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Minor League Barometer: Pittsburgh's Breakout Star

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.

Talent, upside and potential oozed from all corners of Kauffman Stadium on Sunday, as the annual Futures Game showcased tomorrow's stars of Major League Baseball. While initially billed as a clinic on pitching, it was the hitting that took center stage. In particular, Nick Castellanos of the Tigers and Wil Myers of the Royals showed off their prowess at the dish. Detroit's prized phenom went 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBI, while the pride of Kansas City flashed his own dexterity with the bat. Myers finished the contest 2-for-4 day with three RBI of his own. Texas neophyte Jurickson Profar sent a ball over the fence for the World team, while Cincy's Billy Hamilton showed his speed with a two-run triple for the US squad. About the only disappointment of the day was that Hamilton did not attempt a stolen base.

With the second half of the 2012 campaign upon us, let's look at who else is coming up through the pipeline in this week's Minor League Barometer.

UPGRADE

Noah Syndergaard, P, TOR
The 19-year-old righty has been dominant in 2012 for Low-A Lansing, posting a 3.06 ERA and 80:18 K:BB ratio through 64.2 innings. He is inducing a plethora of ground balls, sporting a 2.05 GO:AO ratio. Opposing batters are hitting just .227 against him. If possible, Syndergaard has been even better over his last six appearances, a stretch over which he has allowed one earned run or fewer in each outing. Paired with fellow rotation mates Aaron Sanchez and Justin Nicolino, the Jays have a lot to be hopeful for with regard to their future pitching prospects.

Alen Hanson, 2B, PIT
Hanson is one of the breakout stars of 2012. The diminutive second baseman has shown incredible, unexpected pop, bashing 15 home runs and knocking in 48 runs for Low-A West Virginia. His hitting line isn't too shabby either, as the 19-year-old is slashing .335/.395/.597. With 22 stolen bases to boot, Hanson has shown the ability to affect the game in a variety of ways. If we're being picky, he's been caught stealing 16 times, and has fanned 73 times in 83 games. However, it is safe to say that Hanson has vaulting to the top of the prospect charts regarding middle infielders.

George Springer, OF, HOU
Springer is in the midst of a 16-game hitting streak for High-A Lancaster that has vaulted his overall numbers to new heights. The 22-year-old is now batting .326/.405/.576 with 17 home runs, 63 RBI and 20 steals through 80 games. Like most young hitters, Springer will have to cut down on the strikeouts, as he has been punched out 96 times on the year. Nevertheless, it is tough to argue with the results so far, and the No. 11 selection in the 2011 draft has lived up to the hype thus far.

Hunter Morris, 1B, MIL
The main knock on Morris coming out of Auburn in 2010 was whether he would have enough power moving forward to hold down a corner infield spot at the big-league level. He did smack 20 home runs in 2011, but a .301 OBP dimmed his prospect star a bit. The 23-year-old has come on strong lately, though, hitting four home runs and knocking in eight runs in his last three games for Double-A Huntsville. Morris now owns a line of .314/.365/.551 with 14 home runs and 67 RBI through 85 games. Though his plate discipline still needs some work, Morris has certainly placed himself back in the conversation for the future plans of the Brew Crew.

CHECK STATUS

Oswaldo Arcia, OF, MIN
The 21-year-old has not had much resistance during his professional career, and was recently promoted to Double-A. Through 18 games, Arcia is slashing .286/.346/.414 with one home run and 14 RBI for the Rock Cats. The issue with Arcia remains plate discipline; though he was better during his stint at High-A, he has fanned 20 times while drawing just five walks since his promotion. With above-average, albeit not overwhelming power, combined with only average speed at best, Arcia will have to improve his patience at the dish at the higher levels if he is to be a fantasy stud.

