|Red Sox Minor League Roundup: The smallest Red Sox prospect making a big statement||06.08.12 at 1:19 pm ET|
At times, Jose Vinicio looks like a kid who has been allowed to chase flyballs on a baseball field. The 5-foot-10 18-year-old has a listed weight of 150 pounds. He’s at least 10 pounds shy of that, maybe more. He does not inhabit his uniform so much as he is swallowed by it.
But a baseball field is where he belongs. He’s got terrific defensive tools and the switch-hitter has the hand-eye coordination to square balls on a consistent basis, a package of talents that led the Sox to give him a $1.95 million signing bonus out of the Dominican in July 2010.
On Thursday for Greenville, Vinicio went 1-for-3, tagging his second homer of the season (his first of the over-the-fence variety) with a walk, and in 42 games this year, he’s hitting .290 with a .345 OBP, .419 slugging mark and .764 OPS. Those are, across-the-board, above-average numbers in the South Atlantic League, where the league average marks are .256/.336/.384/.720, and the average age of hitters is over 21. In fact, Vinicio is the second youngest player in the league, making his performance extremely impressive.
“This kid is fun to watch. He’s only 139 pounds, but so what? Defensively, he’s going to make some mistakes — he’s only  years old — but he has plus range, a great arm, good hands and nice baseball instincts. He’s going to be a good middle infielder. He loves to play,” said Greenville manager Carlos Febles. “At the plate, he’s been real good. I think he’s been better than what we thought. At this point, we thought he might be hitting .240. He’s hitting .290 right now and he’s been very consistent at the plate throughout the first two months of the season. I’ve been real, real impressed with him, him being 139 pounds and handling himself the way he has so far.”
He’s succeeding despite having the silhouette of a toothpick. Though he’s never going to look like Troy Tulowitzki, there is obvious room for him to fill out and add some muscle as he matures, something that should, in turn, result in even more juice in his bat. For now, he’s off to one of the better starts that the Sox have had by an 18-year-old player in Greenville, with a statistical profile that commands prospect status.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-3 WIN VS. INDIANAPOLIS (PIRATES)
– Outfielder Alex Hassan went 1-for-4 with an RBI, delivering a run-scoring single that continued a year in which he has impressive isolated splits even as his overall numbers do not stand out. The 24-year-old is hitting .248 with a .363 OBP, .388 slugging mark and .751 OPS. Yet those modest totals reflect struggles with a) bases empty, a situation in which he is hitting .218/.320/.310/.630 and b) against lefties, who are holding Hassan to a line of .196/.315/.326/.641, an entirely unexpected split given that Hassan is right-handed. With runners in scoring position, Hassan is hitting .291/.403/.436/.839. Against righties, he’s hitting .269/.381/.412/.793.
– Mark Melancon had a stunningly efficient, seven-pitch, three-up, three-down ninth inning for his 11th save. He has a 0.83 ERA, with opponents hitting .185 against him. He’s struck out 27 and walked three in 21 2/3 innings of work.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 7-5 LOSS VS. BOWIE (ORIOLES)
– There are times when a sinker can have too much action, something that evidently transpired with Chris Balcom-Miller on Thursday, when he allowed two runs on just two hits (both singles) in 4 2/3 innings while striking out five and getting seven groundball outs (as opposed to one flyball out) but issued a career-high six walks. Balcom-Miller is getting elite groundball rates this year (with 2.42 groundouts per flyout, second-best in the Eastern League) but he’s walked 38 (while striking out 31) in 53 1/3 innings.
– Reynaldo Rodriguez went 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles. It was the second four-hit game of his Red Sox career (the first having come on Aug. 31, 2010, in Greenville). The 26-year-old is hitting .266/.351/.542/.893 with 32 extra-base hits in 55 games.
– Juan Carlos Linares went 2-for-5, and he leads the Eastern League with a .345 average while ranking second in OBP (.420), first in slugging (.554) and first in OPS (.973).
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: SUSPENDED IN THE FIFTH, TIED 3-3 VS. WINSTON-SALEM (WHITE SOX)
A blackout forced the suspension of the game in the bottom of the fifth. From Aaron McFarling of the Roanoke Times:
“Sox GM Todd Stephenson briefed me on the details of the outage while wearing a Ric Flair T-shirt and a taped-on rat tail for ’80s night at the park. You have to love the minors.”
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 5-2 WIN AT ROME (BRAVES)
– Garin Cecchini went 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles, and he’s now tied for seventh in the South Atlantic League with 17 two-baggers. On the year, his advanced plate approach has translated to a .315 average, .396 OBP, .459 slugging mark and .855 OPS.
“He’s been swinging the bat extremely well. This guy has a great approach. You see him take [batting practice], and he takes the same swing that he takes in B.P. into the game. You don’t see that on a young player,” said Febles. “He’s very consistent, knows exactly what he needs to work on and brings his early work into the games. His approach is unbelievable. He stays up the middle, keeps his hands inside the baseball real good and drives the ball the other way. And, the pitch in, last year he had some issues with the fastball-in, this year, that hasn’t been the case. If they go away, he goes the other way. If they come in, he pulls it.”
– Outfielder Drew Turocy was taken by the Red Sox as a senior out of the University of Akron last year, and so at 23, he is on the older side for the South Atlantic League. Nonetheless, he has produced consistent excellence in his 20 games with Greenville this year in 20 games since joining the Drive. After a 2-for-4 day in which he hit a pair of doubles, Turocy is hitting .370/.384/.494/.878, with hits in 17 of his 20 games, and multi-hit performances in 10 of the 20 contests in which he’s appeared.
DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 5-1 LOSS VS. DSL RANGERS
– Alixon Suarez, a 17-year-old catcher out of Venezuela, went 2-for-2 with a double, walk and HBP. He has reached base in exactly half of his 24 plate appearances, going 5-for-17 (.294) with four walks and three HBPs.
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