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OTM's Top 20 Red Sox Prospects: #19 Jeff Natale

Name: Jeff Natale
Age: 24
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 170
B/T: Right/Right
POS: Second base
Draft: 32nd round, '05
Projected '07 team: Portland (AA)
ETA: 2009
Natale's 2006 stats

Jeff Natale is one of those prospects that is drafted and no one really expects much out of him: except Natale, of course. Natale, a 32nd round pick in 2005, has surpassed all expectations since being named 2005 NESCAC Baseball Player of the Year at Trinity College.

Natale's best asset is his plate presence. Check out some of his numbers from his professional career in Boston:

Year    Level   AB      BB      SO      AVG     OBP     OB Dif.
2005    A-      160     28      14      .338    .463    .125
2006    A-      175     41      20      .343    .487    .144
2006    A+      273     62      54      .278    .419    .141
Although his glove at second base is somewhat frowned upon at this point in his career, Natale works hard at improving his defense:
"I'm happy with the progress I've made, but there's still work to do. I've improved fundamentally, from routine balls to tougher plays to double play-turns. I did a lot of extra work this year, going out early with Luis Alicea to take balls before batting practice. I did the same with Eppy (Chad Epperson) in Wilmington. I didn't really focus on any one thing. Everything needed to be tightened up. Another thing I made real strides with is my confidence, which I lacked early in the year. The extra work, plus getting a lot of reps at game speed, helped me improve that. It's an important part of the game."

Natale could be converted to an outfielder at some point in his career, but for now he's slated to be the second baseman in Portland in 2007. Natale has experience at many positions considering he played left field as a freshman, center field as a sophomore, second base as a junior, and third base as a senior.

Natale hit 17 home runs (10 in Greenville, 7 in Wilmington) in 2006, thanks in a large part to his patience. His puts counts into his favor and is able to pull the ball with success.

A lot of comparisons can be drawn to Kevin Youkilis, another on-base threat. However, Natale will need to be able to consistently hit Double-A pitching to stay afloat as a prospect. His on-base tendencies should continue as he rises in the ranks, but his defense may make or break him.