Apr 28, 2013|
One of the most intriguing developments in the Red Sox system in the first month of 2013 has been the emergence of Michael Almanzar -- dismissed long ago by most of the industry as a non-prospect -- as an impact player, in his seventh professional season. But at 22, he's young enough to claim legitimate prospect status, even if it's arriving after most assumed that his window had closed. Kevin Boles, who managed Almanzar in 2008 and 2009 in Single-A Greenville and is now reunited with him in Double-A Portland, discusses Almanzar's development and why he's a candidate to be a quote-unquote "late-blooming" prospect. Boles also discusses other interesting prospect performances in the early stages of Portland's season.
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Welcome back to another edition of minor details. Michael elements are is 22 years old if he'd been drafted out of college last year he looked like one of the most intriguing prospects to come out of that draft. He's up to an amazing start this year double A Portland to eighteen game as he was hitting 333. With a 375 on base percentage and a huge 587 slugging percentage along with four homers for the dogs. He ranked among the league leaders most offensive categories while playing. Excellent defensive third -- But elements are wasn't drafted out of college he's actually in his seventh professional season. He signed with the Red Sox as a sixteen year old out of the Dominican. Way back in 2007. At that time his one point five million dollar signing bonus was the biggest the Sox had ever given to a Latin American teenager. In his career got off to a shockingly impressive start as a seventeen year old. Most players signed out of the Dominican. End up going to the Dominican Summer League but elements -- was pushed aggressively to the US into the go into the rookie level Gulf Coast League. He was the dominant enough -- that as a seventeen year old he continued to push himself up to single a Greenville. That aggressive assignment led to big expectations for elements are the idea that he was going to follow this incredible fast -- to the vaguely. But that aggressive assignment as a high school aged teenager playing against players were much much older. Including some -- were drafted out of college beginning long cycle of struggle for -- are. From 2008 through 2011. For forty years. -- are endured lengthy periods of struggle trying to keep his average above 200. In failing almost every it at every level every assignment to get his on base percentage is high as 300. He was dismissed by the industry. Deemed it non prospect -- someone who once had analyzing power potential but whose approach whether in the batter's box or more broadly his approach to the game. Wasn't going to allow has to translate to success. Now the baseball industry is being forced to reconsider that stands at an age when elements are is still relatively young for his level. For perspective on his emergence as a quote unquote late bloomer. I talked to Portland manager Kevin bowls both managed almonds are backing Greeneville in 2008 and 2009. Of he has unique insight into how far the young third baseman. One of the most intriguing story lines of 2013 and the Sox system has come what -- his impressions of young elements are and how far he's come. Well obviously you know the physical talent was there that's weird it's you know physically -- -- it. Very strong. -- a lot of ability and especially for being such young ages on the defensive side playing third base he actually showed a lot of wrote a lot of good qualities. To you know plus defender at third base. I -- the offensive potential. That there -- a lot of immaturity at that point in seventeen years old with all the attention that he was getting. I think that that the army study the pressure got so just a little bit which is understandable it happens so a lot of the young players. But the way he is now on how much she's matured. -- real work -- work habits his routines. And this guy has turned into quality prospect and again we like its ability for we should definitely left his ability now at this point. Just -- take a step back. I've never seen I am unfamiliar with any other Red Sox prospect making it to Greenville at age seventeen Zander Bogart's -- Pushed the envelope as much as anyone -- -- there when he was eighteen and that was considered. A very aggressive pushed. How how surprising was it to have a kid that Yahoo! and making it's a full season ball against you know there -- guys were college pitchers in that league. Right in it and again -- was at that time it was a tall order form by it was music or that we thought could eventually -- and you know it's as far as. With the work habits teaching in the routine. Teaching in the daily grind as far as fall season. You know there's a lot of value Tibet and getting in the -- that such an early age and it's a credit and that he was that it Barack's advantage. I think said he did filters and struggles. He understood that. I think are gonna come easy to all outfitted it was that he was gonna have to reworked his work schedule is routines. And make those adjustments because what she into the professional game it's a different animal and I think that he's really take into that and now he's taken it into all of level. Talking to Campbell's Portland sea dogs manager you had him in