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Middlebrooks had multiple options when he came out of Liberty-Eylau High (Texarkana, Texas) in 2007. He threw low 90s fastballs and occasionally spun plus curveballs as a pitcher, and he drew interest from college football programs as both a quarterback and a punter. His future appeared even brighter at third base than on the mound or the gridiron, however, and that was the path he chose. Considered a supplemental first-round talent, Middlebrooks slid to the fifth round because of signability concerns and a commitment to Texas A&M, and he landed an above-slot $925,000 bonus. He has moved slowly but surely through the Red Sox system, improving his performance in each of his four pro seasons. He had his best year yet in 2011, when managers rated him as the best hitting prospect in the Double-A Eastern League. He went 1-for-2 in the Futures Game, earned EL all-star honors and reached Triple-A Pawtucket in August. He finished his year by smacking four homers in 13 Arizona Fall League games before straining a ligament in his left hand chasing a foul ball, an injury that didn't require surgery. Boston added him to its 40-man roster in November. If scouts drew up a blueprint for a third baseman, it would look like Middlebrooks. He has the size, athleticism, power and arm strength coveted at the hot corner. He continues to learn more about his swing and increase his home run production each year, with more to come in the future. Right now, most of his homers come to the opposite field and are line drives that carry out of the park. With his bat speed and the strength in his 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame, he could hit 25 or more homers a season if he turns on more pitches and adds more loft to his stroke. Middlebrooks is an aggressive hitter who doesn't walk much and may not hit more than .275 or so in the majors, though that's an acceptable trade-off for everything else he offers. He needs to manage at-bats better and make sure his load and timing don't get out of sync. While he remains streaky, his hot spells are lasting longer and his cold spells are ending more quickly. He's doing a better job of waiting for pitches he can hammer rather than getting himself out early in counts. He also understands that he's at his best when he lets his power come naturally, though he can get home run-conscious at times. Middlebrooks is a below-average runner but moves well for his size and isn't a liability on the bases. He's an asset at third base, where he's extremely agile and has a cannon for his arm. He competes well and has emerged as a leader in the system. Middlebrooks could use a full 2012 season in Triple-A, after which Red Sox will face an interesting decision. They hold a $12 million option for 2013 on Kevin Youkilis, who has had injury problems the last two years and may not be able to take the pounding at the hot corner at age 34. Middlebrooks figures to push Youkilis to DH or out of town at that point, and he has the tools to blossom into an all-star.
Signed for $410,000 out of Aruba, Bogaerts had a stellar pro debut that made him Boston's most highly anticipated international prospect since Hanley Ramirez. When he came to the United States and dominated in extended spring training, the Red Sox sent him to low Class A Greenville at age 18 last June, and he responded by smashing 16 homers in 72 games. His twin brother Jair is a first baseman in the system. Bogaerts doesn't look young when he's in the batter's box. He has an easy swing loaded with natural power, and he makes hard contact to all fields. While he still needs to learn the strike zone, he has shown the ability to make adjustments and handle breaking balls. He could be a .280 hitter with 30 homers in the majors, and that might be setting the bar low. Bogaerts has fluid actions at shortstop, but he lacks the quick feet for the position and will outgrow it once he fills out. With his plus athleticism, average speed and a strong arm, he'll be able to transition to third base or right field. Bogaerts has the highest ceiling among Red Sox prospects. He'll remain at shortstop in 2012, and Boston will have to send him to high Class A Salem at age 19 to challenge him. If he moves just one level a year, he'd still arrive in the majors at 22.
