Prospect Hot Sheet: June 3

Like students around the country, it’s promotion time for minor leagues. We’ve seen several of this week’s Hot Sheet members, including Shelby Miller and Jose Altuve, get the call to a higher level, but the most interesting promotion may come to our No. 1 prospect before long.

Remember that the Prospect Hot Sheet is not a re-ranking of
the Top 100 Prospects. This is a snapshot of which top prospects are
excelling and which ones are struggling right now. Stats cover the period from May 27 through last night, June 2.

Contributing: Ted Cahill, J.J. Cooper, Kyle Dugan,
Matt Eddy and Jim Shonerd.

No. 1 BRETT LAWRIE, 3B

BLUE JAYS

Team: Triple-A Las Vegas (Pacific Coast)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .474/.545/1.158 (9-for-19), 6 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 9 RBIs, 2 BB, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: General managers often say that the best trades are the ones that help both teams. The reason is simple: If you rip off another team, they may not be as willing to deal with you in the future.

In this context, the Brett Lawrie-for-Shaun Marcum swap appears to be a win for both the Blue Jays and Brewers. Marcum has gone 6-2, 2.78 for Milwaukee, while Lawrie has erased any doubts that he’s Toronto’s best prospect, and its long-term answer at third base.

Lawrie dodged a scare this week when he was hit in the hand by a fastball that fortunately didn’t cause any serious damage. Considering the black hole that third base has been for the Blue Jays this year, his callup seems imminent. Lawrie finished off an amazing month of May with three of his 11 home runs on the month coming this week

2011
Stats

No. 2 ZACK WHEELER, RHP

GIANTS

Team: high Class A San Jose (California)

Age: 21

Why he’s here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 12 SO

The Scoop: Making his final start as a 20-year-old, Wheeler fanned a career-high 12 batters on Sunday, the day before his 21st birthday. The Giants’ top pitching prospect has 62 strikeouts, tied for fourth best in the Cal League. The best part of Wheeler’s most recent start, however, might be that he walked only one batter. In his previous three starts, spanning 14 2/3 innings, Wheeler had walked 15 batters, and on the year he’s averaged 4.6 walks per nine innings. From the Giants’ perspective, Wheeler’s continued good health might be the most important detail. After struggling with a cracked fingernail last year, he’s made every start this year and stands to exceed his 2010 innings total in his next two starts.

2011
Stats

No. 3 MATT HARVEY, RHP

METS

Team: high Class A St. Lucie (Florida State)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.75, 2 GS, 12 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 19 SO

The Scoop: Harvey threw seven scoreless innings against Dunedin on Friday while allowing just three hits and establishing a career high with 10 strikeouts. He followed that with nine-strikeout effort against Clearwater. That’s all in a week’s work for Harvey, who in 59 innings has struck out 71 batters to rank third in the Florida State League. His sparkling 3.6-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio has dispelled concerns (at least initially) about spotty command that dogged him in college. Harvey’s performance, along with that of Double-A flame-thrower Jeurys Familia, has been a boon to a Mets system that lost top prospect Jenrry Mejia to Tommy John surgery in May.

2011
Stats
No. 4 BRYCE HARPER, RF

NATIONALS

Team: low Class A Hagerstown (South Atlantic)

Age: 18

Why He’s Here: .433/.528/.767 (13-for-30), 3 HR, 1 2B, 7 RBIs, 6 R, 6 BB, 5 SO, 4-for-6 SB

The Scoop: Harper homered on Wednesday (his 12th) and Thursday (13th) to claim a share of the South Atlantic League lead with Lakewood’s Jim Murphy. He drove in two runs yesterday to tie Murphy with 41 RBIs as well. Now here’s the scary part—Murphy, an ’08 17th-round pick from Washington State, is seven years older than Harper, who emerged from a 10-game funk to reassert himself this week. After batting 5-for-39 (.128, but with thee intentional walks thrown in) from May 15-26, Harper collected hits in seven of eight games this week. (Hagerstown played a doubleheader at Kannapolis on Monday.) He reeled off 10 hits in 16 at-bats to close the week, so don’t be surprised if opposing managers once again begin signaling four fingers to their catchers when Harper steps to the plate with first base open.

