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Blake Swihart tops Baseball America’s list of top 10 Red Sox prospects 10.29.14 at 10:13 am ET
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Blake Swihart is the Red Sox' top prospect, according to Baseball America. (365DigitalPhotography.com/Portland Sea Dogs)

Blake Swihart is the Red Sox‘ top prospect, according to Baseball America. (365DigitalPhotography.com/Portland Sea Dogs)

Looking for a catcher in the minors to whom to compare Red Sox top prospect Blake Swihart?

“There isn’t one,” said one evaluator.

Swihart — an extremely athletic switch-hitter who shows well above-average defensive tools, the ability to hit the ball very, very hard on a fairly consistent basis (a skill that translates more often to doubles than homers given that he typically hits screaming liners instead of lofting the ball) and runs well heads the list of Baseball America’s Top 10 Red Sox prospects for the 2015 season. (Disclaimer: I authored the list.)

Given the low standards for offense behind the plate, and the fact that he has a chance to be well above-average in every phase of the game, the 22-year-old stands the best chance of perhaps any Red Sox prospect of being a perennial All-Star. Some rough edges remain in his game (as evidenced by the fact that he walked just twice and struck out 15 times in a year-end stretch in Pawtucket after being promoted following a standout run in Double-A Portland), but the combination of a fairly well-defined floor as a big league starter with a ceiling that suggests the potential to be one of the top starting catchers in the game makes Swihart the Sox’ top prospect.

(Note: Mookie Betts had too many big league at-bats to qualify for the list. Otherwise, he would have been the No. 1 prospect. #feats.)

Here’s a look at Baseball America’s full top 10 list, with their 2014 performance lines and links to stories about the prospects on WEEI.com:

1) Blake Swihart, C – Age 22

Triple-A Pawtucket: 18 games, .261/.282/.377, 1 HR
Double-A Portland: 92 games, .300/.353/.487, 12 HR

Other: Threw out 46 percent of would-be base stealers.

Catching On: Blake Swihart’s accelerating development behind the plate

Blake Swihart most difficult Red Sox prospect to trade

Why Blake Swihart looks increasingly like an elite prospect

Blake Swihart taking off the gloves

2) Henry Owens, LHP – Age 22 Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: blake swihart, eduardo rodriguez, henry owens, Rusney Castillo
Red Sox minor league roundup: Putting a bow on the season of Henry Owens 09.12.14 at 1:20 pm ET
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Left-hander Henry Owens allowed three runs in four innings on Thursday. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

Left-hander Henry Owens allowed three runs in four innings on Thursday. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

On Wednesday night, Triple-A Pawtucket stood one inning from a commanding 2-0 lead in the Govrrnor’s Cup Finals against Durham. But a ninth-inning blown save served as a prelude to an extra-innings loss, and now, after a 4-3 loss in Durham on Thursday (box), the PawSox must win consecutive games in the park of Tampa Bay’s Triple-A affiliate to win the best-of-five International League championship.

Among the prospect performances by the PawSox, there was little of note. Left-hander Henry Owens capped a brilliant 2014 campaign with an anticlimactic performance that bore resemblance to much of his work in eight year-ending Triple-A starts. He gave up just three hits in four innings, but included among those knocks were a pair of extra-base hits.

After a largely dazzling year in which pitching into the seventh became a commonplace occurrence for him, Owens finished the season with back-to-back four-inning outings in the International League playoffs in which he permitted a total of eight earned runs in eight innings with six walks and 11 punchouts. Certainly, he was hit harder in Triple-A (where 19 of the 43 hits he allowed (44 percent) went for extra bases, including five for homers in 46 innings) than Double-A (30 of 89 hits (34 percent) for extra bases, with six homers in 121 innings), but it’s unclear whether that reflected the stiffer competition or the fact that Owens flew past his previous innings high of 135, jumping up 24 percent to a total of 168 between Double-A, Triple-A and the All-Star Futures Game. Owens did show the ability to get swings and misses in Pawtucket, with 10.8 punchouts per nine, but he finished the year with a cumulative 4.89 ERA in Triple-A. Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox minor league roundup: Henry Owens’ Triple-A challenge; Travis Shaw mashes; Rusney Castillo makes his mark; electric Eduardo Rodriguez 09.06.14 at 9:52 am ET
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Left-hander Henry Owens allowed five runs in four innings on Friday. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

Left-hander Henry Owens allowed five runs in four innings on Friday. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

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

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 7-6 WIN AT SYRACUSE (NATIONALS); WIN BEST-OF-FIVE SERIES, 3-0

(BOX)

— The routine dominance that characterized Henry Owens‘ march through the last two years has yielded to a more challenging reality in Triple-A. The left-hander allowed eight hits (including a homer and two doubles) and three walks en route to a five-run, four-inning outing. He did show the ability to elicit swings and misses, punching out six, and he now has 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings in Triple-A, but there are markers to suggest the challenging nature of the transition Owens has faced from Portland to Pawtucket.

