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|1.||Jacoby Ellsbury, of Born: Sept. 11, 1983 • B-T: L-L • Ht: 6-1 • Wt: 185|
|Drafted: Oregon State, 2005 (1st round) • Signed by: John Booher|
|Background: The Red Sox targeted Ellsbury with the 23rd overall pick in the 2005 draft, but didn't believe he had much of a chance of falling to them. Though several other clubs had him on their short list in the middle of the first round, he did get to Boston and signed for $1.4 million after leading Oregon State to its first College World Series appearance in 53 years. He has done nothing to disappoint in pro ball. In 2006, his first full season, managers rated him both the best and fastest baserunner and the top defensive outfielder in the high Class A Carolina League. He performed even better following a promotion to Double-A Portland, where he helped the Sea Dogs win the first Eastern League championship in franchise history. The Red Sox honored him with their minor league baserunner and defensive player of the year awards, and he concluded 2006 with another strong effort in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .333 in October.|
Strengths: Boston officials shy away from making the comparison, but Ellsbury can be the leadoff hitter and center field the team missed after letting Johnny Damon defect to the Yankees. He makes consistent hard line-drive contact with ease, thanks to a sound stroke and outstanding hand-eye coordination. He has hit just eight homers in 146 pro games, but there's some uppercut in his swing and strength in his frame that should allow him to produce at least 10-15 homers per year. Ellsbury has plus-plus speed that makes him an asset on the bases and in center field. He gets good jumps and takes efficient routes in center, enhancing his range. For all his success, he knows he still has adjustments to make and possesses the drive to ensure they get done.
Weaknesses: Ellsbury's lone below-average tool is his arm strength, but he compensates somewhat by getting to balls quickly and unloading quickly. With his current skillset, he'll be a good major league player. The work that remains is taking the next step to become a star. To be a premier leadoff man, he'll need to draw more walks and work deeper counts to put set the table for the rest of the lineup. He can improve at bunting for base hits and at using the whole field. He mainly sprays hits from left-center to the right-field line, and isn't as effective when he's pitched on the outer part of the plate. Ellsbury has the on-base ability, speed and explosiveness to be an elite basestealer, but he was caught 17 times in 2006, showing that he can do a better job of reading pitchers and situations. He made progress in these areas after arriving in Double-A.
The Future: The Red Sox missed Damon terribly in 2006, with replacement Coco Crisp falling short both offensively and defensively. A broken left index finger may have been the main reason behind Crisp's lost season, but regardless of the cause, it became more evident that Ellsbury is Boston's center fielder of the near future. He should open 2007 at Triple-A Pawtucket and likely will be starting for the Red Sox by Opening Day 2008.
|2.||Clay Buchholz, rhp Born: Aug. 14, 1984 • B-T: L-R • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 190|
|Drafted: Angelina (Texas) JC, 2005 (1st round supplemental) • Signed by: Jim Robinson|
|Background: Buchholz was named Boston's minor league pitcher of the year in 2006, his first full pro season and just his second as a full-time pitcher. He began his college career as a seldom-used infielder at McNeese State before transferring to Angelina (Texas) JC, where he was a two-way star and became a supplemental first-round pick.|
Strengths: Energized by a late-season promotion to high Class A Wilmington, Buchholz dominated and pitched at 95-97 mph during the playoffs. His fastball sat at 90-93 for most of the season, and while it's a plus pitch, at times it's only his fourth-best offering. When he gets ahead in the count, he buries hitters with his secondary pitches. He has the best curveball in the system, a 12-to-6 hammer, and he also can throw a hard slider. Some scouts think his changeup is his best offering.
Weaknesses: Relatively inexperienced on the mound, he still is learning the nuances of pitching. Improved fastball command and overall consistency are Buchholz' biggest needs. He sometimes falls in love with his curveball or tries too hard to get strikeouts. Some clubs passed on him in the 2005 draft because he was arrested in April 2004 and charged with stealing laptop computers from a middle school, but the Red Sox say it was a one-time incident and don't worry about his makeup.
The Future: Buchholz is a possible No. 1 starter. Boston will bring him along conservatively, so he'll probably open 2007 at the club's new high Class A Lancaster affiliate, but he has the stuff to rush through the minors.
|3.||Michael Bowden, rhp Born: Sept. 9, 1986 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 215|
|Drafted: HS--Aurora, Ill., 2005 (1st round supplemental) • Signed by: Danny Haas|
|Background: Chosen five picks after Clay Buchholz in the 2005 draft, Bowden pitched with him at two Class A stops in 2006 and showed a similar build, athleticism and stuff. He's not as spectacular as Buchholz, but Bowden has more natural feel for pitching and had an impressive first full season.$|
Strengths: Bowden sets hitters up and puts them away with his fastball-curveball combination. His two-plane curve is his best pitch, though his low-90s fastball isn't far behind, and he has the best command in the system. Working from a high arm slot, he throws everything downhill. He's very mature for his age.
