Minor League Barometer: Risers & Fallers

Minor League Barometer: Risers & Fallers

This article is part of our Minor League Barometer series.

We've seen a flurry of call-ups to the big leagues over the past week following the All-Star break. Jarren Duran joined the Red Sox over the weekend for his MLB debut while Brandon Marsh got his first taste of the big leagues Sunday for the Angels. Jarred Kelenic is back for the M's, Chris Gittens should get everyday at-bats for the Yankees due to their injury and COVID woes, and fellow Yankee farmhand Hoy Jun Park also got his first MLB hacks. And we should be in store for even more activity as the trade deadline approaches. 

Let's talk about some other prospects in the headlines in this week's Minor League Barometer.

UPGRADE

Orelvis Martinez, 3B, TOR – Martinez produced a monstrous outing Saturday at Low-A by cracking three home runs and driving in nine runs in a four-hit performance. The crazy part is that he also racked up four hits the previous day while delivering another homer and collecting a combined 22 total bases over the two contests. Martinez's recent surge pushed his slash line to .291/.375/.578 with 15 home runs and 56 RBI through 59 games. At just 19, he may only be scratching the surface of his future potential.

Taj Bradley, P, TB – As if the Rays needed another pitching prospect, Bradley has sparkled at Low-A to start the season only allowing five earned runs since May 20 en route to a 2.14 ERA along with a 66:16 K:BB from 54.2 innings while the opposition is hitting a

We've seen a flurry of call-ups to the big leagues over the past week following the All-Star break. Jarren Duran joined the Red Sox over the weekend for his MLB debut while Brandon Marsh got his first taste of the big leagues Sunday for the Angels. Jarred Kelenic is back for the M's, Chris Gittens should get everyday at-bats for the Yankees due to their injury and COVID woes, and fellow Yankee farmhand Hoy Jun Park also got his first MLB hacks. And we should be in store for even more activity as the trade deadline approaches. 

Let's talk about some other prospects in the headlines in this week's Minor League Barometer.

UPGRADE

Orelvis Martinez, 3B, TOR – Martinez produced a monstrous outing Saturday at Low-A by cracking three home runs and driving in nine runs in a four-hit performance. The crazy part is that he also racked up four hits the previous day while delivering another homer and collecting a combined 22 total bases over the two contests. Martinez's recent surge pushed his slash line to .291/.375/.578 with 15 home runs and 56 RBI through 59 games. At just 19, he may only be scratching the surface of his future potential.

Taj Bradley, P, TB – As if the Rays needed another pitching prospect, Bradley has sparkled at Low-A to start the season only allowing five earned runs since May 20 en route to a 2.14 ERA along with a 66:16 K:BB from 54.2 innings while the opposition is hitting a putrid .182 against. He's been working on increasing his fastball velocity and honing his off-speed pitches, namely the slider/curveball combo. If Bradley's command is legit, he could skyrocket up the prospect charts - even with the notorious conservative Rays handling his eventual promotion(s).

Alec Burleson, 1B, STL – Burleson has been scorching of late hitting six home runs over his last 12 outings for Double-A Springfield. Already on his second level this season, he's been able to tap into his power with a sweet left-handed stroke. Strikeouts may always be a part of the equation for Burleson and he doesn't walk as much as the Cardinals would like. Still, the quick development of his power stroke along with the East Carolina product's rather seamless adjustment to upper-level pitching are certainly welcome signs for his future inclusion in the organization's plans.

Jordan Balazovic, P, MIN – Balazovic's last three starts at Double-A have been dynamite as he didn't given up a single run across 18.2 innings while posting a 24:3 K:BB. He also tossed 5.2 innings of no-hit ball on Jun. 30 and only allowed one hit last Thursday over seven frames. Though Balazovic missed the first month of the season due to injury, he's clearly returned with a vengeance. He throws strikes and has added a few ticks onto his heater while his fastball command is elite. He offers the size, delivery and repertoire that will make him extremely difficult to hit.

CHECK STATUS

Nick Yorke, 2B, BOS – Yorke's skill set reminds some of Nick Madrigal, the White Sox second baseman with superb plate discipline and excellent contact skills. Yorke has acquitted himself just fine as a teenager at Low-A thus far by hitting .289 with a .381 OBP in 50 games. The question remains as to whether he'll eventually be able to tap into some power. Yorke has hit three homers and has produced more games than power despite a sturdy frame. He also has nine steals, which would help his cause from a fantasy perspective. In an ideal world, Yorke is a .300 hitter with double-digit power and speed potential. However, only time will tell whether the homers will come.

