Prospect Hot Sheet: April 22

We’re still early enough in the season that a bad start can be dismissed by simply saying small sample size, and even the greatest start isn’t enough to ensure a player will have a good season.

But we are far enough into 2011 to notice that some names, like Jaff Decker, seem to keep popping up on the Baseball America Prospect Report. You’ll see several of those types of names in the following Hot Sheet.

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 April 15 through last night, April 21.

Contributing: Ben Badler, Ted Cahill, J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy and Jim Shonerd.

No. 1 ALEX TORRES, LHP

RAYS

Team: Triple-A Durham (International)

Age: 23

Why he’s here: 1-1, 0.87, 10 1/3 IP, 5 H, 5 BB, 18 SO

The Scoop: Torres gave up his first runs of the season last night against Charlotte, but the biggest prize of the Scott Kazmir trade has been dominant this season. He has 27 strikeouts in just 15 1/3 innings in three starts. Torres ran into trouble against Charlotte because of four walks, but his control had been great up to that point this season. In two previous starts, he had walked only one hitter in each outing. Perhaps most importantly, Torres is carving up righthanders, who are batting 2-for-33 (.061) with 21 strikeouts, as well as lefties. 

This is Torres’ first taste of Triple-A, but he is quickly making his case to be the first Bulls’ pitcher to get called up should the Rays have an opening.

2011
Stats
No. 2 ANTHONY RIZZO, 1B

PADRES

Team: Triple-A Tucson (Pacific Coast)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .615/.667/1.115 (16-for-26), 3 HR, 4 2B, 11 RBIs, 8 R, 4 BB, 2 SO, 2-for-2 SB

The Scoop: The hitter-friendly environments of the Pacific Coast League (Tucson is hitting .317 as a team) have helped Rizzo push his raw batting line to new heights. While he never played in a league like this during his time in the Red Sox organization, don’t misconstrue him as a PCL mirage. Hitter’s league or not, Rizzo still leads the Triple-A circuit with a .458 average (27-for-59), 22 RBIs, 27 hits and 48 total bases, while ranking second with five homers and 11 extra-base hits.

2011
Stats
No. 3 YASMANI GRANDAL, C

REDS

Team: high Class A Bakersfield (California)

Age:
22

Why He’s Here: .500/.647/1.250 (12-for-24), 3 2B, 5 HR, 11 RBIs, 12 R, 9 BB, 4 SO

The Scoop: The mantra of drafting is that you don’t worry about the organization’s depth chart, you draft the best player. Normally that works out, but for the Reds, it’s led to some position logjams. Joey Votto has kept Yonder Alonso in Triple-A for more than a year now. Todd Frazier and Juan Francisco are backed up behind Scott Rolen at third base. And now, Cincinnati has developed a very healthy backlog of catching talent. Big leaguers Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan are established in Cincinnati. Devin Mesoraco is following up his breakout 2010 season by slugging over .500 in Triple-A, and now Grandal, the team’s 2010 first-round pick, is finding plenty to like about hitting in the California League. Grandal has a lot to do to pull ahead of Mesoraco on the organization’s depth chart (Mesoraco is only about six months older than Grandal and two levels ahead), but he’s doing everything he can in the season’s first few weeks.

2011
Stats
No. 4 MARCELL OZUNA, RF

MARLINS

Team: low Class A Greensboro (South Atlantic)

Age: 20

Why He’s Here: .520/.613/1.320 (13-for-25), 6 HR, 2 2B, 11 RBIs, 11 R, 6 BB, 2 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: Through his first nine games of the season, Ozuna would have been a prime candidate for the Not-So Hot Sheet. He was hitting just .100/.222/.167 through April 15, but things turned around for him in a hurry, starting with when he went 3-for-4 with two homers on April 16 against Delmarva. That was the first of five multi-hit games on the week, and he added another four homers. It probably didn’t hurt that Greensboro came home this week to one of the SAL’s most hitter-friendly venues after spending the first week on the road, but Ozuna’s power is legitimate. He led the short-season New York-Penn League with 21 home runs in 2010.

2011
Stats
No. 5 ALEX WHITE, RHP

INDIANS

Team: Triple-A Columbus (International)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 0-0, 1.38, 13 IP, 11 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 1 HBP, 0 BB, 14 SO

The Scoop: At the end of the 2010 season, the Indians’ took away White’s splitter to help him focus on his slider. White pitches off his heavy sinking fastball, but his splitter was his out-pitch, and without it, he struggled last August and his strikeouts went down. With his full arsenal, White has been in command in Triple-A, holding a 2.00 ERA through his first three starts with 20 strikeouts and three walks in 18 innings. Is a major league debut coming soon? The Indians likely wouldn’t start White’s service clock any sooner than necessary, so there’s little chance he’s in Cleveland before June. After that, once the miniature ERAs of Josh Tomlin, Justin Masteron and Mitch Talbot regress to more sustainable levels, White could be a callup to watch.

