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
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Bogaerts has scuffled over the last 10 games, but not really: he's hit just .222/.317/.417 in his last 36 at-bats, but it's mostly the batting average that's been problematic in a small sample. Bogaerts has struck out just eight times in that stretch (19 percent), a little lower than his season rate, and given that he's still showing off power similar to what he's done all year, it's hard to criticize him too hard for his recent play.
Bogaerts crushed the ball in June, finally hitting in the way that the Red Sox and their fans hoped the club's most impressive prospect would: a .337/.433/.624 month with eight homers and 15 walks against 28 strikeouts. He's obviously not quite there to kick off July, but as stated, he hasn't exactly been struggling, either.
Bogaerts season is very impressive, as he's just 19 years old, and is displaying the kind of bat that can play anywhere, once the inevitable switch off of shortstop comes. That's the kind of progress that just might see him be considered elite level, once the mid-season prospect lists start rolling in.
Brandon Jacobs, LF
Jacobs is still just 21 and in High-A -- the average age of Carolina League position players is 22-1/2 years old -- so it's going a little overboard to panic about his lack of progress in 2012. Don't ignore his problems, though, as they do exist, and he'll need to overcome them in order to continue being thought of as highly as some prospect gurus currently do.
The main issues to this point are strike zone recognition and a lack of power. His Isolated Power is just .145, after 2011's .202 mark with Greenville, and his walk rate is down to 5.6 percent from last season's 8.6 mark. His strikeout rate has dipped as well, but only by a little over a percentage point, so labeling that as progress is a bit misleading.
He's hit just .256/.293/.385 over his last 10 games, whiffing 34 percent of the time in that stretch while drawing all of two walks. It's the moments like these that are frustrating for Jacobs, as it's the ones where the current holes in his game are visible. Something might click for him in the second half, but it doesn't have to just yet, either; as mentioned, he's still just 21, and it's his first year at the level. Patience is much more than just a virtue when it comes to prospects -- it's required.
Sean Coyle, 2B
The idea of patience is even more necessary with Sean Coyle, who is just 20 years old, and struggling even more than Jacobs. While the latter's issue is that he hasn't seen the explosive power or consistency he displayed in 2011, Coyle just hasn't produced in an encouraging way all season.
Whiffs have been an issue, with Coyle punching out 27.4 percent of the time -- a four percent increase from 2011 -- and drawing walks less frequently than he did while with Greenville as a 19-year-old: Coyle walked to first for free 60 times in 466 plate appearances in 2011, but has halved that rate with just 20 in 310 trips to the plate this year.
Coyle went deep 14 times and smacked 48 extra-base hits overall with the Drive, but his power has also slipped considerably after his promotion. His .128 ISO pales in comparison to the .217 he put up last season, but again, this is a 20-year-old playing in a league where the average age is two-and-a-half years older than that. It's not panic time, and these struggles, while disappointing, are not in the realm of the unexpected. Like Jacobs, Coyle needs time: they can't all be Xander Bogaerts, you know.