Prospect Hot Sheet: June 4

See also: Previous Prospect Hot Sheet

Maybe Phillip Wellman didn’™t realize cameras were watching. Maybe he did. But he certainly played up to the Chattanooga, Tenn., crowd after his ejection on Friday night in one of the most peculiar arguments by a manager ever caught on film.

The Double-A Mississippi manager doesn’™t want to talk about that event now, according to the club’™s media relations representative. He just wants to talk about his club, which is odd, considering his behavior on Friday at AT&T Field. We know it was all about Wellman sticking up for his players, but it somehow morphed into a wannabe rock star performance. Kicking dirt is fine. Covering home plate is fine. Even throwing bases is fine. What isn’™t fine is the Rambo act with the rosin bag or leaving the self-imposed stage like U2’™s Bono, blowing kisses to the crowd. “Thank you Chattanooga . . . Goodnight!”

There were plenty of player highlights this week to overshadow Wellman, whose tirade has been featured non-stop on ESPN and is always on if you somehow weren’™t able to catch it.

One of those not represented in this week’™s Hot Sheet is the performance of Astros righthander Matt Albers. The windmill delivery wound up allowing five earned runs in as many innings on as many hits in his return to Triple-A Round Rock, but then Albers settled in on Sunday. The 24-year-old allowed just one earned run on eight hits and whiffed 10 in a nine-inning complete game against Sacramento.

Another is Red Sox shortstop Jed Lowrie, who batted just .170 in April. The Stanford product has turned it around to hit .333 in May with a .484 on-base percentage and is currently hitting .294/.433/.469 with a pair of home runs and 24 RBIs in 160 at-bats overall.

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.

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1. Clay Buchholz, rhp, Double-A Portland (Red Sox)

Awesome. That’™s exactly what the 22-year-old supplemental round pick has been.

“He has really worked hard to improve the consistency of his fastball command and overall effort within his delivery,” Red Sox farm director Mike Hazen said. “His secondary pitches, especially his curveball and changeup, continue to be a strength.”

Obviously. Buchholz fanned 19 in 13 innings over two starts last week, allowing just five hits. Yeah, he walked six batters, but big deal . . . Buchholz is in a groove and is the most polished starting pitcher in the system.

In 58 innings, Buchholz has struck out 80, walked 13 and allowed just 37 hits. Opponents are hitting .182 against him.

2. Justin Upton, of, Double-A Mobile (Diamondbacks)

Again, he had us at hello. Tough to argue with Buchholz as No. 1, but Upton was easily this week’™s best hitter. The 19-year-old batted .519 with a pair of homers and drove in seven for the BayBears last week, continuing to position himself as the No. 1 prospect in the Southern League . . . Evan Longoria or no Evan Longoria.

3. Andrew Miller, lhp, Double-A Erie (Tigers)

After going six shutout innings against the Cardinals on May 18, Miller returned to Double-A Erie where he continues to blow away the competition in the Eastern League. Over his last three starts with the Sea Wolves, Miller’™s minimum has been seven innings and he’™s struck out 19 over 22 innings and Double-A hitters are batting .208 with a 24-5 strikeout-walk ratio in 31 innings overall.

4. Johnny Cueto, rhp, high Class A Sarasota (Reds)

Homer Bailey may have stolen the headlines last week, but this Reds prospect quietly proved he’s not too far behind. Cueto got the call to Louisville for a spot start in place of the injured Bobby Livingston and did not disappoint: The 21-year-old struck out six over five innings while yielding five hits and two earned runs without a walk. He returned to Sarasota and struck out 10 over six innings without yielding a run against Vero Beach.

5. Clayton Kershaw, lhp, low Class A Great Lakes (Dodgers)

We’™ve been getting e-mails asking if Kershaw is hurt. Hello . . . the Dodgers’™ first-round pick last year has struck out six or more since Opening Day in the Looneybin and has whiffed 74 in 55 innings overall. Hitters are batting just. 178 against him and he’™s allowed just one home run in his first full season. Signs point to no on the injury bug so far this season for the 19-year-old lefthander.

6. Chris Mason, rhp, Double-A Montgomery (Devil Rays)

Dominant. And it’™s awesome that the Rays have such good pitching problems’"with too many arms ready to make the next step. Mason has placed himself as first in line for a promotion with 2-0, 0.69 numbers and 12 strikeouts over his last 13 innings. The 2005 second-rounder out of UNC-Greensboro is 8-1, 2.31 in 70 innings overall.

7. Homer Bailey, rhp, Triple-A Louisville (Reds)

The 21-year-old Bailey has turned it up a notch since coming back from a strained groin, striking out 24 batters in his last three starts. Last week he went 2-0, 3.46 with 17-3 strikeouts-walks in 13 innings on the Triple-A roadshow.

