Periodically I will have the opportunity to sit down with executives from within the Red Sox front office and get an insider's perspective on the Red Sox franchise both on the field and off the field. Each webcast will be broadcast live from redsox.com/webcast. Leading up to each interview we will gather questions from you, the fans, on Twitter, Facebook.com/redsox, and redsox.com. Of course our webcast is live and we invite all of you to post your questions using Twitter @redsox or the hashtag #RedSox.
This week we are fortunate to be joined by Mike Hazen, the Red Sox Director of Player Development.
Jared: Subhash Roy from Lexington, Massachusetts asks, "Can you tell us a little bit about the Red Sox new draft signee Chris Hernandez - how many pitches does he have at this point? - it seems like he has an upper 80s to 90s fastball but not a ton of strikeouts"
Mike: Sure, left-handed pitcher from the University of Miami. He was a starting pitcher - one of the top performers in all of college baseball this past year. You know he was in here this last week and we had a chance to sit down and meet with him - extremely intelligent kid. He has four pitches really - fastball, cutter, changeup, curveball. He pitches predominately with his fastball and his cutter. Everything seems to move on him. He doesn't really throw anything straight. You know, he is a guy that pitched an entire full season, and now not having played he'll probably go to Lowell to get the experience...He may get a couple innings in, but we probably won't see him pitch all that much this year. We'll gear him up for next year; hopefully break him in with a full season club somewhere.
Jared: Ryan Delgado from Wareham, MA wants to know, "In evaluating a draft prospect or foreign signing, what do you look for and what is the process your team follows to determine their full abilities and potential?"
Mike: Yeah, its tough drafting and signing players that become big league players is extremely challenging. We are very fortunate to have the guys that we do with Craig Shipley running international and Amiel Sawdaye who runs the domestic aspect of our signing process. I'll be speaking for them here, I think what they've looked for in the past, you know I don't there is any cookie cutter or one set type of player we look for. You know we look for athleticism, and size and strength, much like all other 30 or 29 other teams do. And we look for those players that are intelligent, have good makeup, and are hard-working... I know that's fairly vague, but that's where scouts do some of their best work, you know digging underneath that layer and actually finding the players that bring all that stuff to the table that is ultimately going to lead them to become a very good player at the Major League level and help us win another World Series.
Jared: So for example, someone, take Jose Iglesias for example, how long do scouts follow a certain player, especially at a young age because they're not mature yet - how long do scouts particularly follow a player before they decide this is a guy we want to go after?
Mike: Everything's different depending on the structure... so in the domestic side of things it's for a high school kid it could be a couple years leading up to when they are become a senior in high school, for a college kid, it's the first three years prior to them becoming a junior, internationally, it's even crazier, you know it can be a long, long time. I don't know specifically how long Ship scouted, and the international staff scouted Iglesias, but it was probably for a number of years where we got to know the kid, we got to see him play in various tournaments, and then you know, being Cuban it's even more complex with the way those rules work, We were very fortunate I think to be able to sign that player because Jose is a pretty special kid, special athlete, and we think based on everything we've seen so far in Portland he's going to have a chance to be an impact defender and offensive player.
Jared: I'm going to have to agree with you again.
Jared: Craig MacCormack from North Attleboro, Massachusetts wants to know, "How do you balance the fear of moving a prospect too quickly up the chain with the desire to test him against better competition?"
Mike: That's a great question. We deal with that every day in player development. We constantly want to be challenging our players, but at the same time, want to have them experience some success from a confidence standpoint. We feel like if we're not challenging our players constantly, we're not preparing them to play in Boston. You know, playing in the big leagues is equally difficult throughout the entire major leagues, no one organization is probably different than the others, but we do feel like Boston presents some unique challenges with the size of the media, the expectation on winning, the age of the ballclub - which the young kids aren't expected to just come in and play, they are expected to come in and help win. We feel like without challenging the players, without them experiencing failure at some point in their minor league career, without them being able to battle through that, when they get to the major league level, when they hit that failure, they are expected to win and they're not winning on a given night... You know the quicker they can rebound, the quicker they can come back and perform the next day - that's of the utmost importance. I think what makes probably the guy's like Pap and Kevin Youkilis, and Pedroia that didn't really experience a ton of failure in the minor leagues, or in the big leagues, even that much more special.
Jared: So would you say that it's fair to say that you almost breed these guys at the lower levels to be able to adapt to the lifestyle that is a Boston Red Sox player?
