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Red Sox minor league roundup: Context for Xander Bogaerts’ power surge; Sox’ outlook on Will Middlebrooks; Brandon Jacobs moves up; Henry Owens effectively wild?

07.12.13 at 11:24 am ET

A year ago, Xander Bogaerts became the first Red Sox teenager since Tony Conigliaro almost 50 years earlier to hit 20 homers in a season at any level. Now, he appears intent on proving that the eruption was not a mirage.

Bogaerts, now 20, is currently on an eye-opening power-hitting binge in the upper levels. On Thursday, he went 1-for-4 with a homer to second, his second in as many days, his third in five games and his seventh in 28 games since his promotion from Double-A to Triple-A. Bogaerts has already exceeded the number of homers (6) that he hit in exactly twice as many games (56) with Portland prior to his promotion.

Of course, of Bogaerts’ six homers in Portland, most of them came in his final couple of weeks with the Sea Dogs. He went deep just twice in his first 36 contests before launching four homers in his final 20 games with the Sea Dogs, once the weather got warmer. So, dating to May 29, Bogaerts now has 11 homers in 40 games, tied for 11th in all of the minors in homers during that stretch of just over six weeks. In that time, he’s hitting .326/.429/.603 with as many walks (25) as strikeouts (25). So, he’s generating power at an elite level while maintaining a sound fundamental approach. Among all the hitters in the minors with 11 or more homers during this stretch, he has the second-highest OBP during the run — behind only 29-year-old Massachusetts native Chris Colabello of the Twins.

There are few if any minor leaguers right now who can match Bogaerts’ mix of age, power, approach and position. He may not be the top prospect in the minors — it’s tough to look past what Twins prospect Byron Buxton is doing in terms of power, speed and approach in his first full pro year; moreover, Bogaerts has now committed five errors in his 28 Triple-A games — but if not, he’s pretty damn close.



Will Middlebrooks snapped an 0-for-17 stretch with a line drive single to left in his third plate appearance on Friday. He finished the night 1-for-4, and is now hitting .242/.277/.452 with three walks, 10 strikeouts and four homers in 15 games since being optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Still, though the 24-year-old is obviously amidst some period of struggle in Triple-A, Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen said on Thursday (on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan show) that the Sox continue to view Middlebrooks as their “third baseman of the future.”

‘€œThere’€™s too much talent there. He had a rough go at it in his second go-around in the league, and that’€™s going to happen. That’€™s happened to a number of our players, and I think that’€™s what gives us confidence here,’€ Hazen said, citing Clay Buchholz and Jose Iglesias. ‘€œWe very much believe in this guy. He just has to go down and get some things straightened out, and really, if this guy’€™s able to right the ship, come back and help us in the second half, that’€™s a huge boost for us. That’€™s another trade we don’€™t have to make.’€

— Versatility alert: Alex Hassan played the game at first base, the fourth time this year (third start) and sixth of his career that he’s played that position. Hassan is already capable of playing both corner outfield spots. His availability at first base would give the Sox a potential right-handed depth option who is capable of grinding out at-bats with the potential to hit for average and get on base, albeit with less power than typically characterizes the position. The 25-year-old went 2-for-4 and drove in a pair of runs on Thursday. In 23 games with the PawSox, he’s now hitting .321 with a .411 OBP, .474 slugging mark and 10 extra-base hits (nine doubles and a homer).

Jeremy Hazelbaker hit his eighth homer of the year but his first against a left-hander. The 25-year-old is now hitting .276/.337/.410 with 23 steals in 28 attempts. The left-handed hitter owns a .310/.376/.473 mark with seven homers against righties and a .188/.233/.250 line with a homer against lefties.



Brandon Jacobs earned a promotion to Double-A Portland and made his debut on Thursday, going 2-for-3 in game one AND 0-for-3 in the second game of the day. Jacobs struck out swinging in his first Double-A at-bat, but smashed a one-out triple to right field in his second. The outfielder — who played center in his Portland debut — would finish the day with a triple, a single and two strikeouts.

Jacobs, 22, struggled for the early part of the season in Salem, but had been on fire as of late, batting .367/.487/.633 in his last nine games with Salem. In 81 games with High-A this season, Jacobs put up a .244/.334/.440 line, belting 11 home runs and 24 doubles while driving in 44 through 291 at-bats.

Garin Cecchini had an unusually quiet day, going 1-for-6 with a walk between the two games. He went 0-for-3 in the second contest, snapping his streak of 17 straight games reaching base at least once by hit or walk since his promotion to Portland. But the third baseman, who is hitting .385/.487/.538 through 18 games with Portland, received some good news on Thursday, when it was announced that the 22-year-old had been added to the roster of the All-Star Futures Game at Citi Field in New York. He’ll be joining Anthony Ranaudo and Xander Bogaerts as the representatives from the Red Sox organization.

