Prospect Hot Sheet

Rangers first baseman Justin Smoak has been smoking the ball





See also: Previous Prospect Hot Sheets


How about the South Carolina Gamecocks draft class of '08? It's only the third Prospect Hot Sheet of the season, and already three members of that class have been represented. Justin Smoak (No. 1 on this Hot Sheet), Reese Havens (No. 7 on last week's Hot Sheet) and James Darnell (No. 7 on this time) have represented the school well with their remarkable play thus far.

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.

Contributing: Ben Badler, Kary Booher, J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy and Jim Shonerd.

No. 1 JUSTIN SMOAK, 1B
RANGERS
Team: Double-A Frisco (Texas)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: .520/.625/.840 (13-for-25), 2 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBIs, 6 BB, 3 SO
The Scoop: Even if Texas didn't draft Justin Smoak last year, they still might have the best farm system in baseball. That Smoak was still available for the Rangers with the 11th overall selection is beginning to look like a tremendous bit of good fortune for the Rangers, who at the end of the year might have one of—if not the best—first base prospects in baseball in their farm system.

A switch-hitter with a 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame, Smoak features good hitting and power tools, strike-zone discipline and above-average defensive ability. In Double-A, he's showing a broad skill set without many weaknesses. He's now batting .351/.467/.568 through 20 games with four doubles, four home runs and more walks (16) than strikeouts (10).
2009 Stats
No. 2 NOLAN REIMOLD, LF
ORIOLES
Team: Triple-A Norfolk (International)
Age: 25
Why He's Here: .381/.480/1.095 (8-for-21), 4 HR, 3 2B, 6 RBIs, 7 R, 2 BB, 1 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Maintaining a slugging percentage that starts with a one over any week of play is an impressive feat, and doubly so when one accomplishes it in Norfolk's spacious Harbor Yard. For good measure, Reimold went 2-for-4 with a homer and a double in his lone road game. The Orioles' second-round pick out of Bowling Green State in '05, Reimold already is 25 years old, but that just intensifies the case for a big league callup for the IL's leader in both on-base (.482) and slugging (.775).
2009 Stats
No. 3 TOMMY HANSON, RHP
BRAVES
Team: Triple-A Gwinnett (International)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: 1-1, 0.75, 12 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 15 SO
The Scoop: What's left to write about Hanson? We all know the stuff—a plus fastball, a pair of plus breaking balls and a changeup that also flashes as a quality offering—is among the best in the minors, which has led to a 1.38 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings. There probably aren't many pitchers in the major leagues with the kind of stuff that Hanson has, though his command isn't quite where it needs to be yet.
2009 Stats
No. 4 GREG HALMAN, CF
MARINERS
Team: Double-A West Tenn (Southern)
Age: 21
Why He's Here: .348/.385/1.000 (8-for-23), 5 HR, 13 RBIs, 6 R, 1 BB, 10 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: This may be the only time you'll ever find a .198 hitter on Hot Sheet—but Halman's power is too loud to be ignored, especially when placing his age and playing environment into context. His outburst this week included a pair of two-homer games . . . but also two three-strikeout games and another game with two whiffs. His all-or-nothing approach hasn't handicapped his bottom line to this point, but it's an obvious area for improvement. Through it all, Halman actually has been a quality situational hitter this season. He drove in 13 runs on the week (and leads the SL with 23 RBIs for the season) and he's hitting .324 with runners on base, and .280 when they're in scoring position. 
2009 Stats
No. 5 DAN HUDSON, RHP
WHITE SOX
Team: low Class A Kannapolis (South Atlantic)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: 0-1, 1.42, 12 2/3 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 2 HBP, 1 BB, 24 SO
The Scoop: A year ago, Hudson was suffering the worst season of his three-year career at Old Dominion. But reunited with college teammate Dexter Carter as members of the White Sox after signing as a fifth-round pick for $180,000, Hudson got back on track and has stormed out of the gate this season. Through 22 innings (covering four starts), the righthander has shown incredible pinpoint control in going 1-2, 1.23 with 30 strikeouts and two walks. He's yielded 15 hits and owns an opponents average of just .190.
2009 Stats
No. 6 JAKE FOX, 1B
CUBS
Team: Triple-A Iowa (Pacific Coast)
Age:
26
Why He's Here:
.500/.600/1.350 (10-for-20), 5 HR, 2 2B, 7 RBIs, 8 R, 4 BB, 4 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop:
Fox is blocked from the major leagues by the presence of Derrek Lee and Micah Hoffpauir with the Cubs, but he's doing everything he can to slug his way out of Iowa anyway. Fox's all-or-nothing approach to hitting usually leads to plenty of power and more than his share of strikeouts, but he's been decimating PCL pitching since Opening Day. Fox is hitting .429/.500/1.026 with as many home runs (12) as singles. His dozen long balls leads the entire minor leagues, as no one else has more than nine.

2009 Stats
No. 7 JAMES DARNELL, 3B
PADRES
Team: low Class A Fort Wayne (Midwest)
Age:
22
Why He's Here: .
364/.533/.773 (8-for-22), 3 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBIs, 8 R, 8 BB, 5 SO, 2-for-3 SB
The Scoop:
We might as well get it out of the way first: Yes, Darnell is a bit too advanced for low Class A. He's a TinCap, though, because the Padres have fellow college third baseman Logan Forsythe, who was drafted 23 spots ahead of Darnell last June, installed as the regular at high Class A. But look past Darnell's age and the experience and you've got a potential five-tool third baseman who ranks second in the MWL in on-base percentage (.481) and fifth in slugging (.589). 
2009 Stats
No. 8 EVAN ANUNDSEN, RHP
BREWERS
Team: high Class A Brevard County (Florida State)
Age: 20
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 SO
The Scoop: A Brewers fourth-round pick from Columbine High in Littleton, Colo., in 2006, Anundsen could be on his way to a break out season. He certainly put himself on the radar after firing the season's first nine inning no-hitter Tuesday against Daytona. Anundsen relies on a sinking mid-80s fastball, which he uses to get opponents to beat into the ground, and has had spectacular results so far. He went only 12-8, 4.28 last year in low Class A in his first year of full-season ball, but he's off to a 2-2, 1.44 start through four outings for Brevard County.
2009 Stats
No. 9 CHRISTIAN FRIEDRICH, LHP
ROCKIES
Team: low Class A Asheville (South Atlantic)
Age:
21
Why He's Here:
1-0, 1.50, 12 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 17 SO
The Scoop:
A first-round pick out of Eastern Kentucky last June, Friedrich is apparently bucking for a promotion. He struck out 10 over six innings in a start Thursday night against visiting Charleston, earning his first win since April 12 and second overall. He has yielded just one home run this season and has yet to uncork a wild pitch.
2009 Stats
No. 10 MATT LaPORTA, LF
INDIANS
Team: Triple-A Columbus (International)
Age: 24
Why He's Here: .333/.423/.762 (7-for-21), 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 4 BB, 3 SO
The Scoop: With Travis Hafner on the disabled list and Cleveland's left fielders producing a .740 OPS so far, LaPorta's chance at going to the major leagues for good should come soon, though manager Eric Wedge downplayed a possible promotion: "The difference makers are our core players who are here. LaPorta is so young, just out of college. He's off to a good start, and his day will come." Except that LaPorta isn't that young—he's 24, nearly two years removed from being drafted as a senior out of Florida as a first-round pick in 2007—and is hitting .352/.427/.676 in 20 games this year after obliterating the Double-A Southern League last year. He's ready for the big leagues right now, and shouldn't last too many more weeks in the minors.
2009 Stats
No. 11 JEREMY HELLICKSON, RHP
RAYS
Team: Double-A Montgomery (Southern)
Age:
22
Why He's Here:
1-1, 3.00, 12 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 1 HR, 1 HBP, 3 BB, 17 SO
The Scoop:
When it comes to the Rays' system, there is no shortage of talent, and sometimes a guy like Hellickson can get overlooked. But it's difficult to pass on the season the righthander is enjoying at Montgomery, where center fielder Desmond Jennings continues to dominate as well. Hellickson has struck out 33 and issued eight walks in 28 innings, and his past two starts have been identical as each has lasted six innings and 25 batters.
2009 Stats
No. 12 MATT McBRIDE, 1B
INDIANS
Team: high Class A Kinston (Carolina)
Age:
23
Why He's Here:
.538/.556/.962 (13-for-25), 2 2B, 3 HR, 12 RBIs, 1 BB, 4 SO
The Scoop:
Shoulder problems have forced McBride to move from behind the plate to first base, but if he keeps hitting like this, that won't be a problem. But the shoulder problems also cost him some developmental time, as he missed most of the 2008 season rehabbing the injury. He's making up for lost time this year, hitting .412/.468/.718 in April. McBride would be a solid candidate for a promotion to Double-A Akron if not for the fact that he's blocked by Beau Mills.
2009 Stats
No. 13 CALEB GINDL, RF
BREWERS
Team: high Class A Brevard County (Florida State)
Age: 20
Why He's Here: .440/.500/.680 (11-for-25), 2 HR, 10 RBIs, 4 R, 4 BB, 0 SO
The Scoop: Gindl tended to get lost in the shuffle among all the talented teenagers in the South Atlantic League last season, but he put up a strong year of his own in hitting .307/.388/.474 (including .344/.417/.535 in the second half) as a 19-year-old in his first full season. This year, Gindl has picked up where he left off, despite now finding himself in the pitching-oriented FSL. He's started cutting down on his strikeouts after racking up 144 last year, and has continued producing at a high rate, hitting .380/.446/.563 through 71 at-bats. He had a six-game hitting streak snapped yesterday, but has driven in at least one run in eight of his last 10 games.
2009 Stats

