Prospect Hot Sheet: May 21


See also: Previous Prospect Hot Sheet

Let’s
just say this was the toughest week to decide on a top 20 so far this
season.

How tough?

Well, you won’t see Yovani
Gallardo and all 11 of his strikeouts in his last start. There’s also
no Clayton Kershaw, Adam Ottavino, James Houser, Greg Reynolds,
Brandon Hynick–all 2007 Hot Sheet staples in one form or another–or
even Kyle Waldrop, who dealt in his Double-A debut.

There’s
no Joey Votto (even though he’s turning it up in Triple-A), Alcides
Escobar, Lorenzo Cain
or Max Sapp. Heck, even a rejuvenated Edinson Volquez with two
quality Double-A starts wasn’t enough to make it this time
around.

Aside from it being a tough week to decide who’s
hottest, it was also a week of strange happenings–mostly on the west
coast.

Dodgers prospects Matt Kemp and Delwyn Young got in
a shoving match during Triple-A Las Vegas’ BP round at Portland, and
Lake Elsinore scored more runs in a weekend than a lot of teams score
in two weeks.
But enough of the odd and who didn’t make it.
Let’s move on to the list.

Remember, this is not a rewrite
of our Top 100 prospects list. This is
simply a snapshot of which
prospects are currently riding the biggest hot streaks.

If
you have comments, e-mail
chriskline@baseballamerica.com.

1. Justin Upton, of,
Double-A Mobile (Diamondbacks)

He
had us at hello. Upton, who’s been on the Baseball America radar
pretty much since his ultrasound photos were faxed to our offices in
the spring of ’87, made the transition to Double-A not only seamless,
but instantly began the debate as to who is the Southern League’s top
prospect–Upton or Evan Longoria?

We’re kidding about the
ultrasound photos, but Upton has seriously been part of the BA
coverage since his older brother Melvin (aka B.J.) was 15. And after
a subpar pro debut in low Class A last year (Upton batted
.263/.343/.413 in 438 at-bats), Upton turned it up in the California
League this season, then continued to torch Double-A pitchers with
three homers in his first two games after he was promoted.

Sure,
Upton had his first 0-for-4 game yesterday, but that wasn’t nearly
enough to keep him out of the No. 1 spot. He’s made Mobile a
dangerous team again, and hitting ahead of Carlos Gonzalez is only
going to help the struggling Venezuelan outfielder.

“It’™s
a collision course of top prospects,” Diamondbacks farm director
A.J. Hinch said. “They’™re going to feed off each other and
challenge each other. It’™s good for both of them.

“But
with Justin, he’™s just stepped right into that next level of
competition and blended right in. He doesn’™t have the wow factor of
being in Double-A. He doesn’™t want to be just a big leaguer. He
wants to be a dominant big leaguer. So he’™ll go, compete and
dominate. For him, the approach is almost like, ‘˜This is just
another stadium I’™m in until I get there.’™ And you know he’™s
going to keep working to get there. That’™s the mindset. It’™s who
he is.”

2. Travis Snider, of, low
Class A Lansing (Blue Jays)

When
a player begins the year by batting .405/.419/.646 in April, as
Snider did, hitting enough to get noticed again can be a
near-impossible task. But by going 11-for-24 (.458) with a pair of
homers and 12 RBIs last week, Snider is officially hot again. Fun
fact: Snider is hitting .455 against lefthanded pitchers this
season.

3. Heath Rollins, rhp, low
Class A Columbus (Devil Rays)

Great
2006 pick, R.J. Harrison. Drafted in the 11th round last year,
Rollins was just so-so in his pro debut at short-season Hudson
Valley, but has been in another world this year in Columbus.
Currently riding a streak of 38 consecutive innings without an earned
run, Rollins is 4-0, 1.12 in 48 innings overall.

4. Jake Fox, c/of/1b,
Double-A Tennessee (Cubs)

On
fire. Six straight multi-hit games before having that streak snapped
on Saturday. Batted .552 with four homers last week while playing
three different positions.

5. Aaron Bates, 1b, high
Class A Lancaster (Red Sox)

The
2006 third-rounder helped right the ship for the JetHawks in record
fashion following a 30-0 loss to Lake Elsinore. Bates hit a
California League record four home runs on Saturday and finished the
week hitting .375 (notably, he was one of three players from that
series to finish the week with four homers).

