Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Minor League Update

Pawtucket Red Sox (ROC 7/PAW 1, PAW 9/ROC 2, ROC 7/PAW 5, SYR 4/PAW 3, PAW 10/SYR 8, PAW 4/SCA 3, SCA 13/PAW 4)

The Paw Sox wasted their hot streak with a rather mediocre week which contained little, if any, highlites. Chip Ambres was the biggest standout for the team going 11 for 28 on the week, walking 3 times, scoring 7, and knocked in 5. He hit 2 home runs. Ambers has been the biggest offensive star for the team so far this year with a .360/.435/.653 line, all of which lead the team. He's also showing speed and power with 5 steals and 5 homers. If he keeps it up the 25 year old could be Boston's fifth outfielder before long, despite the fact that he's never showed this kind of promise before. Kelly Shoppach is still plodding along with a 7 for 26 week, keeping his average up there and staying in the race for the International League home run title. Right now he's 2 behind the lead and tied for 3rd with several other players.

I was ready to say how impressive Chris Naverson has been. I was about to even suggest that he could be in Boston by the summer. His first start of the week was strong with a 5 inning start for his first victory of the season. He did walk 4 and only struck out 1, but he spread out 6 hits to allow only 1 run. Then everything changed with a horrid second start yesterday where he lasted only 3 IP and allowed 9 ER on 11 hits. Still, it's hard to believe that at one time I actually felt that the Red Sox could've squeezed more out of a deal for Byung-Hyun Kim. Kim has been getting crushed in Colorado, blowing lead after lead as the Rockies still insist on bringing him in in close games. It appears as if they're finally starting to learn their lesson as he's only been used twice so far this month, but the damage has already been done. He did start today for the Rockies and pitched pretty well going 5 innings letting up only 1 run, but in his 11 relief appearances on the year he's 0-3 with a 7.62 ERA. Naverson, before yesterday was cruising along for the Red Sox. And even still, 9 runs will hurt his ERA for the rest of the year, but if he doesn't let the outing bother him he should continue to impress.

Charlie Zink, the 26 year old knuckleballer who, at one time, was considered a Sox prospect, but has been struggling for the last year and half, was promoted to AAA for the first time in his young career. The Sox shuffled pitchers around at the major league and AAA level a few days ago and when the dust settled, Zink found himself playing for Pawtucket. He came on in relief of Naverson in yesterday's game and continued to allow the slugfest that Naverson started. He went 1.1 IP allowing 4 runs.

Portland Sea Dogs (POR 5/NB 0, NB 10/POR 6, NOR 6/POR 3, POR 3/NOR 2, NH 4/POR 2, POR 6/NH 1

The Dustin Pedroia/Hanley Ramirez duo continues to impress. The issue is becoming less and less about just how good they did last week and more and more about when they're going to be promoted to AAA. Ramirez has been slightly dissapointing this year, still without a homer, and for the first time he's below the .300 mark with a .299 AVG. On the other hand a very solid .299/.364/.439 line isn't half bad and combined with 9 steals in 11 attempts and 6 triples and Ramirez is just looking better and better. Pedroia has outhit his double play partner so far this year with a .352/.439/.486 line. He's leading the team in walks and has been a solid run producer knocking in 18 of his teammates in 26 games. In just his second professional season Pedroia is making a strong case for a promotion. Is there room for the duo in Pawtucket? Yes and no. Pawtucket hasn't had a regular shortstop all year. They've rotated between several players, and only Tim Hummel, a 26 year old with some big league experience, is producing. Hummel has played some time at short, but has received most of his time over at third. So there is a spot open for Ramirez at short. Second base has belonged to Alejandro Machado, a 23 year old in his first season in the Red Sox organization. Machado has been very solid this year for the Paw Sox. I've suggested a promotion to the majors where his defense could greatly help a club that was forced to use Mark Bellhorn at short and his speed would be welcomed on a bench that doesn't really have a good pinch runner. At his age and experience level, however, that's probably not the best of ideas. The Sox want to continue to develope Machado so they won't move him to the bench and while I can't find any position data for the guy, Baseball America says that he plays both middle infield posistions, so a move to third or the outfield might not be a very good idea. So, for now, Pedroia, who seems to be closer to a promotion than Ramirez, is blocked by Machado. It's probably too early for mee to even be discussing this, but I'm anxious to see this combo in Pawtucket, a 20 minute ride from my house.

