Prospect Hot Sheet: July 17-July 23

Entering the season, Jason Hirsh and Troy Patton ranked as the top two
prospects in the Astros’ system. After Hirsh got off to an awful start
(6.46 ERA in April) and Patton was mediocre (1-5, 4.01 through May),
they were not looking like inspired choices.

The duo have turned it around, however, and are making Astros’ prospect
maven Jim Callis look pretty prescient. As a result, for the first time
we have teammates in the top two spots of the Hot Sheet. As if Astros’
fans were not being spoiled enough, another one of their
organization-mates even made it into the Hot Sheet team photo along
with the recently traded Ben Zobrist.

Remember, this is not a rewrite of our Top 100 prospects list. This is simply a snapshot of which prospects are currently riding the biggest hot streaks.

If you have any comments, feel free to e-mail Chris Kline or Matt Meyers with your kudos or complaints.

THE HOT SHEET

1. Jason Hirsch, rhp, Astros (Triple-A Round Rock)
As
the Astros spend the end of July perusing the trade market, their most
potent midseason addition could be calling up Hirsh. The minors’
hottest pitcher has not allowed an earned run in his last six starts,
spanning 41 innings. During his last six starts, the righthander has allowed 17
hits and 12 walks while striking out 41. To keep the count running,
Hirsh has now won his last 10 decisions, and has a 0.92 ERA since May,
spanning 108 innings
2. Troy Patton, lhp, Astros (High Class A Salem)
The
20-year-old has not allowed more than two runs in any of his last 10
starts and in is last four starts, he has been even more vicious. In
that span, Patton is 4-0, 0.72 with a 22-4 strikeout-walk ratio in 25
innings.
3. Fernando Martinez, of, Mets (Low Class A Hagerstown

He misses more than a month with a sprained knee, and comes back to go
9-for-17 in his first four games to raise his season line to
.345/.402/.514 in 148 at-bats. You can almost hear the Mets fans
singing, “I remember long ago another starry night like this, in the
firelight Fernando.” Well, maybe not. But it would be funny if you
could.
4. Will Inman, rhp, Brewers (Low Class A West Virginia)
Like
Martinez, Inman has been scorching since his return from injury. He did
have his scoreless streak stopped at 24 innings during his last
start, but still earned the win by allowing two runs over five
innings and is 3-0, 0.69 in 26 innings since his return.
5. Brian Barden, if, Diamondbacks (Triple-A Tucson)
Barden
gets lost in a talented system and profiles best as a utilityman, but
we can’t ignore his week. The shortstop hit three home runs with two
doubles, a triple, 10 runs and 17(!) RBIs.
6. Brian Barton, of, Indians (Double-A Akron)
No,
there is not an echo in here. Barton began the week with high Class A
Kinston and went 6-for-12 before his promotion. With the Aeros, he is
7-for-14 with two homers in four games and this toolsy outfielder is
now hitting .314/.410/.531 between the two levels.
7. Homer Bailey, rhp, Reds (Double-A Chattanooga)
The
good times continue to roll for Bailey in Double-A, as he allowed just
three earned runs (his first at the level) in 14 innings on the week.
Bailey’s no-decision on Friday was his first non-win since joining
Chattanooga, but Bailey was overpowering in the outing nonetheless. If
the Reds are in the thick of things in September, and short one
pitcher, is Bailey’s callup now inevitable? Lookout for this Lookout.
8. Rich Hill, lhp, Cubs (Triple-A Iowa)
Perhaps
baseball’s biggest enigma, Hill gives Jason Hirsh some competition in
the PCL Pitcher of the Year race. Hill has not lost since May 25, and
has a 1.30 ERA since in 69 innings since. Even more impressive, Hill
has 95 strikeouts during that streak, a number he padded with two
14-strikeout starts on the week.
9. Max Ramirez, c, Indians (Low Class A Lake County)
It’s
not everyday a player in low Class A is traded straight-up for a big
leaguer. But that is what happened when the Braves sent Ramirez to the
Indians last week for Bob Wickman. He was 8-for-11 last week and since
joining the Captians he is 4-for-6 with a home run, a double, four
walks and no strikeouts over three games.
10. Clayton Kershaw, lhp, Dodgers (Rookie-level Gulf Coast League)
The
first high school hurler taken in this June’s draft, Kershaw is having
his way with the GCL. In five appearances the Texan is 1-0, 1.13 with a
21-1 strikeouts-walk ratio in 16 innings.

