Baseball America

Prospect Hot Sheet: May 25

The Prospect Hot Sheet is not a re-ranking of
the Top 100 Prospects. This is a snapshot of which top prospects are
excelling and which ones are struggling right now. Stats cover the period May 18-24.

Contributing: Ben Badler, J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy, Jim Shonerd and interns Pat Hickey, Clint Longnecker and John Sandberg.

No. 1 DANNY HULTZEN, LHP MARINERS
Team: Double-A Jackson (Southern)
Age: 22.
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 1.50, 1 GS, 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 12 SO
The Scoop: Some speculated before spring training that Hultzen could skip right on over the minors and make his pro debut in Seattle. Instead, the Mariners let him join a dream-team Jackson rotation with Taijuan Walker and James Paxton. Hultzen has had his hiccups—he gave up five runs in four innings in his pro debut and he walked seven in 4 1/3 innings in his May 5 start—but overall he’s been everything the Mariners expected. Since that rough first outing, Hultzen has a 0.96 ERA. He fills the zone with quality strikes, is tough to run on (only three of eight basestealers have succeeded) and he’s a great competitor. Hultzen’s fellow 2011 draftee Trevor Bauer just moved up and out of the Southern League. It’s fair to wonder how far behind him Hultzen will be.
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No. 2 TREVOR BAUER, RHP DIAMONDBACKS

Team:
Triple-A Reno (Pacific Coast)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.38, 2 GS, 13 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 HR, 16 SO, 6 BB, 17/4 G/F
The Scoop: “The more strikeouts I get, the less baserunners, the less runs, the more chance of winning. It’s a very linear thought process,” Bauer told the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro last week. After striking out 11.2 batters per nine innings in the Double-A Southern League, Bauer has followed his own advice in a pair of Triple-A starts with 16 whiffs in 13 innings. He currently leads the minors with 76 strikeouts, one more than the Athletics’ Dan Straily, a 23-year-old righthander in Double-A. 

In the same Piecoro interview, Bauer said he distinguishes between good walks and bad, the former coming with runners in scoring position, first base open and a more favorable matchup on deck. His 1.61 ERA through 61 1/3 innings is testament to the effectiveness of this “strategic bypass” strategy. In Bauer’s mind, why give a dangerous hitter a cookie only to avoid a “BB” on one’s stat sheet?

So when can fans expect to see Bauer in Phoenix? If history is any guide, then a callup may be imminent. Of the last three college righthanders to streak through the minors—Mark Prior in 2002, Tim Lincecum in 2007 and Stephen Strasburg in 2010—none made more than 11 minor league starts in the season following his draft year. (Bauer has made 10.) While Bauer’s ERA compares favorably with that trio, his peripherals lag behind, particularly his last-place 1.14 WHIP and 2.4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

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No. 3 TRAVIS D’ARNAUD, C BLUE JAYS
Team:
Triple-A Las Vegas (Pacific Coast)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: .417/.462./1.083 (10-for-24), 8 R, 1 2B, 5 HR, 8 RBIs, 2 BB, 3 SO
The Scoop: After clubbing a career-high 21 home runs in the Eastern League in 2011, d’Arnaud did not display that power during April, going deep just twice with a .424 slugging percentage. He has taken advantage of the hitter-friendly environment at Las Vegas in May, as attested to by his batting line above. D’Arnaud now is batting .298/.360/.534 on the season. With the Blue Jays receiving league-average offensive output from their big league catchers, d’Arnaud has been tasked with improving defensively to fulfill his all-star potential.
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No. 4 ANTHONY RIZZO, 1B CUBS
Team: Triple-A Iowa (Pacific Coast)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: .321/.387/.643 (9-for-28), 3 2B, 2 HR, 7 R, 4 RBIs, 3 BB, 6 SO
The Scoop: After landing at No. 1 in last week’s Hot Sheet, Rizzo cooled off this week—bringing his season batting average all the way down to .353. The 2007 sixth-round pick continues to light up Pacific Coast League pitching. On Tuesday Rizzo put together a three-hit day that included a home run and three RBIs. Rizzo’s 16 homers are the most of any player in the PCL this season, and his .353 average and 43 RBIs also put him among the league leaders. Rizzo’s steady offensive production coupled with the Cubs’ continued struggles make the clamor for Rizzo to be promoted even louder. Chicago manager Dale Sveum said the organization is considering bringing up Rizzo for their series in Minnesota starting June 8.
2012

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No. 5 AUSTIN BRICE, RHP MARLINS

Team:
low Class A Greensboro (South Atlantic)
Age: 19.
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 1 GS, 2 G, 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 15 SO
The Scoop: He’s not nearly as polished, but when it comes to raw stuff, Brice is just a tick or two behind fellow Greensboro Grasshopper Jose Fernandez. Fernandez sits 93-95 mph, touching 97, while Brice sits 92-94, touching 96. Fernandez has a better breaking ball, but Brice’s curve is pretty good as well. Fernandez has better control, but Brice has shown signs that he’s learning to repeat his delivery. While Fernandez dominated from the start this season, Brice, a 2010 ninth-round pick out of a North Carolina high school, spent much of his first month getting shelled. He’s figured some things out since then. Brice gave up 11 runs and nine walks in his first two outings. In five May starts stretching 23 innings, he’s allowed three runs and walked 10.

