|Red Sox minor league roundup: Making sense of Francellis Montas, Jose Iglesias debuts at third, Bryce Brentz being Bone Buhner?||05.22.13 at 10:24 am ET|
What to make of the hardest throwing pitcher in the Red Sox system, at a time when he’s beginning to string together some dominant starts?
Francellis Montas has long had a reputation that preceded him. Even before he pitched in the States, word started to circulate about the teenager who could reach triple-digits with his fastball. Still, in his first couple seasons in pro ball, he struggled to harness his power, as evidenced by the fact that he walked 30 (the same number that he struck out) in 34 1/3 innings in the Dominican Summer League in 2010 and 2011.
Last year, however, he took a considerable step forward while spending most of the year in the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League. He struck out 41 and walked just 12 in 40 2/3 innings.
This year, despite a 1-4 record and 5.08 ERA, he’s been even better than that while facing more age-appropriate competition in the Single-A South Atlantic League. The 20-year-old Montas continued what has been a string of eye-opening starts by tossing five innings in which he permitted just one run on one hit (a solo homer), walked one and struck out eight.
On the year, Montas now has 49 strikeouts and just 10 walks in 39 innings. His 11.3 strikeouts per nine rank 18th in all of minor league baseball. Of the 17 players who are ahead of him on the list, only one (19-year-old Tyler Glasnow) is younger. Of the 58 players with 10.0 strikeouts per nine innings (or more) this year, his rate of 4.9 strikeouts per walk ranks sixth. So, he’s in a somewhat elite class when it comes to having power stuff (a fastball that, as a starter, sits in the mid- to high-90s, along with a slider that has made considerable progress to become a wipeout pitch) while having the willingness to attack the strike zone with it.
And Tuesday continued what has been an increasingly impressive stretch for the right-hander. In his last five starts, he’s punched out 31 and walked just four in 23 innings (12.1 strikeouts and 1.6 walks per nine) with a 3.13 ERA. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Reassessing Allen Webster’s big league readiness; Blake Swihart injured; Mookie Betts dazzles||05.20.13 at 12:18 pm ET|
This isn’t the same Allen Webster who opened eyes in spring training.
The right-hander currently in Triple-A Pawtucket bears some important similarities to the pitcher who showed off-the-charts stuff down in the Grapefruit League. His stuff verges on unhittable at times, as when he allowed one hit (a single) and permitted just two balls out of the infield in five innings on Sunday while punching out seven and getting swings and misses on 15 of his 92 offerings. Certainly, his 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings and .158 opponents’ batting average along with a 2.40 ERA are eye-openers. The pitch mix is electric.
But whereas his improved command in spring training — highlighted by a 14-to-1 strikeout-to-walk rate — was one of the biggest show stoppers in camp, Webster’s command has regressed recently in Pawtucket.
Sunday underscored the trend. Webster was filthy out of the gate, retiring the first 11 batters he faced in order. However, he then allowed five of the next six batters he faced to reach, walking four of them in the process and missing the strike zone badly with a number of pitches. As a result, on a day when he had incredible stuff, Webster managed to work just five innings while throwing 92 pitches (48 for strikes — just 52 percent).
He’s now walked nine batters in his last 10 innings. In 30 innings in Triple-A this year, he’s walked 15 batters, a rate of 4.5 per nine innings. As much as the 23-year-old’s extraordinary stuff and ability to get both swings and misses and tons of grounders creates general enthusiasm about his big league future, the fact that he has dominant major league stuff does not necessarily mean he’s major league ready. After all, with his current command and pitch efficiency issues, Webster confronts some of the same issues that have been areas of concern for left-hander Felix Doubront. In eight starts this year between Triple-A and the majors, he’s worked more than five innings just twice.
