We’re going to miss you, 2013 minor league season. By this time next week, every minor league team will be done with its regular season, and many of the best prospects in the game will be heading home. So this is the final Prospect Hot Sheet of the year, covering games from Aug. 23-29.
Remember as always, the Hot Sheet is a look at the hottest prospects of the past week. It’s not a re-ranking of the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list.
Contributing: Ben Badler, J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy, Josh Norris and Jim Shonerd.
Prospect Hot Sheet Chat: J.J. Cooper will take your questions beginning at 3 p.m. ET.
1. Byron Buxton, cf, Twins
Team: high Class A Fort Myers (Florida State)
Why He’s Here: .474/.655/.684 (9-for-19), 2 3B, 9 R, 1 RBI, 9 BB, 3 SO, 2-for-3 SB
The Scoop: The first 140-game season is an adjustment for anyone, and it has been for Buxton, who last hit a home run on July 28. But this is the No. 1 prospect in the game, so even if he’s not hitting the ball out of the park, he’s continuing to be an line-drive machine.
This week, Florida State League pitchers gave up and stopped throwing him hittable pitches. Buxton, a 19-year-old with an advanced understanding of the strike zone, responded by simply taking ball four. He walked nine times this week to go with his nine hits. With two games left in August, Buxton has a .545 on-base percentage for the month, easily the best mark among full-season players.
2. Sam Selman, lhp, Royals
Team: high Class A Wilmington (Carolina)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 13 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 19 SO
The Scoop: Selman wins the award for the most perfectly timed stretch of dominance we’ll see this year because, taken as a whole, his year is pretty close to a disaster. Coming into the 2012 draft, Selman was seen as an intriguing lefty whose lack of control might limit him to a bullpen role. By walking 85 batters in 125 innings this year, he made those scouting reports look accurate.
However, in his last two starts of the year, Selman has dominated while throwing strikes. Is it a sign that he’s figuring out his delivery? Or is it just two good starts against worn-out hitters ready to head home for the offseason? We’ll have the entire offseason to mull over that one.
No. 3 Kyle Crick, rhp, Giants
Team: high Class A San Jose (California)
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.75, 12 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 0 HR, 16 SO, 4 BB
The Scoop: Crick missed two months with an oblique injury, returning to action on June 21, and while his post-DL performance includes a 1.68 ERA and strikeout rate of 12.7 per nine innings, he also walked 30 in 59 innings. On the bright side, the burgeoning power pitcher notched his fourth double-digit strikeout start of the season on Thursday—he’s actually accomplished that feat in three of his last five turns—shutting out Visalia on two hits over seven innings. Crick will help anchor a ridiculous San Jose pitching staff that also includes Ty Blach, Clayton Blackburn and Adalberto Mejia as the Giants head into the Cal League playoffs.
4. George Springer, cf, Astros
Team: Triple-A Oklahoma City (Pacific Coast)
Why He’s Here: .417/.481/.667 (10-for-24), 1 HR, 1 3B, 1 2B, 1 3B, 3 BB, 8 SO, 2-for-2 SB
The Scoop: With the season winding down, Springer put together another fine week to help boost his case for the best overall season in the minors. If he had enough at-bats to qualify, he’d rank seventh in the PCL in average, first in on-base percentage and first in slugging by a large margin. His home run this week was his 18th in just 208 Triple-A at-bats, which is still the sixth best on the circuit. (He needs three in four remaining games to reach 40 for the season.) The only things keeping Springer from Houston is Oklahoma City’s run at the PCL title and that sticky issue of big league service time.
5. Burch Smith, rhp, Padres
Team: Triple-A Tucson (Pacific Coast)
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 1.50, 12 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 15 SO
The Scoop: It’s been a whirlwind season for Smith, who made his big league debut in May less than two years after being drafted in the 14th round out of Oklahoma. He figures to see more time in San Diego before the season is out, especially with the Padres cutting ties with Edinson Volquez. Starting the final home game ever for the Tucson Padres—they move to El Paso next year—Smith twirled seven shutout innings against Reno with 10 strikeouts, a season high. He allowed three earned runs or fewer in 11 of 12 Triple-A starts.
6. Mookie Betts, 2b, Red Sox
Team: high Class A Salem (Carolina)
Why He’s Here: .407/.515/.704 (11-for-27), 8 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBIs, 6 BB, 0 SO, 2-for-3 SB
The Scoop: Second base is the island of misfit toys of the baseball world. Have an undersized player who can hit but doesn’t have the range for short or the power for third? Try him at second. If he keeps it up, you’ve got a big leaguer. If he doesn’t, he won’t really have any other options (unless he’s a burner who can steal bases and fake it in center field, a la Emilio Bonifacio or Willie Harris). Betts is one of those players who can hit enough to make it work. At 5-foot-9, he’s not physically imposing, but he has very strong hands and wrists which work well with a very patient eye.
