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Minor League Barometer: September Callups Abound

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.

September callups are here as rosters expand, which should give some minor-leaguers their first respective tastes of The Show. Although many prospects have broken through to the bigs already this season, there are still more waiting in the wings. Leonys Martin will debut for the Rangers after being called up on Tuesday, while Brett Jackson should see Wrigley for the Cubbies. The Yankees could bring up one or both of the "Killer B's" (Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances) to aid their bullpen. Meanwhile, Anthony Rizzo should come back to San Diego for the Padres after his first attempt at the starting first base job did not go so well.

Who will see the light, and who could be left in the dark? Let's find out in this edition of the Minor League Barometer.

UPGRADES

Jesus Montero, C, NYY -
What else does Montero need to do to earn a promotion? The "Free Jesus" campaign is in full effect among Yankees fans and prospect gurus alike. The 21-year-old phenom has had two multi-homer games in his last seven contests, as well as 12 RBI over that span. He is slashing .290/.350/.471 for the season, including a blistering .361/.425/.833 over his last 10 games. With the recent power surge, Montero now has 18 dingers and 67 RBI on the year, bringing his numbers back to where they should be. The Yankees have been supremely cautious with their prized phenom, but with nearly two full seasons at Triple-A under his belt, it will be tough to keep him down in the minors any longer.

Gary Brown, OF, SF -
The Mets asked for Brown from the Giants as part of the Carlos Beltran trade, but San Francisco wouldn't budge. Brown has been scorching lately to the tune of .447/.509/.745 with two home runs, 12 RBI and four steals over his last 10 games for High-A San Jose. I like to think of Brown as Mike Trout light, even though Trout is younger than Brown. Oddly enough, the two were selected back-to-back in the 2010 draft. Overall, the 22-year-old Brown is hitting .334/.404/.508 with 12 home runs, 78 RBI and 49 steals at High-A.
Although Trout is already in the majors as a 20-year-old, the Giants are never shy with their prospects, and Brown could see the bigs as early as late 2012.

Zach Cox, 3B, STL -
Cox has been hitting for average all season, but his power has finally come around lately. The 22-year-old has mashed five home runs and driven in 10 runs over his last 10 contests for Double-A Springfield. The No. 25 overall selection in the 2010 draft, Cox is batting .315/.372/.448 with 13 home runs and 68 RBI between two levels this season in his first full season as a professional. David Freese has had an injury-plagued campaign and is by no means an automatic at third for the Cards.

Domingo Santana, OF, HOU -
Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Singleton were the big-name prospects in the Hunter Pence deal, but Santana ended up being the "Player To Be Named" in the trade. Santana is a toolsy outfielder who was signed as an undrafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2009. The 19-year-old has been raking since coming to Houston. Over his last 10 games, Santana is batting .366/.447/.732 with four home runs and 15 RBI for Low-A Lexington. As with most young players he's battled strikeout issues, as Santana has fanned 130 times in 107 games this season. However, he has shown a penchant for drawing some walks too, and at 6-foot-5, 200, Santana has the ability to develop a power stroke as he matures and refines his swing. The struggling 'Stros are desperate for more talent, and Santana certainly fits the bill.

Billy Hamilton, SS, CIN -
The last player to steal 100 bases in a single minor-league season? Chris Morris for the Cardinals in 2001. With only a few games left in the minor-league season, Hamilton has 95 stolen bases. Although he'll need to get on his horse to surpass the vaunted 100-steal plateau, the task may not be as daunting as it seems, considering that the 19-year-old has swiped 13 bags over his last 10 games for Low-A Dayton. Hamilton has been on fire overall, hitting a robust .457/.500/.500 over those last 10 contests. If Hamilton can continue to improve his plate discipline and contact rate, he could be an absolute terror once he is ready to hit prime time.

Starling Marte, OF, PIT -
Pirates prospects continually get a bad rap, and perhaps with good reason; the Bucs are on pace for their 20th straight losing season. Still, Andrew McCutchen has developed into a star, and Pittsburgh is hoping that Marte will eventually join him and Jose Tabata in the outfield. Marte is hitting .335/.373/.510 with 12 home runs, 50 RBI and 22 steals through 122 games for Double-A Altoona. The bump in power has been most welcome for the 21-year-old, who has 15 dingers since entering the minors in 2007. Marte has not batted below .309 since 2008. He's been scorching recently to boot, hitting .415/.489/.732 with two home runs, six RBI and one steal over his last 10 contests for the Curve. If his power stroke proves legit, Marte could be among the upper-echelon of prospects heading into the 2102 campaign.

