Bryce Brentz, RF
The 23-year-old Brentz seems to have a handle on Double-A pitching at this point, but he hasn't been able to consistently mash in a way that says he's ready for a promotion to that last stop in the minors, Pawtucket. There have been some good signs in his game as of late, though, as you can learn a lot about a player's development based on how they do when things aren't going their way.
Brentz is slugging just .324 over his last 10 games, thanks to a lack of extra-base hits save one double, but he's managed to produce elsewhere. He's struck out 11 times in that stretch -- about 24 percent of the time -- but also has drawn 10 walks. All told, he's at .294/.435/.324 in those 10 contests, giving us one of the first stretches for Brentz where his on-base percentage exceeded his slugging. While that's certainly not where you want someone with his prodigious power to end up, it's not a bad deviation; during poor stretches, where Brentz is whiffing more and not crushing the ball constantly, he could use times like this, where he's still able to get on base and produce something offensively.
The 15 walks in June were a season-high for a month, more than doubling his efforts from May, and he already has drawn three his five games of July. More of this -- a more patient, more calculating Brentz -- could be dangerous for opposing pitchers, and a boon for his career trajectory. He'll need to do this for more than a few weeks for it to mean something, though, but keep an eye on this potential trend regardless.
Drake Britton, SP
Britton's last couple of starts have not gone as well as his first few with the Sea Dogs, as he's walked seven in his last 11-1/3 frames, while giving up seven runs (five earned) in the process. He did, however, also punch out over a batter per inning, so it wasn't all bad. It is a slide for his peripherals, though, and given how far Britton has fallen in the past while acclimating himself to a new level, it is something with potential concern attached to it.
It's likely safe to say, though, that Britton has pitched well enough that the Red Sox probably aren't actively trying to remove him from the 40-man roster in a trade, in order to open up space for the return of Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, and Andrew Bailey (the first two of which are currently Britton's teammates at Portland). That's a much better place to be in than his initial repeat run at High-A Salem indicated, and while it's not exactly optimal, it's a start for a young hurler who essentially saw his career fall apart just a year ago.
Chris Hernandez, SP
Hernandez currently leads Portland starters in ERA, innings, and games started, so he's forced his way into our weekly update rotation. As you can see, though, his peripherals don't exactly scream the kind of ERA he's put up. To be fair, Hernandez does induce quite a few grounders, and those in turn have led to a 1.7 ground out to fly out ratio that's helped him make up for the lack of whiffs.
Hernandez had similar results in his first full year in 2011, at High-A Salem. The left-hander -- a seventh-round selection of the Red Sox in the 2010 draft -- posted a 1.6 K/BB, with 5.7 strikeouts per nine, across 122 innings and 25 starts. For his efforts, he finished with a 3.18 ERA, close to what he's done with Double-A Portland in his second full season as a pro.
Hernandez loves that sinking fastball he has, despite the fact that it sits in the mid-80s. His success relies entirely on his command, as he needs that both to throw strikes and to be able to consistently induce grounders -- if not, it's all walks and hits against him. While that hasn't happened to his career just yet, he's also only at Double-A. The more experienced hitters of Triple-A and the majors could make him look much, much worse.
Leaving those pitches in the middle of the plate would be problematic, and his secondary stuff, while solid, isn't so good that he can survive without command of his various fastballs. He might never have the numbers -- and his current ERAs are not indicative of his future -- but he's an intriguing arm to watch regardless, especially if he can keep his command in tow.