Prospect Hot Sheet: Aug. 21


See also: Previous Prospect Hot Sheets


It’s late August, but prospects can still surprise us. If you’re not a Mets fan, you may not know much about Kirk Nieuwenhuis, but he made a very good case for No. 1 on this week’s Hot Sheet. Here he stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Brett Wallace.

Remember as always, this is not a re-ranking of our Top 100 Prospects list. Instead, it’s a snapshot of who are the hottest prospects in baseball right now, with stats taken from the past week of games (Aug. 14-20).

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

No. 1 BRETT WALLACE, 3B

ATHLETICS

Brett WallaceTeam: Triple-A Sacramento (Pacific Coast)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .419/.486/.935 (13-for-31), 5 HR, 1 2B, 9 RBIs, 9 R, 2 BB, 4 SO, 1-for-2 SB

The Scoop: Trading Wallace to the A’s for Matt Holliday could well be the move that propels the Cardinals to another World Series championship, but Wallace gave his old team a powerful reminder of what they gave up this week.

Wallace homered on consecutive nights against his old club, Memphis, where he’d played from early May through the trade in late July. He didn’t stop there, homering three more times over the next two nights in Nashville. Overall, Wallace has recorded base hits in 11 of his last 12 games and, in just his first full season as a pro, has shown his bat is already advanced enough to handle Triple-A. He’s batting .306/.361/.556 with seven home runs in 108 at-bats since the trade and .297/.351/.467 with 13 long balls for the season in the PCL.

2009 Stats
No. 2 KIRK NIEUWENHUIS, CF

METS

Kirk NieuwenhuisTeam: high Class A St. Lucie (Florida State)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .355/.444/1.000 (11-for-31), 5 HR, 3 2B, 1 3B, 13 RBIs, 8 R, 5 BB, 6 SO, 0-for-1 SB

The Scoop: Sorry Kirk, but we just blew the lid off your stealth campaign in the Florida State League. Only a five-homer showing by Brett Wallace in Triple-A stood in the way of a No. 1 ranking. Batting .259/.346/.441 with 15 homers, 27 doubles, 64 RBIs and 16 steals (in 20 attempts), Nieuwenhuis leads the FSL in home runs, extra-base hits (46) and runs scored (81). And he’s just four off the leaders for RBIs and doubles. Don’t be fooled by that age; the physical, lefty-swinging Nieuwenhuis celebrated a birthday two weeks ago and actually spent most of the season as a 21-year-old. An ’08 third-round pick, he skipped right over low Class A on his way from NAIA Azusa Pacific (Calif.) to the FSL this season. It’s hard to argue with the results.

2009 Stats
No. 3 SIMON CASTRO, RHP

PADRES

Simon CastroTeam: low Class A Fort Wayne (Midwest)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 9 SO, 1 HBP

The Scoop: Once Mat Latos accumulates 50 big league innings, the race for best Padres pitching prospect becomes a wide-open field. Castro has thrown his hat in the ring with his strong full-season debut. The 6-foot-5 Dominican threw a seven-inning no-hitter against Dayton on Tuesday, making up for his two previous starts, in which he allowed six runs in each. Castro’s nine strikeouts helped to pad his Midwest League-leading total of 142.

2009 Stats
No. 4 DANNY DUFFY, LHP

ROYALS

Danny DuffyTeam: high Class A Wilmington (Carolina)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: 0-0, 0.00, 9 IP, 1 H, 5 BB, 13 SO

The Scoop: Duffy’s breakthrough season took a detour when he left a late July start with back stiffness. He missed three weeks, but showed this week that his stuff didn’t disappear during the hiatus. On Thursday he threw five hitless innings and struck out six. Duffy’s home park in Wilmington is a great place for pitchers (just check out Mike Moustakas’ home-road splits), but Duffy has actually been more effective on the road. He’s gone 3-2, 3.88 at home and 5-1, 2.64 on the road.

