Minor League Barometer: On The Radar

Minor League Barometer: On The Radar

This article is part of our Minor League Barometer series.

Over the past week or so, we've seen just how much a prospect can impact a squad. Just ask the Los Angeles Dodgers, as Cody Bellinger was just supposed to enjoy a brief cup of coffee in the big leagues but came out of the gate scorching hot. Now that Adrian Gonzalez is on the Disabled List, Bellinger has quickly gone from biding his time in the minors to starting at first in Chavez Ravine.

Need some extra prospects to keep on your radar? Here are a few more notable names not getting enough attention as we enter the second month of play in the minors.

1. Franklyn Kilome, P, PHI - Kilome is 6-foot-6 but may have figured out his control issues. He has a 28:5 K:BB through 28.2 innings for High-A Clearwater.

2. Luis Urias, 2B, SD - Urias is younger than almost everyone at Double-A, yet the 19-year-old is more than holding his own, slashing .342/.435/.523 through 23 games.

3. Brandon Woodruff, P, MIL - Sure, he's 24 years of age and enjoyed a surprising surge in strikeouts last season. But Woodruff has continued that success into the 2017 campaign, posting a 1.83 ERA and 30:7 K:BB in 34 innings in the extremely hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

Still got the prospect bug? Let's move on to the meaty portion of this week's Minor League Barometer.

UPGRADE

Walker Buehler, P, LAD - Buehler was picked in the first round of the 2015 draft despite

Over the past week or so, we've seen just how much a prospect can impact a squad. Just ask the Los Angeles Dodgers, as Cody Bellinger was just supposed to enjoy a brief cup of coffee in the big leagues but came out of the gate scorching hot. Now that Adrian Gonzalez is on the Disabled List, Bellinger has quickly gone from biding his time in the minors to starting at first in Chavez Ravine.

Need some extra prospects to keep on your radar? Here are a few more notable names not getting enough attention as we enter the second month of play in the minors.

1. Franklyn Kilome, P, PHI - Kilome is 6-foot-6 but may have figured out his control issues. He has a 28:5 K:BB through 28.2 innings for High-A Clearwater.

2. Luis Urias, 2B, SD - Urias is younger than almost everyone at Double-A, yet the 19-year-old is more than holding his own, slashing .342/.435/.523 through 23 games.

3. Brandon Woodruff, P, MIL - Sure, he's 24 years of age and enjoyed a surprising surge in strikeouts last season. But Woodruff has continued that success into the 2017 campaign, posting a 1.83 ERA and 30:7 K:BB in 34 innings in the extremely hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

Still got the prospect bug? Let's move on to the meaty portion of this week's Minor League Barometer.

UPGRADE

Walker Buehler, P, LAD - Buehler was picked in the first round of the 2015 draft despite fairly common knowledge that he would end up needing Tommy John surgery. The Vanderbilt product underwent said procedure and didn't get back on a mound until the following year. Finally healthy, Buehler dazzled in spring training, continually hitting the high-90's with his fastball. Unsurprisingly, the 22-year-old righty got off to a fast start at High-A Rancho Cucamonga, posting an insane stat line with a 1.10 ERA and 27:5 K:BB in 16.1 innings. That resulted in a quick promotion to Double-A. Buehler will likely be on a strict innings limit this season, and as a result the Dodgers will proceed extremely cautiously.

Dane Dunning, P, CHW - Dunning was basically viewed as a throw-in with Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez in the Adam Eaton deal during the offseason. However, clearly the White Sox knew what they were getting, as the 22-year-old righty has impressed thus far in 2017. Dunning began the year at Low-A, where the former University of Florida hurler predictably dominated with a minuscule 0.35 ERA and absurd 33:2 K:BB in 26 innings. Dunning parlayed that success into a quick bump to High-A, where's he's already fanned 11 batters over his first 7.2 innings. Dunning was a reliever in college, but his early success as a starter will almost certainly cause the White Sox to leave him in the rotation. The development of his changeup will go a long way toward determining his future role, though. Giolito, Lopez, Carson Fulmer and Michael Kopech get the publicity, but be sure to keep an eye on Dunning in the revamped Chicago system.

Fernando Romero, P, MIN - Don't sleep on Romero — another Tommy John recipient that can light up the radar gun. Romero missed all of 2015 but came back strong in 2016, posting a 1.89 ERA and 90:15 K:BB in 90.1 innings between Low-A and High-A. He hasn't missed a beat in five starts at Double-A to begin the 2017 campaign. Romero has a 2.96 ERA and 25:11 K:BB in 24.1 innings. Romero also induces a bevy of ground balls to the tune of a 1.81 GO:AO and allowed just one home run all of last season. As long as Romero continues to throw strikes and refine the command of his secondary pitches, the Twins could have a budding superstar on their hands.

