Baseball America

Prospect Hot Sheet (June 21): Taijuan Walker Cruises Through The Southern League

Each Friday, the Prospect Hot Sheet singles out the prospects who had the best week, weighing raw performance, prospect status, age compared to level and the environment in which they play. Bear in mind that this is not a re-ranking of our preseason Top 100 Prospects list—it’s a snapshot of top performances by prospects during the period June 14-June 20.

Contributing: Ben Badler, J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy and Jim Shonerd

Matt Eddy chatted about prospects.

taijuan-walker-2013-mugNo. 1 Taijuan Walker, rhp, Mariners
Team:
Double-A Jackson (Southern)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: 1-1, 2.13, 12 2/3 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 19 SO, 1 BB, 1 HBP

The Scoop: In a week in which half of the minor leagues played an abbreviated schedule thanks to the Class A all-star breaks, Walker had no trouble standing tall above the field. That’s not to diminish what he accomplished this week or this season, his second go-round in the Southern League. Walker fanned a career-high 12 batters in his Thursday start, holding Mobile to two runs in seven innings while allowing seven baserunners.

Walker has cruised through his last five starts for Jackson, unleashing a devastating fastball-curveball combination to strike out 39 and walk five in 32 2/3 innings, all while allowing opponents to hit just .191 (21-for-110). He’s now made 39 starts in two seasons at Double-A—complete with rates of 9.1 strikeouts and 3.4 walks per nine innings—so a promotion to Triple-A might be in the cards following the SL all-star break.

Remarkably, Walker is only a few days younger than Diamondbacks righty Archie Bradley, despite the fact that the Mariners top prospect is retracing his steps from a year ago.

Taijuan Walker’s Statistics

chris-owings-2013No. 2 Chris Owings, ss, Diamondbacks
Team:
Triple-A Reno (Pacific Coast)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .500/.529/.750 (16-for-32), 9 R, 5 2B, 1 HR, 14 RBIs, 2 BB, 5 SO

The Scoop: Owings lost his tag as the Diamondbacks’ shortstop of the future the day Arizona traded Trevor Bauer to acquire Didi Gregorius from the Reds. But with D-backs second baseman Cliff Pennington struggling at the plate, Owings still has a clear way to make the big leagues before too long. He’s played a little second base this year as preparation. Owings is helped by playing half his games in Reno—three-year hits per game factor: 1.088—but a .355/.374/.480 line from a middle infielder is impressive anywhere.

Chris Owings’ Statistics 

david-holmberg-2013-mugNo. 3 David Holmberg, lhp, Diamondbacks
Team:
Double-A Mobile (Southern)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.00, 9 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 BB, 8 SO, 1 HBP

The Scoop: Holmberg generally has spent the second half of each season at a new level, then returns there to start the following season. He may want to pack his bags in anticipation of a promotion to Triple-A Reno, seeing as he has 0.78 ERA in three starts this month. Holmberg profiles as a back-end of the rotation starter, but with his above-average changeup and his ability to command an average fastball, he’s got a chance to put together some good stretches in the big leagues.

David Holmberg’s Statistics 

zach-walters-2013-mugNo. 4 Zach Walters, ss, Nationals
Team:
Triple-A Syracuse (International)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: .552/.594/1.172 (16-for-29), 4 HR, 6 2B, 10 RBIs, 7 R, 1 BB, 7 SO

The Scoop: Pop quiz—Who leads all Triple-A shortstops in extra-base hits? Why, it’s the Nationals’ Zach Walters, who has smacked 18 doubles, two triples and 16 homers for Syracuse and also laps the field in isolated power (.272). Of course, Walters’ power has come at a cost this season, with strikeouts in 24 percent of plate appearances and walks in just three percent. He need only watch rehabbing Chiefs teammate Danny Espinosa, a fellow switch-hitting middle infielder, to see the potential peril in such a hitting approach.

Zach Walker’s Statistics

Chris BostickNo. 5 Chris Bostick  2b, Athletics
Team:
 low Class A Beloit (Midwest)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: .600/.647/1.333 (9-for-15), 3 HR, 1 3B, 11 RBIs, 4 R, 2 BB, 1 SO, 2-for-2 SB

The Scoop: Bostick hit just .203 in April, but he’s put up a .335/.406/.548 line in 155 at-bats since, along the way outperforming more heralded Beloit teammates Matt Olson and Daniel Robertson. Bostick’s bat was expected to have some power, but not this much. His three homers this week match his total from 70 games in short-season ball last year, and he’s up to 10 for the season.

Chris Bostick’s Statistics

Neil RamirezNo. 6 Neil Ramirez, rhp, Rangers
Team:
Double-A Frisco (Texas)
Age: 24
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.00, 2 GS, 12 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 16 SO

The Scoop: It’s hard to get a clear read on where Ramirez stands as a prospect now because he’s had a fascinating, but schizophrenic, career path. Back in 2011, he jumped to Triple-A after only one start above high Class A. He handled the jump well and seemed poised to help the Rangers at the big league level. Instead he bombed in Triple-A in 2012 and was sent back to Double-A. He returned to Frisco this year to try to regain the form he showed in 2011, and it’s working so far. He’s been very consistent for Frisco, working five or more innings in 13 of 15 starts this year while leading the Texas League with 97 strikeouts.

