Prospect Hot Sheet (June 6): Xander Bogaerts’ Big Bat Leads The List

Because of the draft, this week’s Hot Sheet is being unveiled a day earlier than usual, so statistics reflect six days of games instead of the usual seven. Also because of the draft, there will be no chat this week, but it will resume next week.

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 May 31-June 5.

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

Xander BogaertsNo. 1 Xander Bogaerts, ss, Red Sox
Team:
Double-A Portland (Eastern)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: .529/.667/1.000 (9-for-17), 5 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBIs, 7 BB, 1 SO

The Scoop: Every year, the expectations grow for Bogaerts. And every year, he only seems to surpass them. First the Red Sox signed him for $410,000 out of Aruba in 2009 as a 16-year-old. He delivered with a stellar debut the following season in the Dominican Summer League. Buzz began to grow after he ranked among the Top 20 DSL prospects, and despite an aggressive promotion to low Class A Greenville in 2011, Bogaerts flourished. After tearing through high Class A Salem with a strong finish in Double-A in 2012, Bogaerts became the No. 8 prospect in baseball.

After what Bogaerts is doing in Double-A, he’s putting himself in the discussion for the No. 1 spot at the end of the year. His bat speed is superb, his swing is loose, he manages his plate appearances well and his extra-base sock continues to improve and should be at least plus down the road. Not only is Bogaerts one of the most dangerous hitters in the minors, but his defense has improved to the point where he could spend the early part of his career at shortstop rather than having to move to third base immediately, although as he fills out his 6-foot-3 frame it might not be long before he outgrows the position. Wherever he plays, his bat has the potential to make him a star.

Xander Bogaerts’ Statistics

cesar-puello-2013No. 2 Cesar Puello, rf, Mets
Team:
Double-A Binghamton (Eastern)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: .471/.500/1.176 (8-for-17), 3 HR, 3 2B, 8 RBIs, 4 R, 1 BB, 4 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: After smacking six extra-base hits this week, Puello leads the Eastern League with a .571 slugging percentage, showing the kind of power-speed potential that intrigued scouts in the past. He’s also swiped 15 bases in 18 tries for Binghamton, and with 10 homers he’s already matched his career-best mark from 2011 at high Class A St. Lucie.

If his plate approach continues to progress, then there’s really not much Puello can’t do on the field. With him being on the Mets’ 40-man roster and the big club’s outfield in shambles, he could be angling for a late-season look. Of course, that push for a big league job may be complicated by his implication in the BioGenesis records that Major League Baseball is investigating.

Cesar Puello’s Statistics

nick-castellanos-2013No. 3 Nick Castellanos, lf, Tigers
Team:
Triple-A Toledo (International)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .391/.462/.783 (9-for-23), 9 R, 3 HR, 6 RBIs, 3 BB, 2 SO

The Scoop: Castellanos looked bad in his end-of-season promotion to Double-A last year, so the Tigers’ decision to promote him to Triple-A to start this season was extremely aggressive. It didn’t look all that wise in April, as he struggled early on, but lately he’s been showing the same sweet swing that helped him hit .405 in the Florida State League last year. Most importantly, Castellanos has tamed the free-swinging ways that got him in trouble in Double-A. Since May 1, he’s walked 19 times against 24 strikeouts.

Nick Castellanos’ Statistics

gerrit-cole-2013No. 4 Gerrit Cole, rhp, Pirates
Team:
Triple-A Indianapolis (International)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.00, 2 GS, 14 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 SO

The Scoop: Yes, the 2011 No. 1 overall pick’s been beaten to the majors by other 2011 and ’12 draftees—four days after Cole gave up eight runs in a Triple-A start, 2012 No. 4 pick Kevin Gausman made his big league debut for the Orioles. Don’t worry about Cole, however. He’ll be there soon enough. He’s bounced back from that disastrous May 19 outing by allowing just two earned run in his last 20 innings, including this week’s pair of matching seven shutout inning performances.

Gerrit Cole’s Statistics

drake-britton-2013

No. 5 Drake Britton, lhp, Red Sox
Team:
Double-A Portland (Eastern)
Age: 24
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 8 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 8 SO, 1 BB

The Scoop: Britton’s legal trouble stemming from an arrest in Fort Myers, Fla., during spring training hasn’t affected his performance at Double-A. He threw his best game of the season on Wednesday, completing eight shutout innings of Erie while allowing one hit and striking out eight. He didn’t allow a hit until the seventh inning.

Drake Britton’s Statistics

tyler-naquin-2013-abrNo. 6 Tyler Naquin, cf, Indians
Team:
high Class A Carolina (Carolina)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: .407/.414/.667 (11-for-27), 4 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBIs, 1 BB, 3 SO, 1-for-2 SB

The Scoop: We often talk about players who exceed or fail to meet expectations. Naquin is one who is performing right in line with what was expected when the Indians drafted him 15th overall last year. Seen as the best pure hitter in the 2012 draft, Naquin hasn’t seen his average dip below .289 on any day this season. Naquin doesn’t have many other plus tools, but his ability to barrel the ball should have him on the fast track through the Indians system.

