Minor League Barometer: Risers & Fallers

Minor League Barometer: Risers & Fallers

This article is part of our Minor League Barometer series.

Kyle Harrison has looked every bit the future ace in the Giants organization this season. The 20-year-old southpaw has fanned an outrageous 51 batters in only 24 innings at High-A Eugene. After struggling a bit with free passes in 2021, Harrison has walked just nine batters. Opposing hitters are batting .271 against him and he's inducing even more ground balls than a season ago. Harrison's three-quarters arm slot and improvement on his changeup only add to his deadly arsenal. With a fastball that now rides into the upper 90s and a devastating slider to boot, he boasts the tools to see the big leagues by the middle of next year.

Let's continue analyzing some notable prospects in this week's Minor League Barometer.

UPGRADE

Taj Bradley, P, TB – The Rays may have yet another pitching phenom on their hands. Bradley has been lights out at Double-A with a 2.61 ERA and 36:7 K:BB in 28 innings while batters are hitting a measly .193 against. His fastball/slider combination is featured prominently and he's extremely athletic while showing significant improvement in control since being selected at just 17 back in 2018. The Rays are notoriously conservative in their approach with prospects - especially pitchers -so don't count on seeing Bradley in the big leagues this season. That being said, he'll likely be one of the top arms in the minors heading into 2023 with a chance to debut sometime during the year.

Gunnar Henderson, SS, BAL – Henderson is only 20, but is more than holding

Kyle Harrison has looked every bit the future ace in the Giants organization this season. The 20-year-old southpaw has fanned an outrageous 51 batters in only 24 innings at High-A Eugene. After struggling a bit with free passes in 2021, Harrison has walked just nine batters. Opposing hitters are batting .271 against him and he's inducing even more ground balls than a season ago. Harrison's three-quarters arm slot and improvement on his changeup only add to his deadly arsenal. With a fastball that now rides into the upper 90s and a devastating slider to boot, he boasts the tools to see the big leagues by the middle of next year.

Let's continue analyzing some notable prospects in this week's Minor League Barometer.

UPGRADE

Taj Bradley, P, TB – The Rays may have yet another pitching phenom on their hands. Bradley has been lights out at Double-A with a 2.61 ERA and 36:7 K:BB in 28 innings while batters are hitting a measly .193 against. His fastball/slider combination is featured prominently and he's extremely athletic while showing significant improvement in control since being selected at just 17 back in 2018. The Rays are notoriously conservative in their approach with prospects - especially pitchers -so don't count on seeing Bradley in the big leagues this season. That being said, he'll likely be one of the top arms in the minors heading into 2023 with a chance to debut sometime during the year.

Gunnar Henderson, SS, BAL – Henderson is only 20, but is more than holding his own at Double-A slashing .293/.453/.485 with four home runs, 21 RBI and 12 steals in 31 games. He's already been a fast riser through the Baltimore system having played at three levels last season while collecting 17 homers and 16 steals across 105 contests. While Henderson has always shown patience at the dish, he has taken his approach to new heights in 2022 with more walks (31) than strikeouts (24) in 28 games at Double-A, which is no small feat. His advanced plate discipline along with his intriguing combination of power and speed at such a young age makes him a neophyte who's already turning heads.

Matthew Liberatore, P, STL – Liberatore went toe-to-toe last week with perhaps the top pitching prospect in baseball in the form of Grayson Rodriguez from the Baltimore organization. In fact, Liberatore outlasted Rodriguez hurling six innings while scattering four hits and allowing just one earned run. On the season, Liberatore has posted a 3.83 ERA and 46:12 K:BB over 40 innings. The southpaw can throw all four of his pitches for strikes and is in his second go-round at Triple-A, so it's likely he'll end up in the bigs sometime this summer.

