PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Now sporting a 4.29 ERA with 17 walks in 21 innings, it has not been the start Henry Owens hoped to get off to through his first four outings in Pawtucket this season. In his first four starts last year in Portland, Owens owned a 2.25 ERA, including a six-inning, no-hit performance, and continued that dominance throughout the season. Success has followed him throughout his minor league career, and perhaps for the first time in his career, he faces adversity on the baseball field. All while he’s working to add a new pitch to his arsenal.
But the tall left-hander is determined to right the ship and there were hints in his performance Thursday that he is beginning to turn things around.
“I feel like I'm making strides just throwing consistently in the zone, trying to pound the strike zone as much as possible,” Owens said. “It's not to where I want to be still, but I have four days in between my next start to try to get closer.”
4/3 Cup of Coffee:Rusney Castillo (pictured) made his first appearance since his shoulder injury kept him out for 18 days. Henry Owens added a new pitch in a loss against Syracuse. The PawSox, Sea Dogs, and Red Sox did not do much offensively, but the Drive picked up the slack and broke out offensively, led by Cisco Tellez, Rafael Devers, Jordan Procyshen, Javier Guerra, and Derek Miller.
The PawSox got off to a rocky start in the first inning, giving up three runs on two hits, a walk, and an error. Henry Owens started and went five innings, surrendering four hits, three earned runs, three walks, and registered six strikeouts. SoxProspects.com's own Matt Huegel had Owens around 91 MPH on his fastball. He also added a slider to his repertoire, which was around 77 MPH.
Rusney Castillo made his return to the lineup for the first time since April 11, and went 0 for 4 as the designated hitter, driving a ball to center in his last at bat. It was a quiet night offensively for Pawtucket, scattering seven hits, all of which were singles. Jackie Bradley Jr. had a pair of hits to raise his average to .325. Miguel Celestino went three innings in relief and gave up just two hits and one run. Heath Hembree finished the game on the mound for the PawSox, recording a perfect inning.
After a short outing by Clay Buchholz taxed the bullpen on Tuesday, the Red Sox are bringing in reinforcements for tonight’s game. John Farrell announced on Dale and Holley that Dalier Hinojosa and Tommy Layne have been called up to Boston, replacing Anthony Varvaro, who was designated for assignment, and Jackie Bradley Jr., who was optioned to Pawtucket.
Hinojosa, who signed out of Cuba in October of 2013, is getting called up to the big leagues for the first time, and the 29-year-old right-hander will look to replicate the success he has had over the last year in Pawtucket. Appearing in 45 games out of the Pawtucket bullpen since 2014, Hinojosa has struck out more than a batter per inning, while pitching to a 3.78 ERA. His fastball and slider both flash as plus offerings, but his below average command does not allow them to play up in games.
4/29 Cup of Coffee: Blake Swihart continued to swing a hot bat, contributing to another win for the PawSox, while Jantzen Witte (pictured)was an on-base machine in Portland's two completed games. Jamie Callahan had a promising performance after a shaky start to the season, and Javier Guerra continued to drive the ball for Greenville.
Appearing in his first game since being added to the PawSox from extended spring training, Jess Todd threw four scoreless innings to lead Pawtucket to it's 13th victory of the season. Robby Scott followed Todd by allowing only an unearned run over three innings, and Dana Eveland picked up the save with two innings of shutout ball.
The Red Sox will recall outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. from Triple-A Pawtucket before Tuesday's game, multiple sources have reported. Right-handed pitcher Steven Wright will be optioned to the PawSox in the corresponding roster move.
In addition to his usual superior defense, Bradley was hitting well to start the season with Syracuse, with a .315/.383/.411. Those results along with a retooled stance are signs that 25-year-old has rebounded from a difficult 2014 campaign, when he hit .198/.265/.266 at the Major League level and .212/.246/.273 with the PawSox. The move will strengthen the Boston outfield, as the team's right fielders have hit an anemic .125/.220/.139 thus far.
This past week saw several strong performances from pitchers at various levels. Luckily SoxProspects.com scout Chaz Fiorino had a chance to see several of them and featured Matt Barnes, Brian Johnson, and Keith Couch in the latest edition of The Write Up.
The Pawtucket Red Sox announced that Brian Johnson had won International League Pitcher of the Week honors. Johnson has been on fire to start the season, posting a 0.86 ERA and 1.00 WHIP over his first four starts for Pawtucket. Johnson is not on the 40-man roster and thus unlikely to be the first in line should there be an opening in the major league rotation, but after a strong 2014 and impressive start to 2015, it seems his time will come.
Johnson has four pitches that trade out as average or better, but no true elite pitch. Part of his success is his ability to work quickly with command and control. However, in college Johnson was a two-way player, and it is only this year he truly feels more like a pitcher, he told the Providence Journal.
