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Minor League Barometer: The Astros' Next Shooting Star

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.

Nearing the halfway point of the season, the cream has risen to the top in 2014. Of those hot-shot prospects still in the minor leagues, the phenoms who have taken the biggest leaps this season are Joey Gallo, Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, Ben Lively and Michael Taylor. A few more less notable names moving in the positive direction are Peter O'Brien of the Yankees, Marco Gonzales of the Cardinals, Jose Berrios of the Twins and Daniel Norris of the Blue Jays.

Meanwhile, on the flip side? Mark Appel and Maikel Franco have been wildly disappointing. Rafael Montero of the Mets and Brian Goodwin of the Nats have also been lackluster for their respective squads. Injuries to Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Jameson Taillon have essentially robbed them of their 2014 campaigns because of injuries.

Let's rake a few more quick hits in this week's "Three Strikes" segment:

1. Even though it was just at Low-A, many pundits were surprised at the plate discipline shown by Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge. While he was drafted in 2013 due to massive power potential, the 6-foot-7 beast hit .333 with a .428 On-Base Percentage in 65 games with Charleston before being promoted to High-A.

2. The quickest pitcher to make an impact in the big leagues from the 2014 draft class? That distinction could be long to Philadelphia starter Aaron Nola, selected with the No. 7 overall selection. The Phils aggressively assigned him to High-A Clearwater already, and though he was beaten up a bit in his first start, he's polished enough to not be bothered by one rough outing.

3. With the dearth of second base prospects in the minors, Dilson Herrera of the Mets continues to demand attention. In six games since being promoted to Double-A Binghamton, the 20-year-old middle infielder is 8-for-22 (.364) with three RBI and a stolen base.
Come one, come all! The Minor League Barometer lies just over yonder.


Tyler Glasnow, P, PIT -
Glasnow had a streak of more than 25 scoreless innings snapped June 24, but still notched his seventh straight start allowing one earned run or fewer for High-A Bradenton. The back issue that bothered him to begin the 2014 campaign appears to be a thing of the past, as Glasnow has gotten back to striking out opposing hitters with great frequency. Over those last seven starts, a span of 38.2 innings, Glasnow has posted a K:BB ratio of 46:17. On the year, the 20-year-old righty's ERA sits at 1.62. Opposing batters are hitting a mere .183 against him. As long as he continues to show progress with his control, Glasnow should be considered one of the best prospects in baseball heading into the 2015 season.

Kyle Schwarber, C/OF, CHC -
The Cubs threw a bit of a curveball to the rest of the league when they picked Schwarber with the No. 4 overall pick in this year's draft, but perhaps they knew something the rest of the league did not. A college catcher from the University of Indiana, Schwarber signed quickly and went 12-for-20 (.600) with four home runs and 10 RBI in five games in the Short Season Northwest League. With opposing pitchers no match at that level, the 21-year-old was shuttled to Low-A Kane County. Through six games, Schwarber has had much of the same success. He is 8-for-19 (.421) with two home runs, three RBI and a stolen base. Although perhaps a polished college hitter having his way at the lower levels is not a huge surprise, it is rare to see a player hit this well right out of the gate. Bear in mind that the draft happened just three weeks ago, and some players still haven't even signed yet. Schwarber is making the Cubbies look smart for pulling the trigger.

Domingo Santana, OF, HOU -
Santana was overshadowed by George Springer and Jonathan Singleton the last couple seasons. However, those two studs have since hit the big leagues, leaving Santana to finally get some notoriety. The 21-year-old outfielder is hitting .295/.377/.493 with 12 home runs, 47 RBI and four steals through 79 games for Triple-A Oklahoma City. Santana has been hot lately as well, slashing .361/.477/.556 with one home run, six RBI and two thefts over his last 10 games. Although Santana continues to strike out too much (92 Ks in 79 contests), it wasn't much of a problem for former teammate George Springer during his ascension to the bigs. Santana is not quite on the same level as Springer, but he is almost three years younger, meaning that he still has plenty of time to mature in the batter's box. Nevertheless, his approach is still pretty good, and with plus-power to boot, Santana could be next in line for a promotion for the Astros.

Braden Shipley, P, ARI -
Believe it or not, Shipley has been the best pitching prospect for the Diamondbacks this season. Before the season began, Archie Bradley was touted as the next great ace in Arizona. However, Bradley has battled injury and control problems, while Shipley has simply sparkled between Low-A and High-A. At Low-A, the 22-year-old righty posted a 3.41 ERA and 41:11 K:BB ratio in 45.2 innings. He has been even better at High-A, notching a 2.81 ERA and 34:10 K:BB ratio in 25.2 innings. Add in that Shipley is pitching in the hitter-friendly California League, and it is clear he has been dominant in 2014.


Ryne Stanek, P, TB -
Like the above-referenced Shipley, Stanek was also a first-round pick in 2013. However, the Rays did not elect to have him pitch in 2013, with rumors circulating that Tampa was overhauling his throwing motion. He also had offseason hip surgery, and as a result did not make his professional debut until May 8 for Low-A Bowling Green. Stanek has been decent overall through seven starts, posting a 3.53 ERA and 29:11 K:BB ratio through 35.1 innings for the Hot Rods. However, he has had two blowups on the mound, including his last outing on June 14 in which he surrendered six runs on eight hits in just 2.1 innings. It's such a small sample for Stanek that it's tough to get a beat on his future status, though some peg the 22-year-old as a future reliever. The Rays will almost certainly see if he can stick in the rotation before making that decision, though.

