Corey Littrell, LHP
Two of Littrell's last four starts have gone poorly, and it ballooned his ERA from 2.61 to 4.50. It's just two poor starts, though, in which he allowed 14 runs in all of seven innings of work, so while it's made things a bit ugly in the present, it's unlikely we should be worried about it just yet. Littrell is still striking out almost a batter per inning, and in between the awful appearances, he managed to record 11-2/3 innings where he allowed just four runs with 12 strikeouts against a single walk. His command and control seemed to be off in the bad starts, and it resulted in far too many hits without his normal swing-and-miss: if it becomes a trend, we can be concerned, but for now, as said, it's two starts.
He wasn't in line for the open roster spot in Portland even if he hadn't scuffled lately, a spot opened up by Mickey Pena's 100-game suspension for a drug of abuse, but by the end of the year he could very well have cemented a 2015 roster spot in Double-A. It might not seem like it's moving very fast through the system considering he'll be 23 next year, but he was drafted just over a year ago in the fifth round: if he can make it over this speed bump and get back to what he was doing, then he'll be back on a quality pace.
Kyle Martin, RHP
In the last month, Martin has made eight appearances totaling 21 innings. His 3.43 ERA in that time is fine enough for what it is, especially when you consider he's had opponents produce a .328 batting average on balls in play against him during this stretch. The 20 strikeouts against two walks is lovely, but it's hard not to notice that opponents have been having success against him in the slugging department. They're striking out plenty, and no one is getting free passes, but at some point that could change a bit, and Martin needs to nullify their power before it does.
This is just something to keep in mind, though: it's hard to be anything but positive about Martin's contributions so far. He'll need time in the upper minors before we can get a sense of how useful the 2013 draft pick and college senior might be long-term, but given his impeccable control, there could be something here, especially as he adds the velocity that comes with shorter relief outings to the grounders he already induces.
Reed Gragnani, 2B
Gragnani has not slowed down at the plate, though, he has played sparingly in June, with just seven games to his credit this month. In that time, though, he's batted .269/.441/.462, and now has more walks (33) than strikeouts (25) on the season. The walk rate will surely come down once he's promoted -- he's a 23-year-old toying with High-A pitchers at the moment -- but it's still impressive see he's only punching out 11 percent of the time. Yeah, there's the .373 BABIP for the year, too, but the lack of strikeouts suggests he's going to keep putting the ball in play often if nothing else.
Is there something to Gragnani? It's far too early to say so, as we're talking about 2.5 months of Carolina League ball for a player who is seven months younger than current major-league outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr: Plus, scouting the stats generally just brings disappointment and inaccuracy. Maybe the switch-hitter ends up being a useful utility player at some point down the line, or maybe High-A ball is the high point of his entire pro career. He'll need a promotion and more challenging opponents for us to get a better sense of if there's anything here. If there is, it would be a bonus, as Gragnani was Boston's 21st-round selection last summer.