IN THE TEAM PHOTO

High Class A Frederick LHP Brian Matusz (Orioles) signed last summer as Baltimore's first-round pick and didn't make his debut until the Arizona Fall League, where he immediately made his mark. Now in the Carolina League, Matusz, 22, has not missed a beat. In his only start since the last Hot Sheet, he got the win in pitching six innings in which he struck out eight, worked around two walks as well as six hits and three runs, including two home runs . . . Triple-A Salt Lake LF Chris Pettit (Angels) is doing quite well, thank you very much. A year after missing half the season after breaking his right foot chasing a fly ball on Opening Day, the 24-year-old is burning through the Pacific Coast League. In the past week he hit .625/.625/.917 with five doubles, a triple and five RBIs in 24 at-bats . . . Indians RHP Hector Rondon is adept at picking apart hitters with his low-90s fastball, which has touched 94 mph this year and been a tick or two higher in the past. Pitching for Double-A Akron, Rondon threw 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball, walking one and striking out nine. On the year, the 21-year-old Rondon has a 1.17 ERA in 23 innings with a 22-4 K-BB mark . . . When Dodgers RHP Ethan Martin takes the mound, low Class A Great Lakes knows what they are going to get. In four starts, the 19-year-old's worked exactly five innings each time, giving up somewhere between two and four hits. He's struck out seven in each of his last two starts, and usually the Loons win (they're 3-1). Martin's mid-90s fastball is just more than the average Midwest League hitter can handle . . . Triple-A Norfolk RHP Chris Tillman (Orioles) posted his second dominant start in three tries last Friday against Durham. The 21-year-old tossed six shutout innings, his longest outing of the season, while giving up only three hits and one walk while striking out six. Tillman recorded his first win of the season and owns a sparkling 1.29 ERA through 14 innings . . . If you blinked, you might have missed RHP Jarrod Parker's (Diamondbacks) quick run through the high Class A California League. The 20-year-old needed just four starts before earning a promotion to Double-A Mobile. In his final start, Parker tossed five innings and allowed only a run on three hits while fanning eight and walking one. He finished his tour of the hitter-friendly Cal League at 1-0, 0.95, having allowed just 12 hits and two runs over 19 innings . . . High Class A High Desert RHP Michael Pineda's (Mariners) pitching coach Jaime Navarro said it best: "He's a pitching machine—he just throws strikes." The 20-year-old Pineda, who ranks third in the California League with 25 2/3 innings, picked up a win this week with 7 1/3, one-run, six-strikeout innings in start against San Jose. Oh yeah, the start was made hitter's haven High Desert. The 6-foot-5 righty is picking up steam. Check out his past two outings: 2-0, 2.51 with 14 strikeouts, no walks and nine hits in 14 1/3 innings.

