This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet covers minor league games from May 16-22. 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. Corey Seager, ss, Dodgers
Team: high Class A Rancho Cucamonga (California)
Why He’s Here: .600/.613/1.133 (18-for-30), 5 R, 7 2B, 3 HR, 11 RBIs, 1 BB, 4 SO
The Scoop: A hamstring injury sidelined Seager for the last week of April, but he returned to action with a vengeance, going 35-for-78 (.449) with 15 extra-base hits in 19 games since coming off the disabled list. For emphasis, he slammed 10 extra-base hits in seven games this week while hitting .600.
Even though Rancho Cucamonga plays in a park that slightly favors pitchers, the 2012 first-rounder nevertheless leads the Cal League in average (.368) and doubles (18) while ranking second with a 1.011 OPS. Seager also ranks second in the Cal League in batting average on balls in play (.455), which will be tough to duplicate for any stretch of time in a more neutral hitting environment. A mature hitting approach, sweet lefty swing and power than projects as plus make him a prospect worthy of your attention, no matter his BABIP.
2. Alex Guerrero, 2b/ss, Dodgers
Team: Triple-A Albuquerque (Pacific Coast)
Why He’s Here: .550/.524/1.300 (11-for-20), 6 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 8 RBIs, 0 BB, 5 SO
The Scoop: Guerrero’s loud performance at Triple-A—he leads the PCL with a 1.152 OPS—had him cued up for a big league callup when the Dodgers needed an extra infielder this week. But that’s when a bizarre incident in Albuquerque involving Isotopes teammates threw everything out of whack. Various media accounts indicate that veteran catcher Miguel Olivo allegedly bit off a “significant part of (Guerrero’s) left ear” during a dugout altercation on May 20. The Dodgers saw fit to release Olivo two days later, but while Guerrero recovers from plastic surgery, Double-A shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena received the big league callup in his stead.
3. Jake Buchanan, rhp, Astros
Team: Triple-A Oklahoma City (Pacific Coast)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 9 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 10 SO
The Scoop: At some point the Astros are going to have to sell their fans more than hope for the future, but the farm system continues to excel, with three Hot Sheet representatives this week. While Buchanan isn’t a prominent prospect, he probably will be a useful big leaguer before long. With a heavy sinker, he generates groundball after groundball—3.5 ground-to-fly ratio thus far—rarely allowing hitters to lift the ball. Pair that with outstanding control (1.05 walks per nine innings this year) and he’s an uncomfortable pitcher to face.
4. Dilson Herrera, 2b/ss, Mets
Team: high Class A St. Lucie (Florida State)
Why He’s Here: .484/.500/.839 (15-for-31), 7 R, 5 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 1 BB, 0 SO, 3-for-4 SB
The Scoop: Herrera, obtained from the Pirates last year in the Marlon Byrd deal, just keeps hitting. He leads the minors with 67 hits, ranks second in the FSL in total bases and has posted double-digit totals in doubles and steals with 11 each. He’s a contact fiend who can spray the ball around and has enough sock to rack up plenty of doubles. He’s so much of a contact fiend, in fact, that he had just one non-contact plate appearance (a walk) this week, while recording seven extra-base hits.
5. Teoscar Hernandez, cf, Astros
Team: high Class A Lancaster (California)
Why He’s Here: .393/.452/.929 (11-for-28), 9 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 15 RBIs, 3 BB, 10 SO, 3-for-3 SB
The Scoop: Hernandez looks like a possible low-signing-bonus Dominican success story for the Astros. Signed for $20,000 in 2011, the versatile center fielder has seen his power blossom this year. He’s on pace to easily top last year’s 13 home runs, and he’s also improved his stolen base success rate (13-for-16 this year after going 24-for-35 last year). Hernandez is having the breakout season the Astros hoped to see.
6. Joey Gallo, 3b, Rangers
Team: high Class A Myrtle Beach (Carolina)
Why He’s Here: 393/.469/.750 (7-for-15), 7 R, 2 2B, 4 HR, 7 RBIs, 7 BB, 4 SO, 0-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Before he left Wednesday’s game after an awkward slide into second base, Gallo was continuing to prove that the Carolina League was no match for his prodigious power. He socked four more homers this week, upping his minors-leading total to 18, one ahead of the Yankees’ Peter O’Brien. We know he can hit homers—that’s old hat. Gallo also hit two doubles this week, which is notable because he’s only done so seven times this year. When he hits the ball hard, it goes out.
