Prospect Hot Sheet: April 29

The top of this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet closely mirrors the top of the 2010 draft board. All that’s missing is Pirates righthander Jameson Taillon, who made his pro debut on Wednesday, going two innings for low Class A West Virginia.

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 22 through last night, April 28.

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

No. 1 BRYCE HARPER, RF

NATIONALS

Team: low Class A Hagerstown (South Atlantic)

Age: 18

Why he’s here: .500/.600/1.250 (8-for-16), 4 HR, 3 2B, 10 RBIs, 5 R, 4 BB, 4 SO, 2-for-2 SB

The Scoop: Here’s the Bryce Harper we’ve been expecting. The game’s most famous 18-year-old scuffled a little bit through his first week in the South Atlantic League—he had a three-strikeout game and didn’t get his first extra-base hit until his 23rd at-bat of the year. But Harper’s pre-game batting practice power displays have started to carry over into games. He’s homered in four of his last six games, and he has an extra-base hit in six of his last seven. It’s worth noting that while Harper is a right fielder by trade now, the Nationals are getting him an occasional game in center field as well.

Harper hasn’t had to deal with nearly the hype that fellow Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg saw last year. As we noted, his pro debut in Rome was a relatively low-key affair, and his arrival hasn’t exactly packed the gates at Hagerstown. The Suns drew more than 6,000 fans for Harper’s home opener, but (admittedly in bad weather), Hagerstown hasn’t drawn more than 2,000 fans for any of their other four home dates (including 287 fans for Harper’s best day as a pro last Friday).

2011
Stats
No. 2 MANNY MACHADO, SS

ORIOLES

Team: low Class A Delmarva (South Atlantic)

Age: 18

Why He’s Here: .389/.500/1.000 (7-for-18), 3 HR, 2 2B, 7 RBIs, 5 R, 4 BB, 2 SO

The Scoop: The top of this week’s Hot Sheet has a distinct 2010 draft flavor, as No. 3 overall pick Machado follows No. 1 Harper. Machado’s career has gotten off to no less an impressive start, as he’s hitting .315/.420/.575 for Delmarva, and he earned his place on the Hot Sheet by homering in three straight games this week. Machado’s also blended patience with an ability to make consistent hard contact, as his 13 walks—including three intentionals—in 19 games lead the team, while he’s struck out just 11 times.

2011
Stats
No. 3 ROBBIE ERLIN, LHP

RANGERS

Team: high Class A Myrtle Beach (Carolina)

Age: 19

Why He’s Here: 0-0, 0.00, 1 GS, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 10 SO, 0 BB

The Scoop: Erlin was one of 2010′s best breakout stories, going 6-3, 2.12 for low Class A Hickory, and he’s picked up where he left off after moving up to high Class A to start 2011. He only has an average fastball, but Erlin succeeds because he has quality secondary offerings and he knows his craft better than your average 19-year-old. He was in fine form Monday against Potomac, striking out a career-high 10 batters over seven innings. Erlin retired the final 12 hitters he faced, punctuating his outing by striking out the side in the seventh.

2011
Stats
No. 4 OSWALDO ARCIA, DH

TWINS

Team: low Class A Beloit (Midwest)

Age: 19

Why He’s Here: .429/.500/.952 (9-for-21), 3 HR, 2 2B, 5 RBIs, 7 R, 3 BB, 3 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: The reigning top position-player prospect from the Appalachian League, Arcia’s potent bat has helped him overcome a lack of defensive value in the early going. The Twins debated holding Arcia back in extended spring training because of elbow and shoulder ailments, but they ultimately decided to send him to Beloit to DH and make his full-season debut. The buzz of Twins’ minor league camp, he has met those lofty expectations even even with one hand pinned behind his back. Arcia leads the Midwest League with his .694 slugging percentage, and he came on strong last week after taking an 0-for-5 (with two walks) in an April 23 doubleheader. He collected a hit in the next four contests, going 9-for-16 with five extra-base hits.

2011
Stats
No. 5 HAK-JU LEE, SS

RAYS

Team: high Class A Charlotte (Florida State)

Age: 20

Why He’s Here: .520/.586/.760 (13-for-25), 1 HR, 1 3B, 1 2B, 3 RBIs, 6 R, 4 BB, 3 SO, 2-for-5 SB

The Scoop: Lee missed the opening of the season with chicken pox but showed no ill effects once he was able to take the field for his high Class A debut. A big part of the Rays-Cubs Matt Garza trade last winter (along with Chris Archer), Lee accumulated five multi-hit games this week, including a 4-for-5 night Tuesday that saw him fall a triple short of the cycle.

