Entering every season experts and fans alike predict the coming season’s breakout players, bust candidates, and bounce-back stars. After a disappointing 2010 season Beckett’s name was routinely tossed around as one of those bounce-back players. Those who jumped on the Beckett bandwagon are enjoying a great season from the Red Sox workhorse. With a 12-5 record, 2.54 ERA, and 0.98 WHIP Beckett is putting together arguably the best season of his career. Routinely conquering AL East foes, namely the Yankees, the Texas native is pitching his best under pressure. Over five starts against the Yankees Beckett boastsÂ a 4-0 Record with a 1.85 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. Beckett has once again proven he is a big-game pitcher.
The underlying statistics show a marked improvement from last season with a shaved walk-rate — from 3.17 BB/9 in 2010 to 2.38 this season — and an improved line drive percentage all the way down to 17.6%, Beckett’s lowest rate since 2007. Most importantly, he is plain getting the job done. These stats certainly hold water but games aren’t played on paper, and Beckett is pitching with a purpose, confidence, and poise.
However, other Sabermetric stats show Beckett’s been the bearer of good fortune in addition to his improved performance. A .236 BABIP and strand rate upwards of 80% are titanic red flags — though his minuscule line-drive percentage accounts for part of the low BABIP, it still wouldn’t force it to the depths of .236 without the aid of luck. A home-run to fly-ball percentage of 8.1% (10.6% career) provides more evidence of Beckett’s lucky streak.
Watching Beckett pitch this season has been a treat and it would be unfair to say he can’t build upon his excellent season. However, don’t be surprised if his numbers come back to earth for the remainder of this season as well as the 2012 campaign.
After staring at Oregon State for his collegiate career the Red Sox drafted JacobyEllsbury with the 23rd overall selection in the 2005 draft. Praised for excellent defense and game-changing speed with the ability to hit for a high average, Ellsbury projected to be a prototypical lead-off hitter.
Ellsbury moved quickly through the Red Sox farm system, reaching AA in his first professional season. In 2006 between A+ and AA Ellsbury hit .303/.382/.425 with 41 SB seven home runs. In 2007 between AA and AAA Ellsbury elevated his batting average to an even more impressive .323 and once again stole 41 bases. He never struggled at any level while in the minors, posting an average no worse than .298 at every stop. When CocoCrisp went down with an injury in 2007, Ellsbury’s contract was purchased and he made his MLB debut.
In his first taste of MLB action Ellsbury wowed. He hit .353 over 116 at-bats and flashed his blinding speed not only by stealing bases but by scoring from second on a wild-pitch. The play was described later by Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky as “the greatest single play I’ve ever seen in all my years in baseball.”
In 2008, Ellsbury’s first full season in the majors, the budding star hit a solid .280 with 50 SB. In 2009, he hit .301 with 70 stolen bags. Unfortunately for Ellsbury, he was sidelined nearly all of 2010 with an injury with a rib injury.
Fast-forward to 2011 and Ellsbury is having a career year. His impressive stats, mainly the lofty power numbers, seemingly came out of nowhere. In his early years while in the Red Sox farm system, Ellsbury flashed modest power. His minor league slugging percentage sat at a respectable .427. Common sense dictated that this was a guy who could hit atop the order and provide marginal pop if you left a fastball over the heart of the plate.
Now just 124 games into the season Ellsbury exceeded even the loftiest of expectations. Ellsbury hit more home runs this season — 22 — than he has over the rest of his career combined — 20 –Â and added 33 steals with a .313 average.Â Perhaps more importantly, Ellsbury only missed one game this season after missing almost the entire 2010 campaign. His success this season put Ellsbury on a short list of MVP candidates.
Even if Ellsbury doesn’t receive the MVP hardware with other deserving players like Curtis Granderson, Adrian Gonzalez, and Jose Bautistsa putting in strong arguments for the trophy, Ellsbury has to be considered one of the best outfielders in the game. It’s nice to see a big market team develop a star with their farm system rather than plucking one from free agency.