2011
Stats
No. 6 BRETT JACKSON, CF

CUBS

Team: Double-A Tennessee (Southern)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .364/.517/.864 (8-for-22), 8 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 4 RBIs, 6 BB, 5 SO, 2-for-3 SB

The Scoop: Southern League pitchers haven’t figured out how to keep Jackson off the basepaths. With a .426/.541/.787 slash line, Jackson is third in the minors in OBP and fifth in OPS, reaching base in all 14 games he’s played in so far. His most recent stretch includes an effort on Wednesday in which he fell a single short of the cycle (though he did reach first base once by walking), then followed that yesterday with a pair of extra-base hits. The first of those extra-base hits was a fastball he roped down the first base line for a double, the second a fastball on the outer half that he dropped the bat head on to take the other way for a home run over the left-field fence.

“Brett brings a lot to the game,” Smokies manager Brian Harper said. “He hustles, he plays hard, he plays good defense and he’s got power. He does a lot of good things. He’s fun to watch.”

2011
Stats
No. 7 ERIC HOSMER, 1B

ROYALS

Team: Triple-A Omaha (Pacific Coast League)

Age: 21

Why He’s
Here:
.524/.643/.667 (11-for-21), 7 R, 3 2B, 4 RBIs, 7 BB, 2 Ks

The Scoop: Eric Hosmer isn’t on the Royals 40-man roster, so the logical expectation is that Kansas City would keep their star first-base prospect in Triple-A all year, especially since Billy Butler is well established at first base in the big leagues. But Hosmer is going to make the decision tough for the Royals. After a slow start, Hosmer is once again proving to be one of the toughest outs in minor league baseball. One of biggest things left on Hosmer’s to-do list for 2011 was to show he could pull the ball more consistently. He’s only hit one home run this year, but it went to right-center field, as did two of his five doubles. But he’s still using the whole field, as evidenced by his seven of his 10 hits to center, six to right center, two to left field, two to right field and two infield singles.

2011
Stats
No. 8 BRAD HOLT, RHP

METS

Team: Double-A Binghamton (Eastern)

Age: 24

Why He’s Here: 0-0, 1.29, 2 GS, 13 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 11 SO, 3 BB, 19/4 G/F

The Scoop: In his third try at Double-A, Holt isn’t out of the woods yet. But he’s off and running after allowing two runs through three starts. He flashed good stuff last year, but a combination of injuries, mechanical issues and lack of focus produced dreadful results (3-14, 8.34, 2.00 WHIP, 7.5 walks per nine innings). Through the early going this season, Holt is throwing his pitches for strikes, getting swings and misses, inducing grounders and generally living up to his No. 3 starter potential.

2011
Stats
No. 9 TOM KOEHLER, RHP

MARLINS

Team: Triple-A New Orleans (Pacific Coast)

Age: 24

Why He’s Here: 2-0, 1.50, 2 GS, 12 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 13 SO, 3 BB

The Scoop: Koehler isn’t the flashiest pitching prospect around, but he’s forced himself onto the radar. An 18th-round pick in 2008 from Stony Brook, he has a low-90s fastball and a cutter that progressed nicely last season. His results are tough to ignore as well. Koehler tied for the minor league lead in wins last year by going 16-2, 2.61 at Double-A Jacksonville. Going back to last year, he’s won his last eight decisions and has gone 16 straight starts without taking a loss, including last year’s playoffs. He’s allowed just two earned runs in 18 innings this season while posting a 17-4 SO-BB ratio.

2011
Stats
No. 10 JAFF DECKER, LF PADRES

Team: Double-A San Antonio (Texas)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .450/.577/.950 (9-for-20), 6 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 5 BB, 5 SO, 0-for-1 SB

The Scoop: Your minor league leader in slugging and OPS isn’t some veteran slugger taking advantage of the Pacific Coast League like Wily Mo Pena. It isn’t some Albuquerque masher, a Lancaster creation or even Diamondbacks Double-A first-base prospect Paul Goldschmidt and his eight home runs. No, the best slugging average and the best OPS in the minors belong to Decker, who’s hitting .408/.532/.878 in 62 trips to the plate for a smoking hot San Antonio lineup. Excluding a pinch-hit appearance on Tuesday, Decker has been on base multiple times in 11 of his 12 games, including six multi-hit efforts.

