Sign Up! Join our newsletters, get a FREE e-Edition
Ramirez fell and injured his left wrist while running the bases on May 1. After sitting out a game with what initially was diagnosed as a sprain, Ramirez tried to play through the pain. He had six hits in four games before sliding into a 2-for-23 slump. Another examination revealed a hairline fracture that sidelined him for seven weeks. Once he was fully healthy, he took off. Ramirez batted .354 the rest of the way at high Class A Sarasota, where Florida State League managers rated him the circuit's best defensive shortstop and best infield arm. Following a promotion to Double-A Portland, he hit .310 with power and made just three errors in 32 games. The Red Sox named him their FSL player of the year, the third time in four pro seasons that Ramirez has won a team MVP award. Shortstop has become a position of strength in the organization, yet Ramirez' five-tool package easily stands out among a crop that also includes Dustin Pedroia, Luis Soto, Christian Lara and Kenny Perez. He's the best athlete in the system with the potential to excel in all aspects of the game. A career .313 hitter, he has quick hands and a short stroke, allowing him to catch up to any fastball. He also excels at pitch recognition, so breaking pitches don't fool him. Ramirez signed as a switch-hitter but was so advanced from the right side that the Red Sox told him not to bother batting lefthanded. He also has plus raw power that started to show up in games after he reached Double-A. He can drive the ball out to all fields, and his home run totals would be higher if he didn't focus so much on hitting the ball up the middle, an approach Boston preaches at the lower levels of the minors. In addition to his offensive skills, Ramirez also has the most speed, best infield skills and strongest infield arm among Red Sox farmhands. After making 36 errors in 2003, he played more under control and cut his miscues to 20. Coming into the 2004 season, Ramirez hadn't done a good job of handling the hype he started receiving after he was rated the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast and short-season New-York Penn leagues in 2002. He was sent home from instructional league that fall for cursing at a trainer, and suspended in 2003 for making an obscene gesture to fans. But Ramirez matured and didn't have any behavioral problems in 2004. He's a hard worker, but his biggest need at this point is to improve his day-to-day preparation. When he's fully focused, he's usually the best player on the diamond. Ramirez doesn't draw as many walks as the Red Sox would hope, in part because he makes consistent hard contact so easily. Ramirez showed enough at Portland that he may begin 2005 at Triple-A Pawtucket. Though he could be ready to play regularly in Boston by 2006, the Red Sox signed free agent Edgar Renteria to a four-year contract through 2008. That deal could make Ramirez a prime piece of trade bait.
Though Moss hit just .226 in his first two years as a pro, the Red Sox believed he was on the verge of a breakout. He proved them correct by winning the batting title and MVP award in the low Class A South Atlantic League, then batting .422 in high Class A during August. Moss has worked very hard to make himself the best hitter in the system. He has a good swing path and a sound approach, and line drives jump off his bat to all fields. Boston likes his raw power and thinks he'll mature into an annual 25- homer threat. Intense and dedicated, he runs OK, plays a solid right field and has a slightly above-average arm. Some SAL observers questioned Moss' pop. But he did have 49 extrabase hits as a 20-year-old, and he's learning how to work counts to get pitches he can drive. With Trot Nixon under contract through 2006 and Manny Ramirez tied up through 2008, the Red Sox can be patient with Moss. He'll probably open 2005 with Boston's new high Class A Wilmington affiliate.
Papelbon worked exclusively in relief during three years at Mississippi State, but the Red Sox drafted him with the idea of making him a starter. After keeping him on tight pitch counts in his pro debut, they turned him loose in 2004. He responded by finishing second in the Florida State League in ERA and strikeouts. Papelbon's fastball, which sits in the 92-94 mph range and touches 98, isn't the hardest in the system, but it's the best in terms of the combination of velocity, movement and command. He relied almost solely on his fastball early in the year, but learned to trust his slider and changeup as the year went on. All three are plus pitches at times, and he also has a curveball he can throw for strikes. He has a durable frame and did a great job with his offseason conditioning. Papelbon's slider and changeup need more consistency. The better they become, the better he'll do against lefthanders. When it's on, he can bury his slider down and in on them. Ticketed for Double-A in 2005, Papelbon has the stuff to become a frontline starter. At worst, he should be an innings-eater.
