See also: Previous Prospect Hot
The A’s were in the news a lot this week because of the Rich Harden trade. But as we started to put together the Hot Sheet for this week, we realized that the club deserves to be in the spotlight for another reason. If you look at this week’s list, you might notice that it has a distinctive green and gold hue.
Three of our top four players on the Sheet are A’s, and they also have a guy with impressive helium. It might not help them win the AL West this year, but there are certainly good signs for the future.
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 (July 4-10) getting the most consideration. The Why He’s Here line in the capsules refer to each player’s stats during that
Contributing: Ben Badler, J.J. Cooper,
Matt Eddy, Nathan Rode, Jim Shonerd, Mike Ehlrich, Austin Maloney, Anthony Tynan.
|No. 1 GIO GONZALEZ, LHP||ATHLETICS|
Team:Triple-A Sacramento (Pacific Coast)
Why he’s here: 2-0, 0.60, 15 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 BB, 20 SO
The Scoop: When Gonzalez first faced Fresno on June 18, he pitched his best game of the season: eight shutout innings, one hit, 12 strikeouts, no walks. That is, it was his best game of the season until he traveled to Fresno on the Fourth of July. In his second showdown with the Grizzlies, Gonzalez went the full nine innings, struck out 13 batters, walked two and allowed only one run on one hit, a solo homer by left fielder Eugenio Velez. Velez is now in the big leagues. Can it be a coincidence?
Oh yeah, Gonzalez also pitched well in his second start of the week, limiting Colorado Springs to one run on one hit in six innings. That’s a grand total of five baserunners in two starts—or exactly one-fourth his strikeout total in that span. And with 110 strikeouts on the year, Gonzalez has taken the PCL lead.
The centerpiece of last offseason’s Nick Swisher trade, Gonzalez may be turning a corner in his development at Triple-A. His walks per nine innings rate still is a bit too high, at 4.3, and he pitches much better at home (2.41 ERA vs. 6.79), but over his last five starts, he’s gone 4-1, 2.27 with 44 strikeouts, 11 walks and three home runs allowed in 31 2/3 innings. And that’s including a six runs in 2 2/3 inning disaster on June 23.
|No. 2 DEXTER FOWLER,
Team:Double-A Tulsa (Southern)
Why He’s Here:.455/.613/.909 (10-for-22), 8 R, 10 H, 2 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 3 RBIs, 8 BB, 4 SO
The Scoop:Fowler has zoomed up the prospect charts with an outstanding season, batting .329/.412/.521 and playing quality defense at a premium position. Some of Fowler’s improved slugging is more speed than power—he has legged out seven triples this season—but his 6-foot-4 frame lends itself to power projection as his body physically develops. Always a toolsy prospect, Fowler has now become a refined player who can hurt an opposing team in a multitude of ways.
|No. 3 TREVOR CAHILL, RHP||ATHLETICS|
Team: Double-A Midland (Texas)
Why he’s here: 1-0, 0.00, 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 SO
The Scoop: Double-A has not yet been the great equalizer for Cahill, who keeps humming along after three solid starts for Midland. He’s given up just four runs on eight hits, while striking out 18 and walking eight, in 19 innings. And with a 3.75 groundout-to-fly out mark, he continues to pound the bottom of the zone with his low-90s sinker. Cahill, The minor league strikeout (121) and average (.165) leader, starts today for the RockHounds, leaving his availability for Sunday’s Futures Game up in the air.
|No. 4 JAMES SIMMONS, RHP||ATHLETICS|
Double-A Midland (Texas)
Why he’s here:1-0, 0.00, 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 11 SO
The Scoop:It’s the Week of the A’s pitcher, with three Oakland farmhands ranking in the top four. Simmons, a first-round pick out of UC Riverside in 2007, has such advanced command that he hasn’t spent a day below Double-A—not even a tune-up in the short-season Northwest League after signing last year. He retired the first 10 batters he faced this week, and struck out 11 total, but had to “settle” for an eight-inning two-hitter. With 16-year-old Dominican righty Michel Inoa in tow, Gio Gonzalez improving at Triple-A and lefty Brett Anderson carving up Double-A batters along with Simmons and Trevor Cahill, Oakland’s pitching depth is officially the envy of baseball.
