Red Sox minor league roundup: Feats of strength for Jose Iglesias; Henry Owens, Francellis Montas dominate; Sean Coyle’s power show; why Brandon Snyder is with the Red Sox
|04.30.13 at 12:36 pm ET|
Jose Iglesias went 2-for-4 while launching his third homer of the year — with his 2013 homer total now matching his longball total in 1,159 professional plate appearances entering the year. His homer on Monday, however, was quite possibly the most impressive Iglesias has ever hit — a shot to left-center (rather than a pull shot straight down the line, typically Iglesias’ M.O. when he goes deep) that cleared the fence at McCoy Stadium by a healthy margin.
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Dating to the time when he hit a homer on the first pitch he saw in a workout at the Red Sox‘ Dominican Academy — an immense field where it’s exceedingly difficult to go deep — the Sox have always thought the shortstop had sneaky power potential, an ability, at his best, to hit eight to 10 homers in the big leagues. Right now, for the first time as a professional, he’s showing the ability to drive the ball on a somewhat sustained basis, as evidenced by his .426 slugging mark this season in Pawtucket.
It hasn’t been perfect. He’s hitting .246 with a .281 OBP, and his strikeout rate (17.2 percent) is at a career high while his walk rate (4.7 percent) is at a career low. Still, Iglesias is showing flashes of a different level of offensive ability than had been previously evident in his career, suggesting that, in his fourth professional season, he’s reaching a different level of self-awareness with his swing: an epiphanic moment in his career, perhaps.
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– Bryce Brentz continued to amass quality plate appearances, going 2-for-4 with his second homer in as many games and his fourth of the year. He’s been doing an excellent job of laying off of breaking balls off the plate (even against right-handers) and controlling at-bats, unloading with his characteristically massive swing on pitches he can drive rather than chasing pitches that he has little chance to impact.
– When the Red Sox added Jackie Bradley Jr. to their roster at the end of spring training, the move came with some cost to the team’s first base depth. To get Bradley onto the 25- and 40-man rosters, the team had to expose Mauro Gomez to waivers, and the first baseman was promptly grabbed by the Blue Jays.
But the Sox moved quickly to find another alternative, signing versatile 26-year-old Brandon Snyder to a minor league deal after he’d requested his release from the Rangers. Snyder’s cousin, Madison Younginer, is a member of the Red Sox organization, but that didn’t have a lot to do with his decision to sign with Boston.
“When you opt out of a contract two days before spring training ends, it’s not like you have a whole list of jobs waiting for you. So honestly, I was just hoping to find a place where I could at least get a place to play,” said Snyder. “Leaving Texas was tough. I enjoyed my time there. But they were looking at some other guys, some younger guys. They got a guy back in the Rule 5 [former Red Sox prospect Chris McGuiness, traded to Texas for Jarrod Saltalamacchia in 2010] who they wanted to play first in Triple-A everyday, and they really didn’t have a spot for me to play everyday. I understood that. That’s when I said, ‘I’ve got to find a place where I can at least play everyday in Triple-A, if not be in the big leagues.’ I was on my way home, got the call from my agent that the Red Sox needed some help in Triple-A and I feel very blessed to come here — great guys, great manager, great manager.
“I didn’t want to sign with anyone where I would be sitting on the bench in Triple-A. It just worked out. I feel really blessed that I got a chance to sign with anybody, but the fact that it is the Red Sox, my cousin is [in the organization], it just kind of added on.”
Snyder continued his excellent start on Monday, going 2-for-4 while smashing a pair of homers (his fourth and fifth). He’s hitting .338/.430/.662 in 19 games. While he’s played only first base to this point in Pawtucket, Snyder does have versatility — he played five positions last year with the Rangers in the big leagues (first, third, left, right and catcher), and on his twitter page, Snyder states a goal of “[t]rying to play every position with the Red Sox organization.”
In fact, there was some talk about having Snyder play all nine positions in a Triple-A game last year. He decided at the time that he “didn’t want to make a scene,” but the idea piques his interest.
“I wouldn’t be opposed to doing it. It’d be kind of cool to tell my kids I did it one time. I can do it,” said Snyder.
