Red Sox Prospects 2-10
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Baylor, 2001 (2nd round). Signed by: Jim Robinson.
Background: Shoppach was the Red Sox top draft pick in 2001, when they didnt have a first-rounder. He signed late for $737,500 and didnt make his pro debut until 2002, when he went directly to high Class A and was a Florida State League all-star. September surgery to repair a small tear in his rotator cuff prevented him from attending the Arizona Fall League.
Strengths: Shoppach stands out most for his catch-and-throw skills, and managers rated him the FSLs best defensive catcher. He used a strong arm and quick release to throw out 33 percent of basestealers. He also moves well behind the plate and possesses natural leadership abilities. Shoppach already could drive the ball to the opposite field and started to develop pull power in 2002. His ability to draw walks fits with Bostons new philosophy.
Weaknesses: His shoulder injury naturally is a concern, but the Red Sox expect Shoppach to be able to catch in games by late May. Hell need to make more consistent contact at higher levels.
The Future: Shoppach will spend 2003 at Double-A Portland, solely as a DH at the outset. Jason Variteks contract expires in 2004, after which Shoppach should be able to take over.
3. Kevin Youkilis, 3b
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 220. Drafted: Cincinnati, 2001 (8th round). Signed by: Matt Haas.
Background: Undrafted as a Cincinnati junior in 2000, Youkilis impressed scouts in the Cape Cod League that summer and went in the eighth round a year later. He has turned out to be more than just a senior sign, compiling a .457 on-base percentage and reaching Double-A in his first 11Ž2 seasons as a pro.
Strengths: Youkilis has an extraordinary eye at the plate and consistently produces hits and walks. Though he doesnt have a live body, hes more athletic than he looks. His feet, hands and work ethic will allow him to be a solid average third baseman.
Weaknesses: Though he started to lift pitches more frequently in Double-A, Youkilis may not hit more than 15-20 homers annually. While he moves better than expected, hes still not fast. His arm is more notable for its accuracy than its strength.
The Future: Youkilis on-base abilities fit Bostons approach more than all-star Shea Hillenbrands do. Youkilis will spend the year in Triple-A, and may move to first base or left field in the majors unless Hillenbrand is traded.
4. Freddy Sanchez, ss/2b
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 185. Drafted: Oklahoma City, 2000 (11th round). Signed by: Ernie Jacobs.
Background: After leading all minor league shortstops with a .334 average in 2001, Sanchez proved that performance was no fluke. He made the Double-A Eastern League all-star team, was Triple-A Pawtuckets player of the year and drilled a two-run single in his first big league at-bat.
Strengths: Sanchez has excellent hand-eye coordination and the ability to make consistent line-drive contact and hit for gap power. His instincts enhance his physical skills at the plate, on the bases and in the field. He has a solid average arm at shortstop and reads balls well off the bat.
Weaknesses: The knock on Sanchez always has been that he lacks pure shortstop range, though thats a moot point with Garciaparra in Boston. The Red Sox believe Sanchez could play short if needed. After making strides with his selectivity in Double-A, he regressed in Triple-A and the majors.
The Future: A longshot to win Bostons second-base job in spring training 2002, Sanchez is a frontrunner to become the starter in 2003. Hes playing second base in Mexico this offseason to help his cause.
5. Phil Dumatrait, lhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 170. Drafted: Bakersfield (Calif.) JC, 2000 (1st round). Signed by: Ed Roebuck.
Background: With the 22nd pick in the 2000 draft, Boston seriously considered Jason Stokes before balking at his $2.5 million pricetag. Instead they took Dumatrait, who blossomed suddenly after not being drafted as a high school senior in 1999, and signed him for $1.275 million. While Stokes is now a top slugging prospect with the Marlins, Dumatrait has become the Red Sox top pitching prospect.
Strengths: Dumatraits plus-plus curveball is the best breaking pitch in the Boston system. The new Red Sox front office values pitchability as well as pure stuff, and Dumatrait has a very good feel for his craft. His fastball is a solid average offering at 89-92 mph.
Weaknesses: His curve is an out pitch, but Dumatrait sometimes uses it too much at the expense of his changeup, which needs refinement. He also has to tweak his command after it got away from him a little bit at high Class A Sarasota.
The Future: The Red Sox havent had a homegrown lefty win in double digits since Tom Bolton in 1990. Dumatrait, whos headed back to high Class A, is the best hope to end that drought if Casey Fossum cant.
6. Manny Delcarmen, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HSRoxbury, Mass., 2000 (2nd round). Signed by: Ray Fagnant.
Background: The first inner-city Boston high schooler drafted since 1966, Delcarmen has the highest ceiling of any player in the system. As a result, the Red Sox are handling him carefully. After he threw 136 innings while being kept on strict pitch counts in 2002, he was told to skip instructional league and not do any throwing in the offseason.
Strengths: Delcarmen has a 92-94 mph fastball that can touch 95-96. He also has a curveball that is a plus pitch at times. Hes a tough competitor who, while not completely polished, is fairly advanced considering his age and background.
Weaknesses: Convincing Delcarmen that he needs to throw his changeup has been a challenge. Hed rather go after hitters with his fastball, which isnt going to work at the higher levels. He sometime slows down his arm speed when he throws his changeup, letting hitters know whats coming.
The Future: In 2003, Delcarmen will be part of a high Class A rotation that also will include many of Bostons best pitching prospectsDumatrait, Josh Thigpen and Josh Gamble. Delcarmen is at least 21Ž2 years from Boston.
7. Billy Simon, rhp
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 220. Drafted: HSWellington, Fla., 2001 (9th round). Signed by: John DiPuglia.
