Baseballs live in fear of giant Jackie Bradley and the giant bat he wields. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Jackie Bradley, CF
Bradley has hit just fine for a 22-year-old with roughly a year of pro experience in his first go of things at Double-A, but, as of late, he's doing something we haven't seen much of in 2012: struggling. Over his last 10 contests, Bradley is hitting .176/.326/.382, a line that honestly isn't that bad if not for the batting average. His Isolated Power in that stretch is over .200 thanks to a homer, triple, and a pair of doubles, and he's drawn seven walks against eight strikeouts, too. In fact, that's one more free pass than hit. If another couple of balls had landed on the grass, we wouldn't even have noticed.
That's all to the good for Bradley, who really has had an incredible first full season as a pro. There's not much else to say about someone with an OBP over .400 in his first stint at Double-A, except we can, because it's Bradley: he's also showing off some wonderful defensive skills, and while his baserunning isn't perfect, there's some ability there to be harnessed. He'll finish the season at Portland, but if he begins the 2013 season there, one would have to think it won't be for very long, assuming his season ends like it's gone to this point.
Bryce Brentz, RF
Bryce Brentz is also scuffling a bit, but his struggles don't have the same kind of still-productive nature that Jackie Bradley's exude. Brentz is flat-out having a tough time in his last 10 games, hitting .158/.195/.342 with just a pair of walks and eight strikeouts in 38 at-bats. The two homers are nice, but other than that, it's been nothing doing.
Brentz's season has come along nicely overall, though, as his somewhat slow start was offset by a power surge in the middle. He still needs to cut down on the strikeouts -- that swing of his is both a blessing and a curse for him at this stage -- but there's a lot to like here.
That being said, if Boston does happen to sell off a few prospects at the trade deadline in order to acquire some help, say, in the rotation, you can probably bet on Brentz being one of the players sent packing. It's not because he has no future, but if you're looking at Boston's top level farmhands, Brentz isn't necessarily a universal pick on that list.
Aaron Kurcz, RP
Kurcz continues to walk far too many batters, and his 3.86 ERA over his last 16-1/3 innings and 10 appearances isn't exactly inspiring, but man, he can miss bats, and miss them often. He's punching out 13 batters per nine on the season, and has 26 strikeouts in his last 10 contests, or 14.4 per nine.
Personally, I'm hoping Kurcz gets bumped to Pawtucket at some point relatively soon, so we can start to see if he's going to be part of a very strong, very inexpensive, and very team-controlled bullpen unit in Boston in the near future. The other portion of the Theo Epstein compensation, Chris Carpenter, is already in Pawtucket to see if he's eligible for that very thing.