See also: Previous Prospect Hot
Usually if a player gets traded three times before he reaches Double-A, it’s a sign that he’s unwanted. In Max Ramirez’s case, that’s not the case.
Who wouldn’t want a catcher who can hit in the middle of the order? And while there remain some questions about Ramirez’s glove, it’s getting harder and harder to question his bat—he leads the Texas League in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and home runs, and is second in batting average to Shane Robinson (see this week’s Helium Watch).
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 form the past week (May 16-22) getting the most consideration. The
Why He’s Here line in the writeups refers to each player’s stats during
Contributing: Ben Badler, J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy, Jim
Shonerd and Nathan Rode
|No. 1 MAX RAMIREZ, C/DH||RANGERS|
Team:Double-A Frisco (Texas)
Why He’s Here: .445/.538/.909 (10-for-22), 3 HR, 1 2B, 7 RBIs, 6 R, 3 BB, 5 SO, 1-for-2 SB
The Scoop: You might recognize Ramirez’s name from such Prospect Hot Sheets as . . . well, from almost all of them. That’s because Ramirez has been stellar all season for Frisco, batting .390/.464/.701 in 179 plate appearances. Ramirez has a five-game hitting streak that would have stretched to nine games had he not gone 0-for-1 a pinch-hit appearance on Saturday. He has homered in his last three games, and he has at least one hit in 36 of the 42 games he has started, including 18 multi-hit games. He leads the league in on-base percentage and slugging, and his slugging ranks second in all of the minor leagues. Remarkably, Ramirez is now with his third organization after the Braves traded him to the Indians at the trading deadline in 2006 in exchange for righthanded reliever Bob Wickman; the Indians flipped Ramirez to the Rangers at last season’s trading deadline for outfielder Kenny Lofton. So far, it’s looking like Rangers general manager Jon Daniels will be getting a nice return on his investment.
|No. 2 AUSTIN JACKSON, CF||YANKEES|
Team:Double-A Trenton (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: .381/.480/.857 (8-for-21), 2 HR, 2 2B, 11 RBIs, 4 R, 4 BB, 6 SO
The Scoop: When it comes to raw athleticism, few can compete with Jackson, who could have played basketball at Georgia Tech had he not signed for $800,000 as an eighth-round pick three years ago. The athleticism made him projectable as an amateur, but he is now maturing into a more dangerous hitter at the professional level. Jackson drove in 11 runs this week, most of which came in a seven-RBI game. After hitting .268/.359/.348 in April, Jackson is batting 288/.391/.525 this month to bring his averages up to .275/.371/.409 on the season. Jackson also has advanced pitch recognition skills and has already drawn 26 walks (13.2 percent of his plate appearances).
|No. 3 ANGEL VILLALONA, 1B||GIANTS|
Team: low Class A Augusta (South Atlantic)
Why he’s here: .360/.385/.800 (9-for-25), 2 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBIs, 3 R
The Scoop: Villalona had a tough April, hitting only .213/.273/.325, but we can forgive him for that since he’s the youngest player in full-season ball at the tender age of 17. That, and May has been a different story as the Giants’ top prospect is hitting .275/.296/.436 this month. Villalona has hits in 10 of his last 12 games, with four multi-hit games mixed in, and he’s already hit five home runs in May after hitting only one in April. His week was highlighted by a monster effort on Sunday against Columbus, when he went 4-for-5 with a double, a home run, and four RBIs.
|No. 4 MATT WIETERS, C||ORIOLES|
Team: high Class A Frederick (Carolina)
Why He’s Here: .438/.550/.813 (7-for-16), 2 HR, 7 RBIs, 2 R, 4 BB, 3 SO
The Scoop: In his three years at Georgia Tech, Wieters had a multi-home run game just twice. In two months with high Class A Frederick, he’s done it three times. As part of another big week for the switch-hitting catcher, Wieters connected for two long balls against Lynchburg (Pirates) to give him 11 on the season. He hasn’t gone more than three games without a hit and now rests at .348/.435/.617 in 141 at-bats this season. He’s also kept a good walk-to-strikeout ratio at 26-26 including his four intentional passes.
