Prospect Hot Sheet (May 9): Big, Bad Bryant

This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet covers minor league games from May 2-8. 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
Kris Bryant
Team: Double-A Tennessee (Southern)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: .462/.517/.962 (12-for-26), 9 R, 1 2B, 4 HR, 12 RBIs, 3 BB, 7 SO

The Scoop: The Javier Baez career progression plan has hit a pothole early in the 2014 season, as he’s struggled to handle Triple-A pitchers the same way he abused big league pitchers in spring training. But one level below, Bryant’s development has been rolling along right on schedule. He’s hitting for average and power. He’s even stealing bases (five in six attempts). Really, the only disconcerting part of his early-season performance is his strikeout rate (28 percent), but his power and ability to draw walks mitigate that concern.


2. Teoscar Hernandez, cf, Astros
Teoscar Hernandez
Team: high Class A Lancaster (California)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .556/.625/.926 (15-for-27), 7 R, 4 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBIs, 5 BB, 8 SO, 2-for-2 SB

The Scoop: Yes, Hernandez plays in Lancaster, but at the end of April, the versatile outfielder wasn’t having a whole lot of fun hitting in one of baseball’s best hitting environments. A ferocious tear this week, much of it on the road, has raised his batting average 60 points, his slugging percentage nearly 100 points and put his season numbers right where you would hope to see them. Hernandez is a “cheap” five-tool player with no true plus tools, but a whole lot of 50s on his scouting card. If he can refine his routes to be an average center fielder, then he could be a regular.


3. Joe Munoz, 3b, Diamondbacks
Joe Munoz
Team: low Class A South Bend (Midwest)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: .387/.424/.806 (12-for-31) 4 2B, 3 HR, 9 RBIs, 2 BB, 5 SO

The Scoop: Arizona’s second-round pick out of Hacienda Heights near L.A. in 2012, Munoz is continuing his progress with the bat this season. Scouts dinged him for below-average bat speed prior to 2013, but he slugged .448 at Rookie-level Missoula and has continued to show pop this season. He’s slugging .485 and has homered in back-to-back games.


4. Gavin Cecchini, ss, Mets
Gavin Cecchini

Team: low Class A Savannah (South Atlantic)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: .458/.462/.875 (11-for-24), 5 R, 3 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 6 RBIs, 1 BB, 2 SO, 0-for-1 SB

The Scoop: Raise your hand if you saw this one coming. Cecchini, whom the Mets drafted 12th overall out of high school in 2012, ranks third among SAL shortstops with a .168 isolated slugging percentage—behind only 2013 college drafts JaCoby Jones (Pirates) and Pat Valaika (Rockies). This despite Cecchini playing half his games in the hitter’s graveyard that is Savannah and despite entering the season with a career .318 slugging percentage in short-season ball. Fully healthy this season, he’s showing off a rounded tool set that includes feel for the barrel, solid wheels and a strong defensive game.


5. Francisco Lindor, ss, Indians
Francisco Lindor
Team: Double-A Carolina (Eastern)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: .344/.405/.594 (11-for-32), 6 R, 1 3B, 2 HR, 10 RBIs, 4 BB, 6 SO, 4-for-5 SB

The Scoop: Lindor’s .295/.360/.459 batting line through 31 games is a pretty reasonable expectation of what to expect from him in the big leagues, with a short, low-maintenance swing to hit for a high batting average, the plate discipline and pitch recognition to rack up a healthy dose of walks and a solid 10-15 home runs from the shortstop position. Throw in 20-25 stolen bases with the potential for a few Gold Gloves and you have the possibility for a franchise player. Given the extended struggles of Asdrubal Cabrera in Cleveland, the clamoring for Lindor right now is understandable, but a 2015 ETA is most likely.


6. Joey Gallo, 3b, Rangers
Joey Gallo
Team: high Class A Myrtle Beach (Carolina)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: .345/.424/.621 (10-for-29), 1 3B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 4 BBs, 9 SO, 2-for-3 SB

The Scoop: More and more each week, it looks like Gallo has made the necessary adjustments to make him a future superstar instead of just another guy who strikes out too much. He’s made changes in his setup, his two-strike approach has matured, and he hasn’t sacrificed any power. Moreover, he still looks athletic enough to stay at third base, provided he keeps up with his conditioning. If he doesn’t, his bat will more than play anywhere on the diamond. For more, check out this week’s Scout’s Video View.


