Baseball America

Prospect Hot Sheet: April 15

We never stop ranking prospects here at Baseball America, but we have to wait until there are games in the books to resume the Prospect Hot Sheet, our most immediate, most volatile, and maybe most fun rankings we get to do here.

Many prospects made strong cases for inclusion on this year’s Hot Sheet. We’re sure to hear about it in the chat, but to fans of Will Middlebroks, Bryce Brentz, Enny Romero, Tommy Joseph, Andy Oliver, Jordan Swagerty and several others: We didn’t ignore them, it’s just a tough week to crack the Top 20.

As we
have warned for years now, remember that this is not a re-ranking of
the Top 100 Prospects. This is a snapshot of which top prospects are
excelling and which ones are struggling right now. Stats cover the period from Opening Day, April 7, through last night, April 14.

Contributing: Ted Cahill,  J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy, Conor Glassey and Jim Shonerd.

No. 1 DREW POMERANZ, LHP

INDIANS

Team: high Class A Kinston

Age: 21

Why He’s
Here:
0-0, 0.00, 2 GS, 11 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 17 SO, 2 BB

The Scoop: Coming out of Ole Miss, the scouting report on Pomeranz was that he had a plus fastball, a devastating curveball and some concerns about his control.

In his first two starts, we’ve seen the 92-93 mph fastball—he used it almost exclusively to shut down Winston-Salem in his first start. And we’ve seen the curveball—he picked up four of his eight strikeouts against Wilmington with the breaking ball.

What we haven’t seen is any problems with his control. Pomeranz has walked just two batters in his first two starts, and he’s generally gotten ahead of hitters by placing a fastball on the outer half or freezing them with his curveball.

Pomeranz has the kind of frame that scouts look for in a starter. He has the plus stuff and he has the mentality to get better. After his second start he was upset for the one hit he did allow, because he was sure if he had located it better, it would have been strike three.

The 2010 first-round pick will likely be moving to Double-A Akron before too long.

2011
Stats
No. 2 KEYVIUS SAMPSON, RHP

PADRES

Team: low Class A Fort Wayne (Midwest)

Age: 20

Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.00, 2 GS, 11 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 19 SO, 1 BB

The Scoop: Conventional wisdom states that pitchers will have the upper hand in the Midwest League in April because low temperatures and out-of-rhythm batters will blunt offensive output. But even allowing that, Sampson’s opening week performance was exemplary. He struck out 19 of the 36 batters he faced (53 percent), while yielding nary a hit in six innings of work in an Opening Day start against South Bend. Thus far, righthanded batters are 0-for-14 with seven strikeouts and no walks against Sampson, San Diego’s fourth-round pick in 2009. A couple of arm injuries cut short his time in the Northwest League last year, but Sampson has the stuff to profile as a starter. In other words, the hot start is no fluke.

2011
Stats
No. 3 SHELBY MILLER, RHP

CARDINALS

Team: high Class A Palm Beach (Florida State)

Age: 20

Why He’s Here: 0-1, 1.69, 2 GS, 10 2/3 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 20 SO, 2 BB

The Scoop: Miller made his high Class A debut as a part of a high-profile pitching matchup with Matt Harvey. Neither disappointed, and while Miller lost the game, he may have outdueled Harvey. Miller allowed only an unearned run on four hits and struck out nine in five innings. He followed up that performance with 11 strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings in his next start. Miller could have opened the season at Double-A, but the Cardinals elected to take a more conservative approach. If Miller keeps this up, however, he’ll be in Double-A Springfield before too long.

2011
Stats
No. 4 BRETT LAWRIE, 3B

BLUE JAYS

Team: Triple-A Las Vegas (Pacific Coast)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .441/.513/.706 (15-for-34), 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, 7 R, 3 BB, 7 SO, 2-for-2 SB

The Scoop: The Blue Jays have beefed up their farm system through increased spending in the draft and the international markets. But trading big leaguers for prospects has already started to net the club top minor league prospects. Kyle Drabek, acquired from the Phillies in the Roy Halladay trade, looks like a potential frontline starter early this season.

Lawrie, who arrived from the Brewers in exchange for Shaun Marcum, could soon join Drabek in Toronto. Lawrie’s bat speed, raw power and athleticism catch the attention of scouts, and his introduction to Triple-A baseball has gone smoothly. Moved from second base to third in a last-chance hope to keep him in the infield, Lawrie’s defensive transition hasn’t been easy, as he’s already committed four errors in eight games.

