Minor League Barometer: On the Verge of Promotion

Minor League Barometer: On the Verge of Promotion

This article is part of our Minor League Barometer series.

The minor league season is rapidly coming to a close, and the big clubs will soon make decisions on which prospects to call up, and which phenoms to shut down, at least until the Arizona Fall League. For example, the Minnesota Twins will shut down pitcher Adalberto Mejia after a few more starts at Triple-A Rochester. Mejia is approaching the 150 innings limit imposed by the club. After all, he tossed just 82.2 combined innings in 2015. Acquired from the San Francisco Giants at the trade deadline, Mejia is considered one of the top pitching prospects for the Twinkies.

Meanwhile, other players will get their first taste of big league action. Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe of the San Diego Padres immediately come to mind. It's about time for Jose De Leon to flex his strikeout muscle for the Los Angeles Dodgers as well. The Seattle Mariners can bring Dan Vogelbach up from Triple-A for an extra power bat too. It will be interesting to see if the Brewers decide to call up Josh Hader or Lewis Brinson. Milwaukee is going nowhere, Hader has struggled at Triple-A and Brinson recently battled injury. However, it may be worthwhile to get their feet wet and promote them with no pressure or expectations.

This week's Minor League Barometer will combine some other players on the verge of promotions, as well as some prospects flying under the radar.

UPGRADE

Tom Murphy, C, COL - Murphy is a bit old for prospect status,

The minor league season is rapidly coming to a close, and the big clubs will soon make decisions on which prospects to call up, and which phenoms to shut down, at least until the Arizona Fall League. For example, the Minnesota Twins will shut down pitcher Adalberto Mejia after a few more starts at Triple-A Rochester. Mejia is approaching the 150 innings limit imposed by the club. After all, he tossed just 82.2 combined innings in 2015. Acquired from the San Francisco Giants at the trade deadline, Mejia is considered one of the top pitching prospects for the Twinkies.

Meanwhile, other players will get their first taste of big league action. Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe of the San Diego Padres immediately come to mind. It's about time for Jose De Leon to flex his strikeout muscle for the Los Angeles Dodgers as well. The Seattle Mariners can bring Dan Vogelbach up from Triple-A for an extra power bat too. It will be interesting to see if the Brewers decide to call up Josh Hader or Lewis Brinson. Milwaukee is going nowhere, Hader has struggled at Triple-A and Brinson recently battled injury. However, it may be worthwhile to get their feet wet and promote them with no pressure or expectations.

This week's Minor League Barometer will combine some other players on the verge of promotions, as well as some prospects flying under the radar.

UPGRADE

Tom Murphy, C, COL - Murphy is a bit old for prospect status, but the 25-year-old has battled an assortment of injuries throughout his minor league career. However, he is finally healthy, hitting his stride at Triple-A, and could be a September call-up for the Rockies. Over his last 10 games, Murphy is batting .372 with four home runs and eight RBI. Murphy has actually been terrific for the entire season when on the field. He is slashing .325/.354/.661 with 19 home runs and 57 RBI through 73 games for the Albuquerque Isotopes. Should the Rockies need a power bat down the stretch, Murphy certainly fits the bill, while also providing extra help behind the dish. In any event, he should vie for the starting catching job in 2017.

Yadier Alvarez, P, LAD - The 20-year-old Cuban has been simply sensational since entering full-season ball. Though he has just seven starts under his belt, Alvarez has notched a 2.64 ERA and 46:9 K:BB in just 30.2 innings. Opposing batters are hitting a putrid .198 against him. Alvarez has a blazing fastball, but it has been his command along with the development of his secondary pitches that has been the most impressive. Continued work on those change ups and breaking balls will only further serve to push him up the prospect rankings. Alvarez won't hit the big leagues for a few years, but he is a high upside arm worth keeping tabs on.

Roniel Raudes, P, BOS - It was easy for Raudes to get lost in the shuffle with Anderson Espinoza sharing the bump in the rotation at Low-A, but now that Espinoza has moved on to the Padres, Raudes should be gaining more notoriety. At just 18 years of age, Raudes has more than held his own at this level for virtually the entire season. He has been ever better of late, allowing one earned run or fewer in four consecutive starts. Over that span of 23 innings, the teenager has a 19:3 K:BB. Raudes does not have quite the upside of a pitcher like Espinoza, but at just 18 years of age, Raudes may only be scratching the surface of his potential. he has shown above-average control along with the ability to miss bats despite being one of the younger hurlers at this level.

Mitch Keller, P, PIT - Keller has been one of the breakout pitching stars in 2016. Injuries limited him to just six measly starts in 2015, but he has returned with a vengeance in 2016., In fact, he might be pitching his best at the present time. He is currently riding a 23-inning scoreless streak at Low-A West Virginia. During that span, Keller has an absurd 28:4 K:BB. Overall, the 20-year-old has a 2.46 ERA and outstanding 131:18 K:BB. Keller has shown that lethal combination of hitting his spots while still being able to blow away opposing batters. He will enter 2017 as one of the better pitching prospects in baseball.

