Kris Bryant apparently wasn't fazed by an inauspicious start to his professional career. In his pro debut, in the Arizona League, Bryant went 0-for-3 with three errors at third base. However, the No. 2 overall selection in this year's draft has been raking since that time. Bryant tore up the competition at Short-Season Boise, slashing .354/.416/.692 with four home runs and 16 RBI in 18 games. Bryant skipped Low-A and was sent to High-A Daytona, where he has stayed hot. The 21-year-old is 9-for-25 (.360) with three home runs and five RBI through seven games at this level. With a college pedigree, as well as Mike Olt's struggles at Triple-A, Bryant could make a run at the third-base job for the Cubbies as early as 2014.
Here are five more statements to get the juices flowing:
1. Reds pitcher Robert Stephenson is among the five best pitching prospects in the minors. George Springer continues to prove that strikeouts don't bother him; the 23-year-old has 35 home runs and 39 steals this season between Double-A and Triple-A, while slashing .303/.411/.611 overall.
2. Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford looks like a clone of his cousin, Carl Crawford.
3. Under-the-radar prospects this week: Darnell Sweeney (Dodgers), Greg Bird (Yankees), Brandon Drury (Diamondbacks).
4. Lucas Sims is the best pitching prospect in the Atlanta Braves system. Pierce Johnson is the best pitching prospect in the Chicago Cubs system.
5. Royals pitcher Kyle Zimmer and Reds outfielder Phil Ervin, two top-50 prospects, likely will be shut down the rest of the season due to injuries. They should be ready for the start of the 2014 campaign, though.
We'll dig a little deeper for some upgrades in this week's Minor League Barometer.
Seth Mejias-Brean, 1B/OF, CIN - The 22-year-old slugger out of the University of Arizona is batting .305/.384/.452 with nine home runs and 76 RBI through 117 games for Low-A Dayton. An eighth-round selection in last year's draft, Mejias-Brean is tearing the cover off the ball lately, slashing .472/.568/.667 over his last 10 games for the Dragons. His power stroke hasn't quite come around yet, but he has the body type (6-foot-2, 220) to make it happen. A superb athlete to boot, Mejias-Brean could be a steal with even a slight boost in his power numbers.
Ross Stripling, P, LAD - Stripling has only found success thus far during his brief professional career. A fifth-round pick in 2012, the 23-year-old righty out of Texas A&M is already making waves for Double-A Chattanooga. Stripling has a 2.78 ERA and 75:18 K:BB ratio through 81 innings for the Lookouts. Stripling gets a plethora of ground balls to the tune of a 1.81 GO:AO ratio, largely with his sinking fastball. His curveball and changeup are not too shabby either, though, and he has shown superior command of all three pitches since entering the minors. With the struggles of Chris Reed and Garrett Gould this season, Stripling could be considered the second-best pitching prospect for the Dodgers behind fellow Double-A rotation mate Zach Lee.
Ivan Pineyro, P, CHC - Pineyro came over to the Cubs from the Washington Nationals in the Scott Hairston deal, and the 21-year-old righty has been exceptional at High-A Daytona thus far. Through six starts, Pineyro has a 3.18 ERA and 27:4 K:BB ratio. Pineyro has been cited for his maturity and poise on the mound, along with the ability to hit his spots with a low-90s fastball and decent changeup. Control is his calling card. He'll need to work on a third pitch to be successful at the higher levels but has the mental makeup that can't be taught. In a thin system for pitching, Pineyro has the chance to make some noise for the Cubs.
Tyrone Taylor, OF, MIL - In a season with few bright spots outside the play of Jean Segura, Taylor has performed as expected for the Brew Crew. A second-round pick in 2012, Taylor is hitting .281/.348/.417 with eight home runs, 54 RBI and 18 steals for Low-A Wisconsin. The toolsy 19-year-old outfielder was a high school running back, meaning he won't have a problem getting his uniform dirty. Taylor hasn't been overmatched in the batter's box at Low-A, with 32 walks and 55 strikeouts in 110 games. A superior athlete, Taylor has room to fill out and mature, making him an intriguing prospect when it comes to a future power/speed combination. The more he plays, the better he should get. He's still a ways away from making a big-league impact, but Taylor is more polished than many had initially thought.
Raul Alcantara, P, OAK - Alcantara has had a bounce-back season in 2013. After a sluggish 2012 campaign in which he posted a 5.08 ERA and managed just 57 strikeouts in 102.2 innings at Low-A, Alcantara smoked the competition in his second shot at Low-A this season. He notched a 2.44 ERA and 58:7 K:BB ratio in 77.1 innings. He's been just as effective since being promoted to High-A Stockton, accumulating a 3.30 ERA and 51:11 K:BB ratio through 60 innings. Opposing batters are hitting a putrid .229 against Alcantara at this level. The 20-year-old righty has a projectable frame, throws hard and has found his release point this season. If he can sustain success next season as well, it would go a long way in putting him near the top of many prospect lists for the Athletics.
