The Prospect Hot Sheet 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 Aug. 3-9.
Contributing: Ben Badler, J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy, Jim Shonerd and interns Andrew Krause, Clint Longenecker and Pat Hickey.
|No. 1||MANNY MACHADO, SS||ORIOLES|
|Team: Double-A Bowie (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: .500/.577/1.045 (11-for-22), 2 HR, 2 3B, 2 2B, 5 RBIs, 9 R, 4 BB, 1 SO
The Scoop: Not reflected in the line above is Machado’s big league debut for Baltimore yesterday in which he went 2-for-4 with a triple and made his first career start at third base. Despite Machado’s recent burst of productivity—he’s batting .275/.365/.505 with 11 extra-base hits and 11 walks in 25 games since the Eastern League all-star game—he doesn’t have a long track record of success in the high minors on which to draw. Still, the Orioles determined his bat to be at least as potent, and his defensive play more consistent, than big league incumbent Wilson Betemit.
Ordinarily, calling up a top prospect as young as Machado would symbolize an act of sheer desperation. The Orioles, though, need look no further than the Nationals, their Beltway rivals, and the impact made by 19-year-old Bryce Harper to find positive reinforcement for their strategy. EL managers raved about Machado’s maturity and talent, voting him the league’s Most Exciting Player in our annual Best Tools survey (subscribers only). “He can beat you in five different ways,” said one league manager, “with the glove, the arm, the bat—both with line drives and power—and this is a very difficult league for a young man to compete in.”
Improbably, Baltimore clings to one of the American League wild cards with 50 games to go, but they must outpace the Athletics, Tigers, Rays, Angels and possibly Red Sox to make the playoffs for the first time since 1997. Can Machado help swing the balance in their favor? Stay tuned.
Incidentally, we may reflect on the 2012 rookie class as one of the greatest in history if Machado, Harper and Mike Trout fulfill their considerable promise.
|Manny Machado Player Card|
|No. 2||AARON HICKS, CF||TWINS|
Team:Double-A New Britain (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: .423/.515/.846 (11-for-26), 3 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 9 R, 7 RBIs, 6 BB, 3 SO
The Scoop: After another strong week in which Hicks drilled six extra-base hits—including two home runs—and walked twice as often as he struck out, the 2012 season has served as Hicks’ much-needed breakout. He has set career highs in nearly every offensive category, including home runs (12) and stolen bases (27) while batting .282/.380/.462. His second-half showing (.302/.424/.509) offers hope that the 22-year-old will reach the potential that made him a 2008 first-round pick.
|Aaron Hicks Player Card|
|No. 3||XANDER BOGAERTS, SS||RED SOX|
Team: high Class A Salem (Carolina)/Double-A Portland (Eastern)
The Scoop: As one elite shortstop leaves the Eastern League, another one joins it. On the same day that the Orioles’ Manny Machado made his big league debut, Bogaerts made his EL debut, going 2-for-5 with a home run. Bogaerts doesn’t have nearly as much chance to stick at shortstop as Machado does, but he could be every bit the hitter—if not even a little better. After batting .301/.376/.505 for Salem, Bogaerts has reinforced his preseason scouting report as one of the best young power prospects in the game. He’s also shown an improved ability to get on base this season and an ability to go the opposite way when a pitcher tries to stay away from his power.
|Xander Bogaerts Player Card|
|No. 4||TYLER SKAGGS, LHP||DIAMONDBACKS|
Why He’s Here: 2 GS, 1-0, 13 IP, 1 R, 5 H, 4 BB, 15 SO
The Scoop: Since allowing 12 hits and five runs in his first Triple-A start on July 1, Skaggs has not allowed more than one earned run in any of his seven starts for Reno. Last Friday he turned in a dominating seven-inning performance against Omaha, outdueling Royals prospect Jake Odorizzi and striking out phenom Wil Myers twice. He followed that performance with six strong innings against Iowa on Wednesday. Long praised for an outstanding 12-to-6 curveball, Skaggs has continued to make hitters look foolish by striking out 41 in 47 2/3 Triple-A innings, including 25 in his last 20 frames.
