Prospect Hot Sheet: July 23

See also: Previous Prospect Hot Sheet

Yankees outfielder Austin Jackson is having a great month, and so we have to send out special props to the 2005 eighth-round pick before we get into this week’s Hot Sheet.

Though his week was just OK, Jackson is hitting .362 with four homers at high Class A Tampa in July. To put that in perspective, Jackson hit just four homers all of last year (or 535 at-bats) at low Class A Charleston.

We’d also like to give special mention to another Yankee, Rookie-level Dominican Summer League outfielder Jahdiel Santamaria.

Aside from having a really cool name, the 20-year-old Panamanian native is hitting .354/.437/.551 in 147 at-bats for the DSL Yankees 1.

It was tough picking a No. 1 this week, as several candidates all put up the numbers we look for when considering the top spot. That said, Nationals outfielder Chris Marrero was an easy choice when you look at what he’s done–as a teenager–at two different levels this season.

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. Chris Marrero, of, high Class A Potomac (Nationals)

The 15th overall pick last year out of Pace HS in Opa Locka, Fla., started the year on a tear at low Class A Hagerstown, and has continued to put up big numbers in the Carolina League. Marrero, who turned 19 on July 2, batted .293/.337/.545 with 14 homers at Hagerstown and was promoted to Potomac in early June. He’s been the talk of the CL ever since, and could be the top prospect in the circuit when it’s all said and done.

In 120 at-bats with the P-Nats, Marrero is hitting .317/.394/.492.

“He hit everything against us,” Kinston pitching coach Tony Arnold said. “He hit the fastball in, the fastball away, he hit the changeup and he hit the slider. He’s definitely one of those few guys in the league this year where you have to think a little more in how you’re going to attack him.”

Stay tuned to see how Arnold’s staff attacks Marrero this week, as Kinston visits G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium (aka “The Pfitz) in Woodbridge, Va., for a three-game series beginning tonight.

2. Seth Smith, of, Triple-A Colorado Springs (Rockies)

Teammates Ian Stewart and Joe Koshansky may get most of the attention, but the 24-year-old Smith has out-hit both of them. Amazingly, he’s just gotten better and better as the season has progressed, and the second-round pick from Mississippi in 2004 is batting a cool .468/.534/.818 in July with five homers, eight doubles and 21 RBIs in 22 games.

3. Reid Brignac, ss, Double-A Montgomery (Devil Rays)

Brignac wound up going homerless in a recent five-game series at Carolina this past week, but only because he had one that sailed inside the right-field foul pole called back by the umpire crew at Five County Stadium. That said, Brignac still collected eight hits in the series, including three doubles.

Though he has been fairly average up to this point, Brignac is hitting .338 with four bombs this month.

4. Clay Buchholz, rhp, Triple-A Pawtucket (Red Sox)

Ho-hum. Buchholz authored another double-digit strikeout outing, giving him five for the season. The first four came at the Double-A level, but his latest came Sunday when he fanned 10 Triple-A Louisville Bats. He’ll have to continue at a similar pace to catch Will Inman and Gio Gonzalez, the top two minor league strikeout artists.

5. Franklin Morales, lhp, Double-A Tulsa (Rockies)

We like to call him ‘Big Frank,’ but that’s only because of our tendency to do Hawk Harrelson impressions (out loud) in the Baseball America World Headquarters. Morales’ numbers have improved dramatically since his Futures Game appearance when he struck out three over an inning of work. After being on the big stage at AT&T Park, Morales picked up his first two wins of the year for the Drillers, and has allowed just two earned runs while whiffing 16 in 15 innings.

6. Justin Masterson, rhp, Double-A Portland (Red Sox)

Masterson ranked No. 2 on last week’s Hot Sheet, and falls to the No. 6 spot this time around, but only because he actually allowed his first earned run in Double-A. Overall, since being promoted to the Eastern League, Masterson is 3-0, 0.47 with a 22-5 strikeout-walk ratio in 19 innings.

7. Andy LaRoche, 3b, Triple-A Las Vegas (Dodgers)

Though he scuffled through the season’s first three months–and even landed on the disabled list with a flare-up of the same shoulder that bothered him all last year–LaRoche has gotten hot in July, hitting .429/.477/.1.036 for the 51s. That otherworldly slugging percentage is the result of nine home runs and seven doubles in just 15 games. LaRoche continues to show a strong batting eye, with 26 walks and 23 strikeouts on the season.

