Red Sox minor league roundup: Will Middlebrooks heating up; Xander Bogaerts rebounds; Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez showcase all-around skill

August 09, 2013 - 8:03 am
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A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Thursday: TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-0 LOSS (SEVEN INNINGS), 5-4 LOSS (SEVEN INNINGS) AT SYRACUSE (NATIONALS) (BOX GAME 1, BOX GAME 2) -- Xander Bogaerts was slumping for a brief period of time, something that the young infielder has not had a lot of experience with. But he's beginning to show that the slump was just a blip in what is otherwise a fantastic season for the 20-year-old. With three hits, including a double, in the night game on Thursday, Bogaerts went 5-for-7 in the two games, and is batting .359/.375/.487 with five doubles in his last nine games. The one thing Bogaerts hasn't been doing much of lately is drawing walks. He's worked a free pass only once in his last nine games and twice since a streak of four games in a row with a walk, a streak that ended 12 games ago. However, he's also not striking out very much. Bogaerts has drawn walks in about 11.5 percent of plate appearances while striking out in just over 16 percent. That means he's actually cut down on the strikeouts since transitioning to Triple-A (he was fanning in almost 20 percent of plate appearances this year in Double-A), and though his walk numbers are down, the difference is rather slight (down about 2 pecent). Bogaerts ranks third on the Pawtucket club with a .380 OBP, and has posted a .291/.380/.476 line in 51 games since being promoted from Portland. -- Not to be outdone, Will Middlebrooks also had an impressive day, going 3-for-5 with a double, RBI and two walks between the two games. He got the start at third base in both ends of the doubleheader, while Bogaerts stayed at shortstop. The third baseman is showing some signs of heating up in Pawtucket, hitting safely in seven straight games and batting .345/.375/.586 over that span. Middlebrooks' power seemed to have gone missing for a period of time, when he failed to knock an extra-base hit in nine straight games, hitting only .194 in that stretch. But he's clubbed two home runs and a double in his last four contests, while also drawing two walks as compared to three strikeouts over the last three days. Middlebrooks is hitting .265/.315/.452 with 12 walks, 33 strikeouts, and 13 extra-base hits in his 38 games since being demoted to Triple-A. -- Second baseman Tony Thomas is thriving since his promotion to Triple-A, going 2-for-4 with a triple and a run scored on Thursday. Thomas has recorded hits in all four games since making his way to Pawtucket, batting .400/.438/.667 with two doubles and a triple. Thomas is actually somewhat of a triples machine this season; he led the Sea Dogs with seven of them this season. Thomas, 27, has been up and down between Triple-A and Double-A since joining the Red Sox organization, and struggled this season with Portland, batting .223/.285/.401 in 103 games. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 4-1 LOSS VS. RICHMOND (GIANTS) (BOX) -- Garin Cecchini didn't get a hit on Thursday, but he did draw three walks, the second time he's accomplished that feat this season. The third baseman has been dealing with a bit of a slump lately, hitting only .158 in his last six games. But over that span, he's also put up a .407 OBP, drawing eight walks. Cecchini is walking at a 16 percent rate in 42 games in Double-A, which is well above the league average, which sits around 9 percent, at least among those with enough plate appearances to be counted as qualifiers. If Cecchini did have enough plate appearances in the Eastern League to qualify, his 16.3 percent walk rate would rank as fourth in the league. While Cecchini's batting average has fallen a bit since the promotion to Double-A, his transition should still be characterized as successful, seeing as how the jump to Double-A is deemed one of the most difficult. Plus, it's not as if Cecchini is putting up bad numbers for Portland by any means. He's still batting .296/.415/.414 in 42 games. -- Christian Vazquez extended his hitting streak to seven games with a 2-for-3 showing. Over the life of the streak, Vazquez is hitting .500/.533/.577 with two doubles, four RBI and three walks. The stretch has done wonders for Vazquez's overall line on the season; he's now up to .280/.369/.395 from .257/.352/.376. With one walk and no strikeouts on the day, Vazquez's walk total now exceeds his strikeout total, 38 to 37. Vazquez also gunned down his 42nd