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 June 1-7.
Contributing: Ben Badler, J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy, John Manuel and Jim Shonerd and interns
Pat Hickey, Clint Longnecker and John Sandberg.
|No. 1||MIKE OLT, 3B||RANGERS|
|***image1***Team: Double-A Frisco (Texas)
Why He’s Here: .455/.538/1.409 (10-for-22), 7 HR, 9 R, 10 H, 12 RBIs, 4 BB, 6 SO
The Scoop: Who’s the best third base prospect in the minors? In one corner we have the Tigers’ Nick Castellanos, the minors’ current batting leader who earned a promotion to Double-A as a 20-year-old. In another we have Miguel Sano, the Twins’ wunder-teen with insane power potential. Over in another corner we have the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado and his sweet swing that produces hit after hit. Watching from the big leagues is Red Sox third-base prospect
Thundering into the competition is Olt who had the best weekend we’ve seen in the minors this year. Olt produced back-to-back-to-back two-home runs games to ascend to second in the minors in home runs with 18 (trailing only Wil Myers’ 21). He added a seventh home run two days later.
Olt’s power comes with a steady diet of strikeouts, but that’s a fair tradeoff when we’re talking plus power. Many amateur scouts worried that Olt swung and missed too much to ever be a solid big leaguer, but the Rangers trusted that his athleticism and feel for the game would allow him to fix some of the holes in his swing. Those scouts have been proven right thus far.
|Mike Olt Player Card|
|No. 2||BILLY HAMILTON, SS||REDS|
Team:high Class A Bakersfield (California)
Why He’s Here: .333/.500/.458 (8-for-24), 7 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 8 BB, 3 SO, 12-for-13 SB
The Scoop: Quick question: If given the chance to see any player in the minors for one night, who would you go see? One could argue for taking in a Dylan Bundy start, or maybe heading out to watch Trevor Bauer or Jurickson Profar. But a pretty convincing case could be made to travel to Bakersfield to see Hamilton. He may not be the top prospect, but he may be the most exciting prospect in years because on any given night he may produce a “can you believe that?” play.
If nothing else, one would likely see Hamilton steal a base. He’s stolen at least one bag in 41 of the 59 games he’s played, and this week he produced his first four-steal game of the year. With 69 steals in 60 Bakersfield games, Hamilton is on pace to finish the year with 161—or 16 more than the pro record of 145 set by Vince Coleman. A better way to contextualize Hamilton’s thievery: In the past decade the minors stolen-base leader typically finished with somewhere between 70-79. Along with Hamilton, only Eric Young Jr. (83 in 2006) and Freddy Guzman (90 in 2003) had touched 80 in that time. Hamilton is on pace to top 80 steals before the end of June.
Still not impressed? Consider this: the Blue Jays’ Anthony Gose finished second in the minors last year with 70 steals. Hamilton may top that total before he goes to bed tonight.
|Billy Hamilton Player Card|
|No. 3||JACKIE BRADLEY, CF||RED SOX|
Why He’s Here: .483/.759/.543 (14-for-29), 8 2B, 5 RBIs, 5 BB, 3 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: It’s June, so Bradley is hitting. This is not news to South Carolina fans, though the Gamecocks will try to win their third straight College World Series this month without Bradley. The 2011 supplemental pick has enjoyed the same success as a pro that he had as an amateur. He’s batting .383/.496/.580 in 193 at-bats for Salem with more walks (43) than strikeouts (32), and he paces the minors in on-base percentage. Those Mark Kotsay comparisons are starting to look accurate for the plus-plus defender, who may need to be challenged with a promotion sooner than later.
|Jackie Bradley Player Card|
|No. 4||JESSE BIDDLE, LHP||PHILLIES|
Team: high Class A Clearwater (Florida State)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 1 GS, 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 12 SO
The Scoop: Biddle has been nearly untouchable for almost two months now. Since giving up seven runs (four earned) in his April 19 start, Biddle hasn’t given up more than two runs in any of his eight outings since. He has the fifth-best ERA in the minors over that span at 1.17 in 46 innings, and his mark for the year has dropped to 2.51. He’s gone seven innings in three consecutive starts, but his outing last Sunday against Palm Beach was his best yet. Biddle fanned a career-high 12 hitters and retired the last 11 he faced. He ranks third among FSL starters in opponent average (.221) and leads the league in strikeouts per nine innings at 10.05 (64 in 57 innings).
