10 Red Sox prospects to watch
Bowden, Bard could reach Fenway mound this summer
With the 2009 season quickly approaching, MLB.com takes a look at 10 of the Red Sox's most intriguing prospects that you should keep an eye on.
Lars Anderson, 1B: There isn't much Anderson didn't do in 2008, playing across two levels, hitting .317, slugging .517 and posting a .417 OBP, all at age 20. He earned both the organization's and MLB.com's Boston system Hitter of the Year honors. He's got a very advanced approach to hitting, with very good plate discipline. The power is just starting to come for the 2006 draftee as he upped his home run total and SLG considerably from 2007 to last year. He's pretty good defensively, having worked hard at that aspect of his game, and there's little question in the organization that he'll evolve into a fine everyday first baseman in the not-too-distant future. He'll play all season at age 21, so there's no reason to rush him, though his bat may force the issue a bit.
An up-close look at the club as we approach Opening Day
Daniel Bard, RHP: What a difference a year makes. The 2006 first-round pick struggled in his first full season as a starter, having difficulty throwing strikes. That offseason, he pitched in relief in Hawaii Winter Baseball and it seemed to suit him. He resumed that role last year and took off, posting a 1.51 ERA, a .158 batting average against and 107 strikeouts in 77 2/3 innings across two levels. His power arm played well in shorter stints and his fastball was clicked in triple-digits on more than one occasion. He complements that speed with a hard slider, the perfect combination to pitch in the back end of a bullpen. He excelled as Double-A Portland's closer down the stretch, not allowing an earned run over his final 11 outings. The role brought out his natural aggressiveness as a pitcher and he could contribute to Boston's pen at some point this season.
Michael Bowden, RHP: All Bowden has done since being the Red Sox's supplemental first round pick in 2005 is perform well at every level. MLB.com's pick for the system's top pitcher, Bowden led the organization in ERA in 2008 and was third in strikeouts. He doesn't walk many (130/29 K/BB ratio in 2008), displaying tremendous command. He's got a bit of an unorthodox delivery, though it doesn't seem to hurt him. He can run his fastball up to about 93 mph with good movement and he's got a great feel for his changeup and his curve looks like it will be at least Major League average in the future as well. When you've got a starter with three pitches who can throw them all for strikes, that's usually a good recipe for success. Don't be surprised if he's one of the first starters to be called upon when there's a need at Fenway.
Nick Hagadone, LHP: The way things started off in Hagadone's pro career, it seemed almost too good to be true. After all, the 2007 supplemental first rounder had gone 12 straight outings without allowing an earned run, dating back to his pro debut the summer after he was drafted. It turned out it was too good to be true as he blew out his elbow and Tommy John Surgery ended his 2008 season after just three outings. The good news is he's progressing, working his way up to throwing 50 pitches off a mound and soon will be able to work on all of his offerings: a power fastball, a hard slider and a changeup. The hope is he'll be back to competing in May or early June. What his role will be is still unclear, but the Sox are thrilled they'll have to make that decision sooner rather than later.
Ryan Kalish, OF: The 2006 draftee had an up-and-down season in 2008. It was fairly clear that the left-handed hitting outfielder had some difficulty adjusting coming off the broken hamate bone he suffered in '07. He didn't have the kind of bat speed post-injury that he showed before getting hurt, seemingly a little reluctant to trust the hand. He started to turn that around playing in Hawaii this past offseason and has looked very sharp early in camp this spring. He's a good outfielder with speed and strong instincts on the bases. Despite the injury, he still has a very high ceiling as a player who eventually could steal some bases and hit for some power, assuming those skills evolve the further he's removed from the injury. He'll be just 21 for the 2009 season, so there's still time for him to develop into the top-of-the-order threat he looks like he can become.
Casey Kelly, RHP/SS: There have been countless two-way stars who have entered pro ball and given up either pitching or hitting. Then there's Kelly, the 2008 first-rounder who might be setting up a new model with the Sox. A tremendous athlete who has top-tier talent as a shortstop and a pitcher (not to mention as a quarterback), Kelly and Boston are trying to figure out a way for him to continue to develop all of his baseball skills. For right now, he's focusing on his pitching, then will go back to hitting later in the year. He's looked good this spring, showing an efficient delivery and excellent command, both of his fastball and breaking ball. Having grown up around the game (his father, Pat, was the former bench coach of the Reds), he's very mature and if there's anyone who could handle switching back and forth, it might be him.
Yamaico Navarro, SS: The Dominican shortstop had a breakout year in his full-season debut, making the South Atlantic League All-Star team with Greenville before getting bumped up to Class A Advanced Lancaster. Playing the season at age 20, he hit a combined .304 and showed some pop with 11 homers and 27 doubles. His bat speed allows him to generate that power. He's extremely athletic and shows good defensive skills, with good feet, soft hands and a strong arm. He's played all over the infield, but that's more because of the glut at the position organizationally than anything. Navarro has the skills to be an everyday shortstop and that combined with his ability to hit for power makes him a very interesting prospect worth tracking.
Stolmy Pimentel, RHP: Teenage pitchers coming out of the Dominican to make their U.S. debut are supposed to be somewhat raw, right? Pimentel evidently didn't get that memo. The right-hander skipped the rookie level and went straight to the short-season New York-Penn League at age 18, finishing with a 3.14 ERA, .224 batting average against and 61/17 K/BB ratio. He's got an advanced delivery and while his fastball sits at an average velocity right now, at 6-foot-3, 186 pounds, there's the chance he'll throw harder as he matures. He's able to command his fastball now to both sides of the plate and has a good feel for his changeup. His breaking ball needs work, but to say he's ahead of the curve would be a huge understatement as he prepares for full-season ball at age 19.
Josh Reddick, OF: Like Anderson, Reddick was a level-jumper in 2008. The '06 junior college draftee played at three levels, starting in Greenville and ending up at Double-A Portland. His Double-A stint didn't go as well as Anderson's, but there's still plenty to like about what the outfielder brings to the table. He's got good bat speed that generates decent power now (23 HR, .544 SLG), with the potential for more. He's a good baserunner with the ability to steal and he's a good outfielder with an outstanding arm. Just 22, he's still not fully grown into his body yet. He was a little out of gas in the Arizona Fall League last year, but he came to camp with a few months of strength work under his belt, fully rejuvenated. As he continues to adjust to the philosophy of plate discipline and matures physically, he could really take off.
Oscar Tejeda, SS: Things did not start out particularly well in 2008 for the young Dominican shortstop. Multiple staph infections following minor surgery caused weight loss and delayed his full-season debut as he couldn't do anything baseball-related for quite some time. When he did return, he was rusty, hitting .228 over 32 first-half games in the South Atlantic League. He picked up some as the season went on, hitting .277 in the second half, including a .287 mark in August. After a full offseason of strength and conditioning work, he's come to camp looking much better. He's looked strong during BP, hitting the ball hard. A good athlete, he's got solid defensive skills at shortstop. Even with the delay in development last year, he's still a 19-year-old with a tremendous amount of upside.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.