Prospect Hot Sheet: Aug. 13


See also: Last week’s Prospect Hot Sheet

It’s the middle of August, and so prospect season has officially begun. We’ll roll out our league top 20 prospects lists in the next month, and then the 2008 Prospect Handbook not too long after those hit the World Wide Web.

As it stands right now, players have less than a month to improve their stock across the minors to leave the front office with a good impression as clubs make decisions on critical roster spots for winter ball, not to mention to the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League and Hawaii Winter Baseball.

And while it seems like Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler is destined for Phoenix in October since he went down with a wrist injury, another speedy center fielder from N.C. might be as well.

Or maybe Cameron Maybin is too good for finishing school.

Remember, this is not a rewrite of our Top 100 prospects list. This is simply a snapshot of which prospects are currently riding the biggest hot streaks.

Remember also to mourn the 30th anniversary of the passing of Elvis Presley on Aug. 16. We miss you, King. Especially the Vegas years.

If you have any comments, feel free to e-mail Chris Kline with your kudos or complaints.

1. Cameron Maybin, of, Double-A Erie (Tigers)

After missing a month–and an opportunity to play in his second straight Futures Game–with a shoulder injury, Maybin got back to being Maybin, raking for both average and power.

After hitting .304/.393/.486 in 296 at-bats, the Tigers called Maybin up to Double-A, where he’s set the Eastern League on fire with home runs in each of his first three games for the Seawolves.

“He’s a game-changer with his speed,” says one American League scout, “but take that away and he can impact games with his bat, the power in his bat and his ability to punish you when you make a mistakes. The kid’s just got such great instincts and he never takes any time off. He’s all-out all the time.”

2. Ryan Royster, of, low Class A Columbus (Devil Rays)

Royster was selected by the Devil Rays in the sixth round of 2004, but is yet to make it past low Class A. However, his performance last week would rival anyone’s–regardless of prospect status. Royster hit .440 with six home runs and 13 RBIs. He had six straight games with a home run and is hitting .321/.369/.575 on the season with 24 home runs in 414 at-bats.

3. Josh Rodriguez, ss, high Class A Kinston (Indians)

The 22-year-old once considered among the best shortstops in the 2006 draft is starting to live up to his potential after a slow start to his first full professional season. Rodriguez’ turning point may end up being a two-homer, nine-RBI performance on Aug. 2. He’s hitting .318/.426/.886 with seven homers and 21 RBIs in August to improve to .254/.336/.453 overall. He hit a homer in four consecutive games from June 6-9.

“I told (Kinston manager Mike Sarbaugh) that Josh Rodriguez was going to be a better hitter than Wes Hodges,” Indians defensive coordinator Ted Kubiak said. “It’s still early so who knows, but it’s just taken him a little longer to get going . . . Defensively, he’s a little short going to his right side, but he’s getting better. The power is what’s surprising. It seems like he hits a home run every other day. You have to give him credit for sticking to his work after struggling for so long.”

4. Will Inman, rhp, Double-A San Antonio (Padres)

Dealing versus dealt: After dealing in the high Class A Florida State League, Inman went through some growing pains in Double-A. At Huntsville, the 2004 third-round pick went 1-5, 5.45 in 40 innings. After he was traded to the Padres in the Scott Linebrink deal, San Diego sent him to San Antonio, Inman has again found a comfort zone–in a much better hitter’s league than the Southern League. In 18 innings, Inman is 3-0, 1.96.

5. Nolan Reimold, of, Double-A Bowie (Orioles)

Reimold missed a huge chunk of the season battling oblique problems, but is having little trouble in his return to the EL from a stint in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Last week, Reimold batted .458 with a pair of homers and is now hitting .336/.374/.595 overall.

6. Ian Kennedy, rhp, Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Yankees)

The only question surrounding Kennedy at this point is when he will join fellow prospect Joba Chamberlain on the big league roster. Kennedy, who like Chamberlain began the season with high Class A Tampa (both also signed late and made their debuts in Hawaii Winter Baseball last October), limited Pawtucket to five hits over six innings while striking out nine in his third Triple-A start. Overall, Kennedy is 12-2, 1.75, with 148 strikeouts (fifth-best in the minors) in 129 innings.

7. Brandon Jones, of, Triple-A Richmond (Braves)

We love to throw guys on Hot Sheet who are performing well after a promotion, and Jones fits that bill this week. Over his last 27 at-bats, Jones hit .481 with a home run and six RBIs. No wonder he was one of only a handful of players Atlanta refused to part with at the trade deadline.

8. Taylor Teagarden, c, Double-A Frisco (Rangers)

Toss out any theory linking Teagarden’s success to the hitter-friendly Cal League, where he went .315/.448/.606 in 292 at-bats to start the season. The 23-year-old 2005 third-rounder out of Texas has continued raking in his first full pro season, going .386/.440/.591 in 44 at-bats–including a 12-for-22 stretch over his last six games. Teagarden’s offense was expected to lag behind his advanced defense but he has shown little problem adjusting after missing almost all of 2006 with elbow and back injuries.