After taking a comeback line drive to the head at Fenway in 2012, Johnson has rebounded nicely to become one of the top pitching prospects in the organization. A handful of broken bones in his face ended his debut season, and likely affected his 2013, but after a successful 2014, and blazing start to 2015, Johnson chatted (at around the 20:35 mark) to Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs about a number of things, including rebounding from that injury.
Other starters in Pawtucket have also had early season success, most notable among them is left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (pictured, above). Alex Speier hits several topics in his weekend minor league notebook for the Boston Globe, including what Rodriguez' catcher thinks of him, and fellow left-hander Henry Owens early season control problems.
In his 25th-career Triple-A start, and second start of 2015, right-hander Matt Barnes threw a total of 84 pitches as he continued to get stretched back out as a starter. Barnes displayed strong control in the outing with 54 of 84 total pitches for strikes, and 16 of 22 first-pitch strikes. Barnes also generated seven total swing-and-misses in this outing. He featured a three-pitch mix: a fastball, curveball, and changeup.
The fastball was 91-95 mph, sitting mostly 92-94. Barnes located well for the most part, but made one mistake-pitch, a 2-2 fastball he left over the middle of the plate that was belted for a two-run home run. Outside of that pitch, he located pretty well, particularly arm-side, picking up one of his three strikeouts on a 1-2 fastball down and in at the knees that caught the right-handed hitter looking. Barnes fastball was mostly straight with some slight arm-side run when down in the zone. The pitch tends to get on hitters quick and is a plus-grade offering.
4/28 Cup of Coffee: It was an already abbreviated schedule on Monday with Salem and Greenville having scheduled days off, and rain in Porland shortened it even further. The Sea Dogs were tied up at two when their game was suspended in the bottom of the second inning. Pawtucket rolled to victory in the only completed game of the night.
The PawSox scored two runs in the first inning to give Brian Johnson all the run support he needed. Johnson was slightly less dominant than in his three previous starts of the year, struggling some with his control with five walks and a wild pitch in his five innings of work. However, he was still tough on the Chiefs lineup, striking out six and allowing one run on only two hits. The third-inning score (by old friend Dan Butler) was only the second earned run allowed this season by Johnson. His ERA through 21 innings is a microscopic 0.86.
4/27 Cup of Coffee:Humberto Quintero and Matt Spring launched home runs for Pawtucket, and Derek Miller and Ben Moore gave the Drive a thrilling win in 14 innings. Manuel Margot continued is scorching start to 2015 with a big offensive day in Salem's doubleheader. The pitching staff for Greenville and Salem stepped up as well, highlighted by Ty Buttrey's five-innings of no-hit ball, while Kevin McAvoy (pictured, left)notched his first win.
It was a tough night for Pawtucket, as Keith Couch got roughed up for three runs in the first inning. The PawSox answered back in the top of the third when catcher Humberto Quintero hit a two-run shot, his third on the campaign. Couch ran into more trouble in the sixth, but this time the Pawtucket defense let him down with two errors. Miguel Celestino relieved Couch in the sixth and gave up four hits and two unearned runs. First baseman Matt Spring added a solo home run in the seventh, but it was not enough to overcome the early hole.
4/26 Cup of Coffee: Strong outings from starters Eduardo Rodriguez(pictured, right) and Michael Kopech headlined a solid day from top to bottom for the Red Sox' minor league affiliates. April once again lived up to its reputation for Salem, which postponed its game against Carolina – the team's third postponement in the last two weeks.
Eduardo Rodriguez turned in a remarkable performance for the PawSox, tossing a complete game and striking out seven while allowing only one run on three hits. The 6-foot-2 right hander now owns a 2-0 record this season with a 1.93 ERA. Rodriguez' complete game comes on the heels of another seven inning effort from fellow Pawtucket starter Brian Johnson, who threw a complete game of his own on Wednesday.
4/25 Cup of Coffee: Solid work at the plate helped Pawtucket and Portland find the winners circle on Friday. Salem struggled to get clutch hits in a loss to Carolina, and Greenville split a doubleheader.
Henry Owens picked up his first victory of 2015, hurling five innings, allowing two runs on five hits and four walks, striking out five. Heath Hembree and Tommy Layne each added an inning of scoreless relief out of the bullpen.
The PawSox got off to a quick start, plating three in the first inning on Quintin Berry's RBI double and a sacrifice fly from Luke Montz. An RBI ground out off the bat of Jackie Bradley Jr., in addition to a Blake Swihart RBI single in the second, gave Pawtucket a comfortable advantage.
Due to Thursday's postponement, the two teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday beginning at 4:05 PM.
4/24 Cup of Coffee: Greenville walked off to their fifth straight win in a row on a Derek Miller RBI single. Salem tallied a dozen hits in its victoryand Joe Gunkel (pictured, left) picked up the win in a perfect long relief appearance on Thursday.
The start of the PawSox's four-gameseries against the Yankees AAA affiliate was postponed due to "unplayable field conditions" from a wintry mix that hit the Scranton area on Thursday. Pawtucket will play a doubleheader on Saturday now. Henry Owens will get the start for the PawSox on Friday night.
