See also: Last week’s Prospect
Last week, a Brewers prospect with an excellent bat and somewhat shaky glove led the way on the Prospect Hot Sheet. To change things up this week, we decided to lead with a Brewers prospect with an excellent bat and a very shaky glove.
But while Mat Gamel may never be a Gold Glove at third base, the man can hit, as he showed again this week. And his teammate, and fellow member of Playing Out Of Position, Matt LaPorta is back on this week’s list after another great week.
But besides the Brewers new Brew Crew, there were plenty of pitchers who had great weeks, so many that putting up a 10+ K outing didn’t necessarily earn you a spot on the 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. And
the Why He’s Here line in the writeups refers to each player’s stats
for the past week.
Contributing: Ben Badler, J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy, John Manuel, Jim
Shonerd and Nathan Rode
|No. 1 MAT GAMEL, 3B||BREWERS|
Team:Double-A Huntsville (Southern)
Why He’s Here:.560/.621/1.320, 14-for-25, 1 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR, 9 RBIs, 13 R, 4 BB, 3 SO
The Scoop:It’s hard to make a case for putting anyone ahead of Gamel on this week’s Hot Sheet. Gamel had another hit last night, extending his current hitting streak to 17 games. Of course, long hitting streaks are nothing new for Gamel. You may remember him from such notable streaks as last year’s 33-game hitting streak with high Class A Brevard County, when he went 51-for-121 and hit at .421/.482/.702 clip over that stretch.
In Gamel’s seven games since our last Hot Sheet, five of them were multi-hit affairs, with four of his five home runs on the season coming in that stretch. His season line through 27 games is now at .374/.442/.664, as he and teammate Matt LaPorta have been the most lethal three-four punch in any Double-A lineup
Though Gamel sure can hit, the defensively-challenged third baseman committed three errors in one game this week, giving him eight on the season. Poor footwork and an inaccurate arm led to Gamel leading the minors with 53 errors last season, so a move to corner outfield position or first base could be in the cards for Gamel.
It may be difficult for Milwaukee to fit both Gamel and LaPorta, a learning-on-the-job corner outfielder, on to a club already loaded with corner players, but for now, we advise you to sit back and enjoy the ride.
|No. 2 CARLOS ROSA, RHP||ROYALS|
Team:Double-A Northwest Arkansas (Texas)
Why He’s Here:2-0, 0.00 ERA, 14 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 16 K
The Scoop:A 2004 Tommy John surgery survivor, Rosa has a 93-95 mph fastball and a sharp curveball, and Texas League hitters were helpless against them this week. Last year, Rosa had the stuff but not the results; he had a 3.60 ERA with a pedestrian 85 strikeouts in 120 innings in four games with high Class A Wilmington and 21 more with Northwest Arkansas. This year, the results are catching up to his talent. Through six games, Rosa has a 1.32 ERA and a 32-5 K-BB ratio. It’s early, of course, but it’s the essence of player development when a pitcher like Rosa with excellent raw pitch quality makes the necessary improvements that lead to better on-field performance.
|No. 3 MATT LaPORTA, RF||BREWERS|
Team:Double-A Huntsville (Southern)
Why He’s Here:.389/.500/1.111, 7-for-18, 4 2B, 3 HR, 7 R, 8 RBI, 3 BB, 2 SO
The Scoop:After LaPorta topped our Hot Sheet last week, the right fielder took a back seat this week to teammate Mat Gamel. But LaPorta is back again this week after clubbing three home runs—and doing so despite missing a game after being hit in the hand with a pitch. Sealing the deal was LaPorta’s performance yesterday against Montgomery righthander Wade Davis, one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. LaPorta clubbed two home runs and added a double, driving in all four of the runs that Davis allowed in an otherwise commendable outing for the righthander.
|No. 4 TREVOR CAHILL, RHP||ATHLETICS|
Team:high Class A Stockton (California)
Why he’s here:0-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 1 R, 12 K, 0 BB
The Scoop:Success for pitchers can be elusive in the California League, but there are two ways to almost guarantee it. Get guys to either strike out or hit the ball on the ground. Cahill has done both. He’s the league leader with 39 strikeouts, in 30 innings, while walking only five. On the season he has a groundout-to-air out ratio of 2-to-1. Last year it was 1.83-to-1. He has a potent offense behind him, so the win column will start building up in due time, but it shouldn’t be a concern either way. He’s simply getting guys out in the best hitter’s league in the continental United States.
