Prospect Hot Sheet (May 10): Christian Yelich Keeps Lining Lasers

Each Friday, the Prospect Hot Sheet examines which prospects 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 3-9.

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

J.J. Cooper will chat about the Hot Sheet and prospects in general beginning at 3 p.m. ET.

Christian Yelich

Christian Yelich (Photo by Morris Fostoff)

1. Christian Yelich, cf, Marlins
Team: Double-A Jacksonville (Southern)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .529/.579/1.412 (9-for-17), 7 R, 2 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 6 RBIs, 2 BB, 3 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Each week, Yelich watches another teammate head to the big leagues. First it was Marcell Ozuna, then it was Derek Dietrich. Yelich may be more big league ready than either of them, but the Marlins’ callups have been determined by injuries. So as long as Miami is happy with Justin Ruggiano in center and Juan Pierre in left, then Yelich will likely spend some more time in the Southern League.

Right now, Yelich is extremely locked in at the plate, shrugging off pitches he should let pass and rarely missing a pitch that he should connect with. Just as impressively, his arm, once one of the worst in the minors, keeps getting better to where it’s no longer a big detriment.

2. Yordano Ventura, rhp, Royals
Team: Double-A Northwest Arkansas (Texas)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 SO
The Scoop: Will Ventura wind up in the bullpen? It’s a question that gets asked a lot with short, young Dominican righthanders, and one we discussed on this week’s podcast. Ventura has one of the best fastballs in the minors, a mid- to high-90s pitch that touches 100 mph at times. His curveball can be a plus pitch as well—eight of his 10 strikeouts this week came on a third-strike breaking ball. But a small stature and fringe changeup lead many to question if Ventura can start in the majors. The Royals will give him every chance to prove he can’t handle it.

Yordano Ventura’s Statistics

3. Alex Wood, lhp, Braves
Team: Double-A Mississippi (Southern)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 2 GS, 11 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 12 SO, 4 BB, 1 HBP
The Scoop: Wood may be this year’s version of the Reds’ Tony Cingrani. That is, he’s an unconventional college lefty who has far outstripped his draft status during his full-season debut. Wood, a 2012 second-rounder who hops backward on his landing leg after delivering the ball, has allowed just three runs in seven starts this season, good for a minor league-leading 0.47 ERA. An eerie coincidence: Wood’s strikeout rate (10.2 per nine innings) is exactly the same as Cingrani’s rate at Double-A last season—though Wood has a much better walk rate.

Alex Wood’s Statistics 

jorge-soler-20134. Jorge Soler, rf, Cubs
Team: high Class A Daytona (Florida State)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .381/.462/1.048 (8-for-21), 6 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 4 BB, 4 SO
The Scoop: Soler is a scary guy with a bat in his hands, whether he’s charging the opposing team’s dugout or digging into the batter’s box. The scouting reports from international scouts who saw him playing for the Cuban junior national team and during his workouts in the Dominican Republic have held up well, as Soler has shown outstanding power, strong strike-zone discipline and the ability to mash in games. He’s hitting .290/.374/.559 through 25 games, which is reflective of the type of profile he should be have in the big leagues during his prime and why he’s quickly become one of the game’s premium prospects.

Jorge Soler’s Statistics 

cory-spangenberg-20135. Cory Spangenberg, 2b, Padres
Team: high Class A Lake Elsinore (California)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: .500/.536/1.038 (13-for-26), 2 HR, 6 2B, 1 3B, 10 R, 6 RBIs, 2 BB, 1 SO
The Scoop: No minor leaguer collected more extra-base hits this week than Spangenberg, who declined to stop at first base on nine of his 13 hits for Lake Elsinore. Caveat: He played four of those games at Lancaster, going 8-for-15 with a homer and all six of his doubles. Regardless, Spangenberg is having the type of bounceback season—he ranks among the Cal League leaders in average (.328), steals (13) and doubles (11)—required to reestablish his prospect status after a down year (complete with concussion) in 2012.

Cory Spangenberg’s Statistics 

Miguel Sano

6. Miguel Sano, 3b, Twins
Team: high Class A Fort Myers (Florida State)
Age: 19
Why He’s Here: .563/.682/.875 (9-for-16), 7 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBIs, 4 BB, 5 SO, 1-for-2 SB
The Scoop: We’ve now reached the point in the season where pitchers are figuring it’s best to stay away from Miguel Sano. When you hit 10 home runs in the first month of the season, pitchers aren’t going to just try to throw a fastball by you. To his credit, Sano is taking his walks, while taking advantage of the few good pitches he does see. After walking nine times in his first 24 games, he’s walked six times in his last seven games, while still stinging the ball.

