This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet covers games from Aug. 8-14. Remember, this feature simply recognizes the hottest prospects in the minors during the past week--it's not a re-ranking of the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects.
Contributing: J.J. Cooper, Vince Lara-Cinisomo and Josh Norris.
1. Amir Garrett, lhp, Reds
Team: low Class A Dayton (Midwest)
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 12 SO
The Scoop: That $1 million the Reds spent to sign Garrett as a high-risk, high-reward late-round pick in 2011 sure looks a lot better now. A year ago, Garrett was an extremely raw lefty. And as long as baseball was his side job around his college basketball career, that wasn't going to change. But Garrett has given up basketball, and baseball is paying him back with the best stretch of his career. Garrett hasn't given up a run in his past three starts, and he has 76 strikeouts to 19 walks since June 1. With a 92-95 mph fastball and a slider that has developed into an average pitch that flashes plus according to scouts (albeit more as a chase pitch than one he can throw for strikes so far), Garrett appears to have the makings of being at least a power lefty reliever with the athleticism to be much more.
2. Raul A. Mondesi, ss, Royals
Team: high Class A Wilmington (Carolina)
Why He's Here: .375/.400/1.042 (9-for-24), 5 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 1 BB, 4 SO, 2-for-2 SB
The Scoop: The Carolina League has some odd scheduling quirks. Of the 11 games Wilmington has played this month, eight have been against Frederick. Mondesi isn't complaining. He hit home runs in four straight games at Frederick. Mondesi's season has been disappointing, but Wilmington's difficult hitting environment has played a part. Mondesi is a .248/.270/.407 hitter on the road, but is hitting only .181/.251/.277 at home.
3. JaCoby Jones, ss, Pirates
Team: low Class A West Virginia (South Atlantic)
Why He's Here: .400/.464/1.000 (10-for-25), 8 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 7 RBIs, 3 BB, 5 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Quietly, Jones is having a remarkable season in the South Atlantic League. With 13 home runs since July 1, he now has 21 home runs this season, second-most in the league. It's a pretty impressive accomplishment for a shortstop. Jones never got to focus on playing shortstop in college, but scouts who have seen him this year give him at least a chance at staying at the position.
4. Taijuan Walker, rhp, Mariners
Team: Triple-A Tacoma (Pacific Coast)
Why He's Here: 1-0, 1.29, 7 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 13 SO
The Scoop: With their playoff hopes teetering, the Mariners could use another strong arm such as Walker to carry them across the threshold. The righthander, who battled shoulder problems early, and ineffectiveness at the major league level, struck out a career-high 13 on Sunday against Fresno. It was his second double-digit punchout game of the season, and served as a fine rebound after a train wreck (eight runs in 2 1/3 innings) in his previous outing.
5. Wilmer Difo, ss/2b, Nationals
Team: low Class A Hagerstown (South Atlantic)
Why He's Here: .556/.594/.741 (15-for-27), 6 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 9 RBIs, 3 BB, 2 SO
The Scoop: With three-, four- and five-hit games this week, the breakout season continues for Difo, who is starring on a team expected to be headlined by stud righthander Lucas Giolito. He's a little bit old for the level, but has stood out defensively this season at both middle infield positions, and has put forth a season line of .317/.360/.470 with 28 doubles, six triples, 12 homers and 44 stolen bases in 53 attempts. He's also got the fourth-lowest strikeout rate among qualifiers, at just 10.4 percent.
6. Vince Velasquez, rhp, Astros
Team: high Class A Lancaster (California)
Why He's Here: 1-1, 0.96, 2 G, 1 GS, 9 1/3 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 18 SO
The Scoop: Lancaster is one of the toughest places to pitch in baseball, but it isn't a death sentence for a pitcher's ERA, as Josh Hader and Velasquez are proving this year. Pitching at home against High Desert this week, Velasquez struck out 11 in six dominant shutout innings. He was almost as dominating in relief appearance earlier in the week (he's on the tandem starter system). Velasquez has been very solid since returning from a groin injury that cost him nearly two months of the season.
7. Daniel Norris, lhp, Blue Jays
The Scoop: After a surprise bump to Triple-A following just eight starts with the Double-A New Hampshire, Norris showed he needed no adjustment to the new level. At Durham, he promptly punched out 10 in six dominant innings, his third time hitting that number this season. Armed with three plus pitches, including a fastball with some of the best late life around, Norris seems poised to be in Toronto as the Blue Jays battle down the stretch for one of the two wild card spots.
