Prospect Hot Sheet

Davis is making a run at Minor League POY





See also: Previous Prospect Hot Sheets

Next week, the flood of new prospects arrives, which will make cracking the Prospect Hot Sheet all the tougher. Tim Beckham, David Cooper and the rest of the signed first-round picks, as well as plenty of other short-season and rookie ball talent will be edging their way into the Hot Sheet discussion. But for the final week of a full-season exclusive Hot Sheet, we actually got somewhat of a respite.

All-star games in the Florida State, Midwest and South Atlantic leagues made it tougher for their respective players to crack the Sheet—after all, going 5-for-8 is impressive, but it's not Hot Sheet worthy.

So sit back and enjoy a Hot Sheet heavy on the players closer to the big leagues. Starting next week we'll start adding in the stars of 2012 and beyond.

And 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 form the past week (June 13-19) getting the most consideration. The Why He's Here line in the writeups refers to each player's stats during that time.

Contributing: J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy and Jim Shonerd

No. 1 CHRIS DAVIS, 1B
RANGERS
Team: Triple-A Oklahoma (Pacific Coast)
Age: 22
Why he's here: .400/.441/.967 (12-for-30), 5 HR, 2 2B, 12 RBIs, 9 R, 3 BB, 8 SO
The Scoop: If he doesn't get called up to Arlington in the second half, you may be hearing Davis' name bandied about for Minor League Player of the Year honors. That's how good he's been in 2008.

In addition to batting a cumulative .338/.389/.651 between Double-A and Triple-A this season, Davis also leads the minor leagues in RBIs (69) and runs (65) while ranking third in home runs (22) and extra-base hits (43) and second in total bases (181).

While he struggled initially after being bumped to Triple-A, Davis proved he was up to the task by reeling off a 14-game hitting streak (slugging .945 along the way) that was snapped Thursday—though he walked twice, preserving a 23-game on-base streak. Davis is batting a scalding .377/.443/.826 in 69 June at-bats, and best of all, he's maintained his power production while making more contact than he did last season.

No. 2 BRANDON ERBE, RHP
ORIOLES
Team: high Class A Frederick (Orioles)
Age:
20
Why He's Here:
7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 12 K

The Scoop:
It's hard to find a pitching prospect who has had more ups and downs than the Orioles righthander. For a pitcher with great stuff (a mid-90s fastball and flashes of a plus slider), Erbe has had an extremely inconsistent career. So understandably, it's hard to know if his recent success is a sign that he's turned a corner, or just another stretch of domination that will be followed by several innings of doom. But whether it's a blip or the start of something big, over his last two starts no one had been better than Erbe. He threw seven hitless innings against Wilmington on June 11, striking out nine and walking two, then followed it up by allowing one hit and one hit batter in seven scoreless innings on Tuesday, as he struck out a Carolina League season-best 12. According to BA correspondent Roch Kubatko, the newfound success came after pitching coach Blaine Beatty taught him a new grip for his slider two starts ago. For many pitchers, a new grip or a new pitch can start a complete turnaround. In Erbe's case, we'll wait and see—but the early returns are good.
No. 3 MICHAEL SAUNDERS, CF
MARINERS
Team: Triple-A Tacoma (Pacific Coast) / Double-A West Tenn (Southern)
Age: 21
Why he's here: .435/.519/.783 (10-for-23), 5 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, 10 R, 4 BB, 5 SO
The Scoop: The Mariners moved Saunders to Triple-A at age 21, after just 82 games in Double-A. He promptly went 4-for-8 with a double and a home run in his first two PCL games. No prospect has come further than Saunders has this season, as the athletic center fielder just oozes tools. And after batting .290/.375/.484 as one of the youngest players in the SL—with eight homers, 18 doubles and 11 steals—the lefthanded batter is making believers out of just about everybody. The scary thing is he's still growing into his body and figures to add power and improve his batting eye with experience.
No. 4 DANIEL CORTES, RHP
ROYALS
Team: Double-A Northwest Arkansas (Texas)
Age: 21
Why He's Here: 0-0, 1.29, 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 SO
The Scoop: A quad strain slowed Cortes early in the year, but he was at full strength for his last start, when he struck out 10 in seven innings, allowing just one run, three hits and one walk. His ERA now sits at 3.58 through 10 starts and 50 1/3 innings, with 53 strikeouts and 21 walks. While Cortes was the top pitching prospect in the Royals system entering the season, Kansas City suddenly has a handful of interesting young arms in the upper minors, highlighted by Blake Wood, Carlos Rosa and Julio Pimentel.

