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Westmoreland drew relatively little interest as a high school senior in 2008. He showed interesting athleticism at the Area Code Games the summer before, but didn't stand out. His commitment to Vanderbilt, $2 million asking price and the weather-related difficulties of scouting a Rhode Island prep player meant that few teams focused on him in the spring. One of just four clubs to talk to him directly, Boston selected him in the fifth round. Westmoreland joined the Bayside Yankees, one of the nation's top amateur teams, for the summer, giving the Red Sox more time to evaluate him. After watching him hit .557/.658/.918 for Bayside, they considered him the equivalent of a top-five-overall pick and gladly paid him $2 million at the Aug. 15 signing deadline. A pre-existing injury to his throwing shoulder turned out to be a torn labrum and required surgery in November, so Boston had him mostly DH during his pro debut at shortseason Lowell in 2009. Westmoreland rated as the New York-Penn League's top prospect after exuding five-tool potential. The only negative came on Aug. 28, when he broke his collarbone crashing into the outfield wall while making a catch. Westmoreland didn't do any further damage to his shoulder and should be healthy for spring training. Former Red Sox scouting director Jason McLeod says Westmoreland has more upside than any player the club selected in his five years running its drafts. His skills are just as impressive as his considerable tools. Westmoreland has an advanced approach for a teenager, with a short stroke, control of the strike zone and a willingness to use the entire field. His hand-eye coordination allows him to barrel balls consistency, and he has above-average power potential. He has plus-plus speed and knows how to use it, swiping 19 bases without getting caught at Lowell. Westmoreland has above-average range and should be a quality defender in center field. He also starred as a pitcher in high school, and his arm should grade as at least average once it's back to 100 percent. He's an intelligent player with the makeup to succeed. Westmoreland basically just needs to get healthy and soak up pro experience. An all-state soccer player and basketball star, he never concentrated on baseball year-round before turning pro. Boston has had him take it easy on his shoulder, so his arm isn't back to full strength yet. He used a low-three-quarters delivery when he pitched in high school and needs to raise his arm angle as an outfielder. While he has the tools for center field, he has yet to play there in pro ball. After watching the hype get to their last two No. 1 prospects, Clay Buchholz and Lars Anderson, the Red Sox are trying to temper expectations for Westmoreland. That's hard to do with such a polished athlete, especially one with New England roots. He'll probably open 2010 at low Class A Greenville but is talented enough to force a promotion to high Class A Salem by season's end. He's a potential 30-30 player who one day could bat third in the Boston lineup.
The Red Sox considered Kelly the most polished high school pitcher in the 2008 draft, and they spent the No. 30 pick and $3 million to sign him away from a Tennessee football scholarship. The son of former big leaguer Pat Kelly, Casey fancied himself a shortstop and played there in his pro debut and during the second half of 2009. Kelly's stuff and aptitude were on display at the Futures Game, where he needed just nine pitches to work a perfect inning, recording all three outs on 93-94 mph fastballs. His heater usually sits at 89-92 mph but plays up because he can cut it or sink it and command it to both sides of the plate. He throws his above-average changeup with the same arm speed and slot as his fastball. His 12-to-6 curveball has plus potential as well. He repeats his fluid, athletic delivery with ease. Advanced well beyond his years, Kelly mainly needs to throw his curveball more consistently for strikes. He lacks overpowering velocity, but he doesn't need it and should throw harder as he fills out. Kelly had much more success on the mound, and Boston would have pushed him to pitch if he hadn't come to that decision on his own in December. A future frontline starter, he's ticketed for Double-A and may not need more than another year in the minors.
