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Red Sox minor league roundup: The education of Henry Owens; Sean Coyle, Mookie Betts deliver undersized feats of strength; Cody Kukuk cruises 04.15.14 at 12:58 pm ET
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Sean Coyle slammed his second homer of 2014 for Double-A Portland on Monday. (Salem Red Sox)

Sean Coyle slammed his second homer of 2014 for Double-A Portland on Monday. (Salem Red Sox)

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Monday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 9-5 WIN AT ROCHESTER (TWINS)

(BOX)

– Outfielder Bryce Brentz went 3-for-5 with his second homer of the year, a no-doubter to left field in which he stayed back on a breaking ball from left-hander Edgar Ibarra. It’s been an inconsistent start to the 2014 campaign for Brentz, who sandwiched Monday’s 3-for-5 night and a 2-for-5 night with a homer last Thursday around an 0-for-10, three-game stretch. Yet it is worth noting that Brentz negotiated four walks during that three-game hitless streak, and he now has seven walks for the season. Since reaching the upper levels of the minors for the start of the 2012 season, Brentz only has two months in which he’s taken more walks than he has this April — last April, when he walked nine times in Pawtucket, and June 2012, when he walked 15 times with Portland. He’s hitting .195/.313/.366 this year.

– Third baseman Garin Cecchini, who turns 23 on Sunday, went 1-for-4 with a double and a walk. The double ended a stretch of eight straight games without an extra-base hit, while the walk was Cecchini’s first in seven games. On the year, he’s hitting .310/.370/.357 with four walks and eight strikeouts.

– Right-hander Anthony Ranaudo permitted five runs on eight hits (two triples, a double and five singles) while walking three and striking out five. Through three starts this year in Pawtucket, the 24-year-old has allowed 14 runs (though just 10 earned) in 14 2/3 innings, with 16 strikeouts, eight walks and an opponents’ batting average of .311.

Rich Hill had his second straight outstanding appearance, throwing 2 2/3 scoreless innings in which he allowed one hit and struck out three. That performance came three days after he likewise tossed two shutout innings while allowing one hit and striking out two. In five games, he has a 2.08 ERA in 8 2/3 innings with eight strikeouts and four walks. Opponents are hitting .167 against the 34-year-old, with lefties having gone 1-for-10 against the veteran.

– After a hot start, catcher Christian Vazquez has cooled considerably. After a 1-for-5 game on Monday, the 23-year-old is 4-for-28 with two walks and six strikeouts in his last seven games.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 9-4 WIN VS. BINGHAMTON (METS)

(BOX)

–Though Sean Coyle has been displaced at second base by the ascendance of Mookie Betts, Feats of Coyle did their own displacing, at least for a day, on Monday. The (mostly) third baseman went 3-for-4 with his second homer of the season and two steals. Between the 5-foot-8 Coyle and the 5-foot-9 Betts, the Sox have two of the unlikelier-looking impact hitters in the Eastern League. In 10 games, Coyle is hitting .343 with a .410 OBP and .543 slugging mark along with four steals in as many attempts. Though he strikes out with considerable frequency (including this year, when he’s punched out in 28 percent of his plate appearances), he shows the ability to make a considerable impact on the ball when he makes contact. He also is an asset on the bases, as suggested by the fact that he’s now 31-for-31 in steals in High-A and Double-A. When he was at second, he looked like a player with the upside of being a more athletic version of Dan Uggla. Though he’s moved over primarily to third (with occasional games at second when Betts isn’t playing there), the 22-year-old is offering a glimpse of that considerable potential again in his first exposure to Portland.

Coyle cleared the Maine Monster in deep left-center. Here’s a look: Read the rest of this entry »

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Will Middlebrooks, Bryce Brentz go deep but Henry Owens struggles as Red Sox fall to Orioles 03.08.14 at 4:12 pm ET
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Will Middlebrooks hit his first homer of the spring on Saturday. (AP)

Will Middlebrooks hit his first homer of the spring on Saturday. (AP)

Will Middlebrooks is at his best when he’s driving the ball to the opposite field, capitalizing on his considerable all-fields strength to deny opposing pitchers a go-to area against him. Thus it came as one of his more promising signs of the early spring that the third baseman got ahead in the count against Orioles reliever Tommy Hunter — a notoriously tough opponent for right-handed hitters — and drove a 2-1 pitch out to right-center for his first homer of the spring.

Outfielder Bryce Brentz, meanwhile, continued to offer a glimpse into his considerable power, going deep to left against left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez. The homer was Brentz’s third of the spring in 19 plate appearances; he’s 6-for-18 with a walk and seven strikeouts.

