Henry Owens, LHP
Owens has had a couple of rough starts within his last few outings, but he's been so good otherwise that it's hard to notice it in his season numbers. He posted a 5.04 ERA in May, but also struck out 32 batters in 25 innings against 11 walks, and induced more ground outs than air outs. The issue was with homers, of which Owens allowed five: if he can command a bit better in June and keep the ball in the park, he'll look a lot more like his dominant April than his nearly dominant May this month.
It's not necessarily a switch you can flip, but remember: Owens is all of 20 and a left-hander, and just coming into his own in many ways. The command is by no means perfect, but you can see that it's coming along -- May was something of a speed bump, one that he's hopefully not still hitting.
Interestingly enough, the tall southpaw has had a harder time with his fellow lefty than with right-handed batters. He's struck out 48 of the righties he's faced, and against 10 walks, while against lefties he's allowed nine free passes and struck out just 14, despite facing far fewer of them. That's possibly a blip from limited data, but it's something to watch as the season goes on.
Brandon Jacobs, LF
Jacobs had a horrible April, and his May wasn't a whole lot better, as he finished the month with an OPS under 700. He's been hitting well, at least relative to his season line, over the last 10 games, however, throwing up a .316/.381/.421 line in 41 plate appearances. He's drawn three walks in that stretch, while striking out 11 times -- that last bit has been the killer, and will continue to be, for Jacobs' development.
Jacobs has punched out over 27 percent of the time this year, and it's caused his batting average to be over 60 points lower than his batting average on balls in play. This was a problem in 2012 as well, when Jacobs posted a .324 BABIP but just a .252 average, thanks to over 26 percent whiffs. His strikeout rate in this recent stretch of success is the same as it's been, but he's hitting .444 on balls in play -- that's not progress so much as it's randomness.
It's also worth pointing out that, thanks to stealing just six bases on 10 attempts this year, Jacobs is now a career 64 percent basestealer at High-A . The list of things Jacobs is supposed to be good at but isn't is growing a little too fast. He's still young at just 22, and last year's injury can't be ignored, but the longer he struggles this year, the less blame can be pinned on that.
Keury De La Cruz, RF
Kruz is even younger at just 21, and he's finding his first full taste of the Carolina League to about the same liking as Jacobs did last year. He's striking out 22 percent of the time, a rate that's not good but isn't awful, either. The issue is more with the walks -- his 4.4 percent rate represents a drop he couldn't afford.
De La Cruz is going to have to adapt to a league that's already adapted to him, and learn to take the right pitches in order to find one he can do something with. There's power here, and potential to be a solid bat as he showed in 2012, but there is also a lot of work to be done refining all of that into something usable. The .282/.293/.385 line he's put up in the last 10 games represents a "good" stretch for him in 2013, if you're looking for an indication of just how much work.
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