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
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Bogaerts had a strong April, when you consider he was promoted to High-A and was all of 19 years old. He hit .278/.368/.483, hitting a pair of homers, but showing a bit more ability to make contact, and without putting a significant dent in his walk rates. May was nowhere near as kind, with the league throwing its first real adjustment Bogaerts' way: he struck out much more often, drew fewer walks despite more times up to bat, and ended up with a sub-700 OPS for the month. He picked things up a bit at the end, though, and hasn't stopped since. A look at his June line shows you how much he's started to figure things out, as he's hit .364/.456/.652 with five of his nine homers and four doubles in the month to this point.
He's still whiffing quite a bit -- roughly 28 percent of the time in June -- but he's drawing more walks this time around, and it hasn't hampered his ability to make quality contact as it did in the prior month. He's certainly not finished learning at High-A Salem, just because of three weeks of nonstop mashing, but this is an encouraging sign for the 19-year-old.
Other than the obvious -- Bogaerts needs to continue to hit for power -- the to-do list for the rest of 2012 sees a need for fewer whiffs, and maybe a few more walks. Those are big things, but given his youth and relative inexperience, it's hard to actually complain about anything he's accomplished in 2012.
Brandon Jacobs, LF
While not as youthful as Bogaerts, Jacobs isn't exactly an old man for High-A, either. He's coming along slowly during his first year at the level, as he hasn't quite put together actual progress with results for a consistent period of time in 2012.
That's not to say nothing has been going on in his game. Jacobs has holes in his swing, and they were exploited early on, when he struck out over 30 percent of the time in his first month at Salem. Since then, though, he's struck out in around 17 percent of his plate appearances.
On the downside, he's drawn free passes just eight times in that stretch, for around six percent, and hasn't been able to marry his power and ability to hit average just yet. In May, he hit .351 with an Isolated Power of .088, and to this point in June, he's at just .250 but with a .202 ISO. The latter is likely closer to the truth of what he can become, but he'll need to draw more walks in order to make that line worth something, especially since he's not going to contribute very much defensively.
Keith Couch, SP
We last looked at Couch's campaign on May 23, and since then, he's pitched in another five games: three starts, and two relief appearances. One of those starts was a six-inning complete game, with five strikeouts, no walks, but five runs allowed. Oddly enough, in the other appearances, where he totaled 16 innings with just seven strikeouts against five walks, Couch allowed all of one run. Baseball is weird.
His strikeout rate has dropped by more than a full punch out since May 23, but he's maintained his minuscule walk rate, helping keep his K/BB ratio in an attractive place. He'll need to start missing bats again -- preferably, this time without those pesky runs allowed -- to be worth much attention. While he has excellent control, he sometimes leaves the fastball up -- you can probably guess how at least some of those five runs scored in a game where he was in the strike zone all day long.
Couch is likely a future reliever, but it's Boston's policy to let arms like this get as many innings as possible in minor-league rotations, for the sake of experience and refinement. It's a strategy that's worked to this point, and if Couch can stick more in line with his seasonal rates than those of the last month, it's one that looks like it's doing its job once more.