7/1 Salem Red Sox Update: Brentz, Vitek, Head, and Ranaudo

The Salem Red Sox roster was starting to look bereft of prospect talent, but a few promotions fixed that right up and made the team intriguing once more. That doesn't mean everyone is performing as well as we would like, but at least we aren't just checking in on the team to be disappointed by Kolbrin Vitek. Speaking of that...

Vitek is now hitting .266/.333/.358 in 315 plate appearances, and this after an April where he posted a .341/.396/.500 line. The right-hander has been incrementally better against southpaws, but neither side of that split is very encouraging. He's not that far off from the pace he was on at his previous two levels, so there is no reason to panic, but you would like to see more out of a 22-year-old in High-A this far into the season, even if it's his first professional one.

He has spent most of his time at third base, and has made 19 errors there in 60 games and 180 chances. Defense has been a question for Vitek from day one, as he was something of a hitter without a set position. He will need to hit better than this if he has to move to the outfield, or else improve his defense if his hitting isn't going to impress like the Red Sox hope it will. Errors aren't everything, especially for a player at this level -- there are a number of factors that go into high error totals for prospects, as it is a learning experience for them, and they don't necessarily carry over as they age and move up -- but you would obviously like to see fewer of them given Vitek is expected to have problems finding a set position.

Again, we're talking about someone with less than a full season of pro ball on their resume, so getting excited too much in either direction would be overdoing it. But Vitek has been struggling on both sides of the ball in 2011.

***

Bryce Brentz, who was selected after Vitek in last year's draft, has had a better first full year in the Red Sox organization. His .359/.414/.647 line at Single-A Greenville earned him a ticket to Salem, and all he has done in the 57 plate appearances since he got to town is mash some more: Brentz is at .268/.281/.643 for the Salem Red Sox.

The single walk is not encouraging, but it isn't unexpected, either. Brentz destroyed the ball at Single-A despite striking out 2.5 times more often than he walked, and part of the reason he was promoted is that tougher competition would force him to work on his plate discipline. Consider Josh Reddick, who continued his swing-happy ways until this year, when the combination of being passed on the depth charts by Ryan Kalish and a good-but-not-great season at Pawtucket may have pushed him to finally listening to the Red Sox' instructions in that regard. Brentz may end up in the same situation some day, where he hits a level where he just isn't getting the same results, and finally slows down to revamp his approach, hopefully to come out better for it. 

His strikeout and walk rates are the keys to watch, as he definitely has thump. Whether or not he continues to get pitches to hit is something that will be determined by his approach in the future.

***

Miles Head has just 12 plate appearances for Salem, but consider this a note that he is worth paying attention to. The first baseman hit .338/.409/.612 for Greenville, with 15 homers and 25 doubles in 298 plate appearances. He is just 20 years old, so it wouldn't be a shock if Salem took some getting used to, especially since Head's track record for pro success is only as long as his stint at Single-A. He has certainly earned the right to have us watch him to see how he does, though.

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Anthony Ranaudo has now made five starts for High-A after an excellent run with Greenville. He hasn't been as good this time around, though, striking out just 6.8 per nine, but has overall been solid. He is 21, so there isn't a mad rush for him to dominate, but given the lack of real pitching depth in the farm system, more of what he showed us at Single-A would be appreciated sooner than later.

The good news is that he is going a bit deeper in these starts, averaging 5-2/3 innings as opposed to the 4-2/3 frames he was at for Greenville. As he gets used to being stretched out more, the strikeouts should start to come back. And hey, he has seen a slight drop in his walk rate, so maybe those more experienced umps are catching his curveball this time around.

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