|Henry Owens, Mookie Betts headline Red Sox minor league award winners||09.21.13 at 8:25 pm ET|
The Red Sox offered the following press release announcing their minor league award winners (more information about the recipients will be offered later):
The Boston Red Sox today announced left-handed pitcher Henry Owens has been named the team’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year and second baseman Mookie Betts has been named Minor League Offensive Player of the Year. The club has tabbed catcher Blake Swihart as the Defensive Player of the Year with shortstop Deven Marrero receiving the organization’s Base Runner of the Year Award. Left-handed pitcher Dedgar Jimenez and third baseman Victor Acosta represent the Dominican Summer League Red Sox as Minor League Latin Program Pitcher and Player of the Year, respectively.
Also being honored is right-handed pitcher Steven Wright, the organization’s winner of the Lou Gorman Award. Created in 2011, the award is given annually to a Red Sox minor league player who has demonstrated dedication and perseverance in overcoming obstacles while working his way to the Major League team.
The 2013 Minor League Awards are selected by the Red Sox baseball operations department and minor league roving instructors.
Owens combined to go 11-6 with a 2.67 ERA (40 ER/135.0 IP) and 169 strikeouts in 26 starts between High-A Salem and Double A-Portland. The 21-year-old led organizational leaders in strikeouts, the most for a Red Sox minor leaguer since Clay Buchholz’s 171 in 2007. He also tied for the most wins and ranked third among leaders in ERA. A Carolina League Pitcher of the Week for July 15-22, he was also a Mid-Season All-Star and threw 19.1 consecutive hitless innings from July 11-28 with the Salem Sox. Owens went 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA (6 ER/30.1 IP) for Portland following his promotion from High-A Salem on August 1. He struck out 46 and walked eight in six starts with the Sea Dogs. Named the No. 5 prospect in the Red Sox organization by Baseball America at the start of 2013, Owens was the Red Sox sandwich pick between the first and second round of the June 2011 draft. Read the rest of this entry »
|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 »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: The challenge of scouting and projecting Henry Owens; Steven Wright locked in; Jose Vinicio’s horrific season||08.28.13 at 12:29 pm ET|
It was a line that has become something between comical and commonplace for left-hander Henry Owens.
The left-hander, who turned 21 last month, tossed 6 2/3 shutout innings in which he allowed just two hits while punching out six and walking one. For some pitchers, that line would have represented a season highlight. For Owens, it borders on a standard performance, the eighth time this year that he’s allowed two or fewer hits in five or more innings.
The 2011 supplemental first-rounder now has a 3-0 record, 1.09 ERA, 38 strikeouts (13.9 strikeouts per nine) and 14 walks (5.1 per nine) in five Double-A starts. In 25 overall starts this year between High-A and Double-A, he has a 2.57 ERA with 11.2 strikeouts per nine, 4.6 walks per nine and, perhaps most impressively, a .173 opponents’ batting average that ranks as the second lowest among all pitchers for full-season affiliates in minor league baseball.
There have been times this year where evaluators have seen a three-pitch mix that looks like that of a potential frontline starter. But not always. There have been times when Owens has outperformed his stuff. Such, seemingly, was the case on Tuesday.
Here’s how one NL talent evaluator, who had seen Owens in Salem earlier this year, viewed his outing on Tuesday:
“[I] cannot figure out how his numbers are so good compared to his stuff. [He] has good deception to his fastball (88-92 mph) with average life. He throws his fastball 90 percent of the time and he gets strikeouts with it. Change was solid (78-80 mph) as usual and he throws that soft curveball (67-73 mph) that rolls. Hitters must not pick up the ball. He had no strikeouts in the first three innings and had some loud outs, and then I look up at the end of the night and he has a two-hitter with six strikeouts. I give him credit.”
But, in terms of the projection based on Owens’ stuff, based on two looks — one in Salem, one in Portland?
“He’s a two-pitch guy — fastball/change — right now. A back-end starter,” said the evaluator, who felt that Owens looked like a No. 4 or No. 5 starter. “I don’t see the power stuff for the top of the rotation but he keeps getting guys out.”
Indeed, he *keeps* getting guys out.
And so, it seems worth asking: what does that mean? What kind of advances can be expected from pitchers who hold opponents to averages of .200 or lower?
A year ago, there were nine pitchers in the minors who held opponents to averages of .200 or lower:
Fernandez has been one of the top rookie pitchers in the big leagues in years. Bradley may be the top pitching prospect in the minors right now. But those two (and Crick) have very different arsenals than Owens. Still, left-handers Cingrani and Hultzen (the first of whom was excellent for the Reds until leaving a game in the last week with a back injury, the latter of whom was off to a dominant start in Triple-A before injuries wrecked his year) both tend to live in the low-90s with their fastballs, with Cingrani offering a model for a pitcher who can be quite effective in no small part on the strength of excellent deception on both his fastball and change.
The comp game, of course, is a bit dangerous and potentially misleading. But it is worth noting that, so long as they remained healthy, those pitchers who shut down opposing lineups last year proved capable of continuing to do so in 2013. Their excellent performances proved sustainable as they moved up in their careers.
