Astros' Lyles jumps to Double-A, keeps on cruising





You may have noticed that the Prospect Hot Sheet looks a little different this year. The content is the same, but we've partnered with Bowman Baseball to present Hot Sheet. So in addition to getting the skinny on which prospects are doing the most to help their stock, you can also get a glimpse at the baseball cards of some of baseball's best prospects.

As we have warned for years now, remember that this is not a re-ranking of the Top 100 Prospects. This is a snapshot of which top prospects are excelling and which ones are struggling right now. Stats cover the dates April 16 through last night, April 22.

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

No. 1 JORDAN LYLES, RHP ASTROS
Team: Double-A Corpus Christi (Carolina)
Age: 19
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.82, 11 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 HR, 1 BB, 12 SO
The Scoop: Had Lyles taken South Carolina's offer to play wide receiver for the Gamecocks, he still wouldn't be eligible for the yesterday's NFL draft for another year. Before the 2008 draft, Lyles considered taking that scholarship to play Division I football until the Astros took him in the supplemental first round. Many in the industry wondered why the Astros took him so early. Even Lyles was surprised.

Today it's clear that Lyles and the Astros made the right choice. Still just a teenager, Lyles skipped high Class A Lancaster and hasn't had any trouble adjusting to Double-A, as his 2.30 ERA and 16-2 K-BB mark in 15 2/3 innings shows. At 6-foot-4, 185 pounds, Lyles' athleticism helps him repeat his fluid delivery, which bodes well for his command and his durability. That advanced command for his age of three solid pitches has helped Lyles quickly sweep through the minor leagues, and he could reach the big leagues before his 21st birthday.
2010 Stats
No. 2 ANDREW LAMBO, LF
DODGERS
Carlos SantanaTeam: Double-A Chattanooga (Southern)
Age: 21
Why He's Here:  .500/.538/.885 (13-for-26), 3 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 8 RBIs, 9 R, 1 BB, 5 SO
The Scoop: Lambo would probably like to forget last year, when he went from being the Dodgers' best prospect to falling to No. 7 in the organization after a lackluster showing in Double-A. Still, Lambo was one of the youngest players in the Southern League last year as a 20-year-old, and he's turning things around this year in his second year with the Lookouts. Lambo will have to rake because he's limited to left field, but so far this year, that's all he's done.
2010 Stats
No. 3 MIKE TROUT, CF
ANGELS
Mike StantonTeam: low Class A Cedar Rapids (Midwest)
Age: 18
Why He's Here: .429/.552/.607 (12-for-28), 1 2B, 2 3B, 5 R, 3 RBIs, 4 BB, 3 SO, 6-for-6 SB
The Scoop: Trout went just 1-for-13 to begin the season. He's hit in every game since, culminating in the monster week you see above. Built like a linebacker but with top-of-the-line speed, Trout put all his physical gifts to good use, legging out two triples and stealing six bases in six tries. Did we mention one of those was a steal of home?