runner of the season, giving him an even 50 percent caught stealing rate. That rate gives Vazquez the league's best caught stealing rate, a full 10 percent above the catcher who ranks second. Despite having the most success with nabbing baserunners, Vazquez also leads the league in a slightly less savory category; he's allowed the most passed balls with 16 on the year. -- Outfielder J.C. Linares is working on a six-game hit streak after going 2-for-4 on Thursday. Since returning to Portland from Triple-A Pawtucket (where he spent only three games), Linares has hit safely in seven of his last nine contests, batting .286/.306/.486 with a home run and four doubles. Linares has struggled between the two levels all season, compiling a .229/.315/.348 line in 72 games between Double-A and Triple-A, spending the bulk of his time with Portland. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 13-4 WIN VS. WINSTON-SALEM (WHITE SOX) (BOX) -- Catcher Blake Swihart had a huge day, contributing both at and behind the plate. Swihart knocked in four of Salem's runs, going 3-for-6 with two doubles and a single. It's just more of the same for Swihart, who, despite having his nine-game hit streak broken on Tuesday, is hitting .422/.458/.533 in his last 11 contests. Swihart also caught the only runner who tried to steal, bringing his success rate to 39 percent, which, like Vazquez, is good for tops in his respective league. Swihart is enjoying an all-around very solid year for Salem, hitting .287/.359/.417 in 86 games. -- Second baseman Mookie Betts reached base three times, drawing a walk to go along with a single and his fourth double since being promoted to High-A. He also swiped two bases, bringing his total in Salem to 11. He has yet to be caught on the basepaths in 27 games in High-A. Betts has not enjoyed quite the same success as he did in Greenville, but he's compiled a .250/.318/.396 line in Salem, drawing 11 walks and striking out 13 times. He also has two triples and two home runs to his credit. -- Deven Marrero also had a big game, reaching base in all but one of his six plate appearances with two hits and three walks on the day. It's the first time this season Marrero has drawn three walks in a game, and the first time since July 11 he's drawn multiple free passes. Marrero has been heating up after going 3-for-29 in seven games. In his last two contests, he's reached base safely in eight of 11 plate appearances, with four walks and four hits. The shortstop has hit .255/.340/.327 with 20 doubles and a home run, though he is without an extra-base hit in his last nine games. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 5-1 LOSS AT ASHEVILLE (ROCKIES) (BOX) -- For the first time all year, left-hander Cody Kukuk did not issue a walk, helping him to match a season high with six innings during which the 20-year-old punched out seven and threw a startling (for him) 67 percent of pitches for strikes. Yet while those numbers suggest that it was one of the pitcher's best outings of a year in which he's showed tremendous stuff but difficulty harnessing it in the strike zone, he also gave up a season-high five earned runs and, for the first time this year, permitted multiple homers in a game. The two longballs he allowed on Thursday matched his total yield of the previous 83 innings he's thrown in Greenville. Still, given that he threw strikes in more consistent fashion than in any other start this year, the line score represents something of a secondary consideration. -- Outfielder Kendrick Perkins went 2-for-4, his third two-hit game in his last four contests. The 21-year-old is hitting just .218/.274/.346 in 23 games this year in Greenville, but he's showing considerable progress of late, with a .314/.385/.571 line in his last 10 games. SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: RAINED OUT AT MAHONING VALLEY (PIRATES) ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: SUSPENDED (TOP-SECOND INNING) AT GCL RAYS, 0-0 (BOX) -- Right-hander Myles Smith, the Sox' fourth-round pick in this year's draft out of Lee University, made his pro debut, allowing a hit and striking out a batter in a scoreless inning. Smith showed the ability to sit in the mid-90s and top out in the high-90s for Lee this year while also featuring a wipeout slider. He's relatively inexperienced as a pitcher, having been converted full-time from the middle infield just two years ago, and his control is a work in progress as a result, but he possesses a high ceiling. DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: SUSPENDED (RAIN) AT DSL RAYS

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