Miguel Sano’s Statistics

tyrell-jenkins-20137. Tyrell Jenkins, rhp, Cardinals
Team: low Class A Peoria (Midwest)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 SO
The Scoop: Jenkins has ranked among the Cardinals’ Top 10 Prospects each of the last three seasons, but he remains more projection than dominating presence. After posting a 5.14 ERA in 19 starts in the Midwest League last year, Jenkins is repeating the league and had an 7.71 ERA through his first four starts. Then seemingly out of nowhere, Jenkins went out on Sunday and threw a nine-inning, 97-pitch shutout. Maybe it was just a one-game anomaly, but the Cardinals are hoping it was a turning point after a slow start.

Tyrell Jenkins’ Statistics 

james-paxton-20138. James Paxton, lhp, Mariners
Team: Triple-A Tacoma (Pacific Coast)
Age: 24
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.90, 2 GS, 10 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 12 SO, 4 BB
The Scoop: See him on the right day and you might think Paxton is going to be a No. 3 starter in the big leagues with two plus pitches in his fastball and his curveball. Other times, his delivery gets out of whack, his control falters and he puts some ugly numbers on the scoreboard. This week was a good one for Paxton, who’s struck out 34 in 31 innings but has also allowed 16 walks and a 4.35 ERA, signs that there is still work to be done before he’s ready to make the final jump to Seattle.

 

James Paxton’s Statistics 

 

max-fried-2013-bm9. Max Fried, lhp, Padres
Team: low Class A Fort Wayne (Midwest)
Age: 19
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 0.00, 5 2/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 8 SO, 4 BB
The Scoop: The first high school pitcher drafted last year, Fried jumped directly to Fort Wayne and its six-man rotation for his full-season debut. Midwest League batters have had a tough time squaring him up—.200 opponent average, 30 strikeouts in 25 innings—but even young, undisciplined hitters have managed to work 14 walks against Fried. Not to worry—even the best young southpaws must fine-tune their control as they advance. Clayton Kershaw walked 4.6 batters per nine in the ’07 MWL, after all.

 

Max Fried’s Statistics

 

gregory-polanco-201310. Gregory Polanco cf, Pirates
Team: high Class A Bradenton (Florida State)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .333/.455/.667 (9-for-27), 2 HR, 3 2B, 7 RBIs, 5 R, 5 BB, 7 SO, 4-for-5 SB
The Scoop: Polanco is well on his way to proving his 2012 breakout season was no fluke, batting .303 thus far. True, his .475 slugging percentage is down from last year’s .522, but keep in mind the FSL’s average slugging percentage is .381. This week, Polanco pulled out of an 0-for-14 mini slump with four multi-hit games, which included his third and fourth homers of the season.

 

Gregory Polanco’s Statistics

 

josh-phegley-2013No. 11 Josh Phegley c, White Sox
Team: Triple-A Charlotte (International)
Age: 25
Why He’s Here: .444/.474/1.056 (8-for-18), 3 HR, 2 2B, 7 RBIs, 5 R, 0 BB, 3 SO
The Scoop: Phegley owns a strong arm behind the plate but is otherwise an unrefined defensive catcher, which puts more onus on his offense if he’s going to have a big league career. So far, so good in 2013. Phegley had back-to-back three-hit games last Friday and Saturday and is hitting a robust .322/.402/.622 in 90 at-bats, a far cry from the .266/.306/.373 line he put up in Charlotte last year.

 

Josh Phegley’s Statistics

 

jake-odorizzi-201312. Jake Odorizzi, rhp, Rays
Team: Triple-A Durham (International)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 SO, 4 BB
The Scoop: Most starters pay lip service to their defense when they pitch a good game, but Odorizzi really meant his compliments when he threw the first seven innings of a Durham team no-hitter on Sunday. With just three strikeouts, he relied on Bulls defenders to record 18 of 21 outs. Odorizzi hasn’t been scored upon in either of his last two starts (12 innings), and like other Rays righties (and former Durham starters) who don’t light up the radar gun—Jeremy Hellickson and Alex Cobb—he owns a fine changeup.

 

Jake Odorizzi’s Statistics 

 

13. Jorge Alfaro, c, Rangers
Team: low Class A Hickory (South Atlantic)
Age: 19
Why He’s Here: .300/.391/.900 (6-for-20), 4 R, 4 HR, 6 RBIs, 2 BB, 4 SO
The Scoop: After shoulder problems limited his ability to catch last year, Alfaro has already caught nearly as many games this year as last. He’s still raw behind the plate, as his 10 passed balls in 25 games attest, but he has an 80 arm and plus power, as his eight home runs in 31 games would indicate.

 

Jorge Alfaro’s Statistics

 

TEAM PHOTO

D.J. Baxendale, rhp, Twins: With so many Twins prospects off to great starts, don’t overlook what Baxendale has done in high Class A Fort Myers. The 22-year-old has a 1.49 ERA with a 35-6 K-BB mark in 36 1/3 innings, a fine start to the first full season for Minnesota’s 10th-round pick in last year’s draft.