2010 Stats
No. 4 JAKE ODORIZZI, RHP
BREWERS
Brad MillsTeam: low Class A Wisonsin (Midwest)
Age: 20
Why He's Here: 1-0, 2.00, 9 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 15 SO
The Scoop: The Brewers have brought Odorizzi along slowly, letting him spend an extra year in Rookie ball last year, while other pitchers from the 2008 high school class like Casey Kelly, Mike Montgomery and Jordan Lyles all have advanced to higher levels and attracted more attention. Odorizzi must have been chomping at the bit to get going this year, because Midwest League hitters have had little chance against his low 90s fastball and plus curveball, showing why some clubs rated him the 2008 draft's best high school pitcher. Odorizzi threw five no-hit innings against Burlington last Friday and has given up just four hits while striking out 19 in 12 innings on the season.
2010 Stats
No. 5 EDUARDO NUNEZ, SS
YANKEES
Eduardo NunezTeam: Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (International)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: .458/.625/.625 (11-for-24), 1 HR, 1 2B, 3 RBIs, 5 R, 4 BB, 1 SO, 6-for-7 SB
The Scoop: Lost in the wilderness for three seasons from 2006 through '08, Nunez reemerged last season while starring for Double-A Trenton. The Yankees rewarded him with a 40-man roster spot. While he fleetingly appeared to be an elite prospect back in '05, when he tore up the New York-Penn League as an 18-year-old, Nunez now must settle for being merely a good prospect. And in an encouraging turn, he drew four walks and stole six bases last week, working to polish two of his prime areas for improvement.
2010 Stats
No. 6 TRAYCE THOMPSON, CF
WHITE SOX
Trayce ThompsonTeam: low Class A Kannapolis (South Atlantic)
Age: 19
Why He's Here: .385/.500/.846 (10-for-26), 3 HR, 3 2B, 7 RBIs, 6 R, 3 BB, 8 SO, 0-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Thompson struck out 41 times in 106 at-bats last summer in Rookie ball. But even with a strikeout rate hovering near 40 percent, Appalachian League managers were not deterred, praising the second-round pick for his power and physicality. This year, Thompson is making his doubters look foolish, connecting for six extra-base hits in his first week of South Atlantic League play. It's too soon to make lofty comparisons, but Thompson's career beginnings are reminiscent of another second-round prep pick from Southern California: Mike Stanton. The Marlins' slugger hit all of .161/.226/.268 with 21 whiffs in 56 at-bats during his 2007 pro debut.
2010 Stats
No. 7 JOSH VITTERS, 3B
CUBS
Josh VittersTeam: high Class A Daytona (Florida State)
Age: 20
Why He's Here: .417/.542/.792 (10-for-24), 3 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBIs, 3 BB, 4 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: The Florida State League isn't an easy circuit to hit home runs in. Just ask Vitters, who hit just three in 50 games after being promoted to Daytona last year, and he had been homerless in his first 14 games of this year. Vitters was already having a pretty good week, having gone 7-for-20 with three doubles through six games, but he went out and earned his place on this week's Hot Sheet by slugging his first two home runs of the year and going 3-for-4 Thursday night against Tampa. His four walks on the season might not sound like a lot either, but it doesn't look too bad when you consider he only drew five in his FSL stint last year.
2010 Stats
No. 8 STARLIN CASTRO, SS
CUBS
Starlin CastroTeam: Double-A Tennessee (Southern)
Age: 20
Why He's Here: .500/.560/.875 (12-for-24), 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 5 R, 3 RBIs, 2 BB, 3 SO, 0-for-3 SB
The Scoop: Castro made a case for making the Cubs' Opening Day roster. A .404/.426/.649 start to his Double-A season isn't going to slow down the calls for Castro to be promoted to the big leagues. He is a very complete player whose glove is just as good as his bat. It's even more impressive when you consider that he just turned 20 in March. The jury is still out on whether Tyler Colvin has made significant improvement or is playing over his head, but Castro is one prospect Cubs' fans can dream on.
2010 Stats
No. 9 WILMER FLORES, SS
METS
Wilmer FloresTeam: low Class A Savannah (South Atlantic)
Age: 18
Why He's Here: .370/.481/.741 (10-for-27), 2 HR, 4 2B, 11 RBIs, 6 R, 3 BB, 5 SO
The Scoop: Flores struck out for the first time this season last Friday, in his ninth game. But as his contact rate has declined since then, his power has spiked through the roof. Six extra-base hits and 11 RBIs in a week would have been practically unheard of last season, but it could be a sign of a more mature Flores learning to identify pitches he can drive and not simply swinging at the first thing near the zone. Bear in mind, he hit all of three home runs in 488 at-bats for Savannah last season.
2010 Stats
No. 10 STEPHEN STRASBURG, RHP
NATIONALS
Team: Double-A Harrisburg (Eastern)
Age: 21
Why He's Here: 7 1/3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 SO
The Scoop: Morning games are great for school kids, but rough on minor league players. The players usually live a schedule that would make a vampire comfortable, so a 7:30 a.m. wake-up call is brutally early. Now imagine getting up much earlier than normal only to head to the ballpark to face Strasburg? The Reading Phillies may have been awake, but they would have been better off hitting the snooze button. Strasburg allowed one hit in five scoreless innings while striking out six. Earlier in the week, he'd waited out a two-hour rain delay to throw 2 1/3 impressive innings against New Britain before a second rain delay sent him to the showers. Up to now, Strasburg has been exactly as advertised. His fastball sits at 97-98 mph and Double-A hitters are generally helpless. He's now 2-0, 0.73 with 17 strikeouts and three walks in 12 innings.
2010 Stats
No. 11 JAY JACKSON, RHP
CUBS
Jay JacksonTeam: Triple-A Iowa (Pacific Coast)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 SO, 12/2 G/F
The Scoop: It's only April, but we probably won't see many pitching performances this year better than Jackson's last outing at Nashville, where he two-hit the Sounds over eight scoreless innings. Jackson didn't put up big strikeout numbers, but he was remarkably efficient, throwing just 86 pitches and 74 percent for strikes. Jackson kept the ball down and relied on the Cubs' infield defense, getting 12 groundouts compared to just two fly outs. That hasn't been Jackson's typical M.O., as his low- to mid-90s fastball and two above-average breaking balls usually have him missing more bats. Either way, he's one of the best pitching prospects in the minors and not far away from being big league ready.
2010 Stats
No. 12 JARRED COSART, RHP
PHILLIES
Jarred CosartTeam: low Class A Lakewood (South Atlantic)
Age: 19
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 SO
The Scoop: Like Odorizzi above, Cosart is another high school righthander who spent an extra year in Rookie ball before being unleashed on low Class A hitters this year. Cosart's mid-90s fastball alone would be enough to dominate most hitters at that level, but mix in his curveball that has plus potential and it's not a fair fight. Cosart outpitched Greensboro's Chad James, the Marlins' 2009 first-round pick, on Monday and has won each of this three starts in a Lakewood uniform, giving up just five runs on 11 hits in 17 innings. He also leads the Sally League in strikeouts with 24 and has issued a mere three walks.
2010 Stats
No. 13 SIMON CASTRO, RHP
PADRES
Simon CastroTeam: Double-A San Antonio (Texas)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: 0-0, 0.75, 12 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 6 SO, 2 BB, 0 HR, 18/5 G/F
The Scoop: The Padres didn't want to mess with a good thing last year, so they kept Castro with low Class A Fort Wayne all season. The TinCaps won 94 regular season games and breezed through the Midwest League playoffs. It would only be natural, then, to see Castro stumble a bit in his leap to Double-A. That certainly hasn't been the case. Castro ranks second in the TL with his 0.53 ERA and among the league leaders in opponent average (.175) and WHIP (0.82). He appears destined to follow Mat Latos' path to San Diego.
2010 Stats

