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November 2, 2007

Future Shock

Red Sox Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Five-Star Prospects
1. Clay Buchholz, RHP
2. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Four-Star Prospects
3. Justin Masterson, RHP
4. Jed Lowrie, SS
5. Ryan Kalish, OF
Three-Star Prospects
6. Michael Bowden, RHP
7. Lars Anderson, 1B
8. Nick Hagadone, LHP
9. Oscar Tejeda, SS
Two-Star Prospects
10. Josh Reddick, OF
11. Che-Hsuan Lin, OF

Just Missing: Ryan Dent, SS; Kris Johnson, LHP; Will Middlebrooks, 3B

1. Clay Buchholz, RHP
DOB: 8/14/84
Height/Weight: 6-3/190
Bats/Throws: L/R
Draft: 1st round, 2005, Angelina College (TX)
2007 Stats: 1.77 ERA at Double-A (86.2-55-22-116); 3.96 ERA at Triple-A (38.2-32-13-55); 1.59 ERA at MLB (22.2-14-10-22)

Year In Review: After finishing the previous year on such a strong note, the Red Sox surprised some by starting Buchholz off at Double-A this season, but he blew away hitters at two levels before throwing a no-hitter in his second big league start, and establishing himself as the top pitching prospect in the game.
The Good: Buchholz is the total package with outstanding stuff, outstanding command and control, and outstanding mound presence. His four-seam fastball sits at 92-94 mph, can touch 97, and features excellent movement. It also isn't even his best pitch. His plus-plus curveball is a true 12-6 breaker, and multiple scouts relay stories of batters falling down while trying to hit it. His changeup is also an above-average offering that features a late and heavy drop. He also mixes in a solid slider, and a two-seam fastball with some sink. His mechanics are smooth and sound, and he pitches with a fearless intensity.
The Bad: Anything here is nitpicking. At times, Buchholz becomes a bit too enamored with his secondary offerings, and needs to focus more on setting everything up with his fastball. Some felt this was solved at the big league level when Jason Varitek called all the pitches. Buchholz was shut down at the end of the season due to minor arm soreness, but it was done purely on a precautionary basis, and there are no long-term concerns.
Fun Fact: While at Angelina college, Buchholz was also the best hitter on the team, and would still have been drafted in the first ten rounds as an outfielder if he'd never pitched.
Perfect World Projection: Buchholz is one of the few pitching prospects around with true ace potential.
Timetable: Buchholz' ascent is the primary reason Curt Schilling has been spending time writing good-bye letters to his Boston teammates. Buchholz is penciled in for an Opening Day rotation slot, and could be an impact pitcher immediately.

2. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
DOB: 9/11/83
Height/Weight: 6-1/185
Bats/Throws: L/L
Draft: 1st round, 2005, Oregon State
2007 Stats: .452/.518/.644 at Double-A (17 G); .298/.360/.380 at Triple-A (87 G); .353/.394/.509 at MLB (33 G)

Year In Review: After successful full-season debut, Ellsbury was the hottest hitter in the minors during the first three weeks of the season, and overtook Coco Crisp for the starting job in center during the postseason.
The Good: Ellsbury's top tools are his speed and glovework, but he's a very good hitter as well. He makes good contact, uses all fields, and projects as a consistent .290-.310 hitter annually in the big leagues. He's a plus-plus runner with outstanding instincts on the basepaths; one scout called him the best base runner he saw all year. He gets excellent jumps on balls in the outfield, and covers a ton of ground to both sides.
The Bad: Ellsbury needs to develop better secondary skills to move into the elite category as a hitter. He doesn't have much power, though most feel he'll grow enough to be good for 10-15 home runs annually. His excellent plate coverage works against him at times, and he needs to be more patient to profile as a pure leadoff man.
Fun Fact: While Oregon State is coming off back-to-back College World Series titles, success on the diamond is new to them, as their most successful hitting alum in the big leagues is Steve Lyons; Ellsbury's three home runs in the majors already ranks second.
Perfect World Projection: An above-average big league center fielder and occasional All-Star.
Timetable: Ellsbury's performance in the postseason cemented his place in the Red Sox outfield of the future. That future starts in 2008, and Ellsbury will be the starting center fielder.