Weaknesses: Bowden would have gone higher in the draft if not for his unorthodox delivery, which is long in back and short in front, resembling that of former all-star Ken Hill. The Red Sox had him checked out at the American Sports Medicine Institute and found no cause for concern. His main focus on the mound is his changeup, which has some promise, and he may add a slider to give him a pitch with lateral break.
The Future: Boston has handled Bowden carefully because of his youth but envisions him becoming a workhorse No. 2 or 3 starter in time. He'll spend most of 2007 in high Class A and has a big league ETA of mid-2009.
|4.||Daniel Bard, rhp Born: June 25, 1985 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-4 • Wt: 202|
|Drafted: North Carolina, 2006 (1st round) • Signed by: Jeff Zona|
|Background: Lefthander Andrew Miller was the consensus top prospect in the 2006 draft, and his North Carolina teammate Bard is capable on any given day of being just as overpowering. They ranked as the top two prospects in the Cape Cod League in 2005 and pitched the Tar Heels to within one win of a national title in 2006. Both dropped slightly in the draft because of signability, with Bard going 28th overall and agreeing to a $1.55 million bonus.|
Strengths: When Bard reported to instructional league, he touched 100 mph on multiple occasions and pitched at 95-98 mph with his fastball. His heater's combination of velocity and heavy life chews up wood bats, and he dials it up with no effort. His fastball is so good that command and secondary pitches will be less important to him than they are for other pitchers.
Weaknesses: Bard needs better command and secondary pitches. He'll flash a plus slider but it's inconsistent, and he's still developing feel for a changeup.
The Future: Bard is both a product of a major college program and still very much a project. The Red Sox will try to turn him into a frontline starter, but with his fastball alone he could be an effective reliever.
|5.||Lars Anderson, 1b Born:Sept. 25, 1987 • B-T: L-L • Ht: 6-5 • Wt: 190|
|Drafted: HS--Carmichael, Calif., 2006 (18th round) • Signed by: Blair Henry|
|Background: Power hitters were the biggest need for the Boston system, and the Red Sox hope they addressed that in the draft. The best power hitter in the crop is Anderson, who led California high schoolers with 15 homers in the spring. A supplemental first-round talent, he fell to the 18th round because of a $1 million price tag and signed for $825,000.|
Strengths: Anderson doesn't just have tape-measure power, but he generates it with ease. One scout compared him to Carlos Delgado for his ability to flip the barrel at the ball and have it explode off his bat. There's plenty of room for more strength on his 6-foot-5, 190-pound frame, and for a big power hitter he has a short swing and a very good approach. He sees the ball well and uses the opposite field already. He's a solid athlete.
Weaknesses: He has to put in some time on his defense, though Anderson has the hands and footwork to become at least an average first baseman. Once he fills out, he'll be a below-average runner but shouldn't be a baseclogger.
The Future: Anderson could make his pro debut in low Class A Greenville as a 19-year-old. The Sox can't wait to see what he does in game action, and he could be hitting in the middle of their order as early as the end of 2009.
|6.||Dustin Pedroia, ss Born: Aug. 17, 1983 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 5-9 • Wt: 180|
|Drafted: Arizona State, 2004 • Signed by: Dan Madsen|
|Background: Since he was Boston's top pick (second round) in 2004, Pedroia consistently has hit .300 and stayed at shortstop despite scouts believing he'll have to eventually move to second base. He continually has drawn David Eckstein comparisons, though he has more pop and less speed than the World Series MVP does.|
Strengths: Pedroia has some of the best hand-eye coordination in baseball. That allows him to make uncannily consistent contact while swinging from his heels, which in turn gives him gap power. He led the Triple-A International League by averaging just one strikeout per 18.3 plate appearances, and he fanned just seven times in 89 big league at-bats. His instincts make him an effective defender and baserunner. Surehanded, he has made just 17 errors in 301 pro games.
Weaknesses: Pedroia is undersized and needs to get stronger so he can avoid the nagging injuries (wrist and shoulder) that have bothered him the last two years. With that in mind, he'll spend the offseason working out at the Athletes' Performance Institute in Tempe. His speed, range and arm strength are all below average, but that hasn't stopped him yet.
The Future: Boston's three primary middle infielders in 2006 (Mark Loretta, Alex Gonzalez, Alex Cora) all filed for free agency, so Pedroia likely will be starting for the Red Sox in 2007. He'd fit better at second base but could wind up at shortstop, depending on Boston's offseason moves.
|7.||Bryce Cox, rhp Born: Aug. 10, 1984 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-4 • Wt: 200|
|Drafted: Rice, 2006 (3rd round) • Signed by: Jim Robinson|
|Background: More of a third baseman at Paris (Texas) JC, Cox had major command issues after transferring to Rice and was buried on the Owls pitching staff for nearly a year. Then a shortened delivery suddenly clicked for him, and he posted a 0.32 ERA and a 36-4 K-BB ratio over his final 28 innings. After signing for $250,000 as a college senior, he was nearly as dominant in his pro debut.|
Strengths: Rice's Wayne Graham said Cox pitched as well as any pitcher he has ever coached, a group that includes Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte and five top-10-overall draft picks. Cox' wipeout slider features so much lateral break that the Owls' Danny Lehmann, one of college baseball's top receivers, struggled to hang on to it. The Red Sox knew Cox had a 92-93 mph fastball that could touch 96, but they were surprised by how much riding life and sink the pitch has.