The Red Sox planned to make Reddick a draft-and-follow in 2006, but signed him for $140,000 after he homered against Team USA's Ross Detwiler (the sixth overall pick in 2007). A strained oblique last May couldn't stop him from reaching the majors. All five of Reddick's tools are average or better. He makes hard contact against pitches all over and outside the strike zone, and he has plus raw power and speed. He has improved defensively since signing and is capable of playing center field, though he really shines in right. He enhances slightly above-average arm strength with an unbelievable release and accuracy, allowing him to record 50 assists in 290 pro games. Reddick enjoys hitting so much that he has little patience at the plate, running into streaks where he gets himself out. He showed more selectivity in 2009 but regressed once he got to Boston. He's still learning to use his speed effectively on the bases and isn't much of a threat to steal. Reddick likely will open 2010 at Triple-A Pawtucket. Once he solves upper-level pitching, he could factor into the left-field mix if Boston doesn't re-sign Jason Bay.
Signed for $825,000 after he dropped to the 18th round of the 2006 draft because of his price tag, Anderson hit .304/.404/.480 in his first two pro seasons. He tore up Double- A pitching at the end of 2008, earning the No. 1 spot on this list a year ago and prompting talk he was ready to help Boston if needed. Instead, he returned to Portland and struggled all year. With the loft in his swing and the leverage in his big frame, Anderson is still the system's best power-hitting prospect. Even when he slumped, he continued to draw walks and recognize pitches. Before 2009, he excelled at letting the ball travel deep and using his quick hands to punish pitches. He has worked hard to become an average defender at first base. When Anderson slumped, he tinkered with his swing, which became longer and more mechanical. After previously using the opposite field well, he became more pull-conscious, perhaps pressing to hit homers. Nothing worked, and he hit just .154 with one homer after the all-star break. He's a below-average runner. The Red Sox hope Anderson will learn from adversity, like Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard did before him. They still think he has a differencemaking bat, though they may have to send him back to Double-A to get it going again.
After a broken hamate bone truncated his 2007 season and affected him mentally in 2008, Kalish showed last year why he got a $600,000 bonus as a ninth-round pick out of high school. The Red Sox named him their minor league offensive player of the year after he set career highs in most categories and finished with a flourish, hitting .299 with 12 homers in the last two months in Double-A. No longer worried about his hand, Kalish turned his swing loose and hit hard line drives all over the field. He manages his at-bats as well as anyone in the system, waiting for pitches he can drive and taking walks if they don't come. He can steal and take extra bases with his slightly above-average speed and smarts. He gets good jumps on fly balls, allowing him to play center field, though he fits better in right. His arm is average. Kalish added loft to his swing and did a better job of using his legs at the plate in 2009, and the Red Sox would like to see more of that so he can bring out more power. Some scouts see him as a tweener without the defense to play center or the bat to profile on a corner. Kalish eventually may battle Josh Reddick for a corner-outfield job in Boston. They'll probably begin 2010 as teammates in Triple-A.
A star in Japan's industrial league, Tazawa created a furor in his homeland when he asked Japanese big league clubs not to draft him so he could play in the United States. He signed a three-year, $3.3 million contract with the Red Sox in December 2008 and reached the majors eight months later. He gave up a game-winning homer to Alex Rodriguez in his first game with Boston but later blanked the Yankees for six innings in his third big league start. Tazawa aggressively goes after hitters with four pitches, and scouts can't agree which is the best. Some like his 88-92 fastball because he commands it so well, others point to his slider and others note that his splitter is a plus pitch at its best. He also throws a curveball. Though he's short, his clean delivery and strong frame give him the durability needed to start. Because he lacks a true plus pitch, Tazawa has to keep the ball down to succeed. He tends to miss up in the strike zone when his command is off, and that happened more frequently when he tired at the end of the season. He needs to get stronger. With no opening in Boston's rotation, Tazawa figures to open 2010 in Triple-A. He'll continue to develop as a starter, though his opportunity could come as a reliever.
