Henry Owens, LHP
Owens has mostly spent 2013 dominating the competition, but that was interrupted in his previous outing. Owens, who had to that point in the season allowed just eight runs total, gave up six in appearance, courtesy of three homers -- three of the five he's given up on the year. It was assumed he'd struggle at some point -- even with his height and new-found velocity, no one is perfect -- and he sure made it count, as his ERA jumped from 2.25 to 3.57 in a matter of 3-1/3 innings.
It's good, in a way, to see him struggle with homers a bit. Minor-league pitchers are there to learn, and if they are never challenged, then learning becomes difficult. Owens now has the opportunity to take that beating he received and figure out what went wrong, how to better utilize his stuff, location, and so on, and attempt to further develop with that new knowledge. Whether he does or not is something you have to wait and see, but this constant state of adjustment and growth is what the minors are for.
Brandon Jacobs, LF
While you shouldn't mind seeing a little bit of struggle in prospects given the above, Brandon Jacobs might be taking that idea a bit too far at this point. After a down 2012 in which he was injured but also just not very good, he's started 2013 off with issues as well. Jacobs is striking out in 29 percent of his plate appearances, and while he's shown solid enough power considering he's hitting just .192 on the year, this is far from what the Red Sox need out of him, and from what Jacobs needs to do if he wants to prove that he's more than just a one-year BABIP fluke.
Jacobs' contact skills are so problematic that, despite a .324 batting average on balls in play in 2012, he hit just .252 -- that's part of the reason getting too excited about his supposed breakout in 2011 was a poor idea, as a .381 BABIP powered much of that. This year, with his BABIP now down at .244, it's essentially impossible for him to contribute in a way a left fielder needs to. A 650 OPS might cut it if you're Jose Iglesias, but Jacobs isn't a shortstop, he's in High-A, not Triple-A, and he's already stuck in left field due to his defensive deficiencies.
There is a lot here that needs to reverse course before Jacobs can be taken very seriously as a prospect. He's still young enough for that to happen, but he hasn't shown much of late.
Keury De La Cruz, RF
De La Cruz is a year younger, and only in his first stint at High-A Salem. He has his own set of problems, though. While his strikeouts aren't quite as numerous, 24 percent of the time is still lofty enough to draw the eye, and he shows less plate discipline than Jacobs. De La Cruz is drawing a walk just six percent of the time, he's been caught in nearly half of his stolen base attempts, and while he's shown some power, it hasn't been enough to offset the bad just yet.
This isn't unexpected, though: De La Cruz showed promise in 2012, but the real questions were always going to be against more advanced pitchers that challenged his aggressive approach. We're seeing the results of that now, maybe a little earlier than expected, but the key is going to be how he responds to his struggles more so than the struggles themselves. Will he learn a little more patience, or how to tighten up his strike zone when behind in the count? These are the questions that will determine how his 2013 goes. Like with Jacobs, De La Cruz's youth means he doesn't need to figure out all the answers right now -- 22 in his second stint at High-A would not be the worst of fates, even if you prefer progress to be ever-forward and without delay.
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