8. Radhames Liz, rhp, Double-A Bowie (Orioles)

When Radhames Liz is on, he can be one of the most dominating pitchers in the minors. The 23-year-old Dominican righthander was brilliant on Friday, tossing a nine-inning complete game no-hitter in Double-A Bowie’™s 2-0 win against Harrisburg.

“He was throwing BBs out there,” Bowie manager Bien Figueroa said. “And he used all his pitches’"his fastball was outstanding with great life, he threw his breaking ball for a strike; a lot of 3-2 breaking balls, and he was effective with his changeup against lefthanded hitters.” Liz threw 120 pitches in the game, and did not lose any velocity, topping out at 96 mph with his fastball in the ninth. In fact, Liz, who is 4-2, 3.45 with 60 strikeouts in 60 innings this season, has seen more jump in his fastball over his last five starts. Early in the year, Liz’™ velocity sat in the 91-93 mph range, but over his last five outings he’™s averaged 94-95 and touched some 96s.

9. Yovani Gallardo, rhp, Triple-A Nashville (Brewers)

A Hot Sheet fixture, Gallardo just keeps rolling along in the PCL. He struck out 11 Las Vegas 51s (against zero walks) in seven shutout innings in his start Friday. He’s now 8-1, 2.14 on the season.

10. Shaun Garceau, rhp, low Class A Quad Cities (Cardinals)

A 20th-round pick in 2005, Garceau struck out 14 over eight innings as part of the piggyback system the Cardinals implemented in low Class A. Garceau lost all of 2006 with a staph infection, but bounced back during instructional league at the end of last season. “He has good stuff right now, but he’™s still learning to become a pitcher,” St. Louis director of amateur scouting and player development Jeff Luhnow said. “We lost a year, but his stuff really hasn’™t gone anywhere. He’™s been averaging 91, touching 93. He’™s always had a breaking ball . . . he’™s filling out a little bit. All the things we said in our workout in May of 2005 are happening with him and that’™s what you like to see’"that progress.”

11. Colby Rasmus, of, Double-A Springfield (Cardinals)

And there is Rasmus. He of the 22 doubles, the 10 home runs. The 28th-overall pick in 2005 reached double-digit home runs with three blasts last week, batted .450 and drove in 10 runs.

12. Joba Chamberlain, rhp, high Class A Tampa (Yankees)

The former Husker star continues to show little trouble adjusting in his first professional season. Joba reached a new high in strikeouts (10) against Brevard County with five hits and three earned runs over seven innings. He now has 42 strikeouts and 11 walks in 35 innings on the season.

13. Wade LeBlanc, lhp, high Class A Lake Elsinore (Padres)

LeBlanc has continued to get better as the season goes along–no small feat in the hitter-friendly Cal League. The 22-year-old turned in his second consecutive two-hit effort, this time going 8 1/3 innings while striking out 10 and walking just one.

14. Jason Hammel, rhp, Triple-A Durham (Devil Rays)

If you’ve been following the Bulls this season, you may be asking yourself how Andy Sonnanstine got called up and Hammel didn’t. Hammel, who opposed Homer Bailey Saturday, cruised to 1-0, 2.57 numbers last week with 15-3 strikeouts-walks in 14 innings.

15. Adam Jones, of, Triple-A Tacoma (Mariners)

Sure, a .250 batting average over a seven-game stretch would not typically warrant attention, but then with with three home runs and two doubles, Jones hit a very loud .250. For the month of May, the 21-year-old Jones hit .297/.391/.613 with eight homers and 26 RBIs . . . from the leadoff spot.

16. Taylor Teagarden, c, high Class A Bakersfield (Rangers)

The 2005 third-round pick has had at least one hit in 19-of-23 games since returning May 10 after missing three weeks with an elbow injury, and turned in one of his best stretches last week–though primarily as a designated hitter. Teagarden hit .368 and was second in the Cal League with three home runs.

17. Mitch Hilligoss, of, low Class A Charleston (Yankees)

The minors’ longest hit streak since 1989 finally ended after 38 games on Sunday, as Hilligoss failed to get a hit for the first time since May 2. During that span the 21-year-old had 10 multi-hit games, including two last week when he hit .300 for the River Dogs.

18. Trevor Plouffe, ss, Double-A New Britain (Twins)

While some scouts think Plouffe is better off on the mound where he split time in high school, the 2004 first-rounder is holding his own at the plate for the first time in his three-year pro career. Oh, and he’™s doing it at a high level as a 20-year-old at a premium position. Sure, Plouffe has committed 14 errors, but is also showing signs of life with the bat, unlike Padres shortstop Matt Bush, the No. 1 overall pick in the same draft class. In 190 at-bats, Plouffe is hitting .279/.330/.432 with four homers and 17 doubles.