9. Edinson Volquez, rhp, Triple-A Oklahoma (Rangers)

Volquez has always had the stuff, but his command has consistently eluded him–until recently. Since his promotion to Triple-A, Volquez has 39 strikeouts, 15 walks and a 2.03 ERA in 31 innings. In his last two starts, he’s compiled 18 strikeouts, four walks and just one earned run in 13 innings. Volquez has never had a problem striking out batters–130 in 121 Triple-A innings last year–but he also walked an alarming 72 hitters in the process. To get him to focus on his command, the Rangers had Volquez start his season all the way back in high Class A for the first month of the season before promoting him to Double-A Frisco, where Volquez spent two more months and finally showed improvement in his command. The two-level demotion is similar to the situation righthander Roy Halladay faced in 2001, when the Blue Jays sent Halladay to high Class A after a disastrous 2000 season in the major leagues. Halladay then went on to win the Cy Young in 2003. Halladay’s pitching coach at the time in Toronto, Mark Connor, also happens to be the current pitching coach in Texas.

10. Clay Buchholz, rhp, Triple-A Portland (Red Sox)

Might this week’s edition of the Hot Sheet be the last appearance for Clay Buchholz on this list? The Red Sox have a doubleheader Friday against the Angels, and it appears likely that Buchholz will be promoted to start one of those games. If he pitches as well in the major leagues as he has pitched all year in the minor leagues this year, Buchholz will likely remain in Boston for the rest of the year in some capacity, be it as a starter or a reliever. The righthander, who turns 23 Tuesday, has 27 strikeouts and just two walks in 18 2/3 August innings.

11. Mat Gamel, 3b, high Class A Brevard County (Brewers)

The 2005 fourth-round pick out Chipola (Fla.) JC has shown plenty of prowess at the plate–he strung together a 33-game hit streak earlier this season and used a four-homer week to improve his season totals to .308/.384/.488 with nine home runs and 54 RBIs. Defense, however, was another story. Gamel committed 40 errors over the first three months of the season, but appears to have settled down at the hot corner, committing just seven errors in his last 35 games.

12. James McDonald, rhp, Double-A Jacksonville (Dodgers)

Cruise control. McDonald is handling his first taste of the mound in Double-A with aplomb, allowing just four earned runs in 33 innings–and never more than one in any outing. Overall, the 22-year-old is 5-1, 1.10 with a 39-9 strikeout-walk ratio for the Suns.

13. Jair Jurrjens, rhp, Double-A Erie (Tigers)

After back-to-back 10-strikeout performances, Jurrjens only whiffed four in his last start. But that doesn’t really matter. He allowed a run on five hits over seven innings and is 2-0, 0.56 in August. Oh, and he’s starting Wednesday in the big leagues–in what should be another heated series against Cleveland.

14. Jonah Nickerson, rhp, low Class A West Michigan (Tigers)

Nickerson is continuing to improve on his rocky start, running his scoreless inning streak to 23. Last week he went seven innings, giving up three hits and striking out four. He also has won his last five decisions. He is 11-6, 3.65 on the season.

15. Bill Rowell, 3b, low Class A Delmarva (Orioles)

After spending some time in extended spring training, Rowell has been consistent for most of the 2007 season. Last week he went on a tear hitting .400/.400/.667 in 30 at-bats with 10 RBIs and eight runs scored. He is now hitting .287/.354/.444 in 275 at-bats.

16. Clayton Conner, 3b, short-season Yakima (Diamondbacks)

The Diamondbacks drafted Conner in the 45th round in 2006, then signed him as a draft-and-follow from Lurleen B. Wallace (Ala.) CC. The 20-year-old is making the most of his professional debut. Conner is hitting .364/.414/.642 on the year (a Northwest League-leading 1.057 OPS), and he has been even hotter in August, hitting .419/.406/.935, with four home runs in 36 plate appearances.

17. Mike Costanzo, 3b, Double-A Reading (Phillies)

We wore out Costanzo on our ‘Not-So Hot’ Sheet numerous times over the course of the year, and deservedly so. But look at the track record. Last August, the Phillies’ top pick in 2005 batted .327/.465/.525 with more walks than strikeouts. This August, things are shaping up for Costanzo to repeat that performance. So far this month, he’s hitting .357/.438/.667.

18. Brent Lillibridge, ss, Triple-A Richmond (Braves)

Lillibridge has begun to heat up after a slow adjustment to Triple-A, during which he hit .269/.315/.356 with just five extra-base hits in 104 at-bats. The 23-year-old improved to .309/.375/.511 in July and has been dialed-in in August, going .383/.420/.617 with two homers and 10 RBIs in 47 at-bats.

19. John Van Benschoten, rhp, Triple-A Indianapolis (Pirates)

Van Benschoten has gone through two brutal big league stints this season–once in June and again in July–only to come back to Triple-A and deal like nothing ever happened. His ability to put that 9.76 ERA in 28 innings behind him is enough to earn him a spot on the list, though going 2-0, 0.66 in his last two starts certainly doesn’t hurt.