Lester gets asked about in trade talks more than any Red Sox prospect, and he would have gone to the Rangers had Boston been able to finalize a deal for Alex Rodriguez last offseason. The top pick in the Red Sox' last draft before they adopted a strong college emphasis, he signed for $1 million as a second-rounder. Lester has a stronger arm than most lefthanders, as he pitches at 92-93 mph and hits 96. He's very athletic and has a smooth delivery, which bodes well for his long-term control. He does an excellent job of keeping the ball down in the zone, yielding just nine homers in 197 pro innings. He picked up an effective cut fastball at midseason. He's far from a finished product. Lester's curveball and changeup have the potential to be average or better pitches, but they're not there yet. He missed most of June with shoulder tightness, but it's not a long-term concern. How well Lester refines his secondary pitches will determine when he reaches Boston and where he'll slot into the rotation. He'll open 2005 in Double-A and could surface in the majors as early as mid-2006.
Sanchez pitched well for two seasons in the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League, then needed elbow surgery to transpose a nerve. After missing all of 2003, he came back in a huge way, leading the New York- Penn League in ERA and strikeouts and ranking as the circuit's top pitching prospect. Sanchez succeeded in Venezuela when he worked at 88-90 mph, and he dominated in 2004 when his velocity jumped to the mid- 90s. His fastball is also notable for its movement and his ability to command it to both sides of the plate. Sanchez has one of the system's better curveballs. His changeup shows flashes of becoming a plus pitch. With an electric arm and pitching savvy, Sanchez just needs more innings and continued good health. His curveball and changeup aren't totally reliable yet, but should improve as he gains more experience. He's not physically dominating, but he generates velocity with arm speed rather than extra effort. Sanchez will move to full-season ball for the first time in 2005, pitching at Boston's new low Class A Capital City affiliate. He might not need much more than two more seasons in the minors.
Pedroia represents one extreme of the tools vs. performance debate. He's not physically gifted, but he wins. A two-time All-American at Arizona State, he had no problem adjusting to Class A in his pro debut. He batted a combined .357 and didn't commit an error in 42 games. Pedroia has tremendous ability to handle the bat and control the strike zone, making him a candidate to bat second in a big league lineup. His hands and fundamentals are excellent at shortstop, and the Red Sox believe he'll be able to stay at that position. He enhances his average speed with uncanny instincts. Several scouts have questioned whether Pedroia has enough arm and range to play shortstop. The presence of Hanley Ramirez in the system may make that question moot. Pedroia never will be a home run threat, though he'll have some gap power. Pedroia may start his first full season in Double-A. He could be Boston's next Jody Reed, who began his big league career at shortstop before moving to second base.
International scouting director Louie Eljaua left to become a Pirates special assistant in January 2004, but he left Soto as a going-away present. Signed for $500,000 just before Eljaua departed, Soto rated as the Gulf Coast League's top prospect in his pro debut. Boston's minor league instructors have been told not to touch Soto's swing. He has great handeye coordination, quick hands and a fluid stroke from both sides of the plate. He has more power potential than any hitter in the system, with the chance to become a 30-homer hitter. His strong arm is his best defensive tool, and he also has good speed. He adapted well and picked up English quickly in his first year in the United States. While Soto has natural actions at shortstop, his instincts and fundamentals lag behind because he has limited game experience. He makes contact so easily that he won't draw many walks unless he becomes much more patient. Soto likely will begin 2005 in extended spring training before heading to short-season Lowell. With Edgar Renteria and Hanley Ramirez ahead of him, Soto could move to third base.
