Minor League Barometer: Farming for Prospects

Minor League Barometer: Farming for Prospects

This article is part of our Minor League Barometer series.

The All-Star Break is fast-approaching, and teams will soon have to decide whether they are playing for this year or the future. That decision by certain clubs in particular could affect when some top prospects make their MLB debuts. If the Colorado Rockies decide to part with Carlos Gonzalez, then David Dahl could see the big leagues this summer. Could the Pittsburgh Pirates possibly deal former MVP Andrew McCutchen and leave space for Austin Meadows, who recently had a 26-game hitting streak? Will the San Diego Padres find a suitor for Matt Kemp, thereby opening the door for Hunter Renfroe, who has 17 home runs and 63 RBI in 72 games at Triple-A? These questions and more loom large as the August 1 trade deadline draws near.

Let's take a look at the rest of the prospect landscape in this edition of the Minor League Barometer.

UPGRADE

Aaron Judge, OF, NYY - Will the Yankees be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline? The answer to that question will likely determine if Judge sees the big leagues in a significant way in 2016. If the Yankees decide to unload the ageless Carlos Beltran, then Judge should slide right into the vacated spot in right field. Judge is making a push even without a trade, though, batting .286 with six home runs and 11 RBI over the last 10 games for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Judge now has 15 home runs in 71 games this season. He'll

The All-Star Break is fast-approaching, and teams will soon have to decide whether they are playing for this year or the future. That decision by certain clubs in particular could affect when some top prospects make their MLB debuts. If the Colorado Rockies decide to part with Carlos Gonzalez, then David Dahl could see the big leagues this summer. Could the Pittsburgh Pirates possibly deal former MVP Andrew McCutchen and leave space for Austin Meadows, who recently had a 26-game hitting streak? Will the San Diego Padres find a suitor for Matt Kemp, thereby opening the door for Hunter Renfroe, who has 17 home runs and 63 RBI in 72 games at Triple-A? These questions and more loom large as the August 1 trade deadline draws near.

Let's take a look at the rest of the prospect landscape in this edition of the Minor League Barometer.

UPGRADE

Aaron Judge, OF, NYY - Will the Yankees be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline? The answer to that question will likely determine if Judge sees the big leagues in a significant way in 2016. If the Yankees decide to unload the ageless Carlos Beltran, then Judge should slide right into the vacated spot in right field. Judge is making a push even without a trade, though, batting .286 with six home runs and 11 RBI over the last 10 games for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Judge now has 15 home runs in 71 games this season. He'll see the majors eventually, but it will be sooner rather than later if the Bronx Bombers decide to throw in the towel on the 2016 campaign and look toward the future.

Josh Bell, 1B, PIT - Bell continues to silence the doubters with yet another scintillating season with the bat. Bell is slashing .321/.405/.532 through 70 games for Triple-A Indianapolis. This is the third straight year in which he is hitting over .300. Perhaps most importantly, his power stroke is finally starting to come around. Bell has 11 home runs and is on pace to shatter his previous career high of 13. A recent hot streak has certainly helped, as Bell is batting .349 with two home runs and five RBI over his last 10 games. His glove remains a work in progress, and that appears to be the only thing holding him back from being promoted. However, John Jaso's average is plummeting in the big leagues, so if Bell continues to rake, the Bucs may have no choice but to hand the first base job over to him.

Luke Weaver, P, STL - A broken wrist derailed the start of the 2016 campaign for Weaver, but the first-round pick is healthy and back on track. Weaver has made four starts since returning from injury, and he's been nothing short of dominant. Over a span of 26.1 innings for Double-A Springfield, the 22-year-old righty has a 1.37 ERA and 29:3 K:BB. Weaver has four pitches but works mostly off his fastball and changeup. His ability to hit location adds to his profile; Weaver had a 1.62 ERA last season and just 19 walks in 105.1 innings at High-A. He's shown an uptick in strikeouts through these first few starts at Double-A; if the improvement in this category is legitimate, Weaver has the chance to make a huge jump in the prospect rankings.

David Paulino, P, HOU - Paulino has been simply sensational for Double-A Corpus Christie. Working his way back from Tommy John surgery performed in 2013, Paulino has a 66:11 K:BB in 58 innings. His ERA is a minuscule 1.86, as opposing batters are hitting just .206 against him, but the 6-foot-7 righty pitched just 67 innings in 2015, so the likelihood of an MLB debut this season is slim. Still, Paulino has shown incredible advancement with his secondary pitches, particularly in the ability to locate them. It is often a worry with tall pitchers that they will be unable to consistently find their release point and repeat their delivery, but Paulino has had no such problems since returning from injury. Paulino should be getting more publicity right now.

CHECK STATUS

Brandon Nimmo, OF, NYM – Injuries have played a huge role in the inability of the Mets to score runs of late. Their current roster is a shell of what it was on opening day. Lucas Duda, Travis d'Arnaud and David Wright have all missed significant time in the infield. Michael Conforto has struggled mightily since May 1, and the Mets were forced to send his sub-.150 batting average back to Triple-A. Much like Conforto helped provide a boost at the end of last season, Nimmo could provide the same sort of relief. The 23-year-old is slashing .328/.409/.508 with five home runs, 37 RBI and five steals in 63 games for Triple-A Las Vegas. From a fantasy perspective, Nimmo may not provide a ton of power or a plethora of speed. However, he has certainly shown the ability to get on base, and he is not completely devoid of power or speed. It is reasonable to assume that Nimmo was not brought up to sit on the bench.

