The first month of baseball is just about in the books and the Red Sox are off to a hot start. Likewise, the Sox minor league teams are playing solid baseball as well to start the year. Accordingly, there were some player performances at each level that deserve recognition. Therefore, I went ahead and picked 3 players(one from each level) that I felt stood out and got off to a hot start.
Jeremy Hazelbaker: (Left fielder, Pawtucket Red Sox) Hazelbaker isn't a player who has been hyped up or really even talked about when it comes to Sox prospects, which is not entirely justified. The Ball State product has had a respectable minor league career so far in the Red Sox system. Offensively, Hazelbaker has become known as a middle of the road bat who will strike out a lot but possesses power potential. With the glove, Hazelbaker is considered an above average outfielder with great speed, which gives him great range to compensate for characteristically below average jumps on fly balls. Hazelbaker's hot April start has been tough to ignore. In 20 games, Jermey has collected 22 hits, 2 of which were doubles, 1 a triple, and 5 were home runs. Overall, the 25 year old lefty has driven in 15 runs while he has scoring 12 himself. Accordingly, Hazelbaker's presence on the base paths has helped him amass a team leading 41 total bases and an inflated slash line of .324/.373/.603. Overall, Hazelbaker seems to be on track to another solid season. In the grand scheme of things, Hazelbaker's status is, and will probably remain, a fourth outfielder at the MLB level. But his hot April makes Hazelbaker worth keeping an eye on. If nothing more than for the hope that he could garner some interest in mid season trades or he could serve as outfield depth.
Anthony Ranaudo: (Starting Pitcher, Portland Sea Dogs) When the Red Sox drafted Ranaudo with the 39th pick in the 2010 MLB draft, the feeling around the league was that he could be a steal for the Sox if he could stay healthy. The LSU standout had a terrific college career highlighted by his most dominant season in 2009. However, in 2010, Ranaudo suffered an elbow injury which sidelined him for 5 weeks. When Ranaudo finally did come back, he did not enjoy the same success he had previously. Subsequently, Ranaudo fell down major league clubs draft board for fear that he was damaged goods. But the Sox used their supplemental 1st round pick they acquired as compensation for Atlanta signing Billy Wagner and drafted Ranaudo. After not pitching in all of the 2010 season, Ranaudo enjoyed success in split time with the Greenville Drive and the Salem Red Sox. Over abbreviated stints with both teams, Ranaudo threw 127 innings, posted an ERA of 3.97, and a WHIP of 1.26. Ranaudo also featured a good K/BB ratio of 2.54. Ranaudo's 2012 campaign was marred by injuries and he was only able to make it through 9 starts in which he amassed 37 innings and an injuey-assisted 6.69 ERA. But what a difference a year makes, Ranaudo is off to a great start in 2013. In his first four starts Ranaudo has thrown 21.2 innings, averaging just over a strike out per inning. Moreover, Ranaudo has limited his walks, allowing just 5 through his first month of work. In correlation, Ranaudo has made base runners almost nonexistent when on the mound allowing just 11 hits. As a result, Ranaudo has only allowed 2 runs and posted a 0.83 ERA in the early goings of 2013. Ranaudo's repertoire features a low 90's fastball, a really good curve that has been his bread and butter pitch, and an change up that still needs some developing. Overall Ranaudo has given himself a good starting point to begin the 2013 season.
Henry Owens: (Starting Pitcher, Salem Red Sox) Henry Owens is a player that a lot of people in baseball circles are excited to see progress. The tall, slender lefty was drafted out of high school by the Sox with their supplemental first round pick in 2011. That compensatory pick came as compensation to the then Red Sox free agent, Victor Martinez when he singed with the Detroit Tigers. Owens played for the Greenville Drive, Boston's single A affiliate, in 2012 and started 22 games. In his first professional baseball season Owens threw over 100 innings and posted a 4.87, which is right where a "true rookie" should be, numbers wise. The most impressive was Owens high K/9 rate of 11.5 and relatively low BB/9 rate of 2.77. In contrast, Owens walked just 47 batters and fanned 130. Additionally, Owens WHIP of 1.45 suggests that he pitched better than his ERA leads people to believe. Owens arsenal of weapons features a work-in-progress fastball and change up, as well as a hard biting, and sometimes eephus like curve. Obviously being a young arm Owens has velocity to be gained. Owens is only 20, so there is potential muscle to be built as well as mechanics to be tinkered with. Ownes second professional league season has been "so far, so good". The California native was promoted to high A, Salem Red Sox to begin the 2013 season and has taken advantage of his time there to far. Through his first four games, Owens has thrown 21 innings, allowing just 4 runs on 12 hits which gives Owens a minuscule 1.71 ERA. Owens has also carried over his ability to bunch strike outs and limit walks. In his time so far in Salem, Owens has struck out 22 and walked just 6. From a progression standpoint, the Red Sox have to be happy with what they're seeing from Owens. Though it is early, Owens has shown the ability to be a very interesting arm for the future.