Hot Sheet: Baseball's 20 Hottest Prospects From The Past Week (6/21/21)
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 June 20. Contributing this week were Josh Norris, JJ Cooper, Ben Badler 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.
1. Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Royals
Team: Double-A Northwest Arkansas (Central)
Why He’s Here: .500/.522/.955 (11-for-22), 3 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 6 RBIs, 1 BB, 3 SO, 3 SB.
The Scoop: Witt celebrated his 21st birthday by having yet another standout week. After his slow start in May, Witt has been one of the best hitters in Double-A Central in June. Witt has had two or more hits in each of his past five games. He got everything but the easiest part of a cycle (the single) on Wednesday.
When the Royals were wrapping up spring training, there was a debate as to whether it made sense for Witt to begin the season on the MLB roster. Without any time above Rookie ball, Witt needed a few weeks in Double-A to get his feet under him, but now, he looks like he’s ready to hit his way out of the league before too long. He’s second in the league in home runs (11), fourth in slugging percentage (.561) and second in total bases (88). (JC)
2. Joe Gray Jr., OF, Brewers
Team: Low-A Carolina (East)
Why He’s Here: .474/.583/.895 (9-for-19), 6 R, 4 2B, 2 3B, 0 HR, 5 RBIs, 3 BB, 4 SO
The Scoop: Gray has been one of the most dominant players in his league all season long, boasting a multi-faceted game with extremely loud tools on both sides of the ball. His two triples this week gave him seven for the year and elevated him past Wander Franco for the minor league lead (safe to say, Franco probably won’t be catching him any time soon). He is one of just three players in the minors with double-digit doubles, homers and stolen bases. (JN)
3. Glenn Otto, RHP, Yankees
Team: Double-A Somerset (Northeast)
Why He’s Here: 2-0, 0.69, 13 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 19 SO
The Scoop: Otto has broken out this season in a big way thanks to the addition of a slider and slightly tweaked mechanics. The slider has given Otto a weapon to combat righthanders, and the results have been excellent. Otto’s week began with a 14-strikeout gem against Richmond, his second start of the year with 14 whiffs and his fourth with double-digit Ks. He added five more whiffs in his second start of the week, which pushed him past Hunter Greene into second place in the minor leagues, behind only Nationals top prospect Cade Cavalli. (JN)
4. Reid Detmers, LHP, Angels
Team: Double-A Rocket City (South)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 3.00, 6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 HR, 2 BB, 14 SO.
The Scoop: Detmers was already a good enough pitcher to be a top-10 pick in the 2020 draft. But a year later, it’s clear that he’s improved. His velocity has taken a step forward—he now will sit 93-94 for innings at a time, up from the 90-92 mph he sat in college. His slider has sharpened as well. Other than a fastball that Chris Devanney pulled for a two-run home run, Detmers was in full control against Biloxi on Sunday. That was never more clear than in the first, when he had an immaculate inning: nine pitches, nine strikes, three strikeouts. In three June starts, Detmers has averaged 18 strikeouts per nine innings. (JC)
And thanks to Rocket City, here’s the strikeout pitch on all 14 of his Ks on Sunday.
5. Spencer Strider, RHP, Braves
Team: High-A Rome (East)
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 1.50, 1 GS, 6 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 HR, 1 BB, 12 SO.
The Scoop: Last year’s abbreviated season and shortened five-round draft meant that some players who were likely to emerge over the course of a full college season are instead breaking through in their pro debuts. It’s hard to think of anyone who has done more to leap into prospect recognition than Strider. After an impressive freshman year at Clemson in 2018, Strider missed all of 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery. The coronavirus-induced season shut down meant he only got 12 innings to show his stuff in 2020. That was enough for the Braves, and they are reaping the rewards now, as Strider’s stuff in 2021 has been as good as almost any pitcher in the minors. Strider did touch 97 mph in 2020. Now he’s touching 99 mph while mixing in a plus breaking ball that pairs well with his fastball. Strider has struck out 56 of the 119 batters he’s faced this year. He’s allowed one home run all year. He’s having a near perfect season so far. (JC).
6. Tucupita Marcano, INF/OF, Padres
Team: Triple-A El Paso (West)
Why He's Here: .455/.500/.955 (10-for-22), 8 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 7 RBIs, 2 BB, 2 SO
The Scoop: Marcano hasn't done much when he's been up in the big leagues this year, hitting just .182/.280/.205 at the varsity level. But Triple-A hasn't given him any issues, as he continues to display impressive bat control from the left side, producing a .286/.365/.495 line in 22 games. (BB)
7. Riley Greene, CF, Tigers
Team: Double-A Erie (Northeast)
Why He’s Here: .435/.519/.826 (10-for-23), 6 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 4 BB, 5 SO.
