Salem Red Sox update: Brian Johnson, Corey Littrell, Jose Vinicio

USA TODAY Sports

Remember Greenville's 2013 problems? They got promoted.

Brian Johnson, LHP

Year Age Tm Lg Lev ERA GS IP BF WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 22 3 Teams 3 Lgs A-A+-Rk 2.54 19 85.0 350 1.118 6.4 0.4 3.7 8.9 2.40
2 Seasons 2.38 23 90.2 369 1.081 6.2 0.4 3.6 8.7 2.44
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/3/2014.

Johnson could probably be in Double-A Portland right now. He isn't because he hasn't thrown enough professional innings, owing to a liner to the head in his inaugural campaign followed by last summer's shoulder injury, but he's likely in the right spot in his development where he could be in Portland instead of Salem. Given he succeeded in High-A in the brief time he was there in 2013, it's easy to believe the Red Sox will push him up a level as soon as he shows that he actually has a handle on Carolina League batters.

He's a back-end lefty, someone who, if not for the interruptions, was supposed to fly through the system with a low ceiling but high floor. That opportunity still exists, but he'll have to catch up by blowing through High-A in his return while hitting the ground running at Double-A. There is no room for him in Triple-A at present, and likely won't be this summer even if he dominates the Eastern League, but that doesn't qualify as a problem for the Sox.

Star-divide

Corey Littrell, RHP

Year Age Tm Lg Lev ERA GS IP BF WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 21 Lowell NYPL A- 1.74 10 31.0 131 1.226 8.1 0.0 2.9 8.7 3.00
1 Season 1.74 10 31.0 131 1.226 8.1 0.0 2.9 8.7 3.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/3/2014.

Littrell was Boston's fifth-round pick from the 2013 draft. He handled short-season Lowell well enough, and the Red Sox are now having him skip over Low-A Greenville entirely, with his first full-season effort coming with High-A Salem instead. There's no surprise here: in Baseball Prospectus 2014, my comment for Littrell read:

Southpaw and fifth-round pick Corey Littrell could skip to High-A from short-season ball thanks to polish and a deep repertoire, including a changeup, bender and cutter.

As said, he's polished, and he already has a variety of pitches: he's got nothing to learn in Low-A. He could absolutely learn a thing or two in Salem, though, and we should learn some key things about Littrell as well. If his velocity bumps back up from the high-80s to the low-to-mid-90s, he'll be a name even casual fans of Sox prospects know.

As is, Littrell has mid-rotation potential, but he's barely thrown at all in the pros. High-A Salem won't tell us what his future holds on its own, but it should be a good start to that conversation.

Star-divide

Jose Vinicio, SS

Year Age Tm Lg Lev PA 2B 3B HR SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2013 19 Greenville SALL A 418 14 4 1 21 9 12 108 .192 .225 .256 .481
4 Seasons 1068 34 18 7 77 31 39 225 .240 .279 .332 .611
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/3/2014.

Almost all you need to know about Vinicio you can learn from the above stat line. He was atrocious with Greenville in 2013, but was also just 19 years old, and has potential in his glove. His build makes Dustin Pedroia look like David Ortiz, and even if he grows, it's never going to be to the point where he's a threat to hit for power at the plate. There could still be a productive shortstop here, because shortstops, as you know, are all kinds of not good at one thing or another. He needs to step it up at the plate, though, by improving his discipline, his pitch recognition, and at least getting his hitting up to the point where he can maybe trick a pitcher or two into thinking he can hurt them.

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