Prospect Hot Sheet

Lefty Gio Gonzalez has been unhittable of late in Triple-A





See also: Previous Prospect Hot Sheets


Coming into the season, we ranked the Athletics as the No. 3 organization in our yearly talent rankings, largely because of their pitching depth. But I don't know if we or anyone would have imagined that they would make the impact we've seen this year—four members of the A's rotation are rookies (all four were ranked among the A's top 12 prospects before the season) and Andrew Bailey (#23) has emerged a key member of the bullpen.

But left out of the big league success has been Gio Gonzalez. Like he did last year, Gonzalez got off to a slow start, but also like he did last year, he's rallied, as evidenced by his spot at the top of this week's Prospect Hot Sheet.

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 (June 12-18).


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

No. 1 GIO GONZALEZ, LHP
ATHLETICS
Team: Triple-A Sacramento (Pacific Coast)
Age: 23
Why He's Here: 2-0, 0.00, 11 1/3 IP, 8 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 18 SO
The Scoop: Gonzalez has mixed flashes of brilliance with stretches of disappointment. Lately, however, Gonzalez has been as dominant as any pitcher in the minor leagues. In his last five starts, Gonzalez has an ERA of 0.30 in 30 1/3 innings—that's one run allowed—with 38 strikeouts, 13 walks and 13 hits allowed. His big-breaking curveball is an out pitch, one reason that he's averaging more than a strikeout per inning.

But for all of Gonzalez's recent excellence, it's fair to wonder whether he will sustain his performance going forward. Big league hitters lit up Gonzalez in his brief major league trial last year and in two appearances this year, and he's struggled with his control even in Triple-A with 34 walks in 61 innings (five walks per nine). There seems to be a wide range of outcomes for Gonzalez when he takes the mound, which means that while he can be frustrating at times, there is still plenty of upside there.
2009 Stats
No. 2 BRIAN MATUSZ, LHP
ORIOLES
Team: Double-A Bowie (Eastern)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 SO
The Scoop: Pitching is thin in Baltimore, where the big league club's 5.42 ERA ranks as the third-worst ERA in the major leagues. But beneath the big league roster, the Orioles are swimming in pitching prospects who could boost the rotation within the next few years. While Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta are already in Triple-A, Matusz and righthander Brandon Erbe are in Double-A, with Matusz making his debut for the Baysox on Wednesday. The fourth overall pick in 2008, Matusz shut down Reading through six innings, mixing in four pitches to keep hitters guessing. Usually, they guessed wrong.
2009 Stats
No. 3 JEMILE WEEKS, 2B
ATHLETICS
Team: high Class A Stockton (California)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: .500/.550/1.056 (9-for-18), 1 2B, 3 HR, 9 RBIs, 4 R, 2 BB, 4 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Second base is the least glamorous position for minor league prospects, since many major league second basemen come up through the minor leagues as shortstops. Yet the A's seem to have an uncanny amount of depth in the minors at second base between Weeks, Adrian Cardenas and Eric Patterson (see below). While Weeks spent the first chunk of the season in extended spring training, he's burst on to the Cal League scene powerfully, hitting six home runs in 18 games with a .403/.494/.694 batting league. Yeah, it's the Cal League, but Weeks has a hit in every game he's played in this season and has also shown enough patience to still draw 11 walks. His durability is going to be a concern, but staying healthy is about the only thing Weeks hasn't done this year.
2009 Stats
No. 4 BUSTER POSEY, C
GIANTS
Team: high Class A San Jose (California)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: .522/.633/.652 (12-for-23), 3 2B, 9 R, 2 RBIs, 7 BB, 2 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Posey didn't bash his way to the No. 4 spot on this week's Hot Sheet, but it's hard to argue with a guy who reached base in nearly two-thirds of his trips to the plate. The multi-talented catcher, who was the fifth overall pick in last year's draft, strung together four consecutive multi-hit games as part of a six-game hitting streak this week. Posey's .331 average for the season ranks third among California League hitters, while his .430 on-base percentage ranks fourth.
2009 Stats
No. 5 DEE GORDON, SS
DODGERS
Team: low Class A Great Lakes (Midwest)
Age: 21
Why He's Here: .480/.552/.680 (12-for-25), 1 2B, 2 3B, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 2 SO, 4-for-5 SB
The Scoop: Despite playing at a lower classification, Gordon has a higher ceiling than the other prominent shortstop prospects on the Dodgers' depth chart (Chin-Hung Lu, Ivan DeJesus Jr.). His game-changing speed and discerning batting eye make him a potential top of the order hitter. Gordon also is a potential plus defender, but what's stood out the most in the Midwest League is his speed—his 36 steals and eight triples both lead the circuit, and he's second in the league in runs scored.

