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Minor League Barometer: How Far Away is Harper?

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.

We're near the halfway point of the 2011 campaign, and we've already seen a plethora of major league debuts. Eric Hosmer, Dustin Ackley, Anthony Rizzo, Mike Moustakas and Lonnie Chisenhall have made their way to the bigs, to name a few. Expect to see uber-prospects Desmond Jennings, Jesus Montero and Paul Goldschmidt receive promotions before the 2011 campaign is finished as well. Who else will get that long-awaited call? Let's look at this Week's Minor League Barometer.

UPGRADE

1. Bryce Harper, OF, WAS -
Yes, I realize this one is rather obvious. However, take note that Harper was recently promoted to Double-A from Low-A Hagerstown, skipping High-A altogether. In his debut for Harrisburg, the 18-year-old phenom went 2-for-3 with one run and one walk. Though the Nats front office has reiterated that Harper will not play in the bigs this season, it is going to be mighty difficult to stick by that mantra should Harper continue to rake at the higher levels. Combine that with the fact that the Nats will likely be out of the playoff picture come September anyway, Washington might throw caution to the wind in an attempt to increase ticket sales for the final month. It's not a baseball move per se, but it's part of the conversation even if the Nats won't admit it. At the very least, Harper will debut in 2012, possibly out of spring training.

2. Jake Odorizzi, P, KC -
The 21-year-old righty has been promoted to Double-A after a simply dazzling first half of the season with High-A Wilmington. Odorizzi posted a 2.87 ERA and 103:22 K:BB ratio through 78.1 innings for the Blue Rocks. Opposing batters hit just .235 against him. An interesting statistic to note: Odorizzi is tougher on lefties than righties, despite being a right-hander himself. Lefties hit a putrid .211 against him in 37.0 innings. Regardless of the splits, though, Odorizzi has emerged as one of the better pitching prospects in the game. In fact, with Danny Duffy in the majors, John Lamb undergoing Tommy John surgery and Mike Montgomery having a mediocre season in Triple-A, he might be the best pitching prospect in the Royals system.

3. Kyle Weiland, P, BOS -
Weiland is having a resurgent season at Triple-A Pawtucket after posting a 4.42 ERA at Double-A Portland in 2010. This year, Weiland has a 3.00 ERA and 99:37 K:BB ratio through 93.0 innings in Triple-A. A ground-ball hurler, the 24-year-old righty has notched a 1.38 GO:AO ratio in 2011. On June 29, Weiland tossed an eight-inning, one-hit gem, punching out 12 batters without issuing a single free pass. Though Boston has Alfredo Aceves for some spot starts at the big-league level, Weiland could be tough to pass up without Dice-K and with a struggling John Lackey in the Boston rotation.

4. Kyle Seager, 2B, SEA -
Interestingly, Seager played with current M's second baseman Dustin Ackley at North Carolina, and now they play the same position for Seattle. However, it's tough to ignore the success of the 23-year-old Seager, a 2009 third-round selection of the Mariners. In 66 games for Double-A Jackson, Seager batted .312/.381/.459 with four home runs, 37 RBI and eight steals. Since being promoted to Triple-A Tacoma, Seager is hitting a ridiculous .480/.527/.660 with one home run, nine RBI and one stolen base through 11 games with the Rainers. Should he continue to rake, a September callup is not out of the question.

5. Anthony Gose, OF, TOR -
Gose was traded twice at the deadline last season, in part because his athletic prowess has left many teams salivating at his potential. The Jays snatched him up from Houston for Brett Wallace, and Gose's tools have been on display ever since. He has a line of .258/.352/.408 with eight home runs, 36 RBI and 38 steals through 78 games for Double-A New Hampshire. Gose has improved on the basepaths as well, as he has only been caught 10 times after getting caught stealing 32 times in 2010. The speedster swiped 76 bases in 2009, and he won't turn 21 until August. Plate discipline remains his biggest issue, though; Gose has fanned 78 times this season despite drawing 36 walks, a career-high pace in free passes. Nevertheless, he has time to mature, and his athleticism alone make him an intriguing phenom to keep tabs on.

