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Ramirez rocketed from obscurity to the top of the list over the course of the 2002 season. In his 2001 pro debut, he led Boston's Rookie-level Dominican Summer League affiliate with a .345 average and earned the organization's player of the year award for that club, but otherwise escaped attention. After arriving in the United States, he didn't stay anonymous for long. Managers rated him the best prospect in both the Rookie-level Gulf Coast and the short-season New York-Penn leagues, and he led the GCL in slugging percentage. Though it's risky to place labels on a player before he even reaches full-season ball, managers and scouts already are comparing Ramirez to such players as Nomar Garciaparra, Vladimir Guerrero, Alex Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano. The best parallel at this point is Soriano. Ramirez is a legitimate five-tool shortstop who has instincts to go with his athletic talents. Signed as a switch-hitter, he was so advanced from the right side that he had no need to hit lefthanded. Ramirez has quick hands and the ball jumps off his bat. Against Mets first-round pick Scott Kazmir, he drilled a 96 mph fastball off the wall. Ramirez recognizes pitches, can hit the breaking ball and uses the whole field. He's mechanically sound and doesn't chase pitches out of the strike zone. Ramirez projects to be a plus hitter for both average and power in the big leagues; he's also an above-average runner. Defensively, he has soft hands and supplements an average arm with a quick release. His footwork improved over the course of the season. The Red Sox have some concerns that the hype has come too fast for Ramirez, who was sent home early from instructional league for disciplinary reasons. He knows he's good, and can be immature and selfish. While he has lots of potential, he'll need to keep working hard to realize it. Ramirez rarely swings and misses, to the detriment of working deep counts and drawing walks. Though Boston has no need to rush him, Ramirez will determine how much time he needs in the minors. He'll start 2003 at low Class A Augusta but could force a mid-season promotion if he continues to dominate.
Shoppach was the Red Sox' top draft pick in 2001, when they didn't have a first-rounder. He signed late for $737,500 and didn't make his pro debut until 2002, when he went directly to high Class A and was a Florida State League all-star. September surgery to repair a small tear in his rotater cuff prevented him from attending the Arizona Fall League. Shoppach stands out most for his catch-and-throw skills, and managers rated him the FSL's best defensive catcher. He used a strong arm and quick release to throw out 33 percent of basestealers. He also moves well behind the plate and possesses natural leadership abilities. Shoppach already could drive the ball to the opposite field and started to develop pull power in 2002. His ability to draw walks fits with Boston's new philosophy. His shoulder injury naturally is a concern, but the Red Sox expect Shoppach to be able to catch in games by late May. He'll need to make more consistent contact at higher levels. Shoppach will spend 2003 at Double-A Portland, solely as a DH at the outset. Jason Varitek's contract expires in 2004, after which Shoppach should be able to take over.
Undrafted as a Cincinnati junior in 2000, Youkilis impressed scouts in the Cape Cod League that summer and went in the eighth round a year later. He has turned out to be more than just a senior sign, compiling a .457 on-base percentage and reaching Double-A in his first 11⁄2 seasons as a pro. Youkilis has an extraordinary eye at the plate and consistently produces hits and walks. Though he doesn't have a live body, he's more athletic than he looks. His feet, hands and work ethic will allow him to be a solid average third baseman. Though he started to lift pitches more frequently in Double-A, Youkilis may not hit more than 15-20 homers annually. While he moves better than expected, he's still not fast. His arm is more notable for its accuracy than its strength. Youkilis' on-base abilities fit Boston's approach more than all-star Shea Hillenbrand's do. Youkilis will spend the year in Triple-A, and may move to first base or left field in the majors unless Hillenbrand is traded.
After leading all minor league shortstops with a .334 average in 2001, Sanchez proved that performance was no fluke. He made the Double-A Eastern League all-star team, was Triple-A Pawtucket's player of the year and drilled a two-run single in his first big league at-bat. Sanchez has excellent hand-eye coordination and the ability to make consistent line-drive contact and hit for gap power. His instincts enhance his physical skills at the plate, on the bases and in the field. He has a solid average arm at shortstop and reads balls well off the bat. The knock on Sanchez always has been that he lacks pure shortstop range, though that's a moot point with Garciaparra in Boston. The Red Sox believe Sanchez could play short if needed. After making strides with his selectivity in Double-A, he regressed in Triple-A and the majors. Sanchez was the frontrunner for the Red Sox' second-base job until they traded for Todd Walker. Now he'll get more time to improve in Triple-A and could ease into the majors in a utility role. Walker becomes a free agent after the 2003 season, so Sanchez could be the starter in 2004.
