Red Sox minor league roundup: Xander Bogaerts keeps launching homers; Ill-timed command issues for Anthony Ranaudo; Rubby De La Rosa rebounds; Jose Contreras dominating

July 25, 2013 - 8:22 am

A look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Wednesday: TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-3 WIN AT NORFOLK (ORIOLES) (BOX) -- The drumbeat of homers and walks for Xander Bogaerts continues to beat in Triple-A. The 20-year-old went 1-for-3 with a homer and a walk on Wednesday, and though his average has dipped to .256, he is seventh in the International League with eight homers (in 36 games) since his promotion from Double-A, and with 20 walks in that time, he also has a .360 OBP to complement his .465 slugging mark. So, although seven years younger than the league average, Bogaerts' .256/.360/.465 line is nonetheless more impressive than the league average of .259/.333/.396. He is the first 20-year-old with as many as eight homers in the International League since 2010, when Jesus Montero (21) and Freddie Freeman (18) did so over full seasons spent in Triple-A. On the year, Bogaerts now has 14 homers and 35 extra-base hits in 92 games between Portland and Pawtucket. -- Third baseman Will Middlebrooks is showing signs of improvement at the plate. He went 2-for-4 with a double for his third straight multi-hit game on Wednesday, going 6-for-14 (.429) in his last three games and 9-for-24 (.375) in his last five with a pair of doubles, a walk and seven strikeouts in that span. In 24 games since being sent down, Middlebrooks is now hitting .265/.306/.441 with five homers, six walks and 21 strikeouts in 24 games. -- Right-hander Rubby De La Rosa earned his first win in four weeks, allowing one run on three hits (two doubles and a single) in five innings while walking three and striking out three. While De La Rosa is holding opponents in Triple-A to a .224 average this year, showing the ability to handle both righties (.228 average against) and lefties (.220), his high walk rate (4.8 per nine innings) raises some question about his ability to impact the big league team in the near term should he be summoned either as a starter or relief option. -- Right-hander Jose Contreras struck out three, walked one and didn't allow a hit in two innings. In his last 15 Triple-A games (since his demotion to Triple-A by the Pirates), Contreras has a 0.44 ERA with 26 strikeouts and eight walks in 20 1/3 innings while holding opponents to a .156/.267/.172 line. -- Catcher Dan Butler remains on a tear. He went 1-for-4 with a homer on Wednesday, and is hitting an eye-opening .364/.472/.773 with five homers in 14 games this month. On the year, the 26-year-old -- who is on the 40-man roster -- is hitting .264/.365/.482. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 3-1 WIN AT NEW BRITAIN (TWINS) (BOX) -- Anthony Ranaudo has had a terrific year for Portland, and he continues to put up impressive numbers. He allowed just one run on four hits in 5 2/3 innings on Wednesday, and his ERA stands at 2.80 and his WHIP at 1.117 through 103 innings and 18 starts on the year. When Ranaudo is throwing strikes, he's been hard to hit. But lately, it seems that Ranaudo has been dealing with some of the control problems that plagued him during his injury-shortened 2012 season. In his most recent start, Ranaudo walked four batters -- not a necessarily alarming amount -- but also only recorded one strikeout, with 61 of his 100 pitches going for strikes. Those command issues were highlighted during his two All-Star game appearances, both in the Eastern League All-Star game (he was the starter, and gave up three runs on a hit and three walks while striking out one in his scheduled inning, throwing 27 pitches with 11 going for strikes) and in the All-Star Futures Game at Citi Field (he gave up the only runs allowed by the U.S. team, lasting only two-thirds of an inning and giving up two runs on two hits and two walks with half of his 26 pitches going for strikes). It is perhaps unfair to include his All-Star appearances in his most recent totals, as the showcase events can prove disruptive to a pitcher's schedule. However, if those two games are included, Ranaudo has given up 15 walks compared to only nine strikeouts in his last 20 2/3 innings. And, given that both stages were blanketed by scouts from every team, those performances register in the evaluations of Ranaudo's industry value between now and July 31. Without counting those two appearances, Ranaudo still has walked 10 while striking out eight in his last three outings. In his first 13 starts this year, Ranaudo walked an average of 2.8 batters per nine innings while striking out an average of 9.9 per nine. With five more starts under his belt, Ranaudo's strikeouts numbers have dipped, and his average is down to 8.7 per nine on the season, while his walk rate has risen to about 3.4 per nine. The numbers and his performances don't