Brian and I were able to ask a few questions to the SportsBlogs resident prospect expert, John Sickels from MinorLeagueBall.com. He touched on things from Anibal Sanchez to Edgar Martinez.
OTM.com: Edgar Martinez is an interesting pitcher. He was a catcher for the majority of last season, and then we converted to a relief pitcher. This season he is pitching fantastic between Wilmington (A) and Portland (AA). What do you think of Martinez?
Sickels: The early returns are very good for a guy just learning his mound craft. 58/20 K/BB in 53 innings, good H/IP ratio, etc. But he has just 17 innings in Double-A, and sometimes these quick-conversion-success stories can fall apart pretty quickly. So at this point I'd say "interesting but I want to see more."
OTM.com: So far Hanley Ramirez has been all promise and no results. He's still young and still has the ability, but has his disappointing year so far hurt his prospect status in your eyes? Have one of the 3 top pitchers supplanted him as the organization's top prospect?
Sickels: Let's see......271/.334/.386 at Portland. Yeah, that's pretty disappointing. He's still young as you point out, but I don't think there's any question about it. His status has slipped. I would certainly rank all of the top pitching prospects ahead of him. Hanley may not even be in the Top Ten at this stage.
OTM.com: A lot of people were hesitant to rank Brandon Moss so high on the prospect charts last year because of his very high BABIP and his emergence out of nowhere, but his numbers in 2004 were too good to ignore. Are you at all surprised that he's struggling this year and is his performance in 2005 along the lines of what you'd expect from him?
Sickels: I'm disappointed and a bit surprised. His strikeout rate is up considerably and his overall production hasn't been that good. . .266/.334/.438, although it's not TERRIBLE either. I was probably too optimistic about him, but I wouldn't dismiss him as a prospect yet. His true level of ability will probably stabilize somewhere between this year and last year.
OTM.com: Do you think the Jacoby Ellsbury/Johnny Damon comparisons are accurate? Can we expect Damon-like numbers out of him, but with a little less power?
Sickels: It's too early to make comparisons like that. He MIGHT be a Damon type. Steve Finley and Brady Anderson are other possible comps. But I'm not sure how much power we are going to see out of him, and it is too early to tell.
OTM.com: Jon Papelbon has been moved to the bullpen to try to get him ready to help the big league club down the stretch. There were also murmurs in the past about how he'd be better suited for a bullpen role. Do you see him as a starter or a bullpen guy further down the line?
Sickels: I think he can start, but I can see him handling either role.
OTM.com: Jon Papelbon, Jon Lester, Anibal Sanchez -- who's the best prospect out of the 3?
Sickels: I go back and forth on this question. In long-term potential, it's probably Sanchez/Lester/Papelbon in that order. In short-term potential, it would be Papelbon/Lester/Sanchez. They profile differently but when you look at everything they are all quite close on balance.
OTM.com: You mentioned Yahmed Yema as a sleeper pick in the 2005 draft. Are there any other guys in the system, not necessarily from this year's draft class, who you consider a sleeper and may break out next year?
Sickels: I'd be in a better position to answer this question after I work up the Red Sox for my 2006 book research.
OTM.com: Will Dustin Pedroia be ready to start the year at second for Boston in 2006?
Sickels: I'd say by July '06 he should be ready.
OTM.com: How do you expect Alejandro Machado to do in the majors? He hits for average, as he has shown that all season long for Pawtucket, and he has a lot of speed, to name just a few things he is good at. Does he have the ability to be an everyday guy, or is he a pinch-running/utility player?
Sickels: I don't think he has enough pop to be a long-term starter for his career, but he should hang around a long time as a bench guy, and he'll be a regular for someone sometime. I see him as a .270ish hitter, with good speed and defense but not a guy who will scare teams with his bat very often.
OTM.com: How would you rate the Red Sox farm system among the rest of baseball? What are your feelings on the organization now that Theo Epstein runs the show?
Sickels: Again, I can answer this question better in about two months, when I work up the book and see how everyone ranks. The system has certainly made dramatic improvements in the last three years, and Theo and his team are obviously responsible for most of that. Red Sox fans should be happy. The team is well-positioned to contend for a long time now that the farm system is getting better.