Prospect Hot Sheet: Aug. 27


See also: Previous Prospect Hot Sheet

We don’™t usually spent too much time on rehab assignments here at the Baseball America Worldwide Headquarters, but Chase Utley’™s recent rehab at Double-A Reading was certainly interesting from the start.

Facing Akron lefthander Shawn Nottingham, Utley was greeted with a 91 mph fastball up and in around his hands, sending a message–not only a “Welcome back, Chase,” but also as a sort of retribution.

Rehabbing Phillies righthander Adam Eaton hit Akron center fielder Trevor Crowe to start the game, making the buzzing of Utley’™s tower inevitable.
And the approach worked, as Utley went 1-for-10 over three games.

“You had to see that coming, but I thought they’™d go after (Reading third baseman Mike) Costanzo,” a scout from an American League club said. “After (Eaton) hit Crowe, somebody was going down. I just didn’™t think it’™d be the big leaguer.”

Elsewhere across the minors, Brewers outfielder Stephen Chapman deserves some props. The 21-year-old fourth-round pick of the Brewers in 2004 set a low Class A West Virginia record with his 23rd home run, and has batted .412 over his last 10 games.

Strikeouts remain the bugaboo for Chapman, however. The outfielder has whiffed 132 times in 435 at-bats.

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.

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

Oh, and just so you know, we have one more Hot Sheet to go–unless BA associate editor Matt Eddy gets his wish and we keep going through the minor league playoffs and winter ball.

But signs point to no on that johnson.

1. Carlos Carrasco, rhp, Double-A Reading (Phillies)

Carrasco wasn’™t exactly lighting it up in Double-A since being promoted there in late June. The 20-year-old Venezuelan had as many walks as strikeouts in July (21) and allowed 15 earned runs on 28 hits in 29 innings’”including five homers.

But Carrasco suddenly found a comfort zone, throwing a rain-shortened six-inning no-hitter Aug. 21st with a rehabbing Rod Barajas behind the plate and was just as good, if not better, Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Squaring off against Futures Gamer Chuck Lofgren, Carrasco came on-point, allowing a run on six hits over seven innings of work. His fastball sat in the 89-93 mph range, touching 95 several times, but the command of his curveball and changeup have both improved dramatically from where they were even two weeks ago.

“He worked himself into trouble with some walks, some base hits,” said a scout from an AL club, “but I was most impressed with his ability to hit another level and get the ground ball or the strikeout when he needed it against a pretty good team.

“We’™ve all been waiting to see it since he got (to Double-A) and it’™s been disappointing. It’™s not disappointing anymore.”

2. Colby Rasmus, of, Double-A Springfield (Cardinals)

Our No. 1 last week, Rasmus only got better over his last seven games, hitting .419 with four home runs as Springfield heads into the Texas League playoffs.

Rasmus’™ teammate, Jose Martinez, has been another reason Springfield owns a 1 1/2 game lead over Arkansas in the TL’™s North Division. As we get ready to close the book on August, Martinez is hitting .356 with five homers for the month.

3. Clayton Kershaw, lhp, Double-A Jacksonville (Dodgers)

Kershaw skipped high Class A after going 7-5, 2.77 with a 134-50 strikeout-walk ratio in 97 innings at low Class A Great Lakes. And while the seventh overall pick in 2006 went through some predictable growing pains early on in Double-A, he’™s locked in now.

Last week, the 19-year-old lefty went 1-0, 0.69 with 18 strikeouts in 14 innings.

4. Deolis Guerra, rhp, high Class A St. Lucie (Mets)

After slogging through May (4.76 ERA), June (5.16) and July (4.42), the 18-year-old Guerra has gotten back on track in August–albeit in a small sample–going 1-0, 2.03 with 11-6 K-BB in 13 1/3 innings. Recovered from shoulder tendinitis that plagued him in May and June, the 6-foot-5 Venezuelan pitched five scoreless innings, striking out three and allowing two hits, in a St. Lucie win Sunday.