After covering Baseball America’s top five Red Sox’ prospects here, we continue with the final five. Included are prospects who were traded to the Padres to give context to the AdrianGonzalez trade.
Fuentes, the cousin of CarlosBeltran, has predictably drawn many Carlos Beltran comparisons. And while he has the talent to play plus defense largely due to his excellent speed, Fuentes’ power does not rival, or come close to Beltran’s. At 6 foot 160 pounds, Fuentes’ must rely on his speed and defense to get him to the majors. In 2010 Fuentes stole 42 bases on 47 attempts and so far this season he has 36 on 48 attempts. With the bat, Fuentes provides little power — career .366 slugging percentage. He also hasn’t shown the knack for collecting hits in bunches — batting .270 each of the last two seasons. Where Fuentes has improved is with his walk rate — now reaching base at a .345 clip. What Fuentes needs to improve on if he expects to be a lead-off hitter in the MLB is his K-rate. Last year he struck out 87 times in 374 at-bats. He has a similar rate this season, far too high for a prototypical MLB lead-off hitter.Â At just 20-years-old, Fuentes is a few years away currently playing in high-A ball. Fuentes’ defense provides him a high floor, but his inability to hit for power or exceptional contact limits his ceiling.
If this list were made today you could make a strong case for Reddick being the #2 prospect on the list. Ranked 75th on the Baseball America list preceding the 2010 season, Reddick found himself off the list entering 2011. Reddick’s best season in the minors was 2008 where between A and AA he hit 23 HR over 482 at-bats with a .311/.356/.544 triple slash. Making cameo MLB appearances every year since 2009, Reddick’s extensive time in the minors is surely due to the Red Sox’ all-around talent. The scouting report rates Reddick’s arm as his best tool. Described as both extremely strong and accurate his arm will likely stick him in right-field — though he has the range to be a center-fielder. Reddick’s bat is solid, with a career .278 minor league batting average he doesn’t project to be a liability. Also, strikeouts haven’t been a problem (320 K in 1821 minor league at bats). His power potential goes hand-in-hand with how his body fills out as Reddick is lean, athletic 6’2, 180 pounds. If Reddick fills out and reaches the 200 pound plateau, very good power numbers could follow. Reddick currently holds the every-day right-field gig since JDDrew hit the DL, though Drew seemed to lose the job before landing on the DL. Over 143 at-bats Reddick has a .329/.375/.538 triple slash with five homers. The 33 K to 13 BB ratio needs to be improved, but Reddick has been worth the wait thus far this season.
8 ) FelixDoubront
Doubront is a polished left-hander with a low-to-mid 90′s fastball, effective change-up with impressive movement, who also throws a curveball and cutter — both of which he can use at the MLB level. Doubront is 6 foot 2 and a lanky 165 pounds who has been very effective in the minors over the past few seasons. This season the 23-year-old boasts a 3.07 ERA and an 8.7 K/9 rate. Since 2008, Doubront carried an ERA under four and a K/9 no lower than 7.5. He has been extremely consistent. The biggest question about Doubront, who is very much a “sure thing,” is how exactly he’ll be utilized. He saw time in the MLB as a starter and a reliever in 2010 and during his short stint did not appear over his head. The Red Sox front office might see him as a dominant lefty out of the bullpen, something the Red Sox lack with Rich Hill out for some time. However, they might try to maximize his value and keep him in the rotation. Next season he should fight for the fifth starters job out of spring training with JonLester, JoshBeckett, Clay Buchholz, and unfortunately John Lackey essentially guaranteed spots.
Pimentel entered the season considered by some to have ace or top of the rotation potential. While that potential hasn’t disappeared, Pimentel struggled mightily in the minors this season. With a 7.80 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 1.24, Pimentel has not met expectations. The good news is, Pimentel is still young at 21. He has a good fastball in the low 90′s and has a projectable build. His curveball flashed potential of being a plus pitch and his change-up could be effective at the MLB level. The jury is still out on Pimentel, only time will tell.
