Hot Sheet: Baseball’s 20 Hottest Prospects From The Past Week (4/19/22)

The hot sheet is back! Baseball America’s staff ranks the 20 hottest prospects from the previous week. This installment of the Prospect Hot Sheet considers what minor league players did through April 19. Contributing this week were Josh Norris, Geoff Pontes, Kyle Glaser and J.J. Cooper.

This simply recognizes what the hottest prospects in the minors did in the past week—it’s not a re-ranking of the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects.

Geoff Pontes answered questions regarding the Hot Sheet from noon-1 p.m. ET. You can read the full chat transcript here.

1. Matthew Lugo, SS, Red Sox
Team: High-A Greenville (South Atlantic) 
Age: 20

Why He’s Here: .514/.538/.865 (19-for-37), 8 R, 6 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBIs, 1 BB, 6 SO, 2-for-2 SB

The Scoop: The Red Sox 2019 second-rounder is off to a fast start in his High-A debut, as he’s had multiple hits in seven of eight games thus far and has gotten on base in all eight. His standout game came on Saturday as he went 4-for-5, and came within a home run of the cycle. He’s showing increased power from a year ago as he’s already put 10 balls in play at 95 mph or higher. (GP) 

2. Ceddanne Rafaela, OF, Red Sox
Team: High-A Greenville (South Atlantic)
Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .395/.422/.860 (17-for-43), 14 R, 5 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, 11 RBIs, 2 BB, 8 SO, 4-for-5 SB

The Scoop: After two home runs in Greenville’s season-opening home series against Hudson Valley, the diminutive Rafaela continued his hot hitting as the Drive traveled to the friendly confines of Asheville’s McCormick Field, which features a fence 297 feet down the line in right field. The utilityman hit three home runs on the weekend to push his total to five on the season. This included a two-home run game on Saturday. (GP)

3. Kyle Harrison, LHP, Giants
Team: High-A Eugene (Northwest)
Age: 20

Why He’s Here: 0-0, 0.00, 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 16 SO, 0 HR

The Scoop: Harrison ranks as the top pitching prospect in the Giants’ system, and he’s spent his first two starts showing exactly why he’s earned that title. The lefthander—pitching in a newly hitter-friendly PK Park—has locked his opponents nearly all the way down. His 16 punchouts are second in the NWL to Everett’s Adam Macko, but the most encouraging sign is that they’ve come while pounding the strike zone. He walked close to five hitters per nine innings last year, and walked just one in his first nine this year. Combining his electric stuff with improved command and control would go a long way toward improving his already exciting profile. (JN)

4. Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF, Twins
Low-A Fort Myers (Florida State) 
Age: 19 

Why He’s Here: .360/.568/.880 (9-for-25), 10 R, 1 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 5 RBIs, 12 BB, 6 SO, 2-for-2 SB

The Scoop: The powerful outfielder hit four home runs over the first week of play, including two in Friday’s contest against Jupiter. His second home run on Friday traveled 439 feet with an exit velocity of 110.9 mph. Rodriguez also had an inside-the-park home run on Tuesday in the opening game and has shown improved plate discipline thus far, with twice as many walks as strikeouts. (GP)

5. Nolan Gorman, 2B, Cardinals
Triple-A Memphis (International)
Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .351/.415/.838 (13-for-37), 10 R, 6 HR, 6 RBIs, 3 BB, 15 SO, 0-for-0 SB

The Scoop: Memphis traveled to one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the minors last week and Gorman took advantage in a big way. The hulking slugger homered in four straight games at Charlotte, all of them solo shots. That capped off a banner week that also included a two-homer game against Gwinnett and gave Gorman the early-season minor league home run lead. (KG)

6. Francisco Alvarez, C, Mets
Team: Double-A Binghamton (Eastern)
Age: 20

Why He’s Here: .375/.429/1.000 (9-for-24), 6 R, 3 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 10 RBIs, 2 BB, 7 SO

The Scoop: One of the game’s best catching prospects has started the season on a very encouraging note. Alvarez rocketed from Low-A to High-A in record time last year and swatted 24 home runs in the process. He’s got nine hits in his first upper-level action, and four of those hits have left the park. He’s tied with New Hampshire’s Orelvis Martinez for the youngest player in the league, and has quickly shown he’s up for the challenge. (JN)

7. Daniel Espino, RHP, Guardians
Double-A Akron (Eastern)
Age: 21

Why He’s Here: 0-0, 2.08, 8.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 16 SO, 2 HR

