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At the time, Baseball America rated the Red Sox' 1996 draft the best in the game. Now it appears Stenson may be all they get out of that crop. The other most promising prospects from that draft are all with other teams: righthander Chris Reitsma (first round, now with the Reds), outfielder John Barnes (fourth, Twins) and lefthander Rob Ramsay (seventh, Mariners). And Stenson's star has dimmed. He was named the best batting prospect and No. 2 prospect in the Double-A Eastern League in 1998 and in the Triple-A International League in 1999, but tailed off in a return trip to the IL in 2000. USA Baseball inquired about adding Stenson to the Olympic team, but the Red Sox didn't give their consent--and then didn't promote him in September. He missed time early last year with wrist and hamstring injuries. Stenson has the tools to be the impact hitter the Red Sox desperately need in a lineup that has just two, Nomar Garciaparra and Carl Everett. He has the balance, bat speed, short stroke and pitch recognition to produce for both average and power. Nobody in Boston's lineup can match Stenson's power potential. He didn't turn 22 until midseason last year, so he's still ahead of the normal development cycle, and he has never been overmatched despite consistently being one of the youngest players in his league. He made decent progress against lefthanders in 2000 after struggling against them the year before. For all his offensive gifts, Stenson has batted .257, .268 and .268 the last three seasons. And if he doesn't mash in the major leagues, he won't play because he contributes nothing beyond his bat. Originally an outfielder, he put on weight and slowed down, prompting a move to first base in 1999. Stenson led all minor league first basemen with 34 errors and was even worse defensively than that would suggest. He played at first and in left field last year, and he probably will never be more than adequate at either position. Boston is overloaded with first base/left field/DH types, so Stenson could be in for a third trip to Triple-A to begin 2001. In a perfect world, he wouldn't be an organization's No. 1 prospect. But the Red Sox system is far from perfect.
Losing Mo Vaughn as a free agent didn't endear the Red Sox to their fans, but the club salvaged something by taking outfielder Rick Asadoorian and Baker with the compensation first-round picks. In his first full pro season, Baker quickly established himself as the organization's top pitching prospect. He can reach 95 mph, though he more comfortably pitches in the low 90s and is more of a pitcher than an overpowering thrower. He has a quick arm that makes his fastball seem harder than it is. His curveball is also a plus pitch, and he brings poise to the mound. He works down in the strike zone, getting groundouts and keeping the ball in the park, allowing just three homers last year. Lefties batted just .204 against him. Baker can improve the consistency of his secondary pitches, which also include a changeup. He also needs to get stronger, which could result in increased velocity. The Red Sox resisted the temptation to promote Baker to high Class A in 2000, when he was just 19. He'll make the move this year and could begin to progress quickly through the system.
The Red Sox named Blanco their 1999 player of the year on their Rookie-level Dominican Summer League affiliate, but they weren't prepared for his performance in his Stateside debut. He was the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, where he and teammate Bryan Barnowski tied the league record with 13 homers each. Blanco has several notable tools. His throwing arm rates the maximum 8 on the 2-to-8 scouting scale. He has exceptional bat speed, which generates light-tower power and allows him to hit for average as well. Blanco also exhibits decent patience at the plate. He did strike out in nearly one-fourth of his at-bats in 2000, though no one can argue with his production. If he can get lighter on his feet and improve his lateral movement, he can be a standout defender at the hot corner. Though Blanco was a bit overmatched in the short-season New York-Penn League, he'll probably go to Class A Augusta in 2001. He's at least three years away from Boston.
Kim pitched Korea to the 1994 World Junior Championship title and in 1996 became his nation's youngest baseball Olympian ever. He signed with the Red Sox for $1 million a year later. Kim won the Futures Game and was part of an Arizona Fall League championship club in 1999, but his 2000 season at Pawtucket was most notable for a fight with Japan's Tomokazu Ohka over who was the better prospect. Kim has the highest ceiling of any of the Asian pitchers in the upper levels of Boston's system. He has excellent movement on his fastball, which touches 95 mph, and has no problem throwing it for strikes. Kim also has the potential to have an above-average breaking pitch and possibly a plus changeup. He pitches to both sides of the plate. Kim needs to further develop his offspeed stuff and refine his location within the strike zone. He throws too many strikes and is vulnerable when he doesn't get his pitches down. His release point tends to wander, though that may be by design. Kim needs to have success in Triple-A before he's ready for Boston. He has better stuff than Ohka but lacks his feel for pitching.
