Prospect Hot Sheet (Aug. 29): Flurry Of Power From Franco

This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet covers games from Aug. 22-28. Remember, this feature simply recognizes the hottest prospects in the minors during the past week—it’s not a re-ranking of the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects.

Contributing: J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy, Vince Lara-Cinisomo and Josh Norris.


1. Maikel Franco, 3b, Phillies

Maikel Franco (Photo by Mike Janes).Team: Triple-A Lehigh Valley (International)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: .517/.533/1.103 (15-for-29), 8 R, 3 2B, 4 HR, 14 RBIs, 1 BB, 5 SO

The Scoop: What a way to close the year. After a brutal first half, Franco has exploded in the second half, slashing a sweet .319/.333/.577 in 42 games since the all-star break. He has slugged .610 in August, and he homered four times this week (that’s a quarter of his season total), including a grand slam on the day he turned 22. He rarely walks—his first one of the month came this week—but strikes out just 15 percent of the time. Some things never change.


2. Mark Appel, rhp, Astros

Mark Appel (Photo by Larry Goren).Team: Double-A Corpus Christi (Texas)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 SO

The Scoop: Mark Appel, Double-A pitcher, has been much better than Mark Appel, victim of Lancaster’s jet stream. It’s not just the results, which have been much, much better, but it’s the consistency of his stuff. His arm speed, velocity and slider have all carried over much more consistently in August than they did in May or June.

Where Appel’s fastball would often drop from the mid-90s to the low 90s pretty quickly in his midseason starts, he’s hitting 96 mph a lot now. He’s keeping his fastball down in the zone, and in his dominant start this week, his changeup was as good as it’s been all year. As the season wraps up, Appel is starting to show the stuff that was expected from the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft. Now he just has to show he can maintain this kind of stuff for lengthier stretches.


3. Kyle Schwarber, lf/c, Cubs
Kyle Schwarber

Team: high Class A Daytona (Florida State)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .433/.424/1.000 (13-for-30), 6 R, 2 2B, 5 HR, 11 RBIs, 1 BB, 4 SO

The Scoop: The fourth overall pick out of Indiana in June, Schwarber has played at three levels since the Cubs drafted him, moving quickly from short-season Boise to low Class A Kane County to Daytona, where he homered in five consecutive games on the road. As far as his prowess behind the plate, Schwarber has been better than advertised, with Cubs’ minor league catching coordinator Tim Cossins telling the Chicago Tribune that Schwarber “has a desire to catch and has the natural ability to catch. His makeup, which is completely off the charts, has been the separator to his development thus far. He’s catching very well.”


4. Brian Johnson, lhp, Red Sox

Brian JohnsonTeam: Double-A Portland (Eastern)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.75, 12 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 11 SO, 2 BB

The Scoop: Johnson had an off night in his latest turn—he allowed two hits instead of one, which is all he’s allowed in three of his past six starts. Still, Thursday’s outing featured five shutout innings, which lowered his Eastern League ERA to 1.75. That figure not only leads the EL, but it set a Portland franchise record. He’s surrendered four earned runs since July 12, a span of 53 1/3 innings, and fanned 44 against 13 walks. He also finished second in the league’s pitcher-of-the-year voting despite starting the season in the Carolina League.


5. Jorge Soler, rf, Cubs

Jorge SolerTeam: Triple-A Iowa (Pacific Coast)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: .625/.684/1.375 (10-for-16), 6 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 10 RBIs, 3 BB, 4 SO

The Scoop: Soler had such a good week, he got promoted and hit his first major league homer in his debut. The powerful Cuban tore through the PCL with a .996 OPS after blistering through the Double-A Southern League. Scouts peg his power just a notch below Kris Bryant and Javier Baez, with one evaluator tagging him with 70 pop on the 20-80 scouting scale. One PCL manager, however, said Soler, who has had only 544 at-bats because of injuries, needs at least 300 more at-bats before his plate approach stabilizes, but he is far more disciplined than teammate Baez.


6. Joc Pederson, cf, Dodgers

Joc Pederson (Photo by Tom DiPace)Team: Triple-A Albuquerque (Pacific Coast)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: .435/.567/.783 (10-for-23), 8 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 9 RBIs, 7 BB, 9 SO, 2-for-3 SB

The Scoop: The Isotopes are so sure that Pederson will be called up as soon as Sunday that the club is giving away his car. Unlike some other September callups, Pederson probably won’t be coming back to Triple-A. The lefthanded hitter gets high marks from scouts and PCL managers alike because his power will translate to Dodger Stadium and he will be an above-average defender in center field.


