Salem's Brandon Jacobs has more holes in his swings than the NFL's version finds holes in defenses. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
Salem is an exciting place for Red Sox prospects right now. Last week, we covered Jackie Bradley, Xander Bogaerts, and Drake Britton, and that is far from all Boston's High-A affiliate has to offer right now. The level might be a little light on the pitching side of things at the moment, but offensively, the team is flush with intriguing prospects.
Brandon Jacobs was a 10th-round selection in the 2009 draft, and his age-20 season last year signaled his first breakout. The 6-foot-1, 225 pound left fielder hit .303/.376/.505, showing both doubles and home run power as well as the ability to draw a walk.
The campaign wasn't flawless, with Jacobs also posting a .381 batting average on balls in play that's cause for concern until he shows that he's consistently capable of above-average BABIP. He also struck out 25 percent of the time -- again, not exactly worrisome, but something to watch for in the future.
He's in High-A Salem after that strong campaign, and things are off to a rocky start. He has one homer and five doubles in his first 72 plate appearances and 16 games, but he's also struck out 31 percent of the time and has just four walks to counter it. Overall, Jacobs is at .250/.292/.368, this low average despite a .349 BABIP. He'll need to cut down on his strikeouts before he can make noise at the level, not that we should be surprised that they're here. As Jason Parks discussed with us this spring, Jacobs "has a decent hit tool, but lots of swing-and-miss in his game, so he's unlikely to hit for a high-average at the higher levels. He has strength and power, but a leveraged swing and lots of potential to be exploited by pitchers with good secondary stuff."
Sean Coyle was Jacobs' teammate at Greenville last season, and the second baseman made the move to High-A with him. He's ahead of Jacobs' punch out pace slightly, with 23 strikeouts in 71 plate appearances (32 percent). He's also having a bit of trouble drawing a walk, with five in his 15 games.
Coyle has two homers already, along with four doubles. His batting average is in line with last season's, but he'll need more patience to make the line look prettier. These are the normal problems that prospects encounter as they move up the ladder, and to Coyle's credit, he's a year younger than Jacobs, with one fewer season of professional experience, too. There's plenty of time for him to come around.
Defensively, Coyle has already been involved in 14 double plays, and made two errors. He's worked to improve his footwork at second, so while the opportunity to turn a double play isn't all his doing, it's good to see him turning them all the same.
Brandon Workman got a late start to his season, as he was in extended spring training to begin the year. His first start outside of Single-A was a mixed one, as he struck out four and walked just one in 4-1/3, but also gave up two homers and four runs.
Workman had a successful 2011 with Greenville, with the 22-year-old spending the entire season and 131 innings there. He struck out nearly eight batters per nine with a 3.5 K/BB, and there are those -- such as the aforementioned Parks -- who are fans of the righty:
He has size and good arm strength, showing the ability to work the heater in the plus range and touch a little higher. I think his best pitch is a nasty cutter, thrown in the mid 80s with serious corridor slice. He can use the pitch to induce weak contact and avoid long at-bats, and he can also use it as a swing-and-miss offering. When he elevates he gets into trouble, which was true of him in college and certainly true of him in the Sally League, where his pitches found too many barrels. If he can stay lower in the zone with his fastball, he can use that cutter to carve up minor league hitters. He will need a reliable breaking ball, a more consistent changeup, and sharper command to stick in a rotation, but he has the arm strength, size, and the competitive nature to back adjustments/refinements. -Jason Parks Red Sox Prospect Q&A
He's a project in many ways, but so were Kyle Weiland and Alex Wilson. One of those is now pitching in the majors for the Astros, and the other just converted to the bullpen in order to expedite his own major-league debut. Workman is a ways off, but he's one to watch.