With the 22nd pick in the 2000 draft, Boston seriously considered Jason Stokes before balking at his $2.5 million price tag. Instead they took Dumatrait, who blossomed suddenly after not being drafted as a high school senior in 1999, and signed him for $1.275 million. While Stokes is now a top slugging prospect with the Marlins, Dumatrait has become the Red Sox' top pitching prospect. Dumatrait's plus-plus curveball is the best breaking pitch in the Boston system. The new Red Sox front office values pitchers' approaches as well as pure stuff, and Dumatrait has a very good feel for his craft. His fastball is a solid average offering at 89-92 mph. His curve is an out pitch, but Dumatrait sometimes uses it too much at the expense of his changeup, which needs refinement. He also has to tweak his command after it got away from him a little bit at high Class A Sarasota. The Red Sox haven't had a homegrown lefty win in double digits since Tom Bolton in 1990. Dumatrait, who's headed back to high Class A, is the best hope to end that drought if Casey Fossum can't.
The first inner-city Boston high schooler drafted since 1966, Delcarmen has the highest ceiling of any player in the system. As a result, the Red Sox are handling him carefully. After he threw 136 innings while being kept on strict pitch counts in 2002, he was told to skip instructional league and not do any throwing in the offseason. Delcarmen has a 92-94 mph fastball that can touch 95-96. He also has a curveball that is a plus pitch at times. He's a tough competitor who, while not completely polished, is fairly advanced considering his age and background. Convincing Delcarmen that he needs to throw his changeup has been a challenge. He'd rather go after hitters with his fastball, an approach that isn't going to work at the higher levels. He sometimes slows down his arm speed when he throws his changeup, letting hitters know what's coming. In 2003, Delcarmen will be part of a high Class A rotation that also will include Phil Dumatrait. Delcarmen is at least 21⁄2 years from Boston.
Simon is part of the Wellington High pipeline that also includes recent first-round picks Bobby Bradley, Sean Burnett and Justin Pope. Simon projected as an early pick in 2001, but slid to the ninth round because he was committed to Louisiana State. The Red Sox signed him for $325,000, about fourth-round money. At 6-foot-6, Simon throws on a downward plane that makes it tough for hitters to get good swings against him. In his brief pro career, opponents have batted .189 without a homer against him. His fastball has plus velocity (90-92 mph) and life, with late sink. He throws a hard, overhand curveball and has a good feel for pitching. Simon has made progress with his changeup but still has work to do. His overall package is promising and his biggest need is experience. He has pitched just 42 innings since signing. Simon was the most impressive pitcher in Boston's instructional league camp, so he could develop quicker than expected. He'll open 2003 in low Class A.
Lacking a first-round pick in 2002 because they signed free agent Johnny Damon, the Red Sox landed a first-round talent in Lester with their first choice, 57th overall. He signed for $1 million, the only seven-figure bonus outside the first round. He was a legitimate prospect as a first baseman, though pro teams preferred him as a pitcher. He also was a standout basketball player in high school. Lester is an athletic lefthander along the lines of Mark Langston, which allows him to repeat his delivery with ease and bodes well for his command. Lester throws 88-93 mph, and his fastball has room to grow because he has a projectable body and easy arm action. His changeup is his second-best pitch, and his curveball showed promise in instructional league. Lester's curve needs the most work. He also threw a slider in high school, but Boston prefers that its young pitchers focus initially on curveballs. Though he's talented, he's also raw at this point. The Red Sox will proceed slowly with Lester. He'll probably begin 2003 in extended spring training before joining the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League team in June.
