This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet covers minor league games from June 6-12. Remember, this feature simply recognizes the hottest prospects in the minors during the past week—it’s not a re-ranking of the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects.
Contributing: Ben Badler, J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy, Vince Lara-Cinisomo and Josh Norris.
1. Kris Bryant, 3b, Cubs
Team: Double-A Tennessee (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: .478/.538/1.043 (11-for-23), 9 R, 4 2B, 3 HR, 5 RBIs, 3 BB, 5 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: All hail the king. Bryant has torn up the Southern League all year, and this week was no different. Of his 11 hits this week, seven went for extra bases, including three longballs to give him 22 and help him keep just behind Joey Gallo in the race for minor league homer supremacy.
Bryant leads the SL in all three triple-slash categories at .359/.461/.717, and he also holds the top spot in runs, hits, homers, RBIs, walks and total bases. He’s second in doubles but also second in strikeouts. The league’s all-star game is Tuesday, so by the time the next Hot Sheet hits the streets, he may have moved on to Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs, however, are on record saying they want Bryant to experience extended success at one location. And why not? He’s one year removed from college, and the big league team is going nowhere in 2014.
2. Jimmy Nelson, rhp, Brewers
Team: Triple-A Nashville (Pacific Coast)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.75, 12 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 17 SO
The Scoop: It’s well known that the Midwest-based, American Conference portion of the Pacific Coast League is a much better environment for pitchers than the rest of the league, but that doesn’t diminish the remarkable job Nelson, pitching coach Fred Dabney and the rest of the Nashville pitching staff has done this year. Nelson leads the league with a 1.51 ERA. Teammate Brad Mills is second at 1.57 and Mike Fiers is fifth at 2.53. Nelson has been the star. He’s worked at least six innings in every start, hasn’t allowed more than one earned run in his last six starts and has a 0.89 WHIP.
3. Tyler Naquin, cf, Indians
Team: Double-A Akron (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: .485/.486/.758 (16-for-33), 8 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 4 RBIs, 1 BB, 4 SO, 2-for-2 SB
The Scoop: The 15th overall pick in 2012, Naquin was solid but not great in his pro debut last year at high Class A Carolina, where he paired a high strikeout rate with below-average power output. His bat has taken a step forward this year, and he’s hitting .327/.379/.451 in 64 games and has been an effective thief on the bases with 14 steals in 17 attempts. With just four home runs, power remains a question mark, as is his range in center field—though not a double-plus arm—but this is the version of Naquin the Indians were counting on when they signed him two years ago.
4. Alec Asher, rhp, Rangers
Team: Double-A Frisco (Texas)
Why He’s Here: 1-1, 0.69, 13 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 12 SO
The Scoop: It’s been a disastrous year at the big league level for the Rangers as injuries have gutted the team’s playoff hopes. It’s a minor consolation that they still have many intriguing prospects rising the ranks in the minors. Asher is one of the bigger success stories. He fell to the fourth round in 2012 because of past elbow problems, but since signing he’s been extremely durable, and he’s on one of the best runs of his career right now. He’s mixing his plus fastball and usable slider to excellent effect.
5. Tyler Glasnow, rhp, Pirates
Team: high Class A Bradenton (Florida State)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 2 GS, 9 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 14 SO
The Scoop: OK, Glasnow’s walk rate of 5.9 batters per nine innings is frightening. Like last year, he’s actually walked more batters than he’s allowed hits. But he’s one of the least comfortable looks any hitter will face in the Florida State League. Thanks to a fastball that will touch 98 mph, righthanders are hitting .129 against him. For now Glasnow is focusing on developing his changeup, which means he’s not using his curveball, which flashes plus, as much as he will in the future.
6. Colin Moran, 3b, Marlins
Team: high Class A Jupiter (Florida State)
Why He’s Here: .452/.469/.742 (14-for-31) 6 R, 3 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBIs, 1 BB, 5 SO
The Scoop: Moran has pull power, but that’s not his game. Through 91 minor league games, he’s hit just seven homers—but two came in the past week, along with three doubles. He’s hitting .292/.330/.406 in the notoriously anti-hitter FSL. All three of his homers have come away from Roger Dean Stadium, which depresses power, especially by lefthanders like Moran. After showing decent zone discipline in the South Atlantic League in his debut last year, his SO/BB ratio has dipped a bit (33/13). Still, his hit tool will carry him, even if he eventually tops out at 20 homers.
7. Travis Demeritte, 2b, Rangers
Team: low Class A Hickory (South Atlantic)
Why He’s Here: .435/.500/.957 (10-for-23), 7 R, 3 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBIs, 3 BB, 5 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: The 2013 first-rounder has shown explosive power in his first full season, as evidenced by his mashing six extra-base hits this week. In fact, Demeritte now leads the South Atlantic League with 15 home runs, and he’s not just a creation of Hickory’s favorable home park—he has hit 10 homers and slugged .725 in 26 road games this year. Demeritte takes his walks, but he’ll need to cut his strikeout rate to find success at higher levels.