He has a 4.71 ERA in his seven Triple-A starts. He’s now given up five homers in 42 innings with the PawSox, one fewer than the number he gave up in 121 innings in Portland this year. The four innings on Friday matched his shortest outing of the year. The five runs represented his second-largest yield.

Some of Owens’ struggles in Triple-A may represent an adjustment to the level. Some may point to fatigue as he’s now up to 164 innings between the regular season, postseason and All-Star Futures Game, a 21 percent bump from his 135-inning total of a year ago. And some of it simply may be a matter of imprecise execution.

Regardless, the fact that Owens is being challenged in Triple-A likely helps to pump the brakes on the notion of his big league timeframe. The Sox have already stated that he won’t be brought up to the big leagues this month, and the fact that Owens has had to work in Triple-A suggests that he’ll have more to prove at that level in order to position himself for the possibility of a mid-year big league summons.

— Outfielder Bryce Brentz had his second three-hit game of the series, going 3-for-5 with a double. He was 6-for-14 with a walk, two doubles and two strikeouts in the three contests, scoring a run in each game.

— For the third straight game, Travis Shaw had an extra-base hit and reached base multiple times. The 24-year-old first baseman went 2-for-4 with a double and walk, finishing the series 5-for-10 with a homer, two doubles, four walks and two strikeouts. After Shaw hit just .209/.273/.319 to close out the regular season in August, the playoff series represented a very different final note of the year for the 2011 ninth-rounder.

— Catcher Blake Swihart went 1-for-3 with an RBI infield single and a walk, and went 4-for-7 in the series.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 6-3 WIN VS. BINGHAMTON (METS); LEAD BEST-OF-FIVE SERIES, 2-1

(BOX)

— Center fielder Rusney Castillo had his most impactful game since signing with the Sox, going 2-for-3 with an opposite-field double into the right-field corner, a walk and two runs while playing seven innings. His double came on a first-pitch with a runner in scoring position, suggesting an aggressive approach when given a chance to produce runs.

— Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez logged 6 2/3 innings in which he gave up three runs (two earned) on just three hits (all doubles) while walking two and striking out six. Opponents are now hitting .198 against the 21-year-old in his seven starts with Portland following his July 31 trade from the Orioles in exchange for Andrew Miller. The outing marked the first time with Portland that Rodriguez had given up as many as two earned runs.

Here’s a look at his somewhat electrifying stuff, a mid- to high-90s fastball with an above-average changeup. (His slider, which flashes as an above-average pitch but remains inconsistent, isn’t used in this sequence.)

— Eight of the nine members of the Sea Dogs lineup had at least one hit.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 5-0 LOSS AT MYRTLE BEACH (RANGERS); LOSE BEST-OF-THREE SERIES, 2-1

(BOX)

— Left-hander Cody Kukuk‘s start lasted just two-plus innings, as the 21-year-old allowed four hits and two walks en route to a three-run yield. He closed out the year with six straight outings of at least four walks. In 21 Carolina League starts, the wildly talented (emphasis on wild) 2011 seventh-rounder issued 75 walks in 80 2/3 innings. He had a 5.47 ERA in Salem. But while that mark makes clear that a big league future is anything but a certainty for Kukuk, from a scouting perspective, his tremendous three-pitch arsenal (mid- to high-90s fastball, wipeout slider, swing-and-miss change … when thrown for strikes) suggests a potential impact arm if he can use his athleticism to lock in his mechanics and throw strikes with any kind of consistency.

Read More: cody kukuk, eduardo rodriguez, henry owens, Rusney Castillo
Ben Cherington: Concerns about Jackie Bradley Jr.’s coachability ‘absolutely not’ part of sending him down 09.03.14 at 6:20 pm ET
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Jackie Bradley Jr.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

NEW YORK — It has been a difficult time for Jackie Bradley Jr. The 24-year-old hit .212/.288/.290 in the big leagues, a performance that resulted in his being optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket in mid-August. His results have been little better there, as he’s hit .212/.246/.273 in Triple-A.

