Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez has been dominant in five starts for Portland. (Lynn Chadwick / Portland Sea Dogs)
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Tuesday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 9-3 WIN AT BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS)
– On a night when he walked his most batters (4) and threw just 61 of his season-high 105 pitches for strikes (58 percent), left-hander Henry Owens overcame his struggles to limit his opponents to three runs on eight hits. His efforts were helped by his eight punchouts in 6 1/3 innings. In his five starts with Pawtucket, Owens is now 2-1 with a 3.66 ERA, 35 strikeouts and 10 walks in 32 innings. Opponents are hitting .248 against him with three homers in that span, up from the .201 average to which he held opponents in Double-A this year. In short, there’s an adjustment to a higher caliber of opposing hitters to which Owens is still adjusting, though he’s holding his own amidst that transition.
– Right-hander Dalier Hinojosa was dominant, retiring eight of nine batters he faced. The 28-year-old has a 2.03 ERA since the beginning of June with 26 strikeouts and eight walks in 26 2/3 innings. After he entered July with a 5.51 ERA, he’s dropped that mark to 3.90.
– Bryce Brentz can mash against left-handers with good stuff. He went deep against highly regarded Blue Jays prospect Daniel Norris, his 12th homer in 58 games in Pawtucket this year. Against southpaws, Brentz is hitting .304/.355/.725 with eight homers in 76 plate appearances (one for every 9.5 trips to the dish). His performance both against lefties and overall since his return from a groin injury (.260/.333/.558) suggest someone who might be getting close to capable of contributing at the big league level. Yet as much as the Sox’ recent acquisitions of outfielders such as Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig and Rusney Castillo has raised questions about the future of a player like Shane Victorino in the organization, the questions are just as significant for players like Brentz and Alex Hassan, who now find themselves behind a considerable crowd of corner outfielders.
– Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. was 3-for-6 with a double, his first three-hit game and second extra-base hit in his nine games in Triple-A.
– Shortstop Deven Marrero went 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles, his first multi-hit game since August 10. He’s struggled to a .220/.271/.304 line in Pawtucket, leaving Marrero with a .264/.334/383 line for the year — with his average and OBP fairly similar to the marks of .252 and .338 that he posted in Salem and Portland last year, but with nearly double the extra-base hits (38 this year vs. 22 in 2013). Given that the average AL shortstop is hitting .256/.310/.360, Marrero has the profile of a player with the potential to deliver average to slightly better-than-average offense with tremendous defense — a skill set that could make him a big league starter for a number of years.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 4-1 LOSS VS. READING (PHILLIES)
– Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez continues to assert himself as one of the Sox’ top pitching prospects since his trade from the Orioles to Boston for Andrew Miller. Rodriguez worked around seven hits to limit his opponents to one run, punching out seven and walking none.
The 21-year-old, whose fastball (a pitch he’s used aggressively to both sides of the plate) has topped out at 96-97 mph in each of his starts with Portland, with flashes of a plus changeup and a slider, suffered his first loss with Portland, but after five starts, he’s 2-1 with a 0.86 ERA, 35 strikeouts (10.1 per nine innings) and just six walks (1.7 per nine) in 31 1/3 innings. He’s punched out at least seven in four of his five starts, while showing the athleticism to suggest an ability to repeat his delivery and attack the strike zone.
His numbers with Portland stand in marked contrast to what Rodriguez had done prior to the trade with the Orioles’ Double-A affiliate, where he was 3-7 with a 4.79 ERA, 7.5 strikeouts and 3.2 walks per nine, but reflect the potential that had made him a highly regarded prospect entering the year.
– Sean Coyle went 1-for-4 with a solo homer, his 15th of the year. It’s his second straight year of 15-plus homers, suggesting unusual right-handed power potential for a second baseman. He’s now hitting .299/.375/.513 for the season.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 5-4 LOSS AT FREDERICK (ORIOLES)
– Jose Vinicio, the usually-light-hitting shortstop, is on a tear recently. With a 2-for-4 showing on Tuesday, Vinicio now has six multi-hit performances in his last seven games. The hot stretch has boosted his batting average almost 80 points; the 21-year-old is now hitting .230, the first time he’s hit over the Mendoza line since his first game of the season with Salem. He’s even shown some very rare power lately, with three of his four extra-base hits on the season coming in his last seven contests. However, even with the stretch of multi-hit showings, Vinicio is still batting a meager .230/.255/.280 through 31 games with Salem.