19. Chase Headley, 3b, Double-A San Antonio (Padres)

Headley has definitely found the Texas League to his liking. Already more than halfway (18) to matching his doubles total from last season (33), Headley hit a scorching .440 (11-for-25) with a homer and three doubles last week.

20. Matt Gamel, 3b, high Class A Brevard County (Brewers)

Hits came in bunches for the 21-year-old last week while the errors slowed–though not exactly to a trickle. Gamel turned in four multi-hit games and led the FSL with a .563 average and five doubles last week. He did commit two errors against Daytona on Wednesday, bringing his season total to an eye-jarring 24, but he seems to be gaining some footing after registering Es in five of his first seven games in addition to a four-error show May 10.


Stephen Head, 1b, high Class A Kinston (Indians)

In spring training, Head was the only guy to turn around 98 mph heat from Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya. But over two months in, the first baseman is hitting just .229/.306/.415 with seven homers in 205 at-bats while repeating the level as a second-round college draft in 2005.

Yoslan Herrera, rhp, Double-A Altoona (Pirates)

This is what the Pirates have gotten out of a $1.92 million dollar investment so far from the 25-year-old Cuban defector: 0-4, 6.47 with just 27 strikeouts and 65 hits allowed in 49 innings.

Kyle Sleeth, rhp, high Class A Lakeland (Tigers)

The third overall pick in 2003 has been slowed by arm problems, and this season, the Tigers have tried him out in a relief role. But that hasn’™t worked out well; Sleeth went 0-1 with one save and a 10.66 ERA in 13 innings at Double-A Erie and was reassigned to Lakeland where he allowed three runs on a pair of hits in two innings in his first appearance.

Jeff Samardzija, rhp, high Class A Daytona (Cubs)

Yes, the fifth-rounder who signed a major league contract worth $10 million was pretty good in his second-to-last start when he allowed a run on two hits over five innings against Fort Myers. But Samardzija has allowed nine hits or more in five of his 11 outings and has proven very hittable in his first full season. In 52 innings, the 22-year-old righthander and former Notre Dame wideout has allowed 76 hits and fanned just 20.

Charlie Haeger, rhp/Heath Phillips, lhp, Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox)

The knuckleball just hasn’t been dancing for Haeger this season, and his season numbers are an ugly 2-8, 6.19 with 72 hits and 44 walks in 68 1/3 innings (1.70 WHIP). His results last week were typical: 0-2, 7.36 with 12-9 strikeouts-walks in 11 innings. Charlotte hasn’t come close to duplicating its success from last season, and the club’s 4.12 ERA is a big reason why. Haeger has been all over the place, but Phillips’ last two outings have been almost unimaginably bad. His last time out, he allowed 10 earned runs on nine hits–five of them home runs–in 2 2/3 innings. Ottawa got Phillips for eight runs in his start before last, and we’re not even counting that one against him.


Anthony Ortega, rhp, high Class A Rancho Cucamonga (Angels)

The 21-year-old Venezuelan walked eight over his last 14 innings, but also was scoreless through eight of those frames against Inland Empire on May 29. Overall, Ortega is 4-4, 3.01 in 70 innings for the Quakes.

Tyler Herron, rhp, low Class A Quad Cities (Cardinals)

A 2005 first-rounder, Herron struck out 11 over his last 10 innings. The 20-year-old righthander is 4-4, 3.42 with 50 strikeouts in 53 innings of piggyback competition this season for the Swing.

Tyler Chambliss, rhp, low Class A Burlington (Royals)

A 22-year-old 11th-rounder last year out of Florida State, Chambliss was moved to the starting rotation in his last outing where he fanned seven over five shutout innings. Overall, the 5-foot-11 righthander is 3-0, 1.53 with 40 punchouts in 29 innings.

Roman Pena, of, low Class A Lake County (Indians)

There has been little question about Pena’™s bat since he signed as a ninth-rounder in 2005. The 20-year-old lefthanded hitter batted .500 last week and is hitting .283/.408/.414 overall for the Captains.


Ryan Raburn, of, Triple-A Toledo (Tigers)

Raburn,once an emerging second base prospect, has been one of the steadier hitters at Triple-A for the past two season. The 26-year-old Raburn ranks second in the IL with 43 RBIs and third in home runs (11), extra-base hits (26) and runs (37). The 2001 fifth-round pick even hit for the cycle in a May 27 game. He was hitting .284/.405/.547 overall.