|Red Sox minor league year in review: Catchers||09.24.13 at 4:17 pm ET|
As the major league season wraps up, WEEI.com will also wrap up its minor league coverage of the 2013 campaign by looking at the depth of prospects at the different position groupings in the farm system. Today: Catchers.
Overview: Overall, the minor league catching landscape is bleak. That is not the case, however, in the Red Sox system, where there are four players who will open next year in Double-A or above who either have big league futures or who have already played at the game’s highest level. Though it seemed reasonable to expect that the Sox might trade a catcher once they signed David Ross last offseason, the elected not to do so, resulting in an area where the Sox run deep.
Interestingly, however, there is no player who is under team control for 2014 who seems like an ideal candidate to assume starting/primary catching duties should Jarrod Saltalamacchia leave as a free agent. The team does not seem ready to entrust Ryan Lavarnway with primary catching duties (Saltalamacchia’s role, in fact, grew when Lavarnway was called up to fill in for Ross when he landed on the DL), while Ross is likely to remain a defense-first backup with pop. The fact that Dan Butler did not receive a September call-up underscores the view that he’s a depth option rather than a starter-in-waiting, while Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart have starting catcher potential but won’t be ready for the big leagues in 2014.
In other words, there’s a strong chance that even though the Sox are one of the only organizations that can boast multiple catching prospects who project to be above-average everyday options at their positions, the team will want to prioritize bringing back Saltalamacchia (who came into his own as the leader of the pitching staff while also producing his best, most consistent offensive season) or will have to dip into free agent waters to find a starter.
Ryan Lavarnway (age 25 season in 2013)
Majors: 23 games, .311/.342/.446, 1 HR, 2 walks, 17 strikeouts, 19 percent caught stealing
Triple-A: 50 games, .250/.346/.350, 3 HR, 25 walks, 25 strikeouts, 40 percent caught stealing
Big league ETA: Already there. On the 40-man roster. One option left.
Notes: Lavarnway continued to exhibit excellent plate discipline in Triple-A, though that skill didn’t translate perfectly in his sporadic big league duty (witness the two walks and 17 strikeouts, and the disappearance of his power remains a puzzle to evaluators both inside and outside the Red Sox organization. He’s made considerable defensive strides during his pro career, to the point where a team might be comfortable with featuring him behind the plate if he were still a 30-homer threat. In the absence of power, however, his fit is less clear, a notion underscored by the fact that he’s gotten minimal playing time since Ross’ activation. For now, members of the Sox rotation still appear more comfortable working with Saltalamacchia and Ross. Pitch selection with Lavarnway behind the plate often requires more negotiation, which takes the form of shaking to different pitches or mound visits. Still, while some of Lavarnway’s limitations have been easier to spot in part time duty, the fact is that a) he’s in the big leagues and b) he’s shown the ability to have a solid offensive approach at that level despite sporadic playing time. And, given that he does have a 30-homer season under his belt, and that he’s made improvements in his career behind the plate, there’s meaningful upside. In other words, he’s at a stage in his career where a team might well try to buy low. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox notes: John Farrell on potential Yankees retaliation for A-Rod; no word on who leaves rotation; shifting roles for Allen Webster, Brandon Workman||09.05.13 at 6:59 pm ET|
NEW YORK — With the Red Sox and Yankees primed to meet on Thursday for the first time since Ryan Dempster hit Alex Rodriguez with a pitch at Fenway Park on August 18, the question of whether or not the Yankees might retaliate and drill a member of the Red Sox has become a prominent topic in New York. As of Thursday afternoon, however, Sox manager John Farrell said that there had been no conversation with the Sox by either league officials or umpires about the possibility of the two sides being in a state of high alert.
“We haven’t heard anything to date leading into the series. If something is said at home plate, we’ll find that out right prior to gametime,” Farrell said about two hours before the scheduled first pitch. “But no, there’s been nothing said to our players or our team with the potential of what you just outlined.”
But what if the Yankees do appear to drill a member of the Red Sox intentionally? The manager’s response was intentionally vague.
“If there is to be retaliation, I don’t think there will be … but you never know,” said Farrell. “This game will find a way to take care of itself. If that’s to be the case, we’ll play the game.”
Dempster will not be pitching in this series. In a conversation with a group of reporters, the veteran didn’t have much to say about the incident or it’s aftermath.
“We’re talking about a start a long time ago. You’re going to have games where you don’t pitch as well as you want to and that was the case in that game. I feel like I’ve been throwing the ball better so I’m just going to continue to try to build off of that,” said Dempster. “I’ve just been going about my work and getting ready for my next start after my next start and just trying to be as prepared as I can and just pitch better. That’s been my main goal.”
