Prospect Hot Sheet: May 22


See also: Previous
Prospect
Hot
Sheets


In 2005, the Mets made a big push into Latin America by signing Fernando Martinez for $1.3 million and Deolis Guerra for $700,000. Since then, they’ve traded Guerra away, but held on to Martinez. Both make an appearance on this week’s Hot Sheet, but for different reasons. It appears that the Mets kept the right one.

Remember as always, this is not a re-ranking of our
Top 100 Prospects list. Instead, it’s a snapshot of who are the hottest
prospects in baseball right
now, with stats taken from the past week of games (May 15-21).

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

No. 1 JOSH VITTERS, 3B

CUBS

Team: low Class A Peoria (Midwest)

Age: 19

Why He’s Here: .481/.481/1.148 (13-for-27), 5 HR, 3 2B, 9 R, 10 RBIs, 5 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: Suffice it to say we debated very little when it came to choosing a No. 1 this week. For that matter, saying Josh Vitters had a hot week would be an understatement.

The third overall pick in 2007, Vitters’ career got off to a sputtering start as he battled tendinitis in his left hand for much of his first year as a pro. Those days are far in the rearview mirror now. Vitters’ aggressive approach doesn’t lend itself to many walks, but he doesn’t get fooled much either, and he pounded the ball all week. He homered in four consecutive games against Beloit as part of a five-game stretch in which he had three hits in each game. The five longballs this week equaled his total in 324 career at-bats coming into this season.

The West Michigan pitching staff somehow held Vitters to an 0-for-4 night Wednesday, but he quickly got back into the groove, belting another home run last night. The shot was his eighth of the year and punctuated a week in which he vaulted all the way up to third in the MWL’s home run race. Not to mention he’s batting .403 in May and .357 for the season, putting him third in the batting race as well.

2009
Stats
No. 2 FERNANDO MARTINEZ, LF

METS

Team: Triple-A Buffalo (International)

Age: 20

Why He’s Here: .385/.467/.923 (10-for-26), 4 HR, 2 2B, 6 RBIs, 9 R, 4 BB, 2 SO, 2-for-3 SB

The Scoop: Fernando-Mania gripped the National League in 1981, when Dodgers rookie lefthander Fernando Valenzuela paced the circuit in strikeouts, innings and shutouts. Now, Fernando-Mania is making its rounds through the IL. He may have closed April on a 1-for-18 skid, but Martinez has come roaring back in May to bat .351/.400/.703 with six homers, six doubles and 15 RBIs through 20 games. He appears to have caught up to the speed of the Triple-A game, too, collecting six walks while striking out nine times in 74 at-bats.

Martinez’s home run roll call for the week: Gwinnett’s Todd Redmond (May 15), Pawtucket’s Enrique Gonzalez (May 18) and prized Red Sox righthander Clay Buchholz (twice on May 19). He leads the IL with 23 extra-base hits, standing side by side with minor league veterans Todd Linden and Oscar Salazar.

2009
Stats
No. 3 TOMMY HANSON, RHP

BRAVES

Team: Triple-A Gwinett (International)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.00, 13 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 16 SO

The Scoop: While his running-mate Kris Medlen was called up to the majors and had a rough go in his big league debut, Hanson just keeps plugging away in Triple-A. When the Braves do call him up, they want it to be for keeps. The big righthander turned in two more dominant starts this week, tossing seven shutout innings against Lehigh Valley last Saturday and six shutout innings against Toledo last night. Hanson leads the minors with 73 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings on the year and has allowed only nine earned runs in nine starts.

2009
Stats
No. 4 PETER BOURJOS, CF

ANGELS

Team: Double-A Arkansas (Texas)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .556/.556/.852 (15-for-27), 3 2B,
1 HR, 1 3B, 5 R, 5 RBIs, 0 BB, 2 SO, 2-for-3 SB

The Scoop: Borjous continues his steady improvement as the top position prospect in the Angels organization. And the bump up to Double-A hasn’t slowed him down. So far, he’s averaging a career-best .327 at the plate, though he still tends to chase pitches, with 29 strikeouts and 13 walks so far. But all of Bourjos’ hitting numbers have continued their rapid improvement. He also launched his first homer on May 15, and if he can bring back the power he showed last year (nine homers at high Class A Cucamonga), he’ll go a long way towards being a complete hitter.

