OMAHA, NE: Jackie Bradley, Jr. #19 of the South Carolina Gamecocks is congratulated by teammate Whit Merrifield #5 after scoring a first inning run against the UCLA Bruins during Game 1 of the men's NCAA College Baseball World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Kolbrin Vitek, 3B
It's been quite some time since we checked in on Kolbrin Vitek, but it's also been awhile since he was playing in any games. Vitek returned to Portland on July 22, two months after he last played, as he was on the disabled list with an intercostal strain, an injury located in the rib muscles of the back. He wasn't hitting very well before the strain, and since his return, has picked right back up where he left off.
Vitek has hit .269/.269/.462 in the seven games since his return, racking up five doubles, but doing little else. It's a tiny sample -- 26 plate appearances -- so nothing to be worked up about even if he were crushing the ball. But we'll see to see a lot more of him before we can get excited about the 2010 first-round selection again.
Jackie Bradley, CF
Boston's farm system would be even more exciting if more players slumped like Jackie Bradley does. In his last 10 games, Bradley has hit "just" .225/.326/.475 in his last 10 games. He drew six walks and whiffed six times, swiped three of four bases attempted, went deep twice, and has doubled four times in that stretch. Not a bad run for someone with a .225 average over that time period.
Bradley has taken to Double-A very well, with that .286/.374/.472 showing in his first nearly 200 plate appearances. For the year now, Bradley is at .329/.440/.504 with 74 walks against 71 strikeouts, 23 of 32 on stolen base attempts, 51 extra-base hits, and defense that many believe will be plus in the majors. He's been excellent, as great as Boston's most dreamy hopes, and likely even better than what their fans imagined a year ago. He's bound to finish the year in Double-A, as there's no real need to rush the 22-year-old, especially without a real opening in center in Boston until 2014 at the earliest, barring a trade.
Chris Balcom-Miller, P
Chris Balcom-Miller had a rough go of things in his second attempt at Double-A, and the Red Sox eventually moved him to a bullpen role because of it. He still has long, starter-length outings on occasion, but he hasn't started a game since the earlier part of June. In his last 27 innings over his last 10 appearances, Balcom-Miller has 23 strikeouts against 10 walks and a 3.33 ERA. The main black mark on his record is the homer rate, as it's 1.3 in that stretch, far too high for someone who relies on grounders.
It's an improvement, though, as you might have been able to guess by looking at where his season ERA still lies. If Balcom-Miller can maintain those strikeout and walk rates, while simultaneously keeping up his grounder tendencies, then he can be an effective relief piece in the majors someday. He's still just 23 years old, but it's pretty clear at this point that his future is in the pen given that his repertoire just hasn't rounded out as necessary. That's fine, given the cost to acquire him (one declining Manny Delcarmen), and the fact that, if he can work on his command from here on out, he can still be a useful piece.