Prospect Hot Sheet: Aug. 7

See also: Previous

We’re heading into the home stretch of the 2009 minor league season, the time of year where many younger players begin to realize just how long a 140-game season is. For many players, it’s when a solid ERA or a good OPS start to suffer. But that’s not true for everyone, as this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet shows.

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 (July 31-Aug. 6).

Contributing: Ben Badler, Dan Budreika,
J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy, Matt Forman, Conor



Chris CarterTeam: Double-A Midland (Texas)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .615/.667/1.115 (16-for-26), 2 HR, 5 2B, 1 3B, 8 RBIs, 12 R, 5 BB, 2 SO, 0-for-2 SB

The Scoop: You won’t find a hotter hitter in the minors than Carter. He hasn’t missed a beat in his first season at Double-A, as he’s hitting .333/.428/.560 on the season. But he’s been scalding hot for the past three weeks, riding a 21-game hitting streak and propelling himself to the top of this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet.

Carter led the high Class A California League in home runs (39), RBIs (104) and slugging percentage (.569) last year, and he’s on pace to do even better this year. He leads the Texas League in average, hits (142), doubles (36), on-base percentage, slugging, extra-base hits (57) and runs (96). He’s also second in both home runs (19) and RBIs (85). In other words, he’s having a pretty good year.

Carter still strikes out a fair amount (102 in 108 games), but he’s drawn 70 walks and has cleaned up his defense as well. He made 10 errors in 41 games at first base last year, but that number has shrunk to seven in 95 games this year.



Matt MooreTeam: low Class A Bowling Green (South Atlantic)

Age: 20

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.00, 9 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 6 BB, 15 SO

The Scoop: Another week, another heaping helping of strikeouts for Moore. His 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings leads all full-season minor league starters, while his 141 total strikeouts rank third behind Padres righthander Dexter Carter (148) and the White Sox righty Dan Hudson (142). Moore has walked 5.2 batters per nine innings this year, so his control still needs work. But it’s one heck of an arm for a 20-year-old.



Juan FranciscoTeam: Double-A Carolina (Southern)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .429/.484/.857 (12-for-28), 3 HR, 3 2B, 9 RBIs, 2 BB, 6 SO

Usually, Double-A is the level where a power hitter with a free-swinging tendency finds his old approach no longer works. Just ask Greg Halman. But Francisco has managed to hold his own in the Southern League, despite his tendency to start swing at pitches when he’s standing in the on-deck circle. He leads the league with 22 home runs and is hitting .341/.386/.659 since the all-star break. Francisco has walked only 19 times in 408 at-bats (4.5 percent of plate appearances), but that’s actually the best walk rate of his career, and he’s cut his strikeout rate as well. He’s very unlikely to stick at third base long-term thanks to his size and a newfound problem with errors (his 35 this year gives him an ugly .863 fielding percentage), but his raw power is as impressive as anyone in the minors not named Mike Stanton.



Pedro AlvarezTeam: Double-A Altoona (Eastern)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .429/.571/.810 (9-for-21), 2 HR, 2 2B, 3 RBIs, 4 R, 7 BB, 5 SO

The Scoop: Don’t look now, but Alvarez is hitting .308 with a .953 OPS in Double-A. His corresponding figures form the Carolina League: .247 and .827. It’s been just 37 games since his promotion to Altoona, but Alvarez at least is taking steps toward justifying his No. 2 overall selection in last year’s draft. After an initial adjustment period in June, he caught fire in July and has batted .352/.432/.611 with six homers and 10 doubles in 108 at-bats since July 1.



Brandon ErbeTeam:
Double-A Erie (Eastern)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 8 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 5 SO

The Scoop: Erbe spent a month and a half on the disabled list with shoulder fatigue, which has limited him to just nine starts this season. Yesterday’s outing at New Hampshire was Erbe’s best of the season, as he threw eight no-hit innings before being removed in the ninth after throwing 108 pitches. Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta tend to steal the spotlight when it comes to the Orioles’ young pitching, but don’t discount Erbe, who at 21 is already in Double-A.



