This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet covers games from July 25-31. 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, Josh Norris and BA interns Carlos Collazo and Jacob Emert.
1. Trea Turner, ss, Padres
Team: low Class A Fort Wayne (Midwest)
Why He’s Here: .517/.588/.724 (15-for-29), 6 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBIs, 5 BB, 10 SO, 3-for-4 SB
The Scoop: This marks three straight Hot Sheet appearances for the former North Carolina State all-American, who has transitioned into pro ball with ease. His range at short, never a question, has been as advertised, and as he did in college, he’s stealing bases at a prodigious and efficient clip (17 of 19). His long swing worried evaluators, especially since power will never be part of his skill set. But to this point, he’s shown an ability to handle the bat well, slashing .335/.418/.441 across two levels with nine extra-base hits.
2. Brian Johnson, lhp, Red Sox
Team: Double-A Portland (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.63, 14 1/3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 16 SO, 6 BB
The Scoop: After slicing through the Carolina League, Johnson hasn’t skipped a beat in Double-A. He used his four-pitch mix, which includes a lively low-90s heater and a curve and changeup that have plus potential, to surrender just two hits over 14 1/3 innings in two starts, one of which was a seven-inning one-hitter with 12 punchouts. Aside from a hiccup on July 7, he’s been brilliant for the better part of two months. In nine of his last 10 starts he’s allowed one run or fewer.
3. Jake Cave, cf, Yankees
Team: Double-A Trenton (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: .500/.559/.833 (15-for-30), 7 R, 1 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, 4 BB, 6 SO
The Scoop: Mason Williams’ ineffectiveness this season created a spot for Cave at Double-A, and he has continued to produce since moving up from high Class A Tampa. Scouts grade Cave’s tools as average across the board, but he’s made the most of them. In 14 games at Trenton, he’s hit safely of 12 and reached base in 13, including four multi-hit games over the course of his current eight-game hitting streak. Across two levels and in his second full pro season, he’s hit .311/.367/.420 with 22 doubles.
4. Lucas Giolito, rhp, Nationals
Team: low Class A Hagerstown (South Atlantic)
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.00, 12 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 13 SO, 1 BB
The Scoop: Ranking among the unofficial leaders for best stuff in the minors, Giolito had his good command this week and the results were overwhelming. He put up 13 zeroes over two starts and allowed just three singles and one walk in the process. He’s given up three or fewer earned runs in nine of his last 10 starts and is third in the Nationals system in punchouts despite pitching roughly 30 innings fewer than the pitchers in the Nos. 1 and 2 spots, Austin Voth and John Simms.
5. Jose Urena, rhp, Marlins
Team: Double-A Jacksonville (Southern)
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.00, 14 IP, 8 H, 0 R, 11 SO, 2 BB
The Scoop: Among fellow Southern League starters, only control artists Dylan Floro and Justin Nicolino have a lower walk rate than Urena’s 1.7 per nine innings this season. He’s no soft-tosser, though. Urena pitches in the mid-90s with a lively fastball, pairing it with a strong changeup. He saved his best work for July, logging 41 innings while striking out 34, walking eight and generating twice as many groundouts as airouts.
6. Brandon Drury, 3b, Diamondbacks
Team: high Class A Visalia (California)
Why He’s Here: .444/.516/.852 (12-for-27), 10 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 7 RBIs, 4 BB, 4 SO
The Scoop: Drury’s name litters the California League leaderboards—first in doubles (35), third in hits (129), second in RBIs (81)—but the Diamondbacks don’t seem to be in a hurry to promote either him (or stud Double-A third baseman Jake Lamb). Even scouts who like Drury don’t see a plus tool, but he does enough things well to warrant a chance to prove his critics wrong.
7. Braden Shipley, rhp, Diamondbacks
Team: high Class A Visalia (California)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.29, 14 IP, 11 H, 2 R, 14 SO, 3 BB, 2 HBP
The Scoop: Arizona may have scored a major hit with Shipley at No. 15 overall in the 2013 draft. He looks the part at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, and he certainly pitches the part with 9.3 strikeouts and 2.7 walks per nine innings this season at two levels. The former Nevada ace dials his fastball up to 96 mph, while his athleticism allows him to execute two secondary pitches that project as plus. You’ve been warned, National League batters.
