Joey Gallo has been getting much publicity for the Rangers, and rightly so. After smashing 40 home runs last season, mostly at Low-A, he has continued to mash in 2014. Gallo mastered High-A rather quickly, earning a promotion to Double-A last week. In 60 games this season, Gallo already has 23 home runs and 56 RBI. Perhaps most impressively, though, Gallo is slashing an outrageous .327/.467/.760. Average wasn't really supposed to be part of the equation for the 20-year-old, but he has looked even more comfortable at the dish in 2014. Prodigious power, stellar plate discipline and an improved batting average means Gallo will be one of the top prospects in baseball heading into 2015, when he could possible make his MLB debut.
1. Lost in the Joey Gallo fervor was the promotion of Texas Rangers pitching prospect Alex Gonzalez to Double-A as well. Sharing a name with many light-hitting shortstops of baseball past, the 22-year-old Gonzalez is looking to blaze his own trail from the mound. He tossed a one-hitter over five innings in his Double-A debut Saturday, fanning six while issuing zero free passes.
2. Micah Johnson returned from a hamstring injury for Triple-A Charlotte, and the big club recently demoted fellow infield prospect Marcus Semien. If Johnson gets hot, don't be surprised to see the White Sox give him a shot in the majors.
3. Keep an eye on Minnesota Twins second baseman Eddie Rosario. The 22-year-old finished serving his 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, and has been on fire since returning. He spent eight games at High-A, was quickly shuttled to Double-A, and could see Triple-A shortly.
Let's take a closer look at the rest of the prospect landscape in this week's Minor League Barometer.
Jake Lamb, 3B, AZ - Lamb has been tearing the cover off the ball lately for Double-A Mobile. Over his last 10 games, the 23-year-old is slashing .452/.477/.905 with two home runs and 12 RBI. Overall, Lamb is having a superb season at this level, batting .314/.386/.568 with nine home runs and 47 RBI through 62 games. A sixth-round pick in 2012, Lamb has not hit below .294 at any level since entering the minors. With Martin Prado having a down year and Matt Davidson now playing for the White Sox, the door could be opened for Lamb to contend for the starting job at the hot corner as early as next season.
John Simms, P, WAS - An 11th-round pick in 2013 out of Rice, Simms started out as a reliever at Low-A but was quickly moved to the rotation at High-A after dominating out of the pen. In eight starts for High-A Potomac, Simms has a 3.92 ERA and 40:11 K:BB ratio through 43.2 innings. His last start was his best as a professional, as he fanned an impressive 14 batters over seven innings. Simms knows how to pitch, using largely a fastball/curveball combo with above-average control. The development of a third pitch will go a long way towards determining his future role, but the 22-year-old has certainly been stellar out of the gate for the Nats.
Rob Refsnyder, 2B, NYY - A torrid start to the season earned the 23-year-old Refsnyder a recent promotion to Triple-A. Refsnyder was the Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series for the University of Arizona in 2012, and parlayed that success into a fifth-round selection by the Bronx Bombers. In 60 games at Double-A Trenton prior to the promotion this season, he hit .342/.385/.548 with six home runs, 30 RBI and five steals. The Yankees do have an open spot at second base, though it remains to be seen if Refsnyder will be the one to fill that void. He swiped 23 bags last season, but does not project to have much more power than what he has already shown. Still, he might just be playing his way into the conversation with hit play thus far in 2014.
Christian Walker, 1B, BAL - A first baseman with college experience out of the University of South Carolina, the 23-year-old Walker appeared across three levels in 2013. Starting in High-A and finishing at Double-A, Walker batted .300/.362/.453 with 11 home runs and 56 RBI in 103 games. Walker has returned to Double-A to begin the 2014 campaign, and is having an excellent season once again to the tune of 17 home runs and 56 RBI in 62 games. He is slashing .316/.375/.571 as well. The Orioles do have Chris Davis manning first at the big-league level, so it remains to be seen where Walker will play should he continue to rake. However, it's a good problem to have, and the O's must be happy with the 23-year-old progress thus far.
Buck Farmer, P, DET - A fifth-round selection last year out of Georgia Tech, Farmer is a polished college pitcher who is having his way with inferior batters at Low-A. The 23-year-old Farmer has a 2.60 ERA and 82:19 K:BB ratio through 65.2 innings for the West Michigan Whitecaps. Farmer has a nice frame at 6-foot-4, 225-lbs, though is not a hard thrower. Instead, he keeps opposing hitters off-balance with a mix of four pitches, most notably a stellar changeup. It will be interesting to see how he fares at the higher levels against stiffer competition and without great velocity.
