Minor League Barometer: Risers & Fallers

Minor League Barometer: Risers & Fallers

This article is part of our Minor League Barometer series.

With September call-ups upon us, here are some notes on a few players to watch as we enter the stretch run of the 2022 campaign.

  • Arizona has called up Corbin Carroll, the No. 1 overall prospect in baseball. They've also promoted phenom Jordan Lawlar to Double-A, who just turned 20 but is already on his fourth level this season. It's clear the Diamondbacks aren't afraid to aggressively promote their top talent.
  • A constant discussion in this column is to temper expectation of top prospects, in that not all progression is linear. Take the case of "The Martian", AKA Yankees prospect Jasson Dominguez. Upon signing, he was deemed the second coming. Time passed and Dominguez was only adequate in his first taste of full-season ball. Yet because he didn't dominate, he was discounted. Still only 19, Dominguez is already at High-A and hit .330 in August with 13 stolen bases. Once his power stroke takes effect, he'll skyrocket back up to the top of the rankings.
  • Some names to watch for big league promotions: Gunnar Henderson (Orioles), Josh Jung (Rangers), Gabriel Moreno (Blue Jays), Alec Burleson (Cardinals), Esteury Ruiz/Sal Frelick (Brewers), Triston Casas (Red Sox).

Let's take a look at some other notable names in this edition of the Minor League Barometer.

UPGRADE

Elly De La Cruz, SS, CIN – The rise to prominence has been swift for De La Cruz, who hasn't missed a beat since being promoted to Double-A where he's batting .317/.374/.627 with eight home runs, 28 RBI and eight steals

With September call-ups upon us, here are some notes on a few players to watch as we enter the stretch run of the 2022 campaign.

  • Arizona has called up Corbin Carroll, the No. 1 overall prospect in baseball. They've also promoted phenom Jordan Lawlar to Double-A, who just turned 20 but is already on his fourth level this season. It's clear the Diamondbacks aren't afraid to aggressively promote their top talent.
  • A constant discussion in this column is to temper expectation of top prospects, in that not all progression is linear. Take the case of "The Martian", AKA Yankees prospect Jasson Dominguez. Upon signing, he was deemed the second coming. Time passed and Dominguez was only adequate in his first taste of full-season ball. Yet because he didn't dominate, he was discounted. Still only 19, Dominguez is already at High-A and hit .330 in August with 13 stolen bases. Once his power stroke takes effect, he'll skyrocket back up to the top of the rankings.
  • Some names to watch for big league promotions: Gunnar Henderson (Orioles), Josh Jung (Rangers), Gabriel Moreno (Blue Jays), Alec Burleson (Cardinals), Esteury Ruiz/Sal Frelick (Brewers), Triston Casas (Red Sox).

Let's take a look at some other notable names in this edition of the Minor League Barometer.

UPGRADE

Elly De La Cruz, SS, CIN – The rise to prominence has been swift for De La Cruz, who hasn't missed a beat since being promoted to Double-A where he's batting .317/.374/.627 with eight home runs, 28 RBI and eight steals in 31 games. The 20-year-old will always offer that potential swing-and-miss hiccup, but it's difficult to argue with the results in 2022 with a combined 28 homers, 36 steals and a batting average over .300. De La Cruz is among the top neophytes in the game heading into next year.

Wilmer Flores, P, DET – The younger brother of the hitter with the same name, the pitching Flores is 10 years the junior and was signed in 2020 largely based off of raw talent. He's 6-4, 225lbs and boasts a lethal fastball/curveball combination. The initial excitement for Flores has translated to on-field results in 2022 with a combined 2.36 ERA and 114:18 K:BB over 91.1 innings, mostly at Double-A. The continued development of his secondary pitches aside from his curveball will go a long way towards determining his future role, but he's taken a huge jump this season.

Jackson Merrill, SS, SD – The Padres shipped out a ton of talent from the farm in order to obtain Juan Soto, Josh Hader and others in their attempt to win the World Series. Plenty of prospects remain, including Merrill, the organization's first-round selection from a season ago. Only 19, he was held back to begin the campaign, but has found little resistance since seeing live action as a pro having slashed .322/.380/.461 with three home runs, 24 RBI and six stolen bases across 34 games since being promoted to Low-A. Merrill is expected to develop more power as he fills out and matures. He'll need at least a few more years in the minors to hone his craft, but the future looks bright for this shortstop phenom, and one can only guess as to what the future holds for Fernando Tatis.

