Minor League Barometer: Risers & Fallers

Minor League Barometer: Risers & Fallers

This article is part of our Minor League Barometer series.

The long-awaited MLB debut for Dodgers prospect Miguel Vargas occurred following his addition to the 40-man roster. While Justin Turner is on the Injured List with an abdominal injury, Vargas should get some work at third base and perhaps even DH. He went 2-for-4 with two RBI and a stolen base in his first game as a big leaguer. Even with Turner on the shelf, the LA infield is still rather crowded. As a result, the same issue remains with Vargas. While the NL West already appears to be well in hand, the Dodgers are still vying for the best record in baseball for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. In other words, Vargas is still not going to see everyday at-bats down the stretch. As often is the case with prospects, opportunity can matter just as much as talent. Vargas has all the tools to succeed, but doesn't currently have a firm grasp of playing time.

Here are some more prospects in the news in this edition of the Minor League Barometer.

UPGRADE

Masyn Winn, SS, STL – Winn is enjoying a breakout season in the Cardinals organization.  He came out of the gate scorching at High-A slashing .349/.404/.566 over 33 games. That resulted in a quick bump to Double-A, where the 20-year-old has flashed his power potential smacking nine home runs in 56 contests. Winn's speed has always been present with a combined 30 steals this year. Add in a cannon for an arm and he certainly looks like St. Louis's shortstop of the future.

Gabriel Gonzalez

The long-awaited MLB debut for Dodgers prospect Miguel Vargas occurred following his addition to the 40-man roster. While Justin Turner is on the Injured List with an abdominal injury, Vargas should get some work at third base and perhaps even DH. He went 2-for-4 with two RBI and a stolen base in his first game as a big leaguer. Even with Turner on the shelf, the LA infield is still rather crowded. As a result, the same issue remains with Vargas. While the NL West already appears to be well in hand, the Dodgers are still vying for the best record in baseball for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. In other words, Vargas is still not going to see everyday at-bats down the stretch. As often is the case with prospects, opportunity can matter just as much as talent. Vargas has all the tools to succeed, but doesn't currently have a firm grasp of playing time.

Here are some more prospects in the news in this edition of the Minor League Barometer.

UPGRADE

Masyn Winn, SS, STL – Winn is enjoying a breakout season in the Cardinals organization.  He came out of the gate scorching at High-A slashing .349/.404/.566 over 33 games. That resulted in a quick bump to Double-A, where the 20-year-old has flashed his power potential smacking nine home runs in 56 contests. Winn's speed has always been present with a combined 30 steals this year. Add in a cannon for an arm and he certainly looks like St. Louis's shortstop of the future.

Gabriel Gonzalez, OF, SEA – With the graduation of Julio Rodriguez to the big club as well as the trade of Noelvi Marte to the Reds, an argument can be made Gonzalez is now the Mariners' top prospect. Only 18, he found little resistance in the Rookie League to begin the season and was recently promoted to full-season ball. Though the sample size is small, Gonzalez is tearing the cover off the ball at Low-A by hitting 10-for-28 with one homer and one steal through six appearances. He's a stellar athlete with above-average tools across the board. The comparisons to the aforementioned Rodriguez are unfair given their size disparity, but Gonzalez offers the potential to be viewed as one of the better prospects in baseball by this time next year.               

Aaron Zavala, OF, TEX – Zavala is a toolsy outfield prospect who has tremendous patience at the dish. In 81 games at High-A earlier this season, he drew 68 walks en route to a .424 OBP while producing 11 home runs and 10 steals. Zavala was moved to Double-A and is off to a hot start going 10-for-24 with two homers, eight RBI and one steal along with more walks (six) than strikeouts (five). The Pac-12 Player of the Year at Oregon, he boasts superb contact skills and already more power than expected. As a result, Zavala could be a fast riser through the system.

