Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Oscar Tejeda, Daniel Bard and the nature of prospect status; Travis Shaw going for the Triple Crown?
|06.25.12 at 2:35 pm ET|
In 2010, there were two performances at the Red Sox’ High-A affiliate in Salem that commanded particular notice. Two highly regarded prospects finally put together the sorts of seasons to validate the lofty expectations that greeted their high-priced entries into the Red Sox organization.
One was Will Middlebrooks, who exploded out of the gates (he hit .362/.436/.565/1.001 in April) en route to a Carolina League All-Star nod and a season line of .276/.331/.439/.770 with 12 homers. For the first time, he showed the mix of skills that suggested a future big league starting third baseman, a player with power, the athleticism to become (eventually) a very good defender and a cannon of an arm.
Yet Middlebrooks, then 21, did not have the biggest breakout on the Salem team. That honor belonged to 20-year-old Oscar Tejeda, a player whose tremendous bat speed when he signed as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican was compared to that of Alfonso Soriano. Tejeda had an excellent performance as a 17-year-old in Lowell, suggesting he had a chance to move quickly. But he stalled over the next two years in Greenville while dealing with an assortment of health woes.
Still, the talent was there, and in 2010, after moving from shortstop to second, Tejeda displayed it. He hit .307 with a .344 OBP, .455 slugging mark and .799 OPS — numbers that exceeded Middlebrooks across the board — along with 11 homers, 32 doubles and five triples. It appeared that Tejeda had a chance to deliver offense that would have ranked as well above average for a middle-of-the-field position, particularly given that he seemed more comfortable at second than he’d been as a shortstop.
Given the age, performance and the fact that Tejeda did have a somewhat better track record than Middlebrooks, he snuck into Baseball America’s top 10 prospects at the end of the 2010 season, one spot ahead of Middlebrooks.
From that season, however, the two followed two paths divergent. Middlebrooks rocketed atop the rankings of Red Sox prospects and is now enjoying a spectacular rookie campaign in which he has been one of the best players on the Red Sox. While he dominated last year in Portland, forcing a late-season promotion to Pawtucket en route to his big league debut this year, Tejeda stalled. He hit .249 with a .297 OBP, .339 slugging mark and .636 OPS in 2011; while repeating in Portland this year, he was moved from second to left field, a position with considerably more offensive demands. And while Tejeda’s power numbers, as a 22-year-old, have picked up this year, the improvement is only slight. In 51 games, he’s hitting .262 with a .294 OBP, .396 slugging mark and .690 OPS.
Ultimately, he went from status as one of the top Red Sox prospects to an afterthought in a transaction. With the Sox acquiring Brent Lillibridge and Zach Stewart from the White Sox in exchange for Kevin Youkilis, the team needed to clear a spot on the 40-man roster. And so, Tejeda — who was placed on the 40-man following his breakthrough in 2010 — was designated for assignment. At a time when the Sox have had outfielders such as Daniel Nava and Scott Podsednik and Ryan Kalish breaking through, Tejeda had fallen too far on the organizational depth chart to maintain his place on the 40-man major league roster.
Perhaps another organization will have a spot available for him, and will grab him either via trade or waiver claim and hope that he can reclaim the potential he showed in Salem in 2010, when it was almost impossible to separate his offensive potential from that of Middlebrooks. And perhaps he will achieve it. After all, at 22, he is still young, and he still exhibits bat speed and raw power even if his lack of strike zone management renders those traits inconsistent at best. There is time for him to become a big league contributor. The Red Sox often repeat the mantra that “player development isn’t linear,” and so perhaps Tejeda’s prospect status slide is reversible.
But maybe it isn’t. That, too, is a reality of the player development process, in which tantalizing natural abilities sometimes never come to fruition once a player faces the litmus test of advanced pitching at the upper levels. Middlebrooks flourished, and to date, Tejeda — while not exactly floundering — has struggled, in a fashion that led the Sox to risk his loss from the organization.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 2-0 LOSS VS. LOUISVILLE (REDS)
– In some ways, Daniel Bard is a reflection of some of the same realities (albeit on a smaller scale) as Tejeda. He had a disastrous pro debut in 2007, became singularly dominant as a reliever from 2008-11 and then saw his career hit a pothole with his attempt to become a starter this year. He is now trying to work his way back to the majors as a reliever, and he and everyone else in the Red Sox organization believes that he will reclaim his status as a very good one.
