At The Ballparks: A Red Sox Minor League Sunday

Longmeadow, MA – The boys are away (one at sleepaway camp for 7 weeks, the other on a 25-day Major League Madness teen tour) and this past Saturday the wife tells me she’s spending Sunday over at her sister’s pool with friends. I will have the entire day free so what to do?

Of course I pull up the schedules of any minor league team within driving distance. Since I frequent Dunkin’ Donuts Park and have already been to several Yard Goats games this year, I want to take a day trip and go somewhere else, even though my man crush Mike Shawaryn is scheduled to pitch for the Portland Sea Dogs in Hartford. The Connecticut Tigers (who play in Norwich, CT, only an hour or so away) are up in Burlington, VT playing the Lake Monsters. That’s a bit too far for a Sunday day trip. As it turns out Scranton Wilkes-Barre (Yankees Triple-A) are playing the Pawtucket Red Sox at 1:35. I can do that. Pawtucket, RI is only about 90 minutes away with no traffic. I don’t stop there though. The Lowell Spinners (Red Sox Short Season-A club) are hosting the Hudson Valley Renegades (Rays Short Season-A) at 5:35. I do some quick math, figure if I leave Pawtucket by 4:00 or so I can make Lowell in time for a personal doubleheader, and the decision is made. I’m putting some mileage on the car tomorrow!

After a quick breakfast with the better half, I hit the road around 11:00 and get to McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket around 12:45 with plenty of time to swing by the press box to pick up game notes and find a good seat in the shade to scout the players I want to watch. I’m excited to see the RailRiders’ starting pitcher Justus Sheffield, the Yankees top pitching prospect (ranked #3 in New York’s system preseason on our Yankees Top 50, behind only Gleyber Torres and Estevan Florial at the time), and it’s an interesting match up against 34-year-old Fernando Rodriguez, Jr, whom Boston seems to be stretching out to start as he’s primarily been a reliever in his career.

As it turns out Rodriguez only goes 2.1 innings, giving up 3 hits, 1 run and K’s 5. Then the PawSox bring in Williams Jerez, my 31st ranked Red Sox prospect going into the season and 2017 Eastern League All-Star. Jerez shows some hints of dominance in his 2.2 IP striking out 5, including the side in the 4th, but he runs into trouble in the 5th walking L.J. Mazzilli and giving up a two run bomb to Tyler Austin.

On the flip side, Sheffield is really good. On this day he was mostly in the low-to-mid 90s and didn’t give up a hit until the 4th inning. What I saw was a major league ready performance, although I would also argue that Pawtucket’s lineup is more of a AAAA group than a top prospects group. Sheffield’s final line of the night was 5.2 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, he got the W and lowered his ERA to 2.53.

Recently promoted Abiatal Avelino, who was named an Eastern League All-Star and had gone 4-9 in his first two games in Triple-A, struggled on this day going 0-4 with 3 strikeouts. The RailRiders were leading 3-1 in the 7th when I had to take off to make the little over an hour drive up to Lowell, MA to catch my Game #2. SWB held on and won 3-2. The Red Sox prospect I was most interested in seeing was Sam Travis. He’s still prospect eligible with only 88 career MLB at bats, but I feel his top prospect luster has faded a bit. He was 1-2 with 2 walks on Sunday, raising his Triple-A average to .227. That’s not going to cut it and earn him more PT in the bigs.

About an hour and a half later as I found my seat behind the plate at LeLacheur Park I could tell it was a completely different vibe at the New York-Penn League game than it was at the PawSox/RailRiders AAA game. The park is smaller but more modern than old McCoy Stadium. There are so many more family-friendly activities and promos during the game. The Canaligator mascot was making his rounds. But what I was most eager to see were all the recently drafted Red Sox and Rays players who had been assigned to Class-A Lowell (Boston) and Hudson Valley (Tampa Bay). Also to my surprise because I hadn’t been paying attention the previous few days, there was a 37-year-old kid making his 2B debut for the Spinners on this evening. One Brandon Phillips! Indeed, @DatDudeBP was ready to tear it up in Low-A ball with hopes of possibly seeing major league time later this season with Boston.

Hudson Valley beat Lowell 10-5 as they scored 8 runs in the top of the 7th which is when I left knowing I had a 2+ hour drive home with traffic and construction ahead of me. So Yankees farm teams 2, Red Sox farm teams 0 on my docket from the day. Here’s a quick rundown of what I saw from the players prospect hounds want to know about.