“He’s had a very productive camp so far,” manager John Farrell told reporters of Brentz prior to Saturday’s split-squad game against the Orioles in Sarasota. “You see the raw skills. You see the raw power. He’s got all-field power. With that comes along with some aggressive and maybe some swing and miss in there.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox to add Garin Cecchini, Anthony Ranaudo and Bryce Brentz to 40-man roster 11.20.13 at 7:42 am ET
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Anthony Ranaudo, pictured here with Double-A Portland, will be added to the Red Sox 40-man roster on Wednesday. (DVM Sports)

Anthony Ranaudo, pictured here with Double-A Portland, will be added to the Red Sox 40-man roster on Wednesday. (DVM Sports)

With a Wednesday deadline looming to add players to the 40-man roster for the purposes of protecting them from the Rule 5 draft, the Red Sox are faced with relatively straightforward decisions. According to a major league source, the team will add outfielder Bryce Brentz (a supplemental first rounder, No. 36 overall, in the 2010 draft out of Middle Tennessee State University), right-hander Anthony Ranaudo (a supplemental first rounder, No. 39 overall, out of Louisiana State University in the same 2010 draft) and third baseman Garin Cecchini (taken in the fourth round of the 2010 draft out of high school, but Rule 5 eligible if not added to the 40-man roster because he was 19 when he signed). The team does not appear likely to add any other players to its 40-man roster at this time.

UPDATE: The Red Sox announced that Brentz, Ranaudo and Cecchini were indeed their only additions to the 40-man roster.

There’s not a lot of mystery surrounding the decisions on any of the three 2010 draftees, given that all three prospects have progressed to the upper levels of the Red Sox farm system while retaining impact potential in the big leagues.

Brentz, 24, played in just 88 games in Triple-A Pawtucket in a year that was truncated by surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He hit .264 with a .312 OBP, .475 slugging mark and 17 homers with the PawSox, adding two more longballs during a rehab assignment in the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League to lead all Sox minor leaguers with 19 homers this year. That significant raw power creates at least the possibility of a future as an everyday corner outfielder, even if his low walk rate (5.7 percent) and vulnerability to strikeouts (24.6 percent of plate appearances) suggest a player who may not have a future as an everyday big leaguer. He’s struggled mightily in the Dominican Winter League, hitting .105/.190/.193 in 19 games.

Ranaudo, who turned 24 in September, went 11-5 with a 2.96 ERA, 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings and 3.0 walks per nine in 140 innings with Double-A Portland and, after an August promotion, Triple-A Pawtucket. The 6-foot-7 right-hander left behind his health struggles of 2013 to turn in a season in which he was at times dominant with a low- to mid-90s fastball and power curve that he complemented with a changeup. His performance earned him spots in the Major League All-Star Futures Game as well as the Double-A Eastern League All-Star Game. He should represent a big league rotation depth option in 2014. Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox minor league roundup: Steven Wright and Red Sox’ depth equation; Dan Butler keeps mashing; Bryce Brentz struggling 09.12.13 at 10:47 am ET
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Knuckleballer Steven Wright has thrown 13 playoff innings without allowing an earned run. (Kelly O'Connor, PawSox)

Knuckleballer Steven Wright has thrown 13 playoff innings without allowing an earned run. (Kelly O’Connor, PawSox)

A brief look at the one game in the Red Sox farm system on Wednesday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 2-1 LOSS AT DURHAM (RAYS); TIED IN BEST-OF-FIVE GOVERNOR’S CUP SERIES, 1-1

(BOX)

Steven Wright did not allow an earned run over his 6 2/3 innings, but three passed balls along with an error led to two unearned runs and a loss for the knuckleballer. Still, Wright continued to perform in a fashion that suggested the ability to throw his knuckleball for strikes (63 of 104 pitches; 61 percent) while generating enough movement not only to elude his catcher’s mitt but also the barrels of opponents’ bats. Wright allowed five hits (three singles, two doubles) in his 6 2/3 innings of work without permitting an earned run. He walked three and struck out six. He has yet to be charged with an earned run in 13 playoff innings.

In 26 Triple-A starts this year (including both the regular season and playoffs), Wright now has a 3.15 ERA. He’s been on a tremendous run since the beginning of July, with a 1.69 ERA in 12 starts for the PawSox. He has not permitted an earned run in eight of those outings, and he’s yielded just one homer over the 74 2/3 innings encompassed by the stretch.