The temptation when seeing a remarkable talent such as Webster is to focus on his ceiling. But it will take time before he is capable of scraping it.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 11-3 WIN VS. INDIANAPOLIS (PIRATES) Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Henry Owens’ eye-opening progress; Michael Almanzar’s year as a prospect; Daniel Bard remains resolute; Mookie Betts remains astonishing||05.17.13 at 3:28 pm ET|
Though Henry Owens gave up a season-high eight hits (seven singles, one double), he showed an impressive ability to weave through and around a host of baserunners to limit his opposition to one run in five innings of work. He struck out four and walked none while throwing strikes with an impressive 59 of 84 pitches (70 percent), and he got a ton of groundballs — resulting in eight groundball outs.
Owens has been outstanding in all but one of his eight starts this year, and he’s shown development in two areas that represented focal areas entering the year. First, he’s getting groundballs at a much higher rate this year than he did last year in Single-A Greenville. A year ago, he was a somewhat extreme flyball pitcher, recording just 0.59 groundouts per flyout. This year, he’s doubled the rate of groundouts per flyout, with 1.19 outs on the ground per air out. Secondly, he continues to show a consistent ability to attack the strike zone. He has permitted two or fewer walks in seven of his eight starts, and gave up only three in the other outing. Hence, after walking 4.2 per nine last year, he’s trimmed that rate to 2.9 per nine this season — a reduction of roughly 30 percent. Meanwhile, he’s continuing to get swings and misses in volume thanks to a big-league-quality three-pitch mix (four- and two-seam fastball, changeup, curve), averaging 10.9 punchouts per nine.
In short: There’s a reason why the 20-year-old will receive considerable hype as one of the better pitching prospects in the game if he sustains what he’s done to date this year.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 6-4 LOSS VS. GWINNETT (BRAVES)
– Right-hander Rubby De La Rosa gave up just one unearned run on one hit in four innings of work. He had command difficulties (throwing just 36 of 71 pitches for strikes and walking a season-high four), but nonetheless punched in with his fifth straight outing (spanning 18 innings) without allowing an earned run. In that time, he has 22 strikeouts and eight walks. Opponents are hitting .145 against him. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Allen Webster’s command issues, Jose Iglesias readjusts, Garin Cecchini avoids another scare, Sean Coyle slumps, a daily Mookie-ism||05.15.13 at 11:42 am ET|
A brief look at Tuesday’s action in the Red Sox farm system . . .
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-3 WIN VS. GWINNETT (BRAVES)
– Shortstop Jose Iglesias went 1-for-2 with a walk and a sacrifice bunt in four plate appearances. In seven games since returning to the lineup following a four-game spell in which manager Gary DiSarcina had him sit, Iglesias, 23, is hitting .192/.300/.192. However, DiSarcina told Tim Britton of the Providence Journal that more important than the shortstop’s numbers has been his approach to the game since returning to the field.
“One of the great traits he has is his love for the game. Sitting down for a couple days, he realized how much he loves the game, how much he misses playing with that joy,” DiSarcina said. “When he plays free and plays creative, he’s a lot of fun to watch, and I’m sure he has a lot of fun doing it because he has skills other people don’t have.
“The five or six games he’s been back, that’s kind of what we wanted from him. Enjoy yourself. You have an opportunity to go out there and be a leader out there. He’s been doing it.”
– Right-hander Allen Webster, in his first start back in Pawtucket since getting shelled for eight runs in 1 2/3 innings in a big league start, worked around issues with his fastball command (which led to both a solo homer and four walks) to allow just one run on three hits in five innings. He struck out five, recorded seven groundball outs and produced 11 swings-and-misses.