4/23 Cup of Coffee:Jacob Dahlstrand (pictured) continued his impressive start to the season, going seven strong innings, allowing just one unearned run in Salem's win Wednesday afternoon. Michael Chavis collected two more hits in Greenville's win, while Jackie Bradley Jr. and Bryce Brentz stayed hot for Pawtucket.
Despite 10 strikeouts for knuckleballer Stephen Wright, the PawSox fell to the Buffalo Bisons yesterday afternoon. Pawtucket grabbed a run in the bottom of the first when center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. singled and scored on a double by designated hitter Bryce Brentz. Wright cruised through two innings, but ran into trouble in the third, yielding three runs to Buffalo. He gave up another three runs in the fifth, and ended his day giving up nine hits, six runs (five earned), and three walks in six innings. The Pawtucket offense struggled, mustering just one hit after the fifth inning. Bradley Jr. went 2 for 4 with a double and two runs and Brentz collected two doubles on the day. Bradley Jr. added an outfield assist.
4/22 Cup of Coffee: Brian Johnson (pictured)and Ty Buttrey have been two of the best pitchers in the system so far this year, and that was no different last night, as each pitcher earned the victory with seven strong innings of work. Matt Spring delivered a walk-off single for the PawSox, while Manuel Margot kept rolling in Salem.
In a game that took less than 90 minutes, Brian Johnson breezed through the Buffalo lineup on his way to a complete game shutout. Over seven innings Johnson allowed only two hits, while walking one and striking out five as he lowered his ERA to 0.56. The PawSox did not collect their first hit until the bottom of the seventh, when Travis Shaw led off with a double. Quintin Berry came on as a pinch runner, and scored on a Matt Spring single as the PawSox walked off with the win.
4/21 Cup of Coffee: The weather was uncooperative on Monday night, as both Pawtucket and Portland saw their games postponed by rain. Fortunately there was still plenty of action with a pair of extra-inning contests. Greenville capped its come-from-behind victory with a Michael Chavis (pictured, left) 10th-inning blast, while Salem squandered an early lead, falling in 11.
The first game of the series at McCoy Stadium between the International League's two hottest team was postponed because of heavy rain. The two clubs will play a make up game on Tuesday as part of a doubleheader.
SoxProspects.com's Matt Huegel chatted with top prospect Blake Swihart (pictured, left) and Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles on learning to catch Steven Wright's knuckleball. While the results were mixed at times, he held his own in Thursday's home opener, Huegel wrote.
SoxProspects.com Senior Staff Writer James Dunne took an in-depth look at the pitchers at lower levels in the Sox system. He wrote that 2014 third-round draft pick Jake Cosart is the top prospect to watch in those levels as he is projected to start the year in Lowell. He also noted that the stock of GCL Red Sox righty Gerson Bautista is rising coming off a 50-game suspension for testing positive for Stanozolol.
Dunne also broke down the mid-minors pitchers to keep an eye on, highlighting Michael Kopech and Trey Ball. He wrote that Kopech comes with a lot of risk, but still has a very high ceiling. Ball, meanwhile, will require patience in developing.
4/20 Cup of Coffee: A couple of rainouts in the South left only two teams playing on Sunday. The PawSox struggled with the bats but took advantage of errors to win their fourth straight game, while the Sea Dogs were unable to generate any offense behind a shaky performance from their starter.
A late rally boosted the PawSox over Rochester, completing the four-game sweep of the Red Wings. The PawSox took advantage of some costly errors made by Rochester, including three errors and a couple of wild pitches. But no one player stood out at the plate; no PawSox had more than one hit, and all of their six hits were singles. They stranded eight men on base and went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
Cup of Coffee (4/19): Explosive offensive showings from the PawSox and Sea Dogs made up for a handful of forgettable performances from the lower-level affiliates. Top prospect Blake Swihart (pictured) continued to swing a hot bat for Pawtucket, which moved into first place in the International League North standings after its sweep of Rochester.
Blake Swihart had a day to remember at the plate, finishing 4 for 5 with two doubles, two RBI and one run scored to lead the PawSox' offensive barrage. Pawtucket combined for 17 hits on the afternoon and finished off the series sweep. Swihart’s four hits tied a career high, and improved his batting average to .406 on the year. Outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and second baseman Sean Coyle each finished with two hits, while left fielder Bryce Brentz added an RBI double and went 1 for 4 in the blowout. Coyle also scored three of the PawSox' 13 runs.
4/18 Cup of Coffee:Bryce Brentz (pictured, left) continued to wield a hot bat as he once again led Pawtucket to a come-from-behind victory over Rochester. Portland was blanked by Trenton and superb pitching helped to carry Salem over Carolina.
