Red Sox minor league roundup: What is happening to Matt Barnes?; Manuel Margot's power surge

July 03, 2014 - 1:21 pm

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Wednesday: TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 8-7 LOSS VS. ROCHESTER (TWINS) (BOX) -- Right-hander Matt Barnes gave up four runs on six hits in just 3 1/3 innings, striking out three and walking two. His season has never seemed to get on track after he was shut down at the start of spring training games with shoulder discomfort; even though he's been generating velocity, he's rarely generated the kinds of swings and misses with his fastball in the strike zone that defined his prospect status in previous years. Yet whether it's fair to judge him based on his 2014 results or not, Barnes' performance track record is trending the wrong way. He displayed singular dominance (0.34 ERA in five starts) when starting his pro career at a level that was low for his experience, and carried that excellence forward (1.37 ERA) through his first eight starts in High-A Salem. But in his final 12 starts of that year, he had a 5.74 ERA. He followed that with a 4.13 ERA in 2013, when he made 24 of his 25 starts in Double-A Portland (though, notably, he led the Eastern League in strikeouts per nine innings) and he now has a 3-6 record and 4.85 ERA in Triple-A, with his strikeout rate dipping to 7.1 per nine innings (with a walk rate of 3.0 per nine innings). In other words, his results have gotten steadily worse, not better, as he's moved up the ladder -- a potentially ominous sign. That isn't necessarily an indictment of his prospect status if, with a shoulder at full strength, he enters next year and shows the customary fastball dominance he'd displayed in the past, particularly given the gains in his curveball and change. But at some point, Barnes -- a virtual lock to be added to the Red Sox 40-man roster this winter, despite this year's struggles -- will need to perform to maintain his prospect standing. -- Shortstop Deven Marrero, in his Triple-A debut, went 2-for-4. Red Sox manager John Farrell said that Marrero is already major league-ready as a defender, and that his offensive improvements in Double-A made clear that he was ready for the next challenge. "A polished college defender. The development needs were still on the offensive side," Farrell said of his impressions of Marrero in spring training. "Clearly, that'€™s taken place through the first half of the season at Portland." Marrero, 23, hit .287 with a .368 OBP, .429 slugging mark, five homers and 26 extra-base hits in 68 games, representing statistical improvement by every hitting measure over his first full pro season, in which the 2012 first-rounder hit .252/.338/.317 with two homers and 22 extra-base hits in 104 games between High-A and Double-A. -- Will Middlebrooks, in the second game of his restarted rehab assignment, went 1-for-3 while lining a homer to left. -- First baseman Travis Shaw went 1-for-3 with an opposite-field, two-run homer to left and a walk. Both of those outcomes reflect part of the reason why the Sox have been high on Shaw's potential. At his best, he shows good pitch recognition, stays back on the ball and drives it to left, with the strength and approach to use the Green Monster to his benefit. He's been hitting for power throughout the current homestand, with three homers. -- Mike Carp went 0-for-2, and is now 1-for-13 through five games of his rehab assignment. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 8-6 WIN AT TRENTON (YANKEES) -- Catcher Blake Swihart went 2-for-4 with a walk, slamming a pair of doubles against rehabbing Yankees lefty CC Sabathia. Since moving into the third spot in the order, he's hitting .333/.413/.548 with 11 extra-base hits, 14 walks and 16 strikeouts in 25 games. -- Second baseman Sean Coyle went 1-for-4 while launching his 10th homer of the year. -- Left-hander Brian Johnson left the game after just three innings, but his early departure was the byproduct of a lengthy rain delay. The 23-year-old allowed one run on five hits (four singles and a double) without walking a batter and punched out two. HIGH A SALEM RED SOX: 6-2 WIN (8 INNINGS) AT FREDERICK (ORIOLES) -- Left-hander Cody Kukuk had one of his best games since his early-season promotion to Salem, allowing two runs (one earned) on two hits and three walks in five innings. He struck out six. -- Second baseman Mike Miller went 4-for-4 with a double. In 26 games, the 24-year-old is hitting .317/.373/.376. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 8-7 LOSS (10 INNINGS) AT ASHEVILLE (ROCKIES) -- Center fielder Manuel Margot is starting to translate his bat speed into game power with increasing frequency. He went 1-for-5 with his seventh homer of the season on Wednesday, and in 12 second half games, he now has seven extra-base hits (three homers, two doubles, two triples) with a .306/.346/.612 line. Margot also stole his 26th base of the year. -- Second baseman Wendell Rijo went 2-for-5 and drilled his first homer since May 13. The 18-year-old is holding his own against older opponents, hitting .266/.353/.402. SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 9-4 LOSS VS. CONNECTICUT (TIGERS) -- Third baseman Jordan Betts continues to be a strong early performer. He was 2-for-4 with a double, his eighth extra-base hit in 14 games. ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 3-2 LOSS AT GCL ORIOLES DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: -2 LOSS AT DSL REDS The big news from the DSL and GCL had little to do with the outcomes of either games, but instead with the movement of precocious 17-year-old Rafael Devers -- considered a bit of a hitting prodigy -- from the DSL to the Gulf Coast League. More on Devers here.