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 May 25-May 31.
Contributing: Ben Badler, J.J. Cooper, Jim Shonerd and interns
Pat Hickey, Clint Longnecker and John Sandberg.
|No. 1||JOSE FERNANDEZ, RHP||MARLINS|
|Team: low Class A Greensboro (South Atlantic)
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.00, 2 GS, 12 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 20 Ks.
The Scoop: It may not be Dylan Bundy’s 0.00 ERA in the Sally League, but take that away and Jose Fernandez has been as good as a young pitcher can be expected to be in his first full pro season. The righthander improved to 5-0, 1.67 with a 12 strikeout, one-walk outing at Delmarva. Interestingly, it would have been a matchup against Bundy if not for Bundy’s recent promotion to high Class A Frederick. Fernandez’s latest gem came after his previous start was washed away by a rain delay—he had struck out three batters in the first. Thanks to Fernandez’s 93-96 mph fastball and a nasty curveball, righthanders don’t get much of a chance to do damage against him. He has allowed one extra-base hit all year to a righthander, a double by Cutter Dysktra.
|Jose Fernandez Player Card|
|No. 2||TYLER MATZEK, LHP||ROCKIES|
Team:high Class A Modesto (California)
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.60, 2 GS, 15 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 16 Ks.
The Scoop: About a year ago, Matzek was starting over. Having watched their first-round pick completely fall apart, the Rockies allowed him to go home and work with his longtime youth pitching instructor Lon Fullmer.
If Matzek keeps this up, Fullmer deserves a bonus. Before his trip home to work with Fullmer, Matzek had an ERA above 10.00 in both the California and South Atlantic leagues while walking more than a batter an inning. Once he returned to action, Matzek went 5-2, 2.78 over the rest of the season in Asheville. This year, he’s taking a big step forward from that.
Now Matzek is one of the best pitchers in the California League. Matzek has allowed two earned runs in his last three starts while putting long-running walk problems behind him with five walks in his last 22 innings.
|Tyler Matzek Player Card|
|No. 3||TRAVIS D’ARNAUD, C||BLUE JAYS|
Why He’s Here: .485/.514/.909 (16-for-33) 11 R, 11 RBIs, 5 2B, 3 HR, 2 BB, 8 SO
The Scoop: D’Arnaud appears at No. 3 on the Hot Sheet for the second consecutive week. After hitting .417 with five home runs last week, d’Arnaud maintained his torrid pace this week. On Wednesday he put together a three-hit game with four RBIs. After hitting just two homers in April, the 23-year-old went deep 10 times in May. He now leads Las Vegas in home runs and is fourth among Pacific Coast League batters in that category. D’Arnaud’s batting average on the season went from .298 last week to .330 this week. If this type of production continues, it shouldn’t be long before we see him in Toronto.
|Travis d’Arnaud Player Card|
|No. 4||ZACK WHEELER, RHP||METS|
Team: Double-A Binghamton (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.29, 1 GS, 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 8 SO, 0 BB
The Scoop: A first-round pick of the Giants in 2009, Wheeler is enjoying great success in his first season in Double-A. With a win yesterday against the Reading Phillies, Wheeler improved his season record to 5-2. Wheeler leads all Eastern League pitchers with 60 strikeouts through 53 innings, and his 1.88 ERA is fourth best in the league. In his last three starts, he has gone seven innings or more, earning the win in all three of those outings.
|Zack Wheeler Player Card|
|No. 5||KALEB COWART, 3B||ANGELS|
Team:low Class A Cedar Rapids (Midwest)
Why He’s Here: .500/.553/.735 (17-for-34), 1 HR, 5 2B, 5 RBIs, 5 R, 4 BB, 5 SO, 2-for-2 SB
The Scoop: It has been a bipolar couple of weeks for Cowart. He endured a miserable 6-for-37 (.162) slump from May 12-23, including an 0-for-17 stretch, and after he went 0-for-5 on May 23 his average had dipped to .249. Cowart broke out of it the next night by going 2-for-4, and since then he has reeled off a nine-game hitting streak that includes six multi-hit efforts. A switch-hitter, most of the questions about Cowart entering the year surrounded his lefthanded swing, but he’s been more productive from that side for Cedar Rapids. He’s hitting .306/.363/.542 as a lefty compared to .270/.313/.381 as a righty, and seven of his eight homers have come from the left side. Cowart, who celebrates his 20th birthday on Saturday, is hitting .295/.348/.493 on the year and ranks third in the Midwest League in RBIs (39).