6. Oswaldo Sosa, rhp, high
Class A Fort Myers (Twins)

You
have to flip back the calendar to May 4 to find the last time the
21-year-old Sosa gave up an earned run–and go all the way back April
24 for when he last yielded more than one in a game. His latest gem
was a six inning one-hitter against Palm Beach in which he struck out
nine and walked three, raising his scoreless streak to 19
innings.

7. Chad Huffman, of, high
Class A Lake Elsinore
(Padres)

Nothing
like a series at Lancaster to improve one’s fortunes. Huffman entered
Clear Channel Stadium Friday with .286/.380/.474 numbers and left
Sunday at .320/.415/.578. For the week, the hard-charging Huffman
went 12-for-23 with four homers and eight RBIs–and he even played
three of those games away from Lancaster. By virtue of reaching base
13 times over the weekend, Huffman scored 10 of the Storm’s 65
runs.

8. Ian
Kennedy, rhp, high Class A Tampa
(Yankees)

His
ceiling might be a back-end-of-the-rotation guy, but don’t tell
Florida State League hitters that. Kennedy has been dominant,
striking out 20 over 14 innings last week.

9. Chris Marrero, of, low
Class A Hagerstown
(Nationals)

Teeny-bopper
keeps on bopping in the Sally League. Marrero hit three more homers
last week while batting .373. Someone needs to explain to him this is
pro ball–not high school.

10. Cole Gillespie, of, high
Class A Brevard County
(Brewers)

The
Brewers 2006 third-round pick skipped a level after tearing up the
Pioneer League and is starting to show signs he could be ready for
another leap. The 22-year-old hit .458 with seven RBIs last
week–including a two-homer, five-RBI showing against St. Lucie on
Saturday–and has hit safely in seven of his last eight
games.

11.
Jay Bruce, of, high Class A Sarasota
(Reds)

Big
Bad Bruce is becoming a regular in this list, and for good reason
after finishing among the FSL leaders with a .414 average, 12 hits
and eight RBIs.

12. Sean Smith, rhp,
Triple-A Buffalo (Indians)

It
can be tough getting attention when you’re in the same rotation as
Adam Miller, but a big week from the 23-year-old Smith catapulted him
to No. 2 in the IL’s ERA race, just one-one hundredths of a point
behind the leader. Smith was 2-0, 0.79 last week with 11-3
strikeouts-walks in 11 1/3 innings.

13. Neil Walker, 3b,
Double-A Altoona
(Pirates)

Relatively
smooth transition to third base for the tremendous athlete and now
the bat is emerging–with power. Walker homered twice last week and
hit .455.

14. Kevin Slowey, rhp,
Triple-A Rochester (Twins)

A
rough week for Slowey, the current IL ERA leader. Sure, he went 2-0,
2.45 with 12-3 strikeouts-walks in 14 2/3 innings, but by walking three
batters, he more than doubled his season total. And by giving up four
earned runs, his ERA “ballooned” to 1.76.

15. Michael Madsen, rhp,
Double-A Midland
(Athletics)

Madsen,
24, has been unbeatable in the Texas League, and his work last week
was his best yet. He went 2-0, 1.50 and gave seven hits in 12 innings
last week. His 18 strikeouts in that span topped all Texas League
pitchers.

16. John Whittleman, 3b, low
Class A Clinton (Rangers)

Doesn’t
slow down. Whittleman played a shorter slate of games that other Hot
Sheeters, but still homered three times and hit .400 while playing
solid defense at third base. Impressive.

17. Gregorio Petit, ss,
Double-A Midland (Athletics)

We
know what you’re thinking. But the slick-fielding shortstop has
improved his plate discipline and is hitting anything in the zone as
of late. Last week, Petit went deep three times and batted .526. Not
bad for a guy left unprotected in last year’s Rule 5
draft.

18.
James Parr, lhp, high Class A Myrtle Beach
(Braves)

Sure
this selection brought a “really?” response from a certain
BA staffer, but Blue Rocks hitters were made believers last week when
the 21-year-old tossed a nine-inning complete game, striking out 12
without a walk while yielding just three hits.

