Red Sox have star power in Portland

Portland’s Henry Owens, here pitching for the US Team during the All-Star Futures Game on Sunday, is expected to be promoted to Pawtucket in the very near future.
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Portland’s Henry Owens, here pitching for the US Team during the All-Star Futures Game on Sunday, is expected to be promoted to Pawtucket in the very near future.

Portland’s roster looks like a rundown of the top prospects in the Red Sox’ farm system.

Seven of the organization’s top 20 prospects were in a Sea Dogs uniform to start the season.

On the field, each night felt like its own mini-Futures Game.


From Mookie Betts’s on-base streak to Henry Owens’s scoreless streak, there was always something to keep an eye on in the first half.

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At times, it felt like there was too much of which to keep track. Hone in on Betts and Owens, and you’d miss the maturation of shortstop Deven Marrero, who came into his own at the plate, hitting .291 with five homers and 39 RBIs before being called up to Triple A Pawtucket this month, or the onslaught of second baseman Sean Coyle, who’s hitting .336 with 11 homers and 47 RBIs.

The glut of talent can be overwhelming, even if you’re a part of it.

“This whole team humbles you,” said catcher Blake Swihart, who’s hitting .296 with 10 homers and 48 RBIs. “Everybody goes out, somebody different every day, and does something amazing. You’re just like, ‘Wow.’

“And this is a really close-knit team and there’s good team chemistry here and the older guys take you under their wing and they teach you the ways and they teach you how to act and it’s pretty impressive.”


This season has essentially been a traveling talent show for the Sea Dogs.

The clubhouse has the feel of a frat house, and the chemistry is a large part of the reason, at 63-34, the Sea Dogs lead the Eastern League with a .649 winning percentage, third best among all full-season minor league affiliates.

“There’s some wonderful veteran leadership in that room,” said hitting coach Rich Gedman earlier this season. “There’s some talented kids, no question, but there’s some wonderful veteran leadership.

“The culture within that room, they’re all working on it, they’re all trying to get better.”

Both Owens and Coyle were invited to the Futures Game in Minneapolis on Sunday as part of Major League Baseball’s All-Star festivities. Seven Sea Dogs (Owens, Swihart, Coyle, Brian Johnson, Noe Ramirez, Derrik Gibson, Robby Scott) were named to the Eastern League All-Star Game that was played Wednesday in Altoona, Pa.


Betts spent a little more than two months in Portland before jumping up the ladder to Pawtucket and then Boston. Gibson, Travis Shaw, and Miguel Celestino also have been promoted to Pawtucket. Even Sea Dogs manager Billy McMillon said he’s watching the clock to see how soon Owens and Swihart get the call.

Around the horn

With the high minor leagues at their midway break this week, it’s a good time to do some star-gazing around the rest of the Sox’ farm system.


Anthony Ranaudo: With a 10-4 record, 2.62 ERA, and 91 strikeouts, Ranaudo’s been undeniably dominant in 19 starts this season. He hasn’t lost since June 1.

Christian Vazquez: The Red Sox let go of A.J. Pierzynski and handed the catching reins to Vazquez, 23. Before being called up to Boston earlier this month, Vazquez hit .279 with 17 doubles and threw out nearly 40 percent of attempted base stealers.

Salem (high Single A)

Reed Gragnani: Earlier in the season, Gragnani tried not to pay attention to the fact that he was flirting with a .400 batting average. The numbers have come down to earth, but not by much. His .322 average is the sixth best in the Carolina League.

Kevin Heller: The 24-year-old Amherst alum came out scorching to start the season, hitting .313 in April. And even though he hit a slump in May, he’s hit five homers, driven in 36 runs, stolen 10 bases, and punished lefthanded pitchers for a .350 average.

Jonathan Roof: A .301 average, 4 homers, and 23 RBIs in 50 games with Salem earned the 25-year-old infielder/outfielder a promotion to Portland at the start of June, and he’s been just as consistent in Double A, hitting .289 with two homers and 13 RBIs in 27 games.

Justin Haley: A year ago, Haley had 124 strikeouts in 124 innings. In 87 innings this season, the 23-year-old righthander has racked up 72 K’s, second on Salem’s staff.

Greenville (Single A)

Jake Romanski: The 23-year-old catcher played four seasons under Tony Gwynn at San Diego State before being taken by the Sox in the 14th round of last year’s draft. In 67 games with the Drive this season, he’s hitting .293 with 41 RBIs and a .337 OBP.

Jantzen Witte: Hard to imagine the 24-year-old first baseman being any more productive this season. Before being called up to Salem, his .972 OPS led the league. He also hit .330 with 24 doubles and 54 RBIs in 65 games.

Carlos Asuaje: In 89 games this season Asuaje has played four positions, and he’s committed just five errors. He’s hitting .307 with 11 home runs and 72 RBIs, second most in the league.

Jonathan Aro: The 23-year-old righthander is at his best in the late innings. Even though he struggled at the start of this month, he still has six saves and a 1.64 ERA and is holding lefthanders to a .163 average.

Joe Gunkel: There’s a reason Gunkel is everyone’s favorite under-the-radar Sox prospect. He quietly put up a 2.28 ERA in 17 appearances for the Drive before being called up to Salem in late June.

Julian Benbow can be reached at