See also: Previous Prospect Hot
Is the season almost over already? Brett Wallace may wish that it could
go on a little longer. Just a couple months ago he was playing for
Arizona State, now he’s in Double-A and leading Springfield to a
playoff spot. It’s an amazing run, and one worthy of being singled out
as the No. 1 prospect on this week’s Hot Sheet.
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 from the past week (Aug. 22-28) getting the most consideration. The Why He’s Here line in the
capsules refer to each player’s stats during that
Contributing: Ben Badler, Kary Booher, J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy, Conor Glassey, Nathan
Rode, Jim Shonerd, Anthony
|No. 1 BRETT WALLACE, 3B||CARDINALS|
Team:Double-A Springfield (Texas)
Why He’s Here: .407/.484/.852 (11-for-27), 8 R, 3 HR, 3 2B, 11 RBIs, 0 BB, 6 SO
The Scoop: Imagine this journey for a season: NCAA Tournament berth with Arizona State . . . Pacific-10 Conference triple-crown winner and its player of the year . . . 13th overall draft pick of the Cardinals . . . a pit stop in the low Class A Midwest League . . . and, hold on to your seat, already in Double-A Springfield.
Farm director Jeff Luhnow has been aggressive in promoting prospects since taking over the role in September 2006. So it was probably no surprise that, when Springfield lost third baseman Allen Craig (.303, 22 HR, 83 RBIs) to a back injury, Luhnow dispatched Wallace to help the Cardinals in their Texas League playoff chase.
Wallace, who turned 22 on Tuesday, was the best college hitter in the draft and has cemented his reputation since entering pro ball. He now has 17 multi-hit games and 36 RBIs, including two RBIs and two hits on Thursday night in a loss at Tulsa.
|No. 2 KYLE BLANKS, 1B||PADRES|
Team:Double-A San Antonio (Texas)
Why He’s Here:.484/.543/.677 (15-for-31), 3 2B, 1 HR, 13 RBIs, 6 R, 3 BB, 7 SO
The Scoop:A nine-RBI performance on Monday, not to mention hits in nearly half his at-bats, was enough to keep the massive first baseman stationed near the top of the Hot Sheet. Blanks has reached a new gear in the second half, hitting .335/.399/.578 with 12 home runs and 13 doubles in 218 at-bats. He ranks second in the Texas League in RBIs (104) and hits (155), fourth in average (.324) and fifth in on-base percentage (.403). That’s a heck of a year for the second-youngest regular position player (Elvis Andrus is 20) in the league.
|No. 3 JAMES DARNELL, 3B||PADRES|
Team: Short-season Eugene (Northwest)
Why He’s Here: .407/.543/.667 (11-for-27), 5 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 8 RBIs, 8 BB, 5 SO
The Scoop: Darnell has been on a tear ever since joining Eugene on Aug. 18, and he has multiple hits in seven of 10 games so far while hitting .400/.520/.600. He went 2-for-4 with a home run, a double, six RBIs and three walks on Wednesday. The second-rounder from South Carolina was known as a streaky hitter, but he has had no problem adjusting to pro ball in his first week and a half.
|No. 4 BRIAN BOGUSEVIC, CF||ASTROS|
Team: Double-A Corpus Christi (Texas)
Why He’s Here: .542/.593/.583 (13-for-24), 2 R, 1 2B, 4 RBIs, 3 BB, 4 SO, 3 SB
The Scoop: Bogusevic, a 2005 first-round pick, was rated as Houston’s No. 19 prospect entering the season—as a pitcher. But it looks like his decision to ditch the mound in favor of a bat and outfield spot could turn out well. Hooks manager Luis Pujols, the former Tigers skipper in that forgettable 2002 season, has Bogusevic in center and batting fifth. And Bogusevic is taking a blow torch to TL pitchers, with 10 hits in his past five games. He’s hitting .415/.505/.549 (34-for-82) with 16 runs scored and 13 RBIs this month alone.
