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Drive preview

Posted by Craig Forde  April 4, 2013 01:37 AM

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Drivelogo.gifGreenville Drive (2012: First half 34-36, fifth place South Atlantic League Southern Division; Second half 32-37, fifth place SAL Southern)

Outlook: This is a key stopping point for the crew of players that have reached Greenville.

Now is the time for these guys to learn not only about what they need to do physically to improve their skills to make it to the next level, but also how to handle the mental grind of the game under the rigors of a full season schedule.

Two of the Sox first round picks from last year, Brian Johnson and Pat Light, will highlight the pitching staff for the Drive with third-rounder Austin Maddox looking to build off of the successes in the little work he was able to get in last season (8IP, 8Ks, 1ER).

Mookie Betts and Jose Vinicio could prove an exciting tandem up the middle of the infield. Both are extremely athletic players who go hard after any ball hit in their direction. Vinicio is ranked as the 17th best prospect in the Sox system according to Baseball America, but he is only the fifth best at his shortstop position due to a logjam of talent.

Pitching coach Paul Abbott jumps from Lowell to Greenville, which should provide some comfort for those pitchers who learned under his tutelage in their first go at pro ball with the Spinners.

Thoughts: Most of this group should be very familiar with each other, having played on the Gulf Coast or in Lowell together other over the last couple of seasons.

For those from the draft class of 2012, this will be their first full pro season, so they will need to find the proper way to pace themselves, which is damn near impossible for even the best of the best…just ask Jackie Bradley and Matt Barnes. In that regard, it will be interesting to see how Light, Johnson and Maddox hold up over the course of 140 games.

A couple of guys that I just like in general are Mike Miller and David Chester. Miller was smooth in playing all over the infield with Lowell last year and Chester’s power potential earned him a call up from the Spinners to Greenville late in the season. Chester hits them as far as most anyone I’ve seen when he gets a hold of it.

Player to watch: Johnson – The 31st overall selection in the draft had a rough go of things when he made the transition from the University of Florida to Lowell last season. Not so much in how he pitched, but what came back at him. In his first start he got a ball off his knee, and in his last, at Fenway Park, he got a ball lined off of his cheek, ending his season. In speaking with Johnson before the season started, he said he was 100% ready to go.

Strengths: Pitching – Once again the arms have it! The Drive roster lays claim to four (Light, Johnson, Cody Kukuk, Frank Montas) of the top fifteen pitchers in the Boston Red Sox system. Montas may be the most under-the-radar of the group, until the radar is actually on him. With the potential to reach triple-digits with his fastball, his name will soon be known.

Weaknesses: Outfield - As the pitching as dominated the 'Strengths' section of these previews, the outfield has done the same for weaknesses. Unfortunately, after folk-hero Jackie Bradley Jr., there isn't a plethora of outfield talent waiting in the wings. Greenville doesn't offer much hope in that department either.

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About the author

Craig Forde covers baseball talent as it develops into the next big thing. He has covered high school and college sports for the Boston Globe, and the minor league teams More »


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