Triple-A Pawtucket: Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Jackie Bradley is going through another tough season. Well, in the majors, anyway: JBJ is hitting all of .133/.229/.233 for the Red Sox, and while it's in limited duty, it's also his worst output in three years of poor production. Boston's outfield has been in shambles for much of the season due to one injury or another, and yet, Bradley has only managed to play in 14 games, just nine of them starts, since he isn't hitting anymore than he was a year ago -- and that performance pushed him back to the minors for 2015.
There are some encouraging signs, though. Bradley is having his best year at Triple-A to date, hitting .308/.386/.449 at the level over 265 plate appearances. He's 25, so even if it seems like he's been around forever, he's still young enough for development to happen. His 14 percent strikeout rate is a good start, as Bradley seems to be better taking charge of his plate appearances, helping him avoid scenarios where pitchers dispose of him easily by way of the K.
There is also his tremendous defense that's so, so good that Bradley will continue to get chances to breakout in the bigs, even if he's just an okay hitter. With his glove, that's still a valuable player, but he needs to get there first. Will it be with the Red Sox? They seem to want him to be playing every day, but whether that's because they feel it makes him more attractive in a trade or because they still think he has a future as a regular in Boston is unknown. What is known is that Bradley has an amazing glove that's worth taking a risk on, so someone is sure to trade for him if the Sox are willing to part ways.
Photo credit: Jim Rogash/Getty Images
The thing is, with Bradley's 178 career MLB games of awful hitting, he can't be the centerpiece in anything major. Bradley would have to be included in a package -- one that didn't surround him -- for anything significant, unless it's a swap of disappointing young players in need of a change of scenery. There is still talent here, especially in the field, but even his Triple-A numbers can't dig him out of the hole he tumbled into during his last two years in the bigs. No one is going to pay the Red Sox for best-case scenario Bradley, not when we've been given few, if any, glimpses of what that even is -- this isn't a Cameron Maybin situation like with the Padres and Braves, as Bradley hasn't even had the kind of relative success in his disappointment. With that being the case, Bradley might not be tradeable at all at the moment, not unless the Sox are desperate to get him off of the 40-man. And that seems unlikely.
Double-A Portland: Carlos Asuaje, 2B
Asuaje has been scuffling of late, with his batting average dipping and bringing his slugging down with it -- he's hit just .223/.297/.292 since June 4. It's hard to tell just what's the matter with him at the moment, though, as he's not striking out too often -- just 15 percent of the time -- and he's still walking a bit, at eight percent of his plate appearances.
Maybe he's being a little too aggressive to try to keep pitchers from getting ahead of him, and should sit and wait for a pitch he can gap. His .259 batting average on balls in play suggests he's not necessarily going after the best pitches for him right now, and a little tweak in his approach could change all that. It's the first real slump for Asuaje as a pro, so don't be down on him all that much. The key here will be seeing how Asuaje adjusts, and what he looks like when he does.
High-A Salem: Kevin McAvoy, RHP
Kevin McAvoy is back to walking too many batters, and much of that came in a June where his ground ball rate was the lowest it's been all season. Granted, 59 percent is still lofty, but McAvoy has been at his best when he balanced his strikeouts and grounders, and came in the mid-60s for ground ball rate. Over his last six starts in the past month, McAvoy has 19 strikeouts against 15 walks in 32-2/3 innings, giving him too few of the former and too many of the latter, and it's come at a time when he's inducing the lowest rate of grounders of the season, with just 1.3 times as many balls on the ground as in the air.
Compare that to May, when McAvoy was still walking too many batters, but was helping to balance it with 1.8 times as many grounders as fly balls, and 64 percent of them overall. To be fair, the right-hander is still all of 21 years old, didn't even debut until this time last year after he was drafted in the fourth round, and is already in High-A. There were going to be bumps in the road -- McAvoy is just at one of them right now.
Low-A Greenville: Rafael Devers, 3B
Devers struggled for a little bit, showing off some power while lacking in the batting average and on-base departments over the last month or so. He's started to heat up of late, however, and is fresh off his appearance in the Futures Game on Sunday for the World team, where the 18-year-old was one of the youngest players on the field.
Appreciating Alejandro De Aza's Red Sox run
Alejandro De Aza is probably heading for some serious regression, but don't let that cloud your appreciation of what he's done.
His .294/.324/.439 line might not sound all that exciting, but remember the whole 18 years old and debuted last summer thing? Devers hasn't faced a pitcher younger than he is all season long, and is in a league where the average position player has hit .254/.323/.368 and is nearly 22 years old, Devers stands out for his precociousness. He isn't showing the power Xander Bogaerts did when he was 18 and at Low-A, but Devers is hitting for a higher batting average, and is just as clearly advanced. We'll see how all that holds up against even older and more experienced competition, but that's a worry for a day that hasn't come yet.
GCL Red Sox: Jagger Rusconi, 2B
Rusconi was a high school shortstop whomthe Red Sox drafted in the fifth round of last month's MLB Draft as a center fielder. He's already been moved to second base since officially turning pro and joining the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, however. This was not an entirely unexpected move, given his past work in the infield, and he profiled on draft day as a future second baseman who could hit a bit.
Given he's turning 19 later this week and is a switch-hitter out of high school, it'll probably be awhile before we really see that he can, in fact, hit. He's a project, but also a prospect, with Baseball America ranking him 322nd in their pre-draft top-500, so he is someone to keep an eye on. He's also a long way from being something besides a guy who shows up in the back of these reports, but hey, there are other prospects to pay attention to as well.