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Red Sox minor league roundup: Taking stock of Anthony Ranaudo; Brian Johnson, Daniel McGrath dominate; Blake Swihart, southpaw slayer; injuries for Deven Marrero, Wendell Rijo 05.21.14 at 11:37 am ET
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Anthony Ranaudo has a 2.15 ERA in his last seven starts. (AP)

Anthony Ranaudo has a 2.15 ERA in his last seven starts. (AP)

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox minor league system on Tuesday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-0 LOSS VS. SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE

(BOX)

– There was one sequence in the top of the sixth inning that stood out in the day of Anthony Ranaudo. With a runner on first (followinga leadoff walk) and no outs, a left-handed hitter — Kyle Roller — stepped to the plate. First pitch: changeup with arm side fade, swing and miss. Second pitch: Backdoor curveball on the outside corner, called strike. Third pitch: Fastball on the hands, swing and miss.

It was a sequence that suggests a big league starting pitcher’s arsenal — after some refinements are achieved.

To be sure, Ranaudo isn’t a finished product. His fastball control (on a pitch that once touched 96 mph on the McCoy Stadium scoreboard, but mostly sat at 93 mph) came and went at times, most notably in a 27-pitch first-inning labor in which a pair of walks and a double led to a bases-loaded, one-out jam. But he worked around that with a strikeout and pop-out, commencing a stretch in which he retired 11 of 13. On the day, he ended up allowing just one run (a solo homer on an elevated fastball) in 5 2/3 innings, yielding four hits but punching out seven (while walking four). Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: anthony ranaudo, blake swihart, brian johnson, bryce brentz
Red Sox minor league roundup: Time to start thinking about moving up Mookie Betts?; Keith Couch flirts with perfection; Anthony Ranaudo dominates; Travis Shaw, Bryce Brentz mash 04.30.14 at 1:27 pm ET
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Mookie Betts went 3-for-4 with a homer on Tuesday. (365DigitalPhotography.com)

Mookie Betts went 3-for-4 with a homer on Tuesday. (365DigitalPhotography.com)

Feats of Mookie: Absurdity. Players who are young for their leagues, who have been on a blindingly fast development path, aren’t supposed to dominate at a level to the degree that Mookie Betts has done so in Portland, even if only for a month. The ridiculous month of Mookie continued on Tuesday with the 21-year-old second baseman going 3-for-4 with a homer. He’s reached base in all 21 games for the Sea Dogs this year, with a season line of .422/.471/.689 with four homers, 15 extra-base hits, 10 walks, eight strikeouts and 10 steals in 12 attempts. He leads all of minor league baseball in average, ranks 13th in OBP and eighth in slugging. He’s been one of the dominant performers in all of the minors — and not just this year. Dating back to last May 5, when he made an adjustment from a leg kick to a stride in the batter’s box, he’s hitting .361/.438/.580 with 68 walks, 53 strikeouts, 17 homers, 44 steals (in 49 attempts) and 66 extra-base hits in 125 games while blitzing across three levels.

Obviously, he hasn’t been thrown by his rapid ascent up the ladder. He was more than ready for the Carolina League after his 76 games of dominance in Single-A last year, and more than ready to open this year in Portland after he finished last year with 51 games in Salem.

So how soon could he see a move up to Triple-A? His performance has forced that conversation on the Sox earlier than expected, even if there’s no evidence that a promotion is imminent. There simply aren’t many parallels in recent years in the Red Sox organization for what Betts is doing.

The closest comparable came from another leadoff hitter, Jacoby Ellsbury, who spent just 17 games in Portland at the start of the 2007 season, hitting .452/.518/.644 before forcing his way up to Pawtucket. But Ellsbury was different in a few key respects: 1) He was a 23-year-old who had been drafted out of college; 2) He’d spent 50 games in Portland at the end of his first full pro season in 2006. So, Ellsbury didn’t force his promotion until he’d been in Double-A for 67 games rather than 50.

The Sox have had few position players who were drafted out of high school dominate like this. Will Middlebrooks was 22 when he arrived in Portland and had a great year, hitting .302/.345/.520 with 18 homers in 96 games before an end-of-year promotion to Pawtucket. Anthony Rizzo made it to Portland as a 20-year-old in 2010 and hit .263/.334/.481 with 20 homers in 107 games before getting traded that offseason.

Xander Bogaerts had 79 games in Double-A — 23 at the end of 2012, 56 more at the start of 2013 — before his promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket in his age 20 season.

So, as Kevin Thomas of the Portland Press-Herald pointed out (via twitter), the Sox haven’t had a top position prospect blitz through Portland in recent years in fewer than 61 games. That suggests that Betts may have a while to wait before he moves up to the top rung of the minor league ladder. Of course, it’s worth noting that no one else dominated Portland out of the chute in the fashion that Betts has. He may be forcing his own set of rules.

“Nobody knows why he’s still here. He’s a freak, man,” Portland pitcher Keith Couch told MiLB.com. “He should be in the big leagues. He has this electricity to his game. He’s just crushing balls and getting on base and scoring runs.”

