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Song may not want the distinction of being Boston's No. 1 prospect, given his predecessors. Righthander Brian Rose (1998) has bounced around between four organizations in the last two years. First baseman/outfielder Dernell Stenson (1999, 2001) has fallen out of the top 15 before reaching the majors, while catcher Steve Lomasney (2000) has missed as many games as he has played in since ranking No. 1. The Red Sox have poured a lot of money into the Asian market with little to show for it so far, and Song is their best chance at a contributing big leaguer. He pitched Kyung Nam High to a Korean national title in 1998 before signing for $800,000 in February 1999. After leading the short-season New York-Penn League in strikeouts in 2000, Song finished second in the minors to Josh Beckett with a 1.90 ERA last season. He pitched a scoreless inning in the Futures Game in Seattle. Song has succeeded at every step because of his intelligence and feel for pitching. It also helps to have good stuff. He pitches anywhere from 90-94 mph with his fastball, and he can put it anywhere he wants. Managers rated his control the best in the low Class A South Atlantic League in 2001. Song's curveball can overmatch hitters when it's at its best, and he improved his changeup last year to the point where it's an effective third pitch. He mixes his pitches and changes speeds well, and his corkscrew delivery makes him deceptive. Song has allowed just seven longballs in 261 pro innings and doesn't have any problems with lefthanders. He has sound mechanics and is durable. He does like to throw his fastball up in the strike zone and get batters to chase it. More advanced hitters may lay off the pitch or punish it. He comes straight over the top, which costs him some life on his pitches. Like any young pitcher, he needs to make his secondary pitches more consistent. Having had no trouble in high Class A, Song probably will open 2002 in Double-A Trenton. If he continues his progress, he could reach Triple-A Pawtucket or perhaps even Boston by season's end. He projects as a No. 2 or 3 starter in the majors.
Blanco set the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League home run record in his U.S. debut in 2000 and was rated the league's top prospect. He continued to show power last season despite bursitis in his right shoulder, which forced him to split time between third base and DH before he had arthroscopic surgery in August. The Red Sox named him their player of the year at low Class A Augusta. Blanco has a quick bat that makes him a threat to go deep at any time and allows him to hit for average. He held his own in the South Atlantic League as a teenager despite his shoulder problems. Defensively, he has a strong arm, good body control and some quickness. Overly aggressive at the plate, Blanco will have to show better discipline against more advanced pitchers. Though managers named him the best defensive third baseman in the SAL, he needs a quicker first step and smoother footwork. Blanco took things slowly in instructional league but should be healthy by spring training. Third base is the Red Sox' weakest offensive position, though they'll have to wait two or three years before Blanco is ready. He'll move up to high Class A in 2002.
Miniel had two nearly identical seasons as a reliever in the GCL before opening 2001 in Augusta's bullpen. When lefthander Mauricio Lara succumbed to back problems, Miniel moved to the rotation and struggled. Then he went 6-2, 1.48 in his last 15 starts, including seven no-hit innings in an Aug. 25 win against Charleston, S.C. Miniel's 91-96 mph fastball rivals Manny Delcarmen's as the best in the system, and he has good command of his heat. At times, he shows a hard curveball that gives him a second plus pitch. He gave up just one homer last year and held both lefties and righties to a .211 average. He held up well over his first season as a starter. Miniel is still a thrower at this point. He sometimes loses the tightness on his curve, which breaks out of the strike zone. His changeup is very much a work in progress. After being kept on a short leash with pitch counts, he'll have to prove he can work deeper into games. Because he's so raw as a pitcher, Miniel will move slowly through the system. He should spend 2002 in high Class A.
For obvious reasons, the Red Sox scout New England heavily. Their best local prospect is Delcarmen, a Dominican who was the first innercity Boston player drafted in three decades. The Padres tried to get him when Boston was looking to foist Carl Everett on another club this winter, so the Red Sox swung a deal with the Rangers instead. Delcarmen has the potential for two plus pitches and a third that should be average. He has the best fastball in the system, regularly throwing 92-94 mph and reaching 95-96. He also has a hard breaking ball and a decent changeup. He shows poise and has an understanding of how to mix his pitches. Though he dominated GCL hitters, Delcarmen is still a long way from the major leagues. He'll have to throw more strikes as he makes the climb, and he'll also need to get more consistent with his breaking ball and changeup. Delcarmen has as high a ceiling as any pitcher in the system, including Seung Song and Rene Miniel, who rank ahead of him right now. He should head to low Class A in 2002.