Mike: That's the goal overall of our development philosophy sure. I mean we don't send them there to fail - that's not the goal, that's not to send guys out to fail. When they do fail, we certainly work hard behind the scenes with the mental side of it dealing with these types of things, helping them grow from that failure, but we don't send them there to fail, we send them there to challenge them. If they hold their head above water and ultimately figure out why they're struggling at certain periods of time, we feel like that's going to make them a stronger baseball player in the end and ultimately have the ability to impact the game at the Major League level in Boston, not just as a member of a 25-man team somewhere that's not racing for the pennant.
Jared: As a reminder to the fans watching, we are live, so if you want to tweet the show @redsox or you could use the hashtag #redsox. We have a question that did come from Twitter from @redsoxstats and he wants to know "Why did Kendal Volz stay at Greenville all year?"
Mike: Kendal's coming into his first full season. He didn't pitch at all last year when we signed him. Unlike some guys they'll come in and they'll pitch in the Gulf Coast League or they'll pitch at the Lowell level, we get a better assessment of those guys outside of just Spring Training and just the regular season. With Kendal, we didn't get that - you know when we signed him, we strengthened him and conditioned him just for the end of last season. So when we got him this year, we figured we knew he was an older player coming out of Baylor, we felt like it was going to be a slightly longer development path initially so he could get the first season under his belt and then he'll have the ability to move probably a little quicker in the future as he demonstrates continued success.
Jared: Jonathan Graf from Brazil, Indiana wants to know, "What are some things that you are watching for in a pitcher's development? For example if everyone is excited about a pitcher, but statistically he is having a terrible year when do you stop thinking he will be a phenom? What things are more important to you than the stats we all see?"
Mike: Well were always looking for the phenom's - they don't come around all that often.
Jared: They do not.
Mike: What we look for is the continued development of the stuff - that they continue to develop as they get stronger, show us better velocity, and show us more power to their breaking stuff. The results as they move up the ladder and face more experienced and better hitters, they're going to get hit in those situations because the command isn't always going to be there. Those are probably the pieces that all get put together in time for a pitcher with command and repeating their delivery as the very basic building blocks and then we like to see the emergence of the stuff, even if the results aren't coming right away. Clay Buchholz's stuff even though when he got to the big leagues for the first time, when in that first go in Triple A, the numbers weren't necessarily reflective of the talent, we kept seeing the stuff continue to emerge, the velocity going up, the use of his fastball, and the playability of his fastball continued to progress. Those are the things that gave us confidence in that type of situation. Those are really the things we look for.
Jared: Kelly O'Connor from Arlington, Massachusetts asks, "I've been very impressed both with the young players drafted by the Sox and by some of those acquired as minor league free agents, especially Eastern League All-Stars Nate Spears and Ray Chang. Any reason neither of them saw time in Pawtucket while other infielders were acquired by trade?"
Mike: Are we sure that Kelly isn't Nate Spears or Ray Chang?
Jared: We do not know that. We cannot confirm that.
Mike: Both of those guys are phenomenal players - very professional, have had really good seasons in the Eastern League - you know those types of things are circumstantial. When we decide to promote a player, it isn't always just based on the statistics as we just talked about. You know, sometimes it's for pure developmental reasons. At one key point in time a few weeks ago, we made the decision to promote Yamaico Navarro to Triple A to get him the experience in Triple A. That probably directly came at the expense of one of those two guys. Not speaking to them being deserving of that promotion, you know, those types of decisions are made daily. Unfortunately for those guys, they haven't had the opportunity yet, but we certainly wouldn't hesitate to send them if we needed to.
Jared: This might come off as a almost a silly question but, when it comes time for September call-ups, what priority comes first, a pitcher in Triple A - their innings limit or helping the Major League club win?
Mike: Well, I mean that's a balance depending on where we are in the standings and what were going for. I think any pitcher that you're talking about coming up in September, you know, nine times out of ten you're not looking for them to necessarily impact the Major League club to win a specific close ballgame. I think nine times of ten, the guys that come up in September whether they be position players or pitchers, were looking for in the blow out situation - we're up by ten, and we're never really down by ten, so we're up by ten and it's the seventh inning of a game and we're throwing somebody in there to give some of our regular guys a rest. You know, we don't want to use Bardo or Pap or Okie or any of those guys in that type of situation. We want to just fill those innings knowing that some of those younger guys can still get the outs; we can just save the high leverage relievers for the high leverage situations.
Jared: Andy Weiss from Hingham, Mass says, "Hey Mike - I think the Red Sox should look for more players from Princeton. I hear they used to have a good program."
