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Anderson starred with the Team USA juniors in 2005, batting .464 with a team-high 11 RBIs at the Pan Am Championship in Mexico, and he led California high schoolers with 15 homers the following spring. Teams viewed him as a potential supplemental first-round pick, but Anderson had an inexperienced agent who didn't understand baseball's slotting system, and his $1 million price tag caused him to drop all the way to the 18th round. The Red Sox scouted him all summer and signed him in August for $825,000. He has justified that investment, establishing himself as the biggest offensive force in the Boston system while batting .304/.404/.480 in two pro seasons. Anderson began 2008 slowly, hitting just .277 with seven homers in the first two months at high Class A Lancaster, a hitter's haven. After missing the last two weeks in May with a minor wrist injury, he batted .361 with six homers over the next six weeks to earn a promotion to Double-A Portland at age 20, where he hit even better. Boston named him its minor league offensive player of the year. Anderson has all the ingredients to hit for a high average with a lot of power. He has an advanced approach, as he recognizes pitches and identifies strikes better than most players his age. His quick hands and wrists allow him to let balls travel deep before he unleashes big raw power. There's little effort in his smooth lefthanded stroke, and he keeps the barrel of the bat in the hitting zone for a long time. The loft in his swing and the leverage in his 6-foot-5 frame bode well for his home run potential. He draws plenty of walks and doesn't strike out excessively. When the Red Sox signed Anderson, they had concerns about his defense, but he has answered them. He has improved his footwork and glovework at first base, where he does a nice job of scooping throws out of the dirt. He's a diligent worker who has impressed the organization with his intelligence and maturity. Anderson can be too disciplined at the plate. His mindset is to work deep counts and drive balls on the outer half to the opposite field. He can do a better job of attacking hittable pitches early in the count, and once he starts turning on more inside pitches, he'll have plus power to all fields. Anderson isn't the quickest player, but he's not a baseclogger and has decent range at first. One scout who saw Anderson in Double-A opined that he could hit major league pitching in 2009 if needed. All-star Kevin Youkilis could shift from first to third base if Mike Lowell is slow to recover from hip surgery, and the feeble production the Red Sox got from first base when Youkilis moved to third was a contributing factor in their American League Championship Series loss to the Rays. But it's also easy to forget that Anderson will just be 21, and Boston's preference would be for him to spend at least the bulk of the season at Triple-A Pawtucket and push for a big league job in 2010.
Bowden has moved quickly since the Red Sox took him 47th overall in a banner 2005 draft. He finished the season with three straight quality starts in the Triple-A International League and a win over the White Sox in his big league debut, at age 21. Bowden's fastball, curveball and changeup all drew votes as the best in the system. His 89-93 mph fastball plays better than its velocity because of its heavy life and the angle and deception he creates from a high three-quarters slot. His command was good to begin with and improved in 2008. He's fearless and works as hard as anyone in the system. Scouts have quibbled with Bowden's delivery, which was long in the back and short out front. He made nice adjustments in 2008, achieving a straighter line toward the plate and more extension. He could stand to tighten up his curveball, which was more of a power pitch when he was in high school. Bowden has a lower ceiling than the other players on this list, but he's a safe bet with a good chance to become a No. 3 starter. He'll do some fine-tuning in Triple-A until the Red Sox need him.
Boston's top pick in the 2007 draft (55th overall), Hagadone allowed five earned runs in his pro debut and none since. The bad news is that he blew out his elbow on an awkward delivery in his third start of 2008, leading to Tommy John surgery in May. Hagadone's stuff took off after the Red Sox got him to make his delivery more compact and stop rushing toward the plate. His fastball sat at 95-97 mph the day he got hurt, and his slider showed more power and depth. He quickly picked up a changeup that he throws with good arm speed, fade and sink. His work ethic leaves the Red Sox with no doubt that he'll regain his stuff. Hagadone's health is obviously the biggest concern, but he was throwing four months after the surgery and progressing so quickly that Boston had to slow him down. His command wasn't as advanced as his stuff, and command is often the last thing to come back after Tommy John surgery. Hagadone is on target to open 2009 with one of the Red Sox's Class A affiliates. He projects as either a frontline starter or a dynamic reliever, and Boston's needs will dictate his future. He might have earned a big league cameo at the end of 2008 had he not gotten hurt.