Honorable Mention

1. Matt Heidenreich, P, CWS
2. Tyler Skaggs, P, AZ
3. Tom Milone, P, WAS
4. Christian Yelich, 3B, FL
5. Tyler Thornburg, P, MIL

DOWNGRADES

Domonic Brown, OF, PHI -
Brown's 2011 season certainly has not gone as planned. Originally penciled in to replace Jayson Werth in right field, Brown broke his hand in spring training and lost the starting job to Ben Francisco. Brown finally ended up back with the Phils mid-season, playing a mediocre 54 games, hitting .246/.335/.393 with five home runs and 19 RBI. However, the Phils then traded for Hunter Pence, forcing Brown back to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. As recently as two weeks ago, Brown was mired in a 4-for-34 slump in the minors, and is hitting just .265 for the IronPigs. Now Philadelphia GM Ruben Amaro has said that Brown might need time off from baseball and the 23-year-old may not even be a September call-up. In a span of five months, Brown has gone from projected starter for the NL favorites to struggling, blocked minor-leaguer at Triple-A.

Kyle Drabek, P, TOR -
Perhaps the Jays put too much pressure too soon on their young stud pitcher, as Drabek made 14 poor starts for the big club, posting a 5.70 ERA before demoting him to Triple-A Las Vegas. Sadly, the 23-year-old has been even worse in the minors. Drabek has a 7.41 ERA and 41:41 K:BB ratio through 68.0 innings for the 51s. Opposing batters are hitting an astounding .361 against him. In his last start on Aug. 29, Drabek allowed nine runs on eight hits in just four innings. Drabek likely just wants 2011 to end, as he will try to come back fresh in 2012.

Matthew Szczur, OF, CHC -
Just a temporary downgrade for Szczur (pronounced Caesar), who likely will enter 2012 as the best prospect in the Cubs system, assuming Brett Jackson ends up with the big club in September and beyond. However, the 22-year-old Szczur has struggled lately, hitting just .186/.182/.326 over his past 10 games at High-A Daytona. Overall, he's batting .236/.262/.376 with four home runs, 15 RBI and seven steals through 40 games for Daytona. Scouts like his combination of speed, contact and emerging power, but he hasn't shown that any of those tools by themselves are superior.

Drew Pomeranz, P, COL -
Pomeranz is an elite prospect for 2012 and forward, but his 2011 season is over. After throwing a sparkling shutout in his debut for Double-A Tulsa on Aug. 17, Pomeranz underwent an emergency appendectomy. Obviously, this quells any talk of having Pomeranz pitch in the majors in 2011 for the fading Rockies, which had been given some thought prior to the injury. The recovery time is not long, and the 22-year-old lefty will absolutely be fine for 2012. Still, it is also worth noting that Pomeranz will make half of his starts in the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field. Though sometimes ballpark effects get a tad overblown, coming into 2011 the only pitcher with a career ERA less than 4.00 while pitching for the Rockies was Ubaldo Jimenez. The Rockies came into existence in 1993.

Carlos Martinez, P, STL -
Martinez is just 19, and blew away the competition at Low-A earlier this season to the tune of a 2.33 ERA and 50:14 K:BB ratio in 38.2 innings at Quad Cities. High-A has been a different story. though, as Martinez has a bloated 5.49 ERA and 43:26 K:BB ratio through 41.0 innings for Palm Beach. His location has been off since the promotion, as he has been getting fewer ground balls while walking a greater number of batters. Martinez remains an upper-echelon phenom for the Cardinals, but I don't put him on par with uber-prospect Shelby Miller just yet.

Derek Norris, C, WAS -
It's been an up and down season for Norris, still considered one of the better catching prospects in the game. The power has been there for the 22-year-old, but the batting average has not. Norris has 19 home runs for Double-A Harrisburg through 98 games, but is batting just .204 on the year. Norris is extremely patient at the dish, drawing 68 walks thus far, but has also fanned 110 times. Over his last 10 games, Norris is batting a paltry .184/.225/.368 with two home runs, five RBI and 16 strikeouts. The dearth of catching prospects in baseball means Norris will absolutely remain in the Nats plans for 2012 and beyond, but the front office and fantasy owners alike certainly can't be thrilled with a batting average hovering around the Mendoza Line.