5. Trevor Cahill, rhp, low Class A Lake County (Athletics)

Cahill has been outstanding in his last eight starts. Last week, he went 2-0, 0.77 in 11 2/3 innings with 17 strikeouts. He has improved to 10-4, 2.82 since his last loss on July 13.

6. Kevin Slowey, rhp, Triple-A Rochester (Twins)

The International League’s ERA leader by nearly a run-and-a-half (1.42, actually), Slowey has rattled off six straight one-earned run outings, and has done it in seven of his last eight. He went 2-1, 1.41 in August, too, so it’s not as if he’s coasting after a fast start. Let’s take a minute to admire his season numbers: 10-4, 1.74 with 103-17 K-BB in 129 2/3 innings.

7. Anthony Swarzak, rhp, Double-A New Britain (Twins)

After getting banged 50 games by Major League Baseball for testing positive for drugs (of the non-performing-enhancing variety) Swarzak has done nothing but deal his way through the Eastern League. Since returning from a long suspension in late June, the 21-year-old righthander is 5-1, 2.36 with 66 strikeouts and 14 walks in 76 innings.

8. Kellen Kulbacki, of, short-season Eugene (Padres)

The 40th overall pick in June, Kulbacki trudged through July, batting just .248/.319/.352 with seven extra-base hits in 27 games. But August has been a different story, as the 21-year-old right fielder has driven the ball while maintaining his fine batting eye. The damage: .362/.438/.638 with five home runs, two doubles, a triple and16 RBIs in 20 games. Kulbacki’s walk-to-strikeout ratio also has improved from .36 in July to .60 in August.

9. Engel Beltre, of, Rookie-level AZL (Rangers)

Beltre was the toolsy, high-ceiling prospect the Rangers received from the Red Sox along with lefthander Kason Gabbard and Triple-A outfielder David Murphy in the Eric Gagne trade. Beltre hit just .208/.310/.400 in 145 plate appearances with the Gulf Coast League, showing the ability to draw walks and to hit for some power, but his batting average just wasn’t there. Since joining the Rangers, Beltre is hitting .313/.392/.590 in 98 plate appearances, and is showing signs of why the Red Sox signed him out of the Dominican Republic last year for $600,000 at age 16. Gagne, meanwhile, has given up 10 runs in 10 innings with the Red Sox.

10. Geovany Soto, c, Triple-A Iowa (Cubs)

It’s unclear why Soto is still in Triple-A, where the 24-year-old has proven to be one of the best hitters in the Pacific Coast League and the Cubs have shifted through multiple bodies behind the plate. Soto is hitting .358/.427/.653 on the year, and has hit .417/.465/.771 in August after a .367/.450/.735 July. Although Jason Kendall has hit well beyond any reasonable expectation (.298/.392/.404 in 104 at-bats) since joining the Cubs, Soto is likely the better near- and long-term option for the franchise.

11. Justin Ruggiano, of, Triple-A Durham (Devil Rays)

Along with center fielder Jason Pridie and third baseman Evan Longoria, Ruggiano has been one of the biggest reasons for Durham’s surge to the top of the IL’s Southern Division standings. Over his last 10 games, the Texas A&M product has hit .429 with three homers, five doubles and 11 RBIs. Ruggiano, 25, has hit a surprising .310/.383/.508 this season with 19 homers and 26 steals. The caveat: 142 whiffs in 118 games.

12. Daniel Cortes, rhp, high Class A Wilmington (Royals)

There’s a good chance you’ll see Cortes’ mug in next year’s Prospect Handbook. The 20-year-old squeaked in at No. 30 this year but a dominant August should move him up the list. Cortes pitched a seven four-hit, shutout innings on Thursday and improved to 3-0, 0.93 for the month with 28 strikeouts in 21 innings pitched.

13. Brandon Hynick, rhp, high Class A Modesto (Rockies)

The only surprise surrounding Hynick at this point is that he’s not pitching in Double-A Tulsa. The Cal League’s most consistent pitcher this season–the 22-year-old has lasted less than six innings just four times this season and has only twice yielded more than three earned runs–leads the minors with 178 innings pitched. He improved to 16-4, 2.32 after winning two games last week, yielding three runs while striking out nine in 13 innings.