|No. 5 PEDRO BAEZ, 3B||DODGERS|
Team: Rookie-level Ogden (Pioneer)
Why He’s Here: .458/.500/1.042 (11-for-24), 3 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 6 RBIs, 6 R, 2 BB, 1 SO
The Scoop: Baez ranked as the Dodgers’ 10th-best prospect before the season. Signed out of the Dominican Republic last year for $200,000, Baez began his professional career by hitting .274/.341/.408 over 201 at-bats in the Gulf Coast League in 2007. He struggled at the beginning of this season with an assignment to the Midwest League and found himself back in rookie ball by mid June, this time with Ogden. On the season, he’s hitting .237/.294/.414 but his power has come alive in August, as he’s hitting .293/.369/.640 on the month.
|No. 6 BUSTER POSEY, C||GIANTS|
Rookie-level AZL Giants
Why He’s Here: .435/.519/.783 (10-for-23), 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, 8 R, 4 BB, 3 SO
The Scoop: It’s been quite the year for Posey. He had a huge junior year for Florida State, hitting .463/.566/.879, and the success has continued as he began his professional career this week. Assigned to the rookie-level Arizona League, Posey didn’t waste any time showing off the skills that made him the fifth overall pick this June. On Tuesday, Posey drew two walks and was just a single shy of a cycle. As a Seminole, Posey was a shortstop until 2007 when he moved behind the plate, where he is very athletic and has a good arm. The Giants have been easing him into the transition to the pro ranks, and so far he’s been spending more time as a DH than as a catcher.
|No. 7 IVAN DeJESUS, 2B/SS||DODGERS|
Team: Double-A Jacksonville (Southern)
Why He’s Here:.500/.556/.636 (11-for-22), 9 R, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, 4 BB (1 IBB), 2 SO
The Scoop:DeJesus has made Southern League pitchers look like they’ve just been throwing him BP the last few weeks, as he now has a 21-game hitting streak that’s kicked his numbers up to .454/.513/.629 in 25 August games. DeJesus has impressed scouts and managers this season by showing an ability to make adjustments both during the course of the season and within individual games. “I thought he was real long with his swing, more of a pull mode early in the series,” said one manager. “Then he made some adjustments and got short, and he started working the balls to all fields line to line.” DeJesus has good bat speed and squares up balls well. He made five errors this week and may ultimately end up moving to second base, but a second baseman with a .400 OBP has plenty of value.
|No. 8 KRIS MEDLEN, RHP||BRAVES|
Double-A Mississippi (Southern)
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.75 ERA, 12 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 18 SO
The Scoop: Medlen, a 10th-round pick in 2006 from Santa Ana (Calif.) JC, was kidnapped from the bullpen in early June as the Braves kicked the tires on whether he could evolve into a starter, or at least enhance his curveball and feel for a changeup that might be serviceable in a big league bullpen. It’s been something to see. He struck out 10 Carolina Mudcats over six scoreless innings on Aug. 22, one of 10 starts in which Medlen has pitched at least six innings.
|No. 9 BRAD HOLT, RHP||METS|
Team: short-season Brooklyn (New York-Penn)
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 0.75 ERA, 12 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 15 SO
The Scoop: Holt has been a model of consistency, yielding good reason for his meteoric rise up draft boards this past spring. He is third in the NY-P in ERA and he probably wouldn’t even need to make another start in order to finish as the leader in strikeouts. Better yet, Holt is using his breaking ball and his changeup more often.
|No. 10 NEFTALI SOTO, 3B||REDS|
low Class A Dayton (Midwest)
Why He’s Here: .429/.433/.714 (12-for-28), 2 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBIs, 0 BB, 6 SO, 0-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Soto has come close to making the Hot Sheet several times over the last few weeks, but here he finally breaks through in the season’s final week. After slugging his way out of the Rookie-level Pioneer League by mid July, Soto has continued tearing the cover off the ball in the Midwest League. He’s hitting .332/.350/.502 in 205 at-bats for Dayton, and he’s currently riding a 13-game hitting streak while helping lead his team to the Midwest League playoffs. He still hasn’t been walking very much, but his smooth stroke and great hand-eye coordination have helped him limit his strikeouts to 35 in his 49 games with the Dragons.
