This year we decided as a staff to preview each of the team’s preliminary assignments to the 2012 AFL and our goal is to tackle each of the 30 organizations over the next 7-10 days. We hope you will follow along with us, check in several times each day and enjoy reading what we come up with. If you’re not familiar with the eligibility rules or how the rosters are constructed just click here to brush up!
The Boston Red Sox are sending seven delegates to the 2012 Arizona Fall League, though they’ve only named five to date. This year’s collection will be playing for the Surprise Saguaros. The delegates will follow the trend of the 2011 (Scottsdale Scorpions) delegations, when some premium prospects (Ryan Lavarnway, Will Middlebrooks) were mixed with organizational filler (Jeremy Kehrt, Brock Huntzinger). Let’s take a look at this years group, headlined by Bryce Brentz:
RF – Bryce Brentz (23) – Red Sox 2010 1st Round Pick
2012 Portland (AA) – .296/.355/.478, 30 2B, 1 3B, 17 HR, 7 SB, 40 BB and 130 SO in 501 PA.
2012 Pawtucket (AAA) – .118/.167/.118, 0 XBH, 0 SB, 1 BB and 6 SO in 18 PA.
Despite significant strikeout woes as he’s moved up the ranks, Brentz has continued to hit for power and average at his stops in A and AA. His calling card is clearly his power, with Baseball America dropping a 65 grade on the raw power. He also has plus bat speed, though he projects to just be an average pure hitter if he can improve his contact rates. He has a plus arm, as well, though his other tools are somewhere right around average if not slightly below.
From a statistical perspective, Brentz is the kind of prospect that gives me unease; he’s neither young nor old for his level, largely as a product of being a college player. He’s consistently hit for solid power, posting isolated power metrics of .288 (A), .257 (Hi-A) and .183 (AA). He’s also posted strikeout rates of 18.8% (A), 24.9% (Hi-A) and 25.7% (AA). If it’s not obvious, he’s swinging and missing more while hitting for less power as he’s moved up, probably understandable as he’s faced tougher pitching. He’s still an interesting prospect if he maintains his strikeout rate in Pawtucket, and he has the tools to carry him to the bigs as a low AVG/high PWR type, but he’ll need to make adjustments to stick long-term with his skillset.
RHP – Ryan Pressly (23) – Red Sox 2007 11th Round Pick
2012 Salem (Hi-A) – 6.28 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 86 H, 26 BB and 61 SO in 76 innings.
2012 Portland (AA) – 2.93 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 23 H, 10 BB and 21 SO in 27 innings.
Pressly is a textbook example of a pitcher who the Red Sox are at least toying with adding to the 40-man roster, but want to get a bit more information on him, first. He’s had a small bit of success since moving to the bullpen in the middle of the season with Salem, and that carried over to a small sample at AA. There isn’t a whole lot of scouting information available on him, but from the makes of it, he relies heavily on a cutter and projects as a middle reliever, but perhaps as early as next season. The Red Sox will likely use the AFL to see if Pressly’s improvement upon moving to the pen offers enough upside to be added to the 40-man roster. The Red Sox are suddenly deep in this type of pitcher, so he will need to be impressive.
RHP Brock Huntzinger (24) – Red Sox 2007 3rd Round Pick
2012 Portland (AA) – 3.93 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 60 H, 24 BB and 55 SO in 71 innings.
2012 Pawtucket (AAA) – 6.00 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, 4 H, 1 BB and 4 SO in 3 innings.
This is Hunztinger’s second consecutive tour in the AFL, so the Red Sox must see something in him that the statistics and profile aren’t really identifying. They sent him last year after he struggled mightily as a SP with AA Portland, posting an ERA over 6 but with a strikeout rate of nearly nine. They made the decision to move him to the bullpen in 2012 and he saw an ERA improvement, but his strikeout rate dropped considerably and he looks an awful lot like Ryan Pressly. Huntzinger has a solid average repertoire led by a potential wipeout slider when he commands it, which isn’t terribly often. He doesn’t have the velocity to stick as a starter or as a high leverage reliever, but he could be another fungible RP arm if all goes well.
RHP Chris Martin (26) – Signed as an Independent League Free-Agent 3/31/11
2012 Portland (AA) – 4.48 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 83 H, 18 BB and 65 SO in 76.1 innings.
It’s not often that you see “independent league” and “legitimate prospect” in the same sentence, but the Red Sox are hoping that is exactly what they have here with Martin, and they want to get a longer look at him in the AFL. He’s tall (6’7) and lanky, but he’s got some velocity, sitting at 92-93 MPH and touching 95. Unfortunately for Martin, he doesn’t have much else, as his 80-82 MPH slider is fringy at best. With that said, he doesn’t walk a whole lot of guys and had some success as a reliever in the second half of 2012, fanning 21 batters in 23 innings while walking just four. This is a great opportunity to get Martin some more innings as he’s very raw for someone his age given his unusual path through the minors. With the additional velocity he certainly has a chance to do a bit more than the other arms on this list, and he won’t need as much development in his secondaries to succeed in short bursts out of the pen.
RHP Pete Ruiz (25) – Red Sox 2008 10th Round Pick
2012 Salem (Hi-A) – 3.14 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 47 H, 16 BB and 51 SO in 48.2 innings.
Ruiz is another starter-to-reliever conversion project for the Red Sox, with encouraging results. With that said, this is Ruiz’ fifth professional year and he still hasn’t made it out of Hi-A, but this is easily the best he has fared to date. After posting a 5.31 ERA in 115 innings at Salem in 2011, he returned in 2012 and posted a strikeout rate over nine and the lowest ERA of his professional career. With that said, he was far, far older than the competition and features a fastball that touches 90 at it’s best, so he doesn’t have much of a ceiling. His curveball is his best offering and if he can continue to miss bats as he moves up the latter, he may have an opportunity to pitch in middle relief. It’s decidedly unlikely that any of he, Huntzinger or Pressly will be added to the 40-man this offseason based on current performance or profile, but this might be a way to reward all three for performance improvements this season.
There are some suggestions that the Red Sox may send Xander Bogaerts (top 20 prospect in all of baseball) to the AFL, but nothing has been confirmed as of yet.
For more on the Red Sox, check out Bosox Injection