The Scoop: After drawing glowing reviews during spring training, Espino has carried his dominance over to the regular season. The 6-foot-2 righthander opened the season with four innings, two runs allowed, no walks and nine strikeouts against Erie on April 9 and followed with 4.2 no-hit innings with seven strikeouts against Reading on April 16. Most notably, 11 of his 16 strikeouts came on his fastball, meaning he’s dominating without even relying on his best pitch—his slider. (KG)

8. Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Orioles
Team: Triple-A Norfolk (International)
Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 2.00, 9 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 15 SO, 1 HR

The Scoop: The game’s top pitching prospect is getting closer and closer to Camden Yards. Rodriguez, the youngest pitching prospect in the league, has been electric in his first two outings, prompting calls from some Orioles fans that he should get a chance to fill John Means’ spot in the rotation. That’s probably not going to happen for a little while, but the early numbers he’s posted in his first Triple-A test lend credence to the idea that he’ll be a key contributor to Baltimore’s future core. (JN)

9. Jared Shuster, LHP, Braves 
Double-A Mississippi (Southern)
Age: 23

Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.90, 10 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 17 SO, 1 HR

The Scoop: The Braves 2020 first-rounder out of Wake Forest had a lot to prove after a tough Double-A debut at the end of 2021. With a 2-0 record and a 17-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio and just one earned run allowed over 10 innings to start the season, Shuster has done just that. Shuster struck out 12 over five innings against Biloxi on Saturday and induced 22 whiffs in the process, including 10 on his plus changeup. (KG)


10. Kahlil Watson, SS, Marlins
Team: Low-A Jupiter (Florida State)
Age: 19

Why He’s Here: .333/.394/.867 (10-for-30), 9 R, 4 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 12 RBIs, 3 BB, 15 SO, 2-for-2 SB

The Scoop: Watson was the Marlins’ first-rounder in 2021, and he’s begun his first full test as a pro with a bang. Rather, a series of bangs. The North Carolina prep product has used his prodigious bat speed to club four home runs in his first week and change in full-season ball. That total ties him with Hot Sheet-mate Emmanuel Rodriguez for the league lead. He’s struck out a fair amount, lending credence to his need for an improved approach with two strikes. There’s plenty of time to improve, though, and the early results are very encouraging. (JN)

11. Ken Waldichuk, LHP, Yankees
Team: Double-A Somerset (Eastern)
Age: 24

Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.00, 10 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 16 SO, 0 HR

The Scoop: After carving at High-A in 2021, Waldichuk hit a bit of a speed bump when he got to Double-A. He got hit more often and walked more than four hitters per nine innings. He’s bucked that trend in two early starts, and his 16 strikeouts are tied with Akron’s Daniel Espino for third-most in the Eastern League. He’s credited his success to simplifying his approach and becoming more confident applying the adjustments in game situations. So far, so good. (JN)

12. Adam Macko, LHP, Mariners
Team: High-A Everett (Northwest)
Age: 21

Why He’s Here: 0-0, 3.60, 10 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 19 SO, 2 HR

The Scoop: Armed with one of the best curveballs in the minor leagues, Macko has had no trouble jumping to High-A. The Slovakian-Canadian lefthander struck out 11 batters over five innings in his season debut against Eugene on April 9 and followed up with another impressive outing April 15. He pitched five innings, gave up two hits and one run, walked one and struck out eight at Hillsboro, arguably the best start of his young career. (KG)

13. Ethan Small, LHP, Brewers
Triple-A Nashville (International)
Age: 25

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.68, 3 GS, 13.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 2 HBP, 7 BB, 18 SO.

The Scoop: Because the lack of a 2020 minor league season interrupted his development, it may be possible to miss just how dominating Small has been during his admittedly brief pro career. Small has posted a 0.68 ERA this year in three starts. For his career he has a 1.61 ERA over 112 innings and 28 starts and 20 of those 28 starts have come at Double-A or higher. Small has been one of the most effective starters in the minors since he was drafted in 2019, and is yet another soon-to-be Brewers pitching development success story. (JC)

14. Andrew Painter, RHP, Phillies
Team: Low-A Clearwater (Florida State)
Age: 19

Why He’s Here: 0-1, 0.00, 2 G, 2 GS, 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 16 SO.

The Scoop: If a pitcher can generate swings and misses with his fastball, it’s a very encouraging sign. When hitters have offered at Painter’s fastball so far this year, they’ve swung and missed at an exceptional 40% rate (19 swings and misses on 48 pitches). Painter’s fastball has solid carry at the top of the zone and near top-of-the-scale velocity (he’s sat 97 mph and touched 99). (JC)


15. Connor Scott, OF, Pirates
Double-A Altoona (Eastern)
Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .500/.586/.833 (12-for-24), 3 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 6 RBIs, 4 BB, 5 SO, 1 SB.