One of the more intruiging Red Sox prospects is third-baseman Garin Cecchini. Drafted out of high school as a shortstop, Cecchini makes the transition to third base due to his solid build. Boston drafted Cecchini in the fourth round despite many considering him a late first or supplemental round pick. The reasons he slipped so far in the draft stem from a torn ACL which he recently recovered from, as well as signability issues. Many thought he would opt for college. The Red Sox haven’t seen much on the field from Cecchini but they have to be happy with what he’s done so far. In 114 at-bats Cecchini is hitting .298 with three HR and 12 doubles, putting his slugging percentage at .500. He’s also shown great plate discipline walking 17 times to 19 strikeouts. In addition to productivity with the bat, the Louisiana product added 12 steals. Speed wasn’t expected to be a big part of his game, only grading at around MLB average, but it’s nice to see him 12-14 on stolen base attempts. Cecchini has a high ceiling due to his fluid left-handed swing, a solid build which could develop into plus-power, and maturity beyond his years at the plate. Look for a big jump in next year’s rankings for Cecchini.
With ClayBuccholz’s status uncertain, DaisukeMatsuzaka injured, and the AndrewMiller experiment heading downhill fast, Boston filled their biggest need in the starting rotation by trading for Erik Bedard. The Red Sox surrendered four prospects in the deal with the Mariners. Those prospects were Tim Federowicz, StephenFife, JuanRodriguez, and Chih-HsienChiang. Promptly afterwards all but Chiang were dealt to the Dodgers in return for TrayvonRobinson.
Red Sox nation would like to give a quick shout-out to Dodgers GM NedColetti who allowed us to trade for an intimidating left-handed arm while giving very little. The haul for the Mariners was solid, Trayvon Robinson went bonkers in AAA before being called up to the Mariners post-trade. However, the Bedard deal likely wouldn’t have happened if the Mariners didn’t have the Robinson trade lined up.
Erik Bedard should fit in nicely as the current #3 starter on the Red Sox staff. He’s always possessed swing-and-miss stuff — striking out 893 batters over 918.1 career IP — his issue has always been staying healthy. Missing significant parts of every season since 2008 including all of 2010, saying Bedard is injury prone is a fair assessment. Bedard was on the DL as recently as two weeks ago with a left knee injury. Fortunately he does not have a history of knee issues, hopefully he can continue his productive 2011 campaign in which he holds a 3.45 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP as a part of the Mariners.
In Bedard’s first Red Sox start he went five innings allowing three runs and earned a no-decision.
The Red Sox also acquired the versatile MikeAviles. Aviles came over from the Royals in a small trade that sent YamaicoNavarro and KendalVolz to the Royals. Aviles contributes more with the bat than with the glove and made his first career start in right-field for the Red Sox. Expect Aviles to be shuffled everywhere on the diamond except catcher, first base, center field, and possibly left field.
An overlooked aspect of the Erik Bedard trade is the acquisition of relief pitcher JoshuaFields. Arguably the best prospect included in the swap with the Mariners, Joshua Fields was once the most dominant closer in college baseball. In 2008 Fields was drafted in the first round by the Seattle Mariners. Ranked as the #18 prospect in the draft by Baseball America, he was also considered the player who was closest to the majors. He graduated as the SEC leader in career saves.
A player once expected to make a quick leap to the majors, Fields has been hindered by injuries and control issues. At 25-years-old Fields still is struggling mightily with his control but has a career K-rate of 9.5. Out of college Fields was described as a pitcher who went right after batters, sitting at 94 MPH with a plus-plus curve-ball, Fields possesses closers “stuff” as shown by his 63 strikeouts in 37.1 innings during his senior campaign.
