|Why you should have cared about Tuesday’s Red Sox game: Matt Barnes makes his mark||09.09.14 at 10:43 pm ET|
(For the final month of the regular season, “Closing Time” will be called “Why You Should Have Cared,” looking beyond the final score — at a time when losses are arguably more valuable to the Sox than wins (for draft and waiver position) — for either meaningful signs for 2015 or simple aesthetic considerations.)
By and large, the process of auditioning pitchers for spots in the 2015 Red Sox rotation has been something less than dazzling. Joe Kelly and Rubby De La Rosa have shown flashes of being effective, with De La Rosa offering glimpses (not yet sustained) of an ability to dominate. Brandon Workman has struggled. Anthony Ranaudo has shown little ability to elicit swings and misses, and on Tuesday, the Orioles smashed his fastballs up in the strike zone, launching three homers to hand the 25-year-old a loss (by an eventual 4-1 count) on his birthday.
Kelly profiles as a back-end starter. Workman and Ranaudo seem most likely to project either as No. 4 or 5 starters if they don’t end up in the bullpen.
But late in Tuesday’s outing, the Red Sox got a tantalizing first glimpse at a pitcher with considerable upside when Matt Barnes took the hill in his big league debut. Barnes has arguably the best fastball in the system, a pitch that can miss bats even when in the strike zone. He sits comfortably in the mid-90s, and on Tuesday, he worked primarily off of a 94-96 mph fastball that he complemented with both a changeup and a curveball (the latter of which, notably, got the first swing-and-miss of his career).
Pitchers like Ranaudo and Workman have considerable potential value to a rotation as pitchers who know how to compete and give their team a chance to win. But Barnes represents something different, his fastball giving him a chance to be either an impact starter or, in the eyes of some, a closer, with the view of his potential as a starter tied to a changeup that grades as solid average and a curveball that he’s used to increasing effect this year.
On Tuesday, he employed all three pitches in impressive fashion, throwing three shutout innings in which he permitted three hits, struck out two batters (Chris Davis on a fastball, Adam Jones on a changeup), worked out of a second-and-third, one-out jam by punching out Jones when needed and threw a whopping 30 of 38 pitches (79 percent) for strikes — the highest strike percentage of any major league rookie in his debut (min. 30 pitches) since Jamie Vermilyea threw 24 of 30 pitches for strikes in his Blue Jays debut on April 22, 2007.
In a run of relatively undistinguished performances by Red Sox call-ups, Barnes’ outing stood out, a first opportunity to stand out from the pack of Red Sox prospects making the transition to the big league level.
OTHER REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT TUESDAY’S GAME Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Matt Barnes rolling; Garin Cecchini continues annual tradition; Justin Haley dominates; Jonathan Aro on target||09.05.14 at 2:37 pm ET|
A brief look at the action in three playoff games among Red Sox affiliates on Thursday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 8-2 WIN VS. SYRACUSE (NATIONALS); LEAD BEST-OF-FIVE SERIES, 2-0
— Matt Barnes continued his recent run of Triple-A dominance, logging seven shutout innings in which he gave up three hits (a double and two singles), walked none and punched out six. It marked the sixth time in eight outings that Barnes had pitched into the seventh inning, something he’d done just four times in his first 65 pro games. He threw 65 of 101 pitches (64 percent) for strikes.
In nine starts since the All-Star break including the regular season and Thursday’s outing, Barnes now has a 2.10 ERA with 7.8 strikeouts and just 2.3 walks per nine.
— Garin Cecchini went 4-for-4 with a triple. It was his first four-hit game of the year; he’s had one game of at least four hits in each of his four pro seasons. In 27 games since Aug. 1, Cecchini is now hitting .352/.424/.524. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Matt Barnes, Trey Ball punctuate second-half turnarounds; Javier Guerra, Rafael Devers show rare potential||09.01.14 at 9:24 am ET|
A somewhat brief synopsis of the action in the Red Sox farm system over the weekend:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET SEA DOGS: 6-2 LOSS, 10-4 WIN VS. ROCHESTER (TWINS)
— Though right-hander Matt Barnes allowed five runs in seven innings on Saturday, he matched a season-high with 10 strikeouts and didn’t walk a batter. The outing was the fourth straight, fifth in six starts and sixth in eight starts that the 24-year-old pitched into the seventh inning, a noteworthy development for a pitcher who had struggled with his pitch efficiency in the past.
