|Red Sox minor league roundup: Reassessing Allen Webster’s big league readiness; Blake Swihart injured; Mookie Betts dazzles||05.20.13 at 12:18 pm ET|
This isn’t the same Allen Webster who opened eyes in spring training.
The right-hander currently in Triple-A Pawtucket bears some important similarities to the pitcher who showed off-the-charts stuff down in the Grapefruit League. His stuff verges on unhittable at times, as when he allowed one hit (a single) and permitted just two balls out of the infield in five innings on Sunday while punching out seven and getting swings and misses on 15 of his 92 offerings. Certainly, his 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings and .158 opponents’ batting average along with a 2.40 ERA are eye-openers. The pitch mix is electric.
But whereas his improved command in spring training — highlighted by a 14-to-1 strikeout-to-walk rate — was one of the biggest show stoppers in camp, Webster’s command has regressed recently in Pawtucket.
Sunday underscored the trend. Webster was filthy out of the gate, retiring the first 11 batters he faced in order. However, he then allowed five of the next six batters he faced to reach, walking four of them in the process and missing the strike zone badly with a number of pitches. As a result, on a day when he had incredible stuff, Webster managed to work just five innings while throwing 92 pitches (48 for strikes — just 52 percent).
He’s now walked nine batters in his last 10 innings. In 30 innings in Triple-A this year, he’s walked 15 batters, a rate of 4.5 per nine innings. As much as the 23-year-old’s extraordinary stuff and ability to get both swings and misses and tons of grounders creates general enthusiasm about his big league future, the fact that he has dominant major league stuff does not necessarily mean he’s major league ready. After all, with his current command and pitch efficiency issues, Webster confronts some of the same issues that have been areas of concern for left-hander Felix Doubront. In eight starts this year between Triple-A and the majors, he’s worked more than five innings just twice.
The temptation when seeing a remarkable talent such as Webster is to focus on his ceiling. But it will take time before he is capable of scraping it.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 11-3 WIN VS. INDIANAPOLIS (PIRATES) 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 »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Making sense of Mookie Betts; Jose Iglesias returns; Franklin Morales sharp; Drake Britton becoming efficient||05.09.13 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: As Felix Doubront falters, Allen Webster dominates; epic homer for Xander Bogaerts; Garin Cecchini, hottest hitter in minors?||05.04.13 at 7:46 am ET|
On a day where Felix Doubront struggled badly in the big leagues and showed diminished velocity that manager John Farrell acknowledged to be “a little bit of a concern,” it was difficult to overlook what was happening in Triple-A.
Right-hander Allen Webster had a season-high nine strikeouts while giving up just one run on two hits and no walks in six innings. It was his seventh career outing with nine or more punchouts, his first above Double-A. Webster now has 26 strikeouts (11.7 per nine innings) and six walks (2.7 per nine) in 20 Triple-A innings this year, continuing to cement the impression that he’s implemented a couple of adjustments successfully to allow him to attack the strike zone with relative efficiency — a trait that eluded Doubront on Friday night, and that indeed has eluded him for much of his time in a big league rotation.
On his 94 pitches on Friday night, Webster got 16 swings and misses, with plenty evidently in the tank at the end. Webster struck out the side in his sixth and final frame (requiring just 12 pitches to do so), and he allowed baserunners in just one of six innings he pitched. The fact that he’s pitching on Doubront’s day in the rotation suggests that it would be straightforward to slot the young right-hander into the big leagues should the “little bit of concern” about the left-hander warrant a spell on the sidelines.
Here’s a look at Webster’s nine strikeouts:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX:4-1 WIN VS. DURHAM (RAYS)
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Michael Almanzar, then and now; historic power show in Pawtucket; Drake Britton piles up punchouts||04.29.13 at 9:13 am ET|
Michael Almanzar can be forgiven if he is not eager to see the conclusion of April. After all, the first month of the 2013 season has been a watershed in his career.
The 22-year-old continued his spectacular month by going 2-for-3 with his fifth homer (and 12th extra-base hit) of April while walking twice, improving his line to .322/.372/.575 with two games remaining in the month. He’s complementing his offense with strong defense at third base, and if someone were to see Almanzar today without any awareness of his history, they’d likely conclude that he was a fairly promising corner infield prospect who was holding his own in the Double-A Eastern League despite being a couple years younger than league average.
But that current impression requires those familiar with Almanzar’s history to rethink many of the conclusions they’d reached about him over the previous six years. Almanzar was signed to a $1.5 million bonus as a 16-year-old in 2007. And his early dominant performance in pro ball seemed to ratify the money he’d been given. He skipped the normal entry point for Latin American amateurs, the Dominican Summer League, and was so dominant in the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League in 2008 (hitting .348/.414/.472 in 23 games) that he was pushed all the way to Single-A Greenville as a 17-year-old — an assignment almost unheard of at his age.
He wasn’t ready. He hit .207/.238/.314 with Greenville, and spent the next three years flailing while shuttling back and forth between levels of A-ball.
