Prospect Hot Sheet: May 11

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 May 4-10.

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

No. 1 CHRISTIAN YELICH, CF

MARLINS

Team: high Class A Jupiter (Florida State)

Age: 20

Why He’s Here: .400/.500/.880 (10-for-25), 3 HR, 3 2B, 4 RBIs, 8 R, 5 BB, 6 SO, 3-for-4 SB

The Scoop: To give you an idea of how ridiculously productive Yelich has been in the past week, consider that he went 0-for-5 yesterday and 0-for-4 on Tuesday and still managed to hit .400 with six extra-base hits in his five other games. Yelich even connected for his first career two-homer game on Wednesday, crushing a pair of solo shots off Tampa righty Jose Ramirez, one to center field and the other to left, his off field.

Yelich weathered a recent cold spell—he batted .116 with no long hits in 11 games from April 23 to May 3—to re-emerge as one of the Florida State League’s most productive hitters. The 2010 first-rounder now is batting .293/.387/.554 with five homers through 92 at-bats for Jupiter. His slugging percentage ranks third in the league and only St. Lucie’s Cory Vaughn has homered more frequently than Yelich’s rate of one per 18.4 at-bats.

2012
Stats

No. 2 ETHAN MARTIN, RHP

DODGERS

Team: Double-A Chattanooga (Southern)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 2-0, 1.29, 2 GS, 14 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 16 SO

The Scoop: The Dodgers have been waiting for Martin’s results to match up with his stuff, and their patience is being rewarded as the 2008 first-round pick is having his best stretch of sustained success in three years. Martin struggled with his command and was punished for it over the last two years in the high Class A California League, going 13-18, 6.68 there from 2010-11. But Martin had the tools to excel if he could get his plus fastball in the zone and find some consistency with his secondary pitches, and so far he’s posted the lowest walks rate of his career, a still-elevated 4.75 per nine innings. (That’s a vast improvement from his Cal League rate which was over six.) He turned in a pair of dominant seven-inning starts this week, capped off by his effort against Montgomery on Thursday in which he had a no-hitter through six innings.

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No. 3 JAKE ODORIZZI, RHP

ROYALS

Team: Double-A Northwest Arkansas (Texas)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.23, 7 1/3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 11 SO

The Scoop: Three of the five Royals starting pitchers currently have ERAs above 6.00. If the “Our Time” Royals are going to contend any time in the not-to-distant future, finding better starting pitching is the most important item remaining on the to-do list. At Triple-A, Mike Montgomery is working on getting comfortable with his new release point and does not appear ready for a promotion any time soon, but at Double-A Odorizzi has done about everything he can to show he’s ready to join Montgomery at Triple-A Omaha. Odorizzi struck out 11 in seven innings this week, just as he did three starts ago. What makes Odorizzi’s solid start even more impressive is that he’s doing it almost entirely at home at Avrest Field—which generally is a hitter-friendly place. He’s made only one start on the road this year, in which he threw five scoreless innings.

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No. 4 WIL MYERS, CF

ROYALS

Team: Double-A Northwest Arkansas (Texas)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .348/.423/.957 (8-for-23), 4 HR, 1 3B, 7 R, 8 RBIs, 3 BB, 7 SO

The Scoop: April 22 was a bad day for Myers. Facing Angels righthander A.J. Schugel, Myers went 0-for-4. It was the only hitless game he’s had this year, as he’s followed up his 13-game hitting streak to start the season with his current 16-game streak. Along the way he’s returned to his place among the best hitting prospects in the minors. Myers has already topped his home run total for all of last year, put together a four-game home run streak this week and has shown that he can play center field well enough for the Royals to consider keeping him there for the foreseeable future. It’s been quite an impressive first month, and it will likely continue with a promotion to Triple-A Omaha in the next month.