Edouard Julien, 2B, MIN – Julien has played himself into the prospect conversation with impressive on-base skills, stellar speed and power potential based on an outstanding .431 OBP through 96 contests at Double-A while drawing 85 walks. He's also racked up 16 home runs and 15 steals over that span to display that intriguing power/speed combination. For comparison's sake, Julien clubbed 18 homers and swiped 34 bags in 112 games between Low-A and High-A in 2021. In other words, his skill set appears to be real and the figures not fluky. If Julien can continue to hit for average, he's be highly coveted.

CHECK STATUS

Taj Bradley, P, TB – One of baseball's top pitching prospects, Bradley is just 21 and on the brink of the big leagues. If we're talking specifically about 2022, it appears to be unlikely he'll get called up in September. For one, Luis Patino is ahead of him on the depth chart. Secondly, Bradley's youth works against him - especially in the conservative Rays organization. Lastly, his numbers have only been adequate at best during his brief time at Triple-A with a 4.80 ERA and 28:10 K:BB in 30 innings. Unlike Bradley's prior stops in the minors, he's struggled a bit with locating his pitches as his walks are up and so is the opposition batting average. Perhaps most concerning is that he's allowed five home runs in those seven starts. By contrast, Bradley had only surrendered 13 long balls during his entire professional career heading into this season. He remains an elite prospect for next season and beyond, though it seems he won't have any impact for the Rays this year.

Bobby Miller, P, LAD – The Dodgers are on cruise control at this point and should coast to the best record in MLB. They list an embarrassment of pitching riches, including shuffling Ryan Pepiot back and forth recently between the minors and the big club. Gavin Stone and Miller are also currently at Triple-A, and the latter's name has been discussed as a possible reinforcement in September. It's unclear if either Stone or Miller will ultimately spend time with the big club with the Dodgers already planning to deploy a six-man rotation upon Clayton Kershaw's return from the Injured List.  That being said, if they want to rest up for the playoffs, we could see some combination of the aforementioned three young arms fill some holes over the last few weeks of the campaign.

Evan Carter, OF, TEX – A bruised left knee has shelved Carter.  Though Carter wasn't in line for a possible promotion to the Majors anyway this season, he's emerged as one of the top prospects for Texas. Carter just turned 20 and is slashing .288/.388/.485 with 11 home runs, 65 RBI and 24 steals in 94 games at High-A. With his power stroke rounding into shape, he's a toolsy outfield prospect in an organization desperate for production in left field. Though Dustin Harris (also injured) will likely get first crack in 2023, Carter has greatly improved his stock this season and may not be much further behind.

Jared Jones, P, PIT – Jones has punched out 132 batters this season, placing him near the top of the minors. However, it hasn't all been positive for the 21-year-old righty as he sports a 4.63 ERA.  That can be blamed chiefly on two issues: too many walks (48 over 114.2 frames) and too many long balls (18 in 24 starts). A second-round pick in 2020 out of high school, Jones has advanced rather quickly and shows plenty of strikeout potential, though he still has some kinks to work out before he's ready for primetime.

DOWNGRADE

Francisco Alvarez, C, NYM – Any chance for the Mets to call up Alvarez for the stretch run and the playoffs appears to be finished as the organization's top prospect injured his ankle and has not seen the field for a week at Triple-A. In fact, the backstop may end up needing surgery. The one glaring hole in the Mets' lineup this season has been at catcher where James McCann, Tomas Nido and a cast of characters have combined for a putrid .520 OPS, ranking them last in the league.  Alvarez should be fine for 2023, but hopes for contributions this year may be dashed.

Caleb Kilian, P, CHC – Kilian has had an uneven season in the Cubs organization this season. On the plus side, he's produced 109 strikeouts in only 88.2 innings at Triple-A. On the downside, Killian's issued far too many walks (42) and opposing batters are hitting over .250 against in the minors for the first time in his career. He's also struggled mightily in three starts with the big club in June. Another factor working against Kilian in terms of a September call-up was the acquisition of Hayden Wesneski from the Yankees in exchange for Scott Effross. After a rough two starts at Triple-A, Wesneski has allowed just three hits and one run across his last 10 innings. The Cubs remain in full rebuilding mode, so Kilian will ultimately get an extended shot at the starting rotation. However, his prospect luster has slightly worn off and we may have to wait until 2023 to see what he can truly become.

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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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