Here’s video of the homer: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: anthony ranaudo, Keith Couch, mookie betts, travis shaw
Red Sox minor league roundup: Anthony Ranaudo’s early struggles, Justin Haley sailing in Salem, Bo Greenwell’s career day 04.25.14 at 4:19 pm ET
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Anthony Ranaudo (AP)

Anthony Ranaudo (AP)

The briefest of looks at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Thursday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 8-1 LOSS VS. ROCHESTER (TWINS)

(BOX)

– Right-hander Anthony Ranaudo had his shortest start of the year, allowing three runs (two earned) in three innings while permitting six hits (five singles and a double), walking four and striking out four. He required 71 pitches, of which 39 (55 percent) were strikes. So far this year, Ranaudo has had one standout start (a six shutout inning effort on April 19) but otherwise has struggled in the early stages of the year. He’s getting strikeouts (25 in 23 2/3 innings) but his walk rate has spiked considerably (5.3 per nine innings) from last year, his velocity has fluctuated between outings and he’s been getting hit hard when missing up in the zone, particularly against lefties. Left-handed hitters have crushed him to the tune of a .378/.511/.622 line with 10 walks and 10 strikeouts in 47 plate appearances.

– Right-hander Alex Wilson showed no ill effects of his one-day shuffle to and from Boston. He pitched the ninth inning, needing just eight pitches to garner a strikeout and two groundouts. He’s now worked nine scoreless innings this year.

Bryce Brentz went 2-for-4 and has now reached base in 12 straight games, during which he has a line of .317/.404/.439. He did, however, commit an error in left field and struck out twice.

Daniel Nava is expected to join the PawSox on Friday. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: anthony ranaudo, Bo Greenwell, Justin Haley, luke farrell
Red Sox minor league roundup: Is Mookie Betts top Red Sox prospect?; return of Anthony Ranaudo; Shane Victorino’s rehab begins 04.20.14 at 8:42 am ET
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Mookie Betts leads all of the minors in batting average with a .453 mark. (John Corneau/Lowell Spinners)

Mookie Betts leads all of the minors in batting average with a .453 mark. (John Corneau/Lowell Spinners)

Feats of Mookie: Defying superlatives.

Mookie Betts recovered from his two-game slump — a doubleheader on Friday in which he went 1-for-4 in both contests — by reasserting himself as an unstoppable force for Double-A Portland. The 21-year-old went 4-for-5, launching his second homer of the season in his final at-bat of the night, for his second four-hit game of the year and his sixth in his professional career (all of which have come in the last 12 months). In the process, he reclaimed the minor league lead in batting average (.453). He also leads the Eastern League in OBP (.492) and ranks third in slugging (.717).

Entering this season, there was some question as to whether Betts’ extraordinary breakout season of 2013 was real or a mirage. The contrast between his first two pro seasons — a 2012 campaign where he spent all year in Short-Season Lowell, hitting .267/.352/.307 with no homers and nine extra-base hits in 71 games, compared to a 2013 season where he tore through Single-A Greenville and earned a promotion to High-A Salem, getting better along the way en route to a combined .314/.417/.506 line with 15 homers, 55 extra-base hits and 38 steals in 127 games — created some pause about how highly he should be regarded in the Red Sox prospect rankings. Plenty of tools — bat speed, excellent plate discipline and hand-eye coordination, some power, quick-twitch athleticism that lent itself to both strong defensive range and great jumps as a baserunner — were on display, but it was hard to ignore the idea that his year might, just might, be a one-hit wonder that he might never match.

His start to the 2014 season, against a higher level of competition in Double-A, suggests that his performance of a year ago was no mere illusion. Obviously, his willingness to conjure a couple weeks of Nintendo numbers is unsustainable, particularly given his obscenely high batting average on balls in play (though it is worth noting that Betts may well be in possession of The Force, permitting him to bend the wills of weaker-minded opponents in a fashion that permits him to steer opposing defenders away from anything with which he makes contact and thus to sustain unusually high BABIPs). Nonetheless, the tools that proved so fascinating last year remain on full display this year, as Betts continues to show the ability to transform games in numerous ways.

And so, it is worth asking: Where does Betts rank right now among Red Sox prospects, at a time when he is laying waste to a league in which he is one of the youngest position players, someone who would be amidst his junior year of college had he not signed with the Sox out of high school? Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: alex wilson, anthony ranaudo, blake swihart, jackie bradley jr.
Red Sox minor league roundup: Christian Vazquez is more than just a glove; Anthony Ranaudo brings back power; Mookie Betts remains outrageous 04.05.14 at 9:01 am ET
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Christian Vazquez (AP)

Christian Vazquez (AP)

Over time, Christian Vazquez has developed a reputation as one of the top defensive catchers in the minors, someone whose arm behind the plate is a game-changing weapon that has earned the 23-year-old comparisons to perennial Gold Glover Yadier Molina. But increasingly, Vazquez is starting to earn more far-reaching comparisons to the Cardinals All-Star not just for his defense but for the trajectory of his offensive development.

