Boston Red Sox: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Boston Red Sox: Scouting Reports

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after 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 April 1, 2008.

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When the Red Sox introduced Theo Epstein as their general manager in November 2002, he talked of building a "$100 million player-development machine." Epstein may have come in low on his estimate for big league payroll—Boston's constant warring with the Yankees helped push that figure to $143 million by Opening Day last year—but otherwise consider his goal a mission accomplished.

The Red Sox' first World Series championship of Epstein's tenure—and their first in 86 years—came in 2004. Just one fully homegrown player, Trot Nixon, was on the roster for all three rounds of the postseason. By contrast, the club that swept the Rockies in the 2007 World Series highlighted Boston's scouting and development aptitude. Rookies Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia batted atop the lineup in the last two games, and the only reason second-year starter Kevin Youkilis wasn't in the heart of the order was that David Ortiz moved to first with the DH out at Coors Field.

Second-year pitchers Jon Lester, Manny Delcarmen and Jonathan Papelbon did most of the pitching in the clincher. Clay Buchholz, who no-hit the Orioles in his second big league start in September, wasn't even needed. He sat out the playoffs with a tired arm.

The Red Sox' aggressive pursuit of talent on both the free-agent and amateur markets has them poised to be a World Series favorite for at least the next few years. Their deep, balanced farm system offers both position players and pitchers, with talent spread through the upper and lower levels. Though cracking the Boston roster will be difficult, righthanders Justin Masterson and Michael Bowden, shortstop Jed Lowrie and outfielder Brandon Moss are just about ready for prime-time duty. Deeper down, first baseman Lars Anderson, outfielder Ryan Kalish, lefty Nick Hagadone and shortstop Oscar Tejeda are loaded with promise.

The Red Sox aren't afraid to buck Major League Baseball and spend what they deem necessary on the draft. That's an advantage, to be sure, but it still can't take away from the success scouting director Jason McLeod has had running drafts from 2005-07. McLeod's first draft included Ellsbury, Buchholz, Lowrie and Bowden. Boston signed Masterson, Kalish, outfielder Josh Reddick and Anderson all after the first round in 2006. Last June, the Sox lacked a true first-rounder but still had an impressive haul that included Hagadone and middle infielder Ryan Dent in the sandwich round and Will Middlebrooks in the fifth.

Boston also is becoming a leader on the international front. Besides signing Japanese big leaguers Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima, the Sox have bolstered the farm system the last two years with the likes of Tejeda, outfielder Engel Beltre (sent to the Rangers in the Eric Gagne trade) and infielder Michael Almanzar from the Dominican Republic and outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin from Taiwan.

Besides restocking the big league club, the depth also provides Boston with plenty of trade fodder. The Red Sox gave up Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez in a November 2005 swap that landed ace Josh Beckett and World Series MVP Mike Lowell. They also appear to be in as good a position as any club to acquire Johan Santana if the Twins decide to deal the best pitcher in baseball.

1.  Clay Buchholz, rhp   Born: Aug. 14, 1984B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 190
 Drafted: Angelina (Texas) JC, 2005 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Jim Robinson
Clay BuchholzBackground: Buchholz ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Double-A Eastern League, where he outpitched Roger Clemens in a May matchup. From there he went to the Futures Game and then on to Triple-A Pawtucket before getting summoned to Boston for a spot start. Buchholz went six innings to beat the Angels in his big league debut, but the best was still yet to come. Called back up to the Red Sox in September, he became the 21st rookie in modern baseball history to throw a no-hitter, dominating the Orioles in just his second start. He might have made Boston's playoff roster had he not come down with a tired arm, which led the club to shut him down as a precaution. Buchholz led all minor league starters by averaging 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings. His accomplishments are all the more impressive considering that he didn't become a full-time pitcher until 2005. Buchholz emerged as a prospect that spring at Angelina (Texas) JC, though some clubs backed off him because he had been arrested in April 2004 and charged with stealing laptop computers from a middle school. Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and scouting director Jason McLeod grilled him about the incident during a Fenway Park workout and decided it was a one-time incident and not indicative of his makeup. Boston drafted him 42nd overall—with a compensation pick for the loss of free agent Pedro Martinez—and signed him for $800,000.

Strengths: Buchholz has a low-90s fastball that tops out at 95 mph, and it's his third-best pitch. His 12-to-6 curveball and his changeup both rate as 70s on the 20-80 scouting scale and are better than any on Boston's big league staff. With terrific athleticism and hand speed, he uses an overhand delivery to launch curves that drop off the table. He'll also mix in a handful of sliders during a game, and that's a plus pitch for him at times. Buchholz improved his mechanics in 2007 and now operates more under control. There's some thought that he's more athletic and faster than Jacoby Ellsbury.

