|Red Sox minor league roundup: Time to start thinking about Garin Cecchini in Portland; Allen Webster’s yin and yang; Michael Almanzar’s ride continues; Mookie enters the Matrix||05.25.13 at 12:19 pm ET|
In the same way that Jackie Bradley Jr. forced an expectation and presumption of his mid-year promotion in 2012, Garin Cecchini is starting to do the same this year. The situations aren’t precisely analogous, since a) as an outfielder, Bradley didn’t face the same kind of positional bottlenecks that will confront Cecchini and b) Bradley had the experience of being a top college performer, making it easier to put him on a fast track.
Still, Cecchini has now been a metronome for almost all of two months. He can’t be kept off base. On Friday, he went 1-for-2 with a walk and was hit by a pitch. In his last six games, he’s stepped to the plate 26 times and reached in 16 of those. Through 40 games, he’s hitting .376/.485/.638 with 23 extra-base hits. With runners in scoring position, his numbers are a joke: .474/.608/.763.
Cecchini is 22 — so not young for his level. He is, in fact, the same age as Almanzar. Because he was drafted as a 19-year-old, the Sox will have to decide whether or not to add him to the 40-man roster this offseason for the purposes of protecting him from the Rule 5 draft — though, of course, that will be no decision at all, since he now joins Bradley and Bogaerts as the top position prospects in the organization.
In short, barring an injury or what would seem a wildly unlikely prolonged tailspin, the clock will likely start ticking on his time in Salem. Bradley went up after the All-Star break, and if he sustains anything like what he’s done, Cecchini, too, would appear in line for a similar promotion a few weeks down the road.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-3 WIN AT LOUISVILLE
– Jackie Bradley Jr. continues to offer reminders of why he captivated the Sox during spring training. He went 2-for-4 with a double and walk, and he now has an eight-game hitting streak (three games prior to his stint on the DL for biceps tendinitis and five since coming back), during which he’s 14-for-32 with a line of .438/.526/.688. With Shane Victorino now on the DL and Bradley representing the only healthy Sox minor league outfielder on the 40-man roster, both his roster status and recent performance suggests that he likely will be called up to the big leagues in the coming days, particularly since the Red Sox could use an outfielder capable of playing both right field (where Daniel Nava is currently the only viable option) and center (Jacoby Ellsbury has no real backup right now). Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: The uniqueness of Mookie Betts; Anthony Ranaudo strong in struggle; Garin Cecchini’s standout year continues||05.19.13 at 11:29 am ET|
Daily Feats of Mookie: Mookie Betts went 2-for-4 with a homer (his seventh of the year and fifth in his last 11 games) and a walk for Single-A Greenville. During his current 13-game hitting streak, he’s now hitting .429/.533/.837 with 10 extra-base hits (five homers, five doubles). On the year, he’s now hitting .256/.413/.488.
The run remains singularly shocking, since prior to the streak, Betts had shown excellent excellent plate discipline but no real ability to drive the ball. He had just four extra-base hits in his first 25 games this year after collecting nine (with no homers) in 71 games in 2012 with the Lowell Spinners. So, in his last 11 games, with those 10 extra-base hits, he’s nearly matched his total from his previous 97 games as a professional.
The out-of-nowhere power-hitting stretch is even more impressive since it has occurred without Betts selling out his characteristically disciplined approach at all. During his hitting streak, he’s walked 11 times (including once in each of the last four games) and struck out just four times — meaning he has more than twice as many extra-base hits as strikeouts.
Context: Here’s the complete list of players in the minors with at least seven homers and at least as many walks as strikeouts:
Since 2001, the only player in the big leagues with at least seven homers in a season and twice as many walks as strikeouts has been Barry Bonds. The last player to do it who wasn’t Bonds was Mark Grace, who did it in 2000. The people who accomplished the feat in the 1990s: Tony Gwynn, Gary Sheffield, Wade Boggs, Eric Young, Mark Grace, Lenny Dykstra, Frank Thomas.