Dominique Taylor, OF, KC - Keep an eye on the 21-year-old Taylor, who has done nothing but hit since being picked in the 15th round of last year's draft. Taylor strutted his stuff in 62 games in the Pioneer League in 2013, slashing .322/.380/.502 with eight home runs, 37 RBI and 13 steals. He's continued with similar statistics in 2014 at Low-A Lexington, hitting .310/.343/.477 with four home runs, 27 RBI and 12 steals. The power/speed combo is always something to watch, but plate discipline needs to be monitored for Taylor as well. He has drawn just six walks in 197 at-bats thus far. He makes contact, though, and does not strike out a ton, so perhaps the issue is not as bad as it seems. Still, pitchers will be smarter at the higher levels if they know Taylor is going to jump at the first pitch he sees. Taylor has had success so far, but is far from a finished product for the Royals.
Manuel Margot, OF, BOS - Margot is a name to file away for the future. The 19-year-old is a speedster out of the Dominican Republic who has already swiped 21 bags in 53 games for Low-A Greenville. He does not strike out a lot (just 28 Ks over that span), and has also shown a little pop with four home runs and 19 RBI. He does not project to be a power hitter, but he could reach double-digits as he grows and his power stroke matures. The biggest question for Margot will be whether he can keep his average up at a respectable level. He is batting just .259 this season. Still, at just 19 years of age, he has more than held his own at this level, and his speed looks to be legitimate. Margot may still be a project, but there are many positive signs for the Red Sox.
Austin Wilson, OF, SEA - Wilson is a beast of a player at 6-foot-4, 250-lbs, but was only sent to Low-A to begin the 2014 campaign despite having a college pedigree. A second-round pick out of Stanford in 2013, he has been swinging a hot bat lately to the tune of .342/.444/.842 with four home runs and 14 RBI over his last 10 games at Low-A Clinton. Overall, the 22-year-old is batting .291/.374/.519 with nine home runs and 45 RBI through 57 games for the LumberKings. The real test of Wilson's future prowess will come at the higher levels, though, so expectations should be tempered for the 22-year-old at this time. He should get plenty of extra-base hits, but maintain a decent average will likely be an issue for him.
Danny Winkler, P, COL - This Rockies pitching phenom, who had been outperforming his more highly touted rotation mates in Eddie Butler and Jon Gray at Double-A, left his last start with a right elbow ailment. An MRI revealed a torn UCL, which means that Winkler will become the latest victim of the dreaded Tommy John epidemic that is sweeping across ballparks everywhere. It's a crushing blow for Winkler, who is already 24 years of age, and has been dominant this season. He had a 1.41 ERA and 71:17 K:BB ratio in 70 innings before the injury. By the time he returns to action, Winkler will be almost 26 years of age, having never pitched above Double-A.
Max Fried, P, SD - Fried's 2014 season still hasn't started due to a right forearm injury. One of the top prospects in the Padres system, Fried posted a 3.49 ERA and 100:56 K:BB ratio in 118.2 innings at Low-A Fort Wayne in 2013. The 20-year-old lefty induces a plethora of ground balls; he notched a 2.09 GO:AO ratio last season. San Diego is obviously being extremely cautious with Fried, who was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2012 draft. He has not yet returned to the mound even at the team's spring training facility, and it looks as though he will be sidelined for at least another month, if not longer. Fried remains a stellar pitching prospect, but his impact in the majors is still years away.
Reese McGuire, C, PIT - Known for his defensive prowess, McGuire has not been able to muster much with the bat of late. The 19-year-old backstop is batting a putrid .111 over his last 10 games for Low-A West Virginia. On the season, McGuire is hitting a respectable .261, but has failed to hit a single home run in 42 games, leading to a painfully low .304 slugging percentage. This could be a disturbing trend for McGuire, who batted .323 in 50 games last season, mostly in the Gulf Coast League as an 18-year-old, but did not hit a home run either over that span. McGuire will not be rushed through the system and has plenty of time to refine his technique at the dish. However, from a fantasy perspective, he may only be worth holding onto in the deepest of mixed keeper leagues.
Tom Murphy, C, COL - Another catcher who has struggled this season is Murphy, who had a breakout 2013 campaign for the Rockies. Murphy hit .289/.376/.571 with 22 home runs and 83 RBI, spending the last 20 games of the seasons at Double-A after skipping over High-A all together. 2014 has been markedly different, though. While Murphy did slug five home runs in 27 games for Double-A Tulsa, he batted just .213 with 27 strikeouts over that span. Murphy also exited a game in mid-May due to shoulder stiffness, and has not seen the field since that time. There is no timetable for his return to the squad. Suffice to say, it hasn't been a stellar season for the 23-year-old backstop, who was viewed as one of the top hitting prospects in the Colorado organization heading into this year.