The Diamondbacks signed de la Rosa in 1998 but sold him to the Monterrey Sultans two years later. When Arizona's working agreement with Monterrey expired, the Sultans kept de la Rosa's rights, then saw his velocity jump to the mid-90s in winter ball. Boston signed him for $600,000 in February 2001, and former general manager Dan Duquette dubbed him "the Mexican John Rocker." Moved to the rotation in 2002 to get more innings, de la Rosa still maintained a 92-94 mph fastball. He also throws a hard breaking ball and made strides with his changeup. For two consecutive seasons, de la Rosa has pitched well in high Class A before getting hammered in Double-A. He must gain better command of his pitches and more consistency with his changeup to succeed against more advanced hitters. The Red Sox will give de la Rosa a third crack at Double-A in 2002, continuing to use him as a starter to give him more mound time. His best long-term fit may be as a power lefty out of the bullpen.
Mateo has a friendly rivalry with Billy Simon, and followed him from the Gulf Coast League to short-season Lowell in 2002. The two are similar, though Mateo isn't as consistent or as physically mature as Simon. Boston's GCL pitcher of the year, Mateo is long and lanky, and he's tough to hit because he's deceptive and commands the strike zone. He gets good, late sink on a fastball with average velocity, and he has done a fine job of polishing his curveball. He also has a good feel for throwing a changeup and altering speeds on his fastball. At 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds, he's projectable and should add velocity. Though he's the most advanced of a promising crop of Dominican pitchers that also includes Juan Cedeno, Junior Frias and Denny Tussen, Mateo still will need a few years to develop.
Goss might have gone as high as the fifth round in the 2002 draft had his NFL potential as a kick returner not made teams wary. More of a wide receiver/return specialist than a baseball player at Jackson State, Goss slipped to the 11th round--the same round when Boston grabbed Freddy Sanchez two years earlier. Goss got off to an electrifying start at Lowell, hitting .397 with 14 steals in 21 games, before dislocating a finger on a headfirst slide. He's an exciting player, the fastest guy (6.4 to 6.45 seconds in the 60-yard dash) and the best athlete in the system, but he's also raw and isn't going to make it to Boston overnight. Goss, the only real prospect among the system's outfielders, does understand what he needs to do at the plate. His game is about speed, not strength, and he knows line drives and ground balls play to his strong suit. His plate discipline needs improvement, and he's not going to be a viable leadoff hitter unless he learns to draw a walk. Goss steals bases and runs down fly balls on pure speed, and he'll have to learn how to make better reads and get better jumps. His arm is below-average but playable in center field because he gets to balls quickly. He'll spend his first full pro season in low Class A.
Former scouting director Wayne Britton was high on three draft-and-follows from 2000 who signed in 2001: Brown, lefthander Kason Gabbard and first baseman Brett Bonvechio all looked promising in 2002. Brown surprised the organization with his reluctance to catch at the beginning of the season, so he spent some time in the outfield in the Gulf Coast League, where he was the team's player of the year. He since has realized his quickest path to the majors is behind the plate and isn't resisting any longer. GCL managers compared him to former Twins standout Brian Harper because of Brown's line-drive stroke, but he has the potential for more upside. Brown should develop at least average power as learns how to get pitches he can drive, and he already works counts well. He's also a better defender than Harper was, throwing out 37 percent of basestealers in 2002 and showing agility behind the plate. Though Brown will play some right field in low Class A in 2003 because the Red Sox also want to get Alberto Concepcion time at catcher, his future is as a backstop. That said, Kelly Shoppach will provide a formidable obstacle in the future.
White is a product of the nation's best youth baseball program, East Cobb in suburban Atlanta. East Cobb alumni included 2002 first-round picks Jeremy Hermida (Marlins) and Jeff Francoeur (Braves), and White went two rounds later. His pro debut was delayed until 2003 because he took all summer before signing for $825,000, the second-highest bonus in the third round. At 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, White will need a year or two to develop physically. His eye at the plate excites an organization with a new focus on discipline, and he drew raves for taking pitches inches off the black in instructional league. He has raw power and solid defensive skills at third base. Before the draft, some scouts were concerned by a slight hitch in his swing, but the Red Sox say it serves as a timing mechanism and they have no plans to mess with it. In all likelihood, he'll start 2003 in extended spring training before going to the Gulf Coast League in June.