Boston regrettably gave up righthander Matt Kinney and outfielder John Barnes in a 1998 trade with the Twins for veterans Greg Swindell and Orlando Merced, but got Fossum with a compensation pick after Swindell signed with Arizona. Fossum set season and career strikeout records at Texas A&M. He went 7-2, 2.33 in the second half of 2000, highlighted by a no-hitter with 16 whiffs in August. Fossum reminds scouts of Jimmy Key. He can reach 91-92 mph with his fastball, and his best pitch is a hard slider. He has very good command, lots of confidence and a sound delivery. He destroyed lefties in 2000, limiting them to a .105 average with no homers in 95 at-bats. Fossum's changeup is improving, but it still needs some more work before he'll be able to keep righties in check. He also could add more strength. Fossum is the only true prospect among lefthanders who pitched in full-season ball for the Red Sox in 2000. He'll start 2001 in Double-A and has an outside chance to reach Boston by the end of the year. At worst, he'll make a good situational reliever.
Ranked as Boston's No. 1 prospect after the 1999 season, Lomasney endured a trying year in 2000. The former Boston College football recruit went 0-for-19 in his first five games and couldn't get his average above .200 until late May. He made just six rehab appearances after injuring his hamstring in mid-July. Lomasney shows strong tools behind the plate. He's athletic and has good receiving and throwing skills. As a hitter, he has power potential and a willingness to draw walks. His mental toughness helped him get out of his early-season slump and bat .291 the rest of the way. However, Lomasney is a career .236 hitter. The Red Sox wanted him to focus on hitting breaking pitches in 2000, and he took it to an extreme, letting too many hittable fastballs go by. His release gets sluggish at times, which is why he threw out just 19 percent of basestealers in Double-A Trenton. He has yet to hit much in two Double-A stints, so Lomasney could get a third trip to Trenton before moving up to Triple-A. His ceiling is as a solid backstop who could hit 15-20 homers a year.
Song pitched his high school team to a national championship and was considered the top amateur in Korea when the Red Sox signed him to an $800,000 bonus. After a fine debut in the GCL in 1999, he led the New York-Penn League in strikeouts last season. Song is a power pitcher with exquisite command. He already touches 94 mph and has a 154-40 strikeout-walk ratio as a pro. He has taught himself a curveball that should give him a second above-average pitch. He has allowed just three homers in two years. His body is strong, especially his legs, and he has mastered English quickly, which should accelerate his development. Song tends to rely on his fastball and will need to throw his curve more often at higher levels. Currently his weakest pitch, his changeup will need more work as well. Song easily could go to Augusta this year and dominate to the extent that Baker did. The Red Sox were patient and left Baker there for all of 2000, and may do the same with Song this time. He's advanced for a young pitcher and could force a more aggressive timetable.
Lara may be the best prospect signed by Mexico-based scout Lee Sigman since he helped the Brewers obtain Ted Higuera in the mid-1980s. Though Lara hadn't pitched in the United States before 2000, the Red Sox sent him to Augusta after a month in extended spring training. Lara pitched well in relief before getting more innings as a starter in the New York-Penn League, where he was ranked the No. 5 prospect. Though he's not quite 6 feet tall, Lara has excellent velocity for a lefthander. He throws consistently in the low 90s and can touch 94 mph. His curveball also is above average. Lara has good mound presence and a nice feel for pitching. He didn't permit a homer in 85 NY-P innings. Like many young pitchers, Lara possesses only a rudimentary changeup. If he develops it into an average third pitch, he could rise quickly through the minors. Lara and Song formed a potent lefty-righty 1-2 punch at Lowell and should do the same at Augusta in 2001. Lara's ceiling is higher than that of any Red Sox lefty, including Fossum.
