Tyler Glasnow looks to be regaining the form that made him one of the breakout stars of the 2013 campaign. The 6-foot-7 righty struck out an astounding 164 batters in just 111.1 innings for Low-A West Virginia last year, but missed the first three weeks of the 2014 season with a back injury. He then walked a staggering seven batters in just two innings during his second start of the year for High-A Bradenton. However, he fanned 12 batters in 5.1 innings in his last start Wednesday, showing signs of a return to dominance. His control still needs some work, but Glasnow's strikeout potential puts him near the top of the pitching charts.
Next up, some comments and observations in the "Three Strikes" section:
1. Jonathan Crawford and Jake Thompson have given the Tigers farm system much to smile about this season. Thompson is actually almost three years younger than Crawford, but ahead of Crawford on the depth chart. Crawford is at Low-A, while the 20-year-old Thompson hurls for High-A Lakeland.
2. The Cubs will let middle infielder Arismendy Alcantara play in the outfield at Triple-A Iowa, perhaps speeding up his timeline for a promotion to the big leagues.
3. The transition to Triple-A has not gone smoothly for Padres pitching prospect Matt Wisler. The 21-year-old righty was bombed in his first four starts in the Pacific Coast League. However, he fanned seven batters in seven innings in his last start Monday. Zero earned runs in that outing brought his ERA down to 8.85.
Who's surging, and who is floundering? Let's take a look in this edition of the Minor League Barometer.
Dilson Herrera, 2B, NYM - Herrera came over from the Pirates last season in the Marlon Byrd trade, though was not considered a can't-miss prospect. He's making a name for himself in 2014, though, as he has been swinging a hot bat out of the gate for High-A St. Lucie. The 20-year-old is slashing .321/.361/.424 with three home runs, 20 RBI and 11 steals through 52 games. An intriguing development is that Herrera has played some shortstop this season as well. The Mets have been desperate for a shortstop since Jose Reyes left via free agency, and 2012 first-rounder Gavin Cecchini will not be ready to assume the mantle for at least another few years. If Herrera continues to hit and proves capable with the glove, he could work his way into the future plans for the Metsies.
Corey Seager, SS, LAD - Perhaps no hitter has been hotter of late than Seager. The 20-year-old slugger is hitting a blistering .488/.500/.930 with four home runs and 13 RBI over his last 10 contests for High-A Rancho Cucamonga. Seager's overall numbers are not too shabby either, as he is batting .361/.408/.591 with six home runs, 29 RBI and five steals through 43 games. Seager could eventually end up at third base for the Dodgers due to his size and developing per stroke. While his stats could be slightly inflated due to playing in the hitter-friendly confines o the California League, it would be foolish to dismiss Seager's production all together. He is a future star and one of the better infield prospects in baseball.
Hunter Renfroe, OF, SD - Renfroe is another hitter who has been scorching recently in the California League. The 22-year-old outfielder is slashing .357/.378/.690 with four home runs and 12 RBI over his last 10 games at High-A Lake Elsinore. Renfroe has been a home run hitting machine this season, belting 12 dingers in total to tie for the league lead. He is also tied for fourth with 40 RBI, while swiping a surprising nine bags. Renfroe was touted as a polished college hitter coming out of Mississippi State last season, and he has done nothing to dispel that notion thus far during his brief professional career.
Marco Gonzales, P, STL - Gonzales has found little resistance since being drafted with the No. 19 overall pick in the 2013 draft. He started 2014 at High-A, where he posted a minuscule 1.43 ERA and 32:8 K:BB ratio in 37.2 innings. That earned him a quick promotion to Double-A, where he has continued his success at Springfield. Gonzales has allowed just one earned run in 12 innings while posting a 12:3 K:BB ratio. It is not outside the realm of possibilities that Gonzales and his dominating changeup could debut in St. Louis this season, though 2015 appears more likely.
Francelis Montas, P, CHW - Montas has been one of the fastest risers in the minors this season in terms of notoriety. He has always had strikeout stuff, as witnessed by his 127 punch outs in 2013. However, he also walked 50 batters and allowed 11 home runs at Low-A en route to a bloated 5.43 ERA. His control has been magical in 2014, though, as he has issued just five free passes 30 innings for High-A Kannapolis. He has fanned 34 batters over that span, and opposing batters are hitting a putrid .176 against him. It's just five starts, though, and Montas has not had a full season of dominance, or even a full season with decent control. His upside remains high, but the 21-year-old needs to show consistent success before being considered a top prospect.