2011
Stats
No. 11 JEDD GYORKO, 3B

PADRES

Team: high Class A Lake Elsinore (California)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .500/.563/.846 (13-for-26), 1 HR, 6 2B, 6 RBIs, 4 R, 5 BB, 5 SO, 0-for-1 SB

The Scoop: The Padres weren’t the only team to covet Gyorko’s bat in the 2010 draft, but they were the first to act with the 59th overall pick. Built more like a catcher than a middle infielder, where he played in college at West Virginia, Gyorko has the pure stroke and batting eye that ought to keep his average parked at .280 or higher in the big leagues. But that’s a few years off. First, Gyorko must prove himself defensively at third base and keep lacing those line drives that San Diego’s Petco Park rewards.

2011
Stats
No. 12 KOLBRIN VITEK, 3B

RED SOX

Team: high Class A Salem (Carolina)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .483/.531/.724 (14-for-29), 3 2B, 2 3B, 4 RBIs, 8 R, 3 BB, 7 SO, 1-for-1, SB

The Scoop: Vitek got out of the gate slowly. He didn’t record his first hit of the season until his fourth game and started out just 3-for-23. With Vitek’s quick hands and sound approach, it was only a matter of time before he got going. He started to find his comfort zone this week and reeled off four straight multi-hit games. He’s still looking for his first home run of the season, but that should come as long as he keeps hitting balls hard like he did this week.

2011
Stats
No. 13 JEFRY MARTE, 3B

METS

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

Age: 19

Why He’s Here: .409/.481/.864 (9-for-22), 3 HR, 1 2B, 8 RBIs, 7 R, 4 BB, 6 SO

The Scoop: St. Lucie has jumped off to a Florida State League-best 13-2 record and they’ve done so with some of the Mets’ finest prospects. Righthanders Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia have given up a total of three runs in six starts, while the offense features shortstop Wilmer Flores and right fielder Cesar Puello, the system’s Nos. 2 an 3 prospects who both appear to be shaking off the rust early in the season. The same is not true of Marte, who paces the St. Lucie attack with a .340 average (17-for-50), eight walks, three home runs and 10 RBIs.

Marte spent last season playing in the shadow of Flores and Puello with low Class A Savannah, but he appears to be completely healthy this season as he makes up for a so-so 2010 campaign (.264/.333/.401, six homers in 82 games).

2011
Stats

IN THE TEAM PHOTO

His swing is still sometimes raw, and he’s made six errors in his transition to shortstop after playing second base last year. But seemingly every night, low Class A Dayton’s Billy Hamilton (Reds) demonstrates once again how he may be the fastest player in baseball. This week he hit .391/.533/.609 (9-for-23), with eight runs scored, two doubles, an inside-the-park home run (in which he was timed at under 15 seconds around the bases), seven walks and six steals in nine tries. But the 20-year-old’s most impressive feat of the week may have been when he scored from third on a comebacker to the mound . . . When your fastball tops out at 90 mph, you need to have plenty of savvy, not to mention some quality secondary offerings, to make it work. That’s the case for Mets LHP Mark Cohoon, who’s allowed just one earned run in 19 innings this season for Double-A Binghamton. In his only start this week, the 23-year-old threw seven innings without allowing an earned run (he did give up two unearned) to lower his ERA to 0.47. He struck out 11, a career high, didn’t walk anybody and gave up just five hits . . . A shortstop by trade, Orioles prospect Jonathan Schoop has moved over to third base with low Class A Delmarva in deference to Manny Machado. Schoop, 19, hasn’t taken a back seat to anyone at the plate though, as he’s riding a nine-game hitting streak and hit .419/.500/.677 (13-for-31) with two homers and two doubles this week . . . Because he’s on a relatively limited 75-85 pitch limit, Royals LHP Danny Duffy has yet to work more than five innings in any of his first three starts. But Duffy, 22, has been outstanding in those limited stints for Triple-A Omaha. This week Duffy threw nine scoreless innings in two starts, allowing just six hits while walking three and striking out 12 . . . As a second-round pick last year out of Indiana State with a fastball that consistently gets into the mid-90s, White Sox RHP Jacob Petricka shouldn’t face too many problems in low Class A. He’s come as advertised so far pitching with Kannapolis, where he’s allowed one run in 11 innings over his last two starts. Petricka, 22, now has an ERA of 0.53 and a 22-4 K-BB mark in 17 innings . . . Cubs CF Jae-Hoon Ha has caught scouts’ eyes in the Florida State League with eye-popping numbers to start the season. He is hitting .403/.406/.645 through 14 games with a pair of home runs. He has not drawn a walk yet and is only 2-for-7 on stolen base attempts, but manager Buddy Bailey is pleased with the 20-year old’s aggressive approach. “He’s got one gait and it’s always aggressive,” Bailey said. “To me, it’s the perfect thing for a young player. Players learn when they’re aggressive.” . . . Blue Jays LF Eric Thames made the most of a seven-game home stand for Las Vegas. Thames snapped out of a 2-for-14 skid by going 16-for-28 with eight extra-base hits this week. The 24-year old is hitting .417/.500/.700 with 10 walks and 13 strikeouts this season. He also has cut down on his strikeouts after whiffing 121 times in 130 games at Double-A New Hampshire last year.