2009
Stats
No. 5 J.P. ARENCIBIA, C

BLUE JAYS

Team: Triple-A Las Vegas (Pacific Coast)

Age: 23

Why He’s Here: .467/.600/1.200 (7-for-15), 3 HR, 2 2B, 8 RBIs, 4 R, 4 BB, 4 SO, 0-for-1 SB

The Scoop: Few, if any, catching prospects have more power than Arencibia, who bashed three home runs and two doubles in just five games this week. His extra-base hit output (22) now ranks third in the PCL. And while the league is littered with homer-happy ballparks, Arencibia did his damage at Memphis and Nashville, two of the lower-scoring environments in the circuit. Because his on-base percentage hovers at just .311, Arencibia would do well to continue to work a few free passes, as he did this week, when his four walks equaled nearly 50 percent of his season total (nine).

2009
Stats
No. 6 JEANMAR GOMEZ,
RHP

INDIANS

Team: Double-A Akron

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 SO

The Scoop: Take a close look at that line, it’s the first nine-inning perfect game in the minors since 2007 when Guillermo Moscoso did it for short-season Oneonta. But Gomez isn’t a one-outing wonder, he’s 4-0, 0.31 with only nine hits allowed, 26 strikeouts and one walk in 29 innings since a promotion to Double-A on the last day of April. Gomez’s fastball/slider combo isn’t always as overpowering as it was on Thursday, but he is showing that he’s a step ahead of Double-A hitters, which is quite impressive for a 21-year-old.

2009
Stats
No. 7 BRAD LINCOLN, RHP

PIRATES

Team: Double-A Altoona (Eastern)

Age: 24

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.56, 16 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 0 HR, 3 BB, 11 SO

The Scoop: The fourth overall pick in ’06, Lincoln had Tommy John surgery in April 2007 and missed that entire season. If you’re an avid BA reader you know that already, but did you realize how effective Lincoln had been this season in jumping to Double-A? For a pitcher who compiled a 4.69 ERA in two A-ball stops last year, while striking out 6.5 per nine innings, Lincoln’s early ’09 performance has been a revelation. He ranks fourth in the EL with 40 strikeouts, ninth with a 2.31 ERA and third with 46 2/3 innings. Yes, it appears he’s made it all the way back from surgery.

2009
Stats
No. 8 DESMOND JENNINGS, CF

RAYS

Team:
Double-A Montgomery (Southern)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .429/.538/.667 (9-for-21), 2 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 4 BB, 1 SO, 4-for-4 SB

The Scoop: After missing most of 2008 season due to left shoulder surgery, Jennings has announced his candidacy for our Minor League Player of the Year honors. He has the speed and athleticism to be a weapon in the field and on the basepaths, with 14 steals in 18 attempts and five triples. He has the plate discipline to take his walks and get a good pitch to hit, and the hand-eye coordination to find the ball with the barrel routinely. And he has enough power to punish pitchers when they put the ball over the plate. As long as he’s on the field, there isn’t much that Jennings—now batting .396/.455/.610 in 39 games—can’t do.

2009
Stats
No. 9 DEREK NORRIS, C

NATIONALS

Team: low Class A Hagerstown (South Atlantic)

Age: 20

Why He’s Here: .423/.483/.769 (11-for-29), 2 HR, 3 2B, 9 R, 5 RBIs, 2 BB, 4 SO

The Scoop: While many Nationals fans are probably counting down the days before the teams gets to draft Stephen Strasburg, Norris is at least giving them something to tide them over until the big day. Norris recently had a streak of six straight multi-hit games and his mature approach has impressed all season as he’s hitting .325/.420/.619 while ranking third in the Sally League with 20 walks. He also ranks second in the league with nine home runs on the year and is tops with 30 RBIs.

