Prospect Hot Sheet (May 2): Bet On Betts For Top Spot

This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet covers minor league games from April 25-May 1. 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. Mookie Betts, 2b, Red Sox
Mookie Betts
Team: Double-A Portland (Eastern)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .407/.484/.704, (11-for-27), 9 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBIs, 4 BB, 1 SO, 3-for-4 SB

The Scoop: Of course Mookie was going to take this spot. At this point, no more superlatives exist to describe his season. He’s gotten on base in every game, failing to get a hit in only one. This week was more of the same for Betts. He struck out one time in 27 at-bats, hit a game-tying home run in extra innings, showed off his athleticism at second base and continued to be the sparkplug at the top of the prospect-rich Portland lineup.

Teammates have wondered why Betts still is at Double-A, and articles are already being written considering the ways the Red Sox can work him into its lineup with Dustin Pedroia still at second base.


2. Marcus Stroman, rhp
Marcus Stroman

Team: Triple-A Buffalo (International)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 10 SO

The Scoop: As detailed earlier this week, Stroman appears on the cusp of a callup to Toronto to replace the struggling Dustin McGowan. And why not? He’s done everything he can at Triple-A, including what could have been his parting shot, a six-inning, no-hit, 10-strikeout valedictory speech. Questions abound about his size and relative lack of innings so far, but the Jays curbed him at 80 pitches in his most recent outing.


3. Alex Meyer, rhp, Twins
Alex Meyer

Team: Triple-A Rochester (International)
Age: 24
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 11 SO, 3 BB, 1 HBP

The Scoop: With Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano on the shelf, Meyer is the Twins’ top active prospect, and he’s more than holding his own. The owner of an upper-90s heater, lower-90s sinker, power curve and solid changeup, Meyer laid waste to Charlotte on April 28. That outing was his second consecutive start with 11 strikeouts, and he has 35 in 26 2/3 innings. At this rate, Meyer won’t be around to start this year’s Futures Game, which will be held at Minnesota’s Target Field.


4. Trevor Story, ss, Rockies
Trevor Story

Team: high Class A Modesto (California)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .462/.548./.808 (12-for-26) 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 6 RBIs, 5 SO, 5 BB, 3-for-3 SB

The Scoop: A Rockies supplemental first-rounder in 2011, Story made an adjustment at the plate in June 2013 to salvage his season and has carried that hitting prowess in 2014. He’s slashing .343/.442/.569, but his overaggressive at the plate remains an issue with 33 strikeouts in 102 at-bats. Scouts say he’s better suited for third base, but for now he’s sticking at short.


5. Dariel Alvarez, cf, Orioles
Dariel Alvarez
Team: Double-A Bowie (Eastern)
Age: 26
Why He’s Here: .500/.519/.615 (13-for-26), 5 R, 3 2B, 5 RBIs, 0 BB, 2 SO

The Scoop: When Alvarez was trying out for teams, the reports from scouts were not printable for a family-friendly audience. Some even proposed he take his plus arm to the mound. Instead, the Orioles saw the Cuban defector one time at a workout and signed him for $800,000. Alvarez already is 26, so he’s going to have to move quickly, but so far he’s hit better in Double-A than he did in his final season in Cuba. He’s batting .360/.375/.560 with more extra-base hits (14) than strikeouts (7). Despite a free-swinging approach, he still has made plenty of contact, making him a strong candidate for an early-season promotion to Triple-A.


6. Chad Pinder, 2b/ss, Athletics
Chad Pinder
Team: high Class A Stockton (California)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: .500/.516/.867 (15-for-30), 7 R, 3 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 4 RBIs, 1 BB, 6 SO, 2-for-2 SB

The Scoop: Cal League or not, Pinder had a fantastic week. Oakland’s supplemental second-rounder from Virginia Tech last season has collected three hits in each of his last three games, including a double, a triple and a home run. His .660 slugging percentage leads the league, and his .340 average and .375 on-base percentage aren’t bad either. His seven longballs are second on the circuit behind only High Desert’s Patrick Kivlehan.


