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After losing free agent Rafael Furcal to the Dodgers, the Braves wanted Edgar Renteria as a replacement, and the Red Sox were happy to oblige. The teams talked to the Devil Rays about a three-team deal that would have sent Marte (Atlanta's No. 1 prospect) to Tampa Bay and Julio Lugo to Boston. But when the Rays asked for an extra prospect, the Red Sox traded Renteria straight up for Marte. Signed for $600,000 out of the Dominican Republic, he has ranked among the game's top third-base prospects since his first full U.S. season in 2002. Once compared to Miguel Cabrera, he hasn't developed quite as fast but still is just 22. Marte's biggest problem in Atlanta was that Chipper Jones is entrenched at the hot corner and doesn't want to return to the outfield. He got his first big league opportunity in June after Jones strained a ligament in his left foot, but Marte hit just .200 with three RBIs in 12 games before returning to the minors. Marte has everything teams want in a third baseman, starting with tape-measure power. His stroke has a natural uppercut that generates plenty of loft, and the ball jumps off his bat to all fields. He's an aggressive hitter who punishes mistakes, and he has the bat speed and aptitude to hit for a solid average. His walk rate has increased in each of the last three seasons. Marte also provides quality glovework at the hot corner. Managers rated him the best defensive third baseman in the Triple-A International League--the fourth consecutive year he earned that honor in his league. He moves well to both sides and has a strong, accurate arm. His 15 errors and .950 fielding percentage in 2005 were career bests. The Braves gave him high marks for his maturity and approach. As with most power hitters, Marte will pile up some strikeouts to go with his homers. His swing can get long at times, and he occasionally gets overanxious and chases breaking balls out of the strike zone. His speed is slightly below average, and he'll get slower as he continues to fill out. However, he's a smart runner who's not a liability on the bases. Marte's elbow bothered him slightly during the season but it wasn't considered a serious problem. There were reports that the Devil Rays backed out of the three-way trade over concerns that Marte had a torn ligament. But the Red Sox found his medical records to be clean, and he played without problems in the Dominican League this offseason. While he has the tools to become a star, his immediate future remains uncertain. Marte's best chance of cracking Boston's lineup is to wrest the first-base job from Kevin Youkilis. But Marte never has played first base. He doesn't have anything left to prove in Triple-A, but may have to open the season in Pawtucket. It's also possible that the Red Sox will spin him in another trade to address needs at first base, shortstop or center field.
Lester's long-awaited breakout finally came in 2005, when he was Boston's minor league pitcher of the year. He won the same award in the Double-A Eastern League, which he led in ERA, complete games and strikeouts. He was part of the failed Alex Rodriguez trade talks in 2003, but the Red Sox refused to part with him in the Josh Beckett deal. Lester is a big, physical lefthander with a chance for three plus pitches. His fastball has late life and has risen from 87-88 mph in 2003 to 90-91 in 2004 to 92-93 last year, when he topped out at 95. He has turned his cut fastball into a true slider that's now his No. 2 pitch. He can get both swings and misses and called strikes with his changeup. Once Lester gets a little more consistent with his secondary pitches and his command, he'll be ready for the big leagues. He'll keep batters off balance by throwing an occasional curveball, but it lags behind his other offerings. Boston doesn't have an opening in its rotation, so Lester will head to Triple-A. He should be ready if needed by the second half, and he has the stuff to become a frontline starter.
The Red Sox wouldn't have made the playoffs last year without Papelbon. Boston won all three of his starts after his July promotion, and in September, he became its primary set-up man. Papelbon's best pitch is a 92-93 mph fastball that sits at 95 when he works in relief, and his heater's late life makes it seem quicker. He can locate it to both sides of the plate and blow it by hitters upstairs. Papelbon honed his fosh changeup into a nasty splitter. His slider rates as a 55 on the 20-80 scouting scale at times. He showed no fear as a rookie thrust into a pennant race. Papelbon rarely had three pitches working for him at the same time in the majors. His splitter and slider still can be refined. He throws a curveball as a starter, but it's a distant fourth pitch. The Red Sox have greater need for relievers than starters, so Papelbon should open 2006 in the bullpen. In the long term, he should front Boston's rotation along with Josh Beckett and Jon Lester.
