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Minor League Barometer: Leading Off in Boston

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.

Welcome to the Minor League Barometer, a weekly snapshot of the minor league baseball scene. This article will focus on those minor leaguers making headlines, whether good or bad. Specifically, we'll look more toward those neophytes in the upper levels of the minor league system. This article is not meant as a ranking of prospects. All opinions are my own. Unless they turn out wrong, in which case you definitely read them somewhere else.

With the disclaimers out of the way, let's see which prospects could make an immediate impact for their respective clubs.

UPGRADE

Jedd Gyorko, 2B/3B, SD -
Gyorko will rotate between second and third base for the Padres this season. He hit .268/.297/.507 this spring with four home runs and 12 RBI in 25 games. Gyorko benefitted from injuries to Chase Headley and Logan Forsythe in tying down a starting infield job. Make no mistake about it, though, this guy can really rake. In 92 games in the Pacific Coast League last season, the 24-year-old hit .328/.380/.588 with 24 home runs and 83 RBI. The fences being moved in at Petco Park should also aid him. Expect some growing pains, but Gyorko could be a nice option, particularly with second-base eligibility.

Aaron Hicks, OF, MIN -
Hicks turned the corner last season for the Twins in the minors. The toolsy outfielder slashed .286/.384/.460 with 13 home runs, 61 RBI and 32 steals in 129 games for Double-A New Britain. With the departures of Denard Span and Ben Revere, Hicks seized the starting center-field job this spring, hitting .371 while showing surprising power with four home runs and 18 RBI in 21 games. Granted, these are spring training stats, so they should be taken with a grain of salt. However, Hicks will see regular at-bats starting Opening Day for Minnesota. His plate discipline in the minors is one of the reasons the big stage may not be a concern for him early on.

Julio Teheran, P, ATL -
In another case of excitement over spring training stats, Teheran allowed three earned runs in 26 innings, posting a 35:9 K:BB ratio. He allowed just seven hits all spring. Following a lackluster 2012 campaign despite repeating Triple-A, Teheran is still just 22 and enters the season as the No. 5 starter for the Braves. Not too long ago, he was considered one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. Optimism once again abounds for Teheran, who could be a star after all for Atlanta.

Shelby Miller, P, STL -
Miller's spring wasn't quite as dominant as Teheran's, but he still nailed down the No. 5 slot in the Cards rotation. Miller hit his stride down the stretch in 2012 for Triple-A Memphis, parlaying that into a cup of coffee with the big club in September. Miller projects as a future anchor of the rotation; he has a strong frame and can dominate with his blazing fastball. However, he has also developed an excellent curveball. Consistency and development of his secondary pitches will make him an ace.

CHECK STATUS

Jackie Bradley, OF, BOS -
The Red Sox also apparently have a strong case of spring fever because Bradley made the Opening Day roster despite having never played at Triple-A. In fact, he played just 61 games at Double-A in 2012, meaning the Red Sox must truly see something special. He'll have about a month tryout to cement his spot in the outfield before the injured David Ortiz forces someone out from the DH spot. Bradley hit .433 this spring, but could be headed to Triple-A once Big Papi returns. Still, he has shown a stellar eye at the dish, coupled with plus-speed and some pop with the bat. The 22-year-old's future is as a leadoff hitter in Fenway.

Jurickson Profar, SS, TEX -
Arguably the top prospect in baseball, Profar was sent down to Triple-A to get every-day at-bats. With Elvis Andrus at shortstop and Lance Berkman manning DH, Profar wouldn't have seen the field on a regular basis. However, he'll certainly be back up shortly, particularly if injuries strike. Profar hit just .229 this spring, which made the decision easier. The 20-year-old fanned 12 times in 22 games while drawing just one walk. It's a small sample size, though, and Profar will bring his vast array of tools back up to the bigs soon.

Nolan Arenado, 3B, COL -
Arenado just missed on the starting third-base job to Chris Nelson but opened some eyes in Colorado with four home runs and 12 RBI in spring training. Arenado had a bit of a down season last year, hitting .285/.337/.428 with 12 home runs and 56 RBI in 134 games at Double-A. He'll get some seasoning in Triple-A to begin the season, but his standout spring means that it shouldn't be long before he's up in the majors. The lack of power last season is not a concern because he'll play 81 games at Coors Field when he hits the bigs.

Jose Fernandez, P, MIA -
In a stunner, Fernandez made the Opening Day roster for the Marlins despite never having pitched above High-A. Injuries to Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi, as well as a general lack of pitching depth, forced the Marlins' hand. Fernandez is their best prospect, but the lack of experience coupled with an innings limit and pitching for a bad team, makes his chance for success this season a bit more strained. He looks the part of a future star, but there could be some growing pains as the 20-year-old navigates through his first big-league season a bit prematurely.

DOWNGRADE

Adam Eaton, OF, AZ -
Eaton was a chic fantasy pick in many drafts before injuring his elbow this spring. As a result, he'll be shelved for 4-6 weeks. Eaton burned up Triple-A last season, hitting .381/.456/.539 in 119 games in the PCL. He swiped 38 bags at that level as well. More of a gap-hitter, Eaton still has enough pop to hit doubles, get on base and terrorize opposing pitchers on the basepaths. Eaton has hit at every level and is someone to stash, but he likely won't have any impact in fantasy circles for at least a month. When healthy, he should provide some steals and runs with the possibility of hitting .300.

Trevor Bauer, P, CLE -
The Diamondbacks felt comfortable shipping Bauer to Cleveland for a variety of reasons. First, they still have elite pitching talent in Tyler Skaggs (see below) and Archie Bradley stashed in the minors. Second, there were reports that Bauer did not have the greatest attitude and was not taking instruction or constructive criticism well. His brief spring could be evidence of that. Bauer has a dazzling fastball and impressive combinations of sliders and cutters but may need to mature above the shoulders before finding success in the big leagues. Considered nearly MLB-ready following the 2011 draft and season, it now appears that Bauer may not be a consistent part of a rotation until midseason 2013 at the earliest.

Tyler Skaggs, P, AZ -
This section seems to have an Arizona Diamondbacks feel to it. Skaggs appeared ticketed for a rotation slot before scuffling in a major way this spring. Skaggs allowed 16 runs (11 earned) in just nine innings pitched in spring training. Not only was Skaggs hit hard, but he also walked eight batters over that span. Again, it's a tiny sample size, and Skaggs remains a top-flight pitching prospect for the D-Backs. He will likely just bide his time in Triple-A and prove this spring's performance was a fluke. He should be up in Arizona by midseason, if not sooner. For now, however, his MLB production will have to wait.

Wily Peralta, P, MIL -
This is merely personal preference, but Peralta comes with some risks. He will start the season as the No. 5 starter for the Brew Crew. He had nice cup of coffee with Milwaukee at the end of 2012, with a 2.48 ERA and 23:11 K:BB ratio in 29 innings in September. However, 2013 has not been as kind to Wily so far, as he notched a 5.40 ERA in 20 spring innings, posting an 11:7 K:BB ratio over that span. He has a penchant for wildness, one of my pet peeves when it comes to pitching prospects. In the PCL last season, he had a 143:78 K:BB ratio in 146.2 innings. The strikeout potential is obviously present, but the lack of control is troublesome. Lack of control at the big-league level could spell doom for the 23-year-old righty.