The Scoop: When Greene was drafted, the expectation was that he would prove to be one of the more polished and impressive hitters in the 2018 draft class. The hope was that he would do so while also proving to be a capable center fielder, which would provide more defensive value than most evaluators expected. Greene is living up to those significant expectations and hopes. Not only has he proven capable of handling Double-A as one of the youngest players at the level, but he’s done so while proving to be a center fielder capable of highlight-reel catches. (JC)
8. Gabriel Moreno, C, Blue Jays
Team: Double-A New Hampshire (Northeast)
Why He's Here: .421/.450/.947 (8-for-19), 6 R, 1 2B, 3 HRs, 10 RBIs, 1 BB, 2 SO
The Scoop: Moreno has gotten better each season since signing with the Blue Jays out of Venezuela in 2016. He had a breakout year in Low-A in 2019, showed signs that more was coming last year, and now he has ascended into one of the game's best catchers, mixing high-end athleticism for a catcher with strong contact skills and power that continue to increase and translate more against live pitching with a .388/.438/.690 slash line and eight home runs in 29 games. (BB)
9. Anthony Volpe, SS, Yankees
Team: Low-A Tampa (Southeast)
Why He’s Here: .368/.478/.947 (7-for-19), 5 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 4 BB, 3 SO
The Scoop: Evaluators have raved about Volpe this season, touting his polished skills and exceptional work ethic so far in his first full year as a pro. This week, his full set of gifts showed up. He made plenty of contact, drove the ball with authority, sped around the bases and limited his swings and misses. The Yankees’ first-rounder from 2019 dealt with a bout of mononucleosis in his pro debut which muted his performance, then sat out during the coronavirus pandemic. He’s emerged as a player who much more closely resembles the one the Yankees saw at Delbarton (N.J.) High, and is part of an impressive group of middle infielders in the upper echelons of New York’s system. (JN)
10. Oswald Peraza, SS, Yankees
Team: Double-A Somerset (Northeast)
Why He’s Here: .435/.519/.696 (10-for-23), 9 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBIs, 3 BB, 5 SO
The Scoop: Peraza is one of the fastest-rising prospects in the Yankees’ system, having performed well enough at High-A Hudson Valley to earn a quick promotion to Double-A Somerset. He’s talented on both sides of the ball, with the marks of a true shortstop with the potential for offensive impact. He turned 21 on Tuesday and spent the week celebrating with a barrage of hits against Richmond. Of his 14 hits at his new level, 10 came this week, boosting his Double-A slash line to an excellent .298/.377/.489 through a dozen games. (JN)
11. Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Orioles
Team: Double-A Bowie
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 3.72, 9.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 14 SO
The Scoop: After looking like a potential front-of-the-rotation starter in his pro debut in 2019 and instructional league in 2020, Rodriguez has carried on looking like a future ace in 2021. The 21-year-old righthander made another pair of solid starts at Double-A last week and is now 2-0, 2.29 with 28 strikeouts and six walks in 19.2 innings since he was promoted from High-A Aberdeen. Overall Rodriguez is tied for third in the minor leagues with 68 strikeouts and is firmly solidifying his lofty projections. (KG)
12. Ethan Small, LHP, Brewers
Team: Double-A Biloxi (South)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 1 GS, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 SO.
The Scoop: Watching Small pitch gives one a chance to enjoy a pitcher who creates advantages by using subtle aspects of his craft. Small will sometimes pause in his delivery, hanging on his left foot before driving off the rubber and coming home. At other times he’ll speed up his delivery. He does not light up a radar gun, but his low-90s fastball gets swings and misses at times up in the strike zone and he seems to always have feel for his plus changeup. Small had a 12-0 lead before the end of the third inning in this week’s start. With such a massive lead, Small was efficient. He needed only 87 pitches to work through seven scoreless innings. (JC)
13. Jarren Duran, OF, Red Sox
Team: Triple-A Worcester (East)
Why He's Here: .385/.448/.692 (10-for-26), 4 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBIs, 2 BB, 7 SO
The Scoop: It's safe to say the swing changes Duran has made have been effective. Those swing improvements have allowed the raw power that Duran has to show up more in games, with Duran hitting .286/.379/.627 and belting 12 home runs in 30 games. That's more dingers than he hit his previous two seasons, when he hit eight homers in 199 games, and it's helped Duran become one of the most exciting power/speed threats in the minors. (BB)
14. Roansy Contreras, RHP, Pirates
Team: Double-A Altoona (Northeast)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.29, 7 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 SO
The Scoop: Contreras continues to look like the prize of the Jameson Taillon deal for the Pirates. The 21-year-old righthander delivered his longest outing of the season against Erie last week and is now 3-1, 2.03 with 57 strikeouts and nine walks in 40 innings on the season. Most impressively, opponents just can’t seem to hit him. He’s allowing only 5.2 hits per nine innings this season and has limited batters to a .163/.217/.243 slash line. (KG)