|No. 5 JASON HEYWARD, RF||BRAVES|
Team:low Class A Rome (South Atlantic)
Why he’s here:.431/.429/.696, 10-for-23, 7 R, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 1-0 BB-K
The Scoop:Heyward hasn’t disappointed in his first full professional season after Atlanta took him 14th overall last June. Heyward has hits in 14 of his last 15 games, raising his average from .273 to .337 in the process. He’s currently on a nine game hitting-streak, and although his power hasn’t really shone through much so far, he had a monster night last Saturday when he went 3-for-5 and blasted a pair of home runs against Savannah. Heyward was also noted for his impressive plate discipline when he was drafted, but strikeouts were an issue for him for the first couple weeks of the season when he fanned 17 times in the first 15 games. However, his recent turnaround has coincided with a dramatic decrease in his strikeouts, as he’s only struck out twice in his last 12 games, and not once this week.
|No. 6 ANDREW McCUTCHEN, CF||PIRATES|
Team:Triple-A Indianapolis (International)
Why he’s here:.370/.485/.667, 10-for-27, 2 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 5 R, 1-for-2 SB, 6/2 BB/K
The Scoop:Just try to find a category in which McCutchen does not excel. The Indianapolis leadoff man is batting .296/.392/.546 on the season with 32 hits, 15 extra-base hits (six homers, nine doubles) and 20 runs scored, ranking second in the IL in all three categories. Still not impressed? Keep in mind that McCutchen was walked more times (15) than he has struck out (14), and that his slugging percentage ranks fifth in the league. An ideal leadoff man and a rangy center fielder, McCutchen is definitely a keeper.
|No. 7 MICHAEL BOWDEN, RHP||RED SOX|
Team:Double-A Portland (Eastern)
Why he’s here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 11 Ks
The Scoop: After cruising through a difficult environment for pitcher’s at high Class A Lancaster last year, Bowden hit a bit of a wall upon his promotion to Double-A. That initial struggle was understandable, of course, given that Bowden was a 20-year-old facing more experienced Double-A competition. This year, the results have been mixed for Bowden. He has more strikeouts (29) than innings pitched (24 1/3), but he’s also allowed 12 runs (10 earned) and walked 11.
|No. 8 MAX RAMIREZ, C||RANGERS|
Team:Double-A Frisco (Texas)
Why he’s here: .522/.538/.609, 12-for-23, 2 2B, 5 RBIs, 2 BB, 2 SO
The Scoop: Despite outperforming fellow Rangers catcher Taylor Teagarden through the start of the season, the Rangers promoted Teagarden to Triple-A and left Ramirez in Frisco so that both players could get regular playing time once Jarrod Saltalamacchia was promoted from Triple-A to the big leagues. The move makes sense, of course, because Teagarden is still the better prospect at this point, but Ramirez is making it hard it ignore his early-season performance. Although most of his hits were singles in the last seven days, Ramirez is now at .364/.452/.636 through 25 games.
|No. 9 CHRIS VALAIKA, SS||REDS|
Team:high Class A Sarasota (Florida State)
Why he’s here: .500/.483/.893, 14-for-28, 7 R, 2 2B, 3 HR, 9 RBIs, 2 SO
The Scoop: Valaika probably won’t continue to play shortstop exlusively as he moves up, but it is quite evident that he’ll make it to the major leagues because of his bat. He’s been hitting all season (.388/.402/.612) and had a five-RBI game to his credit this week. The lack of walks may be a concern, but he was able to keep the whiffs down this week with just two. He was a 2006 third-round out of UC Santa Barbara, so don’t be surprised if he makes a move to Double-A before the season is over, especially if the Reds want to move Todd Frazier along.