Hansen made the Diamondbacks' short list to be drafted No. 1 overall but ultimately fell to the Red Sox at No. 26 because of signability concerns. He landed a four-year, $4.4 million big league contract with a $1.325 million bonus in July, and overcame a tired arm to pitch for Boston in September. Hansen has two dominant pitches and the makeup to be a big league closer. He usually pitches at 93-95 mph with plus sink on his fastball, and he's capable of reaching 97. His slider was the best breaking ball in the 2005 draft, a nasty mid-80s pitch that seems allergic to bats. Hansen's tired arm was simply the result of a two-month layoff after his college season ended, and his stuff wasn't as explosive as usual. When he dropped his arm angle trying to add some bite on his slider, he lost some command with his fastball. Hansen held his own in the majors despite not being at his best. He could use more time in the minors but also could make the Red Sox out of spring training. He's their closer of the (near) future.
Boston's top pick in 2004, Pedroia was the organization's minor league offensive player of the year in 2005. A wrist injury shortly after a promotion to Triple-A kept him from getting called up to Boston. He has extraordinary hand-eye coordination. He's able to swing from his heels yet make consistent contact with gap power. Managers rated his strike-zone discipline and second-base defense the best in the Eastern League last year. His instincts and makeup are excellent. Pedroia's arm and range weren't quite up to par at shortstop, though Boston would have kept him there if he hadn't teamed with Hanley Ramirez last year. Pedroia's speed is a step below-average, but he runs the bases well. He needs to get stronger to hold up over a full season. The Red Sox wouldn't mind giving Pedroia more time in Triple-A. A trade for Mark Loretta and Tony Graffanino's acceptance of arbitration probably ended Pedroia's chances of winning the second-base job this spring, but there's also a hole at shortstop he might fill.
Ellsbury led Oregon State to its first College World Series since 1952, and the Red Sox were elated that he slipped to them as the No. 23 overall pick in the 2005 draft. Signed for $1.4 million, he finished second in the short-season New York-Penn League in steals despite getting a late start and missing two weeks with a hamstring injury. Ellsbury draws Johnny Damon comparisons because he's a lefthanded-hitting center fielder who can run and defend. He has the bat-handling ability, on-base skills and speed to hit atop the order. He's intelligent and has a solid work ethic. Ellsbury's arm is below-average but playable in center field, and he plays shallow to compensate. He doesn't have much home run power, though he had no problem reaching the right-field bullpen during a Fenway Park workout after big league hitting coach Ron Jackson tinkered with his setup to get his swing started quicker. There's no reason Ellsbury shouldn't move quickly through the minors. He'll begin his first full season at high Class A Wilmington and could be pushing for a big league job by 2008.
When the Red Sox re-signed free agents Jason Varitek and Doug Mirabelli after the 2004 season, they sentenced Shoppach to repeating Triple-A. He was named the International League's all-star catcher for the second straight year and led the league in homers per at-bat. Shoppach has some similarities to Varitek in that he has above-average power and strong leadership skills. Shoppach doesn't hit for average but draws enough walks to post respectable on-base percentages. A strong arm and quick release allowed him to throw out 44 percent of IL basestealers. His receiving and game-calling skills are solid. He's pull-conscious and sells out for power, so Shoppach strikes out a lot. Pitchers had their way with him in his first brief taste of the majors last year, so he'll have to make some adjustments. He's a slow runner. By trading Mirabelli to the Padres, the Red Sox have cleared the way for Shoppach to become Varitek's backup with a good spring.
Delcarmen was one of the system's top starting pitching prospects before requiring Tommy John surgery in May 2003. He remained in the rotation when he came back in 2004, but switched to the bullpen in the Arizona Fall League after the season. He rocketed to Boston in his new role last year, though he was used sparingly in his seven weeks in the majors. Delcarmen regularly throws 94-95 mph and tops out at 97 as a reliever. His fastball explodes through the zone, and he also can strike hitters out with his hammer curveball. He has the demeanor and the resilient arm to handle relief. His delivery gets out of whack too easily, leading to problems with his command and the consistency of his pitches. He rarely had his standout curve in the majors, forcing him to rely on his decent changeup as his second pitch. Delcarmen profiles as a set-up man, a commodity the Red Sox desperately needed in 2005. Their offseason moves, however, increased the chances Delcarmen will open 2006 in Triple-A.
