Boston Red Sox Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By Jim Callis
1. Seung Song, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 192. Signed: Korea, 1999. Signed by:Ray Poitevint.
Background:Song may not want the distinction of being Bostons No. 1 prospect, given his predecessors. Righthander Brian Rose (1998) has bounced around between four organizations in the last two years. First baseman/outfielder Dernell Stenson (1999, 2001) has fallen out of the top 15 before reaching the majors, while catcher Steve Lomasney (2000) has missed as many games as he has played in since ranking No. 1. The Red Sox have poured a lot of money into the Asian market with little to show for it so far, and Song is their best chance at a contributing big leaguer. He pitched Kyung Nam High to a Korean national title in 1998 before signing for $800,000 in February 1999. After leading the short-season New York-Penn League in strikeouts in 2000, Song finished second in the minors to Josh Beckett with a 1.90 ERA last season. He pitched a scoreless inning in the Futures Game in Seattle.
Strengths:Song has succeeded at every step because of his intelligence and feel for pitching. It also helps to have good stuff. He pitches anywhere from 90-94 mph with his fastball, and he can put it anywhere he wants. Managers rated his control the best in the low Class A South Atlantic League in 2001. Songs curveball can overmatch hitters when its at its best, and he improved his changeup last year to the point where its an effective third pitch. He mixes his pitches and changes speeds well, and his corkscrew delivery makes him deceptive. Song has allowed just seven longballs in 261 pro innings and doesnt have any problems with lefthanders. He has sound mechanics and is durable.
Weaknesses:Song likes to throw his fastball up in the strike zone and get batters to chase it. More advanced hitters may lay off the pitch or punish it. He comes straight over the top, which costs him some life on his pitches. Like any young pitcher, he needs to make his secondary pitches more consistent.
The Future:Having had no trouble in high Class A, Song probably will open 2002 in Double-A Trenton. If he continues his progress, he could reach Triple-A Pawtucket or perhaps even Boston by seasons end. He projects as a No. 2 or 3 starter in the majors.
2. Tony Blanco, 3b
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 176. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1998. Signed by:Levy Ochoa.
Background:Blanco set the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League home run record in his U.S. debut in 2000. He continued to show power last season despite bursitis in his right shoulder, which forced him to split time between third base and DH before he had arthroscopic surgery in August. The Red Sox named him their player of the year at low Class A Augusta.
Strengths:Blanco has a quick bat that makes him a threat to go deep at any time and allows him to hit for average. He held his own in the South Atlantic League as a teenager despite his shoulder problems. Defensively, he has a strong arm, good body control and some quickness.
Weaknesses:Overly aggressive at the plate, Blanco will have to show better discipline against more advanced pitchers. Though managers named him the best defensive third baseman in the SAL, he needs a quicker first step and smoother footwork.
The Future:Blanco took things slowly in instructional league but should be healthy by spring training. Third base is the Red Sox weakest offensive position, though theyll have to wait two or three years before Blanco is ready. Hell move up to high Class A in 2002.
3. Rene Miniel, rhp
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 175. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1998. Signed by:Levy Ochoa.
Background:Miniel had two nearly identical seasons as a reliever in the GCL before opening 2001 in Augustas bullpen. When lefthander Mauricio Lara succumbed to back problems, Miniel moved to the rotation and struggled. Then he went 6-2, 1.48 in his last 15 starts, including seven no-hit innings in an Aug. 25 win against Charleston, S.C.
Strengths:Miniels 91-96 mph fastball rivals Manny Delcarmens as the best in the system, and he has good command of his heat. At times, he shows a hard curveball that gives him a second plus pitch. He gave up just one homer last year and held both lefties and righties to a .211 average. He held up well over his first season as a starter.
Weaknesses:Miniel is still a thrower at this point. He sometimes loses the tightness on his curve, which breaks out of the strike zone. His changeup is very much a work in progress. After being kept on a short leash with pitch counts, hell have to prove he can work deeper into games.