Swihart starred with the U.S. national 18-and-under team in 2010, batting .448/.492/.845. The Red Sox drafted him 26th overall last June, making him their highestdrafted catcher since No. 14 pick John Marzano in 1984. Swihart signed at the Aug. 15 deadline for $2.5 million, a franchise record for a position player. Swihart has uncommon offensive potential and athleticism for a catcher. A switch-hitter, he handles the bat better from his natural right side and has more pull power as a lefty. In instructional league, he doubled off the wall batting lefthanded against a rehabbing Clay Buchholz. Swihart projects as at least a plus hitter with a chance for average or better power. He has quick feet and moves well behind the plate, showing promising blocking and receiving skills despite catching for little more than a year. He also has plus arm strength and has made strides streamlining his release. He has average speed but will lose a step as he matures. He has a long way to go to reach his ceiling, but Swihart has the Buster Posey starter kit. There's no reason to think Swihart can't catch, but if Boston wants to expedite his bat, he's athletic enough to play on the infield and outfield corners, something he did up until his sophomore year of high school. After seeing time in the Florida and Dominican instructional leagues, he could jump to low Class A in his first full pro season.
Ranaudo had a roller-coaster 2010, beginning the year as the draft's top pitching prospect before coming down with a stress reaction in his elbow in his first start for Louisiana State. He recorded a 7.32 ERA that spring and slid to the 39th overall pick, then regained his luster by working 30 innings without an earned run in the Cape Cod League. After getting a $2.55 million bonus at the 2010 signing deadline, he made 26 starts and reached high Class A in his 2011 pro debut. Ranaudo gets swings and misses with a fastball that usually ranges from 91-96 mph, though his velocity faded a bit at the end of his first pro season. He uses his size to pitch down in the zone with his heater, which he can locate on both sides of the plate. Ranaudo also has the best curveball in the system and flashes a solid changeup, but he needs to improve the consistency of both pitches. Though he had elbow issues in two of this three seasons at LSU, he stayed healthy and worked 127 innings in 2011. After hitting the wall last July, Ranaudo recovered and posted a 2.35 ERA in his final five starts without his sharpest stuff. Ticketed for Double-A in 2012, he profiles as a steady No. 3 starter who could be big league-ready in 2013.
An Indians 30th-round pick out of high school as a pitcher, Brentz made it clear his future was as a hitter when he led NCAA Division I in batting (.465), home runs (28) and slugging (.930) as a sophomore in 2009. The 36th overall pick the next June, he signed for $889,200. He scuffled in his pro debut but rebounded in 2011, hitting 30 homers and sharing Boston's minor league offensive player of the year award with catcher Ryan Lavarnway. In a system filled with intriguing sluggers, Brentz has the most usable power. He combines explosive bat speed with pure strength, and he turned a corner when he realized his homers would come naturally. He toned down an all-or-nothing approach and used the whole field more often in 2011, though his plate discipline still has room for improvement. With fringy speed and plus arm strength, Brentz has the tools for right field. He has 21 errors in 152 pro games in right, many coming on throws he shouldn't have made. The Red Sox were looking for a righthanded bat and a right fielder this offseason. Brentz isn't ready to fill those needs yet, but he could be in mid-2013. A potential .270 hitter with 30-homer power, he's headed to Double-A.
If the Red Sox hadn't stepped in with a $750,000 bonus in the 10th round of the 2009 draft, Jacobs would have played running back at Auburn. His .242/.310/.404 performance in his first two pro seasons belied his offensive potential, which prompts comparisons to former MVP Kevin Mitchell, but he finally broke through in 2011. Jacobs matured as a hitter in his first taste of full-season ball, shortening his swing, using the opposite field more often and refining his two-strike approach. He stays inside the ball well and has the strength and bat speed to drive it out to right-center. He may always pile up strikeouts, but he makes enough hard contact to hit for solid average with plenty of power. Though Jacobs stole 30 bases in 2011, he has fringy speed and won't run as much at higher levels. His arm is average at best, so he's relegated to left field, where he needs to improve his jumps. Jacobs could battle Bryce Brentz for a corner-outfield job in Boston down the road. Brentz has better bat speed and defensive skills, but Jacobs is no slouch in the former category and he's a better pure hitter. He's ready to tackle high Class A at age 21.