Greenville in both 2008 and in 2009 when he repeated at that level. He was the youngest guy on the team in both of those years. How would you describe the progress that he showed from 2008 to 2009 or was it you know was it a matter of you know maybe the building -- took even longer delay. Because he was so young. Well it's it's dead at the time the one thing that we noticed from those two years. This play at third base really improved any else's it's beginning to show that he might it -- it also had some versatility at first base. From the outside the state employees start impact the baseball world that more. Now with what he's done from the past couple years. And I think for that big transition happens Lester probably in Salem. He's -- -- this way and people that say well now he's been the same guy this approach has changed there's no doubt about it. Is either -- open stance. -- a lot of movement a lot of upper mass movement and they would close in on the ball. I'm from an open stance to a close strike and now -- square to the pitcher is that a lot more residents at the plate. And it's -- quiet -- it's a quiet confidence. And it is infecting the baseball right field now at this point -- all the fields. And -- is arrests that take a risk early in the -- But any insists that a landmark before the strike -- management was little they -- such an early age so this transition. The improvements in there but there has been a transition with the opposite approach no doubt about it. I remember being in spring training this year and seeing him drive the ball over the fence to -- and -- kind of doing a double taken and myself that's interesting I wonder I wonder if that is relatively new. That how different is it formed to be in all -- -- -- at that very young age of his professional development. Well absolutely it's you know it's going to be critical for government and for understanding contrasted ability cities that straw that secretly at all parts of the the four of the ballpark in -- damage. Any part of the field. I think what happened probably and this is just sick yet she have to talk with Michael about this -- Great -- having that monster. It's very tempting for the young hitters. To try to attack that -- and try to elevate all of their poolside -- right handed hitter. And what it thinks Palin does for us. Seeing that say -- is that it's a fair pitcher's park. You have to work your -- your swing your approach. And it's not so much -- at least that leaves the field but both sides you have to become quality hitter in your -- it ain't pitching there's -- team in the league. And so people are gonna figure out your -- points you're weak spots. You have to make adjustments absolutely. And I think what's happened last year in Salem was critical for that got away from -- short porch in last. And also understanding their pitchers there and figure it out he would have to make adjustments to the -- He's still 22 years old but it seems like he's been around forever perhaps in part because he started at the -- He was as advanced as Greeneville in that 2008 season. Is it easy sometimes. For people to lose sight of how -- young guy is just based on it especially someone from Latin America who's been in full season ball. From a young from you know from an age before he would have even been draft eligible in the states. Right right and that's and that's what's critical is that you have to understand he's twenty years old he's still up and -- double -- There's a lot of guys that are twenty years -- start out rookie vote short -- it. So what we have here is a definite prospects this that is has really put himself on the map. And it just -- -- we're not talking about a guy's 26 point seven years old so it just because he's been our uniform for a while -- mean that. You discredit what is what eighteen years old big body. Big potential here. And that -- out of work habits and work ethic and and and the understanding of what the professional game as. That things come full circle and I think it's easy in baseball -- -- concentrate on what players can't deal. I think we need to start -- what escaped and -- because. And again -- industry. Wide it's. Its focus on the negatives there's a lot of positives with this kid we need to focus on now. So -- description that you're offering thus far as a guy who's a -- a solid to above average third defensive third baseman. Oh and someone who's who's obviously is often a police at the start of the season. In go to and contact and hard contact four -- early how big is the power potential with a guy like that. Well I nearly everyone put numbers arbiter predictions but. It's there I mean the rockets actually deftly. And what are we liked about what Michael does that they'll take his -- early autumn now. They'll go ahead and political early on. -- settles and the at bat he starts the manages -- works counts. Again there's occasional like just like any young -- case like this way. But they start to see straight so management come polite and able to do that pitch to pitch which is very interest think a lot of guys. They don't do that they'll do it maybe at bat -- at better in game. He needs to do this -- the -- which in advance for girls and it's been pretty neat looking prospect processed here that structure. Discussing Michael -- are Red Sox third base prospect with Kevin ball double AC -- manager. People