Travis Shaw now has 19 homers in 2014. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Sunday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-2 WIN VS. BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS)
– First baseman Travis Shaw launched a three-run homer as part of a 1-for-2 game in which he also walked. The 24-year-old is enjoying a standout month that has seen him show his characteristic pitch selection and plate discipline while driving pitches.
After walking just seven times with 41 strikeouts in his first 33 games with the PawSox following his promotion to Triple-A, Shaw has reached base in all 17 games in July while walking nearly as many times (10) as he’s struck out (11). Shaw is now hitting .302/.392/.540 with four homers among his seven extra-base hits this month. Notably, three of his four homers this month have been to the opposite field, an indicator of Shaw’s intriguing ability to stay back on the ball and drive it to the opposite field, traits that have convinced the Sox that he has a made-for-Fenway swing that could allow him to pepper the Green Monster.
Between Portland and Pawtucket, Shaw now has a .288/.365/.503 line with 19 homers — making him one of 24 players in all of minor league baseball to reach that home run total so far this year.
– Right-hander Anthony Ranaudo allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings, the ninth time in 12 outings he’s allowed one or no runs. He permitted just three hits (all for extra bases — two doubles and a solo homer) while walking three (his most walks in eight outings) and striking out four. He is tied for the International League lead in wins (11), ranks second in ERA (2.54), eighth in innings (113 1/3) and is tied for fifth in strikeouts.
Despite his across-the-board dominance in Triple-A, one potential hiccup worth noting is that Ranaudo ranks among the most extreme flyball pitchers in the International League, with three fly ball outs for every two groundouts, the second highest such rate among qualifying pitchers in the league. Though he’s allowed just six homers in Triple-A this year, that ratio suggests the possibility of vulnerability to the longball and/or extra-base hits in the big leagues.
– For the first time in his Triple-A career, Mookie Betts did not reach base, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout while playing center field in his first contest since being sent back down to Pawtucket.
– Will Middlebrooks is hitting well, having gone 2-for-4 with a strikeout on Sunday. It was his second straight multi-hit game. Since returning from his wrist injury, Middlebrooks is 4-for-10 with a homer (and nearly a second, which was caught over the fence for a sac fly) and two strikeout in 11 plate appearances.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 3-2 LOSS (WALKOFF) AT NEW HAMPSHIRE (BLUE JAYS)
– Left-hander Brian Johnson tossed six innings in which he allowed just one unearned run. All six of the hits he allowed were singles. Johnson walked one and struck out three while lowering his ERA to 2.32, a mark that would rank second in the Eastern League to teammate Henry Owens if he had enough innings to qualify (something he will likely do before the end of the year, despite playing catchup following a first month of the season spent in Salem).
– Second baseman Sean Coyle, who had been 0-for-10 in his first three games back with Portland following the All-Star Futures Game and Eastern League All-Star Game, went 2-for-4, his first multi-hit contest in 10 games. His line for the season now stands at .325/.398/.558 with 11 homers and 31 extra-base hits in 68 games.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 3-2 LOSS VS. POTOMAC (NATIONALS)
– Left-hander Cody Kukuk appears to have moved beyond his struggles in Salem. He allowed one run on five hits in five innings while striking out five. It was the third time in his last four starts that he’s permitted one or no runs in five innings. His line in his last four starts: 1.59 ERA, 20 strikeouts, 8 walks in 17 innings. The 21-year-old’s line in his prior 11 starts after his May promotion to Salem: 8.33 ERA, 34 strikeouts, 37 walks in 35 2/3 innings.
Even during this strong stretch, there have been periods where Kukuk has lost the strike zone, but he’s showing an improved ability to limit his hiccups in recent outings. The trajectory of Kukuk’s time in Salem this year has some similarities to the path he followed a year ago in Greenville, when he walked 8.4 batters per nine innings in the first half of the year but improved to 5.6 walks per nine (cutting his walks by roughly one-third) in the second half.
When he throws strikes, the left-hander has potentially dominant stuff. He is on a deliberate player development path, but the upside — either a late-innings left-handed bullpen option with power stuff or even, in a shoot-the-moon scenario, a big league starter — remains considerable if he can apply his athleticism to harness his delivery.
– First baseman Jantzen Witte had his second straight multi-hit, multi-double game, going 2-for-4 with a pair of two-baggers. In 27 games since his promotion, the 24-year-old is now hitting .291/.345/.466 with 14 extra-base hits, of which 11 have been doubles. Between Greenville and Salem, Witte now has 35 doubles this year, most in all of minor league baseball.
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 3-1 LOSS, 3-2 LOSS VS. ASHEVILLE (ROCKIES)
(BOX GAME 1, BOX GAME 2)
– Right-hander Teddy Stankiewicz had perhaps the most impressive outing of his career, allowing one run in 6 2/3 innings while giving up six hits (all singles), walking two and striking out a career-high nine. Of his 95 pitches, 65 were strikes (68 percent) and 15 elicited swings and misses, with eight of his nine punchouts coming via the whiff. In some ways, his control was even more impressive than those strike totals might indicate, as both walks came only when the 20-year-old appeared to tire at the end of his outing, as he missed the strike zone with eight of his final nine pitches with two outs in the seventh after having thrown 74 percent strikes prior to that stage of the contest.
In his first full season, Stankiewicz has rarely shown the sort of dominance that he exhibited on Sunday, working to a 4.30 ERA with 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings. But he has shown the ability to throw strikes and work both efficiently while giving relatively reliable innings totals. Sunday marked the eighth time in 18 starts that he’s thrown six or more innings (an impressive number for a young pitcher out of junior college), and he’s gone fewer than five innings just five times in his first full pro season. He’s walking just 2.2 batters per nine innings, and has given up two or fewer free passes in his last nine starts.
– Second baseman Wendell Rijo launched a pair of solo homers in the second game of the doubleheader, the first multi-homer game of his career. Rijo now has seven extra-base hits in 13 contests in July, within one of his season-high for any month this season. Though the 18-year-old has hit for higher average (.296 vs. 255) and posted a better OBP (.393 vs. .336) against lefties than he has righties, the right-handed hitting Rijo has produced all six of his homers against righties this year. For the year, he’s now hitting .265/.351/.423, unremarkable numbers in a vacuum but a strong showing given that he’s one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League.
– Middle infielder Hector Lorenzana a 37th-round selection out of the University of Oklahoma in this year’s draft, went 3-for-4 with a double and a walk in the doubleheader, his first games in Single-A after making his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League.
SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 6-5 WIN AT AUBURN (NATIONALS)
– Aaron Wilkerson, a right-hander whose contract was purchased by the Red Sox from the independent American Association on Friday, had an impressive minor league debut, tossing six innings in which he allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits and two walks while punching out seven. Wilkerson had made 16 starts for the Grand Prairie AirHogs dating to last year, recording a 3.02 ERA with 90 strikeouts and 40 walks in 95 1/3 innings. The 25-year-old was a first-team NAIA pitcher in 2011 as a senior at Cumberland University, when he went 12-0 with a 1.49 ERA and ran off an NAIA-record streak of 54 straight scoreless innings. He was 26-1 in two years at Cumberland, losing his first decision and then winning every subsequent one.
– Nick Longhi, playing right field, went 2-for-5. The 18-year-old’s .324 average ranks fourth in the New York-Penn League. He’s hitting .324/.368/.435.
ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: OFF DAY
DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: OFF DAY