7. Trevor Bauer, rhp, Indians

Trevor BauerTeam: Triple-A Columbus (International)
Age: 23
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.61, 14 2/3 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 12 SO

The Scoop: Bauer has flushed away a disastrous 2013 season with a great start in 2014. His velocity is up, as he’s now throwing 95-97 mph consistently. His control has gotten better (he’s walking two and a half batters per nine innings now, after averaging worse than four throughout his pro career) and his secondary stuff is playing up. While Bauer’s control has improved, but his command still must improve before being regarded as big league average.


8. Mike Foltynewicz, rhp, Astros
mike-foltynewicz-2013-tf
Team: Triple-A Oklahoma City (Pacific Coast)
Age: 22
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.50, 6 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 HR, 12 SO, 2 BB

The Scoop: The 2010 first-rounder took his lumps at Triple-A early in April, but he’s turned in five satisfactory appearances in a row in Oklahoma City’s tandem-starter routine, culminating in a 12-strikeout gem (see above) on Monday. While he’s gone 3-0, 1.96 with 25 whiffs in 23 innings in his past five games, Foltynewicz continues to hand out too many free passes, with 3.9 walks per nine innings weighing him down even during his effective stretch.


9. Jorge Alfaro, c, Rangers
Jorge Alfaro
Team: high Class A Myrtle Beach (Carolina)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .400/.464/.800 (10-for-25), 8 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 7 RBIs, 2 BB, 4 SO

The Scoop: Alfaro is a premium athlete, with two standout tools in his raw power and rocket arm strength. He’s still raw in a lot of areas, but he can get by on bat speed and tools at the lower levels, with an encouraging .293/.339/.440 line in 29 games despite a free-swinging approach. Alfaro has the ingredients to become a good defensive catcher, but he still has a lot of work to do to reach that level, as he’s thrown out just 22 percent of basestealers and leads Carolina League catchers in both passed balls (seven) and errors (six) in 22 games behind the plate.


J.P. Crawford10. J.P. Crawford, ss, Phillies

Team: low Class A Lakewood (South Atlantic)
Age: 19
Why He’s Here: .407/.448/.667 (11-for-27), 4 R, 4 2B, HR, 2 RBIs, 2 BB, 0-for-1 SB

The Scoop: In a virtually barren system, Crawford is giving Phillies fans the kind of hope Harry Kalas used to sing about. Last year’s first-rounder is showing off his tremendous skill set, which for now includes every tool but power, on a nightly basis. Perhaps the most impressive part of Crawford’s early run, however, is his propensity for contact. He struck out just three times this week, and has whiffed 18 times in 118 at-bats this season. He’s also riding a 10-game hitting streak.


11. Rougned Odor, 2b, Rangers
Rougned-Odor-2013-bm
Team: Double-A Frisco (Texas)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: .450/.500/.900 (9-for-20) 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 8 RBIs, 2 BB, 4 SO, 2-for-2 SB

The Scoop: The above category might as well read “Why He’s Gone.” Odor hit so well the Rangers promoted him, not to Triple-A Round Rock, but to Arlington. His advanced approach at the plate and surprising sock for a 5-foot-11, 170-pound player will garner him the majority of playing time at second base, Rangers manager Ron Washington said.


12. Jake Thompson, rhp, Tigers

Jake-Thompson-2014-mj

Team: high Class A Lakeland (Florida State)
Age: 20
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.75, 12 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 11 SO

The Scoop: For the second time in a week, Thompson shut down his opponent, holding Tampa to a run in five innings. But that’s nothing new. Through seven starts, Thompson has a WHIP below 1.00 and a tidy 39/12 SO/BB mark. At his best, he throws a low-90s fastball that touches 95 mph, and his steep, downhill delivery gives his ball sink and tail.


13. Tyler Goeddel, 3b, Rays
Tyler Goeddel
Team: high Class A Charlotte (Florida State)
Age: 21
Why He’s Here: .423/.483/.731 (11-for-26), 5 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBIs, 3 BB, 4 SO, 2-for-3 SB

The Scoop: Goeddel went 11-for-26 this week, but in a broader sense he’s gone 1-for-2 on the season, his third in the pro ranks after signing for $1.5 million as a supplemental pick out of high school in 2011. He has shown enhanced power production with 16 extra-base hits and a .579 slugging percentage, which both rank among the FSL leaders, but he’s also continued to rack up errors at third base (.923 fielding percentage), which could result in more time on the other three corners. Goeddel offers an exciting power/speed combination, wherever he lands.


In The Team Photo

Christian Binford, rhp, Royals: The system’s premier artist just keeps painting. The 2011 30th-rounder from Mercersburg, Pa., started once this week, but allowed three hits in seven shutout innings with eight punchouts and no walks. The 21-year-old locates his three-pitch mix—which consists of a low-90s fastball, plus change and slurvy breaking ball—with precision.

