Hot Sheet: Baseball’s 20 Hottest Prospects From The Past Week (6/13/23)

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 how minor league players performed through June 12. Contributing this week were Josh Norris, Geoff Pontes, J.J. Cooper and Kyle Glaser.

This simply recognizes how 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. Michael Busch, 2B, Dodgers
Team: Triple-A Oklahoma City (Pacific Coast)
Age: 25

Why He’s Here: .500/.533/1.077 (13-for-26), 7 R, 4 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 11 RBIs, 3 BB, 6 SO, 0-for-0 SB

The Scoop: Busch struggled in the weeks following his demotion to Triple-A after his major league debut, but he got back on track in a big way last week. Busch delivered a hit in all six games for Oklahoma City against El Paso, including four multi-hit games. He hit three home runs—matching his season total—and racked up 28 total bases, most in the minor leagues. Busch notably played every game at third base, a continuing development as he tries to find an avenue for playing time in Los Angeles. (KG)

2. Luis Matos, OF, Giants
Team: Triple-A Sacramento (Pacific Coast)
Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .393/.433/.964 (11-for-28), 7 R, 1 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, 9 RBIs, 2 BB, 2 SO, 2-for-2 SB

The Scoop: By now, prospect watchers are aware that Matos is in the midst of a full-blown bounceback season. After a down year in 2022, the outfielder is once again showing the combination of contact and impact that made him such a tantalizing talent in 2021, when he starred in the California League. Matos bashed his way out of Double-A quickly and has kept hitting in Triple-A. He slammed five home runs last week against Las Vegas, one more than the total he had all season entering the series. (JN)

3. Jud Fabian, OF, Orioles
Team: High-A Aberdeen (South Atlantic) 
Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .579/.640/1.211 (11-for-19), 8 R, 3 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 11 RBIs, 4 BB, 5 SO, 2-for-2 SB

The Scoop: It was a huge week for the former Florida star, as Fabian collected four multi-hit games and had a hit in five out of six contests. Fabian’s best game of the week came on Sunday when he went 4-for-5 with a home run and five RBIs. After not signing with the Red Sox in the second round of the 2021 draft, Fabian returned to school and ended up going in the supplemental second round to the Orioles. The outfielder is a strong defender with good on-base skills and above-average power. (GP) 

4. Clayton Beeter, RHP, Yankees
Team: Double-A Somerset (Eastern)
Age: 24

Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.00, 11 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 17 SO, 0 HR

The Scoop: Beeter came over to the Yankees in the trade that sent Joey Gallo to the Dodgers. Upon his arrival, New York’s pitching development team saw a pitcher with physicality and an under-utilized changeup. This year, their focus has been on preparing him to handle a starter’s workload and teaching him how to gut it out once fatigue sets in. Lately, those lessons have paid off. The righthander dominated in two starts last week and is now tied with Bowie’s Cade Povich for the Eastern League strikeout lead. (JN)

5. Luke Ritter, 2B, Mets
Team: Double-A Binghamton (Eastern)
Age: 26

Why He’s Here: .375/.444/1.125 (9-for-24), 11 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 5 HRs, 12 RBIs, 3 BB, 13 SO.

The Scoop: It was the best of weeks and the worst of weeks for Ritter. Midweek, he had a game where he went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, and he followed it by going 1-for-4 with three strikeouts the next day. No problem. Beginning the week with back-to-back homer games and finishing the week with a three-home run game will help wipe away any memory of the midweek games. Ritter has started playing second and third base more again recently after he was playing mainly first base last month. That’s useful, as his best path to the big leagues is as a versatile bat who can provide some power when he gets a pitch he likes. (JC)

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

Why He’s Here: .393/.452/.893 (11-for-28), 8 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 13 RBIs, 3 BB, 6 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: Fernandez’s calling card is his light-tower power, and he’s proved lately that he has unlimited long distance coverage. The Cuban product is part of a ferocious middle of the order on a stacked Spokane club that leads all of High-A in runs scored. Fernandez walloped three more homers this past week, bringing his season total to 16 and placing himself in a tie with teammate Jordan Beck for the most in all of High-A and just two off the minor league lead, currently held by the Angels’ Jo Adell. (JN)

7. Drew Thorpe, RHP, Yankees
Team: High-A Hudson Valley (South Atlantic)
Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 12 SO, 0 HR

The Scoop: As an amateur, Thorpe was known for his command and his outstanding changeup. As a pro, building velocity has been job one, and he’s added a tick or two so far, but he still gets his outs via guile and pitchability. That formula showed up in spades last week, when he spun seven shutout innings with a dozen strikeouts. The outburst brought his season total to 71 strikeouts, just four behind teammate and South Atlantic League leader Chase Hampton, who has been one of the minors’ breakout arms in 2023. (JN)

