Prospect Hot Sheet: June 25

The Midwest, South Atlantic, California and Carolina leagues all held all-star games this week, eliminating many of the usual suspects from consideration for the Hot Sheet this week. But with the arrival of short-season and rookie ball, we found plenty of new names to sort through.

You may have noticed that the Prospect Hot
Sheet looks a little different this year. The content is the same, but
we’ve partnered with Bowman Baseball to present Hot Sheet. So in
addition to getting the skinny on which prospects are doing the
most to help their stock, you can also get a glimpse at the baseball
cards of some of baseball’s best prospects.

As we
have warned for years now, remember that this is not a re-ranking of
the Top 100 Prospects. This is a snapshot of which top prospects are
excelling and which ones are struggling right now. Stats cover from June 18 through last night, June 24.

Contributing: Ben Badler, Bubba Brown, J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy, Tyler Jett, Mike Lemaire, Josh Leventhal and Jim



Team: Triple-A Las Vegas (Pacific Coast)

Age: 23.

Why He’s Here: .467/.500/.833 (14-for-30), 3 HR, 2 2B, 5 RBIs, 8 R, 3 BB, 2 SO

The Skinny: Normally, a move to first base helps a limited defender focus on his bat, which usually pays off in improved numbers at the plate. But in Wallace’s case, it may have temporarily hindered his hitting.

As Bob Elliot explains, the Blue Jays had Wallace working on his first-base defensive play every day. The extra ground balls helped Wallace get more comfortable at first, but it also ensured by the time the game rolled around, he was dragging. Since then, the team has cut back his extra infield sessions to once every three days. His bat has picked back up, and he’s hitting .319/.370/.473 this month.

Wallace has been helped by his home park at Las Vegas (he’s hitting just .279/.325/.476 on the road), but with Lyle Overbay’s batting average hovering around .230 and his on-base percentage right around .300, the Brett Wallace era in Toronto could begin before the season is through.



Team: Double-A Reading (Eastern)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .391/.462/.870 (9-for-23), 3 HR, 2 2B, 8 RBIs, 9 R, 3 BB, 4 SO, 1-for-2 SB

The Scoop: We’ve talked a lot recently about how the exodus of top prospects to the big leagues has opened the question as to who’s the best prospect in the minors. Brown would certainly be on the short list of candidates. There’s little Brown hasn’t shown with Reading, and few Eastern League hitters have been hotter in June. Brown’s hitting .345/.404/.631 in 84 at-bats this month, moving all the way up to third in the EL batting race with a .318 average on the season. He’s handled lefthanded pitchers, batting .321 in 56 at-bats against southpaws, and his other tools have been on display as well. How much power he’ll develop was the big question with him coming into the year, but he’s drilled 15 home runs, which also ranks third in the EL, and added 12 steals.



Mike MoustakasTeam: Double-A Northwest Arkansas (Texas)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .387/.424/.806 (12-for-31), 3 HR, 4 2B, 9 RBIs, 8 R, 2 BB, 6 SO

The Scoop: The crack of Moustakas’ bat apparently echoes across the plains of the Texas League. Both walks the slugging third baseman drew last week were of the intentional variety, and IBBs account for eight of his 22 free passes on the season. But really, it’s what Moustakas does when he swings the bat that has made him a Hot Sheet regular. He’s hitting .350/.417/.701 through 214 at-bats, with a TL-leading 18 home runs and 66 RBIs. He holds a 28-point advantage in the batting race, too, making him a strong triple crown candidate—but only if the Royals decide to leave him in Northwest Arkansas all season.

Moustakas’ exploits bring to mind another lefty-hitting Royals third baseman who terrorized the Texas League. Alex Gordon waltzed through Wichita in 2006, batting .325/.427/.588 with 29 homers and 101 RBIs on his way to Kansas City. Royals fans can only hope Moustakas does not endure the same growing pains once he reaches the big leagues.



Aaron MillerTeam: high Class A Inland Empire (California)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.29, 7 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 SO

The Scoop: Miller has battled inconsistent control with Inland Empire (4.22 walks per nine innings), a problem that’s been a holdover from his college career at Baylor. That’s often going to be a recipe for disaster in the California League, but not for Miller. The power lefty was nearly untouchable when he came in the zone, fanning 75 hitters in 74 2/3 innings and giving up just 53 hits. He allowed three runs or less in all but one of his 14 outings for the 66ers. His final outing on Saturday was perhaps his best of the season, and it earned him a promotion to Double-A Chattanooga. Miller leaves the Cal League behind as its leader in opponent average (.201), and he ranks fourth in ERA at 2.77.



