Boston Red Sox Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By Jim Callis
1. Dernell Stenson, 1b/of
Age: 22. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 230. Drafted: HSLaGrange, Ga., 1996 (3rd round). Signed by: Kevin Burrell.
Background: At the time, Baseball America rated the Red Sox 1996 draft the best in the game. Now it appears Stenson may be all they get out of that crop. The other most promising prospects from that draft are all with other teams: righthander Chris Reitsma (first round, now with the Reds), outfielder John Barnes (fourth, Twins) and lefthander Rob Ramsay (seventh, Mariners). And Stensons star has dimmed. He was named the best batting prospect and No. 2 prospect in the Double-A Eastern League in 1998 and in the Triple-A International League in 1999, but tailed off in a return trip to the IL in 2000. USA Baseball inquired about adding Stenson to the Olympic team, but the Red Sox didnt give their consentand then didnt promote him in September. He missed time early in the year with wrist and hamstring injuries.
Strengths: Stenson has the tools to be the impact hitter the Red Sox desperately need in a lineup that has just two, Nomar Garciaparra and Carl Everett. He has the balance, bat speed, short stroke and pitch recognition to produce for both average and power. Nobody in Bostons lineup can match Stensons power potential. He didnt turn 22 until midseason, so hes still ahead of the normal development cycle, and he has never been overmatched despite consistently being one of the youngest players in his league. He made decent progress against lefthanders in 2000 after struggling against them the year before.
Weaknesses: For all his offensive gifts, Stenson has batted .257, .268 and .268 the last three years. And if he doesnt mash in the major leagues, he wont play because he contributes nothing beyond his bat. Originally an outfielder, he put on weight and slowed down, prompting a move to first base in 1999. Stenson led all minor league first basemen with 34 errors and was even worse defensively than that would suggest. He played at first and in left field this year, and he probably will never be more than adequate at either position.
The Future: Boston is overloaded with first base/left field/DH types, so Stenson could be in for a third trip to Triple-A to begin 2001. In a perfect world, he wouldnt be an organizations No. 1 prospect. But the Red Sox system is far from perfect.
2. Brad Baker, rhp
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 178. Drafted: HSLeyden, Mass., 1999 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Ray Fagnant.
Background: Losing Mo Vaughn as a free agent didnt endear the Red Sox to their fans, but the club salvaged something by taking outfielder Rick Asadoorian and Baker with the compensation first-round picks. In his first full pro season, Baker quickly established himself as the organizations top pitching prospect.
Strengths: Baker can reach 95 mph, though he more comfortably pitches in the low 90s and is more of a pitcher than an overpowering thrower. He has a quick arm that makes his fastball seem harder than it is. His curveball is also a plus pitch, and he brings poise to the mound. He works down in the strike zone, getting groundouts and keeping the ball in the park, allowing just three homers this year. Lefties batted just .204 against him.
Weaknesses: Baker can improve the consistency of his secondary pitches, which also include a changeup. He also needs to get stronger, which could result in increased velocity.
The Future: The Red Sox resisted the temptation to promote Baker to high Class A in 2000, when he was just 19. Hell make the move next year and could begin to progress quickly through the system.
3. Tony Blanco, 3b
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 176. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1998. Signed by: Levy Ochoa.
Background: The Red Sox named Blanco their 1999 player of the year on their Rookie-level Dominican Summer League affiliate, but they werent prepared for his performance in his Stateside debut. He was the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, where he and teammate Bryan Barnowski tied the league record with 13 homers each.
Strengths: Blanco has several notable tools. His throwing arm rates the maximum 8 on the 2-to-8 scouting scale. He has exceptional bat speed, which generates light-tower power and allows him to hit for average as well. Blanco also exhibits decent patience at the plate.
Weaknesses: He struck out in nearly one-fourth of his at-bats in 2000, though no one can argue with his production. If he can get lighter on his feet and improve his lateral movement, he can be a standout defender at the hot corner.
