See also: Previous Prospect Hot
Red Sox fans never got much of a chance to fall for Engel Beltre. He was a promising Latin American outfield prospect, but before he had much of a chance to make a splash in the States, he was dealt away for reliever Eric Gagne.
It seems like Rangers fans will have a much longer time to dream about Beltre's ultimate potential. He showed some pretty impressive glimpses this week.
Remember as always, this is not a re-ranking of
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 11-17) 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 ENGEL BELTRE, CF||RANGERS|
Team:low Class A Clinton (Midwest)
Why He's Here: .545/.545/1.136 (12-for-22), 2 2B,1 3B, 3 HR, 4 RBIs, 7 R, 0 BB, 4 SO, 2-for-2 SB
The Scoop: The Rangers challenged Beltre with an assignment to low Class A Clinton, and he's been holding his own all year as the Midwest League's youngest position player, all the while impressing with his athleticism. A potential five-tool talent, Beltre remains understandably raw in most phases of the game, but his response to a difficult environment has been off the charts. He was a key contributor to Clinton's Western Division first-half title, and he's gotten even better since.
After looking like he might be slowing down a bit it in June when he hit .277/.305/.396, he's responded in a big way in July. Beltre has had nine multi-hit games this month, including a stretch of five in a row from the 10th through the 16th, on his way to hitting .369/.379/.631 in 65 July at-bats. This stretch has allowed him to climb back up the league leaderboards, where he leads the MWL in runs scored (70) and is second in hits (115) and triples (9).
He's even begun to show early signs of the power that has been projected of him. After hitting just four home runs in the first three months of the year, Beltre clubbed long balls in three consecutive games this week, including one to lead off Monday's game against Quad Cities.
|No. 2 MADISON BUMGARNER, LHP||GIANTS|
Team:low Class A Augusta (South Atlantic)
Why He's Here:1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 11 SO
The Scoop:Sheer domination. There's no other way to characterize Bumgarner's last three months. Over his last 16 starts, he's allowed more than two runs only twice, and the loss he took on July 10 was his first since April 18, a span of 12 starts with out a defeat. Bumgarner, now 9-3, 1.79 for the year, has few rivals for title of best arm in the Sally League, especially since the Rockies promoted Jhoulys Chacin to high Class A Modesto. The flame-throwing Bumgarner turned in what, for him, was a pretty standard outing on Wednesday against Hagerstown, dominating the Suns for seven innings. Bumgarner had a stretch in that game in which he fanned eight hitters out of 10, and no baserunner got further than second against him. And of the four baserunners he did allow, he picked off two of them.
|No. 3 HANK CONGER, DH/C||ANGELS|
Team: high Class A Rancho Cucamonga (California)
Why he's here: .438/.438/1.563 (7-for-16), 6 HR, 14 RBIs, 0 BB, 2 SO
The Scoop: Coming into the season, the big questions with Conger were whether he could stay healthy and whether he could stay behind the plate. We still don't have answers to either question. Conger has been limited to DH because of a labrum tear, but we are seeing plenty of proof that he can hit. The switch-hitter had hit for average (.303 in 109 at-bats), but hadn't shown much power until this week. A three home-run game, followed by a two-homer game will help change that.
|No. 4 FREDDIE FREEMAN, 1B||BRAVES|
Team: low Class A Rome (South Atlantic)
Why He's Here: .571/.609/1.095 (12-for-21), 5 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBIs, 5 R, 2 BB, 4 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: As great as Freeman was last week to come in at No. 7 on the Hot Sheet, he was even better this week. The big Rome first baseman continued to decimate Sally League pitching as he racked up four multi-hit games, including the last three in a row from Tuesday through Thursday, and has lengthened his hitting streak to 16 games. Freeman is hitting a white-hot .491/.561/.861 in July as he continues to climb up the SAL hitting charts, where he's now fifth in average and second in RBIs.
|No. 5 CHRIS CARTER, 3B/1B||ATHLETICS|
Team: high Class A Stockton (California)
Why He's Here: .375/.423/.917 (9-for-24), 7 R, 4 2B, 3 HR, 10 RBIs, 2 BB, 3 SO
The Scoop: Carter was drafted in the 15th round in 2005 by the White Sox as a third baseman. He didn't last long at the position as he was moved to first base before he made it out of the Appalachian League. After being traded twice in the offseason, Carter is being given opportunities at other positions, including his original domain and in the outfield. He's been playing third base regularly since June 27 and is batting .317/.338/.714 in 63 at-bats at the hot corner. Compare that to .233/.352/.578 in 90 at-bats as a first baseman. Overall, he's hitting .264/.371/.582 in 337 at-bats.