|Tyler Skaggs Player Card|
|No. 5||MIKE KICKHAM, LHP||GIANTS|
Team:Double-A Richmond (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 SO
The Scoop: Back-to-back brilliant outings by Kickham have highlighted an impressive bounceback following the Eastern League all-star break. Six days after firing 8 1/3 shutout innings with 12 punchouts, Kickham issued just two walks in seven no-hit innings on Wednesday night, retiring 18 straight at one point. The 6-foot-4 lefty out of Missouri State has been much more efficient in the second half, cutting his walk rate in half while still possessing swing-and-miss stuff with a true four-pitch mix. Kickham works off a 91-94 mph fastball and a plus slider that features good sweeping action.
|Mike Kickham Player Card|
|No. 6||STARLING PERALTA, RHP||CUBS|
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.29, 7 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 BB, 14 SO
The Scoop: It took Peralta three years in the Dominican Summer League to show the Cubs enough to earn a visa to the States. It’s taken him another two years to establish himself as a legitimate prospect, but these days Peralta has proven he’s one to keep an eye on. He’s still somewhat inconsistent, but what was once an 89-92 mph fastball is now a 92-94 heater that tops out near 96. His slider comes and goes, but on days like Tuesday it’s a plus pitch. Clinton sure couldn’t hit it, and Peralta put together one of the biggest strikeout nights (14) we’ve seen this year. His previous career high was eight.
|Starling Peralta Player
|No. 7||KYLE SMITH, RHP||ROYALS|
Team: low Class A Kane County (Midwest)
Why He’s Here: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 12 Ks.
The Scoop: When the Royals drafted Smith in the fourth round back in 2011, they knew they were getting a smart, athletic righty whose feel for pitching would, they hoped, alleviate any concerns about his small stature. In the Midwest League, that has most definitely been the case. Smith, whose fastball sits at 90-92 mph but will touch 95, set a new career high for strikeouts this week with 12 in seven scoreless innings against Cedar Rapids. He’d previously fanned 11 in his pro debut with short-season Idaho Falls this June. Smith has allowed more than two runs just twice in nine pro starts and 45 innings, and his 13 walks and 65 strikeouts are a pretty good sign that the feel that made him standout as a Florida high schooler has followed him to pro ball.
|Kyle Smith Player Card|
|No. 8||JOE PANIK, SS||GIANTS|
Team: high Class A San Jose (California)
Why He’s Here: .519/.567/.926 (14-for-27), 2 HR, 3 2B, 1 3B, 12 R, 9 RBIs, 2 BB, 2 SO
The Scoop: Even by Cal League standards, San Jose’s entire lineup had an amazing week. The Giants scored in double-digits in five straight games from Aug. 3-8. Panik was in the middle of all of it, batting second in the order and scoring at least one run in six straight games. He’s also working on a 15-game hitting streak and owns a .344/.415/.478 slash line in the second half. Panik is best known for his smooth stroke at the plate, but the 2011 first-rounder has impressed in the field as well. His arm strength continues to be a question, but he leads Cal League shortstops with a .972 fielding percentage, has made just two errors since July 1 and was voted the circuit’s best defensive shortstop in our Best Tools survey of league managers.
|Joe Panik Player Card|
|No. 9||DAVID HOLMBERG, LHP||DIAMONDBACKS|
Team: Double-A Mobile (Southern)
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 0.00, 1 GS, 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 7 SO, 3 BB
The Scoop: Holmberg has had his ups and downs with Mobile, but that’s to be expected given his youth. He deserves credit for getting to Double-A in June, just before his 21st birthday. After running up a 4.63 ERA through his first nine Southern League starts, Holmberg hasn’t allowed a run in his last two outings and matched his longest start of the year on Tuesday against Birmingham. Holmberg didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning, and all three hits he allowed were singles. Holmberg has pulled out of a stretch in which he game up 13 earned runs over three starts, but his biggest obstacle to success has been combating righthanders, who are hitting .301/.336/.416 off him in Double-A.
|David Holmberg Player Card|
|No. 10||ADAM WARREN, RHP||ORIOLES|
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 1.13, 8 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 HR, 9 SO, 2 BB
The Scoop: Few International League pitchers work deeper into starts than Warren, who’s averaging 25.5 batters per game to rank fourth among qualifiers. While he lacks a put-away pitch, he sits in the low 90s and backs it up with solid secondary stuff, meaning his second-half success in Triple-A—2.63 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 29-8 K-BB ratio in six starts—ought to translate into a perfectly capable No. 4 starter in the big leagues. Warren’s nine-strikeout effort versus Rochester this week was his finest stat of the season.
