Each Friday, the Prospect Hot Sheet singles out the prospects who had the best week, weighing raw performance, prospect status, age compared to level and the environment in which they play. Bear in mind that this is not a re-ranking of our preseason Top 100 Prospects list—it's a snapshot of top performances by prospects during the period July 12-18.
Contributing: Ben Badler, Matt Eddy, Michael Lananna and Jim Shonerd
Ben Badler chatted about the Hot Sheet and prospects in general.
No. 1 Victor Sanchez, rhp, Mariners
Team: low Class A Clinton (Midwest)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 SO
The Scoop: When Sanchez was 13 in 2008, he was the second-youngest player on Venezuela’s 14U COPABE Pan American championship team, a roster that included Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor and Blue Jays righthander Adonys Cardona. Sanchez provided one of the highlights of the tournament, throwing a five-inning no-hitter against Ecuador and missing a perfect game by a hit batsman.
On Wednesday—against slightly better competition than 14-year-olds from Ecuador—Sanchez threw a nine-inning no-hitter, a rare beast in the Midwest League, particularly for an 18-year-old. Sanchez didn’t walk anyone either, though he did hit a batter and had to face two more hitters thanks to a pair of errors from his shortstop. At 6 feet, 255 pounds and with his ability to pound the strike zone, Sanchez is no ordinary teenager. There’s zero physical projection left here and scouts knew there wasn’t much to begin with when he signed for $2.5 million two years ago, but that’s fine because Sanchez’s fastball already sits in the low-90s and his changeup flashes above-average. His breaking stuff can be erratic, which is why he hasn’t struck out more batters, but he’s shown excellent control with just 1.1 walks per nine innings and has mid-rotation starter potential.
No. 2 Kyle Zimmer, rhp, Royals
Team: high Class A Wilmington (Carolina)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.80, 5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 10 SO
The Scoop: Three weeks ago, the questions about what’s wrong with Zimmer clogged our chat queue. Scouts didn’t have an easy answer, because his stuff was as crisp as ever, and the pitcher-friendly confines of Wilmington certainly aren’t the scapegoat. The stuff never wavered, which is why scouts retained confidence in Zimmer. Now the results are starting to turn around. Since the Carolina League all-star break, Zimmer has a 2.61 ERA and a 42-6 K-BB mark in 31 innings over five starts. While you would like his first half to have been better, the arrows are still pointing in the right direction for Zimmer to finish strong.
No. 3 Nate Karns, rhp, Nationals
Team: Double-A Harrisburg (Eastern)
Why He's Here: 1-0, 1.93, 14 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 16 SO, 5 BB
The Scoop: Karns was tagged with a 7.50 ERA in three starts for the Nationals in late May and early June before being sent back to Harrisburg. Despite those struggles, the experience of facing big league hitters appears to have served him well. In six starts since his return to the Eastern League on June 20, he's gone 3-1, 1.62, owning the fourth-best ERA in the EL over that span. He logged his longest outing of the year on Thursday, going eight innings and allowing just two runs on three hits against Akron.
No. 4 C.J. Edwards, rhp, Rangers
Team: low Class A Hickory (South Atlantic)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 5 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 9 SO, 3 BB
The Scoop: Edwards has come out firing after the Sally League all-star break, going 2-0, 1.32 in five starts while logging 36 strikeouts, seven walks and 21 hits allowed in 27 1/3 innings. He leads the league in ERA (1.83) and strikeouts (122), and, most remarkably, Edwards hasn’t allowed a home run in 18 starts on this season. That despite playing in homer-friendly Hickory ballpark that features a three-year HR factor of 1.307. No qualified SAL pitcher in the previous eight seasons escaped the season unscathed, though Giants prospect Kyle Crick (Augusta, 2012) and former Braves farmhand Tim Gustafson (Rome, 2007) each allowed only one home run in a season.
No. 5 Henry Owens, lhp, Red Sox
Team: high Class A Salem (Carolina)
Why He's Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 10 SO, 4 BB
The Scoop: Owens' start this week pretty much represents his season in a nutshell. The only person giving him trouble has been himself, since Carolina League hitters haven't had any answers for him when he's around the zone. He's struck out 107 in 92 innings for Salem and allowed a paltry .190 opponent average, but he's also walked 47, handing out at least four free passes in each of his last four starts.
No. 6 Adam Brett Walker, rf, Twins
Team: low Class A Cedar Rapids (Midwest)
Why He's Here: .370/.357/.889 (10-for-27), 4 HR, 2 2B, 11 RBIs, 8 R, 0 BB, 6 SO
The Scoop: Just think how much better Walker's week could've been if he hadn't taken an ugly 0-for-7 in a 12-inning game on Wednesday. Nonetheless, the Twins' 2012 third-rounder might be hitting his way out of the Midwest League now that he's surged to the top of its home run leaderboard with 18. No one doubts his power, but the real encouragement comes from how much he's cut down on his strikeouts (82 in 87 games) from last year in the Appalachian League, where he whiffed 76 times in 58 games.
