Prospect Hot Sheet

Giants' Thomas Neal no longer guarded Cal League secret

See also: Previous Prospect Hot Sheets

The Futures Game as well as the Triple-A, Eastern and Southern league all-star games cut into our player pool for this week's Hot Sheet. No big deal. We managed to find plenty of worth candidates from among the leftovers.

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 (July 10-16).

Contributing: Ben Badler, Dan Budreika, Matt Eddy, Matt Forman, Conor Glassey, Jim Shonerd.

Brian MatuszTeam: high Class A San Jose (California)
Age: 21
Why He's Here: .435/.536/.783 (10-for-23), 1 HR, 1 3B, 3 2B, 6 RBIs, 8 R, 3 BB, 1 SO
The Scoop: Neal's always had big-time power. The knock on him coming into the season was that
he had struck out in nearly a quarter of his at-bats. This was true in 2006 and 2008, his two full pro seasons. He missed nearly all of 2007 recovering from surgery to repair a dislocated shoulder.

This year, the 2005 draft-and-follow out of Riverside (Calif.) CC is playing close to home in the Cal League—and he seems to enjoy the local flavor. Neal has cut his strikeout rate (19.5 percent), while producing some of the gaudiest numbers in the league.

Over 298 at-bats, Neal is hitting .346/.431/.614 with 27 doubles, four triples and 15 home runs. On July 13, he went 3-for-5, coming a single away from hitting for the cycle. It would have been his second of the season, having done it on April 28.

2009 Stats
Derek NorrisTeam: high Class A Potomac (Carolina)
Age: 21
Why He's Here: .500/.552/.808 (12-for-26), 2 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBIs, 5 R, 2 BB, 5 SO
The Scoop: Marrero's season ended early last year after he broke his leg in a collision at home plate. That's the biggest reason why he's repeating the Carolina League this season. Always known for his power, Marrero was starting to put it all together after a disappointing 2008, when he batted .250/.325/.453 in 70 games. Washington noticed that Marrero was standing too far from the plate and had a tendency to step in the bucket last year. He's made strides in correcting those flaws, and he was reaping the benefits in July by batting .388/.458/.673 with three home runs. Marrero recently turned 21 and may be in line for a second-half promotion to Double-A Harrisburg.
2009 Stats
Jordan LylesTeam: Double-A Midland (Texas)
Age: 21
Why He's Here: .423/.444/.731 (11-for-26), 5 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBIs, 5 R, 1 BB, 1 SO
With an easy, compact swing, Cardenas is the type of player who could sleepwalk his way to a .300 average. His pure hit tool ranks among the best in the organization, and he has the strike-zone judgment (shown in part by his 37 walks and 35 strikeouts in Double-A) to make it all come together for him at the plate. A brief trial in Triple-A didn't work out, but the lefty-swinging Cardenas is still one of the youngest players in the Texas League, where he's hitting .358/.429/.489, ranking second in the league in average and on-base and third in OPS.
2009 Stats
Jordan LylesTeam: Double-A Arkansas (Texas)
Age: 21
Why He's Here: .478/.538/.739 (11-for-23), 1 HR, 1 2B, 1 3B, 8 RBIs, 3 R, 3 BB, 2 SO
The Scoop: Despite featuring a fistful of the Angels' best position player prospects, the Double-A Travelers remain mired in last place—right where they finished the first half. The club's .386 winning percentage is among the worst in the minors. Center fielder Peter Bourjos and first baseman Mark Trumbo have had their moments, but it's Conger who has been providing the offense this summer. Since the beginning of June, the switch-hitter has batted .319/.358/.493 in 35 games, clubbing four of his seven home runs. And here's the really good part: Conger has produced while spending 51 of his 75 games at catcher. That's good news, considering he caught just 10 games last year as he battled myriad injuries.
2009 Stats
Travis WoodTeam: Double-A Binghamton (Eastern)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 SO, 2 GIDP
The Scoop: The 6-foot-4 righthander from UNC Wilmington closed out the first half with a nifty 80-to-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio, as well as the performance you see above. One start prior, Holt recorded 10 strikeouts, one walk and three hits allowed in five innings. He surrendered three runs in that effort, but he can be forgiven, seeing as he missed three weeks in June nursing a twisted ankle. According to Mets vice president of player development Tony Bernazard, the ankle no longer is an issue for Holt, the 33rd overall pick last year. His primary developmental goal for the second half: finding consistency with his changeup and curveball.

