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Minor League Barometer: The Landscape has Shifted

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.

Few seasons have seen so many top prospects make their big league debuts so early in the year. From the most hyped prospect in baseball history in Stephen Strasburg, to top hitting prospects in Mike Stanton, Pedro Alvarez and Justin Smoak, to young backstops Carlos Santana and Buster Posey, the youth movement is in full effect. Heck, even the Pirates have gotten in on the act, with Brad Lincoln and Jose Tabata joining Alvarez on the Bucs' big league squad. Let's not forget about Starlin Castro, who at 20 is the Cubbies' starting shortstop, Ike Davis manning first for the Mets and Austin Jackson in center field for the Tigers. As a result, the landscape of the minors has shifted toward some newer faces. Let's take a look at the next wave of phenoms who have been surging (or floundering) of late.

UPGRADES

1. Jordan Lyles, P, HOU
- Try as they might, the Astros might not be able to hold back Jordan Lyles much longer if he continues to pitch this way. The 19-year-old hurler has a 2.37 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 87.1 innings for Double-A Corpus Christi. His last two starts have been dynamite, as the 6-foot-4 righty has allowed just one run over 14 innings, issuing three walks while striking out 19 batters. He's so young that he'll likely spend the rest of 2010 in Double-A, but don't be surprised if he makes a pitch to be in the Astros rotation come spring training 2011.

2. Desmond Jennings, OF, TB
- Jennings will also have to wait until 2011, but he is an elite phenom in the Carl Crawford mold. Ironically, he may just take over for Crawford next year, who is a free agent and will probably leave for greener pastures. That will leave Jennings to man left field for the Rays. This season, he's stolen 16 bases while being caught just once. His career high in home runs is 11, so he doesn't project as a big power guy, but still has a very respectable .355 on-base percentage. Over his last 10 games, he's also hitting .357. Overall, Jennings remains a player to watch for a September call-up and regular at-bats in 2011.

3. Domonic Brown, OF, PHI
- Brown can do little wrong this season, as the 22-year-old is batting .317/.389/.585 with 13 home runs, 43 RBI and 12 stolen bases for Double-A Reading. His combination of power, speed and plate discipline helps make him a five-tool stud and a candidate for the top minor league prospect going into 2011. But barring an injury or a trade of Jayson Werth, who is a free agent at season's end, Brown's time to shine will come next year.

4. Grant Green, SS, OAK
- With a power surge of late, Green's line for High-A Stockton looks even better. In his first full season in the minors, the 22-year-old shortstop is batting .320/.371/.466 with five home runs and 30 RBI. Over his last 10 games, Green is hitting .405/.478/.703 with two home runs and six RBI. Although his plate discipline could be slightly better, Green has clearly handled the bat well in his limited time in the minors.

5. Julio Teheran, P, ATL
- There's an argument to be made that Teheran is the best pitching prospect in the minors. In 78.1 innings between Low-A and High-A, the 6-2 19-year-old has posted a miniscule 1.26 ERA with 94 strikeouts. He has issued just 17 walks over that span as well. With High-A Myrtle Beach, he has already recorded three double-digit strikeout outputs in just six starts. The Braves have a ton of dynamic pitching prospects (Arodys Vizcaino, Mike Minor and Randall Delgado, to name a few), but Teheran might be the best of the bunch.

6. Jason Castro, C, HOU
- The Astros are going nowhere fast, and finally called up arguably their best hitting prospect in Castro. He hasn't been scalding the ball, but has shown an excellent eye at the dish. Castro has drawn 32 walks while striking out 34 times through 57 games in Triple-A. His power numbers haven't come around thus far, but the 'Stros hope the 6-3, 210, prospect starts to slug the ball eventually. Overall, Castro doesn't project as well as Carlos Santana or Buster Posey with the bat, but should still get on base enough to warrant fantasy consideration.

Honorable Mention

1. Kyle Drabek, P, TOR
2. Jeremy Hellickson, P, TB
3. Dellin Betances, P, NYY
4. David Phelps, P, NYY
5. Logan Morrison, 1B, FLA

DOWNGRADES

1. Martin Perez, P, TEX
- Perez is still the youngest player in Double-A, but perhaps the Rangers got a little too excited with the 19-year-old lefty. Perez has had a nightmare of a season for Frisco, culminating in his worst start of the season on Friday. The 6-0 lefty allowed eight runs on five hits in just 1.1 innings. He walked four batters while punching out just one. On the year, Perez has a 6.51 ERA and a 48:31 K:BB ratio. Although he's still shown strikeout stuff, his command has been off, and opposing batters are hitting .288 against him. Perez remains a standout prospect, but clearly needs some time to straighten himself out.

2. Lars Anderson, 1B, BOS
- Anderson's first stint in Triple-A has been a disaster, as he's hitting .204/.316/.349 with 47 strikeouts in 45 games. His last 10 games have been even worse, as he's hitting .032! Yes, you read that correctly. It's too bad as well; Anderson torched Double-A pitching to start the year to earn the call-up. He does have four home runs, and his eye has been decent, but a .204 average simply won't get it done. Anderson likely has at least the rest of 2010 in the minors, if not more.

3. Casey Crosby, P, DET
- The 2009 minor league hurler of the year for the Tigers, Crosby has yet to pitch in 2010 due to nagging left elbow and forearm problems. He was originally supposed to be back around this time, but suffered a setback in late May. His ailments do not appear to be related to his 2007 Tommy John surgery, but the Tigers are being extra-cautious with their star prospect. As a result, his progress could be stunted until Detroit figures out what's exactly ailing its star prospect.

4. Mike Montgomery, P, KC
- It's a shame to see Montgomery on this list after the way he started the 2010 campaign in High-A, but continued elbow soreness has landed him on the DL in Double-A. It's been almost a month that Montgomery has been battling this problem, so clearly it was something he couldn't shake by skipping a start or two. He had still been above average with the Naturals with a 2.79 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 29 innings, but not nearly as dominant as his start in Wilmington. Hopefully, it's just a minor blip on the radar, as M-Squared remains an elite prospect for the Royals. For now, though, Montgomery is sidelined.

5. Donavan Tate, OF, SD
- Although Tate has only been in the Padres organization less than a year, his picture would probably accompany any Google search for "injury-prone." Tate had surgery in October 2009 to repair a sports hernia, then broke his jaw in December in an ATV accident. He then sprained his shoulder in March diving for a ball and was sent to Extended Spring Training, where he was subsequently hit in the head by a pitch and suffered a concussion. Talk about an unlucky string of injuries. Tate finally appears to be on the road back to recovery, scheduled to begin his minor league career in Low-A Eugene soon. But you never know when another lightning bolt will strike when it comes to Tate.

6. J.J. Hoover, P, ATL
- Hoover was blown up in his last two starts. On June 13, he lasted just one inning, allowing four runs on three hits. The 6-3 righty walked three batters while fanning just one. In his last start, he gave up six runs on seven hits in five innings for High-A Myrtle Beach. Hoover struck out three while issuing two walks. Hoover is still having a decent season overall, but compared to Julio Teheran and the bevy of other pitching prospects for the Bravos, he remains a step below.

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