I swear I had found a good picture of Jose Iglesias somewhere recently. But today all I could find was this, and I'm sure not putting that up on the front page.
Fall & Winter Leagues Underway
Four of the six winter leagues are now underway, with the Sox sending players to three of them. The Arizona Fall League is by far the most impressive group—as it does tend to be the premiere league—including names like Ryan Kalish, Casey Kelly (SS), Jose Iglesias, Luis Exposito, and Dustin Richardson.
The Venezuelan Winter League team is headlined by Felix Doubront, who is joined by a number of young pitchers all bearing huge "work in progress" stickers.
The Dominican Winter League Sox contingent is small, but with some good talent, as Stolmy Pimentel, Mark Wagner, Yamaico Navarro, and Oscar Tejeda are all set to play. They are joined by Jose Capellan, who has been on a long downward trend with the Sox since coming out strong in his trip from the DSL to Lowell.
The Sox' Arizona Fall League team, the Mesa Solar Sox (which they share with the Angels, Cubs, Marlins, and Twins) is off to a rocky start, going 2-3 in their first 5 games. Let's start with the bad for the Sox Prospects on the team: Kalish and Exposito are not exactly lighting the world on fire, going 2-10 and 1-7 respectively, each with a walk and 4 strikeouts.
Now for the good. The pitching has been pretty impressive. Two Sox starters-turned-relievers, Chris Province and Dustin Richardson, had seemingly turned around their careers with the transition last year, putting up ERAs of 2.60 and 2.71 respectively. Richardson even managed to see some time with the major league team, pitching 3.1 scoreless innings. Their success has carried over to the first few games, with Province throwing 2 hitless innings giving up only a walk while striking out 2. Richardson has been equally if not more impressive, with 3.1 scoreless innings giving up a hit and a walk while striking out 5. Richie Lentz has been slightly less impressive, giving up 1 run in 4 innings on 3 hits, but hasn't walked anyone and has recorded 5 strikeouts.
While one of the Sox' top offensive prospects in Ryan Kalish hasn't been hitting, the team is getting some offense from unusual places. Most remarkable has been Jose Iglesias' first few plate appearances, during which he's gone 3-5 with 2 walks, a double, and a home run. He's even hit the ball fairly hard in making his outs. For a guy who's not supposed to have any bat, this is an encouraging, if small, start. Casey Kelly, much to everyone's chagrin, has also not failed in the one game he's seen action in, going 1-2 with 2 walks and a strikeout.
In the Venezeulan league, Felix Doubront gave up 4 hits in 2 innings, allowing 1 run to score while striking out 2. Jose Alvarez, a lefty reliever who has struggled at higher levels, has pitched 4.1 scoreless innings, allowing 1 hit and 2 walks while striking out 3.
Little to report in the Dominican Winter League. Yamaico Navarro is 2-7 with a strikeout and a stolen base, while Mark Wagner is 1-5 with a strikeout.
Sox Sign Top Independent Prospect
Reynaldo Rodriguez, the Rookie of the Year in the Golden Baseball League and Baseball America's #1 Independent League prospect, was signed by the Sox on Wednesday to a minor league deal. After struggling in the Yankees' system at the GCL level and missing the 2008 season due to injury, Rodriguez was released and, after earning MVP honors in the Colombian Winter League (.378/.468/.558 in 172 ABs), Rodriguez earned rookie of the year honors in the Golden Baseball League by putting up a line of .335/.380/.486.
The 23-year-old is a great defensive first baseman with limited home run pop, but with a large frame that projects to add more. He has a bit of speed—especially for a first baseman—and doesn't strike out much. Rodriguez will hope to follow in the footsteps of 26-year-old Daniel Nava, who has been tearing his way through the Sox system since being signed by the Sox out of the Golden League, where he put up an OPS of 1.100 in 256 at bats.
Sox to Meet with Japanese LHP Yusei Kikuchi
Kikuchi, 18 years old, is fresh out of high school and faces the tough decision of whether to stay in Japan and enter the draft, or go to America and enter a MLB system. It's quite likely that, were he to come to America, the Sox would hold a distinct advantage over the other major league teams given the presence of Daisuke Matsuzaka—though that's not to say the other teams are devoid of certain influential talent.
Kikuchi's fastball sits around 90, topping out at 95, and he has a good looking slider. Throws—believe it or not—an Eephus pitch—and is developing a curveball. At 18, Kikuchi can be expected to add some velocity as he progresses.
The Chunichi Dragons have announced their intentions to draft Kikuchi regardless of whether or not he has decided to leave Japan.