2011
Stats

No. 6 DANNY DUFFY, LHP

ROYALS

Team: Triple-A Omaha (Pacific Coast)

Age: 22

Why He’s
Here:
1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 8 SO, 0 BB

The Scoop: Omaha has one of the best assemblages of prospect talent you’ll ever see, but that didn’t inoculate them against a slow start. Two weeks into the season, Omaha was 4-7 and several of the prospects, most notably Mike Moustakas, were struggling.

Fortunes can change quickly in baseball. Now, the Storm Chasers are working on a nine-game winning streak, and Thursday night was a great example of how they are getting it done. Duffy allowed only one hit while Moustakas homered twice and Eric Hosmer homered as well.

Duffy didn’t have any problems with a slow start—he’s working on a 15-inning scoreless streak, and he’s sporting an excellent 24-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

“He didn’t command his offspeed very well tonight,” Omaha manager Mike
Jirschele told the Omaha World-Herald after his start Thursday night. “He threw enough for strikes, and when you’re throwing 94 to 96 (mph), it helps. He mixed his pitches well and for the most part kept the ball down in the zone.”

2011
Stats
No. 7 BLAKE TEKOTTE, CF

PADRES

Team: Double-A San Antonio (Texas)

Age: 23

Why He’s Here: .407/.500/.963 (11-for-27), 4 HR, 3 2B, 12 RBIs, 8 R, 3 BB, 4 SO, 1-for-2 SB

The Scoop: The San Antonio Missions are batting .317/.403/.575 as a team while scoring 7.4 runs per game. First baseman Cody (eight) and left fielder Jaff (seven) Decker—no relation—pace the offense in home runs, but Tekotte is right behind them with six. His middle gardening sets Tekotte apart from either of those corner mashers. He covers lots of ground in center field and is good for about 30 stolen bases a year, while his lefty bat and eye for the strike zone make him an ideal reserve outfield prospect. One way or another San Diego will add Tekotte, a 2008 third-rounder from Miami, to its 40-man roster this year. He can force an in-season big league callup if keeps hitting for power and getting on base in Triple-A, where Aaron Cunningham, Luis Durango and Cedric Hunter roam.

2011
Stats
No. 8 KEYVIUS SAMPSON, RHP

PADRES

Team: low Class A Fort Wayne (Midwest)

Age: 20

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 7 SO

The Scoop: Sampson has faced 76 batters this year, yet just six of them have been able to record a hit against him. That’s one way to say just how dominant he’s been in the Midwest League, where he now has a 1.29 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 21 innings. His command has wavered at times and he’s walked eight and hit another, but he’s otherwise carved through the circuit with a low-to-mid 90s fastball and changeup, elevating his prospect stock considerably.

2011
Stats
No. 9 BRANDON BELT, 1B

GIANTS

Team: Triple-A Fresno (Pacific Coast)

Age: 23

Why He’s Here: .429/.579/1.000 (6-for-14), 2 HR, 2 2B, 6 RBIs, 5 R, 5 BB, 5 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: After a sluggish start led to his demotion to make room on the big league roster for Cody Ross, Belt returned to Triple-A and started destroying opposing pitching again. Belt hit a home run in his first at bat with Fresno and hasn’t slowed down. Though he played only first base while in the big leagues, Belt is exclusively playing in the outfield in Triple-A and would likely remain in the outfield in San Francisco. 

2011
Stats
No. 10 JEURYS FAMILIA, RHP

METS

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

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 8 SO

The Scoop: Familia continued his stellar start to 2011 with seven shutout innings Saturday against Jupiter. He has allowed just two runs and nine hits in 25 2/3 innings this season, a stark contrast to his season last year at St. Lucie when he went 6-9, 5.58. Familia is a large part of the reason St. Lucie is playing so well this year and has a Florida State League-leading 2.84 ERA. Like the rest of the top prospects on that team, Familia probably won’t spend too much longer in St. Lucie. He appears to be in line for a promotion to Double-A Binghamton once the weather warms up in New York state.

2011
Stats
No. 11 BRANDON GUYER, RF

RAYS

Team: Triple-A Durham (International)

Age: 25

Why He’s Here: .524/.600/1.048 (11-for-21), 3 HR, 2 2B, 7 RBIs, 6 R, 4 BB, 4 SO, 1-for-2 SB

The Scoop: To acquire Guyer as part of a prospect package from the Cubs this offseason, the Rays had to part with Matt Garza, who is tied with Clayton Kershaw for the National League lead in strikeouts. Guyer wasn’t the headline prospect in the trade—that was righthander Chris Archer—but Guyer is showing why the Rays wanted him in the deal. Though he doesn’t have one standout tool, Guyer has continued to build on his breakout offensive season of a year ago, hitting .372/.437/.667 in 22 games for Durham. The uptick in his strikeouts—19 in 87 plate appearances this year after 51 in 410 last year—is a bit concerning, but an OPS over 1.000 is always encouraging.