The Future:Because hes so raw as a pitcher, Miniel will move slowly through the system. He should spend 2002 in high Class A.
4. Manny Delcarmen, rhp
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HSWest Roxbury, Mass., 2000 (2nd round). Signed by:Ray Fagnant.
Background:For obvious reasons, the Red Sox scout New England heavily. Their best local prospect is Delcarmen, a Dominican who was the first inner-city Boston player drafted in three decades. The Padres tried to get him when Boston was looking to foist Carl Everett on another club this winter, so the Red Sox swung a deal with the Rangers instead.
Strengths:Delcarmen has the potential for two plus pitches and a third that should be average. He has the best fastball in the system, regularly throwing 92-94 mph and reaching 95-96. He also has a hard breaking ball and a decent changeup. He shows poise and has an understanding of how to mix his pitches.
Weaknesses:Though he dominated GCL hitters, Delcarmen is still a long way from the major leagues. Hell have to throw more strikes as he makes the climb, and hell also need to get more consistent with his breaking ball and changeup.
The Future:Delcarmen has as high a ceiling as any pitcher in the system, including Seung Song and Rene Miniel, who rank ahead of him right now. He should head to low Class A in 2002.
5. Casey Fossum, lhp
Age: 24. B-T: B-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 160. Drafted: Texas A&M, 1999 (1st round supplemental). Signed by:Jim Robinson.
Background:While fellow 1999 first-round picks Rick Asadoorian (since traded to the Cardinals) and Brad Baker regressed last season, Fossum finished the year in the Red Sox rotation. He allowed one earned run or less in 12 of his 20 Double-A starts, a far better indication of how he pitched than his 3-7 record.
Strengths:Fossums 73-79 mph curveball is the top breaking pitch in the system; lefthanders cant touch it. He throws strikes and gets nice downward movement with his fastball, which rarely tops 90 mph. Hes mentally tough.
Weaknesses:Because he has just one plus pitch, Fossum projects more as a reliever or swingman than a full-time starter. He had a good changeup in college but has gotten away from it as a pro. Hes not durable, as he tires quickly and often starts leaving his pitches up in the strike zone by the fourth inning.
The Future:Fossum had a 0.93 ERA as a big league reliever, compared to a 5.97 ERA as a starter. That performance, and Bostons offseason additions of John Burkett, Dustin Hermanson and Darren Oliver, means Fossum will compete for a bullpen job in spring training.
6. Freddy Sanchez, ss
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 185. Drafted: Oklahoma City, 2000 (11th round). Signed by:Ernie Jacobs.
Background:Sanchez went to the NAIA World Series with Dallas Baptist in 1999, then earned NAIA all-America honors at Oklahoma City and short-season Lowells MVP award the following year. But no one was prepared for his breakout performance last season. He led all minor league shortstops with a .334 average and made the Arizona Fall League all-prospect team after hitting .348.
Strengths:Sanchez has proven he can make contact, hit for average and drive balls into the gaps. He recognizes pitches well and has a sound stroke. Hes a gritty player who has soft hands on defense.
Weaknesses:Most scouts dont think Sanchez can stay at shortstop. He lacks the range and agility for the position, and his average arm would fit better at second base. He spent most of his time in the AFL at third, but he lacks the power for the hot corner. Offensively, he could draw more walks.
The Future:The Red Sox havent give up on Sanchez as a shortstop. They might give him a look in spring training as a utilityman, but hell probably wind up playing short in Triple-A this year.
7. Phil Dumatrait, lhp
Age: 20. B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 170. Drafted: Bakersfield (Calif.) JC, 2000 (1st round). Signed by:Ed Roebuck.
Background:Because Dumatrait threw in the low 80s as a high school senior, he wasnt drafted in 1999. When his velocity soared in junior college, he became a first-round pick a year later. Signability played a part in his draft status, though he had a strong pro debut in 2001 after shoulder tendinitis sidelined him early in the season.
