This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet covers games from Aug. 1-7. 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: Ben Badler, J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy, Vince Lara-Cinisomo, Josh Norris and BA intern Carlos Collazo.
1. Kris Bryant, 3b, Cubs
The Scoop: Minor league managers at Double-A and Triple-A were so taken with Bryant that he claimed five categories on our annual Best Tools survey. That includes wins for best batting prospect, best power prospect, best defensive third baseman, best infield arm and most exciting player.
Bryant combines those raw tools with elite production, making him one of the game’s top prospects. He’s tied for the minor league lead with 37 home runs and leads the field outright with a .692 slugging percentage. He ranks second in the minors with 96 RBIs and a .448 on-base percentage—though we might consider the crown his because Athletics outfielder Boog Powell and his .453 OBP are suspended for the rest of the season. (Powell had not reached the necessary 378 plate appearances to qualify for percentage titles at the time of his suspension.)
2. Tyler Glasnow, rhp, Pirates
The Scoop: Ho-hum, another dominant week for Glasnow, who is doing his best to ease Pirates’ fans pain over their loss of Jameson Taillon for the season. Armed with a mid-90s heater, a power curve and an improving changeup, the righthander has carved Florida State League hitters with ease. This week’s stats include a two-hit, 11-strikeout gem on Thursday and continue a trend of dominance. He’s strung together five straight starts with four or fewer hits allowed and has given up two or fewer earned runs in nine of his last 10 starts.
3. Matt Olson, 1b, Athletics
The Scoop: Though his .260 average doesn’t look so hot compared with the Cal League norm of .270, Olson has a compelling case for league MVP based on his plus power and on-base skills. After collecting seven extra-base hits this week, more than any minor leaguer, he now leads the circuit with 34 homers, 59 XBH, 94 runs scored and 99 walks.
4. Jake Lamb, 3b, Diamondbacks
The Scoop: We should call the above category “why he’s here and now gone.” Lamb has hit well all season, but he torched Reno in a brief stay with five extra-base hits in 18 at-bats, prompting the Diamondbacks to call him up. With Martin Prado gone, Arizona sees a prime opportunity to audition perhaps its best hitting prospect. Lamb has a smooth, fluid swing and one rival evaluator called him “a strong, strong guy. Power is nothing new for him. He’s got the swing to hit for average, with not a lot of flaws to his game.” He’s also a plus defender.
5. Rafael Montero, rhp, Mets
The Scoop: Though only his most recent outing falls within the purview of Hot Sheet, Montero is riding high off his two best starts of the season. In his last two starts, he has struck out 17 in 14 2/3 innings while walking four. Opponents have gone 4-for-47 (.085) in that time, so, yes, Montero appears to be back in sync with his delivery. In 31 career PCL starts he now has a 3.15 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, which is pretty amazing when one considers that the league averages this year are 4.57 and 1.45.
6. Mitch Nay, 3b, Blue Jays
The Scoop: Nay’s home run this week was his first since May 12, which is a pretty lengthy gap for a hitter who came out of high school with above-average raw power. But Nay is an example of a young hitter for which home run totals don’t tell the whole story. The 20-year-old is second in the Midwest League with 30 doubles, and while two-baggers don’t always turn into home runs as a hitter matures, they often do. That’s the best-case for scenario Nay, who has just three home runs this year at a power-oriented position.
7. Michael A. Taylor, cf, Nationals
The Scoop: For a player who has hit .316 this year with 22 homers and 35 steals in the high minors, Taylor may be somewhat underrated for the contributions he makes around the margins. He’s a terrific defensive center fielder and this week he showed off the secondary skills that could make him a star, walking seven times in five games while going a perfect five-for-five on the steals. Taylor has gone 4-for-8 with four walks and three extra-base hits in his first three Triple-A games.