After losing his command and confidence as a starter in his 2007 pro debut, Bard altered his mechanics and seemed more comfortable as a reliever in Hawaii Winter Baseball. Kept in that role in 2008, he was Boston's minor league pitcher of the year after ranking among the minor league bullpen leaders in strikeouts per nine innings (12.4) and opponent average (.158). Bard can overmatch hitters with his fastball, throwing 97-100 mph four-seamers and low-90s power sinkers with little effort. After struggling with a curveball and a slurve in the past, he finally found a second pitch in a solid mid-80s slider. It's not especially sharp, but the slider breaks enough to eat up hitters geared for his fastball. While Bard is doing a much better job repeating his delivery, he still gets around his pitches at times, causing them to flatten out. He cut his walk rate from 9.4 per nine innings in 2007 to 3.5 in 2008, but he still needs better control. He lacks deception, though it's not easy to catch up to his stuff. Bard has come a long way in a year, though he may project better as a set-up man than as a closer. He'll probably open 2009 in Triple-A and break into the Boston bullpen in a low-pressure role later in the year.
Originally selected as a draft-and-follow candidate in 2006, Reddick homered that summer off Team USA's Ross Detwiler (who became the No. 6 overall pick in the 2007 draft), spurring the Red Sox to sign him immediately for $140,000. He has exceeded expectations by hitting .309/.354/.538 in two pro seasons, though he struggled in Double-A at the end of 2008. Reddick has a chance to become a five-tool player. While he's a free swinger, he doesn't chase pitches and has tremendous feel for making hard contact. He has solid-average speed and is capable of playing center field, and he has arguably the best outfield arm in the minors. With plus arm strength, a quick release and sniper accuracy, he has 41 assists in 209 pro games. Double-A pitchers exploited Reddick's aggressive nature, which keeps him from drawing many walks. He'll need to be more selective, but his problem is more a matter of not putting tough pitches in play than chasing balls out of the zone. Reddick will try to redeem himself against Double-A pitching in 2009. If the Red Sox don't sign Jason Bay to an extension, he could compete for a big league starting job in 2010.
One of the top two-way players and two-sport athletes in the 2008 draft, Kelly had the added leverage of a scholarship to play quarterback at Tennessee. After signing for a club-record $3 million as the 30th overall pick, he played only shortstop and didn't pitch in his pro debut. The Red Sox thought Kelly was the most advanced high school pitcher in the draft. His command and late life make his 90-91 mph fastball close to a plus-plus pitch, and his lean body and power spin on his curveball are promising signs for increased velocity in the future. He has tremendous feel, no surprise for someone whose father (Pat) played in the majors. As a shortstop, Kelly has fluid actions, a strong arm and projectable power. Kelly is still raw at the plate and struggled to make contact in his first taste of pro ball. Unless he squares up balls more consistently and solves breaking pitches, he won't hit for a high average or make the most of his raw power. Boston would like to see Kelly on the mound, while he prefers to play shortstop. He may do some of both at short-season Lowell or low Class A Greenville in 2009.
After graduating from high school, Tazawa played for Nippon Oil ENEOS in a Japanese industrial league but did not sign with a Japanese professional team. He caught the attention of U.S. teams at the World Cup in Taiwan in November 2007, and he made waves by asking Japanese clubs not to select him in their 2008 draft. Tazawa, who likely would have been the top pick in that draft, wanted to immediately begin his career in the United States. Nippon Professional Baseball was not happy with the decision, and though it allowed him to leave, it also passed a rule where any amateur who spurns the Japanese draft to play overseas is banned from returning to play for a Japanese team for two years (three if he left as a high schooler). The pursuit of Tazawa heated up this fall, when he won MVP honors after carrying Nippon Oil to its first championship in the 32-team Intercity Baseball Tournament since 1995, then led the ENEOS to the semifinals of the industrial league's corporate championship. In his final outing at the latter event, he struck out 10 in a complete-game shutout. The Red Sox signed Tazawa in December to a three-year, $3.3 million major league contract that included a $1.8 million bonus. The Braves, Mariners and Rangers also made offers, with Texas reportedly dangling a four-year, $7 million deal. Boston won out because international scouts Jon Deeble and Craig Shipley showed interest early and because Tazawa wanted to play with Daisuke Matsuzaka. The consensus among several international scouts is that Tazawa's talent is equivalent to that of a late or supplemental first-round pick. Using the slightly smaller Japanese baseball, he showed good command of a low-90s fastball, a splitter that ranks as his best pitch and a pair of breaking balls (his slider is better than his curveball). He's a bit undersized at 6 feet and 175 pounds, but his clean delivery and strong shoulders and legs lend themselves to durability. He also has some deception that makes him tougher to hit. Tazawa likely will begin his career in Double-A. While he could reach Boston quickly as a reliever, his potential for two or three plus pitches and his advanced command make him intriguing as a possible starter.
