Red Sox minor league roundup: Is Victor Acosta the next Red Sox power hitting prospect?; tough day for Xander Bogaerts; more mixed results for Matt Barnes; Bryce Brentz returns
|08.18.13 at 1:26 pm ET|
The Red Sox aren’t an organization overflowing with future power hitters. Xander Bogaerts, of course, looks like someone who projects to hit for considerable power in the big leagues, with the possibility of 30-homer seasons not too far-fetched to imagine. Aside from him, there is Bryce Brentz – who certainly has the strength and raw power to launch 30-plus homers (indeed, he has already done so in a single minor league season back in 2011), but whose aggressive approach raises questions about whether he will emerge as an everyday big leaguer, let along a middle-of-the-order slugger.
And beyond those two? There really isn’t much in terms of players who project to hit a lot of homers at the big league level, barring a later-career jump in the home run totals of a player with an incredible ability to barrel the ball such as Garin Cecchini, or, perhaps a rediscovery at some point by Ryan Lavarnway of the swing that made him a 30-plus home run hitter in 2011.
Perhaps one of the amateurs signed by the Sox this summer — 16-year-old third baseman Rafael Devers, or 18-year-old catcher Jon Denney or 17-year-old outfielder Nick Longhi — will emerge as such a player down the road. But there’s no performance data on any of them as professionals to reach such a conclusion.
So, if one is trying to scour the Sox system in search of the next emerging slugger based on a performance in 2013, one might have to look far and wide in order to find such a player. And while it is insanely early to suggest that a 17-year-old will become such a player, there is at least one player who is performing as if he could have a chance to do so long, long, long down the road.
Aside from Bogaerts, there is precisely one power display occurring in the Red Sox system this season that bears notice for the fashion in which it stands out relative to league norms. That is coming from third baseman Victor Acosta, a 17-year-old who on Saturday blasted his seventh homer of the 2013 season for the Dominican Summer League Red Sox as part of a 2-for-4 day that improved the teenager’s line to .256/.332/.406.
Context: Since 2006 (as far back as baseball-reference.com’s records go), only one other DSL Red Sox player has hit that many homers, and that occurred when 19-year-old Roberto Feliz also hit seven homers in 2007. As a 17-year-old in the DSL, Bogaerts had three homers and a .423 slugging mark.
Acosta is playing in a park where the ball has no carry. A number of Cuban sluggers who have worked out in the Sox’ DSL academy in tryouts have found themselves unable to clear the fences at the facility.
But Acosta — who is listed at 5-foot-11 and 160 pound, and impressed Sox scouts as an amateur in Venezuela with his quick wrists that generated considerable bat speed to suggest some power potential — has managed to go deep three times there in 31 games. For the year, his seven homers (in 59 games) are tied for fifth in the league. Two of the players who are ahead of him are 20-year-olds.
What does it mean? Maybe nothing. It’s almost impossible to project players’ future paths based on their performance in the DSL given the tremendous disparities in talent and ages among players in the league. But, at the least, Acosta has given the Sox someone upon whom to dream a bit, who is showing the potential for more power than his competitors at a very young age and who, as he fills out, could further develop that elusive tool.
For now, a question such as what kind of player Acosta might be in the big leagues is considerably behind the issue of whether he’ll make it there, or even if he’ll ever make it to the upper levels. Such is the nature of the league where he’s playing. But there’s at least the basis for intrigue about what the third baseman might become going forward. In a system with few power bats, that in its own right is noteworthy.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 7-2 LOSS VS. BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS)
— Xander Bogaerts went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts — both against left-hander Ricky Romero. That’s noteworthy given that Bogaerts had been dominant against left-handed pitching, at a time when the Red Sox have lacked offensive thump against southpaws. Bogaerts is now hitting .309 with a .457 OBP and .491 slugging mark with 15 walks, seven strikeouts and two homers in 70 Triple-A plate appearances against lefties.
The 20-year-old made his ninth start at third base. He committed his second error at the position, permitting the leadoff batter of the game to reach as a result of his fielding error.
— Catcher David Ross went 0-for-4 in his second straight game of nine innings behind the plate, and he’s 0-for-13 with five strikeouts and one walk in four rehab games in Triple-A Pawtucket, and 1-for-16 with a double and two walks in six total rehab games in his return from a concussion. Still, manager John Farrell suggested that the team is ready to activate the catcher.
