St. Louis Cardinals' prospect Matt Adams will get the opportunity to man first base in the absence of Lance Berkman, as the Puma will miss at least the next two months due to a knee injury. Adams was raking in Triple-A, batting .340/.375/.603 with nine home runs and 27 RBI in 37 games for Memphis. The 23-year-old managed two hits in his big-league debut, and should provide some nice power in the absence of Berkman, Allen Craig and the Artist Formerly Known as Albert Pujols.
Let's see who else has a debut on the horizon in this week's Minor League Barometer.
Trevor Bauer, P, ARI – Everyone wants to talk about Bauer, the 21-year-old righty taking the minors by storm. After Double-A hitters proved no match for him, the 21-year-old was promoted to Triple-A and promptly fanned 11 batters in his first start. Bauer allowed one run on just four hits in eight innings. That gives him a 1.60 ERA and 71:27 K:BB ratio through 56.1 innings this season. Bauer could be forcing Arizona's hand despite the glut of starters sitting ahead of him on the D-Backs' big-league roster. However, arguably none possess the electricity of Bauer, and it would not be surprising to see him in the majors before summer.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, CHC – A Triple-A stud once again this season, Rizzo has been stuck in the minors due to the breakout season of 29-year-old Bryan LaHair. However, with the Cubbies continuing to have hitting issues, particularly with their outfield, LaHair could be switching positions to open up a spot for Rizzo. The 22-year-old is slashing .344/.413/.681 with 14 home runs and 39 RBI in 42 games for Triple-A Iowa. Although he struggled in his short stay in the bigs last season, Rizzo was also just 21 and playing in a pitcher-friendly park. Odds are he will have more success when called upon this time around.
Dylan Bundy, P, BAL – Bauer and Bundy are 1A and 1B when determining the most dominant hurler in the minors thus far in 2012. Although Bundy is farther from the big-leagues due to being drafted straight out of high school, he has simply manhandled opposing hitters at Low-A. The 19-year-old righty has a 0.00 ERA and 40:2 K:BB ratio through 30 innings for Delmarva. Yes, you read those stats correctly. He has allowed just five hits over that span. He even tossed five innings each over his last two starts, being stretched out at a far advanced rate. The O's have been a bit cautious with their pitching prospects the last few seasons, and may choose not to rush Bundy, particularly with the success of the big-league squad. However, it is not outside the realm of possibility that he finishes the year at Double-A.
Travis d'Arnaud, C, TOR – One of the top catching prospects in baseball, d'Arnaud has surged recently. The 23-year-old backstop is hitting .333/.364/.738 with five home runs and 10 RBI over his last 10 games for Triple-A Las Vegas. Unfortunately for him, the hot streak has coincided with that of Blue Jays' catcher J.P. Arencibia. Still, d'Arnaud projects to hit for a higher average than J.P., and is also much more disciplined at the dish. Overall, d'Arnaud is batting .294/.355/.50 with seven home runs and 21 RBI. If Arencibia's average starts to dip below that .250 line again, d'Arnaud could be on his way to Toronto sooner rather than later.
Jacob Brigham, P, TEX – Brigham is having a nice season for Double-A Frisco as he has been transitioned back to the starting rotation. The 24-year-old righty has a 2.98 ERA and 52:15 K:BB ratio through 57.1 innings for the Rough Riders. Opposing batters are hitting just .218 against him, and he has been yielding a decent amount of ground balls (1.22 GO:AO ratio). His command has been an issue in the past, so it remains to be seen if he can keep this up over the long haul. However, if he does, the Rangers could have yet another phenom on their hands.
Jenrry Mejia, P, NYM – Before missing nearly all of 2011 due to Tommy John surgery, Mejia was arguably the top prospect for the Mets. He's on his way back, having started for Double-A Binghamton on Saturday. Mejia allowed one run on six hits in three innings. The 22-year-old did not walk a batter, while striking out three. A power arm with strikeout potential, Mejia has to answer two big questions before emerging as a must-own option once again. Can he stay healthy? And will he be a starter or pitch out of the bullpen? A healthy starter in the big-league rotation would be ideal for fantasy owners, but the New York organization may have other plans.
