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. 17-23.
Contributing: Ben Badler, J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy, Jim Shonerd and interns Andrew Krause and Clint Longenecker.
|No. 1||JESSE BIDDLE, LHP||PHILLIES|
|Team: High Class A Clearwater (Florida State)
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.00, 2 GS, 14 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 21 SO
The Scoop: Phillies righthanders Trevor May and Brody Colvin have struggled to make the jump to Double-A this season, but Biddle has balanced that disappointment to some extent by becoming one of the more consistent lefty pitching prospects in the minors. He leads the Florida State League with 146 strikeouts, and if he can master Double-A next season he could vault into the top tier of pitching prospects.
|Jesse Biddle Player Card|
|No. 2||KYLE JENSEN, RF||MARLINS|
Team:Double A Jacksonville (Southern)
Why He’s Here: .400/.483/1.120 (10-for-25), 5 HR, 1 2B, 1 3B, 12 RBIs, 10 R, 4 BB, 8 SO
The Scoop: Jensen won high Class A Florida State League MVP honors last year, but the 24-year-old has found it hard to replicate that success in Double-A this season. Always susceptible to quality breaking balls, Jensen has struck out in an astounding 33 percent of his plate appearances this season. He recently has shown signs of busting out of his season-long malaise. Jensen has blasted eight home runs this month, including one in each of his past four games, en route to a season-best .262/.342/.677 batting line in August.
|Kyle Jensen Player Card|
|No. 3||J.O. BERRIOS, RHP||TWINS|
Team: Rookie-level Elizabethton (Appalachian)
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 1.80, 10 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 17 SO
The Scoop: Few players from the 2012 draft have dominated in their pro debuts quite like Berrios. A supplemental first-round pick (32nd overall) out of Puerto Rico in June, Berrios has a 1.17 ERA and a sterling 49-4 K-BB mark across 30 2/3 innings between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and the Appy League. While Berrios is filling up the zone with strikes, he’s also doing it with power, as he’s shown a fastball in the low- to mid-90s that has reached as high as 98 mph. It’s very early, but the Twins may have gotten a steal here.
|J.O. Berrios Player Card|
|No. 4||TREVOR BAUER, RHP||DIAMONDBACKS|
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 2.81, 16 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 1 HR, 21 SO, 2 BB
The Scoop: Not many would have predicted that Tyler Skaggs and Pat Corbin would be in the Diamondbacks rotation in August while Bauer toiled at Triple-A. But now that he’s recovered from the groin strain that curtailed his effectiveness in Phoenix, Bauer once again looks like a future frontline starter. He’s made three consecutive starts at home in Reno’s launching pad, logging 20 1/3 innings and allowing just 15 hits and six walks while striking out 27. Bauer won’t qualify for the Pacific Coast League ERA title, but it’s fun to speculate where his current 2.84 mark would wind up if he maintained his effectiveness over another six starts.
|Trevor Bauer Player Card|
|No. 5||MAIKEL FRANCO, 3B||PHILLIES|
Team:low Class A Lakewood (South Atlantic)
Why He’s Here: .464/.464/.857 (13-for-28) 5 R, 5 2B, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 0 BB, 3 SO
The Scoop: In his introduction to full-season ball, Franco’s .207/.269/.338 first-half line suggested he was slow to acclimate to the South Atlantic League. But Franco, who will turn 20 on Sunday, had four multi-hit games and swatted two home runs this week to continue his scorching second half (.335/.390/.537). The strong-bodied 6-foot-2, 190-pound third baseman is beginning to tap into his above-average raw power and has hit a team-leading 14 home runs and 29 doubles. With a plus arm, good quickness and soft hands, Franco has the defensive chops to remain at third despite well below-average straight-line speed.
|Maikel Franco Player Card|
|No. 6||CHRIS ARCHER, RHP||RAYS|
Team: Triple-A Durham (International)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.38, 2 GS, 13 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 14 SO, 4 BB
The Scoop: After an unimpressive first half, Archer has been one of the International League’s best hurlers since coming back from a two-start big league cameo in late June. He’s gone 3-1, 2.03 in nine starts since his return to Durham on July 2, posting the third best ERA in the IL over that span. He had his first hiccup in awhile on Aug. 12, giving up four runs in six innings, but he bounced back with a pair of quality starts this week, highlighted by his 6 1/3 shutout innings against Norfolk on Wednesday.