Barnes entered the All-Star break with a 4-7 record, 5.06 ERA, 6.9 strikeouts per nine and 3.7 walks per nine. In eight starts after the break, however, he went 4-2 with a 2.38 ERA, 7.8 strikeouts and 2.5 walks per nine. Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal explained that Barnes has been dialing back his fastball at times, working around 90-91 mph rather than reaching for velocity at all times, and it would appear that the improved second half numbers testify to the success of the approach.
— Left-hander Henry Owens allowed just three hits in six innings, though all were for extra bases (homer, two doubles) in a four-run yield. Still, the 22-year-old walked two and punched out nine, and though he’s shown some vulnerability to homers (four in 38 innings) and authored a modest 4.03 ERA since moving up to Pawtucket, he has also shown the ability to get swings and misses in volume, resulting in 10.4 strikeouts and 2.8 walks per nine while pitching at least six innings in five of six outings.
— Outfielder Bryce Brentz went 3-for-8 over the weekend, extending his streak of consecutive games reaching base to 15. He’s hitting .263/.373/.544 with seven extra-base hits, nine walks and 15 strikeouts during the run. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Matt Barnes’ rotation breakthrough; Michael Chavis, Rafael Devers mashing; Mike Meyers, triple threat||08.26.14 at 1:05 pm ET|
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Monday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 6-2 WIN AT BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS)
— Matt Barnes‘ second-half breakthrough continued, and has now reached the point where it can be called the best sustained stretch he’s had since at least the first eight starts of his pro career, and arguably since he made his pro debut in 2012. The 24-year-old allowed two runs on four hits (three singles and a triple) while walking two and punching out four in 7 1/3 innings. The outing marked the third straight, fourth out of five and fifth out of seven in which he’s pitched into the seventh inning or later, something he’d done only four times in his first 65 minor league starts.
Barnes is now 4-1 with a 1.76 ERA in his seven second-half starts, a span in which he has 7.0 strikeouts and 2.9 walks per nine innings. Whereas he looked like someone who might struggle to stay in the rotation in the first half based on the continuation of his 2013 struggles to work deep into games, averaging just under five innings an outing prior to the All-Star break, in the second half, he’s averaging 6 2/3 innings per start, showing an ability to deliver the sort of consistent innings that the Red Sox want to see from anyone whom they’d consider as a rotation candidate. After he closed out the first half with a 5.06 ERA, Barnes has lowered that mark to 3.80, and on Monday, he crossed the 120-inning plateau for the first time in his pro career. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Breaking down Matt Barnes’ turnaround; Deven Marrero snaps slide; Sean Coyle’s opportunity; Speier streaking||08.21.14 at 12:02 pm ET|
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Wednesday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 9-0 WIN VS. LEHIGH VALLEY (PHILLIES)
— Right-hander Matt Barnes continued his outstanding second half with 6 1/3 innings of shutout ball in which he allowed two hits, walked three and punched out seven. The 24-year-old has allowed two or fewer runs in all six of his second-half starts, pitching at least six innings in all but one of them and pitching into the seventh in four of the six outings. In other words, in his last six outings, he has as many outings of more than six innings (four) as he had in the first 65 games of his professional career, from 2012 through the first half of 2014.
Reports of Barnes’ stuff were positive on Wednesday, consistent with a number of recent evaluations from his second half. He pitched primarily off his fastball — a plus offering that he featured at 92-95 mph and commanded well within the strike zone — while sprinkling in a solid changeup (a major league average offering) and a roughly 80 mph curveball that featured short bite and 12-to-6 shape. One evaluator on hand estimated that he threw about five of 10 curveballs well on the night, suggesting that his first one of the game was usable to steal a strike, and his second one bounced on the grass in front of the dirt at home plate, underscoring the idea that inconsistency remains with the pitch. Still, the curveball showed improvement from previous looks by that evaluator, with a spin and shape that suggested the potential to be a useful third pitch.