2011
Stats

No. 5 RYAN LAVARNWAY, C

RED SOX

Team: Double-A Portland (Eastern)

Age: 23

Why He’s
Here:
.464/.583/.964 (13-for-28), 2 2B, 4 HR, 9 RBIs, 10 R, 7 BB, 6 SO

The Scoop: Lavarnway kicked off June in style, going 4-for-5 with a home run, his fourth of the week, and three runs scored in an 18-9 drubbing of New Britain on Wednesday. The ability to drive the ball has never been in question for Lavarnway—he’s clubbed 20 or more homers in his first two full seasons and is on pace to approach 30 this year. If Lavarnway can stay behind the plate, which remains to be seen, he has a real opportunity with the Red Sox as their catchers this year have posted a .227/.292/.371 batting line.

2011
Stats

No. 6 JOSE ALTUVE, 2B

ASTROS

Team: high Class A Lancaster (California) / Double-A Corpus Christi (Texas)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .448/.484/.862 (13-for-29), 3 HR, 1 2B, 1 3B, 11 RBIs, 6 R, 2 BB, 5 SO, 1-for-2 SB

The Scoop: The true test begins now for Altuve, the Astros’ little engine that could. Promoted to Double-A in time for Wednesday’s game, Altuve has gone 4-for-7 with a home run and three RBIs in two games for Corpus Christi. The diminutive second baseman (he’s listed at 5-foot-7 and a squat 170 pounds) owns a career .324 average in the minors, fueled in part by a .362 mark for Lancaster in 83 career games. But that undersells how hot Altuve has been this season.

The body-comp visual is jarring, but Altuve went a Ted Williams-esque 87-for-213 (.408) for the JetHawks this season, a performance that included a .464/.492/.670 batting line while flying the friendly skies of Lancaster. The Cal League liberally rewards those who put the ball in play frequently, and Altuve was no exception. He collected a hit in such instances more than 44 percent of the time, compared with a league average rate of 33 and a half percent.

2011
Stats

No. 7 TREVOR MAY, RHP

PHILLIES

Team: high Class A Clearwater (Florida State)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.38, 13 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 HR, 6 BB, 1 HBP, 19 SO

The Scoop: After rotation-mate Jarred Cosart made two consecutive appearances on the Hot Sheet, May broke through with a pair of good starts. In his second start of the week, he allowed just two hits and a walk in eight innings, while striking out 12 batters. It’s a big step forward from this time last year. A year ago today May allowed seven runs and walked seven batters in three innings in a start that helped seal his demotion to low Class A Lakewood. May’s control still comes and goes, but he’s showing more outings where he’s locked in this year. Considering his previous high Class A experience, May is a logical candidate for a promotion, but then the Phillies may not wish to break up prospect-laden Clearwater. The club also features Jonathan Singleton, Brody Colvin, Cosart and Sebastian Valle.

2011
Stats

No. 8 SHELBY MILLER, RHP

CARDINALS

Team: high Class A Palm Beach (Florida State)

Age: 20

Why He’s Here: 0-0, 1.29, 1 GS, 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 12 SO, 1 BB

The Scoop: Hitters around the Florida State League received great news earlier this week, when the Cardinals announced Miller was being promoted to Double-A Springfield. His power fastball was simply too much for them to handle. The 2009 first-round pick departs as the FSL’s strikeout leader with 81 in 53 innings, and he’d been on fire lately, posting double-digit strikeout totals in four of his last five starts. The 12 strikeouts he recorded against Lakeland in his final FSL start were a career high. Miller gave up a walk and two singles in the first inning that night, leading to a run. He then retired 19 of the last 21 hitters he faced, and one of the two who reached base did so on an error. Not a bad way to go out.

