Red Sox minor league roundup: Allen Webster dominates; Blake Swihart now Sox’ top position prospect; Cody Kukuk’s disappointment; Sam Travis goes deep
|06.28.14 at 12:24 pm ET|
Feats of Mookie: Getting the call.
It’s time for Mookie Betts.
According to industry sources, the Red Sox will promote the 21-year-old to the big leagues on Saturday to make his debut against the Yankees in New York. In his final game with Triple-A Pawtucket preceding his callup, Betts continued to show noteworthy plate discipline, working a pair of walks in four plate appearances (though he went 0-for-2). He reached base in all 23 games since his promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket, hitting .322 with a .425 OBP and .444 slugging mark.
Here’s a look at some of the attributes that have put him on the fast track to the big leagues. That Betts is in this position comes as a surprise to the player himself, who expected, when he signed his first pro contract, that he would never see light of day in the big leagues.
Here’s a look at the rest of the action in the Red Sox farm system on Friday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-2 LOSS VS. NORFOLK (ORIOLES)
– Right-hander Allen Webster has been consistent for much of the year, but the spectacular stuff that he flashed at times in 2013 and the ability to dominate an opponent completely had rarely been in evidence. Against that backdrop, the 24-year-old’s performance on Friday was noteworthy.
In one of his finest outings in the Red Sox system, Webster allowed two runs on five hits (four singles and a double) while striking out nine and walking none in 7 2/3 innings. He needed just 99 pitches (68 strikes) to blitz through the outing, the second-longest of his season and the third-longest of his two seasons in Pawtucket. The start marked the first time this year that he hadn’t issued a walk while matching a season-high in strikeouts. He elicited a whopping 18 swings and misses, while also getting bad contact, as evidenced by the fact that he recorded 10 outs on the ground.
While Webster struggled with his walk rate and elicited few swings and misses to start the year, with 15 walks and 17 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings in April, he’s since shown considerable improvement in both categories, punching out 64 and walking just 20 in 66 1/3 innings. And he appears to be experiencing something of a breakthrough in terms of his pitch efficiency and ability to deliver innings, averaging 6 1/2 innings in his last six starts while logging at least six frames in all but one of those outings.
In short, while Webster has moved from the front of the pack of the top tier of Red Sox pitching prospects entering 2013 to somewhere in the middle of the group now, he’s showing at least some attributes that suggest that he’s closer to being a big league-caliber starting pitcher than at any prior point in his Red Sox career.
– Travis Shaw collected his fourth double and fifth extra-base hit in three games, going 1-for-3 with a double and sac fly. The double came against a righty, boosting Shaw’s Triple-A line against right-handed pitchers to .308 with a .333 OBP and .513 slugging mark.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 12-2 WIN AT READING (PHILLIES)
– Though left-hander Brian Johnson endured an uncharacteristic lapse in control that resulted in both walks and hard-hit balls, he steered through trouble to limit his opponents to one run in five innings. He walked four batters — his second-highest total since his promotion to Double-A, and more than he’d allowed in his prior three starts combined — and gave up four doubles among his five hits, but Johnson punched out seven (matching his Portland high) to avoid damage.
With runners on base in Portland, Johnson is holding opponents to a .160 average, including an .087 mark with runners in scoring position. Those marks help to explain his 7-1 record and 1.67 ERA in 10 starts in Double-A.
– Catcher Blake Swihart, who walked just twice in 18 games in April, negotiated four free passes and reached base five times (going 1-for-2). The five times on base marked a career high for the 22-year-old.
Swihart has shown progressively improving walk rates throughout the year. After walking in just 2.6 percent of plate appearances in April, he’s seen that rate increase to 7.3 percent in May and 11.6 percent in June. His June line of .293/.368/.500 with four homers and nearly as many walks (11) as strikeouts (13) — in combination with excellent defense and athleticism — underscores why Swihart is viewed as a potential star.
If Betts graduates from prospect eligibility this year, then Swihart likely would rank as the Sox’ top position prospect if he can sustain anything along the lines of his current year-to-date performance.