8. Alex Reyes, rhp, Cardinals
Team: low Class A Peoria (Midwest)
Why He's Here: 0-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 11 SO
The Scoop: In an up-and-down season of lost-and-found command, Reyes turned in a gem this week and once again reminded people why he'll continue to rate highly among prospect rankings. Reyes harnessed his arsenal of three potential plus pitches--fastball, curveball and changeup--and tied a career-high with 11 strikeouts against Burlington. He'll need to iron out his delivery to gain consistency, but explosive potential is there.
9. Mookie Betts, 2b/of, Red Sox
The Scoop: The summer of Mookie continues. A crowded picture with the big club pushed him down to Triple-A again, but he just kept raking. He's hit in 17 of his past 18 games, including eight multi-hit efforts, and in 54 games in Pawtucket is hitting .355/.443/.551 with 18 doubles, six longballs and 22 stolen bases in 25 chances. Where he'll play continues to be a question, but his abounding athleticism will afford him opportunities in the outfield or up the middle.
10. Jose De Leon, rhp, Dodgers
Team: Rookie-level Ogden (Pioneer) / low Class A Great Lakes (Midwest)
Why He's Here: 2-0, 0.69, 13 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 HR, 0 BB, 18 SO
The Scoop: With a young pitcher, a tweak here or there, or a new pitch can often make a dramatic difference. A year ago, De Leon, a 24th-round pick out of Southern in 2013, was way over his head in the Pioneer League. But over the offseason, he got in better shape, and the Dodgers moved him from the third base side to the middle of the rubber, which allowed him to be more direct to the plate with his cross-fire delivery. Pair that with a jump in his velocity (he now pitches at 92-96 mph) and De Leon is a force to be reckoned with. He's allowed four earned runs in his last 37 2/3 innings and dominated in his Midwest League debut, allowing one run on three hits while striking out seven in six innings.
11. Sean Manaea, lhp, Royals
Team: high Class A Wilmington (Carolina)
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 SO
The Scoop: This season has not been what Manaea might have hoped, but it's finishing just as the Royals would have liked. Manaea's delivery has led to some control troubles at times, but he's tamed those issues recently. Manaea has simply thrown more strikes lately. When he does that, his fastball is good enough to dodge bats. He's struck out 19 and walked only four this month in three starts.
12. Pierce Johnson, rhp, Cubs
Team: Double-A Tennessee (Southern)
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 SO
The Scoop: Johnson, who had hamstring and calf injuries that cost him two months of the season, is fully healthy and performing as expected. The Cubs’ No. 8 prospect is 5-5, 2.48 overall, but has not allowed more than three runs in a start in his past 10 outings and is striking out more than a batter per inning since the all-star break. The lanky Colorado product has a fastball that sits in the 90-94 mph range, touching 96.
13. Franklin Barreto, ss, Blue Jays
Team: short-season Vancouver (Northwest)
Why He's Here: .345/.441/.586 (10-for-29), 8 R, 4 2B, 1 HR, 8 RBIs, 3 BB, 8 SO, 4-for-4 SB
The Scoop: Barreto has done everything to justify the Jays’ faith in him when they gave him a $1.45 million bonus in 2012 out of Venezuela. He was 10-for-29 this week, but that’s just a microcosm of a great season (.324/.402/.511) in which he’s flashed extra-base power. Barreto’s natural strength leads evaluators to peg him at a double-digit home run producer and his plus speed makes him an efficient stolen base threat.
In The Team Photo
Yeison Asencio, rf, Padres. While Rymer Liriano is hitting bombs at Petco Park and getting Yasiel Puig comps, Asencio is doing damage of his own. The 24-year-old Dominican, signed by the Padres in 2009, was 11-for-24 this past week at Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A El Paso, including 7-for-10 with the Chihuahuas with two homers. A bad-ball hitter, Asencio is susceptible to pitches on the outer half because he pulls off the ball. For that reason, he’ll never be a high-average hitter.
Tyler Austin, of/1b, Yankees: Bronx Bombers fans are hoping that the real Tyler Austin has finally broken through. After an underwhelming first half, Austin, still just 22, has busted out in his repeat at Double-A Trenton. In 27 games since the Eastern League all-star break, Austin has hit .367/.422/.612 with half of his 10 homers this season. He's always possessed the potential to hit for power and average, but has had injury problems and trouble laying off breaking pitches. Everything seems to be clicking now.