8. Matt Barnes, rhp, Red Sox
The Scoop: This is what happens when Matt Barnes commands his offspeed pitches. His fastball, which sits comfortably in the mid-90s, has always been his best offering. And when it’s right, the curveball acts as an excellent complement. It hasn’t been a great year overall for Barnes—he’s given up more hits than innings pitched and his strikeout rate is the lowest of his career—but this week’s outing showed what he can do when everything comes together and why the Red Sox continue to believe in his future.
9. Brian Johnson, lhp, Red Sox
The Scoop: Johnson hasn’t missed a beat since moving up from high Class A Salem early in the season, and he has really turned it on of late with the Sea Dogs. Equipped with a solid four-pitch mix, a clean delivery and excellent command, he’s allowed no more than two runs in a start since July 12, and over his last three outings has lasted 22 1/3 innings, allowed just one run on five hits and six walks while punching out 21.
10. Edwin Diaz, rhp, Mariners
The Scoop: The third-rounder from Puerto Rico has battled control issues, but not this week. On Sunday, the thin righthander baffled Burlington on three hits without a walk, becoming the third Midwest League pitcher this season to throw a nine-inning shutout. Diaz gets his fastball as high as 94 mph, but his plus slider is what will separate him.
11. Rowdy Tellez, 1b, Blue Jays
The Scoop: Tellez passed on a Southern California commitment when the Blue Jays offered him $850,000—second-round money—as a 30th-round pick. He ranked among the best lefthanded power bats available in 2013. He’s a big guy (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) who will have to focus on conditioning, but he has above-average bat speed and can drive the ball to the opposite field. That’s good because Tellez’s bat must carry him.
12. Michael Feliz, rhp, Astros
The Scoop: Feliz is just two weeks removed from a disastrous stretch in which six of the eight batters he faced at Dayton reached base. He followed that up by giving up eight runs against Clinton. Those two starts raised his ERA a run and a half. This week, however, Feliz showed how he’s actually made significant strides this year.
His eight innings of work tied the longest start of his career. Not only did Feliz not walk a batter, but rarely did he deal with a three-ball count. While he can run his fastball up to 95 mph on a regular basis, he’s also quite effective locating low-90s sinkers down in the zone.
13. Henry Owens, lhp, Red Sox
The Scoop: New level, no problem. Fresh off of winning best breaking pitch, best changeup and best pitching prospect categories in the Eastern League in our annual Best Tools survey, Owens made his first start in Triple-A and was outstanding. He whiffed nine against a Columbus lineup that included dangerous hitters like James Ramsey, Francisco Lindor and Jesus Aguilar. It was the fourth time this season that Owens had fanned nine or more. Rival evaluators say he needs just a touch more fastball command, particularly keeping the ball down in the zone, before he’s ready for Fenway.
In The Team Photo
Andy Burns, 3b, Blue Jays: At Double-A New Hampshire, Burns hit .419 (13-for-31) this week with a home run, a triple, a double and a stolen base. He has long been viewed as a good defensive prospect, with the ability to play multiple positions in the infield and outfield, and with the flashes he’s shown at the plate he could be a contributor in Toronto one day soon.
Mitch Brown, rhp, Indians: The 2012 second-rounder’s second try at low Class A Lake County has been much better than his five-start trial in 2013. After a week that saw Brown go 2-0 with 10 strikeouts in 12 innings while giving up no runs, the 6-foot-1 righty is looking at a 3.72 ERA on the season. He still is walking too many batters (five this week and 4.11 per nine innings on the season), but the Minnesota prep product clearly is making progress.
Gavin Cecchini, ss, Mets. The 2012 first-rounder earned a midseason promotion to high Class A St. Lucie, but he hit just .191 through the end of July. Cecchini’s bat began to show signs of life in August, as he has gone 8-for-18 (.444) with two doubles, a homer, seven walks and no strikeouts.
