Minor League Barometer: Risers & Fallers

Minor League Barometer: Risers & Fallers

This article is part of our Minor League Barometer series.

The minor league season has just started, so sample sizes are small. In other words, take these early season statistics - along with the upgrades and downgrades - with a grain of salt. We'll try not to overreact, but inevitably sometimes we get ahead of ourselves one way or the other. With that in mind, let's analyze some prospects as they begin their respective campaigns.

UPGRADE

Ronny Mauricio, SS, NYM – The Mets have a good problem on their hands in terms of depth on the left side of the infield. Inevitably, Brett Baty will be the starting third baseman, but Mark Vientos is also an option. Francisco Lindor is clearly entrenched at shortstop for the foreseeable future. Mauricio could end up at third or shortstop, and is off to a hot start at Triple-A. The switch-hitter just turned 22, and has gone 12-for-34 (.353) with three home runs and nine RBI through nine games. The prospect luster has worn off a bit in recent seasons for Mauricio largely due to his strikeout rate combined with his low walk totals. His youth compared to other players at the same level should be noted. While it may take a trade or injury for Mauricio to see the field this season, perhaps he's a bit underrated.

Mason Miller, P, OAK – Miller's upside is high despite his limited professional experience. A shoulder ailment sidelined him for the majority of 2022, but he can hit triple digits on the radar gun with his fastball and boasts a four-pitch arsenal that only

The minor league season has just started, so sample sizes are small. In other words, take these early season statistics - along with the upgrades and downgrades - with a grain of salt. We'll try not to overreact, but inevitably sometimes we get ahead of ourselves one way or the other. With that in mind, let's analyze some prospects as they begin their respective campaigns.

UPGRADE

Ronny Mauricio, SS, NYM – The Mets have a good problem on their hands in terms of depth on the left side of the infield. Inevitably, Brett Baty will be the starting third baseman, but Mark Vientos is also an option. Francisco Lindor is clearly entrenched at shortstop for the foreseeable future. Mauricio could end up at third or shortstop, and is off to a hot start at Triple-A. The switch-hitter just turned 22, and has gone 12-for-34 (.353) with three home runs and nine RBI through nine games. The prospect luster has worn off a bit in recent seasons for Mauricio largely due to his strikeout rate combined with his low walk totals. His youth compared to other players at the same level should be noted. While it may take a trade or injury for Mauricio to see the field this season, perhaps he's a bit underrated.

Mason Miller, P, OAK – Miller's upside is high despite his limited professional experience. A shoulder ailment sidelined him for the majority of 2022, but he can hit triple digits on the radar gun with his fastball and boasts a four-pitch arsenal that only appears to need minor refinement. The 24-year-old fanned eight in his season debut at Double-A and didn't walk a batter.  Miller made it all the way to Triple-A at the end of last year and sparkled in the Arizona Fall League, so it would appear the A's will build up his arm strength and workload until he's ready for the big leagues.

Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF, CHC – Only 21 but already at Double-A, Crow-Armstrong is 4-for-12 (.333) with three steals through three games. He offers an intriguing combination of power and speed having hit 16 homers and swiped 32 bags over 101 games between Low-A and High-A in 2022. With the stock of Brennen Davis on the downswing and Cody Bellinger a mere stopgap, Crow-Armstrong should be viewed as a cornerstone piece for Chicago's future outfield. He could make his MLB debut in September, with a shot at an everyday spot in 2024.

Tink Hence, P, STL – Hence has a chance to skyrocket up the prospect charts this season. He was borderline untouchable at Low-A in 2022, and his first start at High-A this year showed much of the same. Hence only allowed one hit across four innings while walking two batters and striking out six. His smaller frame is mostly what people knock him on, but he has an athletic, fluid delivery and may just be scratching the surface of his potential. Hence's fastball may get even better, his curveball is already a plus pitch, and his slider and changeup show signs of life. As such, he should be getting more publicity.

