Stephen Strasburg has been grabbing headlines for the Nationals lately as he makes his way back from Tommy John surgery. However, the Nats have three other pitchers in the lower tiers of their minor-league system who warrant mentioning. Robbie Ray, A.J. Cole and Sammy Solis have mowed down the competition in 2011 without much fanfare. The 20-year-old Ray has a 2.09 ERA and 89:35 K:BB ratio in 81.2 innings for Low-A Hagerstown. Opposing batters are hitting a putrid .199 against the left-hander. The 19-year-old righty Cole has a 3.43 ERA and 89:21 K:BB ratio also for Hagerstown. Solis is the elder statesman of the crew, as the 22-year-old lefty has a 3.35 ERA and 35:10 K:BB ratio in 40.1 innings since being called up to High-A Potomac. Cole has the most upside, but all three remain highly touted for a Washington squad that will still need depth behind Strasburg and Brad Peacock at the big-league level.
Who else might have what it takes? Let's look in this week's Minor League Barometer.
1. Daniel Corcino, P, CIN - Corcino has gone from relative anonymity to one of the most talked-about prospects in the Cincinnati system. The 20-year-old righty has a 3.25 ERA and 139:29 K:BB ratio through 124.2 innings for Low-A Daytona. Opposing batters are hitting just .235 against him. His last start on Aug. 15 was perhaps his best of the season, as Corcino tossed six shutout innings for the Dragons. Corcino fanned 10 batters for the game, while walking just one. Signed out of the Dominican Republic as an undrafted free agent in 2008, Corcino is now arguably the best pitching prospect on the Reds farm.
2. Chad Bettis, P, COL - Bettis has turned in an excellent 2011 campaign for High-A Modesto, posting a 3.33 ERA and 168:43 K:BB ratio through 159.2 innings for the Nuts. His last 10 starts have been even better; over that span, the 22-year-old righty has a 2.35 ERA and 72:17 K:BB ratio, while holding opposing hitters to an anemic .189 BAA. With the struggles of Christian Friedrich and Tyler Matzek, Bettis might be the top pitching prospect for the Rockies at this time.
3. Paul Clemens, P, HOU - An afterthought in the Michael Bourn deal, Clemens has tossed four quality starts in a row since joining the Astros at Double-A Corpus Christi. The 23-year-old righty has a 22:11 K:BB ratio through 25.1 innings for the Hooks with a 1.05 ERA. Although he certainly does not have the upside of a Jarred Cosart or Jordan Lyles, Clemens could be an effective big-league pitcher at the back of a rotation if he can bring down his walk total.
4. Taylor Green, 3B, MIL - Few hitters have been as hot as Green lately, as the 24-year-old third baseman is batting .395/.437.579 with two home runs and seven RBI over his past 10 games for Triple-A Nashville. Green's overall stats for the Sounds are actually not that much different; this season, Green is hitting .337/.416/.580 with 21 home runs and 82 RBI. The Brewers have opened up a nice lead in the NL Central; combine that with Casey McGehee's struggles, and Green could get an opportunity to contribute come September.
5. Miguel Sano, 3B, MIN - Perhaps no prospect has received more notoriety the last month than Sano, an 18-year-old from the Dominican Republic who has shown superior power for the Twins. Sano has bashed 16 home runs and driven in 44 runs in 57 games for Elizabethtown of the Appalachian League. Naturally, Sano is still raw, and has fanned 67 times this year. However, the teen-ager has also drawn 18 walks this season, and is hitting .302 over his past 10 contests. It's his power that has pundits salivating, though, and Sano should be among the elite prospects in baseball heading into 2012.
6. Drew Hutchison, P, TOR - Deck McGuire gets the pub, but Hutchison is a year younger and will join McGuire at Double-A New Hampshire shortly. It will be Hutchison's third level this season; between Low-A and High-A, the 21-year-old righty has a 2.68 ERA and 150:33 K:BB ratio in 134.1 innings. Hutchison gets a bevy of groundballs as well, posting a 1.47 GO:AO ratio in 2011. With opposing batters hitting just .223 against him to boot, Hutchison has displayed all the tools to emerge as a standout prospect for the Jays.
