This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet covers minor league games from April 11-17. Remember, this feature simply recognizes the hottest prospects in the minors during the past week—it’s not a re-ranking of the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects.
Contributing: Ben Badler, J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy, Vince Lara-Cinisomo and Josh Norris.
1. Jon Singleton, 1b, Astros
Team: Triple-A Oklahoma City (Pacific Coast)
Why He’s Here: .419/.486/.903 (13-for-31), 10 R, 4 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 10 RBIs, 4 BB, 6 SO
The Scoop: With George Springer in Houston, Singleton clearly is bidding to be the next in line. The first baseman absolutely mashed this week, clubbing two homers, including a grand slam, the day after Springer received his promotion. That day also saw him fall a single short of the cycle. After a 2013 season that featured a 50-game suspension for marijuana use and an offseason that revealed the depth of his addictions, Singleton is out to prove his demons are behind him and that he’s ready for the big time.
2. Ryan McMahon, 3b, Rockies
Team: low Class A Asheville (South Atlantic)
Why He’s Here: .400/.520/1.100 (8-for-20), 7 R, 4 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBIs, 5 BBs, 5 SO
The Scoop: The Rockies sure like their quarterbacks, don’t they? McMahon socked two more homers this week, and his half-dozen for the season has perched him at the top of the longball leaderboard with Joey Gallo, Ernesto Mejia and Adam Duvall. If he succeeds, McMahon will join former footballers the Rockies liked, including Todd Helton, Matt Holliday, Seth Smith, Kyle Parker and Russell Wilson. A solid athlete already, McMahon has spent the first few weeks proving he’s a pretty talented baseball player, too.
3. Chris Reed, lhp, Dodgers
Team: Double-A Chattanooga (Southern)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.50 ERA, 12 IP, 2 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 18 SO
The Scoop. A first-round pick in 2011, Reed reached Double-A and pitched in 12 games there the next year, but his stock dropped after he spent the full 2013 season at Chattanooga with mixed results. He generated an abundance of grounders, but his strikeout rate went south and his control remained erratic. He’s still learning to throw more strikes, but his ability to miss bats early in the season—so far he’s struck out 31 percent of the batters he’s faced—has been encouraging. Reed’s command may still lead him to the bullpen, but a few more starts like these should get him promoted to Triple-A soon.
4. Gregory Polanco, rf, Pirates
Team: Triple-A Indianapolis (International)
Why He’s Here: .409/.458/.727 (9-for-22), 3 R, 2 3B, 1 HR, 9 RBIs, 1 BB, 2 SO, 0-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Polanco has proven he’s human. After swinging and missing at just six pitches in his first 11 games, he has swung and missed three times in the past two games. That’s about the only minor victories IL pitchers have had against the giant lefthanded hitter. Polanco has surprising patience, understanding of his swing and developing power. Travis Snider and Jose Tabata shouldn’t be looking to put down long-term roots in Pittsburgh.
5. Joc Pederson, cf, Dodgers
Team: Triple-A Albuquerque (Pacific Coast)
Why He’s Here: .423/.545/.731 (11-for-26), 7 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 7 BB, 6 SO, 3-for-4 SB
The Scoop: A fan of symmetry and understated contributions on the diamond, Pederson drew a single walk in each game he played this week, while also swiping three bags in four tries. He’s reached base in every game this season except s one, and thanks to strong secondary skills, he now ranks first in the PCL with 14 walks and third with five stolen bases. That’s not to say Pederson leaves the power hitting to other Isotopes. On the contrary, his two-homer game on Tuesday and league-leading .800 slugging percentage are about as subtle as an AC/DC chorus.
6. Trevor Bauer, rhp, Indians
Team: Triple-A Columbus (International)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 SO
The Scoop: Bauer appears to have regained the prospect shine lost amid falling out of favor in Arizona, a trade to Cleveland and struggles in 2013. His totals in two Triple-A starts and one major league start are 18 innings, a 1.00 ERA and a 26/5 SO/BB ratio. As Ben Badler pointed out Thursday, Bauer’s throwing 93-96 mph with two plus breaking pitches in his curveball and slider and attacking hitters.