The best position player to come out of Rhode Island since Rocco Baldelli, most teams assumed that Westmoreland was strongly committed to Vanderbilt. The Red Sox drafted him in the fifth round and courted all him summer before signing him for $2 million. A shoulder injury prevented him from playing in the minors or instructional league. Also an all-state soccer player and basketball star, Westmoreland is the top athlete in the system. With his strength and easy plus-plus speed, he could be a 30-30 player in time. Thanks to his quick bat and good hand-eye coordination, he should be able to hit for average as well. He has the range to play center field and solid arm strength. Scouts who saw Westmoreland play in high school thought he needed to do a better job of incorporating his lower half into his swing. He's as much a baseball player as he is a pure athlete, so missing time this summer and fall shouldn't be a huge setback. Westmoreland had minor surgery to clean up his shoulder in November, which will knock him out of spring training and probably means that he'll make his pro debut at Lowell in June. He's not the center-field defender that Jacoby Ellsbury is, but Westmoreland has the potential for a more dynamic bat.
The son of former big league pitcher Carlos Almanzar, Michael signed in 2007 for $1.5 million, a club record for a Latin American amateur. He was advanced enough offensively that the Red Sox let him make his U.S. debut and even promoted him to low Class A at age 17. Almanzar has the swing, bat speed and leverage to hit for huge power once he matures physically. Given his bloodlines, it's no surprise he has better instincts and strike-zone awareness than most players his age. He's athletic for his size and shows a plus arm at third base. Almanzar is so young and raw that he'll require time to add strength and refine his tools. His struggles in the South Atlantic League were no surprise. He's a below-average runner and doesn't have a quick first step, so he may need to move from third to first base down the road. He needs more consistency with his approach and his defense, particularly on throws. Once again in 2009, Almanzar will be one of the youngest players in the SAL. Will Middlebrooks also is ready for Greenville, so Almanzar may have to share third base and see some time at DH.
Navarro was one of the biggest surprises in the system in 2008. Signed for just $20,000 three years earlier, he jumped to the top of the Red Sox's crowded depth chart at shortstop by hitting for average and power and playing improved defense. Navarro whips the bat quickly through the hitting zone and barrels balls consistently, giving him power to all fields and the potential for 15-20 homers per season. He has solid speed but isn't a big basestealing threat. He has a plus arm and average range at shortstop, and he has seen time at second and third base to help ease Boston's shortstop logjam. Navarro can get out of control at the plate, taking vicious hacks, chasing wild pitches and missing hittable ones. He has a reasonably sound two-strike approach that he should incorporate earlier in counts. At times, he'll let an offensive slump affect his baserunning and defense. After looking like a utilityman in 2007, Navarro now projects as a regular shortstop. Where the Red Sox decide to deploy Argenis Diaz in 2009 will determine whether Navarro opens in Double-A, but he should get there at some point during the season.
Signed for only $25,000 in 2006, Pimentel was Boston's Latin program pitcher of the year in his 2007 pro debut. Determined to avoid the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, he showed enough polish last spring to earn an assignment to the New York-Penn League. At 18, he was the short-season circuit's youngest rotation regular. Pimentel is an exceedingly projectable pitcher with already intriguing stuff. He has fine command of an 88-92 mph fastball that could add another 2-3 mph, and his advanced changeup is the best in the system. Both should be plus pitches with more consistency, while his curveball projects as an average offering. He has a loose arm, sound delivery and maturity beyond his years. He wasn't fazed when he drew the start in Lowell's annual game at Fenway Park. Pimentel's fastball is more notable for his command of it than its life, and his pitches flatten out when he doesn't stay on top of them. He needs to tighten his curveball, which will be a point of emphasis in 2009. Even if the Red Sox move him just one level per year, Pimentel will be ready for the majors at age 23. He has the arsenal, savvy and makeup to speed up that timetable, too. He'll pitch in low Class A in 2009.
