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Red Sox minor league roundup: Matt Barnes, Trey Ball punctuate second-half turnarounds; Javier Guerra, Rafael Devers show rare potential

09.01.14 at 9:24 am ET
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A somewhat brief synopsis of the action in the Red Sox farm system over the weekend:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET SEA DOGS: 6-2 LOSS, 10-4 WIN VS. ROCHESTER (TWINS)

(SATURDAY BOX, SUNDAY BOX)

Right-hander Matt Barnes matched a season-high with 10 strikeouts. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox.)

Right-hander Matt Barnes matched a season-high with 10 strikeouts. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

— Though right-hander Matt Barnes allowed five runs in seven innings on Saturday, he matched a season-high with 10 strikeouts and didn’t walk a batter. The outing was the fourth straight, fifth in six starts and sixth in eight starts that the 24-year-old pitched into the seventh inning, a noteworthy development for a pitcher who had struggled with his pitch efficiency in the past.

Barnes entered the All-Star break with a 4-7 record, 5.06 ERA, 6.9 strikeouts per nine and 3.7 walks per nine. In eight starts after the break, however, he went 4-2 with a 2.38 ERA, 7.8 strikeouts and 2.5 walks per nine. Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal explained that Barnes has been dialing back his fastball at times, working around 90-91 mph rather than reaching for velocity at all times, and it would appear that the improved second half numbers testify to the success of the approach.

— Left-hander Henry Owens allowed just three hits in six innings, though all were for extra bases (homer, two doubles) in a four-run yield. Still, the 22-year-old walked two and punched out nine, and though he’s shown some vulnerability to homers (four in 38 innings) and authored a modest 4.03 ERA since moving up to Pawtucket, he has also shown the ability to get swings and misses in volume, resulting in 10.4 strikeouts and 2.8 walks per nine while pitching at least six innings in five of six outings.

— Outfielder Bryce Brentz went 3-for-8 over the weekend, extending his streak of consecutive games reaching base to 15. He’s hitting .263/.373/.544 with seven extra-base hits, nine walks and 15 strikeouts during the run.

Alex Hassan went 3-for-3 with a walk on Sunday, giving him three three-hit games in his last seven contests. In 114 Triple-A games this year, he’s hitting .287/.378/.426.

Jackie Bradley Jr. went 1-for-8 with a walk and three strikeouts over the weekend. In 14 games, he’s hitting .212/.246/.273 with three walks and 18 strikeouts since being sent down to Triple-A.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 5-1 WIN, 6-2 WIN VS. HARRISBURG (NATIONALS)

(SATURDAY BOX, SUNDAY BOX)

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez has been dominant in six starts for Portland. (Lynn Chadwick / Portland Sea Dogs)

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez has been dominant in six starts for Portland. (Lynn Chadwick/Portland Sea Dogs)

— Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez allowed one run on five hits in six innings, walking two and striking out four on Sunday, earning his third win with Double-A Portland — matching in six starts the number of victories he had in 16 starts with Double-A Bowie before the 21-year-old was traded from the Orioles to the Red Sox for Andrew Miller. Rodriguez has been as good as virtually any pitcher in the Sox system since his arrival, giving up no more than one earned run in any of his outings while pitching at least six innings in five of his six starts. The well-built, athletic left-hander has a 0.96 ERA with 39 strikeouts and eight wallks in 37 1/3 innings with Portland. With the playoffs looming, Rodriguez’s outing was cut short after just 70 pitches, but he flew threw six innings by virtue of a 73 percent strike percentage and an average of just 11.7 pitches per inning.

— Second baseman Sean Coyle went 2-for-4 with a homer and double on Saturday, with the longball giving him 16 for the year, matching a career-high from 2013 (though it took Coyle 37 percent fewer games to reach the mark in 2013 than 2014). The game improved his line to .294/.369/.511 for the year, a significant improvement from his .241/.321/.513 line of a year ago (albeit with less pure mashing).

But is he a clearly improved hitter? Coyle did drop his strikeout rate from 29.0 to 24.7 percent, meaning he struck out with roughly 15 percent less frequency than he did a year ago. (His walk rate also dropped slightly, from 10.7 to 9.7 percent.)