|Chris Archer Player
|No. 7||JEDD GYORKO, 3B||PADRES|
Team: Triple-A Tucson (Pacific Coast)
Why He’s Here: .391/.462/.913 (9-for-23), 4 HR, 6 RBIs, 5 R, 3 BB, 2 SO
The Scoop: Having played in the California and Pacific Coast leagues, Gyorko knows the value of putting the ball in play on a line—he’s hit .354 over 670 at-bats in those two leagues. The true revelation this season has been his sustained power surge as he’s moved up from Double-A to Triple-A. Even if you ding Gyorko for his PCL homers, he has a shot to hit 30 this season (he has 28), which would raise his power profile and put to bed the notion that he’s a second baseman. One way or another, the Padres will make room for him in 2013.
|Jedd Gyorko Player Card|
|No. 8||TRAYCE THOMPSON, CF||WHITE SOX|
Why He’s Here: .476/.593/.810 (10-for-21), 1 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBIs, 6 BB, 4 SO, 2-for-2 SB.
The Scoop: Some teams like to treat prospects like an index fund. Buy the stocks, check up on them every now and then, but in general, be patient and watch them slowly mature into a big league ballplayer. The White Sox aren’t ones to buy an index fund, they prefer day trading. They draft a prospect and then push him up the ladder as quickly as possible. When it works, like it has with Chris Sale, it pays off very handsomely. In other cases, we end up wondering what happened to Gordon Beckham.
Thompson is another player climbing the minor league ladder as if he’s on an express elevator. Not long after center fielder Jared Mitchell was promoted to Triple-A Charlotte, the White Sox bumped Thompson up to Birmingham to replace him, despite a .252 batting average, a .321 on-base percentage and strikeouts in 32 percent of his at-bats. (The promotion to Double-A also qualified him to play in the Arizona Fall League.) It’s not been long, but Thompson has handled the jump with no problems up to now. He’s hitting .382/.475/.647 in 10 games since his promotion, including an excellent showing this week.
|Trayce Thompson Player Card|
|No. 9||SHELBY MILLER, RHP||CARDINALS|
Team: Triple-A Memphis (Pacific Coast)
Why He’s Here: 0-1, 2.57 ERA, 7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 HR, 0 BB, 12 SO
The Scoop: Touted as one of the game’s elite pitching prospects, Miller reported to spring training with a thinned physique and reduced velocity. Disappointing results followed, as Miller posted a 6.17 first-half ERA and walked more than 11 percent of hitters. Around midseason, the Cardinals gave him a brief respite from pitching and made mechanical tweaks. Upon his return they instituted a rule forbidding him from shaking off the catcher’s sign. The results have been night and day. Miller’s 92-95 mph fastball velocity returned and his command sharpened. In 48 second-half innings, Miller has 3.21 ERA and a cartoonish 52-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Miller turned in arguably his strongest start of the season this week with 12 strikeouts and nary a walk on Tuesday.
|Shelby Miller Player Card|
|No. 10||DREW VETTLESON, RF||RAYS|
Team: low Class A Bowling Green (Midwest)
Why He’s Here: .464/.529/.750 (13-for-28), 2 HR, 2 2B, 8 RBIs, 8 R, 4 BB, 0 SO, 0-for-1 SB
The Scoop: With a 4-for-4 performance on Wednesday, Vettleson pulled into a three-way tie for most hits (136) in the Midwest League. He trails Beloit third baseman Miguel Sano by 12 total bases for the lead in that category—though he’s closed the gap considerably in the second half with 104 TB compared with Sano’s 102. The Rays have to be encouraged by Vettleson’s strong finish—he’s slammed nine of 14 homers since the all-star break—in light of his fade down the stretch last year in the Rookie-level Appalachian League.
