Prospect Hot Sheet

Padres righthander Mat Latos dominates Double-A competition





See also: Previous Prospect Hot Sheets


Back when Mat Latos was piling up scoreless innings and striking out batter after batter in the Midwest League, it was fair to ask how much of his success was based on a more savvy 21-year-old facing teenage hitters.

Wonder no more. Latos has earned the top spot on this week's Hot Sheet with a convincing run of terror through the Texas League. 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 taken from the past week of games (May 29-June 4).

Contributing: Ben Badler, Dan Budreika, J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy, Powell Latimer and Jim Shonerd.

No. 1 MAT LATOS, RHP
PADRES
Team: Double-A San Antonio (Texas)
Age: 21
Why He's Here: 2-0, 0.00, 13 2/3 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 15 SO
The Scoop: The last Padres farmhand to have Latos' kind of raw stuff—not to mention this kind of minor leauge success—was Jake Peavy, back when he tore up the Double-A Southern League in 2002. The comparison should be considered a superficial one, though, because Latos and Peavy are different types of pitchers, and very different personalities.

Latos twice tweaked his ankle this spring in big league camp, forcing him to wait until May 2 to make his '09 debut with low Class A Fort Wayne. Just as he did last year, Latos dominated Midwest League competition, and he owns a composite 1.81 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 49 2/3 career innings at that level. This pleased the Padres so much that they jumped the prized righthander up to Double-A at the end of May, where he hasn't missed a beat.

Latos transitioned to Double-A with a four-inning stint versus Frisco on May 23. He struck out four and walked three, but allowed only one run on one hit. Turns out, Latos was merely setting the stage. In the past week, he twice faced first-place Springfield (a club that has scored the second-most runs in the TL), and the results are what you see above. What you don't see is that with the dominating performance, Latos has assumed the minor league ERA lead at 0.42.
2009 Stats
No. 2 CHRIS HEISEY, CF
REDS
Team: Double-A Carolina (Southern)
Age: 24
Why He's Here: .531/.571/1.000 (17-for-32), 3 2B, 4 HR, 12 RBIs, 3 BB, 6 SO, 2-for-2 SB
The Scoop: If not for the fact that Drew Stubbs is established as the center fielder for Triple-A Louisville, it would be time to start wondering what's keeping Heisey in Double-A. It's worth noting, though, that Heisey and Stubbs both played for high Class A Sarasota last year. Heisey now leads the SL in batting (.384), slugging (.640), runs (43) and hits (78)—and he ranks second in on-base percentage (.462) and doubles (18). His 10 home runs rank fourth. He's walked (27) more than he's struck out (19), and he's stolen 11 bases in 12 tries. He's simply been nearly flawless this year, which is a pretty amazing rise for a 17th-round pick from Division III Messiah (Pa.). The one knock he had coming into the year was his ability to hit righthanders, but he's more than handled them this year.
2009 Stats
No. 3 JESUS MONTERO, C
YANKEES
Team: Double-A Trenton (Eastern)
Age: 19
Why He's Here: .444/.500/.593 (12-for-27), 1 HR, 1 2B, 4 RBIs, 7 R, 2 BB, 2 SO
The Scoop: Not even a promotion to Double-A at age 19 can slow Montero, who now owns a career .326/.382/.501 batting line. And did we mention that he catches four or five times per week? This is the type of talent worthy of more hype than even we've provided—and in our Prospect Handbook we wrote that Montero has the system's best bat since Derek Jeter. A fond farewell to Montero's time in the Florida State League: He batted .356/.406/.583 with eight home runs and 37 RBIs in 48 games for Tampa, leaving the FSL as its leader in average and a top qualifier in just about every other offensive category.
2009 Stats
No. 4 JAMES DARNELL, 3B
PADRES
Team: low Class A Fort Wayne (Midwest)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: .556/.680/1.167 (10-for-18), 2 HR, 3 2B, 1 3B, 4 R, 7 RBIs, 7 BB, 3 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Darnell has epitomized the mature, disciplined hitting style the Padres preach. He leads the minors in walks with 50 in 51 games. But he's been doing plenty of damage when he does swing the bat as well. Darnell's two home runs this week give him seven for the season and included a solo shot off Royals prospect Tim Melville last Saturday. He recorded three consecutive three-hit games against Burlington and has upped his line for the season to .293/.457/.503 in 167 at-bats.
2009 Stats
No. 5 SCOTT ELBERT, LHP
DODGERS
Team: Double-A Chattanooga (Southern)
Age: 24
Why He's Here: 1-0, 1.46, 12 1/3 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 7 BB, 19 SO
The Scoop: Shoulder issues have slowed Elbert's once rocket-like climb to the big leagues. As evidence: he's in the SL for the fourth consecutive season. But Elbert's return to the rotation has paid off for the Dodgers—he's struck out 59 batters in in 45 innings, which included a solid start Thursday night on a rain-soaked diamond. Elbert may still end up as a hard-throwing lefty reliever—he's held lefties to a .407 OPS, compared to a .791 mark versus righthanders.