The Red Sox have pushed Tejeda aggressively since signing him for $525,000 in 2006. He made a strong U.S. debut as a 17-year-old in 2007, and while his numbers weren't as impressive last year, there were mitigating circumstances. Tejeda had surgery to repair a tiny hole in his heart during the offseason, and also came down with a staph infection in his forearm. The infection relegated him to extended spring training at the start of 2008, and recurred after he reported to Greenville. Tejeda hit just .231 with three extra-base hits and two walks in the first two months before finding his stride as one of the youngest regulars in low Class A. A rival international scouting director compared him to Alfonso Soriano when Boston signed him, and Tejeda could have interesting power once he strengthens his wiry frame and plate discipline. His hands generate plenty of bat speed and he has a fluid swing, so he should hit for average as well. A slightly below-average runner with good instincts on the bases, Tejeda could move to third base once he fills out. For now, he's a legitimate shortstop with solid range, reliable hands and a plus-plus arm that first attracted scouts when he was 14. Like most young infielders, he's still inconsistent defensively, having committed 44 errors in 139 pro games at shortstop. The Red Sox may send him back to low Class A to build his confidence at the start of 2009, but he should reach their new high Class A Salem affiliate by the end of the season.
Though he had yet to reach full-season ball, Kalish's name surfaced prominently in trade rumors last offseason when the Red Sox were linked to the Twins and Johan Santana. After signing late for $600,000 as a ninth-round pick in 2006 and being brought along slowly before breaking the hamate bone in his right hand in 2007, Kalish finally got in a full season last year. He did spend most of April in extended spring training while completing his recovery from hamate surgery, and he seemed cautious with his swing once he returned. Kalish didn't turn the bat loose like he had in the past, which had a pronounced affect on his power. Boston hopes he'll trust his hands again in 2009 and envisions that he could develop the power for 15-20 homers annually, perhaps more if he adds some loft to his line drive swing. The rest of Kalish's game was solid as usual in 2008. He has a sweet lefty stroke and a good sense of the strike zone, so he should hit for average. Legend has it that he didn't swing and miss at a single pitch as a high school senior. While Kalish has slowed slightly as he has gained some strength, he's a 55 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale and possesses some basestealing savvy. A fundamentally sound defender who split time between center and right field last year, he fits better in right, though his arm is fringe-average. Kalish is a hard-nosed player who brings energy to the ballpark every day. He'll probably open 2009 in high Class A and has a chance to reach Double-A as a 21-year-old. He's sandwiched between Josh Reddick and Pete Hissey in the race to be Boston's right fielder of the future.
The Red Sox have fortified their big league pitching staff with Japanese big leaguers Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima, and they've also worked the Far East for prospects as well. One of five Taiwanese players in the system, Lin missed the end of the minor league season to play in the Beijing Olympics, where he tied fellow Boston farmhand Chih-Hsien Chiang for his team lead with four RBIs. A national 100-meter and high jump champion in high school, Lin signed for $400,000 in 2007 and came straight to the United States. The Red Sox' 2008 defensive player of the year, he's one of the best center fielders in the minors. He has uncanny instincts, a quick first step and plus speed, allowing him to glide to balls with ease. He also has plus-plus arm strength, rare for a center fielder. Lin has yet to produce big numbers at the plate, but he handled low Class A as a 19-yearold and the offensive potential is there. He has bat speed and shows raw power in batting practice, but it hasn't translated into games yet. He did homer off a 94-mph fastball from the Rockies' Ryan Mattheus, helping him earn MVP honors at the 2008 Futures Game. He incorporates a big leg kick into his swings, and Boston is trying to improve his timing. Lin controls the strike zone well for his age, and he'll be valuable if he can develop on-base ability and occasional value to go with his defense and basestealing ability. Headed to high Class A, he's similar to but not quite as explosive as the Red Sox's incumbent center fielder, Jacoby Ellsbury.