Cecchini might have been a first-round pick in 2010 had he not blown out the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and required reconstructive surgery that March. His rumored price tag made teams back off until the Red Sox drafted him in the fourth round, and they signed him for $1.31 million at the deadline. He tore up older competition in the short-season New York-Penn League last summer until an errant pitch broke his right wrist in late July. His brother Gavin is a potential first-rounder in the 2012 draft. Cecchini is the best pure hitter in the system. He has outstanding hand-eye coordination, and he manages at-bats and controls the strike zone well for a youngster. He inside-outs a lot of balls now, and he should have solid power once he gets stronger and turns on more pitches. Cecchini worked diligently to get back in shape after his knee injury, regaining his average speed. A high school shortstop, he moved to third base at Lowell and made 10 errors in 26 games. He has the hands, arm and agility to get the job done once he learns the position. Will Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts, the system's top two prospects, profile best at the hot corner. So does Cecchini, who will advance to low Class A and could start to move quickly if he stays healthy.
The Red Sox fell in love with Barnes when they saw him duel Anthony Ranaudo in a Cape Cod League matchup in 2010, and they were delighted to get him with the 19th overall pick last June. He set a Connecticut school record with 247 career strikeouts and led the Huskies to their first-ever NCAA super-regional in 2011. He signed minutes before the Aug. 15 deadline for $1.5 million. Barnes can work in the mid-90s with his fastball as a starter, holding his velocity deep into games and topping out at 97. His effortless heat and explosive life are reminiscent of Daniel Bard's. Barnes had a quality curveball in the past, though it regressed in 2011 when he started working on a slider that Boston likely will have him scrap. He has made progress with his changeup but it lacks consistency. Barnes throws strikes but sometimes misses up in the zone when he doesn't stay on top of his pitches. He has an easy delivery but it lacks deception. Barnes has better pure stuff than Ranaudo, but not as much polish and mound presence. He'll probably follow Ranaudo's path in 2012, making his pro debut in low Class A and pushing for a midseason promotion. Barnes may not need much time in the minors, especially if he regains his curve.
Lavarnway won the NCAA Division I batting (.467) and slugging (.873) titles as a sophomore and set an Ivy League record with 33 career homers. The Red Sox paid him $325,000 as a 2008 sixth-round pick because they liked his bat, and even they were skeptical he could make it to the majors as a catcher. He did just that in 2011, when he earned his second straight Boston minor league co-offensive player of the year award. He nearly saved the Red Sox's season in his first big league start behind the plate, providing a much-needed victory in Game 161 by hitting two homers and throwing out a basestealer. Lavarnway generates plus power with a combination of strength and discipline. He works counts, lets pitches travel deep and pounds the ball to all fields. His swing is relatively compact considering his long arms. Lavarnway's defensive improvement is a tribute to his intelligence and work ethic. He lacks athleticism and agility, but he has transformed himself from a dreadful receiver to an adequate one. While his arm strength is just fringy, his quick release and throwing accuracy allowed him to erase 38 percent of basestealers in 2011. Because he has well below-average speed, his only other option is first base. It's still uncertain if Lavarnway can be a big league regular behind the plate, but the Red Sox won't put anything past him. In 2012, he'll serve as Jarrod Saltalamacchia's backup and get 300 or so at-bats while also seeing time at first base and DH.
Bradley looked like a surefire first-round pick after hitting .368 with 13 homers in 2010, when he was named Most Outstanding Player at the College World Series. He became too homer-conscious as college baseball toned down its metal bats last spring, and he missed two months after injuring a tendon in his left wrist. Though he batted just .247 with six homers in 2011, Bradley's center-field prowess was too much for the Red Sox to pass up with the 40th overall pick. He won a second straight CWS with South Carolina before signing for $1.1 million at the deadline. Few players cover center field as well as Bradley, who has average stopwatch speed but superb instincts. He has a strong arm for the position, too, and his stellar defense will take some pressure off his bat. Bradley is at his best offensively when he stays inside the ball and uses the opposite field. He's not physical, but he has a sound lefthanded stroke, a good grasp of the strike zone and average power. His speed plays up on the bases as it does in the outfield. If Bradley gets back to his old self at the plate, he could reach Boston by the end of 2013. He could open his first full pro season in high Class A and finish it in Double-A.
