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Minor League Barometer: Only A Matter of Time

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.

Several players in the Minnesota Twins organization are off to scorching starts in 2013. Although Aaron Hicks is not among them, the farm appears to be stocked with future talent. Oswaldo Arcia needed just 10 games at Triple-A Rochester before getting the call to the big leagues; the 21-year-old hit .394/.474/.727 with three home runs and eight RBI over that span. Byron Buxton, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2012 draft, is off to an incredible start at Low-A Cedar Rapids, slashing .420/.517/.660 with two home runs, 10 RBI and five steals through 14 games. Only 19, Buxton has looked every bit the part of a superstar early on in 2013. Moving up one level, 21-year-old Eddie Rosario is tearing the cover off the ball at High-A, hitting .379/.403/.545 with two home runs, 11 RBI and one steal through 16 games. A converted second-baseman, Rosario is batting an absurd .413 against right-handed pitching. On the same roster, 19-year-old power-hitting phenom Miguel Sano is hitting .377/.443/.705 with five home runs and 15 RBI. Sano's raw power may be unmatched in the minors.

The pitching hasn't been too shabby either for the Twinkies, with 6-foot-9 Alex Meyer strutting his strikeout stuff at Double-A with a 1.69 ERA and 19:7 K:BB ratio in 16 innings. Even former Phillies castoff Trevor May has fanned 19 batters in 14.1 innings for Double-A New Britain. Add in a successful return from Tommy John surgery for Kyle Gibson at Triple-A, and things are looking awfully bright for Minnesota down on the farm.

Let's look at the rest of the prospect scene in this week's Minor League Barometer.

UPGRADE

Nolan Arenado, 3B, COL -
After a slightly disappointing 2012 campaign, Arenado nearly made the opening day roster for the Rockies after smacking four home runs and driving in 12 runs in spring training. He's continued his hot hitting through 15 games for Triple-A Colorado Springs, slashing .389/.417/.759 with three home runs and 19 RBI. A few more walks would be nice, but it's hard to argue with Arenado's production throughout his years in the minors, as he's never hit below .285 at any level. It's only a matter of time before he makes his big-league debut.

Jimmy Nelson, P, MIL -
Nelson had a solid, albeit unspectacular 2012 season. Although he did notch a 2.83 ERA in 127.1 innings between High-A and Double-A last season, the 23-year-old righty walked 62 batters despite fanning 119. His control has been much better in 2003, as Nelson has a 26:5 K:BB ratio through 21.2 innings at Double-A. Combine that with a 1.25 ERA and 1.67 GO:AO ratio, and Nelson has looked more and more like an upper echelon pitcher thus year.

Jake Odorizzi, P, TB -
Chris Archer was initially viewed as the next Triple-A prospect to get a shot at the Rays rotation in 2013, but Odorizzi has outpitched him to begin the year. A key piece in the James Shields trade with Wil Myers, Odorizzi has a 3.18 ERA and 25:5 K:BB ratio through 17 innings. Control is Odorizzi's calling card, though he has shown strikeout ability throughout his minor league career as well. With Roberto Hernandez struggling, Odorizzi could find his way to the majors shortly.

Danny Hultzen, P, SEA -
Hultzen is another Triple-A pitcher who appears on the verge of getting called up to the bigs. Wildness was Hultzen's biggest issue in 2012, as he walked 75 batters in 124 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft, Hultzen has found his groove to begin 2013. The 23-year-old lefty has a 2.78 ERA and 25:6 K:BB ratio through 22 innings for Triple-A Tacoma. Brandon Maurer and Joe Saunders have struggled in the M's rotation, meaning a slot could be ripe for the taking.

CHECK STATUS

Kevin Pillar, OF, TOR -
Pillar is an under the radar prospect for the Blue Jays. A 32nd-round selection in the 2011 draft, Pillar stole 51 bases in 2012 while driving in 91 runs between Low-A and High-A. Although he doesn't project to hit for much power, Pillar has not hit below .322 at any level during his first two professional seasons. In 2013, his third year as a pro, the 24-year-old outfielder is slashing .319/.373/.464 with two home runs, 11 RBI and five steals through 16 games for Double-A New Hampshire. Pillar may not be a sexy prospect, but his progress is worth monitoring due to his continued production and effectiveness.