7. Dilson Herrera, 2b, Mets
Team: high Class A St. Lucie (Florida State)
Why He’s Here: .438/.457/.625 (14-for-32), 3 2B, 1 HR, 9 R, 2 RBIs, 2 BB, 4 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: The Pirates’ decision to part with Herrera (and righthander Vic Black) last year to acquire Marlon Byrd and John Buck made sense as Pittsburgh made a postseason push and had plenty of depth in the system. In a few years, the Mets could see a major payoff from that deal, as Herrera has the chance to develop into an offensive-oriented second baseman. He’s spent time at shortstop this year, where he’s stretched thin defensively, but he’s riding a nine-game hitting streak with six multi-hit games in that stretch.
8. Joey Gallo, 3b, Rangers
Team: high Class A Myrtle Beach (Carolina)
Why He’s Here: .286/.469/.857 (6-for-21), 8 R, 4 HR, 9 RBIs, 9 BB, 8 SO
The Scoop. Gallo has placed another minor league home run record in his sights through two weeks of the 2014 season. The prodigious young power hitter stands tied for the minor league lead with six longballs after belting four combined at Salem and Myrtle Beach this week. In case you’re wondering, the Carolina League record for home runs is 49, achieved by Tony Solaita in 1968. Gallo set the Arizona League record with 18 bombs in 2012 and finished just two short of tying the South Atlantic League record of 40 last season.
9. Jake Thompson, rhp, Tigers
Team: high Class A Lakeland (Florida State)
Why He’s Here: 1-1, 0.66, 13 2/3 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 10 SO
The Scoop: The righthander, Detroit’s No. 4 prospect, allowed his first run of the season on Wednesday, raising his ERA for the season to 0.48. The 2012 second-rounder from Heath (Texas) High has struck out 17 in 18 2/3 innings and given up just 10 hits.
10. Rafael De Paula, rhp, Yankees
Team: high Class A Tampa (Florida State)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.82 ERA, 11 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 13 SO
The Scoop: De Paula overmatched younger hitters in low Class A Charleston last year, but when the Yankees gave him a midseason promotion to high Class A Tampa, his ERA doubled. Back in Tampa for round two, DePaula has been able to harness his power fastball in his first few starts, posting a 2.51 ERA and a 19/6 SO/BB mark over 14 1/3 innings. There’s still a chance DePaula ends up a reliever, but the early success is a good sign of progress.
11. Christian Binford, rhp, Royals
Team: high Class A Wilmington (Carolina)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 10 SO
The Scoop: Binford allowed two unearned runs over five innings in his first start of this season on April 5 at Winston-Salem, then mowed down the Dash earlier this week. The Royals paid $575,000 to lure Binford from a Virginia commitment and he looks worth the investment, despite not overpowering velocity (89-93 mph).
12. Jesse Winker, lf, Reds
Team: high Class A Bakersfield (California)
Why He’s Here: .370/.496/.556 (10-for-27) 8 R, 2 2B, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 5 BB, 8 SO
The Scoop. Scouts wonder about Winker’s defensive skills in the outfield, but they don’t have many concerns about his bat. The sweet-swinging lefthanded hitter has five consecutive multi-hit games and 14 hits in his last nine. Winker has an advanced approach at the plate with plenty of power potential. Yes, he’s playing in the California League, but he spent this week on the road at San Jose and Stockton.
13. Marcus Stroman, rhp, Blue Jays
Team: Triple-A Buffalo (International)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 5 1/3 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 9 SO, 0 BB
The Scoop. The obvious question with Stroman has always been whether he’ll crack Toronto as a starter or reliever. He pitched out of the bullpen in the Arizona Fall League, but he’s moved back to starting for now, and the results this season so far have been excellent. Stroman and his plus fastball and slider, along with a middling changeup, have fanned 21 so far this year and walked six in 15 1/3 innings. The caveat here is that five of those walks came in one start.
IN THE TEAM PHOTO
Miguel Almonte, rhp, Royals: In his second start of the year at high Class A Wilmington, Almonte ran into the home run machine known as Joey Gallo, who went deep twice off of him. Almonte got tagged for five runs in 5 2/3 innings on that day. In his other two starts—one on Opening Day, the other on Wednesday—Almonte has thrown 11 2/3 innings of shutout baseball with only one hit allowed in each start.
Kris Bryant, 3b, Cubs: It didn’t take long for Southern League pitchers to decide that they didn’t really want to challenge Bryant. The Double-A Tennessee third baseman produced three doubles and a home run this week along with two steals, but mainly pitchers pitched around him. He drew six walks, which explains his .316/.519/.632 line. After walking 11 times in 36 games last year, Bryant has walked 10 times this season.
