Ft. Myers, FL, USA; A general view from the stands during the sixth inning of a spring training game between the Boston Red Sox and the Pittsburgh Pirates at Jet Blue Park. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
Brandon Workman, SP
In his last start on July 9, Brandon Workman was flat-out ridiculous. He struck out nine hitters in six innings, walked a pair, and allowed just one other baserunner via hit. He shut down the opposition, inducing over twice as many ground outs as air outs, in what was easily one of his most impressive starts of the year, if not the most.
Workman is 23 and in High-A, but he didn't get his professional start until he was 22, so it's not as if he's hung around the minors forever. His walk rate is now under two per nine, in part because he's given up just 10 walks in his last 10 starts (and over 58 innings, for 1.6 per nine), and while his strikeout rate has slipped from earlier in the year during that stretch, his K/BB has improved.
Essentially, every time you worry about Anthony Ranaudo, and the progress he isn't making, remember that there's another hurler from the 2010 draft who is doing just fine in his own progression through the minors, even if it's an unheralded just fine.
Travis Shaw, 1B
Mauro Gomez's presence on the major-league roster should serve as a reminder that, even if you've got a top prospect at one corner and a star signed long-term to the other, that situations will arise where a capable bat is needed anyway. Shaw might seem as if he's blocked, especially in an organization with Will Middlebrooks just beginning his major-league career, Garin Cecchini behind him but rated higher, and Adrian Gonzalez locked in at first. But he's still all of just 22, and has plenty of time left to sit in the minors until he's needed. If he keeps hitting the way he has, he'll be needed in some capacity eventually.
July has been slow for Shaw, in the sense that he's "only" at .297/.350/.486, his first monthly OPS below the 900 threshold. The month is young, though, and Shaw has done nothing but mash all season long to this point. It wouldn't hurt to see him scuffle a bit, actually, as you always get a better sense of what a prospect is capable of as they attempt to bounce back from failure. Shaw hasn't failed in the minors yet, and that's a positive, but a little reality wouldn't hurt.
Keith Couch, SP
Keith Couch is dealing with some reality at the moment. He's allowed 11 runs in his last 9-1/3 innings, and has bounced between having total control of his stuff, and walking more hitters than he strikes out over the past month-plus. His ERA for his last 10 appearances is the same as his season ERA, but his strikeout rate (six per nine) just isn't as impressive as it was early. The walk rate is a bit loftier than his season rate, but it's hard to complain too much about 2.8 per nine, outside of the context that it's too high for someone striking out as few hitters as Couch has as of late.
Couch's future is likely in relief, so taken in that context, struggles as a starter aren't a surprise. He'll get far more experience taking turns in the rotation, though, so that's where he'll stick until he proves he shouldn't. While his numbers aren't Workman-like, they aren't embarrassing, either, so there's no reason to bump him from this path just yet.