|No. 5 ALCIDES ESCOBAR, SS||BREWERS|
Team:Double-A Huntsville (Southern)
Why He’s Here: .500/.552/.692 (13-for-26), 1 HR, 2 2B, 6 RBIs, 6 R, 3 BB, 2 SO, 2-for-2 SB
Huntsville third baseman Mat Gamel and right fielder Matt LaPorta have cleaned up in recent Hot Sheets, so today it’s time to recognize how hot Escobar was this week. The smooth-fielding shortstop had a 1.244 OPS with three extra-base hits. His overall hitting on the season—.294/.332/.396 in 211 plate appearances—shows his solid contact-hitting ability and his lack of secondary skills. Escobar will never hit for much power, but he has the potential to be an above-average fielding shortstop. If he can refine his plate discipline and mature physically to be able to drive the ball with more authority, Escobar could be a valuable big leaguer.
|No. 6 JHOULYS CHACIN, RHP||ROCKIES|
Team: low Class A Ashevillie (South Atlantic)
Why he’s here: 2-0, 1.13, 16 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 16 K
The Scoop: Chacin could well be on his way to being the SAL’s top breakout prospect in 2008. He’s 7-1, 1.70 on the season and is at or near the top of SAL leaderboards in several categories, including wins, ERA, strikeouts, and innings pitched. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Chacin’s season is the fact he actually has better numbers at home than on the road, even though his home park is an extreme hitter’s park. At home, Chacin is 3-0, 1.29 in five starts, whereas on the road he’s 4-1, 2.12. He hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any of his starts, but the innings could be piling up though. Chacin has already gone seven innings or more in seven of his 10 starts, including the last five in a row.
|No. 7 TRAVIS SNIDER, DH||BLUE JAYS|
Team: Double-A New Hampshire (Eastern)
Why he’s here:.375/.429/1.063 (6-for-16), 2 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBIs, 6 R, 2 BB, 6 SO
The Scoop: Still playing DH because of a sore elbow, Snider has continued to show the type power that gets prospect watchers and Blue Jays fans worked up—and he’s doing it as one of the EL’s youngest players. Though Snider’s strikeout rate has been just as prodigious as his slugging thus far, he has taken small steps in the right direction in May, and he’s starting to fall back to the pack of overall minor league strikeout leaders. In third place overall, he now leads Cameron Maybin by one whiff. Snider has batted .228/.350/.465 in 101 Double-A at-bats, even with strikeouts (42) about 40 percent of the time. Just imagine what he’ll do when that rate levels off. Coming in to the year, he had fanned in 27 percent of his at-bats.
|No. 8 CHASE HEADLEY, LF/3B||PADRES|
Team: Triple-A Portland (Pacific Coast)
Why he’s here: .300/.344/.700 (9-for-30), 3 2B, 3 HR, 5 RBIs, 9 R, 2 BB, 5 SO
The Scoop: Padres general manager Kevin Towers has hinted strongly at a shakeup at the major league level, but so far most of the shaking has been limited to the bullpen, which welcomed Jared Wells, Mike Adams and Josh Banks from Portland yesterday. Headley is making a strong case to be next in line, as he’s now hitting .341/.396/.625 in May with seven doubles and six home runs in 88 at-bats. He continues to crush righthanded pitchers (.300/.372/.550), and he’s picked up his hitting at home (all the games above were in Portland)—and he even played a game this week at his natural position of third base.
|No. 9 JAKE McGEE, LHP||RAYS|
Team: Double-A Montgomery (Southern)
Why He’s Here: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0.00 ERA, 2 BB, 9 K
The Scoop: After posting a 5.32 ERA in 23 2/3 April innings, McGee has a 1.88 ERA in 24 May innings with a 21-9 K-BB ratio. McGee, who hit 97 mph in his last start on Wednesday, has allowed just one earned run in his last two starts. McGee has run into the most trouble once he hits the fifth inning. In the first four innings of games, McGee has a 1.85 ERA in 34 innings. In innings 5-7, McGee’s ERA stands at 7.90 at 13 2/3 innings. Of course, that could just be his bullpen allowing their inherited runners from McGee to score, but his peripheral numbers seem to indicate otherwise: McGee has a 39-9 K-BB ratio in innings 1-4 and a 9-10 K-BB mark in innings 5-7.