IN THE TEAM PHOTO

J. Brent Cox, rhp, Yankees (Double-A Trenton): Cox
didn’t have elite stuff, but his status as Huston Street’s successor as
the Texas Longhorns closer was enough for the Yankees to draft him in
the second round of the 2005 draft. Cox was aggressively assigned to
Double-A to start the season, where he has flourished with Trenton.
With 5 1/3 scoreless innings on the week, Cox extended his scoreless
streak to 26.
Tip Fairchild, rhp, Astros (High Class A Salem): After
named in Helium Watch earlier this season, Fairchild has continued
success even after a promotion to high Class A. From May 1 through his
promotion, Fairchild was 9-0, 1.21. Now in the Carolina League,
Fairchild lost his first start, but has bounced back in his last two.
In those two wins, Fairchild allowed just two earned runs in 13
innings.
J.A. Happ, lhp, Phillies (Double-A Reading):
The move to Double-A has gone well for Happ, who has won four of his
first five starts with Reading. Happ draws some praise for his
velocity and stuff, but more for the deception in his delivery. In
his last two starts, both wins, Happ allowed just one earned run in 14
innings, while striking out 16 batters.
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3b, Indians (Double-A Akron): Kouzmanoff
has had problems maintaining his .420 batting average since returning
from a hamstring injury; it’s down all the way to .398. Instead,
Kouzmanoff has started to work on his slugging percentage, finding his
home run swing in the last week. While going 9-for-32 over an
eight-game stretch isn’t awe-inspiring, six of those hits were homers.
Something to watch: Kouzmanoff has 14 strikeouts in 13 games since
returning from injury; he had just 19 whiffs in his 50 previous.
Garrett Olson, lhp, Orioles (Double-A Bowie):
Initially, the move to Double-A did not go well for Olson, who allowed
15 earned runs in his first four starts at the level. However, the
southpaw has started to turn things around, firing scoreless outings in
his last two starts, spanning 15 innings. In those outings, Olson
allowed just eight hits and three walks while striking out 13.
Carlos Ruiz, c, Phillies (Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre): Despite
a good 2005 season in Triple-A, a big league roster crunch sent Ruiz
back to Scranton to start the season. While the catcher has been unable
to stay on the big league roster in 2006, he’s surely tempting Phillie
brass, as Ruiz is hitting .442 in July. The catcher has reached base in
his last 16 games. raising his batting average 24 points in the
process. Ruiz also discovered his power stroke, hitting two home runs
on the week after going 33 contests without a long ball.
Troy Tulowitzki, ss, Twins (Double-A Tulsa): Tulowitzki
missed two weeks at the end of June with injury, but has come back
strong, hitting .365 in July. That includes a current 13-game hitting
streak that has propelled his batting average to its highest point in
six weeks. During the streak, the first round shortstop has scored 13
runs while hitting seven balls for extra bases. A late-season promotion
remains in the realm of possibility.
Cody Strait, of, Reds (High Class A Sarasota):
The Sarasota right fielder’s stats are an illustration of raw tools. He
leads the Florida State League in doubles (28) and steals (36), but
also has 82 strikeouts in 346 at-bats, which has led to a .257 average.
He’s figured it out some lately, as over the last nine games, he’s
hitting .531 (17-for-32) with six doubles, a triple, a home run, 12
RBIs and eight steals.
Ryan Sweeney, of, Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox): For
most of his career, Sweeney has been singing from the Sean Burroughs
songbook, with the refrain, “Power is the last tool to develop . . . ”
Unlike Burroughs, Sweeney seems to be catching on to the tune. He hit
three homers last week, giving him a career-high eight for the season,
though seven of his homers have come at cozy Knights’ Stadium.
Alberto Callaspo, ss/2b, Diamondbacks (Triple-A Tucson):
He does everything a manager would want in a reserve: hits (.338,
including .372 since May 1) and does it from both sides (though much
better lefthanded), makes contact (just 20 strikeouts in 391 at-bats),
runs (10 triples) and is versatile (he plays
anywhere in the infield).
Tommy Mendoza, rhp, Angels (Low Class A Cedar Rapids): After
the way he pitched in the California League late last year (10
scoreless innings, 12 strikeouts), it seemed odd that Mendoza got off
to a 1-5 start in the Midwest League. But he’s won his last seven
decisions, including four straight starts, with a 19-2 strikeout-walk
ratio in that span.
Donald Veal, lhp, Cubs (High Class A Daytona):
Maybe someday, all those walks (20 in 35 innings in the Florida State
League, 60 overall in 109 IP) will come back to haunt Veal. That day
hasn’t arrived yet, as his 1.03 ERA in the FSL attests. He’s been less
hittable for Daytona (.164) than he was in the Midwest League (.179).
Jonathan Barratt, lhp, Devil Rays (High Class A Visalia):
From Helium to Team Photo in one week. Barratt was pushed to the Cal
League last year, but he  wasn’t ready (6.59 ERA, 79-52 K-BB ratio
in 71 innings). This year, he’s got the hang of the league, throwing 11
scoreless innings in his last two starts with 18 strikeouts and just
two walks.
Lou Santangelo, c, Astros (High Class A Salem): Say
‘buon giorno’ to the Carolina League’s home run leader. The former
Seton Hall and Clemson backstop has a power bat and a power arm, two
tools that might help the Astros say ‘arrivederci’ to Brad Ausmus in
Houston.
Ben Zobrist, ss, Devil Rays (Triple-A Durham):
Scouts would draw up B.J. Upton if they had to describe a shortstop
physically, not Zobrist. But Zobrist is steady on the routine play (two
errors in 11 games), one reason he’s at short in Durham while Upton’s
at third. Plus, he hits a little–14-for-39 with eight walks in 11
Triple-A Games.