|No. 10 JEREMY HELLICKSON, RHP||RAYS|
Team:high Class A Vero Beach (Florida State)
Why he’s here:0-0, 1.50, 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 11 K
The Scoop:As if the Rays need another stud pitching prospect, here comes Hellickson and his 41-2 K-BB ratio in 29 innings. Hellickson had his second double-digit strikeout game of the young season on Sunday, mowing down 11 in six innings without issuing a walk. The 6-foot-1 righthander has electric stuff and has had very good control since area scout Tom Couston signed him as a fourth-rounder in 2005 out of an Iowa high school. Hellickson uses his terrific arm action to helps him generate plus velocity on his fastball, which is complemented by a curveball and a changeup.
|No. 11 JEFF LOCKE, LHP||BRAVES|
Team:low Class A Rome (South Atlantic)
Why he’s here:1-0, 0.00, 12 IP, 11 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 SO
The Scoop:Rated as Atlanta’s third-best pitching prospect entering the season, Locke got off to a slow start and nearly made the Not-Hot list a few weeks ago when he gave up 14 hits and 10 runs in 7 2/3 innings over his first two starts. He improved somewhat in his next two starts, and then really turned it on this week. The lefthander pitched six shutout innings in each of his two starts on the week, and picked up his first win of the season on Thursday night against Greensboro. Locke has always been lauded for his command, and despite his early struggles that hasn’t changed this year, as he’s compiled an impressive 28-5 K-BB rate on the season.
|No. 12 ANTONIO BASTARDO, LHP||PHILLIES|
Team:high Class A Clearwater (Florida State)
Why he’s here:1-0, 0.00, 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 13 K
The Scoop:Bastardo’s numbers are now too loud to ignore. His 47 strikeouts on the season—including three double-digit efforts—lead all minor league pitchers, and he hasn’t given up more than two runs in any of his five starts. Now, before you get carried away, keep in mind this is the pitcher-friendly Florida State League we’re talking about and that Bastardo’s plus changeup has, naturally, tied inexperienced batters up in knots. He’s 5-foot-11, pitches in the high 80s and has shown a severe fly-ball tendency thus far (0.40 G/F), so let’s see how Bastardo adapts to Double-A before holding any parades in his honor.
|No. 13 NICK WEGLARZ, LF||INDIANS|
Team:high Class A Kinston (Carolina)
Why he’s here:.385/.448/.692, 10-for-26, 5 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBIs, 3 BB, 5 SO
The Scoop:Nick Weglarz didn’t have the best of debuts when he hit just .231/.313/.347 in the Appalachian League in 2005. He then missed all of 2006 with a broken hamate bone. He came around in 2007 with low Class A Lake County and is now hitting .288/.464/.438 as a 20-year-old in high Class A. He’s also dramatically improved his plate discipline. In 2007 he struck out 131 times and walked 82. In 2008, he has 15 whiffs and 24 free passes.
Partial credit goes to Louisville RHP Homer Bailey (Reds), who struck out 10 Toledo batters Wednesday in a seven-inning gem. But he served up a home run in that start, and two others in his start last Friday, meaning his 1-1, 4.85 record over 13 innings doesn’t quite warrant a higher ranking. The 21-year-old flamethrower struck out 16 over his two starts, though, while walking five and allowing 11 hits . . . Our Winter Player of the Year, Triple-A Tucson 2B Emilio Bonifacio (Diamondbacks) connected for 16 hits in 36 at-bats (.444) last week—collecting two or more in every game—but because his slugging percentage (.472) was just a few ticks higher than his average, you can be sure that not too many extra-base hits were struck. The 23-year-old speedster doubled once, scored four runs and struck out five times, but didn’t walk or steal a base—even with all those times on first . . . High Class A Bakersfield CF Julio Borbon (Rangers) hit .391/.440/.522 in 23 at-bats last week with three doubles and seven runs scored, all of which he’s done as a leadoff hitter . . . High Class A Bakersfield RHP Tommy Hunter (Rangers) is finding success in the California League. He made one start last week and threw 8 1/3 innings, allowing an unearned run on four hits while striking out 12. A second-year pro going 8 1/3 innings? Triple-A RHP Eric Hurley, still just 22, throwing 113 pitches in six