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No. 5 XAVIER AVERY, CF

ORIOLES

Team: Triple-A Norfolk (International)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .414/.452/.862 (12-for-29), 3 HR, 4 2B, 8 RBIs, 10 R, 2 BB, 4 SO

The Scoop: While Avery won’t supplant Adam Jones in center field so long as Jones is an Oriole, Avery’s recent hot spell indicates that he has the potential to perhaps serve as table-setting left fielder. Avery already has hit more home runs this season (five) than he did all of last year in Double-A (four), and even more encouragingly he’s upped his walk rate and cut his whiff rate, both by substantial measures in the early going. A good month in Triple-A or signs of progress from a talented athlete? Avery will answer that question in the coming months.

2012

Stats

No. 6 DELLIN BETANCES, RHP

YANKEES

Team: Triple-A Empire State (International)

Age: 24

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.13, 1 GS, 8 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 7 SO

The Scoop: Betances is another case of a pitcher who shows dominant stuff at times but frustrates with inconsistency. As has been the case throughout his career, he’s tough to hit when he comes in the strike zone, but his problems with repeating his mechanics make throwing strikes consistently a challenge. But Betances was on in his start Wednesday against Columbus, allowing just two hits and one run over eight innings, striking out seven and walking two. This was just his second start out of seven this year in which he’s had more strikeouts than walks, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio for the year remains an unsightly 28-to-29 in 36 innings. Now the question is whether he can string together some quality outings.

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No. 7 ADAM CONLEY, LHP

MARLINS

Team: low Class Greensboro (South Atlantic)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.69, 13 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 14 SO

The Scoop: Jose Fernandez isn’t the only pitcher to watch in Greensboro this year. While the Marlins’ 2011 first-round pick has been sensational, their second-rounder Conley has been pretty nifty himself. Conley, a Washington State product, had one rough start this year in which he gave up eight runs in 3 1/3 innings, but otherwise has been stellar. With a 2.35 ERA, 45 strikeouts and 11 walks in 38 1/3 innings, he may not be in Greensboro much longer.

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No. 8 ADYS PORTILLO, RHP

PADRES

Team: low Class A Fort Wayne (Midwest)

Age: 20

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 1 H 0 R, 2 BB, 6 SO

The Scoop: When it comes to signing 16-year-old international free agents, the key word is patience. Sure, some players like Michael Pineda or Starlin Castro rush to the big leagues in a hurry, but even expensive players like Portillo, who signed for $2 million in 2008, are generally raw projects who need to be given plenty of time to develop. Things finally appear to be coming together this year for Portillo, who is averaging a strikeout per inning while maintaining a 1.41 ERA through seven starts. His control needs to continue to improve, but he’s finally starting to mature from a thrower to a pitcher.

2012

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No. 9 CORY SPANGENBERG, 2B

PADRES

Team: high Class A Lake Elsinore (California)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .357/.379/.643 (10-for-28), 4 2B, 2 3B, 5 R, 6 RBIs, 1 BB, 2 SO

The Scoop: While you probably would have been disappointed to learn that Spangenberg was hitting “just” .284 in the Cal League through 33 games, his recent hot streak—which includes six extra-base hits—suggests the tide may be turning. It’s also worth mentioning that last year’s 10th overall pick also started slowly in low Class A last season, going 11-for-76 (.145) through his first 20 games with Fort Wayne. Spangenberg hit .381 the rest of the way.

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No. 10 TREVOR BAUER, RHP

DIAMONDBACKS

Team: Double-A Mobile (Southern)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 1 GS, 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 5 BB, 5 SO

The Scoop: Bauer recovered from his first rough outing as a pro by throwing seven one-hit, shutout innings against Jacksonville on Sunday. This was coming off his May 1 start when Mississippi got to him for six runs (five earned) in 5 2/3 innings. He’s allowed just five runs in his other six starts combined. Bauer has a deep array of swing-and-miss stuff and has baffled Southern League hitters to the tune of a league-high 51 strikeouts in 41 innings, and he ranks third among SL starters in strikeouts per nine innings at 11.1. His only problem has been missing the zone too frequently, as he’s second in the league in walks with 25.

