Prospect Hot Sheet

Mariners' Carlos Peguero takes full advantage of High Desert





See also: Previous Prospect Hot Sheets

We may not have a prospect having a dominant season along the lines of Matt Wieters, 2008, but this week's Hot Sheet shows how the 2009 season has featured a mix of breakouts and continued performance by prospects. At the top, there's power prospect Carlos Peguero and pop-up prospect Kirk Nieuwenhuis, while not far behind you can find an 18-year-old pitching in Double-A and a 2009 first-round pick. And it seems like it wouldn't be a Hot Sheet without a Thomas Neal sighting.

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 (Aug. 21-27).


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

No. 1 CARLOS PEGUERO, RF
MARINERS
Carlos PegueroTeam: high Class A High Desert (California)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: .462/.531/1.269 (12-for-26), 5 HR, 4 2B, 1 3B, 16 RBIs, 14 R, 3 BB, 9 SO
The Scoop: Fully healthy for the first time since '06, Peguero has made the most of his hulking 6-foot-5 frame and raw strength—not to mention the wacky conditions of the Cal League. He launched four of his five homers this week at High Desert, and 16 of 28 on the year have been hit at home. In fact, Peguero has managed to bat just .240/.286/.459 in 59 games away from High Desert this season.

Even though Peguero struggled through an elbow injury in '07 and then wrist surgery in '08, hitting 21 total home runs in those two seasons, the Mariners never lost sight of the lefthanded slugger's potential. And if not for Lancaster's Jon Gaston, Peguero would stand as the Cal League leader for homers and also for triples (14). With a strong finish, the Dominican-born Peguero could even challenge for the minor league home run title. He sits just three off the pace—and the Mavericks finish with seven games at home.

But with Peguero's height comes a larger strike-zone to cover. He ranks third in the minors with 164 whiffs, and the minor league strikeout title is another he could win. Peguero has already established a career high with 38 walks, but he'll need to make further advancements for his power to continue to play as he moves up.

2009 Stats
No. 2 KIRK NIEUWENHUIS, CF
METS
Kirk NieuwenhuisTeam: high Class A St. Lucie (Florida State)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: .444/.500/.815 (12-for-27), 1 HR, 5 2B, 1 3B, 4 RBIs, 5 R, 3 BB, 6 SO
The Scoop: Pronounced NEW-en-hice, the Mets' 6-foot-3 center field prospect has been just short of unstoppable in August. He's gone 34-for-101 (.337) with 18 extra-base hits (six homers) and a 10-to-19 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 24 games. Florida State League MVP voters probably will look elsewhere because of Nieuwenhuis' .270 average and 113 strikeouts, but the '08 third-round pick leads the circuit with 32 doubles, 86 runs scored 53 extra-base hits. A strong finish could result in the home run and slugging crowns, too. Not much has gone right for the Mets this season, but the development of Nieuwenhuis, who projects to be an average center fielder, has been a pleasant surprise.
2009 Stats
No. 3 GRANT DESME, RF
ATHLETICS
Grant DesmeTeam: high Class A Stockton (California)
Age: 23
Why He's Here: .400/.545/.760 (10-for-25), 3 HR, 5 RBIs, 7 R, 7 BB, 3 SO, 3-for-4 SB
The Scoop: Healthy for the first time since the 2007 college season, Desme has made up for lost time by showing a promising combination of power and speed. The righthanded-hitting Desme is batting .290/.366/.571 between stints with Stockton and low Class A Kane County. More impressively, he's belted 31 home runs between the two stops, including 20 in 60 games for the Ports, while swiping 40 bases in 45 attempts. Those 31 bombs are tied for the minor league lead. He also ranks second in the A's organization in stolen bases and third in RBIs (89). Desme generates tremendous bat speed, as evidenced by the home run totals, but his strikeouts (144 in 480 at-bats) show he might have to tone things down at higher levels.
2009 Stats
No. 4 AARON MILLER, LHP
DODGERS
Aaron MillerTeam: low Class A Great Lakes (Midwest)
Age: 21
Why He's Here: 0-0, 0.00, 11 1/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 10 SO
The Scoop: When the Dodgers selected Aaron Miller with a supplemental first-round pick, scouting director Logan White said he believed that Miller would take off now that he could focus entirely on pitching. After all, he spent nearly all of of his freshman and sophomore seasons at Baylor as the Bears' right fielder. White's looking pretty smart right now. Miller has shown improved command and solid stuff since arriving in Great Lakes in early August. Considering how impressive Miller has been in six MWL starts, he's positioned himself to start the 2010 season in high Class A.
2009 Stats
No. 5 KYLE LOBSTEIN, LHP
RAYS
Kyle LobsteinTeam: short-season Hudson Valley (New York-Penn)
Age: 20
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 SO
The Scoop: A second-round pick in 2008 out of Coconino High in Flagstaff, Ariz.,
Lobstein did not sign in time to play last season, so he made his professional debut this year with Hudson Valley. So far, so good. Over 12 starts, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound lefty is 3-4, 2.79 with 56 strikeouts and 20 walks over 61 innings. This week's start was Lobstein's second dominating performance against the Tri-City ValleyCats this month. In both, he tossed seven shutout innings, striking out 12 and allowing six hits in those 14 innings.
2009 Stats
No. 6 RYAN WESTMORELAND, CF
RED SOX
Ryan WestmorelandTeam: short-season Lowell (New York-Penn)
Age: 19
Why He's Here: .400/.500/.720 (10-for-25), 1 HR, 3 2B, 1 3B, 6 RBIs, 8 R, 5 BB, 3 SO, 3-for-3 SB
The Scoop: The athletic Westmoreland has more than held his own against older competition in the New York-Penn League. The teenager is riding a nine-game hitting streak and has raised his average to an even .300/.403/.491 in 220 at-bats. A shoulder injury cost the '08 fifth-round pick a chance to make his pro debut last summer, and he didn't start playing in the field this year until Aug. 16. The injury never slowed down his legs though, as Westmoreland is a perfect 19-for-19 stealing bases and is hitting .318/.422/.471 in August.