8. Johnny Cueto, rhp, Double-A Chattanooga (Reds)

This month, Cueto is 1-1, 2.50 with 28 strikeouts in 18 innings, securing his place as one of the top arms in the Southern League along with Wade Davis.

9. Drew Carpenter, rhp, high Class A Clearwater (Phillies)

The 2006 second-round pick has lasted less than seven innings just once in his last six starts, yielding six runs while striking out 30 over 44 inning innings during the span. The 22-year-old out of Long Beach State tossed a nine-inning, three-hit shutout against Dunedin on Thursday to improve to 3-1, 1.67 in July and 11-5, 3.42 overall. He is tied for eighth in the minors in wins.

10. Steve Garrison, lhp, high Class A Brevard County (Brewers)

A mid-season surge has propelled the 20-year-old Garrison toward the top of the Florida State League leaderboard. A 10th-round pick in 2005, Garrison has won his last four starts–including a seven-inning, three-hit shutout on Sunday against Daytona–and is 4-0, 1.38 with 24 strikeouts in 33 innings in July. Garrison had yielded 28 runs over 10 starts in June and July but has given up only five earned in five July starts.

11. Kala Kaaihue, 1b, high Class A Myrtle Beach (Braves)

After a slow start in his second Carolina League stint, the organization’s 11th-rated prospect has emerged as one of the league’s hottest hitters. The 22-year-old Honolulu native hit just .167 and .278 in April and May, respectively, but has rebounded by going .378/.483/.714 in June and .333/.450/.651 in July. He led the league in homers last week with three while hitting at a .429 clip.

12. Steven Pearce, 1b, Double-A Altoona (Pirates)

Even though Pearce only left the yard once last week, he still hit .429 and is now hitting .333/.396/.568 with 12 homers and 61 RBIs for the Curve.

13. Jack Egbert, rhp, Double-A Birmingham (White Sox)

Unheralded righthander keeps dealing in the Southern League. Egbert, who relies on command and control of four pitches, is 2-1, 0.95 with 25 strikeouts in 19 innings in July.

14. Gio Gonzalez, lhp, Double-A Birmingham (White Sox)

Wow, back-to-back Barons. Something must be said for the job Birmingham pitching coach Rich Dotson has done this season, particularly with Egbert. Gio is what he is, but he’s also implementing his changeup more often after Dotson taught him a new grip. Last week, Gonzalez whiffed nine over six innings and now has 131 strikeouts in 109 innings.

15. Shelby Ford, 2b, high Class A Lynchburg (Pirates)

The 2006 third-round pick out of Oklahoma State seems to have figured out Carolina League pitching in his first full pro season after a slow start in which he hit .253 and .218 in April and May, respectively. Ford was atop the weekly leaderboard after hitting .481 last week and boosted his July average .353/.429/.559.

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

This slick-fielding shortstop hit .393 in 28 at-bats last week and scored six runs. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2004, Gomez is hitting .345/.387/.494 in 87 July at-bats.

17. Kevin Slowey, rhp, Triple-A Rochester (Twins)

Slowey has picked up right where he left off before him June promotion to Minneapolis, going 2-0 in three July starts. Well, that’s not quite true. Slowey had a 1.54 ERA in April and May, but he’s seen that figure rise all the way to 1.71 in July. Also of note, his strikeout-walk ratio has slipped from 11.4 to 9.5 when considering those same stretches.

18. Tyler Robertson, lhp, low Class A Beloit (Twins)

Robertson has quietly continued to dominate Midwest League hitters, going seven scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts and one walk against Wisconsin Friday. Still only 19, the athletic 6-foor-5 lefthander has a 1.71 ERA through 58 innings, including 64 strikeouts and 19 walks. Robertson’s 2-to-1 groundout-to-flyout ratio has helped him allow only one home run on the year.

19. Taylor Harbin, 2b, Rookie-level Missoula (Diamondbacks)

After just five hits in his first 35 at-bats in June, Harbin has been on fire in July, hitting .378/.466/.716 in 89 plate appearances. Harbin may have to improve his defense, though, as the eighth-rounder from Clemson has made nine errors during his 26 games playing second base.

20. Cole Rohrbough, lhp, Rookie-level Danville (Braves)

Striking out more than one batter per inning in each of his previous four starts, Rohrbough followed that up with 11 strikeouts in six innings July 13, and another 11 strikeout performance Thursday in five innings. The 2006 22nd rounder from Western Nevada Community College, one of this year’s highest-profile draft-and-follow signees, has used a fastball that has touched 94 and a power spike curveball with excellent depth and a changeup to record 42 strikeouts and just six walks in 25.1 innings.