2012

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No. 11 ANDY OLIVER, LHP

TIGERS

Team: Triple-A Toledo (International)

Age: 24

Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.71, 12.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 7 BB, 14 SO

The Scoop: Say hello to one of the most frustrating prospects in the game. Oliver has huge arm strength from the left side, and when he’s going well, he can shut down a Triple-A lineup. Yet even when he is keeping runs off the board, he’s doing it skating around his own damage. Oliver lowered his ERA to 3.23 in 39 innings, but he’s also walked 32 batters. Fastball command will never be a plus for Oliver, but he’s going to have to figure out a way to avoid putting so many baserunners on or major league hitters are going to make him pay for it more than International League batters have.

2012

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No. 12 JUAN CARLOS SULBARAN, RHP

REDS

Team: Double-A Pensacola (Southern)

Age: 22

Why He’s
Here:
1-0, 0.00, 1 GS, 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 SO

The Scoop: There are times when it was fair to wonder if the worst thing that happened to Sulbaran’s career was his strong outing for the Dutch team against the Cuban national team before he ever threw a pro pitch. Sulbaran didn’t always show the same intensity throwing in minor league games. But he has the stuff to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter and in the past year he’s shown an improved ability to work out of jams. With a fastball that touches 95 mph, he’s on the short list of the Reds’ top pitching prospects. Sulbaran’s outing this week is his best of the season, but it’s not his season high for strikeouts. He struck out 11 in just 6 innings against Jackson earlier this year.

2012

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No. 13 TYLER SKAGGS, LHP

DIAMONDBACKS

Team: Double-A Mobile (Southern)

Age: 20

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 SO

The Scoop: While Trevor Bauer is a tremendous pitcher, lost in the fan desire to call him up is the fact that Skaggs is a better pitcher right now. Yes, Bauer’s ERA (1.96) at Mobile may be lower than Skaggs’ (3.06), but Skaggs is walking fewer batters (2.0 batters per nine compared to Bauer’s 5.4) and his 12.0 strikeouts per nine rate is a tick higher than Bauer’s 11.1. It’s all relatively small sample sizes so far, but Skaggs’ ability to spot his pitches is ahead of Bauer and just one reason scouts see a potential frontline starter with three average to plus offerings and plenty of polish.

2012

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IN THE TEAM PHOTO

The overall line for the Padres’ Juan Oramas this season is ugly: 6.23 ERA and 1.58 WHIP in seven starts for Double-A San Antonio. However, the 22-year-old Mexican lefty dealt eight three-hit, no-run innings Monday at Corpus Christi, and in his past two starts he’s struck out nine, walked two and allowed nine hits and two runs in 15 innings . . . In another situation, the clamor to promote 1B Anthony Rizzo to the big leagues would be deafening. After posting a 1.000+ OPS at Triple-A last year, Rizzo is
doing it again this year for Iowa, and he hit his 10th home run this week. This week he hit .261/.433/.739 with three home runs. The problem? Bryan LaHair is currently posting a 1.243 OPS for the Cubs at first base. Eventually the Cubs may trade or reposition LaHair to open a spot for Rizzo, but for now it means that Rizzo will just have to
keep doing what he’s doing at Triple-A . . . The top four prospects on the preseason Top 100 list are all currently in the big leagues. That means there will be plenty of spaces of new guys in the Top 10 for our midseason prospect update. One of the most likely candidates to move up is Twins 3B Miguel Sano. He ranked No. 18 before the season, but the biggest knock against him
was that he had yet to play a game in full-season ball. That’s no longer a concern—he’s leading the Midwest League in home runs (10), slugging percentage (.645) and OPS (1.055). Sano went 8-for-28 (.286/.323/.714) with three home runs this week, pretty impressive for one of the youngest players in the league . . . The low Class A South Atlantic League clearly wasn’t enough of a challenge for Red Sox RHP Matt Barnes. After posting a 0.34 ERA in five starts for Greenville, the Red Sox bumped the 21-year-old, their 2011 first-round pick, up to high Class A Salem, where he kept on rolling in his debut there on May 5. Barnes fanned 12 Winston-Salem hitters over six innings, allowing only one run on four hits and one walk. Barnes leads the minors in strikeouts with 54 overall and ranks second in ERA at 0.55 . . . Cardinals RHP Tyrell Jenkins struck out a career-best 10 hitters on Monday for low Class A Quad Cities. The 19-year-old limited Peoria to two runs on four hits, though he did walk four and throw two wild pitches. Still, he hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in any of his five starts, sporting a 1.96 ERA in 23 innings . . . Triple-A Reno is a kind place for htiters, and Diamondbacks CF Adam Eaton is taking advantage. The 23-year-old is hitting .388/.450.531 in 22 games . . . Giants 19-year-old RHP Kyle Crick fired six shutout innings with one hit allowed and eight strikeouts for low Class A Augusta, lowering his ERA to 1.66 in 21 2/3 innings. While the 27 strikeouts are impressive, he’s going to have to show better control after walking 17 guys already.

