April 17, 2017 at 1:00 PM
Here are Monday's minor league notes:
- SoxProspects.com Director of Scouting Ian Cundall posted his latest Notes from the Field last week, covering several intriguing prospects in the lower minors who he saw during spring training. Two of the bigger names discussed were Roniel Raudes (pictured, right) and Darwinzon Hernandez, two young pitchers who have potential to stick in the rotation. Raudes has gotten off to a bit of a rough start in Salem, while Hernandez has struck out 15 and allowed only two earned runs over his first nine innings in Greenville.
- Departing Managing Editor Matt Huegel talked with Shaun Anderson about his transition from coming out of the bullpen for the University of Florida to being a starting pitcher as a professional. Anderson came across as confident in the interview and his early results back that up. In three starts he has allowed two runs on eleven hits over 15 2/3 innings, walking five while striking out 19.
- Cundall, Executive Editor Chris Hatfield, and Assistant Director of Scouting Chaz Fiorino teamed up for the most recent episode of the SoxProspects.com Podcast, as they discussed every aspect of the Sea Dogs roster. Cundall and Fiorino have seen Portland play a few times already this season, and they provided their insight as to how the players have looked.
- The main prospect discussed is Rafael Devers, who has gotten off to a tremendous start in his first taste of Double-A. Devers is batting .364/.364/.545 over his first eight games, and he will soon be the top prospect in the system after Andrew Benintendi graduates.
- Currently the third-ranked prospect in the system, Jay Groome had a forgettable first appearance for Greenville, as documented by James Dunne in last Tuesday's Cup of Coffee. He gave up nine runs while recording only four outs before leaving the field with a trainer. He was diagnosed with a lat strain and placed on the disabled list. There is currently no word on when he will begin throwing again.
- Blake Swihart narrowly avoided a few serious injuries last week, as he suffered a black eye after colliding with first baseman Sam Travis while pursuing a pop fly on Tuesday, and then hurt his left ring finger on a foul ball on Friday. The X-rays came back negative, so he should be back in the lineup soon. Swihart has been stinging the ball so far this year, batting .333 with a home run and a triple over six games.
- While the offense has never been a big question for Swihart, his defense behind the plate has caused some doubts about his long-term fit with the Red Sox. Bill Koch of the Providence Journal writes that Swihart has a lot of resources to improve his catching in Pawtucket, including Kevin Boles, Rich Gedman, Dan Butler, and Jason Varitek.
- Swihart will soon be joined in Pawtucket by Jackie Bradley Jr., as the Red Sox announced that the center fielder will start a rehab assignment on Tuesday after suffering a sprained right knee against the Tigers.
- Arguably the best offensive player in the system so far this year has been Josh Ockimey. Ockimey has had multiple hits in five of his 10 games, and he is batting .436 with three doubles, a triple, and a home run in 39 at-bats. The main red flag so far has been his strikeout rate, as he is striking out in over 33 percent of his at-bats. Ockimey got off to a hot start last season before cooling off considerably in the second half, but so far this season he has been the best hitter in the Carolina League.
- Ockimey’s teammate in Salem, Travis Lakins, is currently leading the system in strikeouts after three strong starts. His 21 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings combined with his 1.65 ERA are very impressive, and of the 14 hits he has allowed only two have gone for extra bases. He has also walked only three batters, a big improvement after walking over 3.5 batters per nine innings last year. Lakins has clearly put a difficult 2016 season behind him and he looks like he could be climbing the prospect rankings if he continues on this path.
- After taking a line drive off the head in his first start of the season, Brian Johnson was able to return to the mound without missing any time and dominate the Syracuse Chiefs. Johnson went 6 2/3 innings and allowed only one run while walking one and striking out eight. Johnson suffered multiple fractures in his face after being struck by a line drive in 2012 with the Spinners, so it is very good news that he was able to return so quickly from this recent incident.
Players of the Week: 4/10-4/16
Austin Rei, C, Salem Red Sox
4 G, 16 AB, 7 H, 5 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 4 R, 1 BB, 2 K, .438/.500/.938
Rei has been on fire to start the year, slugging seven extra-base hits in seven games while striking out only twice in 28 at-bats. The 2015 third-round pick out of the University of Washington is showing the offensive potential that made him one of the best players in college baseball during his junior season before a thumb injury abruptly ended that campaign. After starting the season with an 0-for-4 performance, Rei is now 10 for his last 24 and he has the third highest OPS in the Carolina League, behind Ockimey and former first-round pick Kyle Tucker.
Shaun Anderson, RHP, Greenville Drive
2 starts, 2-0, 11 IP, 0.82 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 7 H, 3 BB, 12 K
As discussed above, Anderson has been very impressive as he transitions from the bullpen to the starting rotation. The 22-year-old has five pitches he can throw for strikes, an arsenal that so far has outmatched the South Atlantic League hitters. The Red Sox figure to be patient with Anderson as he gets used to the schedule of being a starter, but he may force their hand for a promotion if he continues to dominate like he has in his first three starts.
Photo Credit: Roniel Raudes by Kelly O'Connor