Boxed into a Corner (2004 Minor League 1B + 3B)

It’s time for the Corner Organizational Depth Chart Review! Here is last year’s third base installment and first base installment.

How do I choose who to profile? The criteria are thus: Must have had the majority of their games at the position profiled. 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.

Thank you to Cuzittt, frequent Red Sox poster on the Cardiac Kids and Sons of Sam Horn who corrected my errors and strengthened my musings about the minor leagues by adding extra information.
Pawtucket Red Sox – AAA International League
Earl Snyder Snyder bashed homeruns in Pawtucket, hitting 36 and could have had a real shot at 40 if not for his cup of coffee in the majors. He played in only one game for the Sox but was up for a couple of days, missing a few AAA games. He hit .273/.323/.558. He’s your typical AAA slugger and will have to content himself with cups of coffees for the rest of his career. He’s a good person to have stashed in AAA because if trouble arises on your big-league team, he could temporarily plug the hole starting and (if given the chance) could be a good power threat off the bench. He plays first and third primarily, but has been spotted in the outfield. He is a minor-league free agent, and could be back due to the fact that there is no one in the lower minors ready to move up, plus the fact that Brian Daubach most likely won’t be back. He also has been spotted playing shortstop. We have too much depth in the majors for Snyder, but he is a great option to have in AAA.
Kevin Youkilis is now on the major-league roster and is a serviceable defensive third-baseman. Many people believe he could end up at first base in 2006 (Millar and Mientkiewicz’s contracts expire in 2005) to stay. However, there has yet to be reliable sources citing such, so it is possible Youkilis will do a ‘Wade Boggs’ and learn first-base to get playing time next year until third base opens up. Youkilis regressed (hitting-wise) in Pawtucket as he only hit .266 (minor league average .297) but still maintained a OBP differential of 0.90 (minor league average .442, a differential of 0.40 compared to batting average) and when he was called up, posted similar numbers as in AAA – .260/.367/.413. I was also reminded, and rightly so, that it is hard to say Youkilis ‘declined’ in Pawtucket based on 150 AB, which is very true. Check this out; before Youkilis was called up to the majors for the first time, this is how his splits looked: Home: .343/.405/.610 Away: .155/.286/.172 in roughly equal PAs. Fluke? And then, after the All-Star Break, he was put back in AAA for a week. All games were on the road. He went .308/.367/.385. That’s what small sample size does for you. Considering he spent a lot of time in the majors too, you should weigh his average more in the majors than the minors this year. If you get rid of his September/October Numbers (which came after essentially a full month off and were sporadic anyway)… he went .281/.384/.461. Very nice. (Again, please note that while most of the words and statistics are mine, Cuzittt chipped in with very valuable sentences.) It still remains to be seen if he will stay with the organization as he is a very good trading chip. I would venture to say that if he is not traded this off-season, he is here to stay.
Brian Daubach Brian is a huge fan favorite in Pawtucket and Boston. There’s nothing wrong with him as a major league player. He spent four seasons as a starter for the Red Sox from 1999-2002, always giving us an average around .270, 20 HRs, .350. Nothing wrong with that at all. Also a pretty good defender, as he plays first and left. For whatever reason, he kept going to the wrong organization after leaving the Sox in 2002. He went to the White Sox in 2003 and had a logjam with Thomas and Konerko at first. He was a utilityman (very bad, I may add) then resigned with Boston. We had Ortiz, Millar, and later, Mientkiewicz. He hit, to no surprise, .271/.400 with 23 HR. Still only 32, Daubach has years ahead of him and if he can make the right decision, can end up someplace, playing. Mets, perhaps? This was very good production out of the corners for AAA.
Portland Sea Dogs – AA Eastern League
Raul Nieves Nieves was 25 this past season and regressed from 2003. In 2003, he hit .253/.320/.296, also in Portland. This year, he hit .222/.291/.296. Not much you can do when the cupboard is bare, though. The organization has (rightly so) been focusing on pitching, building pitching. You can never have enough pitching, AND it’s easier to get position players via free agency and trades than it is pitching. However, the lack of talent throughout the organization at first and third is, well, staggering. Here’s to Mueller, Youkilis, and Mientkiewicz being around for a long while! Nieves will never see the majors, and I’ll be impressed if he makes Pawtucket. Nieves is actually not a third-baseman (25 G @ SS, 31 G @ 3B, 43 G @ 2B) but since we traded away our third-base prospect for Terry Adams, someone had to fill in here.
Sean McGowan McGowan also spent his second year at Portland, with a .262 average (as opposed to .311 last year in similar at-bat totals). Every other facet of his offense was down, .312 OBP and .342 SLG. McGowan was released in July.
Mike O’Keefe O’Keefe is someone who could be serviceable to AA next year. The to-be 27 year old hit .248/.340/.430 in his first season in the Boston organization, having come over from the Anaheim organization. This was his third year in AA, and I don’t see him advancing farther, especially since this is the third straight year his statistics have gone down the tubes.
Sarasota Red Sox – High A Florida League (no longer an affiliate [but still owned by Sox], replaced by the Wilmington Blue Rocks)
Alberto Concepcion Ahh, now we get to Sarasota, an organization that has decent prospects – great hitters relative to the above hitters mentioned. Concepcion is a first baseman, third baseman, and catcher. Nice to have those. He hadn’t been much of a hitter before this year when in Sarasota, he suddenly woke up. In Sarasota, he hit .281/.364/.402, earning him a cup of coffee in Portland. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Concepcion play full-time in Portland next year (as Cuzittt agrees). He doesn’t have much pop with the bat, and should, again, not reach the majors. But he’s certainly better than Nieves, McGowan, and O’Keefe. (Psst – he’ll be 24 next year.) Cuzittt also adds, verbatim – “Power is often the last thing to come. Playing Catcher may be inhibiting his hitting (as it often does). The question eventually has to be what do the Sox see him as… a catcher or a corner infielder. They have not made that decision yet (45 games at 3B, 43 at C, 6 at 1B in Sarasota. 4 games at Catcher in AA).”
Bret LeVier This is Brett’s first year and went through three levels of the Red Sox. He was an undrafted free agent and was signed for depth, but injuries decimated the organization and LeVier hence became busy. He went from the Rookie league to High A to Low A. A quick rundown: He came out of California State, didn’t do much. But in 24 games for the Gulf Coast Red Sox, he hit .333 in 24 ABs (.333/.467/.417) earning him a promotion to Augusta, where he dissapointed, hitting .229/.283/.354 in 96 AB, and moved down to Sarasota where he hit again, .304/.315/.377. Given all the talent in Sarasota, and the returns of injured players, it’s possible he could end back up in Augusta (oops, I mean Capital City [anyone see Capital City’s logo? Eeewww]), but I’m listing him here anyways because he had the most games in Sarasota. Also please note he was a shortstop in college and played short in Augusta, but third in the other organizations.
Gary Schneidmiller This guy is nothing. Go ahead and check the link out, you will see why.
Chad Spann Aha, we get to a top prospect. Via Sox Prospects, this guy is the 7th ranked position player. Here’s what it says on Sox Prospects.