Wilson has made a habit of bouncing back from adversity. He had Tommy John surgery while in college in 2007 but recovered to become a second-round pick two years later. He reached Double-A Portland in his first full pro season in 2010 and got hammered for a 6.66 ERA, then returned there last year and conquered the Eastern League. He finished 2011 with four strong starts in Triple-A and won the organization's minor league pitcher of the year award. Wilson has the best fastball and breaking ball in the system. He operates at 93-96 mph and can reach back for 98 with his fastball, which features some sink and run. His 82-85 mph slider has hard bite and be unhittable at times. His changeup is an average pitch, though he doesn't use it often. Because he has two overpowering pitches and had violence to his delivery, scouts have projected Wilson as a reliever since his college days. But he toned down his mechanics in 2011, improving his command and his ability to maintain his stuff deeper into games. He does have the mentality to work the late innings, and he'll probably break into the majors as a reliever in 2012. It's not out of the question that he could be a No. 3 starter, though.
Iglesias began playing in Cuba's top league as a 17-year-old and defected a year later at the 2008 World Junior Championships in Edmonton. He signed with the Red Sox in September 2009, getting a four-year, $8.25 million big league contract that included a franchise-record $6.25 million bonus. Boston initially hoped that he'd be ready to take over at shortstop in 2012, but that won't transpire after he had a rough year with the bat in Triple-A last season. Iglesias is more than capable defensively. He has incredibly quick hands and feet, along with a strong arm, keen instincts and uncanny body control. Managers rated him the best defensive shortstop in the International League last year, and he led the circuit in both fielding percentage (.973) and total chances (441). He's a Gold Glove waiting to happen, though he'll have to show more offensively before getting regular playing time in the majors. Iglesias is too aggressive at the plate yet has a feel for putting the bat on the ball, a combination that yields a lot of weak contact. He has some bat speed but lacks strength and thus power. The Red Sox could live with his glove if he were an adequate hitter who could bat .250-.260 with some modest pop, but scouts from organizations question whether he'll be able to even do that. He's an average runner who can steal a few bases with his instincts. When Iglesias got a brief callup last May, he was 21 and became the youngest Boston position player since Rich Gedman in 1980. He came back up in September when rosters expanded, but Iglesias will have to show he can hold his own against Triple-A pitching before he returns to the majors.
Like Brandon Jacobs, Head is a Georgia high school product who signed for over-slot money in the 2009 draft and broke out in 2011. Signed for $335,000 as a 26th-round pick, he was leading the low Class A South Atlantic League in hitting (.338) and OPS (1.021) last June when he earned a promotion to high Class A. He didn't tear up the Carolina League, but he also wasn't overmatched at age 20. Head has one of the best bats in the system, the product of a loose swing, quick hands and a mature approach. He has aboveaverage power potential but doesn't try to force the issue, instead focusing on driving the ball up the middle. He has a good sense of the strike zone and shortens his stroke with two strikes. Head doesn't provide much beyond offense. Managers rated him the SAL's best defensive first baseman and he does have soft hands, but he's a well below-average runner with substandard athleticism and range. Head will have to really produce at the plate to overcome the stigma of a short, righthanded-hitting first baseman--and he may just do that.
Coyle may stand just 5-foot-8, but Boston believed enough in his bat to invest a thirdround pick and a $1.3 million in him in 2010. He justified that faith by posting an .826 OPS in low Class A as a 19-year-old, and his toughness was even more impressive. An errant pitch hit him the face and broke his jaw in June, yet he missed just 10 days and batted .268/.375/.460 in the second half. As a tiny second baseman in the Red Sox system, Coyle can't avoid some Dustin Pedroia comparisons. They only work to a point, because Coyle has more natural power but isn't the same hitter or defender. He produces solid pop with his bat speed, strong lower half and ability to barrel the ball. He has the patience to draw walks and wait for pitches to drive, though he'll have to make more contact at higher levels. Coyle has plus speed and good instincts on the bases, and he knows how to pick his spots to steal a few bases. He has all the ingredients to become a quality defender at second base, as his quickness, hands and arm are all assets. Boston doesn't need to rush him and will advance him one level at a time, with high Class A his next stop in 2012.