Shoppach has made steady progress through the minors since the Red Sox made him the first college catcher drafted in 2001. After winning team MVP honors in his first two seasons, he was the Triple-A International League's all-star catcher in 2004. Shoppach's 22 homers matched his previous career total. IL managers rated him the league's top defensive catcher. He has a strong arm and a quick release, and he's also a capable receiver. An outstanding leader, he won the trust of a veteran Pawtucket pitching staff and improved his game-calling skills. With 333 strikeouts in 321 minor league games, Shoppach may never make enough contact to hit for a high average. While he hit a careerlow .233 in 2004, Boston still thinks he can put up .265/.340/.500 numbers in the majors. Like most catchers, Shoppach doesn't have much speed. Somewhat similar to Jason Varitek, Shoppach wouldn't have been ready to replace Varitek had he departed as a free agent. By re-signing back Varitek and backup Doug Mirabelli, Boston bought another year of much-needed development time for Shoppach.
Bladergroen was a junior college all-American in both his seasons at Lamar (Colo.) Community College and led national juco players with 32 homers in 2003. A 44th-round pick the year before, he signed with the Mets as a draft-and-follow for ninth-round money (about $65,000). He continued to mash as a pro, chasing the South Atlantic League triple crown last year before tearing a ligament in his left wrist right after the league's all-star break. Bladergroen had season-ending surgery but is expected to be 100 percent for 2005, when he'll make his Red Sox organization debut after being acquired for surplus first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, New York's consolation prize after failing to sign Carlos Delgado. Bladergroen's most obvious tool is his plus power, and because his bat stays in the zone for a long time, he also can hit for average. He uses the whole field and works counts well. Though he has produced for average and power, he doesn't have exceptional bat speed and scouts wonder if he might have problems at higher levels. At 21 last year, he wasn't young for low Class A either. He's a below-average runner, but he's agile at first base and uses his big wingspan to nab high throws. Bladergroen now is the best first-base prospect in the system, surpassing Jeremy West, and could quickly push West after starting one level behind him in high Class A this year.
The Red Sox believed Alvarez' exceptional feel for pitching would allow him to move rapidly, and he made his big league debut in an emergency start against the Orioles just 13 months after they drafted him. A childhood infection left him legally blind in his left eye, and he wears his cap askew to shield his right eye from too much light. Alvarez' command and his changeup, his main weapons, are the best in the system. Though his fastball registers a pedestrian 85-88 mph on radar guns, he gets outs by locating it with precision. His curveball can be a solid average pitch. Alvarez works with little margin for error. When he fell behind hitters in his big league start, he couldn't recover. Righthanders batted .271 off him in Double-A, and he needs to pitch inside to keep them honest. While he throws his curve for strikes, he needs to learn how to throw it out of the zone while still getting hitters to chase it. The most advanced pitching prospect in the organization, Alvarez will open the season in Triple-A. He projects as a No. 3-5 starter.
Delcarmen was headed for a breakthrough 2003 until he blew out his elbow throwing a changeup in his fourth outing of the season. He had Tommy John surgery that May and returned to the mound 12 months later. His arm strength already has come back, as Delcarmen threw 92-94 mph during the season and topped out at 97 in the Arizona Fall League. There's no consensus on who owns the best curveball among Boston farmhands, but Delcarmen gets the most support. His changeup improved after he switched grips in 2003. He throws a lot of strikes for a power pitcher. Delcarmen can make a claim to having the best pure stuff in the system, but he's still learning how to pitch. His curveball can be very good but it's also inconsistent. His fastball has more velocity than life and isn't always difficult to hit. Relearning his delivery after his surgery will take some more time. Delcarmen should be at full strength in 2005, and the Red Sox would like to push him to Double-A. He can be unhittable in short stints, so his future may lie in the bullpen.
After Lara won the organization's Rookie-level Dominican Summer League player-of-the-year award in his 2003 pro debut, the Red Sox' scouting report was that he had classic shortstop tools and his bat would determine how far he would go. If his first year in the United States is any indication, it could take him all the way to Fenway Park. Lara made BA's Top 10 Prospects lists in both the Gulf Coast League, where he hit .433 in a brief stay, and the New York-Penn League. A switch-hitter, he showed promising bat-handling ability and patience at the plate. He needs to get stronger and perhaps more aggressive at the plate, though he'll never be a power hitter. His speed and arm both earn 55 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale, and his instincts help him play above those tools in the field and on the bases. Counting big leaguer Edgar Renteria, Lara ranks just fifth on Boston's depth chart at shortstop despite his promise. He'll try to improve his standing this year in low Class A.