– Carlos Asuaje‘s 11-game hit streak was broken on Tuesday night, but the left fielder still reached base three times, drawing a trio of walks. It’s the second time this season he’s been able to work three free passes in a game. Asuaje has displayed adequate ability when it comes to drawing walks, posting a .391 OBP and walking in a little under 10 percent of plate appearances in 90 games with Single-A Greenville this season. But the ability seemed to have eluded him during his first couple weeks with Salem, drawing six free passes in 124 plate appearances (walking at about a five percent rate). His last four games, however, have been a different story. Asuaje has worked six walks in his last 18 trips to the plate. His OBP, which sat at .355 prior to this four-game stretch, has shot up to .394.
– After a couple of impressive outings, starter Simon Mercedes was roughed up in his latest performance, allowing five runs on 10 hits and three walks while striking out two. It’s the fifth time in 18 appearances (13 starts) that Mercedes has given up five or more runs. His strikeout numbers continue to be way down, with the righty fanning 10 batters over his last 21 2/3 innings of work. He owns a 5.08 ERA in 78 innings this year.
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 2-1 WIN AT CHARLESTON (YANKEES)
– Starter Daniel McGrath was solid through five innings, allowing a run on just one hit, though he did walk three. It was a nice bounce-back effort from the 20-year-old, who endured one of his shortest and most wild outings of the season his last time out, allowing six runs on seven walks. The command has been an issue for the young lefty all season long, as he’s averaging about five walks per nine innings, an alarmingly high rate. However, when McGrath finds the zone, opposing hitters have mustered just a .223 batting average against him through his 91 1/3 innings this season.
– Though Sam Travis‘s rapid production has tailed off a bit over the last couple of weeks, he’s still showing off some power. Travis knocked his ninth double since being promoted to Greenville at the beginning of August, bringing his slugging mark to .494 through 83 at-bats. He ended the night going 1-for-3 with a walk. His walk turned out to be pivotal, as he moved up to second on a bunt and scored on a passed ball in the ninth inning, giving the Drive the lead. The first baseman, who turns 21 on Wednesday, is hitting .277/.322/.494 with the Drive.
– McGrath wasn’t the only effective pitcher on Tuesday. Jason Garcia, who relieved McGrath after five, tossed four one-hit frames of his own, walking three and striking out five while keeping the RiverDogs off the board. Garcia owns a 4.13 ERA through 32 2/3 innings with Greenville this season.
SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 5-0 LOSS AT CONNECTICUT (TIGERS)
– In his third start for the Spinners, Jeffry Fernandez was roughed up, allowing five runs (though only three earned) on eight hits in four innings of work. On the bright side, the 21-year-old righty hasn’t walked or hit a batter in nine innings since experiencing some real command issues in his first start (four walks and a hit batter). Fernandez has allowed a total of eight earned runs on 18 hits through his first 13 2/3 innings with the Spinners.
– One of the few bright spots for Lowell was reliever Williams Jerez, who tossed three scoreless innings in relief, permitting three hits and fanning five. Much like he was in the GCL earlier this season, Jerez has been racking up the strikeouts in Lowell, with 11 in just seven innings since earning the promotion. The three-inning stint on Tuesday was Jerez’s first outing without allowing a walk in his four appearances for the Spinners.
– Aneudis Peralta extended his hitting streak to six games with a 2-for-4 showing. He was the only member of the Spinners’ lineup to rack up multiple hits on the evening. The first baseman has hit well since joining the Lowell squad, putting together a .291/.350/.345 line through 16 games.
ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 4-2 WIN VS. GCL ORIOLES
– Left-hander Gabe Speier continues to look impressive in his return from Tommy John surgery. The 19-year-old, whose fastball is a high-80s to low-90s offering complemented by a breaking ball that he spins well, fired five innings in which he allowed a run on five hits, punched out a season-high seven and walked none. In nine games in the GCL, Speier — a 2013 19th-rounder who underwent Tommy John surgery — is 3-0 with a 1.55 ERA, 26 strikeouts and just one walk. He’s striking out 8.1 per nine innings and has gotten groundballs on 57 percent of the balls put in play against him, suggesting some interesting raw materials in his first real opportunity to pitch as a professional while healthy.
– Rafael Devers went 2-for-4 with a double, giving him three straight multi-hit games, four in five contests and five in his last seven games. The 17-year-old’s .322 average is fifth in the GCL; the four players ahead of him are 18, 19, 20 and 22 years old. Though Devers has seen his walk rate drop roughly in half from the DSL (15.0 percent) to the GCL (7.7 percent), his strikeout rate has increased by only about 10 percent (from 15.7 to 17.3 percent) in his move to a level where his age makes him a rarity.
– Second baseman Victor Acosta went 2-for-4, his fifth multi-hit game in his last 10 contests, continuing an August run that has seen him boost his line from .189/.282/.289 to .271/.350/.389. The 18-year-old is hitting .407/.467/.556 this month, with his average and OBP ranking second in the GCL in that time and his slugging mark ranking sixth.