For a player who signed for $800,000, Workman had a relatively anonymous pro debut last year. The Red Sox kept him on tight pitch counts during the first half of the season in low Class A, and he seemed to get stronger when they turned him loose in July and August. Workman likes to pitch off his 91-94 mph fastball, which can reach 96 and features tail, run and steep downhill plane. He can hold his velocity deep into starts. He has a solid curveball, though he eschewed it in favor of a cutter during his final season of college at Texas. The Red Sox took the cutter away from Workman early in 2011 to make him focus on his curve, then gave it back to him in the second half. His cutter runs up to 84 mph and gets swings and misses from lefthanders. He also has a changeup that has some sink and grades as average when he maintains his arm speed. He throws strikes but needs to improve his command of his fastball, which gets hittable when he leaves it up in the zone. Workman has the stuff, control and body to profile as a starter, though some scouts envision him as late-inning reliever and maybe even a closer. The Red Sox will keep him in the rotation for now, and he could reach Double-A at some point in 2012.
Last season was supposed to be Britton's breakthrough. The Red Sox signed him away from Texas A&M with a $700,000 bonus in the 23rd round of the 2007 draft, then nursed him back to health after he blew out his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery the following year. He barely pitched in 2009 and was kept on tight pitch counts in 2010. Boston finally took the training wheels off last year, and it couldn't have been much more of a disaster. Britton led the Carolina League with 13 losses, didn't win a game after May 7, turned in just two quality starts in 26 outings and recorded a 6.91 ERA that would have ranked as the worst in all of Class A had he worked enough innings to qualify. The silver lining is that Britton still showed better stuff than most lefthanders, working with a 90-96 mph sinker and flashing a plus slider after switching from a bigbreaking curveball. He even showed some feel for a changeup. Britton's biggest problem is that he lacks control and consistency with his pitches and emotions. Too often last year, he'd fall behind in the count, slow the game to a glacial pace and be unable to extract himself from jams. His secondary pitches would come and go. Scouts inside and outside of the organization think Britton's problems are more mental than physical, and many believe he's destined for the bullpen. Britton needs innings, so Boston has no plans to change his role yet, and hopes he can pick up the pieces after protecting him on the 40-man roster in November.
After Doubront pitched well as both a starter and reliever in short stints in Boston in 2010, the club figured he'd be able to reinforce the rotation or bullpen if needed last year. But he wasn't up to the task. Doubront didn't show up in spring training in the best of shape and experienced elbow stiffness that prevented him from building up his arm strength. He strained his groin in May and a hamstring in July, and lacked consistency with his stuff and command all year. While the Red Sox were collapsing in September and in need of arms, they didn't trust him with more than mop-up duty. When Doubront is fully healthy and at his best, he throws a sinker that operates at 88-92 mph when he starts and sits at 92-93 when he relieves. His curveball, cutter and changeup all can be solid pitches, though their reliability fluctuated throughout 2011. He repeats his high three-quarters delivery well, allowing him to throw strikes, but he also lapses into nibbling too much at times. Doubront's stock took a hit inside and outside the organization last year, and he'd help his cause by arriving in spring training in peak condition. He'll get the opportunity to make the Red Sox in spring training, though in which role remains unclear.
In an unusually down year for high school talent in Southern California, Owens was the lone prep pitcher who drew first-round consideration. The Red Sox got him near the top of the sandwich round with pick No. 36 and signed him at the deadline for $1.55 million. Owens has solid stuff for a lefty and the room to add plenty of strength to his skinny frame, but he stands out the most with his feel for pitching. He usually throws 88-91 mph on cruise control, showing the ability to get 92-93 mph whenever he needs it and maxing out at 94. Owens can spin a curveball, throwing a 75-76 mph breaker with depth and also flipping up a loopier high-60s bender to keep hitters off balance. He can throw the curve for strikes in any count. His changeup has some promise, and he also has messed around with a slider and cutter. Some area scouts were disappointed Owens didn't add more velocity in high school and questioned his projection, but Boston is thrilled to have him. Because he didn't pitch after signing late, he'll likely make his pro debut at Lowell in June. If everything comes together, he could develop into a No. 3 starter.