Strengths:Dumatraits ceiling is considerably higher than Fossums and is better than any Red Sox minor league leftys. His curveball has a sharp 12-to-6 break and is a legitimate plus-plus pitch. Hes not a soft-tossing southpaw, either, as he throws an 89-92 mph fastball that touches 94. He has good command of his pitches and emotions.
Weaknesses:Dumatraits changeup shows promise but is still a ways from being an average pitch. As with Manny Delcarmen, any excitement about Dumatrait must be tempered by the fact that he has yet to pitch in full-season ball.
The Future:Dumatrait and Delcarmen should team up again in low Class A. Because hes lefthanded, has more refined stuff and throws more strikes, Dumatrait is the favorite to win the race to Fenway Park.
8. Josh Thigpen, rhp
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 195. Drafted: HSGreenville, Ala., 2000 (16th round). Signed by:Joe Mason.
Background:Scouting director Wayne Britton quickly identified Freddy Sanchez and Thigpen as the sleepers of his 2000 draft class, and both players made him look good last year. An all-Alabama performer in baseball, football and basketball in high school, Thigpen teamed with Delcarmen and Dumatrait to form an imposing front three in the GCL rotation.
Strengths:Thigpen has big-time velocity and plenty of projection. He already touches 96 mph with a nice, easy arm action, and he should reach that level more often once he fills out his 6-foot-4 frame. GCL hitters batted just .152 against him. Thigpen throws strikes and flashes an average curveball. The Red Sox praise his makeup as well.
Weaknesses:Theres a lot to like about Thipgen, and theres also a lot he needs to work on. He needs to get more consistent with his curve, improve his changeup and fine-tune his command. With just 42 innings of pro experience, he still has much to learn.
The Future:After two years in the GCL, Thigpen will be reunited with Delcarmen and Dumatrait in low Class A this season. It will be a good test for all three of them.
9. Anastacio Martinez, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 180. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1998. Signed by:Levy Ochoa.
Background:Martinez had only sporadic success while pitching at Augusta in 1999 and 2000, but he handled the jump to Sarasota well last year. Though he led the Florida State League in losses, he did make 14 quality starts in 24 tries. Boston added him to its 40-man roster in November.
Strengths:His smooth arm action allows Martinez to throw in the low 90s with ease. He tops out in the mid-90s and has reached that level in the late innings. He throws strikes to both sides of the plate and locates his pitches well, getting lots of ground balls.
Weaknesses:Martinez is still a project, and some scouts see him as a middle reliever because he lacks a consistent offspeed offering. His slurvy breaking ball is a fringe pitch; his changeup is average at best. Hell need to improve one of them to succeed as a starter at the upper levels.
The Future:The Red Sox will move Martinez to Double-A in 2002 and hope he can round out his repertoire. He has the fastball to be effective out of the bullpen, but theyd love for him to be able to stay in the rotation.
10. Franklin Francisco, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 210. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1996. Signed by:Levy Ochoa.
Background:Francisco is the fourth player on the top 10 signed out of the Dominican Republic by Levy Ochoa. He missed all of 1997 and most of 2000 with injuries, and he required elbow surgery before last season. He strained his shoulder in April but was dominant once he returned.
Strengths:Francisco is all about power, throwing a 92-95 mph fastball and a 78-80 mph curveball. Once he got both pitches working in tandem last year, it was all over for South Atlantic League hitters. In the final two months, he averaged 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings while opponents hit .124 against him.
Weaknesses:Repeated attempts to teach Francisco a changeup failed, which is why hes limited to the bullpen. Hes probably 30 pounds heavier than his listed weight of 180 pounds. His body could go south in a hurry. Hell have to throw more strikes, though his command improved in July and August.
The Future:Francisco will start 2002 in high Class A, where he may get his first regular opportunity as a closer, and could reach Double-A by the end of the season. Hes two or three years away from Boston.
Rest of the Best:
11. Matt Thompson, rhp
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