
hitters out with his hammer curveball. He has the demeanor and
the resilient arm to handle relief.
Delcarmen’s delivery gets out of whack too easily, leading
to problems with his command and the consistency of his pitches.
He rarely had his standout curve in the majors, forcing him to
rely on his decent changeup as his second pitch.
The Future: Delcarmen profiles as a set-up man, a commodity
the Red Sox desperately needed in 2005. Their offseason moves,
however, increased the chances Delcarmen will open 2006 in Triple-A.
Stanford, 2005 (1st round supplemental) Signed
by: Nakia HIll
Background: Lowrie won the Pacific-10 Conference
triple crown as a sophomore in 2004 but slipped as a junior, allowing
the Red Sox to get him with the 45th overall pick. Lowrie led the New
York-Penn League in on-base percentage and played a solid shortstop after
manning second base at Stanford.
After previous struggles in the Alaska League and with Team USA,
Lowrie eased doubts about his ability to hit with wood during
his pro debut. A switch-hitter, he shortened and smoothed out
his swing from the right side. He has good loft power from the
left side and knows the strike zone. The Red Sox think he has
enough arm strength and athleticism to remain at shortstop for
a while. He has average speed.
Lowrie’s ability to stick at shortstop hinges on his range.
His footwork and lateral movement are the question marks, though
he was better than expected in both areas. He’s not used
to making plays from deep in the hole, which give him trouble.
The Future: Lowrie will skip a level and go to high Class
A for his first full season. With Dustin Pedroia playing second
base and Hanley Ramirez traded, Lowrie is now the system’s
top shortstop prospect.
Angelina (Texas) JC, 2005 (1st round supplemental) Signed
by: Jim Robinson
Background: After getting just 18 at-bats as
a freshman infielder at McNeese State in 2004, Buchholz transferred to
Angelina (Texas) JC to get more playing time. The move paid off, as he
starred as a two-way player and went 42nd overall in the 2005 draft, signing
Strengths: Despite his inexperience on the mound, Buchholz
has a fair amount of polish, outstanding athleticism and tremendous
potential. While he pitched mostly at 88-92 mph while working
on strict pitch limits at short-season Lowell, he often picked
up velocity and sat at 93-94 in the late innings at Angelina.
His changeup is his second-best pitch right now, and he also has
the makings of an above-average slider and curveball.
Some teams avoided him in the draft because he was arrested in
April 2004 and charged with stealing laptop computers from a middle
school and selling them. Boston officials say they aren’t
concerned about further problems. His secondary pitches come and
Buchholz will open 2006 at low Class A Greenville. A potential
No. 3 starter, he’ll move as quickly as he refines his breaking
pitches and changeup.
2005 Club (Class)
Lowrie, Pedroia: Mike Janes
Papelbon: Steve Moore
Marte: Sports on Film
Clay Buchholz: Rodger Wood