Boston's top pick in 2010, Vitek went 20th overall and signed for $1.359 million. A two-way star at Ball State, he rated as one of the best bats in the draft, but he has yet to hit with much authority in two years as a pro. The Red Sox are still confident he'll be productive at the plate, which may happen once he gets comfortable at third base or moves to the outfield. Vitek has a simple, quick swing and consistently keeps his hands inside the ball. That's conducive to hitting line drives and using the opposite field, though he won't tap into his average power potential unless he starts turning on more pitches. After making some adjustments to handle breaking pitches, he made more consistent contact in his first full pro season than he did in his debut. Vitek is a good athlete with plus speed once he gets going and above-average arm strength. He showed an 88-92 mph fastball and threw three pitches for strikes at Ball State. Vitek played third base as a sophomore before moving to second base as a junior to conserve his arm, and he has struggled moving back to the hot corner. Inconsistent footwork has contributed to his .886 fielding percentage there, and some scouts wonder if his hands are good enough to stay in the infield. He'll probably wind up in the outfield, and his tools give him a chance to handle center field. Boston will keep him at third base when it sends him to Double-A to open the 2012 season.
Since baseball instituted the draft in 1965, the last overall pick never has signed and gone on to reach the majors. Only two of the final choices, Don Wakamatsu (1984) and Desi Wilson (1989), played in the big leagues after re-entering a subsequent draft. Stroup has a chance to make history, as he has become a legitimate prospect since signing for $150,000 as the 1,504th selection in 2008. He barely pitched in pro ball before last year, signing late in 2008, working 24 innings in Rookie ball in 2009 and missing all of 2010 after blowing out his right knee covering first base. He didn't look like anything special at the beginning of last year either, going 1-5, 7.05 through mid-May before finishing on a 5-1, 1.85 roll. Big and physical, Stroup throws a steady 91-95 mph fastball that tops out at 97. He gets good extension out front in his delivery, making his heater seem quicker, and he can run it to either side of the plate. While his breaking ball varies between a curveball and slider, he does show some feel for spinning the ball. His changeup is further advanced than his breaker and features some sink. Stroup has some effort in his delivery, but he has a compact arm action that allows him to command his pitches. He missed a month last year with an oblique strain, and the Red Sox would love to see what the potential No. 3 starter could do with a fully healthy 2012 season in high Class A.
Vinicio celebrated his 16th birthday by signing with the Red Sox for $1.95 million, at the time a franchise record for a foreign amateur. Two months later, Jose Iglesias upped the mark to $6.25 million, part of his $8.25 million major league contract. They're similar players, defensive whizzes at shortstop who will have to get stronger to hit effectively. Boston sent Vinicio straight to Rookie-level Gulf Coast League for his 2010 pro debut, and he was still the GCL's third-youngest regular when he repeated the league last summer. His actions, range, hands and arm all rate as plus tools for a shortstop. His biggest need defensively is to settle down, as he gets too flashy at times and made 29 errors in 50 games in 2011. Vinicio has yet to put on much weight, still carrying 150 pounds on his 5-foot-11 frame. He does have quick hands and some life in his bat, and he has an all-fields approach, so he should be able to hit for average once he matures physically and tightens his strike zone. He's an above-average runner who's still learning to use his speed on the bases, and he led the GCL by getting caught 10 times in 29 steal attempts. Provided that he can add strength, Vinicio looks like a better bet to provide some offense than Iglesias. At the same time, he's five levels lower in the system. Still just 18, Vinicio will probably spend 2012 in extended spring training and Lowell.
