Prospect Hot Sheet (June 20): A Great First Week At Work

This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet covers minor league games from June 13-19. 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. Kyle Schwarber, c/lf, Cubs

Kyle Schwarber (Courtesy Boise Hawks).

Team: short-season Boise (Northwest) / low Class A Kane County (Midwest)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .565/.593/1.217 (13-for-23), 8 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 11 RBIs, 2 BB, 2 SO, 0-for-1 SB

The Scoop: What, he got thrown out stealing? He stinks. That’s about the only thing Schwarber didn’t do well in his first week as a pro. The problem now: How do you top this? For starters, the No. 4 overall pick out of Indiana two weeks ago already has been promoted to the Midwest League.

The lefthanded swinger belted four homers in five Northwest League games and the Cubs decided he needed more of a challenge, sending him to Kane County, where he went 1-for-3 with an RBI in his first game. Schwarber’s a smart hitter who studies pitchers and has tremendous strength to punish pitches to all fields.


Franklin Barreto2. Franklin Barreto, ss, Blue Jays

Team: short-season Vancouver (Northwest)
Age: 18
Why He’s Here: .500/.567/.615 (13-for-26), 3 R, 3 2B, 6 RBIs, 3 BB, 6 SO, 3-for-3 SB

The Scoop: One of the top talents available on the 2012 international market, Barreto has done nothing but hit in his first two pro seasons, batting .296/.364/.490 in 65 games in short-season ball. He showed off his well-rounded offensive game this week during the first week of the Northwest League season, hitting .500, racking up three extra-base hits and swiping three bags in six games and even showing solid plate patience. The righthanded hitter has impact-regular potential, but he’s obviously far, far away.


MiLB: AUG 26 Rookie League Play-Off - GCL Pirates at GCL Cardinals3. Rowan Wick, rf, Cardinals

Team: short-season State College (New York-Penn)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .417/.533/1.083 (10-for-24), 6 R, 1 2B, 5 HR, 9 RBIs, 6 BB, 6 SO, 0-for-1 SB

The Scoop: The former Canadian National Team star and an intriguing ninth-round pick out of Cypress (Calif.) JC in 2012, posted decent numbers in 2013 in the Rookie-level Appalachian League, but has come out in 2014 on fire. The lefty swinger mashed five homers in the past week and walked six times. Wick moved to right field from catcher.


Kennys-Vargas-2014-ck4. Kennys Vargas, 1b, Twins

Team: Double-A New Britain (Eastern)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: .385/.429/.885 (10-for-26), 8 R, 1 2B, 4 HR, 8 RBIs, 2 BB, 4 SO

The Scoop: Power is Vargas’ ticket to the majors, and he’s delivered it this season in the Eastern League, slamming 14 homers, driving in 57 and slugging .551 to rank among the circuit leaders in all three categories. Command of the strike zone also will be crucial for the jumbo-sized switch-hitter in order for him to get his pitch to punish, and on that front he’s managed a career-best 1.4 SO/BB ratio.


Domingo Santana5. Domingo Santana, rf, Astros

Team: Triple-A Oklahoma City (Pacific Coast)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .407/.515/.556 (11-for-27), 5 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBIs, 6 BB, 7 SO, 2-for-2 SB

The Scoop: With George Springer and Jon Singleton in Houston, Santana, at just 21 years old, is the prospect star at Oklahoma City, and he played like it this week. He hit in every game this week, including five knocks in his past eight at-bats to go with two walks and only one strikeout. After punching out 34 and 35 times in the first two months of the season, he’s whiffed just 17 so far this month. Santana has as many homers (11) as Javier Baez, the other high-profile 21-year-old in the PCL, but he has walked more than twice as often (34 to 16).


Nick Kingham (Photo by Carl Kline).6. Nick Kingham, rhp, Pirates

Team: Triple-A Indianapolis (International)
Age: 22.
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.64, 2 GS, 14 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 10 SO

The Scoop: This year has been a year of attrition for Pirates prospects. Player after player has missed significant time with injuries, but there have been bright spots. Double-A righthander Adrian Sampson is having a breakout year, and Kingham has not only earned a promotion to Triple-A, he’s dominated in his first two starts in the International League. Before too long, he could be a back-of-the-rotation option for the Pirates.


Dace Kime (photo by Tomasso De Rosa)

7. Dace Kime, rhp, Indians

Team: low Class A Lake County (Midwest)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.77, 2 GS, 11 2/3 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 17 SO, 3 BB

The Scoop: It hasn’t been a great season for Kime, who entered the year as the Indians’ No. 16 prospect after the organization made him its third-round pick last year out of Louisville. He finished April with 26 runs allowed in 19 innings, and he otherwise hasn’t done much to inspire confidence as a 22-year-old pitching in low Class A. Yet in his last two starts, Kime has flipped a switch, showing a solid fastball and plus curveball. Though he might ultimately land in the bullpen, Kime has taken a step in the right direction.


