Much like a teacher whose former students return after high school to tell of their current success, a small measure of satisfaction comes from seeing former Barometer members make it to the show. The most recent promotion came from Alex White, the 22-year-old righty who dominated Triple-A to begin the season before getting the call for the Indians. White responded with a decent start for the Tribe, allowing two runs on six hits in six innings pitched. Although he gave up two home runs, White managed to limit the damage and produce a 3.00 GO:AO ratio, showing the promise that should let him stay in the Cleveland rotation at least until Carlos Carrasco returns from the DL, if not longer.
Without further ado, let's look at the next line of possible contributors at the major-league level, whether this season or beyond.
1. Brad Peacock, P, WAS - After a breakout 2010 campaign, Peacock has maintained that positive stride toward the majors in 2011. The 23-year-old righty has a 1.50 ERA and 28:3 K:BB ratio through 24.0 innings for Double-A Harrisburg. Peacock has shown vastly improved control the past season or so. With a fastball that can hit the upper 90s, a filthy slider and an improving change-up, he's holding opposing batters to an anemic .195 average. His future might be in the bullpen, where he pitched during the Arizona Fall League, but the Nats might have to re-think their future plans should Peacock continue to blossom as a starter.
2. Jedd Gyorko, 3B, SD - Few hitters have been hotter than Gyorko of late. A second-round draft pick last year, the 22-year-old is hitting .364/.404/.750 with four home runs and 14 RBI through his last 10 contests for High-A Lake Elsinore, including a two home-run binge against San Jose on April 30. Defense might be the biggest issue for Gyorko, who is batting .375/.440/.646 through 24 games in 2011. Nevertheless, with Gyorko slugging, along with the re-emergence of Jaff Decker and James Darnell, the Padres system looks more and more promising by the day.
3. Hak-Ju Lee, SS, TB - Tim Beckham, beware. Acquired from the Cubs as part of the Matt Garza trade, Lee has been outstanding to begin the 2011 season. The 20-year-old shortstop is hitting a ridiculous .446/.523/.679 with two home runs, six RBI and four steals through 14 games for High-A Charlotte. Although plate discipline has been terrific for the speedster - and Lee has always been considered solid defender - the truly noteworthy statistic is the two home runs Lee has hit already in 2011. By comparison, he hit just three home runs in his previous 190 games entering the season. If Lee can add a little pop to his bat, he could emerge as an elite prospect for the Rays.
4. Will Middlebrooks, 3B, BOS - Slowly but steadily, Middlebrooks has worked his way up the Red Sox ranks, and the 22-year-old is off to a sizzling start for Double-A Portland. Middlebrooks is hitting .347/.390/.653 with four home runs, 10 RBI and two steals through 19 games. Middlebrooks hit just 12 home runs all last season, and Boston believes that his power numbers will continue to rise as he matures. The third baseman still needs to work on his plate discipline, as he has fanned at least 121 times each of the last two seasons. Nevertheless, Middlebrooks has shown a steady increase in his batting average, home runs and RBI since entering the minors in 2008, furthering the notion that his best baseball might still be yet to come.
5. Robbie Erlin, P, Texas - Erlin's control has been pristine to open the 2011 season as expected, as the 20-year-old has posted a 32:4 K:BB ratio through 29.0 innings at High-A Myrtle Beach. Over his last two starts, Erlin has been even better, allowing just three hits while posting a 16:1 K:BB ratio. He is extremely polished with three pitches he can throw for strikes on a consistent basis, as witnessed by his 125:17 K:BB ratio through 114.2 innings in 2010. His overall ERA of 2.48 this season is stellar as well, and Erlin could be ticketed for Double-A shortly. Snatch up Erlin if he is still sitting on waivers in keeper leagues.
6. Jean Segura, 2B, ANA - Segura has shown a little bit of everything thus far in 2011 for High-A Inland Empire. A speedster first and foremost, Segura has swiped 13 bases in 22 games for the 66ers. Seguara is batting a crisp .344/.398/.495 as well, while blasting two home runs and even driving in 11 runs. Although Mike Trout gets the pub throughout the Angels' minor-league organization, Segura is a similar prospect, though perhaps with a bit less size and plate discipline. Nevertheless, Segura has the tools to succeed.
