It’s time for the annual minor league organizational depth chart review! We’re going to be covering the middle infielders this time. This is where some exciting players lie, from Dustin Pedroia to Luis Soto. It’s also the home of the recently departed Hanley Ramirez, which will be either the Next Big Shortstop or a brilliant piece of overhyped value the Red Sox managed to extract Josh Beckett from.
How do I choose who to profile? The criteria are thus: Must have had the majority of their games at the position profiled (rosters taken from the Minor League Baseball website). I also will only choose no more than five players, those that spent the most time at said position. I will note who I have left out. For those that are utility men and deserve to be profiled but might not have as many games started at a specific position to justify being put in the top five, they will be placed in the position they played the most. This is not meant to be a top prospects review! This is meant to give people recognition for the seasons they had regardless of age or if they are still with the organization (although comments about their future with the Red Sox will be said). Also, last year, I profiled the major league club along with the minor league club. That is changing this year as I will profile the major league positions individually from this review.
Sources used: TheBaseballCube.com, BaseballAmerica.com, SoxProspects.com, MinorLeagueBaseball.com, respective team websites[[PAWTUCKET RED SOX – AAA INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE]]
David Berg – A former Blue Jay who got as much as 374 AB for them (2002, hit .270/.322/.382) amassed 425 AB for Pawtucket. Currently a free agent, Berg hit .253/.278/.338 for an anemic 616 OPS. Berg was certainly brought in just for depth and to provide veteran influence on the team. It’s doubtful he’ll return as players of that model move around a lot, but he may resign given the upheaval up the middle in Boston.
Luis Figueroa – Figueroa has been trying to get back to the majors since getting two at-bats at the major league level for the Pirates at age 27 (no hits or walks). He went from Pittsburgh to Montreal to the Mets, back to Montreal, to Milwaukee, then spent his first time in an AL organization in 2005. Getting 402 AB, he hit .289/.334/.400. Certainly better than what Berg did. The 31-year old also may resign.
Alejandro Machado – Traded to the Red Sox for Carlos Torres and cash, Machado won over a lot of people during his time in Pawtucket and brief stay in Boston – including me. Machado hit for a solid .300/.359/.379 in Pawtucket and got into 10 games (5 AB, .200/.333/.400, 4 runs) in Boston, the most famous game being his pinch-run for Gabe Kapler on a home-run. Machado can turn out to be a nice utility guy, playing at 2B, SS, 3B, LF, and CF. He’ll probably repeat AAA, but his time is coming soon. As some of you may recall, I got the pleasure of interviewing Alejandro (plus Cla Meredith and Dustin Pedroia – here is Machado’s interview reprinted:
Q: What have you thought about the Red Sox organization?
Well, itÇƒÙs a really, really nice organization, as I have been in and they treat me and the fans – everybodyÇƒÙs really good over here. ItÇƒÙs been very special. ItÇƒÙs great here, and I really enjoy being part of this organization, and I donÇƒÙt change nothing. ItÇƒÙs really good, they were champions last year.
Q: Are there any players on this team that you think have a really good shot at becoming a big name?
Yeah, weÇƒÙve got really good players here, and we hope all of us, you know, will be starting in the major leagues.
Q: If I remember correctly, werenÇƒÙt you called up to Boston earlier this year but never activated? How was that?
It was great, really good.
Q: Were you able to sit in the dugout during the game?
No, I just went to the clubhouse. That was really fun.
Q: Do you think it is possible you might go up in a month? Like, in September?
You never know, I hope so.
Q: Your former club is doing pretty well this year.
They’re doing great, they have good players.
Q: Did it come as a surprise when the Red Sox claimed you?
Yeah, it was a big surprise [rest of answer and following question lost to loud music]
Dustin Pedroia – Head on over to the interview to see what Pedroia, a quiet guy, had to say – or rather what I dragged out of him. Pedroia hit for a rousing .324/.409/.508 in Portland and was well on his way towards handling AAA until an injury dragged his numbers down to .255/.356/.382. An injury to the hand/wrist always saps you of power and bat quickness, so it’s at least good to see he mantained his batting eye. Pedroia should be manning second for years to come, and we should see him in Boston this summer.
