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The prospects are bright

Posted by Maureen Mullen January 8, 2009 05:57 AM

The Red Sox’ annual rookie program is designed to acclimate select minor league players to major league life in Boston, while emphasizing conditioning and fundamentals with two-a-day workouts. Participants in the program, which began this week and runs through Jan. 16, include 11 homegrown players: pitchers Daniel Bard, Felix Doubront, Kris Johnson, Richie Lentz, Adam Mills, and Dustin Richardson; catcher Mark Wagner; infielders Lars Anderson and Argenis Diaz; and outfielders Zach Daeges and Josh Reddick. Also in attendance are pitchers Dewon Day and Wes Littleton, acquired during the off-season from the Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers, respectively
A few scouts weighed in on five rising stars among the prospects attending the program.

Lars Anderson

The Sox' top prospect and No. 8 in the American League, as rated by Baseball America, the left-handed first baseman was the 22nd pick (553rd overall) in the 2005 draft out of high school. He split 2008 between Lancaster (.317, 13 homers, 50 RBI in 77 games) and Portland (.316, five homers, 30 RBI in 41 games).

Scout's take: “I really like him a lot. I fell in love with him that first year in Greenville. He puts the good part of the bat on the ball. Even when he’s a little bit overmatched physically, he figures out how to do it, and will hit the ball the other way. I think he could be a really good hitter. He’s strong enough that he should hit home runs. He’ll turn on balls. Great fielder, plays hard, plays every day.”

Daniel Bard

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound right-handed pitcher was the Sox’ second overall pick (first round) in the 2006 draft out of the University of North Carolina. After struggling in 2007 (3-7, 7.08 ERA), last season he compiled a record of 5-1, with a 1.51 ERA, seven saves, 107 strikeouts, and 30 walks in 77„ innings between Single-A Greenville and Double-A Portland. Baseball America rates him as the No. 4 prospect in the organization.

Scout's take: “He’s got a great arm. A lot of people don’t like his makeup. They thought he was going to be a big underachiever. … [But] then last year I saw him, and he was just lights out. He throws 100 mph playing catch. He threw a couple of pitches 96, everything else was 98, 99, 100. He’s got a big breaking ball. His breaking ball, if he can keep getting it close, it’s something you’ve got to swing at, because it could be a strike. [He’s got] a big hard curveball, it’s just a nasty pitch. … If they keep him in the bullpen, he has top-line closer stuff.”

Felix Doubront

Signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela in 2004, the left-handed pitcher has been working his way through the system and made the 40-man roster for the first time in December. In 26 starts between Greenville and Lancaster last season, he was a combined 13-8 with a 3.69 ERA.

Scout's take: “Real smooth, easy left-handed pitcher. A nice-looking kid. He was kind of a guy I figured was on the bubble. If he hadn’t gotten on the 40-man roster, I would have been shocked if somebody didn’t take him in the Rule 5 [draft]. …This guy isn’t a hard thrower, but I think as he develops he’s going to have average stuff.”

Josh Reddick

The Sox’ 21st pick in the 2006 draft out of Middle Georgia College, the left-handed-hitting outfielder is rated the organization’s No. 5 prospect by Baseball America. He played a total of 124 games with Greenville (.340, nine RBI in 14 games), Lancaster (.343, 17 homers, 57 RBI in 76 games), and Portland (.214, six homers, 25 RBI in 34 games) last season, with a combined 22 outfield assists.

Scout's take: “Kind of a thin-framed, left-handed guy, but just a really, really good outfielder. He might have just an average arm, but he gets rid of the ball real fast. I’ve seen him play in four- or five-game stretches that he’s thrown out a guy in a couple of games. His swing’s a little long, he’s got a whippy swing, so he might have trouble as he moves up. But he’s got tremendous hand-eye coordination.”

Mark Wagner

Added to the team’s 40-man roster for the first time this off-season, the Sox’ 12th pick in the 2005 draft has gotten as much attention as any prospect this off-season. In his first season in Double-A, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound catcher hit .219 with 10 home runs and 48 RBI, throwing out 34-of-82 would-be base stealers and making two errors in 84 games.

Scout's take: “I think he’s a pretty good catcher. He doesn’t do anything great, but he’s OK. Guys like to pitch to him, it seems. I don’t think he’d ever overwhelm you as an everyday guy, but he might be a solid guy.”

Maureen Mullen covers the Red Sox for OT and can be reached at mmullen@globe.com

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Charles P. Pierce writes for the Boston Globe Magazine. A long-time sportswriter and columnist, Pierce is a frequent guest on national TV and radio.
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