Not only did the Red Sox add Alan Embree from San Diego in June, but they also got more bullpen help by getting Shibilo in the deal. One of several Padres reclamation prospects from independent ball, Shibilo cuts an imposing figure on the mound at 6-foot-7. His velocity dipped slightly to 90-93 mph in 2002, yet he remained effective because his fastball has late sinking life. He gets inside on batters, breaking bats and generating ugly swings. His slider is solid average and gives him a second plus pitch at times. Shibilo further helps himself by being stingy with walks and homers. His biggest weakness is a slow delivery that makes him an easy target for stolen bases, but his funky motion also makes him hard to hit, so the Red Sox don't want to adjust it too much. He toys with a splitter and throws an occasional changeup, but for the most part he's a fastball/slider pitcher. Spring training will determine whether he begins 2003 in Triple-A or the majors.
A 29th-round pick out of high school in 2000, Gabbard spent a year at Indian River before signing as a draft-and-follow. He got off to an auspicious start in 2002, his first full pro season, not giving up more than two earned runs in any of seven low Class A starts. Then his elbow began to bother him and he didn't pitch again until instructional league. Gabbard had elbow surgery before he turned pro, and he needed another operation to clean out bone chips. He returned for instructional league, though he was shut down before it ended when his elbow got tired. If he can stay healthy, Gabbard offers a lot of promise. He threw 90-92 mph in instructional league in 2001, though his velocity sat more at 87-89 last year. At 6- foot-4, he should be able to maintain a plus fastball, and he already achieves nice sink with the pitch. His curveball and changeup also should be at least solid average, and his approach rates higher than that. Because he barely has pitched as a pro, the Red Sox will move slowly and send him back to low Class A in 2003.
Miniel entered 2002 as Boston's second-best pitching prospect, trailing only Seung Song, who went to the Expos as part of the Cliff Floyd trade in July. By then, Miniel's status had taken a major hit. During the spring, he turned out to be two years older than previously believed, making his strong 2001 showing in the low Class A South Atlantic League less impressive. Though his fastball reached the low 90s, it never returned to the 94-96 mph range he showed consistently in the SAL. He regressed with his secondary pitches, a curveball and a changeup, and didn't miss as many bats as he had in the past. Some Red Sox officials think he's destined for the bullpen, and he may move there in 2003 because the team plans on pushing many of its top pitching prospects to high Class A. Miniel still gets natural cutting action on his fastball and there's some hope his velocity will bounce back. Boston officials said he worked too hard the previous offseason and asked him to take this winter off.
In his final start for UC Riverside, Smith struck out 15 UC Irvine batters to eclipse former Indians first-rounder Daron Kirkreit's school records for whiffs in a game and a season (127). He also pushed his innings total for his junior season to 136, fifth among Division I pitchers who didn't pitch in the postseason. Smith was a little gassed after he signed, but he still showed decent stuff to go with good command. He mostly threw his fastball in the high 80s, and he could creep into the 90s after resting this offseason. Smith's curveball is his best pitch, and his changeup should give him a solid third offering in time. His best attribute is his feel for pitching, which allows him to win even when he's not at his best. He doesn't have as high a ceiling as most pitchers on this list, but he should develop more rapidly and reach the majors sooner than most. Boston will challenge him with a promotion to high Class A to begin his first full pro season.
Martinez, like Miniel, is another Dominican who fell out of the top 10 because his age jumped two years while his performance declined. He did keep his spot on Boston's 40-man roster, though that wasn't much of an accomplishment considering the team initially protected just 28 players. Martinez routinely got hammered in Double-A as his control deteriorated--he led the Eastern League in walks--and didn't handle adversity well. He succeeded when he had his mechanics in sync and more than one pitch working for him, but that happened infrequently. Martinez dials his fastball up to 95 mph with little effort. At times he'll show a hard curveball, but it's inconsistent, and his changeup has not developed. With his power arm and lack of feel for starting, he's a prime candidate to convert to relieving when he returns to Double-A in 2003.
Drafted two rounds later than No. 13 prospect Scott White, Spann shares much in common with him. Both are Georgia products playing the hot corner after Spann moved from shortstop, and both have power potential and defensive upside. A high school quarterback, Spann is more athletic than White but isn't as advanced at the plate because he faced the lowest level of prep competition in Georgia. Spann will be one of the main projects for new minor league hitting coordinator Orv Franchuk. He has tremendous bat speed but needs better pitch recognition and patience. Defensively, he's more agile and has a slightly better arm than White does. Like White, he'll begin 2003 in extended spring training. Spann could return to the Gulf Coast League because White is a better candidate for the New York-Penn League if Boston decides to split them up.