Tyler Danish, rhp, White Sox: He won't be the star now that No. 3 overall pick Carlos Rodon is in tow, but the 19-year-old Danish has been quietly dominant for the last month at high Class A Winston-Salem. He spun six no-hit innings this week and is riding a streak of 22 straight scoreless innings. The funky slinger utilizes a fastball that tops at 93 as well as a slider and changeup capable of neutralizing righties and lefties and hasn't allowed more than one earned run in a start since June 22.
Jarlin Garcia, lhp, Marlins: Part of a dynamic duo with Domingo German at low Class A Greensboro, the 21-year-old started twice this week and produced a combined nine shutout innings on three hits and a walk with seven strikeouts to boot. After a midseason rough patch, Garcia, who operates with a mid-90s fastball, a potential plus hook and solid changeup, has had his workload dialed back and hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any start since July 17.
Michael Gettys, of, Padres: For an excellent athlete with some serious questions about his bat, Gettys is having an outstanding debut. He went 10-for-20 this week with five extra-base hits and is now hitting .325/.376/.462 for the AZL Padres. The 18-year-old has struck out a lot (50 in 169-at-bats), but he's making solid contact. No one has questioned his speed or defense in the outfield.
Jairo Labourt, lhp, Blue Jays. The 20-year-old lefty, signed out of the Dominican for $350,000 in 2011, has regained his footing after a stumble in his first interaction with full-season ball. Since reaching short-season Vancouver, Labourt is 3-3, 2.15, averaging 10.44 SO/9. In the past week, he’s struck out 14 over 10 2/3 innings with just one run allowed. Labourt has a quick arm and sits 90-93 mph with his fastball, touching 95, but needs to polish up his command (5.13 BB/9 at Vancouver).
James Ramsey, cf, Indians. A day after Justin Masterson--the man he was traded for--had a sparkling outing, Ramsey went out and delivered a gem himself. Ramsey, who doesn't have a standout tool but has makeup organizations love, went 5-for-5 with two doubles and a homer Thursday at Triple-A Columbus. Ramsey doesn't project to have big power, but he's been solid across the two organizations this season, slashing .303/.389/.531 with 15 homers. This week, he was 12-for-26 with five extra-base hits.
Drake Britton, lhp, Red Sox. Britton, who got some big league time in 2013 and impressed with an above-average fastball and improved command, has taken a step back this season, walking more than he’s struck out (32-27 in 48 IP). This week at Triple-A Pawtucket, he allowed eight runs in just 1 1/3 innings.
Luke Jackson, rhp, Rangers. Jackson has struggled since his bump to Triple-A Round Rock, but especially this week, when he allowed six hits and nine runs in one inning at Nashville. The Rangers aren’t shy about promotions and Jackson had pitched well at Double-A Frisco, but he’s 1-1, 9.00 at Round Rock, allowing 40 hits in 27 innings.
Mike Kickham, lhp, Giants: Kickham's season is falling apart in the waning days of the season. The 25-year-old needs to throw better strikes, but that's hard when he's falling behind in the count. Kickham gave up 18 hits, eight walks and 12 runs in nine innings this week at Triple-A Fresno of the PCL. After struggling in a callup to San Francisco last year, Kickham might not make it back this year.
Dawel Lugo, ss, Blue Jays: It's hard to hold a bad August against a hitter playing in his first full pro season. Lugo, 19, has had a solid season, but he's running out of gas. He has hit .156/.152/.178 this month at low Class A Lansing of the Midwest League. Lugo's grounded into as many double plays (three) as he's scored runs (three) this month.
Whit Merrifield, of/2b, Royals: Whitfield was a ninth-round pick out of South Carolina in 2010 largely because he was a gamer with some athleticism. But for his first four pro seasons, Merrifield was a useful but unspectacular player who didn't do anything well enough to project as a big leaguer. Merrifield realized recently that he's a role player, not a star, which means he's toned down his attempts to hit for power and focused on playing multiple positions and hitting for average. The result? He's hitting .378/.411/.522 since his promotion to Triple-A Omaha. The 25-year-old will likely never be a big league regular but he can play second base in a pinch and left or right field. Our comparison coming out of college was that he was a potential Ryan Freel type and that's now looking possible once again.