If Erik Bedard stays healthy and provides a playoff push, Mike Aviles continues hitting as he has his whole career, and Joshua Fields pans out, then this deadline will be looked back on as one of the most productive in recent Red Sox history. Netting a very solid #3 starter, a utility man with a career .286 batting average, and potential closer for no more than mid-level prospects doesn’t happen very often.
Every year Baseball America makes a list of the top 100 prospects in baseball as well as a top 10 list for each organization. For the Red Sox, three of the top 10 players were sent to San Diego in the AdrianGonzalez trade. However, they will still be covered to help give context to the trade. Today the top five prospects will be covered.
1) Casey Kelly
In Kelly’s second season in AA the 21-year-old dropped his ERA by a whole run. This would be much more impressive if I failed to mention that his ERA was 5.31 last season. Twice Kelly was ranked bullishly on the Baseball America top 100 rankings, coming in at #24 in 2010 and #31 in 2011. I’ve always felt Kelly was one of the most overrated prospects in baseball – sure he is making a transition from a two-way player to taking the rubber every fifth day. And yes, he compiled a very nice 2.08 ERA in his first pro season. What bothers me is his lack of strikeouts – career K/9 of 7.1 and 6.8 this season. If a pitcher can’t make batters swing and miss on a consistent basis at the minor league level expecting him to become an ace doesn’t seem justified. Baseball America seems to agree, leaving Kelly off their mid-season top 50 list.
The slick fielding shortstop landed at #52 on Baseball America’s preseason list. While Iglesias’ bat was never expected to be great, Iglesias has thoroughly underwhelmed thus far at AAA Pawtucket. Hitting just .234 with a .254 slugging percentage it is clear that Iglesias is not ready to face MLB pitching anytime soon. Why the Red Sox placed a 21-year-old with 284 career at-bats in AAA to start 2011 is beyond me, but a full-time MLB stint shouldn’t be expected until 2013 at the earliest. When Iglesias reaches the majors he’ll bring potential plus-plus defense as well as a potentially average to above average bat. Speed is not a big part of Iglesias’ game but he should be good for something in the ballpark of 10 to 15 steals a year.
Rizzo didn’t greet PCL pitchers very kindly once he arrived in Tuscon. So far the real prize of the Adrian Gonzalez trade has hit .371 with 19 HR over 224 at-bats. Not bad for a 21-year-old in AAA. However, it hasn’t been a year without faults for Rizzo. When he received a brief stint in the majors he struggled mightily, hitting .143 with 36 K over 98 at-bats. Still, Rizzo should be the front-runner for the opening day first baseman gig next season.
Ranaudo is a big, intimidating presence on the mound and packs a low 90′s fastball and a respectable curveball and change-up. Baseball America listed him at #52 entering the season and since has put up a 3.86 ERA in A-ball over 100.1 innings. He averages 7.9 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 which are solid ratios. Given that Baseball America is notorious for overrating plus-sized pitching prospects, Ranaudo’s ranking should be taken with a grain of salt. Especially considering he was bumped to #37 on the mid-season ranks after putting up good but not outstanding numbers. Ranaudo projects to be a solid #3 starter in my books and has a very good chance of reaching that level. The former LSU Tiger could be seen on the Red Sox roster sometime in 2013 or perhaps as a September call-up in 2012. Any earlier would be risky as Ranaudo still hasn’t eclipsed high-A competition.
Selected out of high school in the 2007 draft Drake Britton’s road through the minors didn’t follow the smoothest of paths. Tommy John surgery in 2008 forced him to miss the 2009 season and take baby steps in the 2010 campaign. Entering the 2011 campaign he earned a spot on the top 100 list at #97 after posting a 2.97 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning pitched. Unfortunately for Britton, He’s walking batters at an alarming 5.2 BB/9 and his ERA is an inflated 7.17. The good thing for Britton is he is a left-handed arm compared to Jon Lester with his low-to-mid 90′s fastball and sharp curveball. He has a very high ceiling but whether he can reach it is very, very questionable.