Barnes’ fastball remains a standout pitch, still perhaps the best of all of the Sox’ upper levels pitchers. If he complements that with a changeup that grades as average (where it is now) to slightly above, and can get the curveball to the point of being somewhere near average — perhaps even a 45 on the 20-80 scouting scale — there is reason to believe that he has a chance to be a solid starting pitcher in the big leagues, perhaps one with a ceiling above the likes of Anthony Ranaudo and Brandon Workman and, arguably, someone like Allen Webster or even Rubby De La Rosa.
But, the fact that his curveball is still a work in progress, and that he posted a 5.06 ERA with 6.9 strikeouts per nine and 3.7 walks per nine in the first half before his recent six-start run with a 1.63 ERA, 7.4 strikeouts and 3.0 walks per nine underscores the notion that he’s not as polished as those other four, which explains (along with the fact that all of them are on the 40-man roster this year and Barnes is not) why they’ve seen time in the big leagues this year and Barnes has not. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Manuel Margot checks all boxes on way to Salem promotion; Matt Barnes’ landmark; Simon Mercedes stays grounded||08.15.14 at 10:17 am ET|
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox system on Thursday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-1 WIN AT GWINNETT (BRAVES)
— Right-hander Matt Barnes tossed a career-high eight innings, scattering seven singles, walking none and striking out three. After entering the All-Star break with a 5.06 ERA in 15 outings, the 24-year-old has gone 2-1 with a 1.95 ERA in five starts since the season resumed, lowering his ERA for the year to 4.12. His strikeout totals have remained relatively modest throughout the run, sitting at 7.0 per nine innings (up a tick from 6.9 per nine prior to the break), but his walk totals have been trimmed from 3.7 per nine innings to 2.8 per nine and hitters are managing just a .161 average against him, down from .297 before the All-Star break.
PawSox pitching coach Rich Sauveur, in this episode of Minor Details, explained that Barnes has been working to remain compact in his delivery, rather than “getting really long and tilting his back,” in an effort to keep his arm in a higher slot with better direction to the plate. Those efforts have been paying off in recent outings for the 2011 first-rounder, with the results to show the improvement.
— Feats of Mookie: Streaking (again). Mookie Betts went 2-for-5 to extend his hitting streak to 10 games. He has three multi-hit games in his last four contests to improve his line in 42 games in Pawtucket this year to .339 with a .423 OBP and .509 slugging mark.
— First baseman Travis Shaw was 2-for-4 with his first homer since July 28, his 10th in 69 games since his promotion to Pawtucket. He now has a career-high 21 homers along with 50 extra-base hits through 116 games in Portland and Pawtucket this year, forging a .286/.358/.497 line.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 4-2 LOSS, 1-0 LOSS VS. AKRON (INDIANS)
— Outfielder Keury De La Cruz continued his strong August run, going 3-for-5 with a homer and a walk in the double header. In 12 games this month, he’s hitting .333/.408/.524 with six walks in 12 games. The walk total is double the number of free passes (3) the 22-year-old had negotiated in 43 games in June and July. He’s now hitting .289/.315/.408 for the year.
— Right-hander Justin Haley, 23, tossed six shutout innings before permitting a solo homer in the seventh for the lone run he allowed. He delivered 6 1/3 innings allowing the one run on six hits and five walks (his second straight five-walk outing after he hadn’t permitted more than three in any of his first 20 starts) while punching out three. Though Haley has walked more (12) than he’s struck out (11) in his three starts since moving up to Portland, and is winless in Double-A, he has a 0.98 ERA at the higher level, with three straight outings of at least six innings and one or no runs.
— Right-hander Luis Diaz had his third straight outing of four or more runs allowed, permitting that number in 5 2/3 innings. He has now given up 13 runs in his last three starts spanning 16 innings, a run in which he’s had nine and seven days off between starts, at a time when he’s blown past previous career innings highs. He is up to 128 1/3 innings this year after not ever throwing more than 101 innings in a season.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 2-1 WIN, 3-1 WIN AT POTOMAC (NATIONALS)
— Right-hander Simon Mercedes tossed six shutout innings, allowing four hits (all singles), walking two, punching out three and recording eight groundball outs. The six innings matched a season-high for the 22-year-old, who has been a groundball machine this year, with 52.2 percent of balls put in play against him having been on the ground (according to MLBfarm.com). The combination of that groundball rate with his 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings and mix of mid-90s velocity with a changeup and curveball suggest that Mercedes has prospect status that exceeds his 3-9 record and 4.64 ERA.