2011
Stats
No. 5 PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT, 1B

DIAMONDBACKS

Team: Double-A Mobile (Southern)

Age: 23

Why He’s Here: .381/.536/1.143 (8-for-21) 5 HR, 1 2B, 10 RBIs, 6 R, 7 BB, 4 SO

The Scoop: In a September Prospect Hot Sheet last year we wrote that “Double-A will be the true test to see if Goldschmidt can sink or swim against advanced pitching in a more neutral environment.” The early results are in, and they sure look good. Goldschmidt belted two home runs on Opening Day, then added two more in the opening series at Carolina before hitting his fifth of the year yesterday off Braves lefty Brett Oberholtzer to push his way into a tie for the minor league lead in home runs.

Carolina pitchers seemed to want little to do with Goldschmidt, pitching around him and putting him on base via the walk rather than allow him to inflict more pain with the bat with his power to all fields.

“He’s just got a combination of strength and bat speed and being able to use his lower half, that’s what I see with him,” Mobile manager Turner Ward said. “Any guy who’s got good power potential, they really use their lower half, and that’s what he does—he really uses his lower half to get himself through the ball.”

2011
Stats
No. 6 NEIL RAMIREZ, RHP

RANGERS

Team: Triple-A Round Rock (Pacific Coast League)/high Class A Myrtle Beach (Carolina)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 2 GS, 10 2/3 IP, 4 H, 14 SO, 1 BB

The Scoop: Every team has emergency starts crop up from time to time. Because of injuries or callups, the Triple-A club finds itself a starter short, so they place a call to the lower minors.

Usually when it happens, everyone is happy if the fill-in starter works a solid four or five innings, shakes a few hands and then heads to the airport to head on back to his high Class A or Double-A club.

Ramirez did a lot more than that. Called up from high Class A because Eric Hurley went on the disabled list with an illness, Ramirez held Omaha, one of the minors’ best lineups, to three hits. It’s even more impressive when you consider that the righthander was 14-16, 4.20 coming into the season, and he’d spent the past two years at low Class A Hickory.

Ramirez is still ticketed to head back to Myrtle Beach, but he returns knowing that what he’s doing in Class A will work against more advanced hitters as well.

Ramirez, a 2007 supplemental first-round pick, has always had plenty of stuff. Command has always been the question. Since joining the Rangers, he’s worked on lengthening his arm action to improved the feel of his low to mid-90s fastball.

2011
Stats
No. 7 MATT HARVEY, RHP

METS

Team: high Class A St. Lucie (Florida State)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.00, 2 GS, 11 IP, 8 H, 0 R, 17 SO, 4 BB

The Scoop: The top college righthander to sign out of last year’s draft (No. 7 overall), Harvey faced big expectations in his pro debut—and through two starts he’s more than met them. Joining Keyvious Sampson (No. 2 on this Hot Sheet), Harvey was one of seven minor league pitchers to open the year with a scoreless-inning streak of 11 or more frames. The other five: Jordan Swagerty (13 IP, Cardinals, low Class A), Jenrry Mejia (12 2/3, Mets, Triple-A), Mike Rayl (11, Indians, low Class A), Chris Seddon (13, Mariners, Triple-A) and Eric Hacker (11, Twins, Triple-A).

2011
Stats
No. 8 JESUS MONTERO, C

YANKEES

Team: Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .448/.448/.655 (13-for-29), 3 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 6 R, 0 BB, 4 SO

The Scoop: With the week Yankees’ prospects are having, Jesus Montero’s survival on the active roster is good news itself. The Yankees placed their No. 2 (Gary Sanchez), No. 3 (Dellin Betances) and No. 4 (Manny Banuelos) prospects on the disabled list on Thursday, but Montero just keeps hitting, like he’s done everywhere he’s played since he signed in 2006.

Behind the plate, Montero will probably always be a work in progress. His receiving was erratic in spring training, with good days followed by not-so good days. Now that the season has began, he’s having his normal trouble throwing out baserunners despite a plus arm. Montero has gunned down 1 of 7 attempted basestealers (14.3 percent).

Montero doesn’t have a whole lot more to prove in the minors at the plate, but weeks like this one remind the Yankees that he’s ready and waiting—whether for a callup or possibly a midseason trade.