|No. 5 NICK WEGLARZ, LF||INDIANS|
Team: high Class A Kinston (Carolina)
Why He’s Here: .571/.625/1.357 (8-for-14), 5 R, 2 2B, 3 HR, 4 RBIs, 2 BB, 1 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Weglarz is quietly becoming one of the better prospects in the Carolina League. Despite being just 20 years old and playing in a pitcher-friendly league, Weglarz is hitting .271/.395/.444 on the season. He’s hit 10 home runs and has really heated up this month. In July, he’s batting .375/.444/.719 in 32 at-bats with three home runs. Not bad for an emerging Canadian power hitter.
|No. 6 MATT WIETERS, C||ORIOLES|
Team: Double-A Bowie (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: .417/.481/.750 (10-for-24), 6 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 3 BB, 5 SO
The Scoop: Those of you playing the “Guess Where Matt Wieters Will Land On The Hot Sheet” game got it right if you picked sixth for the slugging Orioles’ catcher. Wieters has not missed a beat since his promotion to Bowie. This past week, he knocked two home runs and two doubles to put EL pitchers on alert that the stiffer competition will not slow him down. Wieters is now at a ridiculous .347/.448/.588 in 14 games at Double-A. It looks like the only thing that will stop him from hitting at this level is another promotion. Queue opponents lining up to plead with the Baltimore front office.
|No. 7 FREDDIE FREEMAN, 1B||BRAVES|
low Class A Rome (South Atlantic)
Why He’s Here:.433/.514/.767 (13-for-30), 2 3B, 2 HR, 8 RBIs, 6 R, 5 BB, 4 SO, 1-for-2 SB
The Scoop:Freeman would’ve been even higher on this list had he not ended his week with a 1-for-6 effort last night in a 14-inning game against Greensboro. But even then, Freeman made a pretty important contribution by drawing a game-winning, bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the 14th. Prior to Thursday, Freeman had tore up opposing pitching staffs, registering a hit in all seven games he played, including a streak of four straight multi-hit games from Saturday through Tuesday. Freeman slowed down a bit in June, batting only .240/.318/.427, but he’s heated back up in July to raise his line to .305/.363/.516 for the year, and he’s climbed into a tie for second in the SAL in hits, and he ranks fifth in extra-base hits.
|No. 8 WES HODGES, 3B||INDIANS|
Double-A Akron (Eastern)
Why he’s here: .444/.500/.815 (12-for-27), 1 HR, 3 2B, 2 3B, 8 RBIs, 4 R, 4 BB, 2 SO
The Scoop: Hodges and lefthander David Huff, two of the Indians’ top four picks in 2006, have separated themselves from the pack this season with their outstanding performances. Hodges cranked six extra-base hits and walked twice as often as he struck out this week, and he leads the EL with 72 RBIs while ranking second with 106 hits. A solid defender at third base, Hodges’ play this season suggests that Cleveland fans may not have to shake their heads at the mention of Andy Marte for too much longer.
|No. 9 DENNIS RABEN,
Team: short-season Everett (Northwest)
Why He’s Here: .667/.760/1.111 (12-for-18), 1 HR, 5 2B, 5 RBIs, 10 R, 7 BB, 2 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: The Mariners have had their eye on Raben for a while—they first drafted him in the 49th round out of high school. This time, they signed him as a second-round pick out of Miami, though it took a little while to work out the parameters of the deal. Since signing, Raben has taken the NWL by storm. He had multiple hits and at least one extra-base hit in each of his first four games. The lefty has a smooth, although somewhat long swing that generates solid power, which he certainly demonstrated this week.
|No. 10 LARS ANDERSON, 1B||RED SOX|
high Class A Lancaster (California)
Why He’s Here: .476/.538/1.000 (10-for-21), 2 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBIs, 7 R, 3 BB, 4 SO
The Scoop: Sending big Lars Anderson to the hitter’s haven that is Lancaster figured to produce some fireworks, and Anderson hasn’t disappointed. As hot as Anderson was in June, when he hit .360/.440/.490, he’s been even better in July. Anderson has already cracked four home runs in nine games this month, three of which have come away from Lancaster. He did more than hit for power this week, as Anderson reached base at least once in every game and strung together four multi-hit games. For the season, Anderson is batting .324/.416/.529, ranking him fifth in the league in average and third in on-base percentage.
