So much for seeing Bryce Harper in 2011 with the big club. Since being promoted to Double-A Harrisburg, and skipping High-A altogether, the 18-year-old phenom is batting just .194/.265/.194 with two RBI and one steal in nine games for the Senators. He has seven strikeouts over that span. Though clearly the sample size is small, and this minor blip does nothing to diminish Harper's overall promise, it now seems highly unlikely that Bryce will see the inside of Nationals Park in September - other than perhaps as a spectator.
Moving on, let's look at the rest of the prospect scene in this week's Minor League Barometer.
1. Martin Perez, P, TEX - Perez spent parts of three seasons at Double-A Frisco, but it was largely due to his youth. Perez entered Double-A as an 18-year-old in 2009, and struggled at that level in 2010, posting a bloated 5.96 ERA in 99.2 innings. The left-hander walked 50 batters over that span and could not seem to find the plate after displaying pinpoint control at High-A. However, he performed much better in 2011 for Frisco, compiling a 3.16 ERA and 83:36 K:BB ratio in 88.1 innings. He produced ground balls in abundance to the tune of a 1.40 GO:AO ratio. The Rangers were satisfied enough with his performance to finally promote him to Triple-A. In his first start at Round Rock, Perez tossed five innings on July 16, allowing one run on six hits. Perez did not walk a batter while fanning four. The scariest thought? Just 20 and already one of the better prospects in the game, Perez actually should get even better.
2. Brett Lawrie, 3B, TOR - Lawrie has been a constant on this year's Barometer, for both negative and positive reasons. This time around, Lawrie is finally back at Triple-A Las Vegas after battling through a broken left hand suffered at the end of May. He was mighty close to a promotion at the time of the injury, hitting .354/.415/.677 with 15 home runs, 49 RBI and 11 steals through 52 games at Triple-A. Should he come out of the gates hot for Las Vegas, he could see the big-league roster in August. When healthy, the 21-year-old is an elite prospect and could be a chic pickup down the stretch in 2011.
3. Garrett Richards, P, LAA - Lost in the Mike Trout hype and the trade of Tyler Skaggs to Arizona has been the steady production of Richards, arguably the best prospect currently in the Halos system. Richards has a 3.27 ERA and 83:33 K:BB ratio through 113.0 innings for Double-A Arkansas. The 23-year-old righty has a decent 1.32 GO:AO ratio, including a 1.52 ratio over his past 10 contests. Opposing batters are hitting just .223 against him. The combination of control and grounders makes Richards a good bet to succeed.
4. Vincent Catricala, 3B, SEA - The M's recently brought up Kyle Seager to man the hot corner at the big-league level, but Catricala might give him a run for his money by 2012. The 22-year-old is batting .333/.368/.623 with four home runs and 21 RBI through 17 games for Double-A Jackson. He earned a promotion by simply massacring High-A pitching earlier this season to the tune of .351/.421/.574 with 14 home runs, 61 RBI and eight steals in 71 games at High Desert. Catricala has never hit less than.301 since entering the minors in 2009, and has also cut down on his strikeouts in 2011. Catricala should certainly be garnering more attention than he is receiving.
5. Christian Friedrich, P, COL - Aftr a rocky start to his 2011 campaign, Friedrich has really settled down for Double-A Tulsa. Over his last 10 starts, the 23-year-old lefty has posted a 2.87 ERA and 44:12 K:BB ratio in 59.2 innings. He has been getting an increasing amount of ground balls recently as well, accumulating a 1.32 GO:AO ratio over that span. Friedrich has also been able to limit the damage with a 3.75 ERA overall despite surrendering 14 home runs this season. If he can continue to keep the ball down, Friedrich should be able to climb his way back into the upper tier of prospects.
6. Matt Adams, 1B, STL - Though obviously the Cardinals would love to re-sign Albert Pujols, there is no guarantee that Prince Albert will be coming back to St. Louis in 2012. Enter the 22-year-old Adams, who was originally drafted in the 23rd round as a catcher in 2009, but has shifted to first due to an explosive power bat. In 69 games this season for Double-A Springfield, Adams is batting .344/.394/.638 with 20 home runs and 64 RBI. Adams has never hit less than .310 in the minors. Despite little publicity coming out of Slippery Rock University, Adams has emerged as one of the better prospects in the St. Louis system.
