Henry Owens, LHP
Henry Owens doesn't need to be pushed, because he's all of 20 years old and in High-A for the first time. However, the next time a rotation spot opens up at Double-A Portland -- or if the Red Sox decide Keith Couch should just be relieving all of the time -- Owens might very well deserve a promotion to take it. He's striking out nearly 11 batters per nine innings, and while he's still handing out free passes, he's still left with three times the punch outs as walks. The added weight and muscle put on this off-season seems to be doing wonders for his mechanics, as he's been more accurate and more efficient.
On Tuesday night, Owens threw 90 pitches -- 66 percent of them for strikes -- and lasted seven innings against Winston-Salem. He struck out "just" six batters, but limited his opponents to a single walk, three hits, and no runs. It looked like the kind of start a pitcher who has mastered the level would deliver, and, given the rest of his season line, it's hard not to think that's the case. He has an ERA of 0.84 over four June starts and 21-1/3 innings, with 24 strikeouts against 10 walks, and just 13 hits allowed -- none of them homers. Again, the Sox don't need to push the youthful Owens, but they certainly could.
Brandon Jacobs, LF
Jacobs' season line still looks ugly, but as we've cautioned before, outright giving up on him would be premature. You can be pessimistic -- I've taken that stance with Jacobs plenty -- but he's still young, and has shown flashes of talent in the past. You're reminded of such flashes during his recent stretch, in which he's hit .303/.410/.606 over his last 10 games, and .269/.364/.507 with four homers and eight extra-base hits in June.
There are still some serious concerns in that line, as he's struck out roughly 30 percent of the time this month even with his success, even more than his already lofty season rate. His batting average on balls in play is similarly high, as it needs to be in order to support even a .269 batting average in conjunction with those whiffs. If the BABIP falls once more, and the strikeouts don't, Jacobs is back where he started: hitting for power, but not doing anything else meaningful.
Cutting down on his strikeouts is the single most important thing he can do for his development, as he'll never truly solve the Carolina League for good until he does.
Keury De La Cruz, OF
De La Cruz has had himself a month as well, hitting .356/.372/.489 in 23 games. There are obvious problems that you likely don't even need me to point out within that line, though: it's entirely a product of batting average, as he's walked just twice all month, and while he has eight extra-base hits on the month, only one is a homer, resulting in a fairly meh .133 Isolated Power. For context, consider that Jose Iglesias has a higher ISO than that in the majors this year, despite the fact he has as many infield hits as he does doubles.
On the plus side, De La Cruz has been striking out a little less of late, and seems to be in control of his plate appearances, even if he's essentially bereft of patience. Like Jacobs, he still has a lot of work to do, and his recent surge shouldn't be taken as a sign of things to come. It's a step forward in a long development process, though, so lets not discount it entirely, either.
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