This week's diamond in the rough is Zach Borenstein, a 23-year-old outfielder selected in the 23rd round of the 2011 draft out of Eastern Illinois. Borenstein has taken advantage of the friendly-hitting confines of the California League. He is slashing .346/.395/.639 with 21 home runs, 78 RBI and four steals through 87 games for High-A Inland Empire. Borenstein has been even better over his last 10 contests, hitting a robust .429/.523/.743 with two home runs and 10 RBI. He'll need to draw more walks at the higher levels, as well as prove he can hit outside of the California League. However, it's tough to argue with the results thus far in 2013.
Next up, here are five more minor league notes:
1. Xander Bogaerts at third for the Red Sox? It could happen. This month.
2. Will we finally see the long-awaited MLB debut of Mets catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud? He could get called up when John Buck goes on paternity leave shortly. At worst, he will be a September call-up.
3. A few under-the-radar pitching prospects in A-ball: Kendry Flores and Ty Blach (Giants), Alec Asher (Rangers), Christian Binford (Royals).
4. Two recent pitching promotions to Triple-A to watch: Jameson Taillon (Pittsburgh) and Anthony Ranaudo (Boston). Two recent hitting promotions to Triple-A to watch: Marcus Semien (White Sox) and Josmil Pinto (Twins).
5. Keep an eye on Pirates outfield prospect Andrew Lambo. Although a bit older, he is raking this season, and appears to have put his off-field issues behind him. The Bucs have hinted he may see the big club soon.
This is the time of year when many top prospects get promoted. Let's see who can handle the higher levels of competition in this week's Minor League Barometer.
Andrew Heaney, P, MIA - Heaney has been simply dominant since coming back from injury in May. The 6-foot-2 lefty had a minuscule 0.88 ERA and 66:17 K:BB ratio in 61.2 innings at High-A Jupiter. This dazzling stretch earned him a promotion to Double-A. His first start at his new level was also a gem; Heaney scattered three hits in six shutout innings for the Jacksonville Suns. Heaney has three plus-pitches with the clear ability to locate. The No. 9 overall selection in the 2012 draft out of Oklahoma State, the 22-year-old could join Jose Fernandez in the Marlins rotation as early as next season.
Michael Ohlman, C, BAL - The 22-year-old Ohlman has been brought along slowly by the O's, but he has shown continual improvement, particularly over the last two seasons. In 2012, he slashed .304/.411/.456 in 59 games at Low-A. This season, he has added a power element to his game. Ohlman has 12 home runs and 45 RBI in 74 games at High-A Frederick. His slash line has remained consistent, however, as the 6-4 backstop is batting .299/.401/.535 in 2013. Ohlman's stellar plate discipline combined with emerging power makes him an intriguing prospect. Add in the fact that he's a catcher, and the it's worth keeping tabs on him.
Victor Roache, OF, MIL - Roache got off to an abysmal start this season, piling up the strikeouts with an average below the Mendoza line. The power prospect has turned things around, though, hitting .249/.327/.447 with 17 home runs and 61 RBI through 92 games at Low-A Wisconsin. Roache has been hot lately, batting .314/.415/.667 with three home runs and 10 RBI over his last 10 contests. The 21-year-old still needs to work on his plate discipline, but his recent success and massive power potential makes it easy to see why he was a first-round selection in 2012.
Chris Anderson, P, LAD - Anderson was also a first-rounder, but was only picked this June by the Dodgers. He was found immediate success for LA, posting a 1.67 ERA and 29:14 K:BB ratio over his the first 27 innings of his professional career at Low-A Great Lakes. The 21-year-old righty has a sturdy frame at 6-4, 220, and mixes a sizzling heater with downward movement and a filthy slider. He'll need to work on a third pitch (likely a changeup) as well as his walk total, but all signs point to an extremely bright future for Anderson, who has certainly looked the part of a frontline starter so far.
Brandon Jacobs, OF, CHW - Perhaps a change of scenery was needed for Jacobs, who has crushed the ball since being traded to the White Sox. The former Boston farmhand is hitting .309/.333/.456 with two home runs and 17 RBI through 18 games for Double-A Birmingham. The toolsy 22-year-old outfielder hit in 17 straight games before going 0-for-3 in Sunday's contest. However, Jacobs continues to struggle with strikeouts; he has fanned 15 times since coming to the ChiSox, and was punched out 128 times last season. He also has not used his raw speed and athleticism to his advantage on the base paths; after swiping 30 bags in 2011, Jacobs stole 17 bases in 114 games in 2012, and has 10 steals through 102 combined games this season. In sum, Jacobs has been hot lately, but it remains to be seen if his physical talent can translate to consistent success on the baseball diamond.
