|Buy high or buy low? A.J. Pierzynski vs. Jarrod Saltalamacchia||12.03.13 at 11:38 am ET|
Jarrod Saltalamacchia is coming off the best year of his career. A.J. Pierzynski is coming off one of his worst. And so, naturally, the Red Sox moved on from the former to sign the latter.
The decision wasn’t made in a vacuum. The Red Sox hold catching prospects Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart in tremendously high regard, with a sense that both have futures as major league starters, with Swihart representing a potential All-Star. The projected 2015 big league ETA of Vazquez and 2016 projection for Swihart’s big league readiness left the Sox in a position where a deal of no more than two years represented the ideal scenario to avoid a catching bottleneck.
As such, Saltalamacchia’s quest for a three-year deal represented an imperfect fit for the Sox. That said, the one-year deal for Pierzynski also represents a less-than-ideal scenario for the Sox, who are now somewhat exposed at catcher beyond the 2014 season, given that the team’s two anticipated big league catchers (Pierzynski and David Ross) both will be 37 years old in 2014 and both will be free agents after next year. If Vazquez struggles in 2014, then the Sox could be left to scramble to create another catching bridge. (Though it’s worth noting that a number of team officials view Dan Butler as a solid major league-ready catcher with a long future as a backup who is expected to open the year in Triple-A with Vazquez.)
Still, in order to accommodate that preference, the Sox look like a team that has made a willing decision to take an offensive step back in 2014. After all, Saltalamacchia was clearly and significantly the more productive of the two players last season. Read the rest of this entry »
According to multiple industry sources, the Red Sox have agreed to a one-year deal with free agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Buster Olney of ESPN.com reported that Pierzynski, if he passes the physical, will be paid $8.25 million.
The catcher, who turns 37 this month, hit .272 with a .297 OBP and .425 slugging mark along with 17 homers in 134 games for the Rangers in 2013, continuing a track record of remarkable durability — he’s played 120 or more games in 12 straight seasons. He has a career line of .283/.322/.428. Pierzynski would offer the Red Sox a left-handed complement to David Ross while signalling the almost certain end of Jarrod Saltalamacchia‘s tenure with the Red Sox.
While it’s not yet known whether Pierzynski’s deal is for one or two seasons, the Red Sox had wanted to limit the term of any deal with catchers to two seasons, in part to keep the door open for the emergence of their homegrown catching prospects. Saltalamacchia, a 28-year-old coming off a career-best season, has been seeking at least three years this offseason. That duration was problematic for the Sox, given the presence in their system of Christian Vazquez — considered one of the best defensive catching prospects in the minors, who will open the 2014 season in Triple-A — and Blake Swihart, who has the potential to be an above-average offensive and defensive everyday catchter and will open the year in Double-A. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league year in review: Catchers||09.24.13 at 4:17 pm ET|
As the major league season wraps up, WEEI.com will also wrap up its minor league coverage of the 2013 campaign by looking at the depth of prospects at the different position groupings in the farm system. Today: Catchers.
Overview: Overall, the minor league catching landscape is bleak. That is not the case, however, in the Red Sox system, where there are four players who will open next year in Double-A or above who either have big league futures or who have already played at the game’s highest level. Though it seemed reasonable to expect that the Sox might trade a catcher once they signed David Ross last offseason, the elected not to do so, resulting in an area where the Sox run deep.
Interestingly, however, there is no player who is under team control for 2014 who seems like an ideal candidate to assume starting/primary catching duties should Jarrod Saltalamacchia leave as a free agent. The team does not seem ready to entrust Ryan Lavarnway with primary catching duties (Saltalamacchia’s role, in fact, grew when Lavarnway was called up to fill in for Ross when he landed on the DL), while Ross is likely to remain a defense-first backup with pop. The fact that Dan Butler did not receive a September call-up underscores the view that he’s a depth option rather than a starter-in-waiting, while Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart have starting catcher potential but won’t be ready for the big leagues in 2014.
In other words, there’s a strong chance that even though the Sox are one of the only organizations that can boast multiple catching prospects who project to be above-average everyday options at their positions, the team will want to prioritize bringing back Saltalamacchia (who came into his own as the leader of the pitching staff while also producing his best, most consistent offensive season) or will have to dip into free agent waters to find a starter.
Ryan Lavarnway (age 25 season in 2013)
Majors: 23 games, .311/.342/.446, 1 HR, 2 walks, 17 strikeouts, 19 percent caught stealing
Triple-A: 50 games, .250/.346/.350, 3 HR, 25 walks, 25 strikeouts, 40 percent caught stealing
Big league ETA: Already there. On the 40-man roster. One option left.
