There aren’t many fan bases that are as invested in their minor league prospects as the fans in Red Sox Nation. Names like Lars Anderson, Casey Kelly and Jose Iglesias are already household names among the Fenway Faithful, despite the fact that none of them have ever stepped foot in a major league clubhouse.
So here’s another prospect to feast upon: Ryan Westmoreland.
Considering he’s currently the No. 2 rated Red Sox prospect in the organization, according to Soxprospects.com, Westmoreland is someone who already may be familiar to the diehards in the Nation. The 19-year-old outfielder (yes, he was born in the 1990s) was a steal in the fifth round of the 2008 draft because a commitment to Vanderbilt scared off other clubs in the first few rounds.
Rumor had it that Westmoreland would only consider foregoing school to sign with the Red Sox, his hometown team — and whether the rumors were true, he did sign and played in 60 games for Single-A Lowell in 2009. He hit .296 with seven homers, 35 RBIs and a .401 on-base percentage.
Westmoreland has battled some injuries in the early going of his career — he had surgery to repair a partially torn labrum in November 2008 and surgery to repair a broken collarbone in September — but they aren’t expected to set him back.
So what’s the scouting report on the former Rhode Island Gatorade Player of the Year? He’ll tell you.
“Good speed and plate discipline, but sometimes will lunge out for the ball instead of staying back,” he told Soxprospects.com when asked for a scouting report on a healthy version of himself. “As an outfielder, pretty good range and arm, but is still fairly new to the outfield, so fly ball reads may need more time to become a more mature outfielder.”
His estimated time of arrival in the major leagues is 2013, which seems like a long way away. By then, Josh Reddick will be a grizzled vet, J.D. Drew could be long gone and Jacoby Ellsbury will be the old guy in the outfield. But as we’ve seen with Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis, Jon Lester, Daniel Bard and countless other homegrown talents, development can never be underestimated. We all saw what happened to hurler Michael Bowden when he got called up too early.
Bringing players up into the bigs when they’re not ready can wreak havoc on their mindset, their craft, their process. If they don’t experience success immediately, they could get down on themselves, and their organization could get down on them, too.
The Red Sox seem to have perfected the art of rookie asset management — they bring up the guys who are ready (Reddick), and they keep the others in the minors until the time is right. During last year’s spring training, everyone wanted to talk about Lars Anderson‘s future in Boston, but he stayed hidden in the minors all year because GM Theo Epstein knew he wasn’t ready.
The same goes for Westmoreland. He’s a 19-year-old with above-average power and good range in the outfield, and he’s only going to get better as he moves up the minor league ranks. The big club isn’t even on Westmoreland’s radar right now. He knows he has plenty to work on as far as his range and his plate discipline go before he can even think about playing under the Green Monster.
But with all the talk about the Red Sox aggressively pursuing Roy Halladay and Adrian Gonzalez, will Westmoreland even have a future in Boston? Will he be a piece of prime bait used to lure in one of the game’s best?
He’s good enough to be used as bait, but chances are, he won’t be part of any potential trade package.
“Casey Kelly and Westmoreland are the best we have,” one Red Sox official told ESPN.com this offseason, “and we’re not trading them.”
Westmoreland will have a future in Boston. It won’t be here for a while, but when it arrives, the wait will be worth it.
NESN.com will answer one Red Sox question each day in November.
Friday, Nov. 27: Will Josh Reddick make the Opening Day roster?
Sunday, Nov. 29: What will the Red Sox’ starting lineup look like in 2010?