Since Theo Epstein became general manager in November 2002, the Red Sox have almost exclusively targeted college players in the draft. Though they have spent 30 of their 32 picks in the first 15 rounds on collegians, that didn't stop them from making a record investment in Rozier, a high school lefty. A consensus third-round talent whom Boston viewed as the equivalent of a first-rounder--a luxury it didn't have in the 2004 draft after giving up its choice to sign Keith Foulke--Rozier dropped to the 12th round last June because of signability questions. A three-sport star in high school, Rozier's football prowess (he had a scholarship to play quarterback at North Carolina) and agent (Scott Boras) scared off clubs. The Red Sox signed him for $1.575 million, the third-highest bonus in club history and a baseball record for a player taken after the third round. Rozier is a physical, projectable lefty who reminds Boston of Jon Lester, the top southpaw in the system. He has similar size, athleticism and projection, and he has a plus fastball. He pitched at 88-92 mph and topped out at 94 during the spring, then hit 95 in instructional league, where he reminded special assistant Bill Lajoie of Mark Mulder. Rozier's curveball may be better than Lester's, though his changeup has a ways to go. He could take off quickly now that he's committing full-time to baseball, but might begin the season in extended spring training before making his pro debut in June.
Brandon Moss made a huge breakthrough in 2004, and Hall, another Georgia high school product, may be on the verge of doing the same in 2005. Boston's only prep pick in the first 16 rounds in 2003, Hall went in the second round and signed for $800,000. His advanced approach at the plate appealed to the Red Sox, but it wasn't apparent when he hit .227 during his pro debut, then .190 in his first two months last year. The second-youngest everyday player in the South Atlantic League, Hall suddenly turned his game around and batted .274/.354/.489 for the remainder of the season. Boston loves his desire, as he worked hard to make it to low Class A out of spring training and then worked harder to make the adjustments he needed there. He has a sound, quick swing, and the ball should jump off his bat more frequently as he gets stronger. Hall has slightly above-average speed and arm strength, though he needs to settle down defensively after committing 14 outfield errors last year, worst in the Sally League. He played all three outfield positions in 2004 but should spend most of his time in right field this season while in high Class A.
Murphy was rarely at his best in his first full pro season. He was in the midst of a month-long .170 slump in May when he caught his spike in the batter's box and sustained a freak injury, pulling the muscle off the bone in his left foot. He missed a week, came back for five games, then spent the next two months on the sidelines. After he returned in August, he began to hit the ball with authority for the first time as a pro. As with many of the hitters they've drafted in recent years, the Red Sox really like Murphy's approach. The question is how much pop he'll have once he grows into his frame. He's more of a line-drive, gap-to-gap hitter right now and needs more loft in his swing, though he can show plus raw power in batting practice. Boston took him with the hopes he could play center field, and Murphy is adjusting well to that position after playing mostly right field at Baylor. His speed and arm are average, but his instincts and athleticism help him get the job done in center. He'll return to high Class A in 2005 so he can build confidence before he gets promoted.
Georgia area scout Rob English signed four of the top 15 prospects on this list: Brandon Moss, Mike Rozier, Mickey Hall and Spann. Overmatched in his 2002 pro debut, Spann worked hard to improve his strength and discipline and took a huge step forward in 2003. An injury to his left knee wrecked his 2004 season, however, as he missed 2 1/2 months following surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Spann sustained the injury sometime in the past, but it remained undetected until he strained a ligament and had an MRI. Even after he returned in late July, the knee curtailed Spann's effectiveness because it hindered his mobility and balance. Spann focuses on making contact and using the center of the field, but he'll need to get stronger and pull more pitches to develop suitable power for third base. He didn't command the strike zone nearly as well in 2004 as he did the previous season. He has enough arm and range to play third base, but he'll need to continue to work hard to become a sound defender. His hands are his biggest weakness and contributed to his 15 errors in 54 games at the hot corner last year. As with David Murphy, the Red Sox will have Spann repeat high Class A to get him back on track.