No. 5 NEFTALI FELIZ, RHP
RANGERS
Team: low Class A Clinton (Midwest)
Age: 20
Why He's Here: 0-0, 1.69, 5 1/3 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 11 SO
The Scoop: Feliz has seemingly been knocking on the Hot Sheet door all season, but it took until now for him to finally break through. The Dominican righthander has taken the MWL by storm in 2008, posting a 2.24 ERA that ranks seventh in the league and his 10.93 K/9 is second among starters in the minor leagues. A hard thrower whose secondary stuff showed much improvement in the last year, Feliz has limited his opposition to just 19 runs in 68 1/3 innings, and he's permitted just 13 extra-base hits all season as well. Last Saturday against Wisconsin, Feliz recorded a season-high 11 strikeouts in just 5 1/3 innings, including one stretch in which he struck out five hitters in a row.

No. 6 AUSTIN JACKSON, CF
YANKEES
Team: Double-A Trenton (Eastern)
Age: 21
Why He's Here: .357/.400/.786 (10-for-28), 7 R, 4 HR, 8 RBIs, 2 BB, 4 K, 1-for-2 SB
The Scoop: Hitting a home run in four straight games is one good way to navigate your way onto the Hot Sheet, which is what Jackson did this week to earn this spot. With a .282/.362/.443 season line in 280 at-bats, Jackson hit safely in nine straight games until Thursday. With a budding performance record of excellence to complement his outstanding athleticism and tools, Jackson is building a strong case to supplant Joba Chamberlain as the top prospect in the Yankees organization at the conclusion of the season.
No. 7 DANIEL MOSKOS, LHP
PIRATES
Team: high Class A Lynchburg (Carolina)
Age:
22
Why He's Here: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
The Scoop: This is the type of performance the Pirates' new administration was hoping for when it announced that Moskos, the team's 2007 first-round pick, would move from the bullpen to the rotation. After a brutal stretch in May where he allowed 13 runs in 8 2/3 innings over three starts, Moskos has settled down, refined his changeup and started doing a better job of working down in the zone. It's getting results. Moskos is 3-0, 1.13 in his last four starts. In his June 14 start he worked the longest outing of his career, holding Kinston to three hits and one walk in seven scoreless innings. Moskos' changeup likely will always be his third pitch, behind a hard slider and his low-to-mid 90s fastball. But it gives hitters something else to worry about. Lefthanded batters have had no success against Moskos this season (8-for-45 or a .178 average), but thanks to his improved arsenal, he's now holding righthanders to a .251 average as well.
No. 8 GIO GONZALEZ, LHP
ATHLETICS
Team: Triple-A Sacramento (Pacific Coast)
Age: 22
Why he's here: 1-1, 1.88, 14 1/3 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 1 HR, 3 BB, 20 SO
The Scoop: Pitching in relief of a rehabbing Santiago Casilla last Friday, Gonzalez allowed three earned runs in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out eight, walked three and allowed a three-run bomb to Tacoma's Victor Diaz. A solid outing, but certainly not spectacular. That came Wednesday, when Gonzalez struck out 12 Fresno Grizzlies in tossing eight shutout, one-hit innings—his finest outing of the year.

No. 9 CLIFF PENNINGTON, SS
ATHLETICS
Team: Triple-A Sacramento (Pacific Coast)
Age: 24
Why he's here: .444/.516/.704 (12-for-27), 3 2B, 2 3B, 6 R, 3 RBIs, 4 BB, 3 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: As fate would have it, Pennington's error in Gio Gonzalez' Friday game put the River Cats in the hole, and saddled the lefty with the loss. With a bat in his hand, though, the switch-hitting Pennington was practically flawless this week, reaching base more than half the time and clubbing five extra-base hits in seven games. And with just nine strikeouts in 77 Triple-A at-bats and a 9-for-10 mark stealing bases, Pennington has been a force at the top of Sacramento's batting order.
No. 10 TIM ALDERSON, RHP
GIANTS
Team: high Class A San Jose Giants (California)
Age: 19
Why He's Here: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K
The Scoop: Alderson has been so good that it's easy to forget that the righthander came into the season with five innings of pro experience. Teenagers aren't supposed to be able to jump straight from a short stint in the Arizona League to the California League, a league that has chewed up and spit out former college stars (just ask Daniel Bard). But Alderson is thriving. He's sixth in the league in ERA (2.84) and hasn't allowed more than one earned run in any of his past four starts.
No. 11 COLBY RASMUS, CF
CARDINALS
Team: Triple-A Memphis (Pacific Coast)
Age:
21
Why he's here:
.370/.433/.630 (10-for-27), 4 2B, 1 HR, 7 RBIs, 6 R, 3 BB, 4 SO
The Scoop:
One of the youngest players in the PCL, Rasmus' averages stood at .214/.313/.345 at the end of May. Despite the poor results, the center fielder was not completely overmatched, as evidenced by his strong sense of the strike zone (31 walks, 48 strikeouts). And though he plays in a hitter's league, most of his playing time was accumulated in the neutral environments of Memphis and other American Conference locales. A hot start in June (.348/.430/.565) has eased any lingering concern about Rasmus, who's riding an 11-game hitting streak.
No. 12 JAMES McDONALD, RHP
DODGERS
Team: Double-A Jacksonville (Southern)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: 0-0, 2.25, 12 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 HR, 1 HBP, 2 BB, 11 SO
The Scoop: An improved changeup has helped McDonald complement his plus curveball and his fastball this season, leading to 79 strikeouts in 79 1/3 innings along with 25 walks and a 3.52 ERA. "Right now it seems like he's going with his changeup," Jacksonville pitching coach Glenn Dishman said. "His curveball has such tight spin and such big break that hitters have a tough time hitting it and kind of lay off it just a little bit right now, and umpires have a tough time calling it for a strike. Even though it is a strike, sometimes they're not quite sure of the strike zone with the pitch."
.
No. 13 MICHAEL BURGESS, RF
NATIONALS
Team: low Class A Hagerstown (South Atlantic)
Age: 19
Why He's Here: .586/.706/1.333 (7-for-12), 3 HR, 4 RBIs, 5 R, 2 BB, 2 SO
The Scoop: Winning a home run derby doesn't get you on the Hot Sheet on its own, but it did help Burgess' case in light of his playing an abbreviated schedule thanks to the Sally League's all-star break. After a two-week homerless drought, Burgess broke out last weekend, hitting two bombs in the final two games before the break. That rhythm continued during Tuesday's Home Run Derby at the SAL sll-star game, where Burgess put on an exhibition of one moonshot after another en route to claiming the title. It doesn't look like the derby had any ill effects on Burgess' swing either, because he hit another home run, his 15th of the season, on Thursday night.