|No. 6 LOGAN MORRISON, 1B||MARLINS|
Team: high Class A Jupiter (Florida State)
Why He's Here: .500/.524/.900 (10-for-20), 2 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBIs, 1 BB, 1 SO
The Scoop: Morrison showed a lot of promise in his first full season with low Class A Greensboro in 2007. As the No. 16 prospect in the Marlins organization, he was said to have a chance to be a fast riser if he showed improvement like he did with the Grasshoppers. It's probably safe to say he's exceeded those expectations. Morrison saw his average climb to .347 this week while his slugging percentage jumped 25 points to .520. He now is hitting .347/.410/.520 in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League.
|No. 7 VIN MAZZARO, RHP||ATHLETICS|
Team: Double-A Midland (Texas)
Why He's Here:1-0, 0.00, 8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 10 SO
The Scoop:Though he was the third high school pitcher the A's took in the first three rounds of the 2005 draft (after Craig Italiano and Jared Lansford), Mazzaro has outperformed his fellow draftees. The righthander had a lights-out start for Midland this week, pitching eight shutout innings and giving up just four hits, striking out 10 and walking none. Mazzaro thrives on his 90-92 mph fastball that can touch 95 and has good natural sink and late explosion through the zone. His secondary offerings aren't as dependable, as he struggles to command his changeup, and he throws a below-average power breaking ball. He's 9-3, 2.11 this year, but needs to add different velocities to his power arsenal to keep hitters off balance.
|No. 8 NIKO VASQUEZ, SS||CARDINALS|
Team: Rookie-level Johnson City (Appalachian)
Why He's Here: .455/.613/.682 (10-for-22), 5 2B, 3 RBIs, 6 R, 6 BB, 3 SO, 4-for-4 SB
The Scoop: Vasquez's performance is impressive in itself, but when put next to the performance of other top high schoolers in the Appalachian League, Vasquez's numbers are exceptional. Top pick Tim Beckham (Rays) and highly-touted outfielder Jay Austin (Astros) have both had serious troubles adjusting to professional pitching, but Vasquez has made the transition very smoothly. He had doubles in four of his six games over the past week, including a two-double night on July 12 against Elizabethton. Heading into Friday's action, Vasquez is riding a five game hitting streak. His six walks and three strikeouts are another sign of how well he has adjusted to pro ball, displaying his mature approach at the plate.
|No. 9 BRAD HOLT, RHP||METS|
Team: short-season Brooklyn (New York-Penn)
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 K.
The Scoop: A supplemental first-round pick out of UNC Wilmington, Holt delivered his best professional outing yet by pitching seven shutout innings and striking out 10 in a game against State College. Holt struck out the game's first four batters and retired the leadoff batter in each of the first six innings. His first start did not go well, but since then Holt has allowed three earned runs in 20 2/3 innings, as hitters are struggling to catch up to his 94 mph fastball.
|No. 10 JOSH DONALDSON, C||ATHLETICS|
high Class A Stockton (California)
Why He's Here: .435/.480/1.000 (10-for-23), 9 R, 1 2B, 4 HR, 11 RBIs, 2 BB, 8 SO
The Scoop: Give Donaldson some credit for responding to a change of scenery. He was hitting .217/.276/.349 for low Class A Peoria before coming to the A's in the Rich Harden deal. With a new organization, Donaldson has moved up to high Class A and hit the ground running, putting up a .423/.483/.923 line and four home runs in his first seven games. It's not often that a guy jumps up a level and improves his numbers, but Donaldson is finding he likes how the ball jumps off the bat in the California League.
|No. 11 CLAYTON KERSHAW, LHP||DODGERS|
Team: Double-A Jacksonville (Southern)
Why he's here:2-0, 0.00, 12 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 SO
The Scoop:Kershaw's eight big league starts were marred by too many walks and high pitch counts, but he's slowed the game back down in his return to the SL. In three starts for Jacksonville since being optioned down, he's struck out just 12 in 18 innings—but in giving up three runs on seven hits in that span, he's been just as untouchable. Best of all, Kershaw has issued just four walks in those three starts, as he refines his pitch efficiency. And with 100 combined innings already this season, he's approaching the career-high 122 he logged last season.
