Having a strong minor-league system can fuel an organization for years to come. Quality young talent can propel an organization to new heights—see the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays.
This time, we'll look at the five best prospects in the Boston Red Sox minor-league system. The Red Sox are consistently among the best teams in baseball and captured the World Series in 2004 and 2007.
They spend with the best of them, but they also develop their own talent. Players such as 2008 American League MVP Dustin Pedroia were drafted and groomed by the Red Sox.
Boston Red Sox 2009 Top-Five Prospects
1. Michael Bowden, RHP, 9/9/86 - Bowden, a 6'3" righthander from Winfield, IL, is nearly ready for the major leagues. Bowden reached three different levels this year, AA, AAA, and a spot start in the majors.
Overall, he pitched 149.1 innings, surrendered 119 hits, walked 30, and struck out 133. There's little to critique when it comes to numbers like that, and he did a good job keeping the ball in the park as well, serving up just 10 long balls all year.
Bowden, the 47th selection in the 2005 draft, is likely set for a return engagement with Pawtucket, but is capable of helping the Red Sox should a need arise. The parent club already has four starters under contract for 2009—Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Tim Wakefield.
They figure to be big players in the free-agent market, and Clay Buchholz is in the picture as well. Bowden's not far off, but it might be tough to break in.
2. Lars Anderson, 1B, 9/25/1987 - Boston selected Anderson in the 18th round of the 2006 draft, but the sweet swinging lefty has far exceeded the expectations of a typical 18th rounder.
Anderson had a tremendous season in 2008—in 439 at-bats at High-A Lancaster and Double A-Portland, he hit a combined .317 with 18 homers, 32 doubles, a .417 on-base percentage and a .517 slugging percentage.
The on-base and slugging percentages were even higher at Portland, .436 and .526 respectively, though his strikeout rate increased as well.
Anderson should return to Portland to begin for 2009, but will likely see a bump to AAA-Pawtucket sometime during the year. Current first baseman Kevin Youkilis is under control through 2010, possibly paving the way for Anderson to have the job in 2011.
3. Daniel Bard, RHP, 6/25/1985 - The hard throwing UNC product was brought into the fold after being taken 20th overall in the 2006 draft. He was drafted as a starter, but a disastrous 2007 season turned him into a reliever. That season, Bard walked 78 (against 47 strikeouts) in 75 innings and accumulated a 7.08 ERA.
Realizing that wasn't working, Bard was shifted to the 'pen for 2008 and the results were night and day.
Between Low-A Greenville and Portland, Bard hurled 77 innings, held opponents to a .158 BAA, walked 30 and struck out 107. His cumlative ERA was just 1.51. His walk rate went up quite a bit for Portland - 26 in 49.2 innings after just 4 in 28 innings for Greenville - but it's still an improvement over his 2007 levels.
Bard likely has shown enough to be promoted to Pawtucket to begin 2009, and if he can avoid excessive walks, a late 2009 debut could be in the works. He has the stuff to close, but with Jonathan Papelbon around, it won't happen in Beantown.
4. Josh Reddick, OF, 2/9/1987 - A native of Savannah, GA, Reddick was taken in the 17th round of the 2006 draft.
He had a fine debut for Greenville in 2007 (369 AB, .306, 18 HR, 17 2B, 883 OPS) and followed that up with another solid, albeit brief, showing in Greenville to begin 2008. It earned him a promotion to Lancaster, where he hit .343 in 312 AB with 17 HR, 11 2B, 8 3B, and a 968 OPS.
He showed enough in Lancaster that Boston bumped him to Portland, but it's there that Reddick experienced his first struggles as a professional. He hit just .214/.290/.436 in 117 AB and never got on track. Reddick also struggled in the Arizona Fall League, striking out 36 times in 95 AB with a line of .189/.210/.389.
Reddick can be too aggressive and could stand to draw more walks after walking just 39 times in 429 combined regular season AB. He'll return to Portland for 2009 and hope to regain the form that proved to be successful in Greenville and Lancaster.
Jason Bay is signed through 2009, J.D Drew through 2011, and Jacoby Ellsbury beyond that. He'll be ready sooner, but his best chance for a starting job might come after Drew's contract is up. Reddick has the potential to be a solid starting outfielder at the major league level.
5. Stolmy Pimentel, RHP, 2/1/1990 - After spending 2007 with Boston's Dominican Summer League team, Pimentel, who hails from San Cristobal, quickly made his mark in the United States.
Pitching for Lowell of the New York Penn League, he made 13 appearances (11 starts) and racked up 63 innings. He gave up 51 hits (7 HR), walked 17, and fanned 61.
At 6'3"/186lbs, Pimentel has a good frame for a pitcher, and at 18, may not be done growing. His fastball resides in the low 90s and he also features a curve, a sinker, and a changeup.
Pimentel is likely ticketed for a full season in Greenville in 2009 and will probably be on a strict innings cap for the season. Pimentel, who was signed when he was 16, is a long ways off, but he is one Boston's most intriguing pitching prospects and bears watching next season. Boston can afford to be patient.
NOTE: Only players with no more than 130 AB/50 IP in the majors qualify for this list.