Addison Barger, 3B, TOR – A sixth-round pick out of high school in 2018, Barger has been brought along slowly by the Jays. He did hit 18 home runs at Low-A in 2021, but his real coming out party has occurred this season hitting an even .300 across 69 games at High-A while clubbing 14 home runs and stealing seven bases. Barger was promoted to Double-A, where he's looked even better slashing a staggering .400/.452/.613 with four homers and 14 RBI through only 21 contests. The organization's clearly set at shortstop for the foreseeable future with Bo Bichette in the bigs and the swing-and-miss in Barger's game requires some pause. That being said, Toronto will have no choice but to include him in their future plans if his production continues at a similar level.

CHECK STATUS 

Niko Kavadas, 1B, BOS – Kavadas has been an extra-base hitting machine this season with 24 home runs and 72 RBI in 89 combined outings between Low and High-A. But at 23, perhaps it's no surprise he's feasting on younger, more inexperienced pitching. Double-A will be a much better test for Kavadas's skills, yet it's difficult to argue with the results thus far that includes a staggering combined OBP of .470.

Carson Williams, SS, TB – Williams got off to a fast start this campaign batting .338 in April at Low-A, though his average has declined in every month since - including .214 in July. Then there is the matter of strikeouts with him fanning 135 times in only 87 games.  Yes, you read that correctly. Williams just turned 19, so he has plenty of time to work on his plate discipline and has also recorded 45 walks. He's accumulated 14 homers and 24 steals on the season, so his power/speed combination is evident. Williams remains an intriguing prospect, but there is certainly some level of concern over his contact skills.

Grant McCray, OF, SF – McCray's father Rodney was a big leaguer, so Grant has baseball in his blood and should have a decent idea of what it takes to make the Majors. His first year of full-season ball has gone extremely well slashing .287/.378/.508 with 16 home runs, 52 RBI and 32 steals over 92 contests. McCray is already 21, so perhaps the former third-round pick should be producing at this level. It's also worth monitoring his strikeouts having been punched out 132 times this year. Still, McCray offers upper-echelon speed, emerging power and the ability to hit for average to improve his overall stock.

Tommy Henry, P, ARI – Henry made his MLB premiere last week for the Diamondbacks, just past his 25th birthday tossing five innings allowing four hits and four runs while walking three and striking out three. His stats were decent at Triple-A prior to the promotion, though certainly not eye-opening posting a 3.83 ERA and 100:44 K:BB in 108 frames. Walks remain a concern for Henry, as does his penchant for serving up the long ball having surrendered a staggering 24 homers across 23 starts last season at Double-A.  Though he was better at Triple-A in 2022, he still allowed 11 long balls prior to the call-up.  And Henry unsurprisingly allowed a home run in his first start in the bigs. The organization has indicated he'll stay in the rotation for the time being, but appears to be more of an innings eater than anything else at this point.

DOWNGRADE

Kahlil Watson, SS, MIA – It's been a difficult season for Watson, Miami's first-rounder from 2021. His contact skills have largely floundered at Low-A slashing just .217/.279/.358 through 66 outings while only drawing 20 walks and striking out 108 times. Watson was also disciplined in July for pointing his bat at an umpire and mimicking a gun. He's still just a teenager and boasts an intriguing power/speed combination with eight home runs and 14 steals despite limited success in the batter's box. Watson has plenty of time to mature both on and off the field, but suffice to say 2022 hasn't gone quite as planned.

Jhonkensy Noel, 3B, CLE – With great power comes great responsibility. Noel is certainly providing plenty of pop, but there has to be a real concern he'll never be able to hit for much average considering his 19 home runs at High-A in 62 games earlier this season while only batting .216 and fanning 80 times. His strikeout numbers are a bit tamer since receiving a promotion to Double-A, but he's still hitting .206. Noel doesn't get many walks either, which makes the batting average even less palatable. With limited abilities in the field, he appears to be a one-trick pony who may have a hard time getting everyday at-bats in the Majors. 

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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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