3. Justin Masterson, RHP
DOB: 3/22/85
Height/Weight: 6-6/250
Bats/Throws: R/R
Draft: 2nd round, 2006, San Diego State
2007 Stats: 4.33 ERA at High-A (95.2-103-22-56); 4.34 ERA at Double-A (58-49-18-59)

Year In Review: The big right-hander held his own in Lancaster, then took off once he arrived in the most realistic baseball environs of the Eastern League, allowing five earned runs over 33 2/3 IP in his first five starts for Portland.
The Good: Masterson's sinker is not only the best in the system, it's arguably the best in all of the minor leagues. The pitch comes out of his hand at 88-92 mph, touches 94, and features tremendous downward break. Making the pitch even more effective is his ability to locate it in any four quadrants of the zone. He has an intimidating presence on the mound, and his drop-and-drive style gives him some deception.
The Bad: Masterson's three-quarters delivery is a bit of a concern, as his causes him to often get around on his slider, taking away any depth from the pitch. He made some progress this year with a circle grip on his changeup, but it remains a below-average pitch. Because of these concerns with his arsenal, some project him to be a reliever down the road.
Fun Fact: Masterson was born in Jamaica while his father was serving as the Dean of Students at Jamaica Theological Seminary.
Perfect World Projection: Pitchers like Chien-Ming Wang, Fausto Carmona and Derek Lowe have proven that sinkerballers can have great success in starting roles. While Masterson is in that mold, he's a notch below them.
Timetable: Masterson's development has come along a bit more quickly than expected, and he'll likely begin 2008 at Triple-A Pawtucket. His long-term role with the Red Sox is still undefined, but he could get a big league look by the end of the season.

4. Jed Lowrie, SS
DOB: 4/17/84
Height/Weight: 6-0/180
Bats/Throws: S/R
Draft: 1st round, 2005, Stanford
2007 Stats: .297/.410/.501 at Double-A (93 G); .300/.356/.506 at Triple-A (40 G)
Year In Review: After a disappointing full-season debut, Lowrie had what can only be defined as a breakout campaign, putting up great numbers at both Double- and Triple-A.
The Good: Lowrie is an on-base machine. His approach is highly advanced, as he works the count well, and recognizes which pitches he can drive into the gap. His makeup is off the charts--he's a baseball grinder who plays and practices with an infectious all-out style. Defensively, he's fundamentally sound and features a solid, accurate arm.
The Bad: Scouts' opinions of Lowrie vary wildly, with some seeing him as an everyday big league shortstop, and others seeing him as no more than a very good utility player. There is little doubt that with Lowrie's average speed and slow first step that his range is a little short to play on the left side of an infield in the big leagues.
Fun Fact: Lowrie is just one of 21 first-round picks to come out of the Stanford baseball program.
Perfect World Projection: A starting shortstop, though second base is more likely.
Timetable: With Julio Lugo still under contract and Dustin Pedroia establishing himself as one of the better second basemen around, Lowrie has no obvious job with the Red Sox. He'll return to Triple-A in 2008, and probably won't achieve a full-time role in the majors until he or Lugo gets moved elsewhere.

5. Ryan Kalish, OF
DOB: 3/28/88
Height/Weight: 6-1/205
Bats/Throws: L/L
Draft: 9th round, 2006, Red Bank Catholic HS (NJ)
2007 Stats: .368/.471/.540 at Short-season (23 G)

Year In Review: After earning a $600,000 bonus that bought him away from a college commitment to Virginia, the Red Sox spent extended spring training smoothing out Kalish's swing mechanics and refining his approach before unleashing him on the New York-Penn League, where he dominated for a month before his season was ended by a wrist injury.
The Good: Kalish is a premier athlete, and none of his tools grade out below average. He's an excellent hitter with at least average power, and profiles as a leadoff man with some pop, walking more than he struck out during his brief season. He has above-average speed and is an excellent baserunner.
The Bad: Kalish is still raw, especially in the field. He needs to improve his reads and routes to stay in center field, and his offensive profile creates a mismatch if he moves to a corner. He struggles against good lefties, who showed an ability to fool him with breaking stuff. His biggest issue right now might just be a lack of experience.
Fun Fact: In his final 13 games before the wrist injury, Kalish went 23-for-49 (.469) with eight walks and nine stolen bases.
Perfect World Projection: A dynamic outfielder capable of 20 home run/40 stolen base campaigns.
Timetable: Initially thought to require surgery, a second diagnosis prescribed a rest and rehabilitation program for Kalish, who is expected to be 100% by spring training. To call his full-season debut highly anticipated would understate the case.

6. Michael Bowden, RHP
DOB: 9/9/86
Height/Weight: 6-3/215
Bats/Throws: R/R
Draft: 1st round, 2005, Waubonsie Valley HS (IL)
2007 Stats: 1.37 ERA at High-A (46-35-8-46); 4.28 ERA at Double-A (96.2-105-33-82)

Year In Review: Entering the year as one of the top arms in the system, Bowden gained some early attention by being the only pitcher who could succeed at Lancaster, but his showing at Double-A wasn't nearly as impressive.
The Good: While Bowden has the command of a control specialist, his stuff is far from pedestrian. His fastball sits in the low-90s, and his curveball is a plus offering. He thrives on competition, and seems to find an extra gear in tight situations. While his numbers at Double-A weren't overly impressive, he was among the youngest pitchers in the league at the time of his promotion.
The Bad: The biggest knock scouts have with Bowden is his funky mechanics. A term normally reserved for batters, Bowden's delivery almost has a hitch in it and comes in a lot of parts, so it's easy for him to get out of synch, costing him velocity, command, and movement. His changeup still needs work to become a usable big league pitch.
Fun Fact: In three California League starts away from Lancaster's high-octane home stadium, Bowden fired 18 2/3 shutout innings.
Perfect World Projection: A third or fourth starter in the major leagues.
Timetable: The Red Sox were happy to get Bowden out of the California League, but that have no need to rush him. He'll likely spend all of 2008 back at Double-A unless he can rediscover last April's magic.

