Matt Barnes, SP
Matt Barnes had some trouble before the All-Star game, but he appears to have righted himself in the starts following the break. Since July 14, Barnes has tossed 22-2/3 innings, struck out 23 batters, walked six (2.4 per nine), and allowed 11 runs to score for a 3.96 ERA. He gave up three homers in one start alone, accounting for over one-third of all runs scored in that stretch, but otherwise was excellent to close out the month.
Barnes is going to have his struggles as he learns to utilize his curve and change-up more often, and as hitters see more of him and his fastball. That doesn't make him less of a prospect, it's just how things work for pitchers making their way through the levels. Hitters have adjusted to Barnes a bit, and he needs to adjust back -- he's already shown himself capable of doing this, but needs to continue doing so.
He might finish the year at Double-A Portland once the last wave of promotions goes through, but it's also very likely he stays right where he is, especially with no one at Greenville forcing their way into a promotion just yet. Either way, Double-A is his 2013 destination, and he's earned it with an excellent professional debut campaign.
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Bogaerts had something of a slow July, but August has been sensational, to the point where his line now reads .303/.380/.504 for the season. Lest you forget, Bogaerts is in his age-19 season, and spending it in the High-A Carolina League where the average hitter is 22.5 years old, and hitting .258/.328/.392. The .474/.565/.737 line he's posted in his last 10 games has helped him to get where you see him now.
He doesn't quite have the Isolated Power he posted in 2011, when he hit just .260 but slugged .509 (.249 ISO), but there are plenty of positive signs that show growth as a hitter. For one, the 40-point increase in batting average has a lot to do with cutting his strikeout rate from 24 to 20 percent -- Bogaerts has struck out just 13 times more in 2012, despite logging 134 more plate appearances. He's also done this while increasing the quality of his competition given the promotion.
While he hasn't been a great defensive shortstop -- nor is he slated to stay there -- it's good to see that he's cut down on his errors, with 17 of them in 404 chances after 26 in 343 opportunities in 2011. Just because he's not staying at shortstop doesn't mean you don't care how he looks defensively, as he'll still need to use a glove wherever he ends up.
Sean Coyle, 2B
Sean Coyle was brutal in May, and his June, while better, wasn't very good. This was piled on top of a slow, but expected, start to the season -- not every player as young as Bogaerts dominates at High-A, you know. Coyle seems to be getting the hang of things at Salem, though, as he's hit .343/.455/.543 in his last 10 contests, piling up five extra-base hits and six walks against five strikeouts in that stretch. This is a continuation of production that began in earnest in July: the second baseman hit .333/.363/.507 that month, and while August has started slower, it still beats his earlier run.
He's curbed his strikeout habits a bit as of late, and because of that, has no whiffed about one percentage point more often than he did in 2011. To this point in August, he's balanced a patient attack with an aggressive one, and that's the kind of approach he'll need going forward. He can't be overly patient, or pitchers will outlast him as they have, but he can't be too aggressive, either, as he'll cut into the walks that make him an attractive second baseman even without the power.