8. Aristides Aquino, rf, Reds
Team: Rookie-level Billings (Pioneer)
Why He’s Here: .370/.433/.815 (10-for-27), 7 R, 3 2B, 3 HR, 10 RBIs, 3 BB, 3 SO, 5-for-5 SB
The Scoop: A second straight Hot Sheet appearance for the Dominican Aquino, who’s power potential has shown itself this season. He’s hit 10 homers in 28 games this month and despite being an average runner, he has shown stolen-base efficiency as well with 12 successes in 14 tries. He’s battered lefthanders (.381/.395/.667) but has also shown great power against same-side pitchers with 10 homers in 125 at-bats. Signed for $110,000 in 2011, he’s still just 20.
9. Joe Ross, rhp, Padres
Team: Double-A San Antonio (Padres)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.38, 13 IP, 12 H, 2 R, 1 HR, 13 SO, 1 BB
The Scoop: The 2011 first-rounder has taken a quantum leap forward this season with his control and ability to miss bats, and he now profiles as a potential four-pitch starter. Ross has the arm strength to bump 95 mph and back it up with a power slider, but he also shows feel for varying shape on his breaking ball and taking steam off his changeup. His 3.6 SO/BB ratio and 1.24 WHIP at two levels speak to his growth and advancement.
10. Travis Demeritte, 2b, Rangers
Team: low Class A Hickory (South Atlantic)
Why He’s Here: .500/.550/1.278 (9-for-18), 9 R, 2 2B, 4 HR, 11 RBIs, 1 BB, 6 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: The Rangers like to acquire young amateurs who have at least a chance at greatness. Sometimes it fails miserably, but other times they get Joey Gallo slugging 40-plus home runs. Demeritte hits lots of home runs and racks up lots of strikeouts, thanks to a whippy swing and quick hands. A pessimist can wonder if a .235 hitter who is striking out a third of the time will ever make enough contact. An optimist can point out that there aren’t many 19-year-olds who can stay in the dirt with the power for the 23 homers that Demeritte has hit.
11. Brett Phillips, cf/rf, Astros
Team: low Class A Quad Cities (Midwest)
Why He’s Here: .321/.406/.964 (9-for-28), 7 R, 2 2B, 5 HR, 4 BB, 9 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: More than any other sport, baseball is one for streaks with its relentless schedule. In Phillips’ case, he put together a notable home run streak this week, hitting a bomb in five straight games through Wednesday. What’s impressive is power had been one of Phillips’ biggest questions. He had gone homerless in his first two pro seasons but now leads the Midwest League with a .520 slugging percentage. His tick above-average speed has helped him pick up 12 triples as well.
12. Sam Travis, 1b, Red Sox
Team: short-season Lowell (New York-Penn)
Why He’s Here: .464/.500/.679 (13-for-28), 7 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 9 RBIs, 0 BB, 3 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: The Red Sox knew they were getting an advanced bat when they drafted the college junior in the second round. He out-homered No. 4 overall pick Kyle Schwarber at Indiana and has a steady approach. He’s an average defender, even at first base, so his carrying tool will have to be his bat, though he’ll have to hit more power to fit the corner-infield mold.
13. Miguel Castro, rhp, Blue Jays
Team: short-season Vancouver (Northwest)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.82, 11 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 13 SO, 5 BB
The Scoop: After giving up six runs in June 25 start, Castro has had seven consecutive starts where he’s gone at least five innings and given up no more than two runs. This week, the 6-foot-5 righty struck out 13 in 11 innings thanks to a three-pitch arsenal that includes a mid-90s sinking fastball, a changeup and a developing slider from his low three-quarters slot. Castro has been particularly effective against righties, holding them to a .196 average.
In The Team Photo
Franchy Cordero, ss, Padres: If you play in the shadows of Oregon’s Autzen Stadium, you’d better be capable of putting up some big offensive numbers. The 19-year-old Cordero did just that this week with short-season Eugene, putting together a .387/.387/.774 line with a double, a triple and three of the eight homers he’s hit this year. He’s loaded with tools for sure but was overmatched on both sides of the ball in an early stint with low Class A Fort Wayne.
Whit Merrifield, 2b, Royals: Merrifield has been crazy-hot at the plate lately at Triple-A Omaha, putting up a .407/.429/.519 line in 27 at-bats—though expect a drop in production going forward. The 2010 ninth-rounder has had the benefit of a career-high .434 average on balls in play, which is the highest mark in the Pacific Coast League for players with at least 200 plate appearances.