Crawford had trouble regaining his stuff after straining his forearm and breaking his wrist in 1998, but it finally came back in 2000. Crawford earned his first major league win in July, then threw a Triple-A no-hitter in a temporary demotion. The night after his gem, he fell out of bed and onto a glass, requiring eight stitches in his back and delaying his return to Boston until September. Crawford has solid average stuff with a two-seam fastball, slider and changeup. He succeeds with his fastball because it has good sink and his delivery makes it tough to pick up. He works quickly, is durable and throws strikes. Crawford sometimes falls into a power-pitcher mentality, which causes his slider to flatten out. The only pitch he has that has a chance to be above average is his changeup. Crawford is about as good as he's going to be. He projects as a No. 4 or 5 starter in the majors, and the Red Sox will give him the chance to fill that role in spring training.
Lee led the Korea Baseball Organization in wins in 1994 and 1995, then moved to the bullpen following a back injury. He led the league in saves in 1997 before being sold to Japan's Chunichi Dragons, whom he helped to a Central League pennant in 1999. He signed a two-year major league contract with a $1.05 million bonus that December. Lee throws 89-93 mph, and his deceptive arm angle and quick arm make his fastball that much tougher. His changeup is his No. 2 pitch, and he shows a curveball and slider. Lee has a closer's mentality and probably has the stuff to be a starter, though he prefers to relieve. Lee needs to throw his changeup more often. He sometimes drops his arm angle too low, which makes his breaking pitches less effective. In his first year in the United States, he took time to understand why he didn't receive the star treatment he got in Asia. More than just a situational lefty, Lee should be a key cog in Boston's 2001 bullpen. He could be an option at closer if the Red Sox decide to move Derek Lowe into their rotation.
Diaz had hit 65 homers in a little more than two seasons in the Dodgers organization when his contract was voided in June 1999. The commissioner's office ruled that Los Angeles had illegally scouted and signed Diaz and outfielder Josue Perez out of Cuba. While Perez signed quickly with the Phillies, Diaz held out for big money that didn't materialize and missed the rest of the year. After signing with Boston, Diaz' 2000 season was delayed by visa trouble and then ended prematurely when he fractured and dislocated his right ankle on a bad slide. While he was on the field, Diaz showed the best raw power in Boston's system. He has a short stroke and impressive bat speed. He was suspended for three games after getting caught using a grooved bat in Double-A, though that shouldn't have had anything to do with his power. Diaz is a purely offensive player who is challenged even by the defensive responsibilities of first base. He lacks agility and never will offer much with the glove. Diaz was on the verge of being promoted to Boston when he was injured. The Red Sox have several first baseman/DH types, but they might want to at least consider platooning Diaz after he batted .385 against lefthanders in 2000.
Gamble may have the best raw arm in the organization, even better than that of his 2000 Augusta teammate, Brad Baker. The Red Sox have nursed him through elbow problems, which is why he has made just 31 appearances in three pro seasons. He was shut down at the end of each of the last two years. Gamble throws a consistent 93-94 mph, and his fastball rides at times and sinks at others. When he fills out his 6-foot-2 frame, scouts think he'll be able to work in the upper 90s on a regular basis. Gamble is a good athlete who played four years of defensive end for his high school football team. He didn't give up a homer in 2000 until his final start of the year. He's still working on the other aspects of pitching, such as developing a curveball (which has its moments) and changeup and improving his command. When he gets that down, he'll be much better at combating lefthanders, who hit 90 points better off him last season than did righties. Gamble should start 2001 at high Class A Sarasota, where he's likely to spend the entire year polishing his craft.
