See also: Previous Prospect Hot Sheet
Well, the Futures Game hoopla is over and now it’s the beginning of crunch time in the minor leagues, as teams separate themselves in each league and players do the same as they fight for spots on our annual league Top 20 prospect lists.
This week, we’d like to recognize low Class A Augusta as having arguably the most dominant starting pitching anywhere–and that’s without righthander Henry Sosa, who was promoted to the Cal League in June. Four of the Greenjackets’ starters–Adam Cowart, Kevin Pucetas, Ben Snyder and Clayton Tanner–all reached double-digits in the win column, and as a whole the entire staff carries a 2.64 ERA on the season.
We’ll also throw out props to short-season Oneonta righthander Guillermo Moscosco, who pitched just the second perfect game in New York-Penn League history on Sunday. The 23-year-old Venezuelan began the year at high Class A Lakeland, where he made just one start before being sent out to extended spring training.
At Oneonta, Moscoso is now 3-0, 1.78 in 30 innings.
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 with your kudos or complaints.
|1. Rick Vanden Hurk, rhp, Triple-A Albuquerque (Marlins)|
Vanden Hurk’s Dutch nationality was perhaps his defining characteristic entering the season. But after dominating the Double-A Southern League (2-2, 3.52 with 61-21 K-BB in 54 innings for Carolina) and flashing 94 mph heat and a hard curveball at the Futures Game, that’s no longer the case.
The Marlins rewarded Vanden Hurk, 22, with a promotion to Albuquerque after the Futures Game, and he struck out 12 New Orleans batters in a start last week, walking three and holding the Zephyrs scoreless on one hit. He had previously picked up his first Triple-A win July 4 when he allowed three runs in six innings to Memphis. What makes his success all the more astounding is that he missed most of 2005 and 2006 while recovering from Tommy John surgery and had never pitched above high Class A coming into the year.
Though his big league numbers are ugly (2-2, 8.38 in seven games), Vanden Hurk has had success with a cutter this season that has aided in the development of his offspeed pitches, helping him get more extension and better feel–especially with his changeup.
|2. Justin Masterson, rhp, Double-A Portland (Red Sox)|
A 2006 second-rounder out of San Diego State, Masterson survived the Cal League this season by pitching consistently down in the zone and finished with impressive 8-5, 4.33 numbers in 96 innings at Lancaster. Since moving to the Eastern League, which is more pitcher-friendly than the launching pad that is Clear Channel Stadium, Masterson tossed 6 2/3 hittless innings in his Portland debut against New Hampshire and then threw six more shutout frames against New Britain. “I think it was really more of a mental adjustment in him trusting his sinker when he was at Lancaster that the parks (in the Cal League) weren’t as much of a factor,” Red Sox farm director Mike Hazen said. “He’s got heavy sink and his slider and changeup are coming.”
|3. Matt Antonelli, 2b, Double-A San Antonio (Padres)|
Drafted as a third baseman, Antonelli has yet to master the finer points of second base, but absolutely nothing has hindered his production at the plate this season. He hit .314/.409/.499 for high Class A Lake Elsinore before getting bumped to San Antonio, where he’s hit .563 with a double and a homer through his first four Texas League games. Antonelli’s promotion means just five of 14 (healthy) college first-rounders from the 2006 draft have not yet made it to Double-A: Drew Stubbs (No. 8), Brett Sinkbeil (19), Daniel Bard (28), Kyle McCulloch (29) and Adam Ottavino (30).
|4. Austin Jackson, of, high Class A Tampa (Yankees)|
When the Yankees announced that Austin Jackson was being promoted to high Class A, it seemed like a puzzling promotion considering he was hitting .260/.336/.374. But the Yankees look pretty brilliant now that he’s hitting .404/.449/.685 in 89 at-bats with Tampa.
|5. Chin-Lung Hu, ss, Triple-A Las Vegas (Dodgers)|
On this list last week as a Double-A standout, Hu has been even better in his brief exposure to Triple-A, where he was promoted following his Futures Game MVP performance. The 23-year-old from Taiwan has homered in three of his first four PCL games after hitting .329/.380/.508 in 82 games with Jacksonville.