Team: Triple-A Tacoma (Pacific Coast) / Double-A West Tenn (Southern)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.00, 12 2/3 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 10 SO

The Scoop: While he certainly has the credentials, Pineda did not crack the Futures Game’s World roster because of a general lack of international outfield and corner infield candidates. Fellow Mariners prospects Carlos Peguero (Dominican Republic) and Alex Liddi (Italy) got the nods instead—and both certainly were deserving of the honor.

Pineda made quick work of the Southern League, going 8-1, 2.22 in 13 starts (with 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings) before his promotion to Tacoma, where he tossed six shutout innings in his debut Wednesday night. A physical 6-foot-5, he’s built to go deep into games, and having tamed Double-A at age 21—not to mention the California League last year—Pineda ought to be squaring off against American League batters in no time.



Brett LawrieTeam: Double-A Huntsville (Southern)

Age: 20

Why He’s Here: .417/.500/.792 (10-for-24), 1 HR, 4 2B, 1 3B, 4 RBIs, 8 R, 4 BB, 1 SO, 3-for-3 SB

The Scoop: Lawrie’s career has certainly taken some interesting turns, from being the highest-drafted Canadian position player ever (16th overall in 2008) to his aborted stint as a catcher to reaching Double-A as a teenager last year. Back in Huntsville this year, Lawrie needed some time to settle in but has been getting better and better as the season’s gone on.

After hitting .250 in April and .272 in May, Lawrie’s raking at a .380/.418/.641 clip in June. His week was highlighted by a 5-for-6 effort last Saturday against Montgomery, a night that included him getting three hits off Rays prospect Jake McGee. Somewhat interestingly for a player not known for his speed, Lawrie is tied for the minor league lead with 10 triples. He’s chipped in 15 steals as well, albeit in 23 attempts. His defense is still rough around the edges though, as he leads all SL second basemen with 13 errors.



Brett JacksonTeam: high Class A Daytona (Florida State)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .423/.429/.923 (11-for-26), 2 HR, 3 2B, 2 3B, 7 RBIs, 8 R, 1 BB, 2 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: No minor league features offense-suppressing conditions quite like the Florida State League. Sure, the Carolina, International, Midwest and Southern leagues talk tough, but the FSL annually ranks as the toughest minor league circuit in which to hit for average and power. That’s what makes Jackson’s season so remarkable.

Fresh off a monster week, the Cubs’ leadoff hitter is batting .305/.407/.498 with an FSL-leading 52 runs scored to go with 30 extra-base hits and 42 walks, totals that each rank second. The center fielder has shown off his speed with eight triples and a 12-for-18 showing on the bases.



Dellin BetancesTeam: high Class A Tampa (Florida State)

Age: 22

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

The Scoop: If the trends continue, we can confidently predict that Betances will throw six no-hit innings in his next start, with nine strikeouts. The righthander gave up three hits while striking out six in his first start of the season. In his next outing, he cut the hits allowed to two and upped the strikeouts to seven. And this week, in start No. 3, he threw six one-hit innings while striking out eight. Betances may not have a complete-game no-hitter in the works, but he is putting together his best stretch of pitching since he debuted in the Gulf Coast League in 2006. The Yankees understandably have no reason to rush Betances—his Tommy John surgery was less than a year ago—but a couple of more starts like this and it will be very hard to not promote him to Double-A.



Team: Double-A Chattanooga (Southern)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 SO

The Scoop: When the season began, Withrow was the crown jewel of the Chattanooga roster, but all of a sudden he’s got a lot of company. The Dodgers have promoted the organization’s top two home-run hitters, outfielder Kyle Russell and first baseman Jerry Sands, to the Lookouts. Outfielder Andrew Lambo just finished his 50-game drug suspension to also join the team, and Withrow has seen lefty Aaron Miller join the pitching staff. Add it all up, and Chattanooga looks poised to make a run at the second-half title, especially if Withrow keeps pitching like this. The righthander has struggled with walks at times, and he’s seen his strikeout rate dip against Double-A hitters, but this week Withrow was dominant in a seven-inning shutout performance and showed improvement in both his control (one walk) and dominance (10 strikeouts).