7. Lars Anderson, 1B
DOB: 9/25/87
Height/Weight: 6-4/215
Bats/Throws: L/L
Draft: 18th round, 2006, Jesuit HS (CA)
2007 Stats: .288/.385/.443 at Low-A (124 G); .343/.489/.486 at High-A (10 G)
Year In Review: Another late-round pick who received big money ($825,000), Anderson's pro debut met expectations, as he hit over .300 in every month of the season except for July, where a .194/.326/.306 line brought his season totals down.
The Good: Anderson's power potential is unmatched in the Boston system, but he's hardly one-dimensional. He's already showed excellent pitch recognition, and the ability to hit for an average, with a swing that scouts point to when asked about the prettiest around.
The Bad: Anderson's power still plays more in batting practice than in games, and he still needs to learn how to pull pitches with authority. Despite the accolades for his swing, Anderson still strikes out quite a bit. While decent defensively, he's limited to first base, meaning his bat will have to carry him to the big leagues.
Fun Fact: Anderson's high school in Sacramento is an exclusive school that costs more than $10,000 per year for students, and features arguably the top high school rugby program in the nation.
Perfect World Projection: A star first baseman who hits for average, hits for power, and draws walks in droves.
Timetable: Add Anderson's skill set and an assignment to Low-A Lancaster, and that could equal some ridiculous numbers. On a scouting level, some hope that the homer-happy park could help Anderson in developing some habits that allow him to tap into his natural power.

8. Nick Hagadone, LHP
DOB: 1/1/86
Height/Weight: 6-5/230
Bats/Throws: L/L
Draft: 1st round, 2007, University of Washington
2007 Stats: 1.85 ERA at Short-season (24.1-14-8-33)

Year In Review: Entering the year as an obscure middle reliever, everything about Hagadone's game took a major step forward, as he stepped into the closer role after initially being pegged as a weekend starter. He allowed five runs in just one inning in his pro debut, but then finished the year with 23 consecutive scoreless innings stretched over nine appearances while giving up just eight hits and striking out 32.
The Good: As a six-foot-five lefty who can get into the mid-90s, Hagadone has a very high ceiling. His fastball generally sat in the 91-94 mph range, and he commands it well. His power slider is often a swing-and-miss pitch, and scouts were surprised by how effective his changeup is, which features good arm action and a late drop.
The Bad: Hagadone's mechanics have come into question at times, as he short-arms the ball and doesn't get much leg drive on his pitches. While he has the three-pitch mix to start, and will be developed as a starter, he's yet to prove that his stuff can hold up over the course of a game, or that his arm can hold up over a 150+ inning workload. Both of his secondary offerings could use refinement, as he often overthrows the slider, costing it break.
Fun Fact: Hagadone comes from good athletic bloodlines, as his father played football at Idaho, and his mother starred in volleyball at Montana State.
Perfect World Projection: Hagadone could develop into a big-time starting pitcher, with a future as a power reliever representing a solid backup plan.
Timetable: While Hagadone might be ready for High-A, an assignment to Lancaster might not be the best idea for a full-season debut, so he'll likely begin the year in the rotation at Low-A Greenville. He could move quickly as a reliever, but has more value as a starter, which will take more time.

9. Oscar Tejeda, SS
DOB: 12/12/89
Height/Weight: 6-1/177
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: NDFA, 2006, Dominican Republic
2007 Stats: .295/.344/.399 at Rookie-level (45 G); .298/.347/.394 at Short-season (22 G)

Year In Review: One of the top international players from last summer, Tejeda impressed in the Gulf Coast League and more than held his own after a promotion to Lowell, where he was the youngest player in team history.
The Good: Tejeda has all of the tools necessary to be a star-level shortstop. He's a good hitter with a line-drive stroke who has the frame and the bat speed to develop into some power. Defensively, he has excellent range, crisp actions and a strong arm.
The Bad: Not even 18 yet, Tejeda is still rough around the edges in many aspects. He still hasn't seen enough breaking balls to make the proper adjustments to them, and he needs to improve in the little parts of the game, like bunting and baserunning. Like many young, flashy shortstops, he's prone to errors when trying to make spectacular plays.
Fun Fact: During his short stint at Lowell, Tejeda had nine-multi-hit games and an equal number of hitless efforts, but just three contests in which he recorded just one safety.
Perfect World Projection: A starting shortstop with the ability to create runs at the plate, and prevent them in the field.
Timetable: Tejeda's youth and inexperience leaves him very far from his potential. While it seems like he's ready for a full-season assignment, he'll be only 18 for all of 2008, and there might be a need for patience.