2009 Stats
No. 6 MICHAEL TAYLOR, RF
PHILLIES
Team: Double-A Reading (Eastern)
Age: 23
Why He's Here: .500/.500/.750 (14-for-24), 1 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBIs, 10 R, 6 BB, 5 SO, 1 HBP, 1-for-3 SB
The Scoop: You could make a darn good argument that Taylor and high Class A right fielder Dominic Brown form the best duo of outfield prospects in any organization. While Brown got the acclaim as Philadelphia's top prospect entering the season, Taylor continues to force his way up the rankings by barreling through the EL. He's now up to .351/.412/.615 in 49 games with 10 home runs, 17 walks and 23 strikeouts. In other words, that's one heck of a fifth-round pick.
2009 Stats
No. 7 TODD FRAZIER, LF
REDS
Team: Double-A Carolina (Southern)
Age: 24
Why He's Here:  .500/.576/.821 (14-for-28), 6 2B, 1 HR, 8 RBIs, 5 BB, 1 SO
The Scoop: Is it any surprise that the Carolina Mudcats are on an eight-game winning streak with two of their top prospects both making the Hot Sheet? Frazier has proven to be a doubles machine, as he leads the minors with 24 after his week-long binge. With Joey Votto out indefinitely, it's worth noting that Frazier still has his first baseman's mitt—he's played 11 games there this year, even if his first base at-bats will be very limited in Carolina now that Yonder Alonso has joined the club.
2009 Stats
No. 8 DEREK NORRIS, C
NATIONALS
Team: low Class A Hagerstown (South Atlantic)
Age: 20
Why He's Here: .391/.462/.739 (9-for-23), 2 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBIs, 6 R, 3 BB, 5 SO, 1-for 1 SB
The Scoop: Norris is one of Washington's most promising prospects, though no matter how well he plays, his odds of being the organization's top prospect at the end of the year are zilch if the Nationals sign Stephen Strasburg. But Norris has been outstanding, batting .329/.417/.613 with 26 walks and 49 strikeouts. Ranking second in the South Atlantic League in slugging and tied for first with 12 home runs, Norris is pushing for a promotion to the Carolina League.

