Prospect Hot Sheet (April 22): Blair’s Big Week

This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet considers what minor league players have done from April 15-21. Remember, this feature simply recognizes what the hottest prospects in the minors did in the past week—it's not a re-ranking of the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects.

Contributing: Ben Badler, J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy, Josh Norris and Vince Lara-Cinisomo


1. Aaron Blair, rhp, Braves

Team: Triple-A Gwinnett (International)
Age: 23
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 10 SO, 1 BB

The Scoop: With seven no-hit innings against Durham on Tuesday, Blair turned in the finest start in the minors this week, according to at least one advanced pitching metric. His 10 strikeouts, one walk and no hits allowed added up to an 86 game score, which narrowly edged the Phillies' Zach Eflin (83), who threw eight shutout innings with five stikeouts and two hits.

Blair hasn't allowed a run since the sixth inning of his first start of 2016 and, using a quality three-pitch mix, has authored 13 straight scoreless frames. In other words, it won't be too long before fans see Blair in the Atlanta rotation. The Braves could use the help—they have allowed five runs per game with an adjusted-ERA+ of 87. (ME)


2. Jose Berrios, rhp, Twins

Minnesota-TwinsTeam: Triple-A Rochester (International)
Age: 21
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.75, 12 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 11 SO, 4 BB

The Scoop: The youngest player in the International League, Berrios has fared just fine against older competition. The righthander, who brings a three-pitch mix, worked hard last season to make his changeup blend in with his other offerings. So far, it's paid off. After two five-inning outings to open the year, Berrios whiffed seven in as many frames against Pawtucket his last time out. More important, he walked only one. (JN)


3. Matt Chapman, 3b, Athletics
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Team: Double-A Midland (Texas)
Age: 23
Why He's Here: .450/.560/1.000 (9-for-20), 6 R, 2 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBIs, 3 BB, 4 SO

The Scoop: Spring training stats don’t mean anything, but Chapman certainly has carried over a strong spring (six homers) into his Double-A debut. The 2014 first-rounder’s power will be tested by Midland’s daunting ballpark—as Matt Olson and Renato Nunez found out last year—but two of his four homers so far have come at Security Bank Ballpark. Chapman has greatly improved his selectivity since turning pro and this year has 10 walks against 13 strikeouts. (VLC)


4. Jake Bauers, of/1b, Rays
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Team: Double-A Montgomery (Southern)
Age: 20
Why He's Here: .308/.438/.769 (8-for-26), 6 R, 3 2B, 3 HR, 5 RBIs, 6 BB, 3 SO

The Scoop: One of the youngest players in Double-A, Bauers is diversifying this season, and so far he has played more corner outfield than first base, his natural position. Bauers hadn't played a pro game in the outfield until the most recent Arizona Fall League season, so let this be a reminder that Bauers is a little more agile than your run-of-the-mill first baseman. (JJC)


5. Ryan O'Hearn, 1b, Royals
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Team: high Class A Wilmington (Carolina)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: .419/.486/.903 (13-for-31), 3 2B, 4 HR, 10 RBIs, 4 BB, 8 SO

The Scoop: Owner of some of the best power in the Royals system, O'Hearn’s main challenge will be making enough contact to access his plus power. Sent back to Wilmington, he has cut his strikeout rate to 21 percent so far, which is much better than the 30 percent rate last year. If O'Hearn makes more consistent contact, he has enough power to be an everyday big league first baseman. (JJC)


6. Steven Duggar, of, Giants
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Team: high Class A San Jose (California)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: .375/.483/.792 (9-for-24), 4 R, 2 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBIs, 5 BB, 7 SO

The Scoop: Duggar's overall game has often seemed to be a little less than expected for scouts. They wished he could play a better center field because he can really run, but he's a right fielder. His body shows he has natural strength, but he's been more of a singles hitter. But Duggar, a sixth-rounder last June, may be starting to tap into his power. His four home runs in three weeks comes after he hit eight in three years at Clemson. If Duggar can drive the ball more consistently, than he starts to fit as a right fielder where his speed could make him an above-average defender. (JJC)


7. Kevin Newman, ss, Pirates
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Team: high Class A Bradenton (Florida State)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: .519/.556/.581 (14-for-27), 3 R, 1 2B, 3 RBIs, 4 BB, 0 SO, 2-for-3 SB

The Scoop: You won’t see many extra-base hits—just 17 so far in 311 pro at-bats—but Newman is a high-average guy, with the hand-eye coordination you’d expect from a man with his athletic lineage. His mom was a professional skier, while his dad and two sisters played Division I tennis. Newman, the 19th overall pick last June from Arizona, makes consistent contact—he’s struck out just 34 times as a pro—and walks enough to make him a potential table-setter. (VLC)


8. James Kaprielian, rhp, Yankees

3ds_yankees85Team: high Class A Tampa (Florida State)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: 1-1, 1.38, 13 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 13 SO, 3 BB