While fellow 1999 first-round picks Rick Asadoorian (since traded to the Cardinals) and Brad Baker regressed last season, Fossum finished the year in the Red Sox rotation. He allowed one earned run or less in 12 of his 20 Double-A starts, a far better indication of how he pitched than his 3-7 record. Fossum's 73-79 mph curveball is the top breaking pitch in the system; lefthanders can't touch it. He throws strikes and gets nice downward movement with his fastball, which rarely tops 90 mph. He's mentally tough. Because he has just one plus pitch, Fossum projects more as a reliever or swingman than a full-time starter. He had a good changeup in college but has gotten away from it as a pro. He's not durable, as he tires quickly and often starts leaving his pitches up in the strike zone by the fourth inning. Fossum had a 0.93 ERA as a big league reliever, compared to a 5.97 ERA as a starter. That performance, and Boston's offseason additions of John Burkett, Dustin Hermanson and Darren Oliver, means Fossum will compete for a bullpen job in spring training.
Sanchez went to the NAIA World Series with Dallas Baptist in 1999, then earned NAIA all-America honors at Oklahoma City and short-season Lowell's MVP award the following year. But no one was prepared for his breakout performance last season. He led all minor league shortstops with a .334 average and made the Arizona Fall League all-prospect team after hitting .348. Sanchez has proven he can make contact, hit for average and drive balls into the gaps. He recognizes pitches well and has a sound stroke. He's a gritty player who has soft hands on defense. Most scouts don't think Sanchez can stay at shortstop. He lacks the range and agility for the position, and his average arm would fit better at second base. He spent most of his time in the AFL at third, but he lacks the power for the hot corner. Offensively, he could draw more walks. The Red Sox haven't give up on Sanchez as a shortstop. They might give him a look in spring training as a utilityman, but he'll probably wind up playing short in Triple-A this year.
Because Dumatrait threw in the low 80s as a high school senior, he wasn't drafted in 1999. When his velocity soared in junior college, he became a first-round pick a year later. Signability played a part in his draft status, though he had a strong pro debut in 2001 after shoulder tendinitis sidelined him early in the season. Dumatrait's ceiling is considerably higher than Fossum's and is better than any Red Sox minor league lefty's. His curveball has a sharp 12-to-6 break and is a legitimate plus-plus pitch. He's not a softtossing southpaw, either, as he throws an 89-92 mph fastball that touches 94. He has good command of his pitches and emotions. Dumatrait's changeup shows promise but is still a ways from being an average pitch. As with Manny Delcarmen, any excitement about Dumatrait must be tempered by the fact that he has yet to pitch in full-season ball. Dumatrait and Delcarmen should team up again in low Class A. Because he's lefthanded, has more refined stuff and throws more strikes, Dumatrait is the favorite to win the race to Fenway Park.
Scouting director Wayne Britton quickly identified Freddy Sanchez and Thigpen as the sleepers of his 2000 draft class, and both players made him look good last year. An all-Alabama performer in baseball, football and basketball in high school, Thigpen teamed with Manny Delcarmen and Phil Dumatrait to form an imposing front three in the GCL rotation. Thigpen has big-time velocity and plenty of projection. He already touches 96 mph with a nice, easy arm action, and he should reach that level more often once he fills out his 6-foot-4 frame. GCL hitters batted just .152 against him. Thigpen throws strikes and flashes an average curveball. The Red Sox praise his makeup as well. There's a lot to like about Thipgen, and there's also a lot he needs to work on. He needs to get more consistent with his curve, improve his changeup and fine-tune his command. With just 42 innings of pro experience, he still has much to learn. After two years in the GCL, Thigpen will be reunited with Delcarmen and Dumatrait in low Class A this season. It will be a good test for all three of them.
Martinez had only sporadic success while pitching at Augusta in 1999 and 2000, but he handled the jump to Sarasota well last year. Though he led the Florida State League in losses, he did make 14 quality starts in 24 tries. Boston added him to its 40-man roster in November. His smooth arm action allows Martinez to throw in the low 90s with ease. He tops out in the mid-90s and has reached that level in the late innings. He throws strikes to both sides of the plate and locates his pitches well, getting lots of ground balls. Martinez is still a project, and some scouts see him as a middle reliever because he lacks a consistent offspeed offering. His slurvy breaking ball is a fringe pitch; his changeup is average at best. He'll need to improve one of them to succeed as a starter at the upper levels. The Red Sox will move Martinez to Double-A in 2002 and hope he can round out his repertoire. He has the fastball to be effective out of the bullpen, but they'd love for him to be able to stay in the rotation.