Cedeno's signature moment remains blowing away Joe Mauer in two instructional league at-bats in 2002, but he was rarely that dominant last season. He still has one of the best fastballs in the system, sitting at 92-93 mph and pushing 95-96. He's not big but generates plenty of arm speed and could have even more velocity left in his tank. He also has developed a two-seam version of his fastball that has nice life. For a lefty with that kind of heat, Cedeno is far too hittable. He can't put batters away because he doesn't have reliable secondary pitches, and when he gets in jams he just throws as hard as he can. His curveball and changeup show signs of coming around, but he needs to trust them more. Cedeno had a groin pull early last year but never has had any arm problems. He can be frustrating, but few southpaws can match his sheer arm strength. The Red Sox hope he'll figure out how to pitch this year, when he'll probably return to high Class A to open the season. Because his tools currently outstrip his skills, he's also a candidate to get traded, and other teams have shown interest.
Though Dustin Pedroia finished last year two levels ahead of him and may begin this year in Double-A, Hottovy still could beat him as Boston's first 2004 draftee to reach the majors. The Red Sox have taken a more performance-oriented and college approach to the last two drafts, and Hottovy's 92-10 strikeout-walk ratio (fifth-best in NCAA Division I) last spring appealed to them. A fourth-round senior sign who landed a $110,000 bonus, he showed the same exceptional command in his pro debut. Several teams projected him as a reliever, but Boston believes Hottovy has enough stuff and savvy to start. His best pitch is his plus curveball. His 86-89 mph fastball won't scare anyone, but he keeps it down and locates it with precision. His athleticism--Hottovy had scholarship offers as a quarterback coming out of high school--allows him to repeat his delivery with ease. His changeup gives him a third effective pitch. Because he signed as a college senior, Hottovy already is 23. He has a chance to open 2005 in Double-A, but most likely he won't get there until the second half of the season.
Dobies and Tommy Hottovy will be compared to each other as they rise through the Red Sox system together. Boston took Dobies in the third round last June, just ahead of Hottovy, and signed him for $400,000. Both were unhittable while being kept on tight pitch counts at short-season Lowell in their pro debuts, and they figure to be teammates again in 2005. Their styles on the mound are similar as well. Dobies throws a tick harder than Hottovy at 87-89 mph, getting good cutting movement on his fastball, and his changeup is slightly more consistent. While Hottovy's curveball is better than Dobies' slider, the slider is effective, as is Dobies' curve. His delivery and arm action are so consistent that he can throw strikes at will. As with Hottovy, many clubs projected Dobies as a reliever but Boston has no plans to move him out of the rotation.
Boston's 2004 Gulf Coast League entry had two righthanders, Jesus Delgado and Olivo Astacio, who can throw in the mid-90s. James doesn't have that kind of velocity, but he's a much more advanced pitcher and a better prospect, not to mention the GCL club's pitcher of the year. He also won a one-game playoff against the Mets with 5 2/3 strong innings, putting the Red Sox into the GCL finals. A cousin of Kelvim Escobar, James already shows the ability to repeat his delivery, allowing him to find the strike zone consistently. He's still young and needs to fill out his skinny frame, but once he matures physically he should have three average to plus pitches. He has solid velocity on his fastball, which ranges from 89-93 mph, and throws a curveball and changeup. He's probably headed to Lowell in 2004, though James is precocious enough to make a push for low Class A.
