Minor League Roundup: Bryant Boosts Ahead

Today’s Roundup includes more carnage from Kris Bryant, an unexpected cycle from a Phillies farmhand, more dominance from Red Sox and Dodgers lefties, a triumphant return and surprise promotion for a White Sox shortstop, nice weekends for low Class A shortstops, and a sandwich weekend for a White Sox third baseman

MINOR LEAGUE HOME RUN RACE
Player Home Runs
Kris Bryant 43
Joey Gallo 40
Matt Olson 36
Peter O’Brien 34
Steven Moya 34

International League • AAA

Maikel Franco, 3b, Lehigh Valley (Phillies): Franco from Friday through Sunday collected 10 hits in 16 at-bats, including two doubles, a triple and two home runs. Oh, and in one game of his team’s doubleheader on Friday he hit for the cycle. It’s amazing enough that a player with bottom-of-the-scale speed legged out a triple, but it’s even more eye-popping that he’s got four of them this season and is tied for the team lead in that category with outfielder Leandro Castro. He’s hitting .315/.315/.565 this month—that’s right, he hasn’t drawn a walk—with six doubles, a triple, and five longballs.

Pacific Coast League • AAA

Kris Bryant, 3b, Iowa (Cubs): Just another solid weekend for Bryant, who looks poised to take home the Minor League Player of the Year honors just a year after being named College Player of the Year. He swatted two more homers on Saturday and Sunday, giving him an eye-popping 43 this season—22 at Double-A and 21 at Triple-A. He’s hit equally well against lefties and righties and at home and on the road, and has had one month with a slugging percentage below .590 this season. He’s going to love Wrigley Field next year.

Eastern League • AA

Brian JohnsonBrian Johnson, lhp, Portland (Red Sox): Even with Henry Owens getting most of the accolades, Johnson has quietly put forth maybe the most solid season from a Red Sox pitching prospect this season. Here’s how dominant he’s been lately: Three of his past five starts have been one-hitters of seven innings or more. In those five starts, Johnson has gone 35 1/3 innings, allowed three runs (all earned) on 10 hits and 10 walks and struck out 36. That’s incredible. His ERA with Double-A is 1.83, and the next best is Adrian Sampson at 2.55. Moreover, it’s more than three-quarters of a run better than Owens in just eight more Eastern League frames.

Southern League • AA

Tim Anderson, ss, Birmingham (White Sox): After recovering from a broken wrist, Anderson—in a bit of surprise move—was promoted to Double-A to complete his season. All he did, after not playing in a game outside of the Arizona League for about two months, was collect hits in seven of his first nine at-bats with the Barons. He had the gall to go 0-for-4 on Sunday, thus proving he is human. Overall, it’s been a fine season for Anderson, who hit .297/.323/.472 at high Class A Winston-Salem before the surprise promotion. Considering the time he’s missed, he seems a likely candidate for the Arizona Fall League.

Texas League • AA

Trevor StoryTrevor Story, ss, Tulsa (Rockies): It hasn’t been a great half-season at Double-A for Story, who was fantastic in his half-season at high Class A Modesto. That aside, Story had a fine weekend, including a homer on Friday—his eighth with the Drillers—and a 3-for-5 effort on Saturday with a double, a run and an RBI. The Rockies still believe in him as a four-tool player in the long-term (he’s not much of a runner) and point out that a hit-by-pitch this season has slowed his overall production.

Carolina League • Hi A

Trey Michalczewski, 3b, Winston-Salem (White Sox): Michalczewski put together an interesting sandwich this weekend. On Friday he went 3-for-4 with a double and three RBIs. On Sunday he went 2-for-3 and scored twice. On Saturday, however, 0-for-5 with four strikeouts. Scouts have noted that Michalczewski has been hitting the ball with more authority of late, but he’s struggled a bit in his first taste of high Class A as a 19-year-old. This weekend might be the boost he needs to finish the season strong.

Florida State League • Hi A

J.P. Crawford (Photo by Tony Farlow)J.P. Crawford, ss, Clearwater (Phillies): In a system begging for star power, Crawford has put forth an excellent season. He clubbed two homers on Sunday against Brevard County, giving him four this month and eight during his time with the Threshers. Considering he had just three in 60 games this season at low Class A Lakewood, the power output, especially as a 19-year-old in his first full pro season, is mighty impressive. He’s shown plenty of feel to hit in both of his stops this season and has universally wowed evaluators with his smooth glovework. He has all the marks of a future star.

California League • Hi A

Julio Urias, lhp, Rancho Cucamonga (Dodgers): Urias’ magnificent season continues. After turning 18 on Aug. 12, he celebrated the next night with nine strikeouts in five innings, tying his season highs for innings and strikeouts. He liked that so much that he decided to repeat the feat five days later against Lake Elsinore and again on Saturday against Stockton, a team with two of the most feared sluggers in the Cal League in Matt Olson and Renato Nunez. Over his last three outings, Urias has gone 15 1/3 innings, allowed one run on nine hits and six walks and struck out 27. Simply marvelous.

South Atlantic League • Lo A

Wilmer Difo, ss/2b, Hagerstown (Nationals): Yes, he’s 22, but his production can’t be ignored. He put together a 4-for-5 game on Sunday, including his 13th homer of the season and two stolen bases, bringing his total to 49 this season in 58 attempts. He is second in the system in batting average (to Steven Souza) and stolen bases (to teammate Rafael Bautista) and leads the system in RBIs with 88. He’s a 70 runner on the 20-80 scale, and he won the Best Defensive Second Baseman category in our Best Tools survey while also receiving votes for Best Defensive Shortstop.

Midwest League • Lo A

Trea Turner (Photo by Paul Gierhart)Trea Turner, ss, Fort Wayne (Padres): Ho-hum, just another eight-game hitting streak for Turner, who starred at North Carolina State for three years before going No. 13 overall in June. He went 6-for-12 this weekend, scored three times, doubled and hit his third homer of the season. If he keeps this up, he’ll have that average back up over .400 (he’s at a measly .396/.467/.579 right now) in no time.