8. Rosell Herrera, ss/3b, Rockies
Team: high Class A Modesto (California)
Why He’s Here: .440/.500/.760 (11-for-25), 3 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBIs, 3 BB, 3 SO, 0-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Injuries to both wrists kept Herrera out for more than five weeks, but the 6-foot-3, 190-pound shortstop had a terrific week in what’s been a blazing June (.415 with four extra-base hits in 10 games). Though he struggled out of the gate, Herrera hit his first two homers of the season on June 11. A position move might be in the offing, but some scouts view Herrera as a better shortstop bet than Modesto teammate Trevor Story.
9. Anthony Ranaudo, rhp, Red Sox
Team: Triple-A Pawtucket (International)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 SO
The Scoop: It’s been a turbulent career for Ranaudo, including the beginning of this season, when he allowed 14 runs in 15 innings over his first three starts. Since then, he has settled down, with his best start of the year coming Friday. While Ranaudo has the stuff to pitch in the middle of the rotation, his command lags behind his stuff. That could pose problems down the road as he battles Matt Barnes, Rubby de la Rosa, Henry Owens and Allen Webster for a starting job in Boston.
10. Branden Kline, rhp, Orioles
Team: high Class A Frederick (Carolina)
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 11 SO
The Scoop: With an average fastball and an above-average slider, Kline does have an out-pitch but generally isn’t going to rack up big strikeout totals, which is why his 11-strikeout game (a season high) on Saturday jumps out. His game is more about spotting his fastball and keeping the ball down in the zone, which he’s done especially well recently. Kline didn’t walk anyone in his last start, and four of his last five starts have been walk-free as well.
11 Jon Gray, rhp, Rockies
Team: Double-A Tulsa (Texas)
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 0.00, 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 7 SO, 3 BB
The Scoop: Five innings of no-hit ball with seven punchouts will get you here just about every time. In Gray’s case, it served as an excellent rebound from a trainwreck his last time out, when he gave up eight runs on eight hits against Frisco. The big things for Gray right now are commanding his fastball and working in the changeup more often. In this start he threw 16 changeups out of his 83 pitches (19 percent). The slider is still nasty, and his SO/BB ratio for the season borders on 4.0.
12. Jesse Winker, lf, Reds
Team: high Class A Bakersfield (California)
Why He’s Here: .313/.542/.875 (5-for-16), 7 R, 9 RBIs, 8 BB, 5 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Winker’s power-and-patience approach will play anywhere, but it plays especially well at hitter-friendly Bakersfield, where he consistently waits for his pitch and punishes it, batting .367/.463/.561 with more walks (19) than strikeouts (17) at home this season. Though he’s limited to left field, Winker plays a heads-up game and has the offensive skills to reach the highest level. He now ranks second in the California League with a .426 on-base percentage and fifth with a .572 slugging.
No. 13 Raimel Tapia, of, Rockies
Team: low Class A Asheville (South Atlantic)
Why He’s Here: .462/.500/.692 (12-for-26), 6 R, 2 HR, 9 RBIs, 2 BB, 4 SO, 1-for-2 SB
The Scoop: The tools aren’t in question for Tapia, who looks every bit of an athletic, productive outfielder. He produced like one this week, hitting .462 and making a ton of contact. The question any Asheville player will face is whether he is a ballpark mirage. The Rockies say Tapia is an all-fields hitter who can hit in any ballpark context. Still, a 1.022 OPS at home as opposed to .597 on the road will always raise eyebrows.
In The Team Photo
Rafael Devers, 3b, Red Sox: If you’re looking for pro stats with the least predictive value, the Dominican Summer League would fit the bill. However, when one of the top prospects in last year’s July 2 international signing class goes 19-for-43 (.442) with three triples and three home runs in his first 11 games, you notice. Home runs are rare in the DSL. Right now Devers, 17, has outhomered 23 DSL teams.
Ronald Guzman, 1b, Rangers: If you watch him take batting practice with low Class A Hickory, you can see the immense power Guzman has at just 19 years old. Problem is, a lot of the time it only comes out before games. This week, however, he showed off, socking five doubles and his third homer of the season. Of his 10 total hits, six went for extra bases, and he also drew four walks, which accounts for 20 percent of his season total.