Andrew Chafin, P, ARI - It's easy to get lost in the shuffle in a system featuring the likes of Archie Bradley and Tyler Skaggs, but Chafin has more than held his own this season for the Diamondbacks. Chafin has spent most of 2013 at Double-A, where he has compiled a 2.77 ERA and 79:35 K:BB ratio through 110.2 innings. He has been even better over his last 10 starts, accumulating a 2.70 ERA and 47:12 K:BB ratio in 60 innings. Chafin has posted a 1.47 GO:AO ratio over that span. He's battled control problems and has seen a dip in his strikeouts since jumping to Double-A. The power lefty still needs to refine his secondary pitches, but the potential is there.
Dilson Herrera, 2B, PIT - Herrera is a poor man's version of last year's breakout prospect for the Pirates, Alen Hanson. The 19-year-old Herrera is hitting .264/.329/.416 with 10 home runs, 55 RBI and 10 steals through 102 games for Low-A West Virginia. Herrera has shown signs of that coveted mix of power and speed, though his approach at the dish still needs work. The slight second baseman has fanned 104 times in 102 contests for the Power. He doesn't quite have the speed that the 20-year-old Hanson does, but may have a bit more power. In sum, Herrera has room to grow, but should be kept on your radar.
Blake Snell, P, TB - There's a lot to like with Snell; he's 20, 6-4, left-handed and has averaged more than a strikeout per inning for Low-A Bowling Green this season. On first glance, he has decent mechanics and keeps the ball down for the most part with a fastball/slider combo, posting a 1.90 GO:AO ratio in 2013. However, on the downside, he has a 4.27 ERA with 67 walks in 92.2 innings. The rest of his secondary pitches need work, and he absolutely must develop at least a respectable curveball and/or changeup to keep opposing batters honest. Snell is a project at this point, but has significant upside due to his projectable frame and strikeout potential.
Oscar Taveras, OF, STL - Taveras provides a cautionary tale about the hype of hotshot prospects. Entering the year, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Taveras would make his big-league premiere in 2013. Don't misunderstand - he's young and extremely talented, and should make his MLB debut next season. In fact, he still may be a star. Nevertheless, Taveras has undergone season-ending ankle surgery in a 2013 campaign in which he could not stay healthy. Despite hitting .306 for Triple-A Memphis, the 21-year-old outfielder played just 46 games for the Redbirds, hitting five home runs and drawing just nine walks over that span. The ankle injury could sap any of his remaining speed, even though he should come back fully healthy next season. Taveras won't provide any help in 2013, an idea most pundits would have scoffed at heading into this season.
Branden Kline, P, BAL - Kline could have easily been a first-round selection in 2012 if not for a slightly awkward delivery and the worry about future injury. Ironically, he fractured his right leg during conditioning exercises in late May and has not pitched since undergoing surgery. A polished product out of Virginia, Kline pitched just one year in the starting rotation but found success due to his outstanding fastball/curveball combination. This season was a mixed bag on the field before the injury, though; the 21-year-old righty posted a bloated 5.86 ERA in 35.1 innings at Low-A. However, he did fan 32 batters over that span, including 13 in his last start. Unfortunately, this season ultimately looks like a wash for Kline, who will likely repeat Low-A in 2014. He'll also have to prove he can stay healthy and hold up to the rigors of a full season, and may be a candidate for the bullpen when all is said and done.
Mitch Brown, P, CLE - Another second-round pick from the 2012 draft, Brown has had a nightmare 2013 campaign. He started in Low-A, where he was destroyed in five brief outings. Brown's ERA was an astounding 11.49 in 15.2 innings. He was sent back to the Arizona League, where he has been only slightly better. Brown has appeared in 11 games, posting a 5.55 ERA and 42:28 K:BB ratio through 47 innings. The 19-year-old has shown flashes of strikeout potential, particularly with his sinking mid-90s heater. However, he has limited breaking stuff, and has been way too wild during his brief time in the minors. Brown came into the 2013 season as one of the better prospects in the Indians organization, and wasn't supposed to make an immediate impact for the Tribe. However, his stock has certainly taken a nosedive after such a dismal showing.
D.J. Baxendale, P, MIN - It's been a banner year for the Minnesota Twins minor league system, and it looked as if Baxendale was joining the party as well. In his first stint as a starter, he cruised through High-A, posting a 1.10 ERA and 48:11 K;BB ratio in 57.1 innings. However, Double-A has been a rude awakening for the 22-year-old righty. Baxendale has a bloated 5.52 ERA and 46:19 K:BB ratio through 72.1 innings for New Britain. He has been victimized by the long ball, surrendering 12 home runs over that span. Baxendale's ultimate downfall will be the lack of velocity on his fastball, as he barely touches 90 mph. He has an excellent curveball, decent changeup and emerging cutter, but has to locate extremely well if he is to remain a starter. He spent time in the bullpen last season as well as in college, and that me be his ultimate landing spot. He's still got time, but his first attempt at Double-A has not gone smoothly, to say the least.