Moreover, there is the reality that Owens is still growing, still filling out, his arsenal still sharpening. What he’s showing now while dominating is probably not what he will become. While his present stuff might look like that of a back-end starter, another evaluator who saw Owens on Tuesday noted that there’s likely more down the road than what he’s showing right now.
“I see future physicality, angle and deception with plus command,” said the AL evaluator, who suggested that Owens looked to him like a pitcher who will have (on the 20-80 scouting scale, with 50 being average) a 60 fastball, 70 changeup and at least a 50 curveball.
“I think he’ll be a No. 2 or 3,” the evaluator noted, adding that if the curve emerges as a plus offering rather than an average one, Owens — who has one start remaining this year — could be an ace.
But there’s a difference between what he is and what he might become, a sort of glass-half-full vs. glass-half-empty game. And there’s not a clear right or wrong perspective in those two outlooks.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 2-1 LOSS VS. SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE (YANKEES) Read the rest of this entry »
|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|
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.
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 »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: More no-hit magic from Henry Owens; explaining Dan Butler’s surge; Allen Webster in the zone; Manuel Margot returns; Luis Diaz dazzles||08.17.13 at 11:16 am ET|
If there were any questions about whether Henry Owens was the top pitching prospect in the Red Sox system, the left-hander has done a pretty compelling job of answering them.
The 21-year-old continued his amazing late-summer performance on Friday night by throwing five no-hit innings for Double-A Portland. He did permit an unearned run in the first inning — a wild frame in which Owens walked three, uncorked a wild pitch, encountered a passed ball and recorded all three outs by strikeout — but settled down to retire the final 12 batters he faced, including the last five by strikeout.
In five innings of work, the 2011 supplemental first-round pick (No. 36 overall) allowed four baserunners (three walks and the HBP) but punched out 10 while recording four outs via groundball. And so, his overmatched opponents from Harrisburg managed to hit just one ball into the outfield against him. They swung and missed 22 times at his 94 offerings, reminiscent of a spring outing when he struck out 13 of 15 batters he faced.
For most pitchers, the start would have represented the highlight of a season. For Owens, it’s now become commonplace. It’s the third time in the 6-foot-7 pitcher’s last seven starts (dating back to his time in High-A Salem) that he hasn’t allowed a hit. In that seven-start stretch between two levels, he has a 1.32 ERA, 13.0 strikeouts per nine innings and 4.4 walks per nine. Opponents are hitting .112 with a .242 OBP and .149 slugging mark against him over that period.
Clearly, Owens has not been fazed by his promotion to Double-A. In three starts since that move, he has a 1.20 ERA with 29 strikeouts and six walks in 15 innings — a ludicrous 17.4 strikeouts per nine innings. And he’s shown some ability to rein in his walks total, having knocked down his free passes to 3.6 per nine innings. Friday’s outing showed the ability to make in-game adjustments to surmount early-command struggles and attack the strike zone, leading to his complete domination over his final four innings.
“I felt like I was ready to face these hitters and I felt like I could compete,” Owens told MILB.com of his transition to Double-A. “That goes back to the confidence level. You can never be timid. Everyone says it’s a very mental game and that the game is not for the mentally weak. There’s a difference between flamboyantly loud confidence and quiet confidence.
“I like to lead by example. I try to inflict fear in batters so they don’t know what page I’m on. And that’s not fear like, ‘He’s a big guy, look at the size of him,’ but more like, ‘I’ve swung and missed at the first two pitches, I wonder what he’s going to throw next.’ ”
He’s seemingly accomplishing that, as he has for much of the year. On the year, opponents are now hitting just .176 against the lefty (the third lowest rate in the minors among full-season pitchers). He’s punching out 11.4 batters per nine innings. Control is unquestionably a question for a pitcher who is issuing 4.4 walks per nine innings, but considering that he just turned 21 and is still making strength gains that are permitting him the ability to repeat his delivery with increased consistency, he appears capable of progress in that regard.
Indeed, it is Owens’ strength gains and ability to sustain his performance throughout this year that have been among the most noteworthy elements of his year. The fact that he’s been so dominant at this stage of the year — at a time when he’s matched his number of outings (23) from last year while blowing past last year’s 101 2/3 innings total to reach 119 2/3 frames — represents an impressive payoff on his offseason and in-season conditioning work.
Owens is still dominating opponents with all three of his pitches — fastball (a pitch that averaged 91 mph and produced 11 swings and misses on Friday), changeup (9 swings and misses on Friday) and curve — even as he works deeper than ever into a season and even as he faces more advanced competition than ever. He likely has two remaining starts in Double-A, which should push him to about 130 innings pitched for the year, a couple final opportunities to punctuate what has been a spectacular season that points to a pitcher who looks like a potential long-term building block of the Red Sox rotation. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Henry Owens’ amazing Double-A debut; Xander Bogaerts stops streaking; Haley’s upward trajectory; Sean Coyle goes deep||08.04.13 at 12:45 pm ET|
A year ago, it might have been easy to look at the 4.87 ERA that left-hander Henry Owens put up in Single-A Greenville in his professional debut and shrug one’s shoulders. For a supplemental first-round pick, that sort of mark wasn’t exactly going to turn heads.
