Prospect Hot Sheet: July 27

The Prospect Hot Sheet is not a re-ranking of
the Top 100 Prospects. This is a snapshot of which top prospects are
excelling and which ones are struggling right now. Stats cover the period July 20-26.

Contributing: Ben Badler, J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy, Jim Shonerd and interns Pat Hickey, Andrew Krause and Clint Longenecker.

No. 1 TAIJUAN WALKER, RHP

MARINERS

Team: Double-A Jackson (Southern)

Age: 19

Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.75, 2 GS, 12 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 11 SO, 2 BB, 1 HBP

The Scoop: Walker has taken his lumps over the last couple months, but this week he started showing the kind of dominance he had early in the season. After posting a 2.23 ERA through the end of May, Walker put up an ugly 0-3, 9.15 record in five June starts. His power fastball and devastating curveball continued to impress, and he still managed to strike out 23 batters in 20 2/3 innings during his June struggles—not bad for the Southern League’s youngest pitcher.

Walker began his turnaround this week by throwing six innings and allowing one run against Huntsville last Friday. He then followed that up with six scoreless innings with eight strikeouts to beat Montgomery on Thursday. He’s won three of his last four starts to improve to 7-5, 4.09 overall, and he still ranks among the SL leaders in opponent average (.241, fifth) and strikeouts per nine innings (9.0, fourth).

Taijuan Walker Player Card

No. 2 ALEX MEYER, RHP

NATIONALS

Team: high Class A Potomac (Carolina)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 2 GS, 12 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 12 SO, 2 BB, 1 HBP

The Scoop: Meyer’s dominance in low Class A was nice (107 strikeouts in 90 innings, .210 opponent average), but we’ll give him more credit now that the Nationals bumped the 22-year-old up to the more age-appropriate Carolina League. The 2011 first-round pick made his Potomac debut last Friday with six shutout innings, striking out seven. He then allowed only an unearned run on two hits in another six-inning start on Wednesday. Control will always be a worry for the 6-foot-9 righthander, but he’s been solid most of the year, allowing 3.2 walks per nine over his 20 starts and walking just two in his two starts this week.

Alex Meyer Player Card

No. 3 YORDANO VENTURA, RHP

ROYALS

Team: Double-A Northwest Arkansas (Texas)

Age: 21

Why He’s
Here:
0-1, 0.71, 2 GS, 12 2/3 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 6 BB, 12 SO

The Scoop: Though still a long shot to make it to the majors this season, Ventura has handled his jump to Double-A and has at least even odds of reaching Kansas City before Mike Montgomery, Chris Dwyer or John Lamb. Such a scenario would have seemed impossible two years ago when Ventura was dominating the Arizona League while that trio was pitching in Double-A. But Lamb has been slowed by an ankle injury that has kept him from officially taking the mound since his Tommy John surgery; Montgomery’s season just keeps getting worse since his demotion to Double-A; and Dwyer has struggled in Triple-A. All the while Ventura keeps piling up strikeouts and proving to be hard to square up. His size will continue to give scouts causes for concern, but with a fastball that touches 100 mph and improving secondary stuff, Ventura is the Royals starting pitcher who has taken big steps forward this year.

Yordano Ventura Player Card

No. 4 LUIS JIMENEZ, 3B

ANGELS

Team: Triple-A Salt Lake (Pacific Coast)

Age: 24

Why He’s Here: .591/.625/1.136 (13-for-22), 3 2B, 3 HR, 6 R, 8 RBI, 2 BB, 1 SO, 1-for-2 SB

The Scoop: Since coming back from labrum surgery that sidelined him for the entire 2009 season, Jimenez has climbed from low Class A to Triple-A. He’s destroyed southpaws to a tune of .340/.377/.610 this season, and has done most of his damage at home for Salt Lake, where he sports a 1.023 OPS. In six home games this past week, Jimenez had three multi-hit games, including seven hits in his last eight at-bats with three extra-base hits. While he’s quite the free swinger, he barrels up different pitch types and has taken baby steps in improving his plate discipline this season after not drawing a walk in April. Jimenez could serve as a bridge in Anaheim, holding down third base until 2010 first-rounder Kaleb Cowart is ready.

