Sarasota, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox batting helmets and bats in the dugout before a spring training game against the Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
Henry Owens, SP
That season ERA is still ugly, sitting over five, but it belies how Owens' season has really gone. Look at that strikeout rate, the K/BB, the hit rate, and hey, if you remember how things were early on, even the walk rate. Owens is in a good place these days, and his inaugural campaign is marred mostly by a few starts in early April that saw him go just a few innings with as many or more runs put on the scoreboard in the process.
Since April 30, Owens has pitched in 10 games and amassed 49-1/3 of his 63-2/3 innings. In that stretch, he's posted a 3.65 ERA, 11.5 strikeouts per nine, nearly four times as many punch outs as free passes, and kept the ball in the yard, and has started to look tough to hit despite all that extra time in the strike zone. Owens quickly got over his growing pains, and it's looking more and more like he's going to find himself in High-A Salem as a 20-year-old hurler in 2013. It's going to be hard not to put him there even sooner, if he keeps having outings like his last one: five innings, seven strikeouts, no walks, no runs, and just two hits allowed for the lanky lefty.
Blake Swihart, C
If you're ever in need of a reminder of how deep the 2011 MLB draft was -- and just how well the Red Sox have made out on it to this point -- look no further than the first two entries in today's Greenville update. Neither of these player's were Boston's first pick in that draft, both are coming around strong after rough starts, and, in addition to them, the Sox also snagged Matt Barnes and Jackie Bradley in the first. We're going to love that 2011 draft for a long time.
Like Owens, looking at Swihart's season line might not do much for you. But that's bound to happen when things started out with a .178/.253/.274 April. Things have been much better since: Swihart hit .289/.329/.408 in May, .322/.338/.441 in June, and has finished out the first third of July with a .304/.360/.565 showing. He's just 20 years old, and a switch-hitting catcher, so this kind of progress in his first full year in the minors is better than his stats show sans context.
He's whiffing just 16 percent of the time, and while he's not drawing walks at an impressive rate, seven percent isn't terrible for someone his age who's dealing with developing two swings. Swihart has been better against righties than lefties in the early going, with the difference mostly coming in the batting average, but he's been more patient against southpaws. It will be interesting to see how these splits play out (or even out) over time, but for now, expect plenty of bumps in the road for a backstop this young.
Garin Cecchini, 3B
Cecchini has very quietly improved his season line, and while he isn't showing off last year's slugging full-time, everything is starting to come together. He's striking out 18 percent of the time, drawing walks over 10 percent of the time, and has stolen 30 bases while getting nabbed just three times. The homer power isn't consistent, as he has just four on the year, but it's hard to complain about 29 extra-base hits in 76 games from a third baseman with patience and speed.
Cecchini has been on fire as of late, hitting .400/.488/.571 in his last 10 games, with five walks and punch outs a piece to go along with three doubles and a homer. More of this will mean that the 21-year-old is indeed on pace for a move to High-A Salem come 2013, but to this point, consistency has been the problem. If he strings together an August that looks like his July, then it's more likely he's made some real progress.