1. Bryce Brentz, OF, BOS
2. Chris Dwyer, P, KC
3. Michael Olt, 3B, TEX
4. Jacob Turner, P, DET
5. Tommy Joseph, C, SF
1. Tyson Gillies, OF, PHI - Gillies was one of three prospects the Phillies acquired from the Mariners when they dealt Cliff Lee to Seattle in 2009. While JC Ramirez and Phillippe Aumont, the other two prospects in the deal, have proven their worth this season for Philly, Gillies played in just three games for High-A Clearwater due to hamstring and foot issues. He has been ruled out for the rest of the season by the Phillies. In 2009, Gillies batted .341/.430/.486 with nine home runs, 42 RBI and 44 steals at High-A. He has played in just 31 games since, and the 22-year-old must show he can stay healthy if he wants to figure into the future plans of the organization.
2. Bryce Harper, OF, WAS - All aboard the obvious train, as Harper will miss the rest of the minor-league season due to a hamstring injury. Despite not making his big-league debut this year, 2011 still has to be viewed as a successful season for the Nats' uber-prospect, as Harper displayed his immense power and speed en route to making it to Double-A as an 18-year-old. With some touting Harper as the first possible 50-50 player in MLB history, Harper could eventually change baseball forever. It just won't happen in 2011.
3. Peter Tago, P, COL - The No. 47 overall selection in the 2010 draft, Tago has been downright dreadful in 2011 for Low-A Asheville. In 82.2 innings, the 19-year-old lefty has a 6.21 ERA and 55:59 K:BB ratio for the Tourists. Not surprisingly from those statistics, Tago's inability to find the strike zone has been his greatest detraction. Tago has walked at least three batters in each of his last five starts and walked an insane eight batters July 5. Tago still has time to mature, but it is safe to say that 2011 has not gone as planned for the right-hander.
4. C.J. Cron, 1B, LAA - Cron signed with the Angels and immediately began scalding the ball for the Orem Owlz of the Pioneer League. The No. 17 overall pick in this year's draft, Cron hit .308/.371/.629 with 13 home runs and 41 RBI in 34 games. Interestingly, Cron played as a DH only despite a torn labrum that was going to be repaired in the offseason. However, he also dislocated his kneecap a couple of weeks ago and will sit out the rest of the season. The kneecap was put back into place, but Cron still may need arthroscopic surgery to remove loose particles in the knee as well. The shoulder surgery was supposed to sideline Cron for anywhere from 3-9 months; obviously multiple operations and injuries are never good. One of the best collegiate bats in this year's draft, it will be interesting to see how quickly Cron recovers from these ailments.
5. Allen Webster, P, LAD - Webster has been blown up in his last three starts for Double-A Chattanooga. The 21-year-old righty has allowed a staggering 20 runs on 27 hits in his last 8.2 innings of work. Webster has ben catching far too much of the plate; over his last 10 starts, opposing batters are hitting .335 against him en route to a 6.00 ERA. Although he remains one of the better prospects for the Dodgers, and his penchant for groundballs should let him right the ship eventually, he has been anything but dominant since reaching Double-A this season.
6. Chih-Hsien Chiang, OF, SEA - A change of scenery hasn't done Chiang well. The 23-year-old was simply monstrous for Double-A Portland in Boston's organization before the deal, hitting .340/.402/.648 with 18 home runs, 76 RBI and six steals in 88 contests. Since coming over from the BoSox in the Erik Bedard trade, Chiang is batting just .220/.261/.293 with eight RBI and one steal in 20 games for Double-A Jackson. He has fanned 22 times over that span, while drawing just three walks. With the M's rotating a lot of young players in the outfield (Trayvon Robinson, Casper Wells and Mike Carp, to name a few), Chiang has his work cut out for him.
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