Red Sox minor league roundup: Anthony Ranaudo dominates; step forward for Buchholz; Cody Kukuk, player development case study; Myles Smith shows no-hit stuff;

August 31, 2013 - 4:55 am
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A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Friday: TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 2-1 WIN (WALKOFF) VS. SYRACUSE (NATIONALS) (BOX) -- The PawSox clinched a third straight playoff berth when Justin Henry delivered a walkoff single. -- Right-hander Clay Buchholz took a step forward in his latest rehab outing, allowing one run in 3 1/3 innings on seven hits while striking out two and walking none. While the seven hits represent a high total, six were singles (the other was a double), five of which were of the groundball variety. According to Tim Britton of the Providence Journal, Buchholz touched 92 mph on the McCoy Stadium radar gun and was able to throw his full arsenal with full intensity. "This is the hardest I've tried to throw throughout all this stuff," Buchholz told reporters. "I was able to throw all my pitches with the same effort level and same arm angle. That's basically the final hump I had to get over as far as not having a second thought in the back of my head." His command was still somewhat imprecise, but the outing represented a clear step forward from his first rehab outing, in which he threw 19 of 38 pitches for strikes while lasting just 2/3 of an inning. -- Right-hander Anthony Ranaudo had his most dominant outing in Triple-A, firing four no-hit innings in which he permitted one walk while punching out five, matching his highest total since getting promoted to the PawSox. Ranaudo continued to attack opposing hitters, as the 23-year-old has walked just seven batters in 30 1/3 innings in Triple-A (2.1 per nine innings) while punching out 6.2 per nine. -- Mark Hamilton went 3-for-4 with a double. The 28-year-old is hitting .264/.363/.469  in Pawtucket, including .277/.387/.474 against right-handers. -- Newly acquired outfielder Quintin Berry went 1-for-2 with a single and walk while also reaching by getting hit by a pitch. Perhaps most significantly, he was successful on both of his stolen base attempts, improving to 17-for-19 (89.4 percent) in the International League this year and 30-of-34 (88.2 percent) overall this year in Triple-A. -- Catcher Ryan Lavarnway went 0-for-4, and he's made little offensive impact since his return to the minors. He's hitting .216 with a .268 OBP, and all eight of his hits have been singles. Though he's walked infrequently (twice in 39 plate appearances), he's also struck out just five times. Still, there remains considerable head-scratching by evaluators about the disappearance of Lavarnway's power in the last two years. From 2008-11, 43.7 percent of Lavarnway's hits went for extra bases. In the last two years, just 30.4 percent of his hits have gone for extra bases. -- Right-hander Alex Wilson pitched a 1-2-3 inning with a strikeout in his first outing since Aug. 5. The Sox re-started his 20-day rehab clock on Friday. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 8-1 WIN VS. TRENTON (YANKEES) (BOX) -- Travis Shaw went 2-for-4 and went deep, and though he's hitting just .219, he ranks 12th in the Eastern League with 16 homers and fifth in the league with 76 walks. For the year, the 23-year-old has a .219/.338/.394 line. His year represents an interest study in contrast with that of teammate Michael Almanzar, who likewise went 2-for-4 with his 16th homer of the year on Friday. The 22-year-old Almanzar has a .270/.330/.433 line this year, but as a far more aggressive hitter (42 walks), the likelihood of building upon his numbers would appear more problematic than they are for Shaw, particularly given that Shaw's .259 batting average on balls in play suggests that some bad luck has been in play in his struggles this year. -- Garin Cecchini OBP watch: .441 after the third baseman Garin Cecchini went 1-for-3 with a single and a walk, furthering his hold on the top spot in the minors. (Current runner-up Allan Dykstra didn't play on Friday; he's at .436.) Cecchini extended his streak of consecutive games reaching base to 39 -- the third longest run in team history. The Portland record is held by Kevin Youkilis, who got on base in 62 straight contests in 2003. -- Left-hander Chris Hernandez continued to dominate in his return to Portland, allowing three hits in seven shutout innings while punching out five and walking two. Hernandez has