When we think about power-hitting prospects in the minor leagues this year, names like Florida's Mike Stanton or Seattle's Carlos Peguero come to mind.
Stanton and Peguero both had three-homer games earlier this season. Padres low Class A shortstop Jonathan Galvez accomplished the feat last month, which is fairly remarkable given that he has six home runs all season. The latest prospect to go deep three times in one game is Nationals shortstop Danny Espinosa, who hit home runs No. 16, 17 and 18 last night for Double-A Harrisburg. Espinosa hit his first home run batting righthanded, with the last two coming from the left side, the last of which was a 10th-inning blast after digging himself into an 0-2 hole.
Espinosa, 23, struggled in May in June, but he's hit better lately to bring his slash line up to .262/.334/.464 in 431 plate appearances. In 95 trips to the plate since the all-star break, Espinosa has hit .318/.371/.636, and at least one scout who saw him during that stretch came away impressed, noting that Espinosa's strong, quick hands enable him to get the barrel out quickly and drive the ball for what should be at least average power as he matures.
He's a good athlete who has always drawn excellent reviews for his defense, and none of that has changed. The scout gave Espinosa a 70 arm on the 20-80 scale, and while he's not flashy he shows good actions and range to both sides. Espinosa has improved his swing, but he's always going to strike out at a relatively high clip. He has enough power and defensive value to make up for it, but even while Ian Desmond scuffles in Washington, Espinosa's bat might not be ready for him to take over by Opening Day next year.
Zach Lutz, 3b, Mets (Double-A Binghamton): While Espinosa went deep three times against Lutz's Binghamton club, Lutz did his best to match Espinosa on the other side. For the second time in three games, Lutz hit two home runs yesterday, continuing his assault on the Eastern League since re-joining Binghamton a week and a half ago from a stress fracture in his left foot. He's up to .297/.417/.645 in 42 games with the B-Mets, and while at 24 he's a little bit older for a Double-A prospect, health has mostly been what's held him back to this point, as he's a legitimate offensive threat with a short, quick swing, a good approach and the strength to hit for power.
Anthony Gose, cf, Blue Jays (high Class A Dunedin): The Blue Jays have to be pleased with their new acquisition. Gose, who turns 20 on Tuesday, went 3-for-4 with a pair of triples and a walk yesterday, bringing him to .360/.385/.680 in six games since getting traded from the Phillies to the Astros and then to the Blue Jays in exchange for Brett Wallace. He still has a ways to go at the plate with his approach (and he was caught stealing yesterday for the 28th time in 65 tries), but the tools are undeniable.
Anthony Rizzo, 1b, Red Sox (Double-A Portland): Two years ago, Lars Anderson was Boston's No. 1 prospect. Last year, Anderson struggled and Rizzo hit well, narrowing the gap and starting some debate among scouts about who was the Red Sox's best first base prospect. With Anderson hitting .243/.334/.405 in 83 Triple-A games, Rizzo is building his resume with a .272/.326/.487 line in 77 games with Portland. While Rizzo hasn't hit for much power coming into the season, he has this year and certainly did last night, launching two home runs and a double, giving him 13 homers with Portland and 18 on the year.
Adeiny Hechavarria, ss, Blue Jays (Double-A New Hampshire): Hechavarria's career couldn't have gotten off to a much worse start with high Class A Dunedin, where he hit .193/.217/.292 in 41 games. It was sort of a head-scratcher when the Blue Jays promoted the 21-year-old Cuban to Double-A after that, but he's managed to do more than just tread water in the Eastern League. After going 3-for-5 with a double yesterday, Hechavarria is up to .306/.340/.410 with the Fisher Cats in 147 plate appearances while playing his standard plus defense.
Mike Montgomery, lhp, Royals (Double-A Northwest Arkansas): Montgomery returned to Double-A for his first start since June 15, when he went on the shelf with elbow soreness. Montgomery, 21, struck out five of the 14 hitters he faced yesterday, allowing one run and walking two in 3 2/3 innings. With a starting rotation that features Montgomery, John Lamb, Danny Duffy and Chris Dwyer (currently on the disabled list with a back injury), the Naturals probably aren't a team that Texas League hitters are anticipating facing the rest of the season.
Sebastian Valle, c, Phillies (low Class A Lakewod): After dominating in his native Mexico in winter ball, the offensive-oriented Valle looked ready to have a big year in the South Atlantic League. Instead, the 20-year-old righthanded hitter is hitting .254/.293/.432 in 392 plate appearances. Valle has enjoyed his last three games, however, as yesterday was his third straight game with a homer, giving him 14 on the year. While defense has always been an afterthought for Valle, he has trimmed his pop times this year, though his plate coverage and his receiving both remain a ways away.
Todd Frazier, lf/3b, Reds (Triple-A Louisville): Top prospects aren't supposed to make outs 70 percent of the time in Triple-A, especially not 24-year-olds who primarily play left field. Yet that's what Frazier has done this year, struggling to replicate the success he had up until this point throughout his minor league career. Yet in his last 11 games, he's had three hits three times, including yesterday when doubled and hit his 14th home run. It's a nice streak for the unconventional-swinging Frazier, but .241/.301/.432 in 100 games tells the bigger story, and it's a concerning one.
Max Kepler, of, Twins (Rookie-level Gulf Coast League): Kepler is the best prospect to come out of Europe in years, but expectations for the 17-year-old German outfielder needed to be tempered for his pro debut. Yet Kepler's shown more than just a broad set of tools—he's hitting, too. Yesterday was Kepler's second straight game with three hits, raising his batting line to .288/.351/.356 in 114 plate appearances.
Wagner Mateo, of, Diamondbacks (Rookie-level Dominican Summer League): Almost a year after agreeing to a $3.1 million deal with the Cardinals that ended up getting voided due to a failed physical, Mateo signed with the Diamondbacks in May for $512,000. Still just 17, Mateo hit two home runs yesterday, giving him four on the year and raising his numbers to .262/.371/.433 in 221 plate appearances. He is striking out at a high clip, ranking fourth in the league with 61 whiffs (28 percent of his PAs), but he's also showing power and patience (30 walks) despite being one of the league's youngest players. After starting the year in right field, Mateo has played mostly in center lately, though he projects to move back to a corner position down the road.
• Twins Double-A center fielder Ben Revere is out for the year after getting hit by a pitch near his right eye on Tuesday, causing two orbital fractures, according to La Velle Neal of the Minnesota Star Tribune. The 22-year-old speedster was hitting .297/.365/.349 in 89 games for the Rock Cats.
• Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario might also be done for the year, according to BA correspondent Jack Etkin, who reports that Rosario sprained his right knee in a rundown on Tuesday. He's still awaiting results of an MRI.
• The Angels promoted righthandeder Jordan Walden from Double-A Arkansas to Triple-A Salt Lake. Walden, who moved to the bullpen this year, could crack the Angels' 25-man roster by 2011 with a few more adjustments, which we pointed out in today's Prospect Bulletin.
• Dominican Summer League teams have now played more than 50 games, which means players who were suspended 50 games for testing positive for steroids before the season can start to play. Two of the more notable names are Astros righthander Michael Feliz, who signed for $400,000, and Padres Dominican third baseman Duanel Jones, a $900,000 signing. Feliz, a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, made his debut on Monday and allowed two runs (one earned) in four innings, striking out four with no walks. Jones has yet to see action but is expected to play soon.
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