2009 Stats
No. 7 MARTIN PEREZ, LHP
RANGERS
Martin PerezTeam: Double-A Frisco (Texas)
Age: 18
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 5 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO
The Scoop: Perez was still on an 80-pitch count and still went five innings, except this time he did it in Double-A. He consistently put up a similar line for low Class A Hickory before being called up to Frisco in early August. It took Perez a couple of starts to get used to the level, as he allowed nine runs in 6 2/3 innings in his first two outings. But by pitching five scoreless innings this week against San Antonio, he proved he's sufficiently adjusted. For such a young pitcher, Perez understands the importance of getting ahead and staying ahead with his fastball, which sits 92-94 mph and touches 95. He also mixes in a sharp curveball and an improving changeup that hitters either foul off or miss completely.
2009 Stats
No. 8 TIM BECKHAM, SS
RAYS
Tim BeckhamTeam: low Class A Bowling Green (South Atlantic)
Age: 19
Why He's Here: .500/.538/.750 (12-for-24), 4 2B, 1 3B, 6 R, 2 RBIs, 1 BB, 2 SO
The Scoop: Overall, Beckham's first full season has been a success. He's hitting .283/.337/.409 with 33 doubles, four triples and five home runs. Dig a little deeper into his statistics, though, and you'll see that Beckham sports a strong reverse split. In 92 at-bats against lefthanders this season, he's hitting .228/.280/.304. It's also interesting to note that Beckham has hit much better on the road (.
325/.373/.496) than at home (.237/.299/.313). Reports indicate that he has put on some weight, which is a concern, as are his 107 strikeouts in 115 games.
2009 Stats
No. 9 KYLE WEILAND, RHP
RED SOX
Kyle WeilandTeam: high Class A Salem (Carolina)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 10 SO
The Scoop: A reliever throughout his college career at Notre Dame, the Red Sox converted Weiland to starting after taking him in the third round of last year's draft. The change seemed to pay off, as he went 3-3, 1.50 in the New York-Penn League in his pro debut. That progress stalled over the first two months of this season, as Weiland struggled to a 1-5, 7.78 mark over his first nine starts for Salem, but he's turned his season around since the start of June, posting a 1.55 ERA over his last 14 starts. This week, Weiland shut down Winston-Salem over six innings to win his third straight start.
2009 Stats
No. 10 THOMAS NEAL, LF
GIANTS
Thomas NealTeam: high Class A San Jose (California)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: .360/.469/.800 (9-for-25), 3 HR, 2 2B, 6 RBIs, 6 R, 6 BB, 4 SO
The Scoop: Yes, Neal posted those numbers in the California League, a hitter's paradise. But Neal has been consistent all season, at home and on the road, against both lefthanders and righthanders. It was just another solid week for Neal, who upped his season totals to .333/.422/.583 with 21 home runs, 39 doubles and 83 RBIs. Though Neal turned 22 two weeks ago and is a bit old for the level, keep in mind that he missed all of 2007 with a shoulder injury. This is only his second year in a full-season league after signing in 2006 as a draft-and-follow from Riverside (Calif.) CC. Neal has cooled down a bit in the second half, but his season totals are hard to ignore.
2009 Stats
No. 11 EDINSON RINCON, 3B
PADRES
Edinson RinconTeam: short-season Eugene (Northwest)
Age: 19
Why He's Here: .320/.455/.680 (8-for-25), 3 2B, 2 HR, 10 RBIs, 6 BB, 8 SO
The Scoop: Rincon has lived up to his scouting reports this year. He's got a good body and a good feel for hitting—just don't expect to see him stick at third base over the long term. Rincon isn't a particularly fluid defender, not with a slow first step. His .828 fielding percentage (20 errors in 43 games) ranks among the worst in the league. But at the plate, he has an advanced batting eye with the bat speed to catch up to good fastballs. The icing on the cake is that he already can recognize and hit breaking balls, something many teenagers can't master. A year ago, Rincon had only two extra-base hits in 65 at-bats in the Arizona League. This year he has seven home runs and 27 extra-base hits in 227 at-bats for Eugene.
2009 Stats
No. 12 ALEX TORRES, LHP
ANGELS
Alex TorresTeam: Double-A Arkansas (Texas)
Age: 21
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 8 SO, 3 BB, 1 HBP
The Scoop: A native of Venezuela, Torres spent nearly four full years playing in short-season ball. He entered the season with just 10 starts in the California League, but after 19 more this year he earned a promotion to Double-A, where he's teamed with Trevor Reckling to give the Travelers two top-flight lefties. Torres checks in at 5-foot-10 and his control needs refinement (he's walked nearly five batters per nine innings this season), but he still stands as the high Class A Cal League's ERA champion at 2.74. The only minor league lefties to strike out more than Torres' 149 are Matt Moore (Rays), Anthony Capra (A's), Christian Friedrich (Rockies) and Ben Hornbeck (A's).