The Red Sox thought they had plenty of pitching depth to carry them through the 2011 season, but when injuries ravaged their staff, they had to turn to Weiland to make three critical starts in September. He lost two and received no decision in the other, allowing 12 runs in 11⅔ innings. Club officials don't fault Weiland, saying he was put in a difficult situation and undermined by shoddy defense behind him. They still see him as a potential rotation contributor in the future. Weiland has a hard sinker that sits in the low 90s and touches 96. He has improved his curveball to the point where it gets swings and misses, and he has developed a cutter that makes him more effective against lefthanders than righthanders. He doesn't tip off his changeup like he used to, though it's still a fringy pitch. Weiland relishes pitching inside and does an excellent job of controlling the running game. When he keeps his pitches down, he's tough to beat, but he got caught up in the strike zone too often in the majors. Weiland set single-season (16) and career (25) save records at Notre Dame, and his stuff would play up if he moved to the bullpen. But Boston has no immediate plans to do so, and he'll open 2012 on call in Triple-A.
Signed for $25,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2006, Pimentel made steady progress in four pro seasons until he reached Double-A in 2011. He threw harder than ever, but every aspect of his game besides velocity regressed terribly. He went 0-9, 9.12 as opponents batted .352 against him in 15 Portland starts, including four outings in which he allowed more runs than he recorded outs. He improved following a July demotion to high Class A, but that couldn't take much of the tarnish off a disappointing year. In his quest to throw harder--and his fastball did reach 97 mph--Pimentel lost his mechanics, command and ultimately his confidence. Increased velocity meant less plane, angle and movement on his fastball, which is more effective and has more riding life when he throws in the low 90s. His changeup was a swing-and-miss pitch in the past, but merely average at best in 2011. The lone positive in Pimentel's development last year was that he may have found a breaking ball. After struggling to spin a curveball for years, he scrapped it in favor of a low-80s slider/cutter. The Red Sox hope he has gotten back on track to becoming a No. 3 starter, but won't know for sure until they see how he fares when he returns to Double-A.
Tejeda followed a breakthough year in 2010 with the worst full-season performance of his career in 2011. He was the fifth-youngest regular in the Eastern League at age 21, so there's reasonable hope for improvement, though scouts were troubled that he often failed to expend much effort. When he signed for $525,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2006, one rival international scouting director compared him to Alfonso Soriano. Tejeda has a very quick bat and more power than most middle infielders, but his aggressive approach holds him back at the plate. He might be a .260 hitter with 15-20 homers per year, which would be enough to profile as a regular at second base but tougher if he has to move to an outfield corner. That's a possibility because Tejeda has below-average speed and fringy range at second, and he also could outgrow the position. His hands and arm work in the middle infield, but he doesn't show the instincts to make more than the routine plays. He led EL second basemen with 24 errors last season after topping Carolina League second sackers with the same number in 2010. He'll return to Double-A this season and needs to mature in all areas of the game.
Gibson remains the best athlete in the system, but he hasn't hit in two years of fullseason ball, putting up .235/.321/.303 numbers in 2010-11. He still has the same quick bat, sound swing and disciplined approach that were part of the package the Red Sox paid $600,000 for after drafting him in the second round in 2008. While Gibson needs to get stronger and that would help him at the plate, his biggest problem is that he's too hard on himself and loses confidence when he's not going well. He may not ever hit for home run power, but he does have the tools to bat at the top of a lineup. He's has well above-average speed, though he could be more daring on the bases. To his credit, Gibson hasn't let his offensive struggles affect his defense. He has the quickness, range and arm strength for shortstop. Scouts aren't in love with his funky throwing motion, but he gets the job done. In his two full years at the position, he has led South Atlantic and Carolina league shortstops in fielding percentage. Gibson also has played second base and third base in pro ball, and he could have a future as a speedy, athletic utilityman if his bat doesn't come around. He'd probably be best served by returning to Salem to start 2012.
Scouts weren't sure if Hassan offered more promise as a hitter or pitcher after watching him for three years at Duke. The Red Sox had divergent opinions even after taking him the 20th round of the 2009 draft, and decided to make him a full-time outfielder after he batted .289 while earning all-star honors in the Cape Cod League that summer. Since signing for $90,000, he has sprayed line drives all over the field and gotten on base. No one in the system controls the strike zone better than Hassan, who works deep counts and isn't afraid to hit with two strikes. He has a lot of moving parts to his swing, but he has good rhythm and makes consistent contact, so Boston hasn't tried to change it. His stroke is geared to the opposite field, but he's starting to get stronger and turn on more pitches. More power is critical for Hassan, who drives more doubles to the gaps than homers over the fence. He's sort of a tweener who doesn't have the pop to be an everyday player on an outfield corner and doesn't run well enough to man center field on a regular basis. With fringy speed and average arm strength, Hassan fits best in left field. He's a steady defender who recorded 11 assists and topped Eastern League outfielders with a .995 fielding percentage in 2011. He'll advance to Triple-A and could see his first big league action in 2012.
