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Minor League Barometer: Coors on Tap for Arenado

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.

Nolan Arenado will get his chance to shine with the Colorado Rockies. The 22-year-old third baseman hit .364/.392/.667 with three home runs and 21 RBI in 18 games at Triple-A before getting the call. With Chris Nelson designated for assignment, the hot corner is his and his alone. He'll receive regular at-bats, so expect the friendly confines of Coors Field to only aid Arenado's cause.

Meanwhile, what seemed like an imminent call-up for Seattle Mariners pitcher Danny Hultzen has been put on hold due to a rotator cuff strain. Although the injury is not considered severe, the 23-year-old southpaw will be shut down for a couple starts. Hultzen had a 2.78 ERA and 25:6 K:BB ratio through 22.2 innings for Triple-A Tacoma. Opposing batters were hitting just .198 against him before the injury. Hultzen's time will come soon enough, but it likely won't be before June.

Let's take a gander at the rest of the prospect map in this week's Minor League Barometer.

UPGRADE

Alex Wood, P, ATL -
Wood has been dominant for Double-A Mississippi to begin the 2013 campaign, posting a 0.67 ERA and 31:5 K:BB ratio through 27 innings. Opposing batters are hitting an anemic .192 against the 22-year-old lefty. Wood has also been yielding a plethora of groundballs to the tune of a 1.72 GO:AO ratio. A second-round selection in the 2012 draft, Wood started 13 games at Low-A last season and notched a 2.22 ERA and 52:14 K:BB ratio. He skipped High-A altogether and has not missed a beat. He could enter 2013 as the best prospect in the Atlanta system.

Erik Johnson, P, CHW -
The White Sox have not had one of the better farm systems the last couple seasons, but Johnson has emerged as one of their better prospects. Johnson had a 2.53 ERA in 2012 between Low-A and High-A with an 87:29 K:BB ratio in 92.1 innings. A second-round pick in the 2011 draft, Johnson has been even better to start the 2013 season, posting a 1.44 ERA and 32:9 K:BB ratio over 31.1 innings at Double-A. Opposing batters are hitting a paltry .165 against the 6-foot-3 righty. His command has gotten better over time, as have his secondary offerings. Johnson could be a player to watch for the White Sox.

Chad Bettis, P, COL -
Bettis missed all 2012 due to a right shoulder injury, but when he's pitched, the 24-year-old righty has been stellar. A converted closer, Bettis had a 3.34 ERA and 184:45 K:BB ratio in 169.2 innings at High-A in 2011. Thus far in 2013, Bettis has been dynamite, compiling a 2.91 ERA and 26:2 K:BB ratio in 21.2 innings at Double-A. The Rockies likely will limit his innings due to the recent injury, but a 2014 debut looks likely.

Joc Pederson, OF, LAD -
The 2012 Minor League Player of the Year for the Dodgers has continued to thrive in 2013. Any notion the 21-year-old's statistics from a season ago were inflated due to the hitter-friendly environment in the California League has been washed away. Joc is slashing .301/.379/.614 with five home runs, 15 RBI and seven stolen bases through 19 games for Double-A Chattanooga. Pederson's intriguing combination of power, speed and plate discipline should vault him near the top of many prospect lists by the time 2014 rolls around.

CHECK STATUS

Andrew Lambo, OF, PIT -
Lambo has had off-field issues to rival the Honey Badger. He fell in the draft due to character concerns, then was suspended for recreational drug usage. He's battled the injury-prone label as well. Still just 24, Lambo is on his second squad, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and may have found his groove on the baseball diamond. The sweet-swinging lefty is slashing .314/.365/.500 with three home runs, 17 RBI and three steals through 22 games for Double-A Altoona. On the downside, he has fanned 27 times over that span. Has Lambo finally matured enough to tap into his enormous potential? Take a wait-and-see approach with Lambo.