indicate a dramatic control problem, and his issues aren't nearly as significant as 2012 (he struck out the same number of batters as he walked through nine starts, plus he gave up 28 earned runs in 37 2/3 innings). But unquestionably, Ranaudo's coming outings will be monitored carefully to determine if his command issues are a blip or if his ability to attack the strike zone with his fastball early in the year was fleeting. -- It's been a really rough stretch for first baseman Travis Shaw, who prior to Wednesday was hitting only .071/.149/.190 over his last 13 games, a period that included a five-game, 15-at-bat hitless streak. But perhaps Wednesday's game was the type that could help Shaw get back on track. The 23-year-old had a big day, going 2-for-4 with a double and his third triple of the season. Shaw, who has collected 19 doubles on the season, had gone a total of 19 games without a two-base hit. The slump has brought Shaw's line to .218/.340/.385 on the season, though he has drawn an impressive amount of walks (60) and has 30 extra-base hits on the season, including 11 home runs. -- After giving up runs in his first three outings in Double-A, Noe Ramirez has since gone three straight scoreless appearances, throwing two shutout innings and earning his first save with Portland on Wednesday. Over the course of those three scoreless appearances (a total of seven innings), the 23-year-old right-hander has allowed only two hits and a walk while striking out seven. In 14 2/3 Double-A innings, Ramirez has fanned 15 batters and allowed only three walks, posting a 3.07 ERA in six appearances since being promoted from Salem. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 13-9 WIN VS. FREDERICK (ORIOLES) (BOX) -- Deven Marrero went 3-for-6 with a double for his fifth three-hit game of the year. He's hitting .263/.342/.344 on the season. -- Outfielder Henry Ramos went 1-for-2 with a double and three walks to snap a three-game, 0-for-10 stretch in which he hadn't reached base. He's hitting .272/.355/.451. -- On the one hand, right-hander William Cuevas gave up six runs, boosting his ERA to 5.85 for the year. Still, he logged a career-high 7 1/3 innings, matched a career-high by punching out 10 and walked just one. In his last seven starts, the 22-year-old has 38 strikeouts and 13 walks in 39 1/3 innings. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: OFF DAY SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 3-2 LOSS VS. BROOKLYN (METS) (BOX) -- This year's fifth-round draft pick, Corey Littrell, made his fourth start of the season for the Spinners, going an inning and two-thirds and allowing the first run of his professional career, giving up a run on three hits and three walks while striking out three. It was the first time the lefty has shown any sort of control problems; he walked only one batter in his first three starts (a total of six innings). But the three strikeouts also represented a season high for Littrell. -- Forrest Allday, who was drafted in the eighth round this year by the Sox, notched the first extra-base hit of his professional career, going 1-for-3 with a triple and a walk on Wednesday. Allday, a 22-year-old outfielder who has split his eight games with Lowell between right, center and DH,  has hit safely in his last three games and has seven hits on the season. Even more impressive is the fact that Allday has walked nine times in 34 plate appearances (his OBP sits at .500 through eight games) while striking out only five times. Allday also has an RBI and three stolen bases to his credit without being caught. -- Cleuluis Rondon went 2-for-3 with a double, his fourth of the season. The 19-year-old has been hot recently, batting .359/.390/.436 over his last 11 games. Despite that good stretch, the middle infielder, who is playing more second base than shortstop for the first time in his pro career, has drawn only two walks in that span and seven on the season while fanning 21 times. Through 30 games with Lowell this season, Rondon is batting .275/.327/.363 with four doubles, a triple and a home run. ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 9-6 LOSS VS. GCL RAYS (BOX) -- Left-hander Gabe Speier, taken in the 19th round by the Red Sox, made his pro debut, allowing a run on three hits while recording all three of his outs by strikeout in an inning of work. DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 3-2 LOSS VS. DSL ASTROS (BOX) -- Second baseman Luis Alejandro Basabe went 1-for-4 with a double, and over his last 11 games, the 16-year-old is now hitting .333/.472/.444 with seven walks, five strikeouts and three doubles. -- On a day when he gave up a season high six hits, Jose Almonte nonetheless maintained his composure to limit the damage to one run in five innings. The 17-year-old right-hander has a 1.80 ERA in 35 innings this year with 33 punchouts and 15 walks.

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