19. Kyle Blanks and Craig
Cooper, 1b, high Class A Lake Elsinore
(Padres)

Blanks
and Cooper have split first base and DH duties for the Storm, but
Lancaster pitchers probably wished they were in a non-DH league after
the drubbing they received at the hands of these two over the
weekend. Lake Elsinore scored 65 runs in three games, but no
combination of batters was more lethal. Blanks and Cooper went a
combined 20-for-55 (.454) with seven homers, 25 RBIs and 20 runs
scored last week, with the bulk of the damage coming against the
JetHawks.

20. Chris Carter, 1b, low
Class A Kannapolis (White
Sox)

Yeah,
the home runs are nice, but we’d be more impressed if they weren’t
coming in low Class A . . . in Carter’s third pro season. But then
again, a league-leading four home runs, 12 RBIs and nine runs scored
in a week are hard to ignore. Carter also went 8-for-24
(.333).

NOT-SO-MUCH

Alfredo Simon, rhp, Triple-A
Oklahoma (Rangers)

Selected
in the December major league Rule 5 draft by Baltimore and sent to
the Phillies, Simon not getting an appearance in big league camp with
Philadelphia should have been an ominous sign. But not this ominous.
Simon allowed 18 earned runs over his last eight innings and is 2-5,
8.31 in 48 innings overall.

Chris Volstad, rhp, high
Class A Jupiter (Marlins)

The
16th overall pick in 2005 hasn’t lived up to that billing in the FSL,
and has given up 13 runs over his last 10 innings. In all, Volstad
has allowed 64 hits in 49 innings in a pitcher-friendly league.
That’s not fun.

Javy Guerra, rhp, high Class
A Inland Empire (Dodgers)

A
fourth-round pick in 2004, Guerra’s last start wasn’t bad–he allowed
a run on four hits over six innings–but he’s walked 33 in 41 innings
and was shelled for five runs in 2 2/3 innings on May 15. With all
those walks, Guerra is carrying a WHIP hovering around
2.00.

Matt
Walker, rhp, high Class A Vero Beach (Devil
Rays)

Loser
of three straight decisions, Walker has allowed 10 runs on 10 hits in
his last two outings. Over his last 14 innings, the 2004 10th-rounder
who signed for second-round money has walked 15. This season, his
strikeout-walk ratio is an even 27-27.

High Class A Lancaster’s
pitching staff

There
was a lot of history to be had in the JetHawks’ three-game weekend
series against Lake Elsinore, but Lancaster’s pitchers just have to
be glad the Storm has passed. But it was a doozy. JetHawks pitchers
allowed 65 runs on 64 hits–including a whopping 15 home runs. As a
staff, Lancaster is now carrying an Arizona Fall League-esque 6.10
ERA.

HELIUM WATCH

Eddie Degerman, rhp, low
Class A Quad Cities
(Cardinals)

Riding
the piggyback system for the Swing, the fourth-rounder last year out
of Rice has been quietly dealing in the Midwest League. In 18
innings, Degerman is 0-0, 1.50 with a 26-3 strikeout-walk ratio.
Smells like a promotion for the 23-year-old.

Cole Devries, rhp, low Class
A Beloit (Twins)

Signed
as a nondrafted free agent out of Minnesota last year, Devries has
been brilliant in his first taste of pro ball at low Class A Beloit.
Devries’ fastball sits in the upper 80s with a hard curveball, and is
4-1, 1.35 in 40 innings.

BLAST FROM THE
PAST

Eider
Torres, inf, Triple-A Norfolk
(Orioles)

Torres
got a chance at redemption after being cut loose by the Tribe last
season, and is making it count in the Orioles system. A better
defender at second base than shortstop, Torres actually has three
homers with the Tides–his career-high is six–and batted .462 last
week.

J.J.
Furmaniak, ss, Triple-A Sacramento
(Athletics)

You
may remember Furmaniak from such organizations as the Padres and
Pirates. Now with the Athletics, the 27-year-old shortstop, who was a
22nd-round pick in 2000, had begun 2007 with a bang for Sacramento.
His 10 home runs ranked second in the PCL, his 12 stolen bases ranked
fifth and his 34 runs scored ranked second.

Minors | #2007 #Prospect Hot Sheet

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