2009 Stats
No. 13 JAY JACKSON, RHP
CUBS
Jay JacksonTeam: high Class A Daytona (Florida State)
Age: 21
Why He's Here: 0-2, 3.60, 10 IP, 13 H, 7 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 18 SO
The Scoop: An unheralded ninth-round pick last year from Furman, Jackson burst onto the scene by going 4-2, 2.88 in his first pro summer, getting all the way to high Class A. He's posted similar numbers in 2009, going 7-7, 2.90 in stops at Double-A Tennessee and Daytona. Jackson had an up-and-down week, losing both of his starts but fanning 18 hitters in 10 innings, including 11 in five innings against Lakeland on Wednesday. Jackson's got good stuff with his low-90s fastball and biting slider, but his command suffers from time to time, leading to lines like the one he put up this week.
2009 Stats

IN THE TEAM PHOTO

Is there anyone in the minors more consistent than Triple-A Louisville LHP Travis Wood (Reds)? The minors' ERA leader (1.61) allowed two earned runs in seven innings in his lone start this week, but that came on only one hit and one walk—he walked a batter and the next homered off of him. Wood has worked at least five innings in all but one of his 25 starts this season—he worked less than four innings in his season debut on April 10 . . . Orioles LHP Zach Britton has quietly pieced together a fine season for high Class A Frederick with a 2.74 ERA in 138 innings with 8.4 strikeouts and 3.5 walks per nine innings. This week Britton scattered five hits in seven innings, allowing one run and one walk while striking out six . . . With Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz earning call-ups to the big league squad, Triple-A Norfolk RHP Jake Arrieta is making his best case to be the next Orioles pitcher to make his debut. Arrieta pitched seven shutout, two-hit innings on Monday in his best outing yet for the Tides. The 6-foot-4 righty, who works in the mid-90s with his fastball, induced 12 fly outs and three ground outs. He also struck out six. Between two levels, including Double-A Bowie, Arrieta is 11-9, 3.37 with 144 strikeouts in 141 2/3 innings . . . High Class A Modesto LHP Christian Friedrich (Rockies) attended the same high school (Loyola Academy in suburban Chicago) as actor Bill Murray, and Friedrich's season has seemed an awful like Murray's movie "Groundhog Day" at times. Despite pitching in the hitter-friendly California League, Friedrich is a strong Hot Sheet candidate nearly every week. This week, Friedrich went 0-2 over his two starts, but pitched well. Over 12 innings, he had a 3.00 ERA with 14 strikeouts and four walks . . . High Desert CF Tyson Gillies (Mariners) has put together one of the biggest breakout seasons in the minor leagues. This week, he hit .462/.517/.731 (12-for-26) with two triples and a home run. On the year, he's now hitting .338/.430/.485 with 41 stolen bases . . . Durham RHP Jeremy Hellickson—or Hellboy, as the cool kids call him—continued to pitch well after the Rays promoted him to Triple-A. This week, Hellickson struck out 10 over seven innings against Syracuse. Over 99 innings between Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A, Hellickson is 7-2, 2.82 with 111 strikeouts and just 27 walks and is holding hitters to a .191 average . . . New Nationals LHP Aaron Thompson is experiencing a bit of deja vu. As a Marlin last year with Double-A Carolina, Thompson struggled all season, then in August threw seven shutout innings and struck out eight in a flash of brilliance. Thompson, 22, has struggled again this season, but he dominated in his most recent start with 11 strikeouts in six innings, allowing one run and one walk in his fourth start with Double-A Harrsiburg.