|6. Fautino de los Santos, rhp, low Class A Kannapolis (White Sox)|
De Los Santos might have served up Justin Upton’s home run in the Futures Game, but he bounced back in a big way and continues to be the biggest breakthrough player in the Good Guys’ system. Last week, De Los Santos fanned 10 batters in seven innings. He allowed just one hit and didn’t walk anyone.
|7. Chris Davis, 3b, high Class A Bakersfield (Rangers)|
The Rangers’ 2006 fifth-round pick extended his hit streak to 33 games on Sunday night with a grand slam against Visalia and moved within two games of tying the California League record of 35 games set by Brent Gates in 1992. A hit on Monday night would tie Davis with Max Macon, who hit in 34 straight as player-manager for Modesto in 1949. Davis has boosted his average during the streak from .257 on June 8 to .314 and is second in the league with 21 home runs in his first full pro season.
|8. Carlos Gonzalez, of, Double-A Mobile (Diamondbacks)|
After struggling through most of the season–really, until Justin Upton arrived . . . coincidence?–Gonzalez has turned it up three or four notches. So far this month, the 21-year-old Venezuelan is hitting .326/.408/.744.
|9. Joba Chamberlain, rhp, Double-A Trenton (Yankees)|
Has officially reserved a weekly spot on this list. After seemingly being dissed in our Top 5 Futures Game arms (Chamberlain was No. 6), the Yankee righthander went on to whiff nine over seven shutout innings. In two July starts, Chamberlain is 2-0, 0.00 with a 21-2 strikeout-walk ratio in 13 innings.
|10. Heath Rollins, rhp, low Class A Columbus (Devil Rays)|
Rollins, a 2006 11th-round pick out of Winthrop, made two appearances week and gave up only one earned run on eight hits. He struck out seven in 13 innings and went 2-0. He is 3-0, 0.47 in 19 July innings.
|11. Brandon Jones, of, Double-A Mississippi (Braves)|
Legit. After cooling off somewhat in May and June, Jones is heating up again. So far this month, Jones is hitting .408/.434/.796.
|12. Evan Longoria, 3b, Double-A Montgomery (Devil Rays)|
Another week, another Evan Longoria spot. The 2006 first-rounder hit .412 last week after traveling back from the Futures Game in San Francisco.
|13. Chris Gimenez, of/3b/c, Double-A Akron (Indians)|
Gimenez has yet to play the outfield since his promotion to Double-A at the end of June, but that’s only because the Aeros outfield defense is more or less set. Gimenez (the “G” is not silent) gave high Class A Kinston manager Mike Sarbaugh a reason to find a spot for him and now he’s doing the same thing to Akron manager Tim Bogar. Sure, he’s 24, but much like Cubs catcher Jake Fox, Gimenez is proving his versatility in the field, while thumping at the plate. Last week, Gimenez hit .474 with three homers in just 19 at-bats.
|14. Jack Egbert, rhp, Double-A Birmingham (White Sox)|
Egbert came into this season with a 23-16 career record in the minors since signing as a 13th-round pick in 2004, and he’s continued to do that in Double-A this year. Egbert is 9-7, 2.64 on a bad Birmingham club, getting it done with solid-average stuff and a great feel for pitching. In his last start, Egbert struck out 13 over seven innings and has 114 whiffs in 116 innings this season.
|15. Eric Young Jr., 2b, high Class A Modesto (Rockies)|
The 22-year-old Young stole two bases on Sunday night to increase his July total to 11 in 11 games while hitting .455/.565/.727 for the period. The 2003 30th-round pick has three multi-hit games last week and on the season ranks third in the minors with 51 steals.
|16. Omar Poveda, rhp, low Class A Clinton (Rangers)|
The 19-year-old Venezuelan hurled seven innings last week giving up one earned run on three hits and striking out 12 to get the win. In July, Poveda has 19 strikeouts in 14 innings and is 1-0, 0.64.
