Red Sox minor league roundup: Michael Almanzar's intriguing prospect status; promising returns for Brian Johnson, Kyle Stroup

April 08, 2013 - 8:54 am

Is Michael Almanzar a prospect? It's a question that, for now, does not have a clear answer. But that fact alone represents considerable progress in the career of the 22-year-old, given that in 2011, it would have been difficult to find anyone who would have suggested that there might be a path to the majors for him. Perhaps because he signed as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican in 2007, it seems as if the corner infielder (whose third base defense has shown considerable strides, to the point of making him a viable glove at that position) has been in the Red Sox' system forever. The reality is that he's in his age 22 season -- the same age that Jackie Bradley Jr. was last year, younger than Bryce Brentz was in Double-A last year and younger than prospects such as fellow Portland corner infielder Travis Shaw is this year. Almanzar has a power-hitter's frame but the long arms that require particular precision in his swing to make consistent power. That physical description puts the right-handed hitter in the category of a player who can fit the late bloomer category. And from the standpoint of his performance, there is a chance that he is finally starting to see some elements come together in the batter's box. Last year in Salem, he hit .300 with a .353 OBP, .458 slugging mark and .812 OPS, with marks of .296/.363/.485/.848 in the second half, when he hit nine of his 12 homers. On Sunday, in his second game in Double-A Portland, he made some noise, delivering his second career two-homer game (the first having come last August 14 for High-A Salem), going deep to center and left as part of a 2-for-3 game in which he also walked. The jury remains out on whether Almanzar will develop the approach to succeed. He can be aggressive to his detriment. That being the case, it remains to be seen where the glimpses of promise over the last year-plus take him, but if Almanzar is able to translate his Salem performance to Double-A, it would solidify the notion that there is still time for him to create a path to the big leagues. This could be a defining year for a player who still remains young enough to be a prospect, even if it isn't quite on the same timetable as might have been expected when the Sox signed him out of the Dominican for a $1.5 million bonus almost six years ago. TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 6-2 WIN AT SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE (YANKEES) (BOX) -- Bryce Brentz had his fourth double in as many games to start the season, his only hit in a 1-for-5 game in which he struck out three times. -- DH Mark Hamilton, armed with perhaps the most left-handed raw power of anyone in the Red Sox minor league system, went 3-for-5 with a double while driving in a pair of runs. The 28-year-old is in his first year in the Red Sox system after signing a minor league deal this offseason, following seven years in the Cardinals system where he was blocked by St. Louis' glut of corners. -- Right-hander Terry Doyle allowed just one hit in 6 1/3 shutout innings while striking out five. (He also matched a career high as a professional by issuing five walks.) He's been a remarkably consistent performer throughout his minor league career, never posting an ERA over 3.07 in five seasons since the White Sox took him out of Boston College in the 37th round of the 2008 draft. -- Left-handed reliever Ryan Rowland-Smith, in his first game pitching for a Red Sox affiliate, allowed a run on a pair of hits and a walk while striking out two in 1 2/3 innings. -- Outfielder Alex Hassan went on the disabled list with a calf injury. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 9-7 LOSS VS. TRENTON (YANKEES) (BOX) -- Stephen Drew went 0-for-4 in his third of four rehab games with Portland, with a walk, two strikeouts (one looking, one swinging) and a pair of flyouts (one to center, one to second base). He is 1-for-10 with a double, walk and three strikeouts in his rehab assignment. -- Daniel Bard had a perfect inning of work, with a strikeout, pop-out and groundout requiring just eight pitches (seven strikes). -- Xander Bogaerts went 2-for-5 with a pair of singles, an RBI and three strikeouts. -- Derrik Gibson, who did not hit a single homer in 115 games in Double-A a year ago, went deep to center field on Sunday as part of a 2-for-3 day that also included a walk. He's now hit four homers in 475 career minor league games. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 3-1 LOSS (10 INNINGS) AT FREDERICK (ORIOLES) (BOX) -- Kyle Stroup, in his first start in 582 days after missing all of 2012 following a blown-out ACL (his second in three years), had an impressive outing. He tossed five shutout innings, permitting three hits (a double and two singles) while walking one and striking out two. His fastball velocity was solid, registering 92-95 mph, and he threw 34 of 53 pitches for strikes -- impressive given the adrenaline that undoubtedly accompanied his first start in so long. Stroup's stuff in 2011, when he last pitched, was among the best of any Sox starting prospect, as he was getting swings and misses with both a mid-90s fastball and a plus changeup in Single-A Greenville. The massive, 6-foot-6 right-hander has been determined enough to make it back from two lost seasons at this point, and has positioned himself to be one of the more intriguing storylines of 2013. -- Sean Coyle has had three straight games of getting on base twice. The 2010 third-round pick, in his return to Salem, is now 5-for-11 with two walks and has reached base in seven of his 13 trips to the plate thus far after going 2-for-5 (with his first two strikeouts of the year) on Sunday. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 5-0 LOSS VS. CHARLESTON (YANKEES) (BOX) -- Left-hander Brian Johnson made his first start in a minor league game since his 2012 season ended abruptly with a line drive off his face while pitching at Fenway for the Lowell Spinners. The left-hander -- one of the few Red Sox minor leaguers with a four-pitch mix (fastball, curveball, slider and changeup) -- turned in a solid effort, permitting one run on six hits (five singles and a double) in four innings of work while walking one and striking out two. -- First baseman Boss Moanaroa, who is back in Greenville for the second straight year, is off to a solid start, having gone 4-for-12 with a pair of doubles while reaching base in half of his 16 plate appearances to date. The 21-year-old native of Australia takes a ton of walks -- something that helped him to a .391 OBP last year. To listen to the most recent Minor Details podcast, featuring Henry Owens, Garin Cecchini and the search for the next breakout Red Sox prospect, click here.