It remains to be seen what this remarkable run means for Betts. After all, he didn’t hit a home run all of last year. But for now, Betts is performing as a player with a profile that does not currently exist in pro ball, and that few have displayed in the last 25 years.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 6-3 LOSS VS. INDIANAPOLIS (PIRATES)
– Franklin Morales yielded three runs while giving up three hits, a pair of homers and walking three in four innings. Despite the walks total, he was aggressive in the strike zone, throwing 43 of 65 pitches (66 percent) for strikes. However, he didn’t have overpowering stuff, as he elicited just four swings and misses in his four innings of work. Read the rest of this entry »
|Garin Cecchini, Anthony Ranaudo among Red Sox’ April minor league award winners||05.09.13 at 8:33 pm ET|
The Red Sox announced their Minor League Players of the Month for April. The envelope:
Hitter: Garin Cecchini, 22 (High-A Salem) — .392/.478/.709 with 15 extra-base hits, 13 RBIs
Starting pitcher: Anthony Ranaudo, 23 (Double-A Portland) — 3-0, 0.83 ERA, 26 strikeouts, 5 walks, 21 2/3 IP, .159 opponents’ batting average
Reliever: Chris Martin, 26 (Double-A Portland) — 8 games, 15 1/3 innings, 0.00 ERA, 19 strikeouts, 5 walks, .140 opponents’ batting average. A note on Martin: Though he’s ready to move up and compete in Triple-A, the promotion of Jose De La Torre to the big leagues will not result in his graduating to Pawtucket, since the PawSox staff had 13 pitchers (and a shortage of innings to distribute) prior to De La Torre’s addition to the Sox’ big league roster.
Defensive: Catcher Christian Vazquez, 22 (Double-A Portland) — 11 caught stealing in 16 games
Baserunner: Center fielder Shannon Wilkerson, 24 (Double-A Portland) — .222/.260/.344 with 13 runs, 2 SB, 1 CS in 21 games
Base stealer: Cecchini, 10 for 13 in SB attempts (worth noting — Deven Marraro was 5-for-5 in steal attempts before his hamstring injury put him on the DL)
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Garin Cecchini continues ‘clinic’; Sox’ best 3B depth option; why Anthony Ranaudo’s struggles highlight success; the riddle of Mookie Betts||05.08.13 at 12:09 pm ET|
Garin Cecchini spent all of last year in Single-A Greenville, playing in a league and park where home runs tend to fly. Yet in 526 plate appearances, Cecchini cleared the fences just four times.
The 22-year-old now is in High-A Salem, playing in a league and home park that is anathema to power hitters. (Xander Bogaerts, for one, talked about the feeling of relief when he got to Double-A Portland last year and discovered that balls crushed to right-center actually could clear the fence again.) Cecchini has 120 plate appearances with Salem, and on Tuesday night he launched his fourth homer of the young season, going 2-for-4 with a double (his 10th two-bagger and 18th extra-base hit in 27 games this year).
“That was crushed,” noted Salem broadcaster Evan Lepler. (To hear his call, click here.)
Cecchini looks physically like a big leaguer. At a strong 6-feet-2, 215 pounds, he looks like someone capable of driving the ball. But he’s always been a believer in honing his offensive approach, using all fields, swinging at strikes and working deep into counts with the knowledge that, as he refines his approach, he’d likely see power emerge in his game.
To this point in 2013, amidst a dazzling start, that prognostication is proving spot on. He’s hitting .379/.467/.670 with 17 walks and 16 strikeouts. As much as the emergence of his power has been a headline development in his career, however, it’s the consistent quality of his plate appearances that has been his most impressive attribute both this year and in his career.
“It’s like if you go to a hitting camp and the coach is giving you a speech about hitting, what you should be doing. I feel like that’s Cecchini everyday. He’s out there demonstrating what you should be doing at the plate. It’s ridiculous. It’s like a clinic,” said teammate Sean Coyle. “It’s something I really like watching. I’d love to take some parts from his game. It’s great to watch and learn from.”
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 7-3 WIN AT GWINNETT (BRAVES)
At a time when Will Middlebrooks and David Ross may need rest following their injurious collision, the Red Sox face vastly different depth equations when it comes to replacing the two players.
