DieHardMagazine.com’s countdown of the Top 30 prospects in the Red Sox minor league system hits the Top 20 today.
20. Tim Federowicz: (C) Federowicz might well be the answer to the defensive woes currently plaguing the Boston Red Sox behind the dish. Unlike Ryan Lavarnway, Federowicz has all of the tools of a big-time catching prospect. He has a quick release with a strong, if not spectacular arm. He is very consistent in his throws all over the infield. Reportedly, he calls an excellent game, which is a skill that can be taught, but the better he is on his own, the quicker he might find himself ascending the system.
When he trades the tools of ignorance for just a batting helmet, he and Lavarnway are once again miles apart, but this time, the Yale product Lavarnway is way ahead. Federowicz is no slouch, but his offensive game is well behind his defensive game. He ranks ahead of Lavarnway on this list because despite the Joe Mauer’s of the world, defensive skills still are the meal ticket for catchers in MLB.
19. Stephen Fife: (RHP) Fife is 23-years-old and his arm strength seems to be increasing every year. He is able to maintain pitch speed sin the lower-90’s throughout his stints, whereby previously he would hit 94 MPH a few times per game but would reside mainly at 89-90.
Part of Fife’s intrigue is his ability to throw two-seam and four-seam fastballs, with the latter being the complement to the former. The key to his ultimate success will be his ability to develop a Major League ready curveball, because his control is already outstanding. At the very least, Fife has a good chance to be a middle reliever in the bigs.
18. Seth Schwindenhammer: (OF) It is probably unfair to heap these type of expectations on a young man who is but cutting his teeth in the organization, but I can’t help my excitement over this kid. He will probably end up as either a first baseman or LF, perhaps even a DH, but I am not sure that any Sox’ prospect has more offensive potential than Schwidenhammer.
He has a strong right throwing arm, but it is his left-handed swing that will make people take notice at the ballpark. I won’t put the next level of unfair pressure by directly comparing him to players who have already starred in MLB, but suffice it say that his swing and smooth and pure.
Schwindenhammer might not ever grow into a frame big enough to have his last name stretched across the back of his jersey, but he looks like he could develop into a slugger. Moreover, it appears to me that he has a choice. He could become a prolific home run hitter or an excellent hitter for average, and probably anywhere in between. I only saw him play in person five or six times, but each time when I was looking for holes in his swings, I simply found more aspects of his swing to admire. Still years away, of course, but his name will be heard in those years to come, if not pronounced entirely correctly.
17. Raymond Fuentes: (OF) Fuentes can’t quite match Schwindenhammer’s left-handed swing for a pure aesthetics standpoint, but his swing is also very smooth. He has the potential to be a top-notch centerfielder and his offensive skills will not let him down.
He is not nearly as physically imposing as his cousin Carlos Beltran, but he is as slick fielding and speedy as advertised. He will never be a pure power hitter, but he has the definite chance to be a 15-20 per season HR hitter.
His swing is going to take time to develop and the Sox should be patient with him, because he does have the potential to be a hot prospect in the mold of Hanley Ramirez and Jacoby Ellsbury.
16. Junichi Tazawa: (RHP) I contemplated leaving Tazawa off of this list because of his April 8th Tommy John surgery, but the fact remains that he is still an excellent prospect and still has value as a pure commodity today.
He will obviously need plenty of time to recover this year. He has a ways to go in learning the American way of playing baseball, but make no mistake about it, this kid could really be a strong contributor. He was a bit of a gas can during his Red Sox debut, but he will only turn 24 in June.
He was probably brought up too soon, considering that he never pitched from a windup prior to joining the Sox’ organization, which is the more reason to believe that is a matter of when, not if, he pitches in Fenway again.