Mike Foltynewicz, rhp, Astros: After spending the last month dominating high Class A, Foltynewicz got bumped up to Double-A Corpus Christi and kept on rolling. Making his Double-A debut at age 21, Foltynewicz struck out nine over five shutout innings, allowing just one hit and one walk.

Chris McGuiness, 1b, Rangers: McGuinness spent his spring training trying to make the Indians as a Rule 5 pick. He fell short and was sent back to Texas, but the 25-year-old didn’t grow sullen in disappointment. Instead he’s kept doing what he always does, draw walks, hit for average and some power. McGuiness hit .417/.563/.625 with four extra-base hits, seven walks and seven runs scored this week for Triple-A Round Rock.

Matt Olson, 1b, Athletics: Evaluators bemoan the lack of solid first-base prospects in the minors right now, but Olson is one of the best in a thin crop. And what he’s showing in his first full season at low Class A Beloit is right in line with what was expected. The 19-year-old went 9-for-22 (.409) with a homer and four doubles this week.

Joc Pederson, cf, Dodgers: Pederson has arguably been the Double-A Southern League’s best hitter in the early going. The 21-year-old leads the SL in homers (seven) and ranks second in average (.333) after 32 games. He went 4-for-6 and finished a triple short of the cycle on Sunday and turned in a .478 (11-for-23) average for the week.

Anthony Rendon, 3b, Nationals: Nothing like an eight-game stint in the big leagues to sharpen one’s reflexes—at least that’s one possible explanation for Rendon’s showing at Double-A Harrisburg this week. The 22-year-old went 8-for-22 (.364) with a homer, four doubles, five RBIs and six walks in six games, and he now leads the Eastern League with a .473 on-base percentage.

Robert Stephenson, rhp, Reds: Cincinnati’s 2012 first-round pick has missed plenty of bats—he’s whiffed 30 percent of the batters he’s faced—but it’s been a rocky start for low Class A Dayton, where he has a 4.76 ERA in 34 innings. He had his best start of the year on Wednesday, however, striking out nine with no walks over six shutout innings.

NOT HOT

Daniel Norris, lhp, Blue Jays: No big-money signing out of the 2012 draft ($2 million out of the second round) has had a worse start to his pro career than Norris. The lefthander’s stuff is still just as impressive as it was when he signed—a 92-95 mph fastball and flashes of solid secondary stuff—but he all too often gets behind in the count and gets hit. Norris gave up seven hits, one walk and hit a batter while allowing eight runs to the 14 hitters he faced this week for low Class A Lansing. For his career, the 20-year-old is 2-7, 9.00 with 92 hits allowed in 65 innings. When you’re trying to just figure out how to get hitters out, the rest of the game suffers as well. For his career, basestealers have succeeded in 13 of 14 attempts.

Starling Peralta, rhp, Cubs: Like McGuinness, Peralta started his spring training with a shot at the big leagues because he was selected by the Diamondbacks in the Rule 5 draft. But while McGuiness had a good shot at making the jump from Double-A to the big leagues, seeing Peralta jump from low Class A to the majors was a highly unlikely proposition. As expected, Peralta was sent back to the Cubs and unlike McGuinness, Peralta has had trouble getting readjusted to the minor league life. Pitching at high Class A Daytona, Peralta gave up 10 runs in two innings in two appearances this week. Now he’s been sent back to extended spring training to try to get back on track.

Yorman Rodriguez, cf, Reds: When the Reds signed Rodriguez out of Venezuela five years ago for $2.5 million, many scouts didn’t understand what the attraction was, as Rodriguez showed good athleticism but little feel for hitting in games. Like so many raw prospects before him, the bat still hasn’t come around for Rodriguez, who is hitting .215/.288/.383 with 34 strikeouts in 28 games for high Class A Bakersfield, another underwhelming season at the plate. He’s still 20, but the arrows aren’t pointing in the right direction.

Addison Russell, ss, Athletics: The A’s believed Russell was advanced enough to handle an assignment to high Class A Stockton as a 19-year-old. That maturity shows up in his walk total (19 in 23 games), but he otherwise hasn’t been able to handle Cal League pitching. He’s battled back issues and is hitting just .161, including a dreadful 0-for-20-with-10-strikeouts showing this week.

HELIUM

Alec Asher, rhp, Rangers: The Rangers have had success with pitchers who others decided aren’t worth the injury risk. Texas signed righthanders such as Barrett Loux and Tanner Scheppers, for example. Now there’s Asher, who saw his deal with the Giants out of high school voided because of concerns about bone spurs in his pitching elbow. Asher had surgery instead, pitched in junior college and improved his stock enough to nearly double the $80,000 he would have received if he had signed out of high school. With the Rangers Asher has continued to show a low-to-mid 90s fastball and advanced secondary stuff.