2009 Stats
No. 9 RYAN STRIEBY, 1B
TIGERS
Team: Double-A Erie (Eastern)
Age: 23
Why He's Here: .481/.517/.852 (13-for-27), 2 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 8 RBIs, 2 BB, 4 SO
The Scoop: If not for a broken hamate bone that ended his season early, there's a pretty decent chance that Strieby would have cracked the Tigers Top 10 Prospects heading into the season. But what's amazing is that the Kentucky product has shown none of the power lull that usually follows a hamate injury. He leads the EL in home runs (14) and is second in slugging (.609). Like most big power hitters, Strieby is prone to strikeouts, but he does know how to work counts to get himself into hitter's counts.
2009 Stats
No. 10 KYLE DRABEK, RHP
PHILLIES
Team: Double-A Reading (Eastern)
Age: 21
Why He's Here: 2-0, 0.00, 16 IP, 9 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 11 SO
Drabek pitched his way into Double-A and kept right on rolling in his first start for Reading, tossing seven shutout innings while allowing just three hits. It looks like he's back—and better than ever—after the Phillies tweaked his mechanics following last year's Tommy John surgery. Drabeck  always has been tabbed as a guy who would rise quickly, and his success in the Florida State League (4-1, 2.48, 74 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings) seems to be translating to the next level as well.
2009 Stats
No. 11 ROSS SEATON, RHP
ASTROS
Team: low Class A Lexington (South Atlantic)
Age: 19
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 SO
The Scoop: The supplemental third-round pick from last year's draft is making a name for himself in an Astros organization short on talent. He's riding high after twirling a shutout this week against Augusta, and he's simply punished the Sally league (his ERA dropped to 2.44 after his complete-game effort). Seaton's meager 4.58 strikeouts per nine innings rate is alarming, but he has displayed fine control (1.68 walks per nine).
2009 Stats
No. 12 EVAN ANUNDSEN, RHP
BREWERS
Team: high Class A Brevard County (Florida State)
Age: 21
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 11 SO
The Scoop: Anundsen put his name on the map with his no-hitter against Daytona on April 28, but he hasn't tailed off much since. Anundsen has gone 4-1, 2.25 in six starts since the no-no, and turned in his best effort since then last Monday against Fort Myers. His 11 strikeouts were a season-high (he had 10 in the no-hitter), and his sinking fastball has continued producing ground balls at a healthy rate (1.58 groundout-to-flyout ratio for the year). Anundsen is all over the FSL's leaderboards, where he ranks third in ERA (1.87), is tied for first in wins (6) and ranks third in strikeouts (54).
2009 Stats
No. 13 MIKE STANTON, RF
MARLINS
Team: high Class A Jupiter (Florida State)
Age: 19
Why He's Here: .292/.414/.625 (7-for-24), 2 HR, 1 3B, 5 R, 8 RBIs, 5 BB, 8 SO
The Scoop: Stanton has slugged his way out of the FSL, as he'll vie for the Hot Sheet next week from Double-A Jacksonville. He homered in back-to-back games last Friday and Saturday, giving him 12 for the season to lead the FSL. For added perspective, his Jupiter teammates have combined to hit a grand total of 17 home runs, and none of them have more than three. He's also second in the league in RBIs (39) and third in slugging (.578). Stanton still strikes out a bit much, but he's continued improving his overall plate discipline, having drawn 28 walks through 50 games.
2009 Stats

IN THE TEAM PHOTO

Low Class A Cedar Rapids LHP Will Smith (Angels) used his big frame (6-foot-5, 215 pounds) and quality stuff to bully Midwest League hitters in his last start. He struck out nine and allowed only five hits and two runs in seven innings. Another one of Tom Kotchman's junior college finds, the 20-year-old smith boasts an excellent 35-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 35 innings . . . Double-A Trenton RHP Zach McAllister (Yankees) has been one of the Eastern League's most dominant starters all year, yet has flown relatively under the radar. Against Altoona on Sunday, McAllister, 21, struck out 10 over 6 2/3 innings while allowing a run on five hits. He's quietly compiled the second best ERA in the EL with a mark of 4-2, 1.84 in 54 innings along with a 42-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio . . . Tommy Hanson, we bid you adieu. The Braves righthander finally got to where he belongs—the big leagues. Hanson, 22, allowed one run (though he did give up three more unearned runs) in 5 2/3 innings in his last start for Triple-A Gwinnett, striking out eight without issuing a walk . . . The Mets used the 18th overall pick in last year's draft to select Arizona State 1B Ike Davis, mostly on the strength of his power projection. The key word is "projection," because the 6-foot-5 lefthanded batter provided precious little power in the short-season New York-Penn League in his debut, batting .256 with zero home runs in 58 games. With high Class A St. Lucie this season, the 22-year-old Davis has just four home runs, but his 16 doubles are tops in the Florida State League. He did launch two homers this week, however, in batting .350/.458/.800 (7-for-20) with a double, a triple, six RBIs and a 4-to-3 walk-to-strikeout ratio . . .  Double-A Midland C Josh Donaldson joined the Athletics in last July's Rich Harden deal, and he responded by bashing high Class A pitching. Donaldson has posted an impressive .283/.400/.478 batting line in 180 at-bats this season, and he has a good arm behind the plate. He's walking in 15.5 percent of his plate appearances this season, and if he can sustain his batting eye with solid defense he should move quickly through the organization . . . High Class A Potomac SS Danny Espinosa (Nationals) is making some noise in the Carolina League and looks like the organization's shortstop of the future. A third-round selection in last year's draft out of Long Beach State, Espinosa isn't hitting for a high average (.257), but his secondary skills may be enough to make him a sabermetric favorite. He's batting .257/.381/.480 with nine home runs on the season . . . RHP D.J. Mitchell's introduction to the high Class A Florida State League didn't go so well—he gave up six runs in four innings in his first start. His ERA (5.06) doesn't show it yet, but Mitchell is holding his own against the more advanced hitters. He struck out seven in six innings in his last start, and now has struck out 29 batters in only 21 innings since his promotion to Tampa.

