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Minor League Barometer: Thorny Issue for Brewers

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.

The Kansas City Royals have built through the farm over the past few seasons on the hitting side. However, most of their 2013 rotation came from offseason acquisitions the likes of James Shields, Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie. Yordano Ventura is hoping to change that trend, as he is currently mowing down the competition at Double-A. Ventura has been compared to future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez due to his small stature yet dominating stuff. Aided by a blazing fastball, the 5-foot-11, 180-lb righty has posted a 2.34 ERA and 74:20 K:BB ratio through 57.1 innings for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. He has not surrendered a run in five of his last 10 starts, while holding opposing hitters to a .181 BAA over that span. If he continues to pitch this well, Royals fans may want to start calling him "Ace" Ventura.

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

UPGRADE

Archie Bradley, P, AZ -
With Tyler Skaggs moving to perhaps a more permanent role in the MLB rotation due to the injury to Brandon McCarthy, Bradley has become the focal point of the minor league system for the Diamondbacks. The 20-year-old righty found little resistance at High-A before being promoted, notching a 1.26 ERA and 43:10 K:BB ratio in 28.2 innings. His short stint at Double-A has been just as effective, though, as he has posted a minuscule 1.13 ERA and 41:21 K:BB ratio in 40 innings. At 6-4, 225-lbs, Bradley projects as a frontline workhorse. Should he keep his control issues at bay (Bradley walked 84 batters in 136 innings at Low-A in 2012), Bradley will be a bona fide stud when he hits the big leagues.

Noah Syndergaard, P, NYM -
Syndergaard has done nothing to diminish his stock since coming to the Mets as part of the RA Dickey trade. The 6-6, 240-lb righty has a 2.73 ERA and 54:14 K:BB ratio in 52.2 innings for High-A St. Lucie. His control remains outstanding; the 20-year-old righty walked just 31 batters in 103.2 innings at Low-A in 2012. With Matt Harvey already making waves and Zack Wheeler to follow in his footsteps shortly, Syndergaard could enter 2014 as the top pitching prospect for the Mets.

Robert Stephenson, P, CIN -
Stephenson has emerged as arguably the top pitching prospect in the Cincinnati organization. He has been on a tear of late for Low-A Dayton, fanning at least seven batters in each of his last five starts. In total, Stephenson has a superior 77:16 K:BB ratio in just 59.2 innings. His 3.32 ERA isn't too shabby either. The 20-year-old righty has standout peripheral numbers, too. Opposing batters are hitting just .223 against him, and Stephenson has compiled a 1.31 GO:AO ratio in 2013. With Tony Cingrani poised for another promotion to the majors, and Daniel Corcino struggling at Triple-A, Stephenson has assumed the throne for the Reds in their farm system.

Anthony Ranaudo, P, BOS -
Ranaudo has had a bounce back season for the Red Sox in 2013. A first round selection in the 2010 draft, Ranaudo had a horrific 2012 campaign that was marred by injury and inconsistency. In just 37.2 innings at Double-A, the 6-7 righty posted a bloated 6.69 ERA. He also struggled with his command, tallying as many walks (27) as strikeouts. Now healthy and with a fresh perspective, the 23-year-old has been dynamic this season, compiling a 1.48 ERA and 58:15 K:BB ratio in 54.2 innings for Double-A Portland. Ranaudo has been borderline untouchable at times, as opposing hitters are batting an anemic .168 against him. Along with the success of fellow rotation mate Brandon Workman and the stellar start at High-A for Henry Owens, the Red Sox suddenly have a surplus of pitching prospects.

CHECK STATUS

Rougned Odor, 2B, TEX -
Odor is just 19, but is more than holding his own at High-A in 2013. Odor is slashing .289/.361/.447 with four home runs, 27 RBI and 14 steals through 52 games. Perhaps not surprisingly for a young hitter, Odor has struggled with plate discipline this season, fanning 43 times while drawing just 12 walks. There is also the issue of where he plays at the big-league level. Though he is a few years away from making the leap to the Show, the Rangers are currently overflowing with middle-infielders (Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Jurickson Profar). Still, despite his lack of patience at the dish and blocked path to the big club, Odor appears to be on the right trajectory.

