Sunday, January 26, 2014

RSM Red Sox Top Prospects 21-50

Back on November 9th we published the RSM Top 20 Red Sox Prospects from #1 Xander Bogaerts down to #19 and 20 Jon Denney and Teddy Stankiewicz, with lots of heralded and promising names in between.  Here is a list of the next tier of Sox prospects.  This is a list of some newer members of the organization on the rise and some brighter stars of the past slipping down the ranks.  We include a brief comment for 21-40 and simply a list of 41-50 ( unless we can't help ourselves).  As always RSM uses as one factor in the rankings how close a player is to helping Boston, and that comes into play for the first three names.  Team listed is the final destination in 2013.

21. Alex Hassan, OF-  Pawtucket  This on base machine only played 55 games in 2013 due to injuries. But if Boston is looking for an early season call up for corner OF or first base, Hassan could be it.

22. Travis Shaw, 1B- Portland  In his second year at Portland Shaw struggled at the plate.  But Shaw, who is another OBP monster usually up over .400, shined in the Arizona Fall League to somewhat salvage his 2013.  He should move along to AAA in his next trial to become a bona fide prospect.

23. Alex Wilson, RP- Boston (DL)  Wilson was converted to the pen and promoted to Boston in 2013. He was pitching acceptably in a mid relief role when injury cut his season down.  If the parent club did not all ready have a loaded bullpen, Wilson would likely start in Boston, but barring injuries in the Sox bullpen or a fantastic Florida showing by Wilson,  he is slated for Pawtucket again.

24.  Wendell Rijo, 2B- Lowell  This second sacker bloomed in 2013 in the GCL ( with a brief 3 game cameo in Lowell at season's end.)  At age 18 he hit .277 with an OBP of .367.  Rijo also stole 15 bags.

25. Rafael Devers, 3B  The Red Sox signed Devers last summer  as an international free agent at age 16.  He was considered the third best hitter on the IFA market by Baseball America and the best power prospect available.  At age 16 he is probably two years away from playing stateside, but watch for his numbers in the 2014 Dominican Summer League.

26. Dalier Hinojosa, P- Cuba  This 27 year old Cuban defector is only a prospect in that he has not played in America yet.  The right hander has a low to mid 90s fastball and many scouts feel his ceiling is a reliever in the bigs.  Others feel he can start in the majors.  He is very likely to start 2014 in Pawtucket, and with any type of showing in AAA,  Hinojosa should pitch for Boston is some capacity this year.

27. Ty Buttrey, P- Lowell - The 2012 fourth rounder went 4-3 with an ERA of 2.21 and a WHIP of 1.23.  The 20 year old righty should start 2014 in Greenville.

28. Jamie Callahan, P, Lowell  Another 2013 draftee ( 2nd round) joined Buttrey in Lowell and going 5-1 with a WHIP of 1.09 and had 54 Ks to only 17 walks at age 19.  Greenville is his 2014 destination as well.

29. Sean Coyle, 2B- Salem  A near top ten prospect two years ago, injuries have somewhat curtailed his progress.  But Coyle is still only 21 years old, as he was drafted out of high school.  He also hit 16 home runs between Greenville and Salem last year.  He will begin 2014 at Hadlock Field, as will the other second baseman from Salem, the top ten prospect,  Mookie Betts.  This will create an interesting puzzle to get all involved enough playing time ( SS Deven Marrero will be there also). AA should show once and for all if Coyle is a candidate for the big leagues

30.  David Chester, 1B Salem  The RSM favorite son and slugging first sacker was a SAL All Star at Greenville before his promotion to Salem.  Chester was tied with PawSoxer Bryce Brentz for the most home runs in the Sox system with 19.  He also knocked 85 runs and hit .271 with a OBP of .354. But Chester is all ready 24 and to really have a realistic shot at the Show he needs to reach AA this year, and continue to slug when he gets there.

31. Noe Ramirez, RP- Portland  This righty was converted to the pen in late 2013, and in one indication the Red Sox feel he can rise rapidly in this new role, Ramirez was invited to Boston this winter for the Rookie indoctrination seminars.  The other invitees included Henry Owens, Matt Barnes, Blake Swihart, Garin Cecchini and other top ranked minor leaguers.

32. Luis Diaz, P- Salem  In 2013 between Greenville and Salem, Diaz sparkled.  The 21 year old went 9-4 with an ERA of 1.96.  In 101 innings his WHIP was 1.08 and he struck out 94 batters with only 24 walks.  Portland looks like his 2014 assignment, if not on Opening Day soon thereafter.