CHECK STATUS

Jairo Beras, OF, TEX - Few hitters have been hotter than Beras of late. The 21-year-old outfielder is batting .412 with four home runs and 13 RBI over his last 10 games for High-A High Desert. The 6-foot-6 Beras is still filling out but has already posted career bests in home runs (22) and RBI (72). Of course, the hitter friendly confines of the California League may have something to do with the inflated numbers of Beras. It also remains to be seen if he will be able to hit for average at the higher levels. Beras is batting just .267 with a .314 On-Base Percentage in 2016, along with a subpar K:BB of 111:23 in 98 games. Will the power numbers last, or has this season in High Desert been a mirage? Double-A will be the true test for Beras in 2017.

Emilio Vargas, P, AZ - Any hurler who strikes out 17 batters in a game deserves some recognition. That's exactly what Vargas accomplished on August 20, fanning 17 hitters over eight innings for Low-A Kane County. Vargas was signed as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, and has been brought along slowly by the Diamondbacks since that time. He had previously bounced back and forth between the starting rotation and the bullpen, but has started all 15 of his appearances in 2016. Vargas did struggle in two starts earlier this season at High-A, so it remains likely that he will continue a slow progression towards the big leagues. Consistency will be key for Vargas, who has an insane 48:4 K:BB over his last 36 innings.

Dinelson Lamet, P, SD - The 6-foot-4 Lamet is much closer to the big leagues, having just been promoted to Triple-A, his third different stop in 2016. Lamet's changeup has become a wipeout pitch, in turn leading to extended success. The 24-year-old was 7-1 with a 2.34 ERA in 65 innings in the hitter-friendly environment at High-A. That low ERA in difficult conditions led to a promotion to Double-A San Antonio, where Lamet has been equally as impressive. Lamet has a 3.39 ERA and 91:31 K:BB in 74.1 innings. The strikeouts jump off the page for Lamet, as the opposition is hitting an abysmal .207 against him at this level. As long as Lamet can keep his walks down, he could emerge as a chic pickup.

Drew Ferguson, OF, HOU - A 19th round pick in last year's draft, Ferguson is another toolsy outfielder for the Astros, much like Brett Phillips and Derek Fisher, that took advantage of the California League. The 24-year-old Ferguson slashed .313/.410/.531 with 14 home runs, 69 RBI and 28 steals in 90 games for High-A Lancaster. Perhaps an older, polished college bat out of Belmont University should have taken advantage of the elements, though. Ferguson has since been promoted to Double-A, where his future projection will become much clearer. Still, he cannot be faulted for doing what he was supposed to do at High-A.

DOWNGRADE

Jesse Winker, OF, CIN - Winker is not on the 40-man roster and is blocked by the surprising All-Star Adam Duvall at the big league level. Those two items by themselves are likely reason enough to keep Winker at Triple-A for the remainder of the season. Then there is the issue regarding his lack of power. While Winker was never a monstrous power hitter, he stands at 6-foot-3, 215-lbs, so he is not exactly on the frail side. He hit at least 13 home runs in each of the past three seasons in the minors. Still, his left-handed stroke has not translated into home runs in 2016. Winker has just three home runs and 42 RBI. For a corner outfielder, that simply will not do. Nevertheless, Winker is hitting .300 in 95 games with nearly as many walks (51) as strikeouts (52). His advanced approach at the dish means he'll make a solid MLB player, but he may be a better actual player than fantasy producer due to his limited power and almost non-existent speed on the base paths.

Clint Frazier, OF, NYY - Frazier is also not on the 40-man roster, and at just 21 years of age, is more than a full year younger than the above-referenced Winker. He has also scuffled a bit since joining the Yankees organization. In 22 games for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Frazier is slashing just .236/.284/.393 with two home runs and six RBI. Frazier has a rather pedestrian 25:6 K:BB over that span. Frazier remains one of the better outfield prospects in the game, but the likelihood that he sees the majors in September are slim, particularly considering his slow start at Triple-A.

Matt Olson, OF, OAK - It's been a rough year for Olson, who is having his worst season since 2013 at Low-A Beloit. Now at Triple-A, Olson is slashing a dismal .225/.327/.408. The slugging percentage is of particular concern, as it is the lowest of Olson's career, and power was supposed to be his best tool. He has a career worst 15 home runs through 123 games at Triple-A Nashville, and has fanned at least 125 times for the fourth-straight season. The strikeouts were a little easier to swallow because of his power and ability to take a walk, but both home runs and free passes are down in 2016. He's just 22 years of age, and was never going to hit for a high average, but Olson's production this year leaves a lot to be desired.

Taylor Guerrieri, P, TB - After a sensational return from both suspension and Tommy John surgery in 2015, Guerrieri has found the going a bit tougher in 2016. The 23-year-old righty has a 3.90 ERA in 134 innings at Double-A Montgomery. While that statistic certainly isn't horrible, Guerrieri has seen a curious dip in his strikeouts. After fanning 72 batters in 78 innings between High-A and Double-A last season, Guerrieri has just 82 strikeouts in 134 innings this year. He has also walked 46 batters, showing uncharacteristic wildness. This is a rather strange occurrence, considering Guerrieri showed very little rust in 2015, albeit in shorter outings. Perhaps this is simply a case of getting used to the grind of a full season as a starter. After all, this is the first time since being drafted in 2011 that Guerrieri has thrown over 80 innings is a single season. Still, fellow hurler Brent Honeywell has likely passed him in terms of organizational ranking.

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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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