|Red Sox minor league roundup: Garin Cecchini’s remarkable consistency; Red Sox catching stockpile impresses; Brian Johnson’s strong run to the end; Joe Gunkel dominates in Lowell||08.20.13 at 12:32 pm ET|
Garin Cecchini had another game for Double-A in which he went 1-for-3 with a single and a walk, a nearly nightly staple of his minor league existence this year. His performance by month:
April (High-A Salem): .392 average, .478 OBP
May (High-A Salem): .326 average, .444 OBP
June (High-A Salem, promoted to Double-A Portland): .337 average, .481 OBP
July (Double-A Portland): .302 average, .402 OBP
August (Double-A Portland): .281 average, .425 OBP
That’s a player whose ability to barrel the ball permits him to have a reliably high average, and whose on-base skills allow him to minimize the impact of any slumps. Cecchini has shown power in inconsistent spurts this year, but in his case, if he does develop the ability to drive the ball for doubles and homers more consistently, it’s a bonus rather than a necessity. The 22-year-old is the type of player who represents an easy-to-predict building block for a lineup that prioritizes consistency and a work-the-count approach over raw power. In other words, he looks like an obvious long-term fit for the organization that selected him in the fourth round of the 2010 draft.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET: 3-0 WIN VS. BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS)
– Catcher Dan Butler added to what is likely the best offensive stretch of his career. He went 1-for-3 while mashing his 15th homer of the year and drawing a walk on Monday. In the month that ran from July 19-Aug. 19, in 20 games, Butler hit .352/.410/.746, ranking second in the International League in that time in homers (the leader during that time, Zach Walters of Syracuse, had nine homers in 27 games). On the year, Butler is hitting .269/.361/.498 with 15 homers in 75 games. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: More no-hit magic from Henry Owens; explaining Dan Butler’s surge; Allen Webster in the zone; Manuel Margot returns; Luis Diaz dazzles||08.17.13 at 11:16 am ET|
If there were any questions about whether Henry Owens was the top pitching prospect in the Red Sox system, the left-hander has done a pretty compelling job of answering them.
The 21-year-old continued his amazing late-summer performance on Friday night by throwing five no-hit innings for Double-A Portland. He did permit an unearned run in the first inning — a wild frame in which Owens walked three, uncorked a wild pitch, encountered a passed ball and recorded all three outs by strikeout — but settled down to retire the final 12 batters he faced, including the last five by strikeout.
In five innings of work, the 2011 supplemental first-round pick (No. 36 overall) allowed four baserunners (three walks and the HBP) but punched out 10 while recording four outs via groundball. And so, his overmatched opponents from Harrisburg managed to hit just one ball into the outfield against him. They swung and missed 22 times at his 94 offerings, reminiscent of a spring outing when he struck out 13 of 15 batters he faced.
For most pitchers, the start would have represented the highlight of a season. For Owens, it’s now become commonplace. It’s the third time in the 6-foot-7 pitcher’s last seven starts (dating back to his time in High-A Salem) that he hasn’t allowed a hit. In that seven-start stretch between two levels, he has a 1.32 ERA, 13.0 strikeouts per nine innings and 4.4 walks per nine. Opponents are hitting .112 with a .242 OBP and .149 slugging mark against him over that period.
Clearly, Owens has not been fazed by his promotion to Double-A. In three starts since that move, he has a 1.20 ERA with 29 strikeouts and six walks in 15 innings — a ludicrous 17.4 strikeouts per nine innings. And he’s shown some ability to rein in his walks total, having knocked down his free passes to 3.6 per nine innings. Friday’s outing showed the ability to make in-game adjustments to surmount early-command struggles and attack the strike zone, leading to his complete domination over his final four innings.
“I felt like I was ready to face these hitters and I felt like I could compete,” Owens told MILB.com of his transition to Double-A. “That goes back to the confidence level. You can never be timid. Everyone says it’s a very mental game and that the game is not for the mentally weak. There’s a difference between flamboyantly loud confidence and quiet confidence.
“I like to lead by example. I try to inflict fear in batters so they don’t know what page I’m on. And that’s not fear like, ‘He’s a big guy, look at the size of him,’ but more like, ‘I’ve swung and missed at the first two pitches, I wonder what he’s going to throw next.’ ”
He’s seemingly accomplishing that, as he has for much of the year. On the year, opponents are now hitting just .176 against the lefty (the third lowest rate in the minors among full-season pitchers). He’s punching out 11.4 batters per nine innings. Control is unquestionably a question for a pitcher who is issuing 4.4 walks per nine innings, but considering that he just turned 21 and is still making strength gains that are permitting him the ability to repeat his delivery with increased consistency, he appears capable of progress in that regard.
