Minor League Barometer: Risers & Fallers

Minor League Barometer: Risers & Fallers

This article is part of our Minor League Barometer series.

The Angels have been knocked for their inability as a franchise to put a winning team around Mike Trout, particularly when it comes to the starting pitching staff and developing starters. That narrative may slowly be starting to change with Shohei Ohtani a frontrunner for MVP with his dual-threat ability and Patrick Sandoval (24) pitching fairly well in the big leagues this season. But what's coming through the pipeline should really excite the organization, as Chris Rodriguez offers as much upside as any hurler in the minors while Reid Detmers struck out a staggering 16 batters in six innings Saturday at Double-A. Even Davis Daniel, a seventh round pick out of Auburn in 2019, has popped up with a 2.04 ERA and 51:20 K:BB in 39.2 innings at High-A with batters hitting .163 against. While it doesn't seem like the Angels will be in contention this season, there should be plenty of hope for 2022 based upon their current crop of pitchers.

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

UPGRADE

Jordan Walker, 3B, STL – Depth at a position is never a bad thing, but the Cardinals organization seems to have it in spades at the hot corner. Perennial All-Star Nolan Arenado currently covers third base for the big club, while top prospect Nolan Gorman assumes the position at Double-A.  Walker was a first round pick in last year's draft and also is a third baseman by trade. After starting the season on the

The Angels have been knocked for their inability as a franchise to put a winning team around Mike Trout, particularly when it comes to the starting pitching staff and developing starters. That narrative may slowly be starting to change with Shohei Ohtani a frontrunner for MVP with his dual-threat ability and Patrick Sandoval (24) pitching fairly well in the big leagues this season. But what's coming through the pipeline should really excite the organization, as Chris Rodriguez offers as much upside as any hurler in the minors while Reid Detmers struck out a staggering 16 batters in six innings Saturday at Double-A. Even Davis Daniel, a seventh round pick out of Auburn in 2019, has popped up with a 2.04 ERA and 51:20 K:BB in 39.2 innings at High-A with batters hitting .163 against. While it doesn't seem like the Angels will be in contention this season, there should be plenty of hope for 2022 based upon their current crop of pitchers.

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

UPGRADE

Jordan Walker, 3B, STL – Depth at a position is never a bad thing, but the Cardinals organization seems to have it in spades at the hot corner. Perennial All-Star Nolan Arenado currently covers third base for the big club, while top prospect Nolan Gorman assumes the position at Double-A.  Walker was a first round pick in last year's draft and also is a third baseman by trade. After starting the season on the Injured List, the teenager has returned with a bang by slashing .374/.475/.687 with six home runs, 21 RBI and one steal. Perhaps most impressively, Walker has drawn almost as many walks (18) as strikeouts (21) through 27 games. He's yet another high upside player in a system chock full of infield prospects.

Jake Eder, P, MIA – Eder has been one of the biggest risers so far in 2021 as he continues to find little resistance at Double-A. The southpaw has posted a minuscule 1.13 ERA with 71 strikeouts in only 47.2 innings while opposing batters are hitting .152 against. A fourth-round selection of the Marlins in 2020, Eder has rocketed up the charts and should be considered in the same breath as other Marlins pitchers such as Sixto Sanchez, Max Meyer and Edward Cabrera.

Gabriel Moreno, C, TOR – Few hitters have performed better in the minors than Moreno, who is slashing an outstanding .373/.441/.651 through 32 games at Double-A to go with eight home runs and a staggering 45 RBI. He's shown impeccable bat-to-ball skills and a keen eye at the dish with 14 walks and only 22 strikeouts. Catcher is perhaps the only spot in the infield that is not blocked for the Blue Jays, so Moreno should see Triple-A shortly and could even be vying for a big league debut by the end of the year.

Bobby Witt Jr., SS, KC – Witt has been on a tear of late at Double-A hitting .386 with 14 RBI over his last 11 contests, including a 4-for-4 performance with a homer and five RBI this past Saturday.  With Adalberto Mondesi going on the IL for the third time in 2021, the Royals could eventually opt for Witt to replace him later this season. Nicky Lopez is hitting .429 over his last nine, so Witt may be held down a little longer or promoted to Triple-A instead of heading directly to the bigs.

