Red Sox minor league roundup: Matt Barnes' atypical stretch; Brian Johnson stumbles; Nick Longhi, Yoan Aybar intrigue

July 08, 2014 - 9:17 am
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A brief look at the action in the Red Sox minor league system on Monday: TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-1 WIN AT COLUMBUS (INDIANS) (BOX) -- Though right-hander Matt Barnes matched a career-worst with five walks, he worked around the combination of those free passes and five hits (four singles and a double) to limit Columbus to one run in five innings. After exhibiting tremendous control (one walk in 20 2/3 innings over four starts at the beginning of June), Barnes has struggled to stay in the strike zone in his last three outings, issuing 11 walks in 14 innings. Meanwhile, the swing-and-miss stuff that was a staple of his arsenal in his first two full pro years hasn't been present of late. A pitcher who entered the year with 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings in his minor league career has punched out just 6.8 per nine this year, a decrease of roughly 36 percent; he's struck out two batters in four of his last five starts, with 5.3 strikeouts per nine in that stretch. -- Will Middlebrooks went 1-for-3 while playing third base, and is now 4-for-15 with two walks, a triple and a home run in five games during his current rehab assignment, which started July 1. -- Outfielder Andres Torres went 2-for-4 with his second homer and first walk in nine games for Pawtucket. The 36-year-old, signed to a minor league deal last month, is hitting .323 with a .344 OBP, .581 slugging mark, one walk and seven strikeouts since joining the PawSox. But with Mookie Betts now in the big leagues, Torres' role with the Red Sox is uncertain, and so he could be a low-cost veteran available to other teams looking to gain reinforcements in advance of the trade deadline. -- Deven Marrero went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles and a steal, marking his third multi-hit game in six contests since his promotion to Triple-A. Marrero is hitting .409/.435/.500 in Triple-A, and .300/.376/.438 in 74 games overall this year. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 11-4 LOSS AT BINGHAMTON (METS) (BOX) -- For the first time since his promotion to Double-A, left-hander Brian Johnson had his lunch handed to him. He allowed seven runs on eight hits (including two doubles and a homer) in just 2 1/3 innings, snapping a pair of dazzling streaks. Johnson hadn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of his first 11 starts in Double-A, and aside from a rain-shortened three-inning outing, he'd logged at least five innings in every trip to the hill. The 23-year-old, named an Eastern League All-Star, saw his ERA sail north of 2.00, jumping from 1.73 to 2.64. -- Center fielder Derrik Gibson went 2-for-5 with a double and triple. The right-handed Gibson had both of his hits against righties, and he's now hitting a solid .271/.376/.376 against righties -- but the 24-year-old has rekindled some prospect status largely on the basis of his dominance against lefties, whom he's hitting at a .398/.462/.495 clip. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 9-8 LOSS VS. FREDERICK (ORIOLES) (BOX) -- Right-hander Joe Gunkel was shelled for nine runs (six earned) on 10 hits, including a pair of doubles and a two-run homer, in five innings. The 22-year-old walked one and struck out three on a night where he gave up more runs and earned runs than he'd allowed in his first three High-A starts combined. -- Reed Gragnani, playing left field for the fourth time in 11 games after spending most of the year at second base with a sampling of third, went 2-for-5 and drove in four runs. The 23-year-old is second in the Carolina League in average (.326) and OBP (.419). -- Mike Miller, who was playing shortstop, reached base four times, going 2-for-3 with a pair of walks. The 24-year-old is hitting .330/.403/.391 in 30 games since joining Salem following a season-opening spell on the DL with a broken hamate. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 4-3 LOSS AT CHARLESTON (YANKEES) (BOX) -- Center fielder Manuel Margot went 1-for-3 with a walk and a steal. Since the start of June, the 19-year-old has walked 12 times while striking out just nine times, a span in which he's 12-for-14 in stolen base attempts. On the year, Margot's 29 steals are second in the South Atlantic League, and he's stealing at a solid 83 percent success rate while hitting .265/.336/.412, in a league where the average line is .262/.332/.382, and where the average position player is two years older than Margot. -- Outfielder Cole Sturgeon, promoted from Lowell to Greenville after just seven games, went 1-for-4 with a single and a walk. The 22-year-old was drafted by the Sox in the 10th round out of Louisville as a senior. SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 6-3 WIN AT VERMONT (ATHLETICS) (BOX) -- Nick Longhi went 2-for-5 with a double to extend his hitting streak to nine games. In 19 games, the 18-year-old is hitting .357/.378/.486 with eight extra-base hits. He's currently third in the New York-Penn League in average; the two players ahead of him are 21 and 22 years old. -- Danny Mars, a 2014 sixth-rounder, checked off another box in his pro career. The 20-year-old hit his first homer for Lowell, and in nine games, the switch-hitter is hitting .405/.450/.622 with a homer, five extra-base hits and two steals. -- Second baseman Raymel Flores went 3-for-5 with a double. The 19-year-old is now hitting .267/.380/.383 with eight steals in nine attempts. ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: RAINED OUT DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 10-5 LOSS VS. DSL GIANTS (BOX) -- Outfielder Yoan Aybar went 2-for-3 with a triple and got hit by a pitch. It was his fourth multi-hit contest in six games in July, during which he's hitting .474 with a .522 OBP and 1.053 slugging percentage thanks to seven extra-base hits (three doubles, four triples). Though he just turned 17, Aybar has seemed comfortable despite being on the young side of the league, striking out just twice in his last nine games. His lean, athletic frame (listed at 6-foot-2 and 165 pounds), in combination with his age, offers all kinds of grounds for potential upside projection, particularly given what he's showing early in terms of hand-eye coordination and the ability to barrel the ball. Overall, he's hitting .329/.376/.518, ranking 21st in average and 12th in slugging. -- Jesus Perez, an 18-year-old outfielder who is in his first pro season, continued to show uncommon extra-base ability, going 1-for-4 with a double and two strikeouts. In 14 games, he has six extra-base hits. Though he represents an extremely raw talent whose baseball experience has been geared almost solely towards showcases, he's made positive first impressions in his acclimation to pro ball.

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