While Webster, 23, had enjoyed an eye-opening spring in which he demonstrated an ability to attack the strike zone that ran counter to his minor league career norms, he’s shown some regression during the season. He’s now issued 10 walks in 25 innings, a rate of 3.6 per nine frames, and on Tuesday, he threw strikes on just 53 percent (49 of 92) of his pitches. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Xander Bogaerts, Jose Iglesias take their walks, Mookie Betts is unstoppable, Brian Johnson gets a ‘W’||05.11.13 at 12:50 pm ET|
A brief look at Friday’s action in the Red Sox minor league system:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-1 WIN AT CHARLOTTE (WHITE SOX)
– Though Jose Iglesias went 0-for-2, he drew a pair of walks — the first time all year that he’s drawn multiple free passes in a game. He had gone 17 straight games without drawing a walk before Friday. His on-base percentage now sits at .287.
– Right-hander Graham Godfrey, acquired from the A’s this offseason in a trade from offseason nomad Sandy Rosario, delivered his most impressive outing to date for the PawSox. He gave up just two hits in six shutout innings while walking two and striking out five. The 28-year-old, who has been working mostly in piggyback starting duty, is now 2-2 with a 3.60 ERA.
– Catcher Ryan Lavarnway went 2-for-4 with a double. The 25-year-old is sixth in the International League with a .417 OBP.
– Brock Holt, who had been on call in Boston in case Will Middlebrooks had to go on the DL (something that likely would have resulted in Pedro Ciriaco starting at third, with Holt serving as the utility backup man), rejoined the PawSox in Charlotte and went 0-for-4 while playing third base.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 6-4 WIN, 6-0 LOSS AT NEW BRITAIN (TWINS)
– Xander Bogaerts went 0-for-3 in the first game, bringing his nine-game hitting streak to an end, then collected one of Portland’s two hits in the second game, going 1-for-2 with a single and HBP. The 20-year-old has now reached base in 20 consecutive games dating to April 11. In that time, he’s hitting .313/.400/.530, with his .930 OPS ranking sixth in the Eastern League during that time — an impressive feat over a full month given that he is the youngest position player in the league.
Bogaerts has also left behind questions that may have loomed entering the year about whether he would be too aggressive against advanced pitching. During his current stretch of games, he’s walked 11 times in 96 plate appearances — 10 more than he walked in 97 plate appearances in Portland at the end of last year. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Making sense of Mookie Betts; Jose Iglesias returns; Franklin Morales sharp; Drake Britton becoming efficient||05.09.13 at 11:58 am ET|
The performance of second baseman Mookie Betts with Single-A Greenville this season looks unlike anything else seen in the minors in 2013.
The 2011 high school fifth-rounder, went 2-for-5 with a homer (his third of the year) and double, three walks, a steal and no strikeouts in the double header, in the process continuing his utterly fascinating debut in full-season ball. The 20-year-old is hitting just .184 but with a .390 OBP and .333 slugging mark, along with three homers and six steals, on the season. The disparity between average and OBP is something that has almost never been seen in the annals of major league history.
But Betts is performing as more than just a statistical anomaly. Since April 25, Betts is hitting .233 but with an astonishing .540 OBP (seventh-best in all of the minors in that span — and of the six played ahead of his, none is hitting less than .381) and .433 slugging mark and a minor-league best 20 walks (no one else has more than 14) with just five strikeouts in 50 plate appearances.
Betts is not a physically imposing player. However, though listed at 5-foot-9 and 156 pounds, he has some juice in his bat at times, as became evident when he crushed his homer on Wednesday.
“He’s worth watching,” said one NL talent evaluator. “He’s wiry strong, has got a little bat speed and strength, runs a little bit.”
At a relatively young age (20), Betts demonstrates an advanced approach, excellent knowledge of the strike zone and good bat control (hence the low strikeout rates). The Sox think he’s at his best when staying up the middle and hitting to the opposite field, though the team would also like to see him take some chances with more aggressive swings early in the count when he has good pitches to hit. Even so, Betts has shown consistently good at-bats, making him the most intriguing position prospect on the Greenville team thus far this year.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-1 WIN AT GWINNETT (BRAVES)
– Jose Iglesias returned to the PawSox lineup after being pulled in the middle of Saturday’s game for a manager’s decision and then sitting the next three contests. He went 1-for-5, and is now hitting .233/.273/.384 in Triple-A.
