Brian Johnson, LHP
It's a bit shocking that Brian Johnson is still at Low-A Greenville at this point. Sure, he has only 56 innings at the level, but he was expected to move through the lower levels quickly given his college polish -- injuries are the only thing that's stood in the way. Considering he has a 2.98 ERA over his last 10 starts, with over a strikeout per inning and just three walks per nine in that stretch, it's probably safe to say he's back on track and ready for the next stop.
Of course, there's no real rush. It's mid-August, and there are only a few starts left in the minor-league season anyway. Johnson can finish out the year at Low-A without it being a problem for him going forward, and begin his 2014 at High-A. With all of the pitching depth in the upper minors, and the prospects behind Johnson likely to sit in short-season ball for the remainder of the year, there's no dire reason to shift Johnson up a level just yet when he could make a few more starts to show what he's done of late is real. Maybe the Sox are going to give him that promotion right before his last start, so he at least has that feeling of having made progress despite the injuries that tried to keep him from that.
Austin Maddox, RHP
It's hard to see because of how horrific things were early on, but Maddox is starting to pitch well. He's now thrown 49 innings as a reliever, and while they didn't start off so hot, his last 10 (of 20 total) appearances have gone well, with a 3.12 ERA, more ground outs than air outs, and over fives times as many strike outs as walks.
There's still work to be done here, in terms of being consistent, as well as bringing up his strikeout numbers -- that strikeout-to-walk ratio has more to do with limiting walks than it does missing bats. Still, though, he's dropped the homer issues in his recent work, and it's helped him stay on the mound long enough and often enough to actually get some development time in. His future was in relief, anyway, so while he's in that role sooner than he was expected to be, it's not exactly a demerit for his potential, especially if he can continue to produce now that he's here.
Cody Kukuk, LHP
Kukuk is still walking too many batters, but he's also a 20-year-old lefty in Low-A -- they aren't all Henry Owens, you know. That being said, there's quite a bit of Owens in Kukuk, at least in terms of his ability to limit hits and punch out the opposition despite his youth and inexperience. That doesn't mean Kukuk's eventual leap will have him in the discussion for Organization's Best Pitching Prospect, but it's a reminder that there's a lot to like here even with the free pass warts.
Kukuk has... okay, limited isn't going to look right, but it's true. Kukuk has limited his walks to six per nine over the last 10 starts and 46 innings he's thrown, while striking out over a batter per inning. He's also allowed just three homers in that span, one in which the opposition hit .187. He won't hold opponents to that low of a figure forever, but it shows you how good his stuff has been when he's managed to get it in or near the zone. As he faces more advanced hitters, tweaks his mechanics, and learns that the walks aren't going to go away without personal intervention, we should start to see both of those extremes meet closer to the middle.
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