The Red Sox aren't playing great baseball, but don't fret. Help has already found its way to the majors in the form of Mookie Betts, and there will be more to come in the future if Baseball America's midseason top 50 prospect list has anything to say about it. Even with Betts' recent promotion, which renders him ineligible for a prospect list update, the Red Sox have two prospects in the top 50. More specifically, in the top 15, as catcher Blake Swihart comes in at 14 and lefty starter Henry Owens is right after him at 15.
Swihart is referred to as "the game's best catching prospect", which might seem far-fetched if you hadn't been paying attention lately. His nuclear-hot June has turned his season line into a thing of beauty, though, as he's now batting .294/.347/.474 with as many homers in half a season as he previously had in the pros before 2014, and 28 extra-base hits overall. He's striking out just 15 percent of the time, and while it took him most of 2014 to get there, he's finally drawing walks against Eastern League pitching. Since June 3, over his last 28 games, Swihart is batting .308/.383/.500 with 21 strikeouts against 14 walks with 11 extra-base hits on top of it all.
That's without getting into his defense, which has rapidly improved as he climbs the organizational ladder. With 53 percent of baserunners attempting to steal gunned down by Swihart, he's seen more would-be base thefts than realized ones, but that's only the most visible part of his game. He's, by all accounts, handled the Sea Dogs pitching staff well, and is expected to be able to build on last summer's career-high of 101 games started behind the plate.
Then there's Owens, who started out the season brilliantly before the Eastern League started to wait him out a bit more, forcing him to refine his fastball command. Struggling is how a pitcher learns, however, and Owens appears to have benefited from this early-May lesson: since May 24, he's averaged just under seven innings per start while posting a 1.30 ERA. He's given up as many runs (8) as he's made starts in that stretch, and owns a 4.2 strikeout-to-walk ratio during that time period. Owens has also managed to throw strikes 67 percent of the time: given his trouble throwing quality strikes (and strikes in general) during parts of his career, including early in 2014, that's a great sign.
Owens, who was named to the 2014 Futures Game, is ready for Triple-A Pawtucket, but there's no room for him just yet, at least not until Rubby De La Rosa becomes a permanent fixture in the Boston rotation. Given he's ranked this high on the Baseball America list, it's safe to assume they think his chances of being a legitimate number two starter are higher than in some circles. It's good to see the optimism, but I still want to see his recent improvements with his fastball and his command of it carry over across his next promotions, and for his curve to continue to see success, before I see that number two future as more likely than anything else.
Shorter: I love Owens, but he needs to get out of Double-A, because toying with Eastern League hitters isn't telling us anything new about him or his future.
As for the aforementioned Betts, Baseball America confirmed to Over the Monster on Twitter that Mookie would have ranked 12th on this list were he eligible. Three players in the top 16 (assuming Swihart and Owens would have been bumped back a spot) in the same season Xander Bogaerts graduated to the majors is impressive, folks.