With the MLB draft last week, the dreams of many high school and college players became a reality. All the recent draftees hope to achieve the next step in their professional careers, making the big leagues.
Two fairly recent top draft picks should make their highly anticipated debuts this week, as pitchers Gerrit Cole and Zack Wheeler will take the hill for their respective squads. Cole was the No. 1 overall selection in the 2011 draft by the Pirates; he possesses great size at 6-foot-4, 240, with a blazing fastball that can reach triple-digits and superb off-speed offerings. The 22-year-old righty has a 2.91 ERA in Triple-A this season, holding opposing hitters to a .190 BAA. The Pirates are banking on Cole and Double-A standout Jameson Taillon to anchor their rotation for years to come.
Meanwhile, Zack Wheeler came to the Mets from the San Francisco Giants in the Carlos Beltran trade. The No. 6 overall pick in the 2009 draft, Wheeler has posted a 66:25 K:BB in 63 innings for Triple-A Las Vegas. Mostly throwing a fastball/curve combination, Wheeler is also working on a changeup to keep hitters off balance. The 23-year-old righty figures to slot behind Matt Harvey to form a potent 1-2 punch in the rotation.
Is anyone else poised to see a promotion shortly? Wil Myers and Nick Castellanos have been tearing the cover off the ball at Triple-A since my successive articles questioning their 2013 campaigns. Let's find out who else we can motivate in this week's Minor League Barometer.
Matt Davidson, 3B, AZ - Davidson is surging, slashing .421/.477/.737 with two home runs and five RBI over his last 10 contests for Triple-A Reno. The 22-year-old is batting .309/.359/.509 with eight home runs and 38 RBI in 59 games this season. The D-Backs have Martin Prado manning the hot corner at the big-league level due to Eric Chavez's injury, though Prado can also play outfield. If Chavez has an extended stay on the shelf, Davidson could force Arizona's hand. At the very least he will be a September call-up this year.
Miguel Sano, 3B, MIN - Sano wasn't promoted to the big leagues, but he did receive a bump to Double-A. Sano has been a frequent visitor to the Barometer this year, continuing his massive power outbursts while also showing the ability to hit for average and even swiping a bag or two. The 20-year-old hit .330/.424/.655 with 16 home runs, 48 RBI and nine steals in 56 games at High-A. He finished off his stint at High-A on Sunday with a bang, bashing two home runs before heading to Double-A New Britain. Sano is arguably the top hitting prospect in the minors.
Xander Bogaerts, SS, BOS - The slow start is a thing of the past for Bogaerts, who is hitting a blistering .471/.587/1.000 over his last 10 games for Double-A Portland. The recent power surge has been particularly pleasing for Bogaerts, who has four home runs and 11 RBI during that span. His recent hot streak has raised the 20-year-old shortstop's overall line to .308/.403/.507 with six home runs, 33 RBI and five steals. He has shown superb plate discipline, drawing 33 walks in 53 games. With an advanced approach at the dish along with above-average power for a middle infielder, Bogaerts could be primed to make his MLB debut this season, with a chance to crack the starting lineup in 2014.
Enny Romero, P, TB - Romero is scorching, allowing just two earned runs over his last 30.2 innings, a span of five starts. The 22-year-old lefty actually went four starts without surrendering a single earned run over that time. Overall, Romero has a 3.08 ERA and 50:29 K:BB ratio through 61.1 innings for Double-A Montgomery. The Rays are stocked with young pitching prospects (Jake Odorizzi, Chris Archer, Mike Montgomery, Taylor Guerrieri, to name a few) but Romero could enter the conversation as well. He just needs to maintain his control and continue to improve his secondary offerings.
Maikel Franco, 3B, PHI - Franco's raw strength is evident, as the 20-year-old has tallied 11 home runs and 42 RBI in 59 games for High-A Clearwater. He is also hitting .289 thus far in 2013, after hitting .280 at Low-A in 2012. In other words, Franco has shown off his natural ability to make contact. Nevertheless, strike-zone recognition remains a weakness in his game. Although Franco has not fanned a ton (39 Ks in 59 games), he has drawn just 17 walks in 239 at-bats. Franco may not be able to get by on natural hitting abilities at the higher levels. His future looks promising, but make sure to see progress in the patience department at the dish as Franco matures.
Ariel Pena, P, MIL - Pena has managed to limit the damage in 2013 despite a continually high walk total. The 24-year-old righty has always had strikeout stuff, including 63 strikeouts in 66 innings for Double-A Huntsville in 2013. He possesses a blazing heater, wicked slider and improving sinker. Opposing batters are hitting just .204 against the 6-3 righty this season. Pena has a 3.00 ERA, turning around a disastrous late-2012 at the same level. However, he has issued 40 free passes already this season, and has not walked less than 65 batters in each of the last three seasons. Pena's wildness may come back to haunt him, threatening to derail a promising future.