innings? What has gotten in to the Rangers? . . . Low Class A Quad Cities SS Pete Kozma (Cardinals) has been impressive in his first full professional season, collecting hits in 19 of his last 21 games and hitting .474/.522/.789 last week . . . Even though his prospect status isn’t as great as most of the other players on this week’s Hot Sheet, we have to acknowledge the great week that Double-A Erie LF Wilkin Ramirez (Tigers) had: .481/.500/1.000 with three home runs, three doubles and a triple in 27 at-bats. The converted third baseman is still just 22 . . . High Class A Wilmington RHP Blake Wood (Royals) just missed a couple of previous Hot Sheets, but went 1-0, 2.03 in two starts last week, throwing 13 1/3 innings, allowing just three runs on six hits while striking out 14 and walking only two
• Travis Snider, dh, Blue Jays. We’re not panicking over Snider yet because he’s a 20-year-old in Double-A, and he’s coming back from a bit of an elbow injury. But Snider’s contact problems this year have been noteworthy. Snider, Toronto’s top prospect and one of the best pure hitting prospects in the minors, struck out in 14 of his 28 trips to the plate since Friday. He has hit .130/.286/.261 for the Fisher Cats in that stretch (3-for-21). In all, he has 22 strikeouts in 45 Double-A plate appearances, and he had 22 strikeouts in 65 plate appearances before his callup from high Class A Dunedin—though he did slug four homers en route to a .279/.333/.557 line. But just a reminder: Snider is the third-youngest hitter in the Eastern League, with only Jose Tabata and Fernando Martinez having later birthdates.
• Gerardo Parra, cf, Diamondbacks. Still just 20 years old, Parra was off to a torrid start hitting .375/.468/.625 for high Class A Visalia in his first 40 at-bats with only five strikeouts. Since then he’s batted just .220/.299/.271 in 59 at-bats with 10 strikeouts. He’s the best pure hitter in the Diamondbacks system, so he should come around, but his being in the California League certainly gives one pause.
• Charlie Culberson, ss, Giants. Low Class A Augusta’s lineup boasts as much talent as any in the minors, with the likes of Angel Villalona, Nick Noonan, and Culberson, but the early returns have been underwhelming. And no one has struggled as much at the plate and in the field as the 19-year-old Culberson. He’s hitting .100/.160/.171 on the season, with 2-16 BB-K total. Perhaps worst of all, he’s committed 16 errors in only 21 games, including three in one game last Friday against Hickory. The gory details form the week that was: .048/.167/.048 (1-for-21), with one walks, seven whiffs and five errors.
• Mike Aviles, 2b, Triple-A Omaha (Royals): It only seems like Aviles has been a Triple-A standout forever.
In fact, the 2003 Division II player of the year (at Concordia (N.Y.)
College) enters his third season as an Omaha regular, and this time may
be the charm. Aviles, 27, is in the midst of a 13-game hitting streak,
during which he’s hit .393/.414/.768 (22-for-56) with six doubles,
three triples and three homers. And if it weren’t for Pablo Sandoval
(see: Helium, below), Aviles’ 22 extra-base hits would lead the minors.
Lost in the shadow of hulking first baseman Kyle Blanks last year in the Cal League, the Padres’ Craig Cooper has returned to his outfield roots with Double-A San Antonio, and last week he loved every minute of it. The man who replaced center fielder Steve Stanley at Notre Dame, the 23-year-old Cooper batted .591/.583/.818 last week with a triple, a homer and eight RBIs. And he’s been doing it all year, learning to play right field and doing the things he’s always done: hit for average, rip a few doubles and otherwise get on base . . . Catcher Pablo Sandoval, 21, was a Futures Gamer last year, and the Giants always have believed in him as a hitter. We started to lose faith two years ago when he shifted off playing catcher, but he’s started hitting for more power the last two seasons while returning to a spot behind the plate. One scout who saw him last week said Sandoval is squaring up a lot of balls right now, which is reflected in his stats—his 23 extra-base hits for high Class A San Jose leads the minor leagues, and his .867 slugging percentage ranks second. And he had a monster week:.481/.531/.963 (13-for-27), with eight runs, five doubles, a triple, two homers and nine RBIs.