NOT-SO HOT SHEET

Greg Halman, cf, Mariners. Sporting a .195 average and a minor league-leading 93 strikeouts through 200 at-bats, Halman managed to reach new depths this week with Double-A West Tenn, going 3-for-33 with a double and 16 strikeouts. Those whiffs represent a full 17 percent of his season total. But on the bright side, just 10 minor league batters have more than the 13 home runs that Halman does, suggesting along with his tender age (21) that a redemptive second act is at least a possibility.

Brandon Hicks, ss, Braves. Like Halman, Hicks can hit the ball far, but he also has plenty of swing and miss in his stroke. It looks to be catching up to him in Double-A Mississippi. Hicks, 23, went 2-for-29 this week with no extra-base hits, no walks and eight strikeouts. On the year, that puts Hicks at .214/.280/.313 with 56 strikeouts in 201 trips to the plate.

Jeff Locke, lhp, Pirates. Locke joined the Pirates along with Gorkys Hernandez and Charlie Morton in the Nate McLouth deal, but he certainly didn't leave the Braves in style. Pitching at Wilmington in his last start for high Class A Myrtle Beach, Locke was able to record just two outs and gave up seven runs, walking two, hitting two and allowing four hits. Locke has 43 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings, but his control has deserted him, leaving him with 26 walks, five hit batsmen and a 5.52 ERA.

Cole Rohrbough, lhp, Braves.
Rohrbough and Locke looked like one of the most promising young duos of lefthanded pitchers coming up through the minors together. Now Locke is a Pirate—"I don't want to be a pirate"—and Rohrbough isn't faring much better with the Braves. Rohrbough, who spent a month on the disabled list already this year, saw his ERA balloon to 5.88 on Tuesday after his worst start of the year with high Class A Myrtle Beach. Pitching at Winston-Salem, Rohrbough allowed 10 runs on 11 hits and two walks in just 2 2/3 innings.

MEN AMONG BOYS

Nate Sutton, 2b, Angels. Sutton started out the season as a left fielder for Double-A Arkansas, but he's played all over the infield this season, both at third and now second base. The 26-year-old was a 24th-round draft pick in 2004 out of UC Santa Barbara. The move to second seems to suit him, as he's raised his average average 31 points to .309 in the past week. He still struggles with strikeouts (17 already this season), but he hasn't swung the bat this well since his days in the Pioneer League (2004).

BLAST FROM THE PAST

Organizational solider Shelley Duncan just continues to hit at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Yankees). With Jake Fox up in the big leagues, Duncan took over the minor league home run lead, and is now hitting .302/.369/.680 with 19 home runs and 41 RBIs. The 29-year-old's claim to fame came during 2007 when he mashed 7 home runs and slugged .554 in 74 at-bats for the Yankees. If he keeps hitting at such a torrid pace, he should get a shot somewhere. But it probably won't be New York—not with Mark Teixeira manning first base and Hideki Matsui slotted in the DH spot.

HELIUM WATCH

ALEX PEREZ, RHP
INDIANS
Team: low Class A Lake County
Age:
19
Why He's Here:
1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 10 SO
The Scoop:
The Indians have had one of the game's best Latin American programs for years, and their international pipeline continues to fuel their system with players like Hector Rondon and Kelvin de la Cruz, among others. Add Perez to the Indians' collection of promising Latin American arms as well. His fastball sits at 88-90 mph, but his plus breaking ball comes in at 78-80 and can be a knockout pitch, rivaling de la Cruz for the system's best breaking ball. On the season, Perez is averaging nearly a strikeout per inning with a 52-16 K-BB mark in 53 2/3 innings and a 3.02 ERA.
2009 Stats