|Adam Warren Player Card|
|No. 11||DAVID DAHL, CF||ROCKIES|
Team: Rookie-level Grand Junction (Pioneer)
Why He’s Here: .424/.457/1.215 (14-for-33), 1 HR, 2 3B, 4 2B, 8 RBIs, 11 R, 2 BB, 5 SO, 0-for-1 SB
The Scoop: The Pioneer League offers a wonderful environment for hitters, but typically the circuit’s top power threat isn’t a fresh-out-of-high-school 18-year-old making his pro debut. Usually, the league’s top slugger hails from the college ranks—think Paul Goldschmidt in 2009, Brandon Decker in 2010 or O’Koyea Dickson last year. Dahl, the 10th overall pick in June, is changing that perception one extra-base hit at a time. He ranks first in that department (with 26) while sitting second in average and slugging with a line of .380/.424/.615 through 187 at-bats. Dahl has hit .401 (55-for-137) versus Pioneer League righties while hitting .436 in 24 home games.
|David Dahl Player Card|
|No. 12||DAN VOGELBACH, 1B||CUBS|
Team: short-season Boise (Northwest)
Why He’s Here: .333/.429/1.000 (8-for-24), 6 R, 5 HR, 9 RBI, 4 BB, 7 SO
The Scoop: Scouts said Vogelbach’s bat would have to carry him, and so far it has—and in a big way. The ultra-stout Vogelbach went deep in four straight games, including a pair of solo blasts last night against Everett to run his yearly total to 13 in just 39 games. (Note that he spent his first 24 games in the Rookie-level Arizona League.) He also has 32 extra-base hits in 161 at-bats this year, good for a rate of one every five at-bats. Possessing plus-plus raw power to all fields, Vogelbach has shred 30 pounds since high school and has proven he’s ready to handle full-season ball next year.
|Dan Vogelbach Player Card|
|No. 13||RAFAEL MONTERO, RHP||METS|
Team: high Class A St. Lucie (Florida State)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 7 2/3 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 3 BB, 5 SO
The Scoop: Montero put together a solid first half with low Class A Savannah, but he has flourished with St. Lucie since being promoted in late June. The 21-year-old Dominican has limited Florida State League hitters to a .196 average while striking out 56 in 50 innings. After fanning 14 in six innings last week, Montero held Palm Beach hitless over his 7 2/3 shutout innings on Tuesday night. After yet another dominating performance, the righthander has now registered seven quality starts in just eight appearances at the level.
|Rafael Montero Player Card|
The Dodgers started high school 3B Corey Seager in the Pioneer League rather than with their complex-based Arizona League team, and the 18-year-old first-rounder has made it look like the right call. He hit .433/.469/.800 (13-for-30) for Rookie-level Ogden this week, belting the first three homers of his pro career—along with his first career triple—and driving in nine runs. Through 116 at-bats he’s hitting .293/.362/.422 . . . Admittedly, Royals LHP Sam Selman is more experienced than some of the batters he’s facing in the Pioneer League, but the Idaho Falls lefty has shown none of the control problems that dogged him at times in college, and he’s missing plenty of bats. He notched strikeouts for 11 of the 15 outs he recorded on Tuesday night, and he hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last 15 innings . . . Everyone wants to talk about Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and Luis Heredia, but don’t sleep on Pirates 24-year-old LHP Jeff Locke. With 7 1/3 shutout innings on Friday, Locke lowered his ERA to 2.66 in 125 innings for Triple-A Indianapolis, then got called up to Pittsburgh for the stretch run. Locke looks like a solid bet to be at least a back-end starter, but there could be even more in there . . . Mariners C Mike Zunino smacked two homers for short-season Everett this week to pull into a three-way tie (with eight) for the Northwest League lead. The third overall pick in June, he went 11-for-28 (.393) with a pair of doubles, four walks and 12 RBIs to push his pro batting line to .347/.440/.673 through 98 at-bats . . . After a blistering performance in the Arizona Fall League, Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado had a solid, albeit pedestrian first half, hitting .293/.349/.428. The 21-year-old struggled mightily in July, hitting just .165, but this past week Arenado rediscovered his form, going 13-for-26 with a homer and six doubles to raise his season line to .276/.337/.417 . . . Though he’s in his third full pro season, Yankees CF Slade Heathcott has been plagued with shoulder injuries that have limited his playing time. He has made more consistent contact this season with high Class A Tampa, and as a result the 2009 first-rounder has quietly put hit .300/.377/.521 in a tough Florida State League context. Heathcott went 12-for-23 with two home runs this week . . . Giants 3B Adam Duvall clubbed home runs in five straight games and went deep six times in all while going 10-for-29 with 18 RBIs and nine runs scored for high Class A San Jose. Four of his six homers came at Inland Empire, a park that suppresses home run output relative to other Cal League locales. The 23-year-old Duvall has hit 14 round-trippers since the all-star break to forcefully capture the league lead with 26. Despite the recent barrage he’s batting a pedestrian .258/.326/.487 on the season.