Alex Meyer, rhp, Twins. Meyer turned in one of his finest starts at Triple-A Rochester this week, shutting out Gwinnett for six innings, striking out eight while allowing four hits and one walk. He now leads the International League with 75 strikeouts, but the key number for the long-limbed, 6-foot-9 power pitcher is walks. While Meyer has issued 4.0 per nine innings this season, he’s improved recently with seven in his past four starts, compared with 26 whiffs in 22 innings.
Mike Montgomery, lhp, Rays: For the first time in six years, Montgomery did not make a team Top 30 Prospects list this offseason. And just at the point where he came close to being written off, the Rays have helped him get back on track. He no longer has a plus fastball, but with an improved curveball, the 24-year-old pitched seven shutout innings for Triple-A Durham this week, allowing three hits and one walk.
Alex Reyes, rhp, Cardinals: He might have the best stuff in the Cardinals system. It’s just a matter of harnessing it at this point. In one start at low Class A Peoria this week, the 19-year-old Reyes allowed two hits and two walks over seven innings with seven punchouts mixed in. His delivery is very long and contains a lot of moving parts, so command might always be an issue. He’s had five starts this year with four or more walks, but also five with seven or more strikeouts.
Kyle Waldrop, rf, Reds: With a center field that sits 354 feet from home plate, high Class A Bakersfield is a hitter’s park to the extreme. But Waldrop, an athletic former football prospect, is on an impressive streak even so. The 22-year-old has a 14-game hitting streak with nine multi-hit games over that span. Don’t be surprised if the 2010 12th-rounder gets pushed to Double-A Pensacola before long.
Tom Windle, lhp, Dodgers. The high Class A Rancho Cucamonga starter finally mastered Lancaster this season after three poor starts (1-1, 5.06), shutting down a lineup that included Carlos Correa and Teoscar Hernandez on three hits thorough seven innings. Windle, a former reliever who converted to starting in the Cape Cod League following his sophomore season at Minnesota, has a fastball that ranges from 89-94 mph with a sharp-breaking slider as his out-pitch. His control remains an issue, however, with 20 walks in 69 innings.
Mark Appel, rhp, Astros: It’s OK to be worried at this point. When the season started, a spring training appendectomy seemed to be the root of Appel’s problems. Then it was problems adjusting to the tandem-starter system at high Class A Lancaster. Then there was a thumb issue. But in Appel’s past two starts, both on extra rest, he’s been much too hittable. Righthanders are hitting .426 against him. Lefties are slugging .794. At this point, the Astros have to consider either demoting Appel to low Class A Quad Cities or promoting him to Double-A Corpus Christi despite an 11.94 ERA. The hitter-happy Lancaster environment seems to be getting the best of him (as it does most pitchers).
Delino DeShields Jr., cf, Astros: You can find scouts who see DeShields as a future impact big leaguer. You can find others who doubt he’ll ever be a big league regular. It may depend on which week you see him at Corpus Christi, as he’ll follow great weeks with awful ones. This was one of the bad ones. Playing at Houston’s Minute Maid Park against Double-A San Antonio, DeShields was pulled from the game for failing to run out a pop-up. For the week, he went 1-for-10 with a caught stealing.
Hunter Harvey, rhp, Orioles. The 2013 first-rounder thoroughly dominated the South Atlantic League in April and May, but the 19-year-old has hit a rough patch at low Class A Delmarva in June. In his last two starts, Harvey has allowed 12 runs on 13 hits over 6 2/3 innings, issuing six walks and striking out five.
Joc Pederson, cf, Dodgers. Granted, Pederson launched a homer and hit two doubles as part of a 6-for-30 (.200) week at Triple-A Albuquerque, so this is not a traditional Not-Hot selection. The trouble is, in those 30 at-bats he struck out 16 times, a total that led all minor leaguers this week and continues a disturbing trend. Pederson’s strikeout rate now is bumping 29 percent for the season, and since the start of June it’s pushing 40 percent. All players slump, of course, but contact rate is just about the only blemish on Pederson’s prospect pedigree, thus the concern.
Wilmer Difo, ss, Nationals: The Nationals took a low-cost flier on Difo when they signed him for $20,000 out of the Dominican Repulbic when he was 18. Difo had played in the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program as a kid, but he was raw, and for four years his performance never did much to inspire confidence, even with well-above average speed, a plus arm and excellent athleticism. Difo spent time at low Class A Hagerstown early in the 2013 season, but the Nationals had to demote him to short-season Auburn before sending him down to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League to finish the year. Difo didn’t handle failure well, and the Nationals had to work with him on his professional conduct. But this year, he seems to have flipped the switch. The 22-year-old switch-hitter made the low Class A South Atlantic League all-star team and is hitting .317/.347/.478 with seven home runs and 20 stolen bases with only one unsuccessful attempt. With his tools and breakout offensive performance, Difo has turned his career around and turned into a legitimate prospect.