A cousin of Carlos Beltran, Fuentes drew Johnny Damon comparisons before going 28th overall in the 2009 draft and signing for $1.134 million. The sixth Puerto Rican ever drafted in the first round--and the first since the Blue Jays' Miguel Negron in 2000--Fuentes made a smooth transition to pro ball, hitting .290 and ranking as the No. 3 prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Fuentes has the polished bat and plus-plus speed to become a dynamic leadoff man. A track star in high school, he uses his quickness to make things happen on the bases and in center field, where he has Gold Glove potential. His swing is geared more for contact, but he has some power to his pull side and eventually could hit as many as 15 homers per season. Fuentes has much work to do on the nuances of the game. Offensively, he can do a better job of managing his at-bats and adding strength. He's learning as a basestealer and center fielder, with his speed making up for some of his mistakes. His arm strength is fringy but acceptable for a center fielder. Similar to Jacoby Ellsbury, Fuentes is a far better hitter at the same stage and projects as a better defender. He showed enough in his pro debut to make the jump to low Class A in 2010.
Rizzo signed for an above-slot $325,000 bonus as a sixth-rounder in 2007 and was hitting .373 at Greenville the next April when he learned he had limited stage classical Hodgkin's lymphoma. He missed the rest of the season to get treatment. With his cancer in remission, he returned to hit .297/.368/.461 and conquer high Class A as a teenager in 2009. Rizzo has a smooth lefthanded stroke, keeps the bat in the zone for a long time and smokes liners to all fields. He already shows doubles power and should have 20- homer pop as he turns on more pitches. Managers rated him as the high Class A Carolina League's best defensive first baseman in 2009, and he has soft hands and a strong arm. His swing can get long, and when it does, pitchers can tie Rizzo up inside with good fastballs. He's a below-average runner whose speed could rate as a 35 on the 20-80 scouting scale as he gets older, though he does move well at first base. Rizzo will play one level behind Lars Anderson in 2010. They're competing to be the Red Sox' first baseman of the future, with Anderson having more power but Rizzo offering a more fluid swing, more consistent approach and better defense.
Iglesias broke into Cuba's top league as a 17-year-old and defected at the World Junior Championship in July 2008. He signed a four-year, $8.25 million big league contract last September that included a club-record $6.25 million bonus. He wowed observers with his defense and batted .275/.324/.420 in the Arizona Fall League. Scouts can't say enough about Iglesias' defensive ability, raving about his lightning-fast hands, quick feet and strong arm. He has a short swing and makes consistent contact. Though he's small, he has bat speed and pop and could become a 10-homer hitter down the road. Add in his slightly above-average speed, and he draws comparisons to a young Orlando Cabrera--with a better glove. He has the upside of a No. 2 hitter, but Iglesias' aggressive nature at the plate makes it more likely that he'll hit in the bottom third of the order. Much of his offensive value may come from his batting average because he doesn't project to contribute a lot of power, steals or walks. The Red Sox have had a revolving door at shortstop since Nomar Garciaparra began to decline, and they hope Iglesias can end that. He could make his pro debut in Double-A and be ready for Boston when Marco Scutaro's new contract expires after 2011.
Gibson is the best baseball athlete and highest-drafted position player to come out of Delaware since Delino DeShields was an Expos first-round pick in 1989. Gibson has similar tools and turned down a North Carolina scholarship to sign for $600,000. The Red Sox minor league baserunner of the year in 2009, he stole 28 bases in 33 tries and led the New York-Penn League with 54 runs. A classic leadoff hitter, Gibson has plusplus speed and supreme control of the strike zone. He has a quick bat, solid gap power and could realize his 15-homer potential once he adds strength to his broad-shouldered frame. He covers a lot of ground in the field and has solid arm strength. His instincts and makeup are off the charts. Gibson has a funny hitch in his throwing motion that eventually will lead him to a move from shortstop to second base or possibly center field. Though he doesn't take a big cut or give less than full effort, he doesn't always get a good jump out of the batter's box. Gibson is poised for a breakout 2010 season at Greenville. He'll still see time at shortstop, but a move is in his near future. The Red Sox don't need to rush him, but he may start to accelerate his timetable.