CHECK STATUS

Anthony Volpe, SS, NYY – A 2019 first-round pick, Volpe just turned 20 but has shown polish beyond his years this season recording more walks (37) than strikeouts (36). He's also batting .310 with nine home runs and 19 steals through 43 appearances. A high school teammate of Jack Leiter, Volpe has displayed the ability to handle the bat, exceptional plate discipline, above-average speed and more power than anticipated. It's early on in his development - especially with the lost 2020 minor league campaign - but he has looked impressive.

Graham Ashcraft, P, CIN – The Reds organization has been buzzing about the progress of both Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo, and rightly so. Ashcraft should also be getting his due having started the season at High-A with a 2.33 ERA and 55:13 K:BB in 38.2 innings and a quick promotion to Double-A where his first start was a complete game shutout allowing only two hits, walking none and fanning eight. His power combination of fastball/slider has been giving opposing hitters fits, and his command/control has been far better than advertised. As long as Ashcraft continues to locate his pitches and work on that third pitch (changeup), there's no reason to believe the UAB product will be headed to the bullpen as perhaps initially thought.

Andy Pages, OF, LAD – Pages has been on a power surge of late by cranking six home runs in his last 11 games at High-A while currently leading High-A Central in that category with 15. He's also produced four steals in 48, though power will be his calling card. While Pages isn't afraid to take a walk, he's also struck out 57 times and is only hitting .251. He has a decent approach at the dish, but the jury is still out as to whether he can hit for average at the higher levels. Pages may end up being a better OBP player than average hitter, but he's still just 20 and remains one of the Dodgers' better hitting prospects.

Daniel Espino, P, CLE – On look and stuff alone, Espino would be one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. He's still extremely well thought of in prospect circles, but has yet to be fully stretched out for usage as a starter. In other words, Cleveland is being very cautious with Espino. He's pitched 34.1 innings at Low-A this season posting 2.10 ERA while fanning 48 batters.  Espino's walks are a tad high, having issued 17 free passes over a span of eight starts. It isn't surprising for starters at the lower levels to be limited in terms of innings or innings per start, but the question for Espino will be if he can translate that filthy stuff into quality starts. The upside is immense, but he's still a ways away from making a big league impact.

DOWNGRADE

Jordyn Adams, OF, LAA – 2021 has not gone exactly as planned for Adams. He spent over a month on the IL due to a lower leg injury, which has limited him to just 12 games at High-A where he is slashing just .163/.250/.302. Adams does have five walks over that stretch, but has also K'd 15 times. The sample size is dangerously small, but he isn't expected to have much power while his blazing speed has not yet translated into stolen bases. The lost 2020 campaign certainly affected Adams' development after being drafted in 2018 out of high school. It's just a small downgrade for him, but certainly he would've liked a better start to this year.

Justin Foscue, 2B, TEX – The No. 14 overall selection in 2020 Foscue only appeared in 13 games to begin 2021 before being shut down due to the injury. He didn't exactly light the world on fire prior to the injury hitting just .182 with 17 strikeouts. Of course, this was Foscue's first taste of full-season ball having skipped Low-A and the sample size is once again very small. However, he was originally sidelined with what was called a rib contusion, but it has now been a month on the IL. As such, the severity of the injury and perhaps even the true origin may still be unknown. Foscue had been considered the Rangers' second baseman of the future, but it could be some time before we see him back on the diamond.

Ivan Herrera, C, STL – Herrera may end up in the unenviable position of eventually replacing future Hall of Famer Yadier Molina. The Cardinals had Carson Kelly for a while, but he didn't want to wait around and was eventually shipped to Arizona. Herrera is 21 and currently at Double-A while being considered among the top-10 catchers in the minors. However, he's only hitting .215 through 40 games. Herrera offers a patient approach at the dish with 31 walks compared to 48 strikeouts over that span, so his OBP is still solid. However, he's only managed four homers and 18 RBI despite available raw power. Catching prospects always have a steep learning curve and Herrera has reportedly worked with Molina to improve defensively, so it remains to be seen what will happen at Triple-A - and then eventually in the big leagues - when the veteran ultimately decides to hang up his gear.

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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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