Goodyear, AZ, USA; A general view of a game between the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox during the eighth inning at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE
Jose Vinicio, SS
Vinicio is still just a baby, in the same sense that Xander Bogaerts was for the 2011 Drive. Because of his youth, he can be highly-successful without posting mind-blowing numbers. The .280/.345/.411 line he's managed to this point might not seem like much, but for an 18-year-old in his first brush with full-season ball, it's impressive.
Vinicio is striking out just 16 percent of the time, and drawing walks in seven percent of plate appearances. The latter could use a boost, but this is quality strike zone recognition from a teenager in Single-A. He's also been killing the ball lately, showing a bounce back from some late-April failure: .378/.410/.514 in his last 10 games, and an 862 overall May OPS.
Kevin Goldstein reported some positives about Vinicio's season at the beginning of the month:
"After watching Jose Reyes and Jose Iglesias this spring, I think this guy has a bit of both in him," said one talent evaluator. "He's small, and almost frail, but it's a live, wiry body. He has a clue at the plate, stays inside on balls and shows aggressiveness on the base paths and maturity on the field." While also grading him as a 60+ runner, the scout believes that the numbers would catch up to the scouting reports in short order. "He has what it takes to close the tools-to-skills gap pretty quickly," he said. "He's got a lot of things going his way."
Blake Swihart, C
Swihart's first year in full-season ball has not gone well to this point, but it's not all bad. He's whiffing just 15 percent of the time, and is walking to first in over eight percent of plate appearances. He's also hit much better over his last 10 games: .286/.342/.429 with three extra-base hits, six strikeouts and three walks in 35 at-bats.
Even the most talented catchers can be projects in the minors. They have more to learn in order to advance, given the work that needs to be put in behind the plate not just to catch-and-throw, but to nab baserunners, manage a pitching staff, interact with pitchers. That doesn't even get into the time and effort necessary for a switch-hitter to get both of his swings right. Ask 27-year-old Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the switch-hitting backstop Boston currently has in tow, how difficult it was to put all of this together. Or, you can look at another switch-hitting catcher the Red Sox employed, Jason Varitek, who didn't reach the majors to stay until he was 26.
Swihart hasn't figured things out either lefty or righty to this point, but given his tools, he'll likely get there eventually. It doesn't have to be when he's 26 like it was for those who preceded him, but it won't be when he's 20. We'll just all need to learn to be patient with someone who has more on his plate than anyone else the Red Sox selected in the 2011 draft.
Keury De La Cruz, OF
De La Cruz has been in the Red Sox organization since 2009, when he signed with Boston for a bonus of just $120,000. He was just 5-foot-11 with a slender frame, but the Red Sox projected future power from him:
"He wasn't strong then, but he had natural loft and showed the ability to drive the ball. He just didn't have muscle behind it to make it go anywhere," said Sox international scouting director Eddie Romero. "[Former Sox international scouting director Craig Shipley] said, ‘You can project power on this guy. He was right."
His bat was relatively quiet at Low-A Lowell last year, but he's turned things up as a 20-year-old in full-season ball this year. He's got seven homers and 20 extra-base hits overall, but not everything is a positive. The plate patience just isn't there yet, with De La Cruz earning a free pass to first five percent of the time if you round up generously, and whiffing 22 percent of the time he comes up. Neither figure is going to ruin him at this stage, but you'd like to see them move somewhat closer, so he's not so reliant on what happens after the ball is put in play.
Cruz has a long way to go -- two months of success in Single-A isn't mission accomplished by any means. But if he can continue to evolve his plate discipline and hit the ball far, good things will come of his signing.