Blew away expectations in 2003. Spann is very athletic, has great bat speed, patience, and pitch recognition, with the potential for more power which has yet to show. He has a decent glove as well as good speed. Keeps a very consistent routine and makes adjustments well. Should move through the organization quickly if he continues to retain his 2003 form.

Yes, you heard that right. “If he continues to retain his 2003 form.” In other words, he didn’t do so well in 2004. Spann had an injury in late May. But anyways – this year in Sarasota was the highest level he had advanced to, and he is 20. Actually, his birthday was October 25th, so he’s 21 now. I wonder if he’s drunk right now. The point is, he went .244/.286/.346. (.267/.301/.370. 8 2B, 2 HRs. before injury.)This after a .312/.379/.413 season for Augusta last year. Jury’s still out on this kid, keep an eye on him. Likely to repeat, given his age. Definitely gets an Incomplete so far.
Stefan Bailie Bailie finally saw AA at the tender age of 24 and basically did exactly what he did in Sarasota – hit over .300, popped a good combination of HRs and doubles, and had plate patience. He did strike out a lot, though. This guy, so far, has the best bet of all the first baseman listed up to this point to see the majors (Daubach notwithstanding). He was voted the AA Player of the Year by the organization, and this was the first real year he did not have injuries.
Jeff Ontiveros Ontiveros was 25 and came off the bench. Jeff, use the college degree you got.
Jeremy West Ah, a first-baseman with some promise, both talent and age-wise! How nice. West had a very nice year this year, at age 22. He hit pretty well in Lowell – good enough to jump to Sarasota, bypassing Augusta. He delivered with a .293/.347/.488, 18 HRs. Sox Prospects has him as the fourth best prospect. West is also a catcher, as that is what he played in college; he has yet to do so in the minors.

Big, strong first baseman with a stocky build. Aggressive at the plate, steps into the ball with good bad speed. Pounds weak pitching. West has mostly DH’d throughout his career, but has played some first base and even catcher at times.

