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Minor League Barometer: Upgrades, Downgrades

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.

A few not-so-familiar names appear on this week's Barometer, as we pay homage to those prospects plugging away without fanfare. Still, some of the usual suspects remain in the picture, on both sides of the weekly equation.

UPGRADES

1. Jeff Locke, P, PIT - Locke became a forgotten man once he was traded from the Braves in the Nate McLouth deal. His 2009 season didn't help either, as he posted a career-high 4.59 ERA and a 99:44 K:BB ratio. The 22-year-old has been lights out in 2010, though, sporting a 3.54 ERA and 83:14 K:BB ratio through 86.1 innings in High-A. He was promoted to Double-A and has allowed just one earned run through 11 innings for the Curve. With Brad Lincoln and some of the other Pirates starters struggling, Locke's stock can only be rising as the season progresses.

2. Johermyn Chavez, OF, SEA
- Chavez is on pace for career highs across the board in High-A High Desert this season. The 21-year-old outfielder is batting .303/.376/.565 with 24 home runs and 66 RBI for the Mavericks. Perhaps most important, his power and plate discipline have developed steadily since he broke into the minors in 2006, making him an intriguing prospect for the sputtering Mariners.

3. Manuel Banuelos, P, NYY
- In five starts for High-A Tampa, the 19-year-old lefty has a 33:8 K:BB ratio, while holding opposing batters to a .212 BAA. "Man Ban" missed the first half of the season due to an appendectomy and still hasn't been fully stretched out yet. Still, you can't argue with the results so far, particularly at such a young age.

4. Ryan Lavarnway, C, BOS
- Although he hasn't found his home run stroke yet in Double-A, Lavarnway has a .368 batting average through 10 games with the Sea Dogs. He's also driven in 14 runs over that span. The Red Sox have Victor Martinez behind the plate, but Lavarnway may be moved to another position if his glove can't catch up to his bat, so don't downgrade him solely due to the current BoSox depth chart.

5. Tyler Chatwood, P, ANA
- Chatwood may have finally found his groove for Double-A Arkansas, allowing one run on 10 hits in his last 17 innings for the Travelers. In those two starts, Chatwood has fanned nine while walking just three. Although he doesn't project as a monster strikeout pitcher, Chatwood is just 20 and gets a lot of ground balls.

6. Chris Carter, 1B, OAK
- Carter has been surging of late, hitting .410/.489/.821 with four home runs and 10 RBI over his last 10 games for Triple-A Sacramento. He'll most likely parlay this recent success into a September call-up, though the high strikeout total and mediocre batting average this season are still something to be wary of for the A's first-baseman of the future.

Honorable Mention

1. Julio Teheran, P, ATL
2. Jesus Montero, C, NYY
3. Alex Liddi, 3B, SEA
4. Nick Weglarz, OF, CLE
5. Christopher Archer, P, CHI

DOWNGRADES

1. Josh Vitters, 3B, CHI - Add injury to insult for what has been a nightmarish 2010 season for Vitters. The 20-year-old third baseman was hit by a pitch and broke the middle finger of his left hand. He might miss the remainder of the season for the Cubbies. Although injuries are never good, this may be a blessing in disguise for Vitters, as some time away from the game might improve his mindset after posting a line of .223/.292/.383 in Double-A, with just seven home runs in 63 games.

2. Brad Lincoln, P, PIT
- Lincoln was demoted to Triple-A after allowing 37 earned runs in 50.2 innings in the majors, good for a 6.57 ERA. He struggled keeping the ball in the park, allowing nine home runs over that span. More worrisome for Lincoln, though, is that the rumblings have started that he will only be good enough for the bigs in a relief role. Although that shouldn't happen in 2010, Lincoln's likely September call-up may be his final audition to remain a starter.

3. Jordan Schafer, OF, ATL
- It seems like eons ago when Schafer smacked his first major-league home run in his first professional game on Opening Day in 2009. He hasn't had much success since, unfortunately, as the 24-year-old center fielder battled a nagging wrist injury that eventually required surgery. Although he's finally healthy, Schafer was recently demoted to Double-A after hitting an abysmal .201/.255/.254 with one home run and eight RBI through 52 games in Triple-A. All in all, the once surefire star must now regain his confidence to get back to the big leagues.

4. Ethan Martin, P, LAD
- Poor command has come back to haunt Martin in 2010, as an 85:60 K:BB ratio has been the greatest catalyst to his 5.23 ERA. He's always been a bit wild, but not surprisingly has been bitten harder by his lack of control in High-A than he was in Low-A in 2009. Just 21 and in his second full season in the minors, it's clear Martin needs to work on his command if he is to move up the ranks more quickly.

5. Hank Conger, C, LAA
- This is more of a gut feeling than based on Conger's minor right rotator cuff injury, which landed him on the 7-day DL. With Kendry Morales on the shelf, Mike Napoli has played a lot of first base with Jeff Mathis, an above-average receiver, playing catcher in the interim. Once Morales comes back in 2010, the Angels are pretty set at the catcher position. So where does that leave Conger? Best-case: he's trade bait, though with just five home runs and 27 RBI in 74 games for Triple-A Salt Lake, his fantasy impact looks to be minimal.

6. Matt Dominguez, 3B, FLA
- Dominguez has suffered a similar fate to Josh Vitters; 2007 first-round draft pick who has hit a wall in Double-A in 2010. Dominguez is batting just .231/.302/.308 over his last 10 games, and his overall line of .238/.316/.396 is not much better. He does have 10 home runs on the year, and won't turn 21 until the end of August, but Dominguez certainly hasn't excelled like the Fish had hoped.

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