2009 Stats
No. 5 ADRIAN CARDENAS, 2B

ATHLETICS

Adrian CardenasTeam: Triple-A Sacramento (Pacific Coast)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .517/.559/.724 (15-for-29), 1 HR, 3 2B, 3 RBIs, 8 R, 4 BB, 3 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: The A’s gave Cardenas a look at Triple-A back in May, but he was a bit overmatched, hitting only .177/.254/.258 in 62 at-bats. After a turn back at Double-A Midland, where he was hitting .326, the A’s moved Cardenas back to Sacramento on Aug. 2. He was ready this time. Cardenas is hitting .328/.400/.426 since the promotion and has collected four multi-hit games out of his past five. He hasn’t hit for much power yet in his career, but Cardenas’ 26 doubles were among the Texas League leaders when he was promoted, and some of those could turn into home runs as he continues to mature.

2009 Stats
No. 6 JEREMY HELLICKSON, RHP

RAYS

Jeremy HellicksonTeam: Triple-A Durham (International)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 2-0, 2.19, 12 1/3 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 17 SO

The Scoop: For as long as Hellickson’s been in the minor leagues, the question has always been: will his stuff get hitters out at higher levels? Well, in six Triple-A starts, Hellickson has a 3.31 ERA and a 39-12 K-BB mark in 35 1/3 innings, showing a fastball that sits at 90-91 mph, a much-improved changeup and a solid curveball. He won’t remind anyone of David Price, but his ability to locate his stuff is superior and he should be in line for big league action by 2010.

2009 Stats
No. 7 J.J. HOOVER, RHP

BRAVES

J.J. HooverTeam: low Class A Rome (South Atlantic)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 SO

The Scoop: All season long, Hoover has been one of the best pitchers in the South Atlantic League. His numbers have been stellar, as he’s averaging 9.9 strikeouts and 1.7 walks per nine innings with Rome, holding down a 3.21 ERA in 115 innings. He turned 22 last week, but his performance suggests that he could move quickly next year.

2009 Stats
No. 8 TYLER COLVIN, RF

CUBS

Tyler ColvinTeam: Double-A Tennessee (Southern)

Age: 23

Why He’s Here: .524/.583/1.000 (11-for-21), 2 3B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 3 BB, 1 SO

The Scoop: Tyler Colvin’s climb up the minor league ladder has been more of a camp-out. He arrived in Double-A in 2007, and two seasons later, he’s still there. He actually put up worse numbers in 2008 in his return to Double-A than he did in half a season there in 2007—though an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery played a part in his struggles.

His 2009 season hadn’t been much better, but this August he’s finally putting together an argument to get out of Tennessee. Colvin is hitting .381/.439/.698 to raise his batting average by 30 points. It won’t be enough to put him back on the fast track, but it should be enough to get him to Triple-A for the 2010 season.

2009 Stats
No. 9 MIKE TROUT, CF

ANGELS

Mike TroutTeam: Rookie-level AZL Angels

Age: 18

Why He’s Here: .360/.467/.480 (9-for-25), 1 2B, 1 3B, 5 R, 3 RBIs, 5 BB, 1 SO, 3-for-3 SB

The Scoop: Hitting? Strike-zone judgment? Speed? Plus defense in center field? Check, check, check and check. Trout, the 25th overall pick in June, has put his strongest attributes on full display in the AZL, where he’s batting .368/.432/.529 with 13 stolen bases in 14 attempts and a 17-to-24 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 33 games. And if a few of the players ahead of him fall back to earth, Trout even has a shot at the short-season batting title. He’s presently about 17 points off the lead maintained by fellow Angels farmhand Dillon Baird, a 21-year-old first baseman who’s hitting .385 for Orem.