In contrast to the first 10 players on this list, who averaged $1.67 million in signing bonuses, Pimentel turned pro for just $25,000 as a 16-year-old. He has breezed through the lower levels of the minors, winning the organization's Latin program pitcher of the year award in his 2007 pro debut and having no trouble making the transition to the United States. He projects as a solid No. 3 pitcher, at least, with the potential for two plus pitches and a solid breaking ball. At his best, Pimentel sits at 90-92 mph and touches 95 with his four-seam fastball, which features explosive life up in the strike zone. He needs to do a better job of maintaining his velocity and may add a two-seamer to work lower in the zone. He has one of the best changeups in the system, with good movement and deception on the pitch. His curveball isn't as reliable as his other pitches, but he improved the shape of it in 2009. Pimentel always has thrown strikes, and the next step will be to locate his pitches with more precision. He's well ahead of most 20-year-olds and could reach the majors by 2012.
Navarro signed for $20,000 and had established himself as the system's top shortstop prospect after hitting .304/.359/.447 and advancing to high Class A as a 20-year-old in 2008, but his encore went awry on Opening Day last season. He broke the hamate bone in his left hand, requiring surgery that knocked him out until mid- June. He hit better than ever when he returned, earning his first promotion to Double-A, but more advanced pitchers shut him down. Navarro has the best bat speed in the system and more pop than most middle infielders. The ball sounds different coming off his bat, and his plus raw power could make him an annual 15-20 homer threat. He usually makes consistent, hard contact to all fields, but he can fall into ruts where he gets out of control at the plate, taking huge hacks and chasing pitches. An average runner, Navarro has ordinary range at shortstop. His soft hands, strong arm and good instincts will allow him to shift to second or third base, and he should have enough bat for either position if he refines his approach. Navarro needs to work harder and deliver more consistent effort, but the tools are there for him to become a big league regular. He'll get another shot at Double-A in 2010, when he could move to second base and form a double-play combo with Jose Iglesias.
All five of Boston's picks in the first and sandwich rounds of the 2005 draft have reached the majors, but while Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz and Jed Lowrie have found long-term roles, Bowden still is looking for his niche. He has nothing left to prove in Triple-A after posting a 3.19 ERA there over the last two seasons, but big league hitters have torched him to the tune of .333/.381/.578. The key for Bowden is pitching downhill. He succeeds when he uses his strong frame and high three-quarters arm angle to keep his pitches down in the zone. He commands his 89-93 mph fastball to both sides of the plate, but it's not a swing-and-miss pitch and is vulnerable if he throws it thigh-high. He had a power curveball in high school but it has regressed, and he now relies more on a fringy slider to give him an offering that breaks away from righthanders. His changeup is better than either of his breaking balls. His long arm action bothers some scouts, though he has cleaned it up a little in recent years. Bowden faces a future as a middle reliever with the Red Sox, but could be a No. 3 or 4 starter if they use him as trade bait. He'll try again to crack the Boston staff in spring training.
Renfroe's background is similar to Casey Kelly's. Both were star prep quarterbacks (Renfore's South Panola High team won 89 straight games) who could have played football in the Southeastern Conference (Mississippi wanted him to walk on), and both of their fathers had brief big league careers (Laddie Renfroe pitched four games for the 1991 Cubs). They both were outstanding two-way players, too. While Kelly will focus on pitching after dabbling as a shortstop, Renfroe will be a full-time position player. He dropped to the third round of the 2009 draft because of signability questions, and the Red Sox anted up $1.4 million to sign him--more than they gave first-rounder Reymond Fuentes. Renfroe packs power in his compact righthanded stroke, which he demonstrated by homering during the 2008 Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field. He needs to improve his timing at the plate and use his lower half better, but those aren't major adjustments. Renfroe has a strong arm and soft hands, but he has just average range and speed and figures to lose a step as he matures. He'll get the opportunity to play shortstop but profiles better at third base. Renfroe prefers to play every day but could have a future on the mound if he desired. He touched 95 mph with his fastball in high school and showed feel for a curveball and changeup. He'll open 2010 in extended spring training and make his pro debut in Lowell in June.