say that just based on body type he's he's a tall guy long frame long arms. That he fits the description of a guy who sometimes it does take awhile for things to come together. Because of you know because of that frame. What does that mean in terms of being able to kind of grew wide as a frame like that require perhaps more time to find the right swing you know ordered. Tend to be able to become akin to an -- Well I think early on when you talk him when he was seventeen your results. Physically had matured as long -- But to strike. You know and brought into this spot and he still has a lot. Of growth to go -- really believe there's going to be a lot of growth here I think there's going to be some muscle that Deepak under restraint. By the court nation I think -- terrorism in seventeen years old. Those guys darker they're -- it's our sport nation and -- nation. They're still growing into the body. And he's had a lot with pitchers. You know Casey tell it was an example that I think Daniel bark was. It's been a recent example of that as far as simplifying its game negating one delivery. Like Obama -- -- thick wiry body and I think it's just learning to control his actions. You know it's it's sometimes it can be each count trio of players but he steps -- during the potential that it. One thing that there's really interesting to me is that for a guy who is that big he doesn't really strike out a lot his has strikeout numbers last year. -- -- -- in them may -- mid seventies in Salem over the course of a full season this year it seems like he's not striking out a lot. What does that say about a guy who is that big. Well I think it's it's echoes the approach. More than anything from what we've seen -- -- green built so now. Watching him. Place that taking -- take shots early on in the -- But then all of a sudden it starts the minute strikes out and think your person -- in -- approach it there's no doubt about it he it will take his share. But in order to be an impact bat. You know you'd have to take chances. Think guys learn their approach by swinging the bat and he's no different and I think with and again it's been a process by. When he inserts and straight so it's edge and it's it's pretty impressive tally of the shore up your self seals. And any any Lawrence you know he's in potential what is that you are trying to do the. Talking to Kevin balls Portland sea dogs manager I'd like to talk to about a few other guys like you alluded a little bit earlier. To Daniel Bard in your experience of simplifying his delivery you again have some very into -- new experience with barred namely. That you were his manager in in Greeneville. Both in 2000 in in in 2008 when he was trying to come back from a difficult 2007 year. This year you were his manager to start here in Portland when he was trying to come back from a difficult 2012 season. Pat how similar were these process seized in what did you see from -- before he was called up to the Red Sox. Well I think it's a different animal now. It and knows the album and he he -- leaders in the big leagues so obviously there's a lot of differences from. We're early -- and trait -- from our first you know first look at. This stuff is still there. I think so main goal. Are simplify it delivery that was the main goal and again on the delivery. You know able to repeat and be consistent. I don't get -- done a terrific job as for. It's terrific relationship. In. But I think simplifying. Simplifying what he needs to do. And it and honestly if you wanna put a number on it and notices you know pitching that's not my expertise. What did you edit any of that especially one street wants or. They are getting that 16217. -- -- -- Think it law you know we talk about you know he's a long -- you know on the body. And there's -- actually more room for error. But he seems to be between wintry once for the plate everything seems to think about our fault in the place and this stuff played better able to repeat Morton -- -- And I think that that is crucially it's critical for -- and we start to see that if -- was is that we're doing. -- In those last few outings that he hadn't Portland was the case that outing to outing there was great consistency in terms of that. Tempo that time to the plate in desert -- and perhaps that delivered. Absolutely. Absolutely he was doing whether it was Robert's daughter here murderers on and I I think that he started again. Trust that that's where he needs to be. It. Eating 161 step into the plate in trying to create more that way is not the way to go for them it's actually counterproductive. We're really believe that. And it's so you know he's aware that. He's really worked hard as far as maintaining our -- slot. You know those were destroyed program and just getting himself not so much thinking of slots and all that other stuff which -- About feeling the baseball come out of the -- working in straight lines and just being under control with his body. And he really have to edit is -- few outings he was very press. As you know Kevin -- people like me are prone to exaggerating the the nature of the beginning part of the season because that means because there are no other that. To kind of balance them out. So when -- Bogart's had to you know didn't start out setting the world on fire in Portland. You know you scratch your head a little bit because of how good he was there for