Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Checking Out The Minors

No, not like Wooderson in front of the pool hall in Dazed and Confused. With the Sox taking a day off yesterday, I figured we'd look at a few of the hopefuls in the Boston farm system.

Clay Buchholz: Unless you've been on a desert island the past three months, then you know Buchholz is carving up Triple-A opponents in The Bucket right now. He's 3-0 with a 1.47 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 4.33/1. In nine outings this year he has had only one that could be considered bad. And opposing batters are hitting just .141 off him right now.

It's going to be all but impossible to keep him in Triple-A this year. He is pitching too well and deserves the chance to prove he has gotten his head straight. That said, I can only see him coming up before September if someone gets hurt or just can't get the job done (looking your way, Daisuke).

Michael Bowden: Clay's partner in crime in The Bucket. He has a more modest 2-2 record with a 1.68 ERA and 33 strikeouts. But there are a lot of organizations that would like to see their AAA pitchers compiling a record like that.

We've already seen a glimpse of Bowden in Boston this year and he acquited himself very well against the Yankees (2 IP, 0 H, 0 R). But he only has one option left, so I would be shocked to see him again before September, if at all.

Junichi Tazawa: Ah, the pitching phenom that Theo pissed off a whole country to grab. So far, Tazawa has been justifying the move. He is 5-3 in Portland with a 2.82 ERA and 54 strikeouts. Batters are hitting just .222 off of Tazawa so far.

Tazawa has had a couple of rough outings (a six-run, six-hit disaster in April against Connecticut being the worst). But he has shown a marked ability to bounce back and pitch well in his next start. After that game, against the same team and on the road, Tazawa went five innings and gave up just one run on two hits. He has given up more than three runs in a game just once in 2009.

I've been lucky enough to see him here in Portland. I think this kid is the real deal and so far he is pitching like it.

Lars Anderson: Every Boston fan knows this name, the kid touted as the successor to Kevin Youkilis' position and David Ortiz's bat. But he has regressed slightly so far in 2009. He has an OPS of just .722, a far cry from the mid.900s where Anderson usually finds himself. It's due to his ongoing problems with left-handed pitching (OPS of .458 against lefties so far in 2009).However, he is by all accounts a hard-working, intelligent player. I have no doubt he'll straighten out soon enough. The big question surrounding Lars is where the hell will he get his playing time from when he comes to Boston? With Youk at first and Mike Lowell looking as young as ever, I don't see where Anderson slots in at this time. So I think you'll see him in September.

Josh Reddick: Reddick is the top outfield prospect in the Boston system and he was playing like it in April (.358 BA, 1.002 OPS, 6 HR) here in Portland. Then he injured his oblique muscle. He's due to start playing in some XST games this week and will hopefully be back in Portland soon. I don't think we'll see Josh in Boston until September of next year. But he could be the next star outfielder for the Sox.

Anthony Rizzo: You may recognize this name for a different reason: Rizzo was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in May of 2008. But he was cancer-free by November of that year and has been playing great down Greenville for the Single-A team. Only 19, he is batting .270 with a .791 OPS, 6 HR and 24 RBI. He's a big guy (6' 3", 220) and has a solid glove at first base. If Lars Anderson doesn't pan out or becomes part of a trade, you could see Rizzo in Boston a few years from now.

Mark Wagner: The current starting catcher in Portland and the guy I think deserved a shot in the majors this year. He calls a great game and has a solid arm. His defense is major-league already and his bat is finally catching up. He is solid at the plate so far in 2009 (.314 BA, .971 OPS, 29 H, 14 RBI) and has more walks than strikeouts (18 to 15). If he doesn't at least get moved up to The Bucket in 2010 it will be a crime.

Jorge Jimenez: "Who?" you may ask. And rightfully so. The 15th round pick in 2006 wasn't a coveted player, but Jimenez is generating some solid numbers under the radar. He skipped low-A ball and went right from Lowell to (then the Sox affiliate) Lancaster in 2008. Now he is stroking the ball, with a .304 BA, .798 OPS and 30 RBI to go with 22 runs and a near 1:1 K/BB ratio. He does lack homer power, something that usually holds back a third-base prospect. But with Boston's focusing on small-ball run production and plate discipline, Jimenez's batting style fits rght in with the team. He's got a decent glove as well. I'd be shocked if he wasn't at The Bucket to start 2010, and he may well get a look-see from Boston in September of that year.

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