Marcus Stroman could find himself in the starting rotation for the Toronto Blue Jays very shortly. Stroman has been dominant for Triple-A Buffalo, posting a 1.69 ERA and 36:7 K:BB ratio through 26.2 innings. Opposing batters are hitting just .222 against him, and he has induced a bevy of groundballs to the tune of a 2.23 GO:AO ratio. Stroman showed the complete arsenal in his last start Tuesday, tossing six innings of no-hit ball, walking one batter while fanning 10. Stroman turned 23 on May 1, and his birthday present may be a promotion to the big club.
Next up, some noteworthy items in this week's edition of "Three Strikes:"
1. Right after I sung Archie Bradley's praises, he goes on the disabled list with an elbow injury. Call it the Curse of the Barometer. Hopefully it isn't anything serious.
2. Keep an eye on Detroit Tigers pitching prospect Robbie Ray. He came over from the Nats in the Doug Fister deal and should pitch Tuesday in place of the injured Anibal Sanchez. He could end up as more than just a spot starter, though; he fanned 160 batters in 142 innings between High-A and Double-A in 2013, and hasn't had much resistance in Triple-A this season. Through 28 innings for Triple-A Toledo, Ray has a 1.59 ERA and 21:5 K:BB ratio.
3. Could Arismendy Alcantara be the solution for the Cubs at second base? The former shortstop was forced to change positions due to the presence of both Starlin Castro and Javier Baez, but he has continued to hit. Alcantara is hitting .299 with two home runs, 15 RBI and seven steals through 23 games for Triple-A Iowa. Darwin Barney is hitting a putrid .108 at second base for the Cubbies, and Luis Valbuena has not been much better at .216. In other words, Alcantara may get the call sooner rather than later
Let's look at who else has improved their stock and who is down in the dumps in this version of the Minor League Barometer.
Matt Wisler, P, SD - Wisler has been dynamite for Double-A San Antonio, emerging as the top pitching prospect for the Padres. In my book, he's the top prospect in the San Diego system. Wisler has notched a 2.10 ERA and 35:6 K:BB ratio through 30 innings for the Missions in 2014. He relies largely on a fastball/slider combo, though has been working on his curveball and changeup, too. Wisler is a polished righty who does not allow many home runs and has stellar command. He struggled against lefties last season but has been much better against them in 2014 thus far. He'll have the luxury of playing his future games in pitcher-friendly Petco Park, which gives him a tad more value, as well. The back end of the San Diego rotation has been abysmal this season, and with Josh Johnson on the shelf once again, the 21-year-old Wisler could see the big leagues before the year is finished.
Raul Mondesi, SS, KC - Mondesi held his own at Low-A as a 17-year-old in 2013 and hasn't looked overwhelmed at High-A in 2014, either. Mondesi is slashing .304/.382/.430 with one home run, five RBI and five steals through 20 games for High-A Wilmington. Although he has fanned 23 times over that span, Mondesi has already shown vast improvement in his plate discipline, drawing nine walks as well. He is on pace to shatter last season's "career-high" of 34 free passes in 125 contests. The shortstop is still growing and maturing, so the Royals expect him to add a few pounds and find a bit of a power stroke as time goes on as well. He already has plus-speed and won't turn 19 until the end of July. A stellar year will put him near the top of most prospect lists.
Aaron Blair, P, AZ - The aforementioned Archie Bradley gets the pub, but Blair has been lights-out for the D-Backs in 2014. A first-round selection in 2013, Blair has notched a 2.56 ERA and 43:10 K:BB ratio in 31.2 innings at Low-A. The 21-year-old righty has held opposing batters to a paltry .148 BAA. Blair is built like an ox at 6-foot-5, 230, and is a power arm. His mid-90s heater is his best asset, though he also possesses an above-average changeup. His last start was particularly impressive, as he allowed just one hit over seven scoreless innings. Blair walked three batters but fanned 12. As long as his command holds, Blair could be pushed through the system rather quickly.
Brian Johnson, P, BOS - Johnson's last two starts at High-A Salem have been outrageous, as he has not allowed a run over a span of 12 innings. During that time period, the 6-3 southpaw has scattered four hits, walking just one batter while punching out 13. A first-round selection out of the University of Florida in 2012, Johnson showed off why the Red Sox took him, posting a 2.54 ERA and 84:35 K:BB ratio in 85 innings, mostly at Low-A. Although he had a couple of rough outings before this recent hot stretch, Johnson has clearly found his groove for the BoSox. Johnson can throw four pitches at any time in any count, making him a dangerous hurler with a high ceiling. At 23, the best could still be yet to come for the lefthander.
Christian Binford, P, KC - Although Binford may have fallen to the 30th round in the 2011 draft due to signability concerns (as well as Tommy John surgery in 2009), the Royals are certainly glad they took a chance on him. The 6-6 righty has found little resistance thus far in the minors. In 2013, Binford accumulated 130 strikeouts in 135 innings for Low-A Lexington. Binford walked just 25 batters while compiling a 2.67 ERA. He also induced a plethora of groundballs. This season has been no different for the 21-year-old righty. Binford has a 2.53 ERA and 26:5 K:BB ratio in 21.1 innings for High-A Wilmington. His control is his best weapon. Binford doesn't have dazzling raw stuff, and doesn't throw particularly hard, but has the ability to locate and is continuing to develop his three-pitch repertoire. He does not have the upside of pitchers like Kyle Zimmer or Yordano Ventura, but Binford could still make an impact for Kansas City down the road.