Indeed, it is Owens’ strength gains and ability to sustain his performance throughout this year that have been among the most noteworthy elements of his year. The fact that he’s been so dominant at this stage of the year — at a time when he’s matched his number of outings (23) from last year while blowing past last year’s 101 2/3 innings total to reach 119 2/3 frames — represents an impressive payoff on his offseason and in-season conditioning work.
Owens is still dominating opponents with all three of his pitches — fastball (a pitch that averaged 91 mph and produced 11 swings and misses on Friday), changeup (9 swings and misses on Friday) and curve — even as he works deeper than ever into a season and even as he faces more advanced competition than ever. He likely has two remaining starts in Double-A, which should push him to about 130 innings pitched for the year, a couple final opportunities to punctuate what has been a spectacular season that points to a pitcher who looks like a potential long-term building block of the Red Sox rotation. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Will Middlebrooks heating up; Xander Bogaerts rebounds; Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez showcase all-around skill||08.09.13 at 12:03 pm ET|
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Thursday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-0 LOSS (SEVEN INNINGS), 5-4 LOSS (SEVEN INNINGS) AT SYRACUSE (NATIONALS)
– Xander Bogaerts was slumping for a brief period of time, something that the young infielder has not had a lot of experience with. But he’s beginning to show that the slump was just a blip in what is otherwise a fantastic season for the 20-year-old. With three hits, including a double, in the night game on Thursday, Bogaerts went 5-for-7 in the two games, and is batting .359/.375/.487 with five doubles in his last nine games.
The one thing Bogaerts hasn’t been doing much of lately is drawing walks. He’s worked a free pass only once in his last nine games and twice since a streak of four games in a row with a walk, a streak that ended 12 games ago. However, he’s also not striking out very much. Bogaerts has drawn walks in about 11.5 percent of plate appearances while striking out in just over 16 percent. That means he’s actually cut down on the strikeouts since transitioning to Triple-A (he was fanning in almost 20 percent of plate appearances this year in Double-A), and though his walk numbers are down, the difference is rather slight (down about 2 pecent). Bogaerts ranks third on the Pawtucket club with a .380 OBP, and has posted a .291/.380/.476 line in 51 games since being promoted from Portland.
– Not to be outdone, Will Middlebrooks also had an impressive day, going 3-for-5 with a double, RBI and two walks between the two games. He got the start at third base in both ends of the doubleheader, while Bogaerts stayed at shortstop. The third baseman is showing some signs of heating up in Pawtucket, hitting safely in seven straight games and batting .345/.375/.586 over that span.
Middlebrooks’ power seemed to have gone missing for a period of time, when he failed to knock an extra-base hit in nine straight games, hitting only .194 in that stretch. But he’s clubbed two home runs and a double in his last four contests, while also drawing two walks as compared to three strikeouts over the last three days. Middlebrooks is hitting .265/.315/.452 with 12 walks, 33 strikeouts, and 13 extra-base hits in his 38 games since being demoted to Triple-A. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Allen Webster getting back on track; Dan Butler’s amazing run; Blake Swihart streaking; Miguel Pena rolling; Jamie Callahan honored||08.06.13 at 12:32 pm ET|
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Monday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-4 WIN AT BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS)
– Allen Webster‘s performance was not quite as impressive as his last one, in which he fanned 12 batters while allowing only one walk. He gave up three runs on six hits and a walk in 5 1/3 innings, allowing his seventh home run in Triple-A while punching out four. The righty had gone four straight starts without giving up a home run. Since a 1 1/3 inning performance back on July 21, Webster hasn’t been dominant, but has looked like he’s getting back on track, allowing six earned runs in his last 18 innings, walking five while fanning 20.
– Dan Butler‘s been on fire at the plate in the past couple weeks, and Monday night was no different. Butler drove in two runs with a double and his 12th home run of the season, a home run which put the PawSox on top in the 8th inning and was ultimately the game-winner. Butler is hitting a ridiculous .477/.540/.977 with six home runs, four doubles and 15 RBI in his last 12 games, raising his overall line to .283/.380/.513 in 67 games this season.