— Outfielder Kendrick Perkins rebounded from a three-strikeout game in the first contest of the double header by launching his first homer in High-A in the nightcap. In 10 games with Salem, the 22-year-old is hitting .194/.242/.323 after posting a strong .296/.353/.473 line in 51 games in Greenville.
— Right-hander Heri Quevedo, in his first start of 2014 in High-A (the level where he spent nearly all of 2013), tossed five scoreless innings with seven punchouts and two walks while allowing five hits. The seven strikeouts matched his highest total in High-A, and fell one short of the career high he had four weeks ago in Lowell.
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 4-0 LOSS AT SAVANNAH (METS)
— Outfielder Manuel Margot extended his hitting streak to 13 games this month by going 1-for-4. He’s hitting .446/.492/.696 in August to boost his season line to .286/.355/.449 with 10 homers and 39 steals. According to multiple industry sources, Margot will be promoted to High-A Salem for the duration of the season.
The promotion underscores what has been an impressive developmental year. Margot has shown a fairly complete skill set, with strong center field defense (including a strong arm), a good approach that has netted a 9.0 percent walk rate and a modest 11.9 percent strikeout rate, the ability to impact the baseball for average with some power (35 extra-base hits, including eight in 13 games in August), and the ability to influence the game on the bases (his 39 steals rank 17th in the minors).
His speed/power combination as a teenager is rare. He is one of seven players in all of minor league baseball who has at least 10 homers and 30 steals. No other player in that group is younger than 21. Indeed, the Red Sox have two of the three players who are 21 or younger in all of minor league baseball (Margot and Mookie Betts) to have the 10/30 double (the other is Astros prospect Teoscar Hernandez).
Margot will be the third youngest position player in the Carolina League, with his promotion underscoring the notion that he is one of the top handful of position prospects in the Red Sox system.
— Right-hander Ty Buttrey had his best start of the season, tossing six shutout innings in which he allowed two hits, walked three and punched out six. In four outings since his return from the DL, the 21-year-old has a 3.66 ERA with 18 strikeouts and 10 walks in 19 2/3 innings. Prior to his hand injury, he had an 11.91 ERA with eight strikeouts and eight walks in 11 1/3 innings.
SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 5-1 LOSS AT BROOKLYN (METS)
— Shortstop Mauricio Dubon had his third multi-hit game of the week, going 2-for-4 to boost his average to .297, eighth in the New York-Penn League. The 20-year-old has a .297/.322/.380 line that suggests the ability to make contact with a line drive stroke that, in tandem with his solid shortstop defense, makes him an intriguing position prospect.
— Center fielder Joseph Monge went 2-for-4 for his first multi-hit game since July 28. The 19-year-old is hitting .280/.345/.320 in 15 games with the Spinners since his promotion from the GCL.
ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: SUSPENDED (RAIN) AT GCL ORIOLES
DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 13-7 WIN AT DSL REDS
— Luis Alejandro Basabe, who entered the game with one extra-base hit in 24 games, went 2-for-3 with a double, triple and walk. He now has 23 walks and 20 strikeouts on the year, giving the 17-year-old a .421 OBP despite a .244 average.
— Catcher/third baseman Roldani Baldwin went 2-for-5 with a triple and a walk, boosting his line to .281/.362/.406.
|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|
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox minor league system over the weekend:
— 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 »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Matt Barnes sheds trouble with the curve; Sam Travis makes mark in Greenville||08.03.14 at 3:42 pm ET|
For years, the assessment of Matt Barnes has been straightforward: Great fastball that can get swings and misses in the strike zone; changeup that was non-existent in college but has developed into a solid big league average pitch; needs a breaking ball.
But the fact that Barnes hasn’t had a consistent breaking ball in his professional career is not to be confused with the idea that he can’t spin one. And on Saturday, the 24-year-old demonstrated how well he can spin the pitch and what can happen when he can spin it for strikes.
Barnes combined a 97 mph fastball with a devastating 12-to-6 hammer that broke in many instances from above batters’ heads to below their knees. Those two pitches, in combination with a changeup, offered a reminder of Barnes’ ceiling. He fired seven no-hit innings, permitting just one ball out of the infield (a flyball to center to the final batter he faced) while punching out 10, getting five groundouts and getting five infield ground balls. He walked two.