2009 Stats
Hector RondonTeam: high Class A Kinston (Carolina)
Age: 19
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.69, 13 IP, 11 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 11 SO
The Scoop: Perez is no longer under the radar. The lanky righthander with an 88-90 mph fastball and a plus curveball with late action flew through the low Class A South Atlantic League before earning a promotion to Kinston this month. In his two starts so far in the Carolina League, he has been just as much of a challenge for opposing batters. Between Perez, Hector Rondon, Kelvin de la Cruz and others still on the way, the Indians have built one of the game's steadiest pipelines of young Latin American pitching.
2009 Stats
Jason HeywardTeam: low Class A Hickory (South Atlantic)
Age: 18
Why He's Here: 2-0, 0.90, 10 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 9 SO
The Scoop: Perez has won his last three starts, allowing only two earned runs over 15 innings in the process. He has continued dominating righthanded hitters all season, thanks to the emergence of his changeup as a go-to secondary pitch. He's held righthanders to a .219 average, compared to .286 for lefties, and his 2.55 ERA for the year ranks sixth in the SAL. The Rangers have been very cautious with Perez's workload, but he's gone exactly five innings in each of his last four starts. Before that, he hadn't lasted five innings or more in more than two consecutive outings.
2009 Stats
Zeke SpruilTeam: high Class A Stockton (California)
Age: 23
Why He's Here: .368/.500/.947 (7-for-19), 3 HR, 1 3B, 4 RBIs, 6 R, 5 BB, 6 SO, 3-for-4 SB
The Scoop: Desme is having a solid season, especially considering that injuries had limited him to just 49 at-bats during his first two pro seasons. A second-round pick out of Cal Poly in 2007, he started the season with low Class A Kane County, where he batted .274/.334/.490 with 19 doubles, 11 homers and 24 stolen bases in as many attempts. Desme got a power boost after being promoted to the Cal League, of course, and over his first 21 games with the Ports, he has hit .260/.360/.649 with eight home runs. The power doesn't come without its downfalls, though. Between the two levels, Desme has struck out 113 times in 336 at-bats.

2009 Stats
Matt MooreTeam: Double-A San Antonio (Texas)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: .421/.500/.684 (8-for-19), 1 HR, 2 2B, 4 RBIs, 5 R, 3 BB, 3 SO
The Scoop: The minor league leader in walks (71) and on-base percentage (.463), Forsythe quietly has made his case as the most productive hitter from the '08 draft. Gordon Beckham and Buster Posey might have something to say about that, but then Forsythe, an Arkansas product, lasted until the 46th overall pick. More than just a patient hitter bent on drawing walks, Forsythe has batted .324 on the year, in making the jump to Double-A, with a modest .495 slugging percentage and strikeouts in just 20 percent of his at-bats.
2009 Stats
Cody ScarpettaTeam: short-season Spokane (Northwest)
Age: 20
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.90, 10 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 2 HBP, 3 BB, 7 SO
The Scoop: Strikeouts? Check. Groundballs? Check, or maybe that should be a check-plus. Making his professional debut after signing last year as a second-round pick, the 20-year-old Ross has a 2.67 ERA with a 41-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 30 1/3 innings. While Ross has been punching out batters with his low-90s fastball and his slider, he's done a remarkable job keeping the ball on the ground, as 88 percent of his outs on balls in play have been groundouts.
2009 Stats
Jamie McOwenTeam: high Class A Brevard County (Florida State)
Age: 21
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 SO
The Scoop: Anundsen keeps on rolling. The sinkerballer still hasn't allowed a home run all season in 87 1/3 innings. For that matter, he still hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in any start. He doesn't throw hard, but Anundsen has shown he can miss bats. And now he's got a real shot at the FSL's pitching triple crown. He ranks first in the league in ERA (1.85), third in strikeouts (83) and fifth in wins (8).
2009 Stats
Mat LatosTeam: low Class A Lakewood (South Atlantic)
Age: 20
Why He's Here: .263/.533/.769 (12-for-26), 5 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBIs, 4 BB, 5 SO
The Scoop: As the weather is heating up, so is D'Arnaud. After hitting .192 through May 31, Philadelphia's supplemental first round-pick in 2007 has hit .291 since. And though D'Arnaud's has hit just three home runs in June and July, he's gone back to what worked for him in the past: hitting gap to gap. In the last month and a half, he had had picked up 12 doubles and 21 RBIs, upping his season line to
.236/300/.396. Coming into the season, the Phillies wanted D'Arnaud to be more aggressive at the plate, and early on he might have been trying to do too much. Regarded as a premium defensive talent, D'Arnaud has thrown out just 21 percent of basestealers this year, which is actually an improvement from the 19 percent in 2008.
2009 Stats
Esmil RogersTeam: Triple-A Round Rock (Pacific Coast)
Age: 24
Why He's Here: 0-1, 2.57, 7 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 SO
The Scoop: Norris' biggest foe this season has been his own team's offense. The PCL's ERA (2.46) and strikeout (107) leader has compiled an ugly 3-8 record, and hasn't won since June 15, thanks to one of the league's least productive offenses. Not included in the numbers above are Norris' two innings in the Triple-A all-star game, where he started for the PCL and threw two scoreless frames, fanning two.
2009 Stats