Kenny Perez – Perez spent most of the season in Portland, where he hit a respectable .285/.328/.375 and then was shipped to Arizona along with Kyle Bono for a couple days worth of Jose Cruz Jr. He went to Single-A for Arizona and hit .320/.377/.443. He still has an outside shot to be a utilityman in the majors.
Tony Schrager – Schrager was in the Boston organization in 2003 and 2004 before leaving as a free agent. The 28-year old was our return for Jose Cruz (so we essentially dealt Bono and Perez for Schrager – one of the worst trades Theo ever made, probably the worst) and in 51 AB for Pawtucket hit .216/.298/.275.[[PORTLAND SEA DOGS – AA EASTERN LEAGUE]]
Dirimo Chavez – Traded to the Mets August 13th for a Player to Be Named Later, Dirimo is nothing to write home about. He hit lousy for the Red Sox at three different levels before being shipped out. My best guess is that the Mets had an injury in Single-A and wanted Chavez, because then they could hold onto Chavez for a few more years before becoming a minor league free agent – otherwise they could have just signed filler.
Hanley Ramirez – What else can be said about Hanley that isn’t already? They traded Hanley probably at the peak of his value – still high enough that his AA season wasn’t troubling at a .271/.335./.385 line (and certainly plenty of room to improve with his tools) with raw flashes of dominance emerging. And heck, he got called up to the Red Sox in September, so the Sox must know what a find Hanley is, right? Well, they used that value to get Josh Beckett. Hanley could become a star, or be the victim of an artful manuevering of the Sox to boost up a player who’s to turn into nothing. We’ll find out.
Scott Youngbauer – Signed as a minor league free agent in June, Youngbauer split time as a starter between Wilmington and Portland. The 27-year old hit ably, over .300 with SLG’s over .500. These may be impressive numbers and make you wonder why he never had a shot before, but prior to his power emerging with the Red Sox, he never had a SLG above .392 which he attained once. Maybe he’s turned a corner and can rake now. If so… we should look at bringing him back into the organization.
Raul Nieves – the 26-year old split time between AA and AAA. He had 235 AB in Portland, hitting .209/.291/.277 – so clearly, he can’t hit. He can’t pitch either, as he had 1.1 IP for Portland to a tune of a 13.50 ERA – the same ERA he racked up in 2004 with 0.2 IP for Portland. Nieves is one of these classic good field, no hit guys. May have broken into the majors a half-century earlier.[[WILMINGTON BLUE ROCKS – HIGH A FLORIDA LEAGUE]]
Zach Borowiak – Spending most of his time in Wilmington, he got 406 AB and hit .254/.330/.416, an improvement from a year ago at the same level when he hit .237/.307/.333. He’s going to enter his age 25 season.
Dustin Kelly – After impressive numbers at a small college, Kelly’s settled into a bench role and doesn’t do well enough offensively in there to maintain a job. 2005 may very well be his final professional season. We shall see. Then again, he pitched in 2005 for .1 of an inning – getting a strikeout. Hm, career change?
Ignacio Suarez – Probably the best defender in the entire system, Iggy certainly doesn’t have the best offense. His time in Wilmington as a starter proved as much when he hit .233/.287/.288.
Brant Ust – Ust spent a lot of time in the Detroit organization, reaching as high as AAA in 2003 and 2004 before being cut loose after 2004. We signed Ust mid-April and the 27-year old started the entire year, garnering 443 AB, going .262/.312/.379. Ust is 27-year old and was just filler.[[GREENVILLE DRIVE – MID A SOUTH ATLANTIC LEAGUE]]
Tony Granadillo – The 21-year old who was in the St. Louis organization in 2004 didn’t do that bad in 2005 for Greenville. In 234 AB, he hit .291/.384/.427. There’s no telling his future, but that’s an encouraging line – hit well enough to hover around .300, but also showed a solid eye and has some pop to go along with it – homerun (5, and 10 for rookie ball in 2004) pop.
