Prospect Hot Sheet: Aug. 20

See also: Previous Week’s Hot Sheet

We’re getting close to closing the book on Hot Sheet for the 2007 season–AKA the year of the hit streak.

And though we’ll only get a chance to breathe for 10 seconds before hammering out our league Top 20 prospects lists, we’ll miss it when it’s time to kiss Hot Sheet good-bye until April.

This week features the largest influx of low Class A and short-season players all year as we try to pull out as many names as possible before the season comes to a close.

One player you won’t see this week is Rangers’ righthander Edinson Volquez, who ranked No. 11 on last week’s list.

Volquez’s absence has nothing to do with his numbers (he went 0-1, 1.29 with 11 strikeouts in seven innings) and everything to do with bad makeup rearing its ugly head.

According to several reports, Volquez was scratched from tomorrow’s start in Baltimore for breaking a team rule. Volquez arrived late for his side work yesterday in New Orleans, claiming he overslept.

A lot of players oversleep whenever they’re on a road trip in the Big Easy, but the good ones tend to get their work in when getting back to the big leagues is on the line.

Remember, this is not a rewrite of our Top 100 prospects list. This is simply a snapshot of which prospects are currently riding the biggest hot streaks.

If you have any comments, feel free to e-mail Chris Kline with your kudos or complaints.

1. Colby Rasmus, of, Double-A Springfield (Cardinals)

With all the other 2005 high school first-round outfielders stepping up their play–Justin Upton and Cameron Maybin in the big leagues, Jay Bruce holding his own in Triple-A–Rasmus is the latest to hit a second gear. Rasmus batted .611 with a pair of home runs last week, improving his overall numbers to .260/.373/.507 with 21 homers for Springfield.

Even more impressive is the fact that Rasmus is doing it in a playoff race–Springfield, who won the first half in the Texas League’s North Division, is tied for first place with Arkansas with 16 games remaining in the regular season. And seven of those games are against the Travelers.

2. Travis Snider, of, low Class A Lansing (Blue Jays)

Snider tied for the Midwest League lead last week with three home runs. He also hit .500 in 24 at-bats with seven RBIs and 11 runs scored. After a mediocre start and rough July, Snider is hitting .382/.507/.836 in 55 August at-bats.

3. Joey Votto, 1b/of, Triple-A Louisville (Reds)

Votto hit .360/.407/1.000 last week, cracking an IL-leading five home runs and 12 RBIs in six games. The Reds also have positioned the 23-year-old in left field as much as his natural position of first base this month, though he’s an average-at-best defender at both spots.

4. Nick Weglarz, of, low Class A Lake County (Indians)

Weglarz was the youngest player in the Appalachian League two years ago at 17, but was sidelined by a broken hamate bone for all of 2006. He has returned and hit .500 in 18 at-bats last week with two home runs. He is tearing up the month of August, hitting .382/.507/.836 in 55 at-bats with six home runs.

5. Daniel Cortes, rhp, high Class A Wilmington (Royals)

The 20-year-old Cortes seems to have hit his stride over his past five starts. Cortes posted a 5.03 ERA in June and a 4.05 mark in July, but has four earned runs over his past 23 innings with 26 strikeouts and nine walks. The 2005 White Sox seventh-round pick, traded to the Royals in 2006 as part of the Mike MacDougal deal, is 5-8, 3.63 for the season with 98 strikeouts in 104 innings.

6. Chris Davis, 3b, Double-A Frisco (Rangers)

The 21-year-old 2006 fifth-round pick has made a quick impression on Texas League pitchers in the 17 games since his promotion from high Class A Bakersfield. Davis is hitting .356/.443/.831 with eight home runs and 19 RBIs in 59 at-bats. Davis has six multi-hit games, including a two-homer outing on Aug. 13. Strikeouts remain an issue for Davis. He has 16 whiffs with Frisco after striking out 123 times in 386 at-bats with Bakersfield.

