This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet covers games from July 18-24. 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, J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy, Vince Lara-Cinisomo and Josh Norris.
1. Tyler Glasnow, rhp, Pirates
Team: high Class A Bradenton (Florida State)
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 11 SO, 2 BB
The Scoop: After recovering from an early-season back injury that might have hampered his command, Glasnow has dominated high Class A batters. He struck out 11 in one start this week, and two of his last three starts have featured double-digit strikeouts. His 97 punchouts ranks fourth in the Florida State League despite not getting into a game until three weeks into the season.
2. Bubba Starling, of, Royals
Team: high Class A Wilmington (Carolina)
Why He's Here: .524/.583/.810 (11-for-21), 6 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBIs, 3 BB, 4 SO, 2-for-2 SB
The Scoop: Starling hit .127 in April and pretty much erased any good memories of a strong finish at low Class A Lexington last summer. Here we are in July and once again, he’s starting to put things together. Starling is hitting .319/.358/.458 this month while cutting his strikeout rate to reasonable levels (though he still ranks second in the Carolina League with 112). He still has problems squaring up the ball to let his natural power play, but he clearly doesn't need to get sized for shoulder pads yet.
3. Archie Bradley, rhp, Diamondbacks
Team: Double-A Mobile (Southern)
Why He's Here: 0-0, 2.57, 7 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 10 SO, 1 BB
The Scoop: Five starts at Triple-A Reno, two months on the shelf with an elbow injury, followed by a return to the Southern League, where he spent most of 2013. That’s not how the Diamondbacks would have charted Bradley’s development course for this season, but with pitching prospects, the best-laid plans often go awry. The preseason No. 9 prospect in the game has steadily increased his pitch counts into the 90s in five starts at Mobile, but he has struggled to finish hitters and limit free passes. That changed this week, when Bradley fanned 10 Chattanooga batters while walking only one.
4. Joc Pederson, cf, Dodgers
Team: Triple-A Albuquerque (Pacific Coast)
Why He's Here: .318/.516/.864 (7-for-22), 7 R, 4 HR, 10 RBIs, 7 BB, 5 SO, 2-for-3 SB
The Scoop: As great as Pederson's power potential is, it's his defense that may finally get him out of Albuquerque and into the big league lineup. The Dodgers’ five-headed outfield doesn't have a true center fielder, a problem a Pederson promotion would quickly fix, as he's a tick-above average defender in center with an above-average arm. And he'd provide plenty of power to go with his still frightening strikeout rate.
5. Aristides Aquino, rf, Reds
Team: Rookie-level Billings (Pioneer)
Why He's Here: .444/.500/.963 (12-for-27), 9 R, 2 2B, 4 HR, 13 RBIs, 2 BB, 6 SO, 3-for-4 SB
The Scoop: Aquino was the star of extended spring training for the Reds in 2013 as he put on power displays in empty Cactus League parks. It's one of those honors that goes unnoticed because the stats don't count. And when the stats did begin counting, Aquino was overmatched at Billings after a solid start in the Rookie-level Arizona League. His return trip to the Pioneer League is going much more smoothly, as his nine home runs are second in the league. Aquino has legit power potential and a mature approach to his craft.
6. A.J. Cole, rhp, Nationals
Team: Triple-A Syracuse (International)
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 1.29, 14 IP, 11 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 12 SO
The Scoop: Cole’s bread-and-butter pitch is his fastball, a lively offering that sits in the low- to mid-90s. He’s used that fastball with tremendous success this season, earning a promotion to Syracuse a month ago. Since then, Cole has a 24/3 SO/BB mark in 31 innings in the International League and hasn’t walked anyone in his last three starts.
7. Alex Meyer, rhp, Twins
Team: Triple-A Rochester (International)
Why He's Here: 0-0, 0.75 ERA, 12 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 12 SO, 4 BB
The Scoop: Even without their two top prospects, the Twins have seen plenty to be encouraged by this season. Along with righties Jose Berrios and Kohl Stewart, Meyer is leading the march into the future. He twice pitched brilliantly this week, and showcased a fastball up to 98 mph as well as his typically wicked breaking ball. He's throwing his changeup more often now, as well. After a string of three straight starts with four walks each, he was walk-free in his last turn for the second time this season.