As a hitter, Molina was something of a late bloomer, putting up solid but unspectacular numbers in the minors (.278/.335/.368) and struggling in his first three big league seasons (.238/.291/.342 through his age 23 season in 2006) before taking a leap forward as one of the top two-way catchers in baseball, hitting .297/.353/.422 from 2007-13.

It remains to be seen what kind of hitter Vazquez ultimately becomes, but his progress commands notice. In 2012, he walked 48 times and struck out 79 times; last year, he walked the same number of times (48) but cut his strikeout rate roughly in half (44) while posting a .287 average, .375 OBP and .391 slugging mark. His approach passes the eye test as a hitter who does not expand the strike zone and whose hand-eye coordination permits him to hit line drives to all fields.

This spring, there were signs that Vazquez’s improved knowledge of the strike zone could permit him to make more of an offensive impact as he takes some chances pulling the ball. He crushed a couple of homers in big league spring training, offering a glimpse of a catcher who could have the ability to hit for average, get on base and deliver a bit of sneaky pop — in short, a player who may be ready to challenge his perception as a defense-first player whose limited offensive skill set profiles as that of a backup or a below-average everyday catcher.

On Friday, Vazquez went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles — one to right, one to left. While the one-year deal for A.J. Pierzynski resulted in a sense that Vazquez could emerge as the Sox’ catcher by 2015, his offensive improvements suggest a player who will be ready before that if the need arises.

“In my mind, he’s ready now,” manager John Farrell said of Vazquez on WEEI’s Down on the Farm.

Programming Note: Sunday on Down on the Farm: Red Sox hitting coordinator Tim Hyers will discuss Vazquez and other Red Sox prospects, and ESPN’s Keith Law will discuss the shape of the different farm systems among American League East teams. Listen to the show on WEEI on Sunday morning from 8:30-9 a.m.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 9-4 WIN VS. LEHIGH VALLEY (PHILLIES)

(BOX)

– Left-hander Craig Breslow, pitching in the second of back-to-back games, logged a scoreless inning in which he allowed a double and struck out a batter. On Friday, Breslow said that it was his hope that he would be ready for activation from the disabled list after his second Triple-A outing, though he will meet with team officials on Saturday to make the determination of whether he will make any further rehab appearances. Breslow threw eight of 12 pitches for strikes, getting two groundouts and a punchout. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: anthony ranaudo, christian vazquez, Craig Breslow, mookie betts
Red Sox minor league affiliate roster analysis: Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox 04.01.14 at 1:58 pm ET
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Anthony Ranaudo (AP)

Anthony Ranaudo (AP)

The Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox roster:

Pitchers

Drake Britton

Rubby De La Rosa

Chris Hernandez

Rich Hill

Dalier Hinojosa

Jeremy Kehrt

Tommy Layne

Anthony Ranaudo

Chris Resop

Brayan Villarreal

Allen Webster

Alex Wilson

Catchers Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: allen webster, anthony ranaudo, christian vazquez, garin cecchini
Xander Bogaerts goes deep, but Anthony Ranaudo and Chris Capuano hit hard as Red Sox fall to Cardinals 03.05.14 at 6:37 pm ET
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Anthony Ranaudo struggled in his second spring outing. (AP)

Anthony Ranaudo struggled in his second spring outing. (AP)

In a game of slightly less consequence than the last time the Red Sox faced the Cardinals, St. Louis beat the visiting Sox, 8-6, in a reacquainting of the two World Series competitors. Daniel Nava led off the game with a homer off St. Louis starter Shelby Miller, but Miller then retired the next eight batters he faced. With Sox starter Chris Capuano (two runs in two innings) and piggyback starter Anthony Ranaudo (1 1/3 innings, five runs (three earned) on six hits) both getting hit hard, the Sox found themselves in a 7-1 hole by the time they showed renewed signs of offensive life starting in the sixth inning, when Xander Bogaerts launched a two-run homer (his first of the spring) to left.

Between the performances of both Capuano and Ranaudo (who consistently pitched behind in the count), three errors committed by the Sox (one each by Will Middlebrooks, Heiker Meneses and Deven Marrero) along with a passed ball by catcher Christian Vazquez, it was a sloppy performance for the Sox. Manager John Farrell told reporters that his team needs to tighten up its play.

“Tough day. No doubt. Tough day defensively. We’€™ve got work to do, let’€™s face it,” Farrell told reporters in Jupiter, Fla. “We’€™re a week into the game schedule but we’€™ve got a lot of work to do as a team. It was a tough for Will to defensively but in addition to that it was compounded by pitching behind in the count. And I think overall we’€™ve got to do a much better job of commanding the strike zone, much better than we have so far. … I think in general, as a staff, what we’€™ve shown through the first six days of games, we’€™ve got to pitch better in terms of controlling the count.”

The game featured the Red Sox‘ first umpire replay of the spring, as Cardinals manager Mike Matheny challenged a ruling that the Red Sox had successfully turned an inning-ending double play to conclude the eight. The ruling on the field was upheld.

Read More: anthony ranaudo, daniel nava, spring training 2014, xander bogaerts
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