Salem Red Sox update: Brian Johnson, Corey Littrell, Kyle Martin

Matt Ryerson-US PRESSWIRE

Strikeouts everywhere.

Brian Johnson, LHP

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev ERA GS IP BF WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2014 23 0.2 Salem CARL A+ 5.03 4 19.2 85 1.271 8.7 0.0 2.7 11.4 4.17
3 Seasons 2.85 27 110.1 454 1.115 6.6 0.3 3.4 9.2 2.69
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/23/2014.

Johnson is off to a rough start in the ERA department, allowing 11 runs in his first 19-2/3 innings, but his strikeouts (and strikeout-to-walk ratio) should help talk you down from the ledge. He's actually bookended two poor starts with two lovely pieces of work, allowing all of one run in 11 innings of the latter, with 12 strikeouts against a pair of walks, while giving up the other 10 in the former appearances. All told at High-A, Johnson looks pretty good, with a 3.82 ERA and over a strikeout per inning, with exactly three times as many of those as walks.

His inconsistency lends support to the idea that he needed to start with Salem rather than aggressively jumping to Double-A, but if he can get all of that straightened out and return to throwing quality strikes while keeping his opponents off-balance, he'll get to Portland soon enough. The lefty does need an in-season promotion to get back on track, as, because of injuries, he hasn't been able to fast-track himself through the minors as was expected when he was drafted in the first round in 2012.

Corey Littrell, LHP

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev ERA GS IP BF WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2014 22 -0.8 Salem CARL A+ 2.16 3 16.2 69 1.320 8.6 1.1 3.2 9.7 3.00
2 Seasons 1.89 13 47.2 200 1.259 8.3 0.4 3.0 9.1 3.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/23/2014.

Littrell is handling his first exposure to High-A just like he did his professional debut last summer. Much like Johnson's early struggles are evidence this was the place to start 2014 for him, Littrell's early success likely points to his aggressive push to High-A -- one that skipped Low-A Greenville entirely despite all of 31 professional innings -- being the correct move for the Sox. Let's not get too ahead of ourselves in either case, though: the 22-year-old Littrell has only pitched in three games, and while they're good ones, it's still just three.

Velocity will be the thing to watch with Littrell throughout the year. He lost some while in college, as he used to hit the mid-90s, but sat more in the high-80s/low-90s by the time he became a Red Sox prospect. He can be a useful arm without ever getting that kind of gas out of his arm again, but if working with professional coaches and the typical strengthening program of a professional pitcher can coax a couple ticks back out of him, even better.

Kyle Martin, RHP

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev ERA G IP BF WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2014 23 0.2 Salem CARL A+ 5.68 5 12.2 60 1.737 14.2 0.0 1.4 14.9 10.50
2 Seasons 2.40 24 48.2 201 1.048 7.2 0.0 2.2 9.4 4.25
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/23/2014.

Martin wasn't in our first look at Salem prospects, as shortstop Jose Vinicio was part of this particular trio. With Vinicio not playing, though, a spot opened up for the 2013 ninth-round pick, who has punched out 21 batters in just under 13 innings of relief. There isn't a whole lot else to be excited about with his performance to date, though.

He was solid enough last year for short-season Lowell and Low-A Greenville over 36 innings, with three times as many strikeouts as walks, mostly owing to few free passes. There are things he needs to fix if he's going to be more than just a minor-league arm, though. He's 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds, but isn't inducing any grounders despite the natural sink he should get on his pitches. He's shown weird splits at times, both in college and the pros, that make it difficult to discern if he's going to be a reliever who can face batters of both handedness, someone who should only face right-handers, or neither of those things.

There's possibly something here, but we might see a few more ugly outings before we discover what that is.

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