Minor League Barometer: Meadows Goes to Pasture

Minor League Barometer: Meadows Goes to Pasture

This article is part of our Minor League Barometer series.

There's no better story to begin the season than the one being written by Colorado Rockies rookie Trevor Story. The story, puns and all, basically writes itself. The shortstop prospect crushed six home runs in the first four games of the season. That would also be the first four games of his big-league career. Story became the first player in MLB history with home runs in each of his first four games. While he failed to homer in his fifth game, he did manage a dinger in his sixth career game, bringing his total to seven home runs in 2016. Story was certainly a chic sleeper heading into this season, but nobody could have predicted this torrid start. Still, it just goes to show what opportunity does, as perhaps Story never would have gotten the chance to shine if the Rockies hadn't gotten rid of Troy Tulowitzki. Likewise, the importance of depth in a minor league organization cannot be overstated.

Who else could be turning heads in the majors soon? Let's look in this week's Minor League Barometer.

UPGRADE

Nomar Mazara, OF, TEX - Not to be outdone, Mazara homered in his big-league debut Sunday for the Rangers, going 3-for-4. The calf injury to Shin-Soo Choo opened a spot for the 20-year-old, and he did not disappoint in his first outing. Mazara only appears to be scratching the surface of his potential but has 30-homer power with an extremely advanced approach at the dish. Triple-A proved to

There's no better story to begin the season than the one being written by Colorado Rockies rookie Trevor Story. The story, puns and all, basically writes itself. The shortstop prospect crushed six home runs in the first four games of the season. That would also be the first four games of his big-league career. Story became the first player in MLB history with home runs in each of his first four games. While he failed to homer in his fifth game, he did manage a dinger in his sixth career game, bringing his total to seven home runs in 2016. Story was certainly a chic sleeper heading into this season, but nobody could have predicted this torrid start. Still, it just goes to show what opportunity does, as perhaps Story never would have gotten the chance to shine if the Rockies hadn't gotten rid of Troy Tulowitzki. Likewise, the importance of depth in a minor league organization cannot be overstated.

Who else could be turning heads in the majors soon? Let's look in this week's Minor League Barometer.

UPGRADE

Nomar Mazara, OF, TEX - Not to be outdone, Mazara homered in his big-league debut Sunday for the Rangers, going 3-for-4. The calf injury to Shin-Soo Choo opened a spot for the 20-year-old, and he did not disappoint in his first outing. Mazara only appears to be scratching the surface of his potential but has 30-homer power with an extremely advanced approach at the dish. Triple-A proved to be no match for Mazara in his short time there between last year and 2016. He was 35-for-93 (.376) in 23 games at that level before the promotion. It will be difficult for the Rangers to send him back to the minors if he continues to hit, even at just age 20. Mazara is a future star.

David Dahl, OF, COL -
While Trevor Story has taken the bigs by storm, the Rockies have plenty of other talented hitting prospects coming through the pipeline. Along with Forrest Wall and Ryan McMahon, Dahl is next in line for ascension to the throne. A ruptured spleen shortened his 2015 campaign, but Dahl is now healthy and has started the new year with two home runs and one stolen base through the first four games at Double-A. The toolsy Dahl has 20-20 potential, and his offensive numbers should only be helped by playing his future games in the thin air of Colorado.

Brett Phillips, OF, MIL -
Phillips came from the Astros in the Carlos Gomez trade, but still does not receive enough pub. He also has 20-20 potential, and the 21-year-old has hit over .300 in each of the last two seasons. Phillips is already off to a hot start in 2016 for Double-A Biloxi. He is 6-for-16 (.375) with one home run, six RBI and one stolen base. He has seen a bit of a rise in strikeouts the last season or so, but if you hit over .300, not much can be said on that front. Phillips is extremely underrated, and considering the Brewers are playing Mets castoff Kirk Nieuwenhuis in center field, Phillips could see the big club by the end of the year.

Jorge Alfaro, C, PHI -
The Phillies received a huge haul in the Cole Hamels trade, including Alfaro, Nick Williams and Jake Thompson. Alfaro has battled a variety of injuries in recent memory, but at one time was considered the top catching prospect in baseball. Perhaps a fresh start was all that was needed, as he is scalding the ball out of the gate for Double-A Reading. He is 7-for-14 (.500) through the first three games. Alfaro could hit 20 home runs at a thin fantasy position, making him an intriguing prospect, particularly with his past hype. The Phillies' farm system appears to be in decent shape between the Hamels trade and J.P. Crawford's eventual takeover of the shortstop position.

CHECK STATUS

Lucas Sims, P, ATL - Is this the year Sims finally taps into his huge potential? If his first start of the season is any indication, a bounce-back campaign certainly could be in the works for the former first-round pick. Just 21, Sims has battled control problems in his brief professional career. Still, after an awful 2014 campaign when his strikeout rate curiously declined, he managed more than a strikeout per inning in 2015. In his first start of 2016 for Double-A Mississippi, Sims allowed just one hit while fanning nine batters over five innings. Of course, he also walked three batters, showing that perhaps his control issues are not behind him yet. But hurlers who strike out batters at a high rate will always be on the radar.

