Baseball America

Prospect Hot Sheet: May 29


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Prospect
Hot
Sheets


When the Yankees signed Jesus Montero to a seven-figure bonus in 2006 out of Venezuela, scouts were skeptical about his ability to remain at catcher. But right now, it doesn’t look like it matters whether he can catch—his bat is that good.

While most 19-year-olds are either in low Class A or awaiting an assignment to a short-season club, Montero is pushing for a promotion to Double-A with his work at the plate. The track record of Latin American prospects signed to huge July 2 bonuses is filled with flameouts, but Montero looks like he’ll be filed away in the success column.

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 22-28).

Contributing: Ben Badler,
Dan Budreika, Jesse Burkhart, J.J. Cooper, Josh Leventhal
, Jim Shonerd.

No. 1 JESUS MONTERO, C YANKEES

Team: high Class A Tampa (Florida State)

Age: 19

Why He’s Here: .435/.440/.826 (10-for-23) 2 HR, 3 2B, 9 RBIs, 1 SO, 1 BB

The Scoop: There aren’t many pitches Jesus Montero doesn’t like, and almost equally few that he misses. Montero drew just one walk and one strikeout in 25 plate appearances this week—and scorched the rest.

The 19-year-old Montero, signed out of Venezuela in 2006 for $1.65 million, is one of the Florida State League’s youngest players—and one of its hottest. He boosted his season total for hits to 54 and slugging percentage to .569—both good for second in the traditionally pitcher-friendly circuit. Montero has had little problem making the leap from the low Class A South Atlantic League, which he led last year in hits (171) and ranked second in batting (.326) and total bases (258).  He has hit safely in eight consecutive games — including a 8-for-16 stretch in his last two games — and mashed a pair of home runs Thursday night against Fort Myers, including one off Twins No. 9 prospect Carlos Gutierrez.

Whether the defensively challenged Montero would remain behind the plate in the long term was his biggest question entering the season, and he has split time between catcher and DH. He’s hit better when serving as the DH compared to when he has to play the field, but there doesn’t seem to be much than can slow down Montero’s bat.

2009
Stats
No. 2 VIN MAZZARO, RHP

ATHLETICS

Team: Triple-A Sacramento (Pacific Coast)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 14 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 HBP, 2 BB, 12 Ks

The Scoop: Mazarro could be the top pitching prospect in some organizations, but in Oakland he’s just another dot on the map. Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson are no secret, Michael Ynoa holds the July 2 bonus record and lefties Gio Gonzalez and Josh Outman have also joined Cahill and Anderson in Oakland this year. It might not be long before Mazzaro joins them in Oakland, either. In Mazzaro’s last four starts—a stretch of 27 2/3 innings—he’s allowed just one earned run, including eight shutout innings of one-hit ball last Friday. Mazzaro doesn’t have any outstanding pitches, but he throws strikes and keeps the ball on the ground, which is why he has a 2.38 ERA in 56 2/3 innings this year.

2009
Stats
No. 3 JOSH VITTERS, 3B

CUBS

Team: Low Class A Peoria (Midwest)

Age: 19

Why He’s Here: .391/.440/.783 (9-for-23), 3 HR, 6 R, 5 RBIs, 1 BB, 3 SO

The Scoop: Vitters is going to hate to see the month of May end. The Cubs’ 2007 first-round pick continued his demolition of Midwest League pitching this past week, slugging another three home runs to give him 10 for the month and 11 for the season, putting him second in the MWL. Vitters’ power hasn’t come at the expense of his average either, as he hit .400/.423/.750 for the month and bumped up his season line to .362/.393/.620, putting his average third in the league. He hasn’t toned down his approach any, as he drew just his fourth walk of the season Tuesday, but opposing pitchers still haven’t been able to get much past him.

2009
Stats
No. 4 MADISON BUMGARNER, LHP

GIANTS

Team: Double-A Connecticut (Eastern)

Age: 19

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 SO

The Scoop: Bumgarner hung out in the high Class A California League, striking out 23 in 24 innings, until the weather warmed in the Eastern League. He’s made up for lost time in the three starts since his promotion, yielding just one run on 10 hits in 18 innings, proving he might not be long for this level either. He picked up a win with six shutout innings last Saturday against Portland, bringing his season totals to 6-1, 1.09  with 44 strikeouts and eight walks in 42 innings. For the record, Bumgarner would be leading both leagues in ERA if he met the minimum number of innings pitched required.