7. Alex Guerrero, 2b, Dodgers

Alex GuerreroTeam: Triple-A Albuquerque (Pacific Coast)
Age: 27
Why He’s Here: .379/.379/.862 (11-for-29), 6 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 11 RBIs, 0 BB, 6 SO

The Scoop: One thing all scouts and PCL managers agree on is that Guerrero can hit. In fact, he has more pop than his initial scouting reports indicated. At 27, however, one cannot project much on his bat, while his defense remains, to be polite, a work in progress. Those who’ve seen him often say Guerrero is mechanical around the bag and that his pivot will cost teams opportunities to turn double plays. At his age and with the amount the Dodgers invested ($28 million), he’ll get a look in September, but it’s unclear what role he’ll play in the organization going forward.


8. Jake Cave, cf, Yankees

Jake CaveTeam: Double-A Trenton (Eastern)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .375/429/.781 (12-for-32), 7 R, 4 2B, 3 HR, 11 RBIs, 3 BB, 7 SO, 1-for-2 SB

The Scoop: After a boffo July, Cave hit a funk in August but pulled out of it with a stellar week. A versatile outfielder who’s been used in center and both corners, he plays with an energy that evokes a lighter version of fellow Yankees prospect Slade Heathcott. Cave played only one game over his first two seasons but has made up for lost time with excellent performances at three levels. After hitting just five homers in 205 games at two Class A levels, he’s got four in 38 games with Trenton, including three this week.


9. Matt Skole, 1b/3b, Nationals

Matt SkoleTeam: Double-A Harrisburg (Eastern)
Age: 25
Why He’s Here: .370/.469/.778 (10-for-27), 8 R, 2 2B, 3 HR, 9 RBIs, 5 BB, 4 SO

The Scoop: In his first season back from Tommy John surgery, Skole is playing the same power-and-patience game that enabled him to stand out at low Class A in 2012. That was readily apparent this week with five extra-base hits and five walks in seven games. The lefty-hitting Skole turned 25 in the second half and still has work to do, however, after hitting .246/.354/.406 in 128 Double-A games.


10. Domingo Leyba, ss, Tigers

Domingo LeybaTeam: low Class A West Michigan (Midwest)
Age: 18
Why He’s Here: .480/.536/.800 (12-for-25), 6 R, 5 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, 3 BB, 3 SO, 0-for-1 SB

The Scoop: Not only did trading Willy Adames to the Rays net David Price for the Tigers, but the move also created playing time at shortstop for Leyba at West Michigan. Since taking over the position full time on Aug. 16, he’s gone 23-for-50 (.460) with six extra-base hits and five walks in 13 games. The switch-hitting Leyba turns 19 after the season, but he already has an advanced feel to hit as well as the defensive chops to handle either middle-infield position.


11. Mikie Mahtook, cf, Rays

Mikie Mahtook (Photo by Cliff Welch)Team: Triple-A Durham (International)
Age: 24
Why He’s Here: .280/.308/.800 (7-for-25), 1 2B, 4 HR, 9 RBIs, 1 BB, 5 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: Scouts who saw Mahtook in 2012 and 2013 often came away asking “is that all he is?” after watching the first-round pick. He was a solid all-around player, but he didn’t show much pop and projected more as a tweener. This year, Mahtook has both improved his work in center field and improved his power, giving him a much clearer path to the big leagues. He still may end up as a fourth outfielder, but that’s a lot better than the 4-A tag he wore last year.


12. Mitch Brown, rhp, Indians

Mitch BrownTeam: low Class A Lake County (Midwest)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 1.50, 12 IP, 10 H, 2 R, 2 HR, 15 SO, 0 BB

The Scoop: Brown’s performance this week served as a microcosm of his second half, when he cut his walk rate in half. The 2012 second-rounder pounded the strike zone with a live fastball with sink and two improving secondary pitches to strike out 15 Midwest League batters against no walks in 12 innings this week. Brown is trending in the right direction, having gone 8-2, 2.32 in 13 second-half starts.


13. Tim Anderson, ss, White Sox

Tim AndersonTeam: Double-A Birmingham (Southern)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: .444/.444/.667 (12-for-27), 5 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 7 RBIs, 0 BB, 5 SO

The Scoop: The White Sox promoted Anderson to Double-A when he returned from a broken wrist. All he’s done since joining the Barons is collect 12 hits in his first 27 at-bats, including seven in his first two games. Among those hits were three doubles and a home run, his seventh of the season. He’ll head to the Arizona Fall League to make up for the month and a half he missed.


In The Team Photo

Jesus Aguilar, 1b, Indians: He’s a bat-only first baseman, but he had a heck of a week. The 24-year-old doubled four times and homered thrice in 22 at-bats at Triple-A Columbus in a week in which the Clippers locked up a spot in the International League playoffs. Aguilar has been particularly hot lately, racking up a 1.058 OPS in August with five of his 19 homers this year and just 12 strikeouts in 84 at-bats.