7. Tyler Skulina, rhp, Cubs
Team: low Class A Kane County (Midwest)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 1/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 SO, 5 BB
The Scoop: The Cubs’ fourth-round pick from Kent State last year, Skulina pitched the first 7 1/3 innings of a Kane County no-hitter on Saturday before handing the ball to Nathan Dorris for the final five outs. Overall, Skulina has gone 2-1, 3.19 this season and has allowed 29 hits in 42 innings, but he’s also walked 17 batters against 32 strikeouts, meaning he still has control issues to work out.
8. Luis Cruz, lhp, Astros
Team: Double-A Corpus Christi (Texas)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 1/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 9 SO
The Scoop: While Mark Appel struggled to adjust to the Astros’ tandem rotation and found himself back in extended spring training, Cruz found the piggyback system to be a career-maker. Given a chance to start last year thanks to the Astros deploying eight “starters” at each level, Cruz proved himself worthy. He’s a strike-thrower who hits his spots with an average fastball, curveball and changeup. He’s allowed one run or fewer in seven of his 10 outings this season, but this week’s excellent outing was much-needed. It came after he gave up five runs while retiring only one batter in his previous start.
9. Michael Taylor, cf, Nationals
Team: Double-A Harrisburg (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: .375/.459/.688 (12-for-32), 9 R, 1 2B, 3 HR, 5 RBIs, 5 BB, 10 SO, 5 SB, 0 CS
The Scoop: A center fielder with plus speed and defense is always good, but adding power to that package makes things more tantalizing. So it should come as great comfort to Nationals fans that Taylor has started launching balls at Double-A. He belted three this week, boosting his season total to 11. The total not only pushed him past his previous career high, it also helped him unseat the since-promoted Kyle Roller as the Eastern League’s reigning sultan of swat.
10. Javier Baez, ss, Cubs
Team: Triple-A Iowa (Pacific Coast)
Why He’s Here: .429/.433/.929 (12-for-28), 6 R, 5 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBIs, 1 BB, 5 SO, 0-for-1 SB
The Scoop: It felt weird not seeing the elite prospect on the Hot Sheet yet this year, but Baez has gone from last week’s Not-So Hot status to red hot with his first Baez-esque week of the season. That includes massive home runs—including one that left Round Rock’s stadium—several extra-base hits and not a whole lot of plate discipline. When Baez connects, he hits the ball very hard—he had eight extra-base hits and four singles this week—but this power surge isn’t enough—yet—to declare his month-long slump over.
11. Brandon Nimmo, cf, Mets
Team: high Class A St. Lucie (Florida State)
Why He’s Here: .391/.548/.652 (9-for-23), 7 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBIs, 8 BB, 4 SO, 1-for 2 SB
The Scoop: Part of St. Lucie’s terrific top-of-the-order trio with Dilson Herrera and T.J. Rivera, Nimmo has turned the corner and then some this season in the FSL. He reached base 17 times this week and has done so in nine consecutive games. He leads the FSL in on-base percentage (.477), runs (44) and walks (45), while ranking second in the batting race (.341) and eighth in slugging (.474). With all-star festivities just a few weeks off, expect Nimmo to play a starring role.
12. Francellis Montas, rhp, White Sox
Team: high Class A Winston-Salem (Carolina)
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 1.93, 14 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 16 SO
The Scoop: When the Red Sox signed Montas out of the Dominican Republic, he was about as raw as they come. What he did have was a 100 mph fastball. So while he once projected as a sure-fire reliever given his double-minus control, he has made strides since joining the White Sox in the Jake Peavy three-team trade last July. Since moving to Winston-Salem this month, Montas has a 1.54 ERA and 26/4 SO/BB ratio in 23 innings. That includes an 11-strikeout outing last night against his former Red Sox org-mates in Salem.
13. Andrew Velazquez, ss, Diamondbacks
Team: low Class A South Bend (Midwest)
Why He’s Here: .355/.353/.774 (11-for-31) 2 2B, 4 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBIs, 1 BB, 2 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: The 2012 seventh-round pick out of Fordham Prep in the Bronx has carried over a strong 2013 finish with the bat to this season. He’s a plus-runner, evidenced by four triples in the past week and nine overall, and 10 stolen bases. The switch-hitter has gone 15-for-39 (.385) in his past 10 games to raise his batting line to .285/.345/.475 for the season, and he ranks third in the MWL with 20 extra-base hits.