Tyler Naquin’s Statistics

No. 7 Tony Cingrani, lhp, Reds
Team:
Triple-A Louisville (International)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 3.86, 7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 9 SO

The Scoop: If not for the timing of his start, Cingrani would likely be back in Cincinnati right now. When Johnny Cueto took a trip to the disabled list, Cingrani was the logical replacement, but because Cingrani had started on Monday, he’ll have to wait until Cueto’s next turn in the rotation to likely make his big league return. He still needs to use his secondary stuff more, and he can hit his pitch count limit earlier than the Reds would like at times, but Cingrani has already shown he can get big league hitters out, which is a nice luxury for the Reds to have in a sixth starter.

Tony Cingrani’s Statistics

raul-alcantara-2013-bmNo. 8 Raul Alcantara, rhp, Athletics
Team:
low Class A Beloit (Midwest)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 1.13, 8 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 9 SO

The Scoop: Alcantara had a rough full-season debut in 2012, struggling to maintain his poise and going 6-11, 5.08 in low Class A. Repeating the Midwest League this year, he’s been much sharper. Alcantara’s fastball touches 95 mph and he’s third in the MWL in walk rate (0.84 per nine innings). His eight-inning start against Quad Cities last Friday was both his longest of the season and his fourth walk-free outing in his last five. He has issued only one walk in his last 30 innings.

Raul Alcantara’s Statistics

alex-meyer-2013-rwNo. 9 Alex Meyer, rhp, Twins
Team:
Double-A New Britain (Eastern)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.42, 6 1/3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 10 SO

The Scoop: Meyer had a rather pedestrian month of May, giving up at least three earned runs in four of his five starts. On the day the calendar flipped to June, however, he went out and posted the line you see here, fanning a season-high 10 against Bowie. He picked up his first win since April 25 and stands second in the EL in strikeouts with 73 in 61 innings, though he leads the way with 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

Alex Meyer’s Statistics

cheslor-cuthbert-2013-rgNo. 10 Cheslor Cuthbert, 3b, Royals
Team:
high Class A Wilmington (Carolina)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: .429/.500/.762 (9-for-21), 3 R, 3 2B, 2 3B, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 3 SO, 0-for-1 SB

The Scoop: Roughly two years ago, Cuthbert was outperforming the rest of the 2009 international class. But in July 2011, Cuthbert’s plate discipline started to slip. Since then, he’s spent a year and a half trying to regain his form, while fellow ’09 international signee Miguel Sano has become the destroyer of fastballs, breaking balls and anything else left over the plate. He’ll never catch Sano, but Cuthbert has shown signs he’s catching up to the Carolina League. He has started laying off more pitches out of the zone, which has allowed him to tap into his power. He’s hit 15 doubles in his past 32 games.

Cheslor Cuthbert’s Statistics

11. Henry Urrutia, rf, Orioles
Team:
Double-A Bowie (Eastern)
Age: 26
Why He’s Here: .429/.429/.762 (9-for-21), 3 R, 1 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBIs, 0 BB, 6 SO

The Scoop: He’s a 26-year-old in Double-A, yes, but what Urrutia is doing is fairly remarkable. For one, this is the U.S. pro debut for the Cuban defector after signing with the Orioles last year. Then keep in mind that Urrutia was among the group of Cubans with Jorge Soler and Omar Luis whose agents had them take up permanent residency in Haiti to try to get around the bonus pools that were about to begin on July 2, 2012 (although with Urrutia’s age and Serie Nacional experience, he would have been exempt anyway). That ended up causing visa problems for Urrutia, which meant he was stuck in Haiti, unable to do much to stay sharp on the field. Now that he’s arrived, he’s been one of the best hitters in the Eastern League, batting .343/.409/.538 in 37 games. International scouts did question Urrutia’s power to be an everyday corner outfielder, but there’s definitely something here with the bat.

Henry Urrutia’s Statistics

javier-baez-2013-mjNo. 12 Javier Baez, ss, Cubs
Team:
high Class A Daytona (Florida State)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: .421/.542/.789 (8-for-19), 1 HR, 4 2B, 7 RBIs, 6 R, 1 BB, 4 SO

The Scoop: Baez’s hot spell actually stretches back two weeks. He’s hitting .339 (19-for-56) in his last 14 games with 10 extra-base hits, 13 RBIs and 14 runs scored. He’s been hit by five pitches in that stretch, but probably not too many times in three-ball counts, seeing as he drew two walks against 12 strikeouts.

Javier Baez’s Statistics

Maikel-Franco-2013-mugNo. 13 Maikel Franco, 3b, Phillies
Team:
high Class A Clearwater (Florida State)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: .381/.435/.714 (8-for-21), 1 HR, 4 2B, 6 RBIs, 4 R, 2 BB, 3 SO

The Scoop: Hitting for power is the most important thing a corner prospect can do, and that’s exactly what Franco has done this season with Clearwater. He leads the Florida State League in hits (67) and extra-base hits (35), courtesy of 11 homers, 23 doubles and a triple. Just as importantly, he has toned down his pull-only hitting approach and now drives the ball straightaway with regularity.