He was a 2004 FSL Post-Season All-Star, 2004 Florida State League All-Star, and 2003 Lowell Player of the Year. He needs to start playing first full-time, most DH’s don’t make it. Ask Bucky Jacobsen how long it took for him to get a chance.
Augusta GreenJackets – Mid A South Atlantic League (now a S.F. affiliate, replaced by the Capital City Bombers)
Heriberto Guzman Heriberto is not allowed to drink yet, so it makes sense that he’s not allowed to hit yet. A .147 batting average doesn’t really bode well for advancement, no? However, he DID start at Augusta, which means he must have some talent. He was demoted to Lowell once that season started… and hit for lots of power. Classic all or nothing hitter though, .233/.319/.406.
Scott White White stunk last year, his first year in professional ball. He was in the GCL, so strangely enough, he moved up to Augusta, bypassing Lowell, and broke out, hitting .281/.333/.399 with 21 SB (9 caught). Not anything to get excited about, but in this organization, it is. But again, his age precludes hasty judgement, especially when you remember White was drafted out of high school. He was a fairly high draft pick, which may figure into the push to Augusta.
Tim Burgess Timmy came right out of college to Augusta, where in 206 at-bats he hit .233/.343/.316. That on-base percentage shows a lot of promise for the batting average. I will have to keep an eye on Tim and see how well he progresses. You can’t really judge anyone from Augusta down, as they are so new. As like White, he came from Georgia, so starting in Augusta makes sense, as Augusta is in Georgia. He was drafted in the 22nd round.
Justin McClain See Tim Burgess, basically. 20 games at 1B, 26 at 3B, 6 in OF. Undrafted Free Agent out of University of Washington.
Lowell Spinners – Low A New York Penn League
John Otness Otness hit .276/.327/.353. He was an undrafted free agent.
Andrew Pinckney .273/.338/.355. Room for improvement, and he has time for said improvement. Pinckney was drafted in the 34th round out of Emory University. 27 games at 1B, 10 at 2B, 18 at 3B, 5 at SS. He commited 17 errors this year, which means his future is at first.
Logan Sorensen Logan came out of college and in VERY limited time (44 ABs) he hit .273/.292/.432.
GCL Red Sox – Rookie Gulf Coast League
Dustin Kelly Kelly hit .263/.349/.342 and got a cup of coffee … in Portland. 15 AB, 4 H, 3 RBI. Might be worth keeping an eye on. Again, you can’t really judge people this low in the system. Cuzittt also weighs in with this : “Kelly was a JUCO [Junior College] pick (15th round). I think the organization thinks highly of him. Of course, the promotion to Portland was due to injuries and Hurricanes. GCL was not in session due to Charlie… and the Seadogs had only 8 healthy bodies.”
Carlos Torres Torres has a lower batting average than Kelly, but better power. He hit .253/.368/.466. In 148 AB, he had 8 HRs and 31 RBI. If we translate this to 444 at-bats (what one would generally get in a regular AAA season), that would translate into 32 HR and 124 RBI. Umm … keep an eye on this guy.
Bret Underwood Underwood, in limited action, did not impress. His college statistics show he is a powerful hitter with a good stroke. Another Undrafted Free Agent. Came out of Delaware State and was one of the last of the signed players to get into games.
Color me unimpressed. The only person to be truly excited about is Chad Spann, and even he had a bad season. Other than that, the only person I am somewhat impressed with is Carlos Torres, but come on, it’s the GCL Red Sox. Put me on the GCL Red Sox, and I bet I’d do pretty good. However, Torres was the Sox’s Domincan Summer League Player of the year in 2003…
While the Red Sox do have the right idea concentrating on pitching as I have said above, and they have a strength of middle infielders (that’s coming next month), that’s only 15 position players (guessing on 11 pitchers on the roster, 2 middle infield starters, 2 bench players) with 10 other position players to cover first base, third base, outfield, and catcher. I’m not impressed with the outfield, and I’m not impressed with first and third base. We’ve still a long ways to go.
Here is Cuzitt’s quick take on the positions.

1) I think you are dead on balls accurate about 1B. However, I don’t think the Sox care. First Base should never be a particular area of concern. There are always copious amounts of people who can be adequate at the job as ml Free Agents (see Brian Daubach). Additionally, ml 1Bmen are not particularly useful as trade bait. Of course the Sox are not punting the position. They most certainly would love to develop another Mo Vaughn type. But, they don’t see it as that important.
2) I disagree with your take on 3B. In fact, I would consider 3B was one of particular depth coming into the year. Consider Youkilis (AAA), Hattig (AA – traded to Toronto for Adams), Concepcion and Spann and White in A-Ball. That’s not all that bad.

Thanks to Cuzittt, and thanks to Youkilis for providing the Red Sox with a young, cheap third-baseman. May there be many more (and first basemen, too!)

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