Suspended for virtually the entire 2007 for what club officials deemed a lack of maturity, Exposito did some growing up and responded with a breakout 2008, batting .293 with 21 homers. Signed as a draft-and-follow for $150,000 in 2006, he originally attracted the Red Sox with his defensive ability. They didn't envision him growing into plus power potential, but that's exactly what he has done, especially to his pull side. Exposito is very strong but sometimes lacks finesse at the plate. His approach can get primitive--see ball, try to crush ball--and he can give away at-bats. He doesn't have the softest hands, but he has worked diligently to improve his receiving. He has a strong arm, though his throws sometimes lack accuracy and he erased just 28 percent of basestealers last season. He blocks balls well and has developed his game-calling and leadership skills. Like most catchers, Exposito doesn't offer much speed on the bases. With his big frame, he'll have to continue to maintain his conditioning. He's the best in-house option to become a regular major league catcher, but Exposito isn't nearly ready to take over for a declining Jason Varitek yet. If Mark Wagner repeats Double-A, Exposito could start 2009 by returning to high Class A.
Johnson still hasn't regained the curveball and control he had before he underwent Tommy John surgery at Wichita State in 2005, yet he has moved swiftly through the system. He skipped low Class A in 2007 and spent the entire 2008 season in Double-A. Johnson has a good fastball for a lefthander, sitting at 90-92 mph with little effort and life down in the zone. He had the lowest home run rate (0.3 per nine innings) in the Eastern League last year. Johnson's fastball and changeup both project as future 55 pitches on the 20-80 scouting scale, and his ability to refine his curveball ultimately will determine if he becomes a back-of-the-rotation starter or a reliever. His curve had the makings of a plus pitch with power and depth before he blew out his elbow, but now it's more slurvy. While Johnson can hit both sides of the plate, at time he just loses the strike zone. He has a very lean frame as a 24-year-old, so he doesn't project as a workhorse, and if he can't keep his pitch counts down, he'll struggle to last past five innings. The Red Sox have several veterans and youngsters Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson and Michael Bowden ahead of him, so they can give Johnson all the time he needs to develop.
Only one Red Sox shortstop (Rick Burleson, 1979) has been honored in the 51-year history of the Gold Glove awards, but Diaz could double that number one day. He has dazzled club officials with his defensive wizardry since arriving in the United States in 2006. His instincts are so outstanding and his actions so smooth that he has terrific range to both sides despite owning slightly below-average speed. He also has soft hands, and managers rated his arm the strongest among Eastern League infielders last season. The only thing he needs to work on defensively is a tendency to rush plays at times. Diaz has set career highs for batting average in each of the last two seasons, sandwiched around a .358 performance in Hawaii Winter Baseball, but he still has a ways to go offensively. He has some strength but lacks leverage in his swing and gets impatient, so he doesn't drive the ball consistently. He's not fast or aggressive on the bases, limiting his ability to steal or take extra bases. He needs to focus on making contact and getting on base, and he probably won't merit batting near the top of a lineup. Nevertheless, his defense is so special that he could become a big league regular in the mold of former Boston shortstop Alex Gonzales, sans the same pop. Diaz is the most advanced shortstop prospect in the system, though Yamaico Navarro, a superior hitter, is close to catching him. Diaz may return to Double-A to open the 2009 season.
A consensus sandwich-round talent in the 2007 draft, Middlebrooks had a seven-figure asking price that caused him to slide to the fifth round. He signed for $925,000, easily their highest bonus among Red Sox draftees that year. He signed late and had shoulder tendinitis, so he didn't make his debut until last June. In his first month at Lowell, Middlebrooks hit just .187/.227/.231. He chased pitches out of the zone, didn't attack balls he should crush and found himself constantly behind in the count. Club officials challenged him to change his approach and snap out of it, and he did. After he started looking for fastballs in specific locations and worked more counts, he batted .305/.352/.475 over the final seven weeks. He capped off his year with an impressive performance in instructional league, where he was the talk of Boston's camp. Middlebrooks still has more work to do offensively. His strike-zone discipline is just rudimentary at this point, and he has yet to turn his strength and leverage into power. He hit just one homer in 59 regular-season games, though he did go deep against Batavia flamethrower Adam Riefer in the New York-Penn League playoffs. He shows off his power in batting practice but uses more of a line-drive swing in games. Middlebrooks is extremely athletic for his size, drawing college football interest as a quarterback and exhibiting NFL potential as a punter. The Red Sox considered playing him at shortstop, but their logjam at that position led them to move him to third base. He looked very comfortable at the hot corner, with good body control and range and the best infield arm in the system. As a high schooler, he also created pro interest as a pitcher with a low-90s fastball and a promising curveball. He has average speed and stole 10 bases without being caught in 2008. Middlebrooks is ready for low Class A but Michael Almanzar also is headed for Greenville, so they'll have to share third base. Almanzar is more advanced offensively at this point, while Middlebrooks has more athleticism and strength and projects as a better defender.
