Hot Sheet: Baseball’s 20 Hottest Prospects From The Past Week (5/16/23)

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 May 15. Contributing this week were Josh Norris, Geoff Pontes, J.J. Cooper and Kyle Glaser.

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.

J.J. Cooper hosted a chat to discuss today’s Hot Sheet. You can read the transcript here.

1. Ben Brown, RHP, Cubs
Team: Triple-A Iowa (International)
Age: 23

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 10 SO,0 HR

The Scoop: Brown received a promotion to Triple-A on April 29 and has quickly shown he can handle the level. After throwing 5.2 innings with one run allowed in his Iowa debut, Brown followed up with five scoreless innings with two hits allowed and 10 strikeouts in a dominant start against Toledo last week. Brown carved through the Mud Hens lineup with an easy mid-90s fastball, a vicious power curveball and a fine-tuned, mid-80s slider, giving him his first double-digit strikeout game since joining the Cubs organization. Brown is now 3-0, 0.59 in six starts this season with 47 strikeouts and 11 walks in 30.2 innings. He has cemented his status as a steal for the Cubs at last year’s trade deadline and is pushing aggressively for his first big league callup. (KG)

2. Yanquiel Fernandez, OF, Rockies
Team: High-A Spokane (Northwest)
Age: 20

Why He’s Here: .538/.517/1.038 (14-for-26), 7 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 12 RBIs, 1 BB, 5 SO, 0-for-1 SB

The Scoop: The gem of Fernandez’s week came on May 10, when he went 5-for-6 with two home runs. Oh, and he hit for the cycle. Fernandez has more than held his own in the Northwest League despite playing in the early chilliness of the region and against competition that is almost universally more advanced. The Cuban-born outfielder shows plenty of thump from the left side. He’s an aggressive hitter who makes a ton of contact and could profile as a classic corner outfield masher with a more refined approach. (JN)

3.  Colton Cowser, OF, Orioles
Team: Triple-A Norfolk (International) 
Age: 23 

Why He’s Here: .500/.613/.864 (11-for-22), 9 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 8 BB, 7 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: Cowser reached base three or more times in five out of six games last week. His standout game came on Tuesday, when Cowser slugged two home runs and reached base four times. In three of Cowser’s games last week the outfielder reached base four times. It’s just a matter of time until Cowser is promoted to Baltimore, as the 2021 first-rounder is hitting .336/.477/.567 over 36 games this season. Cowser combines elite on-base skills with above-average contact and power. (GP) 

4. Cade Povich, LHP, Orioles
Team: Double-A Bowie (Eastern)
Age: 23

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 SO.

The Scoop: If the Orioles had simply landed Yennier Cano and a pair of complex league arms for Jorge Lopez in last year’s deadline deal trade, that would have been a hefty cost, considering how well Cano has pitched for the Orioles so far this year. But Povich means the Orioles may have gotten a starting pitcher in the deal to go with the budding relief ace. Povich’s only trouble on Thursday came in the fifth inning. He allowed back-to-back singles to begin the inning, but he then struck out three straight batters to finish the fifth and qualify for the win. Six Harrisburg hitters fanned on elevated fastballs, but Povich also showed he could get chases on his changeup. (JC)

5. Matt McLain, SS, Reds
Team: Triple-A Louisville (International)
Age: 23

Why He’s Here: .429/.600/.952 (9-for-21), 4 R, 2 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBIs, 7 BB, 5 SO, 2 SB, 1 CS.

The Scoop: If this was McLain’s final week in the minor leagues, he departed in style. McLain homered in three straight games, and then drew six walks over the next three games to go with five hits. He leaves the minors ranking in the top five in home runs (12), RBIs (40), slugging (.710), extra-base hits (26) and led the minors in total bases (98). McLain will get his chance to stake a claim to the starting shortstop job, one he will need to make a strong claim for quickly if he wants to keep it. After all, Elly De La Cruz has been very driven and determined to prove that he can stay at shortstop himself. (JC)

6. Elly De La Cruz, SS, Reds
Team: Triple-A Louisville (International)
Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .350/.581/.900 (7-for-20), 7 R, 2 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBIs, 10 BB, 4 SO, 2 SB, 2 CS.