|No. 11 MADISON BUMGARNER, LHP||GIANTS|
Team: low Class A Augusta (South Atlantic)
Why He’s Here:1-0, 1.80, 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 9 SO
The Scoop:It took more than a month, but Bumgarner finally gave up a run. He struck out eight of the first ten hitters he faced and his shutout streak stretched to 38 innings, but he finally gave up a run in the fourth inning of his start on Wednesday against Hickory. In what was his final start of the regular season, Bumgarner improved to 15-3, 1.46, and with his 164 strikeouts in 141 2/3 innings, he likely locked up the SAL’s pitching triple crown. There are any number of impressive stats we could throw out this week, but we’ll try these ones. Bumgarner didn’t give up a home run to a lefthanded hitter all season, and he won his last six consecutive starts and 14 of his last 15 decisions.
|No. 12 WADE DAVIS, RHP||RAYS|
Team: Triple-A Durham (International)
Why he’s here:0-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 SO
The Scoop:The start itself was impressive, but Davis gets extra credit for his mastery on Tuesday, which propelled the Bulls to the IL playoffs. He’s given up only one home run to Triple-A batters in his past 29 innings, covering five starts—or not since surrendering four in rapid succession in starts Nos. 2 and 3. For August, Davis has gone 1-2, 2.48 with 30 strikeouts and 12 walks in 29 innings, though a Bulls playoff run may preclude him from seeing any meaningful big league time this September.
|No. 13 WILSON RAMOS, C||TWINS|
Team: high Class A Fort Myers (Twins)
Why He’s Here: .391/.500/.522 (9-for-23), 2 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 4 BB, 3 SO
The Scoop: Ramos has simply exploded in the second half of the season. He hit .242/.297/.410 to start, but has hit .333/.397/.465 in the second half and is currently riding a 12-game hitting streak. He’s also increased his walk numbers while cutting back on strikeouts and is leading the league in throwing out basestealers, with a 43 percent mark. His totals have climbed to .286/.346/.436 and he’s getting a lot of attention as one of the top prospects in the FSL.
Low Class A Wisconsin RHP Juan Ramirez (Mariners) has taken his lumps at times this year in the Midwest League, going 6-9, 4.30 in 117 1/3 innings, but he’s been at his best in the season’s final month. With a lively 91-95 mph fastball that’s his best pitch, Ramirez has compiled a 106-to-37 strikeout-to-walk ratio for the season, and this week, the 20-year-old turned in a dominating seven innings against Quad Cities. He allowed only two runs on five hits, while striking out nine and walking none . . . With plus velocity from the left side, Double-A Frisco LHP Derek Holland (Rangers) has driven himself up the Rangers prospect list. Holland, 21, had a 0.75 ERA in 12 innings with 12 strikeouts and four walks. On the season, Holland’s composite line between low Class A, high Class A and Double-A includes a 2.27 ERA, 40 walks and 157 strikeouts in 150 2/3 innings . . . Double-A Bowie RHP Chris Tillman (Orioles), still just 20, is directing the Baysox to the Eastern League playoffs and struck out eight against Trenton (Yankees) over six scoreless innings on Tuesday. It was his third consecutive start of six innings and no runs. In his past 30 innings, he has 44 strikeouts and only seven walks . . . Which minor leaguer whom you’ve never heard of is having the best season? Why, Triple-A Omaha 1B Kila Ka’aihue (Royals), of course. The 6-foot-3, 233-pound, lefty-hitting Hawaiian is batting an astonishing .316/.460/.634 with 36 home runs and 97 RBIs in 380 at-bats on the season. The 24-year-old Ka’aihue gets lost in the shuffle a bit, though, because he’s split the season between Double-A and Triple-A. He leads the minors in walks (101) and on-base percentage and ranks second in slugging. His 36 longballs rank fourth, at present, and he’s got three scheduled Royals games to hit the four he needs to reach 40 . . . High Class A Jupiter LHP Sean West (Marlins) finally is showing some progress after returning from a labrum injury to his left shoulder. West, 21, threw seven innings this week and allowed just three hits. He hit one batter, but also struck out eight. His last three starts now have been very good, especially considering he walked 22 in his 27-plus innings prior . . . High Class A Frederick RHP Brandon Erbe (Orioles) flashed a Mr. Hyde outing this week. In his lone start he tossed seven innings allowing just two hits and a walk while striking out nine. That’s back-to-back good starts for him now. He allowed just three hits in six innings while striking out six last Thursday . . . Short-season Eugene RHP Mat Latos (Padres), 20, has bounced back strong from an oblique injury. The Padres righthander dominated in two starts this week at Eugene, allowing one run in 12 1/3 innings and striking out 14.