Connor Greene, P, TOR - Greene had three stellar starts in a row for High-A Dunedin. During those starts, a span of 20 innings, the 21-year-old has a 20:7 K:BB. Greene was a seventh-round pick in the 2013 draft, and has not quite shown elite strikeout ability or command. Interestingly, he had just 29:24 K:BB in the first 53.2 innings of the year. Is his newfound success a mirage or has Greene made the appropriate adjustments? Greene was arguably the top pitching prospect in the Toronto system heading into the season, so perhaps he has turned the corner. Of course, he allowed three earned runs on six hits and four walks in just four innings in his last start. The mystery remains.

Taylor Clarke, P, ARI - Clarke is already pitching at his third different level in 2016. The 23-year-old righty was a third-round pick in the 2015 draft out of the College of Charleston. He pitched out of the bullpen following the draft, but has returned to the starting rotation. He showed off the polish of a college pitcher to begin the year, making quick work of the opposition at Low-A Kane County, where Clarke had a 2.83 ERA and 24:5 K:BB in 28.2 innings. He was promoted to High-A and achieved results, posting a 2.74 ERA and 22:7 K:BB in 23 innings. That led to another bump up to Double-A, where he currently resides. Clarke has finally found some resistance at this level with a 4.32 ERA and 16:6 K:BB in 25 innings. Clarke has three pitches but relies more on command and deception to get outs. He does not project as a frontline starter, but Clarke's quick rise is still worth noting.

Andrew Stevenson, OF, WAS - Speed is the name of the game for the left-handed hitting Stevenson, who has stolen 27 bases in 68 games for High-A Potomac. He projects as a prototypical leadoff hitter. He does not have much power, though he makes contact at a fairly high rate, as evidenced by the fact that he has just 42 strikeouts thus far in 2016. Overall, he is slashing .304/.359./.418. The lack of power limits Stevenson's upside, but the 22-year-old does have 10 doubles and seven triples to his credit.

DOWNGRADE

Frankie Montas, P, LAD - The injury bug has claimed Montas again, just when it seemed he could be pushing for a slot in the big-league rotation. Montas had rib surgery in the offseason and did not pitch in live action in the minors until May 22. Thereafter the Dodgers were cautious with the hard-throwing righty, pitching him in relief at Double-A. He began to start games as well, though, and ended up with a 15:2 K:BB in 11.1 innings for Triple-A Oklahoma City. Unfortunately, he recently experienced some irritation in the area on his ribs where he was operated on, and was placed back on the DL. While the injury is not considered serious at this time, it is certainly a frustrating development for Montas and the Dodgers, who could use some help at the back end of the rotation behind Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda and uber-prospect Julio Urias.

Ruddy Giron, SS, SD - Giron became a chic dynasty league pickup last season, flashing all of his potential tools at just 18 years of age in 2015 for Low-A Fort Wayne. In 96 games at that level, Giron hit .285 with nine home runs and 15 stolen bases. The Padres decided to proceed cautiously with the toolsy infielder from the Dominican Republic, and Giron began the 2016 campaign in the same place. Unfortunately, he has done a complete 180 this year, hitting an abysmal .188 through 58 games. His power has been non-existent; Giron is still looking for his first home run of the season. Since he has not been on base nearly as much, he has been unable to steal as many bases. Giron has just three thefts in 2016 and has essentially come crashing back down to earth.

Wendell Rijo, 2B, BOS - In a system where Yoan Moncada plays the same position, Rijo gets lost in the shuffle. Still, Rijo more than held his own as a 19-year-old at High-A last season. Rijo slashed .260/.324/.381 with six home runs, 47 RBI and 15 stolen bases in 108 games. The Red Sox remained aggressive with Rijo, starting him at Double-A Portland this season. Playing up in competition finally caught up to Rijo, though, as he hit a putrid .186/.245/.266 in 51 games. His plate discipline also took a nosedive, as he posted a 46:13 K:BB over that span, which is a big reason why he was been sent back to High-A in an attempt to right the ship. This is likely just a blip on the radar for Rijo, though his progress looks to have been halted – at least for the time being.

Boog Powell, OF, SEA - Oddly, this Powell is not related to the 17-year MLB veteran with the same name, who was a staple for the Baltimore Orioles in the 1960's and early 1970's, that is now known for his delicious barbecue joint on Eutaw Street outside of Camden Yards. Still, this 23-year-old Powell was a top-10 prospect for the Mariners heading into this year. However, his 2016 campaign will be cut short due to an 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. Powell was slashing .270./.326/.359 for Triple-A Tacoma prior to the suspension. Powell hit .343 in 2014, and has achieved double-digits in stolen bases in each of the last three years, but he won't see the majors until 2017 at the earliest due to his transgressions.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.
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