|Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Anthony Ranaudo’s Portland season might be done; Jackie Bradley’s slump; Keury De La Cruz keeps raking; Michael Almanzar intriguing||08.09.12 at 1:03 pm ET|
At the start of the season, when considering if there was one standout Red Sox pitching prospect with a chance to move quickly through the ranks of the system, the answer was virtually unanimous. Anthony Ranaudo, ranked the No. 4 prospect in the Red Sox system by Baseball America entering the year, was the one pitching prospect with a chance to make a considerable leap forward.
Though he had spent less than a full year in High-A Salem, Ranaudo had shown a swing-and-miss curveball, a low-90s fastball, some progress with a changeup, the ability to stay healthy for a full season and tremendous off-the-field makeup and a fish-to-water transition to a professional starter’s five-day routine. The numbers in 2011 were fairly modest (9-6, 3.97 ERA, 8.3 strikeouts and 3.3 walks per nine innings), but the Sox thought he had a chance to turn in a dominant season that would put him on the radar for a big league callup by early 2013, a notion that seemingly was validated this spring when his offseason workouts with left-hander Drake Britton had him topping out at 96-97 mph and looking poised for a big year.
But then what seemed like a small groin injury delayed the start of his year held him back by a month and left him searching for his mechanics when he did return. Evaluators who would see him would wonder why this 6-foot-7, highly regarded right-hander was throwing in the high-80s and maybe the low-90s while struggling with his command. He experienced dead arm in a start in the first week of July, and his progression since then has been deliberate, to the point where it is looking increasingly unlikely that he will start again for Double-A Portland.
As of Wednesday night, a team source said that the pitcher’s condition hasn’t gotten any worse, and that an MRI on his shoulder came back clean. Moreover, the Sox have yet to render a decisive judgment about whether Ranaudo will pitch again this year in Portland or if his next appearance in a game will be in fall instructional league.
But the latter course is appearing increasingly likely, as the 22-year-old remains amidst a very deliberate buildup — one that has been slower than expected at the time that he initially landed on the DL. Rather than have him push through a buildup in order to make one or two starts in Portland before the end of the year, the team may simply elect to have him refocus his attentions on pitching in Florida in September and then perhaps trying to find a winter league team where he can make up some of his lost innings.
If Ranaudo’s year is indeed done, then the numbers will look ugly. In nine starts, he is 1-3 with a 6.69 ERA, 27 strikeouts and 27 walks in 37 2/3 innings for Portland. There’s not a lot to sugar coat those numbers.
The biggest consolation for Ranaudo, of course, is that he has been in this spot before and responded in compelling fashion. In 2010, he entered his junior year as one of the top prospects in the draft and promptly laid an egg, going 5-3 with a 7.32 ERA while striking out 54 and walking 27 in 51 2/3 innings in an injury-marred season. But he went to the Cape and rebounded after the Red Sox took him in the sandwich round with the No. 39 overall pick, tossing 29 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run, thus setting the stage for him to sign with the Sox (for a $2.55 million bonus) and turn in his solid minor league showing in 2011.
The Sox must now pin their hopes on the idea that he will be able to follow a similar course this offseason and then into 2013, when he will almost surely repeat in Portland, because as of now, there appears to be little to be gleaned from 2012.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 10-2 LOSS VS. SYRACUSE (NATIONALS)
– Andrew Bailey, in the first of scheduled back-to-back appearances for the PawSox, threw a perfect inning of relief while striking out one. He threw eight of 11 pitches for strikes. His final pitch of the night, according to PawSox play-by-play man Aaron Goldsmith, was 94 mph.
– Chris Carpenter ran his scoreless appearances run to seven, striking out two and walking one. In 11 innings in Pawtucket, he’s allowed just one run (0.82 ERA) while striking out 13 and walking six.
– Alex Wilson walked a batter and allowed three hits. The walk ended a run of three straight appearances without a free pass, his longest such stretch of the year. In 31 relief appearances, Wilson has a 2.98 ERA with just over a strikeout per inning and 3.5 walks per nine innings.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 5-1 LOSS AT AKRON (INDIANS)
– Left-hander Drake Britton limited the damage in allowing three runs (one earned) over 5 1/3 innings, though he continued a recent pattern in which he allowed a ton of baserunners, giving up seven hits (five singles, two doubles) while walking three and striking out three. Among Eastern League pitchers, his 1.60 WHIP since his promotion in early June ranks among the bottom 10 in the league. Interestingly, the southpaw has experienced particularly pronounced struggles against lefties, who are hitting .347/.476/.388/.864 against him, compared to a line of .271/.332/.370/.702 by righties. He has walked 13 and struck out just 14 of the 63 left-handed hitters he’s faced.