you at the end of last year. But in the last let's say ten days or so it does seem like he's kind of setting the world on fire no home runs yet but. He's getting on base like three times a game for you. How significant is that -- a young player like Bogart's who's 21 of the youngest players in the Eastern League. Making the adjustments that he did. You know from you know a week to week and a half of not getting the offensive results that he's seen so often throughout his professional career. -- then all of a sudden boom getting back into into place. Well I think whistles started spring training. When he got that from the WDC obviously it's initially camp that the BBC. And then he came back when he was a little bit concerned about this play out and make sure that -- get it at -- And it towards the end. He lets you know we're given that -- to make sure that you know that -- try to move in the right direction felt very out of the plate. But the thought it was a very confident that plate late spring training. And I mean that's so much air that even though -- spring training yet that they don't count. He Wednesday on the -- was right and you know as part of its -- relax. Don't worry about it -- turned. Out that it could carry over that first week. He's wary I think just try to press -- -- much trying to focus other adults. That the process. And that what started realize -- -- Trying to -- it's been attracted to get results. It's not the way to go about it focus on managing strikes out. Enjoy the process or from the process. So what does that put pressure on yourself or 01. -- start to take off right to strike -- -- it again it's been much better. And he's put together better structure. I'd hate to jinx the guy but he hasn't committed an error yet through the first you know after the first few weeks of the season at this point. How is looking -- It out very yeah. Yeah that's right. -- yes. Indeed but -- how you look to you defensively how is he what has he looked like the same player he was the end of last year better. You know or you know or -- you know they've. Well it's you know what he's improved from what we've seen obviously the racers -- outside is that a little bit better to the back inside. The last -- need to play and fight sexual. Worked around the ball. And made -- throw respect can't side and I think you start to understand. A little bit more about positioning. It's getting you know reading swings. Understanding what personnel on the mount. What they -- this Italian thing negated side against and now I think you really approve you know actors see with this euro's. You know its hands and Ortiz always said forget it -- its work is really at a site internal clock knowing dispute at Rutgers. And -- it is yeah I mean again it. Your results and -- -- -- with this game really -- he really is one player to watch it's going to be edge of this whole thing pans out. Joined by Kevin balls kind enough to not to discuss the his -- turn double A Portland with us. What other guy who's been very uninteresting as an offensive performer very consistent is Travis Shaw who's been your first baseman has been. You know who's been basically an on base machine from day one this season. What have you seen from his approach. Both from game to game this year ends hasn't been any different than it was last year when he wasn't quite and he was still getting on base quite a bit walking all taken a lot of blocks. But not quite with this kind of this kind of batting average that he had. He didn't have this batting average that he's had the front when he thirteen -- and when he twelfth. Yeah I think he's definitely a much better hitter but he was sure this last year Portland's obviously we are very exciting you know a lot of -- Portland. But it seems like this can't speed a little bit better than what we saw last year I think they can strike zone management of the better. And here's another guy that when he first got us in Portland last year -- was -- -- focused on the results instead of the process and understanding that you know this level that it provides challenges for. One thing he's really done well. Whether it's lefties or right. He has worked that counts is deathly getting a lot of information seeing a lot of pitches. And he's giving -- pitches he's making the pitchers. Go after I -- -- -- boxes that many quarters -- and so hitters counts and he's that we do a terrific job of that so far. You know he -- elements are in some ways are are really interesting case study because. They both come from Major League bloodlines. You know Michael's Michael's dad -- solomons. In -- and try to his father Jeff was an all star closer. For a couple of years and yet the potential professional baseball very different stages of their lives -- getting drafted. Out of college you know do they they're they're ages very similar now though interestingly. Do you see them having pat how different do you see them in terms of just. Their day to day approach it. The opposite it's not too much different again they're different personalities. In some ways you know obviously it's -- -- you know different cultures. But. Again that in. You know haven't applaud by having others play at the professional game and and and it's competed at the highest level possible. Obviously -- Iran that is and that quite a you know that they definitely know -- -- -- around the