Scouting Notes: Barnes Dazzles In Sox Camp

PORT CHARLOTTE - The Red Sox have a farm system going through a transition period. Boston finds itself looking to gain some depth in the upper levels of their system, and they drafted aggressively in 2011 in an attempt to fix that problem. One of their best hopes to solve the problem took the mound on Wednesday in Port Charlotte.

Matt Barnes, RHP

The Red Sox could really use a blue chip pitching prospect right about now. As it turns out, they may have one in Matt Barnes. The tall right-hander looked phenomenal on Wednesday against the Rays' minor leaguers, carving through their lineup with the greatest of ease.

Barnes worked at 93-96 mph, topping at 97 mph twice and showing explosive life through the zone. Spotting the fastball has been a minor issue in the past for Barnes, but it looks like he's made some definite strides in that department. He moved his fastball in and out nicely in this one, showing a more consistent finish in his delivery than he did in his college days.

Most impressive about Barnes' outing, however, was his command of his secondary pitches. He mixed in a solid-average changeup at 83-85, but it was his breaking ball that was the real weapon. Thrown at 77-81, it showed late bite with good shape. He's not coming around this pitch as much as he's done in the past, and instead is staying on top and creating a much more consistent 11-5 bite.

Barnes has clearly made some quick progress since turning pro, and he's corrected some of the doubts about his game that kept him out of the top 15 picks last June. With the progress he's made, he looks very much like the frontline type starter that can move up with the ladder quickly that the Boston system needs.

Brandon Jacobs, OF

Jacobs is proving to be a quick study as a pro. Since I saw him last, the feel at the plate has really come around in a big way. He now shows a lot more than raw power, and saw the ball very well in game action on Wednesday. He seems to be handling breaking pitches better now and he's not expanding the zone quite as much.

His defense doesn't appear to a huge strength, but the bat is looking better and better. Jacobs could be a poised for another big season in 2012.

Matt Spalding, RHP

In the 29th round of the 2011 draft, Boston landed prep right-hander Matt Spalding. While he received a well above slot bonus, they may have gotten quite a steal. Spalding showed quality raw stuff on Wednesday, working at 91-95 mph with his fastball and snapping of some good 77-79 mph curveballs.

Spalding also showed a willingness to attack the zone and live mostly around the plate throughout his outing. He is undersized for a right-hander, but he has two quality offerings and may profile well in a relief role down the line.

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