IN THE TEAM PHOTO

Drafted out of Division II Catawba (N.C.) in 2008, Dodgers' outfielder/first baseman Jerry Sandshas proven to be too much for the Midwest League in the early going. Sands, 22, demonstrated last year in Ogden that he has as much raw power as nearly anyone in the Dodgers' system. Last week he hit .417/.542/1.125 (10-for-24) with four doubles, two triples and three home runs in 24 at-bats . . . When the Pirates drafted catcher Tony Sanchez fourth overall in 2009, it was thought that he'd be a very solid catcher defensively with an OK bat. Right now he's having trouble throwing out baserunners, but he's also hitting as well as anyone in the Florida State League. Sanchez has been DHing some lately because of a sore shoulder, but it hasn't affected his swing. He hit .389/.727/.833 (7-for-18) with two home runs and two doubles this week . . . Mariners' 1BDennis Raben missed all of the 2009 season after having microfracture surgery on his knee. So we'll forgive the '08 second-round pick for being 22 years old and in the low Class A Midwest League. His early play for Clinton has certainly argued for a promotion to High Desert. Last week, he went 11-for-29 with two homers, four doubles, seven runs scored, four RBIs and a 3-to-7 walk-to-strikeout ratio . . . The Rays develop pitchers as well as anybody (if not better), so their concerted effort to develop arms internationally must have been met with outright despair by the other 13 American League clubs. The latest product of their Venezuelan pipeline, hard-throwing RHP Wilking Rodriguez earned an assignment with low Class A Bowling Green out of spring training and hasn't looked back. In two starts last week, he went 0-1, 1.50 while striking out 11, walking three and allowing just eight hits (no home runs) in 12 innings . . . The Athletics took Grant Green in the first round of last year's draft knowing he could move quickly, and the 22-year-old shortstop hasn't disappointed in his first two weeks of full-season ball with high Class A Stockton. Green had a seven-game hitting streak snapped Thursday, but he still finished with a solid .345/.414/.621 (10-for-29) week that included two doubles and two homers . . . If this was Justin Smoak's last week as a minor leaguer (he's getting called up to the Rangers today), he went out on a high note. The 23-year-old first baseman was an on-base machine with Triple-A Oklahoma City, drawing 16 walks in 15 games for the year and seven this week while hitting .261/.565/.435 (6-for-23) with four doubles . . . So who is the real Lars Anderson? The Red Sox 1B could do nothing right with Double-A Portland in 2009, but he's been one of the best hitters in the minors in 2010 in his return to Portland. He hit .333/.474/.944 this week with three dingers in 18 at-bats, raising his overall line to .292/.352/.625 in 13 games.