In The Team Photo
Barrett Astin, rhp, Brewers. The 2013 third-round pick from Arkansas has adapted to low Class A Wisconsin after a middling start at Rookie-level Helena a year ago. This past week the 22-year-old hurled seven, two-hit innings with no walks and seven strikeouts in a no-decision against Kane County and did it with just 72 pitches. Overall, Astin has gone 4-2, 3.65, but has an outstanding 7.0 SO/BB ratio. He keeps the ball in the park and doesn’t walk anyone and could move quickly through the system, thanks to command and a heavy fastball that flashes 94-95 mph.
Jon Griffin, 1b, Diamondbacks. We get it: He’s a 25-year-old at Double-A Mobile who fell out of Arizona’s Top 30 Prospects this year. But as Josh Norris noted in his Minor League Roundup, no matter who you are, four bombs in a game is always impressive, even if one came off a position player. Griffin homered twice more this week and finished with a .400/.500/1.300 batting line.
Jake Junis, rhp, Royals: Junis was one of the beneficiaries of the final year of the old draft rules, when teams could spend freely on projectable talents. After signing for $675,000 as a 29th-rounder in 2011, he posted a brutal 7.39 ERA last year at Rookie-level Idaho Falls. Low Class A Lexington has treated him better. The 21-year-old held Hagerstown hitless for eight scoreless innings this week.
Antonio Senzatela, rhp, Rockies. Senzatela doesn’t have the overpowering stuff or the sharp breaking pitch to miss many bats, but he’s an adept strike-thrower who’s feel for attacking hitters goes beyond the typical 19-year-old. Removed one out away from the rare nine-inning complete game in the minors yesterday, Senzatela held low Class A Hagerstown to one run with three hits, one walk and two strikeouts for Asheville
Nick Travieso, rhp, Reds: The Reds haven’t whiffed on a first-round pick since they took Ryan Wagner in 2003. A year ago, Travieso looked like he might endanger that streak as his stuff backed up in his first full season. It’s picked back up at low Class A Dayton this year, and so have his results. Travieso has a 20/2 SO/BB ratio this month and has allowed one home run in nine starts.
Julio Urias, lhp, Dodgers: Teen prospects are going to have their ups and their downs. Urias is no exception, only his fluctuations have more to do with mastering the high Class A California League than begging for the car on a Friday night. He was brilliant this week for Rancho Cucamonga, however, holding his opponents to one run over nine innings (two starts) on four hits and two walks and striking out 10.
Kaleb Cowart, 3b, Angels. The 21-year-old switch-hitter made the jump to Double-A Arkansas, but his lefthanded swing has not. In 540 career plate appearances versus Texas League righties, Cowart has hit .214/.279/.295 with six homers. A tough 2-for-26 (.077) week with seven whiffs dropped his season average to .219, though with an 11-for-11 showing on the basepaths he’s added a new wrinkle—speed—this season.
Colin Moran, 3b, Marlins. Still working his way back into form after a spring-training injury, Moran has yet to find his power stroke at high Class A Jupiter (zero home runs, .330 slugging in 29 games). The 2013 first-rounder waded a little farther into the deep end this week, going 2-for-26 (.077) with six strikeouts, two walks, no extra-base hits and three double plays grounded into.
Yorman Rodriguez, cf, Reds. Only Double-A Pensacola teammate Juan Duran has a higher strikeout rate than Rodriguez (29 percent) in the Southern League. A 1-for-20 (.050) week with nine strikeouts and no walks typifies the struggles experienced by the 21-year-old Rodriguez, who has raw tools aplenty but is a career .259/.310/.394 hitter in six minor league seasons. The Reds probably won’t know what they have in the young center fielder for several more years.
Gary Sanchez, c, Yankees. At 21 and still among the younger players in the Double-A Eastern League, Sanchez impressed with a quick start, slashing .316/.388/.387 for Trenton in April. He’s crashed back to Earth this month, especially so in the past week, with one hit in 21 at-bats (.048). This month he’s hitting .127/.210/.225 with 17 strikeouts in 20 games.
Brady Lail, rhp, Yankees: Lail just missed making the Yankees’ Top 30 Prospects list this year, and he’s showing why the organization thought highly of the 2012 18th-rounder with his performance at low Class A Charleston. The Utah high school product fanned 11 in 6 1/3 innings this week, and for the season he has struck out 44 against just six walks, though he has surrendered 46 hits in 44 innings.