Kevin Gausman, rhp Orioles: Gausman has faced 147 hitters this season. Only one of them has drawn a walk. The fourth overall pick in last year’s draft out of Louisiana State, Gausman has shown outstanding control for Double-A Bowie, where he has a 3.53 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings. The Orioles weren’t shy last year about bringing up Manny Machado or Dylan Bundy despite their youth and lack of pro experience, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see Gausman in Baltimore in the second half of the season.
Kevin Plawecki, c, Mets: As a 22-year-old supplemental first-round pick last year out of Purdue, Plawecki shouldn’t have any trouble handling the low Class A South Atlantic League. Even still, what he’s done in Savannah has been remarkable, as he’s hitting .416/.470/.733 in 26 games to lead the circuit in average, on-base percentage and slugging. An offensive-oriented catcher, Plawecki’s feel for hitting should help him move quickly, especially given that it looks like the Sally League isn’t offering him much of a challenge.
Francisco Lindor, ss, Indians: Lindor has a compact swing and controls the strike zone, which is why scouts think he has a good chance to get on base at a high clip. Still, the numbers last year in the SAL—he hit .257/.352/.355 in 122 games—were more solid than spectacular. Now at high Class A Carolina, Lindor has become one of the league’s top performers while also being one of the league’s youngest players at 19. He’s batting .366/.427/.527 in 29 games, hitting line drives to all fields and showing why, with his outstanding defense, he’s one of the most well-rounded shortstop prospects in the game.
Joey Gallo, 3b, Rangers: After signing for $2.25 million as a supplemental first-round pick last year, Gallo went out and broke the Rookie-level Arizona League’s single-season home run record with 18 homers in 43 games. Gallo’s power ranks among the best in the minors, which is why his 10 homers in 28 games are tied with the Twins’ Miguel Sano and the Astros’ George Springer for the minor league lead. While Gallo can backspin balls deep out of the park, he’s going to have to make adjustments to hit more advanced pitching, as he’s struck out 40 times in 118 plate appearances and is batting .223/.347/.582 for low Class A Hickory.
Sean Coyle, 2b, Red Sox: With nine home runs for high Class A Salem, Coyle is one of the minor league leaders. What’s remarkable about his feat is that he’s done it in just 19 games, plays a premium position and is listed at 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds. The nine home runs match his season total last year in 116 games in his first stint in the Carolina League, and with scouts grading him out as having average power, the dramatic increase in balls over the fence has led to a surprising .303/.349/.737 line for the 21-year-old.
Jake Odorizzi, rhp, Rays: It’s rare that we see a true nine-inning no-hitter in the minors, especially for someone an organization considers a legitimate prospect. So it wasn’t a surprise when the Rays pulled Odorizzi from yesterday’s start in Triple-A Durham even though he had thrown seven no-hit innings in Pawtucket. A trio of relievers (Frank de los Santos, Kirby Yates and Jeff Beliveau) came on to throw two more no-hit innings—even though Yates allowed a run and the Bulls allowed eight walks in all—to give Durham a combined nine-inning no-hitter and a narrow 2-1 victory. Odorizzi, who threw 95 pitches, struck out four and walked three, lowering his ERA to 2.65 with a 39-13 K-BB mark in 34 innings.
Chris Colabello, 1b, Twins: Yes, he’s 29, spent seven years playing independent ball, has no major league experience and is just now getting his first crack at Triple-A. He’s also done nothing but rake since entering affiliated ball, both last year at Double-A and for Italy in the World Baseball Classic. Now in 30 games with Rochester, Colabello is batting .330/.386/.589 with seven home runs, second-most in the International League. As Justin Morneau continues to struggle and the Twins give DH time to Ryan Doumit, Colabello has to at least enter into consideration for a big league opportunity if he continues to mash.
Henry Urrutia, rf, Orioles: Urrutia performed well in Cuba and figured to begin his career in Double-A, but it took him a while to get on the field after signing for $778,500 last summer. The early results have been promising, with Urrutia hitting .327/.397/.577 for Double-A Bowie through 13 games. At 26, Urrutia should be dominating that level if he’s going to have any type of major league future, but there should at least be a reserve role for Urrutia in the big leagues if he keeps producing.
Nolan Fontana, ss, Astros: Fontana plays his home games at high Class A Lancaster, a supercharged offensive environment that makes it difficult to gauge hitters even by the usual lofty standards of the California League. A .435 average on balls in play has helped fuel a .374/.504/.579 line through 22 games, but he’s more than just a Lancaster creation. A second-round pick out of Florida last summer, Fontana’s best attribute is his outstanding strike-zone discipline—he’s drawn 28 walks and struck out 21 times—with gap power that should play at a middle-infield position, even if he ends up sliding over to second base.
Zoilo Almonte, of, Yankees: Almonte had a solid 2012 season with Double-A Trenton, but his subpar pitch recognition and free-swinging ways limited him to just 25 walks in 106 games. That’s why the improvement in his plate patience has been so jarring, as the 23-year-old switch-hitter has already walked 17 times in 28 games and is hitting .293/.393/.455 for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Apply the obvious small-sample caveats, but an improved hitting approach could take Almonte from a longshot prospect to someone who has a chance to have a major league role in the near future.