Britton was the top high school lefthander in Texas for the 2007 draft, but inconsistent velocity and a commitment to Texas A&M dropped him to the 23rd round. The Red Sox followed him during the summer, and after he repeatedly worked in the low 90s they signed him at the Aug. 15 deadline for $700,000. Britton didn't make his pro debut until 2008, and he blew out his elbow at the end of the New York-Penn League season, requiring Tommy John surgery that September. He worked diligently in his rehab and was ready for game action 11 months later. Elbow reconstruction didn't rob him of his stuff, as he came back dealing in the low 90s and topping out at 97. A pitcher's breaking ball and command are often the last two things to return after he has Tommy John surgery, and while that's true with Britton, he has the makings of a hard slider and should throw enough strikes. His changeup will give him a solid third pitch. Britton threw from a low arm slot in high school, but now he operates from a high three-quarters angle with clean arm action. He's a bulldog on the mound who loves to go after hitters, and he might fit best as a lefty set-up man for the long run. For now, Boston will continue to develop him as a starter, and because he'll open the season at age 20, there's no need to push him to make up for his lost year.
Younginer had one of the best pure arms in the 2009 draft, and one of the most difficult to see. His high school coach used him primarily as a reliever, making it impossible for scouts to know when he'd pitch, and his lone start drew a crowd of 75 evaluators from big league clubs. Younginer's lack of exposure, combined with his commitment to Clemson and concerns about his arm action, dropped him to the seventh round. Three days before the signing deadline, Boston anted up first-round money ($975,000) to sign him. He's a cousin of Orioles prospect Brandon Snyder. Younginer signed too late to pitch in the minors last summer but wowed scouts in instructional league. One saw him throw his fastball at 94-97 mph with good downhill plane in a matchup against Baltimore first-rounder Matt Hobgood, while another compared him to Justin Verlander and said, "He'll hit 100 mph one day. That's a great fastball and an awesome curveball, just wicked stuff." Younginer throws a power 12-to-6 curveball, and though he had little reason to use a changeup in high school, it's further along than expected. The Red Sox aren't worried about his arm action and won't try to change his mechanics, other than trying to help him find a consistent release point. They'll take their time with his development, and he'll probably make his pro debut in Lowell in June.
A member of a Boise team that played in the 1999 Little League World Series, Fife didn't start pitching regularly until he was a high school senior. He went undrafted out of high school and Everett (Wash.) CC, and didn't really get noticed until he dueled Stephen Strasburg in April 2008, losing 1-0 as Strasburg struck out 23. Fife pitched his way into the third round of the 2008 draft and had a solid first full season, though he spent the first two months building up his shoulder strength after tests detected weakness during spring training. He fills the strike zone with three pitches, starting with an 88-92 mph fastball that tops out at 94 mph and features plenty of sink. His changeup surpassed his curveball last season, showing splitter action at times. His curveball wasn't the hammer it was in 2008, but it's at least an average pitch. Fife does a nice job of using his strong frame to power balls down in the zone. He has the stuff, command and frame to get the job done as a No. 3 starter. He'll advance to Double-A at some point this season.
Doubront spent most of 2008 in low Class A but responded well when the Red Sox pushed him to Double-A last season. That wasn't a surprise considering his consistent success throughout his pro career--with the exception of 2007, when he fell victim to hernia surgery, a staph infection in his leg and a strained elbow. Since regaining his health, he has blossomed into the most advanced lefthanded starter in the system. Doubront touched 94 mph with his fastball during spring training last year and usually sits at 89-92 mph with good sink. He has added velocity through a long-toss program and other between-starts work, and Boston would like to see him continue to improve his strength. His changeup is better than his curveball, which explains why he has been more effective against righties than lefties. Doubront repeats his clean delivery well. He usually throws strikes but nibbled around the plate at times against Double-A hitters, and his command could use more consistency. He may not be more than a No. 4 starter if he can't improve his curveball, but he's ready for Triple-A at age 22.
