This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet covers minor league games from May 9-15. Remember, this feature simply recognizes the hottest prospects in the minors during the past week—it’s not a re-ranking of the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects.
Contributing: Ben Badler, J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy, Vince Lara-Cinisomo and Josh Norris.
1. Hunter Harvey, rhp, Orioles
Team: low Class A Delmarva (South Atlantic)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 10 SO, 1 BB
The Scoop: The Orioles have selected pitchers with their top pick in five of the past six drafts, so after watching Brian Matusz (2008) and Matt Hobgood (2009) fall short of expectations and enduring growing pains from Dylan Bundy (2011) and Kevin Gausman (2012), Baltimore can point to 2013 top pick Harvey as an unqualified success.
It’s early, we know.
Harvey, taken 22nd overall out of high school, turned in the finest pro start of his career on Monday, shutting out Lakewood for seven innings while striking out 10, walking one and allowing only one hit. He retired the final 16 batters he faced and needed just 83 pitches to record 21 outs. Harvey has profile top-of-the-rotation stuff—low 90s heat with a peak velocity of 95 mph and a sharp breaking ball—and to prove it, he leads the South Atlantic League with 45 strikeouts and a .147 opponent average.
2. Austin Hedges, c, Padres
Team: Double-A San Antonio (Texas)
Why He’s Here: .455/.538/.909 (10-for-22), 3 R, 4 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBIs, 4 BB, 4 SO, 0-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Hedges goal at the plate is to “just try to hit the ball hard,” and this week he accomplished that mission, smashing six extra-base hits, including home runs in each of his past two games. (Bonus points for hitting them in San Antonio’s cavernous Wolff Stadium.) Hedges has picked up the pace in May, hitting .419 (18-for-43) with nine long hits and seven walks in 12 games, and he now ranks fourth in the Texas League with 11 doubles while gunning down 38 percent of basestealers.
3. Mookie Betts, 2b, Red Sox
Team: Double-A Portland (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: .450/.577/.700 (9-for-20), 7 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBIs, 6 BB, 3 SO, 3-for-3 SB
The Scoop: Forget Walter White. Betts is the one who knocks, and knocks, and knocks some more. In the Eastern League, here are the categories Betts has bested: hits (59), runs (44), total bases (91), average (.401), stolen bases (18), on-base percentage (.467), slugging (.619) and OPS (obviously). Oh, and he’s reached base in all 35 games. Betts was his usual, brilliant self this week, racking up a pair of doubles, a longball to lead off a game, five RBIs and three more stolen bases. In fact, he’s collected four hits in a game twice this season, or the same number of games he’s gone hitless.
4. Randal Grichuk, of, Cardinals
Team: Triple-A Memphis (Pacific Coast)
Why He’s Here: .458/.536/1.042 (11-for-24), 10 R, 2 2B, 4 HR, 7 RBIs, 4 BB, 5 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Grichuk got his first taste of the big leagues at the end of April, but when center fielder Peter Bourjos heated up, Grichuk returned to Memphis. He hasn’t sulked at the demotion. In six games since his demotion, he has four multi-hit games. He’s outperformed his more highly regarded fellow Memphis outfielders Oscar Taveras and Stephen Piscotty, but with the Cardinals’ crowded outfield, that doesn’t ensure him a spot back in St. Louis anytime soon.
5. D.J. Davis, of, Blue Jays
Team: low Class A Lansing (Midwest)
Why He’s Here: .478/.571/.783 (11-for-23), 6 R, 1 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 5 BB, 4 SO, 1-for-3 SB
The Scoop: The way Davis started his season was, well . . . yikes. By the end of April, he was slashing .217/.253/.359 with four walks and 36 strikeouts in 23 games. While the swing-and-miss is still a concern, he’s been better over the last couple weeks, with homers in back-to-back games on Monday and Tuesday. That’s encouraging, but there are still red flags waving here with the bat, while Davis is still learning to tap into his premium speed on the basepaths, having been successful in just 5 of 13 stolen base attempts.
6. Allen Webster, rhp, Red Sox
Team: Triple-A Pawtucket (International)
Why He’s Here: 1-1, 1.69, 10 2/3 IP, 10 H, 2 R, 12 SO, 3 BB
The Scoop: Webster has been consistently effective for the PawSox, especially in his most recent outing, where he punched out nine against Indianapolis in 5 2/3 innings. His fastball has sat in 92-94 mph range, but most of his 13 swinging strikes in his most recent outing came on his changeup, according to correspondent Alex Speier. He walked two against Indianapolis (Gregory Polanco both times), but Webster has cut down on his walks in the past two outings, issuing just three in 10 2/3 innings, though he still has an unwieldy 1.75 SO/BB ratio on the season.