Pawtucket Red Sox 6, Rochester Red Wings (MIN) 4
An offensive charge in the later innings helped the PawSox secure their second straight over the Red Wings. Henry Owens tossed just 4 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on three hits and six walks, striking out four. The left-hander was cruising until the fifth inning, when he walked three straight hitters before giving up a grand slam. Zeke Spruill added 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. Dalier Hinojosa picked up the victory for his two innings of scoreless work out of the bullpen. Tommy Layne, in his first appearance since being optioned from Boston, pitched the ninth inning to pick up the save.
PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Blake Swihart has risen to the highest level in the minor leagues, and conquered all the numerous challenges that a developing catcher must face along the way. But now in Triple-A, Swihart faces a new challenge that has flummoxed even the best defensive catchers in the majors: catching a knuckleball.
For the first time in regular season action, Swihart caught Steven Wright's knuckler in Pawtucket's home opener Thursday night. While the results were mixed at times, he held his own and did not make it a distraction in the game.
"I think it was dancing pretty good early-on and it gave him fits, but he was able to relax," said PawSox manager Kevin Boles.
Position at a Glance: Every year at this time, the Lowell and GCL pitching staffs look thin prior to being stocked with June’s crew of draft picks. That holds true for the 2015 edition, but there is still a great deal of intriguing talent. The organization’s strong international presence, particularly its scouting focus in Venezuela, has supplied a great deal of interesting arms with some upside.
Who coming stateside from the Latin program bears watching?
The two most intriguing arms are Dominican right-hander Gerson Bautista and Venezuelan lefty Enmanuel De Jesus. Both are tall with the lanky, projectable frames the Red Sox favor. Bautista was dominant in the DSL last year after being suspended for nearly all of the 2013 season. De Jesus showed advanced command considering his understandable lack of polish against older hitters at Fall Instructs. Both are likely to be assigned to the Gulf Coast League.
4/17 Cup of Coffee: Pawtucket got back in the win column with a clutch, walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth from Bryce Brentz (pictured, left) on Opening Night at McCoy Stadium. Salem, meanwhile, pounded out 13 runs on 16 hits in a runaway victory paced by Manuel Margot, and Oscar Tejeda. Portland and Greenville were each on the losing end of walk-offs after blowing late leads in their games.
Pawtucket Red Sox 8, Rochester Red Wings (MIN) 7
The PawSox scored five unanswered runs in the final four innings, capped off by a Bryce Brentz walk-off solo home run with one out in the bottom of the ninth that he crushed over everything in left. The win was much needed, coming a day after failing to score a run against Buffalo in a doubleheader. Brentz went 3 for 4 with three runs scored on the game out of the cleanup spot. Blake Swihart had a big night at the plate, including the game-tying, two-run double in the bottom of the seventh. He went 3 for 4 with three RBI and a run scored. Deven Marrero and Sean Coyle started the comeback with back-to-back home runs in the sixth.
4/16 Cup of Coffee: After consecutive 9-6 victories over the Buffalo Bisons, the PawSox dropped consecutive 2-0 games, both seven-inning affairs, in a doubleheader Wednesday. Jackie Bradley Jr. (pictured) and Brian Johnson highlighted action in Buffalo. The Sea Dogs and Drive made a bit more noise with the bats and both came away with victories. The Salem Red Sox were rained out for the second time in four days.
In game one of the doubleheader, the PawSox managed just two hits and two walks on the offensive side. A sloppy bottom of the second led to two runs for the Bisons, which proved to be enough for the win. Garin Cecchini and Sean Coyle committed miscues in the inning, and the Rock Cats took advantage by scoring two runs.
Brian Johnson started for Pawtucket and took the loss, but pitched well. He surrendered four hits and two walks in four innings, allowing two runs (one earned) and punching out seven. He now has an ERA of 1.00 in two starts this year. Dalier Hinojosa rebounded from a rough outing in Lehigh Valley by throwing two perfect innings in relief, inducing five groundouts and striking out one. Blake Swihart and Garin Cecchini both went 1 for 3 at the plate.
Position at a glance: A change in focus away from polished college arms and toward high school athletes gives the Red Sox a far different look at Salem and Greenville than they have had in recent years. The approach may yield less on-field success in terms of wins and losses, but has a better chance to generate the frontline starter it has been searching for.
Will Trey Ball begin to live up to being the seventh overall pick?
As Jon Meoli wrote last week, Greenville pitching coach Paul Abbott believes so. After a very difficult first half in 2014, Ball (pictured, right) really began to straighten things out as the summer wore on. An improved changeup becae a legitimate second pitch to complement his fastball, and mechanical adjustments in how he threw his curveball showed promise as well. The results of those tweaks were visible in Ball’s stat line: After posting a 7.27 ERA through the end of June, he had just a 2.70 mark in his last 11 starts, along with improved strikeout and groundball rates.
4/15 Cup of Coffee: The strange start to the year for the PawSox continued last night, as they won a game that started on Monday, but could not play their regularly scheduled game after the lights went out. Manuel Margot, Wendell Rijo, and Forrestt Allday (pictured)each had solid performances for Salem, while Ty Buttrey and Nick Longhi continued their strong starts to the 2015 season.