Christian Colon, SS, KC – Could Colon finally be tapping into his potential? The No. 4 overall selection in the 2010 draft out of Cal State-Fullerton had been rather disappointing heading into the 2012 campaign. However, his 2012 numbers have been better, as Colon is hitting .312/.370/.433 with three home runs, 15 RBI and eight steals through 42 games for Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He's been on a tear his past 10 contests, slashing .364/.462/.455 with one home run, three RBI and four steals. If he continues to steal bases, his value will be much improved. It does not appear Colon will hit for much power at the higher levels. Nevertheless, his pristine batting average thus far in 2012 from a middle-infield position makes him an intriguing prospect to watch.
Chris Heston, P, SF - Sleeper alert: Heston, 24, has a 0.79 ERA and 39:11 K:BB ratio through 50.2 innings for Double-A Richmond. He won't be a future ace, but his ground-ball rate makes him an attractive option, particularly given where he will eventually be pitching. Heston posted a 1.90 GO:AO ratio in 2010, following by a 2.20 GO;AO ratio in 2011. He's been a bit up in the zone this season, but has still posted a 1.43 GO:AO ratio. And it clearly hasn't hurt him too much, as opposing batters are hitting a putrid .185 against him. Heston has allowed two earned runs his past six starts, a span of 39.2 innings. That type of production is difficult to ignore.
Vincent Catricala, 3B, SEA – The Mariners' Minor League Player of the Year in 2011, Catricala destroyed the competition between High-A and Double-A to the tune of .349/.421/.601 with 25 home runs, 106 RBI and 17 stolen bases. This season has been a vastly different story, though, as the 23-year-old is batting just .206/.256/.263 with one home run and 21 RBI through 40 games for Triple-A Tacoma. The lack of production is particularly disconcerting given the friendly hitting confines of the Pacific Coast League. The fact that Kyle Seager is tearing it up at third at the big-league level in front of him doesn't help Catricala's cause either. Having never hit below .301 at any level coming into the year, he now has his work cut out for him.
Destin Hood, OF, WAS – A second-round pick in 2008, the 22-year-old showed an interesting combination of speed, power and plate discipline in 2011, slashing .276/.364/.445 with 13 home runs, 83 RBI and 21 steals in 128 games for High-A Potomac. He has not had the same type of success in 2012 though, hitting .223/.291/.306 with one home run, 18 RBI and five steals at Double-A. While he has always had difficulty with strikeouts, he was able to draw 58 walks last season despite fanning 96 times. In 2012, he has drawn just 14 walks in 40 games while striking out 37 times. He has also never hit above .285 in his minor-league career. Hood has the physical gifts, but it remains to be seen if they will translate into baseball skills at the higher levels.
Hak-Ju Lee, SS, TB – It was all good just a year ago. In 2011, the 21-year-old Lee was dismantling the Florida State League, hitting .318/.389/.443 with four home runs, 23 RBI and 28 steals in 97 games at High-A. Double-A has been a rude awakening, though, as he hit .190 in 24 games to end that year with Montgomery, and is batting just .235/.303/.306 through 44 games in 2012. Although he's swiped 12 bags, Lee has been caught five times, while failing to smack a single home run. He has also been punched out 39 times to start the season. While his glove and speed will carry him through slumps, a low batting average will definitely hurt his fantasy appeal coupled with his lack of power.
Kyle Heckathorn, P, MIL – Heckathorn and fellow rotation mate Tyler Thornburg appear to be headed in opposite directions. The 23-year-old Heckathorn has been blown up in his last two starts, including a grotesque outing Sunday in which he lasted just two innings. The 6-foot-6, 225, righty allowed seven runs on seven hits. He walked two batters while failing to record a strikeout. That start ballooned Heckathorn's ERA to 5.32. Despite a stellar K:BB ratio (40:9 in 47.1 innings), Heckathorn has not been missing enough bats of late, and his ERA has suffered greatly as a consequence.
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