Red Sox Prospect No. 11: Dustin Richardson

Editor's Note: Diehard Magazine is in the midst of its third annual countdown of the top 50 prospects in the Red Sox chain today. Subscribe to our print magazine in order to learn even more on the top 50! Today: The countdown continues with the no. 11 prospect, pitcher Dustin Richardson.

At this time a year ago, just about everyone who follows the Red Sox farm system sensed right-handed sinkerballer Justin Masterson could soon develop into a versatile weapon able to help the Sox out as either an upper-rotation starter or power late-inning reliever.

Turns out the Sox had someone who could do the same from the left side, as well.

Like Masterson, Dustin Richardson made impressive and rapid strides as he transitioned into a starter during his first full professional season. Richardson, whom the Sox selected out of Texas Tech in the fifth round of the 2006 draft, found his form around midseason and ended the season as one of the top pitchers in the chain.

"[He's] a guy that has an extreme ability to pitch with his fastball and [that's] something that we saw from start to finish [last year]," Sox director of player development Mike Hazen said.

Richardson allowed two earned runs or fewer in 15 of his 21 starts and walked just 15 batters while whiffing 60 in 59 1/3 innings for Single-A Greenville and Single-A Lancaster after July 1. Over the first three months of the season, Richardson walked 37 and struck out 63 in 63 1/3 innings.

He saved the best for last: In an environment that chewed up many a hurler last year, Richardson went 4-0 with a 2.74 ERA and a 25/5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in four starts at Lancaster. He lasted at least six innings three times—as many times as he lasted six innings in 21 starts at Greenville.

His ability to attack the strike zone and shrug off the pitfalls of Lancaster impressed the Sox. "He went to Lancaster and showed extreme confidence, much like [Michael] Bowden did early in the year," Hazen said. "That's something that we think is going to ultimately make him extremely successful as he moves up the ladder and ultimately to the major leagues."

There's good reason the typically cautious Hazen is already speaking of Richardson as a big leaguer. Left-handers with a power sinker—Richardson's fastball is regularly clocked in the low-90s—and an ability to keep the ball in the park are hard to find. Richardson allowed just five homers all season, including only one at Lancaster, and has given up only eight homers in 163 1/3 professional innings.

Whether Richardson serves as a reliever or starter in the majors depends on his ability to develop secondary pitches. In addition to the sinker, he also throws a changeup and curveball, and the Sox expect to keep him in the rotation this season at Lancaster in hopes he'll continue to hone those offerings.

Even if Richardson continues to thrive as a starter, his first chance to help the Sox could come out of the bullpen. The Sox are loaded with starting pitchers in the upper half of the minors, but they're lacking for southpaw relievers. With his durability and success against left-handers—Richardson limited them to a .214 average last year—Richardson could be the power left-handed set-up man the Sox have missed since Alan Embree in 2004.

"A consistent left-hander with a fastball and an ability to get swings and misses is exciting to have," Hazen said.

Previous prospects ranked No. 11:
2007: Jason Place, OF
2006: Jed Lowrie, 2B/SS (ranked no. 22 in 2007)
2005: Jeremy West, 1B/DH (ranked no. 36 in 2006)

50.) Travis Beazley, P
49.) Beau Vaughan, P
48.) Ty Weeden, C
47.) Mike Jones, 1B
46.) Tommy Hottovy, P
45.) Chad Spann, 3B
44.) Yamaico Navarro, SS
43.) Chad Rhoades, P
42.) Mike James, P
41.) Jay Johnson, OF
40.) Jeff Natale, IF
39.) George Kottaras, C
38.) Bryce Cox, P
37.) Daniel Haigwood, P
36.) Che-Hsuan Lin, OF
35.) Edgar Martinez, P
34.) Andrew Pinckney, 3B
33.) Dusty Brown, C
32.) Jason Place, OF
31.) Jeff Corsaletti, OF
30.) Argenis Diaz, SS
29.) Daniel Bard, P
28.) Brock Huntzinger, P
27.) Adam Mills, P
26.) David Pauley, P
25.) David Mailman, OF
24.) Anthony Rizzo, 1B
23.) Chris Province, P
22.) Bubba Bell, OF
21.) Hunter Jones, P
20.) Zach Daeges, OF
19.) Jon Still, C/1B
18.) Oscar Tejeda, SS
17.) Reid Engel, OF
16.) Kris Johnson, P
15.) Chris Carter, 1B/DH
14.) Ryan Dent, SS
13.) Mark Wagner, C
12.) Josh Reddick, OF
11.) Dustin Richardson, P

Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752.

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