The Red Sox were active in the major league Rule 5 draft at the Winter Meetings, picking up three players and losing two. The Tigers took lefthander Wil Ledezma and the Reds grabbed righthander Jerome Gamble, who would have figured into the upper half of this list. They still bear watching because both have histories of injuries and need to pitch rather than be buried on a big league roster, so Boston could get both of them back. Of the players they picked up, the Red Sox figure to keep Adrian Brown as a fifth outfielder and either White or Javier Lopez as a second bullpen lefty behind Alan Embree. White hit the wall as a starter in Double-A before switching to the bullpen last June, and the move gave the Massachusetts native's career new life. He posted a 2.14 ERA in relief and carried his success over in the Dominican League. As a starter, White's best pitch was his changeup and he regularly threw his fastball in the high 80s. As a reliever, he saw his stuff suddenly jump and the Red Sox think he can be more than just a one- or two-batter lefty specialist. White now works at 90- 93 mph and has more velocity on his slider, giving him multiple weapons to combat righthanders. He has improved control as well. White has added bulk in recent years, and Boston will work with him to loosen his delivery. The Indians liked him, but because they acquired so many prospects in 2002 they couldn't find room for him on their 40-man roster. Because he has a stronger repertoire, White has a better chance to stick than Lopez.
Boston won't get Jeff Bagwell back, but it did land the second-best corner infielder out of the University of Hartford when it claimed Snyder off waivers from the Indians. Snyder, who broke several of Bagwell's school records, won two team MVP awards and one organization player-of-the-year honor in his three full seasons with the Mets. New York sent him to Cleveland in the Roberto Alomar trade before the 2002 season. Snyder's best attribute is his power, and he never has hit fewer than 20 homers in any of his four full seasons. He hits for a decent average and draws a few walks but doesn't stand out in either category. The same is true of his work on the bases and in the field, where he has played first base, third base and the corner outfield spots in the minors. The Red Sox will evaluate him in spring training, and though his role with the organization was unclear after he was designated for assignment, he could at least be a good Triple-A insurance policy.
The Red Sox also delved more heavily into the minor league free-agent market this offseason. Their best pickup was Stewart, who finally learned how to pitch in his seventh season in the Brewers system. He entered 2002 with a career 36-50, 5.00 record as a pro, and got hammered in his first five starts at Huntsville, dropping his lifetime Double-A mark to 1-12, 7.39. Suddenly, everything came together for him and he went 12-4, 2.29 in 22 starts, including a 102-32 strikeout-walk ratio in 142 innings. At 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, Stewart has plenty of mound presence. If he can continue to pound the strike zone with his low-90s sinker and demonstrate command of his other three pitches (curveball, slider, changeup), he'll be quite a find. Stewart will get his first taste of Triple-A in 2003.
In general, Twins farmhands, who also train in Fort Myers, Fla., dominated their Red Sox counterparts in instructional league. One of Boston's few highlights came when Cedeno blew away Joe Mauer, one of the game's best prospects, in two different confrontations. By the end of instructional league, Cedeno was touching 95 mph and had made major strides with his curveball. A wiry 6-foot-1 athlete with huge hands and long fingers that impart a good deal of spin on his pitches, he physically resembles fellow Dominican Pedro Martinez. Cedeno's whippy arm action allows him to generate his velocity. He has huge feet and is still growing, so there's a lot of projectability to him. He needs a lot of time to develop his pitches and his command--both throwing strikes and spotting his pitches within the zone--but he's certainly intriguing.
The Red Sox didn't draft as many New England players in 2002 as they had in the past. The exception was Pelland, one of the region's top prospects. Because he was committed to Clemson--one of Pelland's high school coaches is the brother of Tigers coach Jack Leggett-- he lasted until the ninth round, about five lower than expected. Pelland is a stocky 6-footer, though that doesn't prevent him from reaching the low 90s. Like Juan Cedeno and Denny Tussen, he's very much a project. Pelland's curveball and changeup are below-average, and he'll have to develop more movement on his fastball. He throws with effort and won't add much if any velocity, so making those improvements is critical. He signed late and won't make his pro debut until June. He'll start his career in the Gulf Coast League after spending two months in extended spring training.