Weaknesses: His secondary pitches are so outstanding that Buchholz doesn't use his fastball enough. He needs to throw more fastball strikes early in counts and improve his command of the pitch. Clearly gassed after throwing a career-high 149 innings last season, he needs to get stronger. Working toward that goal, he trained at the Athlete's Performance Institute in Florida during the offseason.

The Future: Buchholz is Boston's best pitching prospect since Clemens and has everything he needs to become a No. 1 starter. He'll join Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jon Lester in the big league rotation in 2008, giving the Red Sox four quality starters aged 27 and younger. Buchholz is the baby of the group at 23.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Portland (AA)
7 2 1.77
16 15 1 0 87 55 4 22 116 .180
Pawtucket (AAA)
1 3 3.96 8 8 0 0 39 32 5 13 55 .221
3 1 1.59 4 3 1 0 23 14 0 10 22 .184
2.  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.
Jacoby EllsburyBackground: After setting a Pawtucket record with a 25-game hitting streak, he batted .361 while subbing for an injured Manny Ramirez in September. Ellsbury took over for a slumping Coco Crisp midway through the postseason and hit .438 in the World Series.

Strengths: Ellsbury puts his plus-plus speed to good use on the bases and in center field. At the plate, he focuses on getting on base with an easy live-drive swing and outstanding bat control. He's a prolific and efficient basestealer, swiping 50 bases in 57 tries in 2007, including a perfect 9-for-9 in the majors. He's a Gold Glover in the making in center field.

Weaknesses: Ellsbury has just 10 homers in 1,017 minor league at-bats, but Boston believes he has the deceptive strength to hit 10-15 homers a season. Like Clay Buchholz, he spent time at API during the offseason to add strength. Ellsbury's arm is below-average.

The Future: The Red Sox have tried to downplay the Johnny Damon comparisons since drafting Ellsbury, but that's impossible now. If they can't trade Crisp, Ellsbury could begin 2008 in Triple-A. But he's clearly their center fielder of the future, and the future is soon.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Portland (AA)
.452 .518 .614 73 16 33 10 2 0 13 6 7 8
Pawtucket (AAA)
.298 .360 .380 363 66 108 14 5 2 28 32 47 33
Boston .353 .394 .509 116 20 41 7 1 3 18 8 15 9
3.  Lars Anderson, of   Born: Sept. 25, 1987. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 215.
 Drafted: HS—Carmichael, Calif., 2006 (18th round). Signed by: Blair Henry.
Lars AndersonBackground: Anderson led California high schoolers with 15 homers in 2006, but his inexperienced agent didn't understand baseball's slotting system and scared teams off with a $1 million price tag. The Red Sox took an 18th-round flier on him and landed him in August for $825,000. He looked so good in spring training that it was an easy decision to send him to low Class A Greenville at age 19 for his pro debut.

Strengths: Anderson has the best bat and best power in the system. He's disciplined, recognizes pitches well and lets balls travel deep before drilling them to the opposite field. He generates tremendous raw power with an easy flick of the wrists. His glove was better than expected and managers rated him the best defensive first baseman in the South Atlantic League.

Weaknesses: Boston loves Anderson's approach but wants him to get more aggressive with two strikes. His power will explode once he starts to pull more pitches. All but one of his 11 homers last year went to left or center field. Once he fills out, he'll be a below-average runner.

The Future: The next step is the launching pad at high Class A Lancaster, where Anderson could put up crazy numbers in 2008. Anderson could be pushing for big league time by the end of 2009.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Greenville (Lo A)
.288 .385 .443 458 69 132 35 3 10 69 71 112 2
Lancaster (Hi A)
.343 .489 .486 35 13 12 2 0 1
9 11 9 0
4.  Justin Masterson, rhp   Born: March 22, 1985. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 250.
 Drafted: San Diego State, 2006 (2nd round). Signed by: Dan Madsen.
Justin MastersonBackground: After beginning his high school career as a catcher, Masterson blossomed as a prospect in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2005. He transferred from Bethel (Ind.) to San Diego State, went in the second round of the 2006 draft and reached Double-A in his first full pro season.

Strengths: Using a low three-quarters arm slot, Masterson unleashes a special sinker. With its low-90s velocity and heavy movement, batters feel like they're trying to hit a bowling ball. His No. 2 pitch is a slider that improved last season. He showed his toughness by not giving in when he went 2-3, 6.31 in his first nine starts at hitter-friendly Lancaster, making adjustments to survive the wind tunnel there.