The Sea Dog rotation continues to be a strength for the team. Jon Papelbon, John Lester, and Dave Pauley continue to impress and each threw a good game last week. Pauley went 7 strong innings allowing just 2 runs on 3 hits and a walk while striking out 5. Pauley, the 21 year old minor leaguer sent over in the Dave Roberts deal during the offseason, doesn't get very much attention and is projected to be a back of the rotation starter. Baseball America rates him as the club's 26th best prospect, but if he keeps putting up good numbers at his age he may gain a little more favor. Papelbon is already considered the team's top pitching prospect only improved his stock with his last two starts. Early in the week he went 7 scoreless innings letting up only 3 hits and struck out 6. The only problem with his start was his control. He allowed his first 2 walks of the year in his start before last week, and the trend got worse last week. He walked 5. His controlw came back in the game he threw yesterday as he went 6 IP to get the win while allowing only 1 run on a solo homer, the only hit he allowed in the game. More importantly he walked only 1 while striking out 5. His ERA is down to 2.02 on the year and he's giving Sea Dog fans a lot to be excited about. Lester wasn't as good as Papelbon last week, but he did keep the Dogs in the game going 6.2 IP letting up only a single run on 5 hits and a walk. He struck out 8. He was in line for the win, but a poor offensive showing and a run let up by the bullpen gave him a no decision in a game that the team eventually did win.

Wilmington Blue Rocks (WIL 3/POT 0, POT 6/WIL 0, FRE 6/WIL 5, WIL 7/FRE 5, FRE 10/WIL 8, LYN 7/WIL 5, WIL 14/LYN 5)

The Blue Rocks had a rough week going 2-4. As always, the only stand out star for the team in my mind was Anibal Sanchez. He had a decent game going 5 while letting up only 2 runs. The team won the game, but Sanchez didn't earn the victory thanks to some shoddy bullpen work. The biggest story was his control. He walked 2 batters in thos 5 innings bringing his season total up to 3 walks allowed. He struck out 4 while letting up 4 hits. Luis Gonzalez may be a pitcher to keep an eye on. The 20 year old has a 3.19 ERA in 31 IP over 6 games (5 of them starts). He's only struck out 17 while walking 7, but he's pitched well enough to keep the team in the games when he's on the mound.

Bryan Pritz, recently promoted from Greenville has been helping the team from the leadoff spot since he got to the team on May 1st. Apparently the speedy centerfielder has really great range and so far his bat in Wilmington has been pretty hot as he's started his High-A career with a .379/.538/.379 line in 29 at bats over 9 games. He still doesn't have an extra base hit, but the season is still young he he's already 3 for 3 in steal attempts.

Ian Bladergroen has fallen off the radar nearly completely. The man who some hoped would develop some power and move quickly through the system when he came over to the Sox in the offseason has been dropped down to 8th in the lineup. He's going to have to heat up really quick if he wants to go from #8 hitter in the low minors to prospect.

If the club is convinced that Pedroia has proven all he can at AA, maybe the solution would be to bring him to Pawtucket and have him play 2nd with Machado moving to short until they're convinced Hanley is ready to get called up.

And be prepared for an influx of about 5 Rockies fans. EEI just said that they picked up Neal.
I saw that about Neal today....looks like I decided to back the wrong guy! THat's what I get when all I spend is $5. The Blaine Neal era is over.
Brian if your interested in joining a Red Sox roundtable discussion at some point on Beyond the Boxscore, let me know through e-mail or comment smoewhere.
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