Red Sox Believe Coyle's Tools Defy His Size

BOSTON—The writing was on the wall for North Carolina coach Mike Fox. When he saw that the Red Sox had drafted Sean Coyle in the third round of the 2010 draft, he knew that the 5-foot-8, 175-pound second baseman was unlikely to wear the Tar Heels uniform.

"I don't like to prognosticate or predict, but I would be surprised if Sean Coyle doesn't make it to the major leagues," Fox said. "He's a terrific, terrific player."

The Red Sox signed Coyle for first-round money ($1.3 million), and after one full year at low Class A Greenville, he's done nothing to dissuade Fox or the Sox about their views on his potential.

Coyle's advanced offensive approach earned him an assignment to full-season ball straight out of spring training. He had an uneven season as one of the younger everyday players in the South Atlantic League—he played last year at age 19 and turned 20 in January—a volatility that increased when he was hit in the face by a pitch in early June (requiring him not only to miss time, but also to wear a chin guard for the rest of the year).

Coyle hit .247/.362/.464 in 384 at-bats with Greenville, and Sox officials insist his average failed to reflect his solid performance at the plate in a year he finished with a .362 on-base percentage, .464 slugging mark and .826 OPS.

"This young kid has done nothing but impress us with quality at-bats," Greenville hitting coach Luis Lopez noted during the season. "At one point, he went I think 0-for-16, with 16 quality at-bats. The kid was hitting the ball hard. That's what we care about."

Coyle had significant home/road splits (.267/.372/.514 at home; .224/.351/.402 on the road), but the team feels he has power that can play in any park. He also struck out 110 times in 464 plate appearances, a function, at times, of efforts "to get to (his) power a little more than he needed to, and giving in to the count and situation at times," farm director Ben Crockett said. "I do think the level and age had something to do with that."

That said, Coyle showed a diverse skill set, playing solid defense, running well (20 steals) and demonstrating an advanced command of the strike zone while showing surprising power (48 extra-base hits, 14 homers) given his compact frame.

Sox Yarns

• Pro scout Joe McDonald received a Legends of Scouting Award from the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation.

• Righthander Alex Wilson, the organization's pitcher of the year last season, stocked shelves at a home improvement store for part of the offseason to augment his income.