The Sea Dogs roster was a little light on prospects worth paying attention to at the start of the year, but thanks to a few promotions from Salem, it's all of a sudden packed with future Sox that merit discussion. Today we'll take a look at a few of those, along with some of the prospects who have been on the roster all year long.
Will Middlebrooks continues to hit, and now sits at .295/.339/.506 during his Double-A debut. He just isn't going to walk very much, but the more than 40 point difference between his batting average and on-base is acceptable, especially given that his power continues to improve each time he moves up a level. That power comes from his excellent plate coverage as well, so the need to be more patient just isn't there like it is with some players. It's a rarity in this game, but when it works, it works well.
He has made nine errors at third this year, tying him for second-most on the Sea Dogs, but by all accounts he is one of the best defensive players at his position in the minors. Given that he is just 22 years old, the Red Sox have moved him up one level per year each year of his career, and Kevin Youkilis is at third base, we likely won't see Middlebrooks pushed to Triple-A this year, even with his success. There is no need to change the plan with him, either, as the current development strategy has worked wonders: each year, Middlebrooks is a better and more complete player, despite the more advanced competition he is facing.
Ryan Lavarnway is starting to mash, as he has hit .455/.561/.970 with five homers in his last 10 games , bringing his season line up to .282/.361/.503 with 12 homers, a 19 percent strikeout rate, and walks drawn in 11 percent of his plate appearances. He has now hit .283/.377/.499 in 398 plate appearances at Double-A, so the 23-year-old may see some Triple-A time before this season is out.
There is no question that Lavarnway can rake after watching him over the last three seasons, but his defense behind the plate is more up for debate. There is a reason he has spent 25 games at DH this season, but it's not like his bat doesn't work there. He has the most value behind the plate, though, given the offensive limitations of the position, so the hope is that he figures things out enough that he can contribute as a major league backstop before too much longer. Given the catching situation in Boston--the Jarrod Saltalamacchia/Jason Varitek combo is not long for this world, even with their recent success, given Varitek's age--it would be great for the Sox to bring up one of their own to fill that slot for the first time in years.
Jeremy Hazelbaker has not done well in his first exposure to Double-A. It's just 65 plate appearances, therefore it's tough to get too worked up about it, but struggles during his first stint at an age-appropriate level is a potential red flag. He's at .226/.369/.302 with four doubles, no homers, and three steals against one caught stealing as of this writing. He has also already struck out 18 times in those 65 plate appearances, so the low batting average isn't entirely a luck thing.
There is plenty of time for the lefty to work things out in Portland, but there is no denying this is a crucial season in his development, given he has never dominated at any point in his minor league career despite being older than he should be for the level.
Stolmy Pimentel started the year out poorly--last time I checked up on him on May 12, he was in the middle of his worst season as a pro, with 6.5 strikeouts per nine, a 5.33 ERA, and 1.3 homers allowed per nine. He had also just thrown a six inning affair without allowing a run, to give you an idea of how poorly he pitched before that.
Since that point, things have not improved one bit. Pimentel gave up five runs in 4 1/3 innings on May 14, six runs in 1 1/3 innings on May 22, and eight runs in 1 1/3 innings on the first of this month. He now owns an 8.62 ERA, a .327 batting average against, has allowed 1.6 homers per nine, is averaging four innings per start, is striking out 6.1 per nine, and has a K/BB ratio of just 1.7.
Pimentel was projected to be a back-end starter to begin with, but he has gone beyond "inconsistent and frustrating" to plain old awful. He is just 21 years old, so it's too early to quit on him, but saying his first exposure to Double-A has been deflating is understating the issue.
At least we have Chris Balcom-Miller to look forward to. Baconator had his first start at the level on May 31, striking out four hitters, walking just one, and allowing two runs over six frames. I covered him in more detail earlier this week, if you've been left wanting for more.