Yankees RF Kelvin De Leon is a powerful 18-year-old, which he has shown in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League by hitting .324/.375/.527 with four home runs in 20 games. De Leon could have well above-average power in the future, though at some point his free-swinging ways (four walks, 28 strikeouts in 80 PAs) could catch up to him . . . Low Class A Lakewood 2B Harold Garcia (Phillies) is on a seven-game hitting streak that has raised his line for the year to .290/.344/.430. The 22-year-old Venezuelan hit .429/.467/.643 (12-for-28) on the week, adding two home runs, five RBIs and three stolen bases, upping his season total to 27, good for fourth in the South Atlantic League . . . Double-A Frisco LHP Kasey Kiker (Rangers) continued his recent run of dominance. The 21-year-old held Arkansas to one run on four hits over six innings Sunday, striking out six along the way. It was the fourth straight start in which he's held opponents to run run or less . . . The grind of the minor league season can wear down even the best of prospects. So it wasn't terribly surprising to see 17-year-old Mets 3B Jefry Marte, in his first year of full-season ball, get off to a slow start. Through his first 300 at-bats, he batted just .230/.265/.330 for low Class A Savannah, with four homers and 27 errors in 76 games. Marte took a reprieve from his not-hot ways and this week batted .364/.440/.636 (8-for-22) with a home run, three doubles, three RBIs and five runs scored. He committed two more miscues in the field, though, and struck out eight times, but at this stage of his development, one has to take the bad with the good . . . Double-A San Antonio's Logan Forsythe hasn't been the only Missions player on a mission. The club's catcher, Padres' '07 supplemental first-rounder Mitch Canham, has provided steady offense in July, going 17-for-39 (.436) with three homers, two doubles and eight RBIs in 12 games. The lefthanded hitter did much of that damage in the past week, and he boasts an impressive 33-to-41 walk-to-strikeout ratio over 71 games this season. Opposing basestealers still like to run on Canham, who has thrown out 18 percent of the 93 would-be thieves . . . It was a good week for high Class A Modesto RHP Connor Graham (Rockies). Over two starts, the 2007 fifth-rounder from Miami (Ohio) went 2-0, 0.87 with seven hits allowed, 15 strikeouts and two walks over 10 1/3 innings . . . Still only 18 years old, short-season Williamsport C Sebastian Valle (Phillies) is hitting with authority beyond his years. Since moving to the New York-Penn League, Valle is hitting .390/.449/.780 over his first 59 at-bats. Last week, he went 7-for-18 with a double, two triples and two home runs.