“We fully expect the timing to be a work in progress, getting back to it. The fact that he’d be ready to go physically and get through a consecutive nine innings of catching today, these are things that are all being considered,” Farrell said on Saturday. “The one thing that we don’t want to do is delay his return. 16 to 18 at-bats, that’s going to be some to get his timing back. as long as there is no residual affect of the concussion coming out of today, we feel like it’s time to get him back to us.”
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 8-0 LOSS AT HARRISBURG (NATIONALS)
— Right-hander Matt Barnes was sharp early, opening the game by striking out the side in the first and allowing just one run through five innings while punching out six, walking one and allowing three hits (a double and two singles) before seeing his line score take a turn for the ugly when he returned to the mound for the sixth. Barnes gave up a pair of walks and a pair of groundball singles to open the inning before getting lifted with no outs, and when all of the runners came around to score, he ended up yielding five runs and four earned runs (his highest yields in each category since June 29) in five innings of work. That ugly line represented a departure from a 10-start stretch in which the 23-year-old had a 2.36 ERA.
After 23 starts, Barnes is 5-9 with a 4.41 ERA. He’s shown the potential to be a starting pitcher capable of generating considerable strikeout totals — his 11.4 strikeouts per nine pace the Eastern League, and he’s recorded at least as many strikeouts as innings pitching in all but three of his outings. But, with a couple of starts remaining, Barnes is also nearing the conclusion of a year in which the inconsistency of his breaking ball has often limited him to being (functionally) a two-pitch pitcher, the result being deep counts, more walks (3.8 per nine innings this year, up from 2.2 per nine last year), pitch inefficiency and an inability to dominate deep into games. He’s worked six or more innings in just six of his 23 outings.
— Third baseman Garin Cecchini extended his modest hitting streak to seven games by going 3-for-4 (all singles), pushing his average in Double-A back over .300 (to .304) and elevating his OBP for the year (between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland) to .445 — behind only Allen Dykstra (.450) for the top mark among full-season minor leaguers.
— Catcher Christian Vazquez went 0-for-4, as the 22-year-old’s 12-game hitting streak and run of 21 straight contests reaching base came to an end.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: RAINED OUT VS. CAROLINA (INDIANS)
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: RAINED OUT VS. LEXINGTON (ROYALS)
SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 5-3 WIN VS. HUDSON VALLEY (RAYS)
— Right-hander Jamie Callahan added to a resume that has him performing any reasonable expectations for a player his age (18) at his level (the New York-Penn League — a league heavy with players taken out of college). The 2012 second-rounder allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits (both doubles) and one walk while punching out six. While he has a 3.72 ERA in 10 games with Lowell, in his last five outings, Callahan has a 1.85 ERA with 26 strikeouts and three walks in 24 1/3 innings.
— Center fielder Forrestt Allday keeps getting on base. He went 1-for-3 with a double and a walk on Saturday to boost his line to .264/.446/.330. The 2013 eighth-rounder leads all players in the New York-Penn League (min. 60 plate appearances) with a .446 OBP.
ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 8-1 LOSS AT GCL TWINS
— For the first time since he underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee on July 16, Bryce Brentz played in a game. The 24-year-old — on a rehab assignment from Triple-A Pawtucket — flied out to left in his only at-bat of the game while serving as DH. Though he has missed a month, the powerful corner outfielder nonetheless still leads all Red Sox minor leaguers with 16 homers. He’s hitting .271/.322/.485 in 76 games. With his rehab assignment beginning now, Brentz stands a good chance of returning to Pawtucket before the end of the year.
— Another player out for some time, right-hander Pat Light (a supplemental first-rounder in the 2012 draft), also started a GCL rehab. The 6-foot-7 right-hander worked a scoreless inning and allowed a hit in his return from a hamstring strain. It was his first game action since June 1, when he had to leave the game after facing just one batter for his second consecutive start due to the hamstring woes. The 22-year-old had an 8.06 ERA with 24 strikeouts and 13 walks in 25 2/3 innings.
DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 3-0 WIN VS. DSL INDIANS
— Right-hander Samir El Halaby added to his streak of success, tossing two shutout innings (while allowing one hit) and striking out one to lower his ERA to 0.32. The 18-year-old has allowed one run in 28 innings while striking out 16 and walking three.
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