J.J. and Josh take you around the minors, highlighting big performances by prospects on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
J.J.’s GIF Of The Day
This isn’t the best quality shot, but the play is worth showing. In addition to hitting .405/.441/.643 through 19 games at Double-A Portland, second baseman Mookie Betts stars defensively as well. Yesterday, he went way up to snag this line drive to start a double play.
In addition to this web gem, Betts doubled to extend his hitting streak to 14 games. He’s reached base by hit or walk in all 19 games this season, and stretching back to last season, he’s reached base in 49 consecutive games—53 if you count the playoffs.
International League (AAA)
Jesus Aguilar, 1b, Columbus (Indians): With Gwinnett’s Ernesto Mejia out of the picture, having signed to play in Japan, Aguilar stands as the IL’s preeminent slugger who plays first base to a draw. He’s hitting .361 with a 1.152 OPS and has seven longballs, including two this weekend.
Eury Perez, cf, Syracuse (Blue Jays): On the other side of the defensive spectrum, there’s Perez, a fine defender for whom the offensive questions are plentiful. On Friday, Perez went 4-for-5 with two runs, a double, an RBI and a stolen base. He doesn’t have much power and he doesn’t walk a lot, but he should receive at least a few trials as an outfield extra.
Pacific Coast League (AAA)
Oscar Taveras, lf, Memphis (Cardinals): One-third of the Cardinals’ terrific Triple-A outfield triumvirate, Taveras seems to have put his injury issues behind him. He collected five hits over the weekend, including a homer on Sunday, and is riding an 11-game hitting streak. There’s a little more waiting to be done, but he’s still got a star future in front of him.
Noah Syndergaard, rhp, Las Vegas (Mets): The Mets’ top prospect has been so-so this year, which in Las Vegas is an accomplishment. He allowed three runs on six hits over five innings his last time out, striking out six against two walks. A scout who saw Syndergaard said his changeup has improved, but still is a work in progress.
Eastern League (AA)
Michael Taylor, cf, Harrisburg (Nationals): Taylor overwhelmed the competition in the Puerto Rican League, hitting .365/.428/.511 in 36 games for Mayaguez. He hit three home runs during that stretch, and he equaled that total on Sunday afternoon. Taylor swatted three dingers as part of a 3-for-4 showing with four runs, four RBIs and a walk. Overall, he’s hitting .253/.348/.494 and needs work against offspeed pitches. He’s already a well-above-average defender, so any improvement with the bat would go a long way toward earning himself a major league role.
Gary Sanchez, c, Trenton (Yankees): Were it not for Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart with Portland, Sanchez would be getting a lot more burn right now. After missing a few games with a sore hand, he’s back to putting up a very nice age-21 season in his first full go-round at Double-A. So far, he’s hitting .299/.382/.493 with two homers—the second of which came on Sunday—and 18 RBIs in 17 games. With Brian McCann in place for the Yankees, Sanchez could be a fantastic trade chip. He’ll be an even better one if he improves with the glove.
Southern League (AA)
Justin Nicolino, lhp, Jacksonville (Marlins): After getting hit around a bit in his last start, Nicolino had it all working on Sunday. The 2010 second-rounder fired eight shutout innings, allowed three hits and a walk and struck out four. Nicolino’s fastball operates at 88-92 mph and touches 94 with sink and tail. He also has a straight changeup (his best offspeed pitch), a big 1-to-7 curveball and plus control to both sides of the plate.
Pierce Johnson, rhp, Tennessee (Cubs): After a delay to his season because of a hamstring injury, Johnson’s season started with a thud. He walked eight in four innings but somehow allowed just one run. Of his 75 pitches, just 26 were strikes. Bad start aside, he’s still the owner of a mid-90s fastball and one of the best power curves in the minors.
Texas League (AA)
Matt Wisler, rhp, San Antonio (Padres): The second of the Padres’ twin pitching peaks, along with injured lefty Max Fried, Wisler was brilliant in his last turn. He allowed just three hits and walked none over seven innings while striking out 10. Wisler’s 92-93 mph heater features good life, and he complements it with a plus, low-80s slider. He also has an average changeup and a show-me curveball in the 70s. He’s whiffed 30 against just five walks in 25 innings this season.
Ryan Rua, 3b, Frisco (Rangers): Rua had three hits this weekend. Two of them left the park. His line on the season is a gaudy .357/.438/.657 with six doubles, five homers and 12 RBIs. Despite the numbers, there are issues he has to work on, namely staying back on the ball and using his hands more. A second baseman last season, Rua has moved back to third this year with Rougned Odor in the fold.