No. 7 Eddie Rosario, 2b, Twins
Team: Double-A New Britain (Florida State)
Why He’s Here: .433/.452/.633 (13-for-30), 1 HR, 3 2B, 4 RBIs, 2 R, 1 BB, 4 SO, 1-for-2 SB
The Scoop: Free to develop at his own pace while Twins uber-prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano draw the spotlight, Rosario has hit .322/.375/.503 in 84 games across two levels this season and just might be the stealthiest prospect in the upper minors. He won a home run title (21) in the 2011 Appalachian League, but don’t be discouraged by his relatively meager output (eight) this season. Rosario has played in a couple of tough home-run parks in New Britain and high Class A Fort Myers, though with his lefty bat, contact skills and solid power, he’s on the short list of elite second-base prospects in the game.
No. 8 Peter O'Brien, 3b/c, Yankees
Team: high Class A Tampa (Florida State)
Why He's Here: .393/.414/.679 (11-for-28), 2 HR, 2 2B, 7 RBIs, 4 R, 1 BB, 5 SO
The Scoop: The Yankees have stationed O'Brien, a catcher by trade, mainly at third base since he became teammates with Gary Sanchez when he reached Tampa in late June. A second-round pick last year, O'Brien faces question marks behind the plate, so he will lean on his bat to carry him no matter where he plays. He hit .325 with 11 homers in 194 at-bats in low Class A, earning a promotion despite Sanchez's presence. O’Brien has kept plugging away, batting .299 in 22 FSL games and adding another five homers.
No. 9 Brett Eibner, cf, Royals
Team: Double-A Northwest Arkansas (Texas)
Why He’s Here: .444/.444/.963 (12-for-27), 4 HR, 2 2B, 4 RBIs, 5 R, 0 BB, 8 SO
The Scoop: Seven triples and a perfect seven-for-seven performance in stolen bases testify to Eibner’s above-average speed. He can handle center field and throw with the best outfielders in the Texas League (seven assists). His raw power is evident in the six-extra-base-hits week he just enjoyed, a week that accounted for about a third of his seasonal home-run output. Yet unless Eibner reigns in his 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, his resemblance to former Royals fan whipping boy Jeff Francouer may be too close for comfort.
No. 10 Victor Roache, lf, Brewers
Team: low Class A Wisconsin (Midwest)
Why He’s Here: .308/.333/.731 (8-for-26), 6 R, 2 2B, 3 HR, 4 RBIs, 1 BB, 11 SO
The Scoop: It’s been a frustrating year for Roache, Milwaukee’s first-round pick last year out of Georgia Southern. At least he’s on the field this year, as a broken left wrist essentially wiped out his 2012 season between his junior year of college and what would have been his pro debut after leading NCAA Division 1 with 30 homers in 2011. Strikeouts have been a problem, but his raw power is outstanding, which is why he’s capable of going off for three-homer weeks.
No. 11 Rosell Herrera, ss, Rockies
Team: low Class A Asheville (South Atlantic)
Why He’s Here: .538/.667/1.000 (7-for-13), 4 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBIs, 5 BB, 0 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Is Herrera having a breakout year or is Asheville distorting his numbers? The answer lies somewhere in the middle. Herrera is having an outstanding year in his second hack at the South Atlantic League, showing improved strike-zone discipline and more game power than ever before. His home-road splits are hard to ignore, as most of his damage (including 11 of his 15 homers) have come at home, but even on the road he’s posted a promising .320/.406/.448 line in 45 games. Plus, he leads the SAL in average (.363) and on-base percentage (.445), and that’s never a bad thing.
No. 12 Alex Dickerson, 1b, Pirates
Team: Double-A Altoona (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: .500/.500/.821 (14-for-28), 2 HR, 3 2B, 4 RBIs, 6 R, 0 BB, 2 SO, 2-for-2 SB
The Scoop: The MVP of last year’s high Class A Florida State League, Dickerson has turned on the jets in July, hitting .441 (26-for-59) with four homers and five doubles in 15 games. Continued power output like that will get the 2011 third-rounder on the Pirates’ periphery as a possible first-base platoon solution as Garrett Jones enters year two of arbitration eligibility this offseason.
No. 13 Raul Alcantara, rhp, Athletics
Team: high Class A Stockton (California)
Why He's Here: 0-0, 0.00, 1 GS, 6 2/3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 9 SO, 2 BB
The Scoop: Alcantara struggled with command and poise in 2012, when he posted a 5.08 ERA in the usually pitcher-friendly Midwest League. He has better stuff that his numbers showed, however, and he was markedly better in his second go-around in the MWL, going 7-1, 2.44 and earning a promotion to Stockton in late June. The move up a level hasn't fazed him, as he's allowed one run or fewer in four of five starts, and his nine strikeouts against High Desert on Saturday matched his season high.