Dellin BetancesTeam: high Class A Wilmington (Carolina)

Age: 19

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 2/3 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 9 SO

The Scoop: This is why you stockpile pitching. Coming into the season, the Royals had five lefthanders among their top 10 prospects. Since then, Mike Montgomery has been shut down and placed on the disabled list with elbow soreness, Noel Arguelles has yet to pitch in a pro game because of a shoulder injury, and Danny Duffy left the team (though he’s since returned and is working back into shape).

But even with all that, the Royals have still had a successful year when it comes to developing lefties. Chris Dwyer is showing plus stuff in Wilmington, while Lamb just keeps piling up zeroes. He has quickly made up for any lost time he suffered recovering from a fractured elbow during his senior year of high school. The teenager is a model of consistency—in his 15 starts this season, he’s allowed more than one earned run only twice. Lamb’s stuff if solid enough (tick above-average fastball with promising secondary stuff), but it’s his feel for pitching and his ability to stay a step ahead of hitters that makes him seem unhittable.



Jordan LylesTeam: Double-A Corpus Christi (Texas)

Age: 19

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.29, 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 SO

The Scoop: In an organization starved for talent, Lyles has stood out like a sore thumb this season. In his most recent performance, he dominated Frisco and lowered his ERA to a league-best 2.37. He also ranks second in the Texas League in strikeouts (78) and third in WHIP (1.11). All of this success and he won’t even celebrate his 20th birthday until October. Houston will almost certainly keep the kid gloves on this season, but with Lyle’s command and filthy stuff, it’s not unreasonable to think that he’ll be in the rotation before his 21st birthday.



Jason KipnisTeam: Double-A Akron (Eastern)

Age: 23

Why He’s Here: .333/.385/.667 (8-for-24), 2 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBIs, 2 BB, 4 SO

The Scoop: An outfielder for his entire career at Arizona State, Kipnis is still learning to play second base. But the Indians didn’t select him 63rd overall last season for his defensive prowess. They picked him for his bat, and he has hit at every level this season. His advanced hitting approach helped him handle Carolina League pitching with ease, and he earned a promotion to Double-A on June 10. He hasn’t exactly slowed down. Through 42 at-bats with the Aeros, Kipnis is leading the team in slugging (.619) and is tied for the team lead in average (.333).



Tim CollinsTeam:  high Class A Charlotte (Florida State)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.29, 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 11 SO

The Scoop: The Hot Sheet just wouldn’t be complete without at least one Rays pitching prospect. Moore has done his part to keep that streak alive and is making his second consecutive appearance. As discussed last week, his walk rate has been too high for most of the season, which has led to an inflated 5.13 ERA, but he has remedied the problem over his last two starts, during which the 21-year-old has walked just three batters in 13 innings. Moore has a 0.69 ERA in that span, to go with 20 strikeouts in 13 innings.



Marlins LHP Brad Hand continued his hot June, striking out seven in as many scoreless innings against high Class A Charlotte. He’s 3-1 in four starts this month and has allowed a combined two earned runs in 27 1/3 innings. His ERA has shrunk to 3.05 this month, good for sixth in the Florida State League . . . After struggling with low Class A Lakewood this season, Phillies OF Domingo Santana has jumped out to a hot start in the first week of the New York-Penn League season. Last week, he went 9-for-23 with two home runs in seven games with short-season Williamsport. He was hitting .182 with just three long balls in 49 games in the South Atlantic League . . . It has taken longer than the Nationals would have hoped because of injures, but it seems as if Double-A Harrisburg 1B Chris Marrero is finally back on track. The team’s first-round pick in 2006, Marrero’s rise has been slowed by a broken fibula and torn ligaments in his ankle. Finally healthy, Marrero has cut down on his strikeouts and hit .333/.393/.583 with two home runs and five RBIs in his last 24 at-bats. He’s hitting .398 this month and is currently on an 11-game hitting streak . . . Fresh off of a promotion to Double-A Mobile, Diamondbacks LHP Wade Miley looked right at home. The 23-year-old tossed seven shutout innings on five hits, while striking out eight. Miley doesn’t normally strike out a ton of guys (58 in 87 1/3 innings between Mobile and high Class A Visalia), but has used his deceptive delivery to keep his season ERA under three . . . Double-A Trenton 3B Brandon Laird (Yankees) has been the pleasant surprise among organization prospects. The 22-year-old slugged four home runs this week, including a two-homer, seven-RBI night on Thursday. Laird now leads the minors with 76 RBIs and is tied for third in home runs with 18 . . . One of the best college bats in this year’s draft, Padres 3B Jedd Gyorko hasn’t taken long to back up that those scouting reports in his first week as a pro. Gyorko went hitless in his first game for short-season Eugene, but the 21-year-old has gone on a seven-game hitting streak since, finishing the week at .433/.433/.733 (13-for-30) with two homers and three doubles . . .  Rockies LHP Tyler Matzek had an interesting evening on Thursday for low Class A Asheville. On one hand, the 19-year-old picked up his first pro win, doing so with 5 2/3 no-hit innings in which he struck out five. That’d normally be enough for a more prominent position on the Hot Sheet, but the downside for Matzek was that he also handed out five walks and threw a wild pitch.