The Red Sox target New England players in the draft, and in 1999 they spent their first pick (17th overall) on Asadoorian, a product of Whitinsville, Mass., just 30 miles outside of Boston. He held out that summer negotiating a club-record $1.7255 million bonus, and ranked as the No. 12 prospect in the Gulf Coast League in his pro debut last year. His most impressive tool is a throwing arm that has been compared to Dwight Evans', and Asadoorian showed in 2000 that he has center-field range to go with it. While he may be ready to play defensively in Boston right now, his bat will take some time. He'll need to reduce his strikeouts to hit at higher levels. To his credit, Asadoorian already has begun making adjustments at the plate. The Red Sox envision him developing at least gap power, and he was caught stealing just twice in 24 attempts. Asadoorian is ticketed for a full season at Augusta in 2001.
Of all the 2000 first-round draft picks, Dumatrait was perhaps the unlikeliest a year earlier. He wasn't drafted out of high school, which wasn't at all surprising because he had a low-80s fastball. But a season at Bakersfield (Calif.) Junior College did wonders for Dumatrait. He got on a throwing program and suddenly was touching 94 mph. When the Red Sox decided that Texas high school slugger Jason Stokes' $2.5 million asking price was too rich, they took Dumatrait 22nd overall and signed him for $1.275 million. John Sanders, his manager in the Gulf Coast League, rated his curveball as a better pitch than his fastball. Dumatrait also showed an easy arm action and formidable mound presence. Though he spent a year in junior college, he's still quite young at 19. It isn't out of the question that he'll spend 2001 at short-season Lowell, though he could make the Augusta staff if he impresses in spring training.
Boston coveted Rhode Island high school outfielder Rocco Baldelli with its 2000 first-round pick, but the Devil Rays took him sixth overall. The Red Sox got their annual New England fix in the second round, when it drafted Delcarmen, a Dominican from inner-city Boston. He has impressive command of a low-90s fastball and a hard slider, and he should add more velocity as his skinny 6-foot-3 frame fills out. Though he can throw strikes with his two best pitches, Delcarmen still is extremely raw and isn't anywhere close to being a finished product. He'll need to develop a changeup and a feel for pitching. Signed to a 2001 contract, he would be best served by making his pro debut in short-season ball.
A lesser man would have given up far earlier, but Morgan Burkhart saw his perseverance pay off in 2000. After helping Central Missouri State win the 1994 Division II World Series, he was undrafted and spent the next spring coaching at his alma mater before signing with the independent Frontier League. Burkhart had to tear up the league for four straight seasons, winning MVP awards from 1996-98 and the triple crown in 1998, before a major league club could be bothered to sign him. Burkhart repaid the Red Sox by slamming 35 homers combined in high Class A and Double-A in 1999, his first year in Organized Ball, then was named MVP in the Mexican Pacific League during the winter. He continued to show he was no fluke last year, punishing Triple-A pitchers for 24 homers in 105 games and making his big league debut. Described by one scout as a poor man's John Kruk or Matt Stairs, Burkhart isn't athletic or pretty. What he is is an aggressive hitter from both sides of the plate, and he knows how to work counts to get a pitch he can drive. He doesn't run well--though he runs better than Stairs--and isn't much of an outfielder, but he's a passable first baseman. The Red Sox have a glut of first basemen/DHs, so Burkhart may find it difficult to even get a shot at a starting job. But he's a very useful offensive player who at the worst could bolster their bench.
Little has gone right for Pena since he allowed just one earned run in 13 innings and won his first two major league starts in mid-May 1999. He soon went on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis, then returned to pitch in the minors only to have his shoulder act up again. A strong candidate to earn a spot in Boston's rotation last spring, he tore the medial collateral ligament in his elbow and had season-ending surgery. Before he got hurt, Pena's best trait was his ability to pitch. He succeeded by precisely locating his pitches, the best of which was his curveball. The sink on his fastball was more impressive than its 89-91 mph velocity. He also throws a slider and changeup. Pena was back on the mound in instructional league and believes he'll be ready for spring training. If he contributes in Boston in 2001, it probably won't be until the second half of the season.