Lowrie won the Pacific-10 Conference triple crown as a sophomore in 2004 but slipped as a junior, allowing the Red Sox to get him with the 45th overall pick. Lowrie led the New York-Penn League in on-base percentage and played a solid shortstop after manning second base at Stanford. After previous struggles in the Alaska League and with Team USA, he eased doubts about his ability to hit with wood during his pro debut. A switch-hitter, he shortened and smoothed out his swing from the right side. He has good loft power from the left side and knows the strike zone. The Red Sox think he has enough arm strength and athleticism to remain at shortstop for a while. He has average speed. Lowrie's ability to stick at shortstop hinges on his range. His footwork and lateral movement are the question marks, though he was better than expected in both areas. He's not used to making plays from deep in the hole, which give him trouble. Lowrie will skip a level and go to high Class A for his first full season. With Dustin Pedroia playing second base and Hanley Ramirez traded, Lowrie is now the system's top shortstop prospect.
After getting just 18 at-bats as a freshman infielder at McNeese State in 2004, Buchholz transferred to Angelina (Texas) Junior College to get more playing time. The move paid off, as he starred as a two-way player and went 42nd overall in the 2005 draft, signing for $800,000. Despite his inexperience on the mound, Buchholz has a fair amount of polish, outstanding athleticism and tremendous potential. While he pitched mostly at 88-92 mph while working on strict pitch limits at short-season Lowell, he often picked up velocity and sat at 93-94 in the late innings at Angelina. His changeup is his second-best pitch right now, and he also has the makings of an above-average slider and curveball. Some teams avoided him in the draft because he was arrested in April 2004 and charged with stealing laptop computers from a middle school and selling them. Boston officials say they aren't concerned about further problems. His secondary pitches come and go. Buchholz will open 2006 at low Class A Greenville. A potential No. 3 starter, he'll move as quickly as he refines his breaking pitches and changeup.
Area scouts who followed Bowden as an Illinois high schooler last spring loved him. His highlight was a 19-strikeout perfect game that Red Sox scouting director Jason McLeod called the best prep pitching performance he had ever seen. But when a slew of directors and crosscheckers showed up for his next start, he pitched in the mid-80s. He was just worn out from spending hours the previous day patching holes in the family driveway, an example of his strong makeup and work ethic. Boston took Bowden with the 47th overall pick in June and signed him for $730,000. Outside of that outing, he consistently showed a heavy 92-93 mph fastball. His curveball, one of the best in the 2005 high school ranks, may be an even better pitch. He started to work on a changeup in instructional league, and the Red Sox were encouraged by his progress. He throws strikes but like most young pitchers, he'll have to refine his location. The one red flag some teams had with Bowden was his unorthodox delivery. But after doing extensive video study, Boston concluded that his mechanics work fine for him, he repeats them well and isn't at any risk. He's a quality athlete--one scouting director clocked him in an above-average 4.2 seconds from the right side of the plate to first base--and his strong frame should make him a workhorse. Bowden took it slow in his debut, working just six innings, but could make the jump to low Class A in 2006.
The Red Sox deliberated between taking Murphy or Conor Jackson with the 17th overall pick in the 2003 draft. Boston ultimately went for Murphy, while Jackson since has established himself as one of the game's best hitting prospects. Murphy, meanwhile, has encountered more than his share of adversity after signing for $1.525 million. He pulled the muscle off the bone in his left foot in a freak baserunning accident in 2004, ruining his first full season. When he was hitting .230 with one homer through mid-June last year, it looked like his bat might never come around. But Murphy made adjustments and hit .301 with 16 doubles and 13 homers in the final 2 1/2 months. He has plus raw power that's starting to come out, and he should hit more homers if he can add strength to his lanky, athletic frame. The key for Murphy was refining his ability to manage counts, getting ahead so pitchers had to feed him pitches he can drive. He also improved his timing and worked with Portland batting coach Russ Morman to keep his bat in the zone longer. Even when he wasn't hitting, he never stopped working and didn't let his struggles affect his baserunning or defense. One of the reasons the Red Sox took him over Jackson was that they projected Murphy as a center fielder even though he played right field at Baylor. Murphy's conversion has gone well, and he earned the organization's first-ever minor league defensive player of the year award in 2005. Murphy has average speed but covers more than enough ground in center because he plays hard, positions himself well and has good instincts. He goes back well on balls and his arm is above-average for a center fielder. Murphy could push for the Boston center-field job toward the end of 2006.