The Scoop: Some speculated this spring that Kaprielian, a first-round selection out of UCLA last year, could move quickly through the system. So far, he's pitched liked he wants to get out of high Class A Tampa and to the next level as quickly as possible. Armed with a four-pitch mix headlined by a fastball that has topped at 97 mph, Kaprielian has buzzed through his first three starts. He's permitted just eight hits in his first 18 innings and has whiffed nine batters in two of his three starts. (JN)


9. Yoan Moncada, 2b, Red Sox
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Team: high Class A Salem (Carolina)
Age: 20
Why He's Here: .400/.567/.550 (8-for-20), 7 R, 3 2B, 5 RBIs, 8 BB, 7 SO, 7-for-8 SB

The Scoop: Moncada entered the season ranked as the No. 3 prospect in baseball, but with Corey Seager and Byron Buxton having enough major league playing time to have lost their prospect eligibility, Moncada is now No. 1. There's a good chance he won't relinquish that spot. He has an elite combination of athleticism, tools and baseball skills. A plus-plus runner, Moncada is second in the minors with 13 stolen bases in 13 games, batting .356/.508/.511 with more walks (14) than strikeouts (11). As impressive as he has been already, he has the raw power to add home runs, so he’s just scratching the surface. (BB)


10. Alex Bregman, ss, Astros
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Team: Double-A Corpus Christi (Texas)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: 421/.522/.789 (8-for-19), 3 R, 1 2B, 2 HR, 9 RBIs, 3 BB, 6 SO

The Scoop: Bregman can’t afford to worry that the Astros have Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve patrolling the middle infield in Houston. He is focused on the short term, and in the short term, the No. 2 pick in last year's draft has been mighty impressive. Bregman has walked more times (six) than he's struck out (five), he’s hitting .370 and his five longballs lead the Texas League. (JN)


11. Yusniel Diaz, of, Dodgers
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Team: high Class A Rancho Cucamonga (California)
Age: 19
Why He's Here: .375/.385/.917 (9-for-24), 4 R, 2 3B, 3 HR, 11 RBIs, 1 BB, 4 SO, 2-for-3 SB.

The Scoop: The Dodgers liked Diaz so much that they decided to pay $31 million to sign him. That included a $15.5 million signing bonus and another $15.5 million in overage taxes going to the commissioner's office. In Cuba, Diaz had a standout rookie season in Serie Nacional in 2014-15, though he didn't hit any home runs in 65 games. Instead he showed good hand-eye coordination to put the ball in play with a line-drive, gap-to-gap approach. But there aren't any ballparks like Lancaster in Cuba, and in three games in the offensive fantasy land this week, Diaz homered in three straight games. (BB)


12. Renato Nunez, 3b, Athletics
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Team: Triple-A Nashville (Pacific Coast)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: .500/.524/.889 (9-for-18), 5 R, 1 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBIs, 1 BB, 1 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: Double-A Midland’s Security Bank Ballpark had its way with Nunez in the first half last season, and he still ended up hitting 18 homers in just 93 games after a calf injury sidelined him in April. Nunez clearly has power, but like organization-mate and fellow third baseman Matt Chapman, the quality of his at-bats also has improved. With Chapman on the rise, Nunez might have to move to first base eventually. (VLC)


13. Ozzie Albies, ss, Braves
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Team: Double-A Mississippi (Southern)
Age: 19
Why He's Here: .423/.483/.615 (11-for-26), 6 R, 1 2B, 2 3B, 6 RBIs, 3 BB, 6 SO, 1-for-2 SB

The Scoop: Skipped over high Class A to accommodate the arrival of Dansby Swanson, Albies hasn't been daunted by the advanced competition at Double-A. He has continued using his top-shelf hand-eye coordination to spray the ball around the park and create havoc on the basepaths. He's riding a seven-game hitting streak with three multi-hit games in the mix. Albies is doing everything he can to convince the Braves that he is their shortstop of the future. (JN)


14. Dansby Swanson, ss, Braves
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Team: high Class A Carolina (Carolina)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: .357/.438/.607 (10-for-28), 3 R, 4 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, 4 BB, 7 SO, 2-for-2 SB

The Scoop: The top two picks in last year's draft were Swanson (Vanderbilt) and fellow Southeastern Conference shortstop Alex Bregman (Louisiana State), who is busy tearing up the Double-A Texas League for the Astros. Swanson's approach, swing and overall talent are good enough that he could handle a jump to Double-A if the Braves wanted to push him there, but promoting him becomes tricky with the presence of shortstop prospect Ozzie Albies at Mississippi. From the Braves’ perspective, it’s a nice problem to have. (BB)


15. Trey Mancini, 1b, Orioles

Team: Double-A Bowie (Eastern)
Age: 24
Why He's Here: .423/.545/.808 (11-for-26), 10 R, 4 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 6 BB, 9 SO

