Baseball America

Prospect Notebook: Severino Gonzalez Adds To Breakout Year

Severino Gonzalez, rhp, Phillies: When the Phillies saw Gonzalez two years ago in Panama, he was an 18-year-old with a mid-80s fastball and good feel for pitching, so they gave him $14,000 to join the organization. He spent two years carving up the Venezuelan Summer League, where he got his fastball up to 89 mph, then jumped to the United States this year. When Gonzalez got to extended spring training, he was overmatching hitters, so in May the Phillies pushed him to high Class A Clearwater, where he mostly worked out of the bullpen.

By the end of June, Gonzalez had allowed only one earned run in 26 1/3 innings, his fastball was maxing out at 94 and his control was still excellent, so the Phillies decided to send him down to low Class A Lakewood to use him as a starter. Gonzalez didn’t allow a run in three of his four starts, moved back up to Clearwater in July and has continued to build on his breakout season. After holding Lakeland to one run over six innings with seven strikeouts, his Florida State League ERA sits at 1.88 with a 61-13 K-BB mark over 57 1/3 innings. Now Gonzalez is a 20-year-old on the cusp of making it to Double-A, and with the uptick in his stuff, he’s turned himself into a legitimate prospect.

Christian Bethancourt, c, Braves: Heading into July, it was looking like another uninspiring year at the plate for Bethancourt. Yes, the 21-year-old catcher has tremendous arm strength, but he wasn’t doing much in the batter’s box, as he struggled to get on base and wasn’t driving the ball with any authority. He’s managed to turn his season around, hitting .330/.355/.563 with six home runs in 28 games since July 1. Two of those home runs came yesterday in Bethancourt’s best game of the season, as he went 4-for-4 for Double-A Mississippi. He still has a ways to go with his free-swinging approach, but the recent offensive performance is a promising sign.

Jace Peterson, ss, Padres: At 23, Peterson is a little older than you’d like to see in a prospect in the high Class A California League, but his well-rounded skill set should get him to the big leagues. After going 4-for-5 with a double, a walk and a stolen base yesterday, Peterson is up to .302/.376/.455 in 106 games, showing a keen eye at the plate and a knack for swiping bases with a tick above-average speed. Peterson’s power is below-average and his defensive tools are merely adequate, but his offensive approach should allow his bat to play once he moves to the upper minors.

Franklin Barreto, ss, Blue Jays: Barreto checked in at No. 8 on Friday’s Prospect Hot Sheet, but he was just getting warmed up for the weekend. After going 2-for-4 with a double and a stolen base on Friday, Barreto clubbed two opposite-field home runs on Saturday, giving him four on the season, all of which have come in the last seven games in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. At 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, power won’t be Barreto’s calling card, but he has surprising pop for his size and could knock 15-20 balls out of the park in his prime. Speed and hitting are the keys for Barreto, who has lived up to his billing as the No. 1 prospect on the international amateur market last year.

Julio Urias, lhp, Dodgers: Summer Koshien is underway, where 16-year-old righthander Tomohiro Anraku will once again take the mound in Japan’s major national high school tournament. Anraku is the phenom who hit 94 mph in Spring Koshien and drew attention for throwing 772 pitches in nine days. That stands in stark contrast to how the Dodgers are handling Urias, another precocious young arm (he turns 17 today) with advanced stuff and feel for pitching. While the Dodgers have pushed Urias aggressively to the low Class A Midwest League, they have also been extremely cautious with his workload. On July 3, he faced 20 batters in six shutout innings, both of which were season highs for him. Since then, the Dodgers haven’t let Urias go more than two innings in any of his seven starts, including yesterday when he allowed two runs in two innings with four strikeouts. Both Urias and Anraku are tremendous talents, but the way they’re being used at the same age couldn’t be more different.

Teoscar Hernandez, of, Astros: Hernandez has the tools to be a 20-20 player, but he’s still more raw tools than skills at this point. That’s starting to change, though. The 19-year-old has hit .291/.343/.543 with seven home runs since July 1, including a monster game yesterday in which he went 3-for-4 with two homers for low Class A Quad Cities. The Astros signed Hernandez as basically an afterthought a couple years ago out of the Dominican Republic, but he’s starting to scratch the surface of his potential.