As reported at the time of his assignment to Pawtucket, there have been questions inside the Red Sox organization about whether Bradley was receptive to some of the messages that he was receiving from team officials and coaches — a concern that is distinct from his willingness to work or his desire to improve. While those questions were real, however, GM Ben Cherington suggested that such concerns had nothing to do with the move to demote Bradley and call up Mookie Betts to be the everyday center fielder in mid-August.

“First of all, as far as the question about whether that was part of the decision to send him down, I can say absolutely not. The decision to send him down was based on our feeling at the time that the offensive part of the game — that he needed to develop a routine that worked for him and it was going to be easier for him to do that for some period of time in Pawtucket,” Cherington said in Yankee Stadium. I’€™m not a coach. I know that every player is different, is going to respond differently to guidance. We know that Jackie has had a ton of success in his life as a baseball player, at the major league level, at the minor league level. It hasn’€™t come as quickly for him, at least on the offensive side at the major league level, and that’€™s not easy for a guy to deal with. There’€™s never been an issue from the Red Sox’€™s perspective of whether he’€™s willing to work or whether he cares, anything like that. We’€™re trying to find the right way to reach every player, including Jackie, and then the player has to have a responsibility then too. That’€™s a relationship that we strive to reach. We want to build a good, functional relationship with any player. And if one is struggling it means we still have to work on that, but it had nothing to do with sending him down to Pawtucket.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: henry owens, jackie bradley jr.,
Red Sox minor league roundup: Eduardo Rodriguez dominating post-trade; Henry Owens delivers innings; Mauricio Dubon turning heads 08.22.14 at 1:30 pm ET
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A brief and, frankly, incomplete look at Thursday’s action in the Red Sox farm system:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-2 WIN (WALKOFF) VS. LEHIGH VALLEY (PHILLIES)

(BOX)

— Though he threw just 58 of 96 pitches (60.4 percent) for strikes, left-hander Henry Owens made the strikes he did throw count, matching a season- and career-high with eight innings during which he gave up two runs on five hits (including a two-run homer and double) while walking one and punching out six. He secured 10 more outs via groundball. While Owens has given up three homers in his first four Triple-A starts, his performance since his promotion has otherwise been strong. He has 27 strikeouts and six walks in 25 2/3 innings, holding opponents to a .226 average while forging a 3.51 ERA.

— Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. went 2-for-4 with a homer and for the first time since he was sent down, he didn’t strike out. Bradley is now 4-for-19 with the homer (.211/.211/.368) in four games with the PawSox. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: eduardo rodriguez, henry owens, mauricio dubon, michael chavis
Red Sox minor league roundup: Deven Marrero’s slump deepens; Eduardo Rodriguez dominates; Trey Ball shelled; Kevin McAvoy, groundball machine 08.16.14 at 3:08 pm ET
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For the first time this year, Henry Owens has allowed four runs in back-to-back starts. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

For the first time this year, Henry Owens has allowed four runs in back-to-back starts. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

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

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-1 LOSS VS. SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE (YANKEES)

(BOX)

— While Deven Marrero could well end up emerging long term as the Red Sox shortstop, any idea that such a turn of events is imminent overlooks his offensive struggles in Pawtucket. Marrero went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts on Friday. He’s 0-for-13 with five punchouts in his last four games, and in 17 games since July 27, he’s hitting .131/.182/.230, with both his average and OBP the lowest in the International League during that time. The slump has dropped his Triple-A line to .235/.281/.324, a far cry from the .291/.371/.433 line he posted in Portland prior to his promotion.

It’s worth recalling that, a year ago, Marrero struggled after his mid-year promotion to Double-A, hitting .236/.321/.236 in 19 games. By the time he returned to Portland for the start of this year, he was ready to hold his own as a hitter. (His defense is considered a given, as he’s already an above-average big league defensive shortstop.) So, he’ll have to prove himself in similar fashion next year in Pawtucket to open the year. If he can do that, then depending on the Sox’ needs, Marrero could position himself for a midyear call-up. But for an organization that endured lineup vulnerability thanks in part to the struggles of players who were at a very early stage of their transitions to the big leagues, the idea of being patient with Marrero in Triple-A has obvious logic.

