|Red Sox minor league roundup: Matt Barnes and the role question; Blake Swihart belongs; Rafael Devers is ridiculous||07.13.14 at 4:59 pm ET|
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 10-5 LOSS AT TOLEDO (TIGERS)
— Right-hander Matt Barnes was pitching in the All-Star Futures Game two years ago, at a time when it appeared he might be on a fast track to the rotation as the Sox’ top starting pitching prospect. The memory of that time feels increasingly distant.
Barnes got hammered for seven runs (six earned) on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings on Saturday. He struck out four and walked four — his second straight outing with at least that many walks, fourth straight with at least three walks and this straight in which he had at least as many walks as strikeouts — while throwing 57 of 93 pitches (61 percent) for strikes. The outing marked the 10th time in 14 starts this year that Barnes has not been able to record a single out in the sixth inning. It was the third time that he’s allowed at least six earned runs and the fifth time he’s yielded four or more.
Barnes is now 4-7 with a 5.06 ERA. He’s averaging a tick over five innings a start, typically requiring his bullpen to record 12 or more outs. That suggests one of two things: 1) He still could end up being a big league starter, but will end up taking far longer to get to that point than anyone expected when he blazed a trail to the Futures Game in his first full pro season; or 2) He might simply be a late-innings bullpen arm who hopes to see his typically powerful fastball play up in short stints.
The former possibility shouldn’t be dismissed given that Barnes’ year started behind the eight-ball due to a shoulder injury and a shutdown; that sort of health issue can leave a pitcher to play catch-up all year. But the latter possibility of Barnes as a future bullpen option is becoming more real than ever, at a time when the Red Sox’ upper levels are getting more and more crowded with other starting options.
— Alex Hassan added to a scorching run by going 2-for-4 with a two-run homer, his third longball of the year. Since he returned to Pawtucket from the his first big league summons, Hassan is hitting .359/.445/.583 with 18 extra-base hits in 28 games.
— Outfielder Derrik Gibson, who spent most of the last two and a half years in Double-A Portland, moved up to Pawtucket, where the 24-year-old went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout in his Triple-A unveiling while playing center. Gibson hit .314/.404/.424 in Portland, including .389/.454/.484 against lefties.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 5-2 WIN, 2-0 LOSS VS. NEW HAMPSHIRE (BLUE JAYS) Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox GM Ben Cherington on team needs, talks with prospective free agents, youth movement||07.09.14 at 8:51 pm ET|
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington is well aware of the foremost issue facing his team. A Red Sox offense that led the majors in 2013 in runs per game is now dead last in the American League in that category, entering Wednesday’s game with 3.74 runs per night. Fixing that will be a focus for the Sox both leading up to the July 31 trade deadline and into the offseason.
“We need more offense, clearly. I still believe a lot of that is going to come from guys already here. But clearly offense has been an issue so we’d like to add to the offense so we’re going to look for ways to do that whether that’s now or after the season or both. We’ve got to find ways to improve the offense.”
With A.J. Pierzynski not hitting, the Sox felt that it was time to remove the catcher from the roster.
Cherington touched on several additional topics. Among them:
— Cherington said that the status of talks about contract extensions with prospective free agents could have some bearing on what the Sox try to do at the trade deadline. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: How scouts view Anthony Ranaudo; Christian Vazquez feels he’s ready; Blake Swihart, Manuel Margot punctuate impressive June||07.01.14 at 12:13 pm ET|
A year ago at this time, right-hander Anthony Ranaudo was receiving accolades for a Double-A breakthrough that had netted him a spot in the All-Star Futures Game. By the start of July, he’d made 15 starts, going 8-2 with a 2.68 ERA. Opponents were hitting under .200 against him, he was striking out just over a batter an inning and just over three batters for every walk, looking like the player who had been the top pitching prospect in the Red Sox organization from the time that he signed after being drafted in 2010 through spring training of 2012 (before the emergence of 2011 draftees like Henry Owens and Matt Barnes, or the breakthrough by fellow 2010 draftee Brandon Workman).
This year, though receiving less attention in Triple-A (at a time when Owens was named to the Futures Game and looms as the clear top pitching prospect in the Sox system), Ranaudo’s results have been even more impressive. The 6-foot-7 right-hander continued a run of dominance unmatched in his career on Monday, pouring in seven shutout innings while giving up three hits (two doubles and a single), walking two and punching out five. There was some hard contact that resulted in outs, but by and large, Ranaudo continued a nearly seven-week run of putting up zeros.
