2012 Fish Watch: Boston Red Sox – 7/29 Update

The first thing you need to know about The Fish Watch is that it’s not a list of sleepers. It is instead a list of players at various points in their respective minor league journeys that for one reason or another have piqued my interest enough that I am watching their development more closely than the bulk of prospects out there. To read more about this project, check out the introduction and master list.

This is the second round of updates in this series so I will not rehash why each player made my list but you can always go back and read previous installments of the series. While doing the installments by division worked the first time around, I’m going to go team-by-team from this point forward.

Wally the Green Monster (Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-US PRESSWIRE)

Boston Red Sox (S2S 2012 Red Sox Team Prospect List)

C – Christian Vazquez (21) – Red Sox 2008 9th Round Pick

2011 – Greenville (A): 0.283/.358/.505, 27 2B, 3 3B, 18 HR, 43 BB and 84 SO in 444 PA
2012 – Salem (A+): 0.261/.351/.379, 15 2B, 0 3B, 6 HR, 2 SB, 36 BB and 67 SO in 325 PA

Notes – When I last checked in on the Red Sox (and the rest of the AL East) for this series Vazquez was finishing up May with a 0.155/.202/.167 line in 90 PA for the month. Fortunately the young catcher got things back on track and hit 0.318/.423/.545 during the month of June. He pulled off the feat in large part because he dropped his K% from 26.7% to 8.9% over the previous month while his BB% also showed gains jumping more than 10% from 4.4 to 15.2.

During the month of July, Vazquez has maintained his BB% (for the most part) with it currently sitting at 12.7%, but his SO rate – currently 21.5% – has ballooned back up closer to his career mark of 19.4%. Despite the “regression” in both of these areas he’s still managed to hit 0.323/.436/.492 in 79 PA during July. While his June slash stats were mostly on Christian’s shoulders, his numbers in the current month have been aided by an unsustainable 0.413 BABIP. No doubt he’s still hitting well, but in July at least the “luck dragon” has been a little more on his side.

Of course with our without the luck dragon in play what Vazquez has done this season is very encouraging. Catchers after all need to be evaluated on their own scale. Not only is he having a solid season at the plate, he’s also thrown out 42% of baserunners (40/96) and continues to be an asset behind the dish in other ways as well.

LHP – Manuel Rivera (22) – Signed out of the Dominican Republic as a NDFA on July 2nd, 2006

2011 – Greenville/Salem: 3.91 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 102 H, 33 BB and 106 SO in 117.1 IP
2012 – Salem: 5.26 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 69 H, 34 BB and 39 SO in 63.1 IP

Notes – Rivera’s monthly splits this season contain several consistent elements. First and foremost is the fact that he’s been unable to harness his control. His best BB/9 of the season came back in April when he walked 6 in 13.1 innings (4.05 BB/9). Since then his walk rate has steadily crept up from month to month and took a large jump from 4.80 in June to 5.89 in 18.1 July innings.

Even in  the current month with a 0.229 BABIP on his resume, his ERA is still high at 4.42 and things get much less attractive if you look at his FIP (7.18) or SIERA (5.69).

Compared to last season, his H/9 has jumped from 7.8 to 9.8, his BB/9 has jumped from 2.5 to 4.8 and his SO/9 has slipped from 8.1 to 5.5. All three of these rates are a significant departure from his resume in previous years so it would be foolish to write him off completely but he’s certainly going the wrong way.

Hopefully his 2012 performance thus far has been a case of having an off year, or perhaps he’s simply struggling to adapt to the level but will rebound in 2013. Relievers are statistically schizophrenic from season to season after all. Whatever the case he’s moving from intriguing bullpen prospect to organizational filler based on this season and needs to turn things around.

RHP – Keith Couch (22) – Red Sox 2010 13th Round Pick

2011 – Greenville: 3.54 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 145 H, 19 BB and 123 SO in 137.1 IP
2012 – Salem: 3.89 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 112 H, 26 BB and 81 SO in 104.0 IP

Notes – Rated by Baseball America as having the best control in the Red Sox system, Couch has spent most of the year as a starter (15 G) but has also excelled in 6 relief appearances. That latter piece of information isn’t much of a surprise since heading into the 2010 draft he was widely regarded as a better relief prospect than a starter given his sinker/slider combo and it is hard to argue with that assessment several years removed.

Couch has made 5 starts in each of the last two months – June and July – and has thrown a total of 57.0 innings between them. In that time he’s turned in a 4.26 ERA with 66 hits allowed, 16 walks and 36 strike outs – totals which are a step down from what he did during the months of April and May. While his 2.2 BB/9 on the season, and 2.5 in the last two months, is very good, he’s giving up too many hits and not missing enough bats to hold down a rotation spot much longer without some major improvement.

Even in his last two starts where he’s allowed 2 runs in 15.0 innings, he’s given up 16 hits to go along with an 11-2 SO-to-BB rate. A move to the bullpen full-time seems like the most prudent course of action at this stage of his career. He’s had nearly 300 innings as a professional to develop his curveball and changeup to round out his arsenal and while his SO and BB ratios are acceptable, it’s hard to believe he can maintain them in Double-A and beyond as a part of the rotation.

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For more on the Boston Red Sox, check out BoSox Injection

Topics: Boston Red Sox, Christian Vazquez, Keith Couch, Manuel Rivera, Salem Red Sox

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