— Left-hander Henry Owens allowed four runs on six hits in six innings. It marked the first time all season that the 22-year-old has allowed three or more runs in back-to-back outings (he also permitted four in his previous start on Aug. 10). Though he permitted some hard contact in the form of a pair of homers, Owens did attack the strike zone in noteworthy fashion, throwing 60 of 84 pitches (71 percent) for strikes, getting 12 swings and misses, punching out seven and walking none. In three starts spanning 17 2/3 innings, Owens now has a 4.08 ERA with 21 punchouts and just five walks. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: eduardo rodriguez, henry owens, keury de la cruz, kevin mcavoy
Rich Sauveur on Minor Details: ‘I can see [Henry Owens] being a No. 1 or No. 2 starter for the Boston Red Sox’ 08.14.14 at 9:27 pm ET
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PawSox pitching coach Rich Sauveur suggested that left-hander Henry Owens showed top-of-the-rotation stuff in his Triple-A debut. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

PawSox pitching coach Rich Sauveur suggested that left-hander Henry Owens showed top-of-the-rotation stuff in his Triple-A debut. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

Pawtucket Red Sox pitching coach Rich Sauveur joined WEEI.com’€™s Alex Speier on the Minor Details podcast to discuss his first impressions of Henry Owens with the PawSox and the large influx of plus pitching in the organization. To listen to the interview, go to the WEEI podcast audio on demand page.

Owens, Boston’€™s top pitching prospect, has impressed at the Triple-A level, posting a 1-0 record with a 3.09 ERA and 14 strikeouts in two starts (11 2/3 innings). Owens was particularly dominant in his first outing Aug. 4 against Columbus, holding the Clippers to two hits and no earned runs over 6 2/3 innings while recording nine punchouts.

“Well, being actually the first time I’ve seen him throw, yes, I’ve seen him throw a couple times down in spring training, but to actually see him up here pitching for me was pretty exciting. … Obviously, by the outcome, striking out the side in the first inning, and seeing the poise on the mound was just outstanding. This kid is 22 years old, and again, striking out the side on three plus pitches — the fastball and the curveball and the changeup — it was an outstanding time for me,” Sauveur said.

Sauveur added that both Owens’€™ confidence on the hill and his impressive repertoire of pitches make it easy for him to project the southpaw as a top-of-the-line starter in the major leagues.

“Going on one start, I can say that I see this guy being a No. 1 or No. 2 starter for the Boston Red Sox. … [His] poise on the mound is ridiculous,” Sauveur said. “€œThis kid reminds me of Mark “The Bird” Fidrych. I mean, just a goofball in the clubhouse and having a good time, and when he steps between those two wide lines that go down each side of the field, it’s game on. … Talking about his stuff, the fastball velocity was decent, the command was outstanding … and then he showed two plus pitches. … Of course, if this kid strikes out nine guys in a Triple-A game, something is going on.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Anthony Ranau, henry owens, minor details, Rich Sauveur
Red Sox minor league weekend roundup: Trey Ball, Matt Barnes rolling; Manuel Margot’s rare speed-power combo 08.11.14 at 12:47 pm ET
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A brief look at the action in the Red Sox minor league system over the weekend:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-2 WIN, 6-4 WIN AT CHARLOTTE (WHITE SOX)

(SATURDAY BOX, SUNDAY BOX)

— Right-hander Matt Barnes followed his seven no-hit innings with a quality start, yielding two runs on four hits (including a homer) in six hittings. Though he didn’t feature the same swing-and-miss dominance (he struck out four while walking three) as in his 10-punchout no-hit effort, he continued what has been a solid second half. In four starts since the All-Star break, Barnes has pitched at least five innings while permitting two or fewer runs in each of them, forging a 2.22 ERA with 22 strikeouts and 10 walks allowed in 24 1/3 innings, with opponents managing a microscopic .134 average against him.

— Left-hander Henry Owens, in his second Triple-A start, yielded four runs on eight hits in five innings while permitting two walks and punching out five. All four of the runs came in a third-inning rally that centered around three consecutive groundball singles sandwiched between a pair of doubles. Despite the run yield, Owens showed a couple of signs of strong execution, among them: Plenty of groundballs (he recorded six outs on the ground and four of the hits he allowed were likewise groundballs) and plenty of strikes (66 of 100).