The Scoop: Pay very close attention to that walk number listed above. It’s one week, so it’s too soon to declare that this is a trend and not just a blip, but last week, De La Cruz hit for power and hit for average, just like he always does, but he also walked at a rate he never has before. De La Cruz’s best month of walks as a pro is 12, so this bounty of walks is a notable change. Even with an 8-for-41 stretch with 18 strikeouts to start his season after coming off the injured list, De La Cruz is now walking 11.6% of the time and striking out at a 27.1% rate. Those are both very promising improvements on the lone remaining big to-do-items De La Cruz has left to prove. Oh, he also did things last week that reminded everyone he’s the toolsiest prospect in the game. He now has the hardest hit ball recorded in pro ball this year, the hardest infield throw and one of the fastest runs. (JC)

7. Jack Leiter, RHP, Rangers
Team: Double-A Frisco (Texas)
Age: 23

Why He’s Here: 0-0, 0.00, 5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 SO, 0 HR

The Scoop: Might things be starting to come together for Leiter, who had a rocky turn in the Texas League last year in his pro debut? This past week’s outing was the second of two stellar turns in a row for the Rangers’ first-round pick from 2021. Combined in May, Leiter has gone 11 innings, allowed one run (unearned), struck out 15 and walked four. That last number might be the most significant, considering he issued 15 free passes in his first 20 innings over five April starts. The sample is obviously quite small, but if it continues it would go a long way toward helping Leiter regain some of his prospect stock. (JN)

8. Blake Walston, LHP, D-backs
Team: Triple-A Reno (Pacific Coast)
Age: 21

Why He’s Here: 2-0, 2.08, 13 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 14 SO, 0 HR

The Scoop: Limiting runs in the Pacific Coast League can feel like an impossible task, but Walston is managing to do it in impressive fashion. The 21-year-old lefthander allowed only one hit in 7.1 innings to earn the win in Reno’s series opener at Tacoma last week and beat the Rainiers again in the series finale on Sunday, tossing 5.2 innings with three runs allowed and seven strikeouts. Overall Walston has a 2.70 ERA in eight starts this season, a remarkable number for a Reno pitcher. (KG)

9. Justyn-Henry Malloy, 3B, Tigers
Team: Triple-A Toledo (International) 
Age: 23

Why He’s Here: .409/.500/.864 (9-for-22), 3 R, 1 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 6 RBIs, 4 BB, 5 SO, 0-for-0 SB

The Scoop: Acquired from the Braves for Joe Jimenez, Malloy is looking like a potential steal for the Tigers. The third baseman showed his balanced all-around game last week, collecting a hit in five out of six contests. Malloy homered in three of the final four games of Toledo’s series in Iowa, including a home run on back-to-back days to end the series. The third baseman is hitting .323/.455/.526 through 38 games in 2023. With a struggling Nick Maton manning third base for the Tigers you have to wonder how long it will be until Malloy is up in Detroit. (GP)

10. Orelvis Martinez, SS, Blue Jays 
Team: Double-A New Hampshire (Eastern)
Age: 21 

Why He’s Here: .304/.360/1.000 (7-for-23), 6 R, 1 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, 10 RBIs, 1 BB, 8 SO, 0-for-0 SB

The Scoop: Martinez is either an enigma or the easiest read in minor league baseball. Every spring it looks like the slugging infielder has turned a corner and begun to show a more refined approach at the plate only to return to his home run or nothing ways in-season. While there was much optimism about Martinez taking the next step in 2023 he struggled mightily over the first few weeks of the season, hitting .093/.167/.280 over 21 games. However, a trip to the friendly confines of FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading, Pa. was just what the doctor ordered. Martinez slugged a home run on three consecutive days, including two-homer games on Thursday and Friday. If Martinez isn’t hitting home runs he’s not hitting, as nine of his 14 hits on the season have left the park. (GP)

11. Spencer Jones, OF, Yankees
Team: High-A Hudson Valley (South Atlantic)
Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .571/.600/1.071 (8-for-14), 6 R, 4 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 6 RBIs, 1 BB, 2 SO, 2-for-2 SB

