The future success of every Major League team lies
largely in its Minor League pipeline. With that in mind,
MLB.com is looking at the top 10 prospects from each farm
system, with only those who still maintain rookie status
entering 2011 being eligible.
In a year that didn't have that many advanced college bats,
Kolbrin Vitek's production stood out and helped him climb
into the first round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, when he was taken No. 20 overall by
the Red Sox.
Vitek had, after all, hit .361 with 17 homers and 68 RBIs to
go along with 16 steals in his junior season at Ball State.
The question invariably comes, with any amateur hitter, though: How will that success translate to the professional game? More than one college hitter with big numbers has not been able to make the switch to wood bats.
Vitek signed quickly, and while it's not a vast sample, he
did get in 68 games before the season ended. He held his
own, hitting .270/.364/.418 with 17 steals at two levels.
Sure, he struck out 74 times -- not something he was
particularly known for -- but keep in mind he ended up
playing 126 games, more than he'd ever played in one season as an amateur. That's not an excuse, but perhaps it's part of an explanation.
He also was playing third base when he wasn't serving as the
designated hitter. Vitek had largely played second at Ball
State, so learning a new position on the fly may have
provided a bit of distraction, as well. One of the questions
about Vitek coming out of college was at what position he'd best
profile. Many didn't think he fit at second, and some
thought his speed would play well in the outfield. Third base may
be new, but Vitek is just fine with the hot corner.
"I'm good wherever they want me," Vitek said. "I was hoping
I'd get selected by someone who wanted me in the infield.
I'm still on the dirt, and I'm not having to transfer to the
outfield. It's different, it's been a challenge for me, but
I'm glad to be an infielder."
Vitek has been working this spring at his new spot
exclusively and while it's still "on the dirt," as he put
it, there are obvious differences between his old defensive home and his new one. The throw across the field has been
the big one to adjustment. He's getting used to the extra effort
to get the ball to first from the hot corner. Along with that,
there's work on footwork, angles and positioning that have
given the soon-to-be 22-year-old plenty to work on.
How he progresses on that side of the ball could help
dictate where he starts his first full season. He did get a
dozen games in with Class A Greenville -- then six more in the
playoffs -- and his bat might be ready for the challenge of
the Class A Advanced Carolina League. But if the
organization thinks he needs to focus on his defense more, a
start in Greenville might be in the cards. Nothing has been
decided yet, though Vitek knows he has a chance to move up
with a good spring.
"When I got my offseason plan, they said I'd be fighting for
a spot in Salem," Vitek said. "That's where I'm hoping to
be. That's what I'm competing for. I've been working out on
the Salem field every day."
Regardless of where he starts, one thing Vitek has learned
quickly is that he'll have the support of Red Sox Nation.
His first Spring Training experience has really driven that
"I'm very excited seeing how even the fans down here are
crazy; they sell out every game," Vitek said. "The media's
all around, there are so many legends on the field every
day. There's so much history that means a lot to everybody.
I'm realizing that it means so much here."
Red Sox's Top 10
1. Jose Iglesias, SS: The No. 42 prospect on
MLB.com's Top 50 Prospects list (and No. 3 among shortstop
prospects), the Cuban defector has made a name for himself
with his defensive prowess. He's a Gold Glover waiting to
happen, but don't sell his bat short. He should hit for
average and has excellent bat control, perhaps being a good
candidate to be a No. 2 hitter eventually. His broken finger
last year slowed him a little, but he'll be in Triple-A this
year and should be ready by 2012.
2. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP: Elbow issues and command
problems forced Ranaudo to drop into the sandwich round last
June, but then the LSU product went to the Cape Cod League
and proved he was just fine by firing nearly 30 scoreless
innings there. When he's healthy, he's got front-line starter
stuff, with three average-or-better pitches (fastball,
curve, changeup), all of which he can throw for strikes. If
he starts the year with Class A Advanced Salem and stays on
the mound, it could be a quick ride up to Boston.