Middlebrooks hasn't developed as quickly as the Red Sox hoped he would when they signed him for $925,000 as a fifth-round pick in 2007, though they're pleased with his steady progress. He didn't play in his first pro summer because he signed late and had shoulder tendinitis, and he has started slow and finished strong in the two seasons since. Middlebrooks fits the scouting blueprint of a third baseman. He has a big league body and is loaded with raw power and arm strength. His power shows up more in batting practice, when he crushes balls to all fields, than it does in games. He falls behind in the count after passing up pitches he should drive. He can get confounded by breaking pitches, struggling against good ones and laying off hanging ones that are begging to be pounded. He's a below-average runner out of the box but average under way. Boston considered developing Middlebrooks at shortstop, his high school position, and he has good actions and a cannon arm at third base. He'll advance to high Class A this year, and if hitting doesn't work out, he has other career options. He drew interest as a pitcher in high school, showing a low-90s fastball and a promising curveball, and also had NFL potential as a punter.
Signed for $400,000 out of high school in Taiwan, Lin was a national 100-meter and high jump champion. He remains a key member of the Taiwan national team, leading the club with four RBIs at the 2008 Olympics and going 3-for-7 at the World Baseball Classic last spring. He has a good mix of tools, but unless he shows more upside with the bat, he's going to have a hard time getting big league playing time in an organization that already has Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Westmoreland and Reymond Fuentes as center-field options. Lin is a special defender, blanketing the gaps better than anyone in the organization, including Ellsbury. He also has the best pure arm strength of any of the organization's outfielders, and he led the Carolina League with 18 outfield assists in 2009. He sometimes tries to do too much defensively, which resulted in 11 errors last year. Lin has good bat speed, shows power in batting practice and won MVP honors at the 2008 Futures Game when he homered off a 94 mph fastball from the Rockies' Ryan Mattheus. But he doesn't drive the ball in games, making consistent if relatively soft contact. Lin controls the strike zone better than any Red Sox farmhand, so it would be easy to project him as a big league regular if he showed more pop. He's a plus runner under way and has basestealing instincts. He'll move up to Double-A in 2010, with Westmoreland and Fuentes getting closer in his rearview mirror.
Scouts viewed Wilson as a potential first-round pick for 2008 until he blew out his elbow in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2007, right before he transferred from Winthrop to Texas A&M. He redshirted in 2008 but generated draft interest when he touched 94 mph in bullpen workouts. The Cubs selected him in the 10th round and scouted him in his return to the Cape, reportedly offering him $600,000, well short of his $1.5 million asking price. Wilson flashed first-round stuff last spring but tailed off before the draft, enabling the Red Sox to land him in the second round for $470,700. They like to break college pitchers into pro ball with short starts at Lowell, and he was spectacular in that role, limiting opponents to a .085 average. At his best, Wilson can carve up hitters with two pitches: a fastball that sits at 92-93 mph and peaks at 95, and a wipeout slider. Though there's some effort in his delivery, he repeats it well and throws strikes. He could move quickly as a reliever, but Boston hasn't ruled out developing him as a starter. To succeed in that role, he'll have to refine his changeup and prove he can maintain his stuff late into games and into the season. Wilson will spend his first full pro season in the Salem rotation.