The PawSox prevailed in the continuation of the suspended game from Monday, hanging on for the three-run win. Pawtucket was up 8-3 in the top of the fourth when the day started, having already erupted for an eight-run third inning the night before. One interesting move to note was that Jeff Bianchi replaced Deven Marrero at shortstop when the game resumed on Tuesday, presumably due to the injury to Xander Bogaerts and the possibility of Marrero being needed in Boston. With the news on Bogaerts sounding positive, it is unlikely a move will be made.
With the season underway, Chris, Ian, Matt, along with podcast rookie Chaz Fiorino had plenty to chat about in this extra-large episode! First, the guys examined the affiliate rosters, picking superlatives and discussing surprises. Then, taking advantage of having both Ian and Chaz on, they talked about scouting: what they do when they're at a game, what they look for in players, and decoding scout-speak. Finally, the guys emptied the listener mailbag.
Click through for download links and in-site streaming player!
4/14 Cup of Coffee: A pair of Top-10 prospects were on tap to make their 2015 debuts on Tuesday, but neither went quite according to plan. Michael Kopech was cruising for Greenville until Lexington exploded for a big fourth inning, handing the Drive the defeat, while Matt Barnes appeared to be settling in when Pawtucket's contest was suspended by rain. Little went right for Portland in its loss, and Salem was postponed.
The weather did more than the Buffalo pitching staff could to slow down the PawSox offensive attack. The team piled on eight runs in the third inning, highlighted by a two-run double from Travis Shaw and two hits in the frame from Sean Coyle. Matt Barnes got off to a shaky start in his first 2015 outing, walking two batters in the first inning as the Bisons scored three. He was settling in when the rain came, retiring six of the last seven batters he faced. Jackie Bradley assisted Barnes by turning a line drive into an 8-3 double play. The game will be completed on Tuesday before the teams' regularly-scheduled meeting.
At the start of last week, rosters for the full season affiliates began to be released in advance of the start of their respective seasons, and we had them all covered. Check out the rosters and quick analysis for each team: Pawtucket, Portland, Salem, and Greenville. You can also check out the Team Rosters' page throughout the season, which will be updated to reflect the latest moves, injuries, and promotions.
4/13 Cup of Coffee: The PawSox, for the second night in a row, needed more than nine innings (many more, in fact) to decide the game, but the decision didn't go Pawtucket's way on Sunday. After a 13-inning game the night before, it was up to a couple of position players to fill out the relief corps for Pawtucket. It was a rough day all around for the Red Sox minor league affiliates, as the lineups at pretty much every level were unable to generate much offense.
Eduardo Rodriguez (pictured) made his first start of the season and first for Pawtucket after making a strong impression in the second half of 2014 when he came over to the Red Sox organization. The lefty had a strong outing, permitting just a run on five hits in 5 2/3 innings, striking out four. Rodriguez got out to a shaky start, allowing two doubles in the first inning, but settled in after escaping a bases-loaded jam with minimal damage.
Rodriguez left with the lead, but Dalier Hinojosa had an interesting 1 1/3 innings of work. Hinojosa gave up three runs on four hits and a pair of walks, but all four of the outs he recorded came by way of the strikeout. Tied in the top of the ninth, the PawSox were able to knot the score at four with a solo home run off the bat of DH Luke Montz, his only hit of the day.
4/12 Cup of Coffee: Just one night after the big club had an extra innings odyssey of its own, the PawSox defeated Lehigh Valley in 13 innings to improve to 3-0. Portland opened its 2015 season after its Thursday and Friday games were postponed due to wet conditions at Hadlock Field. Greenville earned a close win after coming down to the wire, and a handful of lesser known prospects from the lower class affiliates posted solid performances.
The PawSox blew a 4-1 lead entering the bottom of the ninth and defeated Lehigh Valley 5-4 in 13 innings. Henry Owens picked up right where he left off last season, tossing 6 1/3 innings, allowing just one hit and one earned run while striking out four in his first start of 2015. Heath Hembree, who relieved Robby Scott in the bottom of the ninth after Scott put runners on second and third, was credited with the blown save. Zeke Spruill replaced Hembree in the bottom of the 11th and got the win after holding the IronPigs scoreless for the final three frames.
4/11 Cup of Coffee: After a trio of wins on opening day, the lone affiliate who remained undefeated after Friday's action was Pawtucket, who used a 16-hit attack to move to 2-0. Pitching struggled across the board Friday, as Salem and Greenville both gave up double digit hits in losses.
Keith Couch picked up the victory for the PawSox as he allowed three runs on six hits and a walk in six innings of work. Zeke Spruill collected the final two outs of the contest in his Pawtucket debut to pick up just his third career save. Every PawSox starter had at least one hit, paced by Bryce Brentz, who was 3 for 5 with a solo home run and three runs scored. Rusney Castillo also had a stellar night at the plate, going 3 for 5 with a double and two RBI. Sean Coyle also added a two-run home run in the winning effort.