NOT SO HOT SHEET

Hector Rondon, rhp, Indians: Rondon was on cruise control in the lower levels of the minors, showing good command of a lively low-90s fastball. Even in Double-A, that fastball was enough to mow through Eastern League lineups. In Triple-A? Not so much. Rondon hasn't been much more hittable Triple-A Columbus, dating back to last year when he gave up 83 hits in 74 1/3 innings with the Clippers. This year Rondon's 10.66 ERA is the fourth worst in the minors, and he's given up 24 hits in 12 2/3 innings with a pedestrian 11-5 K-BB mark.

Corey Brown, of, Athletics: Brown probably didn't expect to end up back in Double-A Midland, where he spent all of last year, but that was one of the results of the A's roster shuffle at the big league level. He hit .313/.324/.469 in eight games for Midland before there was room for him to go back to Triple-A Sacramento, where he played on Opening Day. He went 0-for-5 in his first game back with the River Cats Thursday night. Brown, 24, has plenty of tools, but making contact has always been his biggest downfall and that's continued so far, as he fanned 10 times in 32 at-bats for Midland, then four times Thursday night, finishing his week with a .167/.200/.292 (4-for-24) line with one homer and 11 strikeouts.

Matt Sweeney, 3b, Rays. Sweeney can hit—but can he stay healthy? Despite hitting .299 and slugging .517 in the high Class A California League last year, the 22-year-old found himself back at the same classification to begin this season. A key piece to the Scott Kazmir trade involving the Angels last year, Sweeney endured a tough initial week to the season for the Charlotte Stone Crabs, hitting three singles in 19 at-bats (.158) while striking out six times.

Eric Arnett, rhp, Brewers. Taken 26th overall in last year's draft, Arnett has yet to duplicate his amateur success at Indiana in pro ball. He walked 5.5 batters per nine innings last season in his pro debut with Rookie-level Helena, and this year he has endured the indignity of going 0-2, 11.57 through three low Class A starts for Wisconsin. And it's not exactly a case of death by a million paper cuts. Arnett leads all MWL hurlers with four home runs allowed. On the positive side, he's walked just two batters in 11 2/3 innings. But given the 17 hits he's allowed, he might be a bit too fine in the early going.

MAN AMONG BOYS

• Bryan Paukovits, rhp, Royals: If you don't recognize Paukovits' name, don't feel too bad. The Royals' 44th-round pick in 2006, he's one of the dwindling number of draft-and-follow players in the minors. He eventually signed with the Royals after spending a year at San Diego Mesa CC. His progress has been slowed by Tommy John surgery that cost him the 2008 season, but he does have significant stuff (a 91-94 mph fastball) and a great frame (6-foot-7, 240 pounds). In his first shot at full-season ball he's showing that he's worth paying attention to. Working as a tandem starter at low Class A Burlington, Paukovits, 22, allowed only one hit and one unearned run in 10 innings this week. He walked two while striking out 10.

BLAST FROM THE PAST

Sam LeCure, a fourth-round pick out of Texas back in 2005, has been on the slow climb to the majors. He spent two years in Double-A Chattanooga before getting the promotion to Triple-A Louisville. He's now on his second tour of duty with the Bats. Along the way, he slipped out of the Reds Top 30 Prospects list (he peaked at No. 12 in 2007) as the Reds added more starting pitching depth. LeCure doesn't have the stuff to dominate—he succeeds with three average pitches and a feel for how to use them. LeCure, 26, allowed only two hits and no walks while striking out nine in eight scoreless innings in his only start of the week. LeCure has been as effective as anyone in the Reds' Triple-A rotation (2-0, 2.08 in three starts this year), but he still faces an uphill battle to make the big leagues. The other four members of the Bats' rotation include uber-prospect Aroldis Chapman, lefty Travis Wood (who was second in the minors in ERA last year) and a pair of starters, Matt Maloney and Justin Lehr, who have had some success in the majors.

HELIUM WATCH

Nathan Jones, rhp, White Sox: He's a righthander with the White Sox, can touch 98-99 mph with his fastball and is making a new transition this year. No, we're not talking about Sergio Santos, we're talking about Jones, who is repeating high Class A Winston-Salem while moving from the bullpen to the starting rotation. So with a high-octane fastball and a curveball that's a knockout pitch at times, what's the catch? Jones is already 24, in his second full season of pro ball after the White Sox drafted him in 2007 as a fifth-round pick from Northern Kentucky. Yet the early results of his transition to starting have been positive, with a 2.20 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings through three starts. Jones finished 2009 showing improved control, and he's carried that over into his new role having issued just four free passes this year.