Peter Bourjos, cf, Angels. The fleet Bourjos hit .306 with power in April, in the form of five triples and three doubles for Triple-A Salt Lake. But in the subsequent 50 games, he’s managed to hit just .230/.285/.351 over 191 at-bats. The 23-year-old cracked a home run last week—one of four he’s hit in June, actually—and with six on the year he’s on pace to surpass the nine he hit for high Class A Rancho Cucamonga in 2008. It’s just that little else has been working for Bourjos. Last week, he went 4-for-31 (.129) with six whiffs and two walks.

Aaron Crow, rhp, Royals. Special mention here to Rockies Double-A lefty Christian Friedrich and his June swoon with Tulsa: 0-2, 6.75 with a 14-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 24 innings. But in terms of frightening pitching performances, no one can match Double-A Northwest Arkansas’ Crow, who has seen his ERA double with each successive month. It’s jumped from 3.94 in April to 5.97 in May to 11.66 in June.

In his past five starts, Crow has allowed 28 runs on 30 hits over 18 2/3 innings. Despite a 12.54 ERA, he still managed to go 2-2 while striking out 17 batters and allowing only one home run in that stretch. Needless to say, it’s going to be tough for Crow, 23, to thrive if he continues to average 2.3 baserunners per inning, as he has in this recent downturn. The one bright spot in Crow’s debut season with the Royals is his stellar 3.37 groundout-to-flyout ratio, which leads all qualified minor league starters.

Adeiny Hechavarria, ss, Blue Jays: The Blue Jays gave Hechavarria a four-year, $10 million deal in April, hoping the 21-year-old Cuban would start at high Class A Dunedin and move quickly to Double-A New Hampshire. Slow down there. International scouts’ concerns about Hechavarria’s ability to hit have proven to be spot on, as Hechavarria has scuffled his way to a .190/.212/.279 mark in 37 games with Dunedin. His impatience has made him an out machine with just four walks in 151 plate appearances. As one National League scout explained, “He has a late trigger. In BP, he’s great. In a game, he has a late start to the ball. He’s a good athlete, he can run and he has a good arm, but I just wasn’t thrilled by him.”


Rick Porcello, rhp, Tigers: The Tigers’ decision to vault Porcello straight from high Class A to the majors in 2009 paid off handsomely when he put together a solid and sometimes dominant rookie season. But the 21-year-old’s second season has not gone nearly as well, which led to a demotion to Triple-A Toledo for some remedial work. Porcello’s slider was never his best pitch, but it’s taken a step back this season. After his first Triple-A start, he’s either gotten some things fixed or found that the level won’t tax him enough to resolve the problems—he held Louisville to one hit and one run in eight innings.


•  Valentino Pascucci, rf/1b, Mets. With a three-homer game against Indianapolis last Friday, Pascucci surpassed 200 round-trippers for his minor league career. The 12-year veteran, who plays Triple-A Buffalo this season, has cleared the fence 201 times in the affiliated minors, plus another 21 times in Japan, plus three times this spring in the independent Atlantic League . . . and just twice in the big leagues. The Expos gave Pascucci a 32-game trial in 2004, in which he went 11-for-62 (.177), but he’s enjoyed distinguished minor league career. Pascucci has a pair of minor league home-run crowns to his name, coming in 2002 (27, Eastern) and ’07 (34, Pacific Coast).


Joe Cruz, rhp, Rays. Cruz signed for $100,000 as a 30th-round pick out of East Los Angeles JC in 2007, but he’d have better luck moving mountains than getting noticed among the Rays’ legion of pitching prospects. But with each strong start he turns in for high Class A Charlotte, Cruz edges a littler closer to recognition. See: last week, when the 6-foot-4, 21-year-old righty completed a pair of eight-inning gems. In 16 innings total, he allowed just four runs on 13 hits, while striking out 15 and walking one. While Cruz has been slow to develop—he spent two seasons with Rookie-level Princeton and another full year with low Class A Bowling Green—he may prove to be worth the wait.