Red Sox minor league roundup: Rev the Rafael Devers hype machine; Steven Wright dominating; Christian Vazquez heating up
|06.13.14 at 12:40 pm ET|
Rev the hype machine.
Rafael Devers is 17 years old and in the Dominican Summer League, which for most, counts as light years from the big leagues. But the third baseman has started his career in a fashion that commands fascination and a sense of enormous possibility, particularly given that when the Red Sox signed him to a $1.5 million bonus last summer, he came with the reputation of being perhaps the best pure bat on the international amateur market.
Devers added to his startling professional debut on Thursday with the type of performance that’s rarely seen in the DSL. He went 2-for-5 with a pair of homers, a walk and a strikeout in his team’s 11-8, 13-inning loss.
But the details of the two homers made them even more noteworthy, even more exceptional. The first homer was an opposite field shot — the second time Devers has cleared the fence in left thus far in the Sox’ DSL facility, a field where even some Cuban players in their mid-20s have had a hard time going deep. The second came in the bottom of the 12th with the DSL Sox trailing, 8-7, two outs, and an 0-2 count to tie the game.
Through the first 11 games of his pro career in the DSL, Devers is now hitting .442 with a .537 OBP, .814 slugging mark, three homers and seven extra-base hits. He has nine walks and seven strikeouts in that span.
To put that in context: Devers has now matched the number of homers (3) that Xander Bogaerts hit in 63 games in the DSL in his pro debut, when the Sox’ top position prospect in decades hit .314 with a .396 OBP, .423 slugging mark and 15 extra-base hits.
To put that in further context: The rest of the DSL Sox have zero home runs. The league average line is .243/.342/.339.
That’s not to say that when he reaches the big leagues, Devers will be a prospect on a par with Bogaerts. But it does say quite a bit about where Devers is right now — a hitting prodigy capable at 17 of driving the ball to all fields, with the fearlessness to clobber a game-tying home run with his team one strike from defeat, with the advancement to dominate his competition as he gets his professional bearings.
It will take years to figure out what that can translate into — performing in the DSL is one thing, performing against left-handed pitchers who can command breaking balls that make left-handed hitters weep is another — but as first impressions go, Devers is making one that stands out from virtually any that have been seen for a Sox player in the DSL in recent years.
— Knuckleballer Steven Wright has been nothing short of spectacular in his three starts since returning to the PawSox (following a season-opening stint on the DL while recovering from hernia surgery and an initial rehab start in Double-A Portland), and Thursday offered a landmark outing. Wright — who threw 70 of 99 pitches for strikes — did allow a solo homer among the three hits he yielded in seven innings, but that was the only run he permitted while walking one and punching out a career-high 10, with eight of those being swinging strikeouts that most of the Charlotte batters would like never to relive.
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In three Triple-A starts, Wright has a 1.35 ERA with 23 strikeouts (10.4 per nine innings) and five walks (2.3 per nine) while holding opponents to a .200 average. He’s pitched at least six innings in all three starts, including back-to-back seven-inning outings.
— Catcher Christian Vazquez not only survived a start where Wright had a tremendous knuckleball, but also went 2-for-3 with a single to the opposite field and a homer to left-center on a fastball down and over the outer half. After a May struggle (.237/.284/.263), Vazquez is having a June that is more in line with what he did in an impressive first month of the year (.292/.342/.417), hitting .300/.341/.525 with his first two homers of the year and three doubles.
— Feats of Mookie: Southpaw slaying. Mookie Betts went 2-for-5, with both of his hits coming against left-handed pitchers. He is now 4-for-10 with a homer against lefties in Triple-A this year, and overall in 2014 (including his Double-A performance), he’s hitting .437/.515/.644 with three homers and nine doubles in 103 plate appearances against lefties. Staef fo Eikoom: Betts was picked off first and caught stealing, the second time that’s happened in his nine Triple-A games, and he has yet to steal a base since joining Pawtucket.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: RAINED OUT AT ALTOONA (PIRATES)
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— Catcher Carson Blair went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a walk, continuing a scorching stretch that has seen him collect three hits in back-to-back games that has extended his June hitting streak to seven games in which he’s 15-for-30 with two homers, four doubles and a .500/.583/.833 line. Thanks to the run, the 24-year-old now has a season line of .242/.368/.500.
— Right-hander Luis Diaz scattered seven hits (five singles, two doubles) in six shutout innings in which he walked two and punched out five. After a hiccup that featured nine runs (six earned) in 8 1/3 innings over two starts, he’s rebounded to permit just one run in his last two starts spanning 13 innings to improve to 6-3 with a 3.33 ERA for the year. The 22-year-old continues to attack the strike zone (2.4 walks per nine) and challenge opponents successfully, despite the absence of swing-and-miss stuff (6.4 strikeouts per nine).
— Outfielder Aneury Tavarez homered for the second straight game, extending his hitting streak to nine games during which he’s hitting .300/.300/.550 with four doubles, two homers, no walks and seven strikeouts.
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— Shortstop Carlos Tovar went 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles, his second straight multi-hit game. The 18-year-old is now hitting .282 with a .383 OBP.
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