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No. 6 TYLER ANDERSON, LHP ROCKIES
Team: low Class A Asheville (South Atlantic)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here:  2-0, 1.29, 14 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 12 SO
The Scoop: Anderson made his second professional start this past week. The lefthander out of the University of Oregon pitched seven innings last Friday, earning a win while giving up two runs (one earned) and surrendering just two hits. Anderson also struck out six in the game. The numbers from his following start on Thursday gave the feeling of déjí  vu: seven innings pitched, two runs allowed (one earned), six strikeouts and another win. The 20th overall pick in 2011, Anderson appears to be fully recovered from the groin injury that hampered him for the past several months. After spending time at extended spring training, Anderson joined Asheville in May and is now 3-0, 1.89 through three starts and 19 innings. 
2012

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No. 7 ANTHONY GOSE, CF BLUE JAYS
Team: Triple-A Las Vegas (Pacific Coast)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .448/.515/.655 (13-for-29), 4 2B, 1 3B, 5 R, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 4 SO, 3-for-3 SB
The Scoop: Gose fits the modern-day paradigm for a major league center fielder. He’s a plus runner, a rangy defender, has a bit of power . . . and he completes the picture with plenty of swinging and missing. Think Drew Stubbs, Austin Jackson, B.J. Upton, (Blue Jays organization-mate) Colby Rasmus, Cameron Maybin and Chris Young. However, Gose’s raw speed could be a separator for him in the outfield and on the basepaths. He previously won stolen-base crowns in the South Atlantic (in 2009) and Eastern leagues (last year), and now he leads the Pacific Coast League with 17 steals in 20 attempts. With 50 whiffs thus far, Gose also ranks among the PCL leaders in that category—after ranking second in the EL last year. At least that provides him with an obvious area for improvement—and if he does, well Rasmus will have to watch his back.
2012

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No. 8 ROUGNED ODOR, 2B RANGERS
Team: low Class A Hickory (South Atlantic)
Age: 18
Why He’s Here: .381/.536/.857 (8-for-21), 7 R, 4 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 4 BB, 2 SO, 2-for-3 SB
The Scoop: Remember, Odor became eligible to sign on July 2, 2010, and has only been signed to a professional contract for 17 months. While most players his age are either getting ready to go back to the Dominican Summer League or make their U.S. debut in one of the Rookie-level complex leagues this summer, Odor is already killing it in full-season ball. While some other teams were concerned about Odor’s size, his average speed or the fact that he’d fit better at second base than shortstop, the Rangers were drawn to his sweet swing and the ability to hit in games that he’s shown during his experience in international competition for Venezuela. Now he’s hitting .280/.343/.478 with six home runs in 41 games, giving the Rangers yet another quality prospect from the international ranks.
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No. 9 DAN STRAILY, RHP ATHLETICS
Team: Double-A Midland (Texas)
Age: 23.
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 2.08, 2 GS, 13 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 21 SO
The Scoop: A 24th-round pick out of Marshall in 2009, Straily’s spot in the Athletics pecking order took a hit when the team added several talented pitching prospects in the offseason, but weeks like this will help get Straily noticed. He has reached double digits in strikeouts three times this year, including a 15-strikeout performance against Corpus Christi last Friday that ranks as the most strikeouts by any minor league pitcher this season. Straily lost a significant amount of weight in the offseason, which has added to his durability and his velocity (he’s frequently sitting at 92-94 mph and more nowadays). His changeup also has improved, going from a show-me pitch to something he can use consistently. Pair that with his plus slider and he’s proving quite the challenge for Texas League batters.
2012

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No. 10 C.J. CRON, 1B ANGELS
Team: high Class A Inland Empire (California)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: .478/.520/.870 (11-for-23), 2 HR, 3 2B, 7 RBIs, 4 R, 2 BB, 1 SO
The Scoop: The 17th pick in last year’s draft, Cron has embellished his OPS by more than 100 points in the last two-odd weeks, during which time he’s hit nearly half his seven homers on the season. Since May 6, Cron has batted .369/.414/.600 (24-for-65) with nine extra-base hits and just seven strikeouts in 17 games. His season OPS climbed from .685 to .807 in that time, a sign that Cron may be getting his feet under him after skipping over low Class A on his way to the Cal League.
2012

