Prospect Hot Sheet (June 27): Blair Takes The Top Spot


This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet covers games from June 20-26. 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, Josh Norris and interns Jacob Emert and Carlos Collazo.

1. Aaron Blair, rhp, Diamondbacks

Aaron Blair (Photo by Bill Mitchell).Team: high Class A Visalia (California)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 1.38, 13 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 0 HR, 16 SO, 2 BB, 3 HBP

The Scoop: In a week with many good prospect performances but no great ones, Blair takes the top spot with a pair of one-run starts versus San Jose. The 2013 supplemental first-rounder from Marshall fanned 16 batters against two walks, taking over the minor league with 112 punchouts, nine more than his closest challenger.

With the ability to keep the ball in the park, miss bats and command the strike zone (4.5 SO/BB ratio), Blair knows the recipe for success in the difficult pitching context of the Cal League. That he throws a live fastball up to 95 mph, a plus changeup and a breaking ball with more curveball shape this season only increases the likelihood that he will continue to succeed as he moves up the ladder.


2. Luis Severino, rhp, Yankees

luis severinoTeam: high Class A Tampa (Florida State)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: 1-1, 2.53, 10 2/3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 14 SO, 2 BB

The Scoop: Severino moved to a new level and didn’t skip a beat. After a fine start in his first turn with Tampa, he pitched even better on Wednesday. Against Clearwater, Severino fired six no-hit innings with six strikeouts and one walk and was reportedly bringing his fastball up to 98 mph. In his first year of full-season ball, he’s fanned 84 in 78 innings while allowing just 67 hits and 16 unintentional walks.


3. Tyler Glasnow, rhp, Pirates

Tyler GlasnowTeam: high Class A Bradenton (Florida State)
Age: 20.
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 1.29, 6 2/3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 6 SO

The Scoop: Glasnow allowed a run this week for the first time since his May 22 start, but that doesn’t diminish the most effective stretch of his career. The 6-foot-7 righty has gone 4-0, 0.49 in his past seven starts, allowing 15 hits in 37 innings and brandishing a 49-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Opponents have hit just .148 against Glasnow this season with seven extra-base hits (no homers), and, for perspective, Clayton Kershaw (.435) has a higher OPS in the majors this season than Florida State League righthanders (.432) do against the Pirates prospect.


4. Steven Souza, rf/cf, Nationals

Steven SouzaTeam: Triple-A Syracuse (International)
Age: 25
Why He’s Here: .481/.563/.852 (13-for-27), 10 R, 4 2B, 2 HR, 10 RBIs, 5 BB, 6 SO

The Scoop: Souza the late-bloomer has shown consistent power for the past five seasons—culminating in elite exit velocity off the bat in last year’s Arizona Fall League—but he’s taken his game up a notch this season at Triple-A with the best strike-zone management skills of his career. Thanks to one of the best walk rates in the minors, Souza leads the minors with a .462 on-base percentage and ranks second in the overall batting race at .368. Only an overstuffed outfield in Washington is keeping Souza in the International League, but his surroundings could change once the Nationals begin exploring the trade market this summer.


5. Kyle Schwarber, c/lf, Cubs

Kyle Schwarber (Courtesy Boise Hawks).Team: low Class A Kane County (Midwest)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .474/.565/.947 (9-for-19), 6 R, 3 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBIs, 3 BB, 3 SO, 1-for-2 SB

The Scoop: Promoted to low Class A after just five games in the Northwest League, Schwarber has slowed down slightly, hitting “just” .455/.538/.864 at Kane County after posting an OPS of 1.975 at Boise. Chicago pegged the former Indiana catcher as the most advanced bat in the draft, taking him No. 4 overall, and hoped he could move quickly. The organization has said it eventually will move the lefty swinger out from behind the plate, but he has acquitted himself fine thus far, throwing out two runners on Wednesday.


6. D.J. Peterson, 3b, Mariners

D.J. PetersonTeam: high Class A High Desert (California) / Double-A Jackson (Southern)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: .421/.522/.947 (8-for-19), 4 R, 4 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBIs, 4 BB, 4 SO

The Scoop: One of the top college bats in last year’s draft, Peterson finally received the anticipated promotion to Double-A, going 1-for-3 with a double in his Jackson debut yesterday. Look for his power output to continue in the Southern League—Peterson ranks among the minor league leaders with 18 homers, 73 RBIs and a .616 slugging percentage—but his old home park in High Desert is the most favorable hitting environment in the U.S. minors. That’s a fact evident in his .281 average in the Cal League road games, a figure nearly 100 points lower than his home average.