|17. Ryan Kalish, of, short-season Lowell (Red Sox)|
The 19-year-old speedster has recorded three hits in each of his last four games, going a combined 12-for-15 with six extra base hits, four stolen bases and four walks in those games. Kalish is hitting .372/.476/.547 in 104 plate appearances, and his speed (18 steals vs. 3 caught stealing) and plate discipline (16 walks vs. 11 strikeouts) are also pluses for the Lowell leadoff hitter. Kalish has had multi-hit games in 11 of the 22 games he has played in this season.
|18. Scott Sizemore, 2b, low Class A West Michigan (Tigers)|
Sizemore struggled mightily for the first half of the season, hitting .215 as of June 15. But the fifth round pick out of Virginia Commonwealth is 15 for his last 34 and has raised his average to .271 in the last month. He hit .520 last week in 25 at-bats.
|19. Eddie Degerman, rhp, high Class A Palm Beach (Cardinals)|
The former Rice standout found mixed results in low Class A Quad Cities’ tag-team pitching rotation–Degerman went 1-1, 1.93 in six starts (28 innings) compared to 0-0, 3.20 in six relief appearances (19.2 innings). The trend continued after a July promotion to the Florida State League: Degerman has 13 strikeouts and two earned runs in 11 innings as a starter compared to three earned runs and no strikeouts over three innings in a relief appearance.
|20. Chris Carter, 1b, Triple-A Tucson (Diamondbacks)|
While he’s doing many of the same things he did in his first PCL go-round in 2006, Carter has turned on the power in July, hitting .463/.508/.852 with four homers and seven doubles in 14 games. And he couldn’t have picked a better time: big league first baseman Conor Jackson’s slugging percentage has dropped from .519 to .413 to .333 in each month since May. Carter is now up to .345/.403/.531 on the year and ranks second in the league in average, third in doubles (32) and fourth in extra-base hits (45).
|Adam Miller, rhp, Triple-A Buffalo (Indians)|
Miller cruised through April and May, going 4-1, 2.45 in seven starts, but the 22-year-old flamethrower has struggled to regain his form after coming off the disabled list. After his five runs in 2 2/3 innings outing Saturday, Miller’s season ERA shot up to 4.17. His line since coming back: 10 innings, 13 earned runs, 15 hits, 13 strikeouts, five walks.
|Brian Bocock, ss, high Class A San Jose (Giants)|
The 2006 ninth-round pick has seen his numbers decline steadily after a brilliant start in the Cal League: Bocock hit safely in eight of his first nine games following a promotion from low Class A Augusta but has managed just four hits in his last 27 at-bats. The Futures-Gamer has just six steals in 11 attempts while seeing his average dip to a season-low .230/.292/.322.
|Eric Campbell, 3B, high Class A Myrtle Beach (Braves)|
A midseason hitting streak has saved Campbell’s disappointing season from being downright disastrous. The 2004 second-round pick strung together six consecutive multi-hit games in June to boost his average to a season-high .250 but he is hitless in his last 21 at-bats and is now .212/.293/.382.
|Michael Saunders, of, high Class A (Mariners)|
The 20-year old Saunders seems to have run into his first mini-slump of the season after returning from the Futures Game. After hitting .310 and .352 in May and June, respectively, the British Columbia native was hitting a mere .231 in 39 July at-bats. His overall average is still a solid .294/.392/.476 with 12 home runs and 61 RBIs.
|Quintin Berry, of, low Class A Lakewood (Phillies)|
Though he made a legitimate case for making the actual top 20 this week, Berry is one of the most intriguing outfield prospects in the Phillies system. A fifth-rounder in 2005, Berry hit .440 last week with emerging power.
|Mark DiFelice, RHP, Triple-A Nashville (Brewers)|
Yes, he’s 31 years old, but DiFelice has come back from two seasons in the independent leagues to put up one of the best seasons in the minors this year. DiFelice went 6-1, 1.62 in 67 innings with Double-A Huntsville, then struck out eight in six scoreless innings after being bumped up to Nashville. For a pitcher who has never had an ERA under 3.00 in nine pro seasons, a 1.49 ERA is pretty lofty territory. The key appears to be a cut fastball he developed in the Atlantic League while working with Somerset manager Sparky Lyle. DiFelice helped Somerset to a title with a complete-game victory in the championship game.