You might remember Mancini from such standout performances as 2015 at Double-A Bowie, when he hit .359 in 84 games to win the Eastern League batting title. Despite being back at Bowie, Mancini this week smacked six extra-base hits in seven games while hitting .423, which earns him the nod here and keeps his career EL average humming along at .358. Few first-base prospects have improved their stock since the beginning of 2015 like Mancini. (ME)


16. Josh Ockimey, 1b, Red Sox
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Team: low Class A Greenville (South Atlantic)
Age: 20
Why He's Here: .423/.559/.808 (11-for-26), 8 R, 1 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBIs, 8 BB, 6 SO

The Scoop: A power-hitting prep first baseman from Philadelphia, Ockimey earned comparison with Phillies slugger Ryan Howard. So far, Ockimey has shown many of Howard’s traits, including big power, lots of strikeouts and defensive limitations. But Ockimey, a 2014 fifth-rounder, was a standout in instructional league last year, and is off to a fast start in 2016 in his first crack at full-season ball. He’s trimmed back the strikeouts (14 in 63 plate appearances) and is walking more—including eight this week—and still showing big power, with four homers in just 51 at-bats. (VLC)


17. Austin Pruitt, rhp, Rays
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Team: Triple-A Durham (International)
Age: 26
Why He's Here: 1-0, 3.86, 2 GS, 13 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 16 SO

The Scoop: Pruitt's appearance here is a reward for an amazing first three starts. Including his start before this week Pruitt, a ninth-rounder from Houston in 2013, has a 27-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His changeup, changeup-curveball-changeup-curveball approach was a perfect antidote for Charlotte's lineup. Over the longer term, it will be worth watching whether the 5-foot-11 righthander can succeed in the International League with a below-average fastball (87-89 mph)—but Pruitt’s changeup and curveball are both above-average, giving him a chance to survive. (JJC)


18. Osvaldo Abreu, ss, Nationals

3ds_nationals81Team: high Class A Potomac (Carolina)
Age: 21
Why He's Here: .412/.459/.676 (14-for-34), 7 R, 2 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBIs, 3 BB, 5 SO

Prospects such as Abreu, center fielder Victor Robles, righthander Reynaldo Lopez and shortstop Wilmer Difo have helped bring the Nationals' international program back online after the Esmailyn Gonzalez scandal led to several dormant seasons in Latin America. Abreu is an intriguing young middle infielder with some gap power and some speed, and if he keeps hitting like this, he might be on the verge of breaking into the next echelon of prospect prominence. (ME)


19. Victor Robles, of, Nationals

3ds_nationals81Team: low Class A Hagerstown (South Atlantic)
Age: 18
Why He's Here: .400/.545/.720 (10-for-25), 11 R, 1 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBIs, 3 BB, 4 SO, 3-for-4 SB

The Scoop: Robles might be the most exciting player to watch in the minors. On any given night, there's a good chance he will make some type of play to grab your attention, whether it's running down the ball in a gap, throwing out a runner at home, stealing bases (five so far), knocking a ball out of the park (he's done that twice) or showcasing his hitting ability and speed with a triple (he has three of those already). The elite tools are impossible to miss, but Robles is a premium prospect because he continues to hit everywhere he goes, batting .340/.485/.620 with more walks (10) than strikeouts (8) through 15 games. (BB)


20. Alex Meyer, rhp, Twins
Minnesota-Twins
Team: Triple-A Rochester (International)
Age: 26
Why He's Here: 1-1, 2.84, 2 GS, 13.1 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 15 SO

The Scoop: Meyer is more than a year older than Jacob Turner, the 2009 first-rounder whose rise and fall from prospect-dom seems almost a generation ago. He's older than Gerrit Cole, Michael Wacha and Julio Teheran, pitchers who have been in the big leagues for years. But 6-foot-9 pitchers can take time to develop, and Meyer's stuff is still exceptional. The move back to the rotation at Triple-A Rochester may take this time, because Meyer is throwing significantly more strikes. He has recorded a 64 percent strike percentage this year, up dramatically from 59 percent last year. Might he still deliver on his promise as a mid-rotation starter? (JJC)


HELIUM WATCH

Cesar Vargas, rhp, Padres. The Padres liked minor league free agent Vargas so much that they signed him to a major league deal, thus placing him on the 40-man roster, last November. The 24-year-old had pitched just 5 innings above Double-A in his seven years in the Yankees organization, but the Padres were intrigued by the Mexican righthander's command and ability to throw strikes. Last season out of the Trenton bullpen, he averaged 8.6 strikeouts and 2.9 walks per nine innings, marks upon which he has improved this season. The Padres, short on starting depth, put Vargas in the rotation at Double-A San Antonio and he has thrived, allowing just five hits and a walk through 13 innings, with 14 strikeouts. Vargas has a solid pitch mix, with a fastball in the low 90s, a slider that has averaged 83 mph and a slow curve that acts more like a changeup. He's able to cut his fastball, and he runs it in and out to hitters. Vargas has an easy, repeatable delivery, and if he polishes his changeup and gets more consistent with his cutter, he could stay in the rotation long-term. (VLC)

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