7. Lucas Giolito, rhp, Nationals
Team: low Class A Hagerstown (South Atlantic)
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 SO
The Scoop: In this, the Year of the Tommy John Surgery, Giolito is providing hope to those fans who’ve watched and winced as arm after tremendous arm has succumbed to the scalpel. Giolito’s elbow busted shortly after making his pro debut in 2012, but he’s come back strong and is once again among the brightest prospects in the minors, and this week he put together his best outing as a professional. With three above-average or better pitches, he should only build on that performance.
8. Andrew Susac, c, Giants
Team: Triple-A Fresno (Pacific Coast)
Why He’s Here: .316/.381/1.000 (6-for-19), 5 R, 1 2B, 4 HR, 7 RBIs, 2 BB, 6 SO
The Scoop: Susac already has hit more home runs at his home ballpark in 2014 than he did a year ago, when he hit all 12 homers on the road for Double-A Richmond. His bomb at Fresno last Friday was his first home shot of the season, and he supplemented that by going deep three times at Reno during the week. Susac has serious hitting credentials—he led the 2013 Arizona Fall League in on-base percentage—and rare power for a catcher.
9. Joe Wendle, 2b, Indians
Team: Double-A Akron (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: .444/.450/.833 (8-for-18), 3 R, 4 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBIs, 1 BB, 1 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: With Jason Kipnis under contract through the 2019 season, it’s not a great time for a second baseman trying to work his way up to Cleveland. Whether Wendle projects as an everyday player anyway is still up in the air, but he continues to make his mark since signing for just $10,000 as a sixth-round pick two years ago out of NCAA Division II West Chester (Pa.). He made plenty of hard contact this week, raising his season line to .250/.325/.443 through 38 games.
10. Gregory Polanco, rf, Pirates
Team: Triple-A Indianapolis (International)
Why He’s Here: .286/.375/.607 (8-for-28), 4 R, 2 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBIs, 4 BB, 6 SO, 2-for-2 SB
The Scoop: What’s left to say about the International League’s top prospect? He leads the league in almost every category. He has power, speed, defense and an arm. And he’s getting better all the time. While no one could match his near-1.100 OPS for April month after month, he has found other ways to improve. Polanco started the year 1-for-4 on stolen bases. Since then he’s gone 8-for-9.
11. Kyle McGowin, rhp, Angels
Team: high Class A Inland Empire (California)
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 1.13, 8 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 BB, 9 SO
The Scoop: The Angels went into last year’s draft knowing that they needed to upgrade the organization’s starting-pitcher depth. They had a whole lot of relief prospects, but almost no legitimate rotation prospects in full-season ball. So the team put an emphasis on pitchers with clean deliveries and good control, with McGowin being one of the targets. The fifth-rounder has been one of the best pitchers in the Cal League this year—he ranks second to Ben Lively with a 2.09 ERA—and he’s been especially difficult for righthanders, allowing a .181/.226/.284 line.
12. Matt Olson, 1b, Athletics
Team: high Class A Stockton (California)
Why He’s Here: .360/.467/.720 (9-for-25), 7 R, 3 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBIs, 5 BB, 3 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: At 6-foot-4, 236 pounds, Olson has the strength and leverage in his swing to generate above-average raw power. So when he gets his arms extended and gets the barrel on the ball, there’s a good chance it’s going to go a long way. After striking out 148 times in 134 games last year at low Class A Beloit, Olson has trimmed his strikeout rate, with 30 whiffs in 39 games this year. He still has a pull-heavy approach that leaves him with holes that cut into his batting average and could be exploited by more advanced pitchers, but for now he ranks among the Cal League elite with nine homers and 30 walks.
13. Kyle Hendricks, rhp, Cubs
Team: Triple-A Iowa (Pacific Coast)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 11 SO, 0 BB
The Scoop: The Cubs’ trade-deadline dealings with the Rangers have yielded big league starting third baseman Mike Olt and top pitching prospect C.J. Edwards. Now Hendricks (part of the haul for Ryan Dempster in 2012) could be next in line. So far in 2014 he’s missing more bats than ever—his 54 strikeouts rank second in the Pacific Coast League—while staying true to his groundball past (2.2 groundout/airout ratio this year). He’ll bring his plus control and modest stuff to Wrigley at some point this season.
