|Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Henry Owens, big-time prospect; Otherwordly outing for Miguel Celestino; Garin Cecchini’s unlikely run at 50 steals||07.12.12 at 12:22 pm ET|
Matt Barnes and Jackie Bradley Jr. have been dazzling in their professional debuts, but another top Red Sox draft pick from last year’s class has been, in some respects, just as impressive.
Left-hander Henry Owens, at 19 years old, is the first high school pitcher drafted by the Sox since Casey Kelly to go straight to a full-season affiliate in his first pro season. And the 2011 supplemental first-rounder continued to show that he belongs on Wednesday, as he continued to marry high strikeout totals with ever-improving control to continue to show significant promise.
Owens has a 4.72 ERA for Single-A Greenville, something that makes it easy to overlook his prospect status. But a strong case can be made that, of all the pitchers in the Red Sox system, he and Barnes might merit the loftiest prospect status, a case he continued to build on Wednesday.
He allowed just one unearned run in five innings while allowing four hits (three singles, a double) in five innings of work. The 6-foot-7 lefty struck out five (the 14th time in 15 outings that he has punched out at least one batter per inning) and walked one, continuing to show improvement in his control.
In his last eight starts, Owens has struck out 50 and walked eight in 39 1/3 innings. While his 4.72 ERA on the year isn’t eye-popping, he’s worked to a 3.29 mark in his last 11 starts dating to April 30. He’s showing a solid three-pitch mix (typically working at 91-92 mph with his fastball, he’s topped out at 94 mph and, in one outing, hit 95; swing-and-miss changeup; a curveball that he spins well and throws at two different speeds, even if its location is inconsistent) and an advanced feel for pitching, resulting in a rate of 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings this year, the highest K/9 rate of any pitcher in the minors who has thrown at least 50 innings.
“He certainly has a ton of upside,” said Matt Barnes, who pitched with Owens at the start of the year in Greenville. “He’s got three good pitches that he throws, and with his strikeout rates, I think there’s a lot of potential.”
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: OFF (ALL-STAR BREAK)
– Ryan Lavarnway went 1-for-2 with a single and strikeout at the Triple-A All-Star Game in Buffalo. Though four PawSox were named to the All-Star team, the other three — Pedro Ciriaco, Mauro Gomez and Justin Germano — have since moved to the big leagues.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: OFF (ALL-STAR BREAK)
– Aaron Kurcz had one of the best performances by a member of the Eastern League squad in the Eastern League All-Star Game, tossing 1 2/3 perfect innings while striking out two. For the year, the right-hander — acquired from the Cubs as part of the compensation deal for former GM Theo Epstein — has 65 strikeouts in 44 1/3 innings. His 13.2 punchouts per nine innings lead the Red Sox minor league system (min. 40 innings).
– Bryce Brentz went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in the All-Star Game, though he did make solid contact in delivering a face full of shaving cream to Mets prospect Eric Campbell, who had a walkoff single.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 4-0 WIN VS. LYNCHBURG (BRAVES)
– For much of the year, 22-year-old Miguel Celestino had been one of the best pitchers in the Carolina League. Through 12 starts, he was 5-2 with a 2.53 ERA, living with a mid-90s fastball down in the strike zone to get both swings and misses as well as grounders in volume. Then came a four-start skid in which the right-hander permitted 22 earned runs in just 14 2/3 innings, inflating his ERA to 4.58.
On Wednesday, Celestino rebounded in spectacular fashion. He did not allow a hit until there were two outs in the seventh inning, and finished his day with an eight-inning shutout effort (in the process becoming the first Salem pitcher this year to pitch beyond the seventh) in which he gave up just two singles, walked none and struck out three. He recorded 17 of his 21 outs via groundball, including one twin-killing that wiped out one of the only two baserunners he permitted.
Despite his recent skid, Celestino has shown intriguing potential since the Sox acquired him from the Mariners (along with Bill Hall) in exchange for Casey Kotchman. His fastball and frame (he is 6-foot-6) would make him a big league prospect,
“The big thing that we’ve told Miguel is to trust his stuff, that he’s got stuff that has big-time potential,” Salem manager Billy McMillon told Aaron McFarling of the Roanoke Times. “If he trusts that and trusts all his pitches, he’ll have a chance to be pretty successful.”
– Heiker Meneses continues to thrive at High-A Salem after being sent down from Double-A Portland. The utilityman, who turned 21 on July 1, went 2-for-3 with a pair of steals, and is now hitting .333/.384/.456/.839 and eight steals (in 15 attempts) in 23 games with Salem.
– Brandon Jacobs went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts as his nine-game hitting streak came to an end.
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 4-2 LOSS AT AUGUSTA (GIANTS)
– Shortstop Jose Vinicio, in his first game with Greenville since going on the DL for a left shoulder contusion almost three weeks earlier, went 2-for-4 with two singles and two strikeouts.
– Third baseman Garin Cecchini went 2-for-4 with a double and a steal. He now has 31 steals (in 34 attempts), putting him not only atop the Red Sox farm system in that category but also placing him tied for 13th in all of minor league baseball. The number is shocking considering that he’s not fast and he blew out his ACL as a high school senior, an injury that led to few expectations that he would be a stolen base threat. But he has an outstanding feel for the game on the bases (described by one Sox official as being “as close to an 80 base runner as you will see” with “unreal reads and instincts”), and thus has a shot to become one of the more unlikely players to reach 50 steals in the minors.
– Keury De La Cruz went 1-for-4. In his last 29 games, he has two 14-game hitting streaks.
SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 5-4 WIN (13 INNINGS) VS. MAHONING VALLEY (INDIANS)
– Deven Marrero went 2-for-5 with a double, a walk and steal. The Red Sox’ top pick in the 2012 draft now has a five-game hitting streak in which he’s 12-for-21 (.571) with two walks, four doubles and two steals.
– David Chester delivered a game-tying single in the ninth and Matt Gedman had a walkoff single in the 13th to allow the Spinners to snap an 11-game losing streak. The comeback prevented Lowell from setting a franchise record for most consecutive losses. Gedman was 3-for-6 with a double, while Chester was 2-for-5 with a walk and a pair of RBI.
ROOKIE LEVEL GCL RED SOX: 7-3 LOSS VS. GCL RAYS
– Center fielder Jeremias Pineda went 2-for-4 with a double to improve his average to .382 with a .393 OBP, .455 slugging mark and .847 OPS on the season.
DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 4-0 WIN VS. DSL MARLINS
– Manuel Margot went 1-for-3 with a single and a pair of steals. The center fielder has now swiped 16 bases in 17 attempts. He is tied for sixth in the DSL in steals, and among those with at least a dozen stolen bases, he has the highest rate of success (94.1) of any base thief, part of an impressively well-rounded debut in which the 17-year-old has hit .258/.349/.444/.793 with 12 extra-base hits (four doubles, five triples, three homers) and nearly as many walks (15) as strikeouts (18) in 32 games.
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