At the risk of using a bad pun, the Boston Red Sox hope Ryan Dent will make a major “dent” in their defense and base running in the not-too-distant future.
As a means of explanation …
A sandwich pick in the 2007 draft, Dent last season was named Boston’s Minor League Defensive Player of the Year after splitting time between Greenville and Salem. And, in June, he was named the organization’s Minor League Base Runner of the Month.
During his first three seasons in Boston’s farm system, Dent has been successful on 91 of 109 stolen-base attempts (which figures out to 83.5 percent).
He’s considered a superb base runner that gets nice jumps. That means he’s not only capable of stealing bases but also able to go from first to third and from second to home on a single and can beat out infield hits – and force infielders to rush their throws while attempting to nail him at first base. Which is so unlike many of the leadfoots who’ve played for the Red Sox over the years.
In fact, scouts rate Dent as having plus speed and he’s projected as having the ability to steal as many as 40 bases should he make it to the major leagues.
But the question is how frequently can he get on base which would enable him to use his speed?
Dent began last season at Low-A Greenville and in 99 games, hit only .252 with 24 doubles, three triples, six home runs and 48 RBI. While he did steal 12 bases in 17 attempts, he also struck out 112 times and drew only 48 walks in 345 at-bats.
After he was promoted to High-A Salem, Dent appeared in 13 games and hit just .268 with 10 whiffs and zero walks in 41 at-bats.
“(Dent) has quick wrists and a short swing,” said an American League scout who covers the low minors. “But he chases too many pitches. He’ll have to lay off breaking balls and do a better job of working the count.”
As anybody who’s followed the big club in recent years knows, that’s something the Red Sox have emphasized.
“He’s in the right organization to teach that and stress development,” added the scout. “He has to develop a more disciplined approach.”
Defensively, Dent was considered an extremely raw shortstop coming out of Wilson High School in Long Beach (he passed up a scholarship to play baseball for UCLA and received a $570,000 signing bonus from the Red Sox). But his defense has improved to the point where he does a good impersonation of a vacuum cleaner around second base.
Ironically, Dent drew comparisons to former Boston shortstop Alex Gonzalez (i.e. good glove, dubious bat).
Dent, who’s rated as having an average arm, is so athletic that he may be capable of playing center field.
Given the glut of shortstops in Boston’s farm system, outfield could be his eventual destination.
EXTRA BASES: Through his first 76 games this season at Salem, Dent hasn’t exactly knocked anybody’s socks off … He’s hitting a mere .202 with 10 doubles, three home runs and 26 RBI … More surprisingly, he’s also committed 13 errors.