been averaging roughly a walk for every four innings in Portland (8 in 33 1/3 innings), compared to an average of roughly a walk in every two frames in Pawtucket (51 in 102 1/3). HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 8-2 WIN VS. FREDERICK (ORIOLES) (BOX) -- Left-hander Brian Johnson earned his second win of the year, allowing two runs in five innings while walking and striking out three. The 2012 first-rounder has allowed just two runs in 11 innings since his promotion to High-A. -- David Chester has made a relatively seamless transition from Greenville to Salem. In 94 games in Greenville, the 24-year-old hit .270/.356/.462 with 13 homers. In 26 games in Salem, he's hitting .270/.353/.461 with five homers after going 2-for-4 with his 19th homer of the year on Friday. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 5-4 LOSS, 5-2 LOSS AT SAVANNAH (METS) (BOX GAME 1, BOX GAME 2) -- Shortstop Jose Vinicio snapped his 12-game hitless streak with a double in the first game of the doubleheader (before going 0-for-3 with three punchouts in the second game). He was 0-for-40 with no walks and 14 strikeouts in 42 plate appearances during the drought. At 20 years old, a switch-hitting shortstop with impressive defensive skills and the ability to impact the game on the bases will face something of a crossroads this offseason. If he dedicates himself to the training and work needed to put himself in position to show some of the skills in 2014 that he flashed in his first stint with Greenville in 2012, he still has a chance to claim some prospect status. If not, then there is a strong likelihood that the player who signed for $1.95 million as a 16-year-old in 2009 will be relegated to bust status. -- The final start of 2013 for left-hander Cody Kukuk more or less encapsulated his season. The 20-year-old allowed just three hits but yielded five runs in 5 1/3 innings, in no small part because his high volume of strikeouts (9) was also complemented by a considerable number of walks (4). Kukuk finishes the year with a 4.63 ERA (not good) and 6.8 walks per nine innings (not good) but 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings (good) and a .197 batting average against (very good). He represents the embodiment of a player development project, looking beyond present performance to future possibility. And what Kukuk showed was the ability to beat opponents with his low- to mid-90s fastball and slider, but a considerable challenge in being able to locate the offerings with any consistency. He is an "if . . .," a 2011 seventh-round pick who has concluded his first full professional season with ample promise and a considerable distance to travel if he ever hopes to fulfill it. SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 3-1 WIN AT CONNECTICUT (TIGERS) (BOX) -- Left-hander Corey Littrell had a strong performance, tossing four shutout innings in which he gave up three hits, punched out five and walked just one. The 21-year-old, a 2013 fifth-rounder, finished the regular season with 25 strikeouts, 10 walks and no homers allowed in 26 2/3 innings. -- Right-hander Joe Gunkel continued his dominance as the Spinners closer, punching out four in two perfect innings. He has 30 strikeouts and three walks in 19 1/3 innings this year, and 25 strikeouts without a single walk in his last 10 appearances spanning 15 1/3 frames. ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 3-0 WIN AT GCL YANKEES (GAME 1 OF BEST-OF-THREE PLAYOFF SERIES) (BOX) -- Right-hander Myles Smith, the Sox' fourth-round pick this year, fired three no-hit innings, striking out two and walking two. The 21-year-old hasn't given up a hit in any of his last four outings, working 10 no-hit innings with 10 strikeouts and just the two walks. He has electric stuff -- a mid-90s fastball and wipeout slider, as well as the potential for a changeup -- though Smith, who was converted from being a position player to a pitcher on a full-time basis just a couple years ago, remains relatively raw. Still, the promise has been on display in his first exposure to pro ball. -- Nick Longhi, one day after launching his first pro homer in the regular season finale, again went deep on Friday. DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 2-1 LOSS AT DSL RANGERS (LOSE BEST-OF-THREE SERIES, 2-0) (BOX) -- Cleanup hitter Franklin Guzman was the lone member of the DSL Sox with multiple hits or an extra-base hit, going 2-for-4 with a triple.

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