The Dodgers face an interesting decision with hotshot phenom Yasiel Puig this season. The 22-year-old Cuban outfielder received $42 million over seven years in June 2012 and immediately began raking in the minors. Despite the small sample size, Puig slashed .354/.442/.634 with five home runs, 15 RBI and eight steals in 23 games between the Arizona League and California League. After destroying the ball in spring training, Puig has opened at Double-A Chattanooga with a line of .414/.469/.759, two home runs, six RBI and a stolen base through eight games.
Will L.A. be forced to promote Puig shortly? The Dodgers have not been shy about spending over the last year, so Puig's contract might not be a factor in whether to promote him. Likewise, the current big-league outfield is fully stocked with Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier. Surely the Dodgers would rather Puig get everyday at-bats in the minors than be a bench player in the majors. A short-term move to third-base has also been discussed, though likely is not in the cards. In sum, the Dodgers can afford to be patient with Puig. However, if he keeps tearing the cover off the ball, it may be tough to keep him down in the minors for long.
Let's look at the rest of the minor league scene in this week's Barometer.
Archie Bradley, P, ARZ - Bradley's first two starts rivaled those of last week's Minor League Barometer topper, Tony Cingrani. Bradley has not allowed a run in 11.2 innings for High-A Visalia. The 20-year-old righty has scattered seven hits while posting an outstanding 19:3 K:BB ratio. In most other systems, Bradley would be the undisputed top prospect; however, the presence of Tyler Skaggs knocks him down a peg. Still, that should take nothing away from Bradley, who had a 3.84 ERA and 152:84 K:BB ratio at Low-A in 2012. A 1:82 GO:AO ratio makes him particularly attractive to fantasy owners. He is already one of the better pitching prospects in baseball, and if his control is legitimately improved in 2013, he could move to elite status before the year is through.
Nick Tropeano, P, HOU - Fear not, Astros fans. The minor league system brings hope for a brighter future. Along with Carlos Correa and Nolan Fontana, Tropeano has been a standout performer thus far in 2013. The Stony Brook product has allowed four runs over his first 14 innings at Double-A Corpus Christi, notching a 15:2 K:BB ratio over that span. In 2012, Tropeano had a 3.02 ERA and 166:47 K:BB ratio between Low-A and High-A. Tropeano does not have overpowering stuff, but he has a superb changeup and knows how to pitch. The results speak for themselves so far. Tropeano is not on the level of others pitchers on the Upgrade side of this list, but it would be a mistake to undervalue him.
Kyle Zimmer, P, KC - Zimmer could move through the minors rather quickly. The No. 5 overall selection in the 2012 draft, Zimmer has a 16:2 K:BB ratio in 11 innings thus far for High-A Wilmington. He has allowed two earned runs and just four hits over his first 11 innings in 2013. He's polished, controlled and has a great frame and delivery. A high-90s fastball with movement, combined with a standout array of secondary pitches, means Zimmer should skyrocket up the ranks and make his MLB debut sooner than later.
Zach Lee, P, LAD - This is a crucial year for Lee to develop into the frontline pitcher the Dodgers were hoping for when they snatched him in the first round of the 2010 draft. Lee's stats have not always matched with his stuff, but 2013 is already shaping up better for the 21-year-old righty. Lee has allowed two earned runs in 11 innings for Double-A Chattanooga, posting a 12:3 K:BB ratio. He has also induced a plethora of groundballs, a pleasing sight after allowing 15 home runs in 2012. Lee is also one of the younger pitchers at this level. A stellar first half could put Lee in Triple-A by the summer, and perhaps even yield a big-league debut in September. However, a 2014 premiere seems more likely.
Burch Smith, P, SD - Smith quietly had a standout 2012 season for the Padres. He managed a 3.85 ERA and 137:27 K:BB ratio in 128.2 innings at High-A. He's off to a fast start for Double-A San Antonio, posting a 13:1 K;BB ratio in 11 innings while failing to allow a run thus far in 2013. A flyball pitcher, Burch allowed 11 dingers in 2012, but managed to limit the damage overall. He's gotten far more grounders in 2013 and could be a chic pickup if he keeps up the good work. However, make sure he's the real deal at the higher levels before investing in his future.