After signing for $500,000 in November 2003, Soto began his career in the United States. All went well in the complex-based Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2004, but Soto had a harder time making cultural adjustments when he began last season in Greenville. He struggled on the field, looked out of shape and didn't take responsibility for his slow start. After a month, the Red Sox demoted him to extended spring training before eventually turning him loose in the New York-Penn League, where he prospered. A switch-hitter, Soto generates excellent bat speed from both sides of the plate and his power potential is among the best in the system. He still has a lot to figure out at the plate, because he swings at too many first pitches and chases offspeed stuff, but his upside is huge. He's a natural athlete, but Boston moved him off shortstop last year because they wanted to expedite the development of his bat and figured he'd eventually outgrow the position. Soto became a right fielder in spring training. While his routes can be rough, he did show improvement and has the strong arm needed to play in right. He'll give low Class A another try this year.
Moss ranked No. 2 on this list a year ago, following a breakout 2004 when he won the batting title and MVP award in the low Class A South Atlantic League before hitting .422 in high Class A. He didn't handle Double-A pitching as well in 2005, however. He still has the same bat speed and nice stroke, and he has more raw power than Portland outfield mate David Murphy. But while Murphy has made adjustments, Moss still needs to refine his approach. Rather than toning down his swing to catch up to good fastballs, he cheats on them. He often swings from his heels, which leads to strikeouts. Adding more patience and strength is the path he needs to take. Moss' bat is his ticket to the majors, as he's a below-average runner and a decent defender with a solid arm in right field. He may not have enough pop to fit the right-field profile, and he continued to struggle in an Arizona Fall League stint. He'd probably be best off if he heads back to Double-A to open the season.
Originally signed as a catcher, Martinez spent six years behind the plate and hit .223 before the Red Sox decided a career change was in order in mid-2004. Less than a year after becoming a pitcher, he reached Double-A, and he could work his way into the Boston bullpen in 2006. Martinez always showed a good arm as a catcher, and both that and his knowledge of how to set up hitters have translated well to the mound. He has a lively 93-94 mph fastball that tops out at 96. Though he's just 6 feet tall, he delivers his heat on a good downward angle. His command is solid considering his background, but it will have to get better for him to succeed in the majors. So will his secondary pitches, as he has thrown his slider and changeup for little more than a year. An intelligent pitcher, Martinez has proven to be a quick study and could begin 2006 in Triple-A with just 62 innings of experience.
When the Red Sox traded playoffs hero Dave Roberts to San Diego in December 2004, they received three players. Jay Payton sulked over playing time and Ramon Vazquez was a disappointment, and Boston dealt both of them by July. That leaves Pauley, who was added to the 40-man roster. He was originally signed by Padres area scout Darryl Milne, who like Pauley has migrated to the Red Sox. Pauley isn't overpowering on the mound, but he's athletic and has three average pitches. He throws his 88-92 mph fastball on a good downward angle. His curveball is consistent and he has good action on his changeup. He has no problem throwing strikes, and he probably throws too many. Pauley has average life on his fastball but doesn't miss a lot of bats. Even when he's ahead in the count, hitters know he's going to be around the zone. If he can change his approach and entice hitters to chase pitches off the plate, Pauley could become a No. 4 or 5 starter. He's ready for Triple-A.
The Red Sox had high hopes for Bladergroen when they acquired him from the Mets for Doug Mientkiewicz in January 2005. The national junior college home run champ with 32 in 2003, he made a run at the South Atlantic League triple crown in 2004 until tearing a ligament in his left wrist in July. Despite having surgery, Bladergroen wasn't nearly at 100 percent in his first season in the Boston system. He had a stress reaction in the wrist, which caused him to be shut down for two months starting in May. When he returned, he still didn't have his usual power. Trying to compensate, he messed up his swing and endured a miserable season. When he's going well, Bladergroen works counts, keeps the bat in the hitting zone well and uses the entire field. Before he got hurt, however, some scouts questioned his bat speed, which isn't exceptional. He's a below-average runner and had problems with his glove in 2005, leading high Class A Carolina League first basemen with nine errors while playing just 64 games in the field. Bladergroen started to get back on track in instructional league and is looking forward to a fully healthy season back in high Class A.