Still, the chief distinction between the 2013 and 2014 editions of Coyle came in the form of a batting average on balls in play that jumped from a career-low .275 to a career-high .361. Given that he’d never before had a BABIP above .317, it’s hard to imagine that Coyle’s line in 2014 is an accurate projection of his likely carer path. Still, it underscores the idea of what his upside can be in years where the stars align.

— Right-hander Justin Haley matched a pair of career highs by logging seven shutout innings and punching out nine batters on Saturday. He gave up four hits and a walk, and in six outings since his promotion to the Sea Dogs, the 23-year-old has a 1.19 ERA with 33 strikeouts and 16 walks in 37 2/3 innings while holding opponents to a .222 average. He’s pitched at least six innings in each of his six Double-A starts.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 3-0 WIN (7 INNINGS), 5-1 WIN (7 INNINGS), 4-1 WIN AT SALEM

(SATURDAY GAME 1 BOX, SATURDAY GAME 2 BOX, SUNDAY BOX)

Right-hander Simon Mercedes closed out the regular season with one of his best outings of 2014. (John Corneau / Lowell Spinners)

Right-hander Simon Mercedes closed out the regular season with one of his best outings of 2014. (John Corneau/Lowell Spinners)

— Right-hander Simon Mercedes closed out the year with one of his best outings of the year, recording a career-high seven innings while matching another career-high with nine punchouts. He gave up four hits and walked two.

While Mercedes’ performance this year in High-A proved somewhat unimpressive, with a 5-10 record and 4.76 ERA, there were markers to suggest he still has considerable potential as either a starter or a late-innings bullpen arm. The 22-year-old punched out 7.8 per nine innings,and while his 4.0 walks per nine represented a higher-than-expected total, it reflected in no small part two starts in which he lost the zone and issued a total of nine walks in seven innings. And of the balls put in play against him, an impressive 52.6 percent were on the ground — where the vicissitudes of minor league infields and infielders turn what should be quick outs at the big league level into hits in the lower minors.

So, while it wasn’t the breakout year that some had anticipated when Mercedes was the head-turning performer on the back fields in spring training, there’s reason to believe that he wasn’t as far off from such a performance as his primary statistics might suggest.

— Right-hander Jonathan Aro, in his first start of the year on Saturday, allowed three hits over five shutout innings, walking two and striking out six. In seven games and 20 innings since his promotion from Greenville, the 23-year-old is 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA, 24 strikeouts and seven walks.

— Though Carlos Asuaje went just 1-for-9 over the weekend, it appears that word of his Salem exploits now has circulated throughout the Carolina League. He walked once in each of the three weekend games, and now has walked in five straight games as well as 11 times in his last 11 contests. In the process, he’s boosted his already impressive .310/.355/.517 line to marks of .325/.398/.517.

Pat Light threw a seven-inning complete game on Saturday, allowing one run on three hits while punching out two, getting seven groundball outs and not walking anyone. The 23-year-old finished the regular season with a 6-6 record and 4.93 ERA.

Jose Vinicio went 4-for-12 with a double over the weekend, boosting his line for the year to .264/.288/.320 on the strength of a stretch of a 14-game stretch in which he collected at least one hit in 12 games and multiple hits in nine contests. He’s hit .423/.426/.538 — though with no walks and nine strikeouts — during the stretch.

— In his only at-bats of the weekend following a tweaked ankle last week, Manuel Margot went 1-for-2 with a double and drove in three on Saturday. He’s hitting .333/.360/.556 with six extra-base hits in 15 games since his promotion from Greenville.

— Second baseman Reed Gragnani had multi-hit games on both Saturday and Sunday, going 4-for-9 with a walk and two triples over the weekend to push his average back up to .300 with a .409 OBP and .406 slugging mark. He has 64 walks and 51 strikeouts for the year, with his ability to put the ball in play, even with minimal power, clearly working in his favor over his first full professional season.