10. Josh Reddick, OF
DOB: 2/19/87
Height/Weight: 6-2/180
Bats/Throws: L/R
Draft: 17th round, 2006, Middle Georgia College
2007 Stats: .306/.352/.531 at Low-A (94 G); .000/.000/.000 at Double-A (1 G)

Year In Review: The Georgia Junior College Player of the Year in 2006, Reddick got sixth-round money ($140,000) to sign, and began the year in extended spring training, and would have made a run onto several Sally League leader boards if he played the entire season.
The Good: Reddick is an impressive hitter, with the hand-eye coordination, bat speed, and raw strength to succeed at every level. He's a good athlete and has speed a tick above average, and he has a strong, accurate arm.
The Bad: Reddick needs to cut down on the aggressiveness in his approach, as more advanced pitchers will have an easier time getting ahead of him in the count. While he played both center and right field in 2007, his defensive skills are far better suited to right.
Fun Fact: Reddick often got off to a quick start in games, batting .371 (46-for-124) with ten home runs in the first three innings.
Perfect World Projection: An impressive corner outfielder.
Timetable: Reddick's performance was one of the bigger surprises in the system last year, and like Anderson, he could put up some big numbers in Lancaster. Unfortunately, because of that we probably won't have a better feel for Reddick's potential until he reaches Double-A.

11. Che-Hsuan Lin, OF
DOB: 9/21/88
Height/Weight: 6-0/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: NDFA, 2007, Taiwan
2007 Stats: .263/.330/.457 at Rookie-level (43 G); .163/.265/.209 at Short-season (11 G)

Year In Review: The best player in Taiwan this year, Lin was courted by many teams all spring long, before finally signing for $400,000 in June. Within two weeks he made his pro debut with Boston's GCL squad, where he impressed observers with his tools.
The Good: Lin is a fantastic athlete, with one of the better arms in the system and the kind of speed to steal 40 bases annually. He has a quick bat and surprising pop for his size thanks to strong wrists that whip the bat through the zone. The Red Sox love his makeup, and he's dedicated to his game and takes well to instruction.
The Bad: Lin's slight frame hinders his projection, especially with his power. He has to work on his pitch recognition, as he likes to jump on fastballs, and is always looking dead-red, leaving him susceptible to off-speed pitches. He has the speed to play center field, but needs to improve his jumps and reads to stay there.
Fun Fact: Lin played his high school ball at Nan-Ying Vacational, the Taiwanese baseball powerhouse that had produced numerous prospects, including Chin-Lung Hu and Hong-Chih Kuo of the Dodgers.
Perfect World Projection: A dynamic, athletic center fielder with star potential. That said, Lin is very, very far from reaching that.
Timetable: The Red Sox will likely take it slow with Lin, who still needs to acclimate to living in the United States, as well as our style of baseball. Spring training will dictate if he begins the year in extended spring or Low-A Greenville.

The Sleeper: Long and lanky 21-year-old Dominican southpaw Jose Capellan was Lowell's most consistent starter this year, finishing with a 3.69 ERA and an impressive 71-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 75 2/3 innings. Capellan's fastball is average at best, but his breaking ball and changeup are both above-average, as is his command.

The Big Picture: Rankings Combined With Non-Rookies 25 Years Old Or Younger (As Of Opening Day 2008)

1. Clay Buchholz, RHP
2. Jon Lester, LHP
3. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
4. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
5. Justin Masterson, RHP
6. Jed Lowrie, SS
7. Ryan Kalish, OF
8. Michael Bowden, RHP
9. Lars Anderson, 1B
10. Nick Hagadone, LHP

Lester's battle with cancer overshadowed the fact that before his health problems, he was easily one of the top left-handed prospects in baseball. By the end of 2007, and including his start in Game Four of the World Series, Lester's stuff seems to be all the way back. By adding both Lester and Buchholz, the Red Sox rotation will be even better in 2008 than it was for this year's title season. The great irony to Pedroia's season is that he outperformed the scouting projections, but lived up to PECOTA's love for him, but his performance by many is attributed to many to his outstanding makeup--a scouting term that some in the statistical community abhor.

Thanks to a willingness to open the checkbook come draft time, the Boston system is better than ever. If there is one issue here, it's with the distribution of talent, because after Buchholz and Ellsbury, there's little that is immediately ready to help. At the same time, how much of an issue is that when your team just won the World Series?

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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