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Minor League Barometer: Pittsburgh's Alternate Universe

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.

With Ichiro Suzuki already finding his way to the Bronx in exchange for two prospects, and Brett Myers leaving Houston for the White Sox with minor leaguers involved, other neophytes will find new homes as well. In a twist almost 20 years in the making, the Pirates are going for it all, as they jettisoned Rudy Owens and Robbie Grossman to the Astros in exchange for Wandy Rodriguez. Grossman was the 2011 Minor League Player of the Year for the Bucs, but started slowly this season and only recently regained his form. Still, Grossman has stellar plate discipline along with decent speed and power for the rebuilding Astros.

With perhaps many more moves to come, we will explore players and teams that could be involved in wheeling and dealing. Let's dive into this week's Minor League Barometer.

UPGRADE

Dan Straily, P, OAK -
The A's recently swept the mighty Yankees and vaulted themselves into playoff contention, flipping the script on what many perceived as a rebuilding year for Oakland. They've been carried by young pitching, the likes of Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin. Could that make the minor-league leader in strikeouts expendable? Not likely, as Straily has been simply dominant since being promoted to Triple-A. The 23-year-old righty has a 0.96 ERA and 63:14 K:BB ratio in 47 innings for Sacramento. Opposing batters are hitting a paltry .127 against him at this level. The only place Straily could move would be to the Oakland Coliseum, as he has emerged as a top-flight pitching phenom for the Athletics.

Gregory Polanco, OF, PIT -
Are we living in an alternate universe? The Pirates have actually become buyers at the deadline. They've certainly got more minor-league talent to pull off another deal with the likes of Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and Starling Marte.  Although none of those players likely will be on the move, the Bucs may have found themselves yet another gem in Polanco. The 20-year-old outfielder is slashing .329/.387/.526 with 13 home runs, 70 RBI and 38 steals through 94 games for Low-A West Virginia. Polanco has been even hotter over his last 10 contests, batting .467 while knocking in 13 runs over that span. Along with breakout prospect Alen Hanson, the Low-A Power have an incredibly formidable lineup, and the Bucs have some impressive youngsters for scouts to feast their eyes on.

Kyle Parker, OF, COL -
 Parker traded in his football cleats for baseball spikes, and it looks like the 22-year-old made the right decision. The former Clemson quarterback is hitting .323/.430/.502 with 10 home runs and 42 RBI through 66 games for High-A Modesto. Over his last 10 games, Parker has batted a robust .535/.608/.791 with two home runs and 11 RBI. With Tim Wheeler struggling at Triple-A, Parker is arguably the top outfield prospect for the Rockies.

Javier Baez, SS, CHC -
Despite being out of the pennant race, is Baez expendable due to the presence of Starlin Castro? Not quite, as Baez is still quite a few years away from making an impact, and the Cubbies have no plans as of now to move Baez. They are also encouraged by the late growth of Triple-A third-baseman Josh Vitters. That means no rush for Baez, who is raking for Low-A Peoria. The 19-year-old is batting .326/.380/.594 with 10 home runs, 24 RBI and 19 steals through 47 games. He has drawn just seven walks while fanning 40 times over that span, though lack of plate discipline is expected at his age. The combination of power and speed makes him an attractive prospect for the Cubbies, as well as potential suitors.

CHECK STATUS

Wilmer Flores, SS, NYM -
 With an amazing first half a distant memory, the Mets will once again look toward the future. Flores has already seen peaks and valleys as a prospect, from being the Mets' savior to becoming the next Fernando Martinez. Flores has come back to the forefront due to improved power, hitting .289/.336/.463 with 10 home runs and 42 RBI through 64 games at High-A before being promoted. At Double-A, the Flores is batting .306/.347/.481 with three home runs and 19 RBI through 28 games. He'll never draw a lot of walks, but he doesn't strike out a ton either. Nevertheless, one has to wonder whether the Mets will look to deal him with the improved play from Ruben Tejada and the surprisingly powerful bat of Jordany Valdespin.