|No. 12 TIM ALDERSON, RHP||GIANTS|
Team: high Class A San Jose (California)
Why He's Here: 1-0, 1.50, 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 HB, 6 SO, 1 BB
The Scoop: This is all just routine for Alderson. Week to week, it's becoming a matter of where—not if—he'll make the Hot Sheet. He's won his last three starts and hasn't been tagged with a loss since June 10 when he gave up a run in 5 2/3 innings and received zilch in run support. He's 9-3, 3.24 now and has bounced back from a slight bump a couple months ago. His ERA was 4.02 for the month of May, but he went 1-1, 2.57 in June and is 2-0, 4.09 in 11 innings in July so far.
|No. 13 NICK WEGLARZ, LF||INDIANS|
Team: high Class A Kinston (Carolina)
Why He's Here: .400/.538/.650 (8-for-20), 1 2B, 2 3B, 1 RBI, 5 BB, 3 SO, 2-for-3 SB
The Scoop: Weglarz looks like he's ready for some Olympic competition. He's taken the Carolina League by storm and is showing no signs of cooling off. After a slow start in which he was hitting .259/.389/.411 through the first three months, he's turned the heat up on opposing pitchers. So far, in 15 July contests, he's hitting .385/.484/.692 with three home runs and an 8-to-8 walk-to-strikeout ratio. Team Canada usually has a prospect or two on its team, but Weglarz could be leading a stronger than normal team in Beijing.
Low Class A Lansing SS Justin Jackson (Blue Jays) is one of the Midwest League's better defenders, but to this point his offense has been significantly less noteworthy. He's batting .242/.350/.376 on the season—and with serious contact issues (102 whiffs in 306 at-bats)—but his performance this week lends hope that he's starting to figure some things out. The 19-year-old Jackson, who has returned to the top of the Lugnuts' order, batted .462/.481/.654 (12-for-26) with two doubles, a home run, three runs scored, a walk and six strikeouts on the week . . . Double-A Mississippi RHP Tommy Hanson (Braves) seems to have been affected by a 12-day layoff between starts—but not by that much. This week, the 21-year-old turned in a typical start for him, going six innings and giving up a run on five hits while striking out eight and walking three in a start against Carolina. He also hit a batter . . . High Class A Frederick 1B Brandon Snyder (Orioles) saw his 17-game hitting streak come to an end last night, but the 21-year-old still hit .419/.428/.548 (13-for-31) with four doubles this week . . . High Class A Visalia RHP Barry Enright (Diamondbacks) didn't record a decision this week, but still allowed just one run on five hits over six innings, while striking out a career-best 12 batters. The 22-year-old is 7-5, 5.02 in 109 innings this season . . . No one in the Arizona League has been more impressive than OF Jaff Decker
(Padres), a supplemental first-round pick in June. Decker, 18 years old and out of an Arizona high school, hit
.429/.538/.619 on the week. The big-bodied outfielder racked up 8 runs
and 6 RBIs while stealing a pair of bases . . . He's way too advanced for the Appalachian League, but you can't blame Rookie-level Elizabethton RHP
Shooter Hunt (Twins) for the Twins' lack of a short-season affiliate.
The 21-year-old was dominant the past week, making two starts and
allowing just one earned run. Hunt threw eleven innings on the week,
recording 22 strikeouts with only two walks . . . When the season began, Oklahoma RHP Tommy Hunter (Rangers) was in high Class A, a long way from Arlington. But the 2007 supplemental first-round pick out of Alabama has earned a pair of promotions, and is pitching in Triple-A like he wants a September callup. Hunter, 22, improved to 1-1, 2.01 in three Triple-A starts as he threw seven shutout innings at Round Rock this week. Command is Hunter's calling card, he's walked only three batters in his last 28 innings.