Steve Souza, OF, WAS - Souza had a breakout season in 2012, slashing .297/.366/.572 with 23 home runs, 85 RBI and 14 steals in 97 games between Low-A and High-A. He's raking to begin the 2013 campaign as well, posting a .370/.528/.667 line with two home runs, four RBI and three steals through nine games at Double-A. A former third baseman, Souza has been moved to the outfield to perhaps accelerate his movement through the minors. Not only do the Nats have Ryan Zimmerman at the major league level, but also Anthony Rendon and Matt Skole in the minors. Still, the 23-year-old could be hitting his way into the Nats' future outfield.
Adam Duvall, 3B, SF - Duvall showed massive power last season, bashing 30 home runs while knocking home 100 runs in 134 games for High-A San Jose. However, he only hit .258 in 2012, while striking out 116 times. Duvall is on a roll to begin 2013 with a line of .371/.463/.743 with two home runs and 10 RBI through 10 games for Double-A Richmond. The power is legitimate; the real question is whether the 24-year-old will hit for enough of an average to be playable at the higher levels.
Christian Yelich, OF, MIA - Yelich scorched the ball in spring training but had been suffering from a sore foot and has yet to play a game for Double-A Jackson thus far this season. In 2012, Yelich batted .330/.404/.519 with 12 home runs, 48 RBI and 20 steals in 106 games at High-A last season. He hit five home runs in spring training, though, and is expected to hit for more power as he matures. Just 21, he's one of the best outfield prospects in the game, but this injury could cost him a shot at the big club in 2013.
Mike Olt, 1B/3B, TEX - A very slow start for the power-hitting Olt, who has fanned an astounding 17 times in 10 games for Triple-A Round Rock. Olt has failed to hit a home run thus far in 2013, while driving in just two runs. Olt bashed 28 home runs in 95 games at Double-A Tulsa in 2012, but skipped Triple-A altogether and struggled in a brief 16-game stint with the big club. The 24-year-old clearly has some kinks to work out in his swing; though he is not projected to hit for a high average, he has shown the ability to draw a walk and at least should be serviceable with the bat. That hasn't transpired thus far in 2013, though.
Daniel Norris, P, TOR - Norris did not fare well in his first season in the minors in 2012, posting a boated 8.44 ERA. His peripheral numbers weren't bad, as the 19-year-old lefty notched a 43:18 K:BB ratio in 42.2 innings, mostly in the Pioneer League. However, opposing batters hit a robust .320 against him. He's off to a similarly rough start in 2013, having allowed six runs on nine hits in just four innings (two appearances) for Low-A Lansing. Norris has walked four batters over that span while striking out just one. With the trades of Travis d'Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, Justin Nicolino and Jake Marisnick in the offseason, Norris entered 2013 as one of the more promising prospects for the Blue Jays. However, he's trending in the wrong direction, and fast, too.
Kyle McPherson, P, PIT - McPherson was placed on the disabled list due to elbow issues at Triple-A Indianapolis. The 25-year-old righty lost a rotation slot in spring for the Bucs and struggled in two starts at Triple-A before going on the shelf. McPherson allowed 10 runs on 11 hits in just 4.2 innings, issuing four walks while punching out just two. McPherson had a nice cup of coffee with the big club in 2012, mostly out of the bullpen. He had a 21:7 K:BB ratio and 2.73 ERA in 26.1 innings in the majors. However, it is unclear at this time how long he'll be out. His wildness in his first two starts was a clear sign that something was wrong, as McPherson is known for having standout control.
Nik Turley, P, NYY - Turley was looking for inclusion in the conversation for future starting pitching in the Yankees farm system due to the recent struggles and injuries of former top-flight phenoms Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances. In 2012, Turley posted a 117:45 K:BB ratio in 117 innings, mostly at High-A Tampa. Unfortunately, 2013 has not been as kind to Turley, as he has been rocked in his first two starts at Double-A Trenton. Turley has allowed 10 runs on 14 hits in just 8.2 innings. The 23-year-old lefty has a 6:4 K:BB ratio over that span. It's still early, but clearly Turley isn't off to the greatest of starts.