BLAST FROM THE PAST
• Like any rational adult, Mitch Maier would rather be in the majors than where he is now back in Triple-A. But there is one benefit for the Royals outfielder. In Kansas City, Maier was super-glued to the bench—he had nine at-bats during the entire month of June. Now at least he gets to play regularly for Omaha, and he’s showing once again that he can hit a little by batting .467/.526/1.000 this month. The 30-year-old has a chance to be a fourth outfielder in the majors once again if he can keep this up and earn his way back onto the Royals’ 40-man roster. If not, minor league free agency could bring greener pastures.
• Deck McGuire, rhp, Blue Jays: When you draft a college arm in the first round, you always have to wonder how well the pitcher will respond to pitching every five days instead of once a week. In McGuire’s case, the answer has not been encouraging. Never a flamethrower, McGuire in college dominated with a 90-92 mph fastball that touched 94. Now he’s more consistently 86-89, touching 92. His slider is still a solid pitch, but without a fastball that can strike fear in hitters’ hearts, McGuire has had a lot of trouble missing bats this year with Double-A New Hampshire. That was true again this week when he allowed 19 hits and 12 earned runs in 10 innings. He also gave up two more home runs, giving him 19 for the season.
• George Springer, cf, Astros: The Astros gave the 22-year-old Springer a bump to Double-A Corpus Christi this week, but he didn’t exactly go in riding a wave of momentum. Springer was just 3-for-24 with 10 strikeouts in his last five games for high Class A Lancaster. He made his Double-A debut Thursday as a pinch-hitter and popped out in his only at-bat. Despite his loud tools, contact continues to be a concern for Springer. He left the Cal League tied for third in strikeouts with 131 in 433 at-bats.
• J.R. Bradley, rhp, Diamondbacks: In two starts for low Class A South Bend, the 20-year-old Bradley gave up 13 runs while recording just 10 outs. Sixteen hitters reached base, and Bradley failed to strike out a hitter. With the highest ERA (6.21) and lowest strikeout rate (3.86 per nine innings) in the league, Bradley’s second spin in the Midwest League has gone much worse than his first.
• Yasiel Puig, of, Dodgers: When the Dodgers gave Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig a seven-year, $42 million contract shortly before July 2, other teams were wondering what the Dodgers could possibly be thinking. It wasn’t that Puig was a bad player, but the process and thinking behind the deal didn’t seem to make much sense. How could a player who hasn’t played or even been scouted against live pitching in more than a year be worth more money than Yoenis Cespedes, who was arguably the premier player in Cuba and just entering his prime years? The 21-year-old Puig has a long way to go to justify the Dodgers’ decision, but he’s off to an auspicious start. In his first nine games in the Rookie-level Arizona League, Puig already has four home runs and three triples in his first nine games, good for a pretty .400/.500/1.000 slash line with six walks and seven strikeouts.
• Nick Sawyer, rhp, Rays: The Rays are masters at taking a raw pitcher with a great arm and turning him into something. Just ask 2007 eighth-round pick Matt Moore. There’s no reason to compare Sawyer, a 40th-round pick this year, to Moore yet, but the hard-throwing, short righthander has dominated in his short pro career.
A three-time draftee who spurned the Reds (37th round) out of high school and Rangers (29th round) after his first year at Howard (Texas) JC, Sawyer decided to sign with Tampa Bay this year and quickly earned a ticket to Rookie-level Princeton. He has used his 93-96 mph fastball for electric results, and coming out of the pen he has allowed five hits in 21 innings while striking out 38. He’s allowed one hit in his last 15 innings, while striking out 30. And it’s not just his fastball that has baffled hitters.
“He threw some breaking balls with some bite,” Rays pitching coordinator Dick Bosman said after watching Sawyer’s four innings on Wednesday. “There’s a lot to work with there.”
Control was the big question about Sawyer coming out of Howard JC. He has walked 3.3 batters per nine innings in the Appalachian League, but then many hitters will chase a pitch out of the zone at that level, so check back in a year.