|Kaleb Cowart Player Card|
|No. 6||MILES HEAD, 3B||ATHLETICS|
Team: high Class A Stockton (California)
Why He’s Here: .571/.636/1.143 (16-for-28), 3 HR, 3 2B, 2 3B, 9 RBIs, 7 R, 4 BB, 6 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Head made the most of Stockton’s road trip this week to the hitter’s paradise that is High Desert, going 6-for-12 with two homers in the three-game series. Still, Head hasn’t needed much help this season. He’s the Cal League’s leading hitter with a .382 average and is fourth in the league in homers with 11. He is more of a line-drive hitter but has the strength to turn those line drives into home runs. He’s on pace to easily surpass his 22 homers from last year, when he was in the Red Sox system. He finished May hitting .394/.471/.683 for the month, and he’s doing all of this while re-acclimating himself to third base, where he hadn’t played every day since high school.
|Miles Head Player Card|
|No. 7||ANDREW CHAFIN, LHP||DIAMONDBACKS|
Team: high Class A Visalia (California)
The Scoop: Chafin had his best start of the season on Sunday against San Jose. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound lefthander went eight innings and struck out a season-high 11 to take the California League lead with 77. Chafin has struck out nearly a third of hitters of the hitters he has faced in his 58 innings. On the season, the 2011 supplemental first-round pick has one of the lowest ERAs in the hitter-friendly Cal League at 2.91. He has a power arsenal featuring a fastball that can reach 95 mph, and a plus slider that gives him a chance to start or move quickly through the minors as a power reliever.
|Andrew Chafin Player Card|
|No. 8||ALEN HANSON, SS||PIRATES|
Team: low Class A West Virginia (South Atlantic)
Why He’s Here: .556/.619/.889 (10-for-18), 4 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBIs, 3 BB, 3 SO, 1-for-4 SB
The Scoop: Say hello to the biggest breakout prospect of the year so far. Hanson has always intrigued scouts with his speed and flashes of ability to hit in games, but this year he has shown more power and a well-rounded skill set. He’s hitting .345/.404/.597 on the year, good for a 1.001 OPS that ranks third in the SAL. With a 58 percent success rate stealing bases (14-for-24), he’s going to have to become more efficient, but there’s plenty of time for Hanson to add polish.
|Alen Hanson Player Card|
|No. 9||TYLER AUSTIN, RF||YANKEES|
Team: low A Charleston (South Atlantic)
Why He’s Here: .545/.667/.818 (12-for-22), 13 R, 5 RBIs, 4 2B, 1 3B, 8 BB, 6 SO, 3 SB
The Scoop: A 13th-round pick of the Yankees in 2010, Austin has picked up this year where he left off last year. Between short-season ball and low Class A in 2011, Austin played 47 games and hit .354 with a .579 slugging percentage. This season he is batting .327 with 44 RBIs. His 13 home runs are tops among South Atlantic League hitters. A relatively high strikeout rate is still a cause for concern, but the Yankees will be pleased if he continues to produce like he did this week, with 12 hits in just the last five games, including a five-hit performance on Wednesday.
|Tyler Austin Player Card|
|No. 10||WILMER FLORES, 3B||METS|
Team: high Class A St. Lucie (Florida State)
Why He’s Here: .435/.519/.870 (10-for-23), 6 R, 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBIs, 4 BB, 0 Ks.
