The Orioles surprised many baseball pundits by promoting uber-prospect Manny Machado to the majors last week. Tabbed as the next Alex Rodriguez, Machado promptly smacked two home runs in just his second game as a big leaguer. A shortstop by trade, Machado is manning the hot corner, a position he may or may not eventually wind up playing. Regardless, Machado joins the likes of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout as young phenoms taking the game by storm.
Let's take a gander at who could be next in this week's Minor League Barometer, with an eye toward a few September call-ups who could help your fantasy squad down the stretch.
Billy Hamilton, SS, CIN - The story of the year in the minors, Hamilton has 139 stolen bases between High-A and Double-A and likely will break Vince Coleman's minor-league record barring injury. He's been no slouch with the bat either, though, slashing .315/.412/.431 in 113 games. The Reds have knocked around the idea of bringing Hamilton up as a pinch-runner in September to boost their playoff run. Should that happen, Hamilton could be a chic pickup for steals in non-keeper leagues. It would be tough to expect much more than just a few swiped bags this season, though.
Jurickson Profar, SS, TEX - Although the above-referenced Hamilton has been garnering most of the attention and speculation for a September call-up lately, the Rangers have toyed with the idea of promoting their own middle-infield talent to the big club. At just 19, Profar is batting .285/.363/.470 with 14 home runs, 61 RBI and 15 steals through 111 games for Double-A Frisco. It'd be difficult to find Profar at-bats with Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler playing up the middle, but the Rangers would have the benefit of a DH at their disposal. Profar has enough upside that he could get hot in September and play his way into some games.
Aaron Hicks, OF, MIN - Hicks is a toolsy outfielder who will have to be added to the 40-man roster in the offseason anyway. The 2008 first-round selection has put together arguably his best season, hitting .281/.381/.456 with 12 home runs, 55 RBI and 27 steals in 110 games for Double-A New Britain. The 22-year-old has been surging lately as well, slashing .359/.458/.641 with two home runs, nine RBI and four steals over his last 10 contests. Hicks may finally be living up to his potential and should get a look in September for the out-of-contention Twins.
Nolan Arenado, 3B, COL - Arenado hit a bit of a lull halfway through 2012, but has recently caught fire to the tune of .390/.413/.659 over his last 10 games for Double-A Tulsa. His overall line sits at a respectable .274/.332/.414 with nine home runs and 47 RBI in 116 games. Although Arenado's power hasn't exploded the way the Rockies might have hoped, he will play at Coors Fields in the future and could get playing time for the cellar-dwelling Rockies as early as September.
Dylan Bundy, P, BAL - Initially, the Orioles planned to shut down Bundy in September. That might not be the case anymore, though, as he has made his way to Double-A and the Orioles find themselves in the thick of the playoff chase. It remains to be seen whether he would pitch out of the bullpen, a la David Price for the Rays in 2008, or join the rotation. The O's have already promoted one stud prospect this month, and Bundy could give Baltimore the youthful infusion they need to catch the Yankees. It's not likely, but make sure to monitor Baltimore's plans as Labor Day approaches.
Nick Castellanos, 3B, DET - Considered one of the purest hitters in the minors, Castellanos is batting .304/.320/.438 with six home runs, 22 RBI and four steals in 58 games for Double-A Erie. With the Tigers looking for a push as they battle for a playoff spot, Castellanos could provide some instant offense. Although a promotion has been discussed, a few items are working against him. For one, Jim Leyland is an old-school manager who values experience. Second, Castellanos has struggled with his plate discipline, drawing just six walks while fanning 52 times while at Double-A. Lastly, with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder on each corner, Castellanos could only be a designated hitter, giving him fewer opportunities to make an impact. It would not be surprising to see Castellanos promoted, but it also just may not be his time to shine yet either.
Chris Archer, P, TB - Archer had two decent starts for the Rays earlier this season, posting a 3.86 ERA and 14:2 K:BB ratio in 11.2 innings. However, he was caught in a numbers game and sent back to Triple-A to continue honing his craft. Archer has maintained success since that time as well; in his last 10 starts in the minors, Archer has a 3.28 ERA and 49:20 K:BB ratio in 49.1 innings. Opposing batters are hitting just .222 against him over that span. As long as Archer can limit the free passes, there is no reason to believe he cannot be a success at the next level. If the Rays need a spot start or sustain an injury to their rotation, he should be next in line.
Leon Landry, OF, SEA - All signs point to Landry not being a September call-up by the Mariners, but he was also glossed over at the trade deadline despite being sent to Seattle in the Brandon League swap. Landry has been sizzling since coming to High-A High Desert, batting .490/.519/.878 with two home runs, 14 RBI and four steals in 11 games. He was no slouch at High-A Rancho Cucamonga either, though, batting .328/.358/.559 with eight home runs, 51 RBI and 20 steals in 80 games before the trade. The 22-year-old was a 2010 third-round pick out of LSU and appears to be blossoming in 2012. However, make sure his stats are not merely a product of the hitter-friendly California league before snatching him up.
Matt Adams, 1B, STL - The 2012 season is done for Adams, who needs surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow. Adams tore up Triple-A to begin the season but hit just .244 with two home runs and 13 RBI in 86 at-bats during a brief call-up to the bigs. He fanned 24 times over that span and was subsequently demoted, just as much due to personnel issues as to his lack of plate discipline. Adams will certainly have a shot to make the squad out of spring training in 2013, though the status of Lance Berkman could have a lot to do with Adams' possible ascension.
Christian Bethancourt, C, ATL - A broken hand suffered on a hit-by-pitch will likely keep the 20-year-old backstop on the bench for the rest of the minor-league season. Bethancourt batted .243/.275/.291 with two home runs, 26 RBI and eight steals in 71 games for Double-A Mississippi before the injury. His main issue remains plate discipline, as Bethancourt drew 11 walks in 268 at-bats. Next season could be the real tell-tale year for Bethancourt, who has been on the young side at every level thus far. While the Braves still believe Bethancourt is their catcher of the future, he may not end up as a fantasy stud.
Jed Bradley, P, MIL - Arm fatigue will sideline Bradley for the remainder of the 2012 season. His inaugural minor-league campaign was disappointing to say the least, as Bradley compiled a bloated 5.53 ERA and posted just a 60:43 K:BB ratio in 107.1 innings at High-A. Although he managed to get a decent amount of ground balls, opposing batters hit a blistering .311 against the 22-year-old lefty. After striking out more than one batter per inning in his final season in college at Georgia Tech, Bradley clearly has some work to do to right the ship for the Brew Crew.
Manny Banuelos, P, NYY - Banuelos has been definitively shut down for the rest of the season by the Yankees. Banuelos has not pitched since May in any event due to a bone bruise in his elbow. Once a part of the prospect triumvirate known as the "Killer B's," Andrew Brackman is now gone and Dellin Betances has struggled mightily. That leaves Banuelos, the youngest of the three and still possessing the most upside. However, he pitched in just six games this season, posting a 4.50 ERA and 22:10 K:BB ratio in 24 innings at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The 21-year-old lefty should enter 2013 fresh and ready to roll, but he certainly did himself no favors with his 2012 campaign.