Red Sox minor league roundup: Ready or not, here comes Stephen Drew; Anthony Ranaudo's command struggles; progress for well-rounded prospects Deven Marrero, Manuel Margot

June 02, 2014 - 7:29 am
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Ready or not, here comes Stephen Drew. In his final scheduled game of his minor league assignment, Drew went 1-for-3 with a double, a pop-up and a line out to first. It was the first game of his seven-game assignment in which he didn't punch out. Drew went 2-for-13 with a double, a walk and five strikeouts in Pawtucket and 5-for-21 with a pair of walks and nine strikeouts in 23 plate appearances overall, a .238/.304/.381 line. Given that his long free agent purgatory has Drew nearly three months worth of games behind his competitors, it's safe to suggest that he's still regaining his competitive timing and rhythm. In that vein, there are similarities to a similar situation that the Red Sox faced in last April, when Drew -- after being sidelined in spring training by a concussion -- went 2-for-13 in a rehab assignment before displacing a hitter who was enjoying a hot streak in Jose Iglesias. Just as was the case last year, when questions arose about whether the Sox had made a mistake in signing Drew given the early success of Iglesias, there is a public dialogue about the merits of having Drew return at a time when Brock Holt has been a catalyst for the Sox. But ultimately in 2013, the decision to sign Drew and give the Red Sox roster depth proved one of the most important that the Sox made in the 2012-13 offseason. The presence of Drew, Jose Iglesias and Will Middlebrooks gave the Sox depth on the left side of the infield that permitted them to have answers during first-half injuries and slumps by Drew and Iglesias. It bought time for Middlebrooks to redevelop his offensive approach in Triple-A when he struggled, and it gave the Sox an opportunity to give Xander Bogaerts time to finish his minor league development in a fashion that left him not only ready to compete offensively in the big leagues but also to develop at third base -- something that proved crucial in positioning the Sox to enjoy the fruits of the superprospect in the postseason en route to a championship. And ultimately, by the time Bogaerts was close to ready, because the Sox had Drew, they could afford to use Iglesias to swing a deal that addressed both short- and longer-term rotation needs with the acquisition of Jake Peavy. In other words, from the perspective of a major league front office: Depth is good. Options are good. Roster flexibility is good. Trade chips are good. The gains from signing Drew may or may not be immediate. After all, there's a good chance he'll experience a lag time in terms of his ability to perform to his career offensive track record. But ultimately, anyone who wonders whether Holt's hot play has given the Sox a sense of buyer's remorse regarding Drew need only look to last year to understand that the answer is a firm nyet. TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-1 LOSS AT NORFOLK (ORIOLES) (BOX) -- As the Red Sox churn through first basemen in an indication of the fact that no prospect in the organization has solidified himself as the next-in-line option behind Mike Napoli, the start of Travis Shaw in Triple-A following an outstanding performance in Double-A merits notice. Shaw went 1-for-3 with a double and two walks (as well as two strikeouts) on Sunday, and he's now reached base in all seven games since his promotion. Shaw is hitting .269 with a .345 OBP and .500 slugging mark in seven games. -- Catcher Christian Vazquez went 2-for-5 for his third straight multi-hit game while extending his overall hitting streak to seven contests. The 23-year-old is hitting .357 with a double, a walk and six strikeouts during the stretch, improving his line for the year to .268 with a .315 OBP and .340 slugging mark in 40 games. -- Right-hander Anthony Ranaudo allowed five hits -- four singles and a double -- in his five innings of work, but early control problems resulted in a three-run yield. Ranaudo's four walks included a pair in the first inning (including one to lead off the game) that helped lead to a two-run first. Ranaudo then settled before yielding two more walks in his fifth and final inning. The outing marked the sixth time in 12 starts that Ranaudo has walked four batters this year in Pawtucket; he's issuing 5.1 free passes per nine innings. Interestingly, his walk rate this year is about twice as high with the bases empty and pitching out of the windup (17 percent) as it is when pitching with runners on out of the stretch (9 percent). He's walked the first batter of an inning in 23 percent -- just under one out of every four -- innings he's opened this year. However, with runners on base, he's limited opponents to a .210 average and .276 OBP, thus helping him to minimize the damage and post a 3.09 ERA. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 6-4 LOSS AT TRENTON (YANKEES) (BOX) -- Shortstop Deven Marrero went 3-for-5 with a double, his second straight multi-hit game with a double. With a 6-for-12 run in his last three games, Marrero has bounced back from a 2-for-30 slump, and through 45 games, he has 18 extra-base hits -- rapidly approaching the number (22) he had in 104 contests in 2013, helping to explain his jump in slugging percentage from .317 to .392. His current stat line in Portland -- .265 with a .346 OBP and .392 slugging mark along with 10 steals -- if sustained as he moves up would make him a frontline big league shortstop given his excellent defense. -- Outfielder Keury De La Cruz, playing his first game of the year after breaking his wrist in the outfield in the final Red Sox big league spring training game of March, went 2-for-4 with a double in his first game in Double-A Portland. The 22-year-old has shown the ability to impact the ball in the minors but his aggressive approach will be tested as he enters the upper levels of the farm system. Last year in High-A Salem, he hit .258/.297/.398 with nine homers and 51 extra-base hits in 133 games. -- After a strong showing in Salem (.301/.384/.461), versatile 25-year-old Jonathan Roof went 2-for-3 with a double, walk and steal while playing third base. Interestingly, though Roof played 49 games in Triple-A in 2012 (hitting .250/.348/.267), Sunday marked his first professional game in Double-A. He's spent most of his time shuttling between levels of A-ball, but his versatility resulted in a move up to Triple-A while in the Padres system two years ago. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 12-11 LOSS AT POTOMAC (NATIONALS) (BOX) -- Ryan Dent, a 25-year-old who was a supplemental first round pick in 2007, had his first career five-hit game, going 5-for-6 with a pair of doubles. Prior to Sunday, his career high for hits in a game was four, done five times. He's hitting .270/.378/.434. -- Right-hander Luis Diaz saw his streak of four straight games allowing two or fewer runs come to an end, as he permitted five runs on seven hits while walking three and striking out three in 4 2/3 innings of work. Before his three-walk performance on Sunday, Diaz had issued just one free pass in his prior 22 2/3 innings. -- Catcher Carson Blair, in the lineup for the first time since May 20, continued his season of all-or-nothing results in the batter's box. He went 2-for-4 with a double and his fifth homer of the year, along with a walk and a strikeout. Of his 19 hits this year, 17 have been for extra-bases (11 doubles, a triple, five homers), resulting in a line of .179/.318/.443. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 7-2 LOSS VS. HICKORY (RANGERS) (BOX) -- Manuel Margot went 0-for-2 with a walk and a steal, giving him four steals in as many games and six in his last nine. Though his .259 average, .330 OBP and .382 slugging mark are hardly head-turning, Margot has more or less maintained his walk rate from a year ago (from 10.1 percent in 2013 in Lowell to 9.4 percent in Greenville) while reducing his strikeout rate (from 18.5 percent to 14.1 percent) and increasing his frequency of extra-base hits (from one for every 19.6 plate appearances in 2013 to one for every 14.7 plate appearances in Greenville). In other words, the 19-year-old has shown progress in his approach while moving up a level (even at a time where he remains young for the league) while showing impressive secondary skills as a baserunner and outfielder. It's a performance that has done nothing to change the impression that he has five-tool potential -- if he continues to make progress as a hitter. -- Though Daniel McGrath struggled with his command, throwing strikes with just 54 percent of his offerings (50 of 93) while walking five, the 19-year-old steered through traffic to post 4 1/3 shutout innings and lower his ERA to 2.95 on the year. The lefty with a good feel for a three-pitch mix has a 1.65 ERA in his last three starts, and on the year, he's held opposing hitters to a .162 average. -- First baseman Jantzen Witte went 1-for-3 with a double and walk. He is tied for the minor league lead in doubles with 23. He ranks third in the minors with a .364 average, sixth with a .464 OBP and 14th with a .588 slugging mark.

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