Sam Hilliard, OF, COL - The Rockies may not need yet another outfielder, but they may have found a diamond in the rough in Hilliard. The 23-year-old outfielder, a 15th round pick in 2015, showed off an intriguing skillset in 2016 with 17 home runs and 30 steals at Low-A. He's taking full advantage of the friendly hitting confines of the California League to begin the 2017 season, as well. Hilliard is slashing .369/.441/.573 through 29 games. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound lefty has four home runs, 25 RBI and 10 steals over that span. He's a bit old for this level, and as a result the jump to Double-A may be most telling in regard to his future path. Nevertheless, it is difficult to argue with the production thus far.

CHECK STATUS

Christin Stewart, OF, DET - Home runs are the name of the game for Stewart, and a recent two-homer game has him sitting atop the Eastern League in that department. The 23-year-old outfielder now has eight dingers in 27 games for Double-A Erie. Stewart has also shown exceptional patience at the dish, drawing 16 walks over that span. Naturally, he's also fanned quite a few times (27, in fact), though the strikeout numbers are not outrageous, particularly when taking into account Stewart's OBP combined with his home run capabilities. The only question that remains is whether Stewart will be able to make consistent contact and hit for average at the higher levels. Still, in the downtrodden Tigers system he is arguably the top prospect.

Eric Lauer, P, SD - Lauer, a first round pick in last year's draft, has found little resistance thus far during his brief time in the minors. Currently Lauer has a 2.22 ERA and 34:11 K:BB through 28.1 innings for High-A Lake Elsinore. He may not be viewed as having the upside of a hurler like Cal Quantrill, also drafted by the Padres in 2016. His fastball sits in the low-90's and isn't overpowering, but Lauer continually exceeds expectations with his four-pitch arsenal

Austin Riley, 3B, ATL - Riley just turned 20 years of age, but he's already shown plenty of power during his brief professional career. That includes seven home runs and 24 RBI through the first 30 games of the season for the High-A Florida Fire Frogs. He's been particularly hot of late, batting .411 with four home runs and 11 RBI over his last 10 contests. So what's the problem? The issue is plate discipline. Riley not only strikes out a ton, but he doesn't draw a lot of walks. Riley has a 33:5 K:BB in those 30 games to begin the 2017 campaign. While he has not been hurt by his impatience at the dish as of yet, this red flag could be a sign of things to come as he ascends to the higher levels. Riley has plenty of time to work out the kinks, but plate discipline is a difficult skill to learn.

DOWNGRADE

Rowdy Tellez, 1B, TOR - Tellez made some noise in spring training but has scuffled out of the gate at Triple-A. The first baseman of the future for the Blue Jays, the loss of Edwin Encarnacion was viewed as accelerating the timeline for Tellez to hit the big leagues. However, the 22-year-old lefty is slashing just .200/.310/.329 through 26 games for Triple-A Buffalo. Tellez is not afraid to draw a walk, but his strikeouts have risen a tad at this level, and he has just three home runs thus far in 2017. The sample size is small, but this type of start will not get Tellez to the majors anytime soon.

Greg Allen, OF, CLE - One of the better hitting prospects for the Tribe, Allen suffered a hand injury that may sideline him for at least a month. The speedy switch-hitter had already swiped nine bases in 26 games at Double-A Akron after stealing 45 bags in 2016. Allen also has an extremely advanced approach at the dish, as he nearly tallied as many walks as strikeouts two years in a row. He likely won't ever hit for a ton of power, though he did collect seven home runs in back-to-back seasons, so his game is not completely devoid of that home run stroke.

Keegan Akin, P, BAL - It hasn't been all bad for Akin, a second round pick of the O's in 2016. He's fanned 32 batters in 23 innings for High-A Frederick. However, perhaps skipping Low-A was a mistake, as opposing batters are hitting a stout .323 against him and he's already allowed four home runs through six starts. The 21-year-old southpaw has only just embarked on his big league journey, but it's safe to say a 6.26 ERA through six starts was not what he was hoping for.

Billy McKinney, OF, NYY - Not everything GM Brian Cashman touches these days turns to gold. McKinney, one of the pieces in the Aroldis Chapman/Gleyber Torres deal, is struggling mightily at Double-A Trenton. The 22-year-old outfielder is slashing just .133/.255/.240 through 24 games. McKinney is averaging a strikeout per game, has just one home run and has failed to steal a single base in 2017. Taking a larger look at McKinney's numbers, he has never hit more than 11 home runs or swiped more than eight bags in a single year. As a result, even if McKinney starts to make more consistent contact, there is no guarantee he will be prove valuable from a fantasy standpoint.

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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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