This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet covers minor league games from May 23-29. 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. Kris Bryant, 3b, Cubs
Team: Double-A Tennessee (Southern)
Why He’s Here: .435/.581/1.043 (10-for-23), 5 R, 2 2B, 4 HR, 5 RBIs, 8 BB, 8 SO, 0-for-2 SB
The Scoop: We’re nearing the one-year anniversary of the 2013 draft and the Cubs have every reason to be thrilled with their first-round pick. Bryant ranks third in the minors in home runs thanks to an 11-bomb power binge this month. He’s hitting for average, drawing walks and generally proving to be the most frightening hitter any Southern League pitcher faces.
Yes, Bryant strikes out more than one would like, a price for his power, and he’s not yet a reliable third baseman (10 errors and a .930 fielding percentage), but he’s effectively lived up to every bit of his pre-draft scouting report.
2. Jesse Winker, lf, Reds
Team: high Class A Bakersfield (California)
Why He’s Here: .565/.655/.957 (13-for-23), 4 R, 3 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBIs, 6 BB, 3 SO
The Scoop: The offensive baseline for a slow-footed, defensive liability in left field is a high bar for a prospect to clear, but Winker has the talent to make it happen. With a mature hitting approach and an easy, low-maintenance stroke, he gets on base at a high clip with a knack for the barrel and the ability to drive the ball to all fields. He rarely mishits a ball and backs it up with plus power, with the ability to launch home runs to the middle of the field. Nobody’s ever going to confuse Winker for Billy Hamilton, but when he’s in the batter’s box, there are few players in the minors who can match his upside.
3. Steven Moya, rf, Tigers
Team: Double-A Erie (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: .394/.394/.970 (13-for-33), 10 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 10 RBIs, 0 BB, 8 SO, 2-for-2 SB
The Scoop: Catch Moya on a good day or the right week and you would think you’re looking at a future all-star. With a monster frame, huge raw power and plenty of arm strength in right field, he teases scouts with his tools. Moya has drawn only one walk the entire month of May, but he has hit five home runs in his last six games, bringing him up to .269/.289/.532 with 10 home runs in 49 games. He’s a long-armed, free swinger with a lot of holes in his stroke, but when his timing at the plate is right and he gets pitches in his kill zone, he’s capable of power streaks like this one.
4. D.J. Peterson, 3b, Mariners
Team: high Class A High Desert (California)
Why He’s Here: .345/.441/.931 (10-for-29) 7 R, 2 2B, 5 HR, 10 RBIs, 5 BB, 8 SO
The Scoop: The best pure hitter in the Mariners system has put on a power show in the past week, slugging five of his 10 homers in the past seven days. Peterson hit just two homers in April but has slugged .589 this month. He said something clicked during a game against Lancaster after he ripped a double to right-center field. Moving away from a pull-happy approach and back to his line-drive swing has righted the ship.
5. Hunter Renfroe, rf, Padres
Team: high Class A Lake Elsinore (California)
Why He’s Here: .414/.469/.897 (12-for-29), 7 R, 2 2B, 4 HR, 8 RBIs, 3 BB, 9 SO
The Scoop: Yes, it’s the Cal League, so hitters will hit, but Renfroe’s week was remarkable. Of those four longballs, three came in consecutive games as part of an eight-game hitting streak. This week was also the microcosm of a great month that has seen Renfroe slash .309/.379/.600 and collect hits in all but four games.
6. Eugenio Suarez, ss, Tigers
Team: Triple-A Toledo (Intenrational)
Why He’s Here: .435/.480/.870 (10-for-23), 5 R, 4 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 1 BB, 3 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Tigers shortstops this year have hit a combined .194/.246/.241, good for a .487 OPS that ranks last in the majors. The Tigers are in the driver’s seat in the AL Central, but with Jose Iglesias on the disabled list, shortstop is one area they could clearly use an upgrade. Enter Suarez, who has been on a tear since being promoted to Triple-A last week. His quick, line-drive stroke and feel for squaring up the baseball have always stood out, but the uptick in power—he already has eight home runs in 49 games after hitting a career-high 10 last year—is an encouraging sign.