Neil Ramirez’s Statistics

2012 Arizona Diamondbacks Photo DayNo. 7 Tyler Skaggs, lhp, Diamondbacks
Team:
Triple-A Reno (Pacific Coast)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.64, 11 IP, 13 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 15 SO, 1 HBP

The Scoop: Skaggs returned from a two-week callup with the Diamondbacks and posted the line you see here in his first two outings back in Reno. He has been more consistent since an up-and-down April, striking out seven or more in five of his last six Triple-A starts, but his Triple-A ERA remains an unattractive 4.60. Part of that is his inhospitable home park (6.49 ERA) but he’s also struggled to get lefty hitters out, as they’re batting .342 against him.

Tyler Skaggs’ Statistics

micah-johnson-2013-bm-mugNo. 8 Micah Johnson, 2b, White Sox
Team:
low Class A Kannapolis (South Atlantic)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: .563/.588/1.250 (9-for-16), 2 HR, 2 3B, 1 2B, 5 RBIs, 6 R, 1 BB, 6 SO, 2-for-3 SB

The Scoop: Johnson starred in the South Atlantic League all-star game, winning MVP honors for his part in manufacturing a run out of thin air. He stole second and third base on consecutive pitches, then scored on a fielder’s choice, a sequence of events that has pretty much been par for the course this season. Johnson leads the minors with 53 stolen bases, and while he’s not exactly young for low Class A, his Upper-Midwest background—he’s from Indianapolis—makes him a bit younger in baseball years.

Micah Johnson’s Statistics

Brandon Workman9. Brandon Workman, rhp, Red Sox
Team:
Triple-A Pawtucket (International)
Age: 24
Why He’s Here: 1-1, 0.68, 13 1/3 IP, 11 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 14 SO

The Scoop: Workman isn’t a flashy prospect, but he’s been a steady, reliable arm at each level he’s pitched since the Red Sox drafted him out of Texas in the second round of the 2010 draft. After starting the year at Double-A Portland, Workman has been outstanding in his three starts since getting promoted to Triple-A, where he has a 1.89 ERA in 19 innings. Workman doesn’t have a true putaway pitch, but he has a plus fastball that he hits his spots with and enough secondary stuff to fit as a back-end starter.

Brandon Workman’s Statistics 

jarred-cosart-2013-mug10. Jarred Cosart, rhp, Astros
Team:
Triple-A Oklahoma City (Pacific Coast)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 1.50, 12 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 11 SO

The Scoop: Mark Appel has been the one getting all the headlines—and deservedly so as the No. 1 pick in the draft—but the Astros have a promising group of pitchers in the upper levels who aren’t far away from contributing in Houston. One of them is Cosart, who has used a power fastball to keep his ERA down to 2.97 with 79 strikeouts in 75 2/3 innings. Cosart’s strikeout rate has continued to climb as he’s become a more advanced pitcher, but he will have to figure out how to throw more strikes before he’s ready for a callup.

Jarred Cosart’s Statistics

jace-peterson-2013-mugNo. 11 Jace Peterson, ss, Padres
Team:
high Class A Lake Elsinore (California)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: .462/.563/1.154 (6-for-13), 1 HR, 2 2B, 2 3B, 3 R, 3 RBIs, 3 BB, 2 SO, 3-for-3 SB

The Scoop: Peterson showed unusual power this week with five extra-base hits—that’s nearly a quarter of his season total—but he also showed off other traits that could make him the Padres’ shortstop of the future. The 2011 supplemental pick mixes a patient, contact-oriented approach with enough speed to be dangerous on the basepaths, as evidenced by his .296/.364/.440 batting line with 21 steals in 26 tries for Lake Elsinore.

Jace Peterson’s Statistics

corey-dickerson-2013-mugNo. 12 Corey Dickerson, lf, Rockies
Team:
Triple-A Colorado Springs (Pacific Coast)
Age: 24
Why He’s Here: .577/.613/.731 (15-for-26), 10 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 5 RBIs, 4 BB, 4 SO

The Scoop: Dickerson can hit. He’s a left fielder without profile left-field power—his swing is more conducive for line-drive doubles than leave-the-park home runs—so there have been concerns about where he fits. But there are a lot of line drives in his bat. Yes, he plays in Colorado Springs, but Dickerson is hitting .390, which works out to an excellent average no matter which park one calls home. He has 14 multi-hit games in 19 games this month.

Corey Dickerson’s Statistics 

CJ EdwardsNo. 13 C.J. Edwards, rhp, Rangers
Team:
low Class A Hickory (South Atlantic)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.80, 5 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 HR, 12 SO, 1 BB

The Scoop: The Rangers elected to have Edwards sit out the South Atlantic League all-star game because of his relative inexperience and his recent trip to the disabled list. He also might have been a bit taxed after fanning a career-high 12 batters in his final start before the break. That performance vaulted Edwards to third in the SAL with 86 strikeouts and to second with a .174 opponent average.