The Red Sox loaded up on polished college pitchers in the 2004 draft. Meredith, who finished sixth (right behind Tommy Hottovy) in NCAA Division I with an 84-12 strikeout-walk ratio, signed as a sixth-round pick for $135,000. He pitched a Virginia Commonwealth with such top pitching prospects as Sean Marshall (Cubs) and Justin Orenduff (Dodgers), setting the Rams' career ERA record at 2.52 Though he didn't join the organization until June, Meredith led all Boston farmhands with 18 saves while splitting time between two full-season Class A teams. He used a crossfire, low three-quarters delivery that generates a lot of life and deception. The Red Sox compare the sink on his fastball to postseason hero Derek Lowe's, grading it as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Meredith's sinker arrives at 87-90 mph and is nearly impossible to lift, as evidenced by his 47-8 groundball-flyball ratio as a pro. His slider is a borderline average pitch that needs more consistency. After following up his scintillating debut with a strong performance in instructional league, Meredith could open 2005 in Double-A.
Mike Rozier wasn't the only 2004 Red Sox draftee who landed a record bonus. A draft-eligible sophomore who could have returned to Central Florida without losing any bargaining power, Bono opened the summer in the Cape Cod League, where he didn't surrender a run in 12 appearances. That was enough to persuade Boston to sign him for $432,000, the most ever for an eighth-round pick. A late bloomer on the mound, Bono was primarily a third baseman and pitched sporadically as a high school senior. In two years of college, he set a Golden Knights record with a 1.66 career ERA and led NCAA Division I with five shutouts last spring. Bono's top two pitches are his heavy 88-91 mph sinker and his changeup. Whether he remains a starter in the long term depends primarily on how much improvement he can make with his ordinary slider. He likes to go right after hitters, and he locates all three of his pitches well in the strike zone. Because he's so polished--like many of Boston's 2004 pitching draft picks--Bono could handle starting his first full season in high Class A.
Boston took Stern from the Braves in the major league Rule 5 draft in December and will give him the opportunity to make the big league club as a reserve outfielder. If he doesn't stick, he'll have to go through waivers and be offered back to Atlanta for half the $50,000 draft price before he could be sent to the minors. Stern hadn't done much as a pro before last year, missing most of 2003 with a hamstring injury. He earned Double-A Southern League all-star honors after finishing third in the batting race at .322, then helped Richmond win an International League playoff series by leading all players with a .357 average in the postseason. In between, he played center field for Canada at the Olympics. Stern's breakthrough came when he stopped worrying about power, shortened his swing and focused on putting the ball in play. He made much better contact than he had in the past, though he could make more use of his plus speed if he'd walk more often. After Johnny Damon, Stern is the best defensive center fielder on the roster, enhancing his chances of making the team. His arm strength is another asset.
The Red Sox don't have a blue-chip first-base prospect, but they do have several interesting possibilities at the position. Those include Stefan Bailie, who had a breakthrough .308/.376/.576 year in 2004; Carlos Torres, who tied for the Gulf Coast League lead with eight homers; and line drive-hitting, sweet-fielding Logan Sorensen, a 19th-round pick last June. The best of the group is West, who's similar to Kevin Millar. His power is his lone plus tool, and though he has an uppercut swing he's also a solid hitter for average. He controls the strike zone better than his walk total would indicate because he doesn't chase balls off the plate and drives his pitch when he gets it. A DH and third-string catcher at Arizona State, he didn't become a full-time first baseman until he turned pro. He works hard but has a long way to go with the glove, both with his actions and instincts. After earning all-star recognition in the Florida State League, he's ready for Double-A.
Though Vaughan is similar physically to Jon Papelbon and went one round ahead of him in the 2003 draft, their paths diverged last year. While Papelbon became the organization's top pitching prospect, Vaughan took a step backward, starting with arriving in spring training in less than optimal shape. He came down with a tired arm, so he opened the season in extended spring and didn't make his first start until late May. More arm fatigue meant his season also ended three weeks early. Not only does Vaughan need to improve his conditioning, but he also needs to change his approach on the mound. Though he has an 89-93 mph fastball and an 82-84 mph slider, he likes to nibble with offspeed stuff early in the count. He does have a true curveball and flashes a nice changeup, but Vaughan must realize he'll have more success if he gets ahead by establishing his fastball. The Red Sox hope Vaughan will be motivated to prove his disappointing 2004 was an aberration. He may have to go back to low Class A and start over.