Mookie Betts (Photo by Ken Babbitt).8. Mookie Betts, 2b/cf, Red Sox

Team: Triple-A Pawtucket (International)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .333/.400/.593 (9-for-27), 5 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBIs, 3 BB, 7 SO, 4-for-4 SB

The Scoop: Remember Betts’ much-ballyhooed on-base streak? Well, he’s at it again. Between Double-A and Triple-A, he’s reached base in 20 straight games and has hits in 11 of his 16 games with Pawtucket, including seven multi-hit efforts. This week, he did damage against some dominant pitchers. Rochester’s Trevor May permitted the PawSox just three hits—two of them (a double and a triple) belonged to Betts. Two nights later, he collected one of the two hits fireballing righty Alex Meyer allowed over his three innings. It’s a new level, but it sure looks like the same old Mookie.


Taylor Gushue9. Taylor Gushue, c, Pirates

Team: short-season Jamestown (New York-Penn)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: .300/.344/.833 (9-for-30), 7 R, 2 3B, 4 HR, 11 RBIs, 1 BB, 9 SO

The Scoop: Four home runs in your first week? Not a bad way to start your career for the Pirates’ fourth-round pick out of Florida. Gushue has the receiving skills to stick at catcher, even if he isn’t the best at controlling the running game, and he has the strength in his 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame to hit for good power for a catcher if he can show more patience to get himself into hitters’ counts as he works his way up the ladder.


J.O. Berrios10. Jose Berrios, rhp, Twins

Team: high Class A Fort Myers (Florida State)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 9 SO, 2 BB

The Scoop: Berrios has been nothing but dominant in the first half of the season, whiffing 81 against 19 walks in 70 innings prior to the FSL all-star break and earning himself the starting nod in the midseason showcase. (By the way, he pitched a scoreless inning and struck out Gioskar Amaya and Dalton Pompey at the exhibition.) Though he hasn’t received a second-half promotion—yet—Berrios kept right on mowing down the competition for Fort Myers. This week’s start—seven shutout innings with nine strikeouts, one hit and two walks—marked the eighth consecutive turn in which he’s surrendered two or fewer earned runs and whiffed seven or more.


Marco Gonzales11. Marco Gonzales, lhp, Cardinals

Team: Double-A Springfield (Texas)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 1.63, 11 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 14 SO, 2 BB

The Scoop: Gonzales hasn’t skipped a beat since his promotion to Double-A. He’s given up a few more runs, but has allowed hitters a lower average (.220 to .239) and has recorded more strikeouts (46 to 32) in a nearly identical sample of innings. Save for one bad start—five runs in four innings against Midland at the end of last month—he’s allowed two or fewer earned runs in all of his Texas League turns. He turned in a gem on June 13, when he punched out 10 hitters and walked nobody against Northwest Arkansas. That marked the first double-digit strikeout game of his career. He followed it with a solid outing (two runs on six hits in 5 1/3 frames) at Tulsa on Wednesday.


Victor Sanchez12. Victor Sanchez, rhp, Mariners

Team: Double-A Jackson (Southern)
Age: 19
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 1 GS, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 8 SO

The Scoop: When we say that someone is a potential No. 4 or No. 5 starter, readers often get offended. Don’t be offended, it’s quite a compliment for someone such as Sanchez, especially if they can log many innings. The 19-year-old is remarkably advanced for his age, which is why he’s able to hold his own against Double-A hitters, but the lack of an out-pitch and average-at-best velocity makes it hard to project him as a front-end starter.


Lane-Adams-2014-bm13. Lane Adams, cf, Royals

Team: Double-A Northwest Arkansas (Texas)
Age: 24
Why He’s Here: .333/.407/.833 (8-for-24), 6 R, 4 HR, 5 RBIs, 3 BB, 5 SO, 2-for-2 SB

The Scoop: Outfielders with tools and athleticism like Adams are always going to get plenty of opportunities. He fits the standard mold of the four-tool outfielder who faces big questions about his ability to hit for average. After a brutal start this year, Adams has hit this month, once again sparking interest in his hit tool. He probably won’t work his way into a full-time big league job, but the Royals have shown the patience required to develop speed players into useful extra outfielders. See: Jarrod Dyson.


In The Team Photo

Tyler Glasnow, rhp, Pirates: The tall 20-year-old hasn’t allowed a run in his last 23 innings at high Class A Bradenton, flashing a 3.0 SO/BB ratio. The next home run he gives up will be the first this year. Glasnow still walks way too many batters (5.5 per nine innings), and struggles to hold baserunners, but it’s hard to ignore how hard it is for hitters to square up a 6-foot-7 righty with a plus fastball and feel for spin.