The Scoop: That age listed above isn’t a typo: Flores is still just 20 years old. He returned to the Florida State League for a third straight season (he’ll likely reach 1,000 Florida State League at-bats next week) and is producing like never before. Flores hit three home runs this week to increase his season total to 10, a career high. His season line now stands at .330/.371/.543, after he had never produced an OPS above .758 in a full-season league. Scouts have never liked Flores’ aggressive approach at the plate, but he has struck out in less than 10 percent of at-bats on the season and improved his walk rate for a third straight year. This season Flores has played exclusively at third base, after he played below-average defense at shortstop in his first four seasons.
|Wilmer Flores Player Card|
|No. 11||TREVOR STORY, SS||ROCKIES|
Team: low Class A Asheville (South Atlantic)
Why He’s Here: .370/.485/.815 (10-for-27), 10 R, 3 2B, 3 HR, 10 RBIs, 5 BB, 5 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Story ranked as the top prospect in the Rookie-level Pioneer League a year ago, and he’s only bolstered his prospect status since then. With good bat speed, an advanced hitting approach an the ability to drive the ball to all fields, Story has posted a .963 OPS, good for fourth in the SAL. Story doesn’t have one premium tool that jumps out, but he does a lot of things well and has baseball instincts that give him polish beyond his years.
|Trevor Story Player Card|
|No. 12||MIKE OLT, 3B||RANGERS|
Team:Double-A Frisco (Texas)
Why He’s Here: .400/.464/.720 (10-for-25), 6 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 9 RBIs, 3 BB, 10 Ks.
The Scoop: Olt’s encore to his breakout 2011 season is proving to be even more impressive. The third baseman has kept his power in his jump to Double-A. He has raised his batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. His power comes with some swing-and-miss (he’s currently working on a 12-game streak of at least one K per game), but when you put the ball over the fence as much as Olt does, the Rangers will be able to live with a few strikeouts.
|Mike Olt Player Card|
|No. 13||CODY BUCKEL, RHP||RANGERS|
Team: high Class A Myrtle Beach (Carolina)
The Scoop: Trevor Bauer’s offseason workout partner is putting up numbers that seem Bauer-esque. Buckel’s 1.19 ERA leads the Carolina League by more than a full run. He has even added Bauer’s reverse slider to his bag of tricks lately. In an organization overflowing with prospects, none has had a better start to the season than Buckel. He hasn’t allowed a run in half of his 10 starts this season, and both lefties and righties are hitting him at less than a .160 clip.
|Cody Buckel Player Card|
After seeing his bat speed, the Royals always expected that 20-year-old SS Orlando Calixte would hit for power, but it was hard to see it on the field when he was posting a .519 OPS in the Midwest League last year. This year, the power has arrived. Repeating the Midwest League with low Class A Kane County, Calixte has hit two home runs this week as part of a .417/.481/.833. He hit seven home runs in May after hitting three in his first 100 pro games . . . Red Sox 1B Keury de la Cruz just keeps on mashing for low Class A Greensville. The 20-year-old hit .346/.414/.846 this week and is hitting .315/.365/.571 for the season . . . The Dodgers sent RHP Allen Webster to the bullpen at Double-A Chattanooga to work things out after a disastrous start to the year in which he went 1-5, 7.49 in seven outings. The move looks like it has paid dividends. Webster posted a 1.13 ERA in five relief appearances and made his return to starting Thursday against Birmingham. The 22-year-old allowed just one hit over four scoreless innings and struck out four. Adding in his last relief outing, he threw six one-hit, shutout innings on the week . . . Giants RHP Clayton Blackburn got a no-decision on Friday even though he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning for low Class A Augusta. In his best outing of 2012, Blackburn gave up no runs on two hits while striking out nine batters in 6 2/3 innings. Blackburn also surrendered just one walk. A 16th-round pick by the Giants in 2011, Blackburn has improved in each start this season. In his last three outings has allowed just three runs and one walk while striking out 25 batters . . . High Class A San Jose 3B Adam Duvall batted .406 (13-for-32) while hitting four home runs. Yesterday Duvall combined with teammate Joe Panik to hit back-to-back home runs in the eighth inning, giving the Giants a one-run lead against Bakersfield before eventually falling to the Blaze in 12 innings. The Giants prospect is now tied for fourth in the California League with 11 home runs . . . Drafted with the sixth pick in the 2008 draft, Marlins C Kyle Skipworth has not progressed as the Marlins expected. The lefthanded-hitting catcher skipped a level to reach Double-A in 2011, but he struggled there and now he’s repeating Jacksonville in 2012. Skipworth entered the week hitting .174, but went on a 9-for-20 tear to push his season line to .217/.289/.401. He hit a home run and has the best isolated power of his career. Skipworth, 22, has also improved his defense and has thrown out 35 percent of basestealers . . . Is Indians 1B Jesus Aguilar a one-dimensional slugger? That’s what some scouts think, but the 21-year-old keeps hitting for high Class A Carolina, where his slash line is now up to 319/.402/.518 in 48 games.
