This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet covers games from Aug. 15-21. 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: Ben Badler, Matt Eddy, J.J. Cooper, John Manuel, Vince Lara-Cinisomo and Josh Norris.
1. Daniel Norris, lhp, Blue Jays
The Scoop: Norris struck out nine batters against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Thursday night. In his three starts with Triple-A, that's his lowest total. He followed up his stellar debut with Buffalo with an even better encore, whiffing 13 in just 5 2/3 innings against Lehigh Valley. His Triple-A strikeout rate sits at an eye-popping 17.3 per nine innings. When you're lefthanded, boast a 97 mph fastball with excellent late life and couple it with a plus slider and excellent changeup, these type of things can happen.
2. Steven Moya, rf, Tigers
The Scoop: The potential for a breakout season has always been there with Moya, who has a tantalizing combination of size, power and arm strength. Injuries and a lack of plate discipline have kept him from having that one season where it all comes together, but he’s shown a power surge this season, hitting 33 home runs in 123 games for a .276/.304/.556 batting line. His long swing and tendency to expand the strike zone still get him in trouble, leading to high strikeouts and low walks, though Moya’s ability to translate that power into game situations with more frequency this season has been a positive development.
3. Kyle Schwarber, lf/c, Cubs
The Scoop: Hitting just .242 at Daytona entering this Hot Sheet period, Schwarber broke out in a big way this week with eight extra-base hits. The Cubs identified the Indiana standout as the best bat in the 2014 draft, and so far Schwarber has not disappointed, hitting .339/.437/.603 with 13 homers in 63 games (at three levels) since turning pro as the No. 4 overall pick.
4. Marcos Molina, rhp, Mets
The Scoop: When the Mets signed Molina for $100,000 out of the Dominican Republic in January 2012, they were drawn to his lanky frame and easy arm action that led them to project him to throw harder than the 92 mph he was flashing as a 17-year-old. These days Molina is showing a plus fastball that can touch the mid-90s, complementing it with an above-average changeup and filling up the strike zone. Molina’s exciting combination of stuff and control make him the latest quality arm to come through the organization’s Dominican pipeline.
5. Gabby Guerrero, rf, Mariners
The Scoop: Vladimir's nephew may never curtail his free-swinging ways, but he'll always be exciting when he makes contact. The toolsy outfielder connected for three longballs this week in the continuation of a second straight solid month. Since the beginning of July, Guerrero is hitting .319/.353/.513 with 10 doubles, nine homers and 36 RBIs. Combine his offensive skills with his solid range and well above-average arm and you've got a very exciting player with a bright future.
6. Eduardo Rodriguez, lhp, Red Sox
The Scoop: So far, the Red Sox have to be very pleased with their return from the Orioles for lefty reliever Andrew Miller. In four starts with the Sea Dogs, Rodriguez has worked to a 2-0, 0.74 mark with just two runs surrendered over 24 innings. He's fanned 28 against six walks with his new club. The Eastern League repeater features a lively fastball in the mid-90s as well as a curveball and changeup that both have the potential to be plus offerings in the future.
7. Tyler Glasnow, rhp, Pirates
The Scoop: Glasnow saw an 18-inning scoreless streak end in his previous start. So he began a new one this week. Armed with a mid-90s heater and a power curve, the 6-foot-7 righthander has torn through the Florida State League like a rhinoceros, going 11-5, 1.43, but has saved his best for the final month of the season, going 4-0, 0.36 in August with 34 whiffs and 10 walks in 25 1/3 innings and only 10 hits.
8. Yorman Rodriguez, of, Reds
The Scoop: Not coincidentally, the bulk of Rodriguez's big week came when the Blue Wahoos went on the road. All of his extra-base hits--a double and three homers--this week came at Mobile. That kind of trend is right in line with Rodriguez's season numbers. Away from Bayfront Stadium, he's hitting .307/.356/.445 this year with six of his eight homers. All three slash categories are at least 75 points better than the same marks at home.
9. Addison Russell, ss, Cubs
The Scoop: Russell has stung the ball like never before after coming over to the Cubs from the Athletics in the Jeff Samardzija trade. He’s slugging .556 at Tennessee (with a career-best .261 isolated slugging percentage), and seven of his nine hits this week went for extra bases. Many scouts see plus power production for Russell down the line, which obviously will play at whichever infield post at which he settles in Chicago.
10. Andrew Heaney, lhp, Marlins
The Scoop: Heaney, who had struggled in his return to Triple-A after a messy major league stint, brought a no-hitter into the eighth inning against Reno on Sunday and finished with eight, one-hit innings with nine strikeouts in a 1-0 win, his best start of the season. The lefthander has a fluid motion and sits 90-93 mph, though he can push for a little more when he needs it. Barring an injury, he’ll be a member of the Marlins rotation in 2015.
11. Taijuan Walker, rhp, Mariners
The Scoop: Walker has spent the season getting healthy after shoulder issues in spring training. He’s building endurance and arm strength, which has been evident of late. Walker has struck out 13, nine and seven batters in his past three starts, none fewer than six innings. One PCL manager who saw Walker recently said the big righthander was touching 97 mph and sitting 95-96.
12. Mike Wright, rhp, Orioles
The Scoop: After a ghastly first half, Wright has, ahem, righted things in a big way. That trend continued this week, and especially on Thursday, when he came within one out from tossing a no-hitter at Durham. Since the all-star break, the East Carolina alum, who offers a traditional four-pitch mix fronted by a low- to mid-90s fastball, has gone 4-3, 2.18 in seven starts and has struck out 33 against just seven walks over those 45 innings.