IN THE TEAM PHOTO
• Jose Urena, lf, Padres: The Padres were sold on Urena's raw power, signing him for $550,000 out of Mexico in 2011, and he's been mashing for their Rookie-level Arizona League team. The 18-year-old has six homers in 21 games, equaling or surpassing eight AZL teams' totals. He hit two longballs this week, when he went 6-for-17 (.353) with a double and triple mixed in.
• Kole Calhoun, rf, Angels: Calhoun played just four games this week thanks to the Triple-A all-star break, but he made them count. The 25-year-old Salt Lake outfielder went 10-for-19 with a homer and three doubles, raising his line for the year to .336/.407/.561 with eight longballs in 214 at-bats.
• Adam Conley, lhp, Marlins: In the first game of a July 14 doubleheader against Mobile, Conley threw a seven-inning complete game, allowing just three hits, no runs and striking out four for Double-A Jacksonville. After struggling with his command at high Class A Jupiter late last year, the hard-throwing 23-year-old has found success with Jacksonville this season, going 8-4, 3.66 with 87 strikeouts in 93 1/3 innings.
• Elier Hernandez, rf, Royals: Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $3.05 million in 2011, the 19-year-old Hernandez hit just .208/.256/.280 with Rookie-level Idaho Falls last season as he struggled to pick up breaking balls. But Hernandez has experienced a power surge with Idaho Falls in the past week, batting .286/.355/.607 with three doubles, eight RBIs and two of this three home runs on the season. Overall, Hernandez is hitting .265/.328/.442 in 113 at-bats in his second pro season.
• Joan Gregorio, rhp, Giants: It's hard to pitch much better than Gregorio did on July 18. The 21-year-old threw seven no-hit innings, walking just one and striking out 10 against Lakewood for low Class A Augusta. After going 7-7, 5.54 with short-season Salem-Keizer last year, the 6-foot-7, 180-pound righthander is putting together a fine season with Augusta. He's 6-2, 3.12 with 73 strikeouts in 60 2/3 innings.
• Michael Feliz, rhp, Astros: Testing positive for performance-enhancers got Feliz’s original contract with the Athletics terminated, which is how he ended up signing with Houston in 2010. As he’s matured, his velocity has started to climb back to previous enhanced heights. The 19-year-old Feliz is also showing improved control with a 1.27 ERA and a 35-4 K-BB mark for short-season Tri-City through 28 1/3 innings.
• Lewis Thorpe, lhp, Twins: The 2012 international class is shaping up to be an outstanding one for lefthanders, with Julio Urias (Dodgers), Luiz Gohara (Mariners) and Jose Castillo (Rays) leading the way. But don’t sleep on Thorpe, an Australian who signed for $500,000 shortly after July 2 last year and has been excellent in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. With a low-90s fastball, a potential plus changeup and an improving curveball, the 17-year-old Thorpe has a 3.05 ERA and has shown much better control than expected with a 31-2 K-BB mark in 20 2/3 innings.
NOT SO HOT
• Luis Heredia, rhp, Pirates: When the season began, the Pirates kept Heredia in extended spring training rather than assign him to low Class A West Virginia after he showed up out of shape and with diminished velocity. That’s not a major red flag—he’s an 18-year-old kid living abroad—but it took until June 23 until Heredia made his first South Atlantic League start. The results have been disappointing, with a 4.79 ERA, 16 strikeouts and 14 walks in 20 2/3 innings, including a nightmare outing in Asheville in which he allowed eight runs in 3 2/3 innings. Heredia has plenty of time to turn things around, but this isn’t what the Pirates had planned.
• Jameson Taillon, rhp, Pirates: The 21-year-old very quietly ranks third in the Double-A Eastern League with 100 strikeouts, though he turned in his worst start of the season for Altoona on Saturday, allowing 10 runs on 13 hits in 3 1/3 innings. Prospect watchers should have no long-term concerns—Taillon sandwiched that effort with a pair of strong, seven-inning efforts.
• Lucas Sims, rhp, Braves: Life for young pitching prospects is going to include weeks like this: 9 IP, 9 H, 9 R, 6 SO, 5 BB, 1 HBP in two starts. The 19-year-old Sims has otherwise been sharp for low Class A Rome, going 3-3, 3.33 in 10 starts since entering the rotation, while notching three times as many strikeouts as walks and allowing just two homers in 48 2/3 innings.
• Ronald Guzman, 1b, Rangers: The 18-year-old Dominican has made a largely-successful debut at low Class A Hickory, batting .281/.325/.388 in 38 games overall (he missed two months with a knee injury), but his recent performance has been nothing to write home about. Guzman went 1-for-23 with five strikeouts this week.
Michael de la Cruz, of, Pirates: When the Pirates signed de la Cruz for $700,000 last year on his 16th birthday, some scouts weren’t sold. As July 2 approached, de la Cruz started showing better speed and more arm strength, but the biggest factor thus far has been his bat. De la Cruz, 17, leads the Dominican Summer League in walks (32) and is second in OBP with a .342/.480/.444 slash line through 32 games. Power isn’t a big part of his game, but he has a handsy swing, a good eye at the plate and outstanding speed that plays as an excellent weapon in center field.