Monday marked the fifth time in nine starts that he did not allow a run in a start. During that run, he’s 6-2 with a 1.13 ERA (the third best ERA in the minors over that time) while holding opponents to a .173 average. His strikeout totals have been largely modest (7.1 per nine during the stretch, 7.6 per nine on the year), but he’s been increasingly aggressive throwing strikes (3.1 walks per nine during the run, compared to 5.2 walks per nine in his first eight starts — and 1.7 walks per nine in his last five starts) and he’s been more consistently down in the strike zone with a fastball that has typically been around 92 mph but getting up to 93 or 94 mph within outings. Read the rest of this entry »
|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. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Mookie Betts is on the radar; Brian Johnson’s prospect helium; Blake Swihart’s power show continues; Joe Gunkel strong in Salem debut||06.22.14 at 9:30 am ET|
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Saturday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-0 WIN AT SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE (YANKEES)
— Feats of Mookie: Moving onto the radar. Mookie Betts, playing second base, went 1-for-4 with a single, a walk and his fifth stolen base since joining Pawtucket, while also committing his first Triple-A error. There was nothing exceptional about the game relative to the rest of his performance in Pawtucket. He’s reached base in all 18 games in which he’s played; he has a .319 average, .402 OBP and .475 slugging percentage; he has shown the ability to take his walks while making contact, with a 12.1 percent walk rate and a 13.4 percent strikeout rate.
What was noteworthy about his day was the fact that manager John Farrell brought up the 21-year-old’s performance — when asked about rehabbing veteran Andres Torres.
“I know Mookie Betts is swinging the bat well. Not to create anything,” Farrell told reporters in response to a question about Torres. “I’m not suggesting anything, other than that we recognize and watch what he’s doing daily. … The fact he’s in Triple-A means he’s clearly on the radar. The fact that he continues to swing the bat with some consistency, the time frame is no indication to it, but he’s doing everything he can to put himself on that track.”
— Will Middlebrooks went 0-for-2 with a walk and a pair of strikeouts. He’s 4-for-15 (all singles) with a pair of walks (good for a .353 OBP) in five rehab games with Triple-A Pawtucket. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Blake Swihart powers up; Sean Coyle’s patience; Mookie Betts makes Triple-A debut; Garin Cecchini slumping; Deven Marrero, doubles machine||06.04.14 at 8:54 am ET|
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Tuesday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-2 LOSS AT DURHAM (RAYS)
— Feats of Mookie: Adjusting. Mookie Betts made his Triple-A debut at second base, going 0-for-4 with a walk. He did initiate a pair of 4-6-3 double plays and recorded seven assists.
Betts made the jump from Double-A to Triple-A after spending less time in Portland than any other top Red Sox prospect in recent years. He spent just 54 games in Portland, graduating from Double-A faster than Jackie Bradley Jr. (61 games), Garin Cecchini (66), Dustin Pedroia (66), Jacoby Ellsbury (67) and Xander Bogaerts (79).
— Third baseman Garin Cecchini went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and an error (his ninth) in his first start since being sent back down to Pawtucket from the big leagues. The 23-year-old is amidst an atypical stretch — he’s gone 11 straight games without a walk, and he’s struck out nine times during that run. He’s 8-for-43 with a double (.186/.186/.209) during the slide — with, of course, a brief interruption for a double in two at-bats in the big leagues.
— First baseman Travis Shaw went 2-for-4, giving him hits in seven of nine games since his promotion to Triple-A. He was the only PawSox with a multi-hit game.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 11-9 LOSS VS. ERIE (TIGERS) Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Travis Shaw moves up; Mookie Pedroia; Blake Swihart’s power surge; Anthony Ranaudo, Christian Vazquez have work to do||05.27.14 at 10:14 am ET|
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Monday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-2 WIN VS. GWINNETT (BRAVES)
— First baseman Travis Shaw, 24, went 1-for-3 in his Pawtucket debut following his promotion from Double-A. Shaw delivered a dominating performance in Portland, hitting .305/.406/.548 with 11 homers, 29 walks and 23 strikeouts while showing the ability to destroy right-handed pitching (.333/.458/.635 with seven homers, 22 walks and 11 strikeouts) and hold his own against lefties (.272/.337/.444 with four homers, seven walks and 12 strikeouts).
Shaw’s dominant performance in Portland this year followed a season of struggle at the same level last year, when he hit .221/.342/.394 with 16 homers but 117 strikeouts (22 percent of plate appearances). But after the season, Shaw worked with his father — former All-Star closer Jeff Shaw — to stay back on the ball and regain the all-fields approach that characterized his career as an amateur through an impressive 2012 full-season debut. Shaw carried that into the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .361/.452/.705 with five homers in 17 games, and maintained his swing and approach through the offseason entering this year.
His reward was a long-anticipated goal — after spending parts of three years in Portland (following an August 2012 promotion to Double-A from High-A, the entirety of 2013 and the beginning of this year), he is finally one step from the big leagues.
‘I was definitely on a mission to show that I could handle Double A because there have been questions that I couldn’t hit consistently at that level for the past year-and-a-half,’ Shaw told the Pawtucket Times. ‘I feel that I’m in a good place mentally and physically. It’s also nice to be out of Portland. I wanted to prove myself and get out of there as soon as possible.’