33. Stephen Wright, P- Pawtucket/Boston  Again he is not really a "prospect" in the true since of the word.  But Wright has shown he can get big leaguers out with his knuckleball.  He should begin 2014 back in AAA, but do not be shocked if Wright starts a number games for Boston again in 2014.

34. Dan Butler, C- Pawtucket  Sort of a catching version of Stephen Wright, he also is not a young, exciting prospect.  But scouts agree he is on target to become a very solid backup big league catcher.  If any health issues arise with AJ Pierzynski or David Ross, Butler could get the call while Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart continue to ripen.  And as was undrafted out of college, the scouts have been wrong about Dan before.  Maybe he can be more than a backup.

35. Tzu-Wei Lin, SS- GCL  The shortstop from Taiwan was signed in June of 2012.  He is considered the fastest base runner in the entire system.  An outstanding defender, the development of his bat will guide his fortunes.  Last year hit only .226 but with a homer and 20 RBI.

36. Keury De La Cruz, OF- Salem   A power prospect who hit 9 home runs and drove in 89 runs in 2013.  But he did strike out 130 times, so the Sox will be watching for development of a better strike zone awareness from the 21 year old.  Hadlock Field is his expected home in 2014.

37.Cody Kukuk, LHP- The 20 year old lefty had some shaky 2013 stats, 4-13 with an ERA of 4.54. But he did have 113 strikeouts in only 107 innings pitched.  His good stuff and left handedness continue to make him a pitcher to watch.

38. Pat Light, P- Greenville-  2013 injuries limited Light to only 34 innings, in which he put up an 7.34 ERA. 2012 sandwich pick draftee, has to wipe away 2013 and look forward to re-establishing himself, likely as a bullpen artist down the road with his overpowering fastball.

39. Myles Smith, P- Lowell.  This righty is a  2013 draftee in the fourth round from JUCO.  He throws in the low 90s and should begin 2014 in Greenville.

40. Corey Littrell, LHP- Lowell  Corey was drafted also in 2013 in the fifth round out the Univ. Of Kentucky.  He had a 1.74 ERA at Lowell in 31 innings with a 30/10 K/BB numbers.  The 21 year old, due to his college background,  could jump over Greenville and start 2014 at Salem.

Here is the rest of the top 50:

41. Keith Couch, P
42. Nick Longhi, OF- a 2013 draftee, high schooler expected to be unsignable.  Watch his name.
43. Daniel McGrath, LHP- lefty from Australia, made his pro debut in 2013.
44. Henry Ramos, OF
45. Mickey Pena LHP- lefty arrived in Portland late 2013, will be in SeaDogs '14 rotation
46. Sergio Gomez, P
47. Heiker Meneses, INF
48. Kolbrin Vitek, 3B The 2010 first round pick at age 25 may be near the end of the line with Sox
49. Jose Vinicio, SS Another former highly regarded player who has crashed and burned.
50. Victor Acosta, 3B International signee who will begin his Sox career in the Dominican.  17 year old reported to have major power potential.

There you have it.  Soon it will be time for pitchers and catchers ( Feb.15th!) and over the course of the spring we will see where these prospects go for 2014.  You can count on one or two of these names from the lower lists shooting into the Top 20, maybe even the Top Ten in a year or two.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Cousin Jason's Winter Spectacular

Happy 2014 to RSM Nation! It's been a long time since Cousin Jason has posted and in fact, 2013 was a weak year for most of us at RSM, with the exception of the always steady Deacon. Hopefully, the euphoria of the latest Sox World Championship will light a fire under the rest of us and our site will once again be a vibrant location for Sox fans both in the Pine Tree State and worldwide. Let's make that our late January New Year's resolution! In this Winter Spectacular I'll touch on a couple of Red Sox notes but mostly am just going to throw out some random tidbits and thoughts since the Sox took down the Cardinals, and Global Warming came to a screeching halt thanks to the Polar Vortex. Damn it's cold out!