Brian Flynn, P, MIA -
Flynn is another player with which to take a wait-and-see approach. Flynn has a 1.06 ERA and 19:3 K:BB ratio through 17 innings for Double-A Jacksonville. After Jose Fernandez, the Fish do not have much pitching depth in the minors. Although they did get Justin Nicolino from the Blue Jays as a part of the monster offseason trade, and Adam Conley and Andrew Heaney are more highly touted, Flynn may be the most big-league ready starter. The 6-7, 240, southpaw has a solid frame, decent control and an excellent downward moving fastball. His strikeouts are slightly up to begin the season; it will be interesting to see if Flynn can sustain the Ks after fanning just 119 batters in 152 innings between High-A and Double-A last season. If the strikeouts remain, Flynn could be a chic pickup for the talent-starved Marlins.

Gary Brown, OF, SF -
Brown burst onto the prospect map with a monstrous 2011 season at High-A in which he slashed .336/.407/.519 with 14 home runs, 80 RBI and 53 steals in 131 games. In 2012, Brown came back to earth, batting .279/.347/.385 with seven home runs, 42 RBI and 33 steals in 134 games at Double-A. His start at Triple-A this season hasn't been great, either, as he is hitting .200/.273/.329 with one home run, seven RBI and one steal through 17 games. He has fanned 16 times while drawing six walks over that span. Unfortunately, it appears Brown's future potential is much more in line with last season's stats than those numbers from 2011. Essentially, Brown is a speedy outfielder with average plate discipline and below-average power. That doesn't mean the 24-year-old won't have a productive MLB career, just that he doesn't look the part of a star.

Christian Bergman, P, COL -
Bergman has been a pleasant surprise for the Rockies, as the 24th-round selection in the 2010 draft was the pitcher of the year in the hitter-friendly California League in 2012. The 24-year-old righty notched a 3.65 ERA and 121:37 K:BB ratio in 162.2 innings last year. He's pitching well to start 2013, too, compiling a 0.54 ERA and 16:4 K:BB ratio in 16.2 innings at Double-A. In an organization that is always itching for pitching, Bergman could make a bid for a September audition with his control and increasingly visible strikeout stuff.

DOWNGRADE

Travis d'Arnaud, C, NYM -
The Mets' catcher of the future broke his left foot Wednesday and will miss the next 6-8 weeks. The 23-year-old backstop hit .250/.429/.472 with one home run and eight RBI in 12 games at Triple-A before the injury. There's no rush to get d'Arnaud back, as John Buck has been simply on fire behind the plate for New York to start the year. As such, expect the Mets to be extremely cautious with their prized prospect. It would be a shock to see d'Arnaud with the big club before the All-Star break.

Hak-Ju Lee, SS, TB -
Lee, 22, suffered torn ligaments in his left knee during a collision Sunday at second base and will reportedly miss the remainder the season. The slick-fielding shortstop was dominating Triple-A with the bat, too, slashing .422/.536/.600 with one home run, seven RBI and six steals in 15 games before the injury. One of the better prospects in the Tampa Bay organization, Lee could have seen the majors this season, particularly due to the poor hitting of shortstop Yunel Escobar to begin the 2013 campaign. Instead, Lee will look toward 2014 when he will hopefully have a shot to make the team out of spring training, if healthy.

Brett Marshall, P, NYY -
Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes have been anything but stellar to begin the 2013 season, but Marshall doesn't appear to be in line to start in their place should those pitchers continue to struggle. The 23-year-old righty has been lit up in three starts, posting a bloated 9.69 ERA thus far at Triple-A. Opposing batters are hitting a ridiculous .364 against him. Marshall notched solid numbers at Double-A in 2012, accumulating a 3.52 ERA and 120:53 K:BB ratio in 158.1 innings at Double-A. However, Triple-A has proven too much so far for Marshall in the early stages of the season.

Bubba Starling, OF, KC -
Starling has been billed as a five-tool outfielder for the Royals since being drafted in the first round of the 2011 draft. He showed flashes in his first full season in 2012, hitting .275/.371/.485 with 10 home runs, 33 RBI and 10 steals in 53 games in the Pioneer League. However, he struck out 70 times over that span. Perhaps foreshadowing things to come, Starling has gotten off to a brutally poor start to the 2013 season with Low-A Lexington. The 20-year-old has fanned 25 times in 17 games en route to a line of .136/.203/.237. Starling does have one home run and one stolen base, but clearly has a lot of work ahead of him in fine tuning his swing.

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