8. Devin Mann, 2B/OF, Dodgers
Team: Triple-A Oklahoma City (Pacific Coast)
Age: 26

Why He’s Here: .455/.500/1.046 (10-for-22), 8 R, 1 2B, 4 HR, 7 RBIs, 3 BB, 4 SO, 0-for-0 SB

The Scoop: Traditionally a slow starter, Mann began to heat up in May and has caught fire in June. The Louisville product continued his red-hot start to the month with four home runs in six games against El Paso last week, including a multi-homer game on June 9. Overall Mann delivered three multi-hit games during the series and is now batting .444 with a 1.319 OPS in his last 14 games. (KG)

9. Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 1B
Team: Triple-A Louisville (International)
Age: 23

Why He’s Here: .526/.640/1.105 (10-for-19), 9 R, 2 BB, 3 HR, 8 RBIs, 6 BB, 3 SO.

The Scoop: Encarnacion-Strand spotted the minors three weeks and he’s still tied for third in the minors in home runs, just one homer behind leaders Jo Adell and Luken Baker. Since coming off the injured list on April 23, Encarnacion-Strand’s longest homerless streak is five games. He’s also hitting .362 this year, which raised his career minor league batting average to .328. Why does that matter? As much as you may want to think of batting average as an old-school stat, here’s the entire list of MiLB hitters with 800-plus PAs and a .325 or better batting average since 2010 and their current fWAR.

Brandon Belt 25.8
Adam Eaton 19.4
Mike Trout 84.1
Kyle Seager 35.2
Wander Franco 8.0
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 9.8
Luis Arraez 9.2
Julio Rodriguez 7.2
Oscar Taveras -0.9
Jose Altuve 48.9
Christian Encarnacion-Strand ?

Other than the late Taveras, every other MLB hitter on that list is a pretty safe bet to post 10-plus career WAR and the majority are going to finish their careers well above 20. (JC)

10. Emerson Hancock, RHP, Mariners
Team: Double-A Arkansas (Texas)
Age: 24

Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.75, 12 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 13 SO, 0 HR

The Scoop: It’s been a difficult season for Hancock, but the 2020 first-round pick made positive strides last week. Hancock won both of his starts for Arkansas against Tulsa, outdueling a pair of highly-touted pitching prospects in the process. Hancock pitched six scoreless innings in the series opener to beat highly-regarded Dodgers prospect Nick Frasso and pitched six innings with one run allowed in the finale to outlast hard-throwing righthander Kyle Hurt. The showings lowered Hancock’s ERA from 6.25 to 4.99, and give him something positive to build on. (KG).

11. Jonathan Aranda, 2B, Rays
Team: Triple-A Louisville (International)
Age: 25

Why He’s Here: .556/.613/.741 (15-for-27), 6 R, 5 2B, 4 BB, 6 SO, 1 CS.

The Scoop: When June began, Aranda had a characteristic .404 on-base percentage and an equally characteristic .455 slugging percentage. That .266 batting average, however, was very uncharacteristic. He’s fixed that problem. Aranda is one of the best pure hitters in the minors, and last week he was truly at his best. He had back-to-back-to-back-to-back three-hit games. He had to settle for a two-hit game on Saturday and a single hit (a double) on Sunday. But already in just nine games this month, Aranda has 19 hits. And that batting average? It’s back to a much more normal .315. (JC)

12. Richard Fitts, RHP, Yankees
Team: Double-A Somerset (Eastern)
Age: 23

Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.13, 8 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 10 SO, 1 HR

The Scoop: After a rocky first two months, Fitts has turned a corner in the first two starts of June. The righthander has worked this season to find a consistent quality breaking ball—he currently utilizes a cutter and slider that each need to be tightened—but if the past two starts are any indication, he’s well on his way to achieving his goals. Fitts punched out 10 in his most recent turn and has 16 Ks in two June outings. He’s just four strikeouts behind teammate Clayton Beeter for the Eastern League lead. (JN)

13. Edwin Arroyo, SS, Reds
Team: High-A Dayton (Midwest)
Age: 19

Why He’s Here: .417/.440/.833 (10-for-24), 6 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 4 RBIs, 1 BB, 8 SO, 2 SB.

The Scoop: Arroyo at his best is a slick-fielding shortstop who has a better bat than most shortstops who get first noticed for their gloves. You wouldn’t have known that by watching the first two months of his 2023 season, however. He came into June with a .197/.247/.329 slash line. This month he’s started to heat up with the weather. He’s currently working on an 11-game hitting streak and after having just one three-hit game in his first 36 games, he has three in his past 11. (JC)

14. Chayce McDermott, RHP, Orioles
Team: Double-A Bowie (Eastern)
Age: 24 

Why He’s Here: 1-1, 2.00, 9 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 12 SO, 0 HR

