Red Sox minor league roundup: A championship in Salem; Sean Coyle's fascinating prospect status; Anthony Ranaudo, workhorse; Matt Price's bullpen dominance

September 11, 2013 - 11:15 am
Sean Coyle closed out his impressive return from a stint on the DL (sore elbow) that rendered him unable to play in the first round of the Carolina League Mills Cup championship, going 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and a hit by pitch while driving in four in Salem's decisive 6-4 triumph to conclude its three-game sweep. Coyle had at least one extra-base hit in each of the three games of the series, going 5-for-12 with three doubles and a triple while driving in seven en route to series MVP honors. The performance was a dazzling display of force -- but not a shock. Coyle showed considerable power this year, with a .537 slugging mark (accumulated both during his 12-game rehab in the Gulf Coast League and Single-A Greenville and in his 51 games (regular season and postseason) in High-A Salem), the highest slugging mark in the Sox system this year. Even though he was repeating the year in High-A Salem, Coyle is still young at 21, and he walked as many times this year (30) in 290 plate appearances as he had in 484 plate appearances in 2012 in Salem, suggesting progress in his approach. It's a bit difficult to make sense of Coyle as a prospect. At times, he's an overaggressive hitter who struggles with his frustrations, strikes out too much and walks too infrequently to look like a future big league regular. Injuries, too, have proven a regular impediment to his development. At other times, he gets on torrid runs that belie his 5-foot-8 frame, showing tremendous power for a middle-of-the-field (second base) position player. And, there are times when he's proven capable of a disciplined approach at the plate, as when he had a .362 OBP as a 19-year-old in Greenville in 2011 or in stretches to start this season. Coyle now has more than 700 plate appearances with Salem. The Sox had hoped to move him up to Double-A Portland early in 2013, particularly after he got off to a scorching start, with a .317/.377/.730 line and seven homers in April, but his struggles in May followed by two months on the DL due to a knee injury prevented that promotion from happening. In all likelihood, he'll open 2014 in Portland, where his aggressiveness will either be exposed or he will develop enough to permit his other skills -- power, along with strong baserunning skills (he's 27-for-27 in stolen base attempts in Salem over the last two years) and smooth defense at second -- to better define his prospect status. This was a year that offered tantalizing flashes of promise -- few more impressive than his year-ending performance in the championship series. Next year will help to clarify whether those flashes might become something more sustainable, permitting him to build upon his status as the MVP of the championship series in the High-A Carolina League to become viewed as a championship-caliber player in the big leagues. TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 2-1 WIN AT DURHAM (RAYS); LEAD BEST-OF-FIVE GOVERNOR'S CUP CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES, 1-0 (BOX) -- The contrast is sharp, and it's not just in the results. Anthony Ranaudo had never pitched so late in September before Tuesday. He's in uncharted territory in terms of testing the workload he can endure. And so, it stands to reason that his stuff was less than overpowering in Game 1. Yet he managed -- on a day when he didn't have his best control, throwing just 54 of 92 pitches (59 percent) for strikes, with just six for swings and misses -- to navigate through six innings in which he allowed one run on four hits (three singles and a double) while striking out four and walking one, putting his team in a position (on a day when it was dominated through seven innings by Rays pitcher Jake Odorizzi) to come back for a late victory. Ranaudo, who turned 24 on Monday, has now pitched in 27 games (plus two more appearances on the All-Star circuit in the middle of the season), logging 148 regular season innings. He's learning to compete and pitch while pushing himself to assume more of a workload than he's ever assumed before. For a pitcher who threw fewer than 40 innings a year ago, the evidence that last year was perhaps an outlier, that he is indeed capable of being a pitcher who can take the ball every five days, compete at times when he's run down and, on occasion, dominate when his arsenal is at its sharpest, underscores why Ranaudo has reclaimed his status as a pitcher with a promising future as a big league starter. -- Ryan Rowland-Smith is once again rolling. The left-hander posted a zero in the eighth, walking one and striking out one, giving him 4 2/3 shutout innings in four playoff games. He now has 10 consecutive scoreless appearances dating to Aug. 17, and between the regular season and playoffs, the 30-year-old has a 1.42 ERA. -- Second baseman Brock Holt went 2-for-4, with the two-run single in the top of the eighth that represented all of Pawtucket's offense. -- Jeremy Hazelbaker continued to show postseason pop, going 2-for-4 with a double, his third extra-base hit in five playoff games. He's 4-for-15 with a double and two triples in four playoff games. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 6-4 WIN VS. POTOMAC (NATIONALS); SWEEP BEST-OF-FIVE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES, 3-0 (BOX) -- Feats of Mookie: Reaching base all the time. Mookie Betts wrapped up his season with a relatively modest 1-for-4 day, extending his streak of consecutive games reaching base to 35. The second baseman went 7-for-17 with two walks and two strikeouts in the playoffs, assembling a .412/.500/.471 line in Salem's five postseason games. Between the regular season and playoffs, Betts hit .347/.422/.545 with 20 steals in 23 attempts over 56 games after his promotion to the Carolina League, a remarkable performance that vaulted him from relative prospect obscurity in the Red Sox system to status as one of the top position playing prospects in the organization. -- Right-hander Matt Price closed out the win with two scoreless innings, working around two hits (a single and double) on the strength of four groundouts and a strikeout. Price threw four scoreless innings in the playoffs, punching out five and walking one, and the 24-year-old finished the year by allowing just three earned runs in his final 34 1/3 innings (0.79 ERA) during which opponents hit .172 against him. Though Rule 5 eligible if not added to the 40-man roster this year, given that the 2010 eighth-rounder only has one year of experience on his resume (after missing one year due to Tommy John and another due to suspension), that he has yet to pitch above High-A and the fact that he's a right-handed reliever suggests that he's not at grave risk of being selected or sticking in the big leagues for a full year. Still, given that he showed power stuff with an ability to get swings and misses and groundballs -- albeit against younger opponents -- Price has a chance to advance quickly now that he does have a full year under his belt and he will be Rule 5 eligible going forward. -- Catcher Blake Swihart went just 1-for-17 (.059) during the playoffs, though he did show his characteristic solid approach that yields walks (3) and few strikeouts (5). More significantly, given that the 21-year-old was behind the plate for the entirety of a run in which his team went 5-0 with a 1.34 ERA, the 2011 first-rounder did nothing to diminish his standing as one of the top catching prospects in all of the minors.