Minor League Barometer: Risers & Fallers

Minor League Barometer: Risers & Fallers

This article is part of our Minor League Barometer series.

Plenty of prospect pundits gave up on Kansas City neophyte Nick Pratto. The 2017 first-round pick produced a decent - albeit, unspectacular - first season at Low-A in 2018. Then came a dreadful 2019 where he only hit .198 with nine home runs in 124 games at High-A. The pandemic did Pratto no favors and was largely written off.  Still just 22, the sweet-swinging lefty has proved the doubters wrong with a bounce back 2021 slashing .275/.392/.604 with 25 home runs, 71 RBI and even 10 steals in 90 contest between Double-A and Triple-A. Pratto is hitting for average, drawing many walks, but perhaps - most importantly - has found his power stroke having already crushed his previous career high. He's gone from a forgotten to prospect to a return as one of the top infield phenoms.

Next week's article will hit on some possible September call-ups. For now, here are some prospects making waves on the minor league scene.

UPGRADE

Colton Cowser, OF, BAL – At the big league level, things couldn't possibly be worse for the Orioles as they've lost 18 straight games, have struggled to the worst record in MLB, and there's no end in sight to the misery this year. But hope could be on the horizon, as the farm system is beginning to show signs of bearing fruit. Adley Rutschman should come to the rescue in 2022 and become the face of the franchise at catcher while Grayson Rodriguez might be the best pitching prospect in baseball and should also

Plenty of prospect pundits gave up on Kansas City neophyte Nick Pratto. The 2017 first-round pick produced a decent - albeit, unspectacular - first season at Low-A in 2018. Then came a dreadful 2019 where he only hit .198 with nine home runs in 124 games at High-A. The pandemic did Pratto no favors and was largely written off.  Still just 22, the sweet-swinging lefty has proved the doubters wrong with a bounce back 2021 slashing .275/.392/.604 with 25 home runs, 71 RBI and even 10 steals in 90 contest between Double-A and Triple-A. Pratto is hitting for average, drawing many walks, but perhaps - most importantly - has found his power stroke having already crushed his previous career high. He's gone from a forgotten to prospect to a return as one of the top infield phenoms.

Next week's article will hit on some possible September call-ups. For now, here are some prospects making waves on the minor league scene.

UPGRADE

Colton Cowser, OF, BAL – At the big league level, things couldn't possibly be worse for the Orioles as they've lost 18 straight games, have struggled to the worst record in MLB, and there's no end in sight to the misery this year. But hope could be on the horizon, as the farm system is beginning to show signs of bearing fruit. Adley Rutschman should come to the rescue in 2022 and become the face of the franchise at catcher while Grayson Rodriguez might be the best pitching prospect in baseball and should also debut next season. Cowser is a 2021 draftee, but has come out of the gate on fire hitting .500 in seven rookie league contests and parlaying that into a quick promotion to Low-A, where he will likely end the campaign. The Sam Houston State product may have been a slight surprise at No. 5 overall, but the O's have to like what they've already seen.

Brett Baty, 3B/OF, NYM – It's no secret the Mets have had a need at third base over the past few seasons. They were linked to a bevy of free agents this past offseason, but instead went with an internal option in the form of J.D. Davis. That decision hasn't worked out thus far. While Baty could end up in the outfield instead of the hot corner, his prospect pedigree will give him ample rope once he reaches the big leagues. He's also enjoyed a solid 2021 going .285/.369/.475 with 12 homers, 55 RBI and six steals between High-A and Double-A.

Joey Wiemer, OF, MIL – Wiemer is crushing the ball since being promoted to High-A with six home runs in only 12 contests while recording 17 hits in 44 at-bats. A fourth-round selection in 2020, he wasn't able to make his professional debut last season due to the pandemic. Wiemer began this year at Low-A, where he posted an intriguing line of .276/.391/.478 with 13 homers and 22 steals across 75 outings. Perhaps this level of polish was to be expected from a collegian out of the University of Cincinnati, but this combination of power, speed and plate discipline makes the 6'5", 215lb prospect one to watch. And while I try not to include two players from the same team in any one article, honorable mention goes to recent draftee Sal Frelick, who is white-hot at Low-A going 20-for-48 (.417) through 10 games with one homer, 10 RBI and three swipes.

