|Red Sox minor league roundup: The return of Henry Owens; Xander Bogaerts is hazardous to scouts’ health; Mookie Betts doubles down||06.01.13 at 12:01 pm ET|
After a dominant April, Henry Owens had endured some rough outings in May for High-A Salem. Through May 4, he was 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA, 40 strikeouts and 11 walks in 32 innings. In three subsequent starts, he was 0-1 with a 7.62 ERA, 15 strikeouts and six walks in 13 innings. And so, particularly given that his start after the May 4 outing had been pushed back by a couple of days to give Owens six days of rest, it seemed fair to ask on Friday afternoon: Was the tremendously talented left-hander dealing with any physical issues that explained his brief run of tough starts?
“No concerns,” said Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett. “I think it’s been a good learning experience for him. … Some games, he’s had very good stuff, just not his best command, and in others, maybe not having his best stuff — his best breaking ball or something like that. I think early in the season and in spring training, quite often he was going out with every pitch working well. … He’s learning from those games.”
Evidently so. Owens was armed with the goods on Friday night and used them to carve up the strike zone and his opponents with Myrtle Beach.
The 20-year-old retired the first eight hitters in a row before issuing a two-out walk in the third — a baserunner he promptly erased with a pickoff. He continued to hold the Pelicans without a hit until a one-out double to right by the No. 9 hitter on a changeup that he left over the plate. Owens ended up giving up a run on two hits while matching a season high with six innings (the third time he’s worked that deep). He punched out seven and walked two in a spectacular performance.
This was a contest in which Owens had as sharp a three-pitch mix as he’s featured at any point this year in Salem. Pitching coach Kevin Walker suggested that the left-hander was working with a fastball that sat at 91 mph but crept up to 93, an offering on which the 6-foot-7 left-hander was able to create good life and angle while also pitching inside (interestingly, the only two hits against him were by lefties; righties were 0-for-10 against him). He featured, Walker added, quality deception and depth on his changeup as well as the “best curveball he had all season,” with his arm whipping through the zone to create consistent rotation and tight break.
The net result was a 90-pitch gem (in which there were 14 swings and misses) that featured a pitch mix that has Owens’ ceiling ranking with that of nearly any other pitcher in the Sox system. He now has a 3.53 ERA with 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings — a mark that ranks ninth in the minors among pitchers with at least 50 innings to this point. He is second in the Carolina League with 62 strikeouts, and opponents are hitting just .199 against him (the third best mark in the league) with a 1.10 WHIP (second).
In other words, he’s performing like a prospect whose stuff — at a still-young age for his level — ranks with that of any pitcher in the league. But perhaps more importantly, on Friday, Owens showed the ability to shake off a slump, adapt and dominate.
“He has great mental makeup,” Walker wrote in a text. “He is a great student of the game and applies the things he learns very quickly.”
And that is why the 2011 first-rounder is holding his own while being pushed against much older competition, a notion showcased on Saturday.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 9-8 WIN (WALKOFF, 12 INNINGS) VS. SYRACUSE (NATIONALS)
– Catcher Ryan Lavarnway, 25, went 1-for-6, and he’s now collected hits in each of his five games since returning to Pawtucket while hitting .273/.333/.455. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Christian Vazquez puts on a show; Pat Light gets injured; Kolbrin Vitek gets versatile||05.23.13 at 11:13 am ET|
Hitting for the cycle is not a feat that is accomplished often, but it’s just as rare to find a player who just nearly misses the cycle by collecting four extra-base hits — including a double, triple and home run — but fails to hit a single. Christian Vazquez did just that on Wednesday night, though.
The Portland Sea Dogs catcher went 4-for-4 with a walk, two doubles, a triple (the fourth of his career, with the other three all coming in 2011) and his third home run of the season. Vazquez scored twice and drive in two. He even had a stolen base, swiping third for his fourth stolen bag of the season. His triple came in the 10th inning, and Derrik Gibson, who pinch-ran for Vazquez, scored the winning run for the Sea Dogs.
Vazquez is often lauded for his remarkable defensive ability. In spring training he had the single-fastest time on a throw from home to second (1.77 seconds) that numerous longtime evaluators had ever seen. One evaluator who was recently in Portland raved about his game management and work with a pitching staff that is featuring some spectacular performances, suggesting that Vazquez has an ability to instill complete confidence in his pitchers with whatever finger he puts down, while Peter Gammons recently tweeted that a major league scout called Vazquez “the best young catcher [he’s] ever seen” behind the plate.
But the 22-year-old is enjoying a fine season with the bat as well. He’s batting .298 on the year with an impressive .412 OBP, drawing 18 walks (compared to 14 strikeouts) in 29 games. There is no question that Vazquez’ defense will play in the big leagues. Offense likely will determine whether he emerges as a starter or backup at the game’s highest level. If he can continue to show the strike zone management and on-base skill that he’s demonstrated to date this year, then there remains a chance that he could emerge as a big league regular at some point.
After all, the average AL catcher this year is posting a line of .247/.317/.412 — so Vazquez shows the potential for well above-average on-base abilities at a position that typically produces outs in volume. His .412 OBP ranks 10th in the Eastern League. He’s younger than all nine of the players who are in front of him. In that respect, while Wednesday night offered a highlight reel, Vazquez is building a more considerable body of evidence to suggest his emerging prospect status.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: OFF DAY Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Allen Webster’s command issues, Jose Iglesias readjusts, Garin Cecchini avoids another scare, Sean Coyle slumps, a daily Mookie-ism||05.15.13 at 11:42 am ET|
A brief look at Tuesday’s action in the Red Sox farm system . . .