Position at a Glance: Pawtucket enters the season with its strongest rotation in memory and perhaps the best in the minors, featuring four of the organization’s top eight prospects. The wealth of talent extends into the bullpen, with each member a potential candidate for a major league call-up this season if performance merits it. Portland does not have the same top-end talent, but it has several depth options, including a couple arms making intriguing moves to the bullpen.
Who will step in when there are openings in the major league rotation?
We learned on Thursday that Steven Wright would likely not get the start on Saturday in Yankee Stadium after all. Whether he returns to the PawSox or remains on the major league roster in a bullpen role is unclear. Matt Barnes is the other most likely option, but has yet to be stretched out after getting a long look for the final bullpen spot. One hopes that hewould be ramped up to a starter’s workload by late April. Of the trio of left-handers, Eduardo Rodriguez probably has the advantage early in the season by virtue of his presence on the 40-man roster. Adding Henry Owens (pictured, above) or Brian Johnson would require more roster maneuvering, but that becomes less onerous the farther into the season we get, as both will need to be added to the 40-man this offseason anyway.
4/10 Cup of Coffee: SoxProspects.com's Cup of Coffee returns for the 2015 season and with it comes the second Opening Day, rain-shortened no-hitter in as many years for a Red Sox minor league pitcher. A year after Henry Owens opened the Portland season with six innings of no-hit ball, Jacob Dahlstrand (pictured, left) went six innings without allowing a hit in Salem's opener. Not to be outdone, Michael Chavis made a splash in his Greenville Drive debut, blasting a solo home run and hitting a walk-off double. Only Mother Nature prevented a perfect night for Red Sox affiliates with a snow out in Portland.
Brian Johnson tossed five solid innings of scoreless ball as the PawSox took advantage of five Lehigh Valley errors en route to the Opening Night victory. The big lefty struck out six, allowed four hits and walked just one before yielding to Noe Ramirez and then Heath Hembree, who earned the save in 1 2/3 innings of work. Though PawSox pitchers gave up seven hits, they were all singles. Rusney Castillo went 2 for 4 with two runs scored and a stolen base. He was also caught stealing. Jackie Bradley Jr. stroked a double on a 1-for-5 night and scored a run. Blake Swihart and Travis Shaw collected the only credited RBIs on the night for Pawtucket, with the other two runs coming on errors.
PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Throughout Deven Marrero’s career, he’s been known primarily for his glovework. Making spectacular plays at short look easy is his specialty, but Marrero is far from ready to concede that he is a glove-only player, and instead looking to build on recent signs that his bat may be coming to life.
Is this the year Marrero proves people wrong about his hitting? “That's what I want to do. I want to be more consistent with my bat and still improve on my defense,” the 24-year-old said earlier this week at media day for the Pawtucket Red Sox.
“We saw him have a lot of success in Double-A last year offensively, and did see some of that progress,” Red Sox Director of Player Development Ben Crockett said. “I think some of it has to do with being comfortable and being confident. It's no secret what he can do with the glove defensively. I think continuing to see that progress on the offensive side where he's doing the little things, having really competitive at-bats, having a grinding approach, but being able to do some damage as well. Those are things that I think would be on his goal list this year.”
Position at a glance: Historically, Boston has not focused on power in its draftees, focusing rather on quickness and athleticism. That approach shows when looking down the outfield depth chart, as it is filled with raw, toolsy projects who can make contact but do not yet threaten opposing pitchers with the long ball.
Did the club’s failure to develop an outfielder lead to the current major league OF situation?
The current major league outfield consists of a converted shortstop signed as a free agent this winter, a converted second baseman, and a 34-year-old coming off his second injury-plagued season in three years. Waiting in the wings are the $72 million Cuban defector signed last summer. Can this rightly be considered a failure of the Red Sox player development system?
Well, sort of. Consider that since 2009, Ryan Westmoreland had his career ended by medical issues and Ryan Kalish had his more-or-less entirely derailed. Josh Reddick was traded in a package for Andrew Bailey and Reymond Fuentes in another for Adrian Gonzalez. Finally, Jackie Bradleygave the Sox a home-grown outfielder, but he countered his all-world defense with historically poor offense, putting him back in Pawtucket to start this season. The depth was there at one point, but a variety of circumstances disbursed that talent to the winds.
SARASOTA, Fla. -- A few hours before Trey Ball made his final start before the 2014 All-Star Break, Greenville pitching coach Paul Abbott went to great lengths to explain away the nightmare start to Ball’s season.
Entering that game in mid-June, Ball’s ninth start of the season, the first number of the left-hander’s ERA was the same as his 2013 first-round draft position—seven—and it would remain that way until July 1.
But Abbott told of Ball’s youth, both on the mound and in life, plus the need for him to adjust to a full-season routine, to learn to use all of his pitches, and to get through a lineup multiple times per game.