Coming into 2005, shortstop was the strongest position in the system. But since then, Hanley Ramirez has gone to the Marlins in the Josh Beckett trade; Dustin Pedroia shifted over to second base and Luis Soto has gone to right field. Unless Pedroia moves back, that leaves Lara as the organization's undisputed top shortstop prospect. He has a chance to be a plus defender, with slightly above-average range and arm strength and instincts that make him even better than his tools. He's steady too, leading South Atlantic League shortstops with a .951 fielding percentage in 2005. The question with Lara is his bat. He hit .330 in his U.S. debut in 2004 but dropped 98 points when he moved up to low Class A last year. He's a switch-hitter with bat-handling skills, but he's going to have to get much stronger. He'll never be a power threat, but he faded badly in his first full season, hitting .181 with five extra-base hits in the final two months. While Lara has some speed, realistically he's going to hit near the bottom of a big league lineup. He's intelligent, works hard and understands what he needs to do. He'll begin 2006 back in low Class A in an effort to get his bat going.
Corsaletti went 0-for-8 in Florida's two-game College World Series championship series sweep at the hands of Texas, but his slump didn't extend into pro ball. After signing in June for $50,000 as a sixth-round pick, he went straight to low Class A and hit safely in his first 15 games. He finished his pro debut with a .357 average, the highest among Boston farmhands with full-season teams. Corsaletti has an effective game plan at the plate. He has a sound swing, knows the strike zone and centers the ball on the bat well. With an open stance and his bat cocked over his shoulder, he reminds some scouts of Luis Gonzalez. Corsaletti doesn't have Gonzalez' power, but he can drive the ball to the gaps and uses the whole field. His speed rates a 55 on the 20-80 scouting scale, he gets out of the batter's box well and he owns good instincts on the bases. Staying in center field would enhance Corsaletti's value, because he profiles as no more than a backup on the corners. He needs more work in center, but he won't get much if he plays alongside 2005 first-rounder Jacoby Ellsbury in high Class A. Corsaletti's arm is well-below-average.
Meredith followed Huston Street to become the second player from the 2004 draft to reach the majors, getting the call to join a decimated Boston bullpen in early May. He tightened up after the promotion and his arm lacked its usual whip. He surrendered a grand slam to Richie Sexson in his first game, then gave up four runs in two more appearances before returning to Triple-A. He wasn't the same pitcher afterward, posting a 5.59 ERA for the remainder of the season. He started nibbling and trying to trick hitters, rather than going after them with a sinker and no fear as he had before. Meredith is tough to pick up for hitters, especially righthanders, because he uses a crossfire delivery from a low three-quarters angle. His funky motion gives him plus-plus sink on an 87-90 mph fastball, making him a groundball machine. His slider is a fringe-average second pitch, though it floats dangerously high in the strike zone when he doesn't stay on top of it. He throws strikes with ease. Though lefties hit .359 against him in Triple-A, his exceptional movement has been enough to keep them at bay in the past. Once Meredith realizes he doesn't need to reinvent himself, he'll be fine. Ticketed for Triple-A, he could resurface with the Red Sox later in 2006.
When the Cubs found themselves needing to clear a spot on their 40-man roster in December, they traded Van Buren to the Red Sox for fringe outfield prospect Matt Ciaramella. Van Buren made his big league debut in August, completing a circuitous trek that began when the Rockies drafted him in the second round out of high school seven years earlier. He led the Rookie-level Arizona League in ERA and strikeouts in his 1998 pro debut, but he couldn't get past low Class A before the Rockies released him in March 2003. He spent that season in the independent Central League before hooking up with Chicago. He led the Cubs system in saves in both 2004 and 2005. His slider is his best pitch, and he locates his 90-92 mph fastball well. He also has a changeup and the confidence to throw any pitch in any count. There is some effort to Van Buren's delivery, which can affect his command, and he wasn't aggressive enough during his brief time in the majors. After posting the second-worst bullpen ERA (5.15) in the majors last year, Boston is reworking its relief corps. Van Buren will get a look in spring training but likely will open 2006 in Triple-A.
Vaquedano made another successful step in his quest to become the first Honduran-born player to reach the majors. He advanced to high Class A and was the hardest starter to hit in the Carolina League, surrendering just a .219 average when he worked out of the rotation. Vaquedano misses bats more because of his ability to locate his pitches than sheer stuff. He throws an 88-91 mph fastball on a tough downward plane, setting hitters up for his deceptive changeup. His slider currently rates as below average, and his ability to refine it may be the difference between projecting him as a back-of-the-rotation starter versus a long reliever. Though Vaquedano has a skinny frame, he has been durable. He's a tough competitor who isn't afraid to challenge hitters with less-than-overpowering stuff. While the Red Sox didn't protect him on their 40-man roster this offseason, they respect what he's accomplished and he's an organization favorite. Vaquedano will have to keep proving himself, with Double-A his next test.