Florida State League (Hi A)
Max Kepler, 1b, Fort Myers (Twins): It hasn’t been a great start for Kepler, the 21-year-old, German-born son of ballet dancers. He’s got good makeup, but he also has struggled against lefthanders throughout his career. Not so on Sunday, when he tagged Palm Beach southpaw Iden Nazario for a grand slam as part of his team’s comeback win. Overall this season, Kepler is hitting .208/.275/.333, and the home run was his first of the year.
Tyler Glasnow, rhp, Bradenton (Pirates): With Jameson Taillon down for the season, you can bet the Jolly Roger the Pirates are happy to see this fireballing righty back in action. Sidelined with tightness in his lower back, Glasnow missed the first three weeks before debuting on Friday against St. Lucie. In his first foray into high Class A, Glasnow lasted five shutout innings, allowed two hits, walked three and struck out six. He brings a hard fastball that sits between 93-95 mph but can get up to triple-digits. He couples the pitch with a plus curveball in the upper 70s and a developing changeup.
Carolina League (Hi A)
Courtney Hawkins, lf, Winston-Salem (White Sox): Have a weekend, young man. In two games against Salem, Hawkins went 3-for-6 with two home runs, four runs, seven RBIs, three walks and no strikeouts. That’ll do. He’s second in the league in slugging (.617) and home runs (seven) to Myrtle Beach’s Joey Gallo, and he leads the Carolina League with 27 RBIs. Time will tell, but evaluators still have questions about his hit tool going forth.
Jose Peraza, 2b, Lynchburg (Braves): Peraza boasts speed and baseball instincts that are above-average, and he’s also hit quite well this season. He collected five knocks in 13 trips from Friday through Sunday and is hitting .330/.353/.392 overall, though he’s walked just three times against 13 punchouts. He also stole his 12th bag of the season, which puts him second in the Carolina League, behind only teammate Kyle Wren, who got his 14th steal on Sunday.
California League (Hi A)
Ben Lively, rhp, Bakersfield (Reds): What more can you say about Lively at this point? The numbers are absurd, including a 40-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the Cal League, of all places. (He has back-to-back games with 10 strikeouts.) Lively fanned seven more on Sunday in six innings of five-hit, shutout ball against San Jose. His mother, who lives in the Pensacola, Fla., area, where the Reds’ Double-A team plays, texts him before every start asking when he’s going to come home. With numbers like this, she won’t be texting much longer.
Bruce Maxwell, c, Stockton (Athletics): Oakland’s second-rounder from 2012 has started hot in his return to high Class A. Maxwell went 4-for-13 this weekend with three runs, a home run and three RBIs. He’s hitting .325/.365/.463 overall and projects as an offensive-minded backstop. He’s nabbed nine of 25 basestealers this season (36 percent), a vast improvement from last season’s rate of 16 percent.
South Atlantic League (Lo A)
Ryan McMahon, 3b, Asheville (Rockies): Teammates love him. Pitchers abhor him. I mean, even the ones who never saw him know, the way that he hits like a pro. The reason why? Man, I don’t know. Actually, it probably has a great deal to do with McMahon’s athleticism and bat speed and solid approach for someone so young. He’s torn up the SAL so far, including a grand slam on Sunday for his league-best ninth home run of the season. He also hit his fourth double of the year on Sunday, and drove in two more runs for a total of six on the day.
Trey Ball, lhp, Greenville (Red Sox): After starting the season in extended spring training, Ball was summoned to Greenville earlier this week (replacing Pat Light, who was promoted to high Class A Salem). A fantastic athlete who was a two-way player as an amateur, Ball was the seventh overall selection in last year’s draft. He sports a 92-94 mph heater as well as a plus changeup and a curveball that’s solid now with a chance to be plus going forward. He allowed three runs (all earned) on nine hits in five innings in his debut and struck out two against one walk.
Midwest League (Lo A)
Aaron Blair, rhp, South Bend (Diamondbacks): With 12 strikeouts on Sunday, Blair now has an minor league-best 43 in 31 2/3 innings. The 2013 supplemental pick pitches mainly off his lively mid-90s fastball, as well as a plus changeup. Blair has refined his curveball this season by getting on top of the pitch more frequently and taking out some of the slurvy quality. If he keeps this up, he won’t be long for the MWL.