2009 Stats
No. 6 RANDALL DELGADO, RHP
BRAVES
Team: low Class A Rome (South Atlantic)
Age: 19
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 SO
The Scoop: The majority of Latin American players come from the Dominican Republic or Venezuela, but the Braves are among the most active teams scouting in Panama and Colombia. The Braves spent $600,000 last year on catcher Christian Bethancourt, while Delgado, a fellow Panamanian, is garnering scouts' attention higher up the ladder with Rome. Delgado's ERA is up there at 4.91 through 51 1/3 innings, but the projectable righthander also has struck out 56 batters with a fastball that can get into the low-90s. His control needs work, but with Tommy Hanson in the big leagues and Jeff Locke now in the Pirates system, Delgado is one of the best minor league arms the Braves have.
2009 Stats
No. 7 MATT MOORE, LHP
RAYS
Team: low Class A Bowling Green (South Atlantic)
Age: 20
Why He's Here: 0-1, 3.86, 11 2/3 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 4 BB, 17 SO
The Scoop: A 2007 eighth-round pick from a New Mexico high school, Moore is getting his first taste of full-season ball this year with Bowling Green. The young lefthander has battled consistency issues most of the season while working under tight restrictions on his pitch counts, leading to a 3-3, 3.41 record through 13 starts. But he's been red hot recently. On June 6, Moore threw seven hitless innings while striking out 12 against Asheville, and he kept rolling in two starts this week, especially Wednesday night when he fanned 10 over 6 2/3 one-hit innings in Lexington. When he's on, Moore can be almost unhittable thanks to a low- to mid-90s fastball and a tight curveball with two-plane break. He's tied for third in the South Atlantic League with 86 strikeouts on the season, but, as evidence of his inconsistency, he's also tied for second in the league in walks with 40.
2009 Stats
No. 8 JHOULYS CHACIN, RHP
ROCKIES
Team: Double-A Tulsa (Texas)
Age: 21
Why He's Here: 1-0, 2.45, 7 1/3 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 10 SO
The Scoop: Chacin needed a little time to catch up to the Texas League, as he went only 1-3, 4.87 in his first four starts to open the season, but he's steadily improved since. He's upped his record to 5-5, 3.07 for the year and has held his opposition to two runs or less in each of his last five starts, pitching at least six innings in each of them. He turned in his best start of the year Tuesday against Northwest Arkansas, allowing only two hits over 7 1/3 innings, the deepest he's gone into a game this year, while fanning 10. Chacin is best known for his devastating changeup, which he pairs with a low-90s sinking fastball to induce groundballs by the bushel (2.12 groundout-to-flyout ratio), while keeping lefthanded hitters off balance. Lefties are hitting only .224 against Chacin, compared to .231 for righthanders.