– Jackie Bradley Jr. went 0-for-4 with a strikeout, continuing his first sustained slump of his first pro season. He’s hitting .211/.307/.459/.766 in his last 28 games with 16 walks and 20 strikeouts. Obviously, those numbers (particularly the power numbers) are entirely respectable for a player who is slumping, but given that Bradley had fallen below a .400 OBP on just one day in Double-A prior to that, the stretch represents a downturn in performance.
– Christian Vazquez went 0-for-3 and is now 1-for-14 since his promotion. However, he has struck out just once.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 7-6 WIN VS. CAROLINA (INDIANS)
– Michael Almanzar continued his intriguing run in Salem. The 21-year-old went 2-for-4 while swatting a pair of doubles, giving him 41 extra-base hits for the year — the most he’s ever had in a minor league season, surpassing his 40 extra-base hits in 2010. He’s hitting .305 (5th in the Carolina League) with a .359 OBP, .460 slugging mark and .818 OPS, and his 32 doubles are tied for second most in the league. He’s shown improved strike zone command and consistency of contact as the season has progressed as well, evident in the considerable jump in his line from the first half (.303/.343/.430/.743) to the second (.309/.379/.500/.879).
There are a few years of struggles behind the third baseman to suggest that it would be inappropriate to get carried away with one very good season. At the same time, the performance — still at a relatively young age (Almanzar, it is worth noting, is a year younger than Travis Shaw and Jackie Bradley Jr., both of whom are in their first full pro seasons after being drafted as college juniors) — suggests that he can no longer be written off, either.
– Brandon Jacobs went 2-for-4 with a walk and a pair of steals, giving him 15 stolen bases on the year. It was the fourth straight game in which the outfielder has drawn a walk.
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 9-1 LOSS AT SAVANNAH (GIANTS)
– Keury De La Cruz continued his outstanding season, going 2-for-4 with a double and triple. The 20-year-old is hitting .317/.364/.554/.914 with 16 homers and 16 steals, along with 55 extra-base hits, tied for the most in the Red Sox system this year. He’s also been a model of consistency, delivering above-average offense in every month of the year, something that is continuing now as he has reached base in 15 straight games, a stretch during which he’s hitting .361/.409/.689/1.098.
– Blake Swihart, out since Aug. 1 with a strained hip flexor, has resumed baseball activities and is expected to make a quick progression back to play in games.
SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 4-1 WIN VS. BROOKLYN (METS)
– Early in the season, some Red Sox officials who went through Lowell saw Mike Augliera throwing 91-95 mph and thought that he was overthrowing at the outset of his pro career, and figured that his early struggles (16 earned runs through 11 1/3 innings) reflected that fact. More recently, the 22-year-old out of Binghamton has seemingly settled into a comfort zone, with outstanding results. On Wednesday, he logged three shutout innings, and in his last four outings, he has 12 innings without an earned run while striking out 17, walking one and permitting just seven hits. He also elicited five groundball outs (along with two strikeouts) on Wednesday, a sign that his turbo sinker is both dropping below bats for swings and misses or tumbling off the barrel for groundballs.
– Kendrick Perkins went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, and in six games this month, he’s hitting .088 (1-for-17) with two walks and eight strikeouts. His numbers for the year are down to .226/.313/.363/.676 with strikeouts in 36 percent of his plate appearances.
ROOKIE LEVEL GCL RED SOX: 3-0 WIN AT GCL RAYS
– Nick Moore continued his strong play of the last month, going 1-for-3 with a triple and a walk. He was a two-sport athlete in high school, and so the Sox expected him to have his fair share of growing pains while catching up to the speed of pro ball, but he’s athletic and shows a good approach at the plate considering his relative inexperience. The 19-year-old has 25 walks and 32 strikeouts in 37 games, and his OBP is up to .390.
– For the first time in his 17-game pro career, Tzu-Wei Lin had multiple extra-base hits in a game, going 2-for-4 with a double and triple as well as a walk. After he had one extra-base hit in his first 11 games, he has four in his last six contests.
DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 5-4 LOSS AT DSL RANGERS
– Manuel Margot is in something of a slump on the bases. After swiping 24 of his first 28 attempted bags, he’s 3-for-7 in his last four games. He got caught stealing once and picked off once on Wednesday.
– Alixon Suarez went 2-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout. The 18-year-old catcher still has more walks (32) than strikeouts (31) on the season.
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