The Future: Though Blanco was a bit overmatched in the short-season New York-Penn League, hell probably go to low Class A Augusta in 2001. Hes at least three years away from Boston.
4. Sun-Woo Kim, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 180. Signed: Korea, 1997. Signed by: Ray Poitevint.
Background: Kim pitched Korea to the 1994 World Junior Championship title and in 1996 became his nations youngest baseball Olympian ever. He signed with the Red Sox for $1 million a year later. Kim won the Futures Game and was part of an Arizona Fall League championship club in 1999, but his 2000 season at Pawtucket was most notable for a fight with Japans Tomokazu Ohka over who was the better prospect.
Strengths: Kim has the highest ceiling of any of the Asian pitchers in the upper levels of Bostons system. He has excellent movement on his fastball, which touches 95 mph, and has no problem throwing it for strikes. Kim also has the potential to have an above-average breaking pitch and possibly a plus changeup. He pitches to both sides of the plate.
Weaknesses: Kim needs to further develop his offspeed stuff and refine his location within the strike zone. He throws too many strikes and is vulnerable when he doesnt get his pitches down. Kims release point tends to wander, though that may be by design.
The Future: Kim needs to have success in Triple-A before hes ready for Boston. He has better stuff than Ohka but lacks his feel for pitching.
5. Casey Fossum, lhp
Age: 23. B-T: B-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 160. Drafted: Texas A&M, 1999 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Jim Robinson.
Background: Boston regrettably gave up righthander Matt Kinney and outfielder John Barnes in a 1998 trade with the Twins for veterans Greg Swindell and Orlando Merced, but got Fossum with a compensation pick after Swindell signed with Arizona. Fossum set season and career strikeout records at Texas A&M. He went 7-2, 2.33 in the second half of 2000, highlighted by a no-hitter with 16 whiffs in August.
Strengths: Fossum reminds scouts of Jimmy Key. He can reach 91-92 mph with his fastball, and his best pitch is a hard slider. He has very good command, lots of confidence and a sound delivery. He destroyed lefties in 2000, limiting them to a .105 average with no homers in 95 at-bats.
Weaknesses: Fossums changeup is improving, but it still needs some more work before hell be able to keep righties in check. He also could add more strength.
The Future: Fossum is the only true prospect among lefthanders who pitched in full-season ball for the Red Sox in 2000. Hell start next season in Double-A and has an outside chance to reach Boston by the end of the year. At worst, hell make a good situational reliever.
6. Steve Lomasney, c
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 195. Drafted: HSPeabody, Mass., 1995 (5th round). Signed by: Buzz Bowers.
Background: Ranked as Bostons No. 1 prospect after the 1999 season, Lomasney endured a trying year in 2000. The former Boston College football recruit went 0-for-19 in his first five games and couldnt get his average above .200 until late May. He made just six rehab appearances after injuring his hamstring in mid-July.
Strengths: Lomasney shows strong tools behind the plate. Hes athletic and has good receiving and throwing skills. As a hitter, he has power potential and a willingness to draw walks. His mental toughness helped him get out of his early-season slump and bat .291 the rest of the way.
Weaknesses: Lomasney is a career .236 hitter. The Red Sox wanted him to focus on hitting breaking pitches in 2000, and he took it to an extreme, letting too many hittable fastballs go by. His release gets sluggish at times, which is why he threw out just 19 percent of basestealers at Double-A Trenton.
The Future: He has yet to hit much in two Double-A stints, so Lomasney could get a third trip to Trenton before moving up to Triple-A. His ceiling is as a solid backstop who could hit 15-20 homers a year.
7. Seung Song, rhp
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 192. Signed: Korea, 1999. Signed by: Ray Poitevint.
Background: Song pitched his high school team to a national championship and was considered the top amateur in Korea when the Red Sox signed him to an $800,000 bonus. After a fine debut in the GCL a year ago, he led the New York-Penn League in strikeouts this season.