Trevor Mitsui, 1b, Missoula (Diamondbacks): Coming out of high school, Mitsui was a 12th-round pick who opted to go to Washington instead. Despite putting on power displays in batting practice, the 21-year-old never showed productive power in college. He hit six home runs in three seasons, which explains why he lasted to the 30th round this year. He’s still just as likely to hit to the opposite field as to pull, but he’s untapped more power as a pro. He already has 11 home runs in 41 pro games while continuing to hit for average.
Addison Russell, ss, Cubs: The Cubs struck early and landed the prize of the trade deadline by plucking Russell from the Athletics as part of the package for righties Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. At 20 years old in Double-A, Russell is off to a fine start, already stringing together a seven-game hitting streak that included five multi-hit games. Combine his offensive prowess with his defensive chops and you’ve got one of the best prospects in the game and yet another contender for the shortstop of the future in Wrigley.
Tyrone Taylor, cf, Brewers. Here’s an example of a talented player who might be in the process of taking that next step. Taylor went 11-for-24 (.458) with two extra-base hits, three walks and four stolen bases at high Class A Brevard County this week, but in the bigger picture the 20-year-old is trending upward in the second half, batting .343/.383/.476 with 13 extra-base hits and 11 steals in 36 games. He ranks first in the Florida State League with 43 extra-base hits.
Gleyber Torres, ss, Cubs: With a Triple-A lineup that sends Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Jorge Soler up back-to-back-to-back, and Addison Russell and Albert Almora at Double-A, it’s easy to forget that the Cubs signed the No. 1 and No. 2 prospects on the international amateur market last year. Torres, 17, ranked No. 2, and he’s lived up to every expectation so far. He’s hitting .280/.383/.400 as a one of the youngest players in the Rookie-level Arizona League, showing bat speed and a knowledge of the strike zone.
Nick Travieso, rhp, Reds: The 2012 first-rounder’s stuff took a step back across the board in 2013, but his numbers in his second year at low Class A Dayton are much more impressive. This week, the 6-foot-2 Travieso went 2-0 in 11 innings with just one unearned run allowed. He did walk more batters than he struck out in those starts (9-8), but on the season he is striking out 7.3 batters per nine innings and walking 2.6.
Abiatal Avelino, ss/dh, Yankees. Avelino had a rough go at the plate this week, going 1-for-19 with six strikeouts at low Class A Charleston. His struggles aren’t entirely indicative of the year he’s had. Avelino is batting .261 this season with a .656 OPS—good work for a 19-year-old everyday shortstop.
Sean Carley, rhp, Yankees. Is the former Kenny Powers lookalike (of course the Yankees made him shave) a latter-day Samson? With his hair went his effectiveness? In three innings at short-season Staten Island, Carley gave up 12 hits and 11 runs (eight earned), with seven of those runs coming in a one-third of an inning appearance. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Carley touched 94 mph early in the year and scouts see him as an effective strike-thrower, but that was not in evidence this week.
Matt Davidson, 3b, White Sox. Triple-A Charlotte’s third baseman hit safely in one of his 25 at-bats this past week, but at least it was an RBI single. If the .040 batting average wasn’t bad enough, he struck out in 40 percent of his at-bats since last Friday. Davidson, who saw time last season in the big leagues with the Diamondbacks, will fight in the coming weeks to get back above the Mendoza Line.
Michael Feliz, rhp, Astros. Feliz surrendered 15 hits and 13 earned runs in just five innings of work this week at low Class A Quad Cities. If you don’t have your calculator handy, that’s a 23.40 ERA. He struck out three but walked five and earned an 0-2 record. His ERA jumped up to 4.26 after the rough outings.
Ryan O’Hearn, 1b, Idaho Falls (Royals): Every morning when they wake up, Royals player development officials ask the question: How many hits did O’Hearn get this time? More often than not in July, the answer was two or more. The 21-year-old had multiple hits in 16 of 26 games last month. The club’s eighth-round pick this year out of Sam Houston State, O’Hearn has always had more hit than power, but he’s adjusting nicely to wood bats. After hitting 11 home runs in three seasons of college ball, he’s hit eight home runs in 35 pro games.