Triple-A Pawtucket: Jackie Bradley, CF
My early concern with Jackie Bradley's season at Pawtucket was that his line was hollow. He was hitting for a high average, but wasn't even showing the moderate power of his earlier stops at Triple-A, and his walk rate had vanished. He wasn't striking out much, but he looked like he was settling for singles where he could and wouldn't have much else to add, especially in the majors where he would be facing tougher opposition.
That all seems to be changing the later into the season Bradley gets. He's batting .321/.379/.509 since he was returned to Triple-A 14 games ago, and is now up to .313/.371/.448 on the year. He's still not striking out all that much, but it looks like walks are part of his game once more, and the six extra-base hits in this stretch -- including two homers -- have been a welcome sight.
With all that being said, the Sox seem like they might be done with calling Bradley up for a while, and might want to just keep him playing every day for Pawtucket as the trade deadline nears. The Red Sox gave up relief pitching prospect Joe Gunkel to the Orioles to acquire the designated Alejandro De Aza, rather than just bring Bradley up once more while the bench in Boston had a spot. Is this because the Sox want to keep Bradley in the minors until they have a regular role for him, or because they're hoping he hits so well against Triple-A pitchers that a team will be willing to look at him as a legitimate piece in a trade again?
Photo credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
It's difficult to tell from the outside, as the Sox could get value out of Bradley either by holding onto him or shipping him elsewhere. If he keeps it up, though, he's going to leave Triple-A behind, whether it's by driving up I-95 to Boston or hopping on a plane to a new team.
Triple-A Pawtucket: Henry Owens, LHP
Besides his season ERA, Owens' season doesn't look all that good. He's been making progress, though, and that's more apparent if you remember that, through his first six starts, he had the same number of walks as strikeouts. In his five games since, Owens has tossed 28-1/3 innings while striking out 24, and given up 13 free passes. That's still too many of the latter and not enough of the former, but it's a whole lot closer to where he needs to be. He's still proven difficult to hit -- even when he wasn't able to throw strikes consistently -- and it's much easier to deal with all of these problems when you remember that part of their cause is Owens' adjusting to throwing more of his repertoire more often.
He's relied heavily on his fastball and his change to this point in his career, so working a reliable breaking ball into the mix that can be trusted as a third pitch in the majors has been his focal point for the season. He's not quite to that point yet, but these last five starts are a sign that he's getting there. When he does, we'll see the real, developed Owens facing off against Triple-A batters, and then we'll have a better sense of his big-league ETA. Thankfully, between Eduardo Rodriguez and Brian Johnson, there shouldn't be any pressure to move Owens out of Triple-A in 2015, giving him the time he needs to find himself.
High-A Salem: Manuel Margot, CF
Margot was a mess for most of May and then landed on the disabled list for the rest of it. Since coming back from injury, though, he's been playing well, batting .321/.321/.464 with a pair of triples in the mix. He needs to get back to drawing walks, and in order to do that, he'll have to get over the fact that sometimes, he's going to strike out. Margot attacks early and often in the count, and while it helps him avoid whiffing or striking out looking, it's been hell on his ability to get on-base consistently.
Photo credit: MLB.com
When he can hit over .300, that's fine, but he's not going to do that all the time. Let's not be too harsh on Margot, though: he's just 20 years old, and had a brief taste of High-A competition last year, at the end of the season when many of the better pitchers in the league had already been promoted to Double-A after a season's work. Margot is showing plenty of signs of promise, and with his youth and remaining projection, that's perfectly fine, even if it's not as pretty.
Low-A Greenville: Yoan Moncada, 2B
Moncada is just 19 and weeks into his first foray into professional baseball in the states. Not surprisingly, he's taking his time getting acclimated, batting .236/.311/.345 over his first 15 games. He's hitting much better against lefties over this small sample, but it's too early to get worked up in either direction about him. A few weeks of slow games (with a mild hamstring injury in between) is no reason to be worried about Moncada, whose 2015 is mostly going to be about getting him comfortable with full-season ball.
The only real concern in the early going is his defense, as Moncada has made nine errors at second base in 11 games at the position. Second was never likely to be his long-term home, with Moncada possibly moving to third or the outfield at some point, but the Sox wanted to leave him somewhere familiar for his first year in the system. That could happen sooner than later -- 2016? -- but maybe he'll be able to work that out, too, the same way we expect his bat to come around.
Remember, Moncada got a record international signing bonus for a reason. He's a young, five-tool talent, one who should be an important part of the Red Sox and their future. He doesn't have to be everything he'll ever be all at once for any of that to remain true.
Dominican Summer League: Christopher Acosta, RHP
Christopher Acosta was one of two highly touted international pitching prospects the Red Sox acquired during the 2014-2015 signing period, with Anderson Espinoza the other. Acosta rated as the number three pitcher available according to Baseball America, while Espinoza was first. While Espinoza's debut was stunning, with a mid-to-high 90s fastball resulting in plenty of strikeouts and grounders, Acosta's professional debut occurred in a much more standard fashion.
The 17-year-old Acosta struck out two batters in three innings while allowing a single walk, but he also allowed three runs on three hits with a little help from a pair of wild pitches and a hit batsman. He's a work in progress, sure, but so is everyone signed at 16. That's what makes players like Rafael Devers and the Dodgers' Julio Urias so special: young teenage prospects aren't supposed to thrive like they do, not that quickly. Don't judge the progress and development of Acosta and Espinoza against the rare cases, and remember that they're getting a mention here more to help you keep up with them than to make any dramatic statements about who they will be six years from now.