DiNardo's career has ridden a roller coaster, and it may be about to stop in Boston. As a sophomore in 2000, he went 21-1 between Stetson and Team USA, establishing himself as a possible first-round pick for the following draft. But his fastball dropped from the high 80s to the mid-80s in 2001, and he fell to the Mets in the third round. The Red Sox took him in the major league Rule 5 draft after the 2003 season and retained him by keeping him on the big league roster throughout 2004 (thanks in part to some creative disabled-list time with a shoulder strain and blister). DiNardo's fastball has remained at 84-86 mph but he has advanced because he can't throw it straight. It has natural cutting action, and he can turn over his fastball to achieve some sink. Though he can't light up radar guns, he doesn't hesitate to pitch inside. He also isn't afraid to throw strikes, either. DiNardo has a changeup that he uses to keep righthanders honest, and he can vary the speed of his curveball. He spent most of 2005 as a starter in Triple-A, where his 3.15 ERA would have ranked second in the International League if he hadn't just missed qualifying. DiNardo is 26 and he's far from a sexy prospect, but he has pitched creditably in the majors over the last two seasons, and the Red Sox don't have a better lefty option for their bullpen.
The Red Sox forfeited their first-round pick in the 2004 draft by signing free agent Keith Foulke, but they gave first-round money to Rozier after taking him in the 12th round. Rozier's $1.575 million bonus is a record for a player taken after the third round (not counting draft-and-follows). Most teams viewed him as a third- to fifth-round talent, and he dropped as far as he did because of signability. He was a three-sport star in high school and had a football scholarship to play quarterback at North Carolina. He looked sharp in instructional league after signing, reminding Boston special assistant Bill Lajoie of Mark Mulder. When Rozier took the mound in his 2005 pro debut, he wasn't the same pitcher, however. His fastball, which sat at 88-92 mph and topped out at 95 in 2004, rarely rose above the high 80s. His curveball, which had been sharp, became sloppy and loopy. He didn't look as athletic and threw with more effort to his delivery. Rozier wasn't in shape to deal with the rigors of pro ball. He has to work out more diligently and learn to eat better. He's still just 19, and he'll have to mature both emotionally and physically. The Red Sox give Rozier credit for competing with mediocre stuff, especially considering he was a teenager in a full-season league. He did improve his changeup, which he didn't need in high school but was his best pitch at the end of the year. He's still young and projectable, and Boston hopes he can apply the lessons he learned the hard way when he repeats low Class A in 2006.
The Red Sox still need to do some more roster juggling before they officially own the rights to Stern, a major league Rule 5 draft pick from the Braves in 2004. Because he spent so much time on the disabled list and rehab assignments after breaking his right thumb in spring training, he came up 18 days short of the minimum 90 he had to spend on active big league duty. He got just 96 at-bats last year, so it was a wasted year of development at age 25. The Red Sox still like his potential to eventually contribute as a line-drive-hitting center fielder who can offer speed and defense. Stern had a breakthrough season in 2004--when he also played center field on Canada's fourth-place Olympic team--after he accepted the fact that power isn't his game. He shortened his stroke and focused on putting the ball in play, the better to take advantage of his plus speed. Drawing more walks also would help in that regard. A very capable center fielder, he has an above-average arm for his position. After Stern logs his required major league time in April, he'll probably go to Triple-A. David Murphy is scheduled to play center field in Pawtucket, so Stern may have to play on a corner.
The Red Sox thought Alvarez' exceptional command and feel would overcome his fringy stuff when they made him a second-round pick in 2003, but it's time to temper expectations. Part of the Long Beach State pitching factory that also has churned out first- and second- round picks Cesar Ramos, Jason Vargas, Jered Weaver in the last two drafts, Alvarez made an emergency big league start in July 2004, 13 months after turning pro. While he has the best control and one of top changeups in the system, the rest of his pitches are fringy. His 85-88 mph fastball and his curveball are most notable for his ability to throw them for strikes. He has added a cut fastball to help him get inside on righthanders, but it's nothing special either. Alvarez repeats his delivery and competes well. While he has held his own in the upper minors, scouts fear big leaguers will just wait him out and pound him when he comes over the plate with his very hittable stuff. His ceiling is at best as a No. 5 starter, but more realistically, he'll be a middle reliever or lefty specialist.