Tyler ColvinTeam: Double-A Tennessee (Southern)

Age: 23

Why He’s Here: .519/.552/.889 (14-for-27), 2 HR, 2 2B, 1 3B, 9 RBIs, 6 R, 2 BB, 1 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: The 13th overall pick in the 2006 draft, Colvin’s young career has been slowed by shoulder and elbow injuries, but he’s been enjoying a fairly productive season in this, his third tour of the Southern League. He went 0-for-3 Thursday night, snapping a nine game hitting streak that included a 5-for-5 effort last Friday in Mobile. Colvin still employs a free-swinging approach, as he’s drawn only 10 walks in 57 games and sports a .313 on-base percentage to go with his .287 average. Still, Colvin’s increased productivity has to be encouraging for a player who’s career appeared stalled last year.



Jordan LylesTeam: low Class A Lexington (South Atlantic)

Age: 18

Why He’s Here: 1-1, 2.08, 13 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 14 SO

The Scoop: An 18-year-old in the South Atlantic League with 139 strikeouts and 32 walks in 117 2/3 innings? No, that’s not Madison Bumgarner we’re talking about. It’s Jordan Lyles, one of the most dominant pitchers in the minors this year. The 6-foot-4 righthander with a free-and-easy delivery and a plus fastball is tied for fourth in the minor leagues with 139 strikeouts, showing why the Astros bucked industry consensus by taking him in the supplemental first round a year ago.



James SimmonsTeam: Triple-A Sacramento (Pacific Coast)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 11 SO

The Scoop: The Athletics’ big league rotation is young enough as it is, and that’s without adding Simmons to the mix yet. In just his second full season as a pro, Simmons got out of the gate slowly in Triple-A, going just 2-4, 6.17 in his first 11 starts for the River Cats. But he’s gradually come around since, winning five of his last six decisions with a 4.15 ERA. He had easily his best start of the season Wednesday against Oklahoma City. This was both his first double-digit strikeout game and his first scoreless appearance of the season.



Casey CrosbyTeam: low Class A West Michigan (Midwest)

Age: 20

Why He’s Here: 1-1, 0.00, 10 1/3 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 SO

The Scoop: Crosby has moved slowly since the Tigers selected the Illinois high schooler in the fifth round of the ’07 draft. He hurt his elbow in instructional league after signing and had Tommy John surgery, which wiped out nearly all of his ’08 season. Now healthy and getting his first taste of full-season ball, Crosby has gone 9-4, 2.61 in 22 starts, with 112 strikeouts and 44 walks over 97 innings. He ranks second in the Midwest League in strikeouts.



Martin PerezTeam:
low Class A Hickory (South Atlantic)

Age: 18

Why He’s Here: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 9 SO

The Scoop: Though his weekly numbers don’t jump off the page, Perez has been consistent all season for the Crawdads. A strict pitch count has precluded the “Venezuelan Gator” from going more than 5 1/3 innings in any one start, but Perez has made the most of his time on the mound. One SAL manager recently told BA, “I’m glad he’s on that pitch count, because he’s scary. That helps everyone out a lot.”

Perez flashes a plus-plus 92-95 mph fastball and has a sharp knee-buckling curveball. He’s also working on a changeup, which at times can be above-average. Through 14 starts, Perez is 5-5, 2.33 with 105 strikeouts in 93 innings, having given up three home runs all year.



Allen CraigTeam: Triple-A Memphis (Pacific Coast)

Age: 25

Why He’s Here: .481/.548/.704 (13-for-27), 3 2B, 1 HR, 5 R, 4 RBIs, 4 BB, 4 SO

The Scoop: If the Cardinals ever optioned Albert Pujols to Memphis, his numbers might look like the ones Craig has put up for the Redbirds over the last month. Since July, Craig is hitting .404/.462/.779 with 10 home runs in 29 games, raising his season line up to .307/.364/.512 with the Redbirds. Yeah, he’s already 25 and just about to enter his peak years, but anyone who mashes like Craig shouldn’t be excluded from the Hot Sheet.



Andrew CashnerTeam: Double-A Tennesee (Southern)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 SO

The Scoop: The second Tennesse Smokie on this week’s Hot Sheet, Cashner has been brilliant since being promoted to Tennessee in early July. A closer in college at Texas Christian, Cashner looks like he’s re-acclimated himself to starting just fine. In only his first full season as a pro, Cashner posted a 1.50 ERA in the high Class A Florida State League before being promoted, and has been even better since, going 2-1, 0.88 in 30 2/3 innings for Tennessee. Over his last three starts, covering 17 innings, Cashner hasn’t given up an earned run and has allowed only six hits.