8. Trea Turner, ss, Padres
Team: low Class A Fort Wayne (Midwest)
Why He's Here: .500/.560/591 (11-for-22), 4 R, 2 2B, 3 RBIs, 3 BB, 2 SO, 3-for-3 SB
The Scoop: This marks the second Hot Sheet appearance in a row for the former North Carolina State all-American, who is hitting .450/.511/.600 in 10 games at low Class A since a bump from short-season ball. Scouts point to a long swing as a reason to temper enthusiasm about a quick start, not to mention the obvious small sample size. His speed, never in question, has played nicely as he’s stolen 14 of 15 bases.
9. Joey Gallo, 3b, Rangers
Team: Double-A Frisco (Rangers)
Why He's Here: .345/.406/.690 (10-for-29), 4 R, 1 2B, 3 HR, 11 RBIs, 3 BB, 13 SO
The Scoop: After ceding the home run crown to fellow Las Vegas-bred slugger Kris Bryant for a few days, Gallo got hot again and re-took the lead. He's gone deep in three of his last four games, and he has a total of 34 for the season. That's in 96 games. So he's averaging a longball about once every three games. He's got five more homers than Jose Abreu, the major league leader.
10. Justin Chigbogu, 1b, Dodgers
Team: Rookie-level Ogden (Pioneer)
Why He's Here: .393/.393/1.071 (11-for-28), 9 R, 1 2B, 6 HR, 11 RBI, 0 BB, 6 SO
The Scoop: The former high school defensive end had scouts agape about his massive raw power and that has started to play in games this season. The 6-foot-2 lefty masher cracked six homers in the past week, including three in a game on July 18. He was not a big swing-and-miss guy in high school, but he seems to have sold out for power as a pro as he has struck out 50 times in 132 at-bats.
11. Dilson Herrera, 2b, Mets
Team: Double-A Binghamton (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: .444/.500/.778 (12-for-27), 4 R, 2 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBIs, 2 BB, 5 SO, 3-for-3 SB
The Scoop: Ever since the Pirates signed Herrera out of Colombia in 2010, he has been a natural at the plate. With Neil Walker entrenched at second in Pittsburgh and Alen Hanson ahead of Herrera on the depth chart, the Pirates were willing to include Herrera in the trade last August to acquire Marlon Byrd. Now, Herrera is having a breakout season. With easy hitting rhythm and bat-to-ball skills, he has been on fire since his promotion to the Eastern League last month, hitting .357/.420/.563 in 31 games.
12. Greg Bird, 1b, Yankees
Team: high Class A Tampa (Florida State)
Why He's Here: .435/.533/.826 (10-for-23), 6 R, 3 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBIs, 6 BB, 4 SO
The Scoop: Back problems cost Bird the first month of the season, but he's back to hitting now that he's returned. As a first base-only prospect, he's going to have to mash, and mash he did this week. He swatted two longballs, and one more just a day before this Hot Sheet period began. Bird walked more than 100 times last year, and his walk rate this season (13 percent) is among the top five in the Florida State League.
13. Sebastian Elizalde, rf, Reds
Team: high Class A Bakersfield (California)
Why He's Here: .429/.458/.905 (9-for-21), 7 R, 1 2B, 3 HR, 9 RBIs, 2 BB, 3 SO, 4-for-5 SB
The Scoop: Signed out of the Mexican League at age 21, the lefty-hitting Elizalde has legitimate on-base skills (.419 OBP this season) and good speed (17 steals), but he’s coming off a homestand at hitter-friendly Bakersfield, so the three-homer week could be an aberration. He’s more than just a curiosity, though, after hitting .310 this season and drawing 55 walks in 87 games.
In The Team Photo
Tyler Austin, rf, Yankees. A bright future seemed a distinct possibility following an eye-opening 2012, but Austin has spent 2014 trying to rebuild his prospect stock after a wrist injury ruined 2013. He’s made strides, especially in the past week at Double-A Trenton. He’s gone 12-for-29 (.414) and most importantly to the Yankees, he’s hitting for extra-base power with four doubles and two homers. The Yankees clearly have a need for an outfielder with righthanded power, and perhaps Austin is working his way back on the radar.
Javier Baez, 2b/ss, Cubs: The Cubs’ decision to add Manny Ramirez to Triple-A Iowa as a player/coach appears to be paying off. Since Ramirez arrived, Baez is hitting .310 and is showing much more consistency. Before Manny, Baez had 10 three-strikeout games. With Manny, he has none. He’s hitting .299/.356/.623 with 13 extra-base hits in 20 games this month.