2009
Stats
No. 5 TOMMY HANSON, RHP

BRAVES

Team:
Triple-A Gwinnett (International)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 0-0, 1.29, 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 Ks

The Scoop: Hanson still being in the minor leagues is becoming a bit absurd, given that his stuff is among the best in baseball and that his command has shown improvement recently as well. In his first six starts, Hanson walked 9.2 percent of the batters he faced. In his last four starts, he’s shaved his walk rate to 4.9 percent in those outings. His numbers are just silly, with a 1.48 ERA, 82 strikeouts and 17 walks in 60 2/3 innings. As long as Hanson keeps dominating Triple-A hitters, we’ll be putting him on the Hot Sheet, but really, he belongs in the big leagues.

2009
Stats
No. 6 COREY BROWN, CF

ATHLETICS

Team: Double-A Midland (Texas)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .500/.552/.923 (13-for-26), 4 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 10 RBIs, 2 BB, 3 SO

.481/.481/1.148 (13-for-27), 5 HR, 3 2B, 9 R, 10 RBIs, 5 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: What a week for Oakland’s Double-A squad. Brown, Adrian Cardenas, Josh Horton, Chris Carter and Josh Donaldson each finished the Hot Sheet week with an OPS above 1.000. Brown was outstanding this week, as he has been through 30 games so far this year. He’s hitting .345/.433/.621, and while he’s still has 30 strikeouts in 134 trips to the plate, his strikeout rate is actually down from last year despite moving up a level. If Brown’s decreased strikeout rate over a 30-game sample turns out to be a true improvement in his ability to put the barrel to the ball, he becomes a very promising prospect.

2009
Stats
No. 7 CHRIS HEISEY, CF

REDS

Team: Double-A Carolina (Southern)

Age: 24

Why He’s Here:  .500/.556/.818 (12-for-29), 1 2B, 2 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBIs, 4 BB, 0 Ks, 2 SB

The Scoop: Heisey is quickly going from being an intriguing sleeper prospect to one of the best prospects in the Reds system. Although he can hit most anywhere in the lineup, it’s hard not to admire his leadoff skills—with 24 walks and only 13 strikeouts all season, Heisey is a walking example of a tough out. He also makes pitchers pay once he reaches. He’s stolen nine bases in 10 tries this year and is now 74-for-88 (84 percent) for his career.

2009
Stats
No. 8 BRANDON SNYDER, 1B

ORIOLES

Team:
Double-A Bowie (Eastern)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .333/.556/.667 (6-for-18), 2 HR, 4 R, 6 RBIs, 7, BB, 7 SO

The Scoop: Snyder makes his 2009 Hot Sheet debut on the strength of his power bat, which has been on display throughout the first two months of the season. The former 2005 first rounder first began to tap into his offensive potential last year at high Class A Frederick, where he showed an improved hitting approach in staying back on offspeed pitches and working deeper counts. And last year’s success has spilled over into this year, as the 6-foot-2, 210-pound first baseman leads all Eastern Leaguers in slugging percentage (.616) and ranks among the top five in batting average (.351) and on-base percentage (.422). Below-average range and footwork keep Snyder from becoming an adequate defender, leading to speculation that he will ultimately wind up in the outfield. But as long as he keeps hitting like this, there will always be a place for him in a lineup, no matter the defensive shortcomings.

2009
Stats
No. 9 BEN REVERE, CF

TWINS

Team: High Class A Fort Myers (Florida State)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .476/.542/.571 (10-for-21), 2 2B, 5 R, 2 BB, 1 SO, 4-for-5 SB

The Scoop: A frequent Hot Sheeter last year, Revere is making his 2009 Hot Sheet debut as he’s riding a six-game hitting streak that’s included three multi-hit games this past week. Revere’s bat needed a little time to get going in the pitcher-friendly FSL, but he’s hitting a robust .386/.426/.443 in May, putting his line for the year at .343/.406/.402. With only 15 strikeouts in 169 at-bats on the season, Revere has continued showing the superb pitch recognition and bat control that made him one of the best prospects in the Midwest League last year. His average ranks second in the FSL and he’s also third in the league with 20 steals.

2009
Stats
No. 10 JASON HEYWARD, RF

BRAVES

Team: High Class A Myrtle Beach (Carolina)

Age: 19

Why He’s Here: .400/.438/.867 (6 for 15), 2 HR, 1 2B, 4 R, 5 RBI

The Scoop: Atlanta’s hulking 6-foot-4, 220-pound prize prospect continues to impress. After receiving a seven-game cameo with Myrtle Beach to finish out the 2008 season, Heyward started the 2009 season with the Pelicans. The Braves believed his power would come once he began to use his hands more effectively. He is starting to show his true power potential and has smacked nine home runs this season in 139 ABs. Two of those came this past week and he’s just two homers shy of his entire home run output of 11 during the 2008 season. With a .561 slugging percentage in a park known for depressing power, it’s fair to say that the 19-year-old is starting to tap into his raw power.