In the case of Ross, the Sox are well-stocked in terms of upper-levels catchers, with three players (Ryan Lavarnway and Dan Butler in Triple-A, Christian Vazquez in Double-A) on the 40-man roster. Lavarnway would be the obvious choice to fill in for Ross given both his experience with the Sox pitching staff as well as his ability to offer an impact right-handed bat. He’s hitting .328/.402/.500 in Pawtucket.
Third base, on the other hand, could represent an organizational problem — part of the reason why, as of last week, the Red Sox hadn’t even discussed the question of whether Middlebrooks’ struggles might warrant some consideration to a roster change. There are no options in the minor leagues who a) have experience playing third base and b) are on the Red Sox’ 40-man roster.
Drew Sutton, who had been Pawtucket’s primary third baseman this season, is currently on the seven-day DL due to a strained muscle in his side. Utilityman Justin Henry has hit for average (.309) and gotten on base (.391 OBP), but without the power (four extra-base hits in 110 plate appearances) that a team would like to see at a corner spot. Another utility option, Brock Holt, is on the 40-man, but he’s played just one minor league game in his career at third base, and he’s off to a woeful offensive start (.181/.278/.181).
The most intriguing option at the position might be Brandon Snyder, who has been the PawSox’ best hitter this year. The 26-year-old, who signed a minor league deal with the Sox after requesting his release from the Rangers at the end of spring training, was 2-for-4 while driving in a pair of runs on Tuesday, and now is hitting .330/.423/.628 with six homers and 10 doubles. While he’s played mostly first in Pawtucket, Snyder suggests that third base is his natural home on a baseball field. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Xander Bogaerts continues to affirm top prospect status; Anthony Ranaudo dominates; Christian Vazquez intrigues||05.03.13 at 11:06 am ET|
This is why Xander Bogaerts is the top prospect in the Red Sox system. At 20, he continues to out-perform much older players at an advanced level even as he continues his education in the game.
For the first time in 2013, Bogaerts went deep for Double-A Portland on Thursday, driving a first-inning, solo homer to the opposite field in right-center. The homer ended his longest fence-clearing drought (21 games) in any of his three seasons playing with Red Sox full-season minor league affiliates. It was part of a 2-for-5 day that also included a double for the 20-year-old, and although his power numbers have been a bit slower than usual to develop this year, it is hard not to be impressed by what he’s doing.
He started slowly this year, his timing disrupted by criss-crossing the globe during the World Baseball Classic and by the fact that he had limited playing time for Team Netherlands before returning to Red Sox big league camp late in the spring. Bogaerts started the year out of sync — through nine games, he hit .171 with no extra-base hits, one walk and 14 strikeouts — but subsequently made the necessary adjustments to excel.
“[The season-opening struggle] all started in spring training when he got back from the WBC. He came back and he was a little concerned about his playing time and making sure he was getting his at-bats,” said Portland manager Kevin Boles. “He felt very uncomfortable at the plate and at the time he wasn’t very confident at the plate late in spring training. That’s how much he cares, that even though the at-bats in spring training don’t count, he wanted to make sure he was right. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Matt Barnes and the Red Sox depth equation; the amazing Cecchini; Cody Kukuk’s step forward||05.02.13 at 1:07 pm ET|
Prospect rankings are funny things, sometimes possessing dubious value. After all, the exercise of affixing a numerical hierarchy to a group of prospects typically accomplishes little more than taking a snapshot of a single moment in time, glossing over the reality that player development is a dynamic, ever-changing process — sort of like a picture of a group of 10-year-olds featuring one kid who towers over the rest, but who will become the shortest one in her class by the time she turns 12.
But, viewed in the broader context of the shifts in rankings, rather than the rankings themselves, such exercises can be fascinating, and say quite a bit about not just players but an entire organization. Case in point: Matt Barnes and the Red Sox.
