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Red Sox minor league roundup: Taking stock of Bryce Brentz’s prospect status; Garin Cecchini stops streaking; Mookie Betts makes it rain; Wendell Rijo and the Sox’ second base stockpile

09.01.13 at 10:44 am ET
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Outfielder Bryce Brentz went 1-for-4 with a double, his second extra-base hit in seven games since returning to Triple-A Pawtucket from the DL. He did, however, strike out twice, giving him nine whiffs (against just one walk) in 22 plate appearances since coming off the DL while recovering from his torn meniscus, with a .143/.182/.333 line since his return to Patwucket, dropping his season line in Triple-A to .263/.312/.477 with 17 homers.

Given that Brentz missed more than a month, the notion that he’s struggled to regain his timing at the plate is not a surprise. It would be misleading to view his current offensive results as a meaningful barometer of his prospect status. That said, the 24-year-old’s pre-injury offensive performance — a .272/.321/.487 line with 16 homers in 75 games — was solid but hardly the stuff that screamed of a future big league regular, particularly given his struggles to get on base.

Though he has a strong arm, his defense in the outfield corners has been spotty this year (he committed a two-base fielding error on Saturday, his eighth of the year). He’s not an impact baserunner. He hits for respectable average but, before his injury, was just a tick below league average in terms of OBP (.328 in the International League).

In other words, barring an improved approach that permits him to have an above-average OBP as a corner outfielder, Brentz’s prospect status is riding on one carrying tool: Power. And unquestionably, he has significant power from the right side of the plate, with his Pawtucket total of 17 homers in 81 games projecting out to 34 in a hypothetical 162 contests. But it’s not epic power that demands a spot as an everyday big league outfielder, at least not yet.

And so, while Brentz is a virtual lock to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason (the power potential is significant enough, and the proximity to the majors close enough, that he’d be snapped up in a heartbeat in the Rule 5 draft), he faces a 2014 season that may represent his most significant. The 2013 campaign was marred by his preseason handgun accident that prevented him from taking part in big league spring training and then the torn meniscus that wiped out much of his second half. Assuming he’s added to the 40-man roster, he’ll finally be assured of an opportunity to make a new first impression in big league camp this year.

There are outfield opportunities in the Sox’ system going forward — Jonny Gomes, for instance, is signed only through 2014, and so Brentz could position himself to inherit the veteran’s role as the right-hander power hitter off the bench. And the Sox system features a distinct lack of players who profile as future outfield regulars, with the best candidate after Jackie Bradley Jr. being Manuel Margot in Short-Season Single-A Lowell), but Brentz will need to do more in 2014 than what he’s done this year in order to assert his merits for such a role.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 2-1 LOSS VS. SYRACUSE (NATIONALS)

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– Right-hander Allen Webster added to a recent list of strong performances. He mowed through 4 2/3 innings in just 67 pitches, throwing 66 percent (44) for strikes, while permitting one run on two hits (a solo homer and a single), walking just one and striking out four. (The right-hander was evidently on a 65-pitch limit; health did not factor into the decision to remove him.)

He finished August with a 3-0 record and 2.67 ERA. He’s had more dominant months in Triple-A this year, but none with the control he displayed in August, in which he walked 11 in 33 2/3 innings, a rate of 2.9 walks per nine that represented his best mark of the 2013 campaign. (He also hit just 0.5 batters per nine innings, also a season low.) The ability and willingness to throw strikes obviously represents a fundamental prerequisite for Webster to permit his potentially electric stuff from playing. And so, his final stretch of the season in Triple-A is a meaningful one from the vantage point of representing a building block moving forward.

– Right-hander Brock Huntzinger submitted a dominant relief outing, firing 2 1/3 innings of no-hit ball while punching out four and walking one. The 25-year-old has a 1.43 ERA with 37 strikeouts and 16 walks in 37 2/3 innings since a mid-year promotion from Portland. One hindrance to his case for a call-up: At a time when the Sox are pressed to find more options to shut down right-handers, Huntzinger exhibits reverse splits, having held lefties to a .150/.224/.233 line while striking out 26.9 percent of opposing southpaws and a .247/.341/.301 line against fellow righties, who have struck out 22.3 percent of the time against him.

– Right-hander Brayan Villarreal allowed a run on a hit and three walks while striking out one in his inning of work. It was the first run allowed by the hard-throwing righty in four appearances with Pawtucket since his acquisition by the Red Sox in the Jake Peavy/Jose Iglesias/Avisail Garcia trade.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 8-0 LOSS, 4-2 LOSS VS. TRENTON (YANKEES)

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– In the second game of the doubleheader, Garin Cecchini went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, his second game with multiple extra-base hits in Portland and his first since July 3. However, in the first game, the third baseman took an 0-for-3, thus ending his streak of 39 consecutive games reaching base. It was the third longest stretch in Portland history, behind only Kevin Millar (62) and Kevin Youkilis (47). Cecchini OBP watch: .439, still just ahead of Allan Dykstra, who has been out with a hip injury for the last couple of days while sitting on a .436 OBP.