2009
Stats
No. 11 MARTIN PEREZ, RHP

RANGERS

Team: low Class A Hickory (South Atlantic)

Age: 18

Why He’s Here: 0-0, 0.00, 4 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 9 Ks

The Scoop: Pitching four shutout innings doesn’t normally qualify a pitcher for the Hot Sheet, but Perez has been sensational on a tight pitch count all year. With a plus fastball and a plus curveball, Perez now has a 2.43 ERA with a 50-14 K-BB mark in 40 2/3 innings, while 65 percent of his outs on balls in play have come on the ground. His arm is loose and his delivery is clean and repeatable, but because of Perez’s youth the Rangers have yet to let him go more than 5 1/3 innings in any of his nine appearances. But even at 18, he already looks like he’s too advanced for low Class A.

2009
Stats
No. 12 JASON CASTRO, C

ASTROS

Team: high Class A Lancaster (California)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .435/.536/.696 (10-for-23), 6 2B, 5 R, 9 RBIs, 4 BB, 6 SO

The Scoop: Although Castro is being aided by playing in an extreme hitter’s park in a hitter’s league, the Astros’ top prospect is exhibiting the above-average power that scouts projected for him coming out of Stanford last year. With a .289/.372/.480 line on the season, Castro, along with former Cape Cod League teammate Buster Posey, is one of the top-three offensive catchers in the California League. Castro now ranks among the top five in doubles (16) and RBIs (36) after his extra-base bonanza this week (six doubles in his last six games).

2009
Stats
No. 13 MICHAEL TAYLOR, LF

PHILLIES

Team: Double-A Reading (Eastern)

Age: 23

Why He’s Here: .382/.382/.676 (13-for-34), 2 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR,  8 RBIs, 2 SB

The
Scoop:
Any concerns about Taylor’s bat coming out of Stanford have been pretty well answered, as Taylor has hit .320 or better in each of his three full-season stops. At Stanford, Taylor didn’t use his legs much in his swing, but he’s figured out how to make that adjustment in the pros. That explains why he’s hitting more home runs now than he did in college with a metal bat.

2009
Stats

IN THE TEAM
PHOTO

Double-A Portland RHP Junichi Tazawa (Red Sox) has been amazingly consistent in his first taste of North American baseball. The 22-year-old Japanese righthander has allowed three runs or less in nine of his first 10 starts, posting a 5-3, 2.82 record in the process. This past week, he tossed six shutout innings against Connecticut last Friday, then struck out seven over five innings while allowing two runs Thursday against New Hampshire . . . Oakland SS Josh Horton does some things well—he put the bat to the ball and shows a good eye at the plate—but this week he did a lot of things well for Double-A Midland. The 23-year-old went 12-for-29 with two homers, two triples, a double, four walks and two steals in two attempts with just one strikeout. He did make three errors, though, giving him 14 in 36 games at shortstop . . . Adrian Cardenas teamed up with Horton at 2B to form the top-hitting middle infield in the minors this week. Cardenas went 10-for-23 with a homer, a double and seven walks, bringing the 21-year-old to .386/.471/.594 in 25 Double-A games after a brief but not-so-great trial in Triple-A in which he put up a .512 OPS in 18 games . . . High Class A St. Lucie RHP Brad Holt (Mets) hasn’t stopped mowing down FSL hitters yet. The 2008 supplemental first-round pick recorded a season-high 10 strikeouts in six innings while allowing just four hits and one run against Sarasota (Reds) on the way to his third win of the year. After overpowering the New York-Penn League with a mid-90s fastball last year, the heater is also proving too much for his FSL competition this year, as Holt now boasts an excellent 11.2 strikeouts-per-nine rate . . . Double-A RHP Brad Lincoln (Pirates) is living up to the expectations that led to him being selected as the No. 4 overall pick in the 2006 draft out of Houston. The 24-year-old has settled into a groove in Altoona and fired six scoreless innings in his start this week with five strikeouts. Thats now 15-plus scoreless innings in a row for Lincoln and he’s sporting a 0.80 ERA in 33 2/3 innings. It shouldn’t be long before Lincoln gets a shot at Triple-A Indianapolis . . . Double-A Tulsa RHP Esmil Rogers, signed as a shortstop out of the Dominican in 2003, is making the Rockies decision to convert him into a pitcher three seasons ago look like a smart one. In his second full year as a starting pitcher, the slender Rogers has a 3.14 ERA with a 8.71 K/9 rate. Rogers boosted those numbers this week by only allowing two earned runs in 13 innings with 13 strikeouts over two starts.