Strengths: Song is a power pitcher with exquisite command. He already touches 94 mph and has a 154-40 strikeout-walk ratio as a pro. He has taught himself a curveball that should give him a second above-average pitch. He has allowed just three homers in two seasons. His body is strong, especially his legs, and he has mastered English quickly, which should accelerate his development.
Weaknesses: Song tends to rely on his fastball and will need to throw his curve more often at higher levels. Currently his weakest pitch, his changeup will need more work as well
The Future: Song easily could go to Augusta and dominate to the extent that Baker did. The Red Sox were patient and left Baker there for all of 2000, and may do the same with Song this time. Hes advanced for a young pitcher and could force a more aggressive timetable.
8. Mauricio Lara, lhp
Age: 21. B-T: B-L. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 185. Signed: Mexico, 1998. Signed by: Lee Sigman.
Background: Lara may be the best prospect signed by Mexico-based scout Lee Sigman since he helped the Brewers obtain Ted Higuera in the mid-1980s. Though Lara hadnt pitched in the United States before 2000, the Red Sox sent him to Augusta after a month in extended spring training. Lara pitched well in relief before getting more innings as a starter in the New York-Penn League, where he was ranked the No. 5 prospect.
Strengths: Though hes not even 6 feet tall, Lara has excellent velocity for a lefthander. He throws consistently in the low 90s and can touch 94 mph. His curveball also is above average. Lara has good mound presence and a nice feel for pitching. He didnt permit a homer in 85 NY-P innings.
Weaknesses: Like many young pitchers, Lara possesses only a rudimentary changeup. If he develops it into an average third pitch, he could rise quickly through the minors.
The Future: Lara and Song formed a potent lefty-righty 1-2 punch at Lowell and should do the same at Augusta in 2001. Laras ceiling is higher than that of any Red Sox lefty, including Fossum.
9. Paxton Crawford, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 205. Drafted: HSCarlsbad, N.M., 1995 (9th round). Signed by: Ray Crone.
Background: Crawford had trouble regaining his stuff after straining his forearm and breaking his wrist in 1998, but it finally came back in 2000. Crawford earned his first major league win in July, then threw a Triple-A no-hitter in a temporary demotion. The night after his gem, he fell out of bed and onto a glass, requiring eight stitches in his back and delaying his return to Boston until September.
Strengths: Crawford has solid average stuff with a two-seam fastball, slider and changeup. He succeeds with his fastball because it has good sink and his delivery makes it tough to pick up. He works quickly, is durable and throws strikes.
Weaknesses: Crawford sometimes falls into a power-pitcher mentality, which causes his slider to flatten out. The only pitch he has that has a chance to be above average is his changeup.
The Future: Crawford is about as good as hes going to be. He projects as a No. 4 or 5 starter in the majors, and the Red Sox will give him the chance to fill that role in spring training.
10. Sang-Hoon Lee, lhp
Age: 30. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 190. Signed: Korea, 1999. Signed by: Ray Poitevint.
Background: Lee led the Korea Baseball Organization in wins in 1994 and 1995, then moved to the bullpen following a back injury. He led the league in saves in 1997 before being sold to Japans Chunichi Dragons, whom he helped to a Central League pennant in 1999. He signed a two-year major league contract with a $1.05 million bonus last December.
Strengths: Lee throws 89-93 mph, and his deceptive arm angle and quick arm make his fastball that much tougher. His changeup is his No. 2 pitch, and he shows a curveball and slider. Lee has a closers mentality and probably has the stuff to be a starter, though he prefers to relieve.
Weaknesses: Lee needs to throw his changeup more often. He sometimes drops his arm angle too low, which makes his breaking pitches less effective. In his first year in the United States, he took time to understand why he didnt receive the star treatment he got in Asia.
The Future: More than just a situational lefty, Lee should be a key cog in Bostons 2001 bullpen. He could be an option at closer if the Red Sox decide to move Derek Lowe into their rotation.
Rest of the Best:
11. Juan Diaz, 1b
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