Noah Syndergaard, rhp, Mets: The talk of the Mets farm system the last two years when it comes to pitching has centered around Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. While Harvey has become a true ace and a Cy Young contender this season, there’s a chance Syndergaard could eventually eclipse Wheeler in the pecking order. After striking out 10 in five scoreless innings on Friday for Double-A Binghamton, the 20-year-old Syndergaard has a stretch of 21 straight scoreless innings, lowering his Eastern League ERA to 1.59 with a 64-10 K-BB mark in 51 innings. With a fastball that ranges anywhere from the low-90s up to 98 mph, Syndergaard throws just as hard as Wheeler, but his fastball command is well ahead of Wheeler’s. With the improvement of his secondary stuff this year, he has the look of a potential No. 2 starter.
Jackie Bradley, cf, Red Sox: The clamoring for Bradley to open the year was premature. He had half a season in Double-A at the end of 2012 and needed more time in the minors, so it’s no surprise he struggled when thrown into the major league lineup to start the year. That doesn’t take away from the fact that Bradley is still a terrific prospect, one with a mature hitting approach and plus-plus defense in center field. After going 2-for-3 with a home run and a walk yesterday, Bradley raised his numbers to .277/.378/.494 in 67 games with Triple-A Pawtucket. If Jacoby Ellsbury leaves after the year as a free agent, the Red Sox could easily slide Bradley into his place to open next season.
Justin Nicolino, lhp, Marlins: When Nicolino arrived in Double-A, the Southern League wasn’t so welcoming. The 21-year-old gave up six runs in his first start, five runs his next outing and coming into the weekend he had surrendered 21 runs in 23 1/3 innings since getting to Jacksonville a month ago. Then on Friday night Nicolino showed why he’s one of the game’s best pitching prospects, shutting out Birmingham over six innings with two walks and 13 strikeouts, by far a season high for him. Nicolino has excellent control of an 88-92 mph fastball that can touch 94. He locates it to both sides of the plate and works down in the zone, allowing him to get quick outs with groundballs or getting ahead of hitters to put them away with his best pitch, a plus changeup. Despite an otherwise rocky start in Double-A, Nicolino has the look of a mid-rotation starter, with enough upside to potentially end up as a frontline guy.
Henry Owens, lhp, Red Sox: It’s been a stellar year on the farm for the Red Sox, who’s biggest leap forward on the pitching side has arguably come from the 20-year-old Owens. After struggling in his pro debut last year, Owens still ranked as Boston’s No. 5 prospect entering the year because of his bat-missing stuff, but he’s quickly put things together this season to fly through the system. On Friday, Owens struck out 10 in five no-hit innings (he gave up one unearned run) for Double-A Portland, where he’s now struck out 29 of the 61 batters he’s faced (that’s 48 percent) in his three Eastern League starts. Owens doesn’t blow up the radar gun, sitting 88-92 mph and hitting 94, but he gives hitters an uncomfortable at-bat coming downhill from his 6-foot-6 frame, a plus changeup and big-breaking curveball. Penciling him into Boston’s 2014 rotation is too aggressive, but he could be ready at some point by the end of next season, then step in full-time in 2015.
Parker Bridwell, rhp, Orioles: Bridwell, 22, has been a frustrating prospect since the Orioles signed him for $625,000 out of high school four years ago as a ninth-round pick. Athletic and projectable in high school, that projection led to a bump in velocity, but the athleticism hasn’t seemed to help him repeat his delivery, which has led to trouble staying around the strike zone and inconsistent secondary pitches. In low Class A Delmarva for the second straight season, Delmarva’s ERA is up there at 4.87, but his strikeout rate is up significantly from a year ago and he’s shown flashes of dominance, most notably on Friday when he struck out 14 with no walks and two hits allowed over eight shutout innings.
Clint Frazier, of, Indians: Frazier has quick-twitch all over him, which helps him snap the bat head through the zone and drive the ball with 70 raw power, which combined with his plus speed makes him one of the better power/speed prospects in the minors. The fifth overall pick in June, Frazier has shown the exciting extra-base pop but has also shown why some scouts had reservations about his feel for hitting. Frazier, 18, hit three doubles on Friday, added three more hits on Saturday and a home run yesterday, bringing him to .311/.361/.530 in 37 games in the Rookie-level Arizona League. That’s a strong debut, but with 52 strikeouts—or a whiff in 31 percent of his plate appearances—there’s a risk factor to keep an eye on as he faces more advanced pitching.
Carlos Belen, 3b, Padres: With his bat speed, power and compact swing, Belen ranked as the No. 8 prospect on the international market last year when he signed with the Padres for $1 million on July 2. One of the knocks on Belen at the time was his ability to recognize breaking pitches, and his initial time in the Dominican Summer League that did cause some issues with strikeouts. But the 17-year-old Belen has made adjustments in season, which has helped his power come out. He’s hit five home runs this month, giving him seven on the year and bringing his slash line up to .247/.336/.411. Defense is still an adventure for Belen, who will have to put in a lot of work to be able to stay at the position, but the thunder in his bat is hard to miss.