CHECK STATUS

Ty Madden, P, DET – That vaunted Tigers starting rotation we were promised with pitching phenoms from the minors has yet to materialize. Both Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal will be shelved for months due to injury while Matt Manning has only recently come back. Madden is a tad younger than those hurlers, but he could end up sliding into the back-end of the MLB rotation as early as 2024. He dazzled in his first start of 2023 by tossing four shutout innings at Double-A where he didn't give up a hit while walking one and striking out 10. Madden isn't project to have the same upside as the aforementioned names, but a few more starts like his debut could quickly change that narrative.

Andrew Abbott, P, CIN – Abbott doesn't throw hard, but he's still been able to miss a lot of bats during his brief professional career having fanned 159 batters from 118 innings between High-A and Double-A in 2022. His first start at Double-A was a dandy as he struck out 11 batters in only 4.2 innings and didn't allow a single hit while walking one. The southpaw profiles more as a command/control pitcher, but he's surprisingly walked a slightly higher than average amount.  Clearly this will need to change at the higher levels if Abbott cannot be overpowering.

Zach Neto, SS, LAA – Sam Bachman was also a consideration here, as I try to only use one player per organization in a single article. Neto could be fast-tracked to the Majors despite his relative youth and small-school collegiate background. A first-round pick in 2022, he hit .320 in 30 games at Double-A to end the campaign. Neto's back there and is 3-for-9 with three runs so far. He should be the shortstop of the future for the Halos and a potential top-of-the-order bat, though it remains to be seen how much power or speed he'll bring to the table. As a result, Neto's fantasy upside could be limited.

Maikel Garcia, SS, KC – Garcia hit .355 this spring, but ultimately was sent to Triple-A. And he hasn't stopped raking going .353 with one homer, 12 RBI and two steals through nine games.  Garcia has stolen at least 30 bases in back-to-back seasons with an emerging power stroke as he clubbed a career-best 11 home runs in 2022. Garcia also offers an above-average eye at the dish with more walks (10) than strikeouts (nine) so far. The Royals aren't expected to contend this season, but Nicky Lopez, Michael Massey and Hunter Dozier have all been horrific to start and Garcia could see the bigs sooner rather than later if he continues his torrid stretch.

DOWNGRADE

Kyle Harrison, P, SF – Harrison has been wild in his first two starts at Triple-A having walked four batters in outings that haven't lasted any more than two innings. The Giants are clearly being cautious with their prized southpaw, though he's struggled with free passes during his brief professional career. However, Harrison's ability to miss bats has often masked this issue. As he ascends to the Majors, he'll be less and less likely to get away with walks and leaving additional runners on base, something that should certainly be monitored.

Mick Abel, P, PHI – Abel's first start of the season at Double-A was a nightmare as he issued four walks and didn't make it out of the first inning despite only giving up one hit. And that inning could be viewed as a microcosm of his current state of evaluation. Abel can miss bats, but also has battled control problems. He's also a fly-ball pitcher, and his future home games will be played at the bandbox known as Citizens Bank Park. Abel walked 50 batters in 108.1 innings a season ago, so his lack of consistency in hitting his spots is more than just a one-time occurrence. His upside will be capped as long as his control issues continue.

Andres Chaparro, 3B, NYY – Chaparro's spring was overshadowed by fellow prospect Anthony Volpe, but the 23-year-old made an impression in his own right batting .324 with five home runs and 12 RBI in 20 games this spring while posting almost as many walks (six) as strikeouts (nine).  Having never played above Double-A, Chaparro was optioned to Triple-A and has struggled to start hitting an abysmal .032 (1-for-31) with 13 strikeouts over eight games. The sample size is small, but it's clear he has some work to do before becoming a legitimate option at the hot corner for the big club even with the injury to Josh Donaldson.

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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.
Minor League Barometer: Risers & Fallers
Minor League Barometer: Risers & Fallers
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