|Drew Vettleson Player Card|
|No. 11||C.J. CRON, 1B||ANGELS|
Team: high Class A Inland Empire (California)
Why He’s Here: .367/.387/.800 (11-for-30), 3 HR, 4 2B, 7 RBIs, 5 R, 1 BB, 5 SO
The Scoop: Cron needed some time to catch up to the Cal League after opening his first full season there. He hit just .202/.250/.348 in April, but he’s been a consistent producer ever since. He’s hit .318/.350/.558 in 421 at-bats since the start of May and has logged a 1.103 OPS with seven homers so far in a blistering August. Cron’s 122 RBIs lead the minors by a sizable margin (his closest competition has 109), and his power has come as advertised—he’s tied for second in the Cal League with 26 homers for the year. About the only red flag on his season is that while he hasn’t had trouble making contact (just 69 strikeouts in 510 at-bats), he hasn’t been particularly patient either, drawing just 17 walks all year.
|C.J. Cron Player Card|
|No. 12||JUSTIN NICOLINO, LHP||BLUE JAYS|
Team: low Class A Lansing (Midwest League)
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.90 ERA, 10 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 11 SO
The Scoop: After being named the Northwest League’s top prospect last year, Nicolino’s success has carried over in 2012. He’s shown an astute feel for pitching by mixing in his low-90s fastball with a developing curveball and the Midwest League’s best changeup. The lefthander boasts the league’s third lowest walk rate (1.4 per nine innings) and third-best strikeout rate (8.8) for pitchers with 100 innings. He continued to carve this week, walking just three and striking out 11 in 10 innings to pick up his eight and ninth wins of the season.
|Justin Nicolino Player Card|
|No. 13||BILLY HAMILTON, SS||REDS|
Team: Double-A Pensacola (Southern)
Why He’s Here: .435/.567/.522 (10-for-23), 1 R, 1 3B, 3 RBIs, 7 BB, 5 SO, 7-for-11 SB
The Scoop: Hamilton gets plenty of attention for his wheels. He made history this week by breaking Vince Coleman’s minor league stolen-base record and even leads the Southern League with 44 stolen bases despite having been there for just 41 games. What doesn’t get enough attention is the improvement that Hamilton has made at the plate to be able to get on base and steal all those bags. With just two home runs this year, Hamilton’s power is at the bottom of the scale, but he’s done an outstanding job of making adjustments that best suit his skill set. He’s cut down on his strikeout rate, increased his walk rate and shown a better overall plan when he’s in the batter’s box. Hamilton has 45 more stolen bases in 2012 in 12 fewer games than he played in 2011, and it’s not because he’s getting any faster. It’s because he’s getting on base at a .419 clip this year compared to .340 a year ago, a testament to his growth as a hitter.
|Billy Hamilton Player Card|
Despite losing two seasons to Tommy John surgery and a setback in his recovery, Indians LHP Elvis Araujo shined in the Arizona League last season. This year the 20-year-old started off strong for low Class A Lake County but faltered in June and July, struggling with his command. This week the 6-foot-6 Venezuelan flashed his enormous potential, utilizing his mid-90s heat and sharp slider to go 1-0, 1.69 with 12 strikeouts and just three walks in 10 2/3 innings . . . A 2005 draftee, late-blooming corner outfielder Scott Van Slyke made his big league debut this season at age 26 but struggled mightily (.167/.196/.315) in 57 plate appearances with the Dodgers. After a demotion to Triple-A Albuquerque, he resumed his offensive assault on the Pacific Coast League, hitting .333/.481/.810 this week with three home runs and six walks . . . We’d like to see more strikeouts, but Rangers LHP Martin Perez has otherwise put together back-to-back outstanding starts for Triple-A Round Rock. After allowing one run in eight innings on Aug. 15, the 21-year-old pitched a complete game allowing only an unearned run on six hits against Oklahoma City on Monday. He whiffed just five, though, and has a meager 62 strikeouts in 114 Triple-A innings . . . Dodgers first-round pick Corey Seager keeps blazing through the Rookie-level Pioneer League. The 18-year-old shortstop’s latest exploits include three homers as part of a .360/.484/.880 (9-for-25) week. He had his second two-homer game of the year on Aug. 20, and all seven of his season’s homers have come in August, during which he’s hitting at a .367/.435/.747 clip . . . Astros RHP Jarred Cosart recorded scoreless outings in three of his final five Double-A starts to earn a promotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he held the opposition scoreless through seven innings this week. The 22-year-old struck out six, walked two and allowed just three hits over seven innings, proof that he’s recovered from the blister issues that sidelined him in July . . . The hottest hitter in baseball this month is Phillies Double-A Reading 1B Darin Ruf. He finished July having just topped his career high in home runs with No. 18. Since then, the 26-year-old has hit 15 home runs in his past 23 games, including four this past week . . . Reds RHP Daniel Corcino turns 22 on Sunday, and there’s a chance he may be in Cincinnati before his next birthday. Corcino allowed only one run in 11 innings over two starts this week, strikeout out 10 with just four hits, though he did walk seven. His ERA dropped to 3.06 through 138 1/3 innings for Double-A Pensacola.