Weaknesses: Cox' track record of dominance extends for only four months, but his stuff suggests he's no fluke. He's working on a changeup to use against lefthanders, but they didn't give him much trouble in his debut, going 7-for-43 (.163) with one extra-base hit (a double).
The Future: The Red Sox rushed relievers from their previous two drafts, and both Cla Meredith and Craig Hansen suffered for it. They'll try to take it slow with Cox and may start him back in high Class A in 2007. If he keeps pitching like this, though, he could reach Boston by the end of the summer.
|8.||Craig Hansen, rhp Born: Nov. 15, 1983 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-5 • Wt: 185|
|Drafted: St. John's, 2005 (1st round) • Signed by: Ray Fagnant|
|Background: The Diamondbacks considered taking Hansen with the No. 1 overall pick in 2005, though he dropped to No. 26 because of signability issues. He turned pro for a four-year, $4.4 million big league contract and made his major league debut in September. The Red Sox tried to get him some minor league time in 2006 but needed him in June--and the results weren't pretty.|
Strengths: Hansen can light up a radar gun, pitching from 93-98 mph with good boring action on his fastball. His slider was the best breaking ball in the 2005 draft, but it hasn’t been the same pitch since he got to the majors. He'll flash a plus-plus slider, so it's still in there.
Weaknesses: Perhaps because he's trying to regain his nasty slider, Hansen is throwing with more effort and a lower arm slot than he did in college. That has hurt his fastball command, which has led to him falling behind in counts and trying at times to rely too much on his slider. He needs to solve big league lefthanders, who have hit .344 with a .934 OPS against him, either by getting back to where he was at St. John's or coming up with a changeup.
The Future: More than anything, Hansen needs time to catch his breath with some innings in Triple-A. Getting torched by big league hitters hasn't crushed him, and the Red Sox continue to believe he has the stuff and mentality to be their future closer.
|9.||Kris Johnson, lhp Born: Oct. 14, 1984 • B-T: L-L • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 185|
|Drafted: Wichita State, 2006 (1st round supplemental) • Signed by: Ernie Jacobs|
|Background: The Red Sox considered taking Johnson with the No. 28 pick in 2006 that they spent on Bard, and were glad to get him 12 selections later. He returned to the mound just 10 months after Tommy John surgery in April 2005.|
Strengths: Johnson is an athletic lefthander who throws three solid-average pitches for strikes. The life on his 88-93 mph fastball makes it a swing-and-miss pitch, and he backs it up with a hard curveball and a changeup. His delivery is both sound and deceptive, and he repeats it well.
Weaknesses: Boston is making minor tweaks to get Johnson to throw on more of a downhill plane so he'll be less prone to getting under and flattening out his pitches. His delivery got out of whack late in the college season, causing him to slide slightly in the draft. His command and curveball aren't all the way back to where they were before his surgery, but should be next year. He has had no setbacks with his elbow.
The Future: The Red Sox kept Johnson on a tight pitch count in his debut, but will turn him loose in 2007 with his elbow reconstruction two years behind him. He may jump to hitter-friendly Lancaster, which will be a good test of his stuff and savvy.
|10.||Jason Place, of Born: May 8, 1988 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 205|
|Signed: HS--Piedmont, S.C. • Signed by: Rob English|
|Background: The Red Sox used their top 2006 draft pick on Place, a high-ceilinged but raw high schooler--exactly the type of player they've avoided during most of Theo Epstein's tenure as general manager. Place signed for $1.3 million and was just starting to hit his stride in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League when he was beaned, sidelining him for most of the final two weeks.|
Strengths: Place repeatedly evokes Jeff Francoeur comparisons because of his aggressive approach and raw power. His tremendous bat speed allows him to drive the ball to all fields. He's an above-average runner and exceeded expectations defensively, showing the instincts, range and routes to possibly stay in center field. He has a plus arm that will fit easily in right if he moves there.
Weaknesses: Some clubs backed off Place in the draft because of concerns about his long-term ability to hit. He has a funny load, starting his hands in the middle of his body and circling them back into position. The Red Sox like his swing and his bat speed, and they think he'll be able to adjust. He can get overaggressive and pull-happy at the plate, which also diminishes his chances of making contact.
The Future: Place returned to action and worked on his hitting mechanics in instructional league. It will take him time to adjust to each level, starting at low Class A in 2007, but his upside could well be worth the wait.
|Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects|
|Pre-Order the 2007 Prospect Handbook|
30 scouting reports on every team
Ellsbury: Ken Babbitt
Buchholz: Tom Priddy
Bowden, Anderson: David Stoner
Cox: Andrew Woolley
Place: Cliff Welch
Johnson: Mike Janes