BLAST FROM THE PAST
With every bad Mike Minor outing (his ERA is currently 6.98), the clamor from Braves fans for a replacement gets louder. RHP Jair Jurrjens, 25, is trying to put his name back into the mix. Jurrjens has wavered between adequate and awful in his stint at Triple-A as he tries to regain the form that put him in the All-Star Game last year, and this week he was very good, holding Rochester scoreless over eight innings. Jurrjens has shown better velocity in recent outings, so there are signs that he may not be too far away from returning to the big leagues.
• Taylor Jungmann, rhp, Brewers. Jungmann suffered through the worst outing of his young pro career. The 22-year-old allowed 10 hits and nine runs in only three innings. Jungmann has mixed in a couple of stellar outings this season, so his 3-4, 4.02 record isn’t a reason to worry for Brewers fans—yet.
• Archie Bradley, rhp, Diamondbacks. All of a sudden things have started to go south. Bradley, 19, didn’t allow more than two earned runs in his first five starts. He’s allowed three or more in four of his last five outings. That includes his last outing, where he gave up nine runs, eight of them earned, in 4 1/3 innings. Not much went right for Bradley—he gave up a home run, hit a pair of batters and gave up two steals against low Class A Dayton.
• Tyrell Jenkins, rhp, Cardinals: After a solid outing on May 13, Jenkins had a 2.17 ERA through his first six starts for low Class A Quad Cities. Two ugly outings—eight runs in 4 2/3 innings on May 20, then another eight runs in four innings on Sunday—have caused his ERA to balloon to 5.50. Jenkins, 19, still has plenty of stuff and there’s no reason to panic here, but he will have to improve his command to see better results.
• Chris Parmelee, 1b, Twins. Parmelee seemingly cemented himself a spot in Minnesota with an excellent 21-game stint to finish last year. But an equally awful 27-game stint in Minnesota to start this year led the Twins to send Parmelee back to Triple-A Rochester. Because he had spent two years in Double-A New Britain, this is actually Parmelee’s first trip to Rochester, but after seven pro seasons and 2,3000+ pro at-bats, Parmelee’s .700/.769/1.500 week is just a reminder that he’s at least ready for the mythical AAAA if not Minnesota.
• Juan Jaime, rhp, Braves. No matter how hard you throw, if you can’t get on the mound, it’s hard to keep you on a roster. For the past two years, that’s been Jaime’s problem. The No. 17 prospect in the Nationals system back in 2009, Jaime missed all of the 2010 and 2011 seasons after Tommy John surgery. The Nationals tried to slip him through waivers after the 2010 season only to have the Diamondbacks claim him, then the Braves did the same thing to the Diamondbacks when Arizona tried to slide him off the 40-man roster after the 2011 season. But the Braves waiver claim has gone better than the Diamondbacks’ did, as Jaime is back on the mound and throwing harder than ever. Jaime was raw before the injuries and two years on the mend didn’t help him catch up to his peers, but he does have a fastball that can touch 100 mph and sits in the high 90s. And lately he’s been showing improved control—in May he’s posted a 15-to-4 strikeout to walk ratio after a much more pedestrian 10-7 ratio in April.