Rob Brantly, C, MIA -
Brantly has already been involved in a trade, coming over to the Marlins from the Tigers in the Anibal Sanchez/Omar Infante deal. The 23-year-old backstop hit .311/.359/.461 in 46 games at Double-A before seeing time at Triple-A prior to the deal. Although his bat faded a bit at that level, Brantly was still considered the top catching prospect in the Tigers system before the deal. With former No. 1 pick Kyle Skipworth failing to cut it as a catcher, Brantly could battle John Buck for time behind the dish as early as 2013 for the Fish.

Nolan Fontana, SS, HOU -
 The Astros have been busy already, having dealt Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez. With Carlos Lee also gone, the Astros could be done trading for now, heading to the AL West in 2013. That leaves their farm system as the focus for Houston. Although No. 1 selection Carlos Correa got all the press, Fontana was the top pick of the second round and is surging in the minors. In 15 games at Low-A, Fontana is batting .308/.507/.462 with one home run, 10 RBI and four stolen bases. The University of Florida product is at least a couple of years away from making an impact, but he's off to a great start for Houston.

Brian Goodwin, OF, WAS -
 Goodwin is a toolsy outfielder who could be used as trade bait if the Nats want to make a real push for the NL Crown. He was recently promoted to Double-A after slashing .324/.438/.542 with nine home runs, 38 RBI and 15 steals through 58 games at High-A. Goodwin's plate discipline was impeccable, as he had more walks (43) than strikeouts (39). The Nats have plenty of outfield options already at the big-league level, which could make the 21-year-old expendable. Still, it's going to take a big name to pry Goodwin from Washington's hands.

DOWNGRADE

Trevor May, P, PHI -
The Phillies likely will be sellers at the trade deadline, so odds are that May will stay put. Nevertheless, the Phils may be looking for arms in return for players like Shane Victorino and perhaps Cole Hamels due to the struggles this season of May and Brody Colvin. May allowed four home runs in his most recent start Monday, giving him 18 dingers surrendered in 2012. May has also been wild, as he has walked 60 batters in 104.2 innings for Double-A Reading. The strikeout stuff remains, as the 23-year-old has fanned 104 batters over that span. Nevertheless, his ERA has ballooned to 5.25 on the season, including 6.30 over his last 10 starts. The inability of May to hit his spots has knocked him down a peg or two on the prospect scale.

Dellin Betances, P, NYY - 
Betances has gone from future Yankees starter, to trade bait, to barely on the radar after a dismal 2012 campaign. The 6-foot-8 righty posted a 71:69 K:BB ratio and 6.39 ERA in 74.2 innings at Triple-A before subsequently being demoted. He hasn't fared much better at Double-A, compiling a 4.88 ERA in 27.2 innings. He got shelled in his last start, allowing seven runs on 10 hits in just three innings. At 24, the potential is turning into consistent lack of command for the burly right-hander. The value for Betances has gone down considerably the last two seasons.

Nestor Molina, P, CHW - 
Molina was the prized acquisition in the Sergio Santos deal last season. In 2011, he notched a 2.21 ERA and 148:16 K:BB ratio in 130.1 innings between High-A and Double-A for the Blue Jays. However, he has been placed on the DL with right elbow discomfort, which is never a good sign for a hurler. He was adequate at best for the White Sox before the injury, posting a 4.90 ERA and 64:20 K:BB ratio in 90 innings, mostly at Double-A. Opposing batters hit .315 against him. The White Sox and fantasy owners alike certainly hope Molina isn't headed for Tommy John surgery.

Zach Lee, P, LAD -
Arguably the top pitching prospect for the Dodgers, Lee has been roughed up since being promoted to Double-A Chattanooga. Lee has an absurdly high 9.45 ERA in 20 innings for the Lookouts. Although he gets a decent amount of ground balls (2.01 GO:AO ratio), opposing batters are hitting a healthy .360 against him. He has also walked 12 batters already after posting a 52:10 K:BB ratio in 55.1 innings at High-A before the promotion. The 21-year-old righty has to miss a few more bats to right the ship.

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