7. Steven Pearce, 1b, Triple-A Indianapolis (Pirates)

The 24-year-old continues to crush as he’s climbed from high Class to Double-A to Triple-A, hitting an aggregate .340/.404/.649 with 31 home runs in 111 RBIs on the year. In August, the 5-foot-11, 200-pound slugger has turned it up a notch, hitting .347/.397/.681 with six homers. A big reason for Pearce’s breakout is improved contact skills: He’s fanned in 15 percent of his at-bats this season, compared to 20 percent in 2006.

8. Aaron Laffey, lhp, Triple-A Buffalo (Indians)

Go ahead and pencil in Laffey’s name next to Jack Cressend’s. With his win Sunday, the 22-year-old became just the second Buffalo pitcher in the franchise’s modern history to reel off nine victories in a row. Cressend did the same in 2004. Though he went just 1-1, 5.73 in two big league starts, Laffey’s August has been spectacular otherwise. He’s gone 2-0, 1.93 with 13-4 K-BB and a stunning 5.20 groundout-to-fly out ratio for Buffalo.

9. Cody Johnson, of, Rookie-level Danville (Braves)

The Braves’ first rounder in 2006 struggled last season, but has been one of the best hitters in the Appalachian League. Johnson, who turned 19 Saturday, is hitting .342/.412/.711 in August, and .295/.360/.604 overall. He has hit for excellent power, with 14 doubles, four triples and 14 home runs among his 61 hits, and has played primarily in left field for Danville.

10. Matt Whitney, 1b, high Class A Kinston (Indians)

The 33rd pick overall in 2002 has been more mentally tested than anyone else on this list, and is clubbing his way through a second stint in the Carolina League–this time on the opposite side of the infield. Drafted as a third baseman, Whitney broke his leg in a freak off-field accident after his debut season. The leg required several surgeries to repair, and some in the organization wrote him off completely after he batted .206/.294/.362 at Kinston last season. But a move to first base took a lot of the pressure off the 23-year-old, and it’s allowed the bat to again emerge as one of the top power threats in the Indians system. Whitney batted .417 last week with four homers–three of which came in a doubleheader at home against Salem. A whopping 23 of his 51 hits since being promoted from low Class A Lake County have gone for extra bases.

11. Erik Lis, of, high Class A Fort Myers (Twins)

It certainly would not be out of line to describe Lis’ recent power surge as surprising. The 23-year-old, in his second full pro season after being selected in the ninth round out of Evansville in 2005, had just nine home runs in the first four months of the season before smacking nine in August. Lis hit four in a three-day stretch last week and is swinging at a .342./.373/.722 clip in 79 at-bats this month.

12. Gerardo Parra, of, high Class A Visalia (Diamondbacks)

The Venezuela native turned 20 while hitting .320/.370/.435 with six homers and 24 steals while playing for low Class A South Bend. He hasn’t slowed down since earning an early-August promotion to the Cal League. The organization’s 14th-rated prospect, who made a sparkling domestic debut last season with Rookie-level Missoula, is 20-for-50 with Visalia and has hit in 9-of-11 games.

13. Nick Green, rhp, Double-A Arkansas (Angels)

Signing for a measly $1,500 as a 35th-rounder in 2004 out of Darton (Ga.) JC, Green has established himself as one of the most durable arms in the Angels’ system. While his fastball is average, Green’s circle change might be his best pitch. After tossing 14 2/3 scoreless innings last week, Green is now 10-6, 3.66 in 160 innings. Green turned 23 Monday, so here’s to you, Nick! (cue the sound of clinking glasses).

14. Drew Stubbs, of, low Class A Dayton (Reds)

Stubbs has frequented the Hot Sheet this year, but never in the top 20. Stubbs was putting up poor numbers as a leadoff man, but has moved to the middle of the order and his average is on the rise. He hit .500 last week with 2 home runs in 26 at-bats. In 68 at-bats in August he is hitting .368/.411/.647 with three home runs.