6. Carlos Martinez, P, STL -
He's not Shelby Miller just yet, but Martinez has supreme abilities nevertheless. The 19-year-old was recently promoted to High-A after compiling a 2.33 ERA and 50:14 K:BB ratio in 38.2 innings at Low-A Quad Cities. Realistically, he projects as more of a right-handed Jaime Garcia. Martinez had a ridiculous 2.21 GO:AO ratio while at Low-A. Martinez was adequate in his High-A debut June 30, allowing two runs on four hits in six innings. The 6-0, 165-pounder walked four, but he struck out seven. With an opponents' BAA hovering below .200, Martinez could become the next big thing for the Cards.

Honorable Mention

1. David Holmberg, P, AZ
2. Nolan Arenado, 3B, COL
3. Kaleb Cowart, 3B, LAA
4. James Darnell, 3B, SD
5. Barrett Loux, P, TEX

DOWNGRADES

1. Josh Vitters, 3B, CHC -
Vitters simply hasn't lived up to his billing since being plucked out of high school with the No. 3 overall selection in the 2007 MLB draft. The 21-year-old is batting .282/.315/.444 with seven home runs and 38 RBI through 73 games with Double-A Tennessee. Vitters has drawn just eight walks this season, despite only striking out 24 times. Vitters has never hit more than 18 home runs nor driven in more than 68 runs in any single season in his minor-league career. Though he's still young, it's still a question whether the switch will ever turn on for Vitters.

2. Donavan Tate, OF, SD -
The oft-injured Tate was recently suspended for 50 games for violating the MLB's substance abuse policy. The No. 3 overall pick has barely seen the field since being drafted No. 3 overall in the 2009 draft. Tate's laundry-list of injuries over the last couple seasons include a sports hernia, a broken jaw from an off-season ATV accident, a concussion, a shoulder sprain, a left knee bruise and an illness that saw him lose 10 pounds. Clearly it's going to take Tate much longer than expected to reach his possible potential, if ever.

3. Dee Gordon, SS, LAD -
Gordon made an initial splash due to an injury to Rafael Furcal, going 3-for-5 with a steal in his major-league debut June 7. However, he hit just 5-for-39 since June 19, and drew just two walks in 82 at-bats in his short stint in the bigs. He'll be back with the big club sooner than later, but it might not be until September unless Furcal gets dealt or injured again. In the interim, he will play every day in Triple-A and work on his plate discipline.

4. Andy Oliver, P, DET -
Phil Coke was recently removed from the Detroit rotation, and Brad Penny has been anything but dependable for the Tigers. This would seemingly be good news for Oliver, but the 23-year-old lefty has been wild at Triple-A Toledo lately. Over his last five starts, Oliver has walked 21 batters in 26.1 innings. Over that same span, the 6-3, 210-pounder has allowed 18 runs. Oliver's last start on Independence Day was extremely curious; though he tossed six innings of scoreless baseball and scattered four hits, Oliver walked six batters. On the plus side, Oliver fanned eight batters in that game and continues to show strikeout stuff. Nevertheless, the Tigers could be hesitant to promote Oliver due to his inconsistent command.

5. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS, TOR -
Hechavarria signed a four-year, $10-million deal with the Blue Jays last April. His glove is his best asset, but he's obviously going to have to hit enough to get to the bigs. That has not been the case in his two minor-league seasons thus far. In 2011 with Double-A New Hampshire, the 22-year-old is hitting .231/.268/.351 with five home runs, 30 RBI and 16 stolen bases. He has also been caught eight times on the basepaths, and has fanned 50 times in 80 games for the Fisher Cats while drawing just 16 walks. His walks, home runs and stolen bases will end up better in 2011 than in 2010, but he hasn't quite shown the improvement with the bat that the Jays were hoping for when they made this investment.

6. Stolmy Pimentel, P, BOS -
Aside from perhaps suffering an injury, Pimentel could not have asked for a worse 2011 season thus far. He came into the year as one of the better prospects in the Red Sox system, at just 21 and already starting in Double-A. However, he has a 9.00 ERA in 49.0 innings for Portland, as opposing batters are hitting an absurd .345 against him. The Sox have actually decided to shorten the leash on Pimentel and only pitch him for about three innings to get his confidence and command back up.

Follow @JesseLSiegel on Twitter.

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