— Right-hander Anthony Ranaudo continued an overpowering run, firing 6 2/3 shutout innings. He’s now allowed just one run in his last three starts spanning 19 1/3 innings (0.47 ERA). The 24-year-old gave up four hits (two singles, two doubles) and struck out four. However, he also threw a relatively modest 64 of 106 pitches (60 percent) for strikes, and for the fifth time in his 11 starts this year, he walked four batters. While Ranaudo has minimized hard contact (opponents are hitting .225 against him with 0.5 homers per nine innings) and is showing the ability to handle a considerable workload (he’s logged at least 104 pitches in each of his last four outings, with a 1.38 ERA from the fourth inning on), his 4.9 walks per nine innings suggest a pitcher who has been searching for his fastball command over the course of the season and who, despite an impressive 2.90 ERA, requires refinement before he’ll put himself in consideration for a spot in a big league rotation. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Stephen Drew, Sean Coyle return; Garin Cecchini’s streak ends; Joe Gunkel’s unhittable start||05.24.14 at 10:32 am ET|
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox minor league system on Friday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-0 LOSS AT SYRACUSE (NATIONALS)
— Daniel Nava went 1-for-4 with a double off of left-hander Aaron Laffey, his second extra-base hit against lefties in Triple-A. Nava is still exhibiting significant splits that suggest that if/when he returns to the big leagues, it will likely be in a platoon capacity. With Friday’s double, he’s hitting .231/.276/.308 with nine punchouts in 28 plate appearances (32 percent) against lefties, compared to a .263/.377/.439 line with punchouts in 17 percent of his 69 plate appearances.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Nava and Portland shortstop Deven Marrero will be the guests on WEEI’s Down on the Farm, Sunday morning from 8:30-9 a.m.
— Left-hander Rich Hill turned in his most dominant outing of the year, contributing 2 1/3 innings of shutout ball in which he allowed one hit and struck out five. Hill had struggled in his prior two outings, allowing three runs in 2 1/3 innings, but his performance has been largely solid for Pawtucket, with 29 strikeouts and 11 walks in 25 innings, no homers allowed and a 3.24 ERA.
— Third baseman Garin Cecchini went 0-for-3, snapping a streak of 27 straight games in which he’d reached base. During that run, Cecchini hit .302/.413/.349.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 4-3 WIN (10 INNINGS) AT NEW HAMPSHIRE (BLUE JAYS) Read the rest of this entry »
|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|
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
— 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 »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Garin Cecchini, Mr. Consistent; thieves abound (and caught) in Portland; Light on in Salem; a career minor-leaguer profiled||05.07.14 at 11:16 am ET|
While the minor leagues are typically most fascinating for the promise of the Next Big Thing, there is another, more common reality that prevails below the highest level of baseball. While the minor leagues represent a series of progressive stops en route to the big leagues for a select few, for many, they are a reality unto themselves, an opportunity to play professional baseball but without the certainty — or, in some cases, even the likelihood — of ever stepping foot on a big league field.
It is a phenomenon worth considering — and a reality check for prospects who come face-to-face with players whose careers evoke that of Crash Davis and Bull Durham. This is a great story by Tim Healey on Matt Spring, now playing in Double-A Portland in his 11th minor league season, and the existence of a career minor leaguer.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-1 LOSS VS. TOLEDO (TIGERS)
— Third baseman Garin Cecchini went 2-for-4 with a double, and he’s now reached base safely in 16 straight games with a .298/.424/.426 line during that time. For the season, Cecchini has a .309/.398/.392 line, and he’s spent just one day this season with an average below .300. His current on-base streak — which is statistically almost indistinguishable from his typical performance over the full expanse of the season — underscores the value of Cecchini as a steady contributor who tends to be able to limit both the duration and impact of his slumps by controlling the strike zone and working walks. Consider his year-by-year statistical lines in his four professional seasons:
2011 (Short-Season Single-A Lowell): .298/.398/.500, 17 walks, 19 strikeouts
2012 (Single-A Greenville): .305/.394/.433, 61 walks, 90 strikeouts
2013 (High-A Salem and Double-A Portland): .322/.443/.471, 94 walks, 86 strikeouts
2014 (Triple-A Pawtucket): .309/.398/.392, 14 walks, 21 strikeouts
The composite profile suggests a player whose track record suggests uncommon offensive reliability whenever he is deemed ready for the big leagues. There is still development that needs to take place with the glove, but if the Sox continue to find themselves bemused by their offensive inconsistency in the big leagues as the season progresses, the temptation to see what Cecchini might be able to contribute could be considerable.
— Right-hander Matt Barnes, in his third start with the PawSox, threw a season-high six innings while permitting a season-high two runs. He did not have his characteristic control, throwing just 53 of 91 pitches (58 percent) for strikes while walking four, but he gave up just three hits (all doubles). Barnes punched out four. In 16 innings, he has a 2.25 ERA with 12 strikeouts and eight walks.
— Outfielder Corey Brown, after getting off to a brutal start (a .114/.149/.159 line through 13 games), continued what has been a run of impacting the baseball. He went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, and in his last eight games, he’s now hitting .308 with a .406 OBP and .615 slugging mark with two homers and two doubles. Read the rest of this entry »
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