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40 in 40: Boston Red Sox Player Profiles- Luis Exposito

The final catcher on the Red Sox 40 man roster is 25 year old prospect Luis Exposito. Drafted by the Red Sox in the 31st round as a draft and follow player in 2005, Exposito has been working his way through the minors at a steady pace and may well be on his way to a career as an everyday catcher in the major leagues. With Ryan Lavarnway a step ahead of him, however, he may not get that chance as a member of the Boston Red Sox.

For 2012, Exposito will once again be a security option at catcher. Last season, he even managed a quick call up to the big league club last season in that role, spending 2 days on the 25 man roster when Jarrod Slatalamachia was ill, but never getting into a game.  With two options remaining he will begin the season back in AAA Pawtucket and try to continue the incremental process of adapting to higher level competition.

Hitting

After a strong season at AA in 2010, where he hit .258/.338/.414, for a wRC+ of 105, Exposito did not fair as well in a full season ofAAAin 2011. His power should be a plus tool for him as he develops but he needs to become a more selective hitter and avoid being fooled by the better off-speed stuff he will se at the higher levels.

The good news for Exposito is that he may be figure things out with respect to the strike zone. Even with his struggles at Pawtucket last year he had a respectable 7.2% walk rate. His rate in 2010 at AA was actually quite good; he walked 10.1% that year after a miserable 4.1% rate in his first exposure to that level in 2009. Strike outs will likely remain a problem for a righty through his career, but should he keep that rate around 22% when he reaches the major leagues, he can be an average hitter for a catcher.

While his 6’3 215 lb frame, Exposito should hit for plenty of power, but he done so yet. Since reaching AA he has shown average power with a .156 ISO in 2010 and a .127 ISO last season. His long swing will likely result in a large number of fly balls and if does not begin to put more of those in the seats he could struggle with mediocre power and habitually low batting averages on balls in play. Most scouts believe the power will come and though 25 seems to be an advanced age, for a catching prospect, progress comes more slowly.

Defense

Exposito has a strong arm and scouts like his tools as a catcher but he is still raw, especially in the most important aspects of the position- play-calling and blocking pitches. At the major league level, these are the areas a catcher must be competent in for his staff to trust in him and excel when throwing to him. He had 14 passed balls in 85 games during the 2010 season and he has been working hard over the season and in camp this spring to improve that area of his game.

The defensive issues will most likely be make or break for Exposito. If he can block balls and develop a feel for calling the game, he could turn into an excellent defensive player. He threw 38% of base runners in 2010 and 33% in 2011, so his arm could be real weapon against the running game.

With that throwing ability and reasonable pass ball rates, he should at least manage to become a back up at the major league level. If his bat does develop some pop and  his strike out rate stays in check, he could even be an exciting player. It is a lot of him to work on, however, and his time is running out. Boston is happy to have him in case of emergency, but he could need to leave the organization to finally get his shot. On the other, if he impresses at AAA this year, he would be a prefect fit for Kelly Shoppach’s current role next year.