State of the Red Sox Saturday
Down on the Farm Edition
After a disappointing loss last night, I don't really have it in me to talk about the Red Sox today. Since I'm in a minor league state of mind (I'm going to see the Rochester Red Wings play the Columbus Clippers tonight and I'll be keeping a close eye on the just-demoted Michael Cuddyer and the recently-promoted Justin Morneau) and I haven't talked about Boston's farm system at all this year, I thought I'd use today to check in on each of Boston's minor league teams.
Pawtucket Red Sox
The PawSox are 19-12 and the best news here is that Boston's second baseman of the future is tearing the cover off the ball. Freddy Sanchez is hitting .385 with a .467 OBP and a .573 SLG in 31 games. He has 10 doubles and four homers, 17 walks to 17 strikeouts and four steals without being caught.
Sanchez's minor league progression has been about as good as you could hope. In 2000, he posted a .786 OPS in 34 games for Class A Lowell in the Short-season New York-Penn League and then had a .739 OPS in 30 games for Augusta in the Class A South Atlantic League. In 2001, he had an .834 OPS in 69 games for Sarasota in the Class A Florida State League and then was promoted to Trenton in the Class AA Eastern League, where he had an .835 OPS in 44 games. He returned to Trenton in 2002 and posted an .840 OPS in 80 games and then had a .782 OPS in 45 games with Pawtucket. If he finishes this season at Pawtucket with an OPS above .900, then I'd say he's definitely ready to be Boston's starting second baseman next year.
Pawtucket's best hitter this year is Lou Collier. He's hitting .340 with seven homers and 32 RBI and has a 1.048 OPS. Julio Zuleta has seven homers for a .496 SLG, but only has a .308 OBP because he's hitting .243 and Andy Abad has a .960 OPS. Any one of those three could see some time with Boston if there's a trade or an injury.
The Pawtucket pitching staff has good news and bad news. Hector Almonte has a 2.25 ERA with 15 K/4 BB in 16 innings, Bronson Arroyo is 4-0 with a 2.60 ERA and 33 K/9 BB in 34.2 innings, Bob Howry has a 1.46 ERA with 7 K/1 BB in 12.1 innings and Ryan Rupe is 3-1 with a 2.05 ERA and 25 K/3 BB in 26.1 innings. On the other side, Robert Person has a 6.35 ERA with 4 K/5 BB in 5.2 innings, Hansel Izquierdo has an 11.48 ERA with 4 K/6 BB in 13.1 innings and Dicky Gonzalez has a 4.74 ERA despite 18 K/4 BB in 24.2 innings.
So, it looks like Sanchez is about ready for Boston, there are some hitters and pitchers who could help out in a pinch and Person needs some more time to get his control in place.
Portland Sea Dogs
The Sea Dogs are the Red Sox Class AA Eastern League affiliate now and Trenton is affiliated with the Yankees. Just like there was one player at Pawtucket who was excellent news, there is one player at Portland who is excellent news.
Third base prospect Kevin Youkilis, who is promoted as an OBP machine, has a .515 OBP in 22 games. Aside from hitting .310, he's drawn 20 walks (with 14 strikeouts) and been hit by 10 pitches. He only has one homer and six doubles for a .437 SLG, but power is usually the last thing to develop for a hitter. Youkilis is just another reason the Red Sox should trade Shea Hillenbrand.
Hillenbrand-lovers think that statheads hate Hillenbrand because he doesn't draw walks. It's not that I think Hillenbrand's a bad player, it's that I think he's an overrated player. And he's an overrated player at a position of strength for the Red Sox. Boston has another third baseman (Bill Mueller) who could do a fine job as the Red Sox everyday third baseman the rest of this year and probably next year. Then, Youkilis could take over assuming he progresses the way he should. Since the Red Sox don't absolutely need Hillenbrand for this year or for the future, the should trade him while his numbers look good (and a .312 average with 27 RBI look pretty good to a lot of people right now) for a pitcher who can really help the Red Sox this year and in the future.
Another player to keep an eye on in Portland is catcher Kelly Shoppach, Boston's top pick in 2001. He's only played nine games there, but he has a 1.017 OPS. I love Jason Varitek, but if Shoppach has a good season with Portland this year and a good season with Pawtucket next year, then there might be less reason to give Varitek a lot of money in a new contract when he's a free agent after 2004. I'd love to have Varitek back, but he'll be 33 early in the 2005 season and there are other players who are more important for Boston to lock up.
There are also a couple of interesting pitchers in Portland. Jorge de la Rosa has a 3.04 ERA with 26 strikeouts and 11 walks in 26.2 innings and Anastacio Martinez has a 2.92 ERA with 15 strikeouts and seven walks in 12.1 innings.
Sarasota Red Sox
At 12-25, the Sarasota Red Sox are just bad. They don't really have any good hitters to speak of and Manny Delcarmen, who had a 3.13 ERA in 23 innings and was probably the Red Sox best pitching prospect, just had Tommy John Surgery. Phil Dumatrait, Boston's top pick in 2000, has a 5.54 ERA with 22 strikeouts and 18 walks in 26 innings. If anybody on this team ends up becoming a regular in the majors, it will probably be a surprise.
Not quite as bad as Sarasota, the Greenjackets are 11-22. David Pahucki is their only pitcher with an ERA under 3.25 and one of just three pitchers with an ERA under 4.50. Pahucki has a 1.89 ERA and 17 K/9 BB in 19 innings.
The big player to watch at Augusta is shortstop Hanley Ramirez, Boston's top prospect for 2003 according to Baseball America, except that he's not at Augusta anymore. Ramirez was hitting .255/.315/.378 when he was sent to extended spring training for disciplinary reasons. It doesn't sound too serious, but continued disciplinary problems combined with a slow start have obviously tempered the high expectations everybody had for this kid. Obviously this is not a good thing, and Boston's farm system would probably be a complete black hole right now were it not for Sanchez and Youkilis (and maybe Shoppach).
Lowell Spinners and Fort Myers Red Sox
The short-season New York-Penn League and the Gulf Coast League have not yet started their seasons, but these will be important teams to watch later in the summer. The Red Sox have multiple first-round picks and hopefully the can get them signed quickly and have them playing baseball right away.
So, that takes care of the Red Sox farm system. It is pretty much as dry as everybody says it is, but there are some important players to keep an eye on and our draft picks will obviously be important to follow. I'll probably check in on Boston's minor league teams like this every month or so.