Red Sox Looking For Big Things From Vitek

BOSTON—Kolbrin Vitek entered his first full season with the lofty expectations typical of a first-round pick. Against those standards, the numbers posted by the No. 20 overall selection in the 2010 draft seemed underwhelming.

The Sox made the decision to assign the Ball State product to high Class A Salem out of the gate. The 22-year-old hit a solid .281/.350/.372 but with little power (three homers, 31 extra-base hits).

Yet the Sox say Vitek's season was more impressive than the numbers suggest. First, he maintained his characteristically sound approach at the plate, showing both discipline and good bat speed through the zone. Secondly, as he makes the transition to third base, officials said he made significant defensive strides, with improved footwork and fundamentals resulting in a 28-error total in 103 games at the position in 2011 after he made 15 errors in just 34 contests in 2010.

Moreover, Vitek had strong numbers in April, July and August, hitting better than .300 with an OBP over .360 in each of those months. Meanwhile, the 6-foot-2, 195-pounder showed both defensive athleticism and baserunning skills to suggest the potential for a well-rounded future big leaguer that led one AL scout to compare him to Casey Blake.

"I would anticipate him hitting the ground running this year," farm director Ben Crockett said. "He shows bat speed and the ability to manage an at-bat and be a solid hitter with the ability to drive the ball into the gaps. He has a natural line-drive stroke. He's not a guy who has a lot of loft in his swing who hits long high fly balls." 

The Sox say that more pro experience will help Vitek unlock what they believe to be greater power potential. As with players such as Kevin Youkilis and Will Middlebrooks, who needed time before translating raw power into games, the team believes Vitek can do the same as he progresses to Double-A in 2012.

"You've got to see the way this kid hits in batting practice. When the ball comes off his bat, it's a different sound. He can backspin the ball with the best," said Sox hitting coordinator Victor Rodriguez. "I think confidence at the plate, trusting his approach at the plate and his ability to drive the ball is going to help him a lot [in 2012]." 

Sox Yarns

• Outfielder Ryan Westmoreland played in games for the first time since his March 2010 brain surgery, going 0-for-3 with a walk in the Dominican instructional league. 

• The Sox lost area scout Matt Dorey to the Cubs, who hired him as a national crosschecker.