Let me begin with the news this evening that the Sox have signed Grady Sizemore to a 1 year deal worth $750,000 with incentives that could bring the deal to $6 million. The Sox also DFA'd Bryan Villarreal to make room on the 40 man roster. Tim Britton of the ProJo explains the deal here.Before my own thoughts on this signing, many interesting tweets about this deal tonight. First from RSM resident buffoon via the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo, "Grady Sizemore was jacoby Ellsbury before jacoby Ellsbury." Nice use of proper capitalization, Nick! RSM favorite the ProJo's Brian MacPherson chimed in with the fact that Sizemore is one of a few Montreal Expos draft picks still playing (Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, and Ian Desmond also). BrianMacP also retweeted from Jeff Sullivan, a blogger from Portland, OR, who noted that Sizemore's WAR for ages 22-25 was 27 or the same as Evan Longoria, 1 more than David Wright and Andruw Jones, and 1 less than Barry Bonds. The Red Sox themselves tweeted that in a conference call Sizemore said he was just "...looking for an opportunity to play...looking to fit in any way I can." I like this deal for several reasons but mostly for the low risk, high reward aspect. Sure, Sizemore is no longer the 22-25 year old mentioned above, however if he can stay healthy, granted a big if, he certainly adds depth and value to the Sox arsenal. If he can't stay healthy or proves in Spring Training he cannot help this team the Sox can simply release him no harm done. Certainly beats the $175 million the Yankees dropped on the latest Japanese phenom. Since I mentioned above that Sizemore was an Expos draft pick, let me share this tidbit that I found over the summer. There is a grass roots group working to bring baseball back to Montreal, they even commissioned a $400,000 feasibility study that determined a new stadium would be needed (Well, duh!). Anyone that ever ventured to the Great White North to take in a game at Le Stade Olympique could have told you that. What a cavernous, anesthetic venue Olympic Stadium was, although going to games after the 1994 strike meant that there was always plenty of cheap seats. Cousin Jason made the trek twice, once to see the Expos face the Rockies with madman Ugueth Urbina starting and once to see the Expos and the Braves, where one of my accomplices who was born in Billerica, MA got an autograph from Tom Glavine's mother! That might need a post of its own. Anywho, baseball in Montreal in my opinion would be a plus. As a side note, apparently after serving 6 of 14 years in a Venezuelan prison for attack men with a machete, Ol' Double UU made an appearance in the Venezuelan Winter League.

The Baseball Hall of Fame vote was recently cast with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas all getting in on their first try. Poor Craig Biggio, just missed getting in, while the PED crowd dwindled with Rafael Palmeiro not garnering enough support, 500HR/3,000 Hits be damned! Jack Morris, can say hello to the Veterans' Committee as well. Next years ballot features even more worthy candidates with Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, Gary Sheffield, and Red Sox fan favorite Pedro Martinez all becoming eligible. The most interesting things for me in all of this was not who got in or the plight of the PED crowd, but rather the names at the bottom of the ballot that actually received votes. Namely, JT Snow (2), Armando Benitez (1), and Jacque Jones (1). What? I get not voting for Bonds, Clemens, or Sosa on principle, but not voting for them and then voting for Benitez, Jones, or Snow!? Meanwhile, Mike Timlin, Todd Jones, Richie Sexson, Ray Durham, Paul Lo Duca, and the Mayor, Sean Casey all get shutout? Timlin and Jones were definitely better than Benitez. And one could argue the 4 hitters mentioned were all better than Jones and Snow. Let predict now that Johnson, Martinez, Smoltz, and Biggio all get in next year. A great online read currently in the same context as the Hall of Fame, is Joe Posnanski's Baseball 100 Blog. Where he is counting down his 100 greatest baseball players ever, regardless of whether or not they played in the bigs, so Negro Leaguers (Turkey Stearnes) and Japanese stars (Sadaharu Oh) are fair game. Well worth your time to read this piece!

I'll leave you with this thought, although for Patriots fans it may be too soon, how would Tom Brady be perceived if he did not play for the Pats? I had a discussion with a co-worker yesterday about this weekends NFL games. He mentioned even though his Patriots lost how he cannot hate Peyton Manning. Think about it, I know it may sting now, but the Patriots have typically gotten the best of Manning, he is probably the greatest QB in NFL history, he is cerebral, is playing with a surgically repaired neck, and seems to be a down to earth, likable guy. If he wore a Patriots uniform, there would be thousands of little children and household pets in New England named Peyton. So what if Tom Brady and Peyton Manning switched roles? How much would Patriots fans loathe Brady? I am thinking off the charts hate. Brady is a southern California guy, married to a supermodel (who is no Kate Upton, thank you very much), who endorses womanly footwear, and seems to be a pretty boy. If he wears any colors other than the Patriots, Foxboro is spewing venom at him. Granted, Brady is an outstanding QB in his own right and I am a Lions fan (Two Words can explain this being a native Mainer and they are Rod Rust). Once the wound heals Pats fans, think about it and argue my points.

Until Cousin Jason reappears, sweet dreams of the World Series trophy and Go Sox! Remember only 17 days until the truck leaves for Spring Training and 24 days until pitchers and catchers!

