Ranking the Top Five Minor League Position Players of the Boston Red Sox
We are less than a month away from players reporting to Spring Training, and trust me, nobody is more ready for the upcoming 2010 season than I am.
This, however, is the longest month of the whole baseball season, rivaled by only that of Spring Training itself.
Most of the exciting, hot-stove drama of the free agent market is gone, and we are left to just a few teams bidding over the handful of remaining interesting bargains left out there on the market, but baseball is still a month away. What are we to do to pass away this last month?
I find the best way to pass the time of this last month is by checking out my team's prospects and gearing up for fantasy baseball draft season. It's that time of year again...
After the Red Sox' free agent spending spree, the team for 2010 consists mostly of some talented 30-something year olds like Mike Cameron and John Lackey, likely looking to squeeze out their last good seasons (hopefully that's five, John) or players like Adrian Beltre, who have landed in Boston hoping for a big year so they can earn that last big-bucks contract before slipping into the routine of waiting all winter to get that mid-February Minor-League deal. The case is pretty much the same for all of them, though: the Red Sox brought them in to bridge the gap between now and the arrival of their highly touted prospects.
Here, in my opinion, are their top five position players:
1: Ryan Westmoreland, Outfielder, Lowell Spinners
19-year old Ryan Westmoreland, a Portsmouth, Rhode Island native, is a true five-tool player, and despite his young age, he has already drawn some comparisons to Cleveland Indians star Grady Sizemore.
Strong and athletic, Westmoreland is a patient hitter with plenty of power to go with his smooth, quick swing. He is a very fast runner with great skills on the base paths, and he has a strong arm to complement his spectacular range in the outfield.
He missed part of the 2009 season due to a broken collarbone, but still finished the year at .296/.401/.484, with 7 home runs, 35 RBI, and 19 steals in 60 games.
He isn't likely to play for the Red Sox until 2011 or 2012, but expect him to make a big splash when he reaches the show.
2: Ryan Kalish, Outfielder, Portland Sea Dogs
Kalish, 21 years old, hails from Shrewsbury, New Jersey. The former ninth-round draft choice looks like a future lead-off hitter and center fielder, like Jacoby Ellsbury. Like Ellsbury, Kalish is a good contact hitter, but doesn't have a lot of power at present. However, some scouts feel there is some decent power potential in Kalish.
He has good speed and is a very smart baserunner, in addition to having excellent outfield range accompanied by an average arm. Since he projects to be a leadoff-hitting center fielder, it would come to me as no surprise if Kalish was touted as a trade chip if the Red Sox try to acquire a big-time slugger through trade.
Playing for AA Portland in 2009, Kalish hit .271 with 13 homers and 14 steals.
3: Luis Exposito, Catcher, Portland Sea Dogs
Now 23, Exposito was a 31st round draft selection in 2005. With his strong, broad frame, Exposito has the potential to be an everyday catcher who can hit 25 home runs. He takes a relaxed approach at the plate and makes solid contact. He doesn't have a lot of strikeout problems, but breaking balls can throw him off at times.
Defensively, Exposito has quality catchers' skills, as he is good at blocking, has a strong arm, and perhaps most importantly, he has good instincts. He still needs some work in improving his game-calling, but overall he is popular with his teammates, partially because of his fluency in both English and Spanish.
Exposito played in 23 games for the Sea Dogs in 2009, notching a .337/.371/.489 slash line with three homers. Depending on how everything works out in the next year or two between Jason Varitek, Victor Martinez, and/or a possible free agent signing or trade acquisition (Joe Mauer, anyone?), Exposito could or could not be the future of the Red Sox at catcher.
4: Lars Anderson, First Baseman, Portland Sea Dogs
Anderson has a great hitter's frame with elite power potential, which is what is expected out of first basemen nowadays. His swing is remarkably fluid with impeccable patience and selectivity at the plate. The lefty hits very well to the opposite field, making his sing tailor-made for Fenway.
The 22-year old still strikes out way too much, and is especially baffled by off-speed pitches. Like Jason Bay, Anderson can put together stretches of up to weeks of a time where he either looks like one of the best hitters in the game or one of the worst. However, unlike Bay, Anderson is a solid defender.
Anderson burst onto the scene with a phenomenal 2008 season, but in 2009 for Portland, he hit the wall, finishing with .233/.328, 9 HR, 51 RBI totals. The Red Sox are hoping that it was just a slump, put given his aptitude for the strikeout, it remains uncertain whether or not Anderson will be "the next big thing" in Boston.
5: Jose Iglesias, Shortstop
Iglesias, a 20-year old Cuban defector, was signed as an International Free Agent in September 2009. While not a whole lot is known about his game, Iglesias has scouts raving about his defensive skills, given his plus-plus glovework, plus arm, and plus range accompanied by great instincts.
While it is basically set in stone that Iglesias won't be much of a power hitter, it is uncertain how good of a hitter he may end up becoming, as his his 2008 stats with La Habana, Cuba and his 2009 stats with Mesa in the Arizona Fall League indicate varying levels of success at the plate.
For La Habana in 2008, Iglesias hit .322/.356 with no home runs and 39 RBI. In 2009 in the Arizona Fall League, he hit a pair of home runs, but his batting average and on-base percentage dropped to .275 and .324, respectively.
At this point in time, scouts think Iglesias profiles to be an Alex Gonzlaez or Orlando Cabrera type-player, and Theo Epstein certainly regards him as Boston's shortstop of the future.
Honorable Mention: Che-Hsuan Lin, Outfielder, Salem Red Sox
Lin is an athletic player with good range in the outfield and top notch speed. His hitting is a little bit light, and he has balance problems in his mechanics thanks to a leg-kick he utilizes to aid in his swing timing. Lin played for and won World Team MVP in the 2008 Futures Game. Ultimately, he fell just short of the top five because of his average-at-best hitting skills.