Tony Thomas had a double in each game for the Sea Dogs today, going 3-for-7 between the two games. Thomas, who is hitting .243/.306/.449 in 82 games with Portland, has collected seven extra-base hits over his last 12 games.



— Left-hander Henry Owens rebounded after a rough outing his last time out with a 6 2/3 inning performance, allowing three hits and two runs, though neither run was earned. For the third straight start, the 2011 supplemental first-rounder (who turns 21 on July 21) dealt with control problems, walking four batters, though he struck out four as well.

Over his last 13 2/3 innings, Owens has issued 14 free passes.With the increase in walks, Owens is also seeing his strikeout numbers drop. Prior to his last three starts, Owens had recorded fewer than five strikeouts in a game only twice, but has struck out four or fewer in each of his last three outings. Despite the slight drop-off, Owens still ranks fourth in the Carolina League with 97 strikeouts, though he also ranks third in the league with 43 walks in 86 innings.

One thing Owens has been doing particularly well is keeping the ball in the ballpark; with another homer-less start, he’s gone eight straight starts without allowing a round-tripper.

Miguel Pena, who has been up and down all season, had endured two rough outings before hurling seven innings of three-hit ball, allowing only one run, though it wasn’t earned. The 22-year-old struck out four and walked two on the day. He picked up his fourth win, improving to 4-4 on the season while shaving almost an entire point off his ERA, bringing it down to 5.57 from 6.69.Pena, a lefty, has looked solid against right-handers, but has been hit very hard by left-handers, who are batting .393/.455/.679 against him in 58 at-bats.

Henry Ramos saw his 15-game hit streak snapped in game two of the double header, going 0-for-3 after extending the streak with a single in game one. Ramos hit .338/.366/.523 over the life of the streak with six doubles and two home runs. The stretch helped Ramos boost his line to .273/.347/.434 through 85 games this season.



— Though Justin Haley‘s recent control struggles continued — he walked four batters, the fifth time in six starts that he’s issued four or more free passes — the big right-hander featured enough swing-and-miss stuff to limit the damage to two runs in 4 1/3 innings. The 22-year-old struck out seven, giving him 73 punchouts in 75 1/3 innings this year. He’s also avoided hard contact of late, holding opponents to a .220/.356/.256 line with no homers in his last five starts spanning 25 1/3 innings.

— Shortstop Jose Vinicio, who turned 20 on Wednesday, went 1-for-4 with a single and a steal. Since the start of June, he’s been successful on all eight of his stolen base attempts.



— Starter Mario Alcantara was dominant for the Spinners on Thursday, throwing five innings of scoreless ball, allowing just one hit while walking three and striking out two on the day. Alcantara, who started the season with a 10-inning scoreless streak, has bounced back nicely after a nine-hit, nine-run performance two starts ago. The 20-year-old has allowed eight earned runs in 23 innings with Lowell, striking out 14 while walking eight and hitting four batters. Alcantara has limited righties to a .205 average in 44 at-bats against him this season.

— Center fielder Manuel Margot reached base safely for the 21st straight game, going 2-for-4 with two singles and a walk. Margot has been on base in every contest he’s appeared in this year except for his very first game of the season. The 18-year-old also stole his fifth base of the season, though he’s been caught five times. With a walk and a strikeout on the day, Margot brings his total in both categories to seven in the month of July, while he walked only four times in 12 games in June.

— Outfielder Williams Jerez recorded his second multi-hit game of the season, going 2-for-4 and swiping his third base of the season. It’s been a quiet season at the plate thus far for Jerez, who was drafted in the second round out of high school in 2011. The 21-year-old is hitting only .183/.222/.217 with two doubles and two RBI, while he’s had no luck at all with left-handers, knocking only one hit (though it was a double) against southpaws in 17 at-bats. But Jerez’s bat is showing signs of life; in seven games this month, he’s hitting .240 with both his extra-base hits and his two RBI coming within his last seven games.



— Second baseman Wendell Rijo continued a performance in the GCL that has belied his age. The 17-year-old went 3-for-4 with a double and two steals in the second game of the doubleheader. He’s now hitting .256 with a .407 OBP thanks to 10 walks and eight strikeouts in 13 games. To date, he’s hit for little power (his only two extra-base hits are doubles), but that’s to be expected for a player who is so young and who skipped the standard entry level of the Dominican Summer League.

Joseph Monge, an 18-year-old out of the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico, went 3-for-3 with a double and steal. The Sox selected Monge in the 17th round.



Victor Acosta, after spending his first 27 games at either third base or DH, played second base. The 17-year-old did commit his 10th error of the year, though he atoned by driving in a pair of runs in his 1-for-5 day. Acosta leads the DSL Sox with 16 RBI.

— Shortstop Javier Guerra went 1-for-3 with a single, a walk and two steals. His .336 OBP is nearly double his .169 average thanks to 20 walks (compared to 17 strikeouts) in 26 games.

Read More: brandon jacobs, garin cecchini, henry owens, joseph monge
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