15. Brayan Bello, RHP, Red Sox
Team: Double-A Portland
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 1.69, 5.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 SO
The Scoop: Bello long showed promising stuff but struggled with his command and deception at lower levels. That problem appears to have been alleviated. Bello continued his breakthrough year with another strong start last week to improve to 5-0, 2.20 on the season between High-A and Double-A. He has 57 strikeouts and only 10 walks in 41.2 innings and, importantly, has been less hittable than he was in the past. After surrendering 135 hits in 117.2 innings and allowing a .286/.348/.442 opponent average in his last full season in 2019, Bello has allowed only 32 hits in 41.2 innings this season and held opponents to a .216/.266/.324 slash line. (KG)
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16. Curtis Mead, 3B, Rays
Team: Low-A Charleston (East)
Why He's Here: .407/.429/.815 (11-for-27), 6 R, 5 2B, 2 HR, 10 RBIs, 1 BB, 3 SO, 2-for-2 SB
The Scoop: Mead signed with the Phillies out of Australia and hit well as an 18-year-old in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2019. The Phillies traded him to the Rays after that season for lefthander Cristopher Sanchez, but this season is the first that his new organization has been able to get a true feel for him on an everyday basis. The early returns have been promising, with Mead hitting .333/.385/.532 through 35 games. (BB)
17. Bryan Ramos, 3B, White Sox
Team: Low-A Kannapolis (East)
Why He’s Here: .333/.385/.917 (8-for-24), 6 R, 2 2B, 4 HR, 5 RBIs, 0 BB, 2 SO
The Scoop: It’s been a miserable season so far for Kannapolis, but things are beginning to look up. After splitting against Carolina two weeks ago for their first non-losing series of the season, the Cannon Ballers picked up their first series win against Down East last week. Ramos led the charge with a pair of two-homer games and raised his OPS to .809, making him one of the few bright spots on a Kannapolis team whose record stands at 11-30 even after an improved two-week stretch. (KG)
18. Wander Franco, SS, Rays
Team: Triple-A Durham (East)
Why He’s Here: .346/.370/.692 (9-for-26), 5 R, 1 2B, 4 3B, 0 HR, 4 RBIs, 1 BB, 4 SO
The Scoop: Obviously, his placement on the Hot Sheet is not the biggest Wander Franco news of the day. That, of course, would be his impending debut in the big leagues on Tuesday. For his final bow in a short but illustrious minor league career, Franco, just 20 years old, slammed four triples to pull himself within one of the minor league lead. Of all the numbers he’s put up in his time as a pro, perhaps the most impressive involves his plate discipline. In an era when strikeouts reign, Franco, who never played a game at Double-A and will not turn 21 until roughly Grapefruit League play in 2021, drew 95 walks and struck out just 75 times. To put that in perspective, two minor leaguers have struck out 68 times this season … nine times fewer than Franco has in his career. Franco has the potential to be a true five-tool talent and the eventual centerpiece of one of the best teams in the big leagues. Starting Tuesday, we’ll find out what a Wanderful world it can be. (JN)
19. Francisco Alvarez, C, Mets
Team: High-A Brooklyn (East)
Why He’s Here: .364/.462/.682 (8-for-22), 6 R, 4 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, 4 BB, 6 SO
The Scoop: The list of recent 17-year-olds who starred in the Appalachian League is illustrious, including Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Wander Franco and Alvarez. After a year without a minor league season, Alvarez has opened his first full season in impressive fashion. The 19-year-old backstop has shown impact potential at the plate with strength, balance and feel for the barrel, and already earned a quick move to High-A Brooklyn. He’s no slouch defensively, either, although there are certainly rough edges to polish, specifically when it comes to his throwing mechanics to help his arm strength play up. Alvarez is part of an extremely talented trio at Brooklyn, which also includes infielders Ronny Mauricio and Brett Baty, which should give the Mets optimism for their long-term future. (JN)
20. Penn Murfee, RHP, Mariners
Team: Double-A Arkansas (Central)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 11 SO
The Scoop: Murfee does things unconventionally both on and off the mound, but he simply gets results. After a slow start to this season, he got on track with a pair of solid outings to start the month and had one of the best performances of the minor league season last week. Murfee went the distance in Arkansas’ 2-0 win over Tulsa, outdoing Dodgers No. 8 prospect Ryan Pepiot in a masterful performance. He retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced, didn’t allow a runner past second base and held strong for 109 pitches. In the ninth, Murfee struck out the side to finish the shutout in style. (KG)
Angel Martinez, SS, Indians
Two years ago, Martinez made his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League and ranked as the No. 7 prospect in the DSL. Now, Martinez keeps rising, with a blend of savvy and skills in the middle infield. A 19-year-old switch-hitter, Martinez is batting .281/.379/.500 through 31 games for Low-A Lynchburg, showing a quick, compact swing with a good sense for the strike zone and more power than he showed a couple years ago. His high baseball IQ is apparent in all facets of the game, from the way he manages his at-bats to how he runs the bases and his internal clock at shortstop. (BB)