Cole Ragans, P, TEX – Ragans gets serious props for determination, as he overcame two separate Tommy John surgeries and started the season at High-A after not pitching professionally since 2017. Even better, he pitched extremely well and is still only 23. Ragans posted a 3.25 ERA and 54:14 K:BB in 44.1 innings at that level to earn a promotion to Double-A. He endured a rocky first start at that level and it's natural to be wary of a young hurler with such a checkered injury history. It's a tremendous story and the Rangers don't exactly boast the greatest pitching prospects, so Ragans is more than deserving of a mention for turning his career around.

Ryan Vilade, SS/3B, COL – Rumors abound that Trevor Story could be on the move at the trade deadline. The Rockies carry plenty of potential replacement options, even if none of them offer quite the same luster as Story. Vilade could be one of those options, a Triple-A infielder currently batting .254/.325/.366 with three home runs, 16 RBI and eight steals in 56 games. He performed better at High-A in 2019 within the hitter-friendly confines of the California League, but has handled the jump to Triple-A admirably despite 2020's canceled campaign. Opportunity may be the biggest benefit for Vilade if Story is dealt, as the Rockies have been playing musical infielders even with Story entrenched in the lineup.

Asa Lacy, P, KC – Walks have been a real worry for Lacy, who has offered nine free passes over his last two starts at High-A. Not only do walks allow for more opportunities for the opposition to score runs, but it also drives up the pitch count and makes it extremely difficult to last longer into games. Lacy still has tremendous swing-and-miss ability with 77 strikeouts from 49.1 innings, but his penchant for issuing walks has limited his overall effectiveness and a 4.74 ERA isn't promising.  Control/command should be the southpaw's primary focus at this point.

Jack Suwinski, 3B, SD – A 15th-round pick out of high school in 2016, Suwinski has clawed his way up the ladder and at 22 years has emerged as a prospect to watch for the Padres. He's a grinder with 41 walks in 61 games and a .383 OBP. Suwinski also produced 14 home runs over that span at Double-A, already setting a career-high. He'll provide more value in OBP leagues than those that count average, as he may never hit above .260. Still, the combination of extra base hits and walks make Suwinski an intriguing player - or perhaps trade fodder - in this Three True Outcome era.

DOWNGRADE

Roansy Contreras, P, PIT – Contreras was enjoying a breakout 2021, so the timing of his injury is most unfortunate. The positive is that the issue doesn't appear to be related to his elbow ligaments and instead has been diagnosed as a forearm strain. Though Contreras may miss at least another month and perhaps longer, the progress he made this season cannot be denied.  with a 2.35 ERA and 65:11 K:BB in only 46 innings at Double-A prior to being sidelined. At just 21, the last-place Pirates would likely be better served waiting until 2022 for him to return, with an eye towards a possible big league debut by that season's end.

Brailyn Marquez, P, CHC – Mum had been the word on Marquez, who has yet to pitch in the minors this season. A left shoulder strain has now been identified as the chief cause, and no timeline has been set for his return. At one point, Marquez was considered the top pitching prospect for the Cubbies, but his inability to take the mound certainly dings his value. He still may be their best hurler in the minors due to the sheer dearth of high upside arms, as Kohl Franklin is also injured, Cory Abbott has struggled at Triple-A, and Adbert Alzolay has graduated to the bigs.  The Cubs have already jettisoned Joc Pederson, and perhaps another more high-profile trade will bring back some pitchers with potential to restock the farm.

Ethan Small, P, MIL – Another jinx candidate is Small, a favorite of the column over the past year or two. He's been shut down for at least the next two weeks due to a tendon strain in his left middle finger. Small could even have been a candidate for the starting rotation down the stretch of the season, but this ailment puts that possibility in serious jeopardy. He found little resistance at Double-A to begin the year before receiving a recent bump to Triple-A, where he struggled a bit with command. Perhaps the injury had something to do with that, and Small will attempt to get healthy over the next few weeks with an aim towards a September debut in the Majors. Fellow Brewers rotation prospects Alec Bettinger and Aaron Ashby have already premiered this season, though with little success.

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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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