“Oh yeah. My dad [Brian Snyder] pitched for 15 years in pro ball and pitched some in the big leagues. I’ve got good mechanics,” he said. “I don’t know if I can get anyone out. … But [Steven Wright] has been helping me practice my knuckleball, so we’ll be good to go.”
For now, however, Snyder is content to be mashing in Pawtucket as an everyday first baseman, even if it means waiting on the other positions on the field.
“[The idea of playing all nine positions] is just kind of a running joke, but I try to make myself as valuable as I can,” said Snyder, who described third base as his natural home on the diamond. “But I enjoy playing first, being anywhere I can get consistent at-bats — that’s where I want to play.”
– Bradley sat out of the last two games with Pawtucket. According to a major league source, he’s had some minor shoulder soreness, but he will be back in the PawSox lineup on Tuesday.
– In his first outing with Pawtucket since getting sent down from the big leagues, Steven Wright struggled with his command (five walks in four innings, more balls (43) than strikes (41)) but the knuckleballer worked around that to log four shutout innings in which he allowed one unearned run and struck out two while giving up four hits (all singles). In three Triple-A starts, he has a 1.93 ERA and .196 opponents’ batting average.
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– A year ago, Sean Coyle hit nine homers in 116 games with High-A Salem. This year, he’s nearly matched that mark in about 100 fewer games. The 5-foot-8 second baseman continued his remarkable opening stretch by turning on a 96 mph fastball on a 2-2 count from Royals top pitching prospect Kyle Zimmer and sending it screaming over the fence for his fourth homer in five games and his seventh in 14 games this year (all solo shots, by the way). The 21-year-old went 2-for-5, and is now hitting .339/.400/.780 in the season’s first month. He’s striking out quite a bit — twice on Monday, 12 times in his last seven games — but he’s impacting the ball with such regularity that he seems like a player who is rapidly performing his way out of Salem, where he spent all of last year.
– Henry Owens continues to flash the potential to dominate against older competition. He tossed five innings in which he allowed two runs on three hits while striking out a season-high eight and walking two — an outing that is even more impressive when one realizes that Owens’ outing came after a six-hour bus ride that started at 5:45 am on Monday morning.
Though one of just six 20-year-old pitchers in the Carolina League, Owens has been one of the league’s most consistent pitchers to date. He’s gone at least five innings in all five of his starts, giving up no more than two earned runs, walking no more than two and giving up no more than four hits in any outing. A year ago in Single-A Greenville, he had a 1.45 WHIP. This year, he has a 0.88 mark.
A quick look at Owens’ place on a number of Carolina League leaderboards:
ERA: 2.08, 8th
WHIP: 0.88, 2nd
Opponents average: .161, 2nd
He’s maintaining strong strikeout rates (10.4 per nine innings) while trimming his walk rates (2.8 per nine) by more than 30 percent from a year ago, and he’s showing excellent fastball command along with a legitimate big league strikeout weapon with his changeup and flashes of a curveball that is major league-caliber. In short, he’s been very, very good.
– Blake Swihart went 2-for-3 with a walk, and he’s now reached base in 12 straight games. In that time, he’s hitting .341/.426/.463.
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– Right-hander Francellis Montas had one of the most dominant outings in the Sox system this year, allowing just a bunt single in five shutout innings in which he struck out a career-high nine and walked none. (He did hit a batter, but promptly got a double play groundout.) He threw 47 of 70 pitches (67 percent) for strikes. Of Montas’ 15 outs, nine came by punchout with four more coming via groundball.
His outing-to-outing results have been inconsistent, thus resulting in a 6.00 ERA. Still, the 20-year-old — who has the ability to hit triple digits on the radar gun — now has a 27-to-6 strikeout-to-walk rate in 21 innings this year.
– Shortstop Jose Vinicio was dropped from leadoff to the No. 9 spot in the order, and responded by going 1-for-3 with his second triple of the year. The talented switch-hitter has struggled to a .199/.244/.299 line.
– David Chester, 24, continued to be the Drive’s best power-hitting threat, going 2-for-7 with a homer and a walk in the doubleheader. He now has three homers this year, all of which the right-handed-hitting Chester has accumulated against right-handed pitchers. He’s hitting .323/.432/.548 against righties, and just .063/.211/.063 against lefties.
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