Anthony Ranaudo, RHP
Trading Ranaudo for help at the deadline would have been a perfectly acceptable strategy, given the depth and breadth of Boston's pitching prospects. However, not dealing Ranaudo has its obvious advantages, too, especially when the Red Sox managed to nab Jake Peavy without dealing from their considerable package of pitching prospects.
Ranaudo has been a bit more up-and-down of late, with July featuring a significant reduction in strikeouts with just 15 in 25 innings, and against 11 walks. It's entirely possible fatigue is starting to set in a bit, as Ranaudo's 109 frames, while not a career-high, are well ahead of 2012's 37 in an injury-shortened campaign. With any luck, we'll see more games like his final outing of July, in which he punched out seven against one walk, and fewer where missing bats doesn't seem like it's an option any longer.
There's not a huge rush for Ranaudo to put things together all at once. He needs to be added to the 40-man roster to avoid the Rule 5 draft, but he's certainly talented enough for that to happen even if he's not 100 percent prepared for Triple-A at this moment. If it takes him until he's well into his age-24 season to find himself in the majors, that's okay, so long as his ceiling remains in reach.
Michael Almanzar, 3B
Good news, everyone! Michael Almanzar has started to struggle consistently enough that he no longer looks like he's in danger of being plucked from the farm in this off-season's Rule 5 draft, saving the Red Sox a 40-man spot. The bad news, of course, is that Michael Almanzar has started to struggle consistently enough that he no longer looks like he's in danger of being plucked from the farm in this off-season's Rule 5 draft.
Almanzar hit just .225/.292/.275 in July, failing to show much in terms of power or patience. While a lot of this was due to poor luck on balls in play -- Almanzar struck out just 15 percent of the time -- without the other stuff, it's just a line propped up by batting average. He's just 22, so the silver lining alluded to above does count for something, at least: as it isn't clear he's ready for Triple-A, the chances of his being snatched from the system to play on a major-league roster in 2014 are reduced, giving the Sox and Almanzar another potential shot in 2014 to see where he is in his development.
Keith Couch, RHP
Couch's July wasn't quite as good as his June, but it's tough to argue with the ground outs and 3.3 walks per nine. The strikeouts aren't coming as often anymore, however, which does add extra weight to those free passes. Of course, this is Couch's work as a starter, and as we've mentioned many times before in this space, his future is very likely in relief. The longer he holds his own as a starter in the minors, the more innings he can rack up to work on his repertoire, sequencing, and overall development, which should, in theory, make him a more effective reliever once the Sox eventually make that switch for good.
Like Ranaudo and Almanzar, Couch is also Rule 5-eligible this off-season, so someone else might snag Couch from Boston with the idea being they can convert him to relief and shelter him for emergency situations and blow outs until he shows himself capable of facing off against big-league talent. If Boston doesn't plan on protecting him, they might just end up dealing him as part of some larger package, but it's only August: we'll save that speculation for the winter.
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