Jacob DeGrom, P, NYM -
DeGrom missed all 2011 due to Tommy John surgery. In 2012, he posted a nice comeback season with a 2.43 ERA and 96:20 K:BB ratio in 111.1 innings between Low-A and High-A. He has continued to pitch well in 2013, notching a 3.24 ERA and 24:7 K:BB in 25 innings ratio between High-A and Double-A. The 24-year-old righty gets a decent amount of groundballs, limiting the home runs while also showing standout command. It will be interesting to see if DeGrom can maintain his strikeout rate at the higher levels, but so far, he looks the part of a legit middle-of-the-rotation starter.

Arismendy Alcantara, SS, CHC -
Alcantara has shown an intriguing combination of power and speed to begin the 2013 season. He has four home runs, 14 RBI and 12 steals through 22 games for Double-A Chicago. Alcantara is slashing .261/.340/.420. He hit .302 last season with seven home runs and 25 steals, but drew just 19 walks in 85 games, and had failed to hit above .283 at any level before 2012. Alcantara is also sandwiched between Starlin Castro in the majors and Javier Baez at High-A, two superstar phenoms for the Cubbies at shortstop. In sum, the 21-year-old's lack of plate discipline as well as his lack of a future position makes him a risky player despite the hot start.

Nate Karns, P, WAS -
Karns, the Minor League Pitcher of the Year for the Nats last season, posted a 2.17 ERA and 148:47 K:BB ratio in 116 innings between Low-A and High-A. The 6-3 righty is off to a stellar start to begin the 2013 campaign, notching a 3.80 ERA and 29:8 K:BB ratio through 21.1 innings at Double-A. Karns has battled injury issues in the past; the 25-year-old actually didn't pitch a single inning in the minors until 2011 despite being drafted in 2009. He hasn't pitched more than 116 innings in a single season, so his innings likely will be limited. However, as long as he can stay healthy, Karns could be moved quickly through the ranks.

DOWNGRADE

Dylan Bundy, P, BAL -
Bundy met with Dr. James Andrews, something no team wants to see regarding a top pitching prospect. Bundy hasn't pitched since March due to elbow tightness, but the O's are convinced the issue is muscle-related. Bundy received a round of platelet-rich plasma injections in his right elbow from Andrews, who recommended rest for the next six weeks. The Orioles will be extremely cautious with arguably the best pitching phenom in the game. As a result, it would be a surprise to see Bundy pitching again before the All-Star break.

Tyler Collins, OF, DET -
Collins has struggled out of the gate for Double-A Erie, slashing just .220/.288/.339 with one home run and seven RBI through 16 games. Collins had a decent season in 2012 at High-A, hitting .290/.371/.429 with eight home runs, 66 RBI and 20 steals. He's more of a doubles hitter, though, and speed is generally not thought to be his forte despite the 20 swiped bags last season. As a result, if Collins can't hit for average at the higher levels, then he has almost no fantasy value. Even if he does hit for average, it remains to be seen if he'll have enough power to be a corner outfielder at the big-league level.

Christian Villanueva, 3B, CHC -
Villanueva has also been a slow starter, hitting .218/.291/.333 through 20 games at Double-A Tennessee. Villanueva has been productive, driving in 15 runs, but he has hit just one home run while fanning 16 times. The 21-year-old third-baseman remains one of the younger hitters at this level, and the Cubbies are hoping he fills out even more after smacking 14 home runs at High-A in 2012. Still, it looks like Villanueva needs some seasoning before even thinking about making the jump to the higher levels.

Francisco Martinez, OF, SEA -
Martinez has disappointed since coming from the Tigers in the Doug Fister trade in 2011. His power has mysteriously vanished, as Martinez hit just two home runs in 95 games at Double-A in 2012. This startling power outage forced a position change from third base to outfield. Martinez did steal 28 bags last year, but slashed just .227/.315/.295 at this level. Martinez is still just 22, but started at Double-A for the third-straight season in 2013. He has a line of .211/.250/.250 through 19 games, fanning 22 times while drawing just four walks. In sum, Martinez has lost a ton of his luster in just a few short seasons.

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