When I realized that the Pawtucket Red Sox were coming into town, I was actually pretty excited. There was a chance to see pitchers Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa and position players Jackie Bradley Jr., Jose Iglesias, and Bryce Brentz, and that’s quite a bit of quality on a Triple-A team. By the time the PawSox rolled into town, however, only three of those players were still with the team. De La Rosa had a mild injury to his side the Tuesday before the team came to Louisville, and he would skip his next start. And Jose Iglesias was promoted before the games I intended to watch. Three solid prospects remained.
The headliner was Allen Webster. He’s had a rough start to his major-league career, but he’s still an interesting arm to watch. Everything starts with his six-foot-three-inch frame. Webster doesn’t carry a lot of weight on that frame, but despite being quite lean, he has plenty of arm strength and was able to maintain it throughout the start.
Webster’s delivery looked improved from what I had seen in video. In the various pieces of video, I worried that he threw a bit too much like Tommy Hanson – mostly using pure arm strength instead of incorporating his lower body – and would put himself at increased risk for shoulder problems. In his start in Louisville, Webster was able to stay on a straighter course to the plate, and he incorporated his lower body more by pushing off with his back foot instead of simply “falling” off the rubber.
As for Webster’s stuff, you can see why he’s so exciting and yet why he also had trouble against major-league competition. His fastball ranged from 92 mph-to-99 mph, but he mostly sat in the 93 mph-to-95 mph range. When he did reach back for the upper-90s heat, it was nowhere near the zone. The bright spots to the pitch are the velocity with a little arm-side run, but he still can’t locate it very well, often missing the zone or staying in hittable parts of the zone. I expected more swings-and-misses from the pitch, but if he’s not locating it better, batters can square it up.
Moving on to the secondary pitches, Webster added a slider and change-up. The slider was okay, ranging from 84 mph-to-88 mph, but while it had some late movement, it didn’t really miss any bats. That job was left to the change-up that sat in the 82 mph-to-85 mph range, and it had fastball-like arm speed, adding to the deception. I preferred the change-up in this one, but both are strong pitches that would be more productive if he located them better. Webster also tried a couple high-70s curveballs, but they were badly telegraphed and ended up in the dirt.
I definitely like Webster as a starter because of the three solid-to-better pitches and his ability to maintain his velocity, but the control/command is an issue. His walk rate has slowly risen as he’s moved up the ladder, and while he’s still striking hitters out – even at an increased rate so far at 29% – major-league hitters just simply aren’t going to swing at all of the pitches out of the zone. Webster is only 23 and could probably benefit from a long stint in Triple-A, but there’s definitely a high ceiling here.
Before Jackie Bradley was called up yesterday, I saw a few at-bats from the diminutive
switch-hitter lefty. He looked a little lost the first at-bat of the night against Armando Galarraga, but he adjusted well in the next at-bats to draw a walk and single to right. Bradley had a rough start to his major-league career, but I’m not entirely sure what he learned in Triple-A as he mashed the competition, but the Red Sox are out to win and couldn’t simply afford to let Bradley work out his problems in the majors. Whether Bradley learned what he needed to remains to be seen.
Bryce Brentz was the other interesting prospect in this one. His stature and stance at the plate along with his facial hair reminded me of Dustin Pedroia, and he certainly took a cut at the ball when he swung. Brentz’s swing was quite noisy with a lot of moving pieces prior to the ball being thrown, and he drifted forward severely during his first at-bat of the night. He seemed to adjust in later at-bats and stayed back better, leading to a couple of hard hit balls. Brentz can definitely make some hard contact, but the swing is long and has a noisy load, meaning he probably will continue to swing-and-miss in the majors.
The most interesting part of this game wasn’t the prospects, though. In the top of the sixth, the first base umpire came to the mound to look at Armando Galarraga’s glove and the mound area. It was definitely odd, and no one seemed to understand exactly what was going on, though we could infer the purpose. When Brock Holt stepped in the box, Galarraga promptly hit him, and everyone began to understand what had probably happened – an inquiry from Holt or another Pawtucket Red Sox player as to whether Galarraga was receiving artificial aid of some kind. As Holt went down the first base line, he and Galarraga exchanged pleasantries before the benches cleared. No punches were thrown, but more pleasantries were certainly exchanged in the brouhaha. During the next half-inning, the fans were clearly anticipating retaliation. Webster pitched to Felix Perez and got him out, and while Denis Phipps turned away from Webster’s pitches as he seemingly expected to get plunked, Webster pitched to him as well. Mike Hessman didn’t fare so well, however, as he took a fastball off the hip, and Webster and his manager were ejected.
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