IN THE TEAM PHOTO

Low Class A Cedar Rapids LHP Trevor Reckling (Angels) is working on a 28-inning shutout streak that spans his last four starts. Reckling, 19, is 4-2, 2.35 on the year, and his ERA ranks eighth in the MWL. He threw eight shutout innings last Friday against Kane County, allowing only three hits, two walks and striking out four. He added a scoreless frame in the MWL all-star game on Tuesday as well . . . Double-A New Hampshire RF Travis Snider (Blue Jays) hit .400/.400/.700 (7-for-20) with one home run and three doubles this week, and he's riding a 12-game hitting streak to go with it. Snider, 20, has shown steady improvement since getting off to a terrible start in Double-A after being called up in late April. His line is up to .285/.371/.490 in 200 at-bats on the season, and he's cut down his strikeouts as well, including only two this week . . . High Class A Lancaster outfielder Josh Reddick (Red Sox) hit over .300 in his pro debut last year, and he's well on his way to doing the same this year. Reddick, 21, is now batting .349/.378/.585 after a .481/.500/.593 (13-for-27) week. Reddick has five straight multi-hit games, which includes a three-game streak of three hits or more . . . The Texas League's hottest hitter is Springfield's Jon Jay (Cardinals). Jay, 23, is batting .435/.494/.783 in June and connected for home runs on Wednesday and Thursday. The 2006 second-rounder out of Miami has put last year's wrist injury behind him, showing a quick bat and line-drive stroke that profiles well for a center fielder . . . Louisville RHP Daryl Thompson (Reds) hasn't had much trouble finding success at the Triple-A level, and he may not be long for the minor leagues with Homer Bailey headed back to the Bats. Three of Thompson's four starts for Louisville have been outstanding, and he turned in his best yet on Saturday in Rochester when he came within one out of a complete game. He held the Red Wings to one run on five hits that day, with two walks and six strikeouts to pick up his third win for the Bats . . . Triple-A Tacoma 3B Matt Tuiasosopo (Mariners) continued his hot June with a .308/.357/.692 (8-for-26) week. Tuiasosopo connected for three home runs this week, one of which was part of a five-RBI night last Saturday against Sacramento . . . Double-A Carolina's Chris Coghlan (Marlins) celebrated his 23rd birthday on Wednesday by going 4-for-5 at Chattanooga, extending his hitting streak to seven games. It ended the next day, but the hot hitting wasn't just luck—Coghlan has been excellent all season, batting .299/.365/.443 in 69 games and showing outstanding pitch recognition and discipline. Coghlan rarely swings at a pitch out of the strike zone and shows a good line-drive swing. His fielding won't lead to any Gold Gloves, but he has the potential to be an above-average offensive second baseman.

NOT HOT

Reid Brignac, ss, Rays. After breaking out in May (.323/.330/.563), Brignac has crashed back to earth this month, as he's hitting just .176/.300/.255 through 51 at-bats for Triple-A Durham. Before a 1-for-3 game yesterday, the 22-year-old shortstop was 0-for-13 on the week. Instead, he finished 1-for-16 with a run scored, three walks and three strikeouts, good for .063/.211/.063 averages.