Of course, the precise date of Dempster’s start is in some question. With Clay Buchholz making what is expected to be his final start of his rehab assignment in Pawtucket on Thursday, and in position to return as soon as Tuesday in Tampa Bay on normal (four days’ rest), Dempster faces the possibility of being squeezed out of the rotation. Farrell acknowledged that someone would have to leave the rotation to accommodate the return of the 2013 All-Star, but said that a final decision hadn’t been made about who would be moved out of a starting role. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox add Ryan Lavarnway, Quintin Berry, Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Snyder as call-ups; Daniel Bard designated for assignment||09.01.13 at 9:43 am ET|
Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo said on WEEI on Sunday morning that the Red Sox have added outfielder Quintin Berry, catcher Ryan Lavarnway, right-hander Rubby De La Rosa and third baseman Brandon Snyder (the latter of whom has been activated off the disabled list). An industry source said that, to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Berry, the Red Sox have designated Daniel Bard for assignment.
Berry, acquired last week from the Royals in exchange for right-hander Clayton Mortensen, has hit just .191 with a .309 OBP and .257 slugging mark for three Triple-A teams this year (the affiliates of the Tigers, Royals and most recently, the Red Sox), will serve as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement off the bench. The 28-year-old is 30-for-34 in stolen base attempts in the minors this year, and he was 21-for-21 in the big leagues in that role for the Tigers last year.
Lavarnway was hitting .250/.346/.350 in 50 games for the PawSox this year. In the big leagues, he’s hitting .283/.323/.383 in 19 games. He gives the Sox a third catcher, offering protection both in case of injury and permitting the Sox in-game flexibility to pinch-hit or pinch-run for any of their catchers (Jarrod Saltalamacchia or David Ross) without leaving themselves in a position of vulnerability.
De La Rosa is in his third stint in the big leagues this year. In five games in the majors, he has a 4.76 ERA with three strikeouts and one walk in 5 2/3 innings. In 24 minor league games, the 24-year-old has a 4.26 ERA with 8.5 strikeouts and 5.4 walks per nine innings. Since being sent down from the Red Sox and working out of the PawSox bullpen in late-August, De La Rosa has allowed two runs in 3 2/3 innings with six walks and two strikeouts in four appearances.
Snyder, 26, is hitting .209/.227/.419 in 21 big league games this year. He’s been on the disabled list since August 8 due to a sore elbow.
Bard, who pitched on Saturday with Lowell (his first appearance outside the Gulf Coast League since May 15), worked a scoreless inning in which he managed to prevent anyone from crossing the plate despite walking four batters. A pickoff at third by catcher Jake Romanski, coupled with a pair of strikeouts (one swinging, one looking), allowed Bard to strand the bases loaded despite the four walks and a wild pitch. But he now has 27 walks and nine strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings in the minors this year, and even at a time when he has an option remaining, it had become clear that the most sensible path for the Red Sox and perhaps for Bard himself was to take him off the major league roster so that he can undertake the necessary work to recreate a foundation upon which he can move his career forward.
If he goes unclaimed, then perhaps that will happen in the Red Sox organization. However, because Bard has an option left, and because he is just two years removed from a three-year run as one of the most dominant relievers in the game, the Red Sox removed him from the 40-man roster with eyes wide open about the possibility that someone might take a flyer on him (either through a waiver claim or in a trade for little return), particularly given how quickly he left behind a year of disastrous command in 2007 to emerge as a dominant bullpen option who was nearing big league readiness in 2008.
|Red Sox pregame notes: Team planning 3-4 initial call-ups; Daniel Bard assigned to Lowell; Mike Carp feeling better||08.31.13 at 5:31 pm ET|
With rosters expanding on Sunday, Red Sox manager John Farrell said the team is planning to call up three or four players initially. He said they’ll be bringing up a catcher, an infielder, a pitcher and possibly one more player, adding that the names attached to those spots would be made available once the moves become official.
Ryan Lavarnway would be the best bet at catcher given that he just spent two months in Boston while David Ross was on the disabled list. The infielder will likely be either Brock Holt or Brandon Snyder (who just started a rehab assignment), as both have spent extended time in the majors this season. For pitchers, Pedro Beato, Rubby De La Rosa and Brayan Villarreal would appear to be the most likely candidates.
Farrell said the Red Sox will make more call-ups once Pawtucket completes its postseason, which is set to begin Wednesday. Farrell said that although the team won’t hesitate to call up anyone who can help, he also thinks there is value in playing in a Triple-A playoff run.
