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Minor Details Ep. 10: Peter Gammons on Red Sox prospects

03.07.11 at 5:52 am ET
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Peter Gammons

Peter Gammons of the MLB Network and NESN joined Minor Details for the latest episode to discuss the growing importance of player development in baseball and a number of key Red Sox prospects whose springs bear watching. Among the highlights:

–Gammons believes that the cost of acquiring players in free agency, at ages when they are typically entering their decline, suggests that player development and prospects are more valuable than ever.

“The Red Sox couldn’t have made the Adrian Gonzalez deal, and would have had to risk five years on Adrian Beltre in his 30s, with his leg problems, or would have had to wait to try to spend $30 million on [Albert] Pujols,” he said. “Having three really good prospects and getting Adrian Gonzalez so they won’t have to pay him past the age of 35, I think that’s part of it.

“The Yankees, who have done a great job with their development system as well, could end up – if Oakland doesn’t get off to a really good start – they could turn around and go and get one of those young left-handed pitchers. I can see Gio Gonzalez, I can see [Brett] Anderson. It’s going to cost them three pretty good prospects, really good prospects. But that’s better than waiting around for a year and spending a ridiculous amount of money on whoever might be a free-agent pitcher.

“The value to the Yankees of having all those guys is, they’re going to have to give up three of them. Okay, they give up, I don’t think [Jesus] Montero would probably go, but let’s say they give up [Gary Sanchez] and Adam Warren and [Dellin] Betances or one of their young pitchers. If that gets them a guy who’s 25, 26 years old who they can hold onto for four years, it’s worth the weight in gold.”

–Gammons believes that both shortstop Jose Iglesias and outfielder Ryan Kalish are, without question, projected as lineup regulars for the Sox by 2012. Gammons went on to suggest that comparisons of Kalish and former Sox right fielder Trot Nixon might underestimate how good Kalish can be.

“I have great respect for Trot Nixon, but Ryan Kalish is a totally different athlete. He is a great athlete,” said Gammons. “I see him being a guy, he doesn’t swing and miss a lot, who’s going to hit somewhere between .280 and .300, hit 25 home runs, he can run. I think he’s going to be a really exciting player.”

He also noted that manager Terry Francona had to force himself not to judge other prospects against Kalish, whose approach to the game allowed him to fit in immediately in the Sox clubhouse after his July 31 call-up last year.

–The Red Sox have developed a pair of front-of-the-rotation starters in Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, but have not developed a 30-home run hitter under GM Theo Epstein (though it is worth mentioning that Kevin Youkilis developed into one of the elite producers in the game under the current Sox front office after being drafted under former Sox GM Dan Duquette in 2001). Gammons suggested that the Sox are not alone in finding it more challenging to develop middle-of-the-order power hitters than top starters.

“I think it’s more difficult to develop power. I remember in the first year of the full drug testing, in 2005, before the draft, Theo said to me, ‘We better be aware that drug testing is going to change the game, and it’s going to be a new game over the next five to 10 years.’ And they drafted Jacoby Ellsbury. That was the beginning,” said Gammons. “With all their draft choices this year, I’d bet they try to find a couple of guys who can hit the ball a long way. But I think it’s very difficult. … I think finding power is going to become more and more difficult.”

–Gammons said he feels that Lars Anderson could still develop into a power hitter.

“When I first saw him play in Portland, I thought he was born to play in Fenway Park,” said Gammons. “I think this is a critical year for him. If he goes to Pawtucket, uses left-center, right-center, hits 25 home runs, he’ll be on his way to being an important piece. Obviously Adrian Gonzalez is going to be here for six years or so, but Lars could be a DH or he could end up being traded. But I’d love to see him get the chance to be a first baseman/DH at Fenway Park, because I think that’s a natural place for him.”

To listen to the complete podcast, in which Gammons discusses several other players as well as broader issues related to player development, click here.

PREVIOUS EPISODES

Ep. 9: The winding path of Andrew Miller: A look at the unique sets of career choices that the 25-year-old left-hander has run into during his baseball career, and how he ended up signing a minor league deal with the Red Sox.

Ep. 8: Key prospect issues in spring training: Five key spring training storylines of note for Red Sox minor leaguers.

Ep. 7: The Red Sox’ Cuban connection: A look at the talent base that has inspired the Sox to spend heavily on players who defected from Cuba, along with the professional and cultural challenges that those players face once in the U.S. Guests are Red Sox minor league outfielder Juan Carlos Linares, minor league hitting coach Alex Ochoa (who spent 2010 helping prospect Jose Iglesias adjust to professional baseball in the U.S.) and agent Edwin Mejia of Athletes Premier, an agency whose stable of clients includes some players from Cuba

Ep. 6: Why the Red Sox draft football stars, with Red Sox scouting director Amiel Sawdaye and Red Sox minor league outfielder Brandon Jacobs, who was recruited to play football at Auburn and could have taken part in the 2011 BCS title game

Ep. 5: The human side of the Adrian Gonzalez trade, with Padres (and former Red Sox) prospect Anthony Rizzo, Sox scout Laz Gutierrez and Sox farm director Mike Hazen. The episode also includes a discussion with Baseball America’s Jim Callis about the state of the Sox farm system following the trade for Adrian Gonzalez

Ep. 4: Evaluating prospects and making blockbusters, with former Diamondbacks GM/Red Sox Assistant GM Josh Byrnes and former Red Sox manager Butch Hobson (who was Jeff Bagwell‘s manager in the Red Sox system when he was traded to the Astros)

Ep. 3: Red Sox catching prospects, with Sox roving catching instructor Chadd Epperson, as well as a conversation with Arizona Fall League manager Mike Sarbaugh about the Sox’ prospects in the AFL

Ep. 2: Red Sox trade chips with Keith Law of ESPN.com

Ep. 1: Baseball America’s list of the Top 10 Red Sox prospects, with Mike Hazen and Jim Callis

Read More: Adrian Beltre, adrian gonzalez, brett anderson, Gio Gonzalez
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