7. Luis Cruz, lhp, Astros
Team: Double-A Corpus Christi (Texas)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 14 SO
The Scoop: A little lefty who has spent much of the past three seasons stuck in low Class A, Cruz finally escaped the pitcher’s hell of Lancaster this month. He’s shown very quickly that he never wants to go back to the Cal League. Cruz has used his 87-90 mph fastball and plus changeup to baffle Texas League hitters. His two-hitter is the first nine-inning shutout the Hooks have seen all year.
8. Rio Ruiz, 3b, Astros
Team: low Class A Quad Cities (Midwest)
Why He’s Here: .462/.500/.808 (12-for-26), 3 R, 3 2B, 2 HR, 12 RBIs, 2 BB, 3 SO, 1-for-2 SB
The Scoop: Ruiz’s high school baseball season ended last year in March due to a blood clot in his neck that required surgery, but when he got on the field in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last summer, there was plenty to be excited about. That’s why Ruiz’s first half was such a disappointment, as he hit .211/.313/.311 before the all-star break. While a lot of teenage hitters lose bat speed as their first full season drags into August, Ruiz has been able to make adjustments in the second half, with a .303/.358/.529 slash line over 59 games.
9. Jake Odorizzi, rhp, Rays
Team: Triple-A Durham (International)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 1 GS, 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 11 SO
The Scoop: Odorizzi’s line above doesn’t include his spot start in the majors on Thursday in which he allowed one run over five innings against the Angels. In his final regular-season start for the Bulls last Saturday, Odorizzi registered a season-best 11 punchouts and improved to 9-6, 3.33 in 24 outings. Heading into the season’s final weekend, he stands third in the IL in whiffs (124) and second among qualified starters in opponent average (.225).
No. 10 Eddie Rosario, 2b, Twins
Team: Double-A New Britain (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: .382/400/.559 (13-for-34), 1 HR, 3 2B, 8 RBIs, 6 R, 1 BB, 8 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Rosario entered the week hitting just .197 (15-for-76) for August, but he had enough in the tank for one last hurrah. With four extra-base hits this week, he matched his total for the first 20 games of the month. Rosario faces an assignment to the Arizona Fall League in October, and he’ll probably be thankful for the month off after hitting .255/.297/.355 through 26 games in August.
11. Alex Meyer, rhp, Twins
Team: Double-A New Britain (Eastern League)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 9 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 11 SO, 2 BB
The Scoop: After missing nearly two months with a bout of shoulder soreness, Meyer seems as good as new. Tthough he went just five and four innings, respectively, due to innings limitations, the 6-foot-9 righty used his high-90s gas to carve up Bowie and Trenton. He probably will make one more start before the Rock Cats’ season ends, meaning he’ll finish with more than 100 strikeouts in not nearly as many innings.
12. Mac Williamson, rf, Giants
Team: high Class A San Jose (California)
Why He’s Here: .565/.645/1.043 (13-for-23), 3 HR, 2 2B, 9 RBIs, 8 R, 4 BB, 1 SO, 1-for-2 SB
The Scoop: Williamson leads all Giants farmhands in both homers (25) and RBIs (85). San Jose’s park is a notable exception to the rule that the Cal League is full of launching pads, so his 25 homers is nothing to sneeze at, though 16 of them came on the road. Nevertheless, San Francisco challenged its 2012 third-round pick with the assignment to high Class A for his first full year. After starting slow, Williamson is hitting .340/.420/.603 in the second half with a 1.023 second-half OPS that ranks second-best in the league despite the challenges of his home park.
13. Billy Burns, lf, Nationals
Team: Double-A Harrisburg (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: .414/.469/.483 (12-for-29), 12 R, 2 2B, 3 RBIs, 3 BB, 1 SO, 6-for-6 SB
The Scoop: Happy 24th birthday, Billy Burns. You won’t see big power from Burns—he hit a home run two years ago in the short-season New York-Penn League, the only one of his career—but his speed grades out at the top of the charts, he controls the strike zone and uses a slashing approach to get on base. While he’s been playing left field the last couple of weeks in deference to Brian Goodwin, Burns has the wheels for center field and could eventually develop into a fourth outfielder in the big leagues.
IN THE TEAM PHOTO
Luis Heredia, rhp, Pirates: The Pirates held Heredia back in extended spring training when he showed up in suboptimal shape. Since joining low Class A West Virginia, the 19-year-old Mexico native has pitched well (aside from one ugly eight-run outing). He tossed five shutout innings in both of his last two starts and has done the same in four of his last five starts, lowering his ERA to 2.85 in 60 innings.
