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Red Sox minor league roundup: Henry Owens, Red Sox pitching prospects and the innings question; Bryce Brentz back big; Kevin McAvoy, groundball machine

08.05.14 at 1:40 pm ET
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The Red Sox‘ pool of top starting pitching prospects has reached a point in their development paths where the Red Sox are eager to challenge them. Brandon Workman, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo, all of whom spent much of the early year in Triple-A, have all seen varying degrees of time in the big leagues.

Henry Owens just moved up to Triple-A Pawtucket last week, and in his PawSox debut, he delivered a dazzling outing. Though the youngest pitcher in the International League, Owens looked polished beyond his years in carrying a no-hitter through 5 1/3 innings before ultimately putting the finishing touches on 6 2/3 shutout innings in which he punched out nine, allowed two hits (both singles, one of the infield variety), hit a batter and walked three.

It was a dazzling performance that merits a glimpse to confirm that, yes, Owens can spin a curveball to round out a three-pitch mix:

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The 22-year-old is now 15-4 with a 2.47 ERA in 21 starts with 9.5 strikeouts and 3.5 walks per nine innings this year. He’s been dominant between Double-A and Triple-A.

But for a number of reasons, there’s a very good chance that Owens won’t see the big leagues this year. Among those reasons: In his age 21 season (he didn’t turn 22 until July), he’s close to cruising past his career high in innings. By the time he gets through another handful of starts in Triple-A, he’ll be at some approximation of the innings threshold where the Sox would like to see him wrap up his year. It’s not worth transforming the 40-man roster solely for the sake of one big league start.

Context: Owens is going to become the first Red Sox pitcher in his age 21 season to surpass 150 innings since Jon Lester totaled 161 1/3 innings (regular season and playoffs) in Portland in 2005. Age impacts how aggressively teams let their pitchers build up their workloads, and for a recently turned 22-year-old, getting up to 150 or 160 innings is plenty.

As the Red Sox sift through candidates for the 2015 rotation from the upper levels, it’s worth examining: How many remaining innings are there?

Brandon Workman (25): 2013: 151 1/3 IP; 2014: 114 IP

Given his age and the workload he assumed in 2013 in the regular season and playoffs, Workman would appear to be in strong position to remain in the rotation for the rest of the year.

Rubby De La Rosa (25): 2013: 91 2/3 IP; 2014: 114 1/3 IP

De La Rosa was returning from Tommy John surgery last year, something that limited his innings. He’s already set a career-high in innings this year. At the start of the year, the Sox had hoped that he might get to 145-150 innings. He could push that a bit based on his efficiency (150 innings average, say, 14 pitches an inning are different than 150 innings averaging 16 pitches an inning), but it’s not unreasonable to suspect that he might be shut down at some point in September.

Anthony Ranaudo (24): 2013: 140 IP; 125 1/3 IP

Based on age, last year’s workload and sheer physical stature, Ranaudo looks like a pitcher who stands a good chance of getting up to about 170 innings (or more) this year. If the team shuts down De La Rosa, it’s not hard to envision Ranaudo finishing the year in his spot in the rotation.

Allen Webster (24): 2013: 135 1/3 IP; 2014: 130 IP

Webster certainly has more innings in his arm. Quality rather than quantity seems likely to dictate his workload going forward.

Matt Barnes 924): 2013: 113 1/3 IP; 2014: 93 IP

Barnes was slowed out of the gate this spring by shoulder soreness, but in the second half, he’s showing his best stuff of the year. He seems certain to finish out the Triple-A season, after which — given that he’ll have to be added to the 40-man roster this winter — it will be interesting to see if the Sox consider him for a big league opportunity (assuming his second half performance merits one) to allow him to get some firsts out of the way and to continue building his innings. Then again, given that he did open the year with shoulder soreness, the team may feel comfortable calling it a day on his workload.

Henry Owens  (22): 2013: 135 IP; 2014: 127 2/3 IP

There is no hard innings cap for Owens — or any other Sox minor leaguer for that matter — but another 30 or 35 innings would be a reasonable volume depending on how he handles the workload going forward.

A brief look at the action in the rest of the system on Monday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-0 WIN VS. COLUMBUS (INDIANS)

(BOX)

— Though catcher Blake Swihart went 0-for-3 with a strikeout and two groundouts in his Triple-A debut, his pairing with Owens was, clearly, a tremendous success. Swihart’s work behind the plate is commanding notice, as Joon Lee writes. Swihart wrapped up his time in Portland with a .300/.353/.487 line, 12 homers, 38 extra-base hits and seven steals in 92 games.