Friday, January 10, 2014

14 Resolutions for the Red Sox New Year

Okay, so these are not really resolutions ( just trying to be in the New Year's spirit).  But here are 14 things I am anxious to see about the Red Sox as they attempt to defend the World Series championship.

1. To Drew or not to Drew.  The last of this winter's Red Sox free agents to be unsigned. Stephen  Drew turned down the $14.1M qualifying offer to test the market, and apparently the draft pick compensation this QO attaches to Drew has all but wiped out his market.  The Mets are currently the only other team rumored to be mulling over Drew at all. Very little question the Red Sox would take him back for a one year deal, maybe even two.  I would not be adverse to this and think Drew can help the 2014 Sox.  But I think personally, I would rather go with Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks and cash in another draft pick when( if??) Drew signs elsewhere.  This is likely to drag out until nearly the opening of  spring training, if not beyond.

2. Trade of a veteran starter.  I know, I know you can never have enough starting pitchers.  Guess what the Red Sox have more starting pitchers than needed to fill out a rotation in Boston AND Pawtucket.  I do not expect to see any action until near or during training camp, but someone is gonna go.  Ryan Dempster or Jake Peavy are the most likely candidates, with John Lackey and Felix Doubront not out of the question in a bigger deal.  Ryan Dempster going back to the NL could have real value for some team( Brewers, maybe).  I read a list recently of starting pitchers who had a higher ERA in 2013 than Dempster.  I do not recall the list, but one name was CC Sabathia.  These first two items may be related, there is some speculation to stay under the luxury tax limit, the Sox would need to shed a pitcher's salary to be able to pay Drew.

3. Extensions.  Will the Red Sox sign Jon Lester to a long term extension and give David Ortiz another year on his deal before the season starts?  Lester just turned thirty this week.  His current deal is up after 2014.  The conventional wisdom is to keep Lester from being one of the top free agent pitchers in next year's class it would take around a five year $100M commitment, at minimum.  I would swallow hard and do that deal. Lester is durable 30+ starts every year, left handed, and a five year deal brings him to age 35 or 36( depending if the deal kicks in after '14 or replaces the 2014 contract).  With all of the young, cost effective (cheap) pitchers on the way, the Sox can afford to have one 20M+ pitcher in the rotation. And this may matter or not, but if Lester hits free agency, he will be signed by the Yankees so fast it would make the Ellsbury signing look like the long protracted talks to end the Vietnam War.

As far as Ortiz, if it will make Papi happy to have another year on his deal rather than go into 2014 on his last year, give the man his money. Christ, he .660 or so in the World Series, and he has been an invaluable part of THREE Sox titles.  We gave Mike Napoli 2 years at 17M per.  Tear up Ortiz' deal give him 2 years at 18M per and if by some chance David cannot contribute fully by ( or before) the end of the two years, consider it a bonus for past performance.

4. Is Jon Lester an ace?  Well, he sure as hell is in the post season.  And in the World Series, he has now put up some of best numbers of all time.  But is he an ace?  That depends on your definition, but I would say if an ace gets a grade of 90, Lester is in the 85-89 area, at least.  So if he is not an ace, why give him 20M per year as I suggested above.  One reason, my friends is twenty mil does not go as far as it used to.  The salaries across baseball have risen dramatically in the last two off seasons, and with new TV cash flooding the game it will continue.  Very interesting year for Jon Lester in 2014, you can count on that.

5. Koji Time, Part 2?  If Uehara can put up the kind of season remotely resembling 2013, the Red Sox are in great shape to repeat.  But can he?....Koji is in his late 30's and pitched way more innings than in recent years and with an additional month tacked on in 2013 ( thankfully).  If Uehara falters at all, is imported ex- Cardinal closer, Edward Mujica the replacement or complement?

6. The X Factor.  Xander Bogaerts.  He has arrived in The Show.  How long before he is the center stage star of the Red Sox show?  Xander joins Jacoby Ellsbury as the only two Red Sox rookies to help the team win a World Series before their official rookie season.  I would expect Bogaerts to be hitting fifth or sixth behind Ortiz and Napoli, and while he may not be an All Star out of the gate ( but do not bet against this), he will be a solid productive player as he was in the World Series.  Last Sox rookie with this much hype was probably Nomar.  I, for one, cannot wait.