Gorkys Hernandez, of, Pirates: Since being traded from Atlanta to Pittsburgh in the Nate McLouth deal, the 21-year-old Hernandez has struggled for Double-A Altoona. A key piece in the exchange, Hernandez batted .316/.361/.387 for Mississippi prior to the deal. But after going 1-for-25 last week, his averages dropped to .250/.292/340 in the Eastern League. Despite plus speed, Hernandez has been caught stealing four times in six tries. His value rests in his ability to get on base, steal bases and play solid defense, but thus far he hasn't done those things for Altoona.

Bryan Morris, rhp, Pirates: Morris, the Dodgers' first-round pick in 2006, was one of the key chips the Pirates received in the three-team deal that sent Jason Bay to Boston and Manny Ramirez to Los Angeles last year. Morris missed all of 2007 after going Tommy John surgery and then missed the first two months this year with shoulder inflammation. In seven starts for high Class A Lynchburg this year, Morris has failed to pitch in to the sixth inning. Last week, he made one start and allowed four runs on six hits in four innings. Morris, 2-4, 6.00, has walked more batters (16) than he's struck out (15) in 30 innings this year.

Jason Knapp, rhp, Phillies: After a five-inning, 12-strikeout performance just over two weeks ago, Knapp allowed six runs in two-thirds of an inning last Saturday. The Phillies' 2008 second-round pick, the hard-throwing righty was placed on the disabled list after the game with general soreness and fatigue. Knapp, 2-7, 4.01, had punched out an organization-best 111 batters in 85 1/3 innings in his first professional season. It's hard to say how much of the fatigue can be attributed to Knapp's awkward delivery, or whether he just hasn't thrown this much in the past.


Barbaro Canizares, 1b, Braves: Not only has Canizares, 30, looked like a man among boys this season for Triple-A Gwinnett, but he did so in the Futures Game, too. He served as a late replacement for the Giants' Angel Villalona and served as the World Team's cleanup hitter. At least the Cuban-born Canizares went 1-for-2 with an RBI in the contest. He made his major league debut with the Braves earlier this season, where he went 4-for-17 with one extra-base hit, a double. He's hitting .313/.387/.497 with 10 home runs, 23 doubles and 47 RBIs for Gwinnett.


Joe Borchard, DH, Giants. If not for injuries, then the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies would have a team full of blasts from the past. But alas, Josh Phelps and Dallas McPherson have spent the entire season on the shelf. This week, Borchard went 8-for-20 with a double and three home runs, giving him 100 Triple-A bombs in his career. Borchard was the White Sox' top prospect in 2000, after he was the 12th overall pick that year out of Stanford. He's a career .272/.347/.480 hitter in the minors, but has hit just .205/.284/.352 over 800 big leauge plate appearances.


Fabio Martinez, rhp, Angels: Martinez is another data point showing that scouting in Latin America is a 365-days-a-year job that involves more than just dumping a bunch of money on July 2. The Angels signed Martinez as a 17-year-old in April 2007 from the Dominican Republic, then watched him mature into one of the best prospects in the Dominican Summer League last year. Martinez, now 19 and 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, is powering his way through the Rookie-level Arizona League with a fastball that reaches the mid-90s and a slider that flashes as plus. In just 23 innings of work, Martinez has struck out a league-best 36 batters, while his 1.96 ERA ranks fifth. His control still needs some work (he's walked 16 batters), but his upside makes him one of the Angels' most promising young arms.

Edinson Rincon, 3b, Padres:
He's only 18 years old, but Rincon already looks like one of the best hitters in the short-season Northwest League. With a sturdy 6-foot-1, 185-pound frame, the righty-hitting Rincon has shown advanced pitch recognition since signing with the Padres out of the Dominican Republic in 2007. Combine his plate discipline with his potential to also hit for average and power and you have a teenager hitting .377/.473/.636 with four home runs, 12 walks and 13 strikeouts, with multi-hit games in 11 of his 20 games. With four errors this week and eight in 16 games at third base this year, Rincon's defense still needs work; while his hands are steady and his arm is above-average but his footwork still needs to come around.