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Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, Henry Owens getting a hint of big league future

09.18.13 at 10:15 am ET
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The Red Sox have their top three pitching prospects in Boston to get their first glimpse of a potential big league future.

Right-hander Anthony Ranaudo and Matt Barnes, both of whom spent most of the year in Double-A before moving up to Triple-A at the end of the year, and left-hander Henry Owens, who spent the lion’s share of 2013 in High-A Salem before an August promotion to Double-A Portland, are spending time with the team in Fenway Park. None has been added to the roster; they are not working out with the club. But, the talented trio is getting an opportunity to gain familiarity with some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of the big leagues, preparing them for some of the off-field elements (such as the depth of advance scouting) that distinguish the majors from the minors. In some ways, the undertaking serves as a year-end complement to the team’s longstanding Rookie Development Program, in which prospects have gotten a chance to get accustomed to Fenway Park, Boston and the Red Sox coaching staff in an effort to ease the transition from the minors to the big leagues whenever they are called up.

The selection of Ranaudo, Barnes and Owens underscores the prospect standing of all three pitchers.

Ranaudo, after an injury-riddled 2012 campaign, rebounded with an 11-5 campaign that included a 2.96 ERA, 8.2 strikeouts and 3.0 walks per nine innings in 140 regular season frames (before throwing eight more in the postseason). The 24-year-old went 8-4 with a 2.95 ERA in 19 starts in Portland while striking out 8.7 and walking 3.3 per nine innings. After his promotion to Pawtucket in August, his strikeouts and walks both went down (6.2 strikeouts and 2.1 walks per nine), while he went 3-1 with a 2.97 ERA in six games. The 2010 supplemental first-rounder will need to be added to the 40-man roster this winter for the purposes of protecting him from the Rule 5 draft; given that he’ll be on the 40-man, Ranaudo could represent a big league rotation depth option at any point next year, particularly if he turns in a strong spring training.

Barnes, 23, spent most of the year in Portland, then rejoined Ranaudo at the end of the year in Pawtucket. Overall, he went 6-10 with a 4.13 ERA in 25 starts spanning 113 1/3 regular season innings (in the Triple-A playoffs, he worked 9 1/3 innings allowing five runs, four earned). Though he gave up 3.8 walks per nine innings, Barnes punched out 11.3 per nine innings, the fifth highest rate among all minor leaguers with at least 100 innings pitched. He doesn’t need to be added to the 40-man roster for the purposes of protecting him from the Rule 5 draft until after the 2014 season.

Owens, 21, had the most dominant year of anyone in the Red Sox system. He went 11-6 with a 2.67 ERA between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland, and like Barnes, he struck out 11.3 per nine innings while walking 4.5 batters per nine. Opponents hit just .177 against him, the second lowest mark by opponents against a qualifying starter with a full-season minor league affiliate at any level. He became the sixth Red Sox minor league starter since 2000 to punch out 150 or more batters; the other five produced a group of four All-Stars (Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon and Bronson Arroyo) and the current AL ERA leader (Anibal Sanchez).

This year marks the first time that the Sox have employed a program at the end of the year to prepare pitching prospects for their future big league opportunities. The decision to have the three pitchers up in Boston now is a reflection not just of their considerable talents but also of the team’s feeling that the current big league group has created an environment in which having prospects see some of the behind-the-scenes work of the roster would be a constructive exercise, and one in which the minor leaguers would be welcome to take part.

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