Trey Ball, LHP
Ball made a quick trip to the 7-day disabled list to deal with a case of strep throat, and his first appearance after his return makes you wonder if he had fully recovered from the illness. Ball gave up five runs in two-thirds of an inning while walking a pair of batters, destroying his ERA in the early season. He recovered well enough in his next time out, at least, going five with three runs allowed, as well as four strikeouts against two walks. It's not great, but for a 20-year-old who just got squashed in consecutive appearances, I'll take it.
We knew there would be rough patches with Ball, who was just in high school at this time last year before the Sox made him the seventh-overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft. More so than his ERA, what matters is Ball refining his pitches, putting some separation between his strikeouts and walks, and showing progress in terms of his command. Don't get too wrapped up in ERA at this stage, as pitchers, especially ones as young and inexperienced as the 20-year-old Ball, are working on more than just the final results at this level.
By year's end, hopefully there will be some progress in all of these areas, and on the ERA side of things, too. It's just not the end-all thing, just like it wasn't with Henry Owens during his own youthful campaign with Greenville.
Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP
Stankiewicz has fared better than Ball, but he's had a couple problem starts of his own to contend with. He's striking out twice as many batters as he's walking, at least, and his most significant problem (besides an overall lack of swing-and-miss) seems to be that too many hits are getting through: Stanky has allowed 10 hits per nine innings, which is likely partially his doing due, but also on the inexperienced defenses behind him.
Like Ball, Stankiewicz is just 20 years old, and only has the one year of college experience thanks to jumping to a junior college following his being drafted by the Mets in 2012. That gives him a bit of an edge relative to some other pitchers his age, perhaps, but he's also someone whose ceiling sees him as a mid-rotation arm, so it's understandable that it would take some time for him to break out in his first full year in the pros: it's not like he's a top-end starter with years of college pitching behind him.
Wendell Rijo, 3B
Three weeks ago, when we last checked in on Rijo, he was batting .321/.461/.494. I mentioned that there were some potential problems in his line worth checking out:
Rijo has a .400 batting average on balls in play and is striking out 20 percent of the time, and the sheer volume of walks suggests that he's got a little bit of passiveness in his approach when put in conjunction with that. Deriding that approach too much at this stage seems nitpicky, though, since Rijo is steamrolling opposing pitchers who are much older than he is. At some point, he'll face arms who force him to attack pitches more often rather than relying on a walk being the inevitable outcome of his waiting game.
Now, Rijo has seen his batting average drop to .259, and while his on-base percentage is still lovely, the serious drop in the first of the slash stats has also impacted his slugging, and reduced the aesthetically pleasing nature of his line. He's batting .086/.179/.200 over his last 10 games, .209/.343/.343 in May, and has seen his BABIP drop to .344 while his strikeout rate rose to over 24 percent.
Just like the warning a few weeks back was not to get too excited, don't be too discouraged by this. Rijo was going to struggle eventually: what's important is how he bounces back from the struggles. He's just 18 years old, so if he doesn't immediately figure things out, it wouldn't be a shock. If he starts to learn the difference between being passive and disciplined, and we see the first hint of that knowledge in his performance going forward, then that's a significant step forward for a player whose future outcomes are all over the place.