Notes: Lavarnway continued to exhibit excellent plate discipline in Triple-A, though that skill didn’t translate perfectly in his sporadic big league duty (witness the two walks and 17 strikeouts, and the disappearance of his power remains a puzzle to evaluators both inside and outside the Red Sox organization. He’s made considerable defensive strides during his pro career, to the point where a team might be comfortable with featuring him behind the plate if he were still a 30-homer threat. In the absence of power, however, his fit is less clear, a notion underscored by the fact that he’s gotten minimal playing time since Ross’ activation. For now, members of the Sox rotation still appear more comfortable working with Saltalamacchia and Ross. Pitch selection with Lavarnway behind the plate often requires more negotiation, which takes the form of shaking to different pitches or mound visits. Still, while some of Lavarnway’s limitations have been easier to spot in part time duty, the fact is that a) he’s in the big leagues and b) he’s shown the ability to have a solid offensive approach at that level despite sporadic playing time. And, given that he does have a 30-homer season under his belt, and that he’s made improvements in his career behind the plate, there’s meaningful upside. In other words, he’s at a stage in his career where a team might well try to buy low. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: A teachable moment for Matt Barnes; Christian Vazquez’s aggressiveness; Heri Quevedo dominates; Sean Coyle returns||09.08.13 at 2:01 pm ET|
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system in Saturday’s playoff games:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 9-1 LOSS VS. ROCHESTER (TWINS); BEST-OF-FIVE SERIES TIED, 2-2
– Right-hander Matt Barnes, after an excellent Triple-A debut at the end of the regular season (in which he threw 5 1/3 scoreless frames), struggled in his second outing at the level on Saturday. He yielded five runs (four earned) on six hits while walking two and striking out three in just four innings, throwing just 44 of 75 pitches (58 percent) for strikes. Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal reported that Barnes hit 97 mph on the McCoy Stadium gun — with his increased velocity and diminished command offering suggestions that he may have been too amped, with consequent diminution in location and touch as well as, ultimately effectiveness.
Of course, from a player development perspective, that suggests that there was considerable value to the outing in the increasingly consequential setting of a playoff start. Barnes has now experienced increased adrenaline and the challenge of regulating it, something that he will need to do when he is exposed to the big league setting. As such, even in defeat, there was career value to the experience.
“He was overthrowing a little bit,” DiSarcina told MacPherson. “He was missing arm-side with his fastball. When he was in the zone, he was missing his spot. It was more of a command issue as well as overthrowing, but it’s a tremendous learning experience for him.”
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Mookie being Buxton/Springer; Henry Owens joins elite Red Sox pitching prospect pool; Blake Swihart, game-changer||09.02.13 at 8:09 am ET|
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Sunday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-0 WIN (5 INNINGS) AT LEHIGH VALLEY (PHILLIES)
– For the sixth time in 10 Triple-A starts since the beginning of July, knuckleballer Steven Wright did not allow an earned run. The right-hander logged five shutout innings, tossing a complete game (albeit of the rain-shortened variety) while allowing three hits, walking two and striking out two. In his last 10 minor league appearances, Wright now has a 2.04 ERA with 38 strikeouts and 23 walks while permitting just one homer in 61 2/3 innings. He has given up two or fewer walks in five of his last six starts.
– Jackie Bradley Jr. went 1-for-3 with a double and two strikeouts while getting hit by a pitch. In 79 games this year with Triple-A Pawtucket, he’s now hitting .273 with a .373 OBP and .470 slugging percentage — marks that look fairly similar to what he did last year after a mid-year promotion to Double-A Portland, but with more power. In 61 games last year with Portland, Bradley hit .271/.373/.437. While he was not among the Red Sox’ first wave of September call-ups on Sunday, given that both Shane Victorino and Jacoby Ellsbury left the contest with injuries, it’s possible that the Sox will choose to give themselves a bit more outfield depth by recalling Bradley.
– Outfielder Alex Hassan, in his first game since August 15 (he’d been on the DL with a broken finger), went 2-for-3 with a walk. Though his playing time has been limited severely by injuries, he’s had a spectacular offensive year when able to play. The 25-year-old is hitting .321/.434/.462. While the Sox’ decision to put Hassan on the 40-man roster last winter came as something of a surprise following a year in which he hit .256/.377/.365 as a 24-year-old in Pawtucket, his performance this year has been sufficiently outstanding that he would stand virtually no chance of clearing waivers if the Sox were to attempt to remove him from the 40-man roster.
– With catcher Ryan Lavarnway moving up to the big leagues, the Red Sox promoted catcher Christian Vazquez to Triple-A Pawtucket after a performance that suggests he deserves mention as one of the top catching prospects in all of the minors. In his age 22 season (Vazquez turned 23 just last month), the 2008 ninth-rounder hit .289 with a .376 OBP and .395 slugging mark while throwing out a whopping (and league-leading) 46.5 percent of attempted base stealers. For all of Vazquez’s exceptional defensive tools, it is necessary to note that he committed 23 passed balls — far and away the highest total in the league, and not just a product of the occasional presence of knuckleballers in Portland — but his potential to be an elite defender who controls the game along with a player capable of showing above-average hit and on-base skills (particularly for his position, where the big league norm this year was a .248 average and .314 OBP) suggests a player who now must be considered a potential everyday catcher by the 2015 season.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 9-4 LOSS VS. TRENTON (YANKEES)
– It likely wasn’t the final note for which Henry Owens might have hoped with Portland. He suffered his first loss in Double-A, allowing three runs on six hits (five extra-base hits: two homers, three doubles) in 5 2/3 innings. Still.
