Red Sox minor league roundup: Anthony Ranaudo and the player development machine; Garin Cecchini shows survival skills amidst slump; Dan Butler is unstoppable

August 05, 2013 - 10:11 am

It's not supposed to work this way. Even top prospects are supposed to fall on their faces every now and again when exposed to more advanced levels of competition. The opposite is happening this year for the Red Sox. Consider: -- Brandon Workman was impressive in Double-A, dominant in Triple-A and outstanding in three big league spot starts. -- Drake Britton forged his way from Double-A to Triple-A, made one start, got promoted to the big leagues where he has delivered nine shutout innings in his on-the-fly conversion to the bullpen. -- Xander Bogaerts followed his tremendous showing in Double-A with an almost equally outrageous performance to date (given his status as the youngest player in the International League) in Triple-A, putting him on the doorstep to the big leagues. -- Garin Cecchini led the Carolina League in hitting and OBP to force his promotion to Double-A Portland, where he has continued -- despite a recent cold spell -- to hit for average (.294) while showing tremendous on-base skill (.409 OBP). -- Henry Owens, after a standout run for Salem in his age 20 season, made his Double-A debut on Saturday, tossing six shutout innings and punching out 11. And finally, there was Anthony Ranaudo. The 23-year-old right-hander made his Triple-A debut on Sunday an impressive one, allowing four hits (all singles) in six shutout innings while punching out five and walking none. He threw 65 percent (56 of 86) of his pitches for strikes, running his fastball up to 94 mph while averaging 92 mph on the pitch, showing good command of the offering while also once again demonstrating a swing-and-miss curveball. Player development doesn't typically work this way. More often, at least some prospects will get thrown while moving up the ladder. There have been at least some examples this year of players in the Red Sox system to whom that's happened -- Allen Webster's struggles between the big leagues and Triple-A over the last few months come prominently to mind -- but that instance seems like the exception. Instead, the organization's top prospects have responded impressively to the challenge of moving up to handle more advanced competition, an indicator of considerable strength in the upper levels of the farm system that has the potential to sustain the Sox' blueprint of a contender built upon homegrown depth for years to come. TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 8-1 WIN AT BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS) (BOX) -- Xander Bogaerts rebounded from his 0-for-5 night on Saturday to go 2-for-4 with a double and a walk. He has five multi-hit contests in his last eight games, bringing his line in 47 Triple-A games to .282/.378/.477. -- Third baseman Will Middlebrooks went 2-for-5, and he's now 5-for-16 (.313) to start August. However, he still seems to be searching for the approach that catapulted him to a spectacular rookie year, as evidenced by the fact that the 24-year-old has now gone nine straight games without an extra-base hit. In 34 games since being optioned, he's hitting .254/.303/.408; in his last 27 contests, however, he's hitting just .232/.283/.313 with two homers and three doubles. -- Dan Butler went 2-for-5 with a double and drove in three runs, as he improved to .360/.435/.658 with nine homers and seven doubles in his last 33 games. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 6-4 LOSS AT BOWIE (ORIOLES) (BOX) -- At least for now, the hits have stopped coming for Garin Cecchini. He went 0-for-3 with a walk on Sunday, and is now just 1-for-21 over his last nine contests. However, despite his .048 batting average in that period, the 22-year-old has a .355 OBP, as he's walked more (9 times) than he's struck out (8) while also getting hit by a pitch. The ability to get on base amidst an offensive slump is what talent evaluators charaterize as a critical survival skill when it comes to future decisions about how aggressively he can be promoted. -- Catcher Christian Vazquez remained hot, going 2-for-4 with a double. In his last four games, he's 8-for-16 with two doubles and two walks. On the year, the 22-year-old is now hitting .272/.364/.391. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: OFF DAY SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 8-6 WIN VS. SAVANNAH (METS) (BOX) -- On a day when Greenville made six (!) errors, Luis Diaz gave up five runs but none earned in his four innings of work. He gave up five hits (all singles), walked none and struck out three in his labor-intensive outing. As such, his ERA dropped to 2.27 in Greenville, including a 0.94 mark in the 21-year-old's last eight starts, with a 47-to-7 strikeout-to-walk rate in that time. -- Outfielder Kendrick Perkins went 2-for-4 with a double and his first homer of the season for Greenville. The 21-year-old is now hitting .194/.250/.328 in 20 games for the Drive. SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 11-3 LOSS VS. BATAVIA (MARLINS) (BOX) -- Right-hander Ty Buttrey neither struck out nor walked a batter in five innings of work, allowing six hits (five singles and a triple) and three runs. The 20-year-old has shown a willingness to attack the strike zone with Lowell, walking a relatively modest 13 batters in 37 1/3 innings and nine in his last 34 frames, but he has yet to generate strikeouts. He's punched out just 17 batters thus far this year, a somewhat surprising development in the league for a pitcher with size, a willingness to attack the strike zone and the ability to reach mid-90s velocity. -- Outfielder Aaron King had his second double in as many games, going 1-for-3 with the 24-year-old's sixth extra-base hit in 28 games with Lowell. In his first minor league season since moving from the mound to the outfield, King is hitting .255/.321/.353. ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: OFF DAY DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: OFF DAY