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Garin Cecchini continues ‘clinic’; Sox’ best 3B depth option; why Anthony Ranaudo’s struggles highlight success; the riddle of Mookie Betts||05.08.13 at 12:09 pm ET|
Garin Cecchini spent all of last year in Single-A Greenville, playing in a league and park where home runs tend to fly. Yet in 526 plate appearances, Cecchini cleared the fences just four times.
The 22-year-old now is in High-A Salem, playing in a league and home park that is anathema to power hitters. (Xander Bogaerts, for one, talked about the feeling of relief when he got to Double-A Portland last year and discovered that balls crushed to right-center actually could clear the fence again.) Cecchini has 120 plate appearances with Salem, and on Tuesday night he launched his fourth homer of the young season, going 2-for-4 with a double (his 10th two-bagger and 18th extra-base hit in 27 games this year).
“That was crushed,” noted Salem broadcaster Evan Lepler. (To hear his call, click here.)
Cecchini looks physically like a big leaguer. At a strong 6-feet-2, 215 pounds, he looks like someone capable of driving the ball. But he’s always been a believer in honing his offensive approach, using all fields, swinging at strikes and working deep into counts with the knowledge that, as he refines his approach, he’d likely see power emerge in his game.
To this point in 2013, amidst a dazzling start, that prognostication is proving spot on. He’s hitting .379/.467/.670 with 17 walks and 16 strikeouts. As much as the emergence of his power has been a headline development in his career, however, it’s the consistent quality of his plate appearances that has been his most impressive attribute both this year and in his career.
“It’s like if you go to a hitting camp and the coach is giving you a speech about hitting, what you should be doing. I feel like that’s Cecchini everyday. He’s out there demonstrating what you should be doing at the plate. It’s ridiculous. It’s like a clinic,” said teammate Sean Coyle. “It’s something I really like watching. I’d love to take some parts from his game. It’s great to watch and learn from.”
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 7-3 WIN AT GWINNETT (BRAVES)
At a time when Will Middlebrooks and David Ross may need rest following their injurious collision, the Red Sox face vastly different depth equations when it comes to replacing the two players.
In the case of Ross, the Sox are well-stocked in terms of upper-levels catchers, with three players (Ryan Lavarnway and Dan Butler in Triple-A, Christian Vazquez in Double-A) on the 40-man roster. Lavarnway would be the obvious choice to fill in for Ross given both his experience with the Sox pitching staff as well as his ability to offer an impact right-handed bat. He’s hitting .328/.402/.500 in Pawtucket.
Third base, on the other hand, could represent an organizational problem — part of the reason why, as of last week, the Red Sox hadn’t even discussed the question of whether Middlebrooks’ struggles might warrant some consideration to a roster change. There are no options in the minor leagues who a) have experience playing third base and b) are on the Red Sox’ 40-man roster.
Drew Sutton, who had been Pawtucket’s primary third baseman this season, is currently on the seven-day DL due to a strained muscle in his side. Utilityman Justin Henry has hit for average (.309) and gotten on base (.391 OBP), but without the power (four extra-base hits in 110 plate appearances) that a team would like to see at a corner spot. Another utility option, Brock Holt, is on the 40-man, but he’s played just one minor league game in his career at third base, and he’s off to a woeful offensive start (.181/.278/.181).
The most intriguing option at the position might be Brandon Snyder, who has been the PawSox’ best hitter this year. The 26-year-old, who signed a minor league deal with the Sox after requesting his release from the Rangers at the end of spring training, was 2-for-4 while driving in a pair of runs on Tuesday, and now is hitting .330/.423/.628 with six homers and 10 doubles. While he’s played mostly first in Pawtucket, Snyder suggests that third base is his natural home on a baseball field. Read the rest of this entry »
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