Pahucki had an up-and-down career at Siena yet was consistent in his 2002 pro debut. Pahucki won the first nine decisions of his college career, then lost 12 of his next 17 and saw his ERA balloon to 7.40 as a junior. He rebounded to go 6-4, 3.16 as a senior, finishing as the Saints' career leader in wins and strikeouts. After turning pro, he didn't allow more than one earned run in any of his first six starts and in nine of 13 overall. Pahucki relies on finesse more than pure stuff. He doesn't have a consistent plus pitch. His fastball sits in the high 80s, though he reached 93 mph with a four-seamer in instructional league. His curveball and changeup are generally average. Pahucki's strength is his fastball command, and he can locate all of his pitches with precision. His profile reminds new Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein of Brian Lawrence, whom Epstein championed when he worked for the Padres. Pahucki probably will start 2003 in low Class A.
Weatherby pitched at East Carteret (N.C.) High, which produced 1991 No. 1 overall draft pick Brien Taylor, and earned all-Colonial Athletic Association honors as a UNC Wilmington senior in 2001. In 2002, his first full pro season, he showed the Red Sox better stuff than they expected. Moved to the bullpen on a full-time basis, he started throwing 92-94 mph and overmatched righthanders with his splitter. His slider has a chance to become average. Weatherby didn't pitch as well in high Class A or the Arizona Fall League, and at 23 he was old for low Class A, so he still has to prove himself. He's not big and there's some effort to his delivery, and he lacks an offspeed pitch. More important, he must improve his location within the strike zone. How he performs in 2003, when he should reach Double-A at some point, will show if he's a legitimate prospect.
Boston took Bonvechio in the 37th round out of high school in 2000, then liked his bat enough to give him a six-figure bonus as a draft-and-follow after he spent a year in junior college. The Red Sox still are enthusiastic about his offense promise but haven't seen as much of it as they would have liked. He broke a thumb in his first pro summer and was bothered by a hamate bruise in his wrist last year, limiting him to a total of 172 at-bats in two seasons. Bonvechio has a sweet lefthanded stroke, power potential and has shown a willingness to take walks. The injuries have kept him from working on his strength and conditioning, and he could improve rapidly if he stays healthy. Bonvechio played mostly first base in 2002 but Boston would like to return him to third base, where he played as an amateur and in his pro debut. He has enough arm for the position, but needs to work on his first-step quickness and agility. He has a chance to open 2003 in low Class A.
Like Matt White, Lopez is a major league Rule 5 pick who resurrected his career last season and will compete for the job as the second bullpen lefty in 2003. Lopez was shelled for his first four years in the minors, compiling a 5.69 ERA. The Diamondbacks moved him to the bullpen in 2001, which didn't solve anything. They switched him to a sidearm delivery in 2002, which proved to be just what he needed. Lopez sliced his Double-A ERA from 7.43 the year before to 2.72 and was death to lefthanders, who went just 7-for-60 (.117) with one extra-base hit (a double) and 23 strikeouts against him. He continued to pitch well in his native Puerto Rico over the winter. Lopez throws a mid-80s fastball, variations off his slider and a changeup. He mixes arm angles and velocities, and alternates his slider between a hard breaking ball and a sweeping pitch. Lopez will have to prove that he can keep big league righthanders at bay, and if he does in spring training he could break camp with the Red Sox.
Santos is an offensive-minded second baseman in an organization that isn't looking for one. The Red Sox traded for Todd Walker during the offseason, and Freddy Sanchez will be ready to take over if Walker departs as a free agent following the 2003 season. Santos has enough pop to hit 30 doubles and reach double digits in homers annually. A switch-hitter, he generates most of his power from the left side, hitting 23 of his 24 homers the last two years against righthanders. He draws enough walks to satisfy the new Boston administration but needs to make more contact. He's an above-average runner, though a sprained ligament in his right knee slowed him in 2002. Sanchez has improved at turning the double play, but he has stiff hands that limit him defensively. He might have a future with the Red Sox as a utilityman, though the club also moved to strengthen that position by dealing for Cesar Crespo.