Triple-A Pawtucket: Henry Owens, LHP
It's been a rough season for Owens, but a necessary one. He needed to work on making his curveball a viable offering, as he had mostly coasted through previous levels utilizing his fantastic change-up and his fastball, so long as the command for the latter was there. So, there have been plenty of times where he's allowed a walk or lost a batter in a situation where his change-up would normally have finished things off, because expanding your repertoire is important before you get to the bigs. That's resulted in an ugly line for Owens, but the education seems to be paying off, as he's come around in the last month or so.
Over Owens' last six games, all coming in June, the lefty threw 36-1/3 innings with a 3.47 ERA and just over twice as many strikeouts as walks. That might not seem all that exciting, but consider that prior to this stretch, he managed just 42 strikeouts against 35 walks over his first 54 frames. Owens' overall numbers don't matter, just the ones that come after he's figured things out. He seems to be coming along in that regard, and he's still young enough to get a chance at fully mastering the competition at this level, as he's just 22. With Eduardo Rodriguez already in Boston and Brian Johnson ahead of Owens on the depth chart, there is still no rush for him to solve all of his problems at once.
Photo credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
When he does, though, and chances are good he will, he'll once again look like the solid number three big-league starter he's been projected as for some time now. He won't even take up a 40-man roster spot until after the season, however, and that's assuming he isn't traded anywhere first, so be patient with his development in the meantime.
Double-A Portland: Justin Haley, RHP
Justin Haley has been far better since returning from a brief injury respite in mid-May, but he's still not quite where he needs to be. Limiting opponents to 3.6 walks per nine over his last 50 innings is huge considering he handed out 12 free passes over his first 14-2/3 frames, but everything would feel a little more comfortable if he were missing more bats -- 39 strikeouts in those 50 innings -- and giving up fewer hits -- opponents posted a 730 OPS against Haley in this more successful stretch.
The chance still exists for Haley to be a back-end starter, but he'll need to figure out how to limit the offense of Double-A competition in order for that potential to remain realistic. If he can bump up the strikeouts a bit -- the ability is there, but it doesn't seem to be consistent -- then that should take care of much of the problem. To Haley's credit, he only just passed the 100-inning threshold at Double-A in his career, and he has a 3.78 ERA at the level, so he hasn't exactly been here forever or been struggling the whole time.
High-A Salem: Chandler Shepherd, RHP
Reliever ERA is a misleading thing, and that idea applies to Shepherd's from his time at High-A. He's allowed 12 runs on the season in 10 games and nearly 24 innings there, and while that sounds high, four of them did come in one appearance. Remove that for a moment, and he has managed a 3.31 ERA instead of a 4.56 one.
Of course, you can't just erase his numbers to make them look better, but this was just meant to point out that he's looked better than that ERA suggests overall. He's striking out over four times as many batters as he's walking and has allowed just three homers total in 38-1/3 2015 innings, and is still relatively new to the whole professional pitcher thing, as he didn't even make his debut until late-June of 2014. The future reliever is doing well, and a few more quality outings will help show as much without the need for any of this added context.
Low-A Greenville: Nick Longhi, 1B/OF
The question with Longhi when he was drafted was whether his batting practice power would show up in-game. We've seen flashes of it, but for the most part, his bat has been quiet on that front as a pro: he's hitting .280/.345/.396 this year for Low-A Greenville. Don't take that as a criticism, though: Longhi is still just 19 years old, has already doubled his career-high for games in a season with 60, and is outhitting the Sally League as a whole -- the average Sally position player is batting .255/.324/.368 in 2015 -- and doing it while 2.5 years younger.
BA details Sox' July 2 international FA plans
Thursday, July 2 kicks off the start of the 2015-2016 international free agent period, and the Red Sox are still expected to be active even with their spending restrictions.
The power might very well still show up, even if it doesn't happen right now in the lower levels. He's striking out 21 percent of the time, which is high, but not alarmingly so, and he's shown an ability to draw a walk, doing so over eight percent of the time this season. If he can cut down on the strikeouts ever so slightly through a combination of better decisions on what to swing at and what to leave alone, all of his slash stats could see a boost.
Defensively, the Sox still don't seem to have made a decision about where he is going to play long-term, as he's played 38 games in right and 28 at first base. The final answer might end up being left field, but it all depends on how his range and offense pan out over the next few seasons.
Short-season Lowell: Mitch Gunsolus, 3B
Gunsolus was Boston's 10th-round pick from the 2015 draft, and he debuted as a pro less than two weeks ago. He's consistently been in the Spinners' lineup since then, though, racking up eight games and 26 plate appearances already, and has batted .261/.346/.304 in those chances. While he might be a corner outfielder in the long run, the Sox are using the 22-year-old at third base, his college position, for now.
Gunsolus had never hit a homer in college until this season, when he deposited seven over the fence. Baseball America ranked him number 464 on their pre-draft top-500, noting that he's walked more than he's struck out in each of his last three college campaigns. It'll be harder to do that in the pros, but so long as he can keep the two numbers close, there could be something to watch here.