Minor League Barometer: Risers & Fallers

Minor League Barometer: Risers & Fallers

This article is part of our Minor League Barometer series.

Ezequiel Duran has given the Texas Rangers a spark. Despite never having played above Double-A prior to his promotion and playing mostly at second base or shortstop, he's provided some stability at third base batting .291 with two home runs, eight RBI and two steals in 14 games.  Duran came over as part of the Joey Gallo trade last July in a deal that is looking more and more lopsided in favor of the Rangers. At only 23, he's made an immediate impact and should continue to see regular playing time.

Here are some other players to take note of in this edition of the Minor League Barometer.

UPGRADE

Vaughn Grissom, SS, ATL – Grissom smacked two grand slams in a single game last week.  Though he isn't related to former Brave Marquis Grissom, he ended up an 11th-round pick in 2019 and has always shown an advanced approach at the dish. Grissom is currently slashing .296/.384/.461 in 56 games at High-A with 25 walks compared to 34 strikeouts, with a plate discipline that's been common for him since entering the minors. And he already has 14 steals in 2022 while his eight homers represent a career-best. Grissom is just 21, but already appears to be tapping into his power potential. With speed, power and the ability to handle the bat - he's never hit below .288 at any level - he could be on the cusp of phenom status.

Kevin Alcantara, OF, CHC – This season has been a mixed bag for Cubs

Ezequiel Duran has given the Texas Rangers a spark. Despite never having played above Double-A prior to his promotion and playing mostly at second base or shortstop, he's provided some stability at third base batting .291 with two home runs, eight RBI and two steals in 14 games.  Duran came over as part of the Joey Gallo trade last July in a deal that is looking more and more lopsided in favor of the Rangers. At only 23, he's made an immediate impact and should continue to see regular playing time.

Here are some other players to take note of in this edition of the Minor League Barometer.

UPGRADE

Vaughn Grissom, SS, ATL – Grissom smacked two grand slams in a single game last week.  Though he isn't related to former Brave Marquis Grissom, he ended up an 11th-round pick in 2019 and has always shown an advanced approach at the dish. Grissom is currently slashing .296/.384/.461 in 56 games at High-A with 25 walks compared to 34 strikeouts, with a plate discipline that's been common for him since entering the minors. And he already has 14 steals in 2022 while his eight homers represent a career-best. Grissom is just 21, but already appears to be tapping into his power potential. With speed, power and the ability to handle the bat - he's never hit below .288 at any level - he could be on the cusp of phenom status.

Kevin Alcantara, OF, CHC – This season has been a mixed bag for Cubs outfield prospects. Brennen Davis has been lost for the year due to back surgery, but Christopher Morel has become a surprise contributor at the MLB level. Pete Crow-Armstrong started off hot. but is now nursing a hand injury. Reginald Preciado still looks like a project. After a slow start, Alcantara has turned his season around at Low-A and is slashing .276/.361/.514 with 10 home runs, 48 RBI and seven steals. That included a two-home run barrage with eight RBI just over a week ago at Low-A. The 6-foot-6 teenager has struck out 65 times, but his power/speed combination is tantalizing and he isn't afraid to take a walk. Alcantara was part of the return from the Yankees in the Anthony Rizzo deal and could see High-A before the end of the year.

Connor Phillips, P, CIN – The strikeout figures jump off the page for Phillips as he's fanned 84 batters in 60 innings at High-A while opposing batters are hitting .171 against. He's at his best when keeping the ball down having posting a 1.28 GO:AO. Phillips has improved his control since last season when he walked 46 batters. However, that remains a work in progress as he's still surrendering 4.4 free passes per nine innings. Phillips will need to prove that this issue will not haunt him at the higher levels. For now, it's clear that the 21-year-old boasts massive strikeout potential.

Mason Montgomery, P, TB – A sixth-round selection in last year's Draft from Texas Tech, Montgomery has found little resistance thus far at High-A posting a 1.92 ERA and 88:21 K:BB across 51.2 innings with the opposition hitting only .216 against the 22-year-old southpaw, mostly due to an impressive fastball. He slipped in the draft due to his purported lack of control and even mediocre off-speed pitches, but his changeup and curveball have both been better than anticipated so far. Montgomery will have a lot of competition in the Rays organization, but he's performed well through the early portion of his professional career.

CHECK STATUS

Antoine Kelly, P, MIL – Kelly battled shoulder issues a season ago, but has already pitched a career-high 64.2 innings so far in 2022.  He's produced a superb 84 strikeouts over that span, with opposing batters hitting .179 against. Kelly's season hasn't completely been smooth having issued 33 walks. He's also allowed three homers in his last five outings after failing to give up a single long ball in the first eight starts of the campaign at High-A. Kelly will likely be capped at a certain number of innings, and he could be starting to show signs of fatigue. The 6-foot-5 southpaw is flashing promise, but remains far from a guarantee at this point.

Zac Veen, OF, COL – Veen is having a fine statistical season, but hasn't taken the previously expected jump to elite prospect status batting just .258 through 58 games at High-A with a .431 slugging percentage. The hope was that his power stroke would be more present by now, though he's still only 20. Veen does have 24 stolen bases, but he's still averaging over one strikeout per contest. He's been overtaken by Ezequiel Tovar, who is now the top prospect in the Colorado organization. There's till plenty to like about Veen, including his future home field advantage, but his current campaign has only been adequate.

Brandon Pfaadt, P, ARI – Pfaadt offers four pitches he can throw for strikes, as evidenced by his 39 walks in 196.1 professional innings. Currently at Double-A, the 23-year-old righty has posted an 84:11 K:BB in 64.2 innings. However, Pfaadt has been knocked for perhaps catching too much of the plate at times having allowed nine home runs in 12 starts and opposing batters hitting .270 against leading to a 4.45 ERA. He'll need to be more consistent in keeping the ball down and inside the ballpark as he continues his quest to reach the big leagues.

Jordan Groshans, 3B/SS, TOR – Groshans certainly has polish in the batter's box as the 22-year-old has registered more walks (23) than strikeouts (21) through 39 games at Triple-A. While he's currently batting .288 with a .392 OBP, he's experienced a power outage that has dimmed some of his fantasy prospects with just one home run and seven over 75 contests at Double-A. With three career stolen bases in the minors, Groshans may end up being a better real-life player than fantasy asset as his current profile is devoid of much power or speed.

DOWNGRADE

Colt Keith, 3B, DET – The 20-year-old was off to a fast start at High-A slashing .301/.370/.544 with nine home runs, 31 RBI and four steals through 48 games before injuring his right shoulder while diving back to first base on a pickoff try. While Keith doesn't need surgery at this time, it remains to be seen if he'll return to High-A this season. Expect the Tigers to be cautious with a player whose stock appeared to be on the rise prior to getting hurt.

Alec Marsh, P, KC – On the plus side, Marsh has recorded 83 strikeouts in only 51 innings at Double-A. Unfortunately, his ERA is a bloated 7.24 as he's repeated the same level. Granted, Marsh only started six times at Double-A in 2021, but he's been even worse in double the number of innings this year allowing 12 home runs and his walk totals are less than ideal. He turned 24 last month, yet has only 109.2 professional innings under his belt due to a combination of the pandemic as well as injuries. Marsh boasts a stellar repertoire, but hasn't yet been able to repeat his collegiate success the past two seasons.

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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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