7. Brandon Nimmo, cf, Mets
Brandon-Nimmo-2014-mj
Team: high Class A St. Lucie (Florida State)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .423/.545/.577 (11-for-26), 8 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBIs, 7 BB, 4 SO, 2-for-3 SB

The Scoop: The 2011 first-rounder has emphatically put a challenging season behind him, proving that a hand injury and a punishing home park at low Class A Savannah undermined his production in 2013. This year in the FSL, Nimmo is hitting .379 with a 26-to-23 walk-to-strikeout ratio through 27 games, and he leads the league in on-base percentage (.504), runs (30) and walks.


8. Oscar Taveras, of, Cardinals
Oscar Taveras
Team: Triple-A Memphis (Pacific Coast)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: .375/.423/.667 (9-for-24), 3 R, 1 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBIs, 2 BB, 2 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: The Cardinals shuffled the deck of the Memphis outfield this week by promoting Randal Grichuk to St. Louis and demoting Shane Robinson. Some may wonder why Grichuk went up instead of Taveras, but for one, Grichuk plays all three outfield positions at a high level, whereas Taveras is best suited in a corner spot. Plus, the Cardinals wanted to be sure Taveras received regular at-bats at Memphis. So far, so good.


9. Aaron Blair, rhp, Diamondbacks
Aaron Blair
Team: low Class A South Bend (Midwest)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 12 SO

The Scoop: As a 2013 supplemental first-rounder who turns 22 later this month, Blair shouldn’t have any issues handling MWL hitters, especially after getting his feet wet in the league at the end of last season. He looks ready for a new challenge after striking out 34 percent of the batters he’s faced this year, with 43 strikeouts tied for third in the minors in 31 2/3 innings. His plus fastball and plus changeup are difficult for hitters to differentiate because he sells the changeup well with his arm speed and release point, something few pitchers at this level are able to do.


10. Matt Wisler, rhp, Padres
Matt-Wisler-2014-bm
Team: Double-A San Antonio (Texas)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 0.75, 12 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 15 SO

The Scoop: Wisler entered the season as the No. 44 prospect in baseball, and his stock has only improved since then. With a 2.10 ERA and a 35/6 SO/BB ratio through his first six starts, he now has a track record of 135 dominant innings at Double-A with a plus fastball, a plus slider and excellent feel for setting up and putting away hitters. It won’t be long before Wisler gets the bump to Triple-A, with a midseason callup to San Diego a possibility.


11. Joc Pederson, cf, Dodgers
Joc Pederson
Team: Triple-A Albuquerque (Pacific Coast)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: .385/.484/.615 (10-for-26), 4 R, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 5 BB, 12 SO, 3-for-3 SB

The Scoop: With every line drive Gregory Polanco hits, Pirates fans speculate when will arrive in Pittsburgh. Across the country, Pederson puts together monster games without any questions about his big league ETA, and not just because L.A. fans are more laid back. It’s practically impossible to figure out a way Pederson makes it to Chavez Ravine any time soon without either a trade or a measles outbreak. So for now, he’ll just make PCL pitchers pay.


No. 12 Noah Syndergaard, rhp, Mets
Noah Syndergaard
Team: Triple-A Las Vegas (Pacific Coast)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 2.25, 2 GS, 12 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 13 SO

The Scoop: Syndergaard can’t buy a break when it comes to scheduling, but he hasn’t seemed to mind. Most pitchers would prefer to pitch at home, but when you’re home is Las Vegas, you’d be wise to enjoy the occasional trip to an easier place to pitch. There’s been no such luck for Syndergaard because five of his six starts have been at home, which makes his 3.94 ERA all the more impressive.


13. Tyrone Taylor, cf, Brewers
Tyrone Taylor
Team: high Class A Brevard County (Florida State)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: .333/.414./.708 (8-for-24), 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 4 RBIs, 0 SO, 4 BB

The Scoop: The Brewers’ No. 2 prospect is hitting well of late after a tough start in a park traditionally tough on righthanded hitters. Taylor started to show some gap power last season and did so this week with four extra-base hits. He also showed improved plate discipline, a definite area of need, with five walks against no strikeouts.


In The Team Photo

Matt Boyd, lhp, Blue Jays. He’s already 23, so Boyd’s tear through the Florida State League while at high Class A Dunedin has to be tempered. But it’s tough to ignore 4-0, 0.29 and a 37/5 SO/BB ratio. He has an average fastball so skeptics abound, and his first outing Thursday at Double-A New Hampshire (4 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 4 SO) could be more indicative of his stuff.