2011
Stats
No. 9 SLADE HEATHCOTT, CF

YANKEES

Team: low Class A Charleston (South Atlantic)

Age: 20

Why He’s Here: .382/.371/.824 (13-for-34) 5 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 8 RBIs, 9 R, 0 BB, 12 SO

The Scoop: Heathcott’s start has been one of the more interesting ones in the minors. Repeating the South Atlantic League after 76 games there last year, the 2009 first-round pick ranks second in the minors in both total bases and extra-base hits. His bat speed allows him to sting the ball when he makes contact, though even with his hot start, contact issues have been a problem already. Plus, his free-swinging approach has led to an average higher than his on-base percentage. If Heathcott can improve his plate discipline and figure out how to put the bat to the ball with more frequency, those extra-base hits should keep coming as he moves up the ladder.

2011
Stats
No. 10 MIKE OLT, 3B

RANGERS

Team: high Class A Myrtle Beach (Carolina)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .400/.700/.850 (8-for-20), 3 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBIs, 4 R, 6 BB, 4 SO

The Scoop: Coming into the 2011 season, the Rangers had a wealth of talent in the minors, but if there was a criticism, it was that many of Texas’ top prospects are yet to have played full season ball, so they still had a lot to prove.

After a strong spring training and an excellent first week, Olt, a supplemental first-round pick out of Connecticut last year, is showing he’s legit. The Rangers pushed him aggressively to high Class A Myrtle Beach in part because he showed excellent power and the ability to make highlight plays in spring training with the big league club.

Olt still has to work on his consistency at third—he made two errors this week—and he’ll likely always be a player who has to work to maintain his swing since it’s not a low-maintenance stroke, but his power and athleticism are hard to ignore.

2011
Stats
No. 11 JERRY SANDS, RF/1B

DODGERS

Team: Triple-A Albuquerque (Pacific Coast)

Age: 23

Why He’s Here: .424/.454/.909 (14-for-33), 4 HR, 2 2B, 1 3B, 15 RBIs, 9 R, 2 BB, 2 SO, 0-for-1 SB

The Scoop: Sands burst onto the scene last year, slugging 35 home runs in low Class A and Double-A to tie for third in the minors. If anyone thought that year might be a fluke, Sands is putting those ideas to bed quickly. He hit .313 with two homers in 32 Cactus League at-bats, and has done nothing but mash in his first week against Triple-A pitching. His numbers do come with the caveat that they were all achieved in Albuquerque, home of one of the minors’ most notorious launching pads. Nonetheless, Sands has opened the season on an eight-game hitting streak, homered in four consecutive games from Saturday through Tuesday and his 15 RBIs lead the minors.

2011
Stats
No. 12 JAFF DECKER, OF

PADRES

Team: Double-A San Antonio (Texas)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .379/.621/.828 (11-for-29), 2 HR, 5 2B, 1 3B, 11 RBIs, 7 R, 7 BB, 6 SO

The Scoop: Whereas everything went wrong for Decker at the outset of the 2010 season, the new year has brought nothing but good tidings. He broke camp healthy this year and has hit well thus far in his first taste of Double-A. Decker’s ’10 season didn’t start until May 13, and when the starting gun fired he failed to get out of the starting blocks, batting 2-for-23 (.087) with 10 strikeouts through his first seven games.

While Decker ultimately redeemed himself with a strong finish in the California League a year ago, he’s merely looking to sustain a high level of play this season. Only the Dodgers’ Jerry Sands (10) and the Yankees’ Slade Heathcott (nine) collected more than Decker’s eight extra-base hits during the opening days of 2011.

2011
Stats
No. 13 BRETT JACKSON, CF

CUBS

Team:  Double-A Tennessee (Southern)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .480/.563/.720 (12-for-25), 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBIs, 6 BB, 6 SO, 4-for-5 SB

The Scoop: Jackson’s well-rounded skill set helps him do a bit of everything. The Cubs’ No. 1 prospect has a solid swing, works the count and can drive the ball, while his plus speed is a weapon on the basepaths and in the outfield. He’s been an on-base machine early for Tennessee, including a 3-for-3 showing with a walk to help chase Rays lefty Matt Moore from the game early on Wednesday.

