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)
Drake Britton, SP
Raise your hand if you thought Drake Britton was going to be better in Double-A than he's been in High-A the last two seasons. Hey, put that hand down -- this author is pretty patient when it comes to prospects, but even he had started his windup to throw in the towel on the idea of Drake Britton as a starting pitcher. While I haven't put said metaphorical towel down as of yet, I'm willing to give it a few more rounds thanks to the fight Britton has put up since.
Like with his stint at Salem, Britton's overall numbers haven't caught quite up to his recent performance. Over his last 10 appearances and 55 innings, the lefty has struck out 51 batters against 21 walks, posting a 3.40 ERA and 1.3 ground out-to-air out ratio. That's a massive step up from his time in High-A, both this season and last, and an indication that things might be trending the right way for him for the first time since 2010.
This, by the way, is your reminder that scouts have a very difficult job, but it's one they're very good at. From a numbers perspective, Britton was toast as a starter, but it appears he's earned a second chance to stick in the role and maintain his 40-man roster spot.Jackie Bradley, CF
Bradley has had a bit of a power outage as of late, but he's still hitting singles and getting on base. The center fielder is at .278/.366/.306 over his last 10 games and 36 at-bats, and is having the kind of second half that suggests there's more Portland in his future. He won't necessarily be there for all of 2013, but given he's been very good, but not great, at the plate during his stint at Double-A, it's very likely he begins next season there as well, with the eventual promotion to Pawtucket if his performance merits it.
That's a fine pace to be on, given that this is first full season as a professional, and he's already in the upper minors. And while his line might not be as eye-catching as his time in the Carolina League, where Bradley had dominion over all that he saw, .276.363/.443 from a 22-year-old in his first year in full-season ball is pretty impressive, especially when combined with the potential for legitimate Gold Glove defense in center.
Xander Bogaerts, SS
You need to be careful about throwing words like impressive around for what Bradley has accomplished in Double-A, though, thanks to what the 19-year-old Xander Bogaerts is pulling off in his first dozen games at the level. Bogaerts has gone deep twice in the last 10 games, and three times overall, since his promotion to the Sea Dogs. The walks haven't been there, but when he's hitting .327 with power, you kind of just wait that out and hope the walks show up when they are needed, at a time when the hits aren't falling in the gaps or the bleachers.
The second of those homers for Portland gave Bogaerts a new career-high for the long ball, and he still has some time, although not much, to add to that total before the year ends. While he's not going to be a shortstop long-term, it's still a positive to see Bogaerts cut down on his total errors despite the increase in playing time -- just because he won't be a shortstop doesn't mean he won't wear a glove in the future.