The Scoop: McDermott was acquired by the Orioles in the trade that sent Trey Mancini to the Astros. McDermott went twice last week in Erie, turning in four- and five-inning efforts in each. McDermott generated double-digit whiffs in both starts last week, the ninth time he’s had an effort with double-digit swinging strikes. The righthander boasts a mid-90s fastball he can run up to 97-98 mph, with a slider as his primary secondary pitch. He’s been used in a piggyback role this year and tends to go four-to-five innings per start. (GP)

15. Jared Serna, 2B, Yankees
Team: Low-A Tampa (Florida State)
Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .310/.375/.690 (9-for-29), 6 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 8 RBIs, 2 BB, 7 SO

The Scoop: Serna entered the Yankees’ Top 30 prospects list this week on the strength of an offensive game centered around a strong approach and surprisingly hard contact for a player of his stature. After an underwhelming stint at Low-A to close 2022, Serna returned to the level in 2023 and has been excellent. He added three home runs to his ledger last week, bringing his season tally to 11, which leads the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. He also paces the FSL in hits (67) and total bases (113). (JN). 

16. Colt Keith, 3B, Tigers
Team: Double-A Erie (Eastern)
Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .429/.478/.905 (9-for-21), 5 R, 4 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 2 BB, 5 SO, 1-for-1 SB

The Scoop: It’s been a breakout season for Keith, who’s dominated the Double-A Eastern League this season despite being one of 11 players 21 years of age or younger on the circuit this season. Keith is hitting .332/.404/.597 with a dozen home runs over 51 games. Last week Keith collected a hit in all five games in which he played, including four multi-hit efforts. The infielder showed his balance of hit and power by going deep in two out of five games last week, and hit a double in four out of five games. He’s a talented young hitter with a balance of contact, approach and power. (GP)

17. Jordan Lawlar, SS, D-Backs
Team: Double-A Amarillo (Texas) 
Age: 20

Why He’s Here: .407/.429/.704 (11-for-27), 11 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 1 BB, 2 SO, 2-for-2 SB

The Scoop: After some growing pains to begin the season Lawlar has been hot the last few weeks, laying to waste some of the concerns around his season line. Last week Lawlar had a hit in all six games in which he played, including four multi-hit efforts. Lawlar showed off his varied skill set last week, hitting for power, showing a good approach, bat-to-ball skills and speed. He has 18 hits over the last two weeks, including three home runs. (GP)

18. Hayden Birdsong, RHP, Giants
Team: Low-A San Jose (California)
Age: 21

Why He’s Here: 0-0, 0.00, 8 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 11 SO, 0 HR

The Scoop: Birdsong, a 2022 sixth-round pick, turned in two scoreless four-inning efforts last week. In many ways the two turns were nearly identical as he faced 16 and 17 batters, respectively, walked one, allowed three hits and struck out five and six, respectively. Birdsong uses four pitches led by a mid-90s fastball with ride and heavy bore from a flatter approach angle. His primary secondary is a low-80s curveball with two-plane depth, but he’ll also show a sweepy slider and a changeup. (GP) 

19. Jose Ramos, OF, Dodgers
Team: Double-A Tulsa (Texas)
Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .385/.429/.692 (10-for-26), 5 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBIs, 2 BB, 10 SO, 0-for-1 SB

The Scoop: After going unprotected and unpicked in last year’s Rule 5 draft, Ramos has returned a much-improved player in 2023. The 22-year-old Dominican continued his redemption season with four consecutive multi-hit games against Arkansas last week, including homering on back-to-back days June 8-9. He is now batting .267/.372/.480 this season, a nearly 30-point improvement in his batting average from last year at the Class A levels. He’s done that while also playing an impressive center field after previously playing primarily in the corners. (KG).

20. AJ Vukovich, 3B, D-backs
Team: Double-A Amarillo (Texas)
Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .400/.465/.720 (10-for-25), 9 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBIS, 3 BB, 5 SO, 1 SB, 1 CS.

The Scoop: Vukovich has played five different positions this year for Amarillo, as shortstop, second base and catcher are the only positions left on his bingo card. Center field, which he played three times last week, is the newest development as he’d barely played it at all last year. At the plate, Vukovich has toned down his free-swinging ways this month, and it’s paying off. He struck out in 31.5% of plate appearances in April and 31.3% in May. This month, he’s slashed that to 16.7% and not surprisingly he’s having by far the best month of his season. His .385/.429/.846 slash line means his OPS this month (1.275) is almost as much as his April (.764) and May (.697) OPS marks put together. (JC)


Welbyn Francisca, SS, Guardians

In the most recent international period, Cleveland gave its highest bonus to Francisca, a shortstop from Venezuela. The 17-year-old doesn’t cut an imposing figure … but he can hit. He shows good rhythm and barrel accuracy from both sides of the plate, and he’s gone off in the early days of the DSL. So far, Francisca has hit in every game, recorded multiple hits in all but one contest and finished two games a hit shy of the cycle. Francisca has made enough defensive progress that he might stick at shortstop, but even if he has to move to second base he seems poised to add to Cleveland’s wellspring of talented middle infielders. (JN)

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