2009 Stats
No. 10 JUAN FRANCISCO, 3B

REDS

Juan FranciscoTeam: Triple-A Louisville (International)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .435/.440/1.000 (10-for-23), 2 HR, 1 3B, 3 HR, 8 RBIs, 1 BB, 9 SO

The Scoop: He still strikes out in buckets and he doesn’t like to watch pitches. But it hasn’t seemed to matter for the recently-promoted Francisco. The lefty-hitter has as much power as anyone in the minors, and in August he’s been punishing pitchers in the Southern League, where he hit .404/.436/.712 in 13 games, and in the International League, where he’s hit three more home runs to go with his .435 average. Francisco has struck out in all six of his Triple-A games, and there’s still concerns about how his approach will play in the majors, but he has shown he can succeed at Double-A and Triple-A, when many swing-at-everything hitters flame out by Double-A.

2009 Stats
No. 11 DEOLIS GUERRA, RHP

TWINS

Deolis GuerraTeam: Double-A New Britain (Eastern)

Age: 20

Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.71, 12 2/3 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 15 SO

The Scoop: Guerra was roughed up in Akron on Aug. 8, giving up eight runs on eight hits in 3 1/3 innings, but he’s bounced back well. Six days after the Aeros hammered him, Guerra faced them again and threw six hitless innings, striking out nine. He beat lowly Binghamton in his next start Thursday night, allowing only one earned run over 6 2/3 innings. Guerra is still battling inconsistency with his command, but he’s shown he still has the stuff to be effective. His renaissance at Double-A has produced a 6-2 record, albeit with a 4.89 ERA, although that’s somewhat inflated by the Akron start.

2009 Stats
No. 12 BRETT LAWRIE, 2B BREWERS

Brett LawrieTeam: low Class A Wisconsin (Midwest)/Double-A Huntsville (Southern)

Age: 19

Why He’s Here: .417/.440/.750 (10-for-24), 2 HR, 2 2B, 5 RBIs, 7 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 1-for-2 SB

The Scoop: Lawrie showed steady improvement over his last three months in low Class A and was hitting an even .300/.333/.457 in 70 August at-bats. He’d homered twice in his last four games there and was up to 13 on the season, a solid total for a teenager in the challenging Midwest League. That was enough for the Brewers to decide to skip him over high Class A and promote him straight to Double-A, where he made his debut for Huntsville Tuesday. He’s gone 2-for-7 in his first two games with the Stars, but just getting that far is impressive enough for someone so young who’d never played a professional game before 2009.

2009 Stats
No. 13 RYAN KALISH, CF

RED SOX

Ryan KalishTeam: Double-A Portland (Eastern)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .400/.478/.850 (8-for-20), 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 7 RBIs, 4 R, 3 BB, 5 SO

The Scoop: Kalish started the season with high Class A Salem, but he quickly proved that he was too advanced for the Carolina League by batting .304/.434/.504 with 26 walks and 20 strikeouts in 32 games. In Double-A since mid-May, Kalish has adjusted well to the Eastern League after getting off to a slow start. After posting a .625 OPS in the EL before the all-star break, Kalish has hit .325/.403/.595 in 144 plate appearances since. He’s been impressive at the plate and on the basepaths, where on the season he has 20 steals in 26 tries.