— Catcher Jake Romanski went 4-for-4 with a Salem-record four doubles on Sunday, with his 17-game Salem line jumping from .235/.250/.412 to .291/.304/.527.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 4-2 WIN, 3-2 WIN VS. LEXINGTON (ROYALS)

(SATURDAY BOX, SUNDAY BOX)

Left-hander Trey Ball punctuated his second-half turnaround with six scoreless innings on Saturday. (Darrell Snow/Greenville Drive)

Left-hander Trey Ball punctuated his second-half turnaround with six scoreless innings on Saturday. (Darrell Snow/Greenville Drive)

— Left-hander Trey Ball wrapped up his first full pro season on Saturday with six shutout innings in which he allowed five hits, didn’t walk anyone and punched out five. The outing punctuated a strong finishing two-month kick that saw Ball permit two or fewer earned runs in nine of his final 11 starts, a stretch in which he went 4-3 with a 2.70 ERA, a stretch in which he punched out 6.8 batters per nine innings, walked 3.5 per nine and held opponents to a .195 batting average. The results, combined with a clean, repeatable delivery and the ability to use his 6-foot-6 frame to leverage a still-projectable low-90s fastball down in the strike zone give the Sox hope that Ball can still justify his status as the No. 7 overall pick of the 2013 draft. He finished his first full year with a 4.68 ERA in Greenville — a level where the organization’s top pitching prospect, Henry Owens, had a 4.87 ERA in his pro debut in 2012.

— Left-hander Daniel McGrath wrapped up his year with a two-run yield over six innings, marking the ninth time in 19 outings that the 20-year-old had delivered six or more innings. He had a solid rather than a spectacular year that was nonetheless noteworthy for its consistency, the product of being able to compete with three pitches (fastball, curve, change) that all have the definition of big league average offerings. McGrath held opponents to a .223 average while going 6-6 with a 4.07 ERA in 19 starts.

SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 3-0 LOSS VS. ABERDEEN (ORIOLES), 5-3 LOSS AT CONNECTICUT (TIGERS)

(SATURDAY BOX, SUNDAY BOX)

— Right-hander Reed Reilly, a 2014 seventh-rounder who is being moved from the bullpen at Cal Poly to the rotation as a professional, had a sharp outing on Saturday, tossing five shutout innings (the fourth time in five starts that he’d logged five innings) while allowing two hits, walking none and punching out four. He has a 3.89 ERA, 30 strikeouts and six walks over 39 1/3 innings in his pro debut.

ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 6-2 WIN, 6-5 LOSS AGAINST GCL YANKEES (CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES)

(SATURDAY BOX, SUNDAY BOX)

— A little-noticed prospect named Rusney Castillo made his professional debut. Rob Bradford examines the obscure outfielder.

Javier Guerra went 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles on Saturday, then walked in five plate appearances on Sunday. The four hits represented represented a season high and matched a career high, while the ongoing signs of the ability to drive the ball for extra-base hits suggests a potential separator that could make the 18-year-old a very intriguing shortstop prospect. Just six of the 22 shortstops in the big leagues this year with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title have a slugging percentage of .400 or better. Between the regular season and postseason, Guerra — signed in 2012 out of Panama — has a .435 slugging mark.

Rafael Devers went 1-for-5 with an opposite-field homer on Saturday (a game in which he flew out to center, left and right fields) and 1-for-4 on Sunday. The 17-year-old has eight homers in 72 games in a pro debut split between the DSL and GCL — and he led both affiliates in homers.

— Left-hander Dedgar Jimenez threw five innings in which he permitted one unearned run on two hits and a walk with three strikeouts to earn the win on Saturday. Just as was the case when he was named the organization’s DSL Pitcher of the Year in 2013, Jimenez has shown a willingness to attack and compete; he struck out 40 and walked just nine in 54 1/3 innings this year. In his 12 outings, he walked more than one batter just once.

— Outfielder Trenton Kemp went 3-for-7 with a homer and walk over the weekend; the 18-year-old is 6-for-12 in three postseason games.

DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 6-4 WIN VS. DSL ROYALS, 4-1 WIN AT DSL RANGERS

(SATURDAY BOX, SUNDAY BOX)

— Center fielder Yoan Aybar went 3-for-4 with a double and triple on Saturday then went 1-for-4 with a double on Sunday. That followed a pro debut in which the athletic 17-year-old showed intriguing pop, with 21 extra-base hits in 56 games.

— Left-hander Enmanuel De Jesus navigated around four hits and two walks to throw 4 2/3 shutout innings, the 17-year-old’s fourth outing in five starts in which he didn’t give up an earned run. During that stretch, he has a 0.76 ERA.

Read More: javier guerra, matt barnes, rafael devers, simon mercedes
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