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-3 WIN VS. GWINNETT (BRAVES)
– Shortstop Jose Iglesias went 1-for-2 with a walk and a sacrifice bunt in four plate appearances. In seven games since returning to the lineup following a four-game spell in which manager Gary DiSarcina had him sit, Iglesias, 23, is hitting .192/.300/.192. However, DiSarcina told Tim Britton of the Providence Journal that more important than the shortstop’s numbers has been his approach to the game since returning to the field.
“One of the great traits he has is his love for the game. Sitting down for a couple days, he realized how much he loves the game, how much he misses playing with that joy,” DiSarcina said. “When he plays free and plays creative, he’s a lot of fun to watch, and I’m sure he has a lot of fun doing it because he has skills other people don’t have.
“The five or six games he’s been back, that’s kind of what we wanted from him. Enjoy yourself. You have an opportunity to go out there and be a leader out there. He’s been doing it.”
– Right-hander Allen Webster, in his first start back in Pawtucket since getting shelled for eight runs in 1 2/3 innings in a big league start, worked around issues with his fastball command (which led to both a solo homer and four walks) to allow just one run on three hits in five innings. He struck out five, recorded seven groundball outs and produced 11 swings-and-misses.
While Webster, 23, had enjoyed an eye-opening spring in which he demonstrated an ability to attack the strike zone that ran counter to his minor league career norms, he’s shown some regression during the season. He’s now issued 10 walks in 25 innings, a rate of 3.6 per nine frames, and on Tuesday, he threw strikes on just 53 percent (49 of 92) of his pitches. 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: Making sense of Mookie Betts; Jose Iglesias returns; Franklin Morales sharp; Drake Britton becoming efficient||at 11:58 am ET|
The performance of second baseman Mookie Betts with Single-A Greenville this season looks unlike anything else seen in the minors in 2013.
The 2011 high school fifth-rounder, went 2-for-5 with a homer (his third of the year) and double, three walks, a steal and no strikeouts in the double header, in the process continuing his utterly fascinating debut in full-season ball. The 20-year-old is hitting just .184 but with a .390 OBP and .333 slugging mark, along with three homers and six steals, on the season. The disparity between average and OBP is something that has almost never been seen in the annals of major league history.
But Betts is performing as more than just a statistical anomaly. Since April 25, Betts is hitting .233 but with an astonishing .540 OBP (seventh-best in all of the minors in that span — and of the six played ahead of his, none is hitting less than .381) and .433 slugging mark and a minor-league best 20 walks (no one else has more than 14) with just five strikeouts in 50 plate appearances.
Betts is not a physically imposing player. However, though listed at 5-foot-9 and 156 pounds, he has some juice in his bat at times, as became evident when he crushed his homer on Wednesday.
“He’s worth watching,” said one NL talent evaluator. “He’s wiry strong, has got a little bat speed and strength, runs a little bit.”
At a relatively young age (20), Betts demonstrates an advanced approach, excellent knowledge of the strike zone and good bat control (hence the low strikeout rates). The Sox think he’s at his best when staying up the middle and hitting to the opposite field, though the team would also like to see him take some chances with more aggressive swings early in the count when he has good pitches to hit. Even so, Betts has shown consistently good at-bats, making him the most intriguing position prospect on the Greenville team thus far this year.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-1 WIN AT GWINNETT (BRAVES)
– Jose Iglesias returned to the PawSox lineup after being pulled in the middle of Saturday’s game for a manager’s decision and then sitting the next three contests. He went 1-for-5, and is now hitting .233/.273/.384 in Triple-A.
|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: Jackie Bradley Jr. bounces back, more offense from Jose Iglesias, Michael Almanzar’s run continues||04.23.13 at 11:39 am ET|
A quick look at the action in the Red Sox minor league system on Monday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 8-2 WIN AT ROCHESTER (TWINS)
– Perhaps it was as simple as Jackie Bradley Jr. needing a couple of days to get his feet under him after being sent down to Triple-A. After a 1-for-8 start in his first two contests with Pawtucket, Bradley offered a reminder of why he opened the year in the big leagues in the first place. He went 3-for-4 — a single to right, a single to left, a double to left — and received an intentional walk in five trips to the plate. It still wasn’t quite vintage Bradley — not including the intentional walk, he saw just 10 pitches in the other five plate appearances — but the fact that he had his timing and was making hard contact after not doing so for his final weeks in the big leagues was noteworthy.
It was Bradley’s 10th career three-hit game and the 11th time that he’s reached base four or more times in a game.
– Ryan Lavarnway went 2-for-5 with a double, and for the fifth straight game, he did not strike out. In 11 games this year, he has seven walks and seven strikeouts, with the frequency of his walk rate and ability to put the ball in play reflected in a solid early batting average (.310) and OBP (.423).
– Jose Iglesias went 3-for-4 with a pair of singles to center and one to right, a season high for hits. It was his second multi-hit game since being sent to Pawtucket. Read the rest of this entry »
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