On Wednesday morning, one major league talent evaluator was thinking aloud about Barnes’ place in the Sox’ pitching order. Prior to spring training, most prospect rating lists had Barnes ranked at the top of the Sox’ crop of minor league arms; an occasional dissenter deemed Barnes the second best pitcher in the Sox system, behind only Allen Webster.
Now? One month into the 2013 season? The evaluator noted that if the Sox’ minor league pitchers were re-ranked, a compelling argument could be made that Barnes was the sixth best pitching prospect in the system, behind (in some order) Allen Webster, Henry Owens, Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Workman and Anthony Ranaudo, all of whom have shown the ability to dominate this year with more complete pitch mixes than Barnes currently possesses. The conclusion?
“If Matt Barnes is your sixth-best pitching prospect,” the evaluator noted, “then your system is in pretty interesting shape.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Anthony Ranaudo reasserts prospect status; Sean Coyle, Garin Cecchini white hot||04.28.13 at 10:26 am ET|
The 2012 season officially represents a footnote for Anthony Ranaudo. His results through his first four starts of 2013 have been so overpowering that his previous year now simply looks like an aberration in which injuries to his groin and shoulder prevented him from performing with the stuff that made him the team’s top pitching prospect entering the year.
Now, he’s dominating in a fashion comparable to the way that he overpowered his opponents in his first professional assignment in Single-A Greenville at the start of 2011 — only this time, he’s carving up lineups in the Double-A Eastern League. A 2012 season in which he was getting hammered while pitching in Double-A now appears to be the outlier in his professional performance.
“Last year, give him a mulligan,” said Portland manager Kevin Boles. “He just wasn’t 100 percent, and if he was 100 percent, he was just behind the eight-ball because he didn’t really have a spring training and I think he was just trying to play catch-up last year. … We just never saw the real Anthony Ranaudo. And we’re starting to see it now.”
On Saturday, Ranaudo delivered his most impressive outing to date. He retired the first 13 batters of the game to open a contest in which he logged six shutout innings while recording a career-high nine strikeouts. For the first time since 2011, he did not walk a batter. He gave up two hits — one infield single and a one-out triple — and after the triple, he struck out the next batter to keep his shutout intact. The 23-year-old elicited 12 swings and misses — nine on fastballs, two on curves, one on a change — on 89 pitches while throwing a hearty 69 percent of his pitches for strikes.
Ranaudo showed a power curveball on Saturday (with 10 of his 15 curves going for strikes), but foremost, he continued to show the ability to dominate with his fastball. After sometimes struggling to break 90 mph last year, mostly working around 88-92 mph, Ranaudo has been sitting effortlessly in the 92-94 mph range, and often topping out higher than that, around 96 mph. On Saturday, there was even more in the tank, as his fastball was 93-97 mph, sitting at 95. He’s been able to work with an arm slot that takes advantage of his 6-foot-7 frame to power his fastball down in the strike zone at an angle that gets the ball under the swing paths of most opponents.
“This year, we’re seeing a healthy Anthony Ranaudo — plus fastball, feel for a breaking ball and changeup,” said Boles. “I think the biggest thing now is, he’s been able to put himself in a position with his delivery where he’s able to angle the fastball down. We never really saw that — we saw it very rarely last year. I think it was because of the physical ailments he was going through, but now he’s able to leverage the fastball down. Obviously, the velocity is sitting around 92-94 mph with his fastball, so there’s been an uptick in his velocity from last year to this year.” Read the rest of this entry »
- Weekly Notes: Iglesias and Aceves promoted
- Cup of Coffee: Affiliates sweep, Natoli and Almanzar ignite Portland
- Red Sox recall Iglesias, Aceves; place Victorino, Middlebrooks on DL
- Cup of Coffee: Morales sharp in rehab outing as Sea Dogs roll
- Red Sox ink veteran lefty Rafael Perez to minor league deal
- Cup of Coffee: Vazquez nearly hits for cycle in Portland’s walk-off win
- Players of the Week, May 13-19: Mookie Betts and Matt Price
- Cup of Coffee: Montas strikes out eight in Greenville loss
- SoxProspects.com Podcast #34
- ESPNBoston: De La Rosa finding his way in Pawtucket