The Red Sox have been searching for a while to find a successor to Jason Varitek, though they bought themselves some time by trading for Victor Martinez last summer. Their current best hope for a homegrown catcher of the future is Federowicz. He's the best defensive backstop in the system. With average arm strength and a quick transfer and release, he threw out 31 percent of basestealers last season. He got accustomed to handling quality stuff while catching for first-round pitchers Daniel Bard, Andrew Miller and Alex White at North Carolina, and he has improved his receiving mechanics since turning pro. He has strong leadership skills and calls a good game. How much Federowicz hits will determine whether he's a regular or a backup in the major leagues. Even after he batted .305/.341/.484 in his first full pro season--despite a 4-for-53 (.075) slump in July after he was promoted to high Class A--scouts still aren't sure how much he'll hit for average or power. He's a streaky hitter who can get pull-happy, but he has a short stroke and doesn't hook many balls foul. He has power to his pull side. He made good contact against Class A pitching, but more advanced hurlers can exploit his lack of patience at the plate. He runs better than many catchers but has below-average speed. Federowicz will return to Salem to start 2010, with an excellent chance for a midseason promotion.
Signed for $125,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2007, Mendez has breezed through the two lowest levels of the system. In his U.S. debut last year, he ranked fourth in the Gulf Coast League in opponent average (.184) and baserunners per nine innings (8.2). Mendez has one of the best arms in the system, sitting in the low 90s and reaching as high as 97 mph with his fastball. He's still growing into his 6-foot-4 frame and could have a plus-plus fastball when he's done filling out. His low-80s slider has some tilt but still has a ways to go, as does his changeup. While his secondary pitches lack polish, he throws them for strikes. Mendez has a sound delivery and operates from a high three-quarters arm slot. Scouts love his live, athletic body and praise his mound presence. Because Mendez has handled Rookie-level hitters so easily, Boston may send him to low Class A at age 19 this season.
Exposito has the best pure tools among Boston's catching prospects, starting with raw power and arm strength. The Red Sox were attracted to his defensive ability when they signed him for $150,000 as a draft-and-follow in 2006, but he stands out more with his offense now after clubbing 30 homers over the past two seasons. Exposito has a strong frame and can drive balls a long way, but he also has a long swing that leads scouts to question whether he'll be able to tap into his power potential. His aggressive approach results in some wasted at-bats. Exposito's size and lack of fast-twitch athleticism make him an easily below-average runner, which normally isn't a concern, but it eventually could affect his defense, which would be a problem. His arm features more strength than accuracy, and he threw out 27 percent of basestealers in 2009. He doesn't have soft hands but has worked hard on his defense and rates close to average as a receiver. He also has sought advice from Jason Varitek on how to lead a pitching staff. After finishing strong in Double-A last year, Exposito will return there to begin 2010. The Red Sox want to avoid having him share time on the same team with Tim Federowicz, who's a better defender but has less offensive potential.
He gets overlooked in comparison to Tim Federowicz and Luis Exposito, but some club officials believe that Wagner is the organization's best catching prospect. He has a more consistent approach and is more effective at nabbing basestealers than Federowicz and Exposito. Wagner shook off a dreadful 2008 season at Portland and conquered Double-A pitching last year, though he missed three weeks with a strained hamstring and later struggled in his first taste of Triple-A. He controls the strike zone well, using a flat stroke to mainly serve line drives to the opposite field. He consistently gets on base and has some power, mostly to the gaps. Wagner enhances his average arm strength with a quick release and tremendous accuracy, allowing him to throw out 47 percent of basestealers in 2009. He has become an average receiver through hard work, and Jason Varitek lauded his blocking skills during spring training last year. Wagner could use more strength because he tends to get worn down late in the season. Typical of a catcher, he's a below-average runner. He's not dazzling, but Wagner should be at least a solid big league backup and possibly a regular. He'll spend this season in Triple-A, with a late-season callup a possibility.
Weiland set single-season (16) and career (25) saves records at Notre Dame, but the Red Sox looked at his three-pitch mix and saw him as a starter when they drafted him in the third round in 2008. They sent him to high Class A for his first full pro season, and he recovered from a 1-5, 6.91 start to go 6-4, 1.81 over the final three months. Weiland's best pitch is a 91-94 mph turbo sinker, which has helped him post a 1.6 groundout/ airout ratio as a pro. His hard three-quarters breaking ball can be a solid pitch, though it flattens out when he doesn't stay on top of it. He shows good feel for his changeup now that he's using it more as a starter. Weiland battled his control at times--he led the Carolina League with 16 hit batters and ranked third with 57 walks in 2009--so Boston has tried to help him tighten up his arm action and repeat his delivery better. He also has to work on controlling the running game after giving up 32 steals in 39 tries last year. Weiland ultimately may return to the bullpen, but he'll spend this season as a starter in Double-A.