2011
Stats
No. 12 WILL MIDDLEBROOKS, 3B

RED SOX

Team: high Class A Salem (Carolina)

Age: 22

Why He’s
Here:
.421/.500/.842 (8-for-19), 2 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBIs, 8 R, 3 BB, 2 K, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: The Red Sox have had to be patient with their 2007 fifth-round pick. He’s climbed the ladder at a steady one-level-a-year pace, and every year, he’s shown some significant improvements. His average and slugging percentage have improved each year, and he’s become an excellent third baseman with a plus arm.

But Boston officials have expected Middlebrooks to take a significant leap forward once his skills catch up to his tools, and there are some strong signs that it’s happening. He’s hitting .354/.400/.677 and he’s cut his strikeout rate from 27 percent of his at-bats in 2010 to 20 percent in, admittedly, a small sample size this year. Even with his slow climb, he’s still a 22-year-old in Double-A.

2011
Stats
No. 13 JOSH REDDICK, RF

RED SOX

Team:  Triple-A Pawtucket (International)

Age: 24

Why He’s Here: .308/.333/1.077 (8-for-26), 6 HR, 1 3B, 9 RBIs, 8 R, 1 BB, 3 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: Reddick’s extra-base hit distribution this week, six homers and a triple, suggests that he believes stopping at second base is for chumps. He homered in five of the six games he played since last Friday, while going deep in his last four and doubling up yesterday by taking deep Lehigh Valley’s Ryan Feierabend and Scott Mathieson. His other International League victims: Rochester’s Andy Baldwin and Anthony Swarzak and Lehigh’s Eddie Bonine and Brian Bass. While that’s not the hardest-throwing collective in Triple-A, six home runs in 26 at-bats is darn impressive—even if he drove in nobody but himself on five of the blasts.

2011
Stats

IN THE TEAM PHOTO

Astros 2B Jose Altuve will have several big strikes against him—he’s a 5-foot-5 second baseman trying to make the big leagues. Only two players 5-foot-5 or shorter have been major league regulars since Jackie Robinson integrated the game in 1947. (They would be Freddie Patek and Albie Pearson.) Considering the tall odds, it’s only fair that Altuve’s getting a nice boost from playing in the hitter’s haven of high Class A Lancaster. He batted .522/.577/.696 (12-for-23) with two doubles, a triple and four steals in five tries this week. He’s having a great year, but a .528/.571/.750 line at home isn’t hurting . . . The Rockies have a history with developing ex-quarterbacks on the diamond, and they’ve got a pair with low Class A Asheville in RF Kyle Parker and 2B Russell Wilson. Parker, a 2010 first-rounder from Clemson, hasn’t needed long to settle in with the Tourists. Parker, 21, hit .462/.500/.769 (12-for-26) with a homer and five doubles this week. His .407 average in 54 at-bats on the season ranks third in the South Atlantic League . . . Meanwhile, ex-North Carolina State quarterback Wilson got off to a tougher start for Asheville, but his bat started coming around this week. Wilson, 21, hit .412/.500/.824 (7-for-17) with a homer and two triples on the week, raising his season average to .241/.369/.426 in 54 at-bats . . . Nationals RHP Brad Peacock has sliced and diced his way through the Eastern League with a 28-3 K-BB mark and a 1.50 ERA in 24 innings for Double-A Harrisburg. Two starts this week helped pad the 23-year-old’s stats, as Peacock allowed one run in 14 1/3 innings with 16 strikeouts and one walk . . . Diamondbacks LHP David Holmberg had been solid but unspectacular in his first two starts for low Class A South Bend, then put up an ugly four-inning, seven-run outing in his third start. He recovered with a gem on Monday, striking out 12 with one walk in seven innings at Bowling Green, which scored just two runs (both unearned) against the former White Sox farmhand . . . Sure, playing in Triple-A Reno helps, but Diamondbacks OF Collin Cowgill generates surprising power from his 5-foot-9, 185-pound frame. Cowgill used that pop to hit three home runs, a triple and two doubles this week—good for a .522/.577/1.087 line—and also stole a couple of bases while striking out only once . . . Yankees CF Slade Heathcott was slowed down this offseason by shoulder surgery. Partly because of that, he was sent back to low Class A Charleston to start the season. But if he keeps this up, he can start packing for high Class A Tampa. Heathcott hit .500/.583/.700 (10-for-20) with four doubles this week, and he’s hitting .364/.438/.610 overall.