Ramon Flores, rf, Yankees: The 22-year-old played directly into his scouting report this week with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Despite his age, he’s an incredibly mature hitter who works deep counts and gets on base. He went 8-for-20 this week with four doubles and a homer—and two of those doubles were kept in the park by Durham’s massive wall in left field. Flores’ problem is, and always has been, that he doesn’t have enough power for a corner and doesn’t play enough defense for center field.

Ben Lively, rhp, Reds: It’s hard to imagine a California League pitcher ever having a stretch where he goes 5-0, 0.33. Throw in Lively’s current 24-inning scoreless streak and his 40/1 SO/BB ratio and the 22-year-old Bakersfield righthander seems more the figment of an awful scriptwriter’s first draft of a baseball movie. But he’s real and these numbers are spectacular.

Dalton Pompey, cf, Blue Jays. The speedy, switch-hitting Ontario native went 10-for-24 (.417) with two doubles, two triples, six walks and three stolen bases this week at high Class A Dunedin. The Blue Jays have to be thrilled with his showing in April, which neatly encapsulates the 21-year-old table-setter’s skill set. Pompey ranks among the Florida State League leaders with 14 steals, 37 hits and a .444 on-base percentage.

Rangel Ravelo, 1b, White Sox. While Ravelo hit just four homers in 84 games in a hitter-friendly ballpark at high Class A Winston-Salem last season, he’s also a career .301 hitter who manipulates the barrel and takes his walks. If the 22-year-old grows into over-the-fence power, he has serious upside potential. So far, so good. Ravelo went 11-for-20 (.550) with five doubles, three walks and no strikeouts this week at Double-A Birmingham.

Michael Taylor, cf, Nationals: Taylor smoked three home runs in one game on Tuesday, which catapulted his slugging average. The 23-year-old is hitting .244/.337/.467 through 24 games with Double-A Harrisburg, with 42 strikeouts in 104 plate appearances contributing to cause for concern that he’ll ever be more than a streaky hitter.

Drew Ward, 3b, Nationals: Ward went 11-for-17 (.647) with three homers, two doubles and four walks this week, bringing him to .354/.440/.585 through 16 games with low Class A Hagerstown. His defense has been erratic, but his combination of power and patience from the left side could make him a steal in the third round out of last year’s draft.


Not-So Hot

Alex Guerrero, 2b, Dodgers. The $28 million second baseman homered at Triple-A Albuquerque this week, but otherwise the 27-year-old Cuban defector went 4-for-26 (.154) with no walks and four strikeouts. Fortunately for the Dodgers, Dee Gordon has taken the big league second base job and run with it, hitting .317 and stealing 15 bags in 26 games.

Juan Oramas, lhp, Padres. With big league starters Robbie Erlin and Eric Stults sporting ERAs north of 5.00, the Padres soon may cast their eyes to the Triple-A El Paso rotation for reinforcements. After allowing 11 runs in his last 11 2/3 innings for the Chihuahuas, however, Oramas may have temporarily removed himself from the running. Control has been a significant issue during those past three starts, if the 24-year-old’s 12/10 SO/BB ratio is any indication.

Robert Stephenson, rhp, Reds. The Reds’ top prospect began the season at Double-A Pensacola with a flourish, striking out 11 in five, one-hit innings. But he’s struggled in his past five starts, allowing 16 earned runs in 22 2/3 innings and walking 16 in that time. His command, average at best, has deserted him, especially in a seven-walk debacle on April 16.

Nick Williams, of, Rangers: Of the Rangers’ pack of prospects last season at low Class A Hickory, the 20-year-old Williams garnered votes as the most polished hitter. That reputation hasn’t shown this year, and especially not this week, when he went 3-for-17, struck out seven times and failed to draw a walk. He’s hitting just .241/.287/.379 at high Class A Myrtle Beach this season, but is still very young for his level.


Helium

Edgar de la Rosa, rhp, Tigers: Every now and then, you see a pitcher with promise take that step from intriguing-but-clearly flawed prospect to someone worth following on a much closer basis. It’s too early to proclaim that de la Rosa has made that leap, but after a rough season at low Class A West Michigan last year, he’s showing signs he’s in mid-flight right now at high Class A Lakeland. This week he allowed one hit in seven innings, just two starts after an eight-inning one-hitter. More importantly, his 91-96 mph fastball has gained a tick to turn him into a fireballer who tops out at 98.