Teoscar Hernandez, cf, Astros. High Class A Lancaster’s 21-year-old center fielder enjoyed his trip to High Desert, as he hit .345/.429/.621 this week with four doubles, two triples, 11 RBIs, seven runs scored and four steals in five attempts. In other words, if he’s on your California League fantasy team, Hernandez has been a five-category stud this week.
Mikie Mahtook, of, Rays. The 24-year-old started a little bit slowly this year but came on strong this week, including a two-game stretch when he went 9-for-9, with nearly every ball hit hard. He’s a speedy guy with the instincts to be an asset in the outfield—he plays all three positions. If he figures out how to hit consistently, he’ll find a spot in Tampa Bay.
Chad Pinder, 2b/ss, Athletics. There’s no place like Stockton for righthanded power hitters, as this 2013 supplemental second-rounder has demonstrated in the high Class A California League. A steady jet stream carries the ball to left field, where an inviting foul pole sits 300 feet from home plate. Pinder has capitalized, swatting three homers at Stockton this week as part of an 11-for-27 (.407) performance that also included a double, 11 RBIs, two walks and five strikeouts. The 22-year-old leads the Cal League in slugging (.690) and shares a tie of the home run lead with five.
Franmil Reyes, rf, Padres: Reyes was a big boy when the Padres signed him for $700,000 out of the Dominican Republic three years ago. Now he’s a physical monster at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds and hitting .318/.375/.545 through his first 11 games with low Class A Fort Wayne as an 18-year-old.
Wendell Rijo, 2b, Red Sox: As if the Red Sox needed another smallish second baseman who can flat out hit. The 18-year-old Rijo has excellent barrel control with a mature hitting approach, which is why he’s hitting .306/.457/.452 through 11 games for low Class A Greenville.
Alen Hanson, ss, Pirates. Promoted to Double-A Altoona last July, Hanson didn’t hit a whole lot (.679 OPS in 35 games), and the hits continue to not fall in 2014. The 21-year-old switch-hitter is hitting .196 overall after a 3-for-21 (.143) week in which he tallied no extra-base hits and seven strikeouts against two walks. Hanson did steal three bases in four tries and ranks third in the Eastern League with five total.
Elier Hernandez, rf, Royals. Just 19, Hernandez is the Royals’ No. 11 prospect and hit .301 last season at Rookie-level Idaho Falls—but that was while repeating the league. Concerns about his bat surfaced in 2012 as he struggled to make contact, and his start this year is reminiscent, with just four hits and a walk in 27 at-bats.
Dominic Smith, 1b, Mets. The Mets erred on the side of caution with first-round prep position players Brandon Nimmo and Gavin Cecchini, sending both to short-season Brooklyn the year after they signed. New York took a different approach with Smith, the 11th pick in last year’s draft, assigning him to low Class A Savannah and watching him demonstrate that an adjustment period is in order. The sweet-swinging 18-year-old kept the strikeouts in check this week (four in seven games) but went just 2-for-25 (.080) with one walk. Smith also started slow last year before catching fire, and keep in mind the fact that Savannah is the most extreme pitcher’s park in the full-season minors.
Robert Stephenson, rhp, Reds. In the first two weeks of the Hot Sheet, Stephenson has already experienced the highs and lows of a minor league season. Last week, he was near the top of the list with a dominating 11-strikeout, five-inning performance at Double-A Pensacola. This week, he struck out just three of the 36 batters he faced while walking nine of them as he struggled to locate his fastball and breaking ball. The result was an ugly 0-1, 9.95 line that Stephenson would soon like to forget.
Kean Wong, 2b, Rays: There shouldn’t be a lot of competition for a player to be the best young Hawaiian second baseman in pro ball, but Wong can’t even win that title in his own family. For now, Wong is best known as the younger brother of Cardinals second baseman Kolten, who signed as a first-round pick out of Hawaii in 2011. Kean signed as a fourth-rounder out of high school last year and has quickly shown that advanced hitting acumen runs in the family. The junior Wong has good hand-eye coordination and plate coverage, which is why he has struck out just three times in 38 plate appearances at low Class A Bowling Green, where he’s hitting .333/.368/.389. Wong doesn’t have much power projection or other standout tools, but his sweet lefty swing should help him hit for a high batting average.