Red Sox trio makes Top 50 prospects
Westmoreland, Kelly, Iglesias highly regarded for 2010
BOSTON -- Not only do the Red Sox look ready for another season of postseason contention, but the future is also bright. When MLB.com revealed its list of the Top 50 prospects in the game on the MLB Network on Wednesday night, three of those players were property of the Red Sox.
Outfielder Ryan Westmoreland was ranked at No. 27, followed by starting pitcher Casey Kelly at 28. Shortstop Jose Iglesias, the Cuban defector the Red Sox signed to a Major League contract in September, is No. 45.
Under general manager Theo Epstein, the Red Sox have been able to achieve the balancing act of staying highly competitive at the Major League level each year while also building a strong farm system.
In recent years, Kevin Youkilis, Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard are among those who have been drafted and developed by the Red Sox en route to success at the Major League level.
The trio on MLB.com's freshly released list represents the next wave of hot prospects who could find their way at Fenway Park, though they are each likely a couple of years away.
Westmoreland, 19, is a five-tool performer who hails from Portsmouth, R.I. The only thing that has stopped him since being selected by the Red Sox in the fifth round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft is injuries. In '08, Westmoreland had surgery to repair a torn right labrum. Westmoreland worked hard to get back on the field, but his comeback came to a jarring halt in August 2009, when he broke his left clavicle making a sensational catch against the wall.
The injury should be nothing more than a minor setback, as hopes are high for Westmoreland in 2010.
"He's a tremendous athlete," said Red Sox director of player development Mike Hazen. "He's got speed. He's got a lot of power and he has very good plate discipline. He's sort of the classic five-tool player. He's a tremendous kid and a very hard worker, so there's a lot to like, a lot to get excited about. But he's 19 years old and he was in low A, so he's got a little bit of a ways to go from a development standpoint. But there's a lot to be excited about with just the package of the person and the player."
As for Kelly, his biggest dilemma since the Red Sox took him in the first round in 2008 centered on whether he would be a pitcher or a shortstop. He did both last season, but Kelly and Boston came to a joint decision in December that he will go forward exclusively as a starting pitcher.
"It's a lot easier than last year trying to train for two positions, but this year has been great," Kelly said. "Knowing what position I'm going to be playing throughout the season has helped my training. I've been training hard, started [my offseason] throwing program a couple of weeks ago. So I'm ready to get the season going."
Kelly, 20, will start Spring Training at Major League camp and is expected to compete for a rotation spot at Double-A Portland.
It is less clear where Iglesias will start his season, because the Red Sox are still getting a feel for the dynamic defender. He will also go to Major League camp and the club will make an evaluation from there.
"For me, it's going to be a tremendous experience," Iglesias said recently. "I'm looking at it that way. I just turned 20 years old very recently. I'm kind of going into it wide-eyed. I won't be intimidated -- more like a learning experience when it comes to seeing some of the veterans that have been on this team. It's a very cohesive team, a unified team, and I'm looking forward to being a part of that."
Iglesias started his transition to professional baseball by playing in the Arizona Fall League.
"He's pretty advanced defensively," said Hazen. "The hands, the range and the athleticism all jump out at you. I think everyone will get to see that when he first steps into camp. He's pretty impressive in that regard. Offensively, we just don't have enough at-bats. He's got a very simple fundamental swing, mechanics. We think that's going to translate very nicely."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.