2009
Stats
No. 10 MADISON BUMGARNER, LHP

GIANTS

Team: Double-A Connecticut (Eastern)

Age: 19

Why He’s Here: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 9 SO

The Scoop: Last week we predicted that it wouldn’t be long before Tim Alderson’s fellow pitching prodigy would make the Hot Sheet again after a promotion to Double-A. In reality it only took a week, and it’s not like Bumgarner’s first Double-A start (6 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO) was that bad. Bumgarner, last year’s minor league ERA leader, is now 5-1, 1.24 in 2009.

2009
Stats
No. 11 JENRRY MEJIA, RHP

METS

Team: high Class A St. Lucie (Florida State)

Age: 19

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.82, 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 7 SO

The Scoop: Mejia is about the most unconventional prospect imaginable. He’s 6-feet, tops, and weighs in at about 165 pounds. He’s very athletic, though, and his action is clean, helping him regularly touch 94-96 mph. One scout this year described his offspeed pitch as a fosh change—others have dubbed it a straight change, a split or a cutter—but whatever hybrid it is, it’s an out pitch. The scout also liked Mejia’s curveball, though he noted that the righthander lost confidence in it and didn’t use it enough.

Mejia signed out of the Dominican Republic in April ’07 with little fanfare, yet here he is at age 19, one of the FSL’s youngest players. And the really scary part is that over his last four starts he’s gone 3-0, 0.35, surrendering just three runs (one earned, and with no homers) and 16 hits in 26 innings. He struck out 19 and walked three in that span, completing eight innings of work once and seven another time, to move into second place in the FSL’s ERA race at 1.82.

2009
Stats
No. 12 JAKE ARRIETA, RHP

ORIOLES

Team: Double-A Bowie (Eastern)

Age: 23

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 HBP, 3 BB, 10 SO

The Scoop: We’ve recognized Chris Tillman’s frequent dominance, Brian Matusz’s ability to make high Class A hitters look silly and Brandon Erbe’s spurts of brilliance. Now it’s time to give yet another Orioles pitching prospect some attention after Arrieta tossed seven shutout innings of one-hit ball against Erie on Saturday. It wasn’t a one-time flash of excellence for Arrieta, who on the year has a 2.70 ERA in 33 1/3 innings with 42 strikeouts and 16 walks. Arrieta’s command still has a ways to go, but when he’s throwing strikes his stuff has been too good for most Double-A hitters to handle.

2009
Stats
No. 13 AARON POREDA, LHP

WHITE SOX

Team: Double-A Birmingham (Southern)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 13 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 5 BB, 18 SO

The Scoop: Poreda struck out 12 on Wednesday night, then woke up Thursday morning to find that he might be heading to the Padres. Jake Peavy’s veto keeps him in Birmingham for now, but if he keeps pitching like he’s been throwing, he also could be headed for a promotion to Triple-A Charlotte before too long.