Egan's first year as a pro didn't go as expected, on several fronts. A second-round pick in June who signed for $625,000, he had a reputation as a slugger who might not be able to stay behind the plate in the long term. Yet in his debut, his defense outshone his offense. Though he has a big frame, Egan showed surprising agility and good receiving skills. He also threw better than Boston expected, erasing 39 percent of basestealers. Meanwhile, his bat wilted in the heat of the Gulf Coast League. His raw power didn't come out in games and his swing looked sluggish. He was too tentative at the plate. While Egan drew walks, he didn't pull the trigger on pitches he could crush and took too many called strikes. The most alarming part of his year came after the season ended. Egan was arrested for driving while intoxicated and police also found traces of cocaine in his wallet. The Red Sox believe it was a one-time incident and supported him as he dealt with the aftermath, including placing him in a counseling program. He apologized to his teammates after reporting late to instructional league, a significant step for a kid known for his quiet demeanor. He could move up to low Class A this year, but Boston may take it slow and start him in extended spring training before sending him to Lowell in June.
The Red Sox never have landed a high-profile Cuban defector, but they did prevail in the spirited bidding for Galvez in February 2003. They beat out the Dodgers, Mariners, Phillies and Yankees with a $450,000 bonus amid reports he turned down a $500,000 offer from another club. He chose Boston because he had developed a relationship with Sox director of international operations Louis Eljaua (who since has joined the Pirates). Visa issues forced Galvez to make his debut in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League, and he has spent the last two years in low Class A. The Red Sox were pleased with the improvement he showed from 2004 to 2005. He used his 90-91 mph fastball more often last year rather than trying to fool hitters with his offspeed stuff. He also improved his conditioning and looked more confident on the mound. Galvez' curveball, slider and changeup are all average pitches, but he lacks a putaway option. As a result, he must be fine with his location, especially with his fastball, which features little movement. His ceiling isn't high but he's headed in the right direction. He'll pitch in high Class A this year.
In the 2003 draft, Theo Epstein's first as Red Sox general manager, the club took only one high schooler in the first 16 rounds: Hall. A second-rounder who signed for $800,000, he consistently has been one of the youngest players in his leagues. Being the youngest regular in the Carolina League and playing in Wilmington's pitcher-friendly Frawley Stadium caught up to him in 2005. He struggled with pitch recognition against more advanced competition, and his lone hot streak came to an abrupt end when he was hit by a pitch and broke his left index finger in May. He missed the next two months and finished the season in a 14-for-96 (.146) slump. Hall has a good swing and should grow into at least solid power, but he needs to alter his approach to make more contact. A good athlete, he has slightly above-average speed and arm strength, yet spent most of his time in left field last year. He'll probably shift to right field in 2006, when he repeats high Class A with Jacoby Ellsbury and Jeff Corsaletti also slated for Wilmington.
Pinckney began his college career at Baylor before transferring to NCAA Division III Emory (Ga.), where he became the program's best player since it was reinstituted in 1991. In 2003, he led Division III with 85 hits and carried the Eagles to the D-III College World Series, where he earned all-tournament honors by batting .615. He followed up in 2004 by becoming the first Emory position player to become a first-team all-American and finishing with school records for career batting average (.433) and slugging percentage (.726). A South Atlantic League all-star last year, Pinckney quickly has become an organization favorite because of his all-out, all-the-time style. He has a quick, sound stroke that allows him to hit for average and power against lefthanders and righthanders alike. He made much better contact in 2005 than he did in his pro debut, though he still needs to walk more. Pinckney is a solid athlete with average speed and good instincts. He has the strongest infield arm in the system and the versatility to play all four infield positions. He profiles best at third base, where he spent most of last year, and there has been some talk of trying him as a catcher. The biggest knock on Pinckney at this point is that he has been very old for his levels, playing in low Class A at age 23. Some club officials would like to see him jump to Double-A this year, but he probably won't skip high Class A. If he eventually makes it all the way to Boston, Pinckney will join Parson Perryman as the only big leaguers from Emory.