Anthony Fernandez, P, SEA
With Taijuan Walker and James Paxton in the same rotation, it's certainly easy to be overlooked. However, Fernandez has made his presence felt during his short time at Double-A, posting a 1.08 ERA and 17:3 K:BB ratio through 25 innings for the Generals. Two of his three starts were complete-game victories. The 22-year-old lefty has shown the ability to produce ground balls, along with pinpoint control. At High-A earlier in 2012, he had a 3.68 ERA and 79:14 K:BB ratio. Nobody is saying Fernandez has anywhere close to the upside of Walker and Paxton, but he has been dealing for the M's.

Leandro Castro, OF, PHI
Castro is having himself a fine season for Double-A Reading, hitting .317/.344/.476 with six home runs, 44 RBI and nine steals through 81 games. He has been surging of late, sporting a line of .395/.425/.526 with one home run, six RBI and two steals over his past 10 games. With Shane Victorino reportedly on the outs in Philly, Castro's path to the bigs could be getting easier as well. On the downside, though, Castro has walked just eight times in 2012, while fanning 46 times. Likewise, he has not hit above .277 in each of the previous two seasons for the Phils. Make sure this is not a fluke, and Castro is for real, before snatching him up.

Joc Pederson, OF, LAD
Pederson has been on fire lately, hitting .362/.400/.702 with four home runs, eight RBI and three steals over his last 10 contests at High-A Rancho Cucamonga. This recent outburst included three bombs in one game on July 1. Pederson also continues to crush left-handed pitching to the tune of a .359 batting-average. The 20-year-old has an intriguing combination of speed, emerging power and plate discipline that should make him a phenom to keep on your radar. However, none of his skills on their own are off-the-charts, meaning he'll likely have to produce in all of the previously referenced categories to be a viable fantasy starter. Overall in 2012, he is batting .298/.369/.438 with six home runs, 23 RBI and 11 stolen bases through 60 games.

DOWNGRADE

Cito Culver, SS, NYY
Considered a bit of a reach by the Yankees in the first round of the 2010 draft, Culver has had his share of struggles with the bat since entering the minors. His first season at Low-A has been no exception, as the 19-year-old is batting .206/.318/.273 with two home runs, 26 RBI and 14 steals through 74 games. He continues to draw a nice amount of walks, and has plus-speed. However, an average hovering around the Mendoza line will not cut it. Culver is young and obviously deserves some slack and time to mature. Still, his brief time in pinstripes has certainly been no walk in the park.

Andrew Susac, C, SF
A few factors are working against Susac at this point in time. At the outset, he is blocked by Buster Posey at the big-league level. He is even blocked by Tommy Joseph at Double-A, while Joseph is also over a year younger than Susac. He's not exactly tearing the cover off the ball either, hitting .234/.359/.364 with six home runs and 28 RBI through 60 games for High-A San Jose. His plate discipline is much better than Joseph's, but otherwise Joseph is considered a higher-rated prospect. Susac may need a trade to see the big-leagues anytime soon.

Ian Krol, P, OAK
Krol has had some off-field issues that have hampered his growth and progress. He missed nearly all 2011 due to a forearm injury as well as a two-month suspension for conduct unbecoming of a professional baseball player. The hard-throwing lefty is finally back in 2012, but with not nearly as much success. He has a 4.90 ERA and 59:20 K:BB ratio in 71.2 innings for High-A Stockton. He's been a victim of the home run ball, including surrendering six dingers in his last five outings. Krol has some serious work to do to get back into the good graces of the Oakland organization.

Julio Teheran, P, ATL
Despite numerous opportunities to seize a slot in Atlanta's rotation, Teheran has floundered this season, posting a 4.92 ERA and 53:29 K:BB ratio in 75 innings at Triple-A. The 21-year-old was bombed in his last start on July 8, giving up seven runs on nine hits in five innings pitched. Teheran served up four home runs in the process. The 6-2 righty stormed through the minors up until this season, including a 2.55 ERA and 122:48 K:BB ratio for Triple-A Gwinnett in 2011. As a result, his struggles appear to be mostly mental, and the youngster still has time to turn things around. Suffice to say, though, it's been a disappointing season for Teheran and his fantasy owners, many who thought he'd be a staple in the Braves' MLB rotation by now.

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