Pedro Leon, SS/OF, HOU – Leon clubbed two home runs Saturday at Triple-A while driving home a career-best six runs. His slash line currently sits at .261/.382/.555 and has now produced seven home runs, 26 RBI and 10 stolen bases. Leon has tools galore, but the Astros would like to see him cut down on his strikeouts having fanned 46 times in 31 games. There's also the issue of his future position as Leon will most likely be converted to an outfielder. That being said, Chas McCormick is not exactly lighting it up in centerfield - where Leon would most likely play. While a promotion is not likely imminent, he could find his way to the big club sooner rather than later if he gets hot at the plate.

CHECK STATUS

Eury Perez, P, MIA – The strikeout figures jump off the page for Perez, who is just 19 yet stands a towering 6'8" and has fanned a staggering 45 batters in only 28 innings at Double-A while facing much older competition. Perhaps more impressive is that he's walked just eight batters over that span. Mechanics are usually cited against taller pitchers, as they tend to have a lot more moving parts and struggle to repeat their delivery and consistently hit the same release point. That has not been the case thus far for Perez. He's been hit a bit in a few starts this season, leading to a 4.50 ERA. The sample size is small and Perez's upside remains tantalizing.

Jacob Amaya, SS, LAD – Amaya had a rough 2021 slashing .216/.303/.343 to lose much of his prospect luster. He did hit a career-high 12 home runs, but also fanned 103 times while showing much less command of the strike zone than in previous years. Amaya has rebounded hitting .337/.443/.747 with seven home runs and 17 RBI. His plate discipline has returned with a vengeance with only 14 strikeouts compared to 19 walks across 27 games at Double-A. Amaya is repeating this level, though is still 23. The Dodgers are also stacked up the middle of the diamond, at least in terms of the infield. That being said, Amaya is currently on the 40-man roster for the Dodgers, and his hot start may have just placed him back on the prospect map.

Moises Gomez, OF, STL – Gomez and the aforementioned Amaya have purposely been lumped together here, both having produced dreadful 2021s but bounce-back 2022s so far. Gomez was actually released by the Rays at the end of last season, but found a new home with the Cardinals and appears to have resurrected his professional career. Gomez leads the Texas League in home runs by a wide margin, smacking 15 in 29 games for Double-A Springfield while hitting .339/.395/.813 with 32 RBI. Is a change of scenery just what the doctor ordered or is his hot start simply a mirage? Gomez has always struggled with strikeouts, so his average is likely to come down. We'll see if his production takes a hit with some regression. 

Marcelo Mayer, SS, BOS – When Mayer has been on the field, he's been as good as advertised.  The No. 4 overall selection in the 2021 Draft is hitting .343/.397/.522 at Low-A. Unfortunately, he has appeared in just 15 games due to a balky wrist. Mayer missed more than two weeks earlier in the season due to the right wrist ailment, then returned on May 10, only to subsequently miss four more outings due to the same issue. He did appear in Sunday's game and went 3-for-6 with three doubles and two RBI, so hopefully the additional rest served him well and will continue to string together games played, though wrist injuries can linger.

DOWNGRADE

Jasson Dominguez, OF, NYY – The most hyped prospect in recent years, "The Martian" has looked decidedly more human during his time at Low-A. In 27 games this season, the teenager is hitting .233/.276/.388 with three homers, 14 RBI and four steals. Dominguez has been punched out 43 times while drawing just seven walks. Dating back to last season, he's fanned 110 times in 76 games at this level while registering only eight home runs. Dominguez just turned 19, the sample size is still on the small side, and the power and bat speed remain promising. That being said, it's going to be difficult for him to live up to the massive hype, especially the longer his production remains pedestrian.

Reginald Preciado, OF, CHC – Preciado's first taste of full-season ball has gone the opposite of his 2021 campaign at the Rookie Level hitting just .193/.227/.253 with no homers through 21 games at Low-A. He's also fanned a staggering 40 times while drawing only three walks. Preciado just turned 19 and working on his plate discipline was considered one of his primary objectives this season, so perhaps his struggles are unsurprising under the circumstances. Suffice to say Preciado has looked lost at the dish and is decidedly raw at this juncture despite the upside.

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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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