NOT-SO HOT
SHEET

Brett Cecil, lhp, Blue Jays. Cecil appeared to break through in the big leagues last season, going 15-7, 4.22 and logging 173 innings for a good Toronto club. But after a spring training rife with diminished velocity and spotty command, the 24-year-old Cecil started 2011 on the wrong foot, getting torched for 16 runs in 21 innings through four starts. He didn’t do much regrouping after a demotion to Triple-A Las Vegas, either, where one road start in Colorado Springs produced just about the ugliest pitching line possible: 4 1/3 innings, 13 hits, 11 runs, three homers (to Ian Stewart, Josh Fields and Charlie Blackmon), three walks and two strikeouts.

Melky Mesa, cf, Yankees. There are reasons Mesa has long been compared with former Yankee Alfonso Soriano, particularly in terms of his appearance, batting stance and power. Another similarity the 24-year-old has in common with the big leaguer is a propensity to swing and miss. Mesa improved his contact last year in high Class A, but Double-A has been another matter. Mesa’s gone down on strikes in 27 of 71 at-bats for Trenton while hitting .141/.228/.282. This week was especially tough, as he struck out nine times while going 1-for-19, good for a .053/.143/.053 line.

Michael Burgess, RF, Cubs. Burgess, a part of the Tom Gorzelanny trade, has had a rough debut with his new club. This week, Burgess went just 1-for-18 with high Class A Daytona and is hitting .200/.243/.514 overall
this season. Burgess has continued to display his prodigious power this
season, hitting six home runs, but he has already struck out 23 times with just four walks. He struck out eight times this week and his lone hit was a single. He has struggled in parts of three previous seasons at the high Class A classification as well.

Billy Hamilton, ss, Reds. A week ago, Hamilton earned a place in the team photo, while teammate Yorman Rodriguez wore the not-hot distinction. They nearly swapped roles this week. Rodriguez got hot, hitting .409/.435/.773 this week to make at least a case for the Hot Sheet, but Hamilton earned his spot, too. He batted 1-for-20 this week (.050/.095/.050) with two steals and a run scored. It’s a reminder once again that you can’t score runs if you don’t get on base, no matter how fast you are.

MAN AMONG BOYS

Reynaldo Rodriguez, 1b, Red Sox: Back in 2007, the Red Sox signed Daniel Nava after an outstanding year in the Golden Baseball League where Nava earned MVP honors and a No. 1 ranking on the BA Top 10 Independent League prospects list. That worked out quite well for the Red Sox, as Nava hit his way to the majors in four years. Like Nava, Rodriguez was a standout in his one season in the GBL, winning rookie of the year honors in 2009, and like Nava, Rodriguez was No. 1 on our indy prospects list. Also like Nava, Rodriguez has had plenty of success at the plate since signing with the Sox. As a 25-year-old in high Class A, Rodriguez is old for the Carolina League, but he’s hitting .388/.451/.776, and he’s coming off of a week where he batted .500/.563/1.077. That’s 13-for-26 with six doubles, three home runs, 11 runs scored, 11 RBIs and a stolen base.

BLAST FROM THE
PAST

Jermaine Mitchell’s speed in center and athleticism made him a Top 10 prospect for the Athletics back in 2008. But his career got stuck in high Class A Stockton, as his struggles with pitch recognition led to a two stay with the Ports and a demotion back there last year. Mitchell’s second try at Double-A with Midland is going much better. He’s never had more than occasional home-run pop—his career high in home runs is 10—but he’s hit four homers in the past week as part of a .593/.676/1.222 (16-for-27) showing. As a 26-year-old just making it to Double-A, it’s better to be skeptical than surprised, but Mitchell’s great week is worthy of notice.

HELIUM
WATCH

• When a team drafts a senior college catcher in the 16th round, he carries the tag of organizational player. Every professional team needs to have two or three catchers, and you have to find them somewhere. But Chris Wallace, the Astros’ 16th-round pick out of Houston last year, is doing everything he can to prove he’s a prospect. Playing for low Class A Lexington, Wallace managed to top Telvin Nash’s amazing three home run game two weeks ago by homering three times himself as part of a nine-RBI day.

Wallace, 22, has proven he isn’t a one-day wonder. He went 4-for-5 with two triples and a home run last Friday, and he’s now hitting .432/.506/.865 for the season. Wallace didn’t hit anything like this in college, so don’t start projecting stardom or anything, but catcher is a position where late-round, slow developers sometimes surprise.

Minors | #2011 #Prospect Hot Sheet

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