2011
Stats

IN THE TEAM PHOTO

When you sign a $5.25 million deal, you don’t have to do much to find the spotlight—it finds you. When RHP Zach Lee set a Dodgers’ signing bonus record, it ensured that he immediately became one of the highest-profile prospects in the system. There’s no better way to make your introduction than the way Lee did. Through his first two starts for low Class A Great Lakes, Lee, 19, is 1-0, 2.25 with 12 strikeouts, four walks and nine hits allowed in nine innings . . . Catcher Devin Mesoraco, 22, had a breakout season in 2010, but the Reds’ solid catching situation at the big league level (a Ryan Hanigan-Ramon Hernandez time share) has allowed Mesoraco to add a little more polish with Triple-A Louisville. He’s doing everything the Reds could have hoped, as he’s combined excellent hitting (8-for-25 with three homers and three doubles) with solid work behind the plate. He’s yet to allow a passed ball (after having a problem with that late last season) and he’s thrown out one of the two baserunners who’ve tried to steal against him . . . Tigers RHP Jacob Turner rewarded the organization for their aggressive move to start the 19-year old in Double-A with six shutout innings and nine strikeouts on Opening Day. He went seven innings and gave up a home run and three runs on seven hits in his next start, but in 13 Double-A innings Turner has 13 strikeouts to just two walks . . . What can Angels CF Mike Trout do for an encore to his brilliant 2010 season? Well, he’s gotten off to a flying start. The 19-year-old Trout homered three times, including two in one game, for Double-A Arkansas this week, batting .292/.542/.667 (7-for-24) overall . . . While the Rays continue to churn out pitching prospects, RHP Alex Cobb has flown under the radar for most of his career. He’s steadily climbed one level per season, reaching Triple-A Durham this year. His first two starts as a Bull couldn’t have gone much better. The 23-year-old went 2-0, 0.82, allowing just one earned run in 11 innings. He allowed six hits while posting a whopping 17-2 SO-BB ratio . . . Repeating a level might be seen as a red flag for most prospects, but we can make an exception for Rangers LHP Martin Perez. Perez just turned 20 three days before Opening Day and is still the second youngest player in the Double-A Texas League, behind only Mike Trout. After his first two starts for Frisco, Perez sports a nifty 2.25 ERA, with nine hits allowed and a 12-4 SO-BB ratio . . . Lost in Jeurys Familia’s ugly campaign for high Class A St. Lucie last year (6-9, 5.58, 5.5 walks per nine innings) were stretches of effectiveness. The 21-year-old Mets righty got bombed for eight runs in his final start of 2010, but in the seven starts preceding it he went 4-2, 3.38 with 58 strikeouts and 13 walks in 42 2/3 innings. Familia has carried forward that momentum through his first two starts and 13 innings of 2011, in a repeat of the Florida State League. He’s kept his walks in check (two) and has kept the ball off the barrel of opponents’ bats (13 strikeouts, two hits, one run, 2-to-1 ground-to-flyout ratio).

NOT-SO HOT
SHEET

• Alex Liddi, 3b, Mariners: Liddi has had trouble with pitch recognition and strikeouts before, but his first week in Triple-A Tacoma couldn’t have gone much worse. The 22-year-old Liddi has gone down on strikes 14 times in 29 at-bats, doing so at least once in all eight games the Rainiers have played. When he has gotten the bat on the ball, things haven’t gone much better, as he’s hitting .103/.182/.138 with one double, one RBI and three walks thus far.

• Travis d’Arnaud c, Blue Jays: Remember when the Rangers had a “problem” of figuring out what to do with all of their catching prospects like Taylor Teagarden, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Max Ramirez? Even layers of prospects have a way of falling apart, and the Blue Jays are hoping for better results from their troika of J.P. Arencibia, d’Arnaud and Carlos Perez. D’Arnaud isn’t off to a great start for Double-A New Hampshire, though, as the 21-year-old is just 2-for-23 (.087) with a double and a pair of walks so far.

Alex Wimmers, rhp, Twins: Minnesota drafted Wimmers with their first-round pick thanks in large-part to his strike-throwing ways. That just makes his complete inability to find the strike zone or even the catcher’s glove the more vexing. Working for high Class A Fort Myers, Wimmers walked the first six batters he faced before his first start of the year ended, an outing that included multiple wild pitches, strikes you could count on one hand and an array of balls bouncing off the backstop. The Twins placed Wimmers on the disabled list with “flu-like symptoms,” but there’s greater cause for concern here than anything a hearty bowl of chicken soup might fix.