Hissey was part of Boston's aggressive draft spending in 2008, signing for $1 million in the fourth round. There are a lot of similarities between him and Ryan Kalish. Both are polished high school hitters from the Northeast who turned down Virginia scholarships to accept well above-slot bonuses. Hissey recognizes pitches and stays back on breaking balls better than most teenagers. He's also extremely disciplined in a way that's reminiscent of Lars Anderson when he began his pro career. Hissey's easy, compact swing and his approach are designed to hit line drives for now, but he's just starting to add strength and should eventually hit 18-20 homers per season. A shooting guard who could have played for a mid-major college basketball program, he's a good athlete with plus speed and a solid arm. He played mostly center field in his brief pro debut but projects more as a right fielder in the mold of former batting champ Paul O'Neill. Hissey is advanced enough to handle a jump to low Class A in his first full pro season.
Despite his imposing size and fastball, Price barely got on the mound in his first two years at Rice, pitching just 17 innings because he lacked secondary pitches, command and confidence. He blossomed as a setup man last spring, however, pitching his way into the supplemental first round and earning an $849,000 bonus. He made nine starts in his pro debut--four more than he had in his college career--and the Red Sox will develop him as a rotation candidate. When he maintains a consistent delivery, Price can overmatch hitters with his fastball and slider. His heater ranges from 90-95 mph with sink and armside run. His slider can reach 87 mph with good tilt. He also has some feel for a changeup, though he's still learning to trust it in games. He's still in the process of harnessing his stuff. He doesn't always repeat his mechanics, costing him velocity, life and control of his pitches. Boston is trying to get him to stay more under control and develop more extension out front. Worn out at the end of the summer, Price focused on strength and conditioning during instructional league. He should open 2009 in Greenville's rotation, though he could move quickly as a reliever.
The highest position player drafted out of Delaware since the Expos made Delino DeShields a first-rounder in 1989, Gibson has a very similar game. Like DeShields, he's a fast-twitch athlete with plus-plus speed, an eye for drawing walks and the ability to sting the ball on occasion. A second-round pick who declined a North Carolina shortstop to sign for $600,000, Gibson helped his cause by going 5-for-6 with a walk and six steals when the Red Sox brought several of their 2008 draftees to Fenway Park for a July workout. He has the bat speed and patience to hit for average, and he could have average power once he fills out. He supplements his speed with good instincts on the bases, enabling him to go 16-for-16 stealing bases in his debut. Gibson has the hands, range and arm strength to play shortstop, though he moved around the GCL Red Sox infield in deference to Casey Kelly. Gibson also could handle center field if needed. He needs to cut down his long arm action and eliminate a hitch, though it hasn't led to throwing errors. His speed and versatility remind the Red Sox of a righthanded Chone Figgins. Gibson likely will play at Lowell in 2009, enabling him to spend most of his time at shortstop. He could make a run at Greenville with a strong spring, though that probably would mean shuttling around the infield again.
Rizzo was hitting .373 as an 18-year-old in low Class A when he was sidelined by what was thought to be a kidney infection in late April. Instead, he learned that he had limited stage classical Hodgkin's lymphoma, one of the more treatable forms of cancer. He missed the rest of season to get treatment, though he was able to hit in instructional league between chemotherapy sessions, which were scheduled to end in November. His cancer is in remission and he's expected to be able to fully participate in spring training. After signing for an above-slot $325,000 as a sixth-rounder in 2007, Rizzo enthused the Red Sox with his advanced approach at the plate. He continued to draw raves in 2008 before he became ill. His swing is geared more toward left-center at this point, and as he learns to turn on more pitches, he could hit 20 or more homers per season. Though he's a below-average runner, Rizzo shows agility and soft hands at first base. Also a pitcher in high school, he has a stronger arm than most first basemen. Rizzo's makeup and work ethic are also assets and should aid in his recovery. Boston won't push him but cautiously hopes he'll be able to open the season back in Greenville.