For a night, at least, Barnes showed the best fastball and quite possibly the best curveball of any starting pitching prospect in the Red Sox system. That, in turn, suggests a pitcher who — despite a year in which his first half (perhaps thrown out of whack by a spring training that was thrown off course by a shutdown for shoulder soreness) proved a disappointment — still possesses a very high ceiling, even if the probability of his reaching it looks a bit different now, following a year in which his strikeout rate has dropped sharply, than it did at the beginning of the year.
See Barnes spin it:
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Here’s an incomplete look at the rest of the action in the Red Sox system on Saturday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 2-1 LOSS (11 INNINGS) VS. COLUMBUS (INDIANS)
|Matt Barnes throws 7 no-hit innings for PawSox||08.02.14 at 9:10 pm ET|
Red Sox right-hander Matt Barnes, in the strongest outing of his professional career, fired seven no-hit innings for Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday night. Barnes punched out 10 for his fourth career outing of 10-plus strikeouts and his first of 2014 (indeed, his prior season-high had been just six strikeouts), and had just one ball hit out of the infield against him — a fly ball to center by the last batter he faced. Prior to that, his first 20 outs broke down as 10 strikeouts, five groundouts and five infield pop-ups. He walked two.
According to one evaluator at the game, Barnes was up to 97 mph with a curveball (a pitch that has yet to develop into a consistent offering for him) that was a weapon with power break. He was able to generate swings and misses with all three of his offerings (fastball, curve, change), according to the evaluator. MiLB.com’s GameDay had him with 18 swings-and-misses among his career-high 106 pitches, 66 of which (62 percent — a lower-than-expected percentage given the dominance) found the strike zone.
Though Barnes received a no-decision, the start continued what has been a strong beginning to the second half for the 24-year-old. After he entered the All-Star break with a 5.06 ERA, Barnes has a 1.96 ERA with 18 strikeouts and seven walks in 18 1/3 innings to open the second half in Pawtucket.
|Ben Cherington begins road to rotation rebuild: Sox to be ‘involved in starting pitching this winter’||07.31.14 at 11:23 pm ET|
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington knows he completed just half the job on Thursday by trading away Jon Lester and John Lackey, completing a wild week that saw him deal away four-fifths of his opening day rotation.
“That is not something we would have expected to do at the start of the season, trade away four-fifths of the rotation,” Cherington said. “And obviously, each trade done for different reasons and different circumstances. Ultimately, at least the ones — I talked about the Peavy trade before, and that was done at a little bit different time for us.
“The two trades we made today, in Lackey and Lester, were difficult to do, but we feel fit into our desire to be as good as we can as quickly as we can. With that said, we recognize we will have to, we will need to do some work with our starting rotation. We hope and expect many of the answers for that can come from the guys who are here. But I’d expect us to be involved in starting pitching this winter.”
Dealing Lester and Lackey for position players who project to be everyday players for the team in 2015 is only the beginning. Now, Cherington has to go about rebuilding a rotation that lost 40 wins from a 97-win World Series championship team a year ago.
Part of that answer could come from the minor league system, which is stocked with names like Henry Owens, Matt Barnes and Anthony Ranaudo, who makes his major league debut Friday night in the series opener against the Yankees at Fenway Park.
“Obviously some of those young pitchers are going to get a lot of opportunity the rest of the way, the guys that are already here,” Cherington said. “Ranaudo is going to start [Friday] night. We have an opportunity to watch that and they have an opportunity to pitch and develop. We’ll know a lot more about that group by the end of the season and that will help inform us, to some degree, going into the offseason. It would be my expectation that we would be active no matter what happens the rest of the way.
“My expectation is that we would be active in the starting pitching market this winter with trades, free agency, whatever. But we’re going to learn a lot more about our young group. We liked our young group of starters two weeks ago and now we’ve added a couple more to that in [Eduardo] Escobar and [Eduardo] Rodriguez — two young starters we got. We feel very good about the depth of young starters that we have in the organization. Obviously they’re not proven major league pitchers and so we’ve got to learn more about them the rest of the way and see what’s available to us this winter.”
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