Red Sox minor league roundup: The good and bad of Matt Barnes' year; a mini-slump for Xander Bogaerts; Christian Vazquez scorching; Victor Acosta shows pop

August 07, 2013 - 9:00 am

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox minor league system on Tuesday: TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 12-8 LOSS AT BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS) (BOX) -- At a time when there is a daily watch to see if he will be called up to the big leagues, Xander Bogaerts is amidst his first mini-slump in roughly a month. He went 1-for-5 with a single on Tuesday, and starting with an 0-for-5 contest on Saturday (which ended his stretch of 30 straight games reaching base by hit or walk), the 20-year-old is 3-for-17 with a double, a walk and three strikeouts over his last four games. It's a brief struggle, one that does not detract in the least from Bogaerts' prospect status. That said, the one thing that Bogaerts has had little opportunity to do in Triple-A is to show how he would respond to even a brief taste of struggle (while he was up and down in his first two weeks in Pawtucket following his promotion, he probably outperformed expectations to a transition to the highest minor league level given his age and relative inexperience). That being the case, the Sox would likely welcome Bogaerts facing a period of adversity and proving he can adjust to it before he reaches the big leagues. Bogaerts also committed a fielding error (his eighth in 49 games in Pawtucket and first in seven starts at third base) that led to an unearned run. -- Outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker went 3-for-4 while launching a pair of homers (his ninth and 10th of the year), ending a 20-game home run draught. One of the homers came against left-hander Ricky Romero (yes, that Ricky Romero), marking the left-handed Hazelbaker's second home run of the year against a southpaw. Hazelbaker got off to a terrific start this year in Pawtucket (.299/.353/.545 with five homers in April), but in 75 games entering Tuesday, he was hitting just .250/.304/.324 -- though notably, he had 23 steals in 27 attempts in that time. He has a history of getting incredibly hot down the stretch, offering a chance that he could build upon his .269/.322/.394 line. Given his combination of raw power (he hit 17 and 19 homers in 2011 and 2012) and speed/baserunning impact (he's 28-for-34 in stolen base attempts this year), a strong finish to this year could position Hazelbaker either to be added to the Sox' 40-man roster or to be taken by another team in the Rule 5 draft if he is not added to the 40-man roster. In other words, Tuesday's game came at a time when the 25-year-old (who turns 26 next week) prepares to enter one of the most important stretches of his pro career to date. -- For the second straight outing, Jose Contreras was shelled, giving up six runs (four earned) in two innings while giving up six hits (including a homer). He did, however, punch out four and walk none, and the outing marked his first with the PawSox on fewer than four days' rest (this one came with two days of downtime). Still, after punching out eight and not allowing a hit in his first three PawSox appearances spanning 4 2/3 innings, Contreras has yielded nine runs (seven earned) on eight hits in his last 2 1/3 innings. -- Will Middlebrooks went 1-for-5 but homered for the second straight day. He continues to show pop (eight homers in 36 games since being optioned), but his overall offensive line remains .253/.298/.440 with the PawSox. He's cut down somewhat on his strikeouts, whiffing in 20.4 percent of his Triple-A plate appearances (down from 27.8 percent in the big leagues) while walking 6.2 percent of the time (up from a 4.2 percent in the big leagues). DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 8-2 LOSS VS. RICHMOND (GIANTS) (BOX) -- Right-hander Matt Barnes saw his streak of five straight starts allowing one or no runs come to an end, as the 23-year-old was hit hard, allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits (including a homer and three doubles) in 5 2/3 innings. He did, however, strike out seven and walk one. And, notably, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal reported that five of his punchouts came on his curveball, a significant reminder that while he hasn't had a consistent breaking ball since turning pro, he does have the potential to develop a useful pitch to complement his excellent mid-90s fastball and a changeup that has often been a good secondary offering for him (but that MacPherson suggested was not sharp on Tuesday). Barnes is 5-8 with a 4.40 ERA. There's a very good chance that he spends the entire season in Double-A Portland. Still, he continues to project as a big league starter on the strength of a fastball that has allowed him to pace the Eastern League with 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings. How far his breaking ball and curveball develop will ultimately determine whether his projection will be that of a back-of-the-rotation starter or someone who might look eventually like more of a No. 3. -- For the second straight outing, right-hander Noe Ramirez was hit hard, allowing two runs on a pair of solo homers in 1 2/3 innings. Though he punched out two, Ramirez also walked a batter for the fourth straight outing (spanning seven innings) -- a contrast to his excellent control numbers from his first 59 2/3 innings, during which he issued just 11 free passes. -- Catcher Christian Vazquez is amidst a terrific stretch. He went 2-for-3 with a sac fly on Tuesday, giving him four straight multi-hit games (he's 9-for-17 during the streak) and a run of 14 straight games in which he's reached base, posting a line of .396/.455/.500 with five walks and five strikeouts. He's also controlling the running game to an almost absurd degree, as he gunned down the only attempted runner on him on Tuesday, giving him a caught stealing percentage of exactly 50 percent (41-for-82). He is playing like someone with at least a chance of being the Red Sox' catcher of the future, as Tim Healey explains. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 3-0 LOSS (FIVE INNINGS, COMPLETED EARLY DUE TO RAIN) VS. WILMINGTON (ROYALS) (BOX) -- It was a short and quiet day for the Salem Red Sox. William Cuevas received his first loss since back on June 1, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits in five innings, striking out four. However, for the first time since his fourth start of the season, Cuevas allowed no walks. He also gave up a home run, and has allowed home runs in three straight outings. Through 21 starts this season, the 22-year-old is 6-7 with a 5.59 ERA, striking out 84 while issuing 33 walks. -- First baseman David Chester was just about the only member of the Salem offense to make any noise, going 1-for-1 with a single and a walk. Chester has hit safely in six of nine games since being promoted to Salem, and is hitting .300/.389/.500 with two home runs in High-A. Between Greenville and Salem this season, the 24-year-old is hitting .273/.359/.466 with 15 home runs and 25 doubles. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 5-2 LOSS VS. KANNAPOLIS (WHITE SOX) (BOX) -- Left-hander Brian Johnson, for the third time in four starts since returning to Greenville from the DL, did not allow an earned run, tossing six innings in which he gave up just one unearned run on three hits (all singles). The 22-year-old punched out five and walked two, giving him 18 strikeouts, nine walks and a 1.00 ERA in 18 innings since he returning from a two-month absence that was prompted by early-season shoulder tendinitis. -- Rehabbing second baseman Sean Coyle went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles. He's 3-for-8 since moving his rehab from the GCL to the South Atlantic League. -- Right-hander Kyle Martin, the Sox' ninth rounder pick out of Texas A&M, continues to perform well in his pro debut. He tossed a perfect inning with a strikeout on Tuesday, and has allowed one run in four innings since being promoted to Greenville following a 19-inning spell in Lowell during which he had a 0.47 ERA. Between the levels, he has 17 strikeouts and four walks in 23 innings while holding opponents to a .159 average and getting an impressive 2.86 groundball outs per air out. SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 4-3 WIN AT MAHONING VALLEY (INDIANS) (BOX) -- Jamie Callahan was named the New York Penn League Pitcher of the Week for the second time in a row on Monday, the first time a Spinner has received that honor in two consecutive weeks. Callahan had previously thrown two straight scoreless six-inning outings, allowing only one hit through those 12 innings while striking out 17 batters and allowing no walks. So by his standards, Tuesday night's start was a letdown. The righty gave up three runs on five hits and two walks while fanning only one in 4 2/3 innings. Callahan's season has offered consistency at two distinct poles: In three of his eight starts, he's shut out the opponent; in four of the eight, he's allowed exactly three earned runs. One two-inning, five-run performance in his second start of the season skew his numbers slightly, but Callahan has compiled a 3.99 ERA and 1.070 WHIP through 38 1/3 innings, striking out an average of 7.7 batters per nine innings while giving up an average of 2.6 walks per nine. -- Daniel McGrath came in to relieve Callahan with two outs in the fifth, making his first appearance out of the bullpen this season. The lefty earned the win, his first since coming over from Australia, with 2 1/3 flawless innings, striking out four of the seven batters he faced. McGrath has been solid since earning the promotion to Lowell after dominating GCL hitters. The 19-year-old has allowed 12 hits and five earned runs in 12 innings with the Spinners, striking out 13 while issuing only one walk. -- Brayan Villarreal, who came over to Boston from Detroit as part of the Jake Peavy-Jose Iglesias trade, made his Red Sox organizational debut on a rehab assignment in Lowell. Villarreal pitched a clean eighth inning, recording one strikeout. Villarreal has a tendency to be a bit wild at times, having walked an average of just under seven batters per nine innings in his time with Triple-A this season. The 26-year-old righty is recovering from a thumb injury that has sidelined him since mid-July. -- Right-hander Joe Gunkel, an 18th-round pick out of West Chester University this year, slammed the door by punching out the side in the ninth for his fourth save. He has yet to give up a run in Lowell, having allowed just three hits (.081 average) while punching out 16 and walking three in 11 1/3 innings. -- Center fielder Forrestt Allday didn't get a whole lot to hit on Tuesday. Allday reached base four time with a single and three walks, bringing his walk total to 18 on the season while he's racked up only 14 strikeouts. Allday is 7-for-21 with six walks in his last six games six games (he's also been hit twice), and is batting .306/.482/.371 through 19 games in his first professional season. ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 7-6 WIN VS. GCL ORIOLES (BOX) -- Second baseman Wendell Rijo, who had been mired in a 3-for-32 funk with a .094/.121/.094 line over his last nine games, bounced back with a 3-for-4 game that included a pair of doubles and his first career multi-RBI game as he knocked in three. Despite the recent skid, Rijo is still performing at a standout level in the GCL, particularly given his age (17), posting a .279/.382/.378 line in a league in which he is one of just 16 position players who have yet to turn 18 and where the average line is .244/.325/.341. -- Nick Longhi, serving as DH, went 1-for-3 with a double and a walk. All three of the 30th-rounder's hits so far have been doubles, doing little to alter the view of the 17-year-old as someone with intriguing power potential. DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 5-2 WIN AT DSL DODGERS (BOX) -- Third baseman Victor Acosta went 3-for-4 and slammed his sixth homer in 49 DSL games, tying him for the seventh most homers this year in the DSL. He's now hit more homers than any Red Sox player in the DSL since Roberto Feliz, then in his age 19 season, hit seven in 2007. But Acosta's home run prowess is far more impressive considering that he is, at 17, at an appropriate age for the level of competition. Overall, the native of Venezuela is hitting .247/.316/.392.