2011
Stats

No. 9 EDWAR CABRERA, LHP

ROCKIES

Team: low Class A Asheville (South Atlantic)

Age: 23

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.20, 2 GS, 15 IP, 10 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 19 SO

The Scoop: No one develops Latin American pitchers better than the Rockies—it’s one of the team’s secret weapons to staying competitive in the NL West. Cabrera’s a long way from being compared with Ubaldo Jimenez or Jhoulys Chacin—or even Juan Nicasio—but the lefthander is making a splash in his first full season in the U.S. Since he was nearly 21 when he signed out of the Dominican, Cabrera has always been old for his league, but he’s shown a feel for pitching, a solid low-90s fastball, an excellent changeup and a put-em-away mentality that helps him rack up plenty of strikeouts. Cabrera’s 96 strikeouts easily leads the minors. Rays Double-A lefty Matt Moore is second with 82.

2011
Stats

No. 10 LUCAS DUDA, LF/1B

METS

Team: Triple-A Buffalo (International)

Age: 25

Why He’s Here: .429/.552/1.048 (9-for-21), 4 HR, 1 2B, 8 RBIs, 7 R, 5 BB, 5 SO

The Scoop: The Mets learned this week that first baseman Ike Davis will be out indefinitely with his ankle injury. That could clear a path for Duda to play his natural position in the big leagues—provided that he carries his recent Buffalo production to Queens. An injury to Jason Bay allowed Duda to make New York’s Opening Day, but he played sporadically and didn’t hit (2-for-20 with a double). His slump continued in Triple-A after his demotion—he went 7-for-44 (.159) with a double in his first 15 games. The numbers above indicate that he’s found his swing with regular playing time, so the next time the Mets come calling they may find that Duda abides.

2011
Stats

No. 11 JAKE ODORIZZI, RHP

ROYALS

Team: high Class A Wilmington (Carolina)

Age: 21

Why He’s
Here:
0-0, 0.96, 2 GS, 9 1/3, 6 H, 1 R, 5 BB, 15 SO

The Scoop: When we ranked the Royals No. 1 in the preseason organization talent rankings, we cited the team’s depth of prospects as one of the main reasons for the ranking. With John Lamb having Tommy John surgery today and Chris Dwyer and Mike Montgomery battling command issues, that depth has become all the more important.

While several of the Royals’ most advanced pitching prospects have struggled, Odorizzi is showing every sign that he’s worthy of being considered among the top pitching prospects in the minors. He has two plus pitches, and he’s shown an ability to mix them well. His control still comes and goes at times, but hitters rarely square him up. Odorizzi has allowed seven runs in his last seven starts. He’s struck out 54 batters in 39 2/3 innings over that same span.

2011
Stats

No. 12 NOLAN ARENADO, 3B

ROCKIES

Team: high Class A Modesto (California)

Age: 20

Why He’s Here: .467/.529/.667 (14-for-30), 3 2B, 1 HR, 12 RBIs, 4 BB, 1 SO

The Scoop: Arenado has made plate discipline and working deeper counts a priority this season. The approach has resulted in more walks this season, and with no adverse effects on his strikeout rate. But the even more encouraging news is the progress he’s made at third base. Arenado lost nearly 20 pounds this offseason

Premium, and with the enhanced agility he’s eased concern that the prep shortstop would morph into a first baseman by the time he reached the majors.

2011
Stats

No. 13 MIKE MOUSTAKAS, 3B

ROYALS

Team: Triple-A Omaha (Pacific Coast)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .455/.455/.727 (15-for-33), 6 R, 3 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 0 BB, 6 SO

The Scoop: If not for third baseman Wilson Betemit’s outstanding start to the season, Moustakas may be batting ahead of behind Eric Hosmer in Kansas City. But for now, Moustakas has to continue to refine his approach in Triple-A. But there are some benefits. Moustakas got to face his high school teammate Matt Dominguez for the first time in a pro game during the Omaha-New Orleans series this week. Moustakas rose to the challenge, going 7-for-15 with two home runs in the first three games. It also appeared to inspire Dominguez, who hit a pair of home runs on Thursday night.

