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Minor League Barometer: Noah Reaches the Mountaintop

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.

One of the biggest risers in the minors this year has been Colorado Rockies hurler Eddie Butler. The 6-foot-2, 180, righty has already pitched at three levels in 2013. In two starts most recently for Double-A Tulsa, Butler has not allowed a run. The 22-year-old has not issued a walk, scattered five hits and fanned 12 hitters. Butler features a power, sinking fastball, which misses bats or yields weak groundballs. Opposing batters are hitting .186 against Butler, who has notched a 2.28 GO:AO ratio. Butler has 130:46 K:BB ratio through 132 innings in 2013. If his secondary pitches (slider and curveball) continue to develop, it could be a scary proposition for opposing hitters.

Five more tidbits to chew on:

1. Noah Syndergaard may be in the conversation for the best pitching prospect in baseball heading into 2014.

2. Under-the-radar hitting prospects: Teoscar Hernandez (Astros), Ketel Marte (Mariners), Franklin Barreto (Blue Jays).

3. I've said it before and I'll say it again: please do not underestimate San Diego Padres pitcher Matt Wisler.

4. Maikel Franco has more upside than Cody Asche at third for the Phillies.

5. Albert Almora is sidelined with yet another injury. He can absolutely rake, but can he stay healthy? He's nursed at least three injuries this season, two requiring stints on the disabled list, in his first full year in the minors.

There's more prospect talk up next in this week's Minor League Barometer.

UPGRADE

Severino Gonzalez, P, PHI -
The Phils have brought Gonzalez along very slowly, and their patience appears to be paying dividends. The 20-year-old righty from Panama has notched a 92:16 K:BB ratio and minuscule 1.83 ERA between Low-A and High-A this season. Gonzalez is the ultimate control pitcher; the converted reliever has walked just 25 batters in 211 innings since entering the minors in 2011. He can throw four pitches, all for strikes. Gonzalez will be chided for his diminutive stature and his lack of an overpowering fastball, but the fact that he can hit his spots at will makes him a prospect to watch.

Jose Berrios, P, MIN -
The 19-year-old righty from Puerto Rico doesn't get enough publicity. Berrios has a 3.45 ERA and 92:34 K:BB ratio in 94 innings for Low-A Cedar Rapids, and is still learning how to pitch. He has excellent mechanics and a sturdy frame despite being listed at 6-1, 190. Berrios mixes surprising mid-90s velocity on his fastball with a power slider. He's actually been a little wild this season, comparatively speaking, but has still posted an almost 3:1 K:BB ratio. If he continues to mature mentally and can maintain the strike zone, along with developing a third pitch, Berrios could become an elite prospect for the Twins.

Reymond Fuentes, OF, SD -
Fuentes has made the loss of Rymer Liriano a bit more palatable. Fuentes is a future leadoff hitter in his own right, and was sensational for Double-A San Antonio this season. Fuentes slashed .316/.396/.441 with six home runs, 35 RBI and 29 steals in 93 games before being promoted. Fuentes is also off to a fast start at Triple-A Tucson, with three hits and two steals in his first two games. Fuentes hit just .218 last season at Double-A, so the 22-year-old has clearly righted the ship in 2013. Liriano should come back sometime next season, but Fuentes may have jumped him on the depth chart by that time, and might even be in the Majors.

Jonathan Gray, P, COL -
How appropriate that the flame-throwing righty has been on fire lately. The No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft skipped right over Low-A and has found little resistance through two starts in the hitter-friendly California League. Gray has allowed just three hits and one run in 10 innings for High-A Modesto. The bullish 21-year-old righty has walked one batter while fanning 14 over that span. Gray had a 4.05 ERA through 13.1 innings in the Pioneer League before the promotion, but his peripheral numbers showed more promise. Gray had a 15:2 K:BB ratio during his time at Grand Junction. At this rate, Gray should make it to at least Double-A before the season is finished, with a 2014 debut looking more and more likely by the start.

CHECK STATUS

Kyle Hendricks, P, CHC -
Hendricks has emerged as arguably the top pitching prospect in the system for the Cubbies. He parlayed a supremely dominant Double-A stint into a promotion to Triple-A. Hendricks had a 1.87 ERA and 101:26 KBB ratio in 126.1 innings before being promoted. Hendricks is not overpowering but has shown standout command with a fastball/curveball/changeup combination. Did I mention Hendricks went to Dartmouth? He consistently outsmarts hitters with his knowledge of the strike zone. Hendricks sparkled in his first start at his new level, allowing an unearned run in seven innings Thursday. Hendricks scattered four hits, walked one and struck out five. Hendricks may not be a sexy prospect, but all he's done is get results since coming over from the Rangers in the Ryan Dempster trade last season.

