Pay close attention to the progress of Lucas Giolito, a 2012 first-round draft pick of the Washington Nationals. Giolito underwent Tommy John surgery on Sept. 13, 2012, and was finally able to take the mound in live game action last week. The No. 16 overall selection, Giolito was a college teammate of San Diego prospect Max Fried. The 18-year-old Giolito had arguably the best arm in the draft last year, possessing three plus-pitches and ace potential. Assuming his return from injury doesn't hit any snags, he could emerge as one of the best pitching prospects in 2014 and beyond.
Before we get started with this week's edition of the Minor League Barometer, here are five more assertions to chew on:
1. The position with the most talent in the minors at this time is shortstop.
2. Zach Lee does not get enough respect in prospect circles.
3. Austin Hedges is not a top-100 fantasy prospect.
4. Pitchers not getting enough publicity include Edwin Escobar, Vincent Velasquez and Andrew Heaney.
5. Consider Colorado's Rosell Herrera as this year's version of Pittsburgh phenom Alen Hanson. Herrera has come from virtual anonymity to slash .360/.441/.569 with 14 home runs, 56 RBI and 18 steals through 82 games at Low-A Asheville. However, the shortstop has much better size at 6-foot-3, 180, than Hanson. Herrera will be a chic add to keeper league rosters and top prospect lists.
Thirsty for more? Let's keep the prospect train rolling.
Mike Foltynewicz, P, HOU - When dealing with pitching prospects, particularly high schoolers, you always hear about those who possess a "projectable frame." They are expected to fill out as they mature and get older. What this actually means, is that teams hope that once a high school pitcher grows, he will put on muscle, build up stamina and add velocity to his fastball, as well as hold up to the rigors of an MLB campaign. This is why pitchers with slight builds or frames get knocked, unfairly or not. Point being, Foltynewicz was drafted with a low-90s fastball, and now he can hit 100 mph on the radar gun if he wants. The 21-year-old righty has already advanced to Double-A this season, sporting a 2.33 ERA and 61:32 K:BB ratio in 58 innings. Opposing batters are hitting just .199 against him at this level, and he has also notched a 1.58 GO:AO ratio. Foltynewicz is still raw and needs to work on his command, but his strikeout rate has improved over the last couple seasons, and he looks to be tapping into that potential that started out as merely a "projectable" build.
Kyle Crick, P, SF - Don't forget about Crick, who remains arguably the top prospect for the Giants. He missed the first two months of the season due to a shoulder issue but has been scintillating upon his return. Through 24.2 innings at High-A, the 20-year-old righty has a 1.46 ERA and 40:14 K:BB ratio. At 6-4, 220, Crick throws hard, but he also uses his slider extremely effectively. He was a little wild in 2012, but has hit his spots more consistently since his return from injury as well. With other emerging offspeed pitches Crick has the look of a frontline starter.
Grant Green, 2B/SS, OAK - Green has gotten the call from the big club and is expected to slot in as the everyday second baseman for the A's. Green has always been productive, if unspectacular, for Oakland since being drafted 13th overall in 2009. Although he has battled strikeout issues throughout his time in the minors, Green was slashing .318/.374/.500 this season for Triple-A Sacramento. He has also never hit below .291 at any level in the minors. He has above-average power for a middle infielder and can swipe a bag when necessary too. At 25, Green has bided his time and should finally get the chance to be a contributor in the MLB.
Tyler Glasnow, P, PIT - Glasnow's first full professional season has been dynamite, as the 6-7 righty has shown massive strikeout potential. Glasnow has a 2.69 ERA and 103:42 K:BB ratio in 70.1 innings for Low-A West Virginia. Mechanics will always be a concern for Glasnow due to his height, and as a result he may suffer in the walks department. However, he has largely been able to repeat his delivery in 2013 and achieve the desired results. Just 19, Glasnow is emerging as one of the pitchers to watch heading into 2014.
Julio Urias, P, LAD - A 16-year-old pitcher holding his own at Low-A? Yes, you read that correctly. Urias has a 2.78 ERA and 38:13 K:BB ratio through 32 innings for Low-A Great Lakes. His last start was a gem, as the 5-11 lefty tossed six shutout innings, scatting two hits in the process. Urias did not walk a batter, while fanning eight. Urias is listed under this heading because he is so young, and so much can happen between now and his 21st birthday (see Michael Ynoa). It's also still going to take him a long time to get to the majors, even with such a strong showing at his young age. Keep Urias on your radar, but know he's still a project.
