Triple-A Pawtucket: Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
With Justin Masterson missing his next start whether he hits the disabled list or not, it's fair to wonder just when Eduardo Rodriguez is going to be in a Red Sox uniform instead of a PawSox one. We might be wondering this a little longer, though, as Rodriguez would be starting on just three days rest on Sunday, when Masterson's turn comes up, and while he's been effective in his first go at Triple-A, he hasn't been as untouchable as you'd want just yet.
These are pretty minor concerns, however: Rodriguez might not be ready for that first start, but if Masterson goes on the DL and then needs a rehab assignment, there will be others to cover. And, while Rodriguez still needs to improve when pitching from the stretch, his secondaries are in a much better place than they were this time last year, and he's much more capable of keeping the ball down in the zone to avoid giving up too many long fly balls. Were he to come to the majors, he would have to deal with a learning curve, but for the same reason that starting Steven Wright over Masterson makes sense at this juncture -- Masterson provides no hope while Rodriguez provides some measure of it -- the Sox could certainly deal with that.
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Rodriguez's role might not be as the pitcher who replaces Masterson, however. If Wright fills in on Sunday and does well against the Mariners, and takes Masterson's spot for his next few turns, he could very well be Boston's fifth starter until (or if) a trade is made this summer. Rodriguez might end up slotting into Joe Kelly's spot: Kelly has proven ineffective at providing even the innings the Sox need out of their fifth starter, as he has to work incredibly hard just to get through the fifth. While he's missing bats for the first time in his career as a starter, he can't find the strike zone consistently enough, and his command of his secondaries is almost nonexistent and causes him to run up his pitch counts early.
Maybe that's who Rodriguez ends up replacing, and Kelly moves to the bullpen where he can shoot flames from his right hand multiple times per week in short bursts, filling a different need for the Sox. The timing would work, too, as Rodriguez probably needs another couple of starts before it's time to head to Boston, and Kelly deserves at least a few outings while under the tutelage of new pitching coach Carl Willis.
Double-A Portland: Luis Diaz, RHP
Luis Diaz's second tour of the Eastern League has been nowhere near as fun as the first. The 23-year-old righty has a 5.58 ERA, and while he's missing bats -- Diaz is striking out a career-high 9.4 batters per nine -- that's about the only thing going right for him. His control is off, his command is shaky, and he's lasting just an average of 4-1/3 innings per start.
Diaz's eventual role has always been relief -- this isn't a secret that 30 innings in 2015 has spilled. The additional innings that starting provides is probably for the best for him at this stage in his career, though, with the switch to full-time relief something the Sox should think about for when he eventually ends up in Triple-A.
He doesn't have a true out pitch, but the more time he gets to figure out how to use his best offering, his change, as something approximating one, is a positive. As are the additional attempts at figuring out how to better command his entire repertoire so he can figure out what works and what shouldn't come with him when it's time to make that role change.
High-A Salem: Trey Ball, LHP
Trey Ball has mostly been better than his numbers suggest this year, but his last two starts featured two different problems. In the first of those, he walked more batters (four) than he struck out (two), and in just 5-1/3 innings of work. The length of the start isn't a problem -- he's 20 years old and in High-A -- but four walks over those five-plus innings is. In the second start, Ball switched those walk and strikeout figures over five frames, but gave up six runs and a homer along the way.
The homer wouldn't be all that notable, but it's the fifth that Ball has given up in six starts, and opponents are slugging .467 against him this year because of them.
Ball has had no luck getting his fellow lefties out this year: they're batting .303/.351/.515 against him. Struggles against righties would not be a surprise for someone still as young and raw as Ball, but if he can't retire lefties easily, then there is nothing here to help level his numbers out. The homers and the lack of strikeouts point to an inability for Ball to command his pitches the way he needs to. This is not the same as saying he'll never be able to do it, but we're unlikely to see much difference in his performance until he starts to get a handle on that.
Low-A Greenville: Michael Chavis, 3B
Chavis is batting just .200/.262/.368, but don't be alarmed: he's 19, and hitting isn't supposed to be his strong suit, necessarily. The hit tool, specifically: Chavis' appeal has more to do with his having a bit of pop -- something he's managed to show off with 10 extra-base hits in his first 24 games even while nothing else is landing for a hit. The real concerns early are that he's striking out over one-third of the time, and he hasn't figured out how to keep plate appearances going long enough to draw walks with any consistency.
These are solvable problems, though: Chavis won't be 19 forever, and he doesn't need to solve his first year of full-season ball all at once. It's comforting, too, to hear that his defense seems to be coming along well enough that you can project him as potentially average at third in the long run. It'll be much easier to deal with Chavis as a low-contact, low-average guy with some power in the future if he can defensively handle a position where that kind of bat will do just fine.
Of course, to reiterate our own advice when it comes to players like Chavis: he's young, and inexperienced. Let's not make hasty judgments about what he will or won't become four or five years from now when we aren't even sure what he'll look like by the end of this one.