NOT-SO HOT
SHEET

Zack Cozart, ss, Reds: With Paul Janish playing shortstop in Cincinnati and Edgar Renteria serving as the club’s backup, the door is wide open for Cozart to push his way through with a strong showing at Triple-A Louisville. That just hasn’t happened yet, however, as Cozart is off to a .125/.194/.143 start for the Bats with just one extra-base hit in 14 games. Cozart, 25, has good defensive actions and can put the ball in play, but scouts’ concerns about how well his bat would play against more advanced pitching may end up proving to be correct.

• Joe Cruz, rhp, Rays: A 30th-round 2007 draftee out of a Los Angeles junior college, Cruz had an outstanding 2010 statistically while showing a 91-93 mph fastball that touched 95. But scouts were still worried by a less than ideal delivery that had led to control but little command. Since moving up to Double-A Montgomery, Cruz hasn’t had nearly as much success this week—7 innings, 12 hits, 16 runs, 5 home runs, 6 walks and just two two strikeouts.

Trevor May, rhp, Phillies. May struggled in his first stint at high Class-A Clearwater last year before righting himself at low Class A Lakewood. Now back in Clearwater to start the year, the 21-year old is again struggling. In his one start this week at Daytona, May went just four innings, giving up four runs on five hits. He allowed three walks and struck out three batters. In three starts this year, May is 0-2, 7.71 and opponents are hitting .308 against him, though he has 12 strikeouts to eight walks.

Yorman Rodriguez, rf, Reds. He’s only 18, but Rodriguez has established already that he’s a pretty streaky hitter. When he’s locked in, the low Class A Dayton right fielder has been a frequent contender for Hot Sheet status in his brief career. But when he’s struggling with his swing, like this week, he’s nearly helpless at the plate. This week Rodriguez batted .143/.143/.143 with 10 strikeouts in 21 at-bats.

MAN AMONG BOYS

Kevin Millwood, rhp, Yankees: One of the Yankees many reclamation projects this season, Millwood made his 2011 debut for Double-A Trenton on Sunday. He threw a one-hit shutout in a seven-inning game. Millwood struck out three and walked four batters. Reportedly, however, Millwood’s fastball topped out at 87 mph. He will likely need to improve his velocity to have success at more advanced levels. He is scheduled to start today for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and, with the Yankees suspect starting pitching, could be in the big leagues soon if he has another good start.

BLAST FROM THE
PAST

A Braves second-round pick in 2004, Eric Campbell bashed 18 home runs in the Rookie-level Appalachian League in ’05, winning MVP honors, and then 22 more for low Class A Rome in ’06. The third baseman wore out his welcome with the Braves, however, and when he stopped hitting (just .241/.308/.331 for Double-A Mississippi in ’09), Atlanta released him. Campbell looked next to the independent leagues after the Phillies released him in ’10 spring training, setting his sights on Fargo-Moorhead. He hit .311 with 22 homers in 302 at-bats for the RedHawks, helping lead them to a second straight Northern League title. The Reds signed Campbell last October and he’s gotten off to an excellent start in the high Class A California League. The 25-year-old is batting .500/.561/.815 (27-for-54) for Bakersfield and leads the loop in average, on-base, slugging, doubles (nine), extra-base hits (12) and runs scored (21).

HELIUM
WATCH

• You may be tempted to write off 22-year-old college righthanders in the low Class A Midwest League, but that’s not advised in the case of either Wisconsin’s Tyler Thornburg (Brewers) or Cedar Rapids’ Daniel Tillman (Angels), two products of the 2010 draft. While neither has prototype righthanded starter’s height—Thornburg is listed at 5-foot-11; Tillman at 6-foot-1—both have premium velocity and plus breaking pitches.

Thornburg, from Charleston Southern, sports a 1.04 ERA after two starts, having fanned 13 and walked two in 8 2/3 innings. A premium athlete, he sits in the mid-90s and unleashes a hammer curveball. Tillman, from Florida Southern, dominated the Pioneer League last summer as a closer, striking out 13.9 per nine innings and allowing a .195 average. Like Thornburg, he sits in the mid-90s and throws a hard breaking pitch, in his case a slider. Because of Tillman’s clean arm action and feel for a changeup, the Angels are giving him a spin as a starter this season. In his two most recent outings (nine innings) he’s struck out 12 and walked six while allowing only one run on six hits.

Minors | #2011 #Prospect Hot Sheet

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