The dog days of August are upon us. The grueling marathon that is the MLB season has taken its toll on numerous teams, whether through injury or lack of success. This means prospects will begin to make even more of a mark on the ever-changing landscape of baseball, culminating in a bevy of September callups. The Rangers recently promoted power prospect Mike Olt to the big club to boost their corner infield slots in a push toward the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Cubbies have thrown in the towel and promoted phenoms Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters to help the youngsters gain experience and confidence, as well as showcase their skills for the future.
Who else could see the majors as we creep toward the finish line in 2012? Let's look in this week's Minor League Barometer.
Wil Myers, OF, KC In 72 games for Triple-A Omaha, Myers is slashing .284/.366/.572 with 20 home runs and 63 RBI. The 21-year-old has been extremely productive over his last 10 contests, bashing four home runs while knocking in 14 runs. Although Myers is still striking out a bit too much (81 Ks in 72 games), his power is definitely for real, and he is not afraid of drawing an occasional walk either. With the Royals out of contention once again, Myers will be no worse than a September promotion.
Jose Cisnero, P, HOU Cisnero's first two starts for Triple-A Oklahoma City have been gems. The 23-year-old righty tossed two quality starts, compiling a 1.29 ER and 10:4 K:BB ratio in 14 innings. Cisnero was dominant at Double-A before being promoted, accumulating 116 strikeouts in 108.2 innings, along with a 3.40 ERA. The Astros are in full rebuilding mode, and with Cisnero having a breakout season, he should figure prominently in the club's plans, for the rest of this season and beyond.
Alexander Colome, P, TB The 23-year-old righty had a successful first start for Triple-A Durham Friday, tossing six scoreless innings while allowing just two hits. Although Colome walked four batters, he also fanned four. Colome forced a promotion after dominating his last five starts for Double-A Montgomery. Over that span of 35.1 innings, Colome allowed just five earned runs while posting a 33:15 K:BB ratio. Colome's command still needs a bit of work, but he has done a much better job of limiting big hits in 2012. After allowing 13 home runs last season, Colome has surrendered just two this year. Colome is certainly a prospect to watch for 2013, assuming consistency regarding his command.
Zack Wheeler, P, NYM The Mets front office has recently stated that Wheeler will not pitch more than 150 innings in 2012. While Wheeler may not be available to help the Mets in September, he has been as good as advertised in his first full season for New York. The 22-year-old has been promoted to Triple-A after posting a 3.26 ERA and 117:43 K:BB ratio in 116 innings for Double-A Binghamton. Wheeler held opposing hitters to a .216 BAA, while allowing just two home runs en route to a 1.16 GO:AO ratio. With Matthew Harvey already in the big-league rotation, the Mets have to feel good about their 2013 staff, which may include Wheeler.
Wilmer Font, P, TEX Font missed all 2011 due to Tommy John surgery, but the 22-year-old right-hander has bounced back nicely in 2012. Font was recently promoted to Double-A after notching a 109:37 K:BB ratio and 4.21 ERA in 83.1 innings at High-A. As can be seen, he has massive strikeout potential along with a big frame and mid-90s heater. Control remains of vital importance to Font, who has also been working in a decent change-up and emerging curveball. If his control remains intact, Font could be yet another power arm for the Rangers. Likewise, it remains to be seen whether he will end up in the rotation or come out of the bullpen.
A.J. Schugel, P, LAA His stuff isn't overwhelming, but it is hard to ignore the results for Schugel, whose ERA stands at 2.87 through 122.1 innings as a starter for Double-A Arkansas. Opposing batters are hitting just .234 against the 23-year-old righty, who has notched a 94:50 K:BB ratio for the Travelers. A 25th-round pick in 2010, Schugel initially pitched out of the bullpen but was moved to the rotation halfway through the 2011 campaign. In total last season, he compiled a 3.03 ERA and 95:45 K:BB ratio in 110 innings between Low-A and High-A. As long as the walks don't come back to haunt him, Schugel could be a sleeper for the Halos.
Zachary Walters/Matt Skole, 3B, WAS The Nationals have incredible depth at third base throughout their system. Ryan Zimmerman is an elite option at the hot corner at the big-league level, both with the glove as well as with the bat. At the opposite end of the spectrum, 2011 No. 1 selection Anthony Rendon has been tearing the cover off the ball since returning from an ankle injury. That leaves Walters and Skole stuck in the middle, likely needing a trade or injury to make an impact. Walters, 22, is batting .279 with 11 home runs, 43 RBI and seven steals between three levels, and currently sits at Triple-A Potomac. Meanwhile, Skole is 23-year-old ower prospect with 25 home runs, 87 RBI and a .440 OBP at High-A Hagerstown. Although a little old for this level, it is hard to deny the power or the ability to draw walks. Both are nice chips for the Nats, but it remains to be seen where they fit into the future plans for Washington.
Chun Hsiu Chen, 1B, CLE The batting line for Chen is not the issue, as the 23-year-old former catcher is slashing .324/.411/.450 through 88 games for Double-A Akron. The concern for Chen is his home run power, or lack thereof. He has hit just four long balls this season while driving in only 38 runs. It is a curious decline for Chen as well, who hit 16 home runs in 2011 and 12 bombs in 2010. Moving out from behind the plate certainly hurts his value already, and while his average is stellar, the lack of pop certainly raises questions about his future viability as a corner infielder at the higher levels.
Joshua Bell, OF, PIT The first pick of the second round in the 2011 draft, Bell has played in just 15 games this season since left knee surgery in April to repair a torn meniscus. Before the injury, Bell was slashing .274/.288/.403 with one home run and 11 RBI at Low-A. Apparently the injury has been slow to heal, and Bell continues to get swelling in the knee when performing baseball-related activities. With a $5 million signing bonus invested in Bell, the Bucs are taking a very cautious approach with the 19-year-old. He has plenty of upside, but still needs seasoning and is at least a few years away from making an impact. It would be surprising to see him back at Low-A this season.
Mason Williams, OF, NYY A top prospect in the Yankees system, Williams tore the labrum in his left shoulder and will need surgery. Williams was impressive at Low-A, batting .304/.359/.489 with eight home runs, 28 RBI and 19 steals in 69 games. He struggled a tad upon being promoted to High-A, slashing .277/.302/.422 with three home runs, seven RBI and one stolen base in 22 games before the injury. Williams will turn 21 later this month, so he has plenty of time to heal and should be ready for 2013. However, his 2012 campaign is over.
Alex Wimmers, P, MIN If it wasn't for bad luck, Wimmers wouldn't have any luck at all. A first-round pick in 2010, the 23-year-old righty has undergone Tommy John surgery and will miss all of the 2013 campaign. He tore his UCL in April, but attempted to rehab the injury instead of having surgery. However, a recent setback forced Wimmers to go under the knife. He has just 62.1 professional innings under his belt, and it is safe to say he has been a colossal bust thus far for the Twins.
Kyle Lotzkar, P, CIN After a sizzling 2010 campaign, Lotzkar had a decent, albeit unspectacular 2011 season. He has battled injuries throughout his short career, as this is the first season he has surpassed 100 innings pitched. While other hurlers such as Daniel Corcino and Tony Cingrani have transitioned seamlessly to the higher levels, Lotzkar has struggled. In 76.1 innings for Double-A Pensacola, the 22-year-old righty has a 5.31 ERA and 89:49 K:BB ratio. The strikeouts are there, but the normal control has been missing. Lotzkar has walked at least three batters in eight of his last 10 tilts. He has also surrendered 10 home runs for the Blue Wahoos. Lotzkar still has time to right the ship, but for now, he has lost a bit of his luster.