– Outfielder Keury De La Cruz had a career-high five hits, going 5-for-6 with a double while driving in three. After he missed the first two months of the year with a broken wrist, De La Cruz has shown little lingering impact from the injury to his hitting. He’s hitting .318/.333/.455 in 23 games.
– Sean Coyle, 22, walked three times while going 1-for-3 and driving in a pair of runs. The 22-year-old has reached base in 19 straight games, hitting .369/.481/.662 in that time, and in his last nine games, he has nine walks and six strikeouts. For the year, the second baseman is enjoying a dazzling .357/.439/.585 line in 50 games.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 4-2 LOSS VS. CAROLINA (INDIANS)
– Left-hander Cody Kukuk entered the year as a breakout candidate, and looked like he might be ready to live up to that billing when he displayed consistent strike-throwing in spring training and at the start of the year while repeating in Single-A. But since a promotion to High-A, he’s regressed, and now ranks as one of the foremost disappointments in the Red Sox system this year. In 3 2/3 innings on Friday, Kukuk walked seven — the second time in three starts that he’s walked that many — while allowing two runs on two hits and striking out four. In 10 starts with Salem, the 21-year-old has more walks (37) than strikeouts (34). Those command woes have made short outings such as Friday’s his norm — indeed, Kukuk averages just under the 3 2/3 innings he delivered on Friday. He’s now endured six straight starts in which he’s failed to throw five innings, sending his ERA soaring to 8.33 at a level where his pure stuff gave him the potential to dominate.
– Outfielder Aneury Tavarez continues to show surprising pop for his size. The 5-foot-9 21-year-old launched his fifth homer of June and eighth of the year (in 59 games), going 2-for-3 to improve his season line to .230/.271/.423.
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 6-4 LOSS AT HICKORY (RANGERS)
– Outfielder Kendrick Perkins added to his intriguing season, going 1-for-4 with three strikeouts — but launching his fifth homer of the year the only time he put a ball in play. The 22-year-old is striking out in more than one out of every three plate appearances, yet still has a .311/.367/.489 line with 13 extra-base hits in 42 games.
– Center fielder Manuel Margot went 0-for-4, snapping the 19-year-old’s 10-game hitting streak.
SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 8-7 LOSS (11 INNINGS) AT VERMONT (ATHLETICS)
– First baseman Sam Travis, the Red Sox’ power-hitting second-rounder out of Indiana, had his best day with Lowell, going 3-for-5 with his first homer. He’s now hitting .229 with a .229 OBP and .343 slugging mark in nine games.
– Second baseman Raymel Flores, 19, connected for his first career home run, going 1-for-4 with a homer, a walk and a steal. He’s stolen bases in each of his last three contests. In 14 games this year, he’s hitting .263 with a .417 OBP and .368 slugging mark.
– Third baseman Jordan Betts went 2-for-5 with a triple, giving the 22-year-old six extra-base hits in his first 10 pro games. He’s tied for the team lead in RBIs with seven, hitting .250/.286/.575.
ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 3-2 LOSS AT GCL TWINS
– Left-hander Luis Ramos, a 19-year-old out of Panama, made his first start of the year a strong one, tossing five shutout innings while permitting two hits, walking no one and punching out six. In 8 1/3 innings in the GCL this year, Ramos has eight strikeouts and one walk, building on his 2013 campaign in the DSL in which he had 38 walks and four strikeouts in 57 1/3 innings.
– Fifth-rounder Josh Ockimey collected his first career hit, a triple, going 1-for-4 while serving as DH in his first pro start.
DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 9-4 WIN AT DSL CARDINALS
– Outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe continued his strong performance in his second summer in the DSL, going 3-for-5 with a walk and two triples. The 17-year-old has nine triples this year, giving him a .317/.453/.561 line with 21 walks, 21 strikeouts and eight steals through 23 games. He’s one of 13 players in the DSL with a line of at least .300/.400/.500.
– Center fielder Yoan Aybar matched a season-high three hits, going 3-for-5. The talented 16-year-old (who turns 17 next week) is hitting .310 with a .355 OBP and .397 slugging mark through 15 games.
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