Boston Red Sox: Blake Swihart, C
Blake Swihart's season line is still ugly, and it's going to stay that way for a long time. Just like with a prospect, though -- which, by the way, Swihart still is -- it's more about what positive developments a player has been able to make than their season numbers. In Swihart's case, while he hasn't exactly begun taking the AL by storm, he appears to be making progress, and is actually starting to contribute to the Red Sox offensively.
Over Swihart's first nine games, he batted .125/.152/.188 and struck out 36 percent of the time. In the 11 games since, the switch-hitting backstop has a slash line of .308/.341/.333, and has cut those strikeouts down to a far more manageable 21 percent. That line isn't going to cut it, but it's also not expected that it's what Swihart will be doing forever, either. It's a small step forward, a potential sign that Swihart is adjusting to the ways of the most advanced pitchers he's ever had to face. He's not a finished project, but in his defense, Swihart wasn't even finished with Triple-A at the time the Red Sox were forced to call him up.
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So, one extra-base hit and a couple of walks every 11 games isn't going to repair Swihart's line, but if he can hit singles and draw that occasional walk, he'll at least help the Red Sox. The damage from his first nine games is going to be difficult to reverse, especially when his progress isn't exactly tearing things up, but so long as he's no longer a hole in Boston's lineup, then that's good news for the Sox and the 23-year-old rookie backstop.
Double-A Portland: Keury De La Cruz, LF
May was not kind to De La Cruz, who batted .216/.244/.328 for the month. In less than half the plate appearances, Cruz hit two homers in April, then just one in May. He struck out 29 times on the month, or 24 percent of the time, after whiffing just five times in 45 plate appearances in April. You knew his torrid start to the year was unrealistic going forward, but these struggles have been surprising even for the pessimist.
De La Cruz is struggling against lefties, but it's not as if he's crushing right-handers, batting just .234/.284/.421 against them. If that's what the strong side of your platoon splits look like, then a potential future even as a bench outfielder in the bigs looks implausible. De La Cruz still has time to turn things around, given he's 23 years old, but when the ceiling wasn't all that high to begin with, it's hard to stay optimistic.
High-A Salem: Wendell Rijo, 2B
Rijo's May had many of the same problems as his April. He was able to hit for a little bit of power, but the average was too low, especially when you take into account his inability to draw a walk -- he now has just six free passes on the season in 132 plate appearances, and against 34 strikeouts. It's not an alarming punch out rate for a 19-year-old playing High-A ball -- your average Carolina League position player is closer to 23 than 22 -- but it's still just not a pretty thing to behold.
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There is still a lot to like about Rijo, but for all his success as an 18-year-old at Low-A last summer, it's worth remembering that he's still very raw, and when things go wrong, they're going to go wrong. That's how he ended up with 11 games between his last two walks, and it's how he's batting just .252 on the season despite a .318 batting average on balls in play. More experience will help him refine his approach and figure out when it's right to swing and right to just wait for that next pitch, but in the meantime, there will be moments where you wonder why you were excited about Rijo to begin with.
Low-A Greenville: Williams Jerez, LHP
Jerez was a second-round pick for the Red Sox back in 2011, except at that time, he was an outfielder. After hitting all of .221/.254/.275 in Rookie and short-season leagues over his first three seasons as a pro, the Red Sox converted Jerez to the mound, and the results have been something to pay attention to. The southpaw struck out 10.5 batters per nine in his return to the Rookie League and short-season Lowell, and in 2015, he's tossed 36-1/3 innings for Low-A Greenville, striking out five times as many batters as he's walked in the process.
Jerez can throw strikes, but he also basically has a fastball at this point, and gets to air it out as a reliever. With time, his secondaries could get some refining, and his fastball -- which tops out at 95 but often comes in the high-80s -- could be more consistent, and the Red Sox might have something legitimate here. For now, he's more than a curiosity, but he'll need innings and tougher competition before we can anoint him a sure-thing future big-league reliever.