Sean Manaea, lhp, Royals. The 34th overall pick last year—and he fell that far only because of a hip impingement—has shown signs of being worth every penny of his $3.55 million bonus. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound lefthander, who struggled with command in June at high Class A Wilmington, has turned it around since, posting a 1.59 ERA in five July starts. Manaea is pitching even better in August, posting an 0.69 ERA and striking out 12 over 13 innings. He’s walked just three in that time, a vast improvement over his overall walk rate of 4.6 per nine innings.
Manuel Margot, cf, Red Sox. The prize of Boston’s 2011 international free agent class, Margot has taken his game to a new level since the South Atlantic League all-star break, batting .291/.362/.485 with five homers, two triples and seven doubles in 134 at-bats at low Class A Greenville. The 19-year-old went 12-for-26 (.462) this week with three walks, a homer, a double and four steals.
Brett Phillips, cf/rf, Astros: Phillips’ sudden power surge continued this week with three more home runs, including one Thursday night in his high Class A Lancaster debut. Until this season, he hadn’t ever experienced in a pro game what it’s like to trot around the bases after parking a ball over the fence. Now he’s done it 13 times. He’s still working on the technique. Last night, he didn’t realize he had homered, so he almost slid into third base before realizing that he could take it easy and jog the rest of the way. Phillips went 11-for-26 (.423) with four extra-base hits.
Taylor Williams, rhp, Brewers. Listed at a lean 5-foot-11, the 2013 fourth-rounder from Kent State nevertheless brings two plus pitches to the table with a mid-90s fastball and power slider. The Brewers let Williams dominate the low Class A Midwest League, which he led with a 2.36 ERA and 0.94 WHIP at the time they promoted him to high Class A Brevard County this week. He threw nine one-hit innings this week with 14 strikeouts and no walks over the course of two starts at two levels.
Christian Binford, rhp, Royals: The control-oriented Futures Gamer had a week to forget at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. The 6-foot-7 Binford allowed 10 runs on 15 hits (including three homers) in 12 2/3 innings, striking out seven and walking three.
Byron Buxton, of, Twins: Whether it’s the lingering effects of the wrist injury that sapped so much of his season, or simply a lack of timing after being out so long, Buxton hasn’t been himself lately. With high Class A Fort Myers, the 21-year-old went just 2-for-21 (.095) this week with a pair of singles. Still, he’s played just 26 games thus far and has plenty of time to regain his form, both over the final month of the season and likely in a postseason league.
Francisco Lindor, ss, Indians. The prized shortstop prospect had a bad week at Triple-A Columbus. It happens. The 20-year-old wunderkind went 3-for-27 (.111) with a walk and 10 strikeouts, though he did steal one base in two tries. Just gaining experience in the International League will serve Lindor well in 2015, when he projects to make his big league debut.
Taijuan Walker, rhp, Mariners. Walker has battled health issues all season, but he recovered to get back to the majors in July. He could not control his pitches, however, leading to 13 walks in 15 innings. Sent back to Triple-A Tacoma, Walker’s outlook hasn’t improved much, not after being battered at Albuquerque on Sunday. He gave up eight runs on eight hits in 2 1/3 innings i that start, and his ERA ballooned to 5.44 with the Rainiers.
Yonauris Rodriguez, ss, Yankees: Last year, the Yankees made two key international signings. The cornerstone of their class was center fielder Leonardo Molina, a premium athlete with promising raw tools who they aggressively pushed to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, even though he didn’t turn 17 until July 31. Their other big signing was Rodriguez, who landed a $570,000 bonus on July 2 mainly on the strength of his defense. With a live, wiry frame, he projects as a true shortstop with smooth hands, good range and reads off the bat. The pleasant surprise has been Rodriguez’s hitting, which several clubs thought would need time to come around. Instead, he has been one of the better hitters in the Dominican Summer League, batting .321/.447/.440 in 100 plate appearances. The power isn’t there yet, and it might never be part of his game, but Rodriguez is a more advanced, more complete player than scouts were projecting him to be at this time a year ago.