Alex Meyer, P, MIN - Meyer has been placed on the disabled list due to right shoulder stiffness. Although considered relatively minor, shoulder problems are never a good sign, particularly for a 6-9 hurler with suspect mechanics. Still, Meyer was having a standout 2013 campaign before the injury, compiling a 3.69 ERA and 73:27 K:BB ratio in 61 innings for Double-A New Britain. Meyer's upside remains high due to his size, command and ability to get ground balls. However, the Twins are notoriously conservative with their young pitchers, and an injury, even if minor, will only prolong Meyer's debut even further. As such, be patient with Meyer during his development. It may be frustrating in the short term, but could pan out big-time in the long run.
Bryce Brentz, OF, BOS - Brentz has power to spare, but it remains to be seen what else he will bring to the table for the BoSox. Brentz didn't exactly make positive headlines this offseason either, pulling a Plaxico Burress and shooting himself in the foot (OK, leg) while allegedly cleaning his gun. Brentz has 11 dingers and 44 RBI through 55 games at Triple-A Pawtucket, but has been punched out 55 times while drawing just 15 walks. After hitting 30 home runs in 2011, Brentz smashed just 17 long balls last season. Decreasing power and increasing strikeouts is not a recipe for success. Brentz has always hit for a decent average, though, so he won't be a total loss if his power total isn't quite what the BoSox had hoped. Still, Brentz will turn 25 this offseason, so it doesn't look like his plate discipline is going to magically get better. A first-round pick in 2010, Brentz is looking less and less like a star each day.
Sean Gilmartin, P, ATL - Gilmartin's lack of an overpowering arsenal finally appears to have caught up with him at Triple-A. The 23-year-old lefty has a bloated 5.40 ERA, largely due to the inability to keep runners off the bases. Opposing batters are hitting almost .300 against him. Likewise, Gilmartin has walked 27 batters in 66.2 innings; by contrast, Gilmartin walked 39 batters in 157 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last season. This lack of control has been perhaps the most puzzling aspect of Gilmartin's season. He has also been victimized by the home-run ball, surrendering seven long balls already. With Brandon Beachy coming back from the DL, Alex Wood already in the big leagues and Cody Martin lighting it up at Double-A, Gilmartin may find himself on the outside looking in for a rotation slot this year, and perhaps beyond.
T.J. House, P, CLE - House found little resistance at Double-A to begin the season, posting a 3.22 ERA and superior 27:3 K:BB ratio in 22.1 innings and receiving a promotion. Triple-A has been a rude awakening for the 23-year-old, though. House has lost the plate, posting a 37:27 K:BB ratio in 53.1 innings. Control has never been House's forte, even at the lower levels, so perhaps his fast start was more of an aberration than anything else. Meanwhile, though he is still getting a bevy of ground balls (2.05 GO;AO ratio), House has paid dearly for mistakes. He's given up 10 home runs in nine starts at this level. Perhaps the 16th-round pick in 2009 has already exceeded expectations for the Indians, but if he is to take that next step to big leagues, he's certainly got some work to do.
Matt Barnes, P, BOS - A 2011 first-round selection, Barnes mowed down the competition in his first professional season. The 6-4 righty notched a 2.86 ERA and 133:29 K;BB ratio in 119.2 innings between Low-A and High-A. Though his control has been consistent in 2013, the results have not been. Despite a 64:16 K:BB ratio, Barnes has a 5.87 ERA for Double-A Portland. He has already allowed more home runs this season than all 2012. Barnes is missing his spots and has become hittable this season. Opponents are batting .287 against him. The 22-year-old has less than 200 innings in the minors under his belt, so he has time to work the kinks out of his delivery and find his groove. However, Barnes may not be fast-tracked to the Majors as once thought.
Mason Williams, OF, NYY - With an outfield reeling from injuries and old age, the minor league triumvirate of Williams, Slade Heathcott and Tyler Austin was supposed to provide some hope for the future. Unfortunately for the Bronx Bombers, all three are having subpar starts to their 2013 campaigns. Williams has the most upside of the bunch, but is batting .240/.329/.327 through 55 games. He has shown little in the way of power, hitting just two home runs and knocking in 14 runs. Still, perhaps more disappointingly, the 21-year-old has swiped only eight bases while being caught four times. He was also arrested on suspicion of DUI in April, and there have been concerns about his overall attitude and lack of humility. Williams was expected to hit for average, provide blazing speed and be the Yankees' centerfielder of the future. That could still happen, but it appears the 21-year-old has a lot of growing up to do, both on and off the field.