Before he made three scoreless appearances for Boston last September, Richardson's claim to fame had been his participation on the ESPN reality show "Knight School," in which Texas Tech students tried to make basketball coach Bob Knight's team as a walk-on. Richardson would have won the competition if he had been able to join the team, but that would have conflicted with his baseball participation. A one-pitch pitcher when he signed as a fifth-rounder in 2006, Richardson spent his first two full pro seasons as a starter so he would get plenty of innings to work on his secondary offerings. After going 7-11, 6.45 in 2008, he moved to the bullpen last season and took off. He led Double-A Eastern League relievers with a .186 opponent average, consistently missing bats with a 90-95 mph fastball that plays up because he's deceptive. He has ditched a loopy curveball and developed a solid slider that he trusts. He also has a fringy changeup but uses it only sparingly. The last item on Richardson's to-do list is to cut down on his walks. If he can do that in spring training, he could make the Red Sox as the No. 2 lefty in the bullpen.
Dent played with Twins top prospect Aaron Hicks on the Wilson High (Long Beach) team that won the 2007 national championship. The Red Sox rated Dent as a first-round talent that year and were delighted to get him with the 62nd-overall pick and sign him for $571,000. He had a miserable first full pro season in 2008, leading the New York-Penn League in strikeouts (87) and finishing with the worst batting average (.154) in the circuit. Dent made drastic improvements in 2009, recognizing pitches and managing his at-bats better, giving hope that he one day will take advantage of his tremendous bat speed and raw power. He still swings too often early in the count and pulls off too many pitches, so there's more work to be done. He has plus speed and basestealing aptitude, though he could be more aggressive on the bases. Boston's 2009 minor league defensive player of the year, Dent has split time between second base and shortstop as a pro. His actions, range and arm are all solid. The Red Sox think he plays better at shortstop, though he's destined to see more time at second base (and perhaps center field) after the Red Sox signed Jose Iglesias and Jose Vinicio on the international market last year. Dent will try to maintain his progress this year in high Class A.
Vinicio celebrated his 16th birthday last July by signing with the Red Sox for $1.95 million. That set a franchise record for the largest bonus ever given to a foreign amateur, though Cuban defector Jose Iglesias shattered it when he got $6.25 million as part of an $8.25 million big league contract two months later. The top pure shortstop from the 2009 international signing class, Vinicio has terrific actions and hands, good range and a strong arm. A switch-hitter, he's better from the right side of the plate. Though he's skinny, he has a quick bat and can drive the ball, so he could grow into some power once he gets stronger. He has slightly above-average speed, and that too could improve as he matures physically. Vinicio will need plenty of time to develop his body and his skills, and Boston will give it to him. He'll make his pro debut in either the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League or the Gulf Coast League in June.
Jacobs is built like the New York Giants running back of the same name, and he was a top running-back recruit committed to Auburn, where his football counterpart played one season. Boston took him away from the gridiron, however, drafting him in the 10th round last June and signing him for $750,000. Jacobs is surprisingly advanced at the plate for someone who never was a full-time baseball player. He manages at-bats well and has a quick bat and plenty of raw strength, so he has the potential to hit for average and power. Jacobs will have to hit because he's not going to offer much else. He has solid-average speed once he gets going, but he lacks quickness. He's a poor defender in left field, and his arm lacks both strength and accuracy. The Red Sox recognize that he's an all-bat player, but if they dream they can envision him becoming another Kevin Mitchell. They could challenge him by sending him to low Class A in 2010.
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