Maikel Franco’s Statistics

IN THE TEAM PHOTO

Brandon Drury, 3b, Diamondbacks: Byron Buxton may lead the Midwest League in almost everything, but Drury’s not far behind in many categories. The least-known piece of the package the D-backs received from the Braves in the Justin Upton deal, the 20-year-old Drury has torn up the MWL to the tune of a .320/.349/.557 line for the season, and he hit .409 (9-for-22) with four homers, three doubles and a triple this week.

Joan Gregorio, rhp, Giants: The Giants signed the 6-foot-7 Gregorio out of the Dominican Republic in 2010. He pitched in the same program Michael Ynoa, another 6-foot-7 righty. Gregorio, 21, made his first start for low Class A Augusta since April 25 this week and pitched well, going six shutout innings and allowing just three hits while fanning eight.

Wil Myers, rf, Rays: Myers seems to be making a well-timed case to be considered for a callup once the Rays estimate he will no longer be eligible for Super Two arbitration. The 22-year-old was 8-for-23 (.348/.400/.652) with two doubles, a triple and a home run this week. His hitless night against Gerrit Cole on Wednesday ended a 12-game hitting streak that raised his slugging percentage more than 100 points.

Justin Nicolino, lhp, Marlins: Nicolino’s strikeout rate is down from 8.6 per nine innings last year to 5.5 this year, but his outstanding command for a 21-year-old and ability to give hitters uncomfortable at-bats while keeping the ball on the ground have helped keep his ERA down at 2.42 through 12 starts with high Class A Jupiter. You’d have to go back to May 3—a stretch of six starts—to find an outing in which Nicolino gave up more than two earned runs.

Henry Owens, lhp, Red Sox: Owens got hit around a bit in his three starts leading into this week, but he bounced back with a pair of quality outings for high Class A Salem. The 20-year-old permitted just one run on three hits in 11 innings while fanning 13. But while he was dominant when he came around the zone, finding it was a bit of an issue, as he handed out seven walks and threw four wild pitches.

Enny Romero, lhp, Rays: When was the last time Romero gave up an earned run? Try May 10. Romero allowed two unearned runs in his last outing, but he otherwise hasn’t allowed a run in his last four starts, a stretch of 24 2/3 innings for Double-A Montgomery.

George Springer, cf, Astros: The minors home run leader with 17 also has 17 stolen bases, giving him a chance to achieve the ever-so-rare minor league 30-30 season. Springer, 23, has been ever so consistent doing it, as he had eight home runs in April and eight more in May. He had three multi-hit games this week.

NOT HOT

Humberto Arteaga, ss, Royals: Kansas City went way against the industry consensus to sign Arteaga for $1.1 million out of Venezuela in 2010. The Royals liked his glove and simple swing, while other teams had serious reservations about his hitting and didn’t see anything special defensively. Arteaga hasn’t shown many promising signs at the plate this year with low Class A Lexington, where the 19-year-old is hitting .189/.218/.231 with just six walks and seven extra-base hits in 54 games.

Matt Barnes, rhp, Red Sox: Barnes had a solid May (2-0, 2.65) with Double-A Portland, but those good vibes were lost in one disastrous inning. In the second frame of Barnes’ start Sunday against Altoona, the 22-year-old gave up seven runs on six hits, including three home runs. He’d only given up four homers all year coming in, and the seven runs in the inning were more than he’d allowed in any previous start. His ERA shot up from 4.50 to 5.62.

Mauricio Cabrera, rhp, Braves: The 19-year-old Dominican allowed a season-high seven runs over six innings on Saturday, ballooning his ERA to 4.48 through 11 starts for low Class A Rome. The good news is that, despite a gaudy ERA, Cabrera’s strikeout-to-walk ratio has improved dramatically of late. His last four starts: 24-to-6. The seven before that: 21-to-27.

Gabriel Guerrero, rf, Mariners: Guerrero came into the year with high expectations after his dominance of the Dominican Summer League and brief success in the Rookie-level Arizona League last year. He hasn’t been able to find his timing in 2013, as he’s hitting just .218/.242/.303 through 51 games with low Class A Clinton. After 15 home runs in 68 games last year, Guerrero has yet to leave the yard this season.

HELIUM WATCH

David Rodriguez, c, Rays: July 2, which marks the beginning of the 2013-14 international signing period, is right around the corner. This year the Rays will be limited to spending no more than $250,000 on a player after going more than 15 percent beyond their allotted $2.9 million bonus pool, mostly so they could land three of Baseball America’s Top 20 prospects for July 2. While Venezuelan pitchers Jose Castillo and Jose Mujica will make their pro debuts later this month in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, Venezuelan catcher David Rodriguez—the No. 14 prospect for July 2 last year—has been outstanding in the Venezuelan Summer League. The 17-year-old has shown the advanced approach and sound swing scouts saw from him last year, which is why he’s hitting .366/.438/.549 through 80 plate appearances. The Rays’ academy in Venezuela is extremely hitter-friendly with a short fence in left field, but Rodriguez’s offensive aptitude is legitimate.