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Blog Entry

Down on the Farm

Posted on: May 12, 2009 8:36 pm
Edited on: May 13, 2009 2:02 pm
 
                                                                                                                                                                                                     
With the recent promotion of closer-of-the-future Daniel Bard, the natural question for many Red Sox fans is, who's next? While Bard's incredible start was beyond even the expectations created by his outstanding spring training, there are several Red Sox minor league pitchers putting up head turning-numbers down on the farm.

player photoWhile different pitchers in both style and temperament, it is hard to discuss Clay Buchholz without mentioning Michael Bowden, or visa versa. Both have thoroughly dominated the competition at the AAA level through their first several starts. Buchholz has compiled a 1.33 ERA in 27 innings through 5 starts. He has allowed 12 hits in 27 innings while striking out 26 and walking only 10. He's only getting stronger, too, as in his last two starts he has completed 12.1 innings, giving up 3 hits and ZERO runs while picking up wins in both outings.

player photoBowden, meanwhile, has been just as impressive, if not more so. Through 6 starts he has compiled a 1.06 ERA while allowing International League batters to hit a paltry .135 against him thus far. In his last two outings, totalling 14 innings, Bowden has allowed only 5 hits and ONE run while carrying a no-hitter into the seventh on May 6th.

Its realistic to believe that both of these young studs will contribute at the major league level before the year is done. Bowden has already made an appearance with the big club, throwing 2 impressive innings in relief against the Yankees in a big Red Sox victory. If something happens to a member of the Sox relief corps, Bowden would probably be the one to get the call as he has displayed more versatility in his ability to move from the rotation to the pen, much like Justin Masterson.

Buchholz will probably be the one to get the call if an opening appears in the Sox rotation. He has shown, periodically, that he has the ability to get big league hitters out and to go deep into games. One has to believe the Red Sox are regretting trying to change Buchholz's throwing motion last year as, since he has been allowed to go back to his natural motion, he has reverted back to the dominating pitcher of two years ago.

Bard, Buchholz, and Bowden haven't been the only pitchers to dominate in the Sox minor league system this year. Junichi Tazawa, the Sox prize signing this winter from the Japanese corporate leagues, has gotten off to an outstanding start with the AA Portland affiliate. While his overall numbers don't rival those of Buchholz and Bowden, in 6 starts he has compiled a 3-2 record with a 3.34 ERA over 32.1 innings. Save for a 6 run in 5.2 inning outing versus Connecticut, these overall numbers would be much improved. It is hard to believe that Tazawa will be a contributor this season, since this is his first exposure to professional baseball, but it shouldn't surprise anyone if he is a significant member of the Sox bullpen next season.

Further down in the system, last year's number one draft pick, Casey Kelly is lighting it up with Single-A Greenville in the South Atlantic League. Kelly is a two position player, having big league potential at both shortstop and on the mound. The Sox have been in love with him as a pitcher since they scouted him in high school, but Kelly fancies himself as a shortstop. The two sides have worked out an agreement where Kelly will start the year as a pitcher and throw 100 innings and then play out the rest of the season at shortstop. Based on his start on the mound, the Sox may have to rethink this arrangement. All Kelly has done through 6 starts is post a 4-0 record with a 1.15 ERA over 31.1 inning. He has allowed fewer hits than innings pitched in all but one of his starts while striking out 30 and walking only 5. The Sox would be crazy to allow this young man to take a chance on injuring himself while playing the field the latter part of the season.

One of Theo Epstein's goals when he took over control of the Sox was to rebuild the farm system that had been decimated and/or ignored the previous 10 years. He focused on the pitching aspect of development, for the most part, and that is truly paying off now. In a couple of years, it isn't out of the realm of possibility that Red Sox will be able to put a totally homegrown starting staff out there with the likes of Masterson, Buchholz, Bowden, Tazawa, and Lester potentially manning the 5 spots. Of course, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett are both under 30 as we speak, so they won't be giving up their spots without a fight either.