THE NOT-SO-HOT SHEET

Eric Hurley, rhp, Rangers (Double-A Frisco)
Pop
quiz: What do you do with a pitcher who has a 9.53 ERA in his last five
starts? If your answer was, “promote him,” than you might have a future
in the Rangers organization. Hurley was brutal in his last five starts
for high Class A Bakersfield, but he is making his Double-A debut
tonight against Midland.
B.J. Szymanski, of, Reds (Low Class A Dayton)
He
is 0-for-10 over his last three games, already has 30 strikeouts
this month and trails only Charlton Jimerseon (145) for most whiffs in
the minors with 137. Remember, this is his second time through the MWL.
Mark Hollimon, rhp, Cubs (High Class A Daytona)
Not
to be confused with Tigers shortstop Michael Hollimon, Mark had a nifty
1.10 ERA in June, but has upped that figure to 12.12 in July. His 9-11
strikeout-walk ratio probably has something to do with it.
Victor Diaz, of, Mets (Triple-A Norfolk)
Technically
no longer a prospect because he has too many big league at-bats, but we
just wanted to point out the fact that he is 8-for-58 in July. But hey,
at least he has no home runs.
Dallas McPherson, 3b, Angels (Triple-A Salt Lake)
Similar to Diaz in that he is no longer technically a prospect and also not getting it done, to the tune of 7-for-37 this month.

BLAST FROM THE PAST


Darnell McDonald, of, Triple-A Durham (Devil Rays)
In
the 1997 draft, McDonald was the top high school hitter available. Only
he wasn’t a great hitter; he was a great athlete (with a Texas football
scholarship–bet Mack Brown would have closed the deal) trying to
become a baseball player. Now he’s the veteran trying to lead the
talented but troubled Bulls by his example. Will they pay better
attention after his International League-high 27-game hitting streak,
which ended Sunday? He’s hitting .308/.371/.455 with 20 steals and 11
home runs for Durham.

HELIUM WATCH


Andy Sonnanstine, rhp, Double-A Montgomery (Devil Rays)
If
Sonnanstine were a lefty, he’d be considered an elite prospect,
comparable to Jeremy Sowers for his command and plus changeup. Instead,
his fringy fastball and show-me slider help him dominate Double-A,
where he’s won his last seven starts with three complete-game shutouts
in the string. He’s 10-6, 2.79 overall with an exemplary 108-24
strikeout-walk ratio. His career K-BB mark as a pro: 352-52 in more
than 370 innings. As his manager Charlie Montoyo said (in so many
words), if he keeps doing it, people will notice.

Minors | #2006 #Prospect Hot Sheet

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