Nick Travieso, P, CIN - Will Travieso live up to his promised potential? A first-round selection in 2012, Travieso struggled last season to the tune of a 4.63 ERA and 61:27 K:BB ratio in 81.2 innings for Low-A Dayton. The 20-year-old righty is back at Low-A in 2014, but with much better results so far. Travieso has a 2.87 ERA and 43:9 K:BB ratio through 53.1 innings for the Dragons. His peripheral numbers have been stellar as well. Opposing batters are hitting just .212 against him, and Travieso has posted a 1.34 GO:AO ratio. The early returns are promising for Travieso, but a larger sample size is needed before determining whether he is back on the prospect radar.
Brady Lail, P, NYY - Lail could be a diamond in the rough for the Bronx Bombers. An 18th round selection in the 2012 draft, Lail has shown impeccable control along with the ability to get ground balls in 2014. The 20-year-old righty has a 3.19 ERA and 54:8 K:BB ratio through 53.2 innings for Low-A Charleston. He has a 1.32 GO:AO ratio as well, keeping the ball down in the zone. Lail's challenges at the higher levels will be the development of a third pitch to complement his fastball and changeup, as well as the ability to continue missing bats. Opposing batters are hitting .282 against him, so Lail must continue to find ways to keep hitters off balance. He pounds the zone, but sometimes catches too much of the plate. Still, his progress is certainly worth monitoring, particularly if he can continue adding muscle to his frame.
Jed Bradley, P, MIL - Young Milwaukee pitchers have had a stellar beginning to the 2014 campaign. Wily Peralta has been studly in the majors, Taylor Jungmann appears to have finally found his mojo, and Jimmy Nelson looks the part of a future rotation anchor. Add Bradley's name to that bunch as well, as he has erased memories of the last two lackluster years. Bradley was drafted with the No. 15 overall selection in the 2011 draft, but looked lost on the mound since that time. He battled massive control problems that made him eminently hittable and also caused him to issue entirely too many walks. This season has been a marked difference, though, as Bradley has found the stuff that made him a first-round talent. He has a 2.98 ERA and 53:10 K:BB ratio in 60.1 innings for Double-A Huntsville. The sturdy, 23-year-old southpaw has posted an outrageous 3.58 GO:AO ratio, which is simply off the charts. He is prone to a blowup now and again, however, and may not ever reach ace status. Nevertheless, this turnaround is an extremely welcome sign.
Kyle Zimmer, P, KC - Bad news just got worse for the Royals' top prospect. Zimmer had already failed to appear in a single game in 2014 when news broke that he would be shut down for the next 6-8 weeks with a strained right lat muscle. A shoulder injury cut his 2013 campaign short, and was the cause of his inability to start in 2014. However, he was supposed to come back around this time until his most recent setback. Zimmer has been no stranger to injury over his career, and was also dealing with biceps tendinitis over the winter as well. The Royals will likely be extra cautious with Zimmer, and as a result the 22-year-old righty is in serious jeopardy of missing the entire 2014 campaign.
Noah Syndergaard, P, NYM - An elbow injury sent Syndergaard to the shelf, and Mets fans had to hold their collective breath before the MRI results came back. After all, the Tommy John epidemic is sweeping the nation, and ace Matt Harvey is already recovering from the procedure and expected to miss all of this season. The loss of Syndergaard for next season would have been a crushing blow to struggling organization. Fortunately, Syndergaard received a clean bill of health, though he will still likely be sidelined for some time. The Mets are holding out hope that a 2015 rotation featuring Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Syndergaard and Rafael Montero will revive the franchise.
Pierce Johnson, P, CHC - Johnson is already on the Disabled List for the second time this season. One of the better pitching phenoms in the Cubs organization, Johnson missed the first three weeks of the season with a hamstring injury. Upon his return, he could not find the plate. Johnson walked 24 batters in 26.2 innings at Double-A Daytona. This wildness was out of character for him and in stark contrast to the 2013 campaign, when Johnson walked 43 batters in 118.1 innings. He has landed back on the DL with yet another leg ailment, this time a calf injury. It's been a rough season thus far for the 23-year-old righty.
Maikel Franco, 3B, PHI - This downgrade could only be temporary, but it speaks volumes that the Phils decided against promoting Franco to the big club after the injury to Cody Asche. Franco has been battling a minor injury of his own, but the slow start to the season has really doomed Franco's chances of early season success in Philly. Franco is slashing just .232/.308/.354 with four home runs and 19 RBI through 47 games for Triple-A Lehigh Valley. After a brief hot stretch, Franco has once again returned to his slumping ways, hitting a mere .143 over his last 10 contests. At just 21 years of age, Franco remains a top prospect and still has plenty of time to turn things around. However, it is safe to say 2014 hasn't gone how Franco hoped it would.