The Padres needed a center fielder who could cover enough ground at Petco Park, so Boston was able to trade them Dave Roberts for three players and $2.65 million in December. Jay Payton and Ramon Vazquez will help the major league bench in 2005, and the Red Sox were also able to add a pitching prospect in Pauley. Darryl Milne, now an area scout for the Sox, signed him out of high school when he worked for the Padres organization. Pauley progressed slowly but surely through the Padres system and has a ceiling as a back-of-the-rotation starter. His best pitch is his curveball-which can rate anywhere from 50 to 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale--but he sometimes throws it too much. His fastball runs from 87-91 mph with decent movement, and his changeup lacks deception. The next step in Pauley's development will take him to Double-A.
Perez was considered the fourth-best high school shortstop in Miami in 2000, after first rounders Luis Montanez (Cubs) and David Espinosa (Reds) and fourth-rounder Raul Tablado (Blue Jays). But it's Perez, a sixth-rounder, who's the lone member of that group to reach Double-A as a shortstop. His days at the position are numbered, however, more because of the organization's strength at shortstop than any deficiencies on his part. Perez doesn't have tremendous range at short, but he has sure hands and a strong, accurate arm. He'll probably see time at second and third base as well this year in Triple-A to groom him for a possible utility role. Offensively, Perez is a switch-hitter with good hand-eye coordination and plate discipline. He makes contact easily, though sometimes that works against him because it's not always a hitter's pitch that he puts into play. He has more raw power than the typical middle infielder, and he started to translate it into game production last season. He's an average runner with fine instincts on the bases. Perez enjoyed the best season of his career in 2004, though he missed time with a sore hamstring in August and most of the Arizona Fall League with a wrenched back.
Trying to become the first Honduras-born player to reach the big leagues, Vaquedano gained on his main competition (Cleveland's Mariano Gomez) in 2004. While Gomez was slowed with a finger injury, Vaquedano advanced two levels while getting his first exposure to full-season ball. He dominated low Class A, then pitched just as well after getting by a rocky first month in high Class A. His changeup currently is his best pitch, as he sells it well by using the same arm speed he does with his fastball. Vaquedano's fastball stands out more for its sink than its velocity (88-90 mph), but he could throw harder because he has a quick arm and a thin, projectable build. His slider is a usable third pitch. Though Vaquedano throws strikes, he'll need to locate his fastball better to set up more advanced hitters for his changeup. He should pitch in Double-A this year.
Galvez made three attempts to defect from Cuba before succeeding on his fourth in August 2002. The Red Sox beat out the Dodgers, Mariners, Phillies and Yankees to sign him for $450,000. Though one of the other clubs offered him $500,000, he chose the Sox because he developed a relationship with Louie Elajua, then Boston's director of international scouting. Visa problems restricted him to the Dominican Summer League in 2003, delaying his U.S. debut until last season. Galvez showed very good control for his age--which, unlike with many Cubans, isn't in dispute--but must come up with a way to miss more bats. He can locate his fastball with precision, but it has below-average velocity (86-90 mph) and movement. His curveball and slider are effective, and he shows a feel for his changeup. But Galvez likes to toy with hitters and show all his pitches rather than finish them off. He could begin 2005 back in low Class A with an opportunity to move up later in the season.
Mota has one of the most exciting packages of tools in the organization. He has the best outfield arm among Boston farmhands, and his raw power, speed and center-field ability are also plus tools. He will require a ton of refinement, but if everything comes together he could be a dynamite center fielder. "He's out of control at times," one club official says, "but he also makes you go, 'Wow!' at times too." Mota is wiry strong and should have considerable game power once he fills out physically. His biggest issue is pitch and strike-zone recognition, as he's too aggressive and struggles with breaking balls. The Red Sox acknowledge that Mota will need a lot of time in the minors to smooth out his rough edges, and they're willing to give it to him. Still just 19, he's not ready for full-season ball and could repeat the Gulf Coast League.