7. Carlos Sanchez, 2b/ss, White Sox
Team: Triple-A Charlotte (International)
Why He’s Here: .469/.500/.844 (15-for-32), 8 R, 2 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 12 RBIs, 3 BB, 5 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: For a player with a career .355 slugging percentage, Sanchez surprised us all by smacking six extra-base hits at Triple-A this week, and he’s now hitting .308/.392/.471 in 26 games this May. As a switch-hitter who can run and play both middle-infield posts, Sanchez has a big league role of some variety waiting for him one day, especially if he continues to hit .328/.400/.420 versus righthanders, as he has this season.
8. Tyler Glasnow, rhp, Pirates
Team: high Class A Bradenton (Florida State)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 5 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 12 SO
The Scoop: Much like Red Sox lefty Henry Owens, another tall, wiry pitcher, Glasnow mixes moments of absolute dominance with moments where he can’t find the strike zone. When he’s off, you get moments like last month, when he walked seven in two innings. When he’s on, you get outings like this one, where he could have gone all Satchel Paige and called his fielders off the field. Just five of the 19 Tampa batters he faced put the ball in play.
9. Kevin Plawecki, c, Mets
Team: Double-A Binghamton (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: .462/.500/.962 (12-for-26), 6 R, 4 2B, 3 HR, 10 RBIs, 2 BB, 2 SO
The Scoop: He may never be a defensive wizard behind the plate, but Plawecki continues to show improvement, and if he keeps hitting like this, he’s going to find a way to play most every day. He hits for average, has average power and strikes out infrequently. Add it up, and it’s a very useful combination of skills and tools.
10. Andrew Heaney, lhp, Marlins
Team: Triple-A New Orleans (Pacific Coast)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 7 SO, 0 BB
The Scoop: Dominant in his second Triple-A start, Heaney has exhibited stellar command all season with a 5.0 SO/BB ratio in 65 innings at Double-A and Triple-A. His fastball has been clocked at above-average velocities with late life, sitting a comfy 91-92 mph and touching 96. His slider has shown better depth and is a plus pitch. His changeup has been a vital weapon for him as well. For more on the Marlins’ top prospect, see our recent What To Expect feature.
11. Michael Taylor, cf, Nationals
Team: Double-A Harrisburg (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: .433/.500/.867 (13-for-30), 6 R, 2 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 7 RBIs, 4 BB, 10 SO, 2-for-2 SB
The Scoop: Taylor is on the list for the second straight week, and for many of the same reasons. He already plays above-average defense in center field and has plus speed, so if the surge with the bat is real, he could take his prospect status to a new level. Overall in May he’s slashing .370/.442/.730 with nine homers and is riding a nine-game hitting streak.
12. Henry Owens, lhp, Red Sox
Team: Double-A Portland (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.00, 14 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 11 SO
The Scoop: With the lanky Owens, only one factor determines whether he’s going to dominate or struggle on any night. Can he throw strikes? On nights where he’s throwing strikes on two-thirds of his pitches, he has a 0.83 ERA with 35 strikeouts and six walks in 33 innings. In all other starts, he’s posted a 4.26 ERA with 24 walks and 33 strikeouts in 33 innings. Lately, Owens has been finding the zone with a fastball that naturally is hard for batters to spot.
13. Dante Bichette Jr., 3b, Yankees
Team: high Class A Tampa (Florida State)
Why He’s Here: .348/.433/.783 (8-for-23), 4 R, 2B, 3 HR, 13 RBIs, 3 BB, 5 SO
The Scoop: Armed with a new, more selective approach, Bichette has seen a major uptick in production this season. He’s drawn 26 walks this season after never eclipsing 43 in either of his two full years at low Class A Charleston, and he’s making inroads toward regaining his prospect status. He’s playing third base full-time now with Eric Jagielo on the shelf, but he should move back to splitting between there and DH once Jagielo returns.
In The Team Photo
Miguel Almonte, rhp, Royals: With Almonte, one never needs to worry about the changeup. It’s always a weapon, and one that he trusts whether ahead or behind in the count. But the 21-year-old hasn’t always believed in his fastball. Lately he’s pitching off the fastball, which makes his changeup all the more effective. He’s 1-0, 1.59 in two starts this week with 14 strikeouts and no walks at high Class A Wilmington.
Yeison Asencio, rf, Padres. Asencio sure loves to swing the bat. The only time he’s drawn a walk the entire month was an intentional pass, but the Padres will take it when he’s hitting .500 with a pair of home runs in his last seven games at Double-A San Antonio. Long term, he’s going to have to come up with a hitting approach that’s more under control, but he has the sock in his bat and the hand-eye coordination to go on a hot streak like he’s been on the past week.