|No. 10 CARLOS CARRASCO, RHP||PHILLIES|
Team: Double-A Reading (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0.00 ERA, 2 BB, 9 K
The Scoop: If McGee is No. 9, then Carrasco fits in nicely right behind him after posting a nearly identical line at the same level (albeit in different leagues), with Carrasco allowing one more hit than McGee. Carrasco has mixed some outstanding starts with some not-so-hot starts, but the 21-year-old always shows flashes of his potential. “The stuff’s there,” Reading manager P.J. Forbes said. “He’s shown the flashes that he’s gonna pitch in the big leagues. We’re waiting to see the consistency that comes along with his stuff. He’s got three plus pitches, plus command and now it’s just a matter of him putting it together every five days. That consistency over two, three, four starts is all we’re looking for because the stuff is there.”
|No. 11 REID BRIGNAC, SS||RAYS|
Team: Triple-A Durham (International)
Why he’s here: .526/.526/1.158 (10-for-19), 6 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBIs, 4 R, 0 BB, 4 SO
The Scoop: Yes, Brignac has been batting seventh for Durham, but don’t let that obscure the fact that he’s still just 22 and is one of the better defensive shortstops in the IL. He connected for an extra-base hit in each of the five games in which he played this week, and clubbed a home run in both ends of a doubleheader on Wednesday. On one of those homers, he showed impressive plate coverage, driving a low-and-away pitch over the left field fence. After a pedestrian April, Brignac’s bat has come alive in May—he’s batting .362/.352/.638 in 69 at-bats, with three homers, 10 doubles . . . but also zero walks.
|No. 12 IAN STEWART, 3B||ROCKIES|
Team: Triple-A Colorado Springs (Pacific Coast)
Why he’s here: .333/.448/.625 (8-for-24), 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBIs, 6 R, 4 BB, 6 SO, 3-for-3 SB
The Scoop: Making his fourth Hot Sheet appearance of the year, Stewart has been one of the minors’ steadiest performers. Sure, he gets a boost from playing his home games in Colorado Springs, but the rampage he went on last week took place in Fresno and Sacramento. And unlike last season, the lefthanded-hitting Stewart has hit for power on the road (.566 slugging) while continuing to hit lefties hard (.611 slugging). So why is he still in Triple-A? It’s simple: The Rockies’ four best hitters all play corner positions (Todd Helton, Garrett Atkins, Matt Holliday, Brad Hawpe), meaning Stewart will have to wait for a trade to get consistent playing time. And if the Rockies don’t get back into the race, they may explore trading Holliday, a Boras client who can opt for free agency after 2009.
|No. 13 BLAKE WOOD, RHP||ROYALS|
Team: high Class A Wilmington (Carolina)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 K
The Scoop: A third-round pick in 2006 out of Georgia Tech, Wood has been good at every level and is taking off this year. He’s had just one start in which he’s given up more than three runs and of his two losses, only one of them wasn’t a quality start. He is now 2-2, 2.89 in 51 innings and is among the top 10 in the league in ERA, strikeouts (57) and innings pitched. Opponents are hitting a mere .169 against him and he’s allowed just nine extra-base hits in nine starts.
What can we write about Triple-A Louisville CF Jay Bruce (Reds) that hasn’t been written before? After batting .385/.407/.615 (10-for-26) on the week, with two home runs, four RBIs, six runs, a walk and seven whiffs, he’s now batting .368/.399/.655 with 10 home runs on the year. His recent tear has catapulted him to first in the International League in average and hits (63); third in RBIs (37), triples (five) and slugging; and fourth in extra-base hits (24) and runs scored (33). As to when you may see the 21-year-old Bruce in Cincinnati? Reds GM Walt Jocketty recently told Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News: “If he keeps playing like this, we’re going to have to get him up here some time soon. What we don’t want to do is bring him up and not have him play.” . . . Double-A Carolina 2B Chris Coghlan (Marlins) continued his strong season with a .333/.478/.778 (6-for-18) week. The 22-year-old Coghlan is hitting .302/.382/.438 for the season, and his week was highlighted by a 3-for-4 effort with a double and a home run on Sunday against Huntsville . . . Low Class A Charleston RHP Zach McAllister (Yankees) has been one of the Sally League’s most dominant pitchers in 2008. Through nine starts, McAllister is 6-2, 2.05 with a 49-7 K-BB ratio. The 20-year-old had another strong outing this week, shutting down Greenville over eight innings, allowing only one run on six hits, with six strikeouts and no walks . . . Low Class A Hagerstown RF Michael Burgess (Nationals) is riding an eight game hitting streak and turned in a pair of three-hit games this week. The 19-year-old Burgess went 3-for-4 with a triple and three RBIs on Thursday night against Lexington to finish off a .400/.423/.760 week . . . Low Class A Beloit CF Ben Revere (Twins) has been in contention for the Hot Sheet every week since he was called up in late April, and that didn’t change this week. He hit .423/.464/.462 this week, including four multi-hit games, and the 20-year-old’s line for the season stands at .404/.451/.521. Oh, and it’s been almost two weeks since the last time Revere struck out, which was May 10, a span of 11 games . . . High Class A Lake Elsinore CF Cedric Hunter (Padres) hit his first home run of the season in his 170th at-bat, then followed it up with a home run in two more straight games. On the week the 20-year-old was .400/.429/.850 with six RBIs . . . High Class A Brevard County righthander Jeremy Jeffress (Brewers) had a brutal outing in his first start of the season, but followed it up with something that was a little more his style. The 20-year-old that just returned from a drug suspension highlighted his week with a start in which he gave up just four hits and a walk in five innings while striking out 10.