C.J. Edwards’ Statistics 

IN THE TEAM PHOTO

Parker Bridwell, rhp, Orioles: Although Bridwell has a 5.57 ERA in his second tour of the low Class A South Atlantic League, there are signs of progress as he’s cut his walks rate—from 5.0 per nine innings last year to 3.9 this time—and drastically upped his strikeout rate—from 5.6 to 9.1 per nine. The 21-year-old checked in with the longest start of his career this week, working eight innings and striking out 10 while allowing one run on three hits for Delmarva.

• Gary Brown, cf, Giants: Brown has hit .321/.369/.603 with five home runs over 19 games in June for Triple-A Fresno, an encouraging sign for a player who got off to a sluggish start.

• Jake Marisnick, cf, Marlins: The 22-year-old acquired from the Blue Jays in the offseason continued his hot hitting this week to raise his slash line to .289/.349/.532 in 43 games for Double-A Jacksonville, although he’s day-to-day after getting plunked in the hand by a pitch. He flashed power (four extra-base hits) and speed (one steal) this week in going 8-for-21 (.381).

Cody Martin, rhp, Braves: After going 3-3, 2.93 in 68 innings at Double-A Mississippi to start the year, Martin made his Triple-A Gwinnett debut in fine fashion this week. The 23-year-old tossed seven shutout innings against Buffalo on Tuesday, allowing just two hits and one walk while fanning seven.

Stephen Piscotty, rf, Cardinals: Piscotty made the move to right field this year, where his strong arm still plays while his hard hands aren’t nearly as much of an issue. The transition has gone quite smoothly as he doesn’t look out of place in the outfield, and his bat is keeping up with outfield expectations. The 22-year-old hit .368/.400/.947 this week, collecting two homers, three doubles and a triple.

• Walker Wieckel, rhp, Padres: The 19-year-old righthander has an up-and-down first full season in the Midwest League, but he’s had a lot more ups lately. He has a 1.76 ERA this month, and he’s coming off the best start of his pro career last night. He allowed one hit and no runs in 5 1/3 innings while striking out nine for low Class A Fort Wayne.

• Danny Winkler, rhp, Rockies: The 23-year-old Winkler emerges from the all-star break as the high Class A California League leader in ERA (2.15), wins (nine), strikeouts (98), innings (83 2/3) and WHIP (0.81), based in part on his final first-half start in which he tossed seven scoreless innings for Modesto, striking out eight and allowing three baserunners (one hit). Not bad for a 20th-round pick from Central Florida in 2011.

NOT HOT

Corey Brown, cf, Nationals: “Bad timing” could be the official slogan for the Nationals’ 2013 season thus far. Only the Marlins and/or Mets rank lower among NL teams in crucial categories such as runs scored, on-base percentage and slugging. Given that level of lineup sluggishness, fourth-outfielder-in-waiting Corey Brown sure picked an inopportune time to hit .231/.299/.487 in 40 games at Triple-A Syracuse. That he’s doing so at age 27, and that he went 1-for-24 this week with 11 strikeouts . . . well, that’s the epitome of bad timing.

Robbie Erlin, lhp, Padres: The 22-year-old’s ERA for Triple-A Tucson skyrocketed from 3.75 to 5.50 following a Sunday shellacking by Reno in which he went two innings and allowed 11 hits, two walks and 11 runs. Erlin logged a 3.33 ERA over five Pacific Coast League starts in May to earn a callup to San Diego, but since his return to Tucson he’s allowed 18 runs in three starts while allowing opponents to hit .339/.400/.625.

Austin Hedges, c, Padres: Hedges sat on the sidelines for most of May after getting hit by a pitch on his hand, which along with a slow start in April has been the cause of a relatively quiet year for him at the plate. The 20-year-old still is one of the best defensive catchers in the minors, but he has one hit and six strikeouts in his last 16 at-bats in the high Class A California League.

Brett Jackson, cf, Cubs: With the outfield prospects the Cubs have coming behind him, Jackson, 24, would be well served to make a move on a big league job sooner than later. Instead, he’s hitting .217 and striking out in roughly a third of his at-bats for Triple-A Iowa. His misery this week included 14 strikeouts as part of a 2-for-25 (.080) showing.

HELIUM

Antonio Senzatela, rhp, Rockies: Senzatela already ranked among the Top 20 prospects last year in the Dominican Summer League, but the Rockies don’t have a complex-league affiliate, so they often keep their top Latin American pitching prospects in the DSL for multiple years. Given the caliber of pitchers they have been able to produce from that region on a modest budget, it’s hard to argue with their formula. Senzatela is their latest find, a 2011 signing out of Venezuela for $250,000 who led the DSL with an ERA of 0.72 last year. Senzatela has stood out since his amateur days for his control and feel for pitching, but he’s added even more polish this year with a 26-2 K-BB mark and a 2.45 ERA in 22 innings through four DSL starts on the strength of a lively low-90s fastball and a quality changeup.