Eddie Butler, rhp, Rockies. As Ben Badler pointed out Thursday in the Top 10 Fantasy Prospects, Butler might not beat Double-A Tulsa teammate Jon Gray to the majors, but it’s clear both should be in Colorado by the end of the year, if not sooner. Butler hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last three starts, including his most recent outing of seven scoreless innings against Midland, when he threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of 27 batters. Butler’s eye-popping stuff has Rockies manager Walt Weiss anxious to add him to the rotation, telling the Denver Post that if Butler isn’t ready for the majors, then he’s “real close.”
Carlos Correa, ss, Astros: Just when the Astros’ situation looked bleakest, we are starting to see the first green shoots of promise. George Springer is mashing home runs in Houston, the big league club has won six straight and Correa, the club’s top prospect, is right on schedule. After going 9-for-24 (.375) with two homers, two doubles and five walks this week, the 19-year-old is a big reason the high Class A Lancaster club has a six-game winning streak of its own.
Michael Feliz, rhp, Astros. The 20-year-old Feliz has made a smooth transition to full-season ball at low Class A Quad Cities, logging two starts this week and allowing just two hits in 9 1/3 innings while striking out 13. He has missed plenty of bats in the Midwest League (11.2 strikeouts per nine innings) but needs to lower his walk rate (4.4 per nine).
Domingo Santana, rf, Astros: Santana is blossoming as a 21-year-old at Triple-A Oklahoma City. Power has always been one of his calling cards, and he’s swatted nine home runs so far this year, including three this week. He still must refine his approach, obviously, as shown by the 10 strikeouts against one walk this week and an overall rate of slightly more than 3-to-1 this season.
Gary Sanchez, c, Yankees: After a miserable start to May, the 21-year-old Sanchez rediscovered his hitting stroke. He went 10-for-24 (.417) this week with a pair of doubles and homers. Scouts have always loved the bat and the double-plus arm, and that’s unchanged. Next up: Continue refining his receiving technique.
Miguel Andujar, 3b, Yankees. The 19-year-old Dominican bonus baby hit .323 and slugged .496 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last year but has struggled to adapt to the speed of play at low Class A Charleston. Andujar went 2-for-22 (.091) with three strikeouts this week, lowering his season batting line to .216/.276/.335 with 13 extra-base hits in 48 games.
Zach Lee, rhp, Dodgers. The Dodgers have been dreaming on Lee since signing him away from Louisiana State for $5.25 million in 2010. They’ve refused to include him in big deals because of his solid stuff and steady progress. But the lack of go-to out-pitch may be catching up to him in the rugged Pacific Coast League. In his past two starts at Triple-A Albuquerque, Lee has given up nine runs in 11 2/3 innings while walking six.
Erik Johnson, rhp, White Sox. Hammered for a 6.46 ERA in five big league starts in April, Johnson has struggled to right the ship at Triple-A Charlotte, as typified by a brutal start this week in which he allowed eight runs on eight hits without striking out anybody in four innings. Overall, he’s gone 0-2, 6.09 in six starts for the Knights, allowing a 1.50 WHIP and .296 opponent average.
Aaron Sanchez, rhp, Blue Jays. Sanchez’s fastball has a combination of velocity and life that’s hard to match. It’s also a pitch he struggles to locate, which has gotten him into trouble in his last two starts at Double-A New Hampshire. He left his last outing after allowing six runs over six innings. The start before, he faced six batters (all of who scored) and got pulled without recording an out.
Sebastian Elizalde, 1b/lf, Reds: Since the beginning of the bonus-pool era, the Reds haven’t been heavily invested in the high-profile, expensive July 2 prospects. They have used their dollars later in the year to sign Dominican lefthander Jacob Constante, then last year they went after Cuban outfielder Reydel Medina and Elizalde, an outfielder they purchased from Monterrey of the Mexican League. Elizalde didn’t play with the Reds last year after having Tommy John surgery, but he showed above-average speed, average arm strength and a gap-to-gap approach. In his debut with low Class A Dayton, the 22-year-old has looked even better at the plate than expected, hitting .319/.451/.543 with more walks (34) than strikeouts (33) and seven home runs in 41 games.