Hunter Morris, 1B, MIL -
Morris had a breakout season in 2012, hitting .303/.357/.563 with 28 home runs and 113 RBI in 136 games for Double-A Huntsville. Morris has seen a decline in his average in 2013, however, hitting just .238 in 113 games for Triple-A Nashville. Morris doesn't take an extraordinary amount of walks, which has also led to a less-than-stellar .304 OBP. Nevertheless, the power numbers have remained for Morris despite the slow start this season. Morris has 22 home runs at this level. With only Juan Francisco blocking his path at the big-league level, Morris still may get the first crack at the first base job in 2014. He'll need to show better patience at the dish if he wants to stay there, though.

Daniel Fields, OF, DET -
The 22-year-old Fields has shown off decent tools in 2013, his best season by far for Detroit. Fields has a career-high 10 home runs, and will break his career high of 23 stolen bases before the Double-A season is completed. Fields is also slashing a career-high .285/.354/.451 through 96 games. His issues with plate discipline remain, though; Fields has fanned 105 times this season, the third time in four years he has surpassed the century mark in Ks. If he can continue to mature physically and use his athleticism to his advantage on the diamond, Fields can make an impact for the Tigers. The strikeouts are still a red flag, however.

Anthony DeSclafani, P, MIA -
DeSclafani is perhaps the least recognizable starter in the Double-A Jacksonville rotation that features Andrew Heaney, Justin Nicolino and Adam Conley. A converted reliever, DeSclafani has a 2.78 ERA and 91:19 K:BB ratio in 103.2 innings between High-A and Double-A. He has been getting a decent amount of ground balls to the tune of a 1.62 GO:AO ratio. DeSclafani has the ability to diversify his offerings; he can throw a low-90s heater along with a passable curveball, changeup and slider. His ability to locate has been surprising over the first two seasons of his professional career. He may not profile as a frontline starter, but the 23-year-old righty is making his bid to stay a starter as he ascends the higher levels.

DOWNGRADE

Tyrell Jenkins, P, STL -
Jenkins likely will miss the remainder of the 2013 campaign after undergoing shoulder surgery. Jenkins has been bothered by the shoulder for the entire season, which led to mediocre results before the injury. The baseball skills haven't quite caught up to his athleticism either; Jenkins posted a 4.70 ERA and 40:25 K:BB ratio in 59.1 innings, mostly at Low-A. To his credit, Jenkins does get a bevy of ground balls, but his control has obviously not been up to snuff. Just 21, Jenkins still has promise and should start 2014 fresh. However, the No. 50 overall selection in the 2010 draft is done for this year, and remains a project.

Domingo Tapia, P, NYM -
Tapia had a stellar 2012 campaign at Low-A, notching a 3.98 ERA and 101:32 K;BB ratio in 108.2 innings. Tapia posted an absurd 2.65 GO:AO ratio, burying the ball into the ground and allowing just two home runs last season. Control has been his downfall in 2013, though; Tapia has walked 49 batters in 81 innings en route to a bloated 5.00 ERA at High-A. Tapia still relies mostly on his white-hot fastball; his off-speed pitches are merely works in progress. As such, Tapia profiles more as a long-term reliever than a starter.

Mike Olt, 3B, CHC -
When Olt came over from the Rangers in the Matt Garza deal, many pundits predicted he'd be up manning the hot corner for the big club in short order. Instead, Olt's nightmare 2013 campaign has continued despite the change of scenery. He is just 8-for-64 (.125) with just one home run for Triple-A Iowa, a span of 17 games. Vision problems were an issue for Olt earlier in the year, but those were supposed to be a thing of the past. Yet Olt has fanned 17 times in 17 contests while drawing just five walks. At this rate, Olt may not even be a September call-up. Even still, it's looking like any fantasy noise from the 24-year-old power hitter will be made starting in 2014.

Trevor May, P, PHI -
May has always been a tantalizingly intriguing prospect due to his strikeout potential. He has 127 strikeouts in 127 innings for Double-A Great Britain. However, his control continues to hold him back and limit his future potential. May has walked 60 batters this season, the fourth consecutive year with at least that many free passes. He'll turn 24 in the offseason, meaning he's not likely to suddenly find his mechanics or his release point. May has also been blown up in his last two starts, surrendering 16 hits and 13 runs in just 8.1 innings. Not surprisingly, May has as many walks (8) as strikeouts over that span. Nobody is saying it yet, but a power arm out of the bullpen may be the eventual landing place for the inconsistent May.

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