2009 Stats
No. 9 JAMES McDONALD, RHP
DODGERS
Team: Triple-A Albuquerque (Pacific Coast)
Age: 24
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 13 SO
The Scoop: McDonald was sent back to Triple-A in mid-May after going 1-1, 6.75 in 10 appearances (four starts) for the Dodgers, and he's been making the most of the assignment so far. McDonald has turned in back-to-back double-digit strikeout games, the last coming in spectacular fashion Sunday in Round Rock, when he fanned 13 over seven shutout innings. McDonald has racked up 40 strikeouts while having allowed only 21 hits in 30 1/3 innings for the Isotopes. Big league lefty hitters didn't have much trouble figuring out McDonald, who relies on his offspeed pitches due to a fringy fastball, hitting .294 against him in 34 at-bats. The same can't be said for their Triple-A counterparts, whom McDonald has held to a .158 average in 38 at-bats.
2009 Stats
No. 10 TRAVIS WOOD, LHP
REDS
Team: Double-A Carolina (Southern)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: 2-0, 2.25, 12 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 15 SO
If we had had a normal Prospect Hot Sheet last week, Wood would have made a case for No. 1 with a complete-game shutout with 11 strikeouts. Until his start on June 18, Wood was working on a 22-inning scoreless streak. Even with his three runs allowed on June 18, he's still allowed only five runs in his last 41 innings, which explains why he's 7-3, 1.36 this year. Wood had the worst ERA (7.09) in the Southern League last year, so this is a pretty amazing turnaround, which can be credited in part to a cut fastball he's perfected, plus improved fastball command. The command may be the biggest improvement—he walked 27 batters in his first eight starts, but just five in his last six.
2009 Stats
No. 11 MARC RZEPCZYNSKI, LHP
BLUE JAYS
Team: Double-A New Hampshire (Eastern)
Age: 23
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.64, 14 IP, 10 H, 1 R, 0 HR, 4 BB, 1 HBP, 16 SO
The Scoop: A fifth-round pick in '07 from UC Riverside, Rzepczynski leads the EL with 88 strikeouts. On the flip side, he's also tops with 36 walks issued. But nearly half of those free passes (17) were issued in five April starts. Since then he's struck out 53 batters in 52 innings, while issuing a manageable 19 walks—or 3.3 per nine innings. Rzepczynski checks in on Hot Sheet this week for twirling seven shutout innings against Erie and then following that up by allowing only one run over seven innings to a strong Akron club. He struck out eight batters each time.
2009 Stats
No. 12 THOMAS NEAL, LF
GIANTS
Team: high Class A San Jose (California)
Age: 21
Why He's Here: .481/.533/.963 (13-for-27), 2 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 5 RBIs, 2 BB, 3 SO
The Scoop: You know your farm system is having a good year when you can make a solid argument for multiple players as the surprise prospect of the year. For the Giants, is it Jesus Guzman, a minor league free agent who's already gotten a big league callup? Or is it shortstop Brandon Crawford, last year's fourth-round pick who is already hit his way to Double-A? But you could also make a case for Neal, who is batting .350/.428/.632, which is a very loud season even in the California League. Neal's raw power is the second best in the Giants organization, trailing only Angel Villalona. He's turning that power into production—his 35 extra-base hits ranks among the minors' leaders.
2009 Stats
No. 13 ESMIL ROGERS, RHP
ROCKIES
Team: Double-A Tulsa (Texas)
Age: 23
Why He's Here: 2-0, 1.29, 14 IP, 14 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 0 HR, 2 BB, 11 SO
The Scoop: The TL's best pitcher to this point Rogers has thrown eight scoreless innings in two of his past four starts. The gem he pitched against Springfield on June 13, in his finest showing of the season, included 10 strikeouts, no walks and just five hits allowed. Rogers has been practically unbeatable over the course of his past nine starts (6-1, 1.80 with 48 SO, 15 BB and 1 HR in 60 IP), and he leads the TL in strikeouts (68) while ranking third in ERA (2.84).
2009 Stats

IN THE TEAM PHOTO

Intrigued by CF Robbie Grossman's wide range of abilities, the Pirates bought the sixth-rounder out of a Texas commitment last year for $1 million. It looks like money well spent. The 19-year-old switch-hitter batted .419/.471/.645 (13-for-31) this week for low Class A West Virginia, contributing three doubles, seven RBIs, six runs scored and two walks. Grossman flashed his athleticism by legging out two triples and stealing two bases in three attempts. However, he also struck out seven times, which remains an area for concern as he now has 82 of them in 58 games. That total ranks seventh in the minors . . .   LHP Mike Montgomery (Royals) was held back in spring training for the first month of the season, and he's been on a very short leash since he arrived in low Class A Burlington, having thrown less than five innings in five of his seven starts. But Montgomery, 19, has been very effective in his short stints. Montgomery allowed only four hits and one run in 10 2/3 innings this week with 10 strikeouts and only three walks . . . 1B Freddie Freeman (Braves) struggled in April, but since then the 2007 second-round pick has hit .343 in May and June. Now, Freeman is riding a seven-game hitting streak for high Class A Myrtle Beach and has hit safely in 13 of his last 14 games. For an 18-year-old, Freeman has an advanced bat and stayed hot last week, hitting .458 with two home runs . . . It has been a hit or miss season for 3B Pedro Alvarez (Pirates), and he did a lot of both last week. Alvarez, the 22-year-old 2008 first-round pick, posted two multi-home run games and two multi-strikeout games for high Class A Lynchburg, totaling four big flies and 13 strikeouts on the week. Still, seven of Alvarez's last nine hits have gone for extra bases, raising his numbers to .243/.338/.828 with 14 long balls . . . What a week. A 25th-round draft-and-follow from 2006, CF Tyson Gillies (Mariners) hit safely in 12 of 22 at bats to post an impressive .545 average for high Class A High Desert. He's shown good plate discipline while driving the ball, walking five times and hitting four extra-base hits last week. Gillies, 20, matched last year's home run total in one game, with two dingers on Sunday and is hitting .332/.441/.494 this season . . . Low Class A Greenville RHP Stolmy Pimentel (Red Sox) has excelled in his first year of full-season ball. The 19-year-old Dominican righthander has won five consecutive starts, improving to 6-3, 2.01 in 58 1/3 innings. In two starts this week, Pimentel pitched 10 innings and allowed two runs on seven hits while fanning 13 and walking three . . . High Class A Brevard County RF Caleb Gindl  (Brewers) belted three home runs this week, after having hit only five all year coming in. Gindl did more than just hit home runs, however, as the 20-year-old batted .348/.423/.783 (8-for-23) with six RBIs and three stolen bases to go with the long balls.

