Batter Up

Improving bat propelled Reymond Fuentes into the first round

BOSTON—Edgar Perez, the Red Sox' area scout in Puerto Rico, had identified Reymond Fuentes as a player worth following two years ago. At that time, the player's foremost tool was obvious to everyone, including himself.
The Red Sox focused on athletes (OF Reymond Fuentes in the first round, SS David Renfroe in the third, OF Jeremy Hazelbaker in the fourth) and power arms (RHP Alex Wilson in the second, RHP Madison Younginer in the seventh). Renfroe, Younginer and RHP Kendal Volz (ninth) all will cost much more than slot, but Boston has shown a willingness to spend. And you have to like the OF Mike Yastrzemski (36th, grandson of Carl) pick, even if he'll almost certainly wind up at Vanderbilt.

"My strength is my legs," Fuentes said shortly after the Sox selected him with the 28th overall pick of the first round of the 2009 draft. "My game is slap the ball and start running . . . On defense, I have good range, and cover a lot of space and ground in the outfield."

The Sox evaluated Fuentes, from Fernando Callejo High in Manati, Puerto Rico, as having plus-plus speed. Amateur scouting director Jason McLeod said that the high school sprinting champion is an impact defender and baserunner already.

Yet as they followed the 18-year-old, particularly this spring, the Sox began to see something more. Physically, the outfielder—who is a cousin of Carlos Beltran—began to develop this year. McLeod and G.M. Theo Epstein went to scout Fuentes in Puerto Rico in May, and at that time, his bat had advanced in noteworthy fashion.

"I thought his bat speed had improved from where he was at the beginning of the spring," said Epstein. "The ball was coming off his bat much better. He started to really interest us as a guy who was not just going to disrupt on the bases, who was not just going to flash a plus-plus run tool in centerfield, but who could really hit as well. For us, that pushed him up into the first round."

Even so, because speed is the defining element of his game, Fuentes receives comparisons to center fielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Johnny Damon. The Sox preferred to downplay such comparisons, but the team did feel strongly that his makeup will allow him to endure both such comparisons as well as the attention that comes with being a first-rounder in Boston.

For his part, Fuentes professed his excitement not only about playing for the Red Sox—an organization he admittedly knew little about—but also about becoming the first Puerto Rican taken in the first round since 2000.

"Being in the first round from Puerto Rico is amazing. I'm very excited," said Fuentes. "I thank God everyday for giving me the tools to be a first rounder."

Sox Yarns

• With their second-round choice, the Sox took pitcher Alex Wilson. The Texas A&M righthander, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2007, had a 120-to-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 90 innings in 2009.

• The Sox plan on developing third-round pick David Renfroe, who pitches and plays shortstop and third base, as a position player.