2011
Stats

IN THE TEAM PHOTO

Reds 2B Henry Rodriguez is still working to find a defensive home. The 21-year-old is best at second base, but he can play a little bit of shortstop and he’s not awful at third base. But it’s at the plate that Rodriguez feels most comfortable. He batted .307/.337/.473 for low Class A Dayton last year, and he’s been on a similar tear this year. With high Class A Bakersfield he hit .481/.517/.778 this week with four extra-base hits and two steals . . . Mariners 2B Dustin Ackley’s MVP performance in the Arizona Fall League (1.338 OPS) helped allay fears about his transition to pro ball after being the second pick in the 2009 draft. Back with Triple-A Tacoma this year, Ackley enjoyed a strong week in which half of his 10 hits went for extra bases (four doubles, one triple). He displayed his usual level of stellar plate discipline, collecting seven walks. His 42 walks this year outnumber his strikeouts (34) and lead the Pacific Coast League among qualified hitters . . . Phillies C Sebastian Valle has the difficult task of catching a staff with three starters who throw in the mid-90s, but he has helped guide the staff to a 2.62 ERA, best in the Florida State League. At the plate, Valle, 20, continues his breakout season. He’s hitting .357/.371/.521 overall after a 13-for-20 week that included three doubles and a triple. He loves to swing the bat, as evidenced by two walks in 143 plate appearances  . . . Alex Presley surprised even the Pirates with his loud 2010 season, during which he hit .320 with modest power in the upper minors and then made a steady big league debut. After all, he compiled a .693 OPS in two years and 781 plate appearances in the high Class A Carolina League. As primary left fielder (and occasional center fielder) for Triple-A Indianapolis this season, Presley continues to do his thing by batting .344/.386/.530 through 215 at-bats. The 25-year-old smacked three of his eight homers this week, while going 14-for-29 (.483) with a double, nine RBIs, nine runs and a pair of stolen bases . . . Whenever a team pays the premium to turn a two-sport star into a baseball player, they know there may be an adjustment period. Cubs CF Matt Szczur, on the other hand, has had little difficulty adjusting to the grind of pro ball. The former Villanova star hit the first three home runs of his pro career this week, upping his averages to .340/.400/.464. The 21-year-old is making a pretty convincing case for a midseason promotion to high Class A Daytona . . . Louisiana State teammate Louis Coleman has already beaten him to the big leagues with the Royals, but Giants LHP Ryan Verdugo isn’t far behind. The 2008 ninth-round pick has taken well to a move back to the rotation. He’s 3-1, 2.50 overall this season with Double-A Richmond, and the 24-year-old is coming off his best start of the season. He held Bowie to two hits while striking out 10 in eight scoreless innings . . . Diamondbacks CF A.J. Pollock missed the 2010 season with a fractured elbow, but that hasn’t slowed him down this year. Arizona skipped him over high Class A to get him back on track, and he’s had few problems with Double-A Mobile. The 23-year-old center fielder hit .357/.514/.607 (10-for-28) with seven walks and four extra-base hits this week as he extended a hitting streak to 11 games before going hitless on Thursday night.

NOT-SO HOT
SHEET

Mike Montgomery, lhp, Royals: When injuries hit the Royals’ starting rotation, Danny Duffy earned a callup. If Montgomery was pitching well, he likely would have quickly joined him as well. But instead, Kansas City installed trade acquisition Felipe Paulino as a starter. There’s a good reason for that—over his last four starts, Montgomery has a 9.78 ERA, and he’s walked 13 batters in 19 1/3 innings. Montgomery is a 21-year-old in Triple-A, and his stuff is still front line, so this is more a detour than a cause for long-term concern.