Tom Murphy, C, COL -
A third-round pick in the 2012 draft, Murphy has shown off his power stroke in 2013. The 22-year-old backstop has bashed 10 home runs and knocked in 38 runs in 36 games for Low-A Asheville. He is also hitting a robust .313 with a .408 OBP for the Tourists. A polished college product from SUNY Buffalo, Murphy could move through the ranks rather quickly. However, bear in mind that the Rockies have a quality young, powerful catcher at the big-league level in Wilin Rosario. Likewise, Murphy has been punched out 41 times in 36 games for Low-A; as such, strikeouts could be a statistic to watch as Murphy ascends to the higher levels. His production has been stellar so far, though, so keep an eye on Murphy.

Tim Cooney, P, STL -
The Cardinals have had a bevy of pitching prospects make their mark already in 2013, and Cooney could step up to fill the void left by Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha, among others. The 22-year-old lefty posted a 2.75 ERA and 23:4 K:BB ratio in 36 innings at High-A before being promoted. While his control has always been superb, his strikeouts have actually experienced an uptick at Double-A. Cooney has a 3.07 ERA and 32:6 K:BB ratio through 29.1 innings for Double-A Springfield. Another third round selection from the 2012 draft out of Wake Forest, Cooney hasn't been getting the pub, but perhaps he should start to gain some recognition due to his standout numbers.

Nick Castellanos, 3B, DET -
Castellanos has been on fire recently for Triple-A Toledo, slashing .421/.500/.658 with two home runs and five RBI over his last 10 games. However, even after this hot stretch, the 21-year-old's overall line stands at .279/.353/.456. The concern for Castellanos is his lack of power; as a corner outfielder, he'll be expected to hit for more power. Despite a solid eye at the dish, Castellanos hit a career-high 10 home runs in 2012. Though he'll likely surpass that number in 2013 (he has seven home runs at the time of this writing), Castellanos still may not hit for a ton of power in the big leagues. In other words, though he was once projected to be a star for the Tigers, Castellanos projects as more of a solid regular with gap power in this writer's opinion.

DOWNGRADE

Ethan Martin, P, PHI -
Martin turns 24 years of age this week, though his control remains as suspect as it's been since entering the minors in 2009. The 6-2 righty has walked 32 batters in 54.2 innings for Triple-A Lehigh Valley this season. The extra base runners have spelled doom for Martin, who has a 5.60 ERA. He walked 79 batters in 157.2 innings in 2012, and issued 66 free passes in 95.1 innings in 2011. In other words, Martin doesn't seem to be making strides in the control department, and it's unlikely that he'll ever be able to cure those ills. It's a shame, too, as Martin has always showed strikeout stuff. However, the inability to locate is a crucial fault for a pitcher, and Martin still appears vexed by these issues.

Tyler Thornburg, P, MIL -
After performing adequately in eight outings (three starts) for the Brew Crew in 2012, Thornburg has had a miserable 2013. He was passed over for the No. 5 slot of the rotation in favor of Wily Peralta. He has struggled mightily since that time for Triple-A Nashville, possessing a 6.75 ERA in 56 innings. Oddly, Thornburg has fanned 64 batters over that span, yet opposing hitters have a .318 average overall against him. With Jimmy Nelson absolutely dealing at Double-A, Thornburg needs to turn things around quick or risk getting passed over once again.

Keenyn Walker, OF, CHW -
It's tough to steal bases when you can't get on base, and that's been the exact problem for Walker in 2013. Much was expected out of the 2011 first round pick, but his baseball skills have not caught up to his raw athleticism as of yet. Walker is batting just .195/.308/.268 with one home run, 15 RBI and 18 steals through 50 games for Double-A Birmingham. He has struck out a staggering 68 times over that span, particularly worrisome due to his lack of power. Though Walker's speed is legitimate, his ability to make contact is sorely lacking. The 22-year-old switch-hitter still has time to work the kinks out of his swing, but it's safe to say he hasn't lived up to expectations thus far.

Trevor Story, SS, COL -
The 20-year-old Story became a chic pickup in fantasy circles after a 2012 campaign at Low-A in which he hit .277 with 18 home runs, 63 RBI and 15 steals from a middle infield position. He also drew 60 walks at that level. 2013 has been a vastly different story, no pun intended. Trevor is slashing just .188/.251/.298 with three home runs, 20 RBI and eight steals in 50 games for High-A Modesto. Story has been unable to take advantage of the friendly hitting confines of the California League. Even more troublesome, while his strikeouts have remained high (70 in 50 contests), he has drawn just 14 walks in almost 200 at-bats. Story is still young, toolsy and has loads of potential, but he definitely needs some seasoning.