The Scoop: Jones’ sample last week was small, but he made a big impression in those three games. The Yankees’ first-round pick is incredibly toolsy and athletic and showed his gifts in spades. His power played to the opposite way and he posted his standard huge exit velocities as well. Offensive impact was never going to be an issue for Jones. The question was whether he’d be able to keep the strikeouts in check. After finishing April with a 35% strikeout rate, Jones has only K’d in nine of his 36 May plate appearances. The sample is small, to be sure, but the progress is nonetheless encouraging. (JN)

12. James Wood, OF, Nationals
Team: High-A Wilmington (South Atlantic)
Age: 20

Why He’s Here: .346/.433/.769 (9-for-21), 4 R, 2 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBIs, 4 BB, 8 SO.

The Scoop: As we noted in Monday’s Prospect Report, Wood seems to be the one hitter whose power is strong enough to survive playing at Wilmington. Wilmington’s power-sapping abilities are legendary. But Wood has already hit four home runs at home this year. The rest of the team has six. Wood has already hit more home runs at home than any Wilmington hitter managed in 2017, 2015 or 2014, and he’s got an outside shot of hitting more home runs at Wilmington than the entire Blue Rocks team did in 2015 (they hit 15 all year). He is hitting .403/.449/.790 at home.The rest of his Blue Rocks teammates are hitting .204/.304/.291. So the next time you glance at Wood’s stat line, remember just how difficult it is to hit in Wilmington. (JC)

13. Ronny Mauricio, SS, Mets
Team: Triple-A Syracuse (International)
Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .444/.483/.815 (12-for-27), 8 R, 7 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBIs, 2 BB, 2 SO, 2-for-3 SB

The Scoop: Mauricio’s renewed prospect stock can be summed up by a simple equation: 27 divided by 167. That works out to 16.2, which is Mauricio’s strikeout percentage through the first six weeks of the season. Last year, that figure was 23.1% in a season spent entirely at Double-A. The increased contact has not come at the expense of power, either. His .353 batting average is second in the International League, and his OPS (1.011) and slugging (.622) each rank in the top 10 on the circuit. With the Reds’ Matt McLain now in the big leagues, Mauricio also paces the IL in total bases, with 97. (JN)

14. Henry Davis, C, Pirates
Team: Double-A Altoona (Eastern)
Age: 23

Why He’s Here: .368/.478/.789 (7-for-19), 3 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 2 RBIs, 3 BB, 2 SO, 0-for-1 SB

The Scoop: When Davis stays healthy, he hits. He’s stayed healthy this year, thus, he has hit. The 2021 No. 1 overall pick added two more home runs to his ledger this past week, bringing his season total to eight in the first 25 games of the season with Double-A Altoona. That’s just one shy of his total from 2022, when he hit nine homers over 58 games between High-A and Double-A. He’s making plenty of contact, taking his walks and making impact on contact. Davis has also begun playing right field, perhaps a sign that a promotion—or his big league arrival—is in the offing. (JN)

15. Junior Caminero, 3B/SS, Rays
Team: High-A Bowling Green (Midwest)
Age: 19

Why He’s Here: .421/.476/.842 (8-for-19), 4 R, 4 2B, 2 3B, 3 RBIs, 1 BB, 3 SO.

The Scoop: Caminero’s spring breakout just keeps rolling along. He has just one home run this month after hitting seven in April, but he’s continuing to hit the ball hard, upping his walk rate and slightly reducing his strikeout rate. If there is any concern, Caminero’s adjustment to third base is a work in progress. He committed two fielding errors and one throwing error last week and now has six errors in just 21 games at third base. (JC)

16. Ivan Melendez, 3B/1B, D-backs
Team: High-A Hillsboro (Northwest)
Age: 23

Why He’s Here: .316/.435/1.000 (6-for-19), 6 R, 1 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 8 RBIs, 3 BB, 9 SO, 0-for-0 SB

The Scoop: Melendez has underwhelmed since the D-backs drafted him in the second round out of Texas last year, but he showed what he was capable of last week. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound slugger homered in four straight games against Spokane after going homer-less to begin the season. Melendez hit solo shots in back-to-back games to open the series, took a day off and hit a three-run homer in his return. He extended his home run streak to four games the following night with his biggest blast of the week, launching the tie-breaking three-run homer in the top of the 10th inning to lift the Hops to victory. (KG).

