Red Sox minor league roundup: Youth served in Jamie Callahan’s perfect day; Allen Webster offers reminder; Will Middlebrooks’ frustration boils over; Matt Barnes striking out everyone; Tzu-Wei Lin shows sneaky pop
|08.01.13 at 3:24 pm ET|
The Lowell Spinners of the short-season New York-Penn League enjoyed a flirtation with perfection, their pitchers retiring the first 25 batters of the game before Cody Dent — the son of one-time Red Sox tormenter Bucky Dent — singled with one out in the ninth inning. The pitcher who anchored that sterling effort now commands notice.
The Red Sox selected right-hander Jamie Callahan in the second-round of the 2012 draft knowing that he represented a player with considerable upside not only based on his outrageous high school performance (as a senior at Dillon High School in South Carolina, he was 7-1 with a 0.89 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 50 innings), physicality (at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, he showed the frame and quick arm of a starter while also retaining athleticism) and stuff (a 92-95 mph fastball, curveball and slider) to inspire promising projections. That combination of attributes was all the more impressive given that Callahan was just 17 while pitching his senior season, already showing an ability to dominate against older performers.
Increasingly, there’s evidence — at least for position players — that the ability to emerge as a top performer as one of the youngest high school draftees in a class is a significant indicator of star potential. While the aforementioned study did not dig into the correlation between the drafted age of pitchers and future stardom, the ability to dominate older competition will always be viewed as one of the most significant measures of potential big league talent.
In that context, Callahan’s performance is becoming increasingly interesting. At 18, he’s the youngest pitcher in the New York-Penn League, a level that is heavy with relatively advanced college talent (for instance, 2013 No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel is making his debut in that league this summer). And he’s showing some flashes of the ability to dominate.
Wednesday represented the most dramatic example, as he retired all 18 batters whom he faced, nine on strikeouts. But it wasn’t an isolated event. Callahan’s dazzling outing on Wednesday was almost a replica of his prior outing, in which he fired six shutout innings, allowing just one hit while punching out eight and walking none. So: two starts, 12 innings, no runs, one hit, 17 strikeouts, no walks. Dominance.
On the year, Callahan’s numbers aren’t quite as eye-opening — he has a 3.74 ERA with 32 strikeouts and nine walks in 33 2/3 innings spanning seven starts — but frankly, the fact that he hasn’t been overwhelmed by his level of competition, and instead appears to be gaining a growing sense of comfort, bodes well for his future.
As of now, he’s showing almost no ability to elicit groundballs, something that does offer an asterisk for his projection. Still, at 18, there’s time for Callahan to figure out a way to address that early deficiency. After all, he’s shown a propensity to demonstrate a steep learning curve on the field already.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-0 LOSS AT NORFOLK (ORIOLES)
— Allen Webster has been looking to get back on track since being demoted to Pawtucket, and it appears he’s starting to find his way. Webster struck out a season-high 12 batters in six innings on Wednesday — that’s more strikeouts than his totals in his last three outings combined, and the most for a PawSox pitcher since Kyle Weiland more than two years ago. Sloppy defense in the third inning with errors from Will Middlebrooks and Webster himself led to two unearned runs, and Webster finished the day after six innings, allowing three runs on three hits while walking only one.
His fastball command, something he’s been lacking in recent starts, was back, and Webster was able to throw all of his pitches for strikes. His velocity was slightly lower than in previous starts, sitting around 90-93 with his fastball.
‘I felt comfortable all the way around. I felt better today than all year,’ Webster told Brendan McGair of the Pawtucket Times. ‘I wasn’t thinking about mechanics at all. I was letting the ball work and getting ahead of batters.’
Webster’s last two outings have been very encouraging. In his last 12 1/3 innings, he’s allowed five runs (though only three were earned) on six hits, striking out 16 and walking four. Batters are hitting only .143 against him. The righty lowered his ERA in Triple-A from 4.24 to 4.04 after the outing, though he received the loss and dropped to 5-4 on the year.
— Will Middlebrooks‘ frustrations came to a head in the form of an ejection in the third inning. A pitch that Middlebrooks thought was high was called a strike on a 3-1 pitch, and after swinging at the next pitch to finish the strikeout and end the inning, Middlebrooks slammed his helmet and bat into the ground, barking something at the home plate umpire. He was quickly tossed.
“For me, watching him especially over the last day, it’s been tough ‘ all the trade rumors, [Brock] Holt going up,’ Pawtucket manager Gary DiSarcina told McGair. ‘It can get frustrating, but you can’t get thrown out there, especially with a short bench.
‘Will’s been frustrated a little bit with his at-bats, trying to keep a consistent approach. He’s had a couple of tough calls go against him. He said a couple of things that he shouldn’t have said and he got ejected,’ DiSarcina continued. ‘He’s got to learn how to control the frustrations.’
Middlebrooks’ frustration isn’t surprising; instead of receiving the call to the majors after the departure of Jose Iglesias, Holt was brought up instead. Granted, Holt’s ability to play more than one position could have had just as much to do with the decision as Middlebrooks’ performance in the minors, but it does reaffirm that the third baseman has things he still needs to improve on in Pawtucket, as DiSarcina suggested.
‘Will’s still got work to do. He still needs to be more consistent. He still needs to have better at-bats on a daily basis,’ DiSarcina said before Wednesday’s game. ‘He understands why he’s here. Sure there’s probably some disappointment but you have to get over it and be a professional. And Will is that way.’