Garcia originally signed as a pitcher in 1996 and threw 91-92 mph before an arm injury finished him on the mound. He batted just .212 in the Dominican Summer League in 1998, after which the Red Sox thought so little of him that they loaned him to Mexico's Monterrey Sultans. Monterrey assigned him to a co-op team in the Rookie-level Arizona League, which he promptly led with 13 homers and a .649 slugging percentage. When major league organizations contacted the Sultans about purchasing Garcia, they learned he was Boston property. Jumped to Class A in 2000, Garcia continued to hit for power. He gets a lot of leverage in his swing, giving him the chance to have above-average power if he makes better contact. He has some athleticism and arm strength, and might be able to move from first base to the outfield if he hones his defensive instincts. Garcia figures to move to Sarasota this year and should see time at both first and in the outfield.
Peres has pitched in the Dominican Summer and Gulf Coast leagues, the lowest rungs on the development latter, but it's still hard not to get at least a little excited about his raw statistics: 104 innings, 62 hits, 150 strikeouts, 2.07 ERA. At 6 feet and 150 pounds, Peres resembles a teenaged version of fellow Dominican Pedro Martinez. And like Martinez, he throws harder that his build makes it seem possible. Peres consistently throws in the low 90s and his fastball just explodes on hitters, so much so that he can survive up in the strike zone. He also has a late-breaking curveball and shows no fear in challenging batters. Peres still needs to improve his command and his changeup, and he must get stronger after wearing down and missing the final month of the GCL season. Because he had to be shut down, Boston may play it safe and assign him to short-season Lowell in 2001.
The Red Sox have more depth among lefthanded pitchers than among any other position in their system. Most of that talent is stockpiled in the lower minors, and Che has yet to make his U.S. debut after signing during the summer for $750,000. A Korean, Che averages 90-91 mph and touches 93, very good velocity for a southpaw, and he projects to add more because he packs just 170 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame. He has a quick breaking ball and should have average or better command. His changeup needs work and he'll have to get acclimated to a new culture, but his upside is very intriguing. He'll join Boston in spring training after finishing high school in February.
Seiber was headed to Louisiana State to play wide receiver before the Red Sox signed him as a third-round pick in 1999. As might be expected of someone with that background, Seiber is extremely athletic. He's the fastest player in the system and put his wheels to good use in the Gulf Coast League last season, swiping 22 bases in 27 attempts. Unlike many young players with similar tools, he already understands what he needs to do to be successful at the plate. He doesn't swing for the fences, instead using a compact swing to hit line drives and enhance his chances of getting on base. He'll need to tighten his strike zone if he's going to fit at the top of a batting order. Defensively, he offers outstanding range and a strong, accurate arm, and he takes good routes on fly balls. He definitely has center-field skills, though he played left in 2000 in deference to GCL teammate Rick Asadoorian. Seiber will stay on an outfield corner as he teams with Asadoorian at Augusta this year.
After a high school career in which he never lost a game, Thompson became the highest draft pick out of Idaho since the Red Sox took righthander Mike Garman with the third overall pick in 1967. Boston selected Thompson in the second round in 1999. He's still very raw (which is to be expected considering his amateur background) and signed at age 17, so he'll need some time to develop. His best pitch is a 91-92 mph sinker that induces plenty of ground balls. His curveball has potential but lacks consistency, and his changeup is in the rudimentary stages. Thompson throws strikes but almost to a fault, as Gulf Coast League hitters batted .280 against him in 2000. He'll need to improve his command within the strike zone as he moves up the system. The Red Sox have been very cautious with Thompson, limiting him to the GCL in his first two years as a pro. If they remain so, he could spend 2001 at short-season Lowell.
Born in Cuba, Rodriguez moved to Louisville when his family won an immigration lottery. He played locally at the University of Louisville before signing with the Red Sox as an 11th-round pick in 1998. After bombing at Augusta in 1999, batting .193 before he was demoted to Lowell, he returned last year and hit for average and power. Rodriguez is a big, strong right fielder with strength and defensive skills. He'll need to make some offensive adjustments as he rises through the minors, because his swing is long and his plate discipline is lacking. Don't be misled by his 24 steals in 2000. He does have average speed but was caught stealing 12 times, making for a break-even ratio. At 23, Rodriguez was old for the South Atlantic League, so he could be pushed to Double-A in 2001 if he has a strong first half at Sarasota.