7. Jackie Bradley, Jr. Unless the Sox make a last minute unexpected trade, Bradley, Jr. is the starting center fielder. And he will be just fine.  He is everything Jacoby Ellsbury was except he will not steal fifty bags and Bradley can actually throw the baseball.  JBJr is a better defensive center fielder than Ellsbury ( and maybe all the other Al CFers) and his other strong suit is getting on base. A lot.  Two factors have dissuaded some fans about Jackie.  His poor showing at the plate in April 2013 and he always seems to get lumped together with Bogaerts.  As far as comparing him to Xander, he is not in the same league as a prospect as Bogaerts.  Maybe other than Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Manny Machado no one has been recently.  No question JBJr struggled last April, but he was incrementally better at the plate each time he played for Boston last year.  And in between the multiple call ups, Bradley, Jr. put up a very good year in his first AAA season, with he usual high OBP.  he will fine in center in 2014.

8. Will Middlebrooks is a bust , right??  Will's career so far gives us a very good statistical baseline to explore.  In his two partial MLB seasons, Middlebrooks has played in 169 games, just about exactly one full season.  In that "season" he has 32 home runs , 103 RBI, .254 BA, and 294 OBP.    First the negative, the on base percentage has to be higher than .294.  After his recall last year he hit .276 with an OBP of .329.  Much better.  And if you can find a corner infielder with right handed power to the tune of 32 HRand 103 RBI per year, that my friends is no bust.

9. Is Daniel Nava a reliable big league outfielder?  He certainly was in 2013, he was in the AL top ten in batting average and OBP.  He hit more home runs than the rest of his brief career combined. But Nava is all ready in his 30's ( 31 next month).  The answer to this question may come in 2014, Nava needs at least one more solid season to quiet some of his doubters.

10. Is  John Lackey in Sox Nation good graces again?  Another season from Lackey that mirrors his Angels' days ( as 2013 did) would also be a boon for the Sox chances to repeat.  One thing lurking on the horizon, because John missed 2012 with an arm injury, he is obligated to play in 2015 for the minimum salary ( around $500,000), due to a clause in his original Sox contract.  Will Lackey be okay with this or will this be a distraction as this year goes along.

11. Pedroia's Power Production.  Dustin Pedroia certainly was a key cog in the 2013 Red Sox machine.  But on Opening Day in New York, Pedey tore up his thumb sliding into first base.  This was detrimental to his power numbers.  His BA and OBP nearly were identical to his career averages, but Dustin hit only 9 home runs, only his rookie season with 8 was lower.  In 2010 when he broke his foot he hit 12 and every other year he has hit between 15 and 21.  His slugging average was .415 in 2013 compared to his lifetime average of .454.  His lowest season before 2013 was .442 as a rookie.  A healthy Pedroia can be a source of any missed offense from the absence of Ellsbury, Salty, et al.

12. Catchers- Old and New.  David Ross, one of the World Series heroes, returns to share the job this year with veteran import AJ Pierzynski.  If Ross can avoid a repeat of 2013's concussion issues, he should see more playing time.  His work in the post season with Jon Lester, in particular, was outstanding, and would seem to indicate a paring of Lester and Ross during 2014.  Even though Pierzynski is about 8 or 9 years older than Jarrod Saltalamacchia, their offensive numbers in recent years have been very similar, and so the overall production from behind the plate should not suffer much, if any.  If either of the veteran catchers should slump or get injured, there are younger options.  For now, at least, Ryan Lavarnway is still on the scene, but considering the Sox played him very sparingly while David Ross was concussed, he seemingly has been passed on the depth chart by Christian Vazquez, who is slated to begin 2014 in AAA.  Vazquez, a  great defensive catcher with a fantastic arm, began to show signs of producing with the bat at Portland in 2013.  If he shows any prowess hitting at Pawtucket, Christian could be a contributor in Boston this year. On top of that uber-prospect Blake Swihart will begin 2014 catching for the Sea Dogs.

13.  Young Guns on the Hill.  Here are some of the pitchers who will be knocking on the door to Boston ...if not in 2014, surely in 2015.  Brandon Workman( he has kicked in the door, but a return to starting may mean a return to AAA), Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, Rubby de la Rosa, Matt Barnes, Drake Britton, Stephen Wright, and heading the Portland rotation, Henry Owens.  It is hard to say now, who will help out in Boston, but I bet at least two names on this list pitch big innings for Boston this year.  And one more prediction.....Henry Owens will pitch for Boston this year.

14. Can the Red Sox Repeat?  In this century, the Red Sox have done a helluva lot that most of us had never seen.  Ending the curse and winning the World Series and then three years later won a second time.  In 2013, they emulated the Impossible Dream Red Sox going from last to first only going one step better and winning the whole damned thing (for number three).  But one thing the Red Sox have not done in almost one hundred years is win back to back World Series.  1915 and 1916 is the only time in franchise history the Sox repeated.  This would be another more than a lifetime achievement.  Let us hope they make a real run at the repeat.