NOT-SO HOT SHEET

Austin Jackson, cf, Yankees. Would you believe the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre star, the man deemed the International League's best batting prospect, has yet to crack the Prospect Hot Sheet this season? It hardly seems fair that we'd single him out for being not hot, now does it? While the Dunder-Mifflin Yankees appear to be well on their way to another playoff appearance, Jackson has been largely MIA down the stretch. The 22-year-old went 3-for-23 this week, with a walk and a grounded into double play. For August he's batting .258/.295/.340, but on the plus side, at least he's knocked in 17 runs in 25 games.

Scott Barnes, lhp, Indians: The Indians traded Ryan Garko for Barnes this summer and kept him at the high Class A level for a few starts before bumping him up to Double-A Akron. Barnes, 21, is finding the Eastern League to be quite the challenge through three starts with the Aeros, as his 7.63 ERA and 13-7 K-BB mark in 15 1/3 innings shows. Barnes' best pitch his his changeup, but he works with little margin for error with a fastball that sits in the 88-90 mph and has touched 92 mph with a slurvy slider.

Cody Johnson, lf, Braves: Johnson homered this week to become the first Carolina Leaguer to hit 30 home runs since 1997. However, that home run was Johnson's only hit of the week. He went 1-for-18 (.056) with 11 strikeouts. Johnson is shaping up to be Jack Cust-lite—lots of home runs (30), some walks (63 in 408 at-bats) and lots and lots of strikeouts (163). When Johnson hits the ball, his 80 raw power on the 20-to-80 scouting scale ensures it goes a long way (50 percent of his hits this year have gone for extra bases). But there are plenty of concerns that his let-it-rip approach won't translate into success as he climbs the minor league ladder.

Jason Knapp, rhp, Indians: There really is no such thing as a "minor" shoulder issue for a young pitching prospect. There are varying degrees of severity for an injury, but any time a pitching prospect comes up with some type of shoulder or elbow injury that causes him to miss starts is a cause for concern. Knapp missed a month with shoulder fatigue, and while he was out the Phillies dealt him to the Indians as part of the Cliff Lee package. Knapp has a power fastball, but in five starts for low Class A Lake County he's lasted just 11 2/3 innings, given up 10 runs (seven earned) while walking eight and striking out 12.

MEN AMONG BOYS

Nick Hagadone, lhp, Indians: It's understandable why Hagadone is still in low Class A. After all, he did miss nearly all of last season with Tommy John surgery, and he only returned to action in June, back when he was with the Red Sox. Boston sent Hagadone to the Indians in the Victor Martinez deal, and both organizations have kept him on a tight leash. The 23-year-old, whom the Red Sox drafted 55th overall out of Washington in '07, threw three shutout innings for Lake County in his start this week and struck out five. But despite making 15 starts this year he's only pitched 39 2/3 innings. Between his two stops in the South Atlantic League, Hagadone's ERA sits at 2.50 with 53 strikeouts and 39 2/3 innings.

BLAST FROM THE PAST

Chris Young, cf, Diamondbacks. It seems like only yesterday that Young was putting a hurting on the Pacific Coast League for the first time. Back in '06 while playing for Tucson (then the D'backs' top affiliate), he batted .276/.363/.532 with 21 homers and 17 steals. Reprising his role as Triple-A center fielder, Young has hit on all cylinders with Reno, batting .380/.466/.640 with a pair of homers and five doubles through 12 games. He nearly went 30-30 as a big league rookie in '07, but in two years since, Young has hit just .230/.308/.415 with 29 home runs and 25 stolen bases. And the scary thing is, he turns 26 on Sept. 5, meaning he won't be forever young.

HELIUM WATCH

Nathan Jones, rhp, White Sox: Some scouts have been high on Jones since he signed with the White Sox in 2007 as a fifth-round pick from Northern Kentucky. Jones, 23, has a mid-90s fastball that touches 98 mph, but coming into the year he had problems finding the strike zone, as he posted a 6.83 ERA last year split between the starting rotation and the bullpen with low Class A Kannapolis. Now in the bullpen at high Class A Winston-Salem, Jones still has that overpowering fastball, only this year he's found the strike zone. In 27 appearances with Winston-Salem, Jones has averaged 8.3 strikeouts and 2.7 walks per nine innings andd has a 3.53 ERA.