Luis Jimenez Player Card

No. 5 DOMINGO TAPIA, RHP

METS

Team: low Class A Savannah (South Atlantic)

Age: 20

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 8 SO, 2 BB, 1 HBP

The Scoop: A six-man rotation configuration has agreed with young Sand Gnats pitchers such as Michael Fulmer and Rafael Montero, but perhaps none has shined brighter than Tapia, who turned in his finest start of the season on Sunday. He struck out eight Rome batters in seven innings while allowing a run on one hit and two walks. Tapia’s peripheral rates all have moved in the right direction this season—he’s striking out batters more frequently (7.6 per nine innings), he’s held his walk rate in check (2.6) and he hasn’t allowed a home run in 14 starts thanks to a devastating power sinker/changeup combination.

Domingo Tapia Player Card

No. 6 STEVE MATZ, LHP

METS

Team:
Rookie-level Kingsport (Appalachian)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.00, 12 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 17 SO, 6 BB

The Scoop: Had he not signed with the Mets out of the second round of the 2009 draft, Matz would have headed to Coastal Carolina and in all likelihood would have put off his pro debut until this season. That’s effectively how things shook out for Matz, who signed late in 2009, had Tommy John surgery early in 2010 and then missed all of last season with lingering elbow soreness, delaying his pro debut until June 20 this year. So while he’s the same age as a college junior, Matz’s first crack at the Appy League—he’s thrown six scoreless innings in each of his last three starts, notching 23 strikeouts and eight walks—suggests he could be ready to get back on track next season.

Steve Matz Player
Card

No. 7 ARIEL PENA, RHP

ANGELS

Team: Double-A Arkansas (Texas)

Age: 23

Why He’s Here: 1-0. 0.00, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 SO

The Scoop: If you watched the Futures Game, you may be surprised to see Pena here, but to his credit the power righty hasn’t let the disastrous outing (eight runs, seven hits in a third of an inning) affect his regular season. Even during his Futures Game drubbing, Pena showed power stuff—even if U.S. hitters kept turning his fastballs into line drives. He’s been a reliable cog in the Arkansas rotation this season, having not allowed more than five runs in any outing and pairing with Johnny Hellweg and A.J. Schugel to give the Travelers a tough top three.

Ariel Pena Player Card

No. 8 TRAYCE THOMPSON, CF

WHITE SOX

Team: high Class A Winston Salem (Carolina)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .346/.433/.885 (9-for-26) 10 R, 4 HR, 10 RBIs, 4 BB, 5 SO, 1 SB

The Scoop: Long known as a toolsy athlete with contact issues, Thompson entered the week having struck out in 14 straight games, nine of which were multi-strikeout affairs. But he struck out in just two games this week and that increased contact rate showcased his plus power. The 6-foot-4 Thompson hit four home runs, including longballs in three straight and a game-winning grand slam Thursday. More than half of Thompson’s hits have gone for extra bases this season, giving him the second-highest isolated slugging percentage (.239) and home run total (21) in the South Atlantic League. His defense has improved this season and according to one scout, “That guy can play a big league center field right now.”

Trayce Thompson Player Card

No. 9 ADDISON RUSSELL, SS

ATHLETICS

Team:  Rookie-level Arizona League

Age: 18

Why He’s Here: .348/.348/.870 (8-for-23), 3 HR, 1 2B, 1 3B, 7 RBIs, 4 R, 0 BB, 7 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: We generally don’t expect to see much in the way of power numbers form hitters in the complex leagues, so Russell’s week looks all the more impressive. The 2012 first-round pick hit two homers in a game last Friday and added another on Monday, giving him five for the season in 22 games. He was inconsistent at times during his high school career but has been in a groove since arriving in pro ball. Since going hitless twice in his first five pro games in June, Russell has reeled off a 17-game hitting streak dating back to June 29. For the season, he ranks second in the AZL in both average (.438) and on-base percentage (.519) while standing third in slugging (.742).

Addison Russell Player Card

No. 10 JON PETTIBONE, RHP

PHILLIES

Team:
Double-A Reading (Eastern)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.71, 2 GS, 12 2/3 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 13 SO

The Scoop: Pettibone’s success in the Florida State League a year ago has carried over to this season, and the 21-year-old rebounded from an unexceptional April (1-3, 4.33) with three straight solid months.  After a tremendous June (3-0, 1.67), Pettibone opened July with a poor start against Richmond but he has since strung together three excellent starts, out-dueling Pirates prospect Gerrit Cole on Wednesday night to pick up his ninth win of the season.

