February 27, 2011

On Baseball: Here's your handy 2011 preseason prospect primer

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Prospects come in all sizes, shapes and levels.

With all the rankings of prospects out there, we've decided to come up with a new way to list them.

Our seven categories:

Ticketed for Fenway. Players who will be with the Red Sox later this season and for years to come.

Trade bait. Good players with seemingly no long-term future at Fenway.

Backstop battlers. The catchers trying for a spot in Boston, if one opens up.

High ceiling, low levels. Players who have not reached Double-A, but are considered big talents.

Maybes. Players who might fit in.

Dark horses. Long shots who may defy the odds.

Wait and see. Other good prospects who could break through. 

TICKETED FOR FENWAY: Ryan Kalish, Jose Iglesias, Felix Doubront.

The 2012 starting lineup should feature Kalish in right field and Iglesias at shortstop.

Doubront's case is not as clear-cut. It depends on his health (he was shut down last week with elbow soreness), and how others develop, including a another left-hander, Andrew Miller. 

TRADE BAIT: Lars Anderson, Josh Reddick, Yamaico Navarro, Daniel Nava.

They all could hang around a while as insurance in case of injury. But their paths are all blocked, namely by Adrian Gonzalez, Jed Lowrie, Iglesias, Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury and Kalish. 

BACKSTOP BATTLERS: Mark Wagner, Luis Exposito, Ryan Lavarnway, Tim Federowicz.

If Jarrod Saltalamacchia works out as the No. 1 catcher and Jason Varitek can maintain an acceptable level of play into his 40s, there may not be an opening. Boston has simply let catchers go before -- George Kottaras and Dusty Brown -- after they ran out of minor league options.

Wagner, 26, may follow those two to another organization. He is out of options after this season, has played only 79 Triple-A games and has prospects coming up behind him.

Exposito, 24, is the only other minor league catcher on the 40-man roster, but will have options through 2013. His offense is coming along and he has time to refine his defensive skills.

Lavarnway, 23, is the top catching prospect after his productive 2010 (combined .288 average, 22 home runs and 102 RBI in Salem and Portland). If his defense improves enough, he has a future at Fenway.

Federowicz, 23, is the opposite of Lavarnway. His defense is solid, but he needs to hit. 

HIGH CEILING, LOW LEVEL: Anthony Ranaudo, Drake Britton, Stolmy Pimentel, Garin Cecchini, Xander Bogaerts.

Ranaudo, 21, is considered Boston's second-best prospect by Baseball America, even though he has never pitched professionally. Based on the potential he demonstrated at Louisiana State his sophomore year (159 strikeouts) and the Cape Cod League last summer (0.00 ERA), Ranaudo could fly through the system, maybe seeing Portland this season.

Britton, 21, is a hard-throwing lefty coming back from Tommy John surgery. He will be in Salem, with Portland in his sights.

Pimentel, 21, has been inconsistent, but strong enough to get added to the 40-man roster, with a spot in Portland's rotation this spring.

Cecchini, 19, may be Boston's best draft pick after Ranaudo in 2010. An infielder with great potential, he's also coming back from major knee surgery last spring.

Bogaerts, 18, is an unknown, but Baseball America declared he was Boston's "most intriguing" prospect to play in the Dominican summer league since Hanley Ramirez. Such a statement gets your attention.

Bogaerts batted .314 in the Dominican league and will likely go to the Gulf Coast League this season or maybe Lowell. 

MAYBES: Michael Bowden, Kyle Weiland, Alex Wilson, Jason Rice, Junichi Tazawa, Juan Carlos Linares, Ryan Westmoreland.

The first five names on this list are pitchers who may end up in Boston's bullpen. Bowden, 24, is in his last year with minor league options and is running out of time. Tazawa, 24, still has hopes as a starter.

Linares, 26, an outfielder, is entering his first full pro season after defecting from Cuba. He batted .297 in the Arizona fall league but, given his age, needs to impress quickly in the minors.

Westmoreland, 20, is the outfielder everyone is rooting for. Coming back from brain surgery last year, Westmoreland is far from playing in games, but he is taking batting practice. 

DARK HORSES: Che-Hsuan Lin, Bubba Bell, Dan Butler.

Lin, 22, is a solid center fielder and average hitter who gets on base. His age is a plus. On the other hand, Bell, 28, is an outfielder fighting the clock. He batted .293 last season, but could be looking at his last year in the Red Sox organization.

Butler, 24, was a non-drafted free agent in the summer of 2009. He batted .315 for Greenville and Salem last season and may get to Portland this year. 

WAIT AND SEE: Will Middlebrooks, Oscar Tejeda, Kolbrin Vitek, Sean Coyle, Felix Sanchez, Chris Balcom-Miller, Adalberto Ibarra.

Infielders Middlebrooks, 22, and Tejeda, 21, will play for Portland, where Double-A pitching can determine if a player is a real prospect.

Infielders Vitek, 20, and Coyle, 19, were first- and third-round draft picks last year, respectively. Highly thought of, but unproven.

Sanchez, 20, is a speedy outfielder who hit .323 in Lowell. Balcom-Miller, 21, a pitcher and Rockies prospect, came to Boston in the Manny Delcarmen trade. Ibarra, 23, is a raw catching prospect from Cuba.

Other names will likely pop up as minor leaguers begin spring training this week, and by the end of March as players are assigned to teams.

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at:



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