Wright’s lone big league start in that span went poorly, as he lasted just one inning in a contest where his knuckleball was active enough to produce three walks and four passed balls against the Astros on Aug. 6. Yet that struggle seems unlikely to alter the bigger picture view of what Wright has become. Wright, who turned 29 in August, represents precisely what the Sox considered a realistic possibility when they acquired him from the Indians at the July 31 trade deadline in 2012. He’s shown the ability to log innings (he’s up to 161 2/3 for the year between Triple-A and the majors) while performing well enough against both Triple-A opponents and, at times, big leaguers to suggest a pitcher who, with two options remaining, has become a viable depth option for the big league staff, whether as a spot starter or as a long reliever at times when the bullpen is taxed.

His presence as a now-ready depth option permits the Sox latitude when it comes to the development of some of their top arms in Triple-A, whether pitchers like Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo or Matt Barnes. Rather than pressing one of those pitchers into a big league rotation spot if he is not ready, Wright has the experience and roster flexibility to step in as needed. In other words, though his status as a minor leaguer suggests that he is not a core member of the Red Sox roster, he nonetheless possesses considerable value for the organization going forward if he can continue to build upon the progress he’s made since the start of 2012.

And, of course, while some of his value comes in protecting both the Red Sox’ major league rotation as well as the team’s pitching prospect inventory, his own potential to make a mark at the big league level cannot be dismissed. Though 29, because he remains relatively new to life as a full-time knuckleballer, there remains upside to Wright. His performance in the upper levels of the minors over the last two years suggests that there is reason for intrigue with the practitioner of the unusual pitch.

– Catcher Dan Butler went 1-for-2 with a single while also getting hit by a pitch. The 26-year-old has reached base in all five playoff games in which he’s appeared, going 5-for-16 with a double, a walk and a hit by pitch en route to a .313/.389/.375 line, following a regular season in which he hit .262/.350/.479 with 14 homers in 84 games. His offensive approach — in which he mixes some power with a willingness to take walks and without striking out excessively — in tandem with his impressive game management behind the plate suggests a player who is likely to find his way to a big league role in the coming seasons.

– Since going 3-for-8 with three extra-base hits in the first two games of the postseason, outfielder Bryce Brentz has gone 1-for-20 with eight strikeouts and no walks. He was 0-for-4 with a pair of punchouts on Wednesday.

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Red Sox minor league roundup: Taking stock of Bryce Brentz’s prospect status; Garin Cecchini stops streaking; Mookie Betts makes it rain; Wendell Rijo and the Sox’ second base stockpile 09.01.13 at 10:44 am ET
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Bryce Brentz leads Triple-A Pawtucket with 17 homers. (Jim Allen/Portland Sea Dogs)

Bryce Brentz leads Triple-A Pawtucket with 17 homers. (Jim Allen/Portland Sea Dogs)

Outfielder Bryce Brentz went 1-for-4 with a double, his second extra-base hit in seven games since returning to Triple-A Pawtucket from the DL. He did, however, strike out twice, giving him nine whiffs (against just one walk) in 22 plate appearances since coming off the DL while recovering from his torn meniscus, with a .143/.182/.333 line since his return to Patwucket, dropping his season line in Triple-A to .263/.312/.477 with 17 homers.

Given that Brentz missed more than a month, the notion that he’s struggled to regain his timing at the plate is not a surprise. It would be misleading to view his current offensive results as a meaningful barometer of his prospect status. That said, the 24-year-old’s pre-injury offensive performance — a .272/.321/.487 line with 16 homers in 75 games — was solid but hardly the stuff that screamed of a future big league regular, particularly given his struggles to get on base.

Though he has a strong arm, his defense in the outfield corners has been spotty this year (he committed a two-base fielding error on Saturday, his eighth of the year). He’s not an impact baserunner. He hits for respectable average but, before his injury, was just a tick below league average in terms of OBP (.328 in the International League).

In other words, barring an improved approach that permits him to have an above-average OBP as a corner outfielder, Brentz’s prospect status is riding on one carrying tool: Power. And unquestionably, he has significant power from the right side of the plate, with his Pawtucket total of 17 homers in 81 games projecting out to 34 in a hypothetical 162 contests. But it’s not epic power that demands a spot as an everyday big league outfielder, at least not yet.

And so, while Brentz is a virtual lock to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason (the power potential is significant enough, and the proximity to the majors close enough, that he’d be snapped up in a heartbeat in the Rule 5 draft), he faces a 2014 season that may represent his most significant. The 2013 campaign was marred by his preseason handgun accident that prevented him from taking part in big league spring training and then the torn meniscus that wiped out much of his second half. Assuming he’s added to the 40-man roster, he’ll finally be assured of an opportunity to make a new first impression in big league camp this year.

