Diehard Red Sox Blog: 2/27/06

Hi folks, and welcome to the inaugural posting of the Diehard Red Sox Blog. I'm coming into cyber training camp fashionably late, but am finding no shortage of stories to pass on. I'll be checking in at least once a week with links and commentary on all things Red Sox found online. So without further ado...

Lester Leaps...Out?

Here come the Top Prospect lists. Baseball America posted their Top 100 last week, while Baseball Prospectus posted their Top 50 Sox prospects were featured prominently on both lists, but who made the cut and where they ranked varied greatly.

Baseball America, still the gold standard when it comes to comprehensive prospect coverage, has Dustin Pedroia at #77, Craig Hansen at #54, Jonathan Papelbon at #37, and Jon Lester at #22. Old friends Anibal Sanchez (# 40) and Hanley Ramirez (#30) also made the list, and the ephemeral Andy Marte, who briefly took up residence as the Sox top prospect, slides into the top 15 (#14). In a subscriber-only follow-up chat, Jim Callis says that Lester is the total package, and that that's what makes him the real deal.

The Baseball Prospectus list is a little bit, err, different. The Sox are well represented with prospects coming in at #11, #36, and #45, which sounds about right until you read who those prospects are: Pedroia, Papelbon, and Hansen, respectively. Co-author of the list, Rany Jazayerli, admitted in a follow-up chat that he's been hearing it from Sox fans about excluding Lester, who is considered by many more publications than Baseball America to be the Sox top prospect.

I'm actually a little torn on where Lester falls in the ranking of Sox prospects, thinking we may be putting too much stock in his dominating season last year at Double AA. He's a big, tall lefty and pitches in the Sox system, so it's not too surprising that he's getting a lot of attention for his 2005 success. While I think he deserves it, I'd like to see what he does at Triple A before talking about him as one of the top five pitching prospects in all of baseball, let alone ranking him ahead of Papelbon. He's a great looking prospect, but he hasn't pitched nearly enough to tell if last season was his breakout year or his career year. Still, it seems strange that anyone would think he doesn't belong on a top prospect list that includes the likes of Paul Maholm. Jazayerli's explanation for excluding Lester altogether falls a bit flat to me. He buries himself a little deeper when he says that players who made a successful leap to Double A were given greater consideration. As if including Chris Snelling and Maholm as two of the top 50 prospects in all of baseball weren't enough to put this list into question . . .

Joel Sherman of the New York Post sites Lester as an example of how some teams found success in the 2002 draft, in contrast to Billy Beane's "Moneyball" philosophy. In this article for Fox Sports, the other co-author of BP's prospect list, Dayn Perry, says Hansen and Papelbon are two rookies to watch this season. Papelbon knows he'll be playing a key role in 2006, and is happy to contribute in anyway he can. Buster Olney (subscription only) dropped in on the Sox this week, and said the feeling around camp is that Papelbon will be the closer if Keith Foulke isn't able to rebound this year.

Speaking of errant lists, The Hardball Times recently ranked their Fantasy Top 20 Third Basemen for 2006, and Mike Lowell doesn't even make honorable mention. In other words, they don't feel he'll be as productive as at least twenty four other third basemen this year. Apparently, his numbers will be worse than, in order, Garret Atkins, Brandon Inge, Tony Batista, Aaron Boone, and Joe Crede. I'm hoping my roto-league peers feel the same way. On another note, Hardball does an extensive analysis of the best and worst outfield arms. Guess which brand-new Red Sox centerfielder has, according to fans, one of the top-10 worst arms in baseball?

These top prospect lists obviously provide a lot of fodder for conversation, and Todd Morgan of Scout.com's Oakland Clubhouse is setting the stage for the next big discussion. He does an incredibly thorough and diligent job of projecting the first round of the 2006 Amateur Baseball Draft. People, it's only February! Amazingly, Todd pegged 8 of the top 10 prospects, with last year's projections, though not in exact order. At this early stage in 2006, he sees the Sox taking Wake Forest third basemen Mark Antonelli and Long Beach State power arm Jared Hughes. Check out what Todd has to say about them.

A short, well-written piece by Kevin Henkin of the Boston Sports Review on the significance of Keith Foulke and his attitudes toward puppies and nuns.

Gordon Edes writes about the connections between the Sox and Australia's WBC team. About halfway down in this Peter Gammons post (subscription only), a former Josh Beckett teammate says the Sox are getting a mature pitcher who is ready to come into his own, and that, if he had to decide, he'd choose Beckett over A.J. Burnett.

The perceived controversy of Manny's impending late arrival to camp is churning the rumor mills in New York and Los Angeles again. Jon Couture of the New Bedford Standard-Times, who says he can only wish this were a legitimate controversy, does a nice job of putting the Manny situation in perspective. Big Papi tells us Manny has 20 million reasons to show up. Mike Milliard of the Boston Phoenix is already tired of the whole thing. This article about Enrique Wilson seems to imply that Manny may have rescinded his trade demand. Rob Bradford, by way of Indiana (the Eagle-Tribune doesn't keep its stories online for more than a day), reveals some of the mysteries that comprise Manny Ramirez.

And finally, a very fond farewell to Curt Gowdy. Tributes were written across the country about
the original "Cowboy" The Boston Globe had a particularly nice look back at the Hall of Fame broadcaster's career. The AP described how his funeral procession included a lap around the Fens. Milliard tells us what Gowdy means to the history of the Sox. To borrow his headline (via Gowdy), "Bye, Neighbor." Mr. Gowdy, you will be missed by a community that is much larger than Red Sox Nation.

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