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Red Sox minor league roundup: A tough start for the system

04.12.12 at 8:09 am ET
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Ryan Lavarnway had his first multi-hit game of 2012 on Wednesday. (AP)

It has not been a good opening week for the Red Sox at any level.

The big league club is 1-5, in last place in the AL East. They are joined at the bottom of their division by Double-A Portland (1-6) and High-A Salem (1-4); Triple-A Pawtucket is 3-4. Right now, only Greenville (4-3) has a winning record, after a day in which the Red Sox system was swept (not that wins and losses are the point when it comes to a player development system…).

There were, however, some interesting performances, most notably by a top outfield prospect who had gotten off to a slow start.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 2-1 LOSS AT ROCHESTER (TWINS)

– Catcher/DH Ryan Lavarnway went 2-for-4 with a double to push his average up above (or is it to?) the Mendoza line. He’s hitting .200 so far, though with five walks (.360 OBP)  and just two strikeouts in 25 plate appearances.

– Shortstop Jose Iglesias collected his second hit in five games. He’s not 2-for-18 (.111) with a .261 OPS in the season’s first week. Iglesias committed his second error of the year, this one of the throwing variety.

– Left-hander Andrew Miller is slated to make his first appearance with the PawSox on Thursday, following two relief outings in Greenville.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 10-1 LOSS AT TRENTON (YANKEES)

Ryan Dent, who is repeating in Portland, continued his solid start to 2012, going 1-for-2 with a sac fly. In five games, he’s 5-for-13 (.385) with three walks to yield a .471 OBP and 1.086 OPS. The 23-year-old, a sandwich pick in the 2007 draft, is considered one of the better defenders (he was named the organization’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2009) and athletes in the Red Sox system, and so his big league future will depend on whether he can hit. Dent has played four of his five games to date this season at second base.

Kolbrin Vitek had his first extra-base hit in 31 plate appearances in Double-A, and is now hitting .222/.323/.259/.582 (with four walks and five strikeouts) through seven games. The Red Sox believe that the 2010 first-round pick, who hit .281/.350/.372/.722 along with three homers and 31 extra-base hits while spending last year at High-A Salem, has untapped power potential that has yet to translate to games.

“In batting practice, the way the ball comes off the bat, the ball flies all over the place. He’s got a good approach at the plate, a good idea of the strike zone,” hitting coordinator Victor Rodriguez said of Vitek’s 2011 performance. “He’s a guy who has plenty of power. At times, he gets a little too passive, and at times, he can force his swing either the other way or he can get a little pull happy, but our main thing with him is to use the whole field. He’s got power to all fields. He’s just got to get comfortable, get a good pitch to hit and let it go.”

The Sox speak highly of Vitek’s defensive improvement at third base, and believe that he can develop into a player capable of being a well-rounded player with average to above-average tools across the board.

– Shortstop Derrik Gibson, who was sidelined by the removal of wisdom teeth to start the year, played his first game of the year, going 0-for-4.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 4-1 LOSS  AT LYNCHBURG (BRAVES)

– Left fielder Brandon Jacobs bounced back from a game on Tuesday in which he punched out three times to go 3-for-4 with a double and steal. He drove in the lone run for Salem.

– After an 0-for-4 night, center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is 2-for-16 (.125) to start the year and has yet to collect an extra-base hit in five games. However, he has walked six times, so his OBP is .391.

– Raise your hand if you realized that right-hander Keith Couch was third among Red Sox minor leaguers last year with 123 strikeouts (behind Kevin Millwood (139) and Kyle Weiland (126), and tied with Brock Huntzinger and Alex Wilson)). Those of you who raised your hands are probably unsurprised that he struck out eight in five innings — while allowing four runs on seven hits and a walk — in defeat.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 5-3 LOSS VS. HICKORY (RANGERS)

– Another day, another double for David Renfroe, who has at least one extra-base hit in all five of his starts this season. He is second in the league with six extra-base hits.

– Had Garin Cecchini — a fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft who was signed for first-round money — not been coming off 2009 surgery to repair his ACL, there’s a good chance he would have started his career at Greenville last year. Instead, his progression was slowed by that injury as well as a hairline fracture of his wrist while he was enjoying an excellent season in Lowell last year.

This year, Cecchini is healthy, but off to a slow start. He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts on Wednesday, and is hitting .130/.231/.217/.448 with eight strikeouts in 26 at-bats. However, the third baseman — considered one of the top position prospects in the Sox system — can find reassurance in the fact that he started slowly with Lowell last year (.200 average, .649 OPS in June) before tearing up the league (.342 average, 1.011 OPS) in July, prior to his season-ending injury.

LINKS

Baseball America examined the youngest players at each level of baseball. A handful of Red Sox minor leaguers made the list in their respective leagues.

Jose Iglesias, the youngest position player in the International League last year, is still the fifth-youngest player overall (and third youngest position player) in 2012. (Keep that in mind whenever his offensive struggles are mentioned — at 22, he’s not a finished product.)

Utility infielder Heiker Meneses, 20, is the fourth-youngest position player in the Double-A Eastern League, while right-hander Aaron Kurcz — the 21-year-old who was acquired as compensation for GM Theo Epstein — is the ninth-youngest player in the league.

In the High-A Carolina League, Red Sox superprospect Xander Bogaerts is the second youngest player in the league at age 19.

Bogaerts’ double play partner, Sean Coyle, is the ninth youngest player in the league. The second baseman turned 20 in January.

Continuing the theme of young international middle infielders who are at advanced levels, shortstop Jose Vinicio, on the Greenville Drive roster to open the year, is the fourth-youngest player in the Single-A South Atlantic League. Vinicio won’t turn 19 until July.

Also from Baseball America, former top Red Sox prospect Casey Kelly — the centerpiece of the Adrian Gonzalez deal — is starting to translate his tremendous stuff into dominant results in Triple-A. He punched out a career-high nine in six shutout innings on Wednesday.

Kevin Thomas of the Portland Press-Herald looks at the tribute that the Sea Dogs will hold for late founder Dan Burke — and explains why, “Somewhere, high up in the ultimate sky boxes, Dan Burke is cringing.”

Read More: andrew miller, brandon jacobs, david renfroe, derrik gibson Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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