U.S. Olympians in the Triple-A all-star game. Wednesday was a banner day for the six Triple-A all-stars who, hours before the IL-PCL showdown, were selected to play for Team USA in Beijing: Matt Brown, Geno Espineli, John Gall, Mike Hessman, Blaine Neal and Terry Tiffee. As it turned out, the game's MVP Brown (2-for-3, double, RBI, run) and Espineli (three of four batters faced retired by strikeout) were the only ones smiling at the end of the game. Given a two-run lead heading into the bottom of the ninth, Neal retired only one batter in giving up six runs on four hits and a walk. Meanwhile, Gall (three strikeouts), Hessman (four strikeouts) and Tiffee (two strikeouts) went a combined 0-for-12.
• Jeff Manship, rhp, Twins. Providing an abject lesson in the difficulty of Double-A baseball, Manship is 1-4, 5.06 through his first six starts for New Britain. Overall, he's maintained a sound strikeout-to-walk ratio, at 27-to-11 in 32 innings, but the 23-year-old gave up six runs (and four walks) in four innings this week and six runs on 13 hits in five innings the week before. A 14th-round pick out of Notre Dame in 2006, Manship spent much of the past two seasons with high Class A Fort Myers, for whom he went 15-8, 2.94 in 29 starts.
Craig Italiano, rhp, Athletics. Italiano came close to making the Hot Sheet while dominating the Midwest League, but his transition to the California League has been pretty messy. The 22-year-old was 0-0, 162.16 for high Class A Stockton this week after lasting just one-third of an inning and allowing six runs on six hits. So far, he's recorded 10 1/3 innings, surrendering 20 hits and 19 runs, all earned. Opponents are hitting .400 off him with 10 extra-base hits. Italiano is 0-2, 16.55 in his first four appearances for the Ports.
• Colin Cowgill, cf, Diamondbacks. After rampaging through the short-season Northwest League, a promotion to South Bend of the low Class A Midwest League has made for a hard reality check for Cowgill, Arizona's fifth-round pick from Kentucky. Cowgill, 22, hit 11 home runs in his first 20 professional games before being called up, but managed to hit just .154/.214/.192 (4-for-26) in his first full week in low Class A.
Dennis Raben, rf, Mariners. Raben was hot enough last week to become the first short-season player to make the Hot Sheet, but this week served as the sharpest of contrasts. Raben went 3-for-22 for Everett on the week. Granted, they were all doubles and he had one hit in each of the first three games of the week, meaning that he hit in each of his first 10 games. Still, Raben struck out seven times and was on the bench both Wednesday and Thursday.
• Brett Myers, rhp, Phillies. The Phillies have indicated that Myers will return to the big league rotation on June 23, but for three starts the 27-year-old major league vet had his way with minor league batters. In one start for Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Myers went 1-2, 3.10 and struck out 22 batters in 21 1/3 innings. Philadelphia optioned Myers to the minors so that he could iron out his mechanics and curb his walk (3.9 per nine) and home-run (2.1 per nine) tendencies. It seems to have worked: Myers surrendered just six walks and one home run.
• Bobbie Brownlie, rhp, Nationals.
Brownlie's days as a Cubs top prospect are long gone. The 2003 first-round pick fell so far that he made a trip through the independent leagues, but has been reborn as a successful Double-A starter in his second stint in affiliated ball. Brownlie, 27, once had a fastball that touched 96 mph, but now he's lucky to get much above 90 mph. The velocity he once had may never come back, but he has learned how to use his changeup and curveball to keep hitters off balance. Brownlie improved to 8-0, 3.38 with Double-A Harrisburg. It's all about avoiding the big inning these days for Brownlie—he's given up 11 home runs and struck out only 38 in 72 innings, but he's allowed more than two runs only once in his past five starts.
|MIKE LOREE, RHP||GIANTS|
|Team: short-season Salem-Keizer (Northwest)
Why He's Here: 20 IP, 1 baserunner (during a three-start stretch)
The Scoop: No one will have a better stretch over three games than Loree this season. In three straight starts, he went six perfect innings, 6 2/3 perfect innings and seven perfect innings. He allowed a solo home run with two out in the seventh in the second start before retiring the next batter he faced. Loree came back to earth in his last start on Wednesday, coughing up three runs on eight hits in five innings. In 34 innings on the season, Loree has a 1.59 ERA and a 32-to-1 K-to-BB ratio—and that walk was intentional. But the best part of his story is that he was a 50th-round pick in 2007, proving that success can come to those who wait . . . to be drafted until the final round.