Christian Lara – Another one of the Sox’s well regarded shortstops, Lara is a fleet defender who hit .232/.304/.299 for Greenville after hitting .277/.404/.336 for Lowell in 2004. Clearly, his power has not shown up, but that’s always the last to show up. He exhibits excellent plate disclipline and perhaps a repeat of Greenville will show us his true ability. He’s only 20, so he’s got a ways to go before we can label him the next big thing, but he’s quietly on his way to that.
Jeff Natale – Watch this guy here. The second sacker posted a 1.306 OPS for Trinity College before being drafted. In 41 AB for Lowell, he hit for a 1.132 OPS, and then in 160 AB for Greenville hit .338/.463/.544. There’s a lot to like here for Natale, especially his offense. Let’s see what he does in 2006 (projected to start in Wilmington) before getting excited – but keep your eye on this guy closely.
Chuck Jeroloman – This 23-year old hit .236/.386/.371 and essentially has no future in the majors, but surprisingly is hitting better than when he did in college. His final year in college he hit .270/.336/.464, and the year previous to that he hit .224/.291/.320. He doesn’t have a high enough ceiling but could prove valuable as a fielder manning the positions the organizations ask him to at many levels before wearing his welcome out. There are a lot of no-hit good-field players in the Boston organization – and I suspect in all organizations – just to round the team out as filler so they can play where needed.[[LOWELL SPINNERS – LOW A NEW YORK PENN LEAGUE]]
Jed Lowrie – One of the big impact draft picks we drafted in 2005, Lowrie has a lot going for him. He’s a great fielder with a good arm, nice power, a switch-hitter, and has decent speed. Lowrie grabbed 201 AB for Lowell and hit .328/.429/.448, but lost most of his power stroke in the home run department. The 21-year old is expected to start for Wilmington next year. Lowrie and Pedroia may be our 2B and SS for years to come – we shall see.
Dominic Ramos – Ramos, a good runner, stole 10 bases and was caught thrice en route to a .260/.329/.370 showing for Lowell, in his first year. He had three triples, and the 22-year old still is too raw for us to say anything about his future. He’ll probably move up to Greenville, and we’ll see how he does then.[[GCL RED SOX – ROOKIE GULF COAST LEAGUE]]
Richard Santana – Santana went from the DSL to the GCL, and the 19-year old second baseman hit .255/.325/.352, pretty impressive considering he’s only 19 and 23-year old college players have failed at that level. Santana stole 48 bases for the DSL in 2004, but saw that dip to 7 in 2005 with 5 caught stealings. It seems as if the Red Sox are preaching up and down the ladder no stealing bases, which is a shame. We’ll see how Santana progresses in 2006 – more than likely in Lowell.
Carl Lipsey – A toolsy player, Lipsey has excellent speed and range but has yet to get any significant time to prove exactly who he is. He got seven games of starting at the GCL level, hitting .154/.267./154, then 5 AB for Lowell, .200/.500/.200. We’ll see what Lipsey pans out to.
Argenis Diaz (VSL) – Diaz repeated the VSL, and hit much better than his first showing. In 2004, he hit .229/.325/.300, and improved that to .266/.390/.365 in another go-round. The 18-year old has reportedly drawn some raves about his potential, so let’s keep an eye on Diaz as well…
Unlike the catcher and first base recaps of this, I’m a little pleased with what we have. We have young, burgeoning talent who may make an impact on the major league level. I’m rather pleased this crop is plentiful, because in high school and college, shortstops are usually the best athletes on the field. They can also be shifted to other positions, as we have seen with Luis Soto, who moved to right field. In addition, apparently Natale is set to open 2006 as a third-baseman. Perhaps our minors aren’t as thin as we thought…