BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — Expectations were high for Derrik Gibson, Sean Coyle, Blake Swihart, Henry Owens and Brian Johnson from the time they entered the Red Sox farm system.
All five were selected in the first three rounds of their respective Major League Baseball Drafts. They are scheduled to head to Altoona together July 16 to represent the Portland Sea Dogs and play for the Eastern Division in the Eastern League All-Star team after their selections were announced Monday prior to the opening of a four-game series in Binghamton.
Swihart, Owens and Johnson have been on the fast track through the system. When Mookie Betts blazed a trail from Portland – briefly through Pawtucket – to Boston early this season, Coyle and Gibson took advantage of openings in prominent spots on Double-A baseball’s hottest team.
Gibson, the oldest of the stars at 24, traces his turnaround to the end of the 2013 season. He will be playing through the All-Star break this year because he did not stop when the minor league season ended last year.
With Betts gone, Gibson is the new leadoff hitter and is thriving in that spot. He had two extra-base hits in Monday’s 11-4 loss and was scheduled to be back in the leadoff spot Tuesday before the game was postponed and rescheduled as part of a doubleheader Wednesday at 5:35 p.m.
Gibson, who went to the Arizona Fall League to continue working on his swing, hit just .225 and .250 in his first two seasons with the Sea Dogs. A middle infielder who has been adding to his versatility by spending time in the outfield – such as Monday’s start in center field – he hit .404 with a .505 on-base percentage in June.
“Obviously I wanted this. I wanted to anticipate trying to have a good year,” said Gibson, who is batting .375 in 27 games in the leadoff spot. “I went out to the Arizona Fall League. I think that really helped me a lot.
“It expanded the season for me. I got to play more baseball and I took it into spring training with me.”
The second-round draft pick in 2008 is ninth in the league with a .323 average.
“There’s some value for a guy who can play more than one positions, particularly a shortstop,” Sea Dogs Manager Billy McMillon said.
Coyle was on the disabled list from April 29 to May 23. With Betts ready to move up and try some other positions to get ready for Boston, second base opened up.
When the 2010 third-round draft pick reaches the minimum plate appearances to qualify later this week, he should jump right into the top five in the EL batting race.
On Tuesday, Coyle was named as the EL Player of the Month for June after batting .348 with 15 extra-base hits.
Coyle and Owens are both headed to Minnesota to play for the U.S. squad against the World on Sunday in the Futures All-Star Game.
Owens, a supplemental selection at the end of the first round in 2011, is 12-3 to lead the league in wins, ERA (2.21), strikeouts (111), complete games (three) and shutouts (two).
Johnson, a first-round pick in 2012, started 7-1 after a May 2 promotion from Class A Salem. He gave up seven runs Monday but still has a 2.64 ERA and like Coyle is in position to be among the top few in the league when he reaches the innings limit.
Swihart was picked before Owens in the 2011 first round. He was the Red Sox Minor League Defensive Player of the Year last season. He leads EL catchers by throwing out 53 percent of attempted base stealers and is also hitting .294.
“He’s very good behind the plate,” McMillon said. “His offense has come around a lot better.”