Max Stassi, C, HOU - The once-forgotten Stassi has reemerged as a prospect for the Astros. He is having his best season by far at Double-A, and is still just 22. A fourth-round pick of the Athletics in 2009, Stassi is slashing .281/.343/.553 with 15 home runs and 49 RBI through 64 games. He is scorching lately, batting .410/.452/.846 over his last 10 contests. However, it remains to be seen if he can hit for average consistently at the higher levels. Plate discipline remains a concern, as Stassi has drawn just 19 walks this season while fanning 57 times. A polished catcher defensively, Stassi has also been injury-prone during his minor league career. The power stroke is there, and Stassi may have finally turned a corner with the bat. However, wait to see if he can stay on the field and have sustained success before snatching him up.
Joe Wendle, 2B, CLE - A sixth-round selection in the 2012 draft, Wendle has done nothing but hit during his brief career. In the short-season NY-Penn League in 2012, he slashed .327/.375/.469 in 61 games. In 2013, he was sent straight to High-A and hasn't missed a beat. The 23-year-old is hitting .308/.379/.528 with 12 home runs, 47 RBI and nine steals through 78 games for High-A Carolina. The polished college product has shown decent speed, some pop, along with the ability to hit for average. However, he's a bit old for this level, and the Indians are stocked with middle-infield talent ahead of him (Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, Francisco Lindor, Ronny Rodriguez, Jose Ramirez). As a result, Wendle may have to bide his time or eventually find his way to the majors in a different organization.
Andy Burns, 3B, TOR - Burns is an under-the-radar prospect who tore through High-A earlier this season. He hit .327/.383/.524 with eight home runs, 53 RBI and 21 steals at that level before being promoted. The soon-to-be 23-year-old found much more resistance at Double-A, though, as he is batting .209/.269/.399 with five home runs, 20 RBI and six steals through 38 games. Burns is toolsy, but may not have the power to stick as a corner infielder and could end up at second base. Still, he has plus-speed and has been productive in driving in runs this season. It will take him some time to adjust to the higher levels, but he's a sleeper prospect for the Jays.
Austin Wright, P, PHI - Wright has had fairly high strikeout numbers the last two seasons, but has also endured huge bouts of wildness for the Phils. He was able to keep his ERA down despite walking 60 batters in 2012 at High-A, posting a 3.47 ERA while fanning 133 batters in 147.2 innings. One of the better pitching prospects for the Phillies heading into this season, the wheels have come off for the 23-year-old lefty. Wright has a bloated 6.01 ERA and 60:49 K:BB ratio through 79.1 innings for Double-A Reading. Wright's command has gotten so bad that the Phils have actually begun converting him into a reliever. Wright still has strikeout stuff, but he's a long way from even sniffing a rotation slot in the majors.
Jiovanni Mier, SS, HOU - There was a time when Mier and fellow Astro Jonathan Villar were talked about in the same sentence, being the same age and similar players with purportedly similar skill sets and similar future trajectories. Those days have come and gone, however, as the 22-year-old Villar is the starting shortstop for the big club, while the 22-year-old Mier is floundering in Double-A. A first-rounder in 2009, Mier is slashing an abysmal .202/.302/.279 with five home runs, 26 RBI and nine steals through 94 games for Double-A Corpus Christi. Mier's raw skills has never translated into much power or much speed on the field, with career highs of seven home runs and 15 stolen bases in the minors. By contrast, Villar has had career highs of 14 home runs and 45 steals in individual seasons. Mier has also battled strikeout issues this season, fanning 88 times in 94 games for the Hooks. It's safe to say that Villar and Mier aren't on the same path anymore.
Rafael De Paula, P, NYY – De Paula tore through High-A earlier this season to the tune of a 2.94 ERA and 96:23 K:BB ratio in 64.1 innings. Opposing batters hit a mere .189 against him at that level. High-A has been a different story, however. De Paula has a 6.25 ERA through 31.2 innings. He has still shown strikeout stuff (36 Ks) but has walked almost as many batters in High-A as he had in all of his time at Low-A. He has also been more hittable, as opposing batters have a .281 BAA. De Paula's command needs some work; he has so much movement on his pitches, most notably his fastball and curveball, that at times he can lose location. His other secondary pitches could use refining as well. De Paula has loads of upside but appears to need some seasoning.
Matt Davidson, 3B, ARI – Davidson had quite the All-Star break, but has been awful over his last 10 games for Triple-A Reno. Davidson is batting a mere .105 with 14 strikeouts over that span. He has now fanned 118 times in 103 games this season. With no place to play at the MLB level, perhaps Davidson is merely getting bored at this level. However, he has fanned at least 100 times in each of the last four seasons in the minors, so this appears to be a trend that will continue when Davidson eventually moves to the big leagues. He has the power to stick at third, but the plate discipline is certainly a red flag for Davidson, who has never hit above .277 in any season since entering the minors.