14. Ben Jukich, rhp, high Class A Sarasota (Reds)

A 2006 13th-round pick of the Athletics, Jukich came over to the Reds as the player to be named in the Chris Denorfia deal in June. While he was shaky early on in the Florida State League, Jukich is currently riding a 20-inning scoreless streak during which he’™s allowed just seven hits and struck out 22.

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

Simply, it’™s just another August. Costanzo raked to the tune of  .327/.465/.525 last August at high Class A Clearwater, and he’™s turned it up three notches in the EL again this month.

The Phillies’™ top pick in 2005 out of Coastal Carolina drilled two no-doubter home runs during a five-game series against Akron over the weekend, while batting .381/.471/.631 in August. Costanzo is currently leading the EL in homers (25), runs scored (89) and ranks fourth in RBIs with 80.

16. Todd Frazier, ss, short-season Billings (Reds)

Frazier is staking his claim as the best prospect in the Pioneer League. The Reds’ supplemental first-rounder has outperformed the Reds’ first pick, catcher Devin Mesoraco (.209/.303/.261 in the Gulf Coast League), hitting .336/.424/.539 in 177 Pioneer League plate appearances. Frazier has the contact hitting skills and has shown some power, and he is especially adept at controlling the strike zone, with 18 walks and 19 strikeouts. With middle infield talent at a premium and this year’s drat considered to be below-average at those positions, the Reds are no doubt pleased with Frazier’s early results.

17. Cody Johnson, of, Rookie-level Danville (Braves)

This 2006 first-round pick is vying for the top prospect spot in the Appalachian League with a season line of .306/.373/.630 in 235 at-bats. Last week, he hit .423/.484/.885 in 26 at-bats with three doubles and three home runs. He is leading the Appy League with 17 home runs, eight better than the No. 2 guy.

18. Tyler Robertson, lhp, low Class A Beloit (Twins)

Robertson was a hard-luck loser last week, tossing seven innings, striking out 11, walking one and giving up only four hits. He gave up two runs (both unearned) and his team couldn’t muster enough support in time to help him out. He is now 8-4, 2.10 in 94 innings with 110 strike outs and 29 walks.

19. Matt Maloney, lhp, Triple-A Louisville (Reds)

Acquired in the Kyle Loshe deal at the trade deadline, Maloney was successful but inconsistent in the Phillies system at Reading. After putting up 9-7, 3.94 numbers for the R-Phils, Maloney showed improvement in his secondary pitches at Double-A Chattanooga and was promoted to Triple-A.

In his first start with the Bats, Maloney fanned eight over six innings in a loss against Columbus. That was after posting a 39-3 strikeout-walk ratio in just 28 Double-A innings for the Lookouts. Maloney should find himself in the mix for a spot in the big league rotation in Cincinnati in 2008.

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

Whether or not Volquez ever becomes a productive major league pitcher–a much-debated topic at this week’s Hot Sheet meeting–one thing is for certain: You better not sleep on his minor league season (even if he does). Volquez, who was sent all the way down to high Class A to revive his career, has been dealing in Triple-A. Volquez has yielded more than one earned run in just one of his eight starts in Oklahoma and is 6-1, 1.41 with 66 strikeouts and 21 walks in 51 innings. Volquez did not give up a run in his last two starts while striking out 16.

NOT-SO HOT

Chuck Lofgren, lhp, Double-A Akron (Indians)

In Lofgren’™s last two starts, the 21-year-old has allowed 10 earned runs on 17 hits over 10 innings. Reading raked him for six earned on nine hits Sunday, as the majority of his pitches remained up in the strike zone.

Elliot Johnson, 2b, Triple-A Durham (Devil Rays)

Johnson’s effort to build on a successful Double-A Southern League campaign in 2006 (.281/.335/.455) was thwarted almost from the get-go. In regular play, he hit .182 in April and .198 in May. The 23-year-old switch-hitter rebounded in July (.274/.344/.440), but fell back to Earth in August, his worst month yet. In 71 at-bats, Johnson has hit .169/.263/.282 with a pair of doubles and a pair of home runs.

