Down On the Farm: Salem Red Sox
Last season the Salem Red Sox’s season ended with a loss to southern division leader Winston-Salem Dash. The Salem Sox did finish with the second best record and this season will have plenty more prospects to develop as they look to take the title.
Last year they certainly did a good job, with prospects like Ryan Lavarnway and Anthony Rizzo move up. Rizzo became one of the prime pieces that sent Padres 1B Adrian Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox. Lavarnway has become one of the Red Sox best hitting prospects in the organization and is expected to start the season as the Portland Sea Dogs catcher.
Third baseman Will Middlebrooks will also move up to the Double-A affiliate after hitting .276 on the season with 12 home runs. Salems’s downfall throughout the season, however, was pitching. They did not have one regular with an ERA under 4.00, the lowest being Stolmy Pimentel’s 4.06.
This season they look to have one of the best pitching staffs in the Carolina League, with prospects loading the rotation one through five. The staff will be led by Drake Britton, a left handed pitcher who broke out with the Greenville Drive last season. Britton missed the 2009 season with Tommy John surgery, and really bounced back last season with a 2.97 ERA.
Also joining the staff will be top pitching prospect Anthony Ranaudo. Ranaudo has had elbow issues that caused him to struggle with LSU, and he dropped to the Red Sox in the supplemental round. At 6-7, he is a tall kid with a dominating fastball and elite secondary pitches.
Other draftees in the rotation are Chris Hernandez and Brandon Workman. Workman was the second round pick for Boston. Workman’s style fits his name, as he works deep into the game with a good fastball and a dominating cutter that could be his best pitch. Hernandez is a lefty that pitched for Miami in college. His fastball is below average, so he needs to develop his secondary pitches.
Chris Balcom-Miller rounds out the staff. Balcom-Miller is a right hander who was acquired from the Colorado Rockies for relief pitcher Manny Delcarmen. He is a good ground ball inducing pitcher with a sinker and a very good slider.
On to the offense, the infield will include Dan Butler at catcher, Reynaldo Rodriguez and first, Zach Gentile at second, Kolbrin Vitek at third base and the shortstop Derrick Gibson. Butler had a nice year for Salem last season, hitting .292. At 24 he wouldn’t really be considered a prospect any more, but catchers always develop slowly. Rodriguez played in the Golden Independent Baseball League, the same league Daniel Nava played for before the Red Sox signed him. Last season he played for Greenville and hit .281. With Rizzo now in San Diego, he would probably be considered the second best first baseman prospect in the organization just behind Lars Anderson.
Vitek played for Lowell last year where he really impressed with his offensive skills. The Red Sox may eventually move him to outfield because he does not appear to have great hands at third base. Derrick Gibson really fell hard last season, as many prospect ranking organizations had him in the Red Sox’s top ten. Last season he hit .230, but is still just 21 and can bounce back. He is a superb fielder with quick hands and his hitting can imrpove.
Gentile is older now at age 24. But he has some pop in his bat and is a good fielder, and has the ability to play outfield and shortstop. Overall not really a prospect, but a player who can be a little productive.
Jeremy Hazelbaker, Ronald Bermudez and Pete Hissey round out the outfield. Hazelbaker was the Red Sox fourth round pick in 2009 and last year led the organization in stolen bases. He also put up a .360 OBP despite a .267 average. Hissey is also a fast outfielder and was a fourth round pick in 2008. He is actually a lot like Hazelbaker on paper, except he probably has a better eye at the plate. Bermudez last season hit .281 in his time in Greenville and at age 22 he could be due for a breakout season.
Shannon Wilkerson be the DH for the Salem Sox, he has some speed but his eye at the plate is lacking. He had an OBP of under .300 last season, so that is what should really be focused on in his development this season.
Micheal Almanzar and David Mailman are the players to watch on the bench. Almanzar is still 20, but he struggled his last two seasons in Greenville. This might be his last chance before the Red Sox send him packing if he doesn’t put up decent numbers this season.
Pitching should lead Salem this season, and their main competition will once again be Winston-Salem, the affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. Salem’s offense should be good too, with a lot of speed and some good power potential.
Previous Down On the Farm Previews: