Prospect Hot Sheet

Hanson's no-hitter makes him an easy choice





See also: Previous Prospect Hot Sheets

Early in the season, it seemed like hitters had the upper hand as we compiled the Hot Sheet. But this week, pitchers have definitely gotten their revenge. There's a no-hitter, plenty of double-digit strikeout games, and enough mid-90s fastballs to have hitters quaking in fear.

But as we head into the second-half of the season, it's kind of poetic that our first No. 1 of the year is back on top, with yet another game where his fastball proved near-invisible to hitters.

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 20-26) getting the most consideration. The Why He's Here line in the writeups refers to each player's stats during that time.

Contributing: Ben Badler, J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy, Austin Maloney, Anthony Tynan and Jim Shonerd

No. 1 TOMMY HANSON, RHP
BRAVES
Team: Double-A Mississippi (Southern)
Age: 21
Why He's Here: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 HBP, 3 BB, 14 SO
The Scoop: After topping our first Hot Sheet of the 2008 season, Hanson finds himself back on top again after striking out 14 in a nine-inning no-hitter.

Hanson began the year dominating high Class A Carolina League hitters—a 0.90 ERA in 40 innings with a 49-11 K-BB mark—in the pitcher-friendly confines at Myrtle Beach. His transition to Double-A hasn't been silky smooth—he's allowed at least six runs in three of his eight starts—but he now has 49 strikeouts and 19 walks in 50 Double-A innings.

Of course, none of his outings were as good as the no-hitter—which Hanson said was his first complete-game no-hitter since he threw a couple of them in Little League. He made the Birmingham lineup look like a bunch of Little Leaguers on Wednesday, thanks in part to a new grip on his curveball, though Hanson said it was his slider that resulted in the most third strikes.

"Before the start I changed the grip on my curveball and started throwing my slider a little more," Hanson said. "Last night was the first night everything kind of clicked. I was throwing it off my index finger, but (pitching coach Derek) Botelho said I should throw it with my middle finger. It was a lot more consistent and felt a lot better coming out of my hand."

No. 2 NEFTALI, FELIZ, RHP
RANGERS
Team: low Class A Clinton (Midwest)
Age: 20
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 10 SO
The Scoop: Feliz returns to the Hot Sheet for the second week in a row thanks to his second straight double-digit strikeout performance. The Dominican righthander is probably the most dominating pitcher currently residing in the Midwest League, and his 10 Ks on Sunday against Kane County put him at the top of the league leader board with 93 in 74 1/3 innings. He's allowed more than one run only once in his last 11 starts, and he's given up only one home run all season. The flame-throwing Feliz has also improved his command this year, having dropped his walk rate while still holding hitters to a .184 average and a .259 slugging percentage.

No. 3 STEVE GARRISON, LHP
PADRES
Team: Double-A San Antonio (Texas)
Age: 21
Why He's Here: 9 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 12 SO
The Scoop: Garrison fits in nicely among the list of Padres pitchers who throw a high percentage of pitches for strikes. When his curveball and changeup are on, those pitches over the plate become even more difficult to hit, though he's not normally a prolific strikeout pitcher. Garrison's last start lowered his ERA to 3.01 in 80 2/3 innings, good for third in the Texas League in ERA behind teammate Will Inman.
No. 4 WILL INMAN, RHP
PADRES
Team: Double-A San Antonio (Texas)
Age: 21
Why He's Here: 7 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 HR, 1 BB, 11 SO
The Scoop: With an advanced feel for pitching, Inman excels with his fastball command, which is one reason he'll be on the USA roster next month at the Futures Game. Despite being one of the youngest pitchers in the Texas League, Inman now has 92 strikeouts in 85 innings, giving him the league lead in strikeouts by 17 over teammate Matt Buschmann.

No. 5 BRETT GARDNER, CF
YANKEES
Team: Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (International)
Age: 24
Why he's here: .458/.629/.625 (11-for-24), 2 2B, 1 3B, 10 R, 1 RBI, 11 BB, 6 SO, 5-for-5 SB
The Scoop: One of the IL's steadiest performers all season, Gardner in the past month has become one of its very best. He's batting .326/.446/.457 through 92 June at-bats, with 11 steals in 12 attempts, and on the season he now leads the league in on-base percentage (.417), stolen bases (30 in 38 tries), walks (57) and triples (10), while ranking third in runs scored (58). The quintessential leadoff man, Gardner has reached base in 71 of the 77 games in which he's played this season.

No. 6 DAVID HUFF, LHP
INDIANS
Team: Triple-A Buffalo (International)
Age: 23
Why he's here: 2-0, 2.25, 12 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 HBP, 0 BB, 13 SO
The Scoop: Huff put Double-A behind him with a 5-1, 1.92 record, with 62-14 strikeouts-walks in 66 innings, but it appears as though he was only getting warmed up. A supplemental first-round pick from UCLA in 2006, Huff has strangled Triple-A batters in his first five starts, striking out 29 of them and walking just two (none in two starts this week) in 26 innings. With Aaron Laffey in the big leagues and two of the Indians' other young, promising arms (Adam Miller, Chuck Lofgren) struggling mightily this season, Huff has thrust himself into the discussion as the organization's top pitching prospect.
No. 7 JHOULYS CHACIN, RHP
ROCKIES
Team: low Class A Asheville (South Atlantic)
Age:
20
Why He's Here:
0-0, 0.00, 12 2/3 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 14 SO
The Scoop:
After a few weeks' absence, Chacin makes his return to the Hot Sheet after putting up a pair of strong starts this week. Chacin has gone six innings or more in 15 of his 16 starts this season, and he's still yet to allow more than three earned runs in any of them, which was one of the reasons he got to start the SAL all-star game for the Southern Division. In his two starts this week, Chacin pitched six shutout innings on the road against Augusta last Friday, and then followed that up by allowing only one unearned run in 6 2/3 innings at home against Hickory on Wednesday. He ranks as the SAL's leader in wins, strikeouts and innings pitched, and his 1.86 ERA is the circuit's fourth best.

No. 8 JORDAN SCHAFER, CF
BRAVES
Team: Double-A Mississippi (Southern)
Age: 21
Why He's Here: .435/.536/.652 (10-for-23), 7 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 7 RBIs, 5 BB, 6 SO, 2-for-2 SB
The Scoop: Schafer missed 50 games early in the season for Human Growth Hormone. He's been pretty good since returning, though, hitting .296/.424/.531 in 99 June plate appearances. The top prospect in the Braves system entering the season, Schafer will have some stiff competition for that honor this year with the way Jason Heyward has impressed scouts this year, but he still looks like the Braves' center fielder of the future.

No. 9 STEVE PEARCE, 1B/RF
PIRATES
Team: Triple-A Indianapolis (International)
Age:
25
Why he's here:
.407/.448/.852 (11-for-27), 3 HR, 3 2B, 8 RBIs, 6 R, 1 BB, 0 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop:
Though he's batting a pedestrian .266/.315/.462 on the year, Pearce has turned up the power in June, swatting six of his 11 home runs and batting .282/.330/.576. With 23 doubles on the year, he trails only Durham's Reid Brignac for the IL lead. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Pearce, though, is that for a power hitter, he seldom strikes out, as evidenced by his eight whiffs and six walks in 85 June at-bats.
No. 10 WILMER FLORES, SS
METS
Team: Rookie-level Kingsport (Appalachian)
Age: 16
Why He's Here: .400/.417/.578, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBIs, 0 BB, 7 SO
The Scoop: Flores is a 16 year old playing in a league where the average age is more than 20, and he has been arguably the best player in the league for the first week and a half. After belting a home run in his professional debut, Flores has continued his steady production. Enduring the loss of manager Nick Leyva, who also served as his Flores' translator, could have been a hitch in the road for Flores, who had grown close to Leyva, but the teenager's makeup impressed observers in Kingsport as he kept up his steady production under new leadership. The only knock on Flores is his defense, which at times can be shaky. He made three errors in a game on Tuesday night, but played the next two games error-free.  Flores' hitting is his best present tool and he showed it on Thursday night, going 4-for-5 with a triple and three RBIs.
No. 11 MAT GAMEL, 3B
BREWERS
Team: Double-A Huntsville (Brewers)
Age:
22
Why He's Here:
.450/.542/.740 (9-for-20), 3 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBIs, 4 BB, 5 SO
The Scoop:
With a .373/.438/.631 batting line this season, Gamel is making a strong push for our Minor League Player of the Year honors. He's a tremendous hitter, with the ability to hit for average, hit for power and get on base at a good clip. Gamel, a lefthanded hitter, struggled yesterday against changeups from a righthander, but otherwise showed a patient approach and drove the ball with ease. His actions in the field aren't fluid—he made three errors in the last seven days, giving him 22 on the year—which dings his value whether he stays at third base or has to move to the outfield. But with his hitting ability, Gamel will soon force his way into a big league lineup.
No. 12 JEREMY JEFFRESS, RHP
BREWERS
Team: high Class A Brevard County (Florida State)
Age: 20
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 SO
The Scoop: Jeffress has one of the best fastballs in the minors, as the Florida State League has found out in recent weeks. What Jeffress needs to do now is improve his consistency. He's allowed one or fewer runs in five of his eight starts, but he's also put up three duds—giving up 20 earned runs in 11 2/3 innings. He's been making progress in that regard, going 2-1, 2.45 in June. His control has been especially impressive, as he's now struck out 56 batters and walked just 15 in 41 2/3 innings.

No. 13 JONATHAN LUCROY, C
BREWERS
Team: high Class A Brevard County (Florida State)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: .364/.375/.773 (8-for-22), 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 1 RBIs, 1 BB, 4 SO, 2-for-2 SB
The Scoop: Lucroy has been knocking on the door of the Hot Sheet for several weeks now, but has been denied because his performance was more worthy of the "Men Among Boys" category, since he was 22 in low Class A. He has since moved up to high Class A, where he has continued his assault on pitchers. Four of his nine hits this week were for extra bases and his minor league totals are now .310/.382/.522 with 12 home runs in 268 at-bats.

IN THE TEAM PHOTO

The Blue Jays promoted C J.P. Arencibia to Double-A New Hampshire after the 22-year-old tore up the high Class A Florida State League. Arencibia still isn't drawing many walks, but this week he hit .429/.429/.762 (9-for-21 with a double and a homer), making a smooth transition to Double-A . . . Low Class A Greensboro RF Mike Stanton (Marlins) proved he doesn't have to be at home to hit the ball out of the park. Stanton, 18, slugged three home runs this week during a four-game series on the road against Lexington. Overall, he hit .310/.375/.690 (9-for-29) for the week, and he increased his SAL-leading home run total to 19 . . . Low Class A Rome RF Jason Heyward (Braves) didn't hit for a ton of power this week, but that doesn't mean he didn't keep doing other things right. Heyward, 18, hit .409/.536/.500 (9-for-22) this week while drawing five walks and striking out only twice. Heyward also went 2-for-2 in stolen bases, and he remains among the SAL's leaders in average and OBP . . . Billings 3B Neftali Soto (Reds) laid waste to Pioneer League pitching with three home runs in two games last week. Soto, 19, was at it again this week going 8-for-17 (.471) and slugging .941. In a two game stretch, he went 4-for-5 and missed the cycle by a double, then went 3-for-4 with two doubles . . . High Class A St. Lucie SS Ruben Tejada (Mets) was arguably the worst hitter in the Florida State League during the first two months of the season. But Tejada, 18, showed in June that he's not as overmatched as many thought. This week, he hit .409/.458/.500 (9-for-22) with two doubles and a 2-2 walk-to-strikeout ratio. For the month of June, he's hitting .373/.428/.482 . . . Double-A Binghamton 1B/LF Nick Evans (Mets) proved he wasn't quite ready for prime time by hitting just .174/.208/.304 in a 23 at-bat big league trial this season. That's OK. He's still just 22 and is turning in a fine season in the Eastern League, where he ranks second in slugging (.566) and fourth in extra-base hits (32), despite spending a couple weeks in the Nationals League. He batted .407/.448/.741 (11-for-27) last week, with two homers, a double, a triple, seven RBIs, six runs, two walks and four strikeouts . . . One of the minors' streakiest hitters, Triple-A Salt Lake SS Brandon Wood (Angels) was hot this week, batting .393/.393/.750 (11-for-28) with two home runs, two doubles, a triple, nine RBIs and six runs scored. The 23-year-old supplied a walk-off hit on Tuesday, but still struck out once a game, on average, and did not draw a walk.

NOT HOT

Andrew McCutchen, cf, Pirates. It's been mostly a season of highlights for the 21-year-old McCutchen at Triple-A Indianapolis, but he's cooled considerably in June. He's batting just .256/.301/.326 for the month with four extra-base hits in 86 at-bats and a walk-strikeout mark of 5-16. This week, McCutchen managed just .200/.231/.240 (5-for-25) with a double, two runs scored, three RBIs and none of his usual patience (1 BB, 5 SO).

Wilkin Ramirez, lf, Tigers. Ramirez, 22, crushed Eastern League pitching for Double-A Erie, hitting .305/.362/.527 through June 5. He was so good that the Tigers promoted him to Triple-A Toledo—and that's when the problems started. Ramirez played in 11 games for the Mud Hens, going 3-for-36 with a double, one walk and 11 strikeouts, which equates to .083/.132/.111. The Tigers sent Ramirez back down to Double-A, but he's hit just .136/.240/.273 (3-for-23 with eight strikeouts) since his return. On the bright side, Ramirez can look forward to next month, when he will participate in the Futures Game.

Juan Francisco, 3b, Reds. Francisco's power potential earned him a spot on the World team for the Futures Game. But the 21-year-old still has a ways to go when it comes to learning the strike zone. His bat speed enables him to have big weeks, but his tendency to chase pitches out of the zone also means he has weeks like this one—Francisco is now 0-for-18 in his last five games for high Class A Sarasota, and is hitting .266/.284/.447 overall with a 72-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Brandon Hamilton, rhp, Tigers. Hamilton, 19, has had a rough go of things in his first full professional season. He's gone 0-5, 5.01 in six starts and two relief appearances for low Class A West Michigan, despite the fact that he's working in the pitching-oriented Midwest League. In some ways, Hamilton's start on Monday against Fort Wayne wasn't that bad, as he gave up four runs (three earned) on five hits in three innings. However, Hamilton, a supplemental first-round pick, handed out seven walks in just those three innings, although he was able to minimize the damage by getting a couple of double plays. His strikeout-walk ratio for the season stands at 22-28 in 32 1/3 innings. As we were finishing up the Hot Sheet, the Tigers announced that Hamilton is heading down the Gulf Coast League to try to get straightened out.

Jay Austin, cf, Astros. As a 17-year-old, Austin is one of the younger players in the Appalachian League, but he struggled this week with only 4 hits in 27 at bats for Rookie-level Greeneville, including 10 strikeouts. Austin has shown signs that he may be adjusting to pro ball, he had a three-hit night on Wednesday against Johnson City.

BLAST FROM THE PAST

John Parrish, lhp, Triple-A Syracuse. Parrish was leading the International League with 10 wins, while ranking fourth in ERA (2.74) and third in strikeouts (90), when the Blue Jays called him to the big leagues to take the injured Shaun Marcum's turn in the rotation. Though he's compiled a 4.63 ERA in six big league seasons, encompassing 161 games (all but 10 of them in relief), Parrish, 30, has spent an entire year in the majors just twice, in 2004 and again in 2007. Of course, his 2002 and 2006 seasons were wiped out completely by injury. But when healthy, Parrish, a 25th-round pick of the Orioles in 1996 from a Lancaster, Pa., high school, has been an effective minor league starter, going 44-34, 3.53 with 745 strikeouts and 350 walks in 743 innings.

HELIUM WATCH

DARYL JONES, LF
CARDINALS
Team: high Class A Palm Beach (Florida State)
Age: 21
Why he's here: .563/.650/.625 (9-for-16), 1 2B, 2 RBIs, 3 R, 3 BB, 1 SO, 3-for-3 SB
The Scoop: Jones turned down a scholarship at Rice to turn pro as the Cardinals' third-round pick in 2005. (He also was a highly-regarded wide receiver at Spring (Texas) High.) Though it's taken a while for his speed, athleticism and burgeoning power to play—he entered the year as a career .221/.312/.316 pro hitter, without advancing past low Class A—the lefthanded-hitting Jones is getting into the swing of things in the FSL, where he ranks first in on-base percentage (.408) and fifth in both slugging (.487) and average (.323). 
BRETT LORIN, RHP
MARINERS
Team: short-season Everett (Northwest)
Age: 21
Why he's here: 1-0, 1.50, 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 13 SO
The Scoop: Lorin, the Mariners' fifth-round pick out of Long Beach State as a draft-eligible sophomore, is a prospect on the rise. He showed his best stuff in college late in the season, and has carried that over to his first two pro starts. After striking out only 30 batters through the entire college season, Lorin struck out 13 in just one outing last week.

ANGEL MORALES, CF
TWINS
Team: Rookie-level Elizabethton (Appalachian)
Age: 18
Why he's here: .344/.382/.750 (11-for-32), 2 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 7 RBIs, 1 BB, 11 SO
The Scoop: Morales was one of the biggest names to come out of Puerto Rico in last year's draft when the Twins took him in the third round, but he disappointed in the Gulf Coast League last year. There have been very few doubts about Morales' ability, but the Twins were disappointed with his effort and approach to the game last year when he posted lackluster numbers in instructional leagues. His start this year may signal maturation, as he has put together a string of solid games to begin the season. Morales has reached base in eight of his first nine games, suggesting that he's refined his plate approach, an area that most plagued him coming into the year.


MEN AMONG BOYS

We've got a pair of 2007 college draftees who had big weeks in low Class A in this edition of Men Among Boys. Low Class A Kane County CF Corey Brown (Athletics) put up a .370/.433/.815 (10-for-27) week. Brown's plus bat speed has helped him climb up near the top of the Midwest League's home run leader board, where he currently ranks fourth with 12 homers on the season. Brown, 22, turned in three straight multi-hit games this week, the most impressive of which was when he went 3-for-5 with three doubles against Quad Cities on Tuesday. He's also collected at least one RBI in four straight games . . . Low Class A Dayton 3B Brandon Waring (Reds) hit .391/.500/.739 (9-for-23) this week. A prodigious power hitter at Wofford, not even the environment of the power-sapping Midwest League has been able to keep Waring down. The 22-year-old went deep in back-to-back games this week on Monday and Tuesday against South Bend, and his 15 home runs for the season rank second in the league.