2009
Stats

IN THE TEAM
PHOTO

For Triple-A Omaha 1B Kila Ka’aihue (Royals), April’s slumps bring May power jumps. Last year Ka’aihue hit just .224 in April, but went on a May tear, hitting .400 on his way to establishing himself as one of the Royals top power prospects. In 2009, he’s staying true to form. After batting .238/.425/.476 in April, the 25-year-old Ka’aihue now is up to .333/.476/.635 in May with two home runs and four doubles in the past week . . . After starting strong in April, high Class A San Jose C Buster Posey (Giants) had been headed in the other direction in May. But Posey has gotten hot again as we head toward Memorial Day, going 9-for-21 this week with two home runs and 10 RBIs. Notably, the 22-year-old is destroying lefthanded pitchers to the tune of .415/.489/.732, with only three strikeouts in 41 at-bats . . . The high Class A California League doesn’t see many nine-inning complete games, but Inland Empire RHP Steven Johnson (Dodgers) came within one out of a CG against San Jose’s stacked lineup. Johnson, 21, ended up allowing three hits, one earned run and two walks while striking out 10 in 8 2/3 innings. The 2005 13th-round pick out of a Maryland high school seems to be putting it together this year—he hadn’t struck out more than a batter an inning in full season ball before, but this year he’s struck out 59 in 44 innings including 10-K efforts in two of his past three starts . . . Triple-A Iowa 1B Jake Fox (Cubs) hasn’t slowed down yet. The 26-year-old maintained his leads in all three triple crown categories for the minor leagues by hitting .455/.538/.818 (10-for-22) this week. He added two home runs to bring his season total to 17, while upping his average to .425 in 134 at-bats . . . Low Class A Fort Wayne LF Jaff Decker (Padres) hasn’t had any problems acclimating to the Midwest League. Decker hit .409/.480/.727 (9-for-22) with two home runs this week, upping his season line to .320/.490/.613 in 75 at-bats. The 19-year-old Decker didn’t make his season debut with the TinCaps until April 24, but he’s already tied for the team lead in home runs with five, and he ranks fifth in RBIs with 16 . . . Only Mat Latos and Simon Castro, among Padres farmhands, can challenge high Class A Lake Elsinore RHP Wynn Pelzer for the distinction of having the most arm strength in the organization. Thus far, the 22-year-old has handled his assignment to the California League with aplomb, starting twice this week and going a clean 2-0, 1.88, while allowing three runs on seven hits while racking up 20 strikeouts and three walks in 14 1/3 innings. On the season, his 51 strikeouts rank third in the Cal League, and his 3.55 ERA ranks seventh . . . The Cardinals are becoming one of the more aggressive teams in their prospect promotions. 3B Brett Wallace hasn’t even been in pro ball for a year since the Cardinals made him the 13th overall pick in the draft last year, but he’s already knocking on the big league door. After opening in Double-A, the 22-year-old Wallace went to Triple-A Memphis on Saturday and has gone 11-for-21 with a double, a homer and a walk for the Redbirds.

NOT-SO HOT
SHEET

Kyle Blanks, lf/1b, Padres: While it’s probably not a pure cause-and-effect relationship, Blanks, since playing his first game in left field for Triple-A Portland on May 10, has gone 6-for-43 (.140) with a lone extra-base hit (a home run). The 22-year-old also has struck out at an uncharacteristically high rate in that span—18 times in 43 at-bats, or 42 percent of the time. Kudos to Blanks for his willingness to play the outfield, where he hasn’t roamed since 2005, but he won’t be in line for a big league callup until he snaps out of his funk. This week, Blanks batted .087/.250/.087 (2-for-23) with five walks and seven strikeouts. 

Jordan Walden, rhp, Angels: With the Angels in need of starting pitching, Walden is the team’s best long-term hope, but in his first start back after a month on the DL with elbow inflammation, Walden re-emphasized that at 21 years old, he’s a ways from the big leagues. Pitching for Double-A Arkansas, Walden gave up seven hits and six runs in just two innings. It was the second time in four starts that he failed to get into the third inning.

Deolis Guerra, rhp, Twins: That Johan Santana trade hasn’t panned out for the Twins like they had hoped. They’ve dropped Philip Humber from the 40-man roster after he posted a 12.46 ERA in four outings; center fielder Carlos Gomez is batting .230/.301/.311 in Minnesota; and righthander Kevin Mulvey is 2-2, 4.19 with 19 walks in 35 innings in Triple-A. But Guerra has to rank as the most disappointing of the acquisitions. Back in the high Class A Florida State League for a fourth year, with Fort Myers, Guerra has given up 48 hits and 13 walks in 39 innings. He’s still only 20 years old, but his once plus velocity has all but disappeared.