20. Jose Martinez, ss, Double-A Springfield (Cardinals)

Martinez was one of our breakout candidates back in a March edition of Prospect Pulse, and while it’s taken the 21-year-old Venezuelan some time to get rolling after being promoted from high Class A Palm Beach in June, he’s proven to be a valuable commodity in the organization. After hitting .158 over his first eight games, Martinez is batting .391/.404/.696 in August–a month after he drove in 24 runs in July.

NOT-SO HOT

Blake Dewitt, 2b, Double-A Jacksonville (Dodgers)

Dewitt got off to a fast start when he was promoted to the Southern League, but is hitting just .138 this month with no RBIs.

Gregorio Petit, ss, Triple-A Sacramento (Athletics)

After hitting like crazy in the Texas League, Petit has cooled off since his promotion to Triple-A. He was ice-cold last week, hitting just .125 (3-for-24).

Chris Marrero, of, high Class A Potomac (Nationals)

Let’s not forget that this is Marrero’s first full pro season and that he is only 19 years old. And that he hit .293/.337/.545 with 14 homers in Sally League. However Marrero, after going .302/.375/.500 in July, seems to have hit the wall. He’s .176/.237/.412 in August and 4-for-31 over his past eight games.

Ben Harrison, of, high Class A Bakersfield (Rangers)

Harrison stayed healthy last season and the Rangers 17th-rated prospect hit 26 home runs and 101 RBIs between high Class A Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco. However he suffered a dislocated collarbone playing winter ball in Venezuela and didn’t take the field until May 31 and proceeded to hit .160 in 25 at-bats with Frisco before being demoted to Bakersfield. He’s yet to return to form, going .197/.290/.331 in 142 at-bats with the Blaze–including his current 4-for-42 slump.

Will Kline, rhp, low Class A Columbus (Devil Rays)

Royster’s power couldn’t come close to bailing out Kline last week. He threw six innings, giving up 12 earned runs. He struck out six and only walked one but also gave up three home runs in a two inning appearance. He is 0-3, 8.40 since making his debut on July 16.

HELIUM WATCH

Justin Snyder, ss, short-season Staten Island (Yankees)

Snyder ranked in our Top 200 prospects (No. 191 overall) for the 2007 draft, but the 5-foot-9 junior from San Diego fell all the way to the 21st round. Thus far, Snyder leads the New York-Penn League with a 1.036 OPS (.382/.482/.554). Snyder has played primarily at shortstop most recently in Staten Island, although he has also played at second base, center field and third base as a professional, and he profiles best at either second or center field in the majors.

Alejandro Sanabia, rhp, short-season Jamestown (Marlins)

A 32nd round pick in 2006, Sanabia is still only 18 years old, and he is posting impressive strikeout and walk rates in the New York Penn-League against older competition. Though his 5.80 ERA isn’t too appealing, Sanabia has 52 strikeouts and 15 walks in 45 innings. In his last two starts, the 6-foot-1, 165-pounder has pitched 11 innings with 15 strikeouts, three walks and a 1.64 ERA. Sanabia appeared in 11 games last year for the Gulf Coast League Marlins as a reliever, striking out 16 batters in 17 innings with seven walks and a 3.24 ERA. “He struggled early, but he’s gotten to be pretty solid,” Marlins vice president of player development and scouting Jim Fleming said. “He was a low-round draft pick who we thought could have a chance and he’s improving. His last start was very, very good.” Sanabia features a solid-average fastball that sits in the 87-91 mph range and tops out at 92. He also throws a slurvy breaking ball and has a feel for a changeup.

BLAST FROM THE PAST

Alan Mills, rhp, Double-A Erie (Tigers)

Anytime you see a 1966 birth date to go along with a 1.64 ERA–in the Eastern League–it makes for an intriguing situation to say the least. But the former Oriole reliever is attempting a comeback with Detroit and has compiled 18 saves 22 appearances for the Seawolves. To put things in perspective, Mills made his big league debut for Baltimore (April 14, 1990) two months after last week’s Hot Sheet No. 1, Mariners’ shortstop Carlos Triunfel, was born.

Pete LaForest, c, Triple-A Portland (Padres)

Pete LaForest’s run at the Pacific Coast League home run title will have to wait–he was promoted to the Padres on Saturday, but the long-time Triple-A catcher already holds a Pacific Coast League record. LaForest’s fifth grand slam of the season, part of a two home-run game on Aug. 8, was the most in a single season in PCL history. LaForest has slugged 29 home runs this season, but was hitting only .230 at the time of the promotion.

Fernando Tatis, 3b, Triple-A New Orleans (Mets)

Before Sandy Alomar was promoted to the big leagues your average New Orleans Zephyrs game looked like a step into a time machine with Alomar behind the plate and Tatis at third base. While Alomar has gotten promoted, Tatis keeps slugging away in Triple-A. He had a recent stretch of seven home runs in 12 games and is hitting .273/.356/.482 overall.

Minors | #2007 #Prospect Hot Sheet

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