|Jesse Biddle Player Card|
|No. 5||KYLE CRICK, RHP||GIANTS|
Team:low Class A Augusta (South Atlantic)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 10 SO, 1 BB
The Scoop: Crick is a big reason why the Greenjackets lead the South Atlantic League with 9 strikeouts per nine innings, and he enhanced his season rate—which now stands at 11.7 per nine—with the first double-digits strikeout performance of his pro career on Thursday. In the process he held first-place Greensboro to one hit in seven shutout innings. That’s not to say that Crick, the 49th pick in last year’s draft, hasn’t hit any rough patches. He ran up an 8.10 ERA in his three starts prior to this week, failing to escape the fifth inning in any of them. However, Crick has learned from his intermittent struggles, telling The Augusta Chronicle: “When you’re throwing more strikes people swing at them. Most of those (strikeouts) were accidents.”
|Kyle Crick Player Card|
|No. 6||ROBBIE RAY, LHP||NATIONALS|
Team: high Class A Potomac (Carolina)
The Scoop: After a strong full-season debut at low Class A Hagerstown in 2011, in which he struck out more than a batter per inning, Ray was held in extended spring training for a month this season to refine his mechanics. The initial results were poor as Ray had a 11.25 ERA after his first three starts and struck out just six in 12 innings. Since then, the 6-foot-2 Ray has had three consecutive strong starts including an eight-inning, two-hit, nine-strikeout performance against Lynchburg. He has allowed just two and a half walks per nine innings thus far.
|Robbie Ray Player Card|
|No. 7||DAVID HOLMBERG, LHP||DIAMONDBACKS|
Team: high Class A Visalia (California)
The Scoop: In Holmberg’s full-season debut a year ago he dominated in 13 Midwest League starts. A mediocre performance in the Cal League earned the 2009 second-rounder a repeat trip to Visalia. Holmberg has been dominant this season as he has struck out more than a batter per inning and halved his walk rate to below two per nine. In Holmberg’s last four starts, encompassing 30 innings, he has allowed just six runs and has a 35-2 K-BB ratio. After his second straight 10-strikeout performance, Holmberg now ranks second in the Cal League in strikeouts behind fellow Visalia lefty Andrew Chafin.
|David Holmberg Player Card|
|No. 8||JAVIER BAEZ, SS||CUBS|
Team: low Class A Peoria (Midwest)
Why He’s Here: .476/.542/.905 (10-for-21), 4 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBIs, 1 BB, 5 SO, 2-for-2 SB
The Scoop: The Cubs waited until the end of May to unleash their 2011 first-round pick on the Midwest League, and opposing pitchers are wishing the team had kept Baez in extended spring training a little longer. It’s only been 10 games, but Baez is hitting .324/.405/.568 with two home runs. He’s looking every bit like the potential plus hitter with plus power the Cubs envisioned when they drafted him, with plenty of bat speed and power. Sure he may not end up playing shortstop in the big leagues, but with a bat like this, who cares?
|Javier Baez Player Card|
|No. 9||JOSE FERNANDEZ, RHP||MARLINS|
Team: low Class A Greensboro (South Atlantic)
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 0.00, 1 GS, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 SO
The Scoop: In the non-Dylan Bundy division, is any pitcher making a better pro debut than Fernandez? He’s currently working on a 20-inning scoreless streak, and he’s held opponents scoreless in half of his 12 starts. With a plus fastball, a plus curveball and a changeup and slider that both could end up average or better, Fernandez has everything a scout could ask for when looking for a potential future front-end starter. Keep this up and he might be one of the few guys who can honestly be projected as a possible future No. 1 starter.
|Jose Fernandez Player Card|
|No. 10||ALEX DICKERSON, 1B||PIRATES|
Team: high Class A Bradenton (Florida State)
Why He’s Here: .478/.500/.957 (11-for-23), 3 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 5 R 8 RBIs, 1 BB, 5 SO
The Scoop: Dickerson had a red-hot week at the plate, batting nearly .500 while also hitting two home runs. Both of those homers came on Monday in a game in which Dickerson went 5-for-6 with six RBIs in a win against Brevard County. He’s hitting .293 for the season and is tied for second in the Florida State League with 41 RBIs. The Big 10 Conference’s triple crown winner as a sophomore back in 2010, Dickerson has yet to unlock the power potential he showed at times in college, but his advanced approach has ensured he piles up plenty of hits and solid on-base percentages. A few more games like Monday will help answer the biggest criticism of his game.