In The Team Photo
Christian Binford, rhp, Royals. Well, this was unexpected. On a Wilmington pitching staff that includes Miguel Almonte and Sean Manaea, it’s Binford and Jonathan Dziedzic who are dominating the high Class A Carolina League (while Almonte and Manaea struggle). The 21-year-old Binford’s control continues to get results. He logged a 3.00 ERA and 14/2 SO/BB ratio in 12 innings this week, and he has four starts this year with six or more strikeouts and no walks.
Greg Bird, 1b, Yankees. After missing the first month of the season with a back injury, Bird got right back to mashing like he did last season at low Class A Charleston, when he hit 20 homers and drew 107 walks. He went 10-for-18 (.556) this week with three doubles, two homers and three RBIs and could see his stock soar with another fine season.
Jake Cave, cf, Yankees. The Yankees’ sixth-round pick in 2011, Cave had just 116 games to his name when the season began but is outplaying his projection so far, albeit very early in the season. Playing for high Class A Tampa in the notoriously pitcher-friendly Florida State League, Cave already has matched his 2013 homer total (two) and is slashing .315/.358/.432. He remains an above-average defender in center field to boot.
Jake Lamb, 3b, Diamondbacks. It’s not enough that Lamb plays well-above-average defense at third base. He also is hitting quite well this season. With a 12-for-25 (.480) effort this week with three doubles, a homer and four RBIs, he’s someone for Arizona fans to covet as the big club spirals.
Dalton Pompey, of, Blue Jays. One of the breakout players of the 2014 season, Pompey already was showing he could hit for average and get on base at a high clip. He hadn’t shown much over-the-fence pop, so this week he added two home runs, giving him three on the year to raise his line with high Class A Dunedin to .338/.412/.490 with a spiffy 17-for-18 in steals.
James Ramsey, of, Cardinals. In another organization, the 24-year-old Ramsey would probably be in Triple-A, but a glut of outfielders has Ramsey repeating Double-A Springfield. It doesn’t seem there’s much left for him to learn in the Texas League, where he’s hitting .313/.399/.578 with 10 home runs in 39 games.
Chris Taylor, ss, Mariners: Drafted because of his glove, the 23-year-old Taylor has proven to be a much better with the bat than expected. He’s hitting .372/.414/.593 this year at Triple-A Tacoma while playing both shortstop and second base. If Brad Miller continues to spiral—he’s hitting .098/.167/.131 over his past 28 games—look for Taylor to get a shot.
Javier Baez, ss, Cubs: Well that fell apart quickly. We’re too far into the season to blame Baez’s brutal numbers (.142/.229/.255) on his disappointment at being sent to Triple-A. He’s currently the second-worst hitter in the Pacific Coast League, and his six errors are second-most among league shortstops, topped only by Wilmer Flores, who no scout believes is a shortstop. Baez, 21, is hitting .104 in May. Some day he may be able to look back at this as the adversity that helped shape his big league success. For now, he just needs some hits. With his struggles and Starlin Castro’s bounceback, Baez is farther from Chicago than he was on April 1.
Severino Gonzalez, rhp, Phillies: When you don’t have a knockout pitch, sometimes you get knocked out. That’s the case with Gonzalez, a smallish righty with a command savant’s reputation who zoomed from extended spring training to Double-A last season. In 3 2/3 innings this week, Gonzalez was hit for 10 hits and 10 earned runs, pushing his ERA to 5.73 through eight starts. His stock can only improve from here, but this is why Double-A is the separator.
Jacob Hannemann, cf, Cubs. Chicago persuaded Hannemann to give up football with a $1 million bonus offer after drafting him in the third round out of Brigham Young last year. The 23-year-old (he spent two years on a Mormon mission) has struggled early this season in the low Class A Midwest League, batting .212/.299/.314 through 35 games while striking out a quarter of the time for Kane County, a performance not aided after taking an 0-for-20 with a walk and five strikeouts this week.
Victor Roache, lf, Brewers. Roache recently had a three-homer game, but in the past week at high Class A Brevard County he went just 2-for-20 and struck out seven times while not walking once. The 2012 first-rounder has six homers but is slashing just .189/.252/.357.
Willians Astudillo, c, Phillies. Astudillo spent his first four pro seasons in the Venezuelan and Gulf Coast leagues, and then a knee injury wiped out his entire 2013 season. Thus he embarked on an assignment to low Class A Lakewood this season as a 22-year-old, a shade older than most Latin prospects. The Phillies like Astudillo’s bat, however, and it’s easy to see why now that he’s hitting .348/.364/.496 with 12 extra-base hits and just seven strikeouts through 30 games. His defense behind the plate requires improvement through repetition, but his bat-to-ball skills and burgeoning power are hard to ignore coming from a backstop.