– Will Middlebrooks went 1-for-3 with a home run, his ninth with the PawSox. Middlebrooks has hit safely in his last four games, but the home run was his first extra-base hit since July 25. In his last 10 games, Middlebrooks is hitting .205/.256/.282 with 10 strikeouts and three walks. Since returning to Pawtucket, Middlebrooks has compiled a .255/.301/.428 line in 35 games. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Anthony Ranaudo’s promotion one year in the making; Travis Shaw shows pop; Blake Swihart pushes through the wall||08.03.13 at 12:47 pm ET|
The promotion to Triple-A for right-hander Anthony Ranaudo had seemed a long time in coming given his early season dominance in Double-A Portland. But when the move up to Pawtucket finally arrived after 19 starts in which the 23-year-old went 8-4 with a 2.95 ERA, 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings and 3.3 walks per nine, its significance was nonetheless hard to overlook.
After all, a year ago at this time, it was becoming apparent that Ranaudo’s year in Double-A had reached a premature dead end. He’d been shut down due to shoulder woes, having concluded a dismal year in which he made just nine starts, posted a 6.69 ERA and walked the same number of batters that he struck out (27). As he dealt with a groin issue and then his shoulder injury, his velocity fluctuated, sometimes unable to crack 90 mph, leaving scouts scratching their heads and wondering why Ranaudo was characterized as a prospect.
This year, the 6-foot-7 right-hander — despite a bit of a downturn in his performance in his final weeks in Portland — raised no such questions. He showed the ability to work comfortably in the low- to mid-90s, bumping the upper-90s with his swing-and-miss fastball and power curve as well as a changeup that he incorporated to positive effect at times. Through most of the first three months of the season, he demonstrated tremendous command of the offering, overmatching opponents. He has taken a consider step forward, for the first time as a professional resembling the pitcher whom the Sox thought they were getting based on his dominance as a college sophomore at LSU and his standout performance on the Cape in the summer of 2010, after the Sox jumped at the chance to get him in the supplemental first round following a junior year struggle at LSU.
For Ranaudo, it has been a year of accomplishments — the Eastern League All-Star game, the All-Star Futures Game, the promotion to the brink of the big leagues — made sweeter by virtue of what he went through a year ago.
“It’s just totally different,” Ranaudo explained last month of the contrast between 2012 and 2013. “Last year, during in-game stuff, I was worried about what I had to do to try to create more velocity. Obviously it was down. I was worried about my mechanics. I was worried about my health. This year, I’m able to go out, know that I’m healthy, know that my mechanics are good because I’ve gotten the repetitions, know my velocity is there, that I can just go out there, throw, compete and focus on in-game situations — the things I need to focus on as far as runners on base, things like that, that I wasn’t necessarily able to focus on last year.”
This year, the focus has been in the right place, with Ranaudo being rewarded as a result.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-2 LOSS (15 INNINGS) VS. NORFOLK (ORIOLES) Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Rubby De La Rosa in a funk; Xander Bogaerts’ outrageous month; a southpaw surplus; Blake Swihart’s standout game behind the plate; Trey Ball debuts||07.30.13 at 12:00 pm ET|
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox minor league system on Monday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 9-1 LOSS VS. LEHIGH VALLEY (PHILLIES)
– Rubby De La Rosa, who posted a dazzling 0.84 ERA in May and June, continued his recent fall from grace. The 24-year-old was shelled for seven runs (six earned) on four hits (three homers), four walks and three strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings on Monday. In his last five starts, he’s averaged just 3 2/3 innings, and he now has a 9.64 ERA with a jarring 8.2 walks per nine innings and more walks (17) than strikeouts (13). Opponents are battering him for a .315/.447/.548 line in that span.
The right-hander continues to show arm strength and a power repertoire. That being the case, it is possible, suggested one talent evaluator, that he is dealing with a lack of focus and motivation while biding his time and waiting for a call-up to the majors. Of course, that presents a chicken-and-egg problem, since De La Rosa likely needs to show improved performance in Triple-A in order to position himself for a call-up back to the big leagues.
– Xander Bogaerts extended his striking streak of consecutive games on base to 26, going 2-for-4 with a double. In that span, he is hitting .326 (12th in the International League) with a .439 OBP (3rd in the International League) and .528 slugging mark (10th), all at a time when he is the only 20-year-old at the level. Overall, in 41 games since his promotion from Double-A Portland last month, Bogaerts has a .279 average, .380 OBP and .483 slugging mark with eight homers and 14 extra-base hits.