1. Jake Marisnick, OF, TOR
2. Ryan Lavarnway, C, BOS
3. Alexander Colome, P, TB
4. Brandon Allen, 1B, AZ
5. Yorman Rodriguez, OF, CIN
1. Reymond Fuentes, OF, SD - Over his last 10 games, the speedy 20-year-old is batting just .135/.304/.162 with no stolen bases for High-A Lake Elsinore. Fuentes has flashed his speed in 2011 with 34 steals in 44 tries, but has hit just one home run and likely will never develop much power. He has also battled some strikezone issues, fanning 77 times in 82 games. Fuentes is still just 20 years old, but needs to work on his plate discipline if he is to become a prototypical leadoff hitter.
2. Jarred Cosart, P, PHI - This is merely a temporary downgrade for Cosart, who is a stellar prospect for the Phils, has a live fastball and decent curveball while adding a change-up to his repertoire. However, he has been blasted over his last three starts for High-A Clearwater. In fact, Cosart had possibly the worst start of his young career July 18, allowing seven earned runs on seven hits while lasting just one inning. Over his last nine innings, the 21-year-old righty has allowed 18 hits and 14 earned runs. He has walked four batters while striking out seven over that span. Cosart has the tools, but he has clearly struggled lately.
3. Jeurys Familia, P, NYM - Familia has been placed on the disabled list with right shoulder impingement. Any time a pitcher is diagnosed with elbow or shoulder problems there is some cause for concern, though the ultimate prognosis for Familia has yet to be determined. Still, the 21-year-old also missed time in late June/early July with shoulder soreness as well. Familia had been having a monster season for the Mets, posting a 3.38 ERA and 64:25 K:BB ratio through 56.0 innings for Double-A Binghamton. He simply dominated at High-A earlier this season before being promoted, amassing a 1.49 ERA and 36:8 K:BB ratio in 36.1 innings. With the Mets likely sellers at the trading deadline, expect them to be extremely cautious with Familia, who has emerged as one of their better prospects.
4. Neil Ramirez, P, TEX - Another pitcher battling shoulder issues is Ramirez, who has been shut down for the time being with shoulder stiffness. Though he has no structural damage, the Rangers have been surging recently, and the 22-year-old will also have to battle with the above-mentioned Martin Perez, as well as Michael Kirkman and even perhaps Brandon Webb eventually for a spot in the Texas rotation. Ramirez had a 3.68 ERA and 85:35 K:BB ratio through 73.1 innings at Triple-A Round Rock.
5. Aaron Hicks, OF, MIN - I have continually been down on Hicks over the past couple of seasons, much more so than others. He has been a work-in-progress since being drafted with the No. 14 overall selection in 2008. The process has been slow converting him from an athlete to a baseball player. At 21, he has never hit more than eight home runs and never stolen more than 21 bases in a season. Likewise, from 2009 on he has failed to hit above .279. Although he has shown patience and the ability to draw walks, he has also had a penchant for striking out. In 80 games in 2011, Hicks has fanned 74 times for High-A Fort Myers. His 2011 line is .267/.377/.409 with four home runs, 29 RBI and 11 steals for the Miracle. Over his last 10 games, he is batting .222 with 13 strikeouts. His power has yet to develop, and he has not shown enough base-stealing potential to make him the elite prospect that so many consider him, at least in my book.
6. Jonathan Villar, SS, HOU - As great as fellow infielder Jose Altuve has been for Double-A Corpus Christi, that's as bad as Villar has been in 36 games for the Hooks. The 20-year-old shortstop is batting .204/.259/.340 with four home runs, 11 RBI and six steals. He has fanned an astounding 48 times over that span, while drawing just 10 walks. Villar still has time to mature, but he doesn't project to hit for much power, has never hit above .277 at any level, and struck out 153 times in 2010. As a speedy middle infielder, the inability to make contact and get on the basepaths is a definite concern.
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