Anderson Espinoza, P, BOS -
There's a ton of hype surrounding Espinoza, who at just 17 last season posted a 65:14 K:BB ratio in 58.1 innings, mostly at the rookie level. He has an explosive fastball that can reach triple digits with a stellar curveball and an emerging changeup. He does not have prototypical size (6-foot-0, 160) for a pitcher, but neither did Pedro Martinez. Espinoza is being talked about as a future ace, but projection is a dangerous, difficult game. Not every hurler is Julio Urias. As a result, be prepared to roster Espinoza for a long time in dynasty leagues before reaping any rewards. That said, he tossed five shutout innings in his first outing for Low-A Greenville this season.

Taylor Guerrieri, P, TB -
Blake Snell gets the pub for the Rays, but Guerrieri has quietly worked back from Tommy John surgery and some off-field transgressions, placing himself back on the prospect map. Guerrieri had some substance abuse issues around the time he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, and as such has pitched a rather limited number of innings in the minors despite being 23. However, he may have seen the light and rediscovered his gifts, posting a 1.85 ERA and 72:19 K:BB ratio in 78 innings last season between High-A and Double-A. The fact that Guerrieri has very few innings under his belt can be viewed as a positive or a negative. He does not have as many miles on his arm as other pitchers his age, though it remains to be seen if he can handle the rigors of being a starting pitcher at the higher levels. Guerrieri has not eclipsed the 100-inning mark in any season since entering the minors in 2011. Guerrieri is a prospect to watch, but his career path is still far from certain.

Peter O'Brien, OF, AZ -
O'Brien has power to spare, but his position in the field continues to make him a liability and hinder his ability to get at-bats. Playing in the National League certainly does not help his cause, as the lack of a designated hitter takes away extra plate appearances. O'Brien is a former catcher who could not really catch. He now plays outfield, but the transition has been difficult. Still, his power was on full display this spring, as he crushed five home runs in 60 at-bats before being sent back to Triple-A Reno. The raw power possessed by O'Brien is something that you simply cannot teach, so perhaps he will continue to work on his fielding in the minors and hope for an opportunity to eventually open up.

DOWNGRADE

Cody Bellinger, 1B, LAD - One of the better hitting prospects for the Dodgers, Bellinger will begin the season in the disabled list due to a strained hip. There is no timetable for his return. Bellinger played both outfield and first base, but it was not known whether he would hit for enough power to stick at first. Bellinger quieted some of his doubters, smacking 30 home runs while driving in 103 runs at High-A Rancho Cucamonga last year. Still, it remains to be seen if Bellinger's power is for real, or whether he took advantage of the friendly hitting confines of the California League. Bellinger also fanned 150 times in 128 games in 2015, so he will certainly have to cut his strikeouts if he is to succeed at the higher levels. On another note, if the name sounds familiar, his father is former New York Yankees utility man Clay Bellinger.

Anthony Alford, OF, TOR -
Alford did not even make it through one game before injuring his leg in the season opener for High-A Dunedin. A high-OBP player compared to Denard Span, Alford was placed on the disabled list. Alford has just seven career home runs, though he did steal 27 bases last year. Nevertheless, he may end up being a better actual player than fantasy contributor, as he is unlikely to hit many home runs or drive in many runs. He has played just 133 games in the minors since being drafted in the third round in 2012, so perhaps Alford has yet to truly find his groove. He will have to stay on the field for the rest of us to find out where he fits, though.

Marco Gonzales, P, STL -
The stock of Gonzales has taken a massive hit the last year or so, largely due to an inability to stay healthy. That trend has unfortunately continued into 2016, as Gonzales will miss a portion of the beginning of the minor league season due to a left elbow injury. He will receive a second opinion, but Tommy John does not appear to be out of the question. Interestingly, it was a shoulder injury that limited Gonzales last year, which was apparently unrelated to the current ailment. Once considered a top-flight prospect for the Cards, Gonzales was expected to vie for the No. 5 starter slot in the rotation this season. Clearly that did not materialize, and Gonzales now faces the prospect of missing an entire season, if not longer, at age 24.

Austin Meadows, OF, PIT -
The future potential and trajectory has not changed for Meadows, but he fractured an orbital bone during spring and is a ways away from returning for the Bucs. As a result, the possibility of Meadows reaching the big leagues in 2016 is almost zero, despite hitting .310 with seven home runs, 55 RBI and 21 steals last season, mostly at High-A. It is also worth noting that the Pirates just gave Gregory Polanco a five-year extension in right field, former MVP Andrew McCutchen is in center, and budding star Starling Marte is locked up in left. As a result, questions could begin to crop up as to where Meadows will play once he is indeed ready for the bigs, likely starting in 2017. A trade could end up becoming a possibility as well.

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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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