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Portland Sea Dogs update: Blake Swihart, Noe Ramirez, Keith Couch

Swihart's slumping but still got pop, while Noe and Couch both look finished with Double-A.


Blake Swihart, C

Swihart has had a rough go of it to begin June, collecting four extra-base hits in eight games but batting just .257 without drawing a walk in that stretch. The lack of walks has been the only real complaint you can lodge against Swihart's season, really: while he's only striking out 14 percent of the time, he's drawn a free pass in just over four percent of his plate appearances. It's not necessarily something to be concerned about, given he's still showing off quality strike zone judgment and has had consistently high-quality at-bats even without the free passes. It is something to watch, though, as the season goes on and it becomes time for him to make his push to Triple-A, where he will be tested further.

For now, know Swihart's defense seems to be continually improving, and that the ball is flying off of his bat in a way it did not for High-A Salem. He's gone deep six times this year, three times as often as all of 2013, and has had at least one blast taken from him by the Maine Monster. The power is emerging, and he's avoided strikeouts: with time, maybe the walks will come, too.

2014 22 Portland EL AA 208 12 3 6 3 0 9 29 .286 .317 .467 .785
4 Seasons 1014 58 14 15 16 10 76 162 .280 .332 .422 .753
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2014.

Noe Ramirez, RHP

Ramirez's last 10 games have been stellar, with the reliever limiting opponents to a 0.96 ERA over 18-1/3 innings while inducing more grounders than fly balls, and 13 strikeouts against five walks. It's probably safe to say he's figured out all he can at Double-A by now, given he's thrown 61 innings in relief over 33 games there dating back to late 2013, and managed a 2.49 ERA and nearly four times as many strikeouts as walks in that stretch.

He's also only given up four homers total at the level, all of them last year after his initial promotion: at his best, Ramirez is missing bats, inducing grounders, avoiding walks, and keeping the ball in the park. The last of that bunch is generally what's gotten him into trouble in the times it's happened in his career, so when he stops giving up the long ball entirely, it's a signal he's likely ready for a new challenge.

Year Age Tm Lg Lev ERA G IP BF WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2014 24 Portland EL AA 2.20 18 32.2 129 1.010 6.9 0.0 2.2 8.0 3.63
3 Seasons 3.12 70 193.0 774 1.145 8.3 0.7 2.1 8.7 4.23
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2014.

Keith Couch, RHP

There is an outside shot that Keith Couch is a major-league starting pitcher. His control is stellar, he's always kept the ball in the park, and he induces tons of grounders that help balance his underwhelming strikeout rates. It's still an outside chance, because his stuff, while good for grounders, isn't all that impressive or imposing, and he could be exposed as soon as a promotion to Triple-A when he's expected to go through more experienced, more advanced International League lineups a few times.

That non-zero chance of at least some starts in the majors feels real enough, though, that you have to imagine Couch will be claimed by another team during this December's Rule 5 draft, should his success continue. It's difficult to push him any further than he is right now, after nearly 200 innings at Double-A over two years, thanks to the Pawtucket rotation, which could very well be full up when Rubby De La Rosa and Brandon Workman return from the majors in the near future. Add in that current teammates and fellow starters Brian Johnson and Henry Owens are way, way ahead of him on the prospect depth chart, and you realize it won't get any easier to make room later on in the year, either.

Maybe Couch will be part of a trade that keeps him from being lost in the Rule 5 shuffle. He's survived longer as a starter than Twins pitcher Ryan Pressly, whom Ben Cherington's Red Sox did not protect on the 40 two years ago, which probably means Couch is even more likely to be nabbed if he's available. This is all probably a conversation for later, anyway, but the original point, that Couch is done with the Eastern League, stands.

Year Age Tm Lg Lev ERA GS IP BF WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2014 24 Portland EL AA 2.49 11 68.2 290 1.223 9.4 0.1 1.6 6.8 4.33
5 Seasons 3.50 78 537.2 2280 1.278 9.5 0.6 2.0 7.1 3.55
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2014.