• Matt Mangini, 3b, Mariners. Double-A West Tenn is headed to the Southern League playoffs, where Mangini will try to turn around his season. The 2007 supplemental first-rounder hit .190/.261/.190 in the last seven days, going 4-for-21 with two extra-base hits. That’s not too unlike the rest of the 22-year-old’s numbers with West Tenn, which sit at .197/.245/.241 in 66 games.
• Pete Kozma, ss, Cardinals. Kozma’s full-season debut went well with low Class A Quad Cities, but the transition to high Class A Palm Beach hasn’t gone so well for the 20-year-old. He hit .158/.250/.211 (3-for-19) and had five whiffs. That puts him at a resounding .132/.247/.191 since joining the FSL on Aug. 5. In 68 at-bats he’s struck out 24 times and he’s also committed four errors in 21 games. Yes, the FSL is a tough league to hit in, but this is not the kind of transition you want to see from a first-round pick.
• Freddie Freeman, 1b, Braves. Freeman has had an outstanding first full season as a pro, putting up a .316/.378/.523 line for the season with low Class A Rome. But the 18-year-old first baseman might not be ending the year on the highest of notes. First, he lost his running mate Jason Heyward to a promotion to high Class A Myrtle Beach, and Freeman then proceeded to put up a .130/.167/.174 (3-for-23) line for the week.
• Matt Cerda, c, Cubs. Fourth-round pick Matt Cerda had a miserable week for the AZL Cubs. A shortstop in high school, the Cubs have put Cerda behind the plate as a professional. The tough transition could be affecting his hitting. This week, Cerda went 1-for-20 with one walk and five strikeouts for a line of .050/.095/.050.
Cory Luebke, lhp, Padres. San Diego made Luebke the 63rd overall pick in the 2007 draft out of Ohio State and advanced him quickly, as he made it all the way to high Class A Lake Elsinore in time for the California League playoffs. But this year, the 23-year-old Luebke struggled in the first half of the season with Lake Elsinore, going 3-6, 6.84 in 72 innings, earning a demotion to low Class A Fort Wayne in July. He doesn’t have overwhelming stuff, but Luebke is a typically polished college lefty, and he’s been much better with Fort Wayne, going 3-2, 2.70 in 50 innings for the Wizards. This week, Luebke went out and dominated South Bend, one of the MWL’s best teams, shutting them out over 7 2/3 innings and allowing only four hits and no walks while striking out eight.
• Charlie Zink, rhp, Red Sox. Zink celebrated his 29th birthday this week, and he had plenty to celebrate as he was named the International League’s pitcher of the year. Zink’s season has been outstanding, as his knuckleball has baffled hitters to the tune of 14-5, 2.92. It’s hard to see Zink getting much more of a chance in Boston, especially as his one start with the Red Sox was pretty awful (4 1/3 IP, 8 ER). But after dominating the IL, he’s made a pretty convincing argument to get a chance somewhere.
|OMAR AGUILAR, RHP||BREWERS|
Double-A Huntsville (Southern)
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 0.00, 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 SO
The Scoop: Between high Class A Brevard County and Huntsville, Aguilar has 61 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings out the bullpen, where he can unleash a fastball that sits at 96-97 mph and touches 98. The fastball doesn’t have too much life, but it gets on hitters quickly. While Aguilar’s command still leaves something to be desired, his stuff has improved this season, particularly his 85-86 mph slider, a changeup that he can throw for strikes and a cutter that he can mix in to lefties. He has struck out 20 batters in his last 13 1/3 innings and allowed just two runs and three hits in that stretch. Aguilar is headed for the Arizona Fall League when the season ends.