Rob Kaminsky, lhp, Cardinals. The second of two Cardinals’ first-round picks in 2013, the New Jersey prep lefty has put the low Class A Midwest League on lockdown in his past four starts, striking out 23, walking four and allowing 13 hits in 24 innings. This week Kaminsky logged six shutout innings for Peoria, striking out six, walking none and allowing two hits.

Adalberto Mejia, lhp, Giants.
The Giants aggressively promoted the 20-year-old Mejia to Double-A Richmomd at the start of the season. Through his first 11 starts he logged a 6.36 ERA, but he rebounded this week with easily his best outing of the season—seven scoreless innings, four hits, one walk, seven strikeouts. The Giants say Mejia’s velocity is starting to pick back up to its usual 92-93 mph range.

Stephen Piscotty, rf, Cardinals. One can safely say that the 23-year-old Piscotty, who has profile tools for right field, has made a smooth transition to Triple-A. He went 9-for-21 (.429) with three doubles, five walks, no strikeouts, a stolen base and and seven RBIs this week for Memphis, and he now ranks second in the Pacific Coast League with 22 doubles. Perhaps most encouraging, Piscotty has logged an .851 OPS in 38 home games, and the Redbirds play in one of the most pitcher-friendly venues in the PCL.

Jose Peraza, 2b, Braves: Just 20 years old, Peraza jumped to Double-A Mississippi to kick off the second half. Before he left the Carolina League, he hit a league-best .342 and stole a league-best 35 bases at high Class A Lynchburg. He promptly collected three hits—including a triple— in his Mississippi debut, driving in a run and scoring three times.

Blake Swihart, c, Red Sox: Young catchers are supposed to have more problems at the plate than this. The demands of the position wear them down and force hitting to take a back seat to becoming a good receiver. The 21-year-old Swihart has had no such problems at Double-A Portland, going 8-for-20 (.400) this week with two homers, a double and three walks. He’s building a case as best catching prospect in the minors, but the competition is stiff.

Nick Tropeano, rhp, Astros: The 23-year-old fired seven shutout innings in his last Triple-A start, dropping his ERA at Oklahoma City to 2.09 with a 65/19 SO/BB ratio in 73 innings. George Springer, Jon Singleton and Co. may overshadow Tropeano in terms of ceiling, but the righthander is not far from being the next farmhand to make an impact in Houston.


Not-So Hot

Rymer Liriano, rf, Padres: The Hot Sheet was made for a player like Liriano, who’s raw power but free-swinging tendencies make him a streaky hitter capable of going off for a multi-homer game or ending the night with a whole bunch of strikeouts. After a feast of a month in May (.315/.391/.530), June has been a month of famine, with Liriano batting .236/.276/.333 with just two walks and 22 strikeouts in 18 games.

Richard Prigatano, of, Rockies. The former Long Beach State star, drafted in the 11th round this year despite ranking No. 170 on the BA 500, went goose-eggs in his first week as a pro, going hitless in 12 at-bats at short-season Tri-City and striking out in half of them. Though he had just 12 extra-base hits for the Dirtbags this season, Prigatano drew raves from scouts for his righthanded power potential, bat speed and physical 6-foot-4 frame.

Ryne Stanek, rhp, Rays. The 29th pick in last year’s draft out of Arkansas, Stanek did not pitch in 2013 as he recovered from hip surgery. His recovery stretched into this season, which he began a month late at low Class A Bowling Green. The 22-year-old has gone 3-3, 3.53 in seven starts with a respectable 2.6 SO/BB ratio, but he’s been very hittable for a college pitcher in the Midwest League (.272 average), particularly this week when he let in six runs on eight hits in two-thirds of an inning.

Robert Stephenson, rhp, Reds:
Stephenson’s control problems are getting worse. The 21-year-old has plenty of time to turn things around, but he’s walked seven batters in a game for the second time this year. The ray of good news? He didn’t get a loss as Double-A Pensacola hung 10 runs in 1 1/3 innings on Mobile’s Bradin Hagens.


Helium Watch

Carlos Talavera, cf, Cardinals: When the international signing period opens in 12 days, teams get their first crack at signing the top 16-year-old players on the market. Last year Talavera earned praise from scouts who followed him closely in Venezuela, ranking as the No. 28 international prospect for July 2 before he signed with the Cardinals for $500,000, St. Louis’ top bonus for an international amateur in 2013. The 17-year-old Talavera has come as advertised: an athletic switch-hitter who understands the strike zone, uses the whole field and puts together quality at-bats with a line-drive stroke. Through 16 games in the Dominican Summer League, Talavera has hit .286/.420/.464 while showing savvy on the bases with seven steals in eight tries. At 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, he is a tick above-average runner and has a good chance to stay in center field thanks to his instincts and jumps off the bat. It’s an overall package that draws comparisons with Angel Pagan.