Aaron Blair, rhp, Diamondbacks. The 2013 supplemental first-rounder from Marshall turned in one of his finest starts of the season in his Double-A Mobile debut on Monday. Blair struck out nine batters in 6 2/3 innings while allowing four hits, no runs and no walks. The 22-year-old has 134 strikeouts on the season, ranking him second in the minors, one behind Southern League-mate Ben Lively of the Reds, who also is a fast-rising college righty from last year’s draft.
Adam Engel, cf, White Sox: It’s hard to not be immediately drawn to Engel’s premium speed and athleticism, but the offensive performance has always lagged behind. That wasn’t the case this week, when the 22-year-old went 11-for-21 (.458) with two homers, a triple and two doubles at low Class A Kannapolis.
Gabby Guerrero, rf, Mariners. The Futures Gamer went 12-for-28 (.429) at high Class A High Desert this week, slamming two homers and three doubles while knocking in five runs. Guerrero’s extra-base hit output has ticked upward since the California League all-star break, while his strikeout rate has held steady. Likewise, the 20-year-old’s power production is virtually the same both home and away from High Desert’s hitter’s paradise. In other words, he’s making real progress.
Nathan Karns, rhp, Rays: The 26-year-old had a legit shot to win a spot in the Tampa Bay rotation out of spring training. He failed in that quest, and instead was optioned to Triple-A Durham, where he's struggled with command. Not so this week, however. He spun his first walk-free start this week, opposite fellow Hot Sheeter Alex Meyer, showing off command of his low- to mid-90s heater and power breaking ball. He's allowed three earned runs or fewer and walked two or fewer in five of his last six turns.
Lucas Sims, rhp, Braves: It hasn’t been a bad season for Sims, but the Braves certainly expected more from their preseason No. 1 prospect, who has a 4.60 ERA at high Class A Lynchburg and a strikeout rate that dropped from 10.3 per nine innings in 2013 to 6.0 this season. More starts like his last one—seven innings with one (unearned) run and nine strikeouts—would be encouraging to see.
Austin Hedges, c, Padres. The Double-A San Antonio backstop went 1-for-18 (.056) with a triple, seven strikeouts and three RBIs this week. After a reasonable first half (.700 OPS), the 21-year-old Hedges’ production has spiraled downward in the second half, to the point where in 28 games he’s batting .206/.241/.245 (.486 OPS). He can redeem his season with a strong finish, but for now the Padres’ top prospect is off-kilter at the plate.
Adam Plutko, rhp, Indians: When a command artist with average stuff can't find the strike zone, this is what happens. He got just two outs in his most recent start at high Class A Carolina, and one of those came courtesy of a sacrifice bunt before it became obvious that he was basically throwing batting practice. Two of the nine hitters who faced him went deep, and he was yanked after Wilmington had batted around.
Trevor Story, ss, Rockies. Story received the bump to Double-A Tulsa after tearing up the California League, but has had a rough time of it against better competition. In the past week he went just 3-for-25 (.120) with 16 strikeouts. Story might not be a shortstop because he lacks the range, but he has righthanded power and the versatility to fill a super-utility role if it comes to that.
Andrew Velazquez, ss, Diamondbacks: Talk about falling off a cliff. After ending an on-base streak that lasted more than 70 games, the Diamondbacks' sleeper prospect has endured a ghastly week. He went 1-for-21 (.048) with nine strikeouts and no walks at low Class A South Bend and was caught stealing in his only attempt. Blip aside, evaluators like his potential going forth both offensively and with the glove.
Ozhaino Albies, ss, Braves: When teams scouted Albies early on in 2012, he was a slightly built 5-foot-7, 133-pound shortstop who showed good wheels and strong baseball instincts. Size was an obvious concern, and while he showed ability to hit in games from both sides of the plate, he had little experience facing good velocity or pro-caliber pitching in Curacao. By the time the Braves signed him for $350,000 on July 2 last year, he had grown to 5-foot-9, 150 pounds, showing 70 speed on the 20-80 scale and a strong arm. Not only did the Braves surprise people by skipping Albies over the Dominican Summer League, but they were so impressed with his dominance of the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League that he’s already earned a promotion to Danville in the Rookie-level Appalachian League. A line-drive hitter with a good eye and bat control, Albies hit .381/.481/.429 with 11 walks and six strikeouts in 19 GCL games. The only tool the 17-year-old doesn’t have is power, but his combination of explosive tools, hitting acumen and on-base skills makes him on of the fastest-rising prospects in the organization.