2009 Stats

IN THE TEAM PHOTO

A lot of intelligent prospect watchers haven’t really noticed Idaho Falls LHP John Lamb yet, but the 19-year-old lefty will challenge for a spot in the Royals Top 10 Prospects list during the offseason. At his best, Lamb’s pitchability and solid stuff is simply too good for Rookie-level Pioneer League hitters, which he showed on Sunday when he struck out 10 Great Falls Voyagers, while allowing three hits and one walk in seven innings . . . Northwest Arkansas CF David Lough (Royals) had an outstanding first half of the season at high Class A Wilmington, but it was actually better than it appeared because his home park sapped his numbers (he hit .331/.393/.529 on the road compared to .307/.343/.406 at home). Having been freed from Frawley Stadium, Lough has actually been better in Double-A, hitting .341/.386/.555 overall and .360/.407.720 with two home runs in the past week. Lough is an excellent athlete who played college football. While he doesn’t run as well as the rest of the Royals’ fleet of speedy center field prospects, he’s easily the best hitter among the group, which explains why he’s worth keeping an eye on . . . Taken with the pick right before Mike Trout, Randal Grichuk (Angels) has teamed with Trout in the same Rookie-level AZL Angels outfield. The two 18-year-old prep products get the job done with different styles. Trout plays center, runs and hits for average. Grichuk is limited to left field and doesn’t control the strike zone at present (7 walks, 56 strikeouts), but he can hit the ball a mile (his 26 extra-base hits rank second in AZL). He batted .400/.370/.920 (10-for-25) this week with three bombs, two triples, nine RBIs—and a 0-to-5 walk-to-strikeout ratio . . . The hitting environment at high Class A High Desert makes its batters practically slump proof. Still, even in his worst month (June), 3B Alex Liddi (Mariners) compiled a .966 OPS. That’s impressive for a 21-year-old coming off a couple so-so campaigns in the Midwest League. This week he batted .500/.619/.563 (8-for-16) with a double, five runs, two RBIs and a 4-to-1 walk-to-strikeout ratio . . . Since returning from the disabled list, Double-A Trenton RHP Zach McAllister (Yankees) has allowed just two runs in three starts, spanning 13 2/3 innings. In that time, the 21-year-old has allowed just 10 hits and one walk, so clearly his command was not affected by the layoff brought on by shoulder fatigue. In fact, McAllister, the Eastern League’s ERA leader at 2.13, turned in one of his most dominating starts of the season Wednesday, when he struck out 11 Erie batters and allowed only one run over 4 2/3 innings . . . A change of scenery looks like it did Triple-A Reno LF Cole Gillespie (Diamondbacks) a lot of good. Gillespie arrived from the Brewers in a July 19 deal for Felipe Lopez and has hit .310/.413/.517 since. This week, Gillespie, 25, turned in five consecutive multi-hit games as part of a .526/.591/1.000 (10-for-19) week, with two home runs and 10 RBIs . . . By his lofty standards, Double-A Midland 1B Chris Carter (Athletics) had a quiet week. The heavy-hitting 22-year-old batted .400/.464/.600 (10-for-25) with a homer and five RBIs. He’s also registered four straight multi-hit games

NOT-SO HOT SHEET

Josh Reddick, of, Red Sox: The 22-year-old Reddick was called up to the big leagues in late July after hitting .277/.352/.520 with 17 doubles and 13 home runs for Double-A Portland. Two days after his promotion, Reddick found himself as the starting left fielder for Boston. In his first three starts for the Red Sox, Reddick did his best Jason Bay impersonation, going 5-for-15 with three doubles and a home run. Then, over his next 15 at-bats, Reddick collected just one hit as Bay himself returned to the lineup. Consequently, Reddick was sent down to Triple-A Pawtucket. Hitting in the leadoff spot last week for the PawSox, Reddick went 3-for-25 with one extra-base hit. Though Reddick has struggled of late, his two-week callup served as a nice audition for 2010—and Bay can opt for free agency this November.

Jason Heyward, rf, and Freddie Freeman, 1b, Braves: They might be the best tandem of hitters in the minors, but “Salt and Pepper,” as they’re known, both hit a bit of a bump in the road this week with Double-A Mississippi. Heyward, 20, hit only .130/.259/.261 (3-for-23), though he still managed to hit a home run Tuesday against Mobile. Meanwhile, Freeman, 19, struggled to a .150/.190/.150 (3-for-20) week. Everyone is entitled to a rough week once in awhile, and these two shouldn’t be down too long.

John Tolisano, 2b, Blue Jays: Two years ago, the Blue Jays spent three of their top six draft picks on high schoolers, taking Kevin Ahrens in the first round before grabbing Tolisano and Justin Jackson in the supplemental first round. All three have struggled mightily as pros, to the point where their future appears considerably more dim than it did in June ’07. Ahrens and Jackson each have an OPS below .600 in the high Class A Florida State League, while their teammate Tolisano paces the class with a meager .235/.305/.396 line in 96 games for Dunedin. This week Tolisano managed just two hits—both singles—and a walk in 22 trips to the plate.