Weaknesses: Because he throws from a lower arm angle, Masterson doesn't always stay on top of his slider. His changeup is getting better but also is inconsistent and he doesn't use it enough. He worked a career-high 154 innings and tired down the stretch, so he'll need to get stronger.

The Future: The Red Sox will send Masterson to Triple-A as a starter but envision him becoming a big league reliever. He has the power sinker and the mentality to close games, though in Boston he'd be a set-up man for Jonathan Papelbon.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Lancaster (Hi A)
8 5 4.33 17 17 0 0 96 103 4 22 56 .275
Portland (AA)
4 3 4.34 10 10 0 0 58 49 4 18 59 .225
5.  Jed Lowrie, ss   Born: April 17, 1984. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 180.
 Drafted: Stanford, 2005 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Nakia Hill.
Jed LowrieBackground: Following a strong pro debut in 2005, Lowrie slumped to .262 with three homers in his high Class A encore. He hit just .170 last April, but he improved dramatically afterward and wound up being Boston's minor league offensive player of the year.

Strengths: Lowrie is a switch-hitter with a patient approach and pop from both sides of the plate. He started to make adjustments at the end of 2006 and they helped him recover from his early slump last year. He improved even more dramatically on defense, becoming an average shortstop and showing enough speed and range to stay there. His hands and arm are fine.

Weaknesses: While Lowrie can play shortstop and his offensive production makes his glove more tolerable, a contender probably would still want a better defender at the position. As with most of their best prospects, the Red Sox would like to see him get stronger.

The Future: Lowrie's bat will play at second or third base, but there are no infield openings in Boston. That's why his name repeatedly surfaced in offseason trade talks. If he's still with the organization in 2008, he'll go to Triple-A to get regular playing time and be on call to fill any infield need that arises.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Portland (AA)
.297 .410 .501 337 61 100 31 7 8 49 65 58 5
Pawtucket (AAA) .300 .356 .506 160 21 48 16 1 5 21 12 33 0
6.  Ryan Kalish, of   Born: March 28, 1988. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 205.
 Drafted: HS—Red Bank, N.J., 2006 (9th round). Signed by: Ray Fagnant.
Ryan KalishBackground: It may be apocryphal, but the story is that Kalish didn't swing and miss at a single pitch as a high school senior. Because he was strongly committed to Virginia, he dropped to the ninth round, where the Red Sox signed him for $600,000. He was hitting .368 at short-season Lowell when an errant pitch broke the hamate bone in his right wrist in mid-July, ending his year and necessitating surgery in September.

Strengths: Kalish's approach and plate discipline are quite advanced for his age, which combined with his sweet lefty swing should mean he'll have little trouble hitting for average. He already pulls his share of pitches and could develop into a 15-20 homer threat, perhaps more if he adds some loft to his swing. He's a plus runner with good instincts in center field. He has a strong work ethic.

Weaknesses: Kalish is still growing and if he loses a step, he wouldn't profile as a leadoff hitter or center fielder. He'll need to improve his arm strength if he shifts to right field. Because he signed late in 2006 and got hurt last year, he has accumulated just 142 pro at-bats.

The Future: Kalish began hitting again after Thanksgiving and should be 100 percent for spring training, where an assignment to low Class A awaits. He's most often compared to J.D. Drew, whom he eventually could succeed as Boston's right fielder.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Lowell (SS)
.368 .471
.540 87 27 32 4 1 3 13 16 12 18
7.  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.
Michael BowdenBackground: While most of his fellow pitchers were shellshocked by Lancaster last year, Bowden's fine command allowed him to overcome the dreadful pitching environment. He wasn't as spectacular following a promotion to Portland in mid-May, but he acquitted himself well for a 20-year-old in Double-A. The Rangers could have taken him in the Eric Gagne trade last July, but chose Kason Gabbard instead.

Strengths: Bowden has uncanny feel for pitching, pounding both sides of the plate and commanding the bottom of the strike zone with his low-90s fastball. His curveball has big 12-to-6 break and he throws his changeup with deceptive arm speed. He uses a high arm slot to throw all of his pitches on a steep downhill plane. He's a durable, tough competitor.

Weaknesses: Bowden needs to get more consistent with his secondary pitches. His offerings all move down in the strike zone, so he may try to add a slider to give him something with lateral break. Scouts have quibbled with his delivery, which is long in back, but he repeats it well.