– Left-hander Franklin Morales had a spectacular inning to start his rehab assignment, striking out the side in his inning of work while getting swings and misses on five of his 15 pitches. His presence in Pawtucket further underscores the fact that the Sox have a potential surplus from which to deal left-handers given the current presence of Craig Breslow, Drake Britton and Matt Thornton in the big leagues (not to mention Ryan Rowland-Smith, who was activated by Pawtucket on Monday after missing the last month due to an appendectomy, and carries a 1.03 ERA for the year).
– Right-hander Jose Contreras looks capable of offering the Red Sox an intriguing bullpen alternative should they not upgrade their relief corps via trade. The 41-year-old made his third straight scoreless, hitless appearance with Pawtucket since signing a minor league deal with the Sox, striking out a batter in the process. In three PawSox appearances, he’s thrown 4 2/3 innings while punching out eight and walking three. One caveat: His usage has been spread out considerably, as he’s had four days of rest between relief appearances. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Is Xander Bogaerts big league ready?; Matt Barnes striking out everyone; Will Middlebrooks hitting; does Alex Hassan make Bryce Brentz a trade chip?||07.26.13 at 1:39 pm ET|
Is Xander Bogaerts big league ready?
The proposition seems absurd. He hasn’t even been in Triple-A Pawtucket for two months. Yet in terms of his consistency in the batter’s box, he’s already offering strong hints that he’s more than capable of holding his own against that level of competition, and perhaps that he’s ready to take the next one if needed.
On Thursday, Bogaerts went 3-for-3 with a walk and two doubles. It was his first three-hit game in Pawtucket (his second of the year) and his first Pawtucket contest with multiple extra-base hits. It was an excellent performance that represented the continuation of an eyebrow-raising trend.
Given how quickly he moved to Triple-A, one would have expected inconsistencies from Bogaerts, fallow stretches of games where he took an 0-for-10 with a bunch of strikeouts. Instead, the opposite is happening.
In 37 games with the PawSox, Bogaerts is hitting .273 with a .377 OBP and .492 slugging mark, all well above-average numbers for the Triple-A International league despite the fact that, at 20, he is seven years younger than the league average position player. Yet that only tells part of the story. Bogaerts now has a streak of 22 straight games in which he’s reached base, hitting .324/.444/.554 with four homers, 15 walks and 12 strikeouts. He’s managing the strike zone and controlling his at-bats with uncommon maturity for a Triple-A prospect, let alone one who is 20.
Despite the outstanding stretch, he’s at a less-than-ideal point for a promotion. Because he’s spent just a month and change in Triple-A, he’s had more of an opportunity to adjust to the league than the league has had to adjust to him through the circulation of word-of-mouth scouting reports about potential weaknesses to exploit. If promoted to the big leagues, Bogaerts faces the prospect of a similar challenge to the one faced by Jackie Bradley Jr. when he opened the year in the big leagues, only to be quickly swallowed up when unable to handle the league’s exploitation of his vulnerability to fastballs on the hands.
Nonetheless, Bogaerts has more experience in Triple-A than did Bradley when he was opened the year in the big leagues without a day at that level. He has more Triple-A experience than did Manny Machado when the Orioles promoted him straight from Double-A shortly after his 20th birthday last year.
Machado was hitting .266/.352/.438 with 11 homers and 26 doubles in 109 games for Bowie prior to his callup in early August. He ended up hitting .262/.294/.445 with seven homers and 26 RBI over 51 games in the big leagues.
Bogaerts, roughly nine months younger than Machado, has performed at a higher level in a higher level. And right now, if a need opened up on the left side of the Red Sox infield (whether due to injury or offensive struggles from Jose Iglesias or Stephen Drew), Bogaerts is making a compelling case that, with his offensive approach, he’s more likely to be a consistent offensive contributor than Will Middlebrooks.
According to team officials, there are no imminent plans to call up Bogaerts. And in a perfect world, the Sox are able to give Bogaerts more time in Pawtucket. They’ll allow opponents to test his weaknesses and see if they can force him to adjust.
But while that is the ideal scenario, the temptation presented by the infielder’s considerable talent will be considerable. Increasingly, it should not be a surprise if by sometime in August — if he can sustain the consistently impressive approach he’s shown to date — Bogaerts is in the big leagues.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 6-5 LOSS AT NORFOLK (ORIOLES) Read the rest of this entry »
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