“Given the stage in the career of a number of guys who are there, particularly the younger guys, I think those settings are invaluable,” Farrell said. “To feel a sense of urgency is always a good thing when it comes to making a pitch or a play in key spots.”
As for other potential roster changes, Farrell said he doesn’t think the team needs to make any moves before Saturday night’s waiver trade deadline, noting that the team has been playing well and that he’s comfortable with the current roster.
“We made a couple additions prior to the trading deadline, and we’ve continued to perform well as a team,” Farrell said. “I don’t expect that to be any different going forward.”
Other Red Sox notes:
-Daniel Bard has been assigned to Single-A Lowell, where he’ll get in a couple games before their season ends on Wednesday. Bard is coming off a disastrous Gulf Coast League outing in which he surrendered five walks, threw two wild pitches and failed to make it through one inning.
“Just keep him active and still provide opportunities and see what might unfold,” Farrell said. “He’s willing to do it and wanted to do it, and we don’t want to take that motivation away from him.”
-Mike Carp will be available off the bench Saturday. He was a late scratch on Thursday and was unavailable Friday night while battling a sore shoulder. Farrell said Carp has responded well to treatment and is feeling better, though.
-After Clay Buchholz wrapped up his rehab start in Pawtucket on Friday night, he made it up to Boston in time to catch the last couple innings of the Sox game. Farrell said that’s another sign of how eager Buchholz is to be with the team and be back on the mound, and added that Buchholz is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Buchholz will make one more rehab start with Pawtucket on Wednesday, and Farrell said the plan is for Buchholz to throw about 70 pitches in that start. Farrell said he hasn’t given too much thought to how the rotation will shake out once Buchholz returns – ”We’ll cross that bridge once we get there.”
For more on Buchholz’ latest rehab outing, click here.
-Farrell talked about the fact that Jake Peavy will be facing his former team Saturday night, and noted that if anything, the advantage usually goes to the pitcher in that situation.
“They know what Jake is about, and I know Jake is very well aware of the tendencies and the strengths of the lineup he’ll face tonight,” Farrell said. “But I always think it swings in favor of the pitcher because he’s the one who knows the pitch selection and the location he’s intending to go to. It’ll come down to executing.”
|Could Christian Vazquez become Red Sox’ catcher of the future?||08.07.13 at 7:07 am ET|
A familiar scene unfolded late last month at Fenway Park. It was a picturesque July afternoon, and after lineup introductions and the national anthem, the home team took to the field for the top of the first.
Settling in his spot behind the plate was a stocky catcher with a big, red “33” on his back.
But no, it wasn’t Jason Varitek. It was Christian Vazquez, a 22-year-old backstop for Double-A Portland who is heralded for his defense but whose bat remains a work in progress.
He was in town with the Sea Dogs, who played the Nationals’ Double-A affiliate, the Harrisburg Senators, in the annual “Futures at Fenway” game. For the 2008 ninth-round pick, it was a landmark event.
“It’s my first time playing here,” Vazquez said, noting he had visited for a physical when he signed in 2008 and again during the Red Sox’ rookie development program in January. “It’s fun, wearing the 33 [like] The Captain.”
The question now is whether that opportunity to start behind the plate at Fenway represented a future harbinger.
Vazquez finished the contest 1-for-4, his lone hit a grounder deep in the shortstop hole that he beat out. He didn’t throw out any runners, but he didn’t the chance to try, either. None of Harrisburg’s eight baserunners tested the arm of the man who has cut down half (41 of 82) of would-be stealers in 2013.
While that day wasn’t spectacular for Vazquez, it wasn’t terrible, either — much like his season on the whole. He is hitting .277 with a .366 OBP, .394 slugging mark and .760 OPS, a bit better than his career numbers of .260/.342/.394 and .736 in six minor league seasons.
According to Portland hitting coach Rich Gedman, Vazquez has made strides this year, part of which can be seen in his even strikeout-to-walk ratio. He has fanned 37 times and drawn 37 free passes, a far cry from his 79 strikeouts and 48 walks in 2012.
|Daniel Nava’s short night features game-changing baserunning blunder, blown call at home in loss to Rays||07.30.13 at 1:22 am ET|
Daniel Nava got mad — real mad — Monday night, and part of the anger was with himself.
One batter after he failed to score from second on Stephen Drew’s double to deep right field with one out in the eighth, Nava was called out at home by umpire Jerry Meals despite beating the throw from Rays left fielder Sam Fuld following Brandon Snyder’s line drive of medium depth to left. The play proved crucial as the Red Sox fell, 2-1, to the Rays, who moved back into first place by a half-game over the Sox.
The outcome got the attention of Red Sox owner John Henry, who shortly after the game tweeted, “A 2-game impact.”