Background: Simon is part of the Wellington (Fla.) High pipeline that also includes recent first-round picks Bobby Bradley, Sean Burnett and Justin Pope. Simon projected as an early pick in 2001, but slid to the ninth round because he was committed to Louisiana State. The Red Sox signed him for $325,000, high fourth-round money.
Strengths: At 6-foot-6, Simon throws on a downward plane that makes it tough for hitters to get good swings against him. In his brief pro career, opponents have batted .189 without a homer against him. His fastball has plus velocity (90-92 mph) and life (late sink). He throws a hard, overhand curveball and has a good feel for pitching.
Weaknesses: Simon has made progress with his changeup but still has work to do. His overall package is promising and his biggest need is experience. He has pitched just 42 innings since signing.
The Future: Simon was the most impressive pitcher in Bostons instructional league camp, so he could develop quicker than expected. Hell open 2003 in low Class A.
8. Jon Lester, lhp
Age: 18. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 200. Drafted: HSPuyallup, Wash., 2002 (2nd round). Signed by: Gary Rajsich.
Background: Lacking a first-round pick in 2002 because they signed free agent Johnny Damon, the Red Sox landed a first-round talent in Lester with their first choice, 57th overall. He signed for $1 million, the only seven-figure bonus outside the first round. He was a legitimate prospect as a first baseman, though pro teams preferred him as a pitcher. He also was a standout basketball player in high school.
Strengths: Lester is a very athletic lefthander along the lines of Mark Langston, which allows him to repeat his delivery with ease and bodes well for his command. Lester currently throws 88-93 mph; his fastball has room to grow because he has a projectable body and easy arm action. His changeup is his second-best pitch, and his curveball showed promise in instructional league.
Weaknesses: Lesters curve needs the most work. He also threw a slider in high school, but Boston prefers that its young pitchers focus initially on curveballs. Though hes talented, hes also raw at this point.
The Future: The Red Sox will proceed slowly with Lester. Hell probably begin 2003 in extended spring training before joining the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League team in June.
9. Jorge de la Rosa, lhp
Age: 21. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 192. Signed: Mexico, 1998. Signed by: Ossie Alvarez (Diamondbacks).
Background: The Diamondbacks signed de la Rosa in 1998 but transferred his contract to the Mexican Leagues Monterrey Sultans two years later. When Arizonas working agreement with Monterrey expired, the Sultans kept de la Rosas rights, then saw his velocity jump to the mid-90s in winter ball. Boston signed him for $600,000 in February 2001, and then-GM Dan Duquette dubbed him "the Mexican John Rocker."
Strengths: Moved to the rotation in 2002 to get more innings to develop, de la Rosa still maintained a 92-94 mph fastball. He also throws a hard breaking ball and made some strides with his changeup.
Weaknesses: For two consecutive seasons, de la Rosa has pitched well in high Class A yet been hammered in Double-A. He must gain better command of his pitches and more consistency with his changeup to do well against more advanced hitters.
The Future: The Red Sox will give de la Rosa a third crack at Double-A in 2002, continuing to use him as a starter to give him more mound time. His best long-term fit may be as a power lefty out of the bullpen.
10. Josh Thigpen, rhp
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 195. Drafted: HSGreenville, Ala., 2000 (16th round). Signed by: Joe Mason.
Background: An all-state performer in baseball, basketball and football in high school, Thigpen is one of the organizations better athletes. In 2002, he developed a knot in the back of his shoulder that sidelined him at times and relegated him to the bullpen and strict pitch counts for much of the year. He came on in the final month, with a 1.08 ERA, 23 strikeouts and a .143 opponent average in 25 innings.
Strengths: Thigpen has the best fastball in the system and is capable of reaching 96 mph. His solid average curveball returned by the end of the season. While hes very much a work in process, his athleticism should enable him to eventually repeat his delivery and develop command.
Weaknesses: Thigpen has spent relatively little time pitching, dividing himself among three sports in high school and working a total of 125 innings in three pro seasons. As a result hes very raw. His changeup and control are rudimentary, and he lacks touch.
The Future: If Thigpen can make the transition from two-pitch thrower to three-pitch pitcher, he can be a frontline starter. Hell begin 2003 in Class A, most likely in Sarasota.
Best of the Rest
The Red Sox dont have much upper-level talent thats going to contribute at Fenway Park in the near future, but righthander Josh Hancock is an exception. He has three solid average pitches and throws strikes, plus hes tough. He missed just a month after a line drive broke his jaw last summer, and he pitched through a groin injury that turned out to be a small tear in his pelvic wall. He had surgery in November and could join the Boston bullpen once hes completely healthy in 2003.
Two pitchers who had barely pitched since mid-2000 resurfaced last season. Righthander Jerome Gamble came back from Tommy John surgery to throw 92-94 mph and show a hard curveball. Kept to tight pitch counts, he had a 1.82 ERA and held hitters to a .182 average in low Class A. Lefty Wil Ledezma, who overcame a stress fracture in his elbow, showed similar stuff to Gamble at the same level.
The Red Sox have hopes for several young Dominican pitchers, led by righthander Aneudis Mateo. He gets good late sink on his fastball and throws strikes.
With their 11th-round pick in June, Boston found the best athlete in its system. Jackson State outfielder Michael Goss had NFL potential as a kick returner, which scared some clubs off. He hit .397 with 14 steals in 21 games at short-season Lowell before dislocating a finger on a headfirst slide.
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The Top 10 Prospects lists are based on players' projected long-term worth and on 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 Opening Day 2003.
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