Brandon Phillips, 2B (Lowell) – He made some nifty plays in the field and was openly having a great time out there. 1-3 at the plate with a 3-run monster shot over everything in left field.

Brian Brown, LHP (Lowell) – The Red Sox 9th round draft pick was making his 4th start on the season. Impressive outing. 5 IP, 0 hits, 2 BB, 3 K and lowered his ERA to 1.72. I’ll be watching Brown moving forward and may have to consider him for my Midseason Red Sox Top 50 Prospects.

Jarren Duran, 2B (Lowell) – Boston’s 7th round pick was leading off as DH in this one and went 4-5, scoring a run and raised his average to .347. It was up to .350 after going 2-5 the next day.

Cole Brannen, OF (Lowell) – Boston’s 2nd round pick in 2017 is trying to find his way at the plate. 3 strikeouts and an 0-4 night didn’t help and one can see why the organization demoted him from Greenville (A) to Lowell (A-) to hopefully kickstart his offense.

Devlin Granberg, 1B (Lowell) – Boston’s 2018 6th round pick has a sweet swing and had a couple solid base knocks, going 2-4 with an RBI. Granberg has gone 6-12 (.500) over his last 3 games.

Jonathan Ortega, SS (Lowell) – The 5’8″ 21-year-old Ortega, the Red Sox 2018 19th round pick, seems to be a fan favorite already. At one point Phillips made a pretty spectacular play up the middle and flipped to Ortega to get the double play and the crowd loved it. Ortega is hitting .300 through his first 14 games and 40 at bats.

Michael Smith, OF (Hudson Valley) – Tampa Bay’s 18th round pick this past June. The Renegades leadoff hitter was 2-5 with an RBI and scored a couple runs.

Tanner Dodson, OF (Hudson Valley) – Dodson, the Rays’ Competitive Balance round pick (71st overall), was hitting in the 2 hole but had a rough game going 0-5 with 2 strikeouts. He’s hitting .243 in his first 14 games as a pro.

Tyler Frank, 2B (Hudson Valley) – Here’s one of the young players I was most eager to see. Frank was Tampa’s 2nd round pick (57th overall) out of Florida Atlantic University. The 21-year-old Florida native had a big night, going 2-4, with a 3-run HR and 5 RBI. He’s hitting .296 through 20 games and 71 AB.

Chris Betts, C (Hudson Valley) – Betts was Jason Woodell’s 39th ranked Rays prospect going into 2018 on his Rays Top 50 prospects, with hopes of a breakout season for the 21-year-old. The former 2nd round pick (2015) has battled injuries but as Woodell says, he’s “still young enough to get his career back on track.” He was 0-5 with 3 K’s during this one though.

Adrian Rondon, 3B (Hudson Valley) – I remember Rondon being one of the top International signings and prospects from a few years ago (Rays signed him in 2015), and he’s still only 20-years-old! Sunday he was 0-3 with 3 Ks but did walk twice and scored a run.

Erik Ostberg, C/DH (Hudson Valley) – Ostberg was the Rays’ 13th round draft pick in 2017 out of the University of Hartford. My good friend Joshua Weiss (@jweiss21) knows Ostberg pretty well and made sure I paid close attention to his at bats. Erik DH’d on this evening and went 1-3, scoring two runs. His hit was a sweet opposite field double down the left field line which I got some video of that went live on Twitter.

He’s hitting .275 with 1 HR and 11 RBI so far this season in 15 games after having spent 2017 with the GCL Rays in Rookie ball.

All in all a successful New England Sunday MiLB doubleheader day trip! Thanks to Bill Wanless from the PawSox and Connor Sullivan from the Lowell Spinners. You can check out my photos from the day in my July 8th Flickr album. Look for more “At The Ballpark” features from me this summer and from several other Prospects1500 correspondents around the country.

President of Prospects1500. Commissioner of Diamond Duos dynasty fantasy baseball leagues. Founder of MLB Fantasy Playoffs Parlay. Participant in more than a dozen other dynasty/fantasy baseball leagues. Account Manager for Reminder Publishing in real life. Huge Bruce Springsteen and pro wrestling fan. Along with his wife and two boys, lives in Longmeadow, MA. Follow on Twitter at @Scotty_Ballgame.

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