• Henry Rodriguez, rhp, Athletics. Rodriguez cruised through his first three starts in the high Class A California League, prompting the A’s to promote him to Double-A Midland. The results at Midland? Not so good for the 21-year-old Venezuela native, who has an 8.89 ERA through his first seven starts. Those numbers include two awful starts this week, in which Rodriguez lasted 8 1/3 innings, allowed 15 runs (12 earned) for a 12.96 ERA in the last seven days. He struck out nine, but he also walked eight and uncorked three wild pitches. Is he ready to handle Double-A? It doesn’t look like it, given that he has more walks (30) than innings pitched (26 1/3).
• Brett Anderson, lhp, Athletics. It may be unfair to pick on a guy who is now on the disabled list, but this outing is just too bad to ignore. Anderson, 20, lasted just a third of an inning against San Jose (Giants) and gave up eight runs on seven hits and one walk. On the bright side, the lone out he recorded was a strikeout. After a great start to the season with high Class A Stockton, Anderson saw a rapid decline in his last three starts in which he gave up six, five and eight runs in a total of 11 innings.
• John Tolisano, 2b, Blue Jays. Tolisano got off to a solid start in his first full professional season, but he hit a pretty big speed bump this week. After leading the GCL in home runs last year with 10 in 49 games, Tolisano has only one dinger in 43 games for low Class A Lansing in the power-sapping MWL. This week, Tolisano hit .138/.133/.207 (4-for-29) with 11 strikeouts. The ultimate lowlight came Wednesday against Dayton, when the 19-year-old went 0-for-5 with five strikeouts.
• Rick Asadoorian, rhp, Dodgers. None of the Double-A Jacksonville players knew that lefthander Clayton Kershaw would only pitch one inning yesterday at Carolina. So when Asadoorian started warming up in the bullpen in the first inning, nobody was sure what was happening. After quickly getting loose, Asadoorian entered the game in the second inning and proceeded to throw five shutout innings, allowing just one hit and one walk with four strikeouts. Asadorian, a Massachusetts native who signed with the Red Sox as an outfielder as the 17th overall pick in the 1999 draft, never quite panned out as a hitter after a .249/.314/.375 career line. He flashed some skills with the bat last night, though helping his own cause with a home run over the right field fence.
|SHANE ROBINSON, LF||CARDINALS|
|Team: Double-A Springfield (Texas)
The Scoop: A fifth-round pick in 2006 out of Florida State, Robinson didn’t show much ability at the plate in his first two professional seasons. Robinson hit .282/.346/.333 in 252 at-bats with low Class A Quad Cities in 2006, then followed that up with a .253/.321/.355 performance in 166 at-bats last year with high Class A Palm Beach. One thing Robinson did always show was plate discipline, compiling 38 walks and 37 strikeouts entering the season. This year, Robinson has been one of the Texas League’s finest hitters, batting .408/.453/.577 in 148 plate appearances. There are plenty of reasons to doubt Robinson—he’s 5-foot-9, 160 pounds, he’s limited to left field, and he hasn’t hit well in the past since turning pro. But as long as he keeps hitting well, we’ll acknowledge the results.