NOT-SO HOT
SHEET

Jonathon Niese, lhp, Mets: The International League hasn’t been kind to Niese so far in 2009. In seven Triple-A starts, he’s an ugly 0-4, 7.96 in 31 2/3 innings. Command has haunted Niese, as he’s been knocked around to the tune of a .338 average against and has allowed four home runs over his last two starts. His worst was last Friday against Columbus, which touched him up for nine runs (seven earned) on 12 hits over just 3 1/3 innings. He was better Wednesday against Lehigh Valley, but still allowed five runs (all earned) on seven hits over six innings.

Scott Elbert, lhp, Dodgers: Elbert got knocked around in three April big league relief appearances, yielding five earned runs in six innings, before returning full-time to Double-A Chattanooga. He hasn’t taken to that much better, failing to get out of the sixth inning in six starts this season before giving up eight earned runs in 3 1/3 innings of relief last Saturday. For those counting, that’s 11 runs on 17 hits in his past 8 1/3 innings.

Devin Mesoraco, c, Reds There’s an old scouting adage that catchers take longer to start hitting because they have so much else to worry about. The Reds better hope that’s true because Mesoraco is now hitting .180/.281/.311 for high Class A Sarasota. His defense isn’t helping him either—he’s thrown out only 6 of 40 base stealers.

Jefry Marte, 3b, Mets: Marte hasn’t quite built off of last year’s magnificent showing (.324/.393/.528) in the Rooke-level Gulf Coast League. His batting average sits below the Mendoza line at .191 with a strikeout in 25 percent of his trips to the plate, and his OPS is only .504. Marte’s line fell deeper in this trenches this week with a 3-for-25 effort, and his two errors give him 18 on the year. While the performance hasn’t been there for Marte, there’s still plenty of time for his tools to catch up—he doesn’t turn 18 until June 21. 

MEN AMONG
BOYS

Clay Buchholz, rhp, Red Sox: Buchholz has been nothing short of magnificent for Triple-A Pawtucket, though he might be stuck there for awhile before some spots open up in Boston’s rotation. Buchholz appears to have shelved the command issues that torpedoed his 2008 season. He’s allowed only 24 hits and 12 walks in 48 1/3 innings for the PawSox and he leads the IL in ERA with a 3-0, 1.30 mark through seven starts. Buchholz was at his best Monday against Louisville. He carried a perfect game into the ninth inning before giving up a leadoff single, but that was his only blemish as he finished the night with seven strikeouts and allowed no other baserunners.

Aaron Bates, lf, Red Sox: The Red Sox made Bates a third round pick in 2006 out of North Carolina State and he appeared in the 2007 and 2008 Prospect Handbooks. However, he fell off the radar after hitting only .276/.366/.420 with Double-A Portland last year. Drafted as a first baseman, Bates is repeating Double-A and has wisely moved to left field this year, given the presence of Kevin Youkilis in Boston and Bates’ teammate Lars Anderson in Portland. Bates, 25, seems to have finally caught up to the Eastern League, as he’s hitting .333/.403/.527 in 165 at-bats and is showing some of the power he was known for in college and in 2007, when he slugged 24 home runs for high Class A Lancaster. Bates slugged four home runs this week, including two Thursday to give him seven on the season, and hit .370/.452/.815 (10-for-27) in the process.

BLAST FROM THE
PAST

If you’re looking for an example of a journeyman pitcher, it’s hard not to think about Bruce Chen. The one-time Braves prospect is pitching for his 10th different organization and he’s not even 32 yet.

But there’s a reason that Chen keeps getting chances: when he’s on he can be an effective lefty, even if he’s prone to giving up home runs. For Triple-A Omaha, Chen has been solid this year, especially over his last two starts as he’s allowed only one earned run in 14 1/3 innings with 14 strikeouts and only one walk. For a team that has given Sidney Ponson (1-5, 6.49) 43 innings, it’s not outlandish to think that Chen may get to wear his 10th different big league hat.

HELIUM
WATCH

DAVID LOUGH, OF

ROYALS

Team: high Class A Wilmington (Carolina)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .500/.542/.600 (10-for-20), 2 2B, 2 RBIs, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 SB

The
Scoop:
On most teams, David Lough would stand out as an athletic outfielder. But on a Wilmington team that includes Derrick Robinson, Adrian Ortiz and Paulo Orlando, all of whom are plus-plus runners, Lough looks like a scrappy overachiever, even if he is a former college football player. But unlike his three teammates in the outfield, none of whom has an OPS above .600, Lough is proving he can hit. He’s hitting .341/.396/.449 this year, following up on a red-hot ending to the 2008 season at low Class A Burlington. Lough has the ability to play center field, although he’s a corner outfielder with the Blue Rocks roster of speedsters, but his hitting ability could enable him to stand out from his fellow outfielders, even if he may finish last in a 60-yard dash.

2009
Stats

Minors | #2009 #Prospect Hot Sheet

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