Francisco is the fourth player in the top 10 signed out of the Dominican Republic by Levy Ochoa. He missed all of 1997 and most of 2000 with injuries, and he required elbow surgery before last season. He strained his shoulder in April but was dominant once he returned. Francisco is all about power, throwing a 92-95 mph fastball and a 78-80 mph curveball. Once he got both pitches working in tandem last year, it was all over for South Atlantic League hitters. In the final two months, he averaged 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings while opponents hit .124 against him. Repeated attempts to teach Francisco a changeup failed, which is why he's limited to the bullpen. He's probably 30 pounds heavier than his listed weight of 180 pounds. His body could go south in a hurry. He'll have to throw more strikes, though his command improved in July and August. Francisco will start 2002 in high Class A, where he may get his first regular opportunity as a closer, and could reach Double-A by the end of the season. He's two or three years away from Boston.
Thompson doesn't have the raw arm strength of the pitchers ahead of him on the list, but he has the stuff and intangibles to climb the ladder to Fenway Park. He never lost a game in high school and as a second-rounder in 1999 he was the highest Idaho draft pick since Boston took Mike Garman third overall in 1967. After two seasons in the Gulf Coast League, Thompson made a successful transition to low Class A in 2001. His best pitch is an 89-92 mph sinker that gets him grounders. He commands it very well, keeping it down in the strike zone. His changeup really improved last year, but his curveball still needs work. He slows down his arm action and changes his delivery when he throws the curve, tipping off hitters and also hurting its consistency. Thompson faded late in his first year in full-season ball and missed a start with a sore back, so he'll need to get stronger as he climbs to high Class A in 2002.
Diaz is an enigma. Signed as a free agent in 2000, after Major League Baseball voided his contract because the Dodgers had illegally scouted him and outfielder Josue Perez in Cuba, Diaz was on the verge of getting called up to Boston when he dislocated his ankle on a bad slide. Since getting hurt, he hasn't made an effort to stay in shape and is at least 25 pounds heavier than his listed weight of 225. He was close to 300 pounds when he reported to camp last year, so the Red Sox kept him in extended spring training to work on conditioning for two months. In late July, he was suspended for a few days following an altercation with a Pawtucket trainer over Diaz' refusal to ride a stationary bike. The shame in all of this is that Diaz is one of the best power hitters in the minors, as scouts give him the maximum grade on their 20-to-80 scale. He can crush any fastball, though he struggles against breaking balls. He's a base clogger who isn't agile enough to inspire much confidence at first base. Boston could use his righthander power to complement Manny Ramirez and Nomar Garciaparra, but Diaz has to show he cares before he'll get an opportunity.
Boston's top-rated pitching prospect entering 2001, Baker was one of the organization's biggest disappointments last year. One of several New England products drafted by the Red Sox in recent years, his misguided attempts at weightlifting after the 2000 season left him bulky and tight. Baker still showed a quick arm action, but his fastball didn't sit in the low 90s or touch 95 mph like it had in the past. It also came in straighter than ever, making it all the more hittable. His overall control suffered as well, as he never looked comfortable with his body. His curveball was still a plus pitch at times, but his changeup continues to need refinement. Boston hoped Baker regained his flexibility this winter and returns to his previous form in 2002, when he'll probably return to high Class A.
It doesn't say much about the Red Sox that two of the best pitchers in their system--Lara and Brad Baker--messed themselves up with offseason weightlifting programs during the 2000-01 offseason. If only Juan Diaz worked that hard. Lara made just four starts last year before back problems shut him down for nearly two months. When he returned, he wasn't the same guy who posted a 1.85 ERA in his first two pro seasons. Before he bulked up, Lara threw in the low 90s and topped out at 94 mph. His curveball gave him a second plus pitch, while his changeup was very much a work in progress. Boston still has high hopes for Lara, who was signed out of Mexico by Lee Sigman, the scout who helped land Teddy Higuera for the Brewers in the mid-1980s. He's on the same path as Baker, trying to rework his body so he can get back on track.