BLAST FROM THE PAST
• Julio Borbon, cf, Rangers. Since hitting .276/.309/.340 in 438 at-bats for the American League-champion Rangers in 2010, Borbon has been cast aside in favor of David Murphy and Craig Gentry. As a result, the University of Tennessee product has spent the better part of the past two seasons with Triple-A Round Rock. The 2007 supplemental first-round pick hit .407/.484/.778 (11-for-27) this week and now boasts a career-high 10 home runs. Although he does not have as much upside as fellow Round Rock outfielder Leonys Martin, both are on the 40-man roster and figure to be September callups.
• Bobby Borchering, 3b, Astros. A trade from the Diamondbacks to the Astros brought more than just a change of scenery for Borchering. Arizona had shifted him to left field, but Houston has afforded him a chance to play his original position of third base. Regardless of position, Borchering’s offensive production has dropped off since his promotion to Double-A, and he’s hitting just .172/.248/.331 with Mobile and now Corpus Christi. The 21-year-old struggled to a .091/.200/.091 (2-for-22) line with 10 strikeouts this week.
• Dellin Betances, rhp, Yankees. Betances walked nearly as many (69) as he struck out (71) in 16 Triple-A starts and was demoted to Double-A Trenton in June, yet his disastrous season reached its nadir this week. The 24-year-old posted a 13.50 ERA in two starts, registering only one more out (24) than base runners allowed (23). On Thursday, the Yankees placed Betances on the disabled list with shoulder soreness.
• Travis Witherspoon, cf, Angels. Witherspoon made progress in the first half of the season, mastering the high Class A California League, but his showing in the Texas League indicates he’ll probably need more Double-A time next season. He went 3-for-28 (.107) with 10 strikeouts and four walks for Arkansas this week, and the 23-year-old has batted just .211/.268/.371 through 175 at-bats for the Travelers on the season.
• Boone Whiting, rhp, Cardinals: A shoulder injury has wiped out much of Whiting’s season, which explains why he’s back in low Class A Quad Cities after an excellent 2011 season there. He’s showing no signs of rust. In two outings this week, Whiting, 23, allowed one run in 12 innings, lowering his ERA in three Midwest League outings to 0.56. Whiting’s returning feel for his solid stuff means that this season will likely end before he’s ready for it to wrap up. While everyone else is battling the grind of their 130th game of the season, Whiting is just warming up.
• Anthony Santander, of, Indians: Indians shortstop Dorssys Paulino was the talk of the Arizona League after posting an OPS over 1.000 as a 17-year-old before getting the bump up to short-season Mahoning Valley. Yet Paulino isn’t the only standout from Cleveland’s 2011 international signing class. Santander, who signed for $385,000 last year out of Venezuela, is drawing attention with a handful of tools that grade out as at least average, a projectable (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) body and surprising success at the plate. While the Indians debated between sending Santander to the AZL or keeping him in the Dominican Summer League for his first pro season, the 17-year-old switch-hitter has hit a remarkable .311/.381/.500 with four home runs, 12 walks and 36 strikeouts in 148 at-bats in the AZL while splitting time between left and right field. Santander only began switch-hitting about a year before he signed, so scouts last year said his swing was more advanced from the right side, but he’s done most of his damage this year batting lefty. While teams knew about Santander last year and considered him a solid mid-range signing, he has outperformed players who got significantly bigger bonuses last year.