Parker Bridwell, rhp, Orioles. The 2010 ninth-rounder hasn’t pitched a game above the Class A level in five seasons, but when Bridwell is on, he can be nearly unhittable. Such was the case on Monday when the 23-year-old fired eight shutout innings, striking out 13, walking none and allowing only one hit at high Class A Frederick. His 93 game score that day was the best in the minors this season, and while he also fired a top-notch 87 game score on May 13, the remainder of his body of work has been spotty. Bridwell has gone just 6-10, 4.51 in 25 starts this season.

Chase Johnson, rhp, Giants. The former Cal Poly reliever has worked as a starter in pro ball with mixed results. His most recent outing was one of his best, as the low Class A Augusta righthander blanked Savannah on four hits over seven innings. Evaluators are intrigued by the lanky, 6-foot-3 Johnson, who can tough 97 mph and sits at 91-94, but for the season he’s just 4-7, 4.57.

Austin Meadows, cf, Pirates: Meadows is just getting started as the season wraps up. After missing three months with a hamstring injury, the 2013 first-rounder has hit .321/.386/.489 in his month and a half of action at low Class A West Virginia. Endlessly compared with fellow 2013 first-rounder and Georgia prep outfielder Clint Frazier, the 19-year-old Meadows had the better year in terms of rate stats—even if he missed much of it.

Yorman Rodriguez, cf, Reds: The Reds outfielder will appear in his seventh Prospect Handbook this offseason. And his scouting report will include some sort of summation that has stuck with him for years—he’s a streaky hitter with impressive raw tools. Rodriguez finished the year with a great stretch, batting .305/.411/.565 in August. His 10 doubles this month are as many as he hit in April through July, and his four home runs has nearly double that total as well.

Julio Urias, lhp, Dodgers: His season is nothing short of amazing, especially his most recent run. After turning 18 this month, the lefthander has reeled off three stellar starts in a row at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga. His latest effort included 5 1/3 innings of two-hit, shutout ball with nine punchouts and three walks. That’s three starts in a row with nine strikeouts, or 27 in his last 15 1/3 innings. He allowed one run in that span.

Drew Vettleson, rf, Nationals. Power production hasn’t been a problem for Vettleson at Double-A Harrisburg in an injury-truncated season. He went 10-for-24 (.417) with a homer and four doubles this week, and his .190 isolated slugging percentage ranks top 10 among Eastern League outfielders.


Not-So Hot

Travis Demeritte, 2b, Rangers: Demeritte is done. The season may not be over until Monday, but the 2013 first-round pick has been stuck on the side of the highway, out of gas, since the start of August. The South Atlantic League home run leader, Demeritte has only one longball and two extra base-hits this month as the strength in his swing has disappeared. He’s hitting .092/.213/.154 in August with strikeouts in more than half of his at-bats.

Edwin Escobar, lhp, Red Sox. Acquired in the deal that sent Jake Peavy to the Giants, Escobar has spent some time in the majors with the Red Sox. But on Saturday with Triple-A Pawtucket at Buffalo, things did not go his way. Escobar allowed 11 hits and nine runs, falling to 0-2, 4.28 with Boston’s top minor league team. Escobar has a live fastball at 92-93 mph, but he pitches away from contact and often falls behind in the count. He showed a slow arm in a disappointing performance at the Futures Game, but is still just 22.

Gosuke Katoh, 2b, Yankees: It hasn’t been a great year for Katoh, the 2013 second-rounder who’s spent the year at low Class A Charleston. The 19-year-old went just 2-for-19 this week with a just a single and two walks to his credit. He struck out 10 times. April and May were brutal for Katoh, who then rebounded in June and July with averages of .291 and .273, respectively, and on-base percentages near .400. He’s fallen again this month, however, and has just three hits in his last 27 at-bats.

Raul A. Mondesi, ss, Royals. The Royals’ top prospect as of the Midseason Prospect Update had himself one ugly week at high Class A Wilmington in a mostly down offensive season. The 18-year-old Mondesi went just 5-for-29 and struck out 11 times. Despite a .216/.262/.363 slash line, Mondesi has 34 extra-base hits, including 13 this month. Scouts are still bullish, saying he can be a table-setter with some power.


Helium Watch

Glenn Sparkman, rhp, Royals: There’s nothing overpowering about Sparkman’s stuff, but it’s not bad. He pitches at 88-92 mph with a fastball that will touch 94. His slider and curveball are both effective on their best nights, and he throws a useable changeup. But what Sparkman has done with that this year at high Class A Wilmington is pretty remarkable. A 20th-round pick out of Wharton (Texas) JC, he has gone is 8-2, 1.40 and leads the minors in ERA by more tan 30 points over the Pirates’ Tyler Glasnow. Sparkman began the season as a reliever, but he pitched well enough to work his way into the rotation.