The Red Sox are as active in Asia as any organization, and Huang became their first Taiwanese signee in August 2000. He received a $60,000 bonus, which looks like a bargain after his first year in pro ball. He was more of a shortstop in high school, and Boston sent him to the Gulf Coast League as a reliever so he could get acclimated to pitching and the United States at a comfortable pace. When GM Dan Duquette saw him pitch a perfect inning while throwing 93 mph, he decided Huang should move up a level and begin starting. Huang was even better after the promotion and change of roles, striking out 12 over six shutout innings in his final start. He already has average to plus command of three pitches: a 90-91 mph fastball, a good breaking ball and a changeup. He needs more consistent velocity, but his broad shoulders give the Red Sox hope that he can fill out his compact frame and get stronger. Born Jun-Chung Huang, he has picked up the nickname "Kevin" since coming Stateside. A legitimate prospect by any name, he's destined for low Class A this year.
Little has gone right for Lomasney since he ranked as Boston's No. 1 prospect following the 1999 season. He started 2000 in an 0-for-19 slide and had his year end in mid-July with a hamstring injury. And that was good news compared to 2001, when he broke his right thumb in April and had the orbital bone around his right eye fracture when he was hit by a batting-practice liner in August. The Red Sox nontendered him in December but signed him a few days later. A former Boston College football recruit, Lomasney is a hard-nosed player with the mental toughness to come back from all that adversity. Less certain is his ability to hit for average. He sometimes overcompensates for his problems with breaking balls by looking for them exclusively, only to fall victim to fastballs. He does have some power against fastballs. Lomasney is more athletic than most catchers, but he relies more on guts than instincts behind the plate. His arm is average but his release is slow and his accuracy is inconsistent. After throwing out 33 percent of basestealers in Double-A last year, he went 0-for-21 in Double-A. With Jason Varitek establishing himself in Boston and top 2001 draft pick (second round) Kelly Shoppach about to begin his pro career, time is running out on Lomasney.
Augusta used six regular starters in 2001, and all are legitimate prospects. Lefthander Rich Rundles was traded to the Expos during the season, but Seung Song, Rene Miniel, Mat Thompson, Mauricio Lara and Perez remain in Boston's plans for the future. After posting a 2.07 ERA and averaging 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings in two years of Rookie ball, Perez was successful if not dominant in low Class A. Perez has a quick arm action and sits around 90 mph with his fastball, which has a nice tail to it. He got away with pitching up in the strike zone in Rookie ball but learned that more advanced hitters will drive those pitches more often. Perez also uses a late-breaking curveball and a so-so changeup. He's not very big, so durability will be a concern, though he held up very well last year. His only physical setback was an April bout with tonsillitis. He'll graduate to high Class A in 2002.
De la Rosa originally signed with Arizona in 1998. Two years later, the Diamondbacks transferred his contract to his hometown Monterrey Sultans, a Mexican League club with which they had a working agreement. When the agreement lapsed, the Sultans kept de la Rosa's rights, which suddenly became quite valuable when his velocity jumped 5 mph to 95-97 in the Mexican Pacific League that winter. After Boston landed him for $600,000, GM Dan Duquette dubbed de la Rosa "the Mexican John Rocker." He has the velocity to be an intimidating closer, but that's also the extent of his strengths. De la Rosa has inconsistent mechanics, which makes his command spotty, and he doesn't hide the ball well. He also lacks a second pitch he can trust. His 83-mph slider is better than his curveball, which he hangs too much, and he slows down his delivery when he throws his changeup. His arm action is a little too stiff for some scouts. He tore through high Class A in his Red Sox debut, then got hammered following a promotion to Double-A. Boston has been looking for a reliable lefty reliever for a few years, but de la Rosa will need to round out his game before he's the answer.
Stenson ranked No. 1 on this list year ago, but the Red Sox left him to rot during a third straight season in Triple-A. Managers rated him the best hitting prospect in the Double-A Eastern League in 1998 and in the Triple-A International League in 1999, but Boston never showed much inclination to include Stenson in its big league plans. Where he once was a promising young hitter, he now chases bad pitches, perhaps in an attempt to do too much. He still has some problems with breaking pitches. The bottom line is that he'll have to hit to play in the majors, because he can't do anything else. He's slow and a subpar defender in the outfield and at first base. He's not in the best of shape, though he's more toned than Juan Diaz or Calvin Pickering--not that that's saying much. One of five first baseman on the Red Sox' 40-man roster in January, Stenson's chances of reaching Fenway Park aren't getting any better. A change of scenery probably would be for the best.
