Minor League Barometer: Risers & Fallers

Minor League Barometer: Risers & Fallers

This article is part of our Minor League Barometer series.

George Kirby lost out on a roster spot on Opening Day to Matt Brash, but those in the know figured Kirby wouldn't last long in the minors. One of the baseball's top pitching prospects dazzled in five starts at Double-A posting a 1.89 ERA and 32:5 K:BB in 24.2 innings. Kirby was called up on Mother's Day for his MLB debut and didn't disappoint tossing six scoreless innings while scattering four hits and striking out seven and not issuing a walk. Expect him to become a mainstay in the Seattle rotation.

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

UPGRADE

Alek Thomas, OF, AZ – Thomas is another highly touted phenom who made his big-league premiere Sunday. With an injury to Carson Kelly, Daulton Varsho will see more time behind the plate, leaving a void in the outfield. Thomas impressed in spring training, but the decision was ultimately made to place him back in the minors. He more than held his own at Triple-A slashing .277/.362/.495 with four home runs, 14 RBI and three steals across 24 games. Thomas went 1-for-3 with a run scored in his first game with the big club. The Diamondbacks have been simply dreadful on offense to begin 2022, so perhaps the 22-year-old will provide a jolt.

Henry Davis, C, PIT – Davis was promoted to Double-A after a hot start at High-A after slashing .341/.450/.585 with five home runs, 22 RBI and five steals over 22 games.  The 2021 No.

George Kirby lost out on a roster spot on Opening Day to Matt Brash, but those in the know figured Kirby wouldn't last long in the minors. One of the baseball's top pitching prospects dazzled in five starts at Double-A posting a 1.89 ERA and 32:5 K:BB in 24.2 innings. Kirby was called up on Mother's Day for his MLB debut and didn't disappoint tossing six scoreless innings while scattering four hits and striking out seven and not issuing a walk. Expect him to become a mainstay in the Seattle rotation.

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

UPGRADE

Alek Thomas, OF, AZ – Thomas is another highly touted phenom who made his big-league premiere Sunday. With an injury to Carson Kelly, Daulton Varsho will see more time behind the plate, leaving a void in the outfield. Thomas impressed in spring training, but the decision was ultimately made to place him back in the minors. He more than held his own at Triple-A slashing .277/.362/.495 with four home runs, 14 RBI and three steals across 24 games. Thomas went 1-for-3 with a run scored in his first game with the big club. The Diamondbacks have been simply dreadful on offense to begin 2022, so perhaps the 22-year-old will provide a jolt.

Henry Davis, C, PIT – Davis was promoted to Double-A after a hot start at High-A after slashing .341/.450/.585 with five home runs, 22 RBI and five steals over 22 games.  The 2021 No. 1 overall pick has found little resistance thus far in the minors, though the sample size is small and a polished former collegian should be dominating at High-A. Nevertheless, Davis remains among the top catching prospects in the game, and the Pirates could choose to be aggressive with him if he continues to shine.

Matt McLain, SS, CIN – Not much has gone right for the Reds this season, at least at the highest level. The big club has by far the worst record, perhaps not surprising given their unloading of veterans during the offseason. The youth movement is in full effect with Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo beginning the year in the starting rotation, though Greene has been lit up of late and Lodolo is now hurt. McLain should give the organization some cause for optimism with seven home runs and seven steals in 26 games at Double-A while slashing .250/.352/.598. While he's still striking out too much, he's certainly trending in the right direction.

Marco Luciano, OF, SF – Sometimes there is prospect fatigue, and the unknown gets more attention than the known. That seems to be the case with Luciano, who has been talked about since he was 16, and was more than decent at 19 between Low-A and High-A last season. Yet somehow, he found himself dropping a bit on prospect lists coming into the year. Luciano is raking to begin 2022 at High-A slashing .300/.374/.513 with four home runs and nine RBI through 23 contests. A move to Double-A should come shortly. Just because Luciano has been discussed since he was 16 and isn't in the big leagues yet doesn't mean he should be viewed as having lost any of his prospect luster.

CHECK STATUS

Mick Abel, P, PHI – Abel has not had quite the same blistering start as fellow Philadelphia pitching prospect Andrew Painter, but he's still missing a bevy of bats to begin the campaign having fanned 29 batters in 18 innings at High-A. He's also been a tad wild over that span with eight walks. The opposition is hitting just .203 against, and he's yet to allow a home run through five starts. Abel offers a dynamic four-pitch arsenal, though he's still working on locating all four effectively. He has the smarts and mental makeup to succeed, though he must also stay healthy and missed time in 2021 with a shoulder ailment.

Sal Frelick, OF, MIL – Frelick slashed .291/.391/.456 through the first 21 games of the season at High-A to earn a quick promotion to Double-A. He's been a fast riser in the Milwaukee organization since being drafted last season and is already on his fourth different affiliate. Frelick has an excellent eye at the dish and should be able to hit for at least modest average, though the question remains whether he'll have enough power to be a key contributor in fantasy circles. He may end up being a better real-life player than fantasy asset, though his speed does appear to be better than most.

Michael Busch, 2B/OF, LAD – Busch has begun to take reps in the outfield, a significant development as to whether he could possibly join the big club before the end of 2022. He has also seen time at first base and DH. The Dodgers carry plenty of infield depth, though the outfield depth leaves something to be desired. Busch has an exceptional eye at the dish along with home run clout hitting .273/.414/.614 with nine home runs and 25 RBI over 25 games at Double-A. How he takes to the outfield could determine whether he ends up in the bigs this year.

Jackson Jobe, P, DET – The Tigers are handling Jobe with kid gloves to begin his professional career. This may be smart, but also means that his path to the majors could take exceptionally long. Let's not forget the Tigers proceeded very deliberately with another high school hurler, Matt Manning, who didn't debut for the Tigers until five years after being drafted. Even Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal, who were rather polished collegians, weren't rushed either. Jobe has allowed 10 runs in his first 7.1 innings at Low-A, but has also fanned nine batters. Detroit's playing the long game with Jobe, though the wait for him to pay off in the fantasy realm may be excruciating.

DOWNGRADE

Mark Vientos, 3B, NYM – Vientos has struggled to start 2022 hitting just .188/.313/.362 with two home runs and 12 RBI in 22 games at Triple-A. The strongest asset for him is his raw power, though that has been noticeably absent this season. Vientos is also not the greatest fielder and has two other top-flight prospects, Brett Baty and Ronny Mauricio, breathing down his neck at the same or similar positions. There is currently no place for him to play at the big-league level anyway. The window for Vientos to prove he can be a part of the Mets future could already be closing.

Korey Lee, C, HOU – Lee remains a fairly divisive prospect in terms of what kind of player he will end up being. The athletic 23-year-old didn't become a full-time catcher until college. While he boasts outstanding arm strength and standout raw power, he's still learning how to catch and make consistent contact at the plate. Lee had something of a breakout season in 2021 by playing at three levels while hitting double-digit home runs in only 88 games. Triple-A has proven far more difficult with him batting just .291/.272/.400 through 26 outings while striking out 30 times and drawing just seven walks. Lee needs more reps at this level before even being considered for the majors. And even then, he may end up as a backup.

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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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