Ryan KalishTeam:
Double-A Portland (Eastern)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .417/.481/.833 (10-for-24), 2 HR, 4 2B, 5 RBIs, 7 R, 3 BB, 3 SO

The Scoop: Making the jump to Double-A wasn’t easy for Kalish, who hit only .133 in his first 16 games after being promoted in mid-May. But he’s been making the necessary adjustments and his numbers having been heading in the right direction ever since. After hitting .304/.367/.496 in July, Kalish has continued that hot streak into August, registering at least one extra-base hit in five of his last six games. Kalish has solid tools across the board, and his 12 home runs combined between his two stops this year are already more than he’d hit in his entire career (nine), coming into the season.



CF Mike Trout signed on July 2 as the Angels’ first-round pick (25th overall) and hasn’t looked back. Today he celebrates his 18th birthday with his first ever Hot Sheet nod. And why not? For the AZL Angels this week he went 12-for-27 (.444) with a home run, two doubles, two triples and nine RBIs. He ranks 11th among all Rookie-level players with a .356 average . . . Quick—who leads the Midwest League in strikeouts? Unless you’re a devoted follower of the Fort Wayne TinCaps (or the Padres), your answer probably was not Simon Castro. But the 21-year-old Dominican RHP does, in fact, lead the pack with 125 whiffs in 108 2/3 innings. Castro’s showing this week was typical fare: five innings, four hits, one run, six strikeouts. And in his past three turns, all lasting five innings in duration, he’s posted a 0.60 ERA and a 23-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. That’s good, but it gets better. Through June, Castro had struck out roughly one batter per inning, but in his past seven starts he’s turned on the afterburners, fanning 50 MWL opponents over 35 1/3 innings . . . Double-A LHP Wilkin de la Rosa (Yankees) took a perfect game into the sixth inning and a no-hitter into the seventh of Trenton’s Tuesday win against Reading. In total, he worked seven innings, allowing one hit, one walk and no runs while striking out seven. The 24-year-old erstwhile outfielder has been pitching only since ’07, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it by his performance. On the year, de la Rosa has gone 5-5, 3.38 over 18 starts, while striking out 89 batters in 90 2/3 innings. The only downside: He’s also walked 41 batters . . . Triple-A Colorado Springs 2B Eric Young Jr. (Rockies) hit .364/.563/.682 (8-for-22) this week with two triples, one home run, eight walks and three stolen bases. Young, 24, is hitting .300/.392/.428 on the season with 54 stolen bases. With the Rockies currently one game back in the NL wild card race, Young could be an option at second base, where Clint Barmes is currently hitting .245/.293/.437 . . . Like Young, Toledo’s Scott Sizemore (Tigers) is another 24-year-old second baseman who played in the Futures Game and had a good week in Triple-A. Sizemore batted .400/483/.640 (10-for-25) on the week with two home runs, four walks and three stolen bases. On the season, he’s now batting .309/.397/.511 split between Double-A Erie and Triple-A . . . A staple on the Hot Sheet it seems, Modesto LHP Christian Friedrich (Rockies) continues to carve up the high Class A California League. Against Bakersfield at home, Friedrich pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowed two runs (both unearned) on three hits while walking three and striking out 10. It’s his third consecutive start with double-digit strikeouts. On the season, between low Class A Asheville and Modesto, Friedrich is 5-3, 1.83 with 128 strikeouts and 30 walks over 93 innings.


Esmil Rogers, rhp, Rockies: Triple-A hasn’t been kind to the 23-year-old Rogers. The converted shortstop started the season in Double-A Tulsa, where he went 8-2, 2.48 over 15 starts, earning the promotion to Colorado Springs. He’s started six games since the promotion and just one of them—the first one—qualifies as a quality start. This week, the 6-foot-1, 150-pound righthander got two starts and went 0-1, 11.00 with 15 hits and 11 runs allowed over nine innings of work. Rogers’ strikeouts are down since the promotion. In Double-A, he struck out 83 batters over 94 innings. So far in Triple-A, he’s struck out 17 (and walked 14) over 31 innings. Colorado Springs isn’t the easiest place to pitch, but it’s not like it’s going to get any easier.