Catching was an area of particular weakness in the system, but the Red Sox believe they addressed it last year. They spent their top pick (second round) on Shoppach, got offensiveminded Jonathan DeVries in the third round and signed Dustin Brown as a 35th-round draft-and-follow from 2000. Furthermore, Dominican Ivan Rodriguez batted .327 in his U.S. debut. The best of the group is Shoppach, who was the 2001 Big 12 Conference player of the year and also won the Johnny Bench Award as the top catcher in college baseball. He has tremendous catch-and-throw skills, taking just 1.8-1.9 seconds to deliver the ball from mitt to mitt on steal attempts. A football standout in high school, he brings that type of mentality and leadership skills to the mound. Shoppach offers opposite-field power but hasn't learned to turn on pitches and scouts are divided on his offensive potential. It took most of the summer to negotiate his $737,500 bonus. His only pro experience is instructional league, but he should be able to handle a Class A assignment in 2001.
Since winning his first two major league starts in May 1999, Pena has pitched just 56 innings. Shoulder tendinitis initially put him on the disabled list, and then he tore an elbow ligament and had Tommy John surgery in 2000. Though he was unable to pitch at the start of 2001, the Red Sox optioned him to Sarasota so they wouldn't have to pay him the major league minimum. He never felt comfortable and made just eight starts, when he would have been better off rehabbing his arm. He finally felt normal pitching in his native Dominican this winter. For Pena, that meant being able to spot his 89-91 mph sinker, curveball, slider and changeup for strikes. His best pitch is his curveball. He's not the most deceptive guy but he sure knows how to pitch. Boston doesn't have an obvious rotation spot open, so Pena probably will start 2002 in Triple-A, waiting for his second chance. His brother, also named Juan but lefthanded, pitches in the Athletics system.
Kim may have suffered from being placed on the fast track after signing out of Korea for $1 million in 1998. He went straight to high Class A at age 20 and kept getting promoted each year despite never posting an ERA below 4.82. Triple-A hitters have batted .295 against him over the last two seasons, while major league hitters have tagged him for a .312 average. Once projected as a possible frontline starter, Kim now figures to be more of a middle reliever. He'll reach 94-95 mph at times and his fastball has nice boring, riding action, but he uses it too high in the strike zone. His slider can be a plus pitch when he maintains his release point, but he gets under the pitch and flattens it out too much. He doesn't have command of his changeup and relies almost solely on hard stuff. Kim has yet to figure out how to get the ball inside on lefthanders. He likely will make a third trip to Pawtucket this year.
Even as the ownership of the club was changing hands, the Red Sox didn't stop working in the Far East. They signed Kumagai out of Tokyo's Tohoku Fukushi University for $450,000 in mid-January 2002. Kumagai pitched 9 1/3 scoreless innings and saved the title game as Tohoku Fukushi--also the alma mater of Kazuhiro Sasaki--won the Hawaii International Baseball Championship last August, and he had a shutout streak of 41 innings in college last fall. A potential 2004 Japanese Olympian before he signed with Boston, he's a submariner reminiscent of Byung-Hyun Kim. Kumagai throws 91-93 mph and also has a reverse slider that sinks and breaks in on righthanders. Hitters have a difficult time picking up his pitches, though he sometimes struggles to keep a consistent release point. Kumagai is very intelligent and figures to learn English quickly. He could make his pro debut as high as Double-A.
Montalbano is a poor man's Casey Fossum, a lefthander who has succeeded as a pro but whose ultimate ceiling is in question. Boston's baseball writers voted Montalbano the organization's 2001 minor league player of the year. He led the system with 12 victories and threw nine no-hit innings in a high Class A Florida State League game in which he got no decision. Montalbano's best assets are his pitchability and his tenacity. He overcame testicular cancer while in college and shoulder problems in his first pro summer. His 86-92 mph fastball is a tick quicker and more lively than Fossum's, though his curveball isn't in the same class. Montalbano's curve has its moments but isn't consistent. He also throws a slider and changeup. He's much more of a fly-ball pitcher than Fossum, and thus more vulnerable to homers. While he has a deceptive delivery, scouts say Montalbano's stiff, stabbing arm action hinders him. He could return to Double-A to start 2002 but should reach Triple- A by the end of the year.