Hillenbrand would rank considerably higher on this list had he been able to stay behind the plate. He played shortstop in junior college, moved to first base for his first two seasons as a pro, then broke out by hitting .349 to finish second in the Class A Midwest League batting race in 1998, his first year as a catcher. He caught some in Double-A in 1999 as well, but played strictly first and third base last year. Hillenbrand improved his batting average 64 points in his second shot at Double-A, hitting .383 against lefthanders while leading the Eastern League in hits and plate appearances per strikeout (14.31). However, his ability to make contact and his penchant for swinging at everything severely cuts into his walks and his on-base percentage. And because he lunges at pitches, his strength translates more into gap power than into home runs. There's also some thought that he feasts on mediocre pitchers and won't be able to hit better ones. Hillenbrand doesn't run well or move well enough to offer anything defensively. He best fits as a DH or as a bat off the bench. He'll move to Triple-A in 2001 and his future in Boston figures to be as a bench player.
Duchscherer didn't reach Double-A until his fifth pro season, but he responded by being named Trenton's pitcher of the year. He never has been able to add much weight to his wiry 6-foot-3 build, so his fastball never developed into even an average pitch. It tops out in the high 80s, which means he has to have above-average command to succeed. Thus far, Duchscherer has, because he repeats his delivery very well. He does throw his breaking pitch, alternately described as a curve and a slider, from a good downward plane and has an effective changeup. Interestingly, he has held lefthanders to .213 and .192 averages in the last two seasons. Duchscherer is the type of pitcher who must prove himself again each year, and he'll be tested at Triple-A in 2001.
As the Red Sox have poured more money into international scouting, they've had more trouble signing their June draft picks. That was quite evident in 1999, when they signed all six of their choices in the first three rounds but none of their six in the fourth through ninth rounds. A year later, they did land fifth-rounder Montalbano, having controlled his rights because he was a fifth-year senior. He has just an average fastball but he does have a lot going for him. He has a very good curveball and succeeds with a cutter. He knows how to pitch, throws strikes, changes speeds and battles his way out of jams. Montalbano overcame adversity before his standout college career at Northeastern University, recovering from testicular cancer that cost him all of 1996. He'll pitch in Class A in 2001 and projects as either an end-of-rotation starter or a middle reliever.
While third baseman Tony Blanco received a lot of attention after setting a Gulf Coast League record with 13 homers in 2000, Barnowski, his teammate on the GCL Red Sox, got almost none for doing the same. It usually takes a while for 42nd-round draft-and-follows to break out of obscurity. The grandson of former big leaguer and longtime scout Dick Teed, Barnowski didn't homer once in 32 GCL games in 1999. He improved after getting into better shape. He has a short stroke, excellent raw power and good balance at the plate. Barnowski lacks speed and his future as a catcher is in doubt. He does have some arm strength, but he doesn't move well behind the plate and threw out just 19 percent of basestealers last year. Barnowski, who could see some time at Class A Augusta in 2001, probably will have to move to first base.
When the Red Sox signed Guerrero for $755,000 in January 1998, they established a new bonus record for a Dominican player. Three years later, they have seen little return on their investment. He has yet to homer as a pro, and his .240 average at short-season Lowell in 2000 represented a career high. The younger brother of Expos Vladimir and Wilton Guerrero, Julio was considered a potential five-tool shortstop when he signed. He moved to the outfield in 1999 and will settle in right field if he can’t handle center. His biggest needs are to get stronger and make better contact. The only offensive skill he has displayed to this point is basestealing ability, as he has succeeded in 37 of 46 attempts in three years. Boston will have to be patient with Guerrero, and he might be best off returning to Lowell in order to put up some decent numbers.