7. Taijuan Walker, rhp, Mariners

Taijuan WalkerTeam: Triple-A Tacoma (Pacific Coast)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 8 SO, 1 BB

The Scoop: Working his way back from an impingement in his throwing shoulder, Walker was at his dominant best on Tuesday, blanking Oklahoma City on four hits with eight strikeouts. He showed a fastball that sat in low 90s and flashed 95 mph. Most importantly, the Mariners were comfortable enough to allow him to throw 109 pitches, 75 of which went for strikes. He could be back with the big league club this weekend, for Erasmo Ramirez, who has been on the same pitching schedule as Walker, was optioned to Tacoma on Thursday.


8. Henry Owens, lhp, Red Sox

henry-owens-2014-mugTeam: Double-A Portland (Eastern)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 2.77, 13 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 4 BB, 14 SO

The Scoop: Owens suffered a hiccup last night, giving up four runs in six innings, but what a run it had been before that. He threw seven scoreless innings earlier this week, which was part of a stretch where he allowed two earned runs in seven starts (0.42 ERA). More importantly, Owens has found the zone more consistently, allowing him to work deeper into games, and he’s thrown seven or more innings in four of his last six starts.


9. Corey Seager, ss, Dodgers

corey seagerTeam: High Class A Rancho Cucamonga (California)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: .379/.455/.759 (11-for-29), 10 R, 5 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBIs, 4 BB, 5 SO

The Scoop: Seager socked two more home runs this week as part of seven extra-base hits. Overall, he ranks among the top 10 in the California League in all three triple-slash statistics—he’s hitting .349/.401/.616 in 68 games—including the lead in slugging percentage. He also leads the circuit in doubles and total bases, so a trip to Double-A probably isn’t far off.


10. Renato Nunez, 3b, Athletics

RenatoNunezIITeam: high Class A Stockton (California)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: .519/.581/1.111 (14-for-27), 8 R, 4 2B, 4 HR, 12 RBIs, 2 BB, 3 SO

The Scoop: During the same week he learned he made the World roster at the Futures Game, Nunez also led all minor leaguers with eight extra-base hits. He hit all four homers this week in favorable hitter’s parks—three at Lancaster, one at home in Stockton—but he has demonstrated real progress this season, hitting .299/.376/.551 with a 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio since May 1.


11. Arismendy Alcantara, 2b, Cubs

Arismendy AlcantaraTeam: Triple-A Iowa (Pacific Coast)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: .423/.467/.808 (11-for-26), 8 R, 5 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, 3 BB, 5 SO, 3-for-3 SB

The Scoop: Overshadowed in the organization and at Iowa by players such as Javier Baez and Kris Bryant, Alcantara has quietly had a great season. The switch-hitter has more power than his 5-foot-10 frame would suggest, with 40 extra-base hits this season, including 10 triples.


12. Braden Shipley, rhp, Diamondbacks

Team: high Class A Visalia (California)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 10 SO, 2 BB

The Scoop: At this rate, Shipley will be striking out 20 hitters or so in his final start of the season. He begam his tenure with Visalia with seven punchouts against Lake Elsinore, upped it to eight the next time out, then pushed it to 10 punchouts against two walks in this week’s start. Overall, the 2013 first-rounder has used his fastball/changeup/slider mix to whiff 34 in 26 innings since his promotion to high Class A.


13. Nick Kingham, rhp, Pirates

Nick KinghamTeam: Triple-A Indianapolis (International)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 SO

The Scoop: Triple-A has not given Kingham any trouble. In three starts, he has a 0.44 ERA and a 0.68 WHIP, and the stuff matches the results. Kingham has a plus fastball at his best and a harder-than-ideal changeup that works because of its late fade. He’s not going to be a front-of-the-rotation starter, but that’s fine. The Pirates have a number of big arms in Pittsburgh or on the horizon, including Geritt Cole, Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow.


In The Team Photo

Ian Clarkin, lhp, Yankees: The 19-year-old southpaw struck out 15 this week over two starts and 11 innings for low Class A Charleston. The 2013 first-round pick earned one win and allowed only one earned run, though on the flip side he walked seven batters. In his previous three starts, he’d walked only one.

Francellis Montas, rhp, White Sox: The hard-throwing Dominican righty has started to dispel doubts about his spotty control this season and continued to do so this week at high Class A Winston-Salem. With just three walks in 11 innings, Montas lowered his season walk rate to 2.0 per nine innings. He walked twice as many batters per game at low Class A last season, and his velocity remains intact, with a fastball up to 101 mph in recent outings.