Abbott's words bore themselves out that afternoon in Hagerstown, when Ball relied on his fastball to piece together five solid innings before giving up the cycle in a four-batter stretch in the sixth inning to ruin his final stat line. But those innings soon vanished, as did much of the concern about Ball’s development.
When Ball was brought up to Abbott again this spring, after a second-half in which Ball allowed fewer than four runs in nine of his last 10 starts and shrunk his ERA from 7.27 entering July to 4.68 at the end of the season, Abbott remembered that conversation.
“Didn’t I tell you he’d be alright?” Abbott asked last month during spring training.
It's that time! Chris and Ian welcomed special guest Matthew Kory of Over the Monster, Forbes, Baseball Prospectus, and sundry other publications of varying repute to talk about what storylines we're looking forward to following in the minor league system in 2015. How will all the infielders in Greenville get playing time? How many of the prospect-laden PawSox have a future in the organization? Are Portland and Salem as bad as the rosters look at first glance, or is there intrigue there? Listen and learn! Plus, the debut of Turkey Facts! (Note: we recorded on Saturday, 4/4, so forgive the couple of outdated comments.
Click through for download links and in-site streaming player!
The Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox announced their roster today. Across the board, the team is loaded with top-tier talent, and should rank as one of the top teams to watch in the minors.
The PawSox begin the 2015 season with nine of SoxProspects.com's top 20 prospects, including the number one prospect, catcher Blake Swihart (pictured). Swihart and $72.5 million man Rusney Castillo are the two biggest position players to watch, with the expectation of seeing both in a Boston uniform sometime in the near future.
The High-A Salem Red Sox announced their roster today, with five players ranked in the top 20 on SoxProspects.com headlining the squad. The top prospect on the team, center fielder Manuel Margot (pictured), will return to Salem, where he ended last season with an impressive 16-game showing. Margot is a consensus top-100 prospect in baseball, and the Red Sox hope he can take another step forward this season, which could put him in Portland at age 20.
Two other players that Carolina League pitchers will have to worry about are first baseman Sam Travis and second baseman Wendell Rijo. Travis, who was drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft, is making the jump to Salem in his first full season in the system after brief stints in Lowell and Greenville last year. Rijo, who spent all of last year in Greenville, will look to build on a 2014 season that saw him slug 42 extra-base hits. Still just 19, the second baseman has the potential to make a big jump with a healthy and productive year.
The Double-A Portland Sea Dogs announced their roster today. The 2015 season appears to be one of transition for Portland as the highly-regarded prospects that filled Hadlock Field the last few years have graduated to Pawtucket or Boston. Meanwhile the next wave of high-ranked talent in the organization is currently in either Salem or Greenville.
Outfielder Henry Ramos (pictured) and and infielder Carlos Asuaje, ranked 21st and 29th, respectively, by SoxProspects.com, are the most interesting bats in the lineup to start the year.
The Low-A Greenville Drive announced their roster today, highlighted by an exciting young infield that could be among the best in the minor leagues, particularly later in the season. Five of the seven infielders on the team are ranked in the top 26 by SoxProspects.com, including Rafael Devers and Michael Chavis, who figure to split time between third base and designated hitter. The announcement also confirmed that Yoan Moncada will begin the season in extended spring training, although a call up to Greenville should be coming a few weeks down the road.
Javier Guerra and Mauricio Dubon will form a strong defensive middle infield, with both players having advanced defensive tools for their age. They have also shown strong contact skills at the plate, and will look to develop their approach in their first full season assignments. It is unclear how playing time will shake out between these two, Devers, and Chavis, but one possibility would have Guerra and Dubon alternating between shortstop and second base.
Here are this week's minor league notes from Fort Myers:
With spring training coming to an end, the Red Sox have set their 25-man roster. The most notable moves from a minor league perspective are Rusney Castillo, Jackie Bradley Jr., Matt Barnes (pictured), and Brandon Workman being optioned to Pawtucket to start the year. Barnes will begin in the rotation, while Workman will go to the bullpen. The team also announced that Edwin Escobar will start the year on the disabled list with elbow inflammation.
After Christian Vazquez underwent Tommy John surgery last week, there was some speculation that Blake Swihart may start the season in the majors. That idea was quickly squashed after the Red Sox traded for Sandy Leon from the Washington Nationals. Leon will begin the season in Boston, while Swihart and Humberto Quintero will be the catchers for the PawSox.
FORT MYERS, Fla. – The first spring training after being drafted marks the beginning of the rest of a baseball player’s career. The excitement of being drafted and getting his first taste of professional ball now in the past, the focus shifts to creating a routine and starting the development that will determine how long the player gets to pursue his dream.
For two high school 2014 draftees, catcher Devon Fisher and first baseman Josh Ockimey (pictured, left), calling baseball a job for the first time has been a rewarding challenge.