NOT-SO HOT SHEET

Fernando Martinez, lf, Mets. All good things must come to an end. The Triple-A Buffalo outfielder got off to a fast start, but after a week spent going 1-for-18 (.056/.150/.056 with two walks and five whiffs), Martinez's season line has crashed back to earth: .233/.288/.411. He still leads the International League with eight doubles, and he's still just 20, so perhaps his next appearance will come on the positive side of the Hot Sheet ledger.

Nick Weglarz, lf, Indians. Weglarz is one of the most patient hitters in a system that has several players with good plate discipline. He's drawn 10 walks in 20 games so far, but walking is about all that Weglarz has done this year. He's off to a 5-for-56 start with Double-A Akron, batting .089/.243/.143 with one extra-base hit (a home run). At 21 and in Double-A, he's ahead of the curve, but Weglarz isn't off to a very good start.

Drew Naylor, rhp, Phillies.
It's been a great April for Phillies pitching prospects as Mike Stutes, Carlos Carrasco, Vance Worley and Jason Knapp have been dominating almost every time they take the mound. But Naylor, the Phillies No. 13 prospect coming into the season, didn't enjoy April nearly as much, as he finished the month 1-2, 11.05 for high Class A Clearwater. Naylor pitched briefly for Australia during the World Baseball Classic but he spent most of his WBC time on the bench, which may help explain why he's behind hitters right now. Naylor's last outing (3 2/3 IP, 8 H, 10 ER, 3 BB, 3 SO) shows he's a long way from getting things straightened out.

Abner Abreu, rf, Indians. Abreu looks great in a uniform, has great bat speed and has some other tools that are easy to notice. But that ceiling is going to be limited if he never learns some plate discipline. Off to a .208/.240/.292 start through 17 games with low Class A Lake County, Abreu already has 29 strikeouts in 75 plate appearances and only two walks, one of which was intentional. This week Abreu put together a three-strikeout and a pair of four-strikeout games, going 2-for-18 with 12 whiffs.

MEN AMONG BOYS

Danny Putnam, of, Athletics. Putnam, who turns 27 in September, is back in the Double-A Texas League with Midland and doing well. Through his first 78 at-bats, he owns a line of .308/.400/.551 with five home runs, four doubles and 16 RBIs. That includes multi-hit games in five of his past six games, including a 4-for-5 effort on Wednesday at Corpus Christi. Putnam first appeared in the TL in 2005 and reached Triple-A Sacramento each of the past two seasons,  hitting 15 home runs, 18 doubles and 57 RBIs last season, when he batted .276/.384/.494.

BLAST FROM THE PAST

Eric Milton, lhp, Dodgers. We're not going to say that Milton's 3-year, $25 million contract with the Reds in 2005 was a mistake. Milton's 8-15, 6.47 showing in 2005 pretty much made that self-explanatory. But more than poor pitching, Milton has also been hampered for injuries. He's just now making his first appearances since injuring his elbow in 2007. But the way he's pitching right now for Triple-A Albuquerque, there is a glimmer of a chance he could end up being a useful emergency option for the Dodgers. The 33-year-old has thrown 12 scoreless innings over his last two starts and has allowed only four hits over the two outings.

HELIUM WATCH

MOISES SIERRA, RF
BLUE JAYS
Team: high Class A Dunedin (Florida State)
Age:
20
Why He's Here:
.318/.423/.591 (7-for-22), 3 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBIs, 4 R, 1 BB, 4 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop:
One scout labeled Sierra the best positional prospect on last year's low Class A Lansing squad, a team that also included four of the Jays' top seven picks from '07: third baseman Kevin Ahrens, shortstop Justin Jackson, second baseman John Tolisano and center fielder Eric Eiland. Toronto long has praised Sierra for his plus power—both in his bat and in his throwing arm—but he scuffled to a .246/.297/.364 finish in last year's Midwest League and didn't rank in our Prospect Handbook. That appears to be an oversight. Still just 20 and aggressively pushed to the FSL, Sierra has handled the jump with aplomb, batting .313/.395/.537 with seven doubles, a triple and two homers through his first 18 games.

The Blue Jays signed a pair of international outfielders in 2005, Sierra out of the Dominican and Venezuelan Johermyn Chavez, who's leading the organization with a .342 average for Lansing.
2009 Stats