— Ho-hum. Xander Bogaerts went 2-for-4 with a double, giving him 28 straight games in which he’s reached by a hit or walk. In that span, he’s hitting .323/.440/.521 with four homers, seven doubles, 18 walks and 17 strikeouts.
— Franklin Morales made progress in his return from the disabled list, pitching a clean seventh inning, throwing 13 pitches with seven going for strikes. It’s the second rehab outing in which Morales has looked both sharp and healthy. Morales last pitched on June 22 before heading back to the DL with a pectoral issue that has plagued him for most of the season. He looks to be on the verge of rejoining a crowded bullpen in Boston.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 3-2 LOSS AT RICHMOND (GIANTS)
— As first reported here, the Portland rotation just added another great arm, when left-hander Henry Owens was promoted from High-A Salem. Owens looked impressive in his time with Salem, going 8-5 with a 2.92 ERA and 1.137 WHIP, striking out an average of 10.6 batters per nine innings, including a run of 19 1/3 no-hit innings during which opponents were 0-for-55 against the 6-foot-7 left-hander.
— Starter Matt Barnes turned in his fifth solid outing in a row, going 5 2/3 innings and allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits, striking out seven while issuing three walks and hitting a batter. Of Barnes’ 99 pitches, 59 went for strikes. Though Barnes looked relatively sharp, he didn’t record a clean inning, having to work through multiple jams caused by a combination of walks and sloppy defense behind him.
In his last 21 innings, Barnes has compiled a 1.71 ERA and held batters to a .178/.299/.247 line, giving up four earned runs on 13 hits. However, Barnes has struggled with command, giving up 12 walks even while striking out 30. The 23-year-old leads qualifying starters in the Eastern League with 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
— Travis Shaw provided the only offense of the night for Portland, driving in both of the Sea Dogs’ runs, with a fielder’s choice in the fourth and a one-out double in the sixth. Shaw has been heating up at the plate over the past week or so, batting .333 in his last seven games with three doubles, a triple and two home runs. Shaw is batting .224/338/.402 through 100 games with 18 doubles, three triples and 13 home runs on the year, driving in 43 and scoring 49 times.
– Christian Vazquez had an interesting night. First, the positives: Vazquez went 1-for-2 with a single and a walk, scoring the Sea Dogs’ first run. He also gunned down his 38th runner of the season, and his stolen base percentage sits at an amazing 48 percent — easily the top mark in the Eastern League, where the runner-up has caught 40 percent of would-be base stealers. But Vazquez also committed his seventh error of the season, an interference call in the first inning. He also allowed his 14th passed ball of the season.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: OFF DAY
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 6-5 LOSS AT GREENSBORO (MARLINS)
— Outfielder Aneury Tavarez went 2-for-4 with a homer while driving in three. As was the case last year in Lowell, Tavarez has shown some pop that suggests offensive potential (the 21-year-old has 35 extra-base hits in 95 games), but a hyperaggressive approach that makes it difficult for him to have a consistent impact. He’s struck out 14 times without a walk in his last 10 games, with 16 walks and 108 strikeouts on the year.
— Right-hander Jake Dahlstrand, 21, had a sharp outing in which he gave up two runs on five hits (including a pair of solo homers) while punching out two and walking none. In July, Dahlstrand went 3-1 with a 3.10 ERA in 29 innings with a modest 13 strikeouts but just seven walks.
SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 7-0 WIN VS. AUBURN (NATIONALS)
— Shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin went 2-for-5 with his first professional homer, an event 66 games in the making. The 19-year-old shortstop is more of a line drive hitter who might sneak a ball into the gaps than someone who represents any kind of power threat at this stage. Nonetheless, his advanced hand-eye coordination does offer a projection of someone who can put the barrel on the ball with some consistency, and whose speed will allow him to make an impact once on the bases. The 5-foot-9 Lin, signed for $2.05 million in 2012, has back-to-back multi-hit games. He’s hitting .259/.344/.364, in a league where the average performer is two years older than him and hitting .244/.316/.341.
— The Red Sox took Forrestt Allday in the eighth-round after identifying the college senior out of Central Arkansas as someone with tremendous on-base skills in college. To date, in 16 pro games, he’s delivered on that. He went 2-for-4 with a double and got hit by a pitch on Wednesday, and on the year, the 22-year-old is hitting .327 with a .485 OBP, .404 slugging mark and more walks (13) than strikeouts (12).
ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 2-1 WIN VS. GCL ORIOLES
— Right-hander Keivin Heras tossed five shutout innings, allowing two hits, striking out two and walking none. The 18-year-old has been getting stronger as the season has progressed, with a 1.23 ERA, seven strikeouts and two walks over 14 2/3 innings in his last three appearances.
— Bryan Hudson, the Sox’ 2013 15th-round selection, went 0-for-1 but walked three times. Though hitting just .268, he’s reaching base at a .411 clip with a .338 slugging mark.
DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 5-4 WIN AT DSL INDIANS
— Shortstop Javier Guerra collected a season-high four hits, going 4-for-5, and in his last four games, he’s now 8-for-14 to improve his season line to .222/.351/.264. The 17-year-old, one of the Sox’ top 2012 international signees, has strong defensive skills that will allow him to move up the minor league ladder, with an open question regarding his offensive projection.
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