Trevor Story, SS, COL - Story's star took a hit last season after he got off to a brutally slow start at High-A Modesto. He played better during the second half of the season, but still slashed .233/.305/.394 in 130 games. While he did connect on 12 dingers and swipe 23 bags, he struck out an eye-popping 183 times while drawing just 45 walks. Story has turned things around in 2014, though, hitting .362/.459/.596 with two home runs, nine RBI and an ultra-impressive 16 stolen bases through 26 games at the same level. Although he has still fanned 32 times over that span, Story has allow drawn 16 walks and has been making much more consistent contact overall. If he can keep up the improvement over an extended period, it may be time to place Story back on the prospect map.
Dwight Smith, Jr., OF, TOR - With his father a former major leaguer, Smith already has good genes to work with, and has shown off his skills so far in 2014. The 21-year-old outfielder is batting .330/.405/.464 with two home runs, 16 RBI and four steals in 24 games for High-A Dunedin. He has almost as many walks (12) as strikeouts (13). The knock on him will be whether he can show enough of a power/speed combination at the higher levels to make a fantasy impact. Smith did swipe 25 bags in 2013, but hit just seven home runs. Last season was also his first full year with the club, despite being drafted in the first round in 2011. As such, Smith still is still a work in progress, but has shown much promise in a short time in 2014.
Blake Swihart, C, BOS - It's no secret I'm tough on catching prospects. I do not grade out backstop phenoms like Austin Hedges and Jorge Alfaro nearly as high as others. Likewise, I'm still not giving Swihart an upgrade due to his lack of plate discipline; Blake has drawn just one walk in 72 at-bats for Double-A Portland. However, his hit tool has been impressive thus far in 2014. Swihart is batting .333 with two home runs and 12 RBI through 17 games for the Sea Dogs. He hit .298 last season and did draw 41 walks while fanning 63 times in 103 games at High-A. In other words, he does not have a history of poor plate discipline or impatience at the dish. It may merely be a case of him swinging the bat so well this season that he hasn't been able to get deep enough into counts. If Swihart can get to double-digits in home runs this season, he could put himself at the top of the prospect list at his position. I'll wait to see a larger sample size before anointing him to that lofty pedestal, though.
Carlos Correa, SS, HOU - Just a temporary downgrade for Correa, who remains one of the best prospects in the game. However, like his 2012 draft counterpart Byron Buxton, he has been working his way back from an injury. Although Buxton's injury was more significant than Correa's, the latter he has missed six consecutive contests due to tightness in his right shoulder. The Astros will almost certainly take the cautious approach with their prized phenom, though Correa should still make his way back onto the diamond shortly. In 20 games at High-A Lancaster, Correa is slashing .300/.366/.463 with two home runs, 16 RBI and four stolen bases. Correa doesn't turn 20 until September, a frightening thought for future pitchers in the AL West.
Jose Campos, P, NYY - A piece in the Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero trade, the Yankees had high hopes for Campos. However, elbow injuries continue to derail his career. The 21-year-old righty underwent Tommy John surgery Friday and will be sidelined for the entire 2014 campaign. Campos missed the last four months of the 2012 season due to irritation in his throwing elbow as well. In 2013, he posted a 3.41 ERA and 77:16 K:BB ratio in 87 innings at Low-A. Campos will be 22 upon his return from Tommy John, yet will not have pitched above Low-A. As a result, he'll have a long road to the majors even if he is able to fully return from the injury.
Mac Williamson, OF, SF - Another victim of the Tommy John epidemic that seems to be sweeping through the majors, Williamson had the procedure Tuesday and will also miss the remainder of the 2014 season. Williamson had a breakout year in 2013, hitting .292/.375/.504 with 25 home runs, 89 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 136 games at High-A. He started 2014 in the same location and with similar results before the injury. Williamson slashed .318/.420/.506 with three home runs, 11 RBI and six thefts in 23 games. Williamson will be 24 when he returns in 2015, and though Tommy John is less worrisome for an outfielder than for a pitcher, he will likely have to prove once again that he is still a prospect worth watching.
Avery Romero, 2B, MIA - A top-10 prospect for the Fish coming into the season, Romero has been awful over his last 10 games at Low-A. The 20-year-old is batting just .100 over that span with 13 strikeouts. A third-round pick in the 2012 draft, Romero was supposed to have a better bat than glove. However, his bat hasn't been much to write home about since entering the minors. In total this season, Romero is slashing .253/.290/.347 with one home run, seven RBI and two stolen bases in 22 games. Romero has also been punched out 20 times during that time period. It's safe to say Romero hasn't lived up to the billing thus far in his brief career.