13. Ryan Rua, 3b/1b/lf, Rangers
The Scoop: Sure, Rua mashed in low Class A Hickory last year, but doing that as a 23-year-old when scouts had concerns about whether the bat would play at higher levels--especially after some struggles in a late-season promotion to Double-A--left evaluators from other clubs with question marks on Rua’s major league future. He has done his best to silence his critics this season, batting .298/.373/.483 between Double-A and Triple-A while trimming his strikeout rate against more advanced pitching. The Rangers’ system has flashier athletes, but Rua’s bat is going to get him to the majors, even if it’s not clear where he fits best in the field.
In The Team Photo
Alec Asher, rhp, Rangers: Asher hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last two starts at Double-A Frisco, pounding the strike zone with a plus fastball, a slider that flashes above-average and an average changeup. The 22-year-old doesn’t have frontline starter potential, but he should fit in as a solid back-end starter, with a chance to crack the big league rotation in 2015.
Elier Hernandez, of, Royals: It’s been a rough year for Hernandez, a high-profile Dominican signing who landed a $3 million bonus in 2011. Strikeouts and pitch recognition have plagued Hernandez early in his career, but he hit a high note this week with low Class A Lexington, going 10-for-20 with two doubles, two triples and two home runs.
Taylor Jungmann, rhp, Brewers. The 2011 first-rounder turned in a pair of fine starts at Triple-A Nashville this week, logging 12 innings while allowing two runs on five hits. He struck out 14 and walked five. With 11 groundouts and four airouts, Jungmann continued a season-long trend of keeping the ball on the ground with a solid three-pitch mix.
Chad Pinder, 2b, Athletics. Who needs low Class A? Apparently not Pinder, a supplemental second-rounder in 2013 who jumped straight to high Class A Stockton this season, where he has hit for average and power. This week he went 13-for-35 (.371) with six doubles, a triple, 10 RBIs and two steals.
Justus Sheffield, lhp, Indians. The Tennessee prep star and 2014 first-rounder has come out of the bullpen in his past three outings after three short starts to begin his pro career. Pitching in the Rookie-level Arizona League, Sheffield on Aug. 16 struck out 10 and gave up only a hit and walk to the Padres. The lefthander can run his fastball up to 93 mph and at age 18 has a mature feel for pitching and four-pitch package.
Darnell Sweeney, cf/2b, Dodgers. After swiping 48 bases in 2013, Sweeney appeared to be on his way as a speed-oriented, middle-infield prospect. He’s added several new dimensions to his game this year at Double-A Chattanooga, however, including power (career-high 14 homers), patience (Southern League-leading 73 walks) and versatility (he plays center, second and shortstop). Oh, and Sweeney can hit, too, going 7-for-27 (.259) this week with two homers, two triples, a double and four walks.
Jose Urena, rhp, Marlins: Urena continues to steadily plug along one level at a time, using a plus fastball that he fires for strikes consistently, with groundball tendencies over big strikeout numbers. His seven shutout innings on Sunday for Double-A Jacksonville marked the fourth time in his last four starts that he’s held opposing hitters scoreless.
Matt Davidson, 3b, White Sox. Davidson has power, unquestionably, though he’s been helped by Triple-A Charlotte’s the homer-happy BB&T Ballpark. The righthanded hitter has 19 jacks, but he’s also struck out 148 times and is hitting just .201. This week, he was 2-for-26 with eight whiffs. Swing-and-miss will always be a part of his game, but he’s been a victim of bad luck this year. Last year at Triple-A Reno, Davidson’s average on balls in play was .359; this year, it’s .252.
Buck Farmer, rhp, Tigers: A fifth-round pick out of Georgia Tech last year, Farmer rocketed through the system. The 23-year-old started at low Class A West Michigan, jumped to Double-A Erie at the beginning of August, then made a spot start for his major league debut against the Pirates on Aug. 13. The Tigers sent him back down to Triple-A after that start, but his only appearance with Toledo didn’t go so well--eight runs (seven earned) with five hits and three walks with just one out recorded. That shouldn’t take away from the remarkable rise that Farmer has experienced.
Dawel Lugo, ss, Blue Jays. Lugo, who this time last month was in the Hot Sheet under better circumstances, had a stinker of a week. The 19-year-old Dominican was just 1-for-21 with six punchouts at low Class A Lansing. After a solid first three months, August has not been kind (.121/.132/.136).
Deven Marrero, ss, Red Sox. A 1-for-18 week at Triple-A Pawtucket dropped Marrero’s line at that level to .220/.272/.300 through 41 games. Don’t lose heart. He’s still an elite defender, and he hit .291/.371/.433 at Double-A this season, so some time to adjust to a new level is warranted.
Kendall Graveman, rhp, Blue Jays: Just more than a year ago, Graveman was starting the first game of the College World Series finals for Mississippi State, and he was the lone consistent starter the Bulldogs had on their wild ride to Omaha. An eighth-round pick as a senior who signed for just $5,000, Graveman wasn't on the radar for the Jays entering 2014. He made four starts at low Class A but has joined the Blue Jays' parade of fast-tracked prospects, making at least one start all the way up to Triple-A Buffalo. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound sinkerballer has added a cutter this year and pounds the zone with 90-92 mph fastballs that work over the bottom of the zone, as he did in this week's start--seven scoreless innings, no walks, four hits, four strikeouts.
Graveman has allowed more than two earned runs in a start twice all year en route to a 12-6, 1.68 composite line across four levels, with just two home runs allowed (to Adam Brett Walker and Nick Franklin) in 155 innings. His strikeout ratio of 6.2 per nine innings isn't loud, but his 3.69 SO/BB ratio and 1.00 WHIP serve notice he could contribute in Toronto soon as a back-of-the-rotation option.