Jon Pettibone Player Card

No. 11 JUNIOR LAKE, SS

CUBS

Team: Double-A Tennessee (Chicago)     

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .400/.438/.800 (12-for-30) 6 R, 3 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBIs, 1 BB, 7 SO, 2-for-2 SB

The Scoop: Lake missed all of April recovering from a back injury and his power was slow to return. He hit four homers in his first two months, but he nearly matched that total this week by crushing three bombs. This hot week has pushed his season line to .290/.341/.430, an above-average line in the Southern League. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Lake primarily played shortstop in the lower minors, but with one of the strongest arms in the minors he’s played about a third of his games at third base this season.

Kyle
Skipworth Player Card

No. 12 MICHAEL TAYLOR, CF

NATIONALS

Team: high Class A Potomac (Carolina)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .483/.516/.828 (14-for-29), 2 HR, 4 2B, 6 RBIs, 11 R, 2 BB, 7 SO, 3-for-3 SB

The Scoop: A high school shortstop, Taylor has taken to center field since moving there during instructional league after the 2010 season. He batted .253/.310/.432 as a 20-year-old in low Class A last year, so the Nationals felt he could handle the jump to high Class A this year. After batting .215/.295/.280 in June, he has rediscovered his hitting stroke (.302/.362/.500) and begun to tap into his power this month, as all three of his home runs have come within the past two weeks.

Michael Taylor Player Card

No. 13 JARRED COSART, RHP

ASTROS

Team:
Double-A Corpus Christi (Texas)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 2/3 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 4 SO

The Scoop: Cosart has been effective in his first full season with the Astros, but he’s become a bit of a different animal than he was in the past. A product of last summer’s Hunter Pence deal with the Phillies, Cosart has plenty of velocity with a fastball that has touched the high 90s. However, he’s never been a big-time strikeout pitcher, instead relying more on groundballs and weak contact to get outs. His groundball rate has soared to new heights this season, with 4.1 groundouts for every out in the air, one of the highest ratios in the minors. Cosart still has question marks (effort in delivery, control), but his power arm and the fact that he’s allowed just three home runs in 93 innings this year make him an intriguing arm.

Jarred Cosart Player Card

IN THE TEAM PHOTO

It’s been a big year for Cubs 3B Josh Vitters. After seemingly being stuck in neutral for two years, the third overall pick in the 2007 draft has put together his best year since low Class A. The 22-year-old Vitters is walking more, hitting for more power and continuing to hit for average. This week he hit .379/.419/.759 (11-for-29) with two home runs and 11 RBIs. He may not be a star in the making, but he has a decent shot at being a productive big leaguer . . . With Zack Cozart playing a solid shortstop for the first-place Reds, there’s no need for DiDi Gregorius any time soon, but the 22-year-old ought to make Cincinnati’s decision interesting when he’s ready. Gregorius batted .367/.406/.733 (11-for-30) with three home runs for Triple-A Louisville this week . . . The Dan Straily train keeps rolling along. The Athletics righthander struck out nine in six scoreless innings in his only start of the week at Triple-A Sacramento, allowing three hits and one walk. Straily, 23, dropped his Triple-A ERA to 0.96 in 47 innings while upping his minors’ best strikeout total to 171 in 132 1/3 innings . . . The Braves have placed RHP J.R. Graham on the same fast track tread by recent draft picks Craig Kimbrel, Mike Minor and Sean Gilmartin. A fourth-rounder out of Santa Clara in 2011, Graham graduated from the Carolina League this season as its leader in ERA (2.63), WHIP (1.02) and opponent average (.236), which landed the 22-year-old with Double-A Mississippi on July 20. Just about everything has gone right for Graham through two starts with the M-Braves, seeing as he’s struck out 12 and walked two while allowing two runs in 10 innings . . . The Rockies have to be elated with the early returns on CF David Dahl, their first-round pick from last month. The 18-year-old went 12-for-22 (.545) this week with two triples, a homer and a couple of walks, bringing his batting line to .366/.423/.585 in 31 games with Rookie-level Grand Junction . . . Diamondbacks CF A.J. Pollock continues his torrid streak with Triple-A Reno since the all-star break, hitting .411/.460/.571 (23-for-56) in 56 at-bats. Pollock made his major league debut back in April, but he struggled to make consistent hard contact. The Diamondbacks envision Pollock becoming a solid regular due to his pure hitting ability and excellent instincts in the field and on the bases . . . Seen as a polished college bat with power in the 2011 draft, Angels 1B C.J. Cron lived up to half that billing this week by hitting three home runs to push his season total to 18 and overall line to .291/.326/.488 for high Class A Inland Empire. Yet the 22-year-old, 6-foot-4, 235-pound Cron has the lowest walk rate (2.8 percent) in the Cal League, which cuts into his contact rate and power production. 