Hunter Morris, 1b, Brewers: When Corey Hart and Mat Gamel went down with injuries in spring training, the club found itself without a first baseman. It was the perfect opportunity for Morris, who had hit .303/.367/.563 at Double-A Mobile last year, winning the Southern League MVP award. But he went out and hit .115/.179/.269 in spring training. That led the Brewers to decide that Yuniesky Betancourt would be a more appealing first-base option for the big league club. Morris, 24, hasn’t exactly made the Brewers regret that decision. He’s hit only .245/.305/.447 this year, but he is finishing strong, going 14-for-30 (.467) with a homer sand three doubles this week at Triple-A Nashville.
Henry Owens, lhp, Red Sox: The electric Double-A Portland southpaw wrapped his season in style, fanning six over 6 2/3 shutout innings in which he allowed two hits and one walk. Owens will finish among the minor league leaders with 161 strikeouts and a .173 opponent average, though sharpening his control will be on the 21-year-old’s to-do list for next season after a walk rate of 4.7 BB/9 this year.
Dalton Pompey, cf, Blue Jays: A 16th-round pick back in 2010 when he was considered one of the top Canadian talents in that year’s draft, Pompey did not earn significant at-bats in a full-season league until this year. But don’t give up on him yet. The 20-year-old has some athleticism and his bat is slowly catching up to the league. He hit .474/.600/1.105 this week with three home runs in 19 at-bats after hitting nine in his first 750 pro at-bats.
Eduardo Rodriguez, lhp, Orioles: The youngest pitcher in the Double-A Eastern League this season, the 20-year-old Rodriguez showed his youth at times with a 4.70 ERA. At other times, the lefty refused to act his age. Such was the case this week when he fired eight shutout innings at Binghamton, striking out five, walking none and allowing just two hits.
Rowdy Tellez, 1b, Blue Jays: Toronto couldn’t sign first-round pick Phil Bickford, but they managed to get Tellez in the 30th round for $850,000. Tellez, 18, went 10-for-24 with five extra-base hits this week in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, where he’s shown a patient approach and plenty of raw power during batting practice.
Christian Bethancourt, c, Braves: All good things must come to an end. Bethancourt strung together a Double-A Mississippi franchise-record 40-game on-base streak from June 13 to Aug. 14, but the 21-year-old crashed back to earth this week, going 2-for-20 (both singles) with no walks and four strikeouts. During his 40-game hot spell, Bethancourt hit .338/.376/.600 with 22 extra-base hits and 13 walks.
Courtney Hawkins, of, White Sox: Come over here Courtney. Yes, I know it’s been rough. Yes, I know you went 1-for-17 this week. Yes, I know that you haven’t had a month all year where you’ve hit more than .200, but repeat after me, it’s not your fault. You’re a 19-year-old who has been sent to high Class A Winston-Salem way before you were ready. It’s not your fault. Carlos Correa, the No. 1 pick from your draft, has spent the entire year in low Class A. Byron Buxton, the No. 1 talent in last year’s draft, had to post a .990 OPS over a half a season in low Class A to get to high Class A. You were sent to high Class A after a grand total of 212 pro at-bats. It’s not your fault.
Zeke Spruill, rhp, Diamondbacks: Even though Spruill made his major league debut this year, it’s been a challenging season for him. He’s spent most of the year in Triple-A Reno, which is tough for any pitcher, but the precipitous decline in his ability to miss bats is a major concern. That’s never been Spruill’s strength, as he’s always relied more on working down in the zone and keeping the ball on the ground, which is a useful trait in the PCL and should eventually help him in Arizona, but the 4.5 SO/9 rate he’s posted in Reno won’t cut it at any level. His most recent start in Tucson got ugly in a hurry, as he got tagged for nine runs and struck out just two of the 21 batters he faced in 2 2/3 innings.
Noah Syndergaard, rhp, Mets: The prize from the R.A. Dickey deal skipped a start at Double-A Binghamton and this is the result: three innings, nine hits, 11 runs (nine earned), two walks, three home runs allowed. To put in perspective both how bad that start was and how sterling his season has been, nearly 20 percent of his Double-A hits and almost half his homers were allowed in this nine-out stretch. The 20-year-old will probably get the ball once more before locking horns with Trenton in the first round of the Eastern League playoffs.
Cal Towey, 3b, Angels: A 17th-round senior sign after playing 120 games at Baylor over five years, Towey is quite experienced for a player spending the season at Rookie-level Orem in the Pioneer League. But what the 23-year-old has done still is remarkable. He’s hitting .315/.493/.550 with 59 walks in 58 games and leads all minor league hitters in on-base percentage by more than 50 points. Towey knows the strike zone, and many of the pitchers he’s facing don’t. Next year, he’ll have to pick on pitchers his own size, but he’s definitely earned the chance to do just that.