Red Sox minor league roundup: Why Blake Swihart looks increasingly like an elite prospect; Allen Webster finds consistency; Jamie Callahan gets on track; Jantzen Witte, doubles machine

July 22, 2014 - 8:21 am

A brief look at the happenings in the Red Sox minor league system on Monday: TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-3 WIN AT SYRACUSE (NATIONALS) (BOX) -- Feats of Mookie: Regaining a foothold. Mookie Betts, one day after he failed to get on base for the first time in 24 Triple-A games, went 2-for-5 with a double. The two-bagger came against left-hander Aaron Laffey, improving Betts' line against southpaws in Triple-A to .379/.438/.517. -- Right-hander Allen Webster allowed three runs on six hits (one double) and a walk in seven innings, striking out three and getting 10 groundball outs. In what has become an increasingly common development, Webster threw a high percentage of pitches (64 of 95, 67 percent) for strikes, permitting him to work efficiently. A year ago, Webster averaged exactly five innings per start in Pawtucket (in 21 starts), going 8-4 with a 3.60 ERA. This year, he's striking out fewer batters (7.4 per nine innings) but is getting more early-count grounders, in the process forging a better ERA (3.10) while averaging just under six innings per start (118 innings in 20 starts). A year ago, he worked into the seventh inning just twice; this year, in one fewer start to date in Pawtucket, he's worked into the seventh six times. -- Outfielder Corey Brown had the game-winning homer in the ninth inning, his 14th homer of the year coming against the team with whom he'd spent the previous three years. Brown, hitting .223/.291/.432 overall this year, has enjoyed a strong month of July, hitting .333/.388/.667 with four homers in 12 games. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 6-4 WIN VS. BINGHAMTON (METS) (BOX) -- Catcher Blake Swihart went 1-for-3 with a pair of walks and a stolen base. The walks offer growing evidence of Swihart's ongoing development in Double-A, as he's shown improvements in his strike zone management and on-base skills as the season has progressed. Swihart walked just twice in his first 26 games through May 10, forging a .290/.303/.458 line to that point with a 1.8 percent walk rate that had evaluators of other teams noting that he had an aggressive approach that could be exploited. In 54 subsequent games, however, he's maintained his average (.297) while introducing improved plate discipline and on-base skills (.375 OBP, 11.2 percent walk rate) and increased power (.503 slugging, nine homers, 21 extra-base hits). In short, Swihart appears to be developing greater refinement in his offensive approach at a time when his defensive skills are likewise coming together in a way that defines him as one of the best catching prospects, and arguably the best catching prospect, in the minors. -- Center fielder Derrik Gibson certainly doesn't look like someone who has been pouting since being sent back to Portland following a brief promotion to Pawtucket. Gibson went 4-for-5 with a stolen base,  matching a career-high in hits (previously achieved three times). In the five games since his return to Portland, the 24-year-old is 9-for-17 with two walks in 19 plate appearances, good for a .529 average and .579 OBP. -- Ryan Lavarnway, after going 2-for-5 with a double and a walk during the start of his rehab assignment in the Gulf Coast League, went 0-for-4 with an RBI groundout in his first game with Portland. Lavarnway served as designated hitter. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 5-2 LOSS VS. POTOMAC (NATIONALS) (BOX) -- Another day, another double for Jantzen Witte. The 24-year-old went 2-for-4 with a double and triple, maintaining his status as the minor league leader in two-baggers. He now has 36 doubles for the season, including 12 in 28 games since his promotion to Salem. In his last four games, Witte is 8-for-16 with four doubles and two triples, with his line for his time in Salem now at .299/.350/.495, and his overall line between Greenville and Salem now at .321/.398/.535 for the corner infielder. -- Left-hander Corey Littrell continued his solid showings in Salem, tossing 5 1/3 innings in which he allowed two runs (one earned) on seven hits (two doubles) while walking one and punching out three. Littrell has now gone seven straight starts in which he's worked at least five innings while allowing three or fewer runs and walking two or fewer batters, posting a 2.16 ERA with 29 strikeouts and 11 walks in 41 2/3 innings during that time. For the year, the 22-year-old -- a fifth-rounder out of Kentucky last year -- has a 3.66 ERA with 8.0 strikeouts and 3.4 walks per nine innings. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 2-0 LOSS VS. ASHEVILLE (ROCKIES) (BOX) -- Right-hander Jamie Callahan turned in one of his best outings of the year, firing five shutout innings while allowing three hits (a double and two singles), walking three and punching out seven. The outing marked the first time since May 4 that Callahan had permitted fewer than three runs while pitching at least five innings. Most notably, Callahan -- who has been prone to big innings this year en route to his 6.52 ERA -- escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam by getting an inning-ending double play in the top of the first. From that point, he allowed just one runner to get into scoring position for the rest of the game while showing swing-and-miss stuff en route to his second highest strikeout total of the year. (The 19-year-old struck out 11 in five innings in his second start of the year.) -- Second baseman Wendell Rijo went 1-for-4 with a double. He has eight extra-base hits in 14 games this month, matching his most multi-base hits in any month of his career, and he's hitting .280/.351/.580 in July, marks that suggest that the 18-year-old is amidst a stretch where he's outperforming much older competition at the level. SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 10-2 WIN AT AUBURN (NATIONALS) (BOX) -- Nick Longhi had a tremendous game, reaching base four times in as many plate appearances on a single and three walks. However, the 18-year-old ultimately had to leave the game due to an injury incurred while running the bases in the eighth. Initial indications are that the injury is not serious, and that Longhi's status is day-to-day. He's hitting .330/.388/.440. -- Shortstop Mauricio Dubon is amidst a bit of a hot streak after a lengthy cold stretch. The 20-year-old (his birthday was over the weekend) went 2-for-4 with his second homer of the year and his first since the opening game of the season for the Spinners. He also stole his fifth base of the year. In his last five contests, Dubon is now 8-for-23 with a walk and two strikeouts, improving to .256/.296/.350 for the year. -- Though he entered the game as a pinch-runner for Longhi in the eighth, Danny Mars extended his streak of consecutive games reaching base to 10 by homering in his lone plate appearance. It was Mars' second homer of the year, improving the 2014 sixth-rounder's line to .375/.444/.563 through 20 games. He's gotten on base via walk or hit in all but two of the games he's played. ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 7-6 WIN (8 INNINGS), 4-1 WIN (7 INNINGS) AT GCL RAYS (BOX GAME 1, BOX GAME 2) -- Third baseman Rafael Devers went 2-for-7 in the double header, giving the 17-year-old hits in 10 of his 13 contests since coming to the States. He's hitting .383/.442/.638 in the GCL. -- Victor Acosta, after sitting out all but one game from July 13-20, went 3-for-4 in the first game and 4-for-7 with a walk in the double header. The 18-year-old is now hitting .224/.321/.358. -- Right-hander Gabe Speier continued his solid work in his return from Tommy John surgery, tossing a pair of scoreless innings while allowing just one hit. The 19-year-old has five scoreless innings in his first three outings this year. -- Right-hander Williams Jerez, a converted outfielder, continued his strong mound work, earning a victory in the second game of the double header with three innings in which he allowed one run on three hits and a walk while striking out two. In six games (16 1/3 innings), the 22-year-old has a 2.76 ERA with 12 strikeouts and just four walks. DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 2-1 WIN AT DSL ORIOLES (BOX) -- Catcher/third baseman Roldani Baldwin went 2-for-5 for his fourth multi-hit game in his last six contests. The 18-year-old is hitting .273/.341/.407, with his performance trending up (.303/.390/.470 in July) as the season has progressed.