BLAST FROM THE PAST

Michael Almanzar, 1b, Red Sox: Signed to the largest bonus of any international amateur in 2007, Almanzar jumped to low Class A Greenville as a 17-year-old in his first pro season and struggled. The Red Sox recently moved him off the hot corner to first base, and after hitting a measly .182/.223/.245 in 220 at-bats for high Class A Salem last year, Almanzar has rebounded to put up his most impressive numbers of his career. The 22-year-old has drastically improved his plate discipline as he repeats the Carolina League. In his past 10 games for Salem, Almanzar has batted .526/.617/1.485 (20-for-38) with six multi-hit games while drawing seven walks and striking out four times.

NOT-SO HOT
SHEET

Alex Torres, lhp, Rays: The 24-year-old Torres notched strikeouts for five of the seven outs he recorded in a game for Triple-A Durham this week. Trouble is, he wasn’t making a relief appearance, and he allowed six walks, two hits and five runs in 2 1/3 innings of work. About the only good thing one can say about Torres’ Triple-A campaign is that he’s been less wild since returning to the Bulls’ rotation on June 19—but it’s all relative. In his seven most recent starts he’s put up a 6.94 ERA with 10.4 strikeouts and 7.7 walks per nine innings. Those corresponding rates during a five-start spin in the rotation in April: 10.39 ERA, 11.9 SO/9 and 10.9 BB/9. Perhaps an offseason away from the mound will restore Torres to his factory default settings.

Marc Krauss, of, Diamondbacks: Krauss has had a big year for Double-A Mobile, but this week was not his finest. The 24-year-old went 2-for-21 and struck out nine times. Krauss has cut his strikeout rate while showing more patience and power at the plate, which has led to a .283/.415/.510 batting line through 103 games.

Jose Leal, of, Mariners: Shaq Thompson has gotten more attention for his 0-for-39, 37-strikeout performance for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Red Sox, but Thompson was an 18th-round pick signed for $100,000. Leal, on the other hand, was a big-ticket Venezuelan signing whose $1.925 million bonus—the sixth-highest international bonus of 2011—was one of the biggest surprises on the international market last year. Several teams considered Leal to be a very raw project, and the pro scouts who have seen him and his on-field performance have all indicated the same. Playing in the Rookie-level Arizona League, Leal has gone 2-for-38 (.053) with 25 strikeouts and no extra-base hits. Leal is still 17 and has a projectable 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame, but his game skills remain extremely crude.

Miguel Sano, 3b, Twins: Sano leads the low Class A Midwest League in homers (20) and RBIs (70), but this week he reminded everybody that he’s just 19. He went 2-for-22 this week and struck out 11 times. Sano has gone down on strikes 115 times in 339 at-bats for the year while hitting .242, so while the power is worth getting excited about, he’s got work to do.

MAN AMONG BOYS

Mike Kvasnicka, of, Astros: Kvansnicka turned down his hometown Twins as a 31st-round pick in 2007 to attend the University of Minnesota, where he saw time in the outfield and behind the plate. Intrigued with Kvasnicka’s versatility and smooth swing, the Astros nabbed him with the 33rd pick in the 2010 draft—but his professional career has not progressed as Houston had hoped. The 23-year-old has settled in right field with low Class A Lexington, where this week he went 9-for-27 with three home runs, two of which came in a game against Greenville on Sunday. He’s hitting .280 with power in July.

HELIUM WATCH

When the Phillies drafted Alabama lefthander Adam Morgan in the third round of the 2011 draft, they knew they were taking a risk. At his best, Morgan showed excellent stuff in college, but he just as often was trying to survive with fringy stuff and poor control. The Phillies appear to have figured out how to get the good Morgan on the mound much more often than the bad one this year. Morgan has held his velocity more frequently—touching 93 mph—and he’s paired that with an excellent changeup that’s made him one of the better pitchers in the Florida State League. Pitching for Clearwater, the 22-year-old went 1-0, 1.29 this week with 13 strikeouts in seven innings of work.

Minors | #2012 #Prospect Hot Sheet

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