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No. 11 ADEINY HECHAVARRIA, SS BLUE JAYS
Team: Triple-A Las Vegas (Pacific Coast)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: .423/.500/.692 (11-for-26), 1 HR, 2 2B, 1 3B, 6 R, 5 RBIs, 4 BB, 2 SO, 1-for-2 SB
The Scoop: Granted, the PCL is a hitter-friendly league, but Hechavarria is playing his way to at least a cup of coffee in September. He’s now hitting .344/.395/.495 in 305 at-bats at Las Vegas during the past two seasons. Signed out of Cuba for a club-record $4 million in 2010, Toronto gave him a major league contract primarily based on his defense and speed. Scouts believe Hechavarria will hit for average because of his hands and swing path, but his biggest hurdle is a lack of plate discipline. He’s drawn a walk in just 5.6 percent of his career plate appearances.
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No. 12 JIMMY NELSON, RHP BREWERS

Team:
high Class A Brevard County (Florida State)
Age: 22.
Why He’s Here: 1-1, 1.13, 2 GS, 16 IP, 11 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 12 Ks.
The Scoop: Before the season ever began, some Brewers officials would point out that Nelson could match highly regarded 2011 draftees Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley pitch for pitch. Right now he’s topping them pitch for pitch. Pitching for the same Brevard County team, Nelson leads the trio in ERA (2.13), strikeout rate (8.81 per nine innings), walk rate (2.27 per nine) and WHIP (1.07). Nelson is especially nightmarish for righthanded batters. They are hitting an ugly .157/.181/.230 against him.
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No. 13 DYLAN BUNDY, RHP ORIOLES
Team: low Class A Delmarva (South Atlantic)
Age: 19
Why He’s
Here:
1-0, 0.00, 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 SO
The Scoop: The sturdy 6-foot-1 righthander won his first game as a professional on Sunday against the Hagerstown Suns as he went five innings for the second straight start, while not allowing a run and striking out four. In his eight South Atlantic League starts, Bundy did not give up a run, walked just two, and struck out 40 percent of the batters he faced. On Wednesday the Orioles promoted Bundy to high Class A Frederick and he’ll make his highly-anticipated Carolina League debut on Saturday against Salem. 
2012

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IN THE TEAM PHOTO

No minor league performance may be so singularly impressive this season as that of high Class A Bakersfield LHPTony Cingrani, who has allowed a mere 12 runs in nine starts in the pitcher’s nightmare that is the California League. The 21-year-old allowed 12 hits and two walks in 11 1/3 innings in two starts this week, but he bore down when it counted, allowing just four runs (three earned) and striking out 16. The Reds 2011 third-rounder now leads the Cal League in ERA (1.05), strikeouts (69), WHIP (0.92) and opponent average (.188) . . . Angels RHP Ariel Pena‘s ERA stood at 4.94 after his first five starts with Double-A Arkansas. No surprise given that the 23-year-old has struggled to harness his power fastball and slider consistently in the past. But he’s reeled off four straight quality starts since then and had his best outing of the year this week, tossing six scoreless innings against Northwest Arkansas, allowing five hits, no walks and striking out eight. He lowered his ERA to 3.61 and ranks second in the Texas League in whiffs with 54 in 52 innings . . . Mets RHP Rafael Montero opened eyes with his command of a low-90s fastball in short-season ball last year, and he’s carried that up to his first full year with low Class A Savannah at age 21. Montero leads the South Atlantic League in walks per nine innings (1.22) and ranks fourth in WHIP (0.97). He dropped his ERA to 2.64 with six shutout innings against Augusta on Sunday, allowing only one hit and striking out five to go with two walks . . . The Marlins have quite the pitching staff at low Class A Greensboro, where 20-year-old RHP Jose Urena may fly under the radar. He shouldn’t, though, not with his combination of quality stuff and impressive performance, as he’s held down a 2.92 ERA in a hitter-friendly park through 37 innings with 28 whiffs and 10 walks . . . Phillies RF Leandro Castro compiled 14 hits over the past week for Double-A Reading and is currently in the midst of an eight-game hitting streak. Monday night the 22-year-old Castro went 3-for4 with a run scored, following that with a late-inning home run to fuel a comeback victory on Thursday. Castro is batting .272/.310/.442 this year in his first season at Double-A . . . Pirates CF Mel Rojas Jr. hit his first two home runs of the year for high Class A Bradenton. Rojas has had to endure a steep learning curve since being drafted in the third round in 2010, but the switch-hitter has improved against southpaws after batting .200/.260/.281 in 2011. The Pirates like the 22-year-old’s upside and still view him as a five-tool player . . . Phillies CF Tyson Gillies is finally healthy, and broke out of a 1-for-28 slump this week by hitting .550/.609/.850 (11-for 20) with three triples for Double-A Reading. The Canadian 23-year-old has a career .396 on-base percentage, but he has battled hamstring issues since coming over from the Mariners in the Cliff Lee deal in 2009.

