Anthony Ranaudo, RHP
Let's not get carried away over six starts, but it's worth pointing out that Anthony Ranaudo has never pitched like this as a professional for more than a start or two. His start to 2011, when he should have probably been a little advanced for Low-A Greenville as a collegiate arm who only missed the top-10 in the draft due to injury concerns, was good, but not this. His 2012, a lost campaign with roughly this many innings in total thanks to more injury and a loss of velocity and repeatable mechanics, obviously did not come close to this. It's the first time Ranaudo has pitched like scouts felt he could if he was healthy. Maybe because it's the first time he's actually been healthy, though, again, the season is young, and things can change.
If Ranaudo can stay on the mound, though, he throws fireballs and has a wicked bender, and will bolster Boston's pitching prospects that much more. Health is a huge if for him, as he failed to stay healthy in his last year at college and failed to stay on the mound just one year ago, so his success is no given. There's a bit more hope than there was a year ago, though, when he was walking as many as he struck out, with too much of the former and not enough of the latter.
Chris Martin, RHP
You probably didn't think you would see a 27-year-old reliever featured in Portland's space, but, to be fair, Chris Martin is a year younger than Daniel Bard, and has found the strike zone far more often of late. Plus, it's not just prospects in the sense you think of them that we can analyze and look forward to. Take Jose De La Torre, who is also 27 years old, and has been called up to the majors to replace Joel Hanrahan in the Red Sox bullpen as of Wednesday. He wasn't a prospect by any stretch of the imagination, but has continued to flash quality command and grounder-generating abilities at the upper levels, and now, despite not being paid any attention for the better part of a decade, is in line to make his big-league debut.
Martin could very well follow a similar path -- except his involves stops in the independent circuit instead of the Indians' organization -- considering how quickly the Red Sox are going through their relief depth. He's missing all the bats in the Eastern League (all of them!), and has over 11 punch outs per nine innings. He's limiting hits, keeping free passes off the board, and has yet to give up a homer. He's also shown some length in his outings, as he's nearly at 20 innings in 11 appearances. His options would be intact were he to be placed on the 40-man, much like De La Torre's, and while he doesn't need to be handed high-leverage innings, if he can keep his command in order and avoid leaving balls up in the zone, he could be useful for soaking up innings. It's not an ideal plan, but he's someone to watch in case the injuries keep piling up and he keeps succeeding.
Keith Couch, RHP
Couch is younger, at just 23, but he's another to pay attention to. He's striking out just under a batter per inning for the year, has plenty of length left in his outings given he just transitioned from starting to relief, and is able to induce grounders aplenty. The strikeouts are relatively new for Couch, likely part of his switch to the bullpen, but the grounders have been there from the beginning. He likely needs more seasoning -- his strikeouts and K/BB show promise, but he's not quite there yet -- but with some time, he could find himself in Pawtucket's bullpen, one step away from the majors.
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