Dusting the Competition

Dustin Pedroia (FB archives: Dustin Pedroia [drafted], Hanley Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia – Shortstops on the Rise) is a hot topic right now around baseball. On the sixth, RedSox.com ran with an article on Pedroia : Pedroia proves naysayers wrong.

“I’m not much of a prospect,” Pedroia said. “I’m a baseball player. I do other things to make up for my size. I’m just out here to help my team win. Whatever they ask me to do, I’m ready to do it for them.”

This reminds me a lot of what Kevin Millar said after the Red Sox won the World Series (no way of verifying, just to be clear) – that Theo assembled a team of baseball players, and that’s what got us to win the World Series.

In 12 games, Pedroia hit .400 before getting promoted to Sarasota for the final month of the season. He hit .336 over 30 games, officially putting himself on the fast track and earning a trip to the elite AFL.

The learning experience hasn’t been bad, either. Pedroia is on the taxi squad, meaning he plays only Wednesdays and Saturdays. Even though it’s been an adjustment after playing every day for so long, Pedroia has been getting quite an education from the bench.

“Every day, when I’m not playing, I’m watching somebody, trying to see what he does, trying to make my game better any way I can,” Pedroia said. “I’ve never sat on the bench my whole life; I’ve learned from some of the guys that coach me that you have to watch the game to get better, too. I’ve been doing that since I got here.”

To me, I like this fact a lot. Pedroia is getting a handle for what it is like to sit, and learn the game on the bench. The AFL is so elite, he is essentially playing with the top prospects in the game. Going is an honor for Pedroia, and he sounds as if he is committed to making himself a better player, and learning on the bench only helps you figure out the mental aspects of the game. I know that when I sat on the bench during my baseball-playing days, things would happen and I would pick those things out and analyze them whether or not it was covering a position wrong, or if I thought the coach should go out to settle the pitcher down.

Baseball America has come out with its coverage of the best prospects in every major league organization. Pedroia was ranked sixth, and had the best batting eye. Hanley Ramirez won quite a few awards and is the best prospect in the Sox system, but this article is about Pedroia, not Ramirez, and thus we continue on to Jim Callis’ chat that he had on the tenth of this month. I have pulled all relevant Pedroia tidbits from the chat, but you should go read the chat yourselves and bone up on the other prospects the Sox have.

Dan from Massachusetts asks:

I realize the Sox don’t want to move Pedroia from SS at this point, but realistically do you see him playing in the majors as a second baseman?

Jim Callis: Yes. The Red Sox think he can stay at shortstop, but most of the scouts we’ve talked to aren’t sold on that. And while he has very sure hands, his other shortstop tools pale in comparison to Hanley Ramirez, Luis Soto and Christian Lara, so Pedroia will have a hard time holding all of them off.

It should be noted that the Red Sox organization is quite deep at the shortstop position, especially with Ramirez holding the fort down quite ably at shortstop. I would find it hard to believe the Red Sox would not ask him to move to second base. This could happen possibly in the second half of the 2006 minor league season.

Pete O from Chestnut Hill, MA asks:

Jim, Who would you consider the Sox most underrated prospect? How about most overrated?

Jim Callis: I like him as a prospect but I think Dustin Pedroia’s statistical performance has given people a misleading impression of what kind of player he is. I think a reasonable expectation is that he become a Jody Reed-type at second base, but I’ve seen some online reports declaring him one of the top 20 prospects in baseball or touting his impressive power (which really isn’t very impressive). The two most underrated, probably because they haven’t gotten to full-season ball yet but they have huge ceilings, are righthander Anibal Sanchez and shortstop Luis Soto.

I disagree here. While Pedroia’s streak of amazing hitting might come down a little, I can’t see how you can compare Pedroia to Jody Reed. I’m not knocking Jody and he had great years for the Red Sox, cranking doubles and being a baseball player but his best slugging percentage ever for the Red Sox was .400 in 30 at-bats in his rookie year, then .380 in the next year, when he had 338 AB (starters get about 600) and after that, peaked at .376 for the rest of his career. I can see Pedroia consistently above .400.

I have heard that Hanley Ramirez might be ready for 2006, so if that’s the case, we may only need a shortstop for one year, and we can give him an option for a second year. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to think Pedroia could be ready for 2007, so pretty soon, we could have Hanley and Pedroia anchoring the middle for five years, minimum. (Five years because when Hanley is called up, the Red Sox will have control of Hanley for six years. In 2007, the Red Sox will have control of him for five years, and six for Pedroia.)

“Jeter stings a ball to Pedroia, who flips to Ramirez and Hanley’s arm gets Jeter out handily at first for a double play!”

Be sure to check out the Red Sox.com review of the AFL season.