clubhouse you know right there you know what happens and everything. That we see that there's been. An early influence. Or surrogates. But again both these guys. They wanna become Major League ballplayers there's no doubt about it and it's that just because otherwise it's because they're yourself motivated you know rely on. You know the name of the you know somebody thought they want -- make -- own name and it's been very impressed much work. You've you have a of fascinating roster this year and so I could probably ask you about virtually any Leno on at buy dot I don't wanna take up all day of yours so I'm going to finish by asking you just about a couple guys and your rotation. The first one is is a guy who. I've found it really interesting to follow his results over the last few years Brandon Workman who's off to a tremendous start for you just. Tons of strikeouts slow walker and Mark -- walk rate seems like he's just. All over the he's just you know constantly relentless in the strike zone what have you seen from him in his first few starts of the year. Aggressive he's just last year when he came up here. He comes right after her and it out presents. Plus fastball. This thing and as you watch him he you know agency where's this emotion that it believes there's sometimes they'll throw ball. Is that okay good for it and at all he's -- 6% of the vote out of the stretch like. What that this it would you know self destruct on the mound because the -- It's so fiery. And you can see little. So it's here where. As far as them. -- is that our presence -- refocus. And he'd he'd get himself right on track. And it's an attack it is that fastball but that's all this -- that he's developed. In the last pitch and it is too late in sharp and it appears to finish hitters. And would feel for change its interest think it's also. That this guy. He has been terrific is that that you want on the mound you know which -- gonna get -- in a C and is that separate those out there. How much does and kind of measuring that effort level like the difference between that fine line between like the edge of the black line vs the Red Line you know and the he -- when you're looking at a speedometer late. How much does that how important is it formed a regulated and to stay at the far end of the black there. In order to remain. Starting pitching candidate. Well it definitely does that it's a little bit different than say Alex Wilson in the same. Struggles were no -- it's a match full throttle. But -- the process start to have four -- stepped off the -- and it started just understanding that he's been under control. And -- -- a great job with that and again he's not redlining by any stretch it -- they look like it you know frustrations get to a but it's just his competitive fire. He's just spoke you know he doesn't care what people think here. Okay you may think you're getting -- -- but you're not you know it -- mind he's under control he's gonna make the next that the quality pitch. And I think that's what's impressive and it's -- pitched to edgewood and he's just gonna try to excuse that he can't at its focus. Last pitcher who lost you about is one whose repeating at Portland here he opened last year with you. Had a very had a difficult year in in no small part because of injuries but. When he was healthy enough to take the mound -- struggled. This year you've probably seen a different -- you Varnado than the one that you saw. Last year what how different has he been what has helped me you know are there similarities or is this an entirely different -- on the -- Are entirely different from last year get mode it Egypt after -- this wasn't -- percent if you -- a 100%. -- is behind the eight ball because it really Arab Spring training. And I think -- is trying to catch last year all this year we're -- -- Plus fastball. For a break in on changeup and I think the biggest thing. Now it's able to put himself in position with the delivery were able angle fastball out. Oh we never subnet so a very rarely last year I think it is because that's. It's physical ailments that he was going through and now he's able delivers the fast -- out obviously lots. Sitting around in 94 miles an hour fastball so obviously there's been an uptick in Los. From much this year. -- share in good stretch of the books it's at least in my opinion it's we did that result -- at. And that -- now. I guess the you know since you mentioned are not those glossy what's workman's glossy benefit here. And 9293. He's been and that range and you know -- you know they'll look at that I hit it right you know these guys are. And it of their power arms or 9596. You know -- proper -- -- that it is no in the low ninety. And that's pretty impressive to be at the maintain that for. So there are they different profile starting pitchers it's it's it's because at the conditioning and at the arms beat in the -- is. Well Kevin this has been tremendously helpful I very much appreciate it taking over time great to talk to about what's been. A really interesting group for you in Portland or the year. -- get out any dot. Thanks so much to Portland manager Kevin bulls into producer -- day thanks also to all of you for listening. Follow what's happening on a day to day basis from the Red Sox minor league system at the full -- blog where we offer our daily Red Sox minor league roundup. Have a great week everybody.