• Engel Beltre, cf/rf, Rangers: Beltre’s prospect status is diminishing. He’s always been more about tools than performance, and outside of half a season in the high Class A California League last year, his minor league track record is rather pedestrian. A .267/.315/.389 career hitter in nearly 2,000 plate appearances coming into the season, Beltre is hitting .213/.260/.262 in 32 games for Double-A Frisco. He’s struck out 30 times, drawn just six walks and has yet to hit a ball over the fence. Of course, part of the reason that some of his counting numbers are down this year is because he had to serve a 15-game suspension for throwing a trash can into the stands during an altercation in San Antonio, the latest in a series of incidents in which Beltre has shown his immaturity.

• Rashun Dixon, rf, Athletics: It’s never been a question of physical tools with Dixon. It’s just been a matter of whether the former Mississippi State football recruit will be able to figure things out at the plate. At this point, he’s still not a guy you should expect to come in and dominate a new level right away, and he’s had a tough go so far with high Class A Stockton. After hitting .208 in April, the 20-year-old Dixon had elevated his average to .239 after May 25, but he’s gone into a nose dive since. He hit a single last night against Bakersfield to save himself from going hitless for the week, but he still ended at .063/.118/.063 (1-for-16) with nine strikeouts and one walk.

Jio Mier, ss, Astros: Mier ranks third in the low Class A South Atlantic League with 32 walks, but aside from that patience and his steady defensive work, he’s brought little to the table for Lexington. In two years with the Legends, Mier has batted .240/.335/.338 with strikeouts in a shade more than 22 percent of his 666 at-bats. In a particularly tough week, the 20-year-old shortstop went 2-for-23 (.087) with three walks and four strikeouts. With the exception of ’08 supplemental first-rounder Jordan Lyles, Houston’s recent high school draft picks have developed at a painfully slow pace. Going back to ’08 that list includes Jay Austin, Ross Seaton, Mier, Tanner Bushue, Delino DeShields and Mike Foltynewicz.

MAN AMONG BOYS

Wes Roemer, rhp, Diamondbacks: Arizona drafted Roemer as a supplemental first-round pick four years ago out of Cal State Fullerton. He reached Double-A Mobile in 2009 and climbed his way to Triple-A Reno in 2010 but finished with a 7.03 ERA in 71 2/3 innings for the Aces. Now Roemer is 24, back in Mobile and pitching well. It’s average stuff at best, but he throws strikes and has a 2.94 ERA in 70 1/3 innings, so there’s still some chance he could carve out a role as a fifth starter down the road.

BLAST FROM THE
PAST

With draft day coming up, it’s fitting to acknowledge Adam Loewen’s solid season. A first-round pick of the Orioles in 2002 as a lefthanded pitcher (he signed the following year as a draft-and-follow), Loewen made it to the majors, but his second elbow fracture of his career left him with the choice of a nearly two-year rehab before he could get back on the mound. He decided instead to move to the batter’s box, what with his background as a two-way prospect in high school and junior college. As a 27-year-old, Loewen is old for a prospect, and he’s done much of his damage this season in Triple-A Las Vegas, but his .317/.379/.571 batting line is hard to ignore.

HELIUM
WATCH

Many minor league pitchers this year have taken to pounding the zone with strike after strike and seeing what happens. Nationals Triple-A righty Brad Meyers and his 59-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio stand out, while Rangers righty Joe Wieland and his eight-start walk-less streak is another adherent. But Bradenton righty Kyle McPherson’s 55-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio deserves mention as well. Despite the numbers, the 23-year-old Pirates farmhand doesn’t have Kevin Slowey-esque command. He doesn’t paint corners, but he does throw strike after strike, and he’s found that few hitters can make him pay if he stays ahead in the count.

Minors | #2011 #Prospect Hot Sheet

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