Minor Developments: Is Will Middlebrooks for real?

Rob Steingall
Yahoo! Sports

Diamondbacks prospect Trevor Bauer had another impressive outing on Saturday, pitching seven scoreless innings with eight strikeouts and two walks en route to his fourth straight win. He's dominated minor league hitters, posting a 0.40 ERA across 22.2 innings, but my biggest gripe about Bauer is the amount of walks he's issued thus far.

Is Will Middlebrooks for real? That is the question many are asking in the midst of his torrid start at Triple-A Pawtucket. His .379 average and seven homers have been nothing short of awesome, but is this just a hot streak or legitimate growth from a prospect who has a history of questionable plate discipline? He's significantly cut his strikeout rate at Triple-A (30.0% in '11, 14.1% in '12), but his walk rate still remains the same. The power is for real, and time will tell if the rest of his gains prove to be legitimate. I still like Rockies prospect Nolan Arenado more, but Middlebrooks offers significant upside that not many in the minors can match.

Looking for a blast from the past? Let's talk about Athletics outfielder Michael Taylor, who is currently raking at Triple-A Sacramento (.389, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 3 SB). He showed signs of growth last season, and may still carve out a solid major league career as a power/speed threat. There is a 20/20 skill set here, and it shouldn't be a shock to see him display it immediately upon arriving permanently in the majors. Taylor looks like a classic late bloomer.

Taylor's teammate at Sacramento, Chris Carter, blasted three home runs on Sunday. Sure, the power is legitimate, but there are serious plate discipline issues here that continue to hold him back from being a regular contributor at the major league level. When a player is striking out 37.5% of the time at Triple-A, it's time to make an adjustment. Hopefully the Sunday breakthrough was the first step in the resurrection of Carter's prospect status.

Jarrod Parker will make his first start for the A's this week. One of the main reasons he was optioned to Triple-A to begin the year was to work on his command, and he's done just that, walking only six batters in 20.2 innings (while striking out 21). Parker possesses a live fastball that sits in the low to mid 90s, a slider and changeup that are swing and miss offerings, and a curveball he shows occasionally that lags behind his other offerings. He's an outstanding long term prospect for those in dynasty formats, and could be the next Athletics ace.

When are the Yankees going to finally pull the plug on Dellin Betances and completely rework his mechanics? He's a complete mess right now (17.1 IP, 8.83 ERA, 16/17 K/BB), and will never contribute at the major league level with his current approach. I broke down Betances' mechanical flaws over at Pinstripe Alley in late February, and he's done nothing to change my opinion in the early part of 2012. With Manny Banuelos currently on the disabled list, and Andrew Brackman now in the Reds organization, the 'Killer Bs' look to be in critical condition.

Rangers outfield prospect Leonys Martin continues to shine at Triple-A, and is now showing signs of a power stroke, posting three homers in the early going. Martin continues to show strong plate discpline and an ability to hit for a high average (.333), but is still having trouble with his stolen base success rate (4-for-9 in '12). If the defensive demands of center field start to take it's toll on Josh Hamilton, Martin should be first in line to get the call.

Quick hits:

Orioles' shortstop Manny Machado has two homers already on the young season. He's neck and neck with Jurickson Profar as the minors top shortstop prospect.

Mike Trout continues to try and convince the Angels he needs to be in their everyday lineup. He's now hitting .400 for Triple-A Salt Lake, and would be an upgrade tomorrow over Vernon Wells.

Bryce Harper hit his first Triple-A home run on Sunday. He's experiencing growing pains, but a July promotion could still occur if he gets hot and proves he's ready to take the next step.

Jays catcher Travis D'Arnaud is off to a slow start in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League. His .220 average and one home run are a huge disappointment.

Is there a more frustrating pitcher in the minors than Martin Perez? He's off to yet another sluggish start at Triple-A (22.1 IP, 4.03 ERA, 15/11 K/BB), and is looking less and less like a future ace with every outing.

Also want to note a fantastic breakdown of Yankees catching prospect Gary Sanchez from Mike Newman of Fangraphs.

Rob Steingall is a syndicated fantasy analyst. Follow him on Twitter

Have a prospect question? A player you want to see covered? Send it to MinorDevelopments@yahoo.com

What to Read Next