Weiland spent most of his Notre Dame career as a reliever and struggled down the stretch before the 2008 draft, yet he thrived immediately and as a starter in pro ball after signing for $322,000 as a third-rounder. Had he not fallen one inning shy of qualifying, he would have led the New York-Penn League in ERA (1.50), K-BB ratio (68-10) and opponent batting average (.166). Weiland's long legs and loose arm have elicited physical comparisons to Jered Weaver, but Weiland has better pure stuff and throws from a more traditional arm slot. His fastball sits at 91-92 mph and tops out at 95, with late life down and in to righthanders. His low-80s breaking ball, which is closer to a curveball than a slider, has the potential to be a plus pitch. He also has feel for a changeup, giving him the chance to have three solid-or-better pitches. In college, Weiland sometimes fell in love with his breaking ball and struggled to locate his pitches effectively in the zone, but those weren't issues in his pro debut. His arm action is long in the back, which led to some of those command woes and may eventually lead him back to the bullpen. However, the Red Sox plan on developing the Fighting Irish's single-season (16) and career (25) saves leader as a starter for now. Weiland could be the first player from Boston's 2008 draft to reach the majors, and he's the best equipped to make the jump to high Class A if needed in 2009.
Benefiting from the launching pad at Lancaster, where he hit .396 with 13 homers in 65 games, Daeges led the high Class A California League in runs (124), hits (170), doubles (55, a league record), extra-base hits (81), RBIs (113), total bases (298) and walks (82) in 2007. He proved that he wasn't just a creation of Clear Channel Stadium last year, when he was one of the best hitters in the Eastern League. Daeges has the best plate discipline in the system and is reminiscent of Kevin Youkilis at the same stage of his career. Both had very discerning eyes at the plate and were line-drive hitters with doubles power, though Youkilis since has sacrificed some patience for home runs. Daeges has the strength to eventually follow the same path. Though he has played first and third base as well as all three outfield positions in the minors, he lacks Youkilis' defensive value. Daeges has below-average speed and fringy arm strength, so he's best suited for left field. Ticketed for Triple-A in 2009, he projects as a platoon outfielder and good lefty bat off the bench in the majors.
Dening played for Red Sox Pacific Rim scouting coordinator Jon Deeble at MLB's Australian academy in 2005 before signing that September. After spending another year at the academy, he came to the United States in 2007 and has topped .300 in each of his first two pro seasons. He has quick hands and a short, sweet lefthanded swing. He stays inside the ball well and sprays line drives to all fields. He imparts good backspin on the ball, and once he adds more strength, turns on more pitches and learns the strike zone better, he could produce 30 doubles and 15 homers on an annual basis. The rest of Dening's tools--speed, outfield defense, arm strength--are average across the board. He played all three outfield positions last year and should settle in right field in long run. He's just beginning to develop, but the Red Sox are excited by what they've seen so far. They'll send him to low Class A in 2009.
Rarely has a team mined the middle rounds of a draft as well as the Red Sox did in 2006. They found Lars Anderson and Josh Reddick, now the system's top two position prospects, in the 17th and 18th rounds. With their next pick, they chose Lentz, who had worked only nine innings at Washington that spring while recovering from Tommy John surgery. After he pitching in front of Boston scouts in the New England Collegiate Baseball League--where he ranked as the No. 1 prospect after his freshman season in 2004--Lentz signed for $150,000. The son of Mike Lentz, the No. 2 overall pick in the June 1975 draft, Richie struggled to find the strike zone in his 2007 pro debut. He still battled his command at times last year, but he shot to Double-A while ranking eighth among minor league relievers by averaging 13.0 strikeouts per nine innings. The Red Sox got him to stay over the rubber more and added more downhill leverage in his delivery, and Lentz got more comfortable with his mechanics. They helped his fastball pick up, as it sat at 93-95 and topped out at 97 with nice armside run. He also regained his faith in his hard slider, which he had shied away from after blowing his elbow out throwing one in 2005. He even flashes a good changeup, though he doesn't need it much as a reliever. Lentz still has several items on his to-do list--throw more strikes, command the left side of the plate, tighten slider--but he has legitimate swing-and-miss stuff. If he progresses as much this year as he did in 2008, Lentz will finish the season in Boston.