|No. 11 BRETT WALLACE, 3B||CARDINALS|
Team: low Class A Quad Cities (Midwest)
Why He’s Here:.381/.500/.810 (8-for-21), 3 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBIs, 7 R, 2 BB, 3 SO
The Scoop:Perhaps Wallace is taking his frustration over Arizona State’s failure to reach Omaha out on MWL pitchers. Whatever the case may be, the Cardinals’ first-rounder hasn’t had any trouble adjusting to the usually pitcher-friendly MWL in his first full week on the job. Wallace went hitless in his professional debut, but has recorded at least one hit in all seven games since. He launched his first professional home run on Saturday, and the highlight of his streak came two days later when he went 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles in a win against Peoria.
|No. 12 CHRIS VALAIKA, SS||REDS|
Team: Double-A Chattanooga (Southern)
Why He’s Here: .400/.438/.700 (12-for-30), 3 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 7 R, 2 BB, 6 SO
The Scoop: He might not have the defensive chops to stick at shortstop in the big leagues, and he might be a tick below-average as a runner. But Valaika can hit, and he’s been proving that all year. Always a talented player for his age, he was a fixture on Team USA for years. He bounced back from a torn ACL at UC Santa Barbara and was selected in the third round of the 2006 draft. Now he’s hitting .293/.353/.457 for Chattanooga, better in every category than he was last year in the Florida State League.
|No. 13 MICHAEL BOWDEN, RHP||RED SOX|
Team: Double-A Portland (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.90, 10 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 12 SO
The Scoop: The Red Sox are keeping a close watch on Bowden’s pitch counts, which explains why he had a pair of five-inning outings, but you can’t argue with his production this week. His plus command allowed him to thrive in Lancaster last year, which is a tough environment for pitchers, but his numbers weren’t as good after a promotion to Portland. This year, they’ve been exceptional. Bowden mixes a low-90s fastball with a big-breaking curveball and a changeup, and he’s a pretty good bet to reach Triple-A by the end of the season.
It defies explanation, but Triple-A Iowa RHP Jeff Samardzija (Cubs) has performed much better in the Pacific Coast League—through four starts—than he did at any point in Double-A this season. In two starts this week, the 23-year-old, fifth-round pick (2006) out of Notre Dame went 2-0, 4.12 in 13 1/3 innings, and struck out 13, walked three and gave up 15 hits and three home runs. Samardzija kept the ball on the ground, generating 17 groundball outs and 10 fly outs. Hey, it’s a start. . . . You could seemingly throw darts at a board of pitching prospects and hit one who’s performed better than Double-A Montgomery RHP Wade Davis (Rays) has this season. Yeah, the 22-year-old he leads the Southern League with nine wins, but his 42 walks rank third, and his ERA stands at just 3.85 in a good league for pitchers. So after a brutal June (6.23 ERA in six starts), Davis has gotten off on the right foot in July, going 2-0, 1.50 this week, with 12 strikeouts, three walks, 15 hits and just two runs allowed in 12 innings. . . . Jupiter 1B Logan Morrison (Marlins), 21, hasn’t slowed the pace at all, hitting .476/.538/.714 with three doubles and four RBIs on the week. . . . Frederick 1B Brandon Snyder (Orioles) has been marred by injury and position transitions the last couple of years, but he seems to be settling in at high Class A. The 21-year-old former catcher hit .444/.429/.926 this week with four doubles and three home runs. . . . Bakersfield lefthander Kasey Kiker (Rangers), 20, bounced back from a string of bad starts by going six innings and allowing just four hits while striking out seven and earning a win. . . . Double-A Montgomery C John Jaso (Rays) continued his strong second half with a .417/.548/.625 (10-for-24) week. Jaso, 24, is currently riding a 10-game hitting streak and drew an impressive seven walks in one week to go with a couple of doubles and a home run. . . . Double-A Springfield 3B Allen Craig (Cardinals) is riding a 14-game hitting streak, and he put up a .462/.500/.692 week. Craig, 23, had five multi-hit games this week and has raised his line for the year to .290/.358/.470 with 14 homers and 58 RBIs.
Jaime Garcia, lhp, Cardinals. Injuries have forced the Cardinals to recall Garcia from Triple-A Memphis, despite a recent rough stretch that suggests the 22-year-old lefty’s command may not yet be up to big league standards. In his last five starts, Garcia has gone 1-2, 6.92 with 19 strikeouts and 14 walks in 26 innings. He’s given up just 30 hits (two home runs), but the warning signs, aside from the walks, are present—namely, five wild pitches, three balks and one hit batsman. St. Louis needed to bring up somebody, with Mark Mulder’s career hanging in the balance and Mitchell Boggs’ big league struggles (6.59 ERA in 29 innings), so Garcia gets the chance to strut his stuff in the big leagues. Unfortunately for Futures Game viewers, it will cost him his roster spot on the World Team.