Viera defected from Cuba and sued to avoid being made subject to the 2001 draft, but lost his case. Though he's lefthanded, Boston confused him with hard-throwing Cuban righthander Norge Luis Vera and drafted Viera in the seventh round. The Red Sox still may have something, however, after signing him for $175,000. Suspended in 2000 because he was branded as a potential defector, Viera had all his baseball equipment confiscated and had to resort to throwing lemons and oranges to stay in shape. While his fastball tops out at 87-89 mph and his arm action is a bit long, he thrives on using both his curveball and slider to get outs. Throw in Viera's splitter, changeup and knuckler, then add his varied arm angles and the possibilities are endless. After pitching just briefly in high Class A last summer, he impressed scouts in the Arizona Fall League. Viera is more polished than Jorge de la Rosa and could be the situational lefty that the Red Sox need.
The Red Sox forfeited their 2001 first-round pick to sign free agent Manny Ramirez, a move they didn't regret. They also felt like they got the equivalent of a first-rounder in An, whom they signed out of a Korean college for $750,000. Despite his relative inexperience and his inability to speak English, he went straight to high Class A and didn't permit more than one earned run in any of his first five outings. His fastball ranges anywhere from 83- 92 mph at this point and his breaking ball usually looks like a slurve. Boston believes that once its coaches can communicate better with An, they'll be able to make his velocity more consistent and tighten his breaker into a true curveball. They also will be able to give him more help with his rudimentary changeup. He does a good job of throwing strikes and he varies his arm angle. An has a stocky frame with thick legs, and his weight could become a concern. He probably would benefit from some more time in the Florida State League so he could catch his breath.
In the 1998 draft, the Red Sox selected but failed to sign third baseman Mark Teixeria (the No. 5 overall pick by the Rangers last June), lefthander Lenny DiNardo (the Mets' 2001 third-rounder) and catcher Mike Rabelo (the Tigers' 2001 fourth-rounder). Boston's best hope for getting a homegrown player out of that draft crop is now Hancock, who was added to the 40-man roster for the first time in November. He has a big, strong build and a big, strong fastball that tops out at 94 mph. He challenges hitters and likes to bust righthanders inside. He throws across his body, which concerns scouts, and doesn't repeat his arm slot with his secondary pitches. His curveball is a solid average pitch at times but regresses to a slurve at others. His changeup is merely decent. He'll need to do a better job of missing bats and controlling his emotions. Hancock strained his groin in late August, which limited him to two innings in the Arizona Fall League. He'll move up to Triple-A at some point this year.
How thin are the Red Sox in terms of middle infielders? Santos and No. 6 prospect Freddy Sanchez are the only ones to crack the Top 30, and both look like they might be utilitymen rather than regulars in the majors. A switch-hitter, he makes more contact as a righty. From the left side he has a longer, more powerful swing that produced 13 of his 14 homers in 2001. He'll bunt to take advantage of his speed, which also allows him to steal bases. He strikes out too much, but at least he offsets his whiffs with some walks. He's an adequate second baseman who can get inconsistent on the double-play pivot. The biggest challenge for Santos is staying in the game mentally. He doesn't always give 100 percent, especially if he starts a game with a couple of bad at-bats. He and Sanchez likely will form the doubleplay combination in Triple-A this year.
Undrafted as a junior in 2000, Youkilis started attracting scouts with an all-star summer in the Cape Cod League. He followed up by leading Conference USA with a .405 batting average last spring before the Red Sox drafted him in the eighth round. He has a tremendous understanding of the strike zone, as evidenced by his New York-Penn League-leading 70 walks (in just 59 games) and .512 on-base percentage. He generates gap power out of a Jeff Bagwell-like crouch. Youkilis isn't blessed with a lot of physical tools, but he's athletic for his size. He doesn't clog the bases and he gets the job done at third base. Youkilis' advanced approach could land him in high Class A in 2002, when the Red Sox will begin to find out if he's for real.
Though elbow problems have limited him to 31 games in three pro seasons, Gamble is considered to have a raw arm as good as any in the system. His elbow flared up again last year, as he was shut down for 2 1/2 months after making two starts. He took the mound once again in late June before needing Tommy John surgery. The Red Sox hope he can take the mound again toward the end of spring training. When healthy, Gamble pumped 93-94 mph fastballs with plenty of movement. Very projectable, he figured to add velocity as he gained more strength. His curveball, changeup and command all have suffered from his lack of experience. He'll probably head back to high Class A whenever he's ready to pitch again.