It's nearly September call-up time as the 2014 MLB season enters the stretch run. Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson tops the list of obvious targets in redraft leagues. Pederson could become the first 30/30 player in the Pacific Coast League in 80 years. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if the Cubbies will give third baseman Kris Bryant a shot at the bigs. Ditto for Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco, who started off the season terribly but has looked much better in the second half of the season. Look for Twins hurler Alex Meyer to make his major league debut sometime in September as well, while the White Sox have even hinted about giving this year's No. 3 overall pick Carlos Rodon a shot at the MLB rotation. The Red Sox could also be auditioning a bevy of young arms for the future, including Henry Owens, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes and even Brian Johnson.
Here are a few more quick-hitters in this week's edition of "Three Strikes:"
1. Dalton Pompey has been one of the fastest risers this season for the Jays. Between High-A and Double-A, the 21-year-old outfielder has slashed .312/.391/.472 with nine home runs, 46 RBI and 37 steals. Pompey was recently promoted to Triple-A due to his efforts, and with Colby Rasmus a free agent, he could figure into Toronto's plans as early as 2015.
2. Vincent Velasquez has battled back from injury to dominate in a hitter-friendly environment for the Astros. Over his last 10 starts for High-A Lancaster, the 22-year-old has a 3.21 ERA and 53:11 K:BB ratio. That's a span of just 33.2 innings.
3. Jacoby Jones has quietly had a power-packed season for the Bucs at Low-A. The 22-year-old LSU product has slugged 22 home runs and knocked in 69 runs in 114 games from the shortstop position. He has also swiped 17 bags while hitting .292. He hit .395 with five home runs and 12 RBI in the 10 games before going on the DL with a minor illness.
Let's look at the rest of the prospect landscape in the Minor League Barometer.
Dilson Herrera, 2B, NYM - The Mets look like they picked up an absolute steal in Herrera. The middle infielder came over from the Pirates last season in the Marlon Byrd deal, and he has done nothing but rake in his first full season with the Mets. In 52 games since being promoted to Double-A Binghamton, the 20-year-old is batting .329/.399/.546 with eight home runs, 41 RBI and eight steals. Herrera may end up playing shortstop for the Mets, as they have All-Star Daniel Murphy at second. However, shortstop has been a black hole for the Metropolitans since the departure of Jose Reyes, and if Herrera continues to hit, the Mets will be forced to give him a try.
Pierce Johnson, P, CHC - Johnson finally appears to have found his groove for the Cubbies. He battled a leg injury earlier in the season, but has been lights-out lately. In fact, Johnson has not allowed an earned run in five of his last six starts for the Double-A Tennessee. He has fanned at least six batters in each of his last five outings. Stretching the numbers even further, Johnson has a 1.43 ERA and 62:23 K:BB ratio over his last 10 appearances for the Smokies. Johnson has been able to keep the ball down this season to the tune of a 1.30 GO:AO ratio, which has sparked his success. With opposing batters hitting a putrid .181 against him overall, the 23-year-old has looked the part of a dominant starter for perhaps the first time in his professional career.
Jake Thompson, P, TEX - The Rangers should be positively giddy that they got Thompson from the Tigers for Joakim Soria. Texas wasn't going anywhere this year anyway, and Soria is now hurt for the Tigers as well. Meanwhile, Thompson has been superb since coming over to the Rangers. In 19.2 innings for Double-A Frisco, the 20-year-old righty has a 2.29 ERA and 26:8 K:BB ratio. He has been inducing an above-average number of grounders as well, notching a 1.30 GO:AO ratio. Opposing batters flail against him with a .188 BAA. Thompson has moved himself up most prospect lists entering 2015.
Rio Ruiz, 3B, HOU - The 20-year-old Ruiz hasn't looked overmatched at High-A in 2014. In fact, he has been able to take full advantage of the hitter-friendly confines of the California League. Ruiz is hitting .304/.395/.456 with 11 home runs and 73 RBI in 120 games for the JetHawks. Ruiz has shown plate discipline well beyond his years, tallying almost as many walks (74) as strikeouts (82). The Astros also believe his power stroke will develop even more as he matures. A future infield featuring Ruiz, Carlos Correa at shortstop, Jose Altuve at second and Jonathan Singleton at first has Houston feeling very confident about its future.
Joshua Bell, P, PIT - Bell put himself back on the prospect map with a stellar start to the season for High-A Bradenton. The 22-year-old hit .335/.384/.502 with nine home runs, 53 RBI and five steals in 84 games. However, since his ascension to Double-A, Bell has experienced a complete power outage. In 24 games since being promoted to Double-A Altoona, Bell has failed to slug a single home run. He is slashing .287/.343/.309 with seven RBI over that span. Bell was also recently placed on the disabled list with a knee contusion. While not considered serious, it is also worth noting that Bell had surgery on a torn meniscus in his knee during the 2012 season. Bell remains a prospect to watch, but he's still not quite at that elite level due to a variety of factors.