“I keep telling everybody, the last pitch I saw in high school was 86 (mph), the first pitch I saw in pro ball was 92 from a lefty,” Ockimey said with a laugh. “But yeah, it’s just the same thing: getting up, grinding every day, getting used to calling it a job. That’s what it is, I love it.”
With a batch of moves announced by the team on Friday, the Red Sox 25-man roster has been unofficially set.
Pitchers Brandon Workman and Matt Barnes were optioned to Pawtucket as part of Friday's transactions. Workman, who will pitch out of the bullpen for the PawSox, tossed seven innings of work this spring, posting a 6.43 ERA and allowing 10 hits, though he did strike out nine. Barnes, on the other hand, will move back to the rotation in Pawtucket, after transitioning to the bullpen at big league camp halfway through spring training. Barnes opened some eyes at camp, racking up 18 strikeouts while walking just three over 13 innings.
With the moves, manager John Farrell confirmed to reporters that Robbie Ross had made the team, taking the final bullpen slot. In addition, with the announcement that Joe Kelly had been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right biceps strain, Farrell confirmed that Steven Wright would begin the year on the major league roster, and was a candidate to start on April 11 against the Yankees if Kelly is not ready to be activated by then. If Wright had been optioned, he would not have been eligible to be activated by that date.
Position in a Nutshell: The speedy ascents of Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts had left middle infield position in the minors without real star power. There were a pair of solid performers projected to Pawtucket and some intriguing-but-raw talents in the lower levels, but very little in terms of superstar projection. The signing of Yoan Moncada (pictured, left) changed that in a hurry, suddenly making the organization’s depth up the middle look much fuller in one fell swoop.
What is a realistic timeline for Yoan Moncada?
After a year off from the game, the Red Sox will be patient with their new phenom. After shaking off the rust of not having played a game in over a year in extended spring training, Moncada will reportedly be assigned to Greenville. Ideally he would not meet with much resistance at Low A, allowing him to adjust to the culture and the rigors of the season.
The Red Sox Opening Day roster is a little clearer after a series of roster moves announced by the team today.
Headlining the moves is the optioning of outfielders Jackie Bradley Jr. (pictured) and Rusney Castillo to Pawtucket, all but confirming that Shane Victorino will be Red Sox' starting right fielder to begin the season. Bradley made a solid case for a shot at the majors in spring training, batting .356/.442/.422 in 18 games. Castillo, on the other hand, battled an injury that took him out of the lineup for a brief period during the spring. But after a slow start in early March, Castillo ended up going 8 for 25 in eight games during Grapefruit League action.
The SoxProspects.com community has voted for its 2015 Pre-Season All-Stars at each position. These are the players who are expected to have the best season in the Red Sox minor league system at their respective positions, and ideally do not take prospect status into consideration.
In a near-unanimous decision, Swihart was chosen as a Pre-Season All-Star for the second year in a row. Currently ranked as the top prospect in the system, Swihart will begin the year in Pawtucket, with a promotion to Boston very possible during the season. Since being drafted in the first round of the 2011 draft, Swihart has had a linear rise to the top of the system, improving both his offense and defense each season. Swihart is looking to put the finishing touches on his game in 2015, and he will look to stake his claim as the best catching prospect in baseball.
Position in a Nutshell: The Red Sox have plenty in the pipeline on the corners, starting with the two top prospects currently battling for an assignment to Greenville, moving up to a fast-moving 2014 college draft pick, and culminating with a man who everyone forgets led the minors in on-base percentage in 2013 and is now blocked at the major league level.
On opening day, there is a possibility that at least one of the two is kept in extended spring training. Both players made their professional debuts last year, and Chavis is still only 19 while Devers is only 18. For historical comparison: Trey Ball, Boston’s top draft pick in 2013, began the season in extended spring training and did not make his first appearance for Greenville until May. But that said, the SoxProspects.com staff unanimously reports back that both looked great in camp, and it is likely that both will make the Drive out of camp, or at very least will make it there soon thereafter.
- 2014 ninth-round pick Kevin Steen is a great athlete with
a projectable frame, but pitching-wise, the right-hander is on the raw side at
present. Steen has a thin, lanky, athletic frame. He has a loose arm and low-effort,
repeatable delivery. He throws over the top with a slight stab behind, and
during an outing in an intrasquad game, had some trouble finishing his delivery
and keeping his fastball down. His fastball primarily worked 86-88 mph, and he
topped out at 90 mph once. The pitch was heavy with some natural cut late, but
his control with the pitch was inconsistent. Steen’s top secondary offering is his
curveball, which showed bat-missing potential during the outing and flashed
plus potential. He has strong feel for the pitch and showed the confidence to
throw it for a strike and to bury it down and out of the zone, recording two
strikeouts with it. The pitch came in at 72-74 mph, with sharp 12-to-6 break
and solid depth through the zone. Steen will take some time to develop and has
a long way to go physically, but already having the ability to spin a breaking
ball is a good sign for someone on his developmental path.