Minor League Barometer: Risers & Fallers

Minor League Barometer: Risers & Fallers

This article is part of our Minor League Barometer series.

How about the start to the season for the Guardians' Steven Kwan? After batting .469 in spring training, the rookie has incredibly reached base in 12 of his first 14 plate appearances. Kwan has been largely ignored in fantasy circles due to his lack of power or speed, but his hit tool is legit having slashed a combined .328/.407/.527 across 77 games between Double-A and Triple-A in 2021. Based on these early returns, he's hit himself right into Cleveland's future plans.

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

UPGRADE

Shea Langeliers, C, OAK – Langeliers was one of the prospects sent from the Braves to the A's in the Matt Olson trade, and he's off to a fast start with his new organization going 6-for-19 (.316) with three home runs and six RBI through the first five games of the season for Triple-A Las Vegas.  He's in an interesting spot because Oakland's top prospect - Tyler Soderstrom - is also a catcher.  However, Soderstrom is only 20 and is starting the year at High-A. Sean Murphy is starting behind the plate for the big club, but has struggled with making consistent contact. While Murphy is a superior defensive catcher, his lack of hitting prowess could be worth monitoring. Langeliers sits between Murphy and Soderstrom on the depth chart, but could see the big leagues sooner rather than later if he continues to mash.

Jordan Walker, 3B, STL – Walker is

How about the start to the season for the Guardians' Steven Kwan? After batting .469 in spring training, the rookie has incredibly reached base in 12 of his first 14 plate appearances. Kwan has been largely ignored in fantasy circles due to his lack of power or speed, but his hit tool is legit having slashed a combined .328/.407/.527 across 77 games between Double-A and Triple-A in 2021. Based on these early returns, he's hit himself right into Cleveland's future plans.

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

UPGRADE

Shea Langeliers, C, OAK – Langeliers was one of the prospects sent from the Braves to the A's in the Matt Olson trade, and he's off to a fast start with his new organization going 6-for-19 (.316) with three home runs and six RBI through the first five games of the season for Triple-A Las Vegas.  He's in an interesting spot because Oakland's top prospect - Tyler Soderstrom - is also a catcher.  However, Soderstrom is only 20 and is starting the year at High-A. Sean Murphy is starting behind the plate for the big club, but has struggled with making consistent contact. While Murphy is a superior defensive catcher, his lack of hitting prowess could be worth monitoring. Langeliers sits between Murphy and Soderstrom on the depth chart, but could see the big leagues sooner rather than later if he continues to mash.

Jordan Walker, 3B, STL – Walker is still a teenager, but is already at Double-A. Through three contests, he's produced six RBI, four walks and just one strikeout. With an advanced approach far beyond his years, Walker has earned his place among baseball's top infield prospects. However, it's unlikely he'll end up at third base. The institution of the DH in the NL will help his cause, but the Cardinals may ultimately shift him to first or the outfield. Inside the batter's box, Walker has the chance to become a middle-of-the-order star for St. Louis, and the future could come quicker than anyone envisioned.

Cole Winn, P, TEX –The Rangers are desperate for starting pitching, something that should only further aid Winn in his eventual march toward the bigs. At just 22, he's already at Triple-A after a breakout 2021 campaign where he fanned 107 batters in 86.0 innings, mostly at Double-A. The one knock on Winn has been inconsistent control as he hit two batters and walked two more in four innings during his season debut Friday. Once he gains firm command of his three-pitch arsenal, he should be a welcome addition to an extremely questionable Texas starting rotation.

Andrew Painter, P, PHI – Painter's first start at Low-A should turn some heads. Though the teenager was limited to just three innings, the 6-7 hurler recorded all nine outs via strikeout. Painter only walked one batter, though he did allow three hits, an unearned run and ultimately the loss. Still, the K figures should cause quite the stir, as the 13th overall selection in last year's Draft mowed down the opposition in impressive fashion. Though Painter is a ways away from making a big-league impact, the Gatorade Florida High School Player of the Year boasts elite size, the potential for three stellar pitches and an ability to repeat his delivery that most other pitchers of his stature can't do. As such, he could quickly vault up the prospect ranks.

CHECK STATUS

Julio Rodriguez, OF, SEA – Rodriguez is only 21, but an argument can be made he should have made his MLB debut last season. Instead, he's gotten his first big-league at-bats with the M's this year. On the plus side, Rodriguez started each of the first three games for Seattle, so it's clear the club aren't easing him in or planning to use him as a reserve. Unfortunately, Rodriguez has gone 1-for-12 with six strikeouts to begin his career. The sample size is small, he's still young, and the most important part here is that it appears he'll receive ample opportunities early on with Kyle Lewis on the shelf. Rodriguez remains one of the brightest young stars in the game, but he still could face some growing pains.

CJ Abrams, SS, SD – Abrams was a bit of a surprise addition for the Padres to their Opening Day roster, though this largely came about due to the injury to Fernando Tatis. It looks as though Abrams will play shortstop on the strong side of a platoon with Ha-Seong Kim. He started the first two games of the season, but the left-hander sat Sunday against a southpaw. Abrams may only have gone 1-for-9 with a run to start, but he offers a superb hit tool along with excellent speed. However, in this current San Diego lineup with championship aspirations, Abrams will hit near the bottom. Tatis will be sidelined for a while, so Abrams has the chance to contribute, but likely won't play every day as things currently stand.

Hudson Haskin, OF, BAL – A pandemic pick of the Orioles back in 2020, Haskin has displayed an above-average handle of the strike zone since entering the minors. He produced a three-homer effort Sunday at Double-A after blasting three doubles in the season opener.  That type of power is a welcome sign for Haskin, who only hit five home runs in 83 games last season. Baltimore's corner outfield spots are far from set in stone: Austin Hays has been disappointing, and Anthony Santander's ceiling is capped. If Haskin continues to rake, he could see Triple-A by the summer and announce his presence on the prospect map.

Ken Waldichuk, P, NYY – Waldichuk has picked up right where he left off in 2021 by tossing five scoreless innings in his first start at Double-A. The southpaw scattered two hits, walked two and fanned seven. He posted a 163:51 K:BB in just 110.0 innings last season, mostly at Double-A.  Waldichuk features a dangerous high fastball along with a decent slider and workable changeup.  He's also attempting to develop a curveball to give himself a four-pitch arsenal. Waldichuk came in fourth in the minors in strikeouts last season and has a deceptive delivery. He just turned 24, but should see Triple-A shortly assuming he can keep his command.

DOWNGRADE

Sam Bachman, P, LAA – One of the top pitching prospects in the Halos organization, Bachman is starting the year on the Injured List due to a balky back. Such an injury can be fickle, though the injury isn't considered serious. Nevertheless, Bachman is off to a disadvantage and there are some pundits who believe he'll end up in the bullpen due to his mechanics and power repertoire. For now, he'll be groomed as a starter, but is worth noting he missed time in college during 2021 due to arm soreness. The Angels are notorious for fast-tracking their high value starters to the big leagues, but a different kind of route might work better for Bachman.

Jordan Balazovic, P, MIN – Balazovic will also begin the season on IL, though his issue is a left knee strain. He finds himself in another organization in dire need of pitching at the top level, and will return to Triple-A once he recovers. The 23-year-old righty posted a 3.62 ERA and 102:38 K:BB in 97 innings at Double-A last season. Balazovic's command faltered a bit as his velocity has increased, and the development of his third pitch - whether it be a changeup or splitter - will ultimately decide how far he'll go. The good news is that he should soon be back on the mound.

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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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