Red Sox minor league roundup: Progress for Jackie Bradley Jr., the forgotten phenom; perfection for Daniel McGrath; Mookie Betts busting out; Matt Barnes rolling (sort of); Garin Cecchini, on-base machine

August 12, 2013 - 8:37 am
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Jackie Bradley Jr. went 1-for-5 on Sunday for Triple-A Pawtucket, with his lone hit being a double. The two-bagger was the third extra-base hit for Bradley (who returned from a DL stint on Friday) in his last two games, further evidence that he's developing an increasing ability to drive the ball in his second full pro season. In 61 games for the PawSox, Bradley is hitting .276/.376/.496 with 34 extra-base hits this year in Triple-A Pawtucket. Those numbers don't match his combined totals last year in the minors (a .315/.430/.482 line with High-A Salem and Double-A Portland), but it does represent a noteworthy step forward from what he did in the second half following his promotion to Double-A, where he hit .271/.373/.437 with 24 extra-base hits in 61 games. In particular, Bradley's ability to drive the ball for extra bases seems greater this year than it was in Portland in 2012. "Obviously, I'm still a pretty young kid. I'm going to get stronger. That's just maturation, working out," said Bradley. "I do think it has something to do with knowing your swing and picking your spots as well. I feel like it's been something that's being developed into my game. It might not be there in a large quantity, but it keeps pitchers honest." While Bradley just came off the DL due to a minor elbow injury, he feels that he's physically primed to finish the 2013 campaign in strong fashion. The 23-year-old has adjusted his exhausting-and-amazing-to-watch pregame routine of power shagging, and he expects the results to show that. "My body feels great. I'm not tiring out like I did last year. I was definitely tired out at the end of the year. I think that had to do with the power-shagging. I kind of adjusted that, had to make adjustments. I had to learn that from experience. The power-shagging I did in college and high school, I wasn't playing as many games, so I kind of had to settle down. That's something that I did this year. Maybe take it a group or so. Kind of get my body into shape to be able to perform at a high level every single day." As much attention as has been conferred upon whether and when teammate Xander Bogaerts might be called up, there's every chance that Bradley could emerge as just as significant a contributor down the stretch. While he's gone from the brightest of spring training spotlights (admittedly a somewhat oxymoronic term) to relative obscurity in Pawtucket, there remains an opportunity for the gifted defender with an advanced approach to make an impact down the stretch -- whether as a late-season call-up or in positioning himself for a big league opportunity next year. TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 7-1 WIN AT SYRACUSE (NATIONALS) (BOX) -- In his return to Triple-A, knuckleballer Steven Wright proved outstanding, giving up one unearned run in seven innings while scattering seven hits, walking one and punching out four. The 28-year-old threw an impressive 71 of 98 pitches for strikes. In his last six Triple-A starts dating to the start of July, Wright now has a 1.82 ERA with 24 punchouts and 14 walks in 39 2/3 innings. -- Bogaerts continues to deliver modest offensive impact. He went 1-for-5, and in his last seven games, he has no walks and one extra-base hit (a double). In his last nine contests, he's hitting .282/.300/.333, with his recent struggles playing into the decision to promote Will Middlebrooks over the weekend. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 6-5 LOSS VS. BOWIE (ORIOLES) (BOX) -- Catcher David Ross made a solid return to work behind the plate, catching four innings while going 1-for-1 with a double, a walk and reaching a third time on a catcher's interference call. The game marked the first time that Ross had caught in a game since landing on the DL in June with a concussion. -- Right-hander Matt Barnes continued to keep opposing lineups in check, tossing five innings in which he allowed one run on four hits with six punchouts and three walks. Barnes elicited 14 swings and misses among his 101 pitches, continuing to show the strikeout stuff that has him amidst his best stretch of the year. Over his last five starts, Barnes has a 1.88 ERA with 38 strikeouts and 13 walks in 28 2/3 innings. It's been a strong run, yet not an overpowering one. Barnes still has yet to show the ability to work through opposing Eastern League lineups like a buzzsaw, as evidenced by the fact that he's getting into high pitch counts that have prevented him from working deep into games. He's worked six or more innings in just six of his 22 starts this year, totaling 99 innings in his 22 starts, an average of 4 1/2 innings per outing. In the absence of a consistent three-pitch mix, he's given up a ton of foul balls, resulting in high pitch counts and walks even as he's managed to accumulate a ton of strikeouts (his 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings lead all Eastern League pitchers with at least 60 innings of work this year). -- Third baseman Garin Cecchini (serving as DH) went 3-for-4 with a walk. Cecchini, 22, is hitting for no power, with just one extra-base hit (a double) in his last 17 games. Yet in that same span, he has a .427 OBP (despite a .246 average), further underscoring his standout on-base skills. He continues to rank second in all of minor league baseball (full-season affiliates only) in OBP this year with a .450 mark, and his .424 OBP since his promotion to Double-A is fourth in the Eastern League, ranking behind only players who are 24 or older. -- The transition for Miguel Celestino from the rotation to the bullpen this year continues to be a rocky one. The right-hander -- one of the hardest throwers in the Sox system -- allowed three runs on three hits and a walk in 1 1/3 innings on Sunday, blowing his fourth save of the year while dropping to 1-9 with a 5.65 ERA. He has struck out 65 in 65 1/3 innings, but he's also given up nine homers and 31 walks. