Brandon Workman, SP
Maybe Brandon Workman's progress at Salem isn't making up for fellow 2010 draftee Anthony Ranaudo's struggles entirely, but it does help to soften the blow. Workman's K/BB is an even five after rounding up, as he's handing out free passes at a minuscule rate while keeping the ball in the park and hits down. For the most part, anyway -- he's still learning on that homer bit.
In his last 19 innings -- accumulated in the three starts since we last checked in on him -- Workman has punched out a batter per frame, walked two, allowed a pair of homers, and given up 10 runs. It's an odd mix of good news (19 strikeouts in 19 innings, and against just two walks) and bad (two homers, a 4.73 ERA), but that's what you get with a developing pitcher. Workman's strikeout stuff is coming along, but he still needs to learn to keep it all down in the zone. His 1.1 ground out to fly out ratio suggests he's doing that to a degree, but there are still times -- such as on July 16, when he gave up both of those homers -- when it just doesn't work that way for him.
Even knowing that, though, you have to like what Workman has done in his second year as a pro. He's 23, sure, but there's been progress here, and he should be in Double-A Portland for the 2013 season, that much closer to contributing at the back-end of Boston's rotation. Right when their current pitcher's contracts are starting to run out, too.
Travis Shaw, 1B
Shaw has no such obvious place in Boston, but as we've pointed out before, that doesn't make him any less interesting. Players like Shaw are excellent sources of inexpensive depth, or they can be included in trades to bring in players at positions that are in need of some assistance.
He's had some trouble as of late after a ridiculous first half, but he hasn't been bad. It's tough to complain about a .250/.388/.460 line in the 35 games since the All-Star break, although there are some things that merit mentioning. Shaw has punched out 23 percent of the time in the second half, after whiffing 18 percent of the time in the first, and has drawn walks 18 percent of the time after posting a 13 percent figure in the first half. That latter bit might not sound awful, but it could be that Shaw is getting a little too complacent at the plate as of late -- you'd like a little more aggressiveness in his game, if it means he's going to show more power.
Then again, part of it could just be the league refusing to allow him that kind of approach, and giving him less to hit. It's tough to say without seeing him on a day-to-day basis, which brings us back to the initial point: it's a bit tough to complain about a second half in which he still owns am 848 OPS, even if there are a few items that you should keep an eye on going forward.
Christian Vazquez, C
Christian Vazquez had a pitiful first half of the season. You might think the line above looks a little down compared to 2011's .283/.358/.505 season, but no, far, far more awful than what that table displays went down. Vazquez hit .223/.308/.293 in the first half of the season for High-A Salem, striking out roughly 22 percent of the time while failing to show much of any power at all. Things changed for him around the All-Star break, though, and while you can see that in his overall .266/.358/.395 line, it's that much more eye-popping when you isolate his second half.
Vazquez has hit .347/.448/.592 with five of his seven homers and nine of his 16 doubles in his last 27 games. He's been tearing apart the Carolina League since the midpoint, and it started before the break, too, as the 21-year-old backstop posted a 942 OPS in June, giving him roughly 40 games of excellence to counter the equally large pool of terrible.
His season didn't start out so bad, with Vazquez compiling a .286/.373/.381 April in his first month of High-A, but May was beyond rough. Or, to put it another way, he posted a higher on-base percentage in April than he did OPS in the season's second month. He's come back with a vengeance, though, and that gives the Red Sox yet another backstop to look forward to, one who was forgotten a bit thanks to the drafting of Blake Swihart and the eventual permanent promotion of Ryan Lavarnway to the majors.