Triple-A Pawtucket: Jackie Bradley, CF
Jackie Bradley is batting .347/.398/.474 at Triple-A. That's good! Good probably isn't enough for Bradley to get the attention of the Red Sox, though -- at least not over current teammate Rusney Castillo -- and it might not be enough for another team who could be interested in acquiring Bradley in a trade. The thing is, Bradley has hit at Triple-A before, and is a career .281/.362/.443 batter there. His problems are not against Triple-A pitching -- they're against big-league hurlers who bust him inside, who catch him swinging at breaking stuff off the plate, and who tie him up with change-ups. It'll take more than a month of knocking Triple-A pitchers around to get that justified post-hype love going.
Bradley might be capable of providing that much success, though, so please don't take the above to mean otherwise. He's batting .500/.500/.731 over his last six games, with three doubles and a homer, and it's started to finally give him the power that he was missing to go along with the lofty batting average he's carried from the start of the year. The only concerns through this first month are that he's suddenly not drawing many walks, and that the power overall isn't where it used to be. However, if Bradley has added some aggressiveness to his game, and it's caused him to collect far more singles and maybe, maybe strike out less the next time he's in the majors, then this could be a successful transformation.
Photo credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Remember, with Bradley's glove, he doesn't need to hit for power or post an extraordinary on-base percentage to have value. He just needs to be on first base a lot more often than he has been in the past in the majors, and his defense will take care of the rest. If going after pitchers more aggressively is what gets Bradley there, then roll with it, JBJ..
Double-A: Reed Gragnani, 3B
Last time we checked in on Reed Gragnani, the warning was that he was striking out too much for someone with his profile to succeed for very long -- once his batting average on balls in play dipped, and it would, things would get ugly. In those two weeks' time, Gragnani's BABIP dropped from .421 to .295, and his strikeout rate remained at 21 percent. You can probably guess what happened to his line, but for clarity's sake, it's now .220/.333/.254.
Gragani's main draw is avoiding strikeouts and putting the ball in play. If he's swinging and missing, then he's not putting the ball in play nearly often enough, and he's not going to hit for the kind of average that makes up for his total lack of power. He's only been at Double-A for 17 games, so it's not like we need to say the dream is dead or anything, but he's not a prospect with a whole lot of room for failure, so adjustments are needed sooner than later.
High-A Salem: Joe Gunkel, RHP
Gunkel, an 18th-round selection in the 2013 draft, is making the most of his second stint with High-A Salem. Gunkel joined the Carolina League during the 2014 season after a strong run for the Low-A Drive, but seemed to have trouble generating swings and misses after his promotion. The rest of his game -- control and keeping the ball in the park -- both seemed to be retained, however, and now he's back to missing bats if his first 19 innings of 2015 are any indication.
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He's struck out 19 batters against four walks in those 19 frames, and has allowed just five runs and two homers in that stretch. He's not an extreme ground ball guy, but he's inducing his fair share as a complement to those whiffs, and it's made it difficult for High-A hitters to do much against him. This is all a good sign for a guy who can probably be a big-league reliever someday, and given he's already got those 10 starts from 2014 behind him, Gunkel might even see a bump to Double-A Portland soon. Their rotation could certainly use a fresh, intriguing arm, as (maybe) future reliever Mike Augliera and perpetual minor-league arm Mike McCarthy are in it at the moment.
Low-A Greenville: Nick Longhi, 1B/OF
Longhi has slowed down a bit after a torrid start to 2015, but not in any kind of worrisome way. He's had a little bit of a slump over the last week, batting .227 with just one extra-base hit in that stretch, but he's still managed to draw his walks. The only concern, if you can be all that concerned about any week's worth of plate appearances, is that he's struck out quite a bit of late after not striking out almost at all in April: 16 whiffs in 104 plate appearances is great, but eight in his last 25, not so much.
He's all of 19 years old, so these kinds of ups and downs are expected. The important thing isn't that Longhi will struggle on occasion: it's how he bounces back from those struggles. With a little tweak here and there, he should be back to hitting baseballs a long way, and maybe in a position to take over first base from Sam Travis at High-A once he ends up in Portland for the same.