Juan Carlos Linares went 2-for-3 with a double in the first game, extending his streak of consecutive games with multiple hits to six. He went 1-for-4 with a double in the second game of the doubleheader, extending the 28-year-old’s hitting streak to 11 games, during which he’s hitting .478/.520/.891 with four homers and 10 extra-base hits. He leads the Eastern League in each of those categories during the stretch.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 1-0 LEAD (SUSPENDED AFTER FOUR INNINGS)

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– Feats of Mookie: Making it rain. With Mookie Betts batting in the bottom of the fourth, a downpour commenced. Betts was 1-for-1 with a steal prior to the game-suspending deluge. (The rest of the game will be included upon its Sunday conclusion, in Monday’s roundup.)

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 4-2 LOSS, 6-4 LOSS AT SAVANNAH (METS)

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– Right-hander Justin Haley wrapped up one of the more intriguing campaigns in the lower minors of the Sox’ system by allowing four runs (three earned) in five innings while striking out seven and walking three. He got off to a rough start this year, and carried a 5.68 ERA through his (brief) demotion from the rotation to the bullpen in mid-May, but recovered to forge a 3.00 ERA with 89 strikeouts and 42 walks over 93 innings in his final 17 starts, from May 24 through the end of the year. And in August, his improved control (nine walks against 39 strikeouts in 35 innings in six games) represented a noteworthy development for a pitcher who struggled to control his walk rates throughout the year. The 22-year-old’s first pro season in Greenville wraps up with roughly a strikeout per inning (124 in 124 2/3 frames) and a .219 opponents’ batting average that suggests opponents have a difficult time picking up the ball against him. If, in 2014, he can build upon the gains he made as this year progressed, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound right-hander will put himself on the radar for a potential future big league opportunity.

– Right-hander Pat Light, in his first start in Greenville since landing on the DL with a hamstring strain after a June 1 start, allowed six runs (five earned) on seven hits in just 2 2/3 innings. However, six of the seven hits were singles (with one double mixed in), with two of the groundball variety mixed in, and all of his outs (save for one via caught stealing) were recorded by groundout or strikeout. Still, it’s been a forgettable season for the 2012 supplemental first-round selection, who went 1-4 with an 8.89 ERA in Single-A Greenville. Opponents hit .346 against him. He did strike out 28 (against 14 walks) in 28 1/3 innings, but much as was the case with fellow mound giant Anthony Ranaudo in 2012, Light — who at his best at Monmouth College showed the ability to overpower opponents down in the strike zone with a mid- to high-90s fastball that got strong groundball and swing-and-miss rates — simply needs to get healthy for 2014 in order to position himself to move forward in his career.

– Outfielder Kendrick Perkins went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles in the second game of the doubleheader, wrapping up one of his best months as a pro. The 21-year-old hit .261/.333/.402 with two homers and seven doubles in August, although his 35 punchouts in 102 plate appearances underscore the fact that his approach remains relatively raw.

SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 5-2 WIN VS. TRI-CITY (ASTROS)

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– Outfielder Manuel Margot went 2-for-3 with a walk, concluding an August stretch that underscores why the 18-year-old is viewed as perhaps the highest ceiling position player in the Red Sox system beyond Xander Bogaerts. As an 18-year-old who is the second-youngest player in the New York-Penn League, Margot — since coming off the DL for a hamstring injury — hit .357/.400/.518 in 13 games. In 45 games in Lowell this season, he’s hitting .288/.361/.376 with 16 steals in 24 attempts.

Daniel Bard, making his first appearance outside the Gulf Coast League since May 15, worked a scoreless inning in which he managed to prevent anyone from crossing the plate despite walking four batters. A pickoff at third by catcher Jake Romanski, coupled with a pair of strikeouts (one swinging, one looking), allowed Bard to strand the bases loaded despite the four walks and a wild pitch. He now has 27 walks and nine strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings.

– Right-hander Simon Mercedes continued to show the ability to overpower opponents in the NYPL, firing three innings in which he permitted one hit and one walk while punching out four. In addition to the strikeouts, he recorded his other five outs by groundball. In his last six outings, Mercedes has 37 punchouts and just seven walks in 27 innings. While his ERA (3.33) during that time is relatively modest, that reflects in part on a .345 batting average on balls in play during that time.

ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 10-3 LOSS AT GCL NATIONALS

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– Left-hander Trey Ball is wrapping up the season with the best performances of his pro debut. One outing after throwing two shutout innings in which he gave up three hits, no walks and struck out a batter, Ball threw two perfect innings with one strikeout. The Sox’ 2013 first-rounder has allowed five runs in nine innings while getting accustomed to a professional pitching program in his pro debut.

– Second baseman Wendell Rijo went 2-for-2 with a double and a sac fly, while also getting hit by a pitch. He also started a pair of 4-6-3 double plays. The emergence of the 17-year-old Rijo (albeit in Rookie Ball) along with the presence of Mookie Betts and Sean Coyle in Salem gives the Sox three minor league second basemen with high ceilings, albeit in the lower minors, along with a pretty decent option in the big leagues who is signed through 2021. Depending on how the trio advances, that could put the Red Sox in a position of strength in terms of trade chips going forward.

Read More: allen webster, bryce brentz, garin cecchini, Justin Haley
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