“You saw the offensive potential, but there was a lot of immaturity at that point, being 17 years old with all of the attention he was getting, I think at the time, the pressure got to him just a little bit, which is understandable,” said Kevin Boles, who managed Almanzar in Greenville in 2008 and 2009 and is now reunited with him in Double-A Portland. “It happens with a lot of young players.”
But he was always young for his level, performing at ages where success would have defined him as an aberration. His struggles (after leaving the GCL, he never had an OBP as high as .300 from 2008-11 at any level), in retrospect, shouldn’t have been shocking. Read the rest of this entry »
|Source: Court hearing for Red Sox prospect Drake Britton rescheduled||04.12.13 at 7:39 am ET|
According to a source with knowledge of the situation, the hearing originally slated for April 12 involving Red Sox pitching prospect Drake Britton in Lee County (Fla.) Court has been rescheduled for either later in the 2013 season, or after the season. No date has yet been determined.
Britton is facing multiple misdemeanor charges stemming from allegedly driving under the influence, reckless driving and DUI with property damage. According to a Lee County Sheriff’s Office police report, the pitcher had been arrested at 4:42 a.m., March 2 on Ben Hill Griffin Parkway in Estero, Fla., having led the police on a high-speed pursuit that clocked Britton driving at 111 mph.
After posting bond, the 23-year-old appeared in court on March 5, when the original April 12 hearing was scheduled after Britton entered into a not guilty plea.
The most serious charge, DUI and property damage, is punishable by up to a year in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both. A first-offense DUI can draw up to six months in jail and a fine up to $500.
Britton had perhaps his best Double-A outing to date Wednesday, allowing one run on four hits while striking out four and not walking a batter for the Portland Sea Dogs against Reading. It was his second appearance of the season, having struggled through a three-inning start (7 runs) on April 4.
Speaking to WEEI.com six days after the incident, Britton said, “I’m extremely remorseful. It’s an internal matter that’s going on right now. I’m sorry for the negativity that I brought, but that’s about all I can say right now. I’d really rather not say anything else.”
Britton allowed three runs on five hits and four walks while striking out one in 3 1/3 Grapefruit League innings. Still, his stuff had been impressing members of the big league coaching staff, building on a strong 2012 season in which he finished the year with a 3.72 ERA with 16 starts with Double-A Portland with 76 strikeouts and 38 walks in 84 2/3 innings.
|Red Sox minor league roundup: An efficient Drake Britton, Allen Webster in line with Lackey/Aceves?||04.11.13 at 10:27 am ET|
Left-hander Drake Britton showed tremendous stuff after last year’s mid-season promotion to Portland, particularly in his final outings of the season, but there remained a fly in the ointment. He still struggled to achieve the pitch efficiency that will be necessary if he is to make a case for a long-term future as a starter. He was mindful of that element as a focal point for his development entering the year.
“It’s very important, especially very important for me,” said Britton earlier this year. “We’re all human. We’re all going to make mistakes. But it’s all about minimizing those mistakes and being efficient with your pitches. That’s going to take me longer into the outings. That’s something, working on my delivery all offseason and working on conditioning and staying in shape, all that put together, if I can just put together what I did starting last year, that’s going to put me in the best position to be more pitch efficient, take me to the sixth, seventh, hopefully eighth, maybe complete game.”
On Thursday, Britton had an outing unlike perhaps any other that he’s had in the minors. He sailed through six innings in just 66 pitches, throwing a gaudy 74 percent (49) for strikes while punching out four and, for the third time in his Double-A career, not giving up a walk. He gave up four hits (all singles) and elicited seven swings and misses while showing the ability to throw strikes with his complete mix.
Unquestionably, the 23-year-old is under somewhat heightened scrutiny this year, both because of the notoriety he gained due to an arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence in spring training and because, as a player on the 40-man roster for a second year, he must build on his 2012 campaign in Portland (3.72 ERA, 76 strikeouts, 38 walks in 84 2/3 innings) and show that he is nearing big league readiness if he wants to remain in the organization’s plans. Still, his talent remains considerable, and while his year started in regrettable fashion in Fort Myers, he still has an opportunity to leave a vastly different impression by season’s end. Outings such as his start of Wednesday underscore the point.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: SUSPENDED (RAIN) AFTER TWO INNINGS AT LEHIGH VALLEY (PHILLIES)
– Right-hander Allen Webster threw just 18 of 32 pitches for strikes, but still managed to avoid walking any batters while striking out four and getting plenty of swings and misses in his outing. One intriguing element of the Red Sox’ decision to push back Felix Doubront and have Alfredo Aceves start on Thursday: It would make it easier to slot Webster into the rotation in the Aceves/John Lackey spot down the road. Had the Sox kept Doubront on his turn (starting on Thursday) and slotted Aceves into the rotation on Friday, Webster would have been two days off of the Aceves/Lackey spot in the rotation. Read the rest of this entry »
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