There are outfield opportunities in the Sox’ system going forward — Jonny Gomes, for instance, is signed only through 2014, and so Brentz could position himself to inherit the veteran’s role as the right-hander power hitter off the bench. And the Sox system features a distinct lack of players who profile as future outfield regulars, with the best candidate after Jackie Bradley Jr. being Manuel Margot in Short-Season Single-A Lowell), but Brentz will need to do more in 2014 than what he’s done this year in order to assert his merits for such a role.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 2-1 LOSS VS. SYRACUSE (NATIONALS) Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox minor league roundup: Bryce Brentz, Sean Coyle keep slugging; Mookie Betts, Manuel Margot keep amazing; Anthony Ranaudo struggles 08.26.13 at 12:40 pm ET
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A brief look at the action in the Red Sox system on Sunday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 6-5 WIN VS. SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE (YANKEES)

(BOX)

Bryce Brentz returned to Pawtucket and mashed his 17th homer of the Triple-A season on Sunday. (Jim Allen/Portland Sea Dogs)

Bryce Brentz returned to Pawtucket and mashed his 17th homer of the Triple-A season on Sunday. (Jim Allen/Portland Sea Dogs)

Bryce Brentz, less than six weeks removed from surgery to repair the torn meniscus in his knee, made an impactful return to Pawtucket, obliterating a fastball down the middle and driving it well over the fence in center at McCoy Stadium.

When Brentz underwent the procedure, it seemed like an open question whether he would be able to return to the field at all this year. But now, not only has the 24-year-old returned, but he’s done so in a fashion that exceeded what seemed like any reasonable expectations. Between his six games in the GCL on a rehab assignment and his one game back in Pawtucket, Brentz has shown an immediate ability to impact the baseball. After his 1-for-3 day that also included a walk on Sunday, Brentz is now 5-for-20 — with all five of his hits going for extra bases (three homers, two doubles) — and two walks against five strikeouts, good for a line of .250/.318/.800.

“You want to end your season on a good note, healthy,” PawSox manager Gary DiSarcina told the Providence Journal. “He’s ready to do that.”

Sunday was a step in that direction, as Brentz crushed his 17th homer in Pawtucket this year and his 19th overall, continuing to show well above-average power: Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox minor league roundup: The asterisk on Henry Owens’ potential; Mookie Betts unstoppable; Blake Swihart surging; Jamie Callahan, enemy of hits 08.23.13 at 11:58 am ET
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Henry Owens is the Red Sox’ top pitching prospect. But even top prospects come with risks. On Thursday, the dazzlingly talented left-hander offered a reminder of that notion.

Left-hander Henry Owens walked a career-high seven batters on Thursday. (Salem Red Sox)

Left-hander Henry Owens walked a career-high seven batters on Thursday. (Salem Red Sox)

Owens could not throw strikes on a day where he lasted just three innings for Double-A Portland against Trenton. He walked a career-high seven, throwing just 35 of 77 pitches for strikes. To his credit, the 21-year-old still managed to minimize the damage done against him, permitting two runs and just one earned while striking out three and allowing two earned runs. Still, as much as Owens looks like a potential mid-rotation starter or better in the big leagues, his early-career control questions will determine the alignment of his potential to his performance, particularly against increasingly disciplined hitters in the upper levels.

While the seven walks on Thursday represented a career-high extreme, they didn’t represent a total aberration. Owens has walked five or more batters four times this year, and four or more in seven of his 24 starts. And while he has a remarkable 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland this year, the left-hander has also walked 4.8 batters per nine — up from 4.2 per nine a year ago.

There are mitigating factors in his command issues. Among them, Owens is young relative to his competition and so still working to refine his pitch mix, and his lanky and still developing 6-foot-7 frame lends itself to later-developing command (once his physical development more or less stabilizes, something that typically results in a greater ability to repeat a delivery and hence command a baseball). It’s also worth noting that left-handers with control challenges in the minors can emerge as dominant big leaguers — witness, for instance, a pitcher like Gio Gonzalez, who walked 4.1 batters per nine innings in the minors — the same average per nine innings he’s produced in the big leagues, a number that hasn’t stopped him from being a two-time All-Star and a pitcher with a 3.14 ERA since 20010.

However, while a significant jump in control isn’t a certain prerequisite for big league excellence, the likelihood of Owens scraping his considerable ceiling would increase considerably with improvements in his ability to attack the strike zone. Read the rest of this entry »

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