Kyle Skipworth, c, Marlins: Scouts who have seen Skipworth play in the minor leagues have come away scratching their heads over a player they liked as an amateur. The sixth overall pick last year out of a California high school, Skipworth has had trouble making contact with even marginal pitches as a pro. Scouts who saw Skipworth, 19, hit .208/.263/.340 with 46 strikeouts in 176 plate appearances in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League were confused, and those concerns are only getting greater with Skipworth struggling to a .167/.221/.292 start with 38 strikeouts in 105 plate appearances for low Class A Greensboro. Even as Greensboro tagged Lake County righthander Alex Perez for eight runs (including four homers) in three innings, Skipworth struck out swinging in both of his at-bats against Perez, whiffing at five of the six pitches he swung at.

MEN AMONG
BOYS

Grant Desme, of, Athletics: It’s fair to say Desme hasn’t had a typical development path. Second-round picks out of college from two years ago shouldn’t be in low Class A. Desme showed good bat speed and power coming out of Cal Poly in 2007, but he played in only two games last year because of a a separated shoulder. The 23-year-old is playing in the Midwest League now, batting .254/.312/.437 on the year, including a .323/.313/.548 run this week with four doubles and a homer. His age isn’t helping him make more contact, not with 43 strikeouts in 39 games, but he is a perfect 12-for-12 stealing bases.

BLAST FROM THE
PAST

It’s the time of year when teams are making offers and working out arrangements with agents to secure some of the top 16-year-old players from Latin America come July 2. Joel Guzman used to be one of those prospects, signing for $2.255 million with the Dodgers as a shortstop on July 2, 2001. By 2004, Guzman had reached Double-A at age 19 and hit .280/.325/.522 in 200 plate appearances for Jacksonville. After the season, Guzman ranked as the No. 5 prospect in all of baseball. Whoops.

Five years later, Guzman is back in Double-A after never learning to recognize and avoid chasing breaking balls, this time with the Nationals’ Double-A affiliate in Harrisburg. Guzman, now 24, is hitting .276/.354/.483 in 17 games, having filled out considerably (6-foot-5, 245 pounds) and is splitting time between third base, right field and first base.

HELIUM
WATCH

BRANDON CRAWFORD, SS

GIANTS

Team: Double-A Connecticut (Eastern)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .417/.440/.542 (10-for-24), 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 7 SO, 1-for-2 SB

The
Scoop:
Crawford’s proving that draftitis is sometimes a temporary condition. He was considered one of the top draft prospects in his class coming out of his sophomore season at UCLA. But he looked lost at the plate during the Cape Cod League and he looked worse during a disappointing junior year that dropped him to the fourth round of last year’s draft, but since then he’s done a lot to regain his status as an intriguing prospect. After hitting .371/.445/.600 at high Class A San Jose, Crawford has kept rolling right along since a promotion to Double-A. The bat was the big concern with Crawford as his glove is considered above-average.

2009
Stats
ALEX LIDDI, 3B

MARINERS

Team: high Class A High Desert (California)

Age: 20

Why He’s Here: .379/.424/.793 (11-for-29), 3 HR, 1 2B, 1 3B, 11 RBIs, 12 R, 3 BB, 6 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: Many had given Liddi up for dead after two tough years in the low Class A Midwest League. In 249 game, the Italian national batted .240/.306/.365 with 14 home runs, power output that he’s nearly matched (11) in two months in the Cal League. In fact, Liddi leads the circuit with a .371 average and ranks just two homers and three RBIs off the leaders in those categories, making him a stealth triple crown candidate. Playing in High Desert will do that for a guy. While Liddi is hitting well on the road (.324/.350/.527 in 18 games), he’s been unbelievably productive in 21 home games, batting .412/.453/.835—that’s an OPS of 1.288—with nine of his 11 bombs. While his home park helps, Liddi is a legitimate prospect, and someone the Mariners never lost faith in because of his raw power and plus-plus makeup. A Seattle official last year told BA that he’d be surprised if Liddi did not hit .300 with 20 home runs playing in High Desert. Well said.

2009
Stats

Minors | #2009 #Prospect Hot Sheet

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