The Future: Bowden is a workhorse with the ceiling of a No. 3 starter. He'll probably open 2008 in Double-A and move up to Triple-A by the end of the year.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Lancaster (Hi A)
2 0 1.37 8 8 0 0 46 35 1 8 46 .212
Portland (AA)
8 6 4.28 19 19 1 0 97 105 9 33 82 .279
8.  Nick Hagadone, lhp   Born: Jan. 1, 1986. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 230.
 Drafted: Washington, 2007 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: John Booher.
Nick HagadoneBackground: Hagadone had a nondescript fastball and performance in his first two years at Washington before suddenly blossoming in 2007, becoming Boston's top draft pick (55th overall) and signing for a $571,500 bonus. He allowed five runs in his first pro game, then threw 23 straight shutout innings afterward, allowing just eight hits.

Strengths: A big-bodied lefthander, Hagadone has two plus pitches in a 92-94 mph fastball and a hard slider that ranks as the best in the system. He uses a high three-quarters arm slot to stay on top of his pitches and drive them down in the strike zone. The Red Sox love his makeup and believe he can handle any role they throw at him.

Weaknesses: Hagadone's changeup isn't as good as his other two pitches, though it has potential and he showed feel for it at Lowell and in instructional league. His mechanics aren't picture-perfect and when they get out of whack, his stuff flattens out.

The Future: The short-term plan is to send Hagadone to low Class A as starter, allowing him to have success and build up innings. Long term, Boston isn't sure whether it wants to deploy Hagadone as a possible No. 3 starter or as a power lefty reliever. If he moves to the bullpen, he could rocket to the majors quickly.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Lowell (SS)
0 1 1.85 10 10 0 0 24 14 1 8 33
9.  Oscar Tejeda, ss   Born: Dec. 12, 1989. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180.
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2006. Signed by: Luis Scheker.
Oscar TejedaBackground: Tejeda signed for $525,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2006, and the Red Sox, but they didn't hesitate to challenge him as a 17-year-old last season. He ranked among the Top 10 Prospects in both the Rookie-level Gulf Coast and the short-season New York-Penn leagues, and he was the NY-P's youngest player.

Strengths: With a fluid swing that imparts backspin, Tejeda could develop considerable power once he matures physically and as a hitter. He has quick hands and plenty of bat speed. His arm strength first drew the interest of scouts when he was 14, and he makes accurate throws as well. His speed and range are solid. A leader on the field, he made tremendous strides learning English in 2007.

Weaknesses: Tejeda is aggressive at the plate, and while he makes enough contact now, it's going to take him awhile to incorporate Boston's emphasis on plate discipline. He's thin and needs to get a lot stronger, and he may outgrow shortstop. He has to become a more reliable defender after making 22 errors in 63 games at short last year.

The Future: The Red Sox are still trying to figure out how to deploy their abundance of middle infielders at the lower levels of their system. The one sure thing is that Tejeda will be the regular shortstop in low Class A.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
GCL Red Sox (R)
.295 .344 .399 173 23 51 13 1 1 21 15 27 6
Lowell (SS)
.298 .347 .394 94 14 28 5 2 0 12 6 26 4
10.  Josh Reddick, of   Born: Feb. 19, 1987. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 180.
 Drafted: Middle Georgia JC, 2006 (17th round). Signed by: Rob English.
Josh ReddickBackground: When the Red Sox selected Reddick in the 17th round in 2006, they intended to make him a draft-and-follow. When they watched him homer off Team USA's Ross Detwiler (who became the No. 6 overall pick in 2007), they moved to sign Reddick immediately for $140,000. Boston didn't have an opening for him at the start of last season, so he punished pitchers in extended spring training and then did the same when he got to low Class A.

Strengths: Reddick has a smooth lefty stroke, strong wrists and great feel for putting the bat on the ball. He doesn't chase pitches and drives them with little effort. He's a solid right fielder with good arm strength and accuracy, enabling him to lead the South Atlantic League with 19 outfield assists. He's a smart baserunner.

Weaknesses: Reddick is so aggressive and makes so much contact that he rarely walks. Boston doesn't want to tone him down too much, but he needs to learn that he's better off waiting for something more hittable at times. He's still filling out his frame, and his speed is already fringy.

The Future: Lancaster features perhaps the best hitting environment in the minors, so Reddick could have a monster 2008. The Red Sox have no need to rush him but may not be able to hold his bat back for long.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Greenville (Lo A)
.306 .352 .531 369 60 113 17 6 18 72 26 51 8
Portland (AA)
.000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
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Photo Credits:
Kevin Pataky (Buchholz, Lowrie)
Tony Farlow (Anderson)
Roger Wood (Masterson)
Steve Moore (Bowden)
Mike Janes (Hagadone)
David Stoner (Tejeda)
Tom Priddy (Reddick)