Red Sox Minor League Roundup: The rare air of Xander Bogaerts and Keury De La Cruz, the struggles of Daniel Bard

August 17, 2012 - 9:36 am
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A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Thursday . . . TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-4 LOSS AT SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE (YANKEES) (BOX) --Daniel Bard allowed three unearned runs, allowing one hit and two walks while throwing 14 of 29 pitches for strikes. It marked the first time in just over a month that Bard -- who threw just 10 of 27 pitches for strikes in his prior outing on Tuesday -- had thrown more balls than strikes in consecutive outings. Though the runs were unearned, Bard's command struggles prevented him from minimizing the damage in an inning that saw the PawSox commit two errors (with Bard committing one and Jose Iglesias committing the other). In his last four outings, Bard has now allowed nine runs; he's given up 12 runs in his last seven appearances spanning 6 2/3 innings. -- Jose Iglesias continued to make the case that his career-best performance in May (prior to his back injury) was not a mirage. He went 1-for-3 with a pair of walks. He has seven walks (one shy of his career high for any month) and eight strikeouts in 15 games in August en route to a .305/.379/.390/.769 line. His overall Triple-A stat line this year (.260/.310/.301/.611) still show a picture of a player who needs to develop his offensive game in order to make his case for a regular big league job, but at 22, he is still young and showing signs of improving against his competition. In other words, while his extraordinary defense is a given, it remains premature to say whether he will or will not emerge as a viable big league starting shortstop, but for the Sox, the fact that the most recent signs have been decidedly positive for a player who remains younger than every member of the Red Sox' big league roster is a promising one. -- Juan Carlos Linares slammed his sixth homer in 47 games in Triple-A, with the blast coming against former Red Sox left-hander Justin Thomas. Linares is hammering lefties to a .324/.378/.647/1.025 line in Triple-A, albeit in a small sample of just 37 plate appearances. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 2-1 WIN AT ALTOONA (CURVE) (BOX) -- It's a small sample, but thus far, it's hard not to be impressed with what Xander Bogaerts is doing at the start of his Double-A career. On Thursday, he slammed a double to right-center, an extra-base hit notable for a number of reasons: 1) It came against Gerritt Cole, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft, who regularly touched triple digits on the radar gun while retiring each of the first 14 Sea Dogs whom he'd faced; 2) It displayed Bogaerts' tremendous power to right-center, a trait that he possesses to an absurd degree for a teenager (it's worth noting that Salem broadcaster Evan Lepler stated repeatedly that Bogaerts' outstanding opposite-field power was being suppressed in the Carolina League and especially in his home park, and that he expected that the more favorable hitting conditions of the Eastern League to give a considerable bump to the shortstop's numbers); 3) Not only has he hit in all six games since his promotion to Double-A, but he has extra-bases in five of them. -- Reliever Jason Urquidez punched out seven batters in 3 1/3 innings. The 29-year-old, whom the Sox signed out of the indy leagues, has 33 strikeouts, seven walks and a 2.08 ERA in 39 innings with Portland. -- Left-hander Rich Hill will appear in a rehab game with the Sea Dogs on Friday. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 8-5 WIN VS. POTOMAC (NATIONALS) (BOX) -- Though Keith Couch has bounced frequently between the Salem rotation and bullpen this year in order to accommodate higher profile starting pitching prospects, he's been steadily effective, just as he was a year ago in Single-A Greenville. On Thursday, Couch had one of his best outings of the year, allowing just one run while scattering seven hits, striking out four and walking none. He's striking out 7.0 batters and walking 2.1 per nine innings while getting good groundball numbers with his low-90s sinker, a pitch he complements with two breaking balls and a changeup. The 22-year-old is 9-9 with a 3.59 ERA this season. Jon Meoli of SoxProspects.com recently offered a good look at the unheralded Couch. -- Burner Felix Sanchez went 2-for-3 with a double, walk and steal. He has 25 steals in 29 attempts in his 46 games this year. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 10-5 WIN AT ASHEVILLE (ROCKIES) (BOX) -- Keury De La Cruz had a monster game, going 3-for-5 with two homers while driving in seven. He's now hitting .316/.362/.553/.916 with 18 homers for the year. He and Bogaerts could join the short list of Sox prospects to blast 20 or more homers at age 20 or younger since 2000. The other Sox prospects to do so: Miles Head (22 at age 20 in 2011, when he split the year between Greenville and Salem) and Anthony Rizzo (25 at age 20 in 2010 in Salem and Portland). De La Cruz is doing so at a lower level, and he doesn't exhibit the same patient approach of Head, Rizzo or Bogaerts, but the consistency with which he's been able to impact the baseball at a young age bears notice. A couple of recent age 20 seasons by Sox outfield prospects (known for aggressive plate approaches) in Greenville are worth mention: De La Cruz (2012): 104 games - .316/.362/.553/.916, 18 HR, 77 RBI, 16 SB Brandon Jacobs (2011): 115 games - .303/.376/.505/.881, 17 HR, 80 RBI, 30 SB Josh Reddick (2007): 94 games - .306/.352/.531/.884, 18 HR, 72 RBI, 8 SB In that context, it's difficult not to consider the age 20 season of De La Cruz to be an extremely promising one. -- Garin Cecchini went 3-for-5 with a double. He now has a season line of .308/.388/.429/.818 with 40 steals (in 44 attempts). In his last nine games, he's hitting .382/.436/.471/.907. SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 5-3 LOSS AT ABERDEEN (ORIOLES) (BOX) -- Supplemental first rounder Pat Light gave up a homer to the first batter he faced (the first time he's been taken deep as a pro) but then settled to allow just one more hit over three innings. The big right-hander struck out a career-high six in his three innings of work, giving him 22 punchouts and four walks in 19 innings in Lowell. -- Raynel Velette gave up just one hit in 4 1/3 innings but he walked seven batters en route to a two-run yield. Opponents are hitting just .192 against the 21-year-old, but he's walking 4.8 per nine innings. ROOKIE LEVEL GCL RED SOX: 6-2 WIN VS. GCL ORIOLES (BOX) -- Fourth-rounder Ty Buttrey recorded a 1-2-3 inning, getting three groundouts, and he's now tossed three innings without permitting an earned run. The 6-foot-5 19-year-old has struck out four and walked one. -- Sergio Gomez punched out six and walked none in five innings of work, giving him 12 strikeouts and no walks over 11 innings in his last two outings. The 18-year-old strike thrower has a 2.75 ERA, 50 strikeouts and nine walks in 52 1/3 innings this year. DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 9-4 WIN VS. DSL MARLINS (BOX) -- For the seventh time in his last nine outings, Dioscar Romero did not allow an earned run, tossing five innings in which he permitted one unearned run on four hits while striking out four and walking none. Over those nine starts, he has a 1.28 ERA, 36 strikeouts and 12 walks in 42 1/3 innings; in his last three outings, he hasn't given up any earned runs while striking out 15 and walking two in 15 2/3 frames.