Tuesday, September 25, 2007

RSO's Sox Prospects List

The season is over for minor leaguers, so it is about time to make my rankings. I will do this again after the major league season is over, but I'm too tense right now. I need something to get my mind off the last week of the regular season.

1. Clay Buchholz - What hasn't been said about this kid? He has command of 4 plus pitches, has solid mechanics, and has great composure. While he is not going to throw no-hitters every time out there, he does have he ability to be an ace.

2. Jacoby Ellsbury - If you are a frequent reader of this site, you'd know that I am not Ellsbury's biggest fan. That being said, he is as much of a sure thing as anyone on this list. You can't teach his speed and defensive abilities. He does have to make strides in his approach at the plate. His swing as big holes, mainly in the upper-half of the zone. If he can learn to get the head of the bat on that high cheese, he will be an above-average hitter. To be frank, that doesn't matter, though. He brings so many things to the game, it is difficult to dislike him.

3. Michael Bowden - Am i going to chalk for everyone? Well, it doesn't matter. These guys should be 1,2,3. Bowden could be great and has as much potential as Buchholz. The reason why he is so further down is the age gap. Bowden is more than two years younger than Buchholz. It should be expected that he is less developed than his counter-part. He has a dominate fastball, that can hit 96 on the gun, to go along with an above average slider and curve. His change-up has been making strides as well. If you are looking at a prospects number you need to keep in context age. Is the player above the expected age, below, or age appropriate. Bowden is below average age, and that is why his numbers are impressive. A sub-4 FIP for a 20 year old in AA is pretty darn impressive. He also has over a 2/1 strikeouts to walk ratio, making him look legit. Expect Bowden to start at AA but make the jump to AAA if he has a good first couple starts. Don't be shocked if he is getting Buchholz-esque hype come 2009.

4. Lars Anderson - This guy is a complete beast. Much like Bowden, he is doing well above where he should be at. Drafted out of High School, this was his first year in professional baseball. He did nothing short of what was expected. He posted a .827 OPS in Greenvile before moving to Lancaster for the last several weeks of the season. While at Lancaster, he killed the ball posting a .975 OPS. If there was a concern about Lars, it would have to be his lack of power. He only hit 11 HRs all season. I, on the other hand, am not worried. Power can be developed and Lars will gain weight before he makes the majors. I fully believe he could be a 30 HR player some day. He plays decent 1st base and i expect his abilities to increase. Most experts will not have Lars this high but, because he is the only corner infielder even close to making an impact, he has to be in this slot. He is still at least 2 full seasons away, but probably 3 full season.

5. Jed Lowrie - I would have never thought this guy would have been this high prior to 2008, but that is why I am no expert. Lowrie was an offensive machine this season, while playing for Pawtucket and Portland. As a shortstop, he was able to slug .500 at Pawtucket and.501 at Portland. He didn't get on base at a crazy rate, .350 and .408, but the .408 is very good. The reason why the .06 drop may be a cause of a 4.4% increase in K% and 9.6% decrease in BB%. Generally, Lowrie has good patience. He has an uncanny ability to keep the ball off the ground, which is never a bad thing. His defense isn't great, but they have him out of position. Lowrie should be a second baseman. I think Lowrie is the best trading chip the Sox have in their farm system. They will not get rid of any of the aforementioned players, so i wouldn't be surprised if Lowrie is shipped off between now and this time next year. He will make a good second baseman for someone in two years.

6. Justin Masterson - Lots of hype around this kid, not as much truth to it as many might think. I highly doubt he will ever be a starter in the majors, which is why i am not high on him. He, however, can be a very effective reliever someday. Working out of the pen, he should be able to get his velocity around 94. If that is the case, his sinker will be nasty. I don't like his motion,either. It is pretty violent and unnatural. I don't claim to be an injury expert, but he is someone i'm looking at. There is a good chance that by the end of 2008, he will be setting up for Paps.

7. Brandon Moss - I wasn't sure where i wanted to put Moss. I think he is less of a talent than the next couple players to be listed, but i am 95% sure he will be what i think he'll be. I can't say that about the next people. Moss is a good hitter. He has shown at just about every level he can swing the bat. Give him a full season in the Majors, he will post an OPS+ around 100. If you don't believe me, i'll take any and all bets. That being sad, i will also take any bets who thinks he can post an OPS+ above 110. In my eyes, he is perfectly projectable as average. Now that he is learning to play first, i see him being with the Sox for awhile as the 4th outfielder/utility guy. You can't say that about everyone, so that's why he is at #7.

8. Oscar Tejeda - Is he the next Hanley Ramirez? Probably not, but he might be. How many 17 year olds can put up a .347 OBP in A ball. I'll tell you, not many. He is very young, so nothing is a certain. he could fizzle out just as easy as anybody, but i really like him. He is a little shaking as a SS, which might lead him to be a CFer, but his range has never been a question mark. He has speed coming out of his ears. Weight gain should be a top priority for Tejeda. He has the swing for HRs but he just doesn't have the power right now. Big potential but big risk. Keep your eyes on him.

9. Nick Hagadone - The only member of the 2007 draft to make the list, Hadagone has impressed in his short stint at Lowell. He was able to post a 1.85 ERA and a 4.13 K/BB rate. His ERA is stunted by his debut where he let up all 5 of his earned runs. I was a little skeptical about putting him on so early into his career, but he is so clearly the best lefty the Sox have it is impossible to leave him off. He has the ability to hit 98 on the gun, however 95 is a much more realistic goal. I wouldn't be shocked if we see him sooner rather than later. College closers tend to have a quicker path to the bigs than most. I'd say he could be a regular in the Sox pen by mid-2009.

10 - Che-Hsuan Lin - With the last pick of the top 10, i'm going pure upside. Lin could be the best prospect in the Sox organization come 2010. He has as much talent as anyone on this list, but is terrible young. The Taiwan import had little success in his short stint with Lowell, but did show flashes of his talent. He is an athletic centerfielder, that has great range and an above-average arm. Lin does a good job of getting the bat on the ball and has good plate discipline. If you are not familar with Lin, it is about time you get to know him. I would like to see the Sox start him in Greenville, but i doubt they move him from Lowell. Like Tejeda, huge upside but huge risk.

Honorable mentions: Ryan Kalish, Will Middlebrooks, Kris Johnson, Josh Reddick, and Ryan Dent.

I would really like to hear your feedback. I spend a lot of time following these guys via online, but have little actual game experience with many of these players. If you have seen something that i didn't mention, or just flat out disagree with me, i'd love to hear it. I plan on revisiting this topic sometime in winter, so get your opinions in now.

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