Eric Campbell, 3b, high Class A Myrtle Beach (Braves)

It’s not often that we get repeat showings in this category, but Campbell’s .130/.213/.217 July average certainly justifies a second straight “Not Hot” listing. A 2004 second-round pick out of an Indiana high school, Campbell has yet to play his way to Double-A in his third full pro season and appears to be in Myrtle Beach for the long term with a .210/.293/.374 overall average.

John Whittleman, 3b, low Class A Clinton (Rangers)

Whittleman, a 2005 second round pick, was riding high batting .343 in 169 at-bats through May. But Whittleman has slumped since. Not even a home run in the Futures Game could right the ship. He is hit .214 with six strikeouts last week. He is now hitting .109/.231/.127 with 24 strikeouts in 55 at-bats. Since June 30, he has had seven multi-strikeout games.

Chris Valaika, ss, high Class A Sarasota (Reds)

After hitting .307/.353/.493 at low Class A Dayton, Valaika was called up to high Class A Sarasota. Since then, the third-round pick out of Santa Barbara in 2006 has hit .179/.253/.239 in 67 at-bats with just three extra-base hits.

Lance Broadway, rhp, Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox)

The 2005 first-round pick from Texas Christian began the year in Triple-A and fared well enough, considering it was just his second full season and that Knights Stadium is far from pitcher friendly. He went 5-5, 3.94 in 17 first-half starts, but the 23-year-old righthander has slumped to 0-2, 7.29 with a 16-14 K-BB ratio in 21 July innings.

Kyle Waldrop, rhp, Double-A New Britain (Twins)

Waldrop, a first-round pick from a Tennessee high school in 2004, came into the season with a 3.99 career minor league ERA–not terribly impressive for a pitcher with his draft pedigree, especially one who’s spent most of his time in the Midwest and Florida State leagues. After starting strong with high Class A Fort Myers (4-2, 2.86 in eight starts), the 21-year-old Waldrop has tailed off with New Britain, going 3-6, 5.34 in 11 starts. But that doesn’t tell the whole story: Waldrop has gone 1-2, 7.11 in four July starts, continuing his rising ERA trend (3.93 in May and 4.98 in June). He’s been sent back to Fort Myers.

Todd Martin, of/1b, short-season Mahoning Valley (Indians)

Sure, he’s 24 and in short-season ball, but Martin still has significant upside. Signed as a nondrafted free agent last July out of Middle Tennessee State, the Indians have had a tough time keeping Martin on the field due to various injuries. He played just 11 games in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last season, but now that he’s completely healthy the numbers have followed. In July, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound lefthanded-hitting outfielder is hitting .397 with five home runs. Overall, Martin is batting .389/.454/.628.

Sean Gleason, rhp, Rookie-level Bluefield/Osvaldo Morales, 1b/3b, Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Cardinals

Gleason, the Orioles’ 20th-round pick this year, has been very good in the Appalachian League, putting up 3-1, 2.51 numbers over his first seven outings. Through 29 innings, the 21-year-old has 32 strikeouts compared to just six walks. Morales just turned 20 and is raking his way through the GCL. In 92 at-bats, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound righthanded hitter is batting .304/.402/.565 with six homers and 20 RBIs. Other complex players to keep an eye on in the Dominican Summer League are Devil Rays righthander Juan Santana (3-0, 0.28), Giants righthander Kelvin Marte (1-1, 1.78 with 53 strikeouts in 35 innings), and Nationals infielder Yeurys Tejeda (.390/.435/.780).

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

When Whitney was at Rookie-level Burlington after he signed as the 33rd overall pick in 2002, he drew comparisons to Manny Ramirez for his light tower power. But after he broke his leg playing basketball during spring training the following year, Whitney missed all of 2003 and much of 2004 recovering from surgeries to reset the bone and remove scar tissue from his foot. Last season was the first time Whitney got more than 300 at-bats in a season in his career, but he batted just .206/.294/.362 as the everyday third baseman at Kinston. With much of his agility gone, the Indians moved him to first base during spring training before this season and it’s proved to be the best thing that’s ever happened to the 23-year-old. Starting the year at Lake County, Whitney returned to Kinston after hitting .308/.377/.542 with 16 home runs for the Captains. He’s supplanted Stephen Head as the everyday first baseman for the K-Tribe, and is hitting .311/.361/.568 in 74 at-bats.