Salem's season is over, but our coverage of prospects continues. We'll go through the last updates this week, and spend the rest of September looking back at Boston's farm system -- position-by-position, team-by-team.
Keury De La Cruz, OF
De La Cruz got the last-minute bump to High-A Salem as a reward for his strong season at Greenville, and things went about how you would expect them to in his introduction. He still had his power, and balls in play found holes, but his aggressive approach already had begun to work against him. That's not to say he's stuck like this forever, but you are seeing a preview of what he will need to work on in order to be consistently successful in High-A.
De La Cruz was all but ignored as a prospect heading into 2012, but his breakout campaign means he'll get some recognition for 2013. Until his approach develops further, though, it likely won't be any kind of high ranking with certainty attached to it, as the 20-year-old has done well for himself, but is no sure thing at this low level and early stage.
Keith Couch, SP
Couch led the Salem Red Sox in innings and finished second in starts. He did more than show up to work, though, as he struck out over three times as many batters as he walked, despite just 6.7 punch outs per nine, thanks to excellent control. He also compensated for the lack of whiffs by inducing more ground outs than air outs over the course of the season, though, not to a degree that would label him as an extreme grounder pitcher.
Couch had his rough patches, but he picked things back up before year's end. In his final 10 appearances and 60 innings, Couch struck out 42 (6.2 per nine) against 11 walks (1.6 per nine), while allowing just one homer. He induced twice as many ground as air outs in this stretch, earning a 2.52 ERA for his efforts. If he can maintain his control and command, and continue to force grounders from the opposition, Couch might stick as a starter. But, at this stage, that's still a dream a long ways off. If he's going to throw strikes and induce grounders, though, there will be room for him in a future bullpen, if nothing else.
Adalberto Ibarra, C
Ibarra had a rough first half of the year, hitting .266/.396/.294 with just three extra-base hits in 35 games. The on-base percentage was nice and all, but against tougher competition, Ibarra was going to have to show something offensively at the plate, or else he would never see enough pitches to walk on in a plate appearances. His second half worked towards that, with Ibarra hitting .283/.379/.384 after the all-star break, this time with 13 extra-base hits in 40 contests.
Ibarra has yet to homer in his pro career, but he projects to be the kind of hitter that would love Fenway despite the lack of long balls. The 25-year-old Cuban import has to get to that point before we can see if his swing is a fit for the park, though, but at least his second half showed something offensively after a disappointing first half of the year.