15. Tony Thomas, 2b, short-season Boise (Cubs)

Despite being one of the most productive hitters in the country this spring at Florida State, scouts generally were not overwhelmed with Thomas’ tools. He hit .430/.522/.733 for the Seminoles and was a first-team All-American, so the Cubs grabbed him in the third round. Thomas has so far rewarded the Cubs by becoming one of the best hitters in the Northwest League, hitting .308/.388/.566 on the year, including .368/.443/.627 in August. He also has 19 steals in 20 attempts as a professional after stealing 31 in 36 tries at Florida State. A big concern for Thomas, however, is his defense, as scouts felt it was below average in college, and he has already made seven errors in 24 games at second base. If Thomas does not improve enough defensively to stay at second base, his value would be significantly reduced.

16. Trevor Cahill, rhp, low Class A Kane County (Athletics)

Cahill continued to put up good numbers by hurling six innings and striking out eight while giving up just two hits and two walks. He is 8-4, 3.09 on the season and hasn’t given up more than one earned run in his last six starts.

17. Jeremy Hellickson, rhp, low Class A Columbus (Devil Rays)

Hellickson won his fifth straight decision last week by throwing six innings, striking out seven and allowing just two hits. He is now 12-2, 2.69 on the season.

18. Anuery Rodriguez, rhp, low Class A Asheville (Rockies)

The Rockies have a knack for signing and developing power arms out of Latin America, and Rodriguez is the latest to make an impact in the States. The 19-year-old Dominican features power stuff, but has gone through some growing pains in 2007. Still, he hasn’t lost a decision in a month and whiffed 10 in his last start. On the season, Rodriguez is 9-7, 4.93 with 136 strikeouts in 135 innings.

19. Aaron Thompson, lhp, high Class A Jupiter (Marlins)

The 20-year-old’s up-and-down season certainly hit a high point on Tuesday when he tossed a seven-inning, three-hit shutout against Brevard County. The lefty, a 2005 first-round pick out of a Houston high school, struck out seven and walked two. Thompson missed most of June with an arm injury and went a combined seven innings in his first two starts back. He tossed a seven-inning two-hitter but then yielded seven runs in 10 innings over two starts before Tuesday’s gem.

20. Nick Noonan, ss, Rookie-level Arizona League Giants

The Giants drafted Noonan is the supplemental first round this year, and they knew they were getting one of the more polished high school hitters in the country. Noonan has not disappointed, hitting .311/.351/.441 through 191 plate appearances, including .343/.388/.511 in August. He has also flashed good running ability with 15 steals in 18 attempts. Noonan’s arm is fringy, so he may move over to second base at some point, especially given that his defense may not be outstanding enough to keep him at shortstop.

Hector Gomez, ss, low Class A Asheville (Rockies)

Gomez has seen his average drop about 10 points in the last week, thanks to collecting just 25 at-bats. He is hitting an abysmal .145/.185/.217 in 69 at-bats in August after he had seen his numbers up to .296/.339/.466 through July.

Carlos Carrasco, rhp, Double-A Reading (Phillies)

The Phillies’ No. 1 prospect has officially hit a wall in Double-A, allowing 11 earned runs over his last two starts–one in which he didn’t make it out of the second inning. Since the all-star break, Carrasco is 1-3, 6.61 with more walks (24) than strikeouts (21) and has served up seven home runs in 33 innings of work.

Disappointing Season(s)

Outfielders Jose Tabata, Fernando Martinez and shortstop Elvis Andrus ranked Nos. 2, 3 and 4 in the low Class A South Atlantic League in 2006–and all three played most of the season at age 17. Things haven’t gone quite so smoothly for the trio this year, however.

The Yankees’ Tabata, 19, was just OK for high Class A Tampa, hitting .307/.371/.392 with 23 extra-base hits in 411 at-bats, but he finally succumbed to the hand injury that had plagued him all season and had the hamate bone of his right wrist removed.