Mike: I don't know what happened to the program, they have a tremendous coach in Scott Bradley who has done a really good job with the program. I can tell you that when I left, the talent only started getting better. It increased.
Jared: Andrew Rahmberg from Hudson, Massachusetts wants to know, "Is the next great middle-of-the-order power threat in the Red Sox system now? Is it more difficult to assess power potential in a developing player than other skills?"
Mike: I don't think it's any more difficult. I think it's probably one of the more difficult ones, but I don't think it's any more difficult than maybe finding the phenom pitcher. It definitely is one of the last things to come for a young player so it's something that you don't see every day. Is the next one in the system? We hope so. We've invested significant dollars in finding that next one. We're working to develop those players. We have a lot of good candidates in the minor league system that have hit for some power this year that we feel pretty strongly about. Guys like Anthony Rizzo and Will Middlebrooks, and Oscar Tejeda to name a few. Ryan Lavarnway that have all shown pretty good power numbers this year in the minor league system. Who ends up being the premiere middle-of-the-order bat? I think it's a little bit early to determine that right now. You know so they will continue to develop year-after-year and we should be able to develop one of those guys in the middle-of-the-order of our team.
Jared: We hear the term "raw power" used a lot when evaluating prospects - who would you say has the most raw power in the Red Sox organization?
Mike: Your putting me on the spot
Mike: You know, guys like Luis Exposito, Middlebrooks again, Rizzo, Ryan Kalish who's up here now with the club, Jeremy Hazelbaker who's playing in Greenville, those are some of the guys that have some of the best raw power in the system. Yamaico Navarro has some of the best raw power that you'll see in batting practice if you get you go early enough to watch the pre-game workouts.
Jared: Good to know. So if you're in the area - Pawtucket or Portland, that's where to go.
Jared: Les Taylor from Middleton, Massachusetts wants to know, "Which Red Sox prospect has made the greatest strides this year? Which one is closest to being ready for the big club? Please comment specifically on the development of Anthony Rizzo (player of the week in the Eastern League and our personal favorite now that Ryan Kalish is with the big league club)."
Mike: You know it's hard to say. Everybody develops differently throughout the course of the season depending on where they are from a level standpoint. I think guys that you've seen up here at the Major League level, take Ryan Kalish and Felix Dubront for example, you know those two guys getting up here, people are seeing that on their screen every night on NESN and can see the development that's taken place that's why these guys were signed originally and made them such good players. Guys that you've seen, I think Oscar Tejeda comes to mind as a player that spent the last two years in the South Atlantic League and has really emerged in the Carolina League this year as a very, very interesting prospect. He always was a prospect, he always had the talent, he's sort of matching up some of the performance now with that. He's a pretty special kid.
Jared: Here's an interesting question, a lot of people want to know about Lars Anderson. I actually went to a Saber meeting where someone called him the next Ted Williams actually. So following up on Red Sox prospects, Richard LaFlash from Sutton, Mass. wants to know, "How is Lars Anderson progressing, and do you think there will be a spot for him on the big league roster in the next few years? If not would the Red Sox trade him maybe for a quality middle reliever?"
Mike: You know, Lars is a pretty special player. I know the overall numbers in Triple A may not jump off the screen at people right now, but when you go back and look at the season when he first got to Double A and he struggled a little bit last year statistically speaking. You know, when he went back there this year for the first month he led the Eastern League in OPS still as a 22-year-old. I think that's one of the things that gets lost in a lot of this. You know Lars progressed through the system fairly quickly at a very young age. He's still one of the youngest position players in the International League overall. Now, that doesn't necessarily speak that he shouldn't be performing any way, shape, or form, but it does when you're facing 30+-year-old relievers and starting pitchers - guys with plenty of Major League experience, there is an adjustment period that goes in with that and Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish and Yamaico Navarro they're going through that right now. We still have the utmost confidence that Lars Anderson is going to be an everyday player for the Red Sox and you know to speak to trades, I think any one of us could get traded, or any of the players could get traded at any given time depending on what the need of the Major League club is. I think players understand that - not that we want to trade our players, we want to develop every one of them to maximize their potential here - we all know that that's not what's going to happen.
Jared: Right. Was there something because he got called up to Triple A fairly quickly this year - was there something that you saw in Lars Anderson this year that maybe wasn't there last year?