Justin Nicolino, lhp, Marlins: The finesse lefty limped to a 4.96 ERA at Double-A Jacksonville last year, but Nicolino in his repeat of the Southern League is determined not to walk anybody, issuing just 10 through 16 starts. In two turns and 14 innings this week, he struck out eight, walked none and allowing two runs on 11 hits.

Matt Olson, 1b, Athletics: Olson sampled liberally from the Three True Outcomes at low Class A Beloit in 2013, smacking 23 homers, drawing 72 walks and striking out nearly 27 percent of the time. At high Class A Stockton this year, he has kept the power and patience but cut back on the whiffs (20 percent). This week, Olson homered five times, drew nine walks and went 8-for-26 (.308) at the plate, and he leads the Cal League with 22 homers and 67 walks.

Rob Refsnyder, 2b, Yankees: After a brief adjustment to Triple-A, the 23-year-old Refsnyder is back to hitting everything in sight. He went 10-for-20 this week with three doubles and a longball at Scranton/Wilkes Barre, while racking up a cool .615 on-base percentage thanks to six walks against four strikeouts. He’s reached base in his last 11 starts.

Gary Sanchez, c, Yankees: One of the top prospects and best bats in the Yankees system, Sanchez belted two home runs to go along with a pair of doubles this week at Double-A Trenton. The 21-year-old Domincan struck out five times in 27 at-bats, but more than made up for that by batting .444/.500/.741. He’s been excellent this month, posting an .879 OPS.

Chance Sisco, c, Orioles. Sisco went 14-for-25 (.560) with three doubles, six walks and eight RBIs this week at low Class A Delmarva. With that barrage he boosted his season average to .342 and assumed the top spot in the South Atlantic League batting race. Did we mention he’s a 19-year-old catcher one year removed from high school? The 2013 second-rounder also sports a .416 on-base percentage and has thrown out 26 percent of basestealers.


Not-So Hot

Trey Ball, lhp, Red Sox: The seventh pick in last year’s draft from New Castle (Ind.) High, Ball has shown less stuff, less arm speed and a worse delivery at low Class A Greenville than scouts expected. The 20-year-old worked as a two-way player in high school, but so far the mound results have been dreadful, especially this week when he allowed 10 runs on 17 hits (including six doubles) in 7 2/3 innings. In 11 starts this season, Ball has gone 1-7, 7.27 with a 2.03 WHIP and 1.7 SO/BB ratio.

Travis Demeritte, 2b, Rangers. The 2013 first-rounder takes his walks and hits for incredible power—he leads the South Atlantic League with 16 homers—but a high strikeout rate got the best of the 19-year-old at low Class A Hickory this week. Demeritte fanned 11 times in 22 trips to the plate, going 1-for-19 (.053) with a double, two walks and an RBI.

Mike Foltynewicz, rhp, Astros: When Foltynewicz is going well, he can run his fastball into the high 90s, and he’s a scout’s dream because he works quickly. For example, his 10-strikeout gem in late May took 2 hours and 34 minutes to finish. Lately, however, Foltynewicz’s games for Triple-A Oklahoma City have been taking three hours or more because he’s been getting hit. A trip to Reno this week didn’t help, but allowing 10 runs on 14 hits (including three home runs) in 10 2/3 innings is rough, no matter how you slice it.

Alex Gonzalez, rhp, Rangers: After a great start to his tenure at Double-A Frisco, the 22-year-old Gonzalez had two starts that could charitably be labeled as rough. The 2013 first-rounder allowed an astonishing 20 hits in 8 1/3 innings over two starts, letting in nine runs and striking out just four. To put that in context, Gonzalez allowed one-third the number of hits this week (20) as he did in 11 starts (56) at high Class A Myrtle Beach this season.


Helium Watch

Jake Bauers, 1b, Padres. Bauers bears more than a passing resemblance to Daric Barton in his full-season debut, which is only fitting because both first basemen are products of Marina High in Southern California, drafted a decade apart. A seventh-round pick last year, Bauers assumed the lead in the minor league batting race this week after accumulating enough plate appearances to qualify. He features a pure lefthanded stroke with the potential for plus hitting and plus power production, getting the most out of his raw ability with an advanced feel for the strike zone. The 18-year-old Bauers is hitting .371/.444/.551 with six homers through 51 games at low Class A Fort Wayne, with a Barton-like ratio of 30 strikeouts and 24 walks.