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More in the pipeline? Red Sox prospects Anthony Ranaudo, Kyle Stroup impress in instructional league

10.12.12 at 9:09 am ET

It was a strong year in the Red Sox farm system for pitching, despite the fact that two players who entered the year among the top-ranked arms in the system suffered what amounted to lost seasons.

Prior to the 2012 campaign, Baseball America tabbed Anthony Ranaudo as the No. 4 overall prospect and the top pitching prospect in the Red Sox’ system; in spring training, the big right-hander looked like a potential breakout candidate. However, injuries derailed Ranaudo’s season before it ever had a chance to take shape. He suffered a groin injury in spring training, experienced a recurrence of it while rehabbing, then never had his mechanics while pitching in Double-A Portland. Ranaudo made just nine starts in Portland, going 1-3 with a 6.69 ERA while issuing as many walks (27) as he had strikeouts in just 37 2/3 innings before getting shut down in the first week of July with a dead arm. He didn’t pitch again in Portland over the final two weeks of the season.

Meanwhile, right-hander Kyle Stroup started the year as the No. 20 overall prospect in the Sox system and the No. 8 pitching prospect as ranked by Baseball America based on a 2011 season in which he showed the ability to sustain mid-90s velocity with a changeup that gleaned swings and misses in bulk. But late in spring training, Stroup blew out the ACL in his left knee, resulting in the second time in three years that he missed a full minor league season after an ACL rupture (prior to 2010, he blew out his right knee in spring training).

That being the case, the returns of Ranaudo and Stroup to the mound represented a significant development for the Red Sox in the recently completed Fall Instructional League.

Both pitchers made three appearances, and concluded their schedules with three-inning outings. Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett said that Ranaudo “feels really strong, so he’s back to getting his mechanics.” He said that Ranaudo’s fastball — after enduring inconsistent velocities in Portland, but often registering 89-92 mph — touched 94 mph while typically sitting at 92-93 mph, and he flashed a power curveball at times while also incorporating his changeup. Ranaudo is now expected to join Caguas in the Puerto Rican Winter League (former Red Sox infielder Alex Cora is the GM of Caguas), where the Red Sox are hopeful that Ranaudo will get roughly 30-35 innings of work. In Puerto Rico, Crockett said, the Sox “want to give [Ranaudo] a solid base for an offseason” while finishing his season in time that he “can actually make strength gains and give his arm a bit of a healthy break.”

Stroup, meanwhile, touched 96 mph in his first action since spring training. In his final outing, Crockett said that the right-hander “had eight or nine swings and misses on his changeup and his fastball played really well” in three innings of work.

“Overall, we’re really happy with where he is at this point,” said Crockett.

Stroup is still adjusting to pitching with a brace on his left knee, but his stuff showed no evidence of discomfort. Just as was the case at the end of the 2010 campaign, the Sox plan on sending Stroup to the Dominican instructional league to get additional work before he enters his offseason. After his lost 2010 season, Stroup used his time in the Dominican as a springboard for a 2011 campaign that put him on the prospect map. Now, the Sox are hopeful that he can repeat that history.

“He’s back to his foundation,” said Crockett.

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