Alcantara has filled up his trophy case since signing out of the Dominican Republic for $500,000 in 2009. The Red Sox named him their minor league Latin program pitcher of the year in his pro debut, and the Gulf Coast League honored him as its pitcher of the year in his first year in the United States. Last summer, he led the GCL in ERA (0.75), WHIP (0.60) and opponent average (.147). Though he's far from a finished product, Alcantara is advanced for his age and has one of the highest ceilings among Boston's lowerlevel minor leaguers. Using an easy arm action and sound delivery, he pitches off a 90-95 mph fastball. His hard slider has the makings of a plus pitch, while he's still refining his changeup. He already throws strikes with ease, so the next step is improving his ability to locate his pitches where he wants. Alcantara earned a promotion to Lowell last August and could push for a low Class A assignment this spring.
Anderson ranked No. 1 on this list in the 2009 Prospect Handbook, when he was coming off a .317/.417/.517 season in which he reached Double-A at age 20. One scout who saw him that summer said Anderson was ready to hit major league pitching if needed. Three years later, he has only a couple of September callups and 40 big league at-bats on his résumé. Anderson still has impressive size, bat speed, strength and hand-eye coordination. He has maintained his patience at the plate and led the International League with 80 walks in 2011. But he's not going to get a chance as a major league regular until he hits for more power and proves he can hit lefthanders. Anderson lacks loft in his swing and doesn't turn on enough pitches. He now looks more like a platoon player than a middle-of-the-order cornerstone. Anderson has worked hard to improve his defense and does a nice job around the bag at first base. He's a below-average runner but doesn't clog the bases. With Adrian Gonzalez signed through 2018, Anderson has no shot at starting at first base for the Red Sox. They nearly sent him to the Athletics last July in a trade for Rich Harden, but balked at the last second after reviewing Harden's medical records. He won't be a star, but Anderson might be able to hit .280 with 15 homers and a lot of walks for a team looking for an inexpensive first baseman.
Overmatched in his first exposure to full-season ball as a 19-year-old in 2010, Vazquez returned to Greenville last season and raised his OPS from .665 to .863 and his home run output from three to 18. And his bat isn't even the most impressive part of his game. The Red Sox named him their 2011 minor league defensive player of the year, quite an honor in a system that also includes standout glovemen such as Jose Iglesias and Che-Hsuan Lin. Vazquez has plus catch-and-throw skills, though he still needs to clean up his receiving a little more. His average arm strength plays up because he gets rid of the ball quickly and makes accurate throws, and he threw out 33 percent of basestealers last year. A strong leader with passion for the game, he's bilingual and communicates well with English- and Spanish-speaking pitchers alike. Vazquez is strong and has solid power potential. With his compact swing, willingness to use the opposite field and command of the strike zone, he has a chance to hit for a decent average as well. He's a below-average runner but not terrible for a catcher. Vazquez is ready to make the jump to high Class A.
After batting just .223/.337/.304 in three years of Rookie ball, Meneses hit his way from low Class A to Double-A at age 20 last season. He's not very physical at 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, but he's surprisingly strong for his size and has a quick bat. He makes hard line-drive contact, though he's not going to be a home run threat and still needs to tone down his aggressive approach. He's a solid runner who looks to steal and take extra bases. Meneses saw action at shortstop, second base and third base in 2011, and he profiles best at second base. He has the hands and footwork for short, but his arm and range are better suited for second. He has quick hands and turns the double-play pivot exceptionally well. If he doesn't develop into a regular, Meneses has what it takes to become a valuable utilityman. He'll return to Portland to begin 2012.
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