Red Sox minor league roundup: Jackie Bradley Jr. is streaking, Brandon Jacobs’ puzzling 2013, Mookie Betts’ flair for the dramatic
|05.26.13 at 8:54 am ET|
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox system on Saturday . . .
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 6-5 WIN AT LOUISVILLE (REDS)
— Jackie Bradley Jr. went 2-for-4 and got hit by a pitch, and now has four straight multi-hit games and has reached base multiple times in six straight contests. Slightly more broadly, he has a nine-game hitting streak dating to April 30 (before he went on the disabled list for biceps tendinitis), during which he’s hitting .444/.535/.944.
— Playing third base, Brandon Snyder made a game-changing defensive play (a diving stop of a one-out grounder with the bases loaded that limited a Louisville rally to one run) and went 2-for-4 with a game-winning two-run homer in the eighth inning. Snyder, who has struggled for much of May (.256/.330/.436), is now heating up again. He has two-hit games in four of his last five contests. The homer was his first in 13 games.
— Left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings, and now has a 0.63 ERA in 28 2/3 innings this year. On Saturday, the 30-year-old recorded his first save of the season.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 3-2 LOSS (10 INNINGS) AT BINGHAMTON (METS)
— Left-hander Drake Britton logged five shutout innings in which he gave up just two singles — the first time all season in which he hasn’t allowed a run. Though he’s struggled with his control (10 walks in 15 2/3 innings over his last three starts, including four on Saturday — though it’s worth noting that he threw a solid 65 percent of his pitches for strikes), Britton has shown improved performance (3.74 ERA, 19 strikeouts in 21 2/3 inning) over his last four outings. He elicited eight swings and misses among his 93 pitches and retired the final seven batters he faced.
— Left-hander Rafael Perez, signed to a minor league deal earlier in the week, tossed a scoreless inning while striking out a batter in a perfect nine-pitch, eight-strike inning. Perez, 31, has a 3.64 ERA, 7.3 strikeouts and 3.2 walks per nine innings in parts of seven big league seasons.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 3-2 LOSS AT FREDERICK (ORIOLES)
— Right-hander Mike Augliera continued to show the ability to log innings while minimizing damage as a pitch-to-contact sinkerballer. The right-hander, who had given up just one homer in 45 2/3 innings entering the night, did yield a pair of roundtrippers. However, he otherwise sailed through seven innings in which he gave up seven hits (five singles and the two homers), walked two and struck out two. He’s pitched at least five innings and given up three or fewer runs in each of his last eight starts. The 22-year-old’s rate of 1.88 groundouts per flyout ranks third in the High-A Carolina League; his groundout-to-flyout rate spikes to 2.37 against right-handers.
— Outfielder Brandon Jacobs, 22, went 1-for-4 with his fifth homer of the year. Though Jacobs has struggled through some dreadful numbers this year — a .199/.276/.377 line while repeating in Salem — he’s actually shown an improved line against right-handed pitchers from a year ago. All five of the right-handed Jacobs’ homers have come against righties, en route to a .220/.274/.431 line against pitchers of said handedness; those marks are comparable or favorable when stacked up against his .213/.280/.329 marks against righties in 2012. His offensive dropoff is primarily the product of a puzzling struggle against southpaws. After hammering lefties to a .394/.472/.702 line last year, Jacobs is hitting .107/.286/.143 against them this year.
Regardless of the details of his struggle, the impact is considerable. This Sox face a decision this offseason about whether to add Jacobs — a 10th-rounder out of high school in 2009 — to the 40-man roster in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Entering the year, he seemed a reasonable candidate for protection given his potential impact as a combination speed/power player who had some of the most impressive tools in the system, but that was based on the assumption that he would play his way to Double-A to start the year and perform reasonably well. (He also had prospect status, having been ranked the No. 6 prospect in the organization by Baseball America after the 2011 season and the No. 13 prospect after last year.)
This performance regression while repeating at High-A, however, makes it nearly impossible to imagine that — barring an extreme turnaround, and perhaps even with one — he would be a candidate for addition to the 40-man by the end of this year.
— Keury De La Cruz, 21, went 2-for-4 with a double, his third straight game with a double.
— Garin Cecchini had a ho-hum 1-for-3 day with a walk. He’s reached a point where getting on base in half of his plate appearances makes little discernible impact on his offensive line. His average ticked down from .376 to .375, and his OBP moved just from .485 to .486.
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 6-0 LOSS AT CHARLESTON (YANKEES)
— Brian Johnson had his second straight strong outing, tossing five innings (matching a season high) while allowing one unearned run on two hits, two walks and six strikeouts. After he posted relatively modest strikeout numbers in his first six starts (20 in 24 innings — 7.5 per nine), Johnson has started generating more whiffs over his last two outings. He has 14 punchouts in his last 10 innings, with opponents hitting .162 against the 2012 first-rounder in those two outings.
Johnson enjoyed his strong line despite throwing strikes with just 58 percent (54 of 93) of his pitches. It is, however, worth noting that despite his strikeout total, Johnson didn’t necessarily feature obvious swing-and-miss stuff. He got whiffs on just seven of his 93 pitches, and five of his six punchouts were on called third strikes.
Still, he’s allowed one or no earned runs in five of his eight starts to date, so by and large, regardless of whether he has his best or sharpest stuff, he’s managed to control the game.
— Daily Feats of Mookie: With a flourish that suggested an aptitude for the theater (a reinterpretation of Casey at the Bat, perhaps?), Mookie Betts made it seem as if it was possible to prevent him from extending his hitting streak. In his first three plate appearances, he refused to put the ball in play — walking once and striking out twice. A hitting streak that had reached 18 games hung in jeopardy. He stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning, his streak arriving at a clear fork in the road. Betts further amplified the degree of difficulty by falling behind, 0-2, fouling off a pitch and then taking a ball just barely in off the plate. Finally, against right-handed reliever Alex Smith (who has a 1.04 ERA and has held opposing hitters to a .198 average, striking out 30 of the 99 batters he’s faced this season), Betts decided the suspense had been drawn out for long enough and lined a single to right. His hitting streak now stands at 19 games.
“He might be the most confident hitter in our organization right now,” said one Sox official.
“It seems like his bat is really catching up with his eye,” noted another, referencing the fact that, after spraying line drive singles and showing excellent walk rates in Lowell last year, Betts has become a Charles Bronson-esque figure of mythical fortitude in Greenville.
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