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Minor League Barometer: Looking at the Upper Levels

Jesse Siegel

Jesse Siegel

Siegel covers college football, college basketball and minor league baseball for RotoWire. He was named College Sports Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

After spending a week touting teen-agers and lower level studs, the Minor League Barometer shifts gears to the upper levels. This week's list should provide more immediate dividends for fantasy owners.

UPGRADES

1. Pedro Alvarez, 3B, PIT
- Alvarez has been on a tear, hitting .382/.447/.735 with two home runs and six RBI over his last 10 games. With former Triple-A mates Jose Tabata and Brad Lincoln already making their way to the majors, Alvarez should get the call in the coming weeks for the rebuilding Pirates.

2. Dan Hudson, P, CHW
- Hudson hasn't allowed more than three runs in his last five outings for Triple-A Charlotte. Over that span, he's fanned 38 batters while walking just eight. Although the ChiSox don't appear to be ready to give Hudson a spot in the rotation just yet, John Danks is the only Chicago starter with an ERA under 4.50. As a result, Hudson may get the chance to strut his stuff sooner rather than later.

3. Alex Liddi, 3B, SEA
- Liddi has been crushing the ball over his last 10 games, batting .457/.535/.771 with two home runs and 15 RBI for Double-A West Tennessee. Liddi's has proven that last season's gaudy numbers weren't just a product of the California League. One of the Mariners' better hitting prospects, Liddi, 21, could see Triple-A later this season.

4. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, CLE
- With Carlos Santana in the majors, Chisenhall now has the distinction of being arguably The Tribe's best hitting prospect. Over his last 10 games, he's batting .316/.395/.684 with three home runs and 10 RBI for Double-A Akron. On the year, Chisenhall has nearly as many walks (16) as strikeouts (21). The recent power surge should only aid his stock. Chisenhall could see Triple-A this season and then factor into Cleveland's plans for 2011.

5. Michael Kirkman, P, TEX
- Kirkman's last start was a gem, as the 6-foot-4 lefty tossed seven scoreless innings, scattering three hits for Triple-A Oklahoma City. He walked just one batter while punching out nine. Kirkman has a pristine 3.17 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 65.1 innings this season. He's been a little wild, issuing 38 free passes over that span. However, with the Rangers current rotation racked with injuries, and top prospect Tanner Scheppers still not fully stretched out from his time as a reliever, the 23-year-old Kirkman could make an impact as early as this month.

6. Casey Kelly, P, BOS
- Kelly's last two starts have been magnificent. The 20-year-old righty has allowed one run on nine hits in 11 innings for Double-A Portland. Over that span, Kelly has walked two while striking out nine. With Dice-K and Josh Beckett on the DL, Kelly may actually have some value for the BoSox as the season progresses. Likewise, he always remains a candidate to be dealt should the Boston decide to deal for a bat at the trade deadline.

HONORABLE MENTION

1. Chris Resop, P, ATL
2. Timothy Bascom, P, BAL
3. Alejandro Sanabia, P, FLA
4. Tyler Flowers, C, CHW
5. Mark Trumbo, 1B, LAA

DOWNGRADES

1. Aroldis Chapman, P, CIN
- The tools have never been questioned; the ability to harness those gifts has been much more difficult for Chapman. The Cuban defector continues to baffle opposing hitters as well as his pitching coach, as he's fanned 70 batters in 59.2 innings, but has walked 36 over that span. He's paid for those walks in a 4.22 ERA. With the Reds in first place in the Central (yes, you read that correctly), Cincy can afford to be patient with its $35 million investment. Although his last start was stellar, the Reds will likely look for Chapman to string together a few standout outings before bringing him up. That means more unhappy fantasy owners who took a gamble on him for 2010, though.

2. Beau Mills, 1B, CLE
- Mills continues to struggle for Double-A Akron, hitting .205/.281/302 with three home runs and 32 RBI through 54 games. The former 2007 first-round pick has hit a wall in Double-A, and is now on the 7seven-Day Disabled List as well with an intercostal (rib muscle) strain, an injury that will likely take a few weeks to heal. This probably isn't the best time to tell Indians fans that Mills was taken one pick before Jason Heyward, right?

3. Lou Marson, C, CLE
- With Carlos Santana up, Marson no longer has a role in the majors for The Tribe, as he was demoted to Triple-A to make room for the young phenom. Once considered a decent prospect for the Phillies, he will likely have to catch on with another team to make his mark. Although he showed a knack for throwing runners out, he batted just .191 with one home run in 45 games at the big-league level.

4. Scott Elbert, P, LAD
- The Dodgers' 2009 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Elbert has taken a temporary, personal leave of absence from Triple-A Albuquerque. Details are scarce, but the word is he was extremely unhappy with his latest demotion from the big club. Elbert allowed one run on one hit and three walks in just two-thirds of an inning on May 29, after which he was sent back down to the minors. Elbert made one more start on June 3 before leaving the squad for undisclosed reasons. Regardless of Elbert's reasons, it's certainly not a good sign for the 2004 first-round pick, and the Dodgers as well.

5. Chase d'Arnuad, SS, PIT
- Alhough his last 10 games have been better, d'Arnuad is still batting just .234/.325/.351 for Double-A Altoona. He's fanned 45 times in 58 games, including 11 times over his past 10 contests, particularly bothersome since he came into the year considered to have above-average plate discipline. D'Arnuad has also failed to hit a home run and has stolen just 12 bases this season, after posting career highs of seven home runs and 31 steals in 2009. The Pirates passed on shortstop Manny Machado in the draft at the No. 2 overall slot, but d'Arnaud's performance this season probably won't let them breathe any easier.

6. Cody Johnson, OF, ATL
- The power-hitting 21-year-old has been just dreadful for Double-A Mississippi in 2010. The 2006 first-rounder is batting just .205/.278/.390 with 93 strikeouts in 57 games. Although he has still bashed 10 home runs, clearly Johnson will have to improve his plate discipline before even being considered for Triple-A. He's still young but has always struck out a ton and will have to make better contact moving forward.

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