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 6-1 WIN AT WILMINGTON (ROYALS) (BOX) -- Feats of Mookie: Back in gear. Mookie Betts appears to be getting comfortable in High-A. The 20-year-old had arguably his best performance in 30 games since moving up from Greenville to Salem, going 3-for-4 with a homer (his fourth with Salem, second in three games and 12th overall in 106 contests) and a steal (his 13th in as many attempts in High-A, and 31st in 33 attempts between the two levels). Betts is now starting to heat up in a fashion that offers reminders of what he did in Greenville. He now has a nine-game hitting streak during which he's hitting .419/.514/.645, showing the ability to stay in an approach that results in hitting for average with good on-base and bat-to-ball skills (five walks, five strikeouts) and some sneaky pop for a relatively diminutive second baseman. At 20, Betts has had one of the most impressive performances of any position player in the Sox system this year. -- Shortstop Deven Marrero went 1-for-4 with his second homer of the year. He's moved beyond an 0-for-15 rut to start this month by going 7-for-18 (.389) with six walks and three strikeouts in his last five contests, improving his season-long marks to .256/.341/.334. In terms of his offensive numbers, the 22-year-old's season appears modest, but his standing as one of the better position prospects in the Sox system is predicated more on his all-around game than on an offense-first profile. The 2012 first-rounder has 21 steals in 23 attempts and he's looked excellent at short, committing just four errors in 85 games. Still, given his experience as an elite college performer at Arizona State, the fact that he has posted a line score that fails to distinguish itself from the league-average offensive line (.254/.333/.381) represents something of a surprise. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 10-6 LOSS AT ASHEVILLE (ROCKIES) (BOX) -- Right-hander Austin Maddox had one of his best line scores since moving to a late-innings relief role. He fired two shutout innings, punching out three while giving up one walk and one hit. The walk snapped a six-game, 9 2/3-inning stretch without a free pass, but nonetheless, Maddox -- a 2012 third-round pick -- continues to show improvements as a reliever. In 15 outings out of the bullpen dating to June 20, he has a 2.96 ERA with 21 strikeouts and just seven walks in 27 1/3 innings while permitting just one homer, a sharp contrast to his first dozen outings of the year (as a starter) in which the 22-year-old had an 8.17 ERA with 40 strikeouts, 14 walks and a whopping 12 homers in 50 2/3 innings. -- Outfielder Aneury Tavarez went 3-for-4 with a walk and a steal. As notable as the three-hit effort was, the walk represented a more noteworthy development. The 21-year-old has taken free passes in back-to-back games after not having walked in any of the previous 24 contests. On the year, he's hitting .268/.305/.411 with 23 steals in 35 attempts. SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 3-1 WIN AT STATEN ISLAND (YANKEES) (BOX) -- Left-hander Daniel McGrath added to what has been one of the most impressive performances by a Red Sox prospect in short-season leagues this year, retiring all 15 batters he faced while striking out six. The 19-year-old, in his first pro season in the States after signing out of Australia last year, has been strong in Lowell since his promotion from the GCL. He has a 2.65 ERA, 19 strikeouts and just one walk in 17 frames in his four outings with Lowell. Between the GCL and Lowell, he now has a 1.95 ERA, 49 strikeouts and seven walks in 47 innings. To date, McGrath has stood out for his confidence and command with an advanced three-pitch mix (fastball, curveball, changeup) that is unusual given his age and relative inexperience. He throws strikes with all three pitches and, despite modest velocity (on Sunday, his fastball was 87-92 mph), he shows the ability to angle his fastball down to get bad contact, showing an overall maturity on the mound that stands out in the lower levels and that points to the ability to move quickly through the first stages of pro ball. -- DH Nick Moore went 1-for-4 with a homer, with the 20-year-old adding to what has been his best stretch of the 2013 season. In eight games this month, Moore is hitting .333/.355/.556. Prior to the stretch, in 30 games in Lowell, the enormous corner infielder was hitting .158/.264/.189 in 30 games. ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: OFF DAY DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: OFF DAY
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