The Scoop: When you’re traded, it’s always good to make a good first impression. In Scott’s case, he’s now a Pirate after being sent to Pittsburgh in the deal that brought catcher Jacob Stallings to Miami. And Scott has responded with one of the best weeks of his career. Scott has only hit over .300 in one month of his 3-plus year pro career, but he’s well on the way to doing that for a second time. (JC)

16. Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 3B, Twins
High-A Cedar Rapids (Midwest)
Age: 22 

Why He’s Here: .444/.474/.917 (16-for-36), 9 R, 2 2B, 5 HR, 20 RBIs, 2 BB, 9 SO, 2 SB, 1 CS.

The Scoop: Last year, Encarnacion-Strand was one of the most productive sluggers in college baseball at Oklahoma State. The start of his pro career has found him being one of the most productive sluggers in Class A. Encarnacion-Strand had a great brief stint in Low-A Fort Myers last year (.391/.424/.598), but that was upstaged by his 2022 April. He already has five home runs this year in just eight games and began the season with nine hits, including three homers, in his first two games. (JC)

17. Matt McLain, SS, Reds
Age: Double-A Chattanooga (Southern)

Why He’s Here: .344/.400/.875 (11-for-32), 10 R, 4 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 7 RBIs, 3 BB, 8 SO, 2-for-2 SB

The Scoop: McLain recorded multiple hits in four of his first eight games and hit for the cycle on Sunday, going 4-for-4 with 10 total bases against Birmingham. He homered in the first inning, singled in the third inning, doubled in the fifth inning and tripled in the seventh inning. He did it all while seeing just seven pitches, demonstrating the ability that made him one of the best pure hitters in last year’s draft. (KG)

18. Cal Mitchell, OF, Pirates
Triple-A Indianapolis (International) 
Age: 23

Why He’s Here: .371/.395/.743 (13-for-35), 6 R, 4 2B, 3 HR, 12 RBIs, 2 BB, 6 SO, 2-for-2 SB

The Scoop: Considered arguably the best prep hitter in the 2017 draft class, Mitchell has had some ups and downs but is holding his own just fine in the upper levels. After a solid showing at Double-A last year before a late promotion to Triple-A, Mitchell has recorded a hit in eight of 10 games to open this season. He was at his best over the weekend, going a combined 5 for 9 with two doubles, a home run and four RBIs against St. Paul on April 16-17. (KG)

19. Royber Salinas, RHP, Braves 
Low-A Augusta (Carolina)
Age: 21

Why He’s Here: 0-0, 0.96, 9.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 24 SO, 0 HR

The Scoop: The Braves No. 30 prospect started opening night for the GreenJackets and struck out 11 Columbia batters over 4.1 innings, while allowing an earned run on two walks and three hits. He followed that up with five scoreless, one-hit innings on Thursday where he struck out 13 Myrtle Beach batters while walking none. A late-season pop-up in 2021, Salinas mixes a mid-90s four-seamer with heavy vertical break with two different breaking balls in his slider and curveball. (GP)

20. Tanner Gordon, RHP, Braves
Team: High-A Rome (South Atlantic)
Age: 24

Why He’s Here: 1-1, 2.70, 2 GS, 10 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 20 SO.

The Scoop: Gordon’s first start of the season was only OK. That would seem to likely disqualify him from a spot on the Hot Sheet. But his second outing was so good that it couldn’t be ignored. Gordon faced 20 batters over six innings. He struck out 14 of them. Gordon struck out the side in the first and picked up at least two strikeouts in four of the five other innings. He filled the zone with an otherworldly 83% strike percentage—normally anything above 70% is exceptional. (JC)

Helium. Ryan Fitzgerald, UTIL, Red Sox
Team: Triple-A Worcester (International)
Age: 27

Why He’s Here: .394/.459/.909 (13-for-33), 9 R, 1 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 9 RBIs, 3 BB, 15 SO, 0-for-1 SB

The Scoop: The city of Worcester is full of Fitzys, but none are hotter than the Woo-Sox utilityman. In the first 13 games of the season, Fitzgerald has started at five different positions and continued to show the improved power stroke that earned him rave reviews during his time with the big league club in spring training. Fitzgerald is a late bloomer who was signed out of the Independent American Association back in 2018. The increased power has led to improved results, as Fitzgerald already has seven extra-base hits and six balls in play at 103 mph or higher. His versatility as a defender and potential for in-game power make him an intriguing option should an injury occur at the big league level. (GP)



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