Ryan Cusick, P, ATL – Wake Forest's finest has produced as advertised through two starts at Low-A by fanning 11 batters over five innings. The sample size is clearly small, but the 2021 first-rounder showed little rust and breezed through the competition at this level. Cusick can hit triple-digits on the radar gun, led the ACC in strikeout rate last season, and is a beast physically at 6'6", 235lb. If his command and secondary pitches can continue to progress, he could have all the makings of a frontline rotation anchor.

CHECK STATUS

Hunter Brown, P, HOU – The strikeout numbers jump off the page for Brown with 76 Ks in only 49.1 innings at Double-A to begin the season. He was recently rewarded with a bump up to Triple-A, where he's logged a 4.50 ERA and 22:9 K:BB from 22 innings. It's worth noting some control struggles, as Brown's walk totals are a tad higher than the Astros organization want them to be.  The former Division II starter needs to refine his command as well as develop a third pitch in order to avoid being moved to the bullpen, but he remains a starter for now and has had enough success to have a future in the rotation.

Gabriel Arias, SS, CLE – Arias is only 21, but is already at Triple-A and more than holding his own amongst older players slashing .272/.342/.425 with 10 homers in 89 games. He offers more power than the average shortstop, his walk rate has improved from 2019, and he's still hitting for average. Stolen bases may not be much of a part of the equation, and Arias does have to contend with strikeout concerns. He became overflow for the Padres, but has firmly placed himself in the future plans for the Guardians since coming over in the Mike Clevinger deal.

Brayan Bello, P, BOS – With Tanner Houck exhausting eligibility, Bello may be the best pitching prospect in the Boston system. He pumps in strikes and keeps the ball down, while also missing a plethora of bats. Between High-A and Double-A this season, Bello has posted a 117:25 K:BB in only 81.2 innings. He offers a three-pitch mix of fastball, slider and changeup. How Bello's fastball plays at the higher levels will go a long way towards determining his future success.

Yoelqui Cespedes, OF, CHW – The half-brother of Yoenis will always be compared, and that is largely unfair as Yoelqui doesn't have the same size nor quite the same tantalizing physical gifts.  But he's still done well in his first taste of full-season ball this year having started at High-A where he slashed .278/.355/.494 with seven home runs, 20 RBI and 10 steals. Strikeouts remain a concern, as Cespedes has fanned 56 times over 45 contests. Nevertheless, he showed enough for the White Sox to move him up to Double-A, where he's collected nine hits in his first 25 at-bats.  There's not much room for him at the big league level with the likes of Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert roaming the outfield, but the younger Cespedes looks as if he could at least be a serviceable starter in the big leagues for some organization if given the opportunity.

Dermis Garcia, 1B, NYY – On the plus side, Garcia leads the Northeast League (Double-A) in homers with 24. On the downside, he's only batting .197 and has struck out a staggering 145 times across 85 contests to lead the league by a wide margin. Garcia has certainly tapped into his power potential, but his punchouts are too high and his batting average too low even in a day and age where strikeouts are far more prevalent. Even an average in the .240-.250 range - where it hovered from 2017-2019 - would make the K numbers much more palatable and boost his stock.

DOWNGRADE

Kristian Robinson, OF, AZ – Robinson was recently sentenced to 18 months probation as a result of an altercation with a police officer in 2020. He won't spend any time in prison, but this result will continue to impact his ability to obtain a visa and put his future in US professional baseball in jeopardy. Robinson's mental health and well-being are most important, but from a baseball perspective he's missing vital developmental time. His raw gifts remain, but only time will tell whether he can make it back to MLB.

Aaron Sabato, 1B, MIN – A first-round pick last year, Sabato is enduring a tough first season at Low-A slashing .189/.365/.357 with 11 home runs and 42 RBI through 85 contests while striking out 117 times along with 73 walks. While the OBP helps, the remainder of his statistics are lackluster, and at 22 the UNC product was expected to have a bit more success at this level. Sabato will enter 2022 looking to rebuild his reputation as a top prospect for the Twinkies.

Seth Corry, P, SF – Corry was one of the biggest risers in 2019 fanning a staggering 172 batters in only 122.2 innings at Low-A at 20 en route to a minuscule 1.76 ERA. 2021 has been a vastly different story having produced a bloated 6.83 ERA in 59.1 innings at High-A. Lack of control has been the chief culprit in Corry's struggles, as he's walked 59 batters across 59.1 innings. By contrast, he only walked 58 at Low-A. Corry still managed 89 strikeouts this season and his swing-and-miss stuff can't be ignored. However, the additional baserunners have been his downfall. At just 22, the southpaw will look to get back on track next season or could end up in the bullpen.

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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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