Kasey Kiker, lhp, Rangers: The Rangers’ 2006 first-round pick tossed a perfect inning in the Texas League all-star game in front of the hometown crowd in early July. Almost a month later, Kiker turned in his worst outing of the season. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound lefty couldn’t escape the first inning, surrendering five runs on three hits, three walks and one hit batsman. Kiker, 23, registered just two outs before getting pulled in the 6-5 Frisco loss. He threw 39 pitches, 19 for strikes. Prior to Sunday’s start, Kiker was 7-4, 2.90 with 103 strikeouts and 51 walks in 107 innings pitched for the RoughRiders. Even with the rough recent outing, Kiker has taken a step in the right direction this season.

Kevin Ahrens, 3b, Blue Jays. Scouts like what they see of 20-year-old Ahrens. He’s got a smooth, repeatable swing from both sides of the plate, he fields the hot corner very well (he’s a converted shortstop) and he has a 70 arm. The trouble is, Ahrens’ bat hasn’t yet made the transition to pro ball. He hit .230 with little power in Rookie ball back in ’07, the year Toronto drafted the Houston prep product 16th overall. No big deal—he was learning the pro game. Ahrens followed that up with a mediocre .696 OPS in the Midwest League a year ago. Now with high Class A Dunedin, he has scuffled all year to keep his average above the Mendoza line. He’s batting .211/.279/.280 in 318 Florida State League at-bats, with just two home runs and 28 RBIs.

Sam Runion, rhp, Royals: With pitchers, it’s always wise to be patient, as a new grip or a delivery tweak can sometimes turn an entire career around. The Royals’ 2007 second-round pick has to hope that something will change as his first two and a half seasons in pro ball have not gone as he would have hoped. The 20-year-old struggled in the Arizona League in 2007, then had to be demoted to the Appalachian League after struggling in the low Class A Midwest League in 2008. The second try at the MWL has gone even worse. Runion is 3-8, 6.88 with 152 hits allowed and 33 walks in 103 innings with Burlington. What’s even more discouraging is his complete lack of strikeouts. Runion has struck our more batters than runs he’s allowed in only six of his 21 starts.


Justin Maxwell, cf, Nationals: Injuries have set back Maxwell’s development. He missed his redshirt sophomore season at Maryland with a broken forearm and also dealt with a broken finger and broken hamate as a college player. Those injury problems haven’t gone away since the Nationals selected him in the fourth round of the 2005 draft. He seemed to be on the verge of a big league role after a solid season in Double-A Harrisburg and a 15-game stint with the major league team in 2007. But a wrist injury limited Maxwell to 43 games in Triple-A in 2008. This year he’s putting it back together as the 25-year-old is making a push for a September call up with a strong finish to the season at Triple-A Syracuse. He’s been red-hot since the calendar flipped to August, hitting .529 (9-for-17) this week with three extra-base hits and three stolen bases.


Jorge Padilla, rf, Nationals. If you want to get an idea of how long Padilla has been kicking around the minor leagues, then consider that he ranked No. 14 in the Phillies system in our original Prospect Handbook back in 2001, the one with Corey Patterson on the cover. And two years before that he ranked as the club’s seventh-best prospect. For Padilla the call to the big leagues had to seem like an impossible dream. But after 11 seasons with four different organizations, the minor league’s leader in average got the call to join the Nationals earlier this week. At the time of his promotion, Padilla, 29, was batting a career-best .367/.424/.482 for Triple-A Syracuse. He’s unlikely to end up getting more than a cup of coffee, but it’s a great reward for an outfielder who’s played more than 1,100 minor league games.


Jeurys Familia, rhp, Mets. Signed out of the Dominican in ’07, just a few months after Jenrry Mejia, Familia has emerged as ace of the low Class A Savannah staff. The 19-year-old righty lacks polish, but his low- to mid-90s fastball already rates as plus-plus, according to one scout for an AL club. The reason: Familia has exceptional life on and command of the pitch, a combination that’s rare for such a young pitcher. His changeup his is second-best offering for now, and he’ll need to refine his breaking ball to make it as a starter. On the season, Familia has gone 9-6, 2.90 in 20 starts for the Sand Gnats. Over 118 innings, he has stuck out 97, walked 40 and allowed just 94 hits (three home runs).