Anthony Ranaudo, RHP
Ranaudo continues to succeed, and while May was less successful than April, it has still resulted in a 1.91 ERA. He struck out 32 batters against 10 walks in 33 innings in the month, and brought his ground out to air out ratio closer to even. He's been great from the wind-up, he's been great from the stretch, and it all comes down to one thing: health. Ranaudo is going to be great when he's feeling great, but whether that will continue is the question of not just today, but basically his career and its direction.
Still, let's not be such a downer about it. Ranaudo has never had a stretch like this in the pros, and he's doing it at Double-A despite all of the pitfalls and struggles of the last year-plus. If he continues to succeed, don't be surprised if the Red Sox push him to Triple-A, either. His original timeline when he was drafted expected him to be in the majors already, so if he's actually back on track now -- or close to it, anyway -- than Triple-A shouldn't be too difficult of an assignment. And hey, if Triple-A goes well, he needs to be on the 40-man roster by November to avoid the Rule 5 draft, anyway... but let's not get ahead of ourselves, given his inconsistent history.
Michael Almanzar, 3B
Almanzar isn't new to these updates, but this is his first 2013 appearance: previously, reliever Chris Martin was in the spot. It wasn't anything against the 22-year-old Almanzar that kept him off: Portland is simply loaded, and Martin was a guy who, given his performance, had a real shot at a promotion due to his position. He's in Pawtucket now, though, so it's Almanzar's turn for the spotlight.
He's been doing well for himself in his first taste of Double-A, hitting .289/.354/.503. It seems like he's been around forever -- and he has, as this is his sixth season -- but he still has youth on his side. Hell, he's a year younger than either of the other two players in this update. It's good to see him doing well, as of 2011, it seemed as if his career had gone off the rails. He managed all of a 517 OPS between Low- and High-A, before things clicked in 2012 and he put together a .300/.353/.458 line.
There's still work to be done, but he's striking out just 16 percent of the time, drawing walks nine percent of the time, has 21 extra-base hits in 48 games, and only has a .308 batting average on balls in play. He's been better at Portland than on the road -- no surprise there, given Portland is a great place for doubles, and home to eight of Almanzar's 11 on the season -- but he's been fine all over. As he's playing third base instead of first these days, his bat doesn't have near the pressure on it that it used to, so even if he slips back a little, there's room to do so. It's good to see him rebounding after becoming something of a forgotten prospect, even if the timing is a little inconvenient for the Red Sox given he, like Ranaudo, will be Rule 5-eligible this off-season.
Keith Couch, RHP
Couch has had a rough go of it as of late, with a 6.75 ERA in his last 10 appearances after a strong start to the year. The ground outs are still coming, but he's walking too many batters each time out, and it's causing problems for the right-handed reliever. Couch has given up at least two runs -- and up to five -- in all but two of his last 10 outings, and he's walked at least two in five of those.
Couch started striking more batters out in relief, but he might want to go back to focusing on inducing grounders -- that's where his real strength is, and if he's going to be walking batters, a few more opportunities for double plays wouldn't hurt. Basically, right now, it looks as if he's throwing strikes, but not quality ones: when he can throw them in the right spot, he'll notch a strikeout, but too often they're turning into hits or pitches that miss the spot, leading to walks.
We'll see if he can learn from his struggles, but Couch is the kind of arm that you hope turns into something useful, not necessarily one you depend on. It'll be great for the Sox if they have one more potential relief option in the system, but he's in that role now rather than starting for a reason.
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