Mike: So I think coming off of last season, we saw a lot of the progress that he had made and saw the sort of changes he had made both to his mental approach within at-bat to at-bat in Spring Training - not in big league Spring Training, I don't think he got a hit in big league Spring Training, but in Minor League Spring Training where nobody sees the statistics he did really, really well. And then when he went out to the Eastern League which was going back to a place where he had struggled statistically the year before, he really impressed us with the way he put all those things he worked on in Spring Training into play during the regular season. And to lead the Eastern League which is a pretty aggressive league and a very good league from a talent standpoint when you look at some of the players that are playing in that league, started in that league, and continue to play in that league, to lead the league in OPS at that point in the season as a 22-year-old, still below the league average age, we felt like it was time again to challenge him. Leaving him in Double A to do that for the rest of the season - that's one way to attack it, and maybe he jumps out a little quicker doing it that way, we think and we felt at that time, Lars was in need of a challenge, to be pushed, and if Lars is going to be the everyday player at the Major League level that we expect him to be, he's going to have to figure out when he gets matched up versus a good left-handed reliever in Triple A - that's going to happen to him in the big leagues and the expectation is going to be success in the Major Leagues. So the expectation in the Minor Leagues has to be success as well. If we don't challenge him, we'll never know the answers to those questions.
Jared: Again as a reminder, we are live so if you want to submit any questions right now you can hop on Twitter @redsox or use the hashtag redsox. We have a couple Twitter submissions for you. @redsox1933 asked, "What are the chances that Robert Coello is a September call-up?"
Mike: Very good question. I think somebody that we've talked about quite a bit certainly from a performance standpoint during the course of the year has put himself in a position for a call-up. You know the call-ups in September are dependant and are circumstantial based on who the other pitchers are that we would be considering, where is the fit on the Major League club, do we need more starting pitchers, do we need more relief pitchers? Robert has done a little bit of both during the course of the season. We talk about those things with Tito every single day, and Theo and Tito talk about it all the time, you know we talk to Torey Lovullo all the time about those things as well. The decisions will be made as we get closer to September. I think Robert has put himself in a pretty good position and whether it happens or not, he's certainly had a very good year and we're certainly very happy to have him in the organization.
Jared: Another Twitter viewer asked, "Who might the next Latin American regular on the Red Sox be? Exposito, Navarro, or Dubront?
Mike: Well I think Felix Dubront is sort of staking his claim right now and hopefully continues to do so. There is a lot of talented young Latin American players that Ship and those guys have signed. Expo is actually an American-born player that was drafted out of college, but Navarro, Iglesias who's another name in Double A that we already talked about, and Felix I think are the three guys that are at the very top of the system and probably have the best shot just based on how old they are, the experience level and things like that, but there is a crop of young Latin American players that are underneath that at the A ball levels that are extremely impressive as well. Guys like we've talked about already like Oscar Tejeda.
Jared: Doug Applebaug wants to know, "Michael Bowden's had a few cup-of-coffee trips from Pawtucket to Boston and now he's back in the bigs as a mid-to-late reliever. What's his future in the organization for the rest of this season and beyond?"
Mike: You know I think when Michael started his entire developmental life in the Minor League system - and I think as we try to develop every one of our players as starting pitchers to the best that we can - certainly we only have only five rotation spots at every level, but we try to develop almost every pitcher as a starting pitcher to the best we can. But as they get to a certain point, whether it be Double A, Triple A, at that period where they are going to now move to impact the big league level, like you see now with Dubront, we've now made that transition with Michael to the bullpen. You know what decision is made next year in regard to his role is again going to be contingent on how the Major League club is put together, but for right now we see him as a reliever and Michael has an ability to impact this club for the rest of the year as a reliever and I'm sure he's focused on that.
Jared: So he's the type of player who of course just wants to help the team win instead of preferring one or the other?
Mike: Well I mean players may have preferences, but I think if the preference is between Boston and Pawtucket, there is a sizeable difference in the paycheck they receive every few weeks.
Jared: @redsoxstats on Twitter said, "Can you tell us a little bit about Xander Bogart down in the Dominican. For a pitcher's league, his offense numbers are insane," he says.
Mike: I haven't been down to the Dominican but Ship brought him over for a workout in Spring Training and as a young kid, the size that this guy already has on his frame, the raw power that this guy has just on display in a workout in Fort Myers in one of back fields was extremely impressive. All of the scouts and roving instructors that have come back from the Dominican have said the same. He's a very athletic, toolsy kid that is having a very good year in the DSL playing shortstop, probably one of the hardest positions on the field, we'll probably hopefully get to see him next year. Hopefully we'll get to see him next year at the Gulf Coast League level, maybe beyond, but that would be the expectation for him next year. We'll see him in Instructional League coming up in another week so we'll definitely get a firsthand look at him - he's an exciting player.