• Nick Castellanos, 3b, Tigers: The Tigers’ top draft selection last year as a sandwich pick, Castellanos has not had a full-season debut to remember. Playing at low Class A West Michigan, he started the year 0-for-9. In five games the 19-year old is 3-for-21 (.143) with one extra base hit and one walk. He has already struck out six times, one more time than he did in his seven-game stint in the Gulf Coast League last year.

MAN AMONG BOYS

Chris Davis, 1b/3b, Rangers: Josh Hamilton’s injury opened the door for the Rangers to recall Davis from Triple-A Round Rock, where he had hit the stuffing out of the baseball—just as he has every year in the minors. His home venue changed with Texas’ Oklahoma City-for-Round Rock swap with the Astros, but the 25-year-old Davis has produced the same stellar results. The corner infielder opened the Pacific Coast League season by batting 5-for-21 (.429) with four homers and two doubles in five games. In parts of four Triple-A seasons, he’s now batting .331/.396/.564 with 34 homers in 695 at-bats. But for a man who homered 17 times in 80 games as a 22-year-old Rangers rookie in 2008, Davis just hasn’t been patient enough in the big leagues (.21 walk-to-strikeout ratio in MLB compared with .42 in Triple-A) for his power to play consistently. Mitch Moreland passed him on the organizational depth chart last year, so it’s now or never for Davis.

BLAST FROM THE
PAST

Joe Savery’s prospect status peaked on draft day 2007, when the Phillies used the 19th overall pick to select the two-way player out of Rice as a lefthanded pitcher. After that, Savery’s pitching career went downhill. His stuff went backwards, his walks went up and his strikeouts went down. He reached Triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2009 and spent all of 2010 back there again, but he finished with pedestrian numbers and unimpressive scouting reports. Really the best thing about Savery’s 2010 season was when he was at the plate—he hit .348/.348/.478 in 48 plate appearances when the IronPigs would play other National League teams in the International League. (He also started four games as DH.) Now a full-time hitter, Savery is back in high Class A Clearwater leading the minors in average (.621) and OBP (.645) with an 18-for-29 start while slugging .862. As a 25-year-old first baseman, Savery’s going to have to prove himself at higher levels, but he’s certainly off to a fine start.

HELIUM
WATCH

Drew Hutchison, rhp, Blue Jays: When the Blue Jays whiffed on signing picks in the top three rounds in 2009, they did land a consolation prize, as that freed up the $400,000 to sign righthander Drew Hutchison, a 15th-round pick out of a Lakeland, Fla., high school. When you draft a somewhat skinny high school righthander, scouts hope he’ll add velocity as he fills out, and that’s exactly what’s happened with the 20-year-old. When Hutchison signed, he featured an 88-92 mph to go with an erratic, but promising low-80s slider and a useful changeup. Now he’s sitting at 92-95 mph, and his slider has become a potentially devastating 86-88 mph rapier.

The Blue Jays big league staff got a taste of Hutchison’s improvement when he came from the back fields to make an emergency start in spring training. Facing the Phillies’ big leaguers, Hutchison held Philadelphia to two hits and two runs in 4 2/3 innings. Comparted to that test, returning to low Class A must have seemed easy. Hutchison cruised through his first start with Lansing, allowing three hits while striking out 11 and walking one in seven innings of work.


Ramon Flores, lf, Yankees: Can you call a 19-year-old Venezuelan outfielder who signed for $775,000 a sleeper? Perhaps, since the 5-foot-10 left fielder is still fighting an uphill battle with his lack of size, but his swing and ability to get on base are hard to question. After hitting .329/.436/.481 in 189 plate appearances last year in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League (where he ranked as the league’s No. 13 prospect), Flores had an adjustment period in a brief call-up to Charleston at the end of the year. The sweet-swinging lefthanded hitter is off to a better start this year in the South Atlantic League, hitting .407/.515/.556 with more walks (5) than strikeouts (3) in his first 33 trips to the plate. While teammate Slade Heathcott’s tools stick out in a more obvious fashion, Flores is the RiverDog with more advanced feel for hitting and for the strike zone.

Minors | #2011 #Prospect Hot Sheet

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