Adalberto Mondesi, SS, KC - Keeping with the theme of youngsters, Mondesi is 17 and has more than held his own at Low-A. Mondesi is slashing .272/.314/.397 with five home runs, 38 RBI and 13 steals through 75 games. bHe has been hot lately, hitting .343/.410/.486 with one home run, five RBI and one steal over his last 10 contests. Once again, Mondesi is young and needs to work on his patience at the dish, but this is certainly not unexpected. More important, he has not been overwhelmed by the bright lights. A switch-hitter to boot, Mondesi has the tools, but is also a ways away from making an impact.
Lewis Brinson, OF, TEX – Brinson also gets cut some slack because he just turned 19 in May, but strikeouts are a huge concern for him. Brinson has fanned 134 times in 80 games at Low-A. He is slashing .237/.318/.437 this season. Brinson is extremely toolsy, though, with 15 home runs and 13 steals and the future potential to improve in both categories as he matures. Still, the inability to make contact is worth watching as he ascends the higher levels.
David Holmberg, P, AZ - The knock on Holmberg is that he isn't overpowering, even though he has succeeded with flying colors at every stop during his professional career. The 21-year-old lefty has a 2.30 ERA and 78:29 K:BB ratio through 109.2 innings for Double-A Mobile. Holmberg knows how to pitch and can hit his spots, which makes up for the lack of velocity on his fastball. Still, he lacks the frontline upside of guys like Patrick Corbin, Tyler Skaggs and Archie Bradley. In other words, while Holmberg may be better than advertised, he does not possess the ability to be a No. 1 or No. 2 starter in the majors.
Jorge Soler, OF, CHC - Soler may miss the rest of the season due to a stress fracture in his lower left leg. The Cuban defector hit .281/.343/.467 with eight home runs, 35 RBI and five steals in 55 games at High-A before the injury. With the recent success of Yasiel Puig, the Cubbies perhaps were hoping to catch lightning in the bottle with a Cuban-born prospect of their own. However, Soler is not expected to be quite the player that Puig is, and missing the rest of the season certainly puts a damper on his shot at the big leagues for 2014. He remains one of the better outfield prospects in baseball, but patience will be necessary to reap the rewards from Soler.
Danny Hultzen, P, SEA – Shoulder issues are more worrisome than elbow issues for pitchers in the long run, and Hultzen has been dealing with the former for the better part of the season. He tossed six scoreless innings in his first start in more than two months June 27 for Triple-A Tacoma, only to be unable to start his next game due to a similar problem with his left shoulder. The No. 2 overall selection in the 2011 draft, Hultzen was rather wild at Triple-A last year in his debut season and has pitched just 28.2 innings at that same level this season due to injury. The M's are going to be careful with one of their better prospects, and the "new" injury is considered minor. However, it's clear that Taijuan Walker has jumped Hultzen in the organizational rankings.
Joe Ross, P, SD - Ross has had a rough past few starts, allowing 16 earned runs and 28 hits over his last 13.1 innings for Low-A Fort Wayne. Still, it goes to show how great Ross was pitching prior to that time period, as his ERA is still "only" 4.07. A first-round selection in the 2011 draft, the 20-year-old Ross has been getting a bevy of ground balls this season to the tune of a 1.73 GO:AO ratio. His strikeouts are down from last season, though, as he has fanned 57 batters in 79.2 innings. It's too early to doubt Ross's stuff, and too small of a sample size as well, but it is worth monitoring his progress (and struggles) should they continue.
Cito Culver, SS, NYY – Culver has been a bust thus far in his brief career. A first-round selection in 2010, Culver has not hit above .251 in any season since entering the minors. Although he does have a career-high seven home runs in 2013, he is also slashing a mere .227/.317/.357 in 71 games at Low-A Charleston. Culver has a bit of pop and a bit of speed (12 steals in 2013) but the inability to make contact (88 strikeouts) in his second turn at this level is extremely troubling. He's still just 20 and is hitting .353 over his last 10 contests, so hope is not completely lost. However, it's going to take a lot more than just one hot streak to get his path back on the right trajectory.