|Alex Dickerson Player Card|
|No. 11||ADAM CONLEY, LHP||MARLINS|
Team: low Class A Greensboro (South Atlantic)
Why He’s Here: 0-1, 0.00, 1 GS, 6 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 H, 8 SO, 1 BB, 1 HBP
The Scoop: Is Conley going to end up as a starter or a reliever? It’s too soon to tell, but the former Washington State closer/Friday starter has done little to dissuade those who think he can stick in a rotation. Overshadowed in his own rotation by Fernandez, Conley has been remarkably consistent except for a April 28 hiccup against West Virginia where he gave up seven runs. Fernandez may be the star of the Grasshoppers, but considering his college pedigree, Conley may be the pitcher who moves up to the Florida State League first.
|Adam Conley Player Card|
|No. 12||JEDD GYORKO, 2B/3B||PADRES|
Team:Triple-A Tucson (Pacific Coast)
Why He’s Here: .500/.571/.875 (12-for-24), 2 HR, 3 2B, 10 RBIs, 4 R, 4 BB, 1 SO
The Scoop: The Padres gave Gyorko the bump from Double-A to Triple-A in mid-May, and he’s been making quick work of the Pacific Coast League. The 2010 second-round pick is batting .366/.406/.667 over 93 at-bats for Tucson. Moreover, he’s gone hitless just twice in 21 Triple-A games and is currently riding a 13-game hitting streak. He also has 22 RBIs in those 21 games. Gyorko’s hit tool rates higher than his power, but the righthanded hitter has been knocking balls out at an impressive clip. He had six homers in Double-A before his promotion and is already up to seven in Triple-A. He shouldn’t be expected to sustain that kind of power production once he gets to the majors and Petco Park, but Padres fans should get a chance to see for themselves before the year is out, particularly if the Chase Headley trade rumors come to pass.
|Jedd Gyorko Player Card|
|No. 13||RYAN LAVARNWAY, C||RED SOX|
Team: Triple-A Pawtucket (International)
Why He’s Here: .556/.556/1.056 (10-for-18), 7 R, 3 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 0 BB, 2 SO
The Scoop: With Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Kelly Shoppach in tow, the Red Sox clearly planned for life without Lavarnway this season, but things change quickly in baseball. While Lavarnway’s bat has cooled from his 34-homer season a year ago, he’s still showing plenty of promising signs as a hitter. A Gold Glove is probably not in his future, but with a .299/.387/.449 batting line and five homers in 45 Triple-A games, he’s showing plenty of offensive promise.
|Ryan Lavarnway Player Card|
If the Phillies are ready to give up on LF/CF Domonic Brown, then plenty of teams who would love the opportunity to help him revive his career. The 24-year-old hit three home runs this week for Triple-A Lehigh Valley, though even with his big week his overall line is still a pedestrian .276/.320/.436 . . . Florida State League pitchers rejoiced when the Tigers decided to promote 3B Nick Castellanos to Double-A Erie this week. The 20-year-old left high Class A Lakeland hitting .405/.461/.553 in 55 games, and through his first three games with Erie he’s off to a 4-for-12 (.333) start . . . Athletics RHP Dan Straily has battled some inconsistency with Double-A Midland, but when he’s been on, he’s been on. Straily’s given up five runs or more in five of his 12 starts and two runs or less in his other seven. The 23-year-old had it going again this week, tossing seven shutout innings against Tulsa, striking out 11 while permitting just three hits and a walk. He leads the Texas League in strikeouts by a mile, as he’s rung up 90 while his closest competition has 67 . . . Angels 1B C.J. Cron has five hits in his last two games, including a 3-for-4 performance with a home run in last night’s game against high Class A Modesto. The 22-year-old leads the California League with 47 RBIs and is hitting .297 with 10 home runs for Inland Empire. The 17th overall pick last year, Cron was a two-time All-American at Utah and figures to move quickly if he continues to produce in the power department . . . Low Class A Augusta RHP Clayton Blackburn has pitched masterfully in his most recent starts, tossing 8 2/3 shutout innings in 1-0 Greenjackets win on Tuesday (he struck out six, walked one and allowed four hits) and taking a no-hitter into the seventh on May 29. All told, the Giants prospect has completed 22 consecutive scoreless innings. The 19-year-old Blackburn has shown better control in his full-season debut, walking 10 batters in 10 starts, than Augusta rotation-mate Kyle Crick . . . Over the past week, Blue Jays RF Moises Sierra has posted a 1.542 OPS in 26 plate appearances with Triple-A Las Vegas thanks to four home runs, including a three-homer game Saturday against Tucson. The 23-year-old Dominican has an aggressive approach at the plate, a .298/.360/.484 line on the season and one of the best outfield arms in the system . . . The Royals need some of their pitching prospects to step up. Up to now, Mike Mongtomery and Chris Dwyer are falling just as flat this year as they did in the second half of last season, but RHP Jake Odorizzi has given K.C. fans hope that at least one starter isn’t far away. Pitching for Triple-A Omaha, Odorizzi struck out 10 in a start against Round Rock this week.