Dylan Covey, rhp, Athletics: Covey’s career didn’t go as planned for several years. A first-round pick in 2010, he learned right before the signing deadline that he had diabetes. He opted to go to school and learn to manage the disease. The 22-year-old lost money in the process, but he’s looked like a nice find for the A’s as a 2013 fourth-round pick. This week he held Peoria scoreless over eight innings.

Wilmer Flores, ss, Mets. By going 11-for-22 (.500) with four homers, two doubles and 11 RBIs this week at Triple-A Las Vegas, Flores made the Mets’ decision to scuttle shortstop Ruben Tejada an easy one. The 22-year-old Flores will take over as big league shortstop after hitting .307/.360/.500 in 29 games on the farm this season.

Alex Gonzalez, rhp, Rangers. The 2013 first-rounder from Oral Roberts hit his stride at high Class A Myrtle Beach this week, completing eight innings in his first start and seven in his second, allowing two runs in those 15 innings (1.20 ERA). He also notched 11 strikeouts while allowing four walks and 10 hits, suggesting he’s well on his way to a second-half bump to Double-A and the Rangers rotation in 2015.

Wyatt Mathiesen, 3b, Pirates: Mathisen generated buzz after his pro debut in 2012, when he hit well in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and showed good tools behind the plate (after mostly shortstop in high school). But he struggled at the plate in 2013 and the Pirates moved him to third base this season at low Class A West Virginia, where he’s had better results. Having hit only one career home run previously, Mathisen hit three this week to raise his slash line to .264/.320/.364 through 32 games.

Jose Rondon, ss, Angels: Skip a level? No problem so far for Rondon, who after playing in the Rookie-level Pioneer League last summer is hitting .326/.358/.403 through 32 games in the high Class A California League. There’s not much thump in Rondon’s bat—he hasn’t homered yet in a hitter-friendly league and he has just two career homers—but he’s a savvy enough player with feel for hitting to make it to the big leagues as a utility player, with the chance for more.

Luis Severino, rhp, Yankees: After dealing with a short leash for his first few starts, the Yankees gave Severino some slack and the 20-year-old responded. In two starts this week, he allowed four runs on 15 hits over 12 innings. He walked only one hitter and fanned 11. For the season, his strikeout-to-walk ratio is nearly 5-to-1.


Not-So Hot

Erisbel Arruebarrena, ss, Dodgers: The 24-year-old was the starting shortstop on the Cuban national team thanks to his superlative work with the glove. There were also times when Cuba removed him from the game for offensive reasons, as his bat leaves a lot to be desired. In 15 games at Double-A Chattanooga, Arruebarrena is hitting .143/.197/.232 with three walks and 23 strikeouts, showing a long swing and minimal pitch recognition. Signed to a five-year, $25 million contract before the season, he still is a premium defensive shortstop, but his bat remains extremely raw.

Tyler Matzek, lhp, Rockies: Pitching in Triple-A Colorado Springs is like jaywalking through Manhattan. At some point, you’re going to mess up and it’s going to be painful. That happened for Matzek this week, as the 23-year-old gave up 13 hits and 11 runs in five innings to explode his previously impressive ERA and WHIP.

Stryker Trahan, lf, Diamondbacks: After moving off catcher this season, things haven’t gone well for the 20-year-old Trahan. The 2012 first-rounder, who plays for low Class A South Bend, went just 5-for-28 with a home run and is hitting .192/.238/.333 this season.

Mason Williams, cf, Yankees. After a solid start to the season, the Double-A Trenton center fielder has hit the skids, going 2-for-22 this week, though he did walk (six) more than he struck out (four). Williams struggled at the plate in 17 games at Double-A last season and has done little in 2014 to show he can hit at that level.


Helium Watch

Willy Adames, ss, Tigers: The early star of Detroit’s 2012 international signing class was Dominican shortstop Domingo Leyba, who signed for $400,000 and demolished the Dominican Summer League. The same day the Tigers signed Leyba, they also added Adames, a fellow Dominican shortstop, for slightly more money ($420,000). While Leyba has an advanced bat and a high baseball IQ, Adames is the more athletic, prototypical shortstop. It’s just a surprise that the 18-year-old already is in the low Class A Midwest League and holding his own. Adames is hitting .271/.361/.353 in 24 games, showing good bat speed, gap power and the ability to work the count even as he continues to refine his swing. He probably won’t light up the league this year, but at some point in the next couple of years, he’s a potential breakout prospect.