Jared: How old is he?
Mike: Eighteen I believe.
Jared: That's impressive. Joyce Cohen from Mansfield, Massachusetts wants to know, "Does anyone on the Red Sox staff have regular communication with Pawtucket Red Sox other than when a player comes up to the Red Sox as need?
Mike: Yes, we talk to those guys, well we talk to them almost every hour and unfortunately this year we've talked to them more than that considering we've made moves as many as we've had to just due to the injury situation. Certainly, were constantly getting feedback on how the guys are doing down there. That's not just a Pawtucket thing, that's at every level. I know Tito talks to Torey all the time, and Theo talks to Torey, and we're just continuing to get a pulse of how these guys are doing down there to know who that next player up is. You know we don't wait until the players get injured or a situation arises, we like to have those plans and those thoughts sort of mapped out before those decisions are made or a situation comes up at the Major League level.
Jared: Here's a question you guys probably get a lot and rightfully so. Jill Taylor from Middleton, Mass wants to know, "What is the current status of Ryan Westmoreland? Is it still too early yet, or has it been determined whether or not he will be able to resume his baseball career?"
Mike: Yeah, Ryan's doing great. We got an update the other day, we've seen video of him, he's swinging the bat again, he's throwing, he's running the bases. Unbelievably impressive some of the things he's doing. He's actually going to go to Lowell for their last homestand, as well as go down to Greenville for their last homestand - and get back in uniform, he'll still be on the disabled list he won't play, hopefully go through some workouts with the club - get back up to it. I think Ryan's full expectation is yes, he's going to resume his baseball career as soon as he can. You know it was certainly a tragic thing to happen, but getting to know Ryan a little bit more through this process has been a blessing. You know if there's someone you're betting on to come back from this type of thing, it's this kid. It's this guy - he is a special kid and from day one I don't think he's ever lost the faith or the belief that he's going to play again and we have no reason to doubt him based on what we've seen.
Jared: That's awesome. So would you say he returns or has a schedule?
Mike: I don't think there is a schedule with this type of thing. Talking to the doctors and the phenomenal work that the guys have done at Spaulding Rehab and the doctors that he's worked with and even our internal doctors, Doctor Larry Ronan etc., there's no research that's done into these type of things, there certainly is medically, but not as it relates to premiere athletes like Ryan is and all the things that go into playing an extremely difficult and challenging sport - and all the things like the eyesight and depth perception that he's going to need coming back to play.
Jared: This one comes all the way from our neighbors to the north - George Pinter wants to know, "Do you think that coaches should be allowed one challenge a game to prevent "mistakes" such as the Joyce Detroit No hitter. I know balls and strikes cannot be questioned but one challenge would stop the managers from coming out angry and getting ejected."
Mike: Yeah, I know replay has been discussed quite a bit lately and the focus seems to be on it every time there is a missed call in a game. The human element is part of it - I think that's the way we all come down until something else is changed. Do you want to see the calls get made? You definitely do, but the umpires are really good at what they do and I know they get a lot of criticism and I there's a lot of second guessing, but they are very talented in their own right and they do a really good job. I know we can be critical at times as well and want to second guess those types of things and you know maybe there is a format through which instant replay comes in and doesn't harm the pace of the game and at the same time helps us get some important calls right, we'll see. I think that's up to the people a little higher up than us to decide.
Jared: One more announcement, the next Listening Tour Stop will be in Portland, Maine on August 31st, from 11:00 to noon at the Portland Public Library. We can take one more quick question.
Mike: This must be your question
Jared: Jack O'Hara wants to know, "Will the Red Sox do anything to bolster the bullpen via the waiver wire?"
Mike: That's hard to predict. I think Theo has been pretty consistent in trying to uncover anything underneath any rock that will help the Major League club continue to improve and if that's out there, I know we will be aggressive in doing that. We're very fortunate to have our ownership that supports those endeavors in any way, shape, or form and if that happens to become available then I'm sure we will. We'll see what happens the rest of the way.
Jared: It should be very interesting as Pedroia noted last night, "it should be a fun ride" he said. And that wraps up our first official Redsox.com Listening Tour Webcast. I want to thank Mike Hazen for joining us here today and the fans for submitting your questions. Stay tuned to redsox.com for the upcoming webcast schedule and future guests. Have a great day in Red Sox Nation.