Doubront went 11-4, 1.95 in his first two pro seasons before hitting the wall hard in 2007. He had hernia surgery in the offseason, preventing him from doing much conditioning, and developed a staph infection in his leg in spring training. He got shelled at Greenville until straining his elbow, and didn't fare much better in Lowell after returning. For all the luster he lost in 2007, Doubront regained it last season. He pushed himself hard to add strength to his frame, and the results showed. His fastball returned to 88-91 mph with good sink and finish, and he confidently threw inside against righthanders. He also showed improvement with his changeup, control and command. His changeup is his best secondary pitch, and it enabled him to be more effective against righties (.671 opponent OPS) than lefties (.746) last year. Doubront's changeup still can get better, but his curveball needs the most work. It will require some tightening to be more than just a get-me-over pitch. He has clean mechanics and his arm works easily. Back on track, Doubront will open 2009 in high Class A, where he made an impressive three-game cameo at the end of last season.
Though he played on a Boise team that advanced to the 1999 Little League World Series, Fife didn't start pitching regularly until he turned 17. His mound career was slow to build momentum, as he wasn't drafted out of high school or Everett (Wash.) CC, and he couldn't crack the weekend rotation in his first year at Utah. He blossomed rapidly last spring, went in the third round of the draft and signed for $464,000. Fife was worn down after pitching 92 innings for the Utes, so the Red Sox kept him in relief in his pro debut. Because he has a strong build and easily generates groundballs, keeping his pitch counts down, he should develop into a workhorse. Fife's main pitches are an 89-93 mph fastball that touches 95 and keeps its velocity late in games, and a curveball that he can throw for strikes or get hitters to chase out of the zone. He also has a slider he'll use as a get-me-over pitch early in counts, and a changeup with sink. Those latter two pitches still need work, as his slider is slurvy and he features spotty arm speed and command with the changeup. As a college pitcher who features solid stuff down in the strike zone, Fife could move fast. It's not out of the question that he'll reach high Class A in 2009.
The Red Sox gave significant bonuses to three high school pitchers in the 2007 draft: Huntzinger ($225,000 in the third round), Austin Bailey ($285,000 in the 16th) and Drake Britton ($700,000 in the 23rd). While Bailey partially tore his labrum in April and Britton blew out his elbow in August, Huntzinger tore up the New York-Penn League. Facing hitters generally two or three years older than he was, he went 5-0 and was leading the NY-P with a 0.64 ERA before he was promoted to low Class A. Huntzinger lost his command in Greenville and surrendered a stunning 12 homers in 27 innings, but Boston was pleased with his first full pro season. Like Michael Bowden, he's a Midwestern high school product who pitches well with his fastball and has a strong build and work ethic. Huntzinger pounds both sides of the plate with a lively fastball that sits in the low 90s. His secondary pitches aren't as advanced as Bowden's were at the same stage of his career, but Huntzinger has a solid if inconsistent slider and a promising changeup with some fade. He has good athleticism and works from a three-quarters arm slot. While Huntzinger threw strikes in low Class A, he left his pitches up in the strike zone too often, something the Red Sox attribute to late-season fatigue. He's still ahead of most pitchers his age, and he has the feel to make the necessary adjustments when he returns to Greenville in 2009.
Though he endured the worst full season of his pro career and Luis Exposito passed him as the system's best catching prospect, the Red Sox still think Wagner will become at least a big league backup. He's the best defensive catcher in the system, even if his pure tools are no better than average. He enhances his arm strength with a quick release, which enabled him to throw out 41 percent of basestealers in Double-A. He has worked very hard to improved his blocking and receiving, and he calls a good game. How much Wagner develops with the bat will determine how much he eventually plays in the majors. He has an unusual approach, stepping in the bucket and trying to serve balls to the opposite field with a flat stroke. While he'll always be more of a gap hitter than a home run threat, Wagner needs to get stronger so he can turn some of his harmless fly balls into doubles. After walking nearly as much as he struck out in his first three pro seasons, he didn't maintain the same plate discipline in 2008. Boston may send him back to Double-A for at least the start of 2009 so he can get his bat going, and he could surface in the majors at some point in 2010.