• Greg Halman, cf, Mariners. Halman has a history of adjusting to a new level, something that has continued this season. He tore up the high Class A California League, batting .268/.320/.572 in 67 games this season before his promotion to Double-A West Tenn. The power is still there, but the 20-year-old Halman’s approach may always haunt him. Through 20 games, Halman is batting just .247/.289/.471 with three walks and 25 strikeouts. There’s still plenty of time—and plenty of raw ability to work with—but a better handle of the strike zone could go a long way toward helping him fulfill his potential.
Gorkys Hernandez, cf, Braves. He’s headed to the Futures Game, but it was a rough week for the speedy high Class A Myrtle Beach outfielder. In four games, he went 1-for-16 (.063/.118/.063) with a walk and two strikeouts. Speed and defense are the main components of the 20-year-old Hernandez’s game, and he did manage to go 1-for-2 in stolen bases despite reaching base just twice.
• Brad Lincoln, rhp, Pirates. We have to give Lincoln some slack since he’s coming off Tommy John surgery that forced him miss all of 2007, but he’s been all too hittable lately for low Class A Hickory. Batters are hitting at a .301 clip against Lincoln in his 55 1/3 innings pitched, and he’s given up eight home runs in 10 starts. Lincoln started the season well enough, going 4-2, 2.97 through his first seven outings, but his fortunes have taken a major downturn recently. He’s lost his last three starts and given up 19 earned runs in 16 innings in the process. He had his worst start of the year on Monday against Lake County, when he surrendered seven runs, all earned, on 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings.
Kyle Skipworth, c, Marlins. It’s not unusual for high school draft picks to experience growing pains in their pro debut, but Skipworth’s struggles have been a bit surprising considering how highly regarded his offensive tools were coming out of the draft. The 18-year-old debuted with the GCL Marlins on June 27 and didn’t record a hit until his fifth game. Skipworth has struggled the past week, striking out ten times in 23 at-bats. His 3-for-23 line since July 4 certainly won’t garner Skipworth any praise, but his ability to catch regularly in the grueling environment of the GCL is impressive. Skipworth has been behind the plate for over 75 percent of his team’s games since joining the squad.
• Mike McCardell, rhp, Twins. Unlike most 23-year-olds in low Class A, McCardell is a pretty well regarded prospect. So although he’s not age-appropriate for the Midwest League, he’s been doing what you hope he would with the assignment, going 6-2, 2.72 through 14 appearances for Beloit. In his first start this week, McCardell was touched up a bit for four runs (three earned) on eight hits in seven innings against Clinton, but he bounced back with seven shutout innings last night against Fort Wayne, striking out nine and giving up only two hits and two walks. McCardell hasn’t duplicated the stunning 102-9 K-BB mark he put together in his pro debut last year, but his 81-17 K-BB in 82 2/3 innings on the year isn’t too shabby either.
• Casey Hodges, rhp, Braves. The Danville righthander had one of the most impressive pitching weeks in the minor leagues, throwing 14 shutout innings, while striking out 13 batters. The 23-year-old is nearly three years older than the average age in the Appalachian League, but his 3-1 record and 0.60 ERA rank among the best in the league.
|RASHAUN DIXON, CF||ATHLETICS|
|Team: Rookie-level AZL Athletics (Arizona)
Why: .429/.478/1.000 (9-for-21), 3 3B, 2 HR, 8 RBIs, 7 R, 2 BB, 4 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Oakland’s 10th-round pick in this year’s draft, Dixon has been most impressive due to his quick adjustment to professional baseball. The past week served as Dixon’s coming-out party, as he raised his average over 100 points. A three-star football recruit, who had committed to Mississippi State as a wide receiver, Dixon has plenty of size (6-foot-2, 215 pounds), but also the athleticism to remain in center field. Having a two-home run game, as Dixon did on Sunday would usually be the highlight of a player’s week, but Dixon’s 3-for-5 night on Wednesday with a triple and three RBIs and a stolen base may have highlighted his skill set even more.