Sunday, February 25, 2007
The trio of prospect pundits - Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, John Sickels - rate Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden as the best of the Sox system. (Prospects are players that have not played in the Show, excluding Dice-K). Sickels rated all three as B+s. Kevin Goldstein of BP has Buchholz as an excellent prospect, and both Ellsbury and Bowden as very good prospects with all in his top 86. Jim Callis, Will Lingo and John Manuel of BA have Ellsbury rated at 40, 29, 35, respectfully. Callis is the only one of the three to have Buchholz in the top 50 and no one has Bowden. When published, I think all three prospects will be in BA's the top 100.
Buchholz has control over his four pitches - a low to mid-90’s fastball that has hit 97, a 12-6 curveball that has been described as a hammer, a hard slider and his new out-pitch the changeup. It seems like the issue with Buchholz is inexperience, stamina, and consistency, but those can be resolved relatively easiy. The first-rounder will probably end up in Portland this fall. I can’t wait to see the future starter in-person.
Bowden may not make it to Portland this year like Buchholz. Cal League hitters will likely be the only ones be subjected to his great command and control of his 88-92 mph heater and two plane breaking 12-6 curveball. But the key for Bowden is developing a changeup or a third pitch to elevuate his status from a future mid-rotation guy or closer to a #2 starter. At only 20, he has plenty of time to acquire another pitch.
The other negative with Bowden is his mechanics. His motion has not been described as smooth, but the Sox tested him at the American Sports Medicine Institute run by Dr. James Andrews and the conclusion was that it is not an major issue. On a positive note, Baseball America says that Bowden works “from a high arm slot, he throws everything downhill.” At 6-3, Bowden should induce a high number of groundballs and fewer dingers now and in the future.
The last of the top Sox prospect is Ellsbury. I’ve started to come around on Ellsbury since I have toned down my expectations. He is not the next Johnny Damon. At the same age, Damon was playing full-time for the Royals and crushed AA pitching a year earlier with a 343/434/534 line. Ellsbury has not demonstrated the ability to hit for power as the traitor did in the minors. Jacoby does project to be a plus centerfielder, base stealer, and at the plate, a contact hitter with a good understanding of the strike zone. If things go right for Ellsbury, I see a future Kenny Lofton by 2008 or 2009, but maybe not at Fenway.
The Sox currently have depth in the outfield on the 40-man roster with David Murphy, Wily Mo Pena, Eric Hinske, Brandon Moss along with the three starters, thereby giving Theo enough chips for an in-season trade for a strikeout reliever. (I don’t want Remy talking about how Tito is looking for the ground ball or double play when taking the ball from the starter.) None of those guys are going to bring in a top reliever without one of the pitching prospects that the Sox are relucant to move. But if Coco comes around, Ellsbury could be the centerpiece to a deal for Joe Nathan, Akinori Otsuka, or Brian Fuentes.
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