BLAST FROM THE PAST

Dan Johnson, 1b, White Sox. Johnson hit perhaps the most famous home run of the 2011 regular season, connecting for a game-tying blast with two outs and two strikes in the Rays’ do-or-die Game No. 162 against the Yankees. He also homered for Tampa Bay on April 8, but in between the two blasts he went 6-for-55 (.109) in the big leagues, meaning he spent most of the summer with Triple-A Durham. The 32-year-old Johnson will attempt to exorcise those demons if and when he gets the call from Triple-A Charlotte to the White Sox this season. But for now he’s doing what he always does, which is scare the daylights out of International League pitchers. He mashed two home runs and two doubles for Charlotte this week while batting 9-for-23 (.391) with nine walks. The 2010 IL MVP currently leads the league in on-base percentage (.486) and walks (33) while ranking fourth with 27 RBIs

NOT-SO HOT
SHEET

Jermaine Mitchell, cf, Athletics: Offseason knee surgery cost Mitchell a chance to land a role in the A’s remodeled outfield to start the year. He still got off to a solid start at Triple-A Sacramento, batting .329/.407/.513 in 76 at-bats in April, but he went cold this week. His normally discerning batting eyes deceived him, as he went just 1-for-15 with seven strikeouts and no walks on the week. His line for the year dropped to .262/.336/.417 in 103 at-bats.

Paul Clemens, rhp, Astros. Something isn’t right with Clemens, who has allowed a combined 15 runs on 20 hits in his past two starts for Triple-A Oklahoma City. In that time he’s struck out only one batter in 5 1/3 innings, while walking three and allowing one home run. Clemens made his Monday start in Albuquerque, so perhaps returning to sea level will yield results like he showed in April (2.05 ERA in 22 innings.).

Cory Vaughn, rf, Mets. From No. 2 on Hot Sheet last week to Not-So Hot status this week, Vaughn’s value will continue to oscillate from week to week because of the number of strikeouts he accrues. The 23-year-old fanned seven times in five games this week for high Class A St. Lucie and went 1-for-19 (.053) with a walk and a solo home run.

Rosell Herrera, 3b/ss, Rockies. In the same shortstop job-share with Trevor Story that he found himself in last season with Rookie-level Casper, Herrera has struggled to get his bat going with low Class A Asheville in 2012. The 19-year-old Dominican took an 0-for-16 last week, dropping his season line to .189/.264/.221 with three doubles in 95 at-bats.

MAN AMONG BOYS

Hiram Burgos, rhp, Brewers. Fourth-year pro Burgos leads the high Class A Florida State League in ERA (0.87), WHIP (0.65) and opponent average (.150), but he’s also a 24-year-old repeating the league. You’ll pardon the Brewers for keeping Burgos put for now after he put up a 4.89 ERA in 24 appearances for Brevard County last year.

HELIUM WATCH

Keury de la Cruz, of, Red Sox: De la Cruz has gained 30 pounds since the Red Sox signed him in 2009. That added weight and added strength has paid off, as de la Cruz now has average power. Combine that with his plate discipline, his use of the whole field and his ability to find hittable pitches to drive and he’s been low Class A Greenville’s biggest surprise this year. The Gulf Coast League’s No. 16 prospect in 2010, de la Cruz is hitting .348/.400/.583 this season. He’s currently working on a 12-game hitting streak.

Minors | #2012 #Prospect Hot Sheet

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