But for now, he, too, continues his search. And it would be a mistake to assume that now that he has committed to the bullpen that he will return quickly to the dominant form he showed in recent years. On Sunday, he once again faced significant command issues, walking three batters — his most in any outing since being sent to Pawtucket — and allowing a single. He did strike out a batter, and did not allow a run.
In seven minor league appearances, he has allowed seven runs in 10 innings (6.30 ERA) with 13 strikeouts, five walks and three hit batters. He threw just 16 of 36 pitches for strikes on Sunday. Considering that Mark Melancon was singularly dominant but still required two months to return to the majors, it is safe to suggest that the Sox will not rush Bard back to the majors until they know that he has locked in his form and that he is in a position to upgrade the team’s pitching staff. That point has not yet arrived.
– Lars Anderson went 0-for-4 with a strikeout, continuing a season in which his results have been prone to extremes. He is 3-for-27 in his last six games. The 24-year-old is still demonstrating his characteristic plate discipline, and he’s showing more power than ever before in his career, but while the Sox suggest that this has been, overall, a very positive developmental year to date for him, but there is still a need to show the ability to sustain his results over broader stretches. He’s currently hitting .255 with a .374 OBP, .455 slugging mark and .818 OPS.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 6-5 WIN AT TRENTON (YANKEES)
– Jackie Bradley Jr. went 2-for-5, and has now hit in all four games since his promotion while reaching base at least two times in each contest. He has a .375 average and .444 OBP.
– Bryce Brentz went 2-for-4 with a double and two strikeouts. In his last three games, he’s 5-for-10 with three walks and two doubles.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 7-0 WIN AT WINSTON-SALEM (WHITE SOX)
– Travis Shaw went 2-for-4 with a homer — his 12th of the year, and including the All-Star Game in which he participated, his 12th in 30 games. Former teammate Bradley eventually will lack the plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. That being the case, he will lose his status as the Carolina League leader in batting average. And so, depending on when Shaw is promoted to Portland (a likelihood at some point this year, given his performance), he could make a run at the Carolina League Triple Crown. He current ranks third (including Bradley) with a .328 average (the non-Bradley player who is ahead of Bradley has a .335 mark), is tied for third in the league with 12 homers (the leader has 14) and is second with 54 RBI, one behind the league leader.
– Xander Bogaerts continued to perform at an outrageous level at the age of 19, going 2-for-3 with a homer (his 11th) and a pair of walks. He’s now hitting .295 with a .375 OBP and .500 slugging mark, with a .359/.463/.679/1.143 OPS this month.
– Brandon Workman was widely viewed as a future reliever when the Sox took him in the second round of the 2010 draft, but the big right-hander has given the Sox no reason to reconsider continuing his development as a starter. To the contrary, in his second full pro season, he looks increasingly like a starter. When the Sox made him work without his cutter (a dominant pitch for him in college at the University of Texas) for much of last year, he sharpened his curveball and changeup, and with the reins taken off the cutter, he is now working as a four-pitch starter in Salem who is dominating in the Carolina League.
On Sunday, he tossed seven shutout innings and allowed just two hits and a walk while striking out three. He matched his career high for innings in a game. After 12 starts, he is 5-3 with a 2.78 ERA, 58 strikeouts and just 14 walks in 64 2/3 innings. The caveat is that he is not young for the level, and a truer assessment of the 23-year-old will be made when he moves to the upper levels. All the same, the Sox rave about what they’ve seen, and he is an important component of the optimism that has been generated in the Red Sox organization about their pool of pitching prospects this year.
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 7-5 LOSS VS. CHARLESTON (YANKEES)
– Keury De La Cruz went 2-for-3 with a double, his fourth straight multi-hit game. He’s now hit in 14 straight games, bringing his line to .333/.384/.580/.964. He’s in the top five in the South Atlantic League in average, slugging and OPS.
SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 7-2 LOSS VS. VERMONT (ATHLETICS)
– Jose Iglesias, in the second game of a rehab assignment in Lowell, went 1-for-5 with a double. He’s 3-for-8 in his two games with Lowell.
– Deven Marrero, the Red Sox’ top pick in the 2012 draft, made his pro debut, going 2-for-4 with a walk while serving as DH.
ROOKIE LEVEL GCL RED SOX: OFF
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