The Mets’ Martinez, 18, also was plagued by a hand injury this season and, like Tabata, was forced to shut it down early. He hit just .271/.336/.377 for Double-A Binghamton with 16 extra-base hits in 236 at-bats, with hand pain effecting his batting all season, also like Tabata.

The 18-year-old Andrus’ prospect status has suffered not from injury–he has remained healthy all season and is a plus defender and runner–but from being traded by the Braves, an organization that knows a thing or two about evaluating its own players. Andrus hit just .244/.330/.335 for high Class A Myrtle Beach, but has gotten a production boost by his trade to the Rangers, and thus the California League, and has hit .324/.377/.423 for high Class A Bakersfield. Still, he’s .257/.337/.349 on the year with 29 extra-base hits in 456 at-bats, though he does have 34 steals in 47 attempts.

Mike McCardell, rhp, Rookie-level Elizabethton (Twins)

IP: 39
SO: 62
BB: 4
ERA: 2.31

The numbers are simply phenomenal for the sixth-rounder from Division II Kutztown. McCardell is 22 years old, so he is old for his level, but a 15.5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio is still outstanding. McCardell is a 6-foot-5 righthander who throws his fastball in the low-90s with excellent control. He is a good athlete who was also a hitter in college.

David Bromberg, rhp, Rookie-level Elizabethton (Twins)

McCardell’s teammate, Bromberg has a similar build (6-foot-5, 230 pounds), but Bromberg is also only 19. Bromberg doesn’t have McCardell’s pinpoint control, but he does have an excellent strikeout rate with 70 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings and a 2.45 ERA. He has walked 31 batters, but his command should improve as he progresses with his development. Bromberg was a 32nd-round draft pick in 2005.

Danny Duffy, lhp, Rookie-level Arizona League Royals

The Royals’ third rounder is dominating the Arizona League with 55 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings, including 14 walks and a 1.19 ERA. Only 18 years old, Duffy has very good potential. He can work his fastball up to 95 mph, he throws a two-seamer in the high-80s, and he also works with a slider/curveball combination that has potential. He has had issues with the health of his back in the past and his mechanics are not the best, so improving his mechanics and staying healthy may become obstacles for Duffy down the road.

Wilmer Font, rhp, Rookie-level Arizona League Rangers

Font signed as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela last year, and the Rangers had high hopes for him then. So far he is pitching well, with 45 strikeouts, 16 walks and a 3.31 ERA in 35 1/3 innings. The numbers impressive, and they are even more impressive given his youth. Font, who is 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, gets good down angle on his fastball, which has been up to 97 in Arizona this season. “He pitches at 94 or 95 and the breaking ball is still developing,” Rangers farm director Scott Servais said. “He’s got big stuff with great leverage and angle to his fastball. We’ve been very cautious with him, but he’s going to be one of our top arms heading into instructional league.”

Liam Hendriks, rhp, Rookie-level Gulf Coast League

Minnesota signed Hendrks out of Australia this year, and the 18-year-old has been one of the best pitchers in the GCL with 51 strikeouts, 10 walks and a 1.13 ERA in 40 innings. He has been nearly unhittable in August with a 0.43 ERA, 33 strikeouts and five walks in 21 innings this month. Hendriks was an excellent Australian Rules Football player who thought about playing the sport professionally before signing with the Twins.


Brian Dopirak, 1b, high Class A Daytona

After crushing the Midwest League three years ago, nothing has gone right for Dopirak since then. His stock has plummeted, both in the system and on the prospect scene in general. Dopirak broke his foot on Opening Day last year and his swing was never right at Double-A West Tenn when he returned. After hitting just .218 in Double-A this season, the Cubs sent him back to Daytona where he’s steadily progressed over the last two months. Last week, Dopirak hit .391 to improve his overall numbers to .279/.327/.503 in 298 at-bats, and he’s showing the power of old–with 16 homers, 19 doubles and 55 RBIs.