1. Bryce Harper, OF, WAS
2. Austin Romine, C, NYY
3. Manny Machado, SS, BAL
4. Jake Odorizzi, P, KC
5. Jordan Lyles, P, HOU
1. Jenrry Mejia, P, NYM - As if the Mets needed any more bad news, Mejia completely tore the MCL in his right elbow and likely will need Tommy John surgery. The best prospect on the Mets' farm, Mejia will miss the rest of the 2011 season and require the usual 12-18 months of recovery time. The 21-year-old was on the precipice of the big leagues too, posting a 2.86 ERA and 21:14 K:BB ratio through 18.1 innings for Triple-A Buffalo. Opposing batters had been hitting a paltry .168 against him. The Metropolitans might feel even more pressure now to develop and promote Matt Harvey quickly, arguably their best pitching prospect now that Mejia is on the shelf.
2. Donovan Tate, OF, SD - If you looked up the term "injury prone" in the dictionary, there might be a picture of Tate. The 20-year-old is on the DL with a deep bone bruise in his left knee, suffered in a collision while playing the outfield for Low-A Fort Wayne. Add this injury to the growing list for Tate since he was drafted in 2009, including breaking his jaw in an ATV accident, spraining his shoulder, getting concussed by a ball to the head and losing 10 pounds last season due to a mysterious stomach illness. The third overall pick has not even seen enough of the field yet in the minors to make an accurate assessment of his talents. The Padres hope to have Tate back with the Tin Caps by June 1, but with his history, we'll have to see it to believe it.
3. Bryan Morris, P, PIT - Morris did not appear right as he began the 2011 season for Double-A Altoona. After a career year with a 124:38 K:BB ratio in 2010 between High-A and Double-A, Morris posted a 9:9 K:BB ratio through 14.1 innings this year before landing on the Disabled List with a strained oblique muscle. The 24-year-old groundball pitcher has also battled control problems in the past, something to keep an eye on as well once he makes his way back to full health. His Double-A numbers toward the end of 2010 tailed off as well. In sum, Morris might not be as close to big-league ready as once thought.
4. Engel Beltre, OF, TEX - The red flags continue to fly for Beltre despite his impressive tools. His most recent infraction involves an altercation with fans following a Double-A game April 26, including allegations that he threw a garbage can into the stands. Beltre was subsequently suspended for 15 games. If you recall, Beltre was banned for five games last season after inciting a bench-clearing brawl while at High-A Bakersfield following a mocking, exaggerated, gesticulating home-run trot after a walk-off dinger. Although he is still just 21, it remains to be seen if Beltre's maturity can catch up with his physical gifts.
5. Christian Colon, SS, KC - Colon has been ice cold for Double-A Northwest Arkansas. The 21-year-old shortstop is hitting a mere .208/.310/.347 with two home runs, 12 RBI and six stolen bases through 20 games for the Travelers. Colon has simply not been able to put the ball in play despite decent plate discipline (9:9 K:BB ratio). With little power to speak of as well, Colon must hit for a higher average to have an impact as a fantasy player in the future. A base-stealer who has trouble getting on base is not exactly a standout combination.
6. Tyler Matzek, P, COL - Matzek's line to begin the 2011 season is anything but pretty: 0-2, 8.31 ERA, 20 walks compared to 19 strikeouts through 17.1 innings. Matzek actually walked a startling eight batters in a game April 25 against San Jose. Although he remains one of the better pitching prospects in the majors, his control has been a concern since he entered the minors in 2010; the No. 11 overall pick in the 2009 draft posted an 88:62 K:BB ratio through 89.1 innings for Low-A Asheville in 2010. Matzek clearly has strikeout potential, but the 20-year-old is going to struggle at the higher levels if he continues to walk this many batters.
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