Josh Vitters, 3b, Rookie-level AZL (Cubs)

It may be harsh to hit the No. 3 overall pick in 2007 so early, but the hype he received as a hitter has not proven anything yet. In his first five games he is hitting .095/.091/.095 in 21 at-bats. He has also struck out five times and hasn’t drawn a walk yet. It’s hard to have a higher average than on-base percentage, but he’s done it so far.

Ryan Mattheus, rhp, Double-A Tulsa (Rockies)

A 2003 19th-rounder, Mattheus allowed a simply crazy 17 hits in just 5 1/3 innings during his last start, surrendering 11 runs in the process. Overall this season, Mattheus is 9-10, 5.39 in 154 innings for the Drillers.

Josh Ravin, rhp, Rookie-level Billings (Reds)

The 2006 fifth-rounder is back at Billings, where he made four starts after pitching in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last season. The problem is, there are few signs of improvement. Through 31 innings, Ravin’™s walked more than he’s struck out, and is 0-4, 9.38 overall in 11 starts. During his last outing, Ravin allowed five earned runs on seven hits and hit the showers before the end of the second inning.

HELIUM

Cristian Santana, c, Rookie-level AZL (Rangers)

As a 17-year-old last year, Santana hit .280/.422/.537 in the Arizona League. Though he’s repeating the league this year, Santana is showing that last year was probably not a fluke, and the catcher from the Dominican Republic is hitting .343/.477/.571 in 116 plate appearances this season.

Oscar Tejeda, ss, short-season Lowell (Red Sox)

While the Red Sox traded Engel Beltre to the Rangers, they still have fellow Dominican bonus baby Oscar Tejeda, who is showing some flashes of his potential with Lowell. Tejeda, who signed with the Red Sox for $525,000 last year, is hitting .391/.404/.543 through his first 10 games. Though certainly a small sample size, Tejeda’s early numbers in that league are remarkable given that he’s 17. He began the season playing in the Gulf Coast League, where he hit .295/.344/.399. Though the power isn’t there quite yet, it is a skill that should develop with age, and his strong, quick hands, present wiry build and plus bat speed bode well for his development.

James Hooker, rhp, Rookie-level GCL (Cardinals)

The Cardinals picked Hooker in the seventh round of this year’s draft, and the 18-year-old has had one of the best debuts in the GCL. Through 31 innings, Hooker has 47 strikeouts, 11 walks and a 2.32 ERA in 31 innings, including 20 strikeouts in 12 innings this month. In his most recent outing, Hooker needed just four innings to record 11 strikeouts, and surrendered just one walk. He throws his fastball in the low-90s, but his mechanics need a fair amount of work. At six-foot-four and 185 pounds, there appears to be room for projection with Hooker as well.

Michael Blazek, rhp, Rookie-level GCL (Cardinals)

Hooker’s teammate in the Gulf Coast League, Blazek has been just a shade below Hooker in terms of the numbers. Through 34 2/3 innings, Blazek has 42 strikeouts, 13 walks and a 2.60 ERA. In his last outing, the 18-year-old struck out 10 and walked two in five innings. The Cardinals drafted Blazek in the 35th round, and he also throws in the low-90s.

BLAST FROM THE PAST

Pedro Martinez, rhp, high Class A St. Lucie (Mets) and Mark Mulder, lhp, high Class A Palm Beach (Cardinals)

Give me a second to check Prospect Handbook depth charts for these guys. Nope, neither one is on there . . . What do we know?

No, it’s not a Turn Back The Clock promotion in the Florida State League, these two former aces are really toiling in high Class A as they try to return to form in time to make an impact on their respective major league clubs’ playoff push.

Dozens of fans have turned out to see 2001 Cy Young Award runner-up Mulder go 0-2, 2.93 in three starts and three-time Cy Young winner Martinez go 1-1, 5.63 in two appearances. (Certainly, millions of Mets fans made World Series plans after Martinez mowed down four Brevard County Manatees on Aug. 20.). Don’t think they qualify on our Best Tools lists, unfortunately.

Minors | #2007 #Prospect Hot Sheet

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