SoxProspects: Best and worst of April

Here’s a look at the best and worst performances in the Red Sox minor-league system for April. (SoxProspects.com prospect ranking in parenthesis)

Top offensive players in April

(1) Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Pawtucket -- .348/.396/.708 with 9 HRs

(13) Jackie Bradley, OF, Salem -- .359/.465/.474 with 0 HRs and 8 SBs

(36) Juan Carlos Linares, OF, Portland -- .362/.463/.580 with 4 HRs

(43) Mauro Gomez, 1B, Pawtucket -- .341/.384/.703 with 8 HRs

(48) Keury De La Cruz, OF, Greenville -- .321/.389/.543 with 3 HRs and 4 SBs

With a tremendous opening month to the season in Triple-A Pawtucket, Middelbrooks earned a promotion to Boston on May 2 ... Bradley, an elite defensive center fielder, is beginning to look like a future impact major- leaguer ... Linares has flourished while playing a level below his skill set in Double-A Portland ... Gomez continues showing a hot bat against Triple-A competition after an impressive 2011 season, but his aggressive approach at the plate may not translate well over to the majors ... De La Cruz, 20, was Boston’s Latin Program Player of the Year in 2009.

Top pitchers in April

(4) Matt Barnes, SP, Greenville -- 2-0, 0.34 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 42/4 K/BB, 26.2 IP

(38) Chris Hernandez, SP, Portland -- 1-1, 1.69 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 16/6 K/BB, 26.2 IP

(49) Yeiper Castillo, P, Greenville -- 0-1, 2.25 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 32/5 K/BB, 24.0 IP

(PP) Aaron Cook, SP, Pawtucket -- 3-0, 1.89 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 13/11 K/BB, 33.1 IP

(PP) Justin Germano, SP, Pawtucket -- 2-1, 1.91 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 19/1 K/BB, 28.1 IP

PP means “post-prospect,” a minor-leaguer who has exhausted MLB rookie eligibility

Barnes outclassed Low-A competition in five starts with Greenville, earning a promotion to High-A Salem on April 30 ... Hernandez posted an impressive line for the month, but scouts are still left wondering if he can succeed at higher levels with an 85-86-mph fastball ... Castillo, 23, is back with Greenville after two straight injury-riddled seasons with the Drive, and he’s now been the club’s opening-day starter for three straight seasons (home opener in 2010) ... Cook, who will be promoted to Boston in the next day or so, posted an impressive 61.3 percent groundball rate for the month of April ... Germano, Pawtucket’s opening-day starter, has a 5.02 ERA in 79 major-league appearances over six seasons.

April underachievers

(8) Bryce Brentz, OF Portland -- .216/.266/.318 with 1 HR

(10) Blake Swihart, C, Greenville -- .178/.253/.274 with 1 HR

(22) Drake Britton, SP, Salem -- 1-3, 10.71 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, 13/12 K/BB, 19.1 IP

(42) Chris Balcom-Miller, SP, Portland -- 1-2, 6.86 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, 12/14 K/BB, 19.2 IP

(55) Jordan Weems, C, Greenville -- .140/.317/.140 with 0 HR

As expected, Brentz has experienced some growing pains in his first taste of Double-A, but he should be able to adjust by toning down his over-aggressiveness at the plate ... Swihart, the 26th overall pick from the 2011 draft, has had some solid at-bats, and his peripherals indicate that he was better than his stat line showed for the month ... Britton hasn’t been able to improve on the consistency issues he struggled through in 2011, and is a candidate for a move to the bullpen sooner rather than later ... Balcom-Miller hasn’t yet hit his groove in Portland, struggling through control issues in April ... Weems may be a candidate to head to short-season Lowell when the Spinners’ season begins in June.

April Notes

As of May 1, here are your batting leaders in the Red Sox system (cumulative stats, min. 50 plate appearances): Linares at .362, Salem 1B Travis Shaw at .362, Bradley at .359, Middlebrooks at .348, Salem OF Shannon Wilkerson at .347 ... The organization’s stolen-base leader is Greenville 3B Garin Cecchini with 10, followed by Bradley and Wilkerson with 8 each ... Strikeout leaders: Barnes with 42, Greenville LHP Henry Owens with 36, Castillo with 32, Salem RHP Keith Couch with 28, Pawtucket RHP Brandon Duckworth with 26, and Portland RHP Billy Buckner with 26 ... Six players got the call to Boston from the minor leagues in April, including OF Che-Hsuan Lin, RHP Junichi Tazawa, 1B/OF Lars Anderson, UT Nate Spears, OF Jason Repko and LHP Rich Hill (activated off rehab assignment) ... In addition to adding Cook to the roster, Boston will have some difficult roster decisions coming in May, with the rehab assignments of Daisuke Matsuzaka and Andrew Miller coming to an end, Mark Melancon regaining confidence and showing solid success in Pawtucket, and Tazawa demonstrating that he’s seemingly major-league ready ... Stat line of the month: Owns struck out an impressive 36 batters in 18.1 IP for Greenville, but also gave up 16 ER and 22 hits, for an April ERA of 7.85 ... On the injury front, top prospect RHP Anthony Ranaudo is slated to make his season debut with Portland in the coming days, after missing the first month of the season due to a groin pull.