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Red Sox minor league roundup: Making sense of Mookie Betts; Jose Iglesias returns; Franklin Morales sharp; Drake Britton becoming efficient

05.09.13 at 11:58 am ET
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The performance of second baseman Mookie Betts with Single-A Greenville this season looks unlike anything else seen in the minors in 2013.

The 2011 high school fifth-rounder, went 2-for-5 with a homer (his third of the year) and double, three walks, a steal and no strikeouts in the double header, in the process continuing his utterly fascinating debut in full-season ball. The 20-year-old is hitting just .184 but with a .390 OBP and .333 slugging mark, along with three homers and six steals, on the season. The disparity between average and OBP is something that has almost never been seen in the annals of major league history.

But Betts is performing as more than just a statistical anomaly. Since April 25, Betts is hitting .233 but with an astonishing .540 OBP (seventh-best in all of the minors in that span — and of the six played ahead of his, none is hitting less than .381) and .433 slugging mark and a minor-league best 20 walks (no one else has more than 14) with just five strikeouts in 50 plate appearances.

Betts is not a physically imposing player. However, though listed at 5-foot-9 and 156 pounds, he has some juice in his bat at times, as became evident when he crushed his homer on Wednesday.

“He’s worth watching,” said one NL talent evaluator. “He’s wiry strong, has got a little bat speed and strength, runs a little bit.”

At a relatively young age (20), Betts demonstrates an advanced approach, excellent knowledge of the strike zone and good bat control (hence the low strikeout rates). The Sox think he’s at his best when staying up the middle and hitting to the opposite field, though the team would also like to see him take some chances with more aggressive swings early in the count when he has good pitches to hit. Even so, Betts has shown consistently good at-bats, making him the most intriguing position prospect on the Greenville team thus far this year.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-1 WIN AT GWINNETT (BRAVES)

(BOX)

Jose Iglesias returned to the PawSox lineup after being pulled in the middle of Saturday’s game for a manager’s decision and then sitting the next three contests. He went 1-for-5, and is now hitting .233/.273/.384 in Triple-A.

Manager John Farrell elaborated on the reasons for Iglesias’ benching on WEEI’s Salk & Holley show on Wednesday:

‘€œHe handled the initial option back to Pawtucket as a pro, and he continued to get his work in,’€ Farrell told WEEI’€™s ‘€œSalk & Holley’€ on Wednesday afternoon. ‘€œBut I think as time as gone on, he’€™s kind of feeling like he should be in a big-league uniform. Yet, that time isn’€™t now.’€

Brandon Snyder went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and a walk. Perhaps of more significance: He started at third base, his fourth game at the hot corner this year. He’s likely to see additional playing time at third as the Sox work to make a determination about whether Snyder offers a third base depth option. He’ll start at third again on Thursday.

— Outfielder Bryce Brentz, in his return to the lineup after missing a couple days due to soreness from a collision with shortstop Jonathan Diaz, went 1-for-3 with a walk. The hit snapped a three-game hitless stretch for the outfielder.

Ryan Lavarnway went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts, snapping his streak of 18 straight games reaching base to start the year. The contest marked just the third time in the last two years that Lavarnway struck out three or more times in a minor league game, having punched out four times on April 4 and whiffing three times once in 2012. He has struck out just 12 times (the same number of times that he’s walked) in 19 games for Pawtucket this year.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 10-4 WIN VS. READING (PHILLIES)

(BOX)

— Left-hander Franklin Morales was sharp, tossing two shutout innings in which he gave up two singles while striking out three and walking none. He also picked off a runner. While employing his full pitch mix and reportedly hitting the low-90s with his fastball, Morales threw 18 of 24 pitches for strikes and got five swings and misses.

— In an interesting development, Drake Britton has started to work deep into games and throw strikes on a consistent basis. Prior to this month, he’d never had back-to-back games in his minor league career in which he’d logged six or more innings. Now, Britton — who piggybacked Morales and entered Wednesday’s game for the third inning — has worked exactly six innings in each of his last three starts.

The results have been solid rather than dominant. On Wednesday, the 23-year-old allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits (four doubles) in six innings and got a modest six swings and misses. But his willingness to attack the strike zone — as evidenced by five strikeouts and one walk, along with a 67 percent strike rate (60 of 90 pitches) — represents what could be an important foundation for the pitcher as he tries to move forward.

In his last three starts, Britton now has 17 strikeouts and six walks in 18 innings. On the year, he has 35 strikeouts and 12 walks in 36 1/3 innings, and he’s throwing strikes — just as was the case on Wednesday — with 67 percent of his pitches.

Xander Bogaerts, who had been out for four days due to tightness in his midsection, went 1-for-5 with a triple that he drove to the opposite-field in right-center. He drove in three runs. The three-bagger was already his fourth of the young season, giving him his most triples in three seasons playing for Sox affiliates in the U.S. (He had five triples in the Dominican Summer League in 2010.) In 24 games this year, Bogaerts is hitting .298/.365/.471 with 10 extra-base hits.

— Catcher Christian Vazquez went 1-for-3 with a double and a walk. He also struck out twice, the first time all year he’s punched out multiple times. Still, he has a startling 16 walks against nine strikeouts in 21 games this year, with a .258/.405/.409 line for the 22-year-old.

— Left fielder Tony Thomas went 4-for-4 with two doubles and a triple. It was the 26-year-old’s second career four-hit game, the first having come in 2009 (also in Double-A) while still in the Cubs system. Given that Thomas had spent the previous two years in Triple-A, his approach to a return to Double-A deserves credit. He’s hitting .274/.333/.531 with three homers and 19 extra-base hits in 28 games.

— Right-hander Pete Ruiz pitched the ninth and recorded all three outs via punchout. He now has 27 strikeouts in 14 innings (albeit, somewhat less glamorously, with a 5.14 ERA and nine walks), with his 17.4 strikeouts per nine innings ranking as the best in the Sox organization.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: RAINED OUT VS. CAROLINA (INDIANS)

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 7-3 LOSS,7-6 LOSS AT WEST VIRGINIA (PIRATES)

(BOX GAME 1, BOX GAME 2)

— Left-hander Cody Kukuk struggled through three innings, allowing four runs on two hits while walking a season-high six and striking out three. However, the command woes notwithstanding, the 20-year-old continues to prove tough for opponents to square up. Both of the hits he allowed were soft singles and he got five groundball outs in his three innings of work. Opponents are hitting .160 with a .222 slugging percentage against him.

— Center fielder Cody Koback, 23, went 2-for-6 with a pair of walks. The Wisconsin-Stevens Point product, a 2011 10th rounder, has legitimate center field defensive skills; his advance in the system will almost surely be predicated on his offense. While repeating at Single-A Greenville this year, Koback is hitting .258/.355/.280, with a .308 average and .400 OBP (albeit no extra-base hits) in his last 10 games.

Read More: brandon snyder, bryce brentz, christian vazquez, cody koback
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