The bullpen with Manny Delcarman, Jonathan Papelbon, and now Daniel Bard also has a homegrown flavor to it. One can easily envision when Papelbon becomes a free agent in 2 years, Bard being elevated to the closer role as Pap is allowed to move on to higher bidders. This is a luxury very few teams have.

All of this and another prize prospect, Nick Hagadone, has yet to throw a pitch in anger this year as he is in extended spring training recovering from Tommy John surgery. He is expected to fully recover by June and then continue his accent up the ladder in the Sox system.

Next week, a look at the positional prospects and their start to the 2009 season.
Category: MLB
Tags: Red Sox
 
Comments

Since: Nov 19, 2008
Posted on: May 30, 2009 5:18 pm
 

Down on the Farm

Just another Casey Kelly update for interested parties. He was called up to Advanced-A Salem Thursday and he will make his debut tonite (5/30). He already has over 48 innings in of the 100 agreed upon before he makes the move to shortstop so the Sox must be looking for him to make 8-10 starts for Salem before he picks up the bat for the rest of the season. If I were the Sox management I would still think about reconsidering this agreement and find a way to make this prospect happy on the mound. He finished his stint at Greenville with a 6-1 record and a 1.12 ERA.



Since: Nov 19, 2008
Posted on: May 16, 2009 6:39 pm
 

Down on the Farm

Top position prospects are more highly valued in general, and a solid SS prospect would fill a large hole Boston has in their farm system.
Have to disagree here. The most prized commodity in a team's system is a potential top of the line starting pitcher, even a team with the number of prospects the Sox have. Kelly is just that. They should have him focus on his pitching as he moves through the system and if he shows that he has hit his ceiling before he gets to the big leagues then he can always go back to playing shortstop, or where-ever.

One has to wonder if he is really a third baseman anyway. He is 6'3" 195 lbs one year out of high school. If he fills out, like most of us do, he might be too big to play short. The Sox have other shortstops in the system including Argenis Diaz, a GREAT fielder in Portland, Derrik Gibson, a shortstop at Lowell drafted in the 2nd round last year, and Yamaico Navarro at Greenville, so, if need be, Kelly can be kept on the mound without adversely affecting the future at short.

Just an update on Kelly; he pitched again on May 14th going 6 innings and allowing 2 hits and ZERO runs while striking out 3 and walking ZERO. This raises his season's record to 5-0 while lowering his ERA to 0.96. The Sox can't allow this kid to risk injury playing in the field if he continues to display this ability over the next 60 innings this year.



Since: Apr 22, 2008
Posted on: May 14, 2009 9:52 am
 

Down on the Farm

All Kelly has done through 6 starts is post a 4-0 record with a 1.15 ERA over 31.1 inning. He has allowed fewer hits than innings pitched in all but one of his starts while striking out 30 and walking only 5. The Sox would be crazy to allow this young man to take a chance on injuring himself while playing the field the latter part of the season.

What if Kelly had started off the year at SS and hit .350 with 10HRs at the halfway point of the season and the Sox decided never to let him pitch in the second half of the season? Then we would never know he could be a dominant force on the mound.

I think the Sox have to stick with the plan of letting the kid play SS for at least this season. Top position prospects are more highly valued in general, and a solid SS prospect would fill a large hole Boston has in their farm system.

I know eventually Kelly will have to settle down and choose to focus on either pitching or hitting, but because he has no chance of making an impact in the big leagues this season, the Sox should let him develop all of his skills so they can decide what he really should be focusing on.



Since: Nov 19, 2008
Posted on: May 13, 2009 3:52 pm
 

Down on the Farm

Just a quick addendum. Clay Buchholtz threw today and went 8 spectacular innings. Buchholtz allowed 4 hits and ZERO runs while striking out 11 and walking none. Buchholtz's season ERA now stands at a microscopic 1.03. Its time to bring him up and find room for him in the rotation. Dominating in this fashion might be helpful for a short stint but all that is going to happen now is the formation of bad habits because he isn't being challenged. Maybe the Sox can look into interest in the National League in Brad Penny in an attempt to open up a spot. Right now we are wasting great pitching in the minor leagues while he could be helping the big club. 


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