The left-hander punched out eight and walked one while filling up the strike zone by throwing 67 of 100 pitches for strikes on Sunday. That capped a season-ending, six-start stretch in Portland in which Owens went 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA while racking up 13.6 strikeouts per nine innings (albeit with 4.5 walks per nine). Though he was the third-youngest pitcher in the Eastern League this year, Owens achieved dominant results against older opponents, as evidenced by his .167 opponents’ batting average.
On the year, between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland, Owens absorbed a considerable innings boost — he went from 101 2/3 frames in 23 outings last year to 135 in 26 starts this year — but sustained dominance throughout his increased workload. The 21-year-old left-hander held opponents to a .177 average on the year (the second lowest mark among all pitchers with full-season minor league affiliates). He went 11-6 with a 2.67 ERA. He punched out 169 batters (the highest strikeout total by a Sox minor leaguer since Clay Buchholz punched out 171 in 125 innings in 2007). He had a 0.89 WHIP.
There have been few seasons like that among recent Red Sox pitching prospects. The ability to generate swings and misses in such volume has been rare. Indeed, since 2000, Owens is just the sixth Red Sox minor leaguer to punch out at least 150 batters in a season. Here he is in comparison with the other five: Read the rest of this entry »
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox minor league system on Monday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 2-1 (WALKOFF) VS. SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE (YANKEES)
– No one doubts that Allen Webster has the sort of stuff that few others possess. His raw materials — mid- to upper-90s fastball that he can sink, swing-and-miss slider, swing-and-miss changeup — suggest the ability to dominate. But how that’s translated to results has been a different matter.
Prior to Monday, Webster’s challenges with control meant that he rarely proved capable of working deep into games. He had recorded just one out in the seventh inning in 26 starts between Triple-A and the majors. That being the case, Monday represented a landmark.
Webster was hardly pinpoint with his command, as he issued three walks and hit a batter while throwing 61 percent of pitches for strikes (60 of 98). But when he did lose the strike zone, he quickly found his way back and attacked the opposing lineup, permitting just one run on two hits (one solo homer accounting for the only damage against him) while punching out five.
That Webster logged eight innings (the second time in his career that he’s worked eight or more frames — in 2011, he had a nine-inning complete-game shutout in Double-A) was significant in its own right. But it becomes even more meaningful in that it’s part of a broader trend.
In his last seven starts, Webster now has a 2.63 ERA while averaging a tick under six innings per outing. During that time, he has more than a strikeout per inning (45 in 41 frames) while averaging 3.1 walks per nine innings. Opponents are hitting just .177 against him during that time — the lowest mark of any pitcher in the International League — while his 0.98 WHIP is seventh in the International League since July 26. It is a strong finishing leg for a season in which Webster has explored divergent performance extremes.
– Jackie Bradley Jr. went 3-for-4 with a double, and he’s now reached base in all 16 games since coming off the DL on August 9. During that time, he’s hitting .279 with a .375 OBP and .459 slugging mark. Yet rather than being an outlier, that stretch has reflected what has been Bradley’s norm in Pawtucket this year. In 74 Triple-A games, he’s hitting .279 with a .378 OBP and .483 slugging mark. Moreover, whereas Bradley appeared to have hit a wall by this point in his first full professional season, this year, he is showing an ability to sustain his performance down the stretch in a fashion that suggests improvement over where he was as a player in Double-A at this time in 2012. In short, he’s performed in a fashion that has done nothing to alter the view that he’ll be ready for an everyday role in the big leagues by next year. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Why Allen Webster will have something to prove next year; an oddity for Rubby De La Rosa; Miguel Pena keeps cruising; Manuel Margot’s memorable homer; Mookie Betts denied a feat||08.22.13 at 11:53 am ET|
Allen Webster once again showed stuff against which his opponents could do little. He allowed just three hits (two singles and a double), struck out seven and got six groundball outs in 5 2/3 innings. But his ongoing struggle to throw strikes continues to limit him. He threw just 61 of 104 pitches (59 percent) for strikes while walking three and yielding three runs. That is in line with a season in which he’s likewise thrown 59 percent of pitches for strikes in Triple-A, helping to explain why in 19 starts this year, he has recorded exactly one out in the seventh inning. Though he’s moved beyond his extreme midseason command woes, the 23-year-old has pitched fewer than six innings in each of his last four starts.
Still, the remarkable upside remains apparent. In his last six starts, he has a 2.91 ERA with 40 strikeouts and 11 walks in 34 innings while holding opponents to a .195/.270/.268 line with one homer and six doubles. He has the stuff to shut down opposing lineups, and the potential pitch mix to work through lineups a third time.
But in 2013, the still-young — and still relatively-new-to-pitching — right-hander has yet to transform the dazzling raw materials into sustainable success that would allow him to thrive right now at the major league level. The pieces may yet come together, but for now, Webster seemingly requires more development time, and almost certainly will open next year back in Pawtucket as a depth option — albeit one with tremendous upside — for the Sox. Read the rest of this entry »
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