Adrian Sampson, P, PIT -
A fifth-round pick in 2012, Sampson was likely not on most radars after a 2013 campaign in which he notched a 5.14 ERA and struck out just 85 batters in 140 innings at High-A. However, he did show stellar control with just 22 walks over that span, which perhaps foreshadowed the possibility of success. He has had somewhat of a breakout campaign in 2014 for Double-A Altoona. The 22-year-old righty has a 2.39 ERA and 65:19 K:BB ratio through 86.2 innings. Working mostly with a fastball/changeup combo, Sampson has managed to keep hitters off balance and locate well. He does not have overpowering stuff and projects more as a back-end of the rotation starter, but Sampson has shown he can be effective for the Bucs.

Kevin Plawecki, C, NYM -
There are rumors swirling within the New York Mets organization that some team officials prefer Plawecki to Travis d'Arnaud as the catcher of the future for the squad. Plawecki was recently named to the Futures Game and also promoted to Triple-A after slashing .326/.378/.487 with six home runs and 43 RBI in 58 games at Double-A. Plawecki is much more of a contact hitter than d'Arnaud, batting .305 with 80 RBI in 125 games between Low-A and High-A in 2013. However, d'Arnaud has long been viewed as having more power potential. The Mets will give d'Arnaud every chance to seize the starting backstop job, as he was the original centerpiece of the R.A. Dickey trade a couple of seasons ago. That leaves the 23-year-old Plawecki in an interesting position; will he get a shot with the Mets, or will he need a trade or position change? Only time will tell.

Mikie Mahtook, OF, TB -
Mahtook has always been viewed as a Tampa Bay type of player. He's a scrappy player who does a lot of things very well, but does not have an elite asset or skill. As a result, at least from a fantasy perspective, Mahtook has largely been a forgotten player, despite being a first round selection in 2011. However, the 24-year-old outfielder is having arguably the best season of his brief career for Triple-A Durham. Mahtook is hitting .317/.389/.502 with five home runs, 41 RBI and 12 steals through 70 games. However, he has still fanned 74 times over that span, his career high in home runs is nine, and he hit just .254 in Double-A last season. Mahtook's speed looks to be the most intriguing part of his game, but it remains to be seen if that will be enough to make him a viable fantasy contributor.


Carlos Correa, SS, HOU -
One of the best prospects in all of baseball, Correa suffered a fractured right fibula June 21 while sliding into third and had to be carted off the field. Correa recently underwent surgery and will miss the remainder of the season. Although Correa was unlikely to make his big-league debut in 2014, it is still a crushing blow for the Astros, as Correa was having a sensational season at High-A Lancaster before the injury. The 19-year-old shortstop was slashing .325/.416/.510 with six home runs, 57 RBI and 20 steals in 62 games. There is hope that he will be able to return for the Arizona Fall League in October, but expect the Astros to be extremely cautious with their top prospect. Hopefully he makes a full recovery and it does not affect his ability to run in the future.

Joc Pederson, OF, LAD -
Pederson suffered a separated right shoulder and will miss a couple weeks for Triple-A Albuquerque. The injury is not considered serious, but could further dampen Pederson's chances to see the big leagues in 2014. The Dodgers have been holding Pederson back due to outfield depth ahead of him, as well as his penchant for striking out. Young Joc has fanned 95 times in 74 games at Triple-A. However, that's about the only issue left for Pederson, who is still slashing .319/.437/.568 with 17 home runs, 42 RBI and 20 steals for the Isotopes. As such, the downgrade is only temporary, and Pederson could be in line for a September call-up if healthy. 2015 should really be his year to shine in the bigs, though.

Matt Davidson, 3B, CHW -
It's been a rough season for Davidson, who went from a sure bet to win the starting third-base job out of spring training to hitting a putrid .196 for Triple-A Charlotte. Davidson continues to battle strikeout demons, as he has fanned 92 times in 69 games for the Knights. The 23-year-old does have 12 home runs, but an average below the Mendoza line won't cut it at the big-league level. His .270 OBP is equally disconcerting. The White Sox have even gone so far as to send former star and current team executive Jim Thome to work with Davidson on his approach. Davidson is young enough that he can make some adjustments and still become an impact player for the ChiSox, but his stock has certainly taken a hit this season.

Manny Banuelos, P, NYY -
Will Banuelos ever live up to his promise? The vaunted "Killer B's" have gone the way of the dinosaurs for the Bronx Bombers, with only Dellin Betances reaching to the majors, albeit as a dominant reliever. Banuelos has had myriad injuries throughout his career, including Tommy John surgery which washed out his 2013 season. He was slowly working up his arm strength this season with some success, posting a 3.31 ERA and 35:11 K:BB ratio through 35.1 innings between High-A and Double-A. However, he was recently placed on the Disabled List with blister issues. While it does not appear to be serious, the checkered injury past for Banuelos will surely raise some more eyebrows.