3. Felix Doubront, LHP: MLB.com's pick for the farm
system's pitcher of the year, Doubront pitched well across
two levels while showing glimpses of success in Boston. The
Venezuelan lefty has four pitches: fastball, changeup,
cutter and curve. He's shown an ability to start and relieve,
and the thinking was that he would start the year in Triple-A as a
starter with the knowledge Boston could call him up to help
out the bullpen if needed. Elbow stiffness slowed him down this
spring and the Red Sox are proceeding with caution. It's
not a major concern.
4. Stolmy Pimentel, RHP: It was an exciting year for
Pimentel in 2010, with a trip to the Futures Game at midseason
and an addition to the 40-man roster after it was over. The
6-foot-4 right-hander can get hitters out with his fastball
and changeup alone, though he also has a curve that is solid
at times. Just 21, he'll move up to Double-A this season, a
good test for any young arm.
5. Lars Anderson, 1B: Once thought to be the best
hitter in the system, Anderson's star has faded a bit with
two consecutive up-and-down seasons. He made his big
league debut last September, he is only 23 and there's still
a lot to like about his swing. His lack of consistent
production, along with the acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez,
leave Anderson without a path to Boston.
6. Drake Britton, LHP: The 2007 draftee had Tommy
John surgery after the 2008 season, forcing him to miss
nearly all of 2009. While the Red Sox were very cautious
with him in 2010, he pitched well in the South Atlantic
League, striking out more than a hitter per inning and
finishing with an ERA under 3.00. He's got a terrific
fastball-power curve combination and has shown feeling for a
change. What he really needs are innings, and the wraps could
come off in 2011 as he moves up a rung on the ladder.
7. Oscar Tejeda, 2B: Tejeda had a breakout season in
2010, capped with a move to the Carolina League. He set career
highs in just about every offensive category. Tejeda looks like
he could develop into an offensive-minded second baseman
who'll hit well for average with some decent pop. Last year
was his first on the right side of second and while he's no
Gold Glover, it might be the right spot for him in the
future. That's where he'll play as he moves up to Double-A
8. Vitek, 3B: A first rounder, Vitek can do a
little bit of everything offensively. He should hit for
average and steal some bases. He's got some pop, though the
jury's still out over how much he'll have as a pro. In a
perfect world, he'll begin his first full season with Salem
in the Carolina League.
9. Josh Reddick, OF: Reddick shook off a very bad
start to the Triple-A season and hit .351/.372/.627 in the
second half for Pawtucket. His big league time didn't go so well as Ryan Kalish moved past him on the depth chart.
10. Will Middlebrooks, 3B: The 2007 draftee started
to turn some of his strong tools into performance in the
Carolina League last year, setting highs in average,
slugging percentage, doubles, homers and RBIs. There's more
power to come. and with his good glove, he has the chance to
be a prototypical all-around third baseman. Next up will be
the big jump from Class A to Double-A ball.
Under the Radar
Daniel Butler, C: After graduating from the
University of Arizona in 2009, Butler went to the Cape Cod
League and made enough of an impression on the Red Sox to
sign in late July. He hit .173 in 24 games that summer,
nothing to write home about. But last year, he went from just
being just a guy to someone to keep an eye on. After hitting
.327/.406/.523 in 61 games at full-season Class A Greenville, he
moved up to Salem and hit .292/.434/.425 there, continuing
to show an ability to hit for average and get on base. Now
24, he could move up to Double-A and continue to beat the
Ryan Pressly, RHP: An 11th-round pick out of the
Texas high school ranks in the 2007 Draft, Pressly didn't
pitch that summer, despite signing quickly, because of a knee
injury. He spent the next two summers in rookie and
short-season ball. He made his full-season debut last season
and finished second in the organization in ERA. He finished
the season strong and will hope to carry that over to the
Carolina League in 2011.
Hitter of the Year -- Vitek
He'll show why he was one of the best college hitters in
last year's Draft class by taking full-season ball by storm.
He'll compete for an organizational batting title, steal a
bunch of bases and show a little more pop than people
Pitcher of the Year -- Britton
With the kid gloves coming off, Britton's innings total will
increase while his strikeout rate and ERA will stay the
same, putting him in position to lead the system in both
Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMay
oB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.