Red Sox minor league roundup: Travis Shaw moves up; Mookie Pedroia; Blake Swihart's power surge; Anthony Ranaudo, Christian Vazquez have work to do

May 27, 2014 - 6:14 am

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Monday: TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-2 WIN VS. GWINNETT (BRAVES) (BOX) -- First baseman Travis Shaw, 24, went 1-for-3 in his Pawtucket debut following his promotion from Double-A. Shaw delivered a dominating performance in Portland, hitting .305/.406/.548 with 11 homers, 29 walks and 23 strikeouts while showing the ability to destroy right-handed pitching (.333/.458/.635 with seven homers, 22 walks and 11 strikeouts) and hold his own against lefties (.272/.337/.444 with four homers, seven walks and 12 strikeouts). Shaw's dominant performance in Portland this year followed a season of struggle at the same level last year, when he hit .221/.342/.394 with 16 homers but 117 strikeouts (22 percent of plate appearances). But after the season, Shaw worked with his father -- former All-Star closer Jeff Shaw -- to stay back on the ball and regain the all-fields approach that characterized his career as an amateur through an impressive 2012 full-season debut. Shaw carried that into the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .361/.452/.705 with five homers in 17 games, and maintained his swing and approach through the offseason entering this year. His reward was a long-anticipated goal -- after spending parts of three years in Portland (following an August 2012 promotion to Double-A from High-A, the entirety of 2013 and the beginning of this year), he is finally one step from the big leagues. '€œI was definitely on a mission to show that I could handle Double-A because there have been questions that I couldn'€™t hit consistently at that level for the past year-and-a-half,'€ Shaw told the Pawtucket Times. '€œI feel that I'€™m in a good place mentally and physically. It'€™s also nice to be out of Portland. I wanted to prove myself and get out of there as soon as possible.'€ -- Right-hander Anthony Ranaudo continued an overpowering run, firing 6 2/3 shutout innings. He's now allowed just one run in his last three starts spanning 19 1/3 innings (0.47 ERA). The 24-year-old gave up four hits (two singles, two doubles) and struck out four. However, he also threw a relatively modest 64 of 106 pitches (60 percent) for strikes, and for the fifth time in his 11 starts this year, he walked four batters. While Ranaudo has minimized hard contact (opponents are hitting .225 against him with 0.5 homers per nine innings) and is showing the ability to handle a considerable workload (he's logged at least 104 pitches in each of his last four outings, with a 1.38 ERA from the fourth inning on), his 4.9 walks per nine innings suggest a pitcher who has been searching for his fastball command over the course of the season and who, despite an impressive 2.90 ERA, requires refinement before he'll put himself in consideration for a spot in a big league rotation. -- Catcher Christian Vazquez went 1-for-3 but with two punchouts. Whereas Vazquez appeared to have something of a plate discipline breakthrough last year while (save for a year-ending game in Pawtucket) in Double-A, when he had 48 walks and 44 strikeouts, he hasn't been able to sustain the same on-base abilities this year in Triple-A. He's struck out six times without walking in his last four games, he has eight strikeouts and one walk in his last 10 contests and for the year he has 10 walks against 26 strikeouts en route to a .250 average and .302 OBP (along with a .328 slugging mark). As such, Vazquez looks like a player who is still working to cement his offensive approach. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 6-3 WIN AT NEW HAMPSHIRE (BLUE JAYS) (BOX) -- Catcher Blake Swihart -- serving as DH -- went 2-for-4, launching his first homer of the season while batting left-handed. After hitting two homers in 103 games last year, Swihart now has gone deep five times in 38 games this year. He's actually collecting extra-base hits at a similar rate as he did a year ago in High-A Salem, where he collected an extra-base hit in 9.0 percent of his plate appearances. This year, he has a 9.6 percent extra-base hit rate, but with a growing number of his doubles turning into homers. He's hitting .291 with a .327 OBP and .473 slugging mark on the year. -- Knuckleballer Steven Wright started a rehab assignment with a five-inning effort in which he allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits (four singles and a homer) with one walk and four strikeouts. Nine of his outs came via groundball. Wright, who went 8-7 with a 3.46 ERA in Triple-A last year and was 2-0 with a 5.40 ERA in four big league games, threw 44 of his 65 pitches (68 percent) for strikes. -- Right-hander Keith Couch, bumped back to a piggyback role with Wright rehabbing, nonetheless continued his dominant performance in Double-A, allowing one hit in four innings of shutout relief in which he struck out one and didn't walk a batter. Couch, 24, is now 6-0 with a 2.22 ERA, 41 strikeouts and just 11 walks in 56 2/3 innings in Portland this year. -- Catcher Matt Spring, a 29-year-old in his 11th professional season, matched a career-high with four hits, going 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles. The Portland backup catcher has performed well in May, hitting .296 with a .382 OBP, .407 slugging mark and three doubles. -- Feats of Mookie: Walking like crazy. At this point, in some respects, the month of May has been a pedestrian one for Mookie Betts -- at least by the standards he set over the preceding 12 months. In 26 games thus far, he's hit .299 with two homers and 10 extra-base hits -- fine marks, to be sure, but unspectacular. But even at a time when Betts hasn't impacted the ball with quite the same consistency that he had from May 2013 through April 2014, he's made pitchers work for every pitch against him. Betts went 1-for-4 with a single and a walk on Monday. He has 10 walks and two strikeouts in his last seven games, and an astonishing rate of 21 walks and eight strikeouts for the month. Of the 11 minor leaguers with at least 20 walks in May, Betts is the only one with fewer than 10 strikeouts; one other player in that group has 12 punchouts, and no one else has fewer than 18 whiffs. That ratio underscores Betts' extraordinary plate discipline (something that generates his high volume of walks) and the hand-eye coordination to impact the ball without strikeouts. As much attention as has been given to the fact that Dustin Pedroia represents a somewhat unmovable impediment to Betts becoming a future Red Sox second baseman -- something that has prompted the experiment with having him play center field -- perhaps not enough attention has been given to the offensive similarities between Betts and Pedroia, chiefly the potential for an exceedingly well rounded game that includes elite hand-eye coordination that permits both players to barrel the ball and drive the ball with startling frequency even as they operate within an approach. Betts has 32 walks and 16 strikeouts -- taking two free passes for every punchout. He's the only player in the minors with that kind of ratio and a minimum of 25 walks. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 13-4 WIN VS. POTOMAC (NATIONALS) (BOX) -- Justin Haley, back in the piggyback starter role, came on in relief of Luis Diaz and delivered 5 1/3 innings of shutout, shutdown relief. He gave up just two hits (a single and a double), walked two and punched out six. Haley, 22, has a 1.96 ERA for the year, including a 1.42 mark in his last eight appearances. He's punched out 7.4 per nine innings while walking 2.7 per nine, with opponents hitting just .221 against him. -- Second baseman Reed Gragnani went 2-for-3 with a double and two walks. The 23-year-old leads the Carolina League in batting (.336) while ranking second in OBP (.417) -- Salem won despite committing a staggering seven errors. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 11-3 WIN AT CHARLESTON (YANKEES) (BOX) -- Shortstop Stephen Drew, serving as DH in the third game of his minor league stint in Greenville, went 1-for-3 with a double, a walk and two strikeouts. He's collected one hit in each of his three games, going 3-for-8 with two doubles, a walk and four strikeouts. -- Second baseman Wendell Rijo, who entered the game 0-for-18 in his prior five games, snapped his hitless streak with a single in his first at-bat. Still, that knock was his only hit in five at-bats. In his last eight games, Rijo -- who has been dealing with discomfort in his thumb -- is hitting .067/.125/.100, and over his last dozen games, he's hitting .091/.167/.182, a span that has seen the 18-year-old's seas0n line tumble from .341/.464/.516 to .259/.375/.407. -- Outfielder Zach Kapstein, 21, went 1-for-2 with a single, a walk and a sac fly. Kapstein now has an eight-game hitting streak in which he's hitting .458 with a .517 OBP and .708 slugging mark.