Anthony Swarzak, rhp, Twins. Swarzak's peripheral numbers are still pretty good for a 22-year-old in Double-A, with 57 strikeouts and 22 walks in 62 2/3 innings. His ERA however is up at 4.74, and this week didn't help. Swarzak could record just two outs on Saturday before leaving the game. He faced eight batters, allowing five hits, a walk and six runs, though only four were earned. Outside of Ben Revere and Luke Hughes, there aren't any Twins prospects who have dominated the competition this year, so Swarzak's ranking among the Twins' top five prospects seems safe for now.

Carlos Triunfel, ss, Mariners. Last year Triunfel received plenty of notice as a 17-year-old who held his own in high Class A. His 2008 season has not had nearly as many highlights. His second stint in High Desert has seen him overmatched, but that's been the least of his problems. He missed time with a suspension for violating team rules, and now has headed to the disabled list for the second time this season. In between, Triunfel, 18, was hitting only .120/.170/.120 (6-for-50) in June, worst in the California League. If there is a bright spot, he did hit his first home run as a pro on June 10.

Anel de los Santos, c, Angels. De los Santos' prospect status is primarily derived from his defensive abilities, with any offense he contributes being viewed as a bonus. But not only have his offensive numbers been subpar all season, but they've actually gone down each month as the season's gone along. This week, the 20-year-old de los Santos hit just .143/.143/.143 (2-for-14) during the MWL's abbreviated week. He's hitting just .103/.125/.103 (4-for-39) in June and .193/.214/.276 for the year.

BLAST FROM THE PAST

Dallas McPherson, 3b, Marlins. It seems like only yesterday that McPherson was mentioned with Casey Kotchman, Erick Aybar, Brandon Wood and Howie Kendrick among the Angels' top prospects. But that was 2004, when McPherson hit 43 home runs between Double-A, Triple-A and the majors. High strikeout totals (he fanned 186 times in '04) and serious back injuries have slowed the slugging third baseman since then. But after signing with the Marlins as a minor league free agent in January, he's back to his old ways with Triple-A Albuquerque. McPherson, 27, leads the PCL with 22 home runs and ranks third with a .650 slugging percentage. But old habits die hard—his 86 whiffs places him 10th in the minors. Stuck behind Marlins third baseman Jorge Cantu for now, McPherson derives a huge advantage from playing his home games in Isotopes Park, a huge hitter's haven. He's batting .317/.419/.748 there with 14 of his 22 home runs—though his road production is also sound at .270/.398/.530.

HELIUM WATCH

BRANDON HICKS, SS
BRAVES
Team: high Class A Myrtle Beach (Carolina)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: .375/.483/.667 (9-for-24), 6 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBIs, 5 BB, 5 SO, 2-for-2 SB
The Scoop: Just three years ago, Hicks couldn't get scouts to notice him, and it wasn't because he slipped under the radar. Hicks led San Jacinto (Texas) JC to the Junior College World Series, but the shortstop went undrafted that June. A year later the Braves nabbed him in the third round after a strong season at Texas A&M. You can quibble with his .251 average, but Hicks, 22, has shown this year that he's capable of hitting for power in one of the toughest hitter's parks in the minors. Five of Hicks 13 home runs have come at Myrtle Beach's BB&T Coastal Federal Field, and he's actually hitting better at home than on the road. This week, Hicks went 9-for-24 (.375) with two doubles, a triple and a home run. Hicks' strikeouts are a serious concern (he's fanned in more than a third of his at-bats), but when he does make contact, he makes it count.

MEN AMONG BOYS

The California League ERA leader list is dominated by San Jose pitchers. Ben Snyder, a 2006 fourth-rounder, is the league's ERA leader (2.00), while Kevin Pucetas, a 2006 17th-rounder who led the Sally League in ERA in 2007, is fourth at 2.76. And Tim Alderson, a 2007 first-rounder, is sitting sixth in the league with a 2.78 ERA.

But Jesse English's 2.45 ERA, second-best in the league, stands out partly because he made his pro debut when Alderson was still in the seventh grade.

English was the Giants' sixth-round pick in 2002—the same draft as Matt Cain. And as rookies in the Arizona League, English matched Cain pitch for pitch, going 4-1, 2.68 in 2002. But while Cain rocketed to the big leagues, English suffered through injury after injury. He missed much of 2003, was awful in a short stint in 2004, missed all of 2005 after having ulnar nerve surgery for his pitching elbow, and then didn't work back into pitching shape until last season, where he went 5-0, 0.69 in the Northwest League.

Because he was drafted out of high school and signed while still just 17, English is still only 23 years old—the same age as Pucetas. While it's hard to believe that English could make it to the big leagues after taking nearly six years to make it to a full-season league, he is a lefty with solid stuff, so it wouldn't be wise to completely count him out.