Meals admitted his error to a pool reporter after the game.
“What I saw was: [Jose] Molina blocked the plate and Nava’s foot lifted,” Meals said. “But in the replays, you could clearly see Nava’s foot got under for a split second and then lifted, so I was wrong on my decision. From the angle I had, I did not see his foot get under Molina’s shin guard.”
Nava, John Farrell and the crowd of 37,242 at Fenway Park agreed. Nava popped up, furious with the missed call, and it didn’t take long for his irate manager to come flying out of the dugout to back him up.
“It was missed call. Terrible call,” said Farrell, who was ejected by a silent Meals while arguing. “Clearly, the angle of Jerry Meals behind the plate when the throw came in, he did not see the view. Daniel Nava clearly was safe. It’s unfortunate. We should still be playing right now.”
Added Nava: “There was no doubt. I knew I was safe.”
It was not a good day for Allen Webster, who lasted only an inning and a third after giving up seven runs on three hits and five walks. Webster threw 49 pitches in the outing, and only 18 went for strikes — a shocking 37 percent rate. Since returning to Triple-A, Webster has allowed 12 runs on 11 hits and six walks in only six innings.
Webster’s pronounced control problems have become undeniable. While he was touching 98 at times with his fastball on Sunday, he wasn’t able to find the strike zone with it. Since being promoted to the majors back on June 22, Webster owns a 10.95 ERA with 16 walks, 21 strikeouts and three hit batters in 24 2/3 innings between the Red Sox and the PawSox.
One evaluator described Webster’s inability to command his fastball as an alarming development, suggesting that the outlook for his big league future could be clouded significantly if he is unable to turn the corner in that regard. For the season, between Triple-A and the majors, he now has 4.4 walks per nine innings — a rate that would be the highest of his professional career (save for his 18-inning, short-season pro debut in 2008).
The development is of considerable significance. For now, it would be virtually impossible for the Red Sox to consider a call-up for Webster until he rights the proverbial ship. As such, the Sox’ rotation depth — already something that the team was considering addressing via the trade market — appears further depleted while the organization tries to figure out how to proceed with the wildly talented but struggling right-hander. (Though the team still has options thanks to Brandon Workman, Rubby De La Rosa, Drake Britton and Steven Wright, all of whom are on the 40-man roster.)
It’s worth noting that Webster experienced a period of considerable struggle last year with Double-A Chattanooga while he was still in the Dodgers’ system. His command woes weren’t as extreme — not even close — but he went 1-5 with a 7.27 ERA, 29 strikeouts, 14 walks and six hit batters in his first seven starts (34 2/3 innings) of last season. The Dodgers opted to move him from the rotation to the bullpen for a couple of weeks, letting him work in relief every third day for five appearances.
Webster had a 1.13 ERA, 10 punchouts, four walks and no HBPs in eight innings spanning four appearances, and his fastball velocity and aggressiveness ticked up. Those traits appeared to translate to the rest of his season, after he shifted back to the rotation at the end of May, as Webster closed out his Dodgers tenure with a 2.09 ERA, 78 punchouts, 39 walks, a still-disconcerting 11 hit batters but no homers allowed in his final 82 innings in Chattanooga leading up to his trade to the Sox.
“When they sent me there, it’s like go get a change of scenery for a little bit, try to get things going back in the right direction,” Webster recalled earlier this year of his move to the bullpen. “Nothing was working out for me. I got a little confidence from one good inning and another good inning, and it kind of just started me in the right direction.”
The Sox, according to one industry source, recognize that Webster likely needs “something different” than just remaining in the rotation and trying to work his way through struggles. What form that takes remains to be seen, but as severe as Webster’s struggles have been, the organization does feature one notable silver lining.
Insofar as Webster’s arsenal and delivery offer some basis for comparison to Clay Buchholz, it is noteworthy that Buchholz suggested that he sees a lot of himself (circa 2008) in the young pitcher, and noted that he’s trying to share some of his own experiences with struggle in order to help Webster move beyond his challenging stretch.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 14-13 LOSS AT DURHAM (RAYS)
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- Help Wanted: Staff Editor, Scouts
- SoxProspects.com Podcast #48: The Slow Season
- Fall/Winter League Roundup: Attention shifts to Caribbean, Jerez shining in Venezuela
- Luis Ortega traded to Brewers for reliever Burke Badenhop
- Red Sox re-sign infielder Brandon Snyder
- Cecchini, Ranaudo, Brentz added to 40-man roster
- Red Sox 40-man roster additions expected
- Fall/Winter League Roundup: Surprise wins title, struggles continue for Webster