Dexter Carter, rhp, Padres: If it were up to Carter, he’d probably want to go back to the South Atlantic League. Carter wowed with a line of 6-2, 3.13 for Kannapolis, which was even more impressive considering he posted 143 strikeouts and just 32 walks in 118 innings. But since being traded to the Padres in the Jake Peavy deal, the 22-year-old has gone 1-2, 9.98, allowing 21 hits and 9 walks in 15 1/3 innings pitched for low Class A Fort Wayne. And Thursday night was Carter’s worst outing yet. The 6-foot-6, 195-pound Carter allowed eight runs on six hits while walking one and hitting two batters . . . all in one-third of an inning. On the bright side, SAL managers voted Carter as having the league’s best breaking pitch.

MEN AMONG BOYS

Playing time is a scarce resource in Major League Baseball, and a missed opportunity can set back a prospect’s timetable significantly. It looked like 3B David Freese, 26, would finally get his chance at the big leagues this season, but Freese had just 19 at-bats for St. Louis before arthroscopic surgery on hs left ankle kept him away from the field for two months. Freese is back in Triple-A Memphis now, where he hit .350/.350/.900 over the last seven days, going 7-for-20 with three home runs and two doubles. He’s not the most patient hitter, but he provides good glovework at third base and is hitting .287/.340/.485 on the year in 38 games with the Redbirds.

BLAST FROM THE PAST

Unlike most Blast From The Past honorees, Las Vegas RF Travis Snider still has a very bright future. Still only 21, Snider already has spent parts of two seasons in the big leagues, but he responded well to his demotion to Triple-A Las Vegas, a blip on the radar that eventually earned him a return trip to the big leagues this week. Snider hit .448 with 7 homers and 15 RBIs in 15 games with the 51s this month before the promotion, and after slugging .663 in 48 Triple-A games, there’s little reason to think he’ll be back in Las Vegas anytime soon.

HELIUM WATCH

Melky Mesa, of, Yankees: Besides having the coolest first name in the league—Melquisedec—Mesa has gained rave reviews from South Atlantic League managers. Said Charleston manager Torre Tyson: “Everybody always talks about him. He’s a complete tool package. He impresses everybody with everything he does. He’s the most fun guy to watch in the league.” Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2003 as a raw 16-year-old, Mesa spent four combined years in the DSL and GCL before playing 46 games in the New York-Penn League last year.

Now playing in his first full-season league, Mesa has hit an unimpressive .231. Delve a little deeper into the numbers, though, and Mesa’s .458 slugging percentage is remarkable. Exactly half of Mesa’s 98 hits—22 doubles, seven triples and 20 home runs—have gone for extra bases. With such power numbers, Tyson added that teams are “pitching Melky like he’s Barry Bonds, not giving him much to hit.” Despite a wiry 6-foot-1, 165-pound frame, Mesa generates great bat speed from his strong forearms, wrists and hands, yielding tremendous raw power. Mesa’s biggest problem has been the strikeout. He’s whiffed 140 times in 114 games, but just 15 of those have come in August. Last week, Mesa went 4-for-13 with a triple and five stolen bases, upping his season total to 15 swiped bags and showcasing plus speed. He also flashes a strong arm that one manager said grades out as a 70 on the scouting scale. For his current four-tool package, and potential five-tool value, Mesa has earned comparisons with Alfonso Soriano, another Dominican who traveled through the Yankees system.

Eury Perez, cf, Nationals: Think the Nationals don’t have Latin American prospects? Well, you’re mostly right, but Perez could be a hidden gem in the system. Perez, 19, was one of the top prospects last year in the Dominican Summer League and has carried his success over to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, where he currently has an 18-game hitting streak. In 38 games, Perez is hitting .369/.440/.456 with nearly as many walks (14) as strikeouts (17). At 6-foot, 180 pounds, Perez’s power is below-average, but he has a good feel for hitting and for the strike zone. His above-average speed is also a weapon in center field and on the bases, where he has 13 steals in 20 attempts.

Minors | #2009 #Prospect Hot Sheet

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