But that ERA was typically a reflection of just one bad inning over the course of otherwise strong outings. A truer reflection of his stuff could be found in his 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings, a mark that ranked among the best in all of the minors.
Owens, a stringy 6-foot-7 left-hander, entered the offseason determined to overcome the hiccup innings, feeling that getting stronger in his core would allow him to improve his stamina and avoid running down as the game wore on. He entered spring training at 205 pounds — up from 180 when he signed and 190 at the start of his time in Greenville — and the difference has been palpable, both over the course of individual games and the season.
“I really think last year was just partially to get my feet wet, learning the pro game,” Owens explained recently on Minor Details. “Last offseason, I put on weight, got stronger and coming into spring training, I felt like I really had a chance to show them what I’ve got this season. I’ve been able to do that so far, and hopefully I can keep that going.”
Indeed he has. Owens, who turned 21 last month, made a spectacular Double-A debut for Portland on Saturday night, punching out a career-high 11 batters (8 swinging) over six scoreless innings. He allowed four hits (two singles, two doubles), walked just two and got a colossal 19 swings and misses.
Though his fastball velocity (up to 92 mph) was less than it had been in his recent outings, he nonetheless got five swings and misses with it, along with seven each on his curveball (a pitch that has played up as a consistent secondary weapon for him in recent weeks) and changeup (his best pitch, a clear future swing-and-miss pitch in the majors). So, without his most powerful fastball, Owens was still able to command and mix his pitches well enough to dominate. Thus continued what has been a spectacular year for the left-hander.
On the year, he’s now 9-5 with a 2.77 ERA and 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings (among the top 10 in the minors among pitchers with at least 80 innings pitched). Opponents are hitting just .180 against him, the second lowest mark among all qualifying pitchers at full-season levels. Thanks to his improved pitch efficiency, in 21 starts, Owens has already thrown nine more innings (110 2/3) than he did in 23 games in his pro debut last year. His biggest area for potential improvement is clearly his control, as Owens has walked 4.5 batters per nine innings this year, but it’s becoming very obvious that the left-hander has the raw materials to become a linchpin of the Red Sox rotation.
For context, it’s worth comparing Owens’ age 20 season to that of the most prominent left-hander whom the Sox drafted out of high school, Jon Lester, taken by the Sox in the second round of the 2002 draft. Lester spent the entirety of his age 20 season with High-A Sarasota of the Florida State League, forging a 4.28 ERA with 9.7 strikeouts and 3.7 walks per nine innings. There were areas in which Lester was better than Owens at the same age — he did a better job of keeping the ball on the ground and in the park — but he didn’t achieve a level of sustainable dominance comparable to what Owens has been doing of late.
In Owens’ last five starts — at a time when he’s pushed past last year’s innings total — he’s 3-1 with a 1.13 ERA, 41 strikeouts and 16 walks in 32 innings while holding opposing hitters to a .107/.240/.126 line with no homers and just two doubles allowed.
The run, of course, includes a run of 19 1/3 innings in which he didn’t give up a hit for High-A Salem prior to his promotion to Portland. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in four of those five starts, including his first against Double-A opponents.
What that means going forward remains to be seen. But the evident promise for Owens is as immense as the pitcher himself.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-3 LOSS AT BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS) Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox pregame notes: Team hopes momentum continues to build in wake of walk-offs||08.02.13 at 5:58 pm ET|
Like most who saw Thursday’s incredible come-from-behind 8-7 win over Seattle, some of the Red Sox woke up Friday morning still in awe that they had pulled off the improbable victory.
“There was a time this morning just sitting around having a cup of coffee when you think, ‘I still can’t believe we won last night,’” said manager John Farrell.
Farrell quickly added that perhaps he shouldn’t be so surprised.
“I think we might be getting to the point where, personally, I think about the guys in our clubhouse and I can’t say they’re not capable of meeting any challenge that comes their way,” Farrell said.
The natural reaction following the last two games — the Red Sox won in walk-off fashion on Wednesday as well — would be to put that excitement in the past and turn the page to Friday’s series-opener against a Diamondbacks team with which they have little familiarity.
Although they will do that to an extent, Mike Napoli noted that it’s OK for the excitement to carry over.
“I don’t think it’ll ever go away, especially with this ballclub,” said the Sox first baseman. “We all care about each other and we’re all happy for each other.”
Farrell said wins like these last two, which were the Red Sox’ 10th and 11th walk-off victories of the season, can create a bit of a snowball effect as the season goes on.
“To what extent I don’t know, but there is an effect, and I think it’s a cumulative one given the number of late-inning wins we’ve had here,” Farrell said. “Our dugout was very loose last night. There wasn’t added pressure. It was a matter of one guy at a time putting together the best at bat he could. People always want to say, ‘What can this mean going forward?’ I think it’s a continued growth that we have as a team.”
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