Mid-May Pawtucket prospect review


A few weeks ago on BSI I wrote a brief article on Red Sox prospects now serving time at Pawtucket, otherwise known as the gateway to Providence. After my latest visit on 5/8 I will profile a few potentials and where they stand in the IL.

Players at Triple-A come in three varieties, with the most notable being those on the cutting edge of a productive (hopefully) career with the big club. The second group is comprised of those that have been signed and shuffled off to Pawtucket in case reserves are needed. Lastly are those hanging onto baseball by a thin thread who, despite how they are performing, could be cut loose to make room for another. Age is often a deciding factor.

Pawtucket is a fun place for me to visit, especially when a relaxing early lunch at Cassarino’s on Federal Hill is part of the package. A quick few minutes north on I-95 and there is the exit for McCoy and an afternoon contest.

I usually attend with a few folks I know who are veteran (old) observers of baseball as we communally pretend we know what we are discussing about baseball. I do respect their opinions and much of what I write on Pawtucket is tied into the games they attend. A far greater number than I do.

On this particular afternoon the PawSox were facing off against the Toledo Mud Hens, made famous by Jamie Farr, and now the Triple-A affiliate of the Tigers. The game was actually a one inning contest. How? Reader’s Digest baseball as the scoring was condensed into three runs in the second for Toledo and five for the PawSox in the fifth. That was it. 5-3.

Let’s take a look at a few prospects who may be in the mix for 2014.

Sep 29, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Boston Red Sox pitcher Rubby De La Rosa (62) throws the ball in the fifth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles won 7-6. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Rubby De La Rosa started and he looked good in the game I saw. A crackling fastball and nifty off speed stuff mixed in. In 6.2 Rubby allowed one earned run and is now 2-3 with a 3.40 ERA and a WHIP of 1.16 at mid-May. The negative is 20 walks in 42.1 innings. De La Rosa can dominate the eclectic potpourri you find at 3A.

Brock Holt was, to me, a great signing. A versatile infielder who some would consider a veteran – a strange attachment since Holt is 26 years old. Holt has slashed .244/.320/.293 in his various trips to Boston in 2013/14 and continues to be well above .300 with the PawSox. Holt is not a power guy, but does hit line drives about the field and has been seeing considerable time at SS.

Garin Cecchini continues to be as level as possible in 3A. Cecchini has hovered around .300 for most of the season and while some question his defensive abilities (seven errors in 37 games) what no one questions is his OBP abilities that sit at the .400 mark. Cecchini still has not displayed power expected of him, but the ball does seem to jump off his bat. Will Middlebrooks days may be numbered.

Anthony Ranaudo has similar control issues that haunt De La Rosa. Ranaudo has issued 24 walks in 46.1 innings. Ranaudo has a live fastball that consistently is in the mid-90s and a curve, when on, provides a deadly alternative to his FB. Stuff is not the issue. C & C (command & consistency) is. Ranaudo is 4-2 with a 3.47 ERA.

Allen Webster has the same control disease that has infiltrated the staff at Pawtucket with 20 walks in 49.2 innings. Webster has an overpowering fastball and RSN has witnessed glimpses of it on Webster’s occasional sojourns to Boston. The same old story that is oft repeated with Webster is location. If Webster can consistently harness that talented arm he could be a major league impact pitcher.

Next up is then enigmatic Matt Barnes. Barnes has had a roller coaster ride as a prospect for the last few seasons going from unhittable at Greenville to quite hittable at Portland. This season Barnes has settled it with a consistent mid 90s fastball and a change that comes in at a nice 82-85 range. Barnes’ ERA is 2.89 and his WHIP is at the 1.18 mark.

Brandon Workman in game six of the ALCS was key. Workman had quite a nice post season run and that will forever be on his resume. On many teams Workman would not be taking bus rides and getting low end meal money, but would be in the rotation or a plus out of the bullpen. For now he develops as a starter in Pawtucket. Workman is currently 2-1 with a 5.34 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP.

Apr 5, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Brandon Workman (67) throws the ball against the Milwaukee Brewers during the eighth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Rich Hill (1-1, 2.66 ERA) was born in Boston – a real plus – and has tossed 20 innings out of the bullpen. In the game I attended Hill went 1.1 innings and allowed no base runners. Hill is a vet who is no mystery as he moves the ball around and changes speeds reasonable well.

Tommy Layne was an off season pick-up who, like Hill, has some major league experience. The left-handed Layne is 4-1 with a 1.61 ERA working exclusively out of the Pawtucket bullpen. Layne is very similar to Hill in his ability to change speeds off an average, at best, fastball.

Drake Britton has been assuming the occasional closer role at Pawtucket and what stands out (no surprise) is 15 walks in 20 innings and, to make it even worse, 13 K’s. That drives his WHIP up to 1.91. Not a real attention getter for the big club.

Someone needs to catch the pitchers and that is Christian Vasquez. Vasquez has dropped from a 44% CS rate to 40% and his hitting has tailed off a bit to .269. Defense, as always with Vasquez, is not the issue. Offense is. Will he hit enough to contribute at the next level? With the Sox current catching corps expected to exit after 2014 the road is clear for Vasquez. His offensive numbers will be watched closely. The plus is Vasquez has nine doubles, so there is some gap power potential. I just love this kid.

Where Boston has some real strength is the slew of pitchers on the cusp. Most are in that baseball prospect age sweet spot of 23-25. Pitchers can all of a sudden “get it” and make some serious movement towards going north on I-95. No one questions the ability level, but the application level is where progress is made. With the potential of roster movement on pitching after the 2014 season there is opportunity.