FORT MYERS, Fla. -- One of the interesting aspects of this spring training will be to watch the Red Sox' young pitchng prospects matched against major league hitters.
Last year, the Red Sox had a number of pitchers make their major league debuts -- Brandon Workman, Rubby De La Rosa, Drake Britton and Allen Webster included.
This year, a new crop is poised to contribute, led by Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo and Henry Owens.
We spoke to a long-time major league scout who had the Sox among his coverage teams last season. The scout saw every level of the team's minor league system and saw all three pitchers extensively.
He offers these scouting reports:
HENRY OWENS: "Owens has the highest ceiling of the three. Owens has really good deception with his delivery. To me, he's like Tony Cingrani [who starred as a rookie for Cincinnati last season]. He's got a really good change, he's got enough fastball, he's got deception. I think the breaking ball just keeps getting better. He throws his curve harder than he did a year or two ago.
"I think his upside might be as a No. 3 starter. I don't see him being a No. 1 or a No. 2. That's Roy Halladay, that's [Justin] Verlander. I just don't see David Price stuff. I think the separator [over the other two] for Owens is his the changeup. If they had to pick a guy right now to pitch the fifth game of the season, Owens could probably give the other team the most trouble.
"His fastball is 92-93, but guys don't hit him. He's like B.J. Ryan - guys don't see him [well]. Some guys just hide the ball. You don't see it and then it's on you. This kid knows what he's doing. The more I watch him, if they lost [Jake] Peavy [to injury], of the three, who has the best shot, it would be Owens.
"I don't think he's scared. He's got a little Kelly Leak in him from the Bad News Bears in him, with the long hair...He's got a little [Barry] Zito in him.
"His numbers [in the minor leagues] are incredible, but I think the hitters he faced [play a part]. This will be a really big year for him because he'll face guys and they'll be able to make adjustments and eliminate a pitch.''
MATT BARNES: "He's got the best fastball of the three. He can get up to 98 mph. He's got good fastball command. Hitters have trouble picking up his fastball.
"What will determine whether he's a starter or reliever [in the big leagues] is the breaking ball. It was a little better last year, but it's not a knockout pitch. The arm and the body are really good.
"I think, for now, [major league teams] would sit on his fastball. He doesn't have a put away pitch. The curveball shows flashes, but it's not a power, hammer pitch. He can move his fastball side-to-side, but they need to give him a cutter, or something, just [to provide a different plane].
ANTHONY RANAUDO: "He bounced back nicely last year, but for a guy who has pretty good stuff, is 95 mph [with his fastball] and a pretty good breaking ball, hitters seem to pick him up better. I like him. I can see him being a No. 5 starter or swing guy out of the bullpen. I would take [Brandon] Workman over him.
"Both showcases he pitched in last year, he got hammered. I just don't see knockout stuff with him.''