BLAST FROM THE PAST
Jeff Clement, 1b, Pirates: June used to be Southern California’s time to shine. The Trojans have won 12 College World Series championships, with the last coming in 1998. They haven’t been to Omaha since Mark Prior led them there in 2001, and Clement led them to their last regional appearance back in 2005, when he was the third player drafted. The Mariners craved his lefthanded power and ability to catch, but they overestimated his defense and his bat. Passing on Troy Tulowitzki for Clement tells part of the story of the Mariners’ woes for most of the last decade. Clement has tried to rebuild his career as well. A .223/.281/.383 hitter in 363 big league at-bats, he’s become a slugging first baseman/DH as a 28-year-old, with this the eighth year he’s spending some time in Triple-A. He mashed two homers this week in an 11-for-21 performance, and his .524/.542/1.048 week—which included a pair of home runs against Syracuse, one coming on draft day June 4—improved him overall to a .319/.400/.560 line. His 17 doubles lead the International League. He’ll never be what the Mariners hoped he’d be, but Clement has become a good hitter, as he’s improved his selectivity at the plate. It just may have happened too late for him to be a big league regular
• Donavan Tate, lf/cf, Padres. In three of the last four drafts the Diamondbacks have come away with Trevor Bauer, the Orioles with Manny Machado and the Royals with Eric Hosmer when holding the third overall pick in the draft. The Padres, as luck would have it, selected Donavan Tate No. 3 overall in 2009, a year in which Stephen Strasburg and Dustin Ackley went off the board first. While those two players already have starred in the big leagues, Tate remains mired in low Class A with no obvious timetable for promotion. He’s still just 21 years old, and he’s enjoying his healthiest stretch as a professional, but the silver lining extends only so far. On the heels of a modest eight-game hitting streak in mid-May, Tate went 1-for-20 with 12 strikeouts and four walks this week for Fort Wayne, dropping his season line to .201/.281/.221 in 149 at-bats. His three extra-base hits (all doubles) translate to a .020 isolated power that ranks last among Midwest League qualifiers.
• D.J. Mitchell, rhp, Yankees. One wonders if Mitchell feels guilty for adding a “W” to his pitching line after allowing eight runs, 14 baserunners and two home runs in 5 2/3 innings at Durham on Tuesday. His Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre teammates already had scored nine runs at the time of Mitchell’s exit, so despite a poor game score of 15 he received credit for a win. That volatility lends charm to baseball, but there’s nothing charming about Mitchell’s recent Triple-A performance. In his past four starts, covering 22 2/3 innings, he’s run up a 9.13 ERA and worked around 1.85 baserunners per inning. The 25-year-old Mitchell pitched his way into the Yankees bullpen in April, and he may do so again on the other side of this rough spell.
• Jefferson Olacio, lhp, White Sox: After he walked more than a batter an inning in the Dominican Summer League last year, the White Sox’s decision to send the 6-foot-7 lefthander to the South Atlantic League seemed to be an exercise in madness. Give the White Sox credit because the 18-year-old Olacio has generally held his own despite the massive jump in level of competition. This week was the first time he found himself in over his head, as Hickory pounded him for seven runs, six of them earned, in one inning. The loss more than doubled his ERA to a still-respectable 3.94. Olacio’s stuff is excellent, and the competitiveness he’s shown to survive this year bodes well for his future.
• C.J. Retherford, 2b, Dodgers. After being released by the White Sox before the season began last year, Retherford played for three different organizations in 2011. The Dodgers took a flier on him in the offseason and thought he might regain his confidence in the hitter-friendly California League. With high Class A Rancho Cucamonga, the 26-year-old has done just that. Retherford batted .407/.452/1.111 with six homers and 14 RBIs this past week. While he’s no longer considered a prospect, Retherford has found ways to create opportunities for himself as a former nondrafted free agent.
• Eugenio Suarez, ss, Tigers: When you just look at the raw tools, Suarez doesn’t do anything that grades out as plus. What Suarez does have is outstanding baseball acumen, which has helped him hit .320/.413/.456 in 59 games for low Class A West Michigan. Suarez, 20, doesn’t offer much pop, but he’s a solid hitter with a good idea of what he’s doing at the plate. He’s also worked hard to clean up his defense, committing just six errors this year after making 24 in 70 games a year ago. Whether Suarez profiles as an everyday player is still debatable, but he continues to be a pleasant surprise for the Tigers as a guy who gets the most out of his tools.