17. Gabriel Hughes, RHP, Rockies
Team: High-A Spokane (Northwest)
Age: 21

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 SO, 0 HR

The Scoop: The 10th overall pick in last year’s draft got hit hard in back-to-back starts, but he got back on track against Hillsboro last week. Hughes pitched six scoreless innings with one hit allowed, two walks and eight strikeouts against the Hops to pick up his first win since Opening Day. He allowed a double in the first inning and held Hillsboro hitless the rest of the game, retiring 13 straight at one point. Hughes allowed only one baserunner after the first inning and promptly picked him off, showing the kind of ability to dominate that made him a top-10 pick a year ago. (KG)

18. Jean Pinto, RHP, Orioles
Team: High-A Aberdeen (South Atlantic)
Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 0-0, 1.08, 8.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 15 SO, 0 HR

The Scoop: The Orioles surprisingly sent Pinto back to Aberdeen after he posted a 3.83 ERA and averaged 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings for the IronBirds last year, but the Venezuelan righthander has taken the assignment in stride. Pinto tossed four no-hit innings with one walk and seven strikeouts in the series opener against Hudson Valley last week and pitched four innings with three hits and one run allowed, one walk and eight strikeouts in the series finale. Pinto has a 2.08 ERA in seven starts at Aberdeen this year while improving his WHIP, hits per nine, home runs per nine, walks per nine and strikeouts per nine rates from last season, and is showing he’s ready for Double-A Bowie. (KG)

19. Hunter Goodman, C, Rockies 
Team: Double-A Hartford (Eastern) 
Age: 23

Why He’s Here: .240/.345/.800 (6-for-25), 6 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 9 RBIs, 4 BB, 4 SO, 0-for-0 SB

The Scoop: It’s been a standout opening to the season for Goodman, who’s done nothing but slug week after week while showing advancements in his plate discipline and bat-to-ball skills. Goodman homered in three consecutive contests last week and collected an extra-base hit in five out of seven games. On the season Goodman is hitting .270/.355/.664 with a dozen home runs over 32 games and is tied with the Cardinals’ Chandler Redmond for the most home runs by a non-Triple-A hitter. With the performance that Goodman has put on in Hartford thus far it would not be a shock to see Goodman promoted to Albuquerque in the coming weeks. (GP)

20. Ceddanne Rafaela, OF, Red Sox
Team: Double-A Portland (Eastern)
Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .238/.304/.286 (5-for-21), 3 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 11 SB, 0 CS.

The Scoop: This may be the worst slash line we’ve ever put on the Hot Sheet. If not, the likely holder of that record would be Billy Hamilton in the season that he ran his way to a minor league record 155 steals in 2012. Rafaela may not threaten Hamilton’s single-season stolen base record, but his six steals on Saturday were more than Hamilton has ever had in a single game (Hamilton twice stole five bases in a game). Rafaela actually had a seventh bag swiped, but after he stole second in the ninth inning, his theft of third was ruled to be defensive indifference. The next day, he stole three more. (JC)


Chandler Simpson, OF, Rays
Low-A Charleston (Carolina)
Age: 22

There’s a lot of talk about where Enrique Bradfield will go in the 2023 MLB Draft. He’s a polished hitter who is a dynamic basestealer, but one whose power is quite limited. Consider Simpson, who came to pro ball with this path a year earlier, the prototype. Simpson actually led Division I in batting average last year, but there were concerns about how his slap-hitting approach would play in pro ball. So far, he’s found the liberalized base-stealing rules of pro ball to be quite enticing. He’s swiped 23 bags in 28 games, while holding his own with a .274/.349/.336 slash line. The Rays quickly moved Simpson off the dirt, where his well below-average arm didn’t profile, but he has the speed to be an asset defensively in center or left field. (JC)

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