NOT-SO HOT SHEET

Jesus Guzman, 1b, Giants. Guzman, 24, has had a very solid season overall—he was hitting .363 in mid-May, which convinced the Giants to call him up to try to help the big league club's puny lineup. That lasted for only 10 at-bats, but Guzman's minor league mojo seemed to have been left in San Francisco. Guzman is hitting only .194 (14-for-72) since heading back to Triple-A Fresno, and the past week has been especially bad, as Guzman went 1-for-24 (.042) with no extra-base hits.

Kellen Kulbacki, rf, Padres. Offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder set Kulbacki back at the outset of the season. The 23-year-old debuted with Double-A San Antonio on May 9, but he hasn't been able to generate any sort of forward momentum. A supplemental first-round pick in '07 and one of the Padres' better hitting prospects, Kulbacki has floundered over the course of his first 120 at-bats. He's batting just .183/.240/.242 with six extra-base hits (no home runs) and 10 RBIs in 33 games. He hit a double as part of a 6-for-29 (.207) showing this week.

Charlie Blackmon, cf, Rockies. The 22-year-old Blackmon scuffled this week through what otherwise has been a fairly productive season in the high Class A California League. He went 5-for-28 (.179) with a triple and two runs scored for Modesto, but he struck out eight times while not drawing a walk. The '08 second-round pick made his hits count, though, as he contributed seven RBIs. Through 256 at-bats, Blackmon is batting .297/.365/.398 with 10 doubles and 15 stolen bases in 22 attempts.

L.J. Hoes, 2b, Orioles.
The Orioles gave Hoes an over-slot bonus last year as a third-round pick, but thus far the low Class A South Atlantic League has given Hoes all sorts of problems. The 19-year-old played in nine games this week thanks to two doubleheaders for Delmarva, yet still managed only three hits in 29 at-bats. Hoes' week dropped his season line to .225/.268/.277 in 58 games, and his 13 errors haven't been promising either.

MEN AMONG BOYS

James Darnell, 3b, Padres. Over the course of these past three weeks, Darnell has practically given a clinic on how to tame the low Class A Midwest League. In 16 June games, he's batted .418/.515/.600 (23-for-55) with seven doubles, a home run and a 10-to-7 walk-to-strikeout ratio for Fort Wayne. On the season, he leads the MWL in on-base percentage (.471) while ranking among the leaders in average (.330) and slugging (.526). Of course, he's a 22-year-old with a strong draft pedigree (second round, 2008, South Carolina), so he must be counting down the days until a spot opens with high Class A Lake Elsinore.

BLAST FROM THE PAST

Eric Patterson, 2b, Athletics. Unlike many Blasts, Eric Patterson seems like he could be a solid contributor to a big league club if given the opportunity. Of course, Patterson is also 26 years old, as he's seemingly been a prospect forever since the Cubs drafted him in the eighth round n 2004, though he's only accumulated 165 big league plate appearances. The A's have tried Patterson in center field and at second base, and perhaps it's time for some team to give him a big league look at one of those positions after his Triple-A performance thus far. Patterson went 12-for-28 (.429/.500/.893) this week with two homers, three triples, a double and three stolen bases, bringing his season line with Sacramento to .312/.389/.496 in 63 games.

HELIUM WATCH

Pat Venditte, rhp/lhp, Yankees. Venditte leads the minors with 20 saves, but it's his peripheral numbers that suggest he may me more than an ambidextrous anomaly. Pitching for low Class A Charleston, he's struck out 39 batters in 28 2/3 innings, while allowing only one home run and one walk. As luck would have it, that home run and that walk both occurred in the ninth inning of the same game, a May 13 contest against Lexington. Shortstop Ronald Ramirez struck first, taking Venditte deep on a 1-1 pitch. Apparently rattled, Venditte then surrendered his one and only walk to center fielder Jay Austin.
2009 Stats