BLAST FROM THE PAST

Brett Cecil, lhp, Blue Jays. After spending much of the past three seasons in the Blue Jays rotation, Cecil was asked to start over this year. Last year when the Blue Jays sent Cecil down, he went to Triple-A Las Vegas. This year, he was asked to head back to Double-A New Hampshire, a spot he’d last seen back in 2008. Cecil was a 21-year-old on his way up then. Now he’s a 25-year-old trying to find his way back as he recovers from a groin injury. There’s no better way to do that than what he did this week—Cecil threw 5 2/3 hitless innings as he and two relievers combined on a no-hitter of Portland.


NOT-SO HOT
SHEET

Felix Sterling, rhp, Indians: Sterling throws hard, but he’s going to show he’s got more in the tank than just a plus fastball. Pitching for low Class A Lake County, the 19-year-old got shelled this week, giving up 12 runs (including four homers) in just 2 1/3 innings, walking seven and hitting a batter in a nightmare outing. He had mixed in some solid starts before yesterday, so it hasn’t been all bad news for Sterling, but there’s still a long ways to go here.

Dallas Keuchel, lhp, Astros. Keuchel lacks any overwhelming pitches, surviving on movement and pitchability to overcome a fastball that sits in the mid- to high 80s and might brush 91 mph on occasion. He’d pitched well for Triple-A Oklahoma City, going 4-2, 2.09 through his first eight starts, but the wheels came off this week. Keuchel, 24, was blasted for 12 runs (all earned) on 13 hits in four innings at Reno last Saturday, and followed that up with allowing another eight runs (seven earned) on 11 hits in 3 2/3 at Colorado Springs on Thursday. His ERA more than doubled to 4.52, as the 20 runs he allowed were more than from his first eight starts combined (14).

Robbie Grossman, of, Pirates. With the Pirates’ big league offense nearing historic records of futility, any hitting prospect in the upper minors would appear to be on the fast track to a spot in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately for Grossman, he’s making the doubters of his outstanding 2011 season seem prescient. The 22-year-old ranked among the best players in the Florida State League last year, but some scouts were not sold, pointing out he was repeating the level while also wondering if he would end up being an outfield tweener. Grossman is still drawing walks, but his .202 batting average is killing the rest of his game. His strikeout rate hasn’t jumped appreciably, so there is hope that some of this is just some early season bad luck, but an 0-for-18 week isn’t aiding those hopes.

Miguel Sano, 3b, Twins. With big power comes big responsibility. Swing and miss enough while going for extra bases and strikeouts result. Bunch enough strikeouts together and slumps result, such was life for low Class A Beloit’s Miguel Sano last week. He went 0-for-19 with nine whiffs, though he did walk three times, steal a base and score two runs. The 19-year-old Sano leads the Midwest League with 11 homers, but his recent lean times have dropped his isolated power (.282) under .300 on the season. The prospect “300 Club” now includes players such as the Braves’ Evan Gattis (.379), the Royals’ Wil Myers (.377), the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo (.353) and the Yankees’ Tyler Austin (.353).

MAN AMONG BOYS

Corey Brown, cf, Nationals: A historically frustrating player for scouts, Brown tantalizes with his physical tools but lacks a consistent approach at the plate and piles up strikeouts. But his tools were what made him the 59th overall pick by the Athletics in 2007 out of Oklahoma State, and the 26-year-old looks like he’s turning a corner with Triple-A Syracuse in his second season in the Nationals system. Brown hit just .235/.326/.402 with Syracuse last year but has been one of the International League’s best hitters in 2012, batting .294/.399/.561 with his .960 OPS that ranks fifth in the league. He’s improved his walk and strikeout rates and done it without sacrificing power. Brown homered in four straight games this week, part of a .346/.379/.923 (9-for-26) week, has eight long balls in May and 11 for the year after hitting 14 last year. Brown lost his place on Washington’s 40-man roster after last season, but he’s making a loud case for another shot.

HELIUM WATCH

Sergio Velis, lhp, Phillies. The Venezuelan Summer League season has started, and while the league is down to just four teams—the Phillies, Mariners, Tigers and Rays—there are still a handful of intriguing prospects in the league. One of them is Velis, a 17-year-old Venezuelan the Phillies signed last year for $125,000 from Pedro Castillo, the same trainer who had big-ticket 16-year-old outfielder Carlos Tocci. While Tocci will debut in the Gulf Coast League, Velis has gotten off to a fine start in the VSL, where he has an ERA of 0.75 through two starts with 14 strikeouts and five walks in 12 innings. Though undersized at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, Velis is a strike-thrower who mixes an average fastball with the makings of a quality changeup, with plenty of pitchability to keep hitters off balance.

Minors | #2012 #Prospect Hot Sheet

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