Matt Barnes, RHP
Barnes' season ERA is 4.27, but that doesn't mean he hasn't made significant progress in his time at Double-A. Take his last 10 starts and 45 innings, for instance. In that time, Barnes has punched out 62 batters, or 12.3 per nine, and posted a 2.38 ERA while limiting opponents to just four homers. In addition to all the whiffs, he has also induced 1.4 times as many ground outs as air outs -- his secondary stuff is starting to come together, and that makes him a dangerous opponent.
He's not completely out of the woods yet, though, as he's also seen his walk rate skyrocket during this stretch. He's walking nearly five batters per nine of late, and while that's likely not a permanent thing, and more a side-effect of the focus on his secondary, non-fastball offerings, it's still something to keep an eye on. It obviously hasn't hurt him yet, but as Allen Webster has reminded us, nailing down both control and command is something that has to happen before the majors are realistic, regardless of how filthy a pitcher's stuff is.
Henry Owens, LHP
Owens has made just two starts in Double-A, and only has a few more before the season ends, but let's take a moment to simply appreciate that he's 20 years old and already on the Sea Dogs, at the same time one of Boston's best pitching prospects, the 23-year-old Barnes, is just coming into his own at the level. Oh, and Owens has struck out 17 batters in his first 10 innings, and managed this without giving up much in the way of walks, homers, or hits.
Not that he'll punch out 17 per nine forever or anything, but it's certainly a start that makes you sit up and take notice. Owens has made huge strides this season, first by putting on bulk and muscle that helped lessen the effects his lanky frame has on his mechanics while also adding velocity, and lately, through a change in his curveball grip that has allowed him better command of the pitch: there's a reason Owens had 19-1/3 no-hit innings in a row near the tail-end of his High-A tenure, you know.
Noe Ramirez, RHP
Ramirez continues to struggle with keeping the ball in the yard at Double-A after going through his entire run at High-A Salem without a long ball. The rest of his routine is working out well, though, with 25 strikeouts against six free passes, and nearly twice as many ground outs as air outs. Now, if he could just stop missing his spots quite as often as he does, which results in those balls gone yard, there would be a complete package reliever here, someone who looks to be quickly on their way to Triple-A Pawtucket, one stop from a gig in the majors.
He's not there yet, but he's close. If he can adjust to the Eastern League's hitters in the same way he did to those of the Carolina League, then we'll start to see the homers vanish. You might think this is a bit of an overreaction, considering it's four homers in 23 innings, but remember: this is the same pitcher who allowed 10 homers in his final nine appearances of 2012. It's something to watch for with him.
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