— On Sunday, shortstop Deven Marrero had his first multi-hit game since July 26, going 2-for-3 with his first Triple-A homer, a double and a walk (his first in nine games). In 32 Triple-A games, Marrero is hitting .261/.299/.361. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: henry owens, manuel margot, matt barnes, Trey Ball
Ben Cherington on D&C: John Lackey ‘did a lot for the Red Sox, and I think he’s happy where he is now’ 08.07.14 at 9:51 am ET
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Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning to discuss the state of the team and the fallout from the trade deadline fire sale. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

There has been some speculation that John Lackey pushed for a trade because he was not happy in Boston, upset with his contract that calls for him to be paid the major league minimum next year. The pitcher was sent the Cardinals last Thursday.

“Mostly what led to [the trade] is that he’s a really good pitcher and he’s on a unique contract, and that made him valuable to a team like the Cardinals, who understand that value, understand that having a guy who’s capable of pitching like that and making the minimum next year is a valuable guy to have,” Cherington said. “So they were willing to give up — we wouldn’t have traded both [Jon] Lester and Lackey without getting a) major league talent back and b) at least one major league starter back. That was sort of the standard.

“We’re all getting new information, and you get new information every day. I think John is happy where he is, and we wish him well. He did great things for us, certainly towards the end of the deal. He was on the mound for the clinching World Series game. I certainly hope that Red Sox fans and everyone around Boston’s sort of lasting memory of John Lackey is helping us win a World Series. That will be what mine is.”

Asked directly if Lackey wanted to leave, Cherington replied: “Look, I’m not going to get into every conversation I had with John Lackey. He did a lot for the Red Sox, and I think he’s happy where he is now.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Allen Craig, ben cherington, henry owens, john lackey
John Farrell on D&H: ‘Getting [Clay Buchholz] back on track might be the No. 1 objective as far the rotation goes’ 08.06.14 at 5:45 pm ET
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Red Sox manager John Farrell joined Dale & Holley on Wednesday afternoon to discuss Clay Buchholz‘s struggles, Henry Owens‘ impressive Triple-A debut and the state of the club in the aftermath of the July 31 trade deadline. To listen to the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Farrell said that he had a sit-down meeting with Buchholz on Tuesday in order to discuss ways to help ease the righty out of one of the worst slumps of his career. Buchholz, expected to be one of the leaders of a young rotation going forward, allowed seven earned runs in back-to-back starts against the Blue Jays and Yankees over the last two weeks.

“Getting [Buchholz] back on track might be the No. 1 objective as far the rotation goes,” Farrell said, continuing: “When people talk about No. 1 or No. 2 starters, major leaguers perform their way into those roles, because they all have similar abilities. So whether or not if he’s a No. 1 or a No. 5 is depending upon how consistent an individual pitcher is, how durable they become, and the level of performance from outing to outing.

“We’ve seen from Clay that there’s elite performance as it’s capable, and yet the one thing that he and I talked about extensively yesterday was just trying to get him back on to the most simple element that a pitcher has under control, and that’s this pitch in this moment, and take away all the other distractions or all the other things that you’re trying to accomplish. … People might say, ‘Well, that’s no revelation,’ well, honestly, any performer, their mind at the moment is the thing that matters most.”

One of Boston’s most promising prospects, southpaw starter Henry Owens, had a fantastic debut with Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday, allowing just two hits and no runs over 6 2/3 innings while striking out nine Columbus batters.

While Owens — who is 15-4 with a 2.47 ERA this season between Double-A Portland and Pawtucket — appears to be on the fast track for the majors, Farrell said that he would like to see the 22-year-old lefty continue his success with the PawSox before considering calling him up.

“I think anybody who starts the year in Double-A is on the radar,” Farrell said. “But I will say this, it’s not part of the conversation [Wednesday] to open up this spot in the rotation for when Henry arrives. I think it’s great that he went up to Pawtucket and had an outstanding debut at Triple-A and I think it’s also important to keep perspective that he needs to keep doing it, as we all do. I guess that’s the best and most honest way I can answer it.

“We’ve got a very good-looking, young, left-handed prospect starting pitcher, and I think in time he’ll clearly demonstrate that he’s ready for the next challenge, and the first step was a very positive one while at Pawtucket.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Clay Buchholz, henry owens, John Farrell, Red Sox
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