— Evidently, Bryce Brentz just needed to return to Pawtucket to start hitting. After going 2-for-26 during his rehab assignment on the way back from a mid-May hamstring injury, Brentz had his second straight multi-hit game, going 3-for-4 with a single, double and homer to straightaway center on a first pitch fastball. Brentz is now hitting .250/.347/.465 with seven homers in 41 Triple-A games this year. He’s 5-for-9 since rejoining the PawSox.

Garin Cecchini took a relay throw off the jaw while running down the line on a potential double play ball (the pitcher, covering first, failed to catch the throw) and ended up leaving the game, but manager Kevin Boles told reporters that Cecchini appeared to be fine.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: OFF DAY

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: OFF DAY

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 4-3 WIN (WALKOFF, 15 INNINGS) VS. AUGUSTA (GIANTS)

(BOX)

Manuel Margot appears to be heating up in August. He was the only Greenville player with multiple hits. He went 3-for-7 with a double and kickstarted the walkoff rally with a 15th-inning single and steal of second preceding a walkoff double by Cole Sturgeon. Margot is now 8-for-16 with a double, homer, three walks, three strikeouts and three steals in the first four games of August, boosting the 19-year-old’s line for the year to .270/.343/.421 while showing solid strike zone management, evident in his 9.4 percent walk rate and 12.1 percent strikeout rate.

— Right-hander Ty Buttrey amassed a career-high seven strikeouts in his best start of the year, allowing two runs on five hits in five innings while walking two. The five innings likewise represented a season high. In six starts with Greenville (which sandwiched a lengthy DL stint due to a hand injury), Buttrey has an 8.85 ERA.

— Left-hander Mike Adams delivered three scoreless innings in which he permitted one hit, walked none and punched out four. The 23-year-old, a 2013 seventh-rounder, is averaging 9.0 strikeouts per nine and 1.7 walks per nine so far this year en route to a 3.43 ERA in his first full pro season.

SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 2-0 WIN (8 INNINGS), 2-1 WIN (7 INNINGS) AT JAMESTOWN (PIRATES)

(BOX GAME 1, BOX GAME 2)

— Outfielder Danny Mars had a pair of two-hit games, going 4-for-7 with a double. He’s 9-for-17 in his last four games to boost his season line to .359/.417/.496. The 20-year-old is second in the New York-Penn League in average and third in OBP.

— Though he issued his first walk as a professional, right-hander Kevin McAvoy tossed three scoreless innings and continued to get plenty of outs on the ground, this time eliciting five groundball outs. In six appearances spanning 13 1/3 innings, the 2014 fourth-rounder has a 4.05 ERA with 12 strikeouts, one walk and — as was the case for the Bryant University product in his junior year of college — tremendous groundball rates. Of the 40 balls put in play against him, 72.5 percent have been grounders according to MLBFarm.com.

— Left-hander Jake Drehoff spun six shutout innings in which he gave up three hits, walked two and struck out one. The six innings marked a season high and continued a recent string of solid outings for the 22-year-old, who has three outings of five or more innings and one or fewer runs allowed in his last four starts to lower his ERA to 4.53 for the year.

ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 6-2 WIN AT DSL RAYS

(BOX)

Michael Chavis continued his recent surge. The 2014 first-rounder went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles, a walk and a steal. He’s hitting .300/.432/.433 in his last 10 games after going 2-for-34 in his first 10 contests as a professional.

— Right-hander Keith Couch cruised through a second straight rehab appearances, tossing four shutout innings in which he allowed two hits, walked none and struck out three. He has 6 1/3 shutout innings on his GCL rehab assignment following a DL stint for elbow soreness. The 24-year-old was 7-1 with a 3.16 ERA for Double-A Portland.

DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 4-3 LOSS (11 INNINGS) VS. DSL METS

(BOX)

— Center fielder Yoan Aybar went 2-for-5 with a walk, giving him a six-game hitting streak during which he’s 11-for-25 with two doubles, three triples and two walks. The impressive 17-year-old is now hitting .292/.352/.473.

— Right-hander Daniel Gonzalez tossed five scoreless innings, allowing three hits and one walk while punching out three. Though he received a no-decision, through 12 starts, the 18-year-old remains undefeated, having gone 8-0 with a 2.84 ERA, 6.5 strikeouts and just 2.2 walks per nine innings.

Read More: bryce brentz, henry owens, kevin mcavoy, manuel margot
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