Tyler Austin, OF, NYY - Will the real Tyler Austin please stand up? Once considered one of the top prospects in the entire Yankees system, Austin sputtered in 2013, hitting just .257 with six home runs and 40 RBI in 83 games for Double-A Trenton. He started off his 2014 campaign with much of the same, and it looked as though the 22-year-old could even be headed to the dreaded prospect abyss. He has rebounded in the second half of the season, though. Since the All-Star Break, Austin is batting .348/.402/.574 with five home runs and 20 RBI, a span of 31 games. Austin is still just 22 years, and the Yankees have some aging, gimpy right fielders in Ichiro Suzuki and Carlos Beltran. That's not to say Austin will get his chance to play this season, but more that he could be figuring back into the Bronx Bombers future plans after all.
Amir Garrett, P, CIN - A former basketball player, Garrett recently decided to give up the hardwood for the baseball diamond, and the Reds may have found a hidden gem. His development has been slow, but the 22-year-old has had a largely successful first year of full-season ball. In 122.1 innings for Low-A Dayton, the 6-foot-6 southpaw has a 3.60 ERA and 116:48 K:BB ratio. Garrett flashed his upside on Aug. 13 when he fanned 12 batters in seven shutout innings for the Dragons. It was Garrett's second double-digit strikeout game in five outings. However, Garrett came out in his next start and was absolutely pummeled for six runs in just two innings, walking five batters in the process. Clearly, Garrett is a work in progress, but his potential is undeniable.
Jarlin Garcia, P, MIA - Rotation mate Domingo German was profiled a couple weeks ago and has had a slightly better season than Garcia. Still, the latter is a bit younger and has shown similar pinpoint control for Low-A Greensboro. Garcia has allowed far too many hits (.290 BAA) en route to a 4.69 ERA. However, the 21-year-old lefty has walked just 19 hitters in 124.2 innings. He has also punched out 101 hitters as well, showing that he does have some strikeout stuff. Sometimes Garcia catches too much of the plate, though, as he has shown a penchant for serving up the long ball. Garcia has surrendered 13 home runs in his first full professional year. Still, there are plenty of positives to take away from Garcia's year, as he's only still learning how to pitch.
Dylan Bundy, P, BAL - Fantasy owners who held onto Bundy in the hopes of a second-half comeback this season must be sorely disappointed. Bundy was initially pegged to return from Tommy John surgery following the All-Star break, giving the O's a huge boost to their rotation. However, Baltimore surged to a big lead in the AL East, so perhaps the O's subconsciously put the brakes on Bundy's rapid return. Bundy's statistics weren't great, either, posting a 4.78 ERA and 15:13 K:BB ratio in 26.1 innings for High-A Frederick. None of that ended up mattering, though, as Bundy strained his shoulder running in the outfield and is on the shelf. With the minor league season almost finished, and the O's doing just fine without him, there will be no need to rush Bundy back at the risk of his future. As a result, he won't make an impact in the Inner Harbor until 2015.
Micah Johnson, 2B, CHW - Any expectation of seeing Johnson in the big leagues this September was dashed when he was shut down for the year with a hamstring ailment. Johnson battled similar issues earlier this season, so the injury is significant enough that the White Sox don't feel the need to push him any further. Perhaps the injury lingered all season; after swiping 84 bags in 131 games in 2013, Johnson managed just 22 thefts in 102 games this year. Still, Johnson has a bit of a pop, a ton of speed when healthy, and he hit .294 combined between Double-A and Triple-A, all while playing the very shallow position of second base. As a result, he will still enter 2015 as a sought-after middle infield prospect. He may even get a chance to make the big-league squad out of spring training.
Kohl Stewart, P, MIN - Call me a pessimist, but I'm concerned with Stewart's shoulder. While it's not an elbow injury, shoulder injuries can often be more troublesome and more difficult to come back from. Tommy John surgery has evolved so much over the years, that most pitchers are back to new - or even throwing harder - about 12-18 months following the surgery. Meanwhile, shoulder injuries can take much longer to come back from (see Michael Pineda) and even then, there is less of a guarantee of a return to form. The Twins have been assured that the injury that caused him to leave Tuesday's game is not serious, and that he could even pitch again this season. However, he was already on the DL earlier this summer with shoulder impingement, and his velocity was noticeably down this past start. Stewart was the No. 4 overall draft pick for the Twins in 2013, and it would be a shame to see him rushed back too soon. The best bet would be to shut him down for the remainder of the year. The 19-year-old righty has a 2.59 ERA and 62:24 K:BB ratio in 87 innings at Low-A Cedar Rapids.
Max Fried, P, SD - Now, the above paragraph is not trying to make light of Tommy John surgery. For example, a lost season for Fried just got a whole lot worse when he underwent Tommy John surgery Wednesday. That means Fried will miss all 2015, and his rehab could spill into 2016 as well. Fried pitched in just five games in July after missing the first three months of the year due to a forearm injury. However, he had experienced elbow soreness in spring training, and perhaps lingering soreness combined with overcompensation for the forearm issue caused further damage to the UCL. One of the top prospects for the Padres, Fried was the No. 7 overall selection in the MLB Draft in 2012. He posted a 3.49 ERA and 100:56 K:BB ratio in 118.1 innings for Low-A Fort Wayne in 2013. Fried's growth will certainly be stunted by this development, and Joe Ross and Matt Wisler will pass him in the organizational ranks heading into 2015.