Hot Sheet: Baseball's 20 Hottest Prospects From The Past Week (7/20/21)
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 27. Contributing this week were Josh Norris 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.
1. Orelvis Martinez, SS, Blue Jays
Team: Low-A Dunedin (Southeast)
Why He’s Here: .500/.563/1.357 (14-for-28), 10 R, 3 2B, 0 3B, 7 HR, 16 RBIs, 3 BB, 6 SO
The Scoop: Martinez is one of the most gifted prospects in Toronto’s system, and he showed a very loud glimpse at his potential this past week. He entered the week with eight home runs and closed it with 15. The cherry on top was a three-homer game on July 17. His three homers that day had exit velocities of 100 mph or better. (JC)
2. Zac Veen, OF, Rockies
Team: Low-A Fresno (West)
Why He’s Here: .667/.750/1.556 (12-for-18), 12 R, 1 2B, 5 HR, 14 RBIs, 5 BB, 3 SO, 1 SB, 2 CS
The Scoop: After taking about two weeks to find his footing in the Low-A West league, Veen has been a very steady performer. He’s shown his hitting ability and has gotten on-base at an impressive clip. But this past week was the one where he shifted gears from being a productive hitter to a dominant one. Veen came into the week with four home runs. He left it with nine. He came into the week with two three-hit games this season. This week he had a three-hit game and a four-hit performance. Away from Fresno, Veen is now hitting .305/.429/.525. He’s showing signs of being the middle-of-the-lineup force he has been projected to be. (JC)
3. Justin Foscue, 2B, Rangers
Team: High-A Hickory (East)
Why He’s Here: .471/.500/1.529 (8-for-17), 8 R, 3 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, 10 RBIs, 1 BB, 3 SO
The Scoop: After being sidelined for a little more than a month, Foscue, the Rangers’ first-round pick in 2020, is back with a vengeance. He finished his rehab stint in the Arizona Complex League with a home run, then swatted six more in his first five games back with Hickory. Given his advanced pedigree, a move to Double-A Frisco might be in the offing. (JN)
4. Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Orioles
Team: Double-A Bowie (Northeast)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 12 SO
The Scoop: Rodriguez is ranked as the best pitching prospect in the minor leagues, and he showed exactly why during a premium matchup in his most recent start. Facing the prospect-laden (Spencer Torkelson, Riley Greene, Dillon Dingler) Erie club, Rodriguez carved. The Texan fanned a career-best 12 hitters with his signature upper-90s fastball and nasty slider fronting a four-pitch mix. His 20.5% swinging-strike rate is the best in the minor leagues. (JN)
5. Vinnie Pasquantino, 1B, Royals
Team: High-A Quad Cities (Central)
Why He’s Here: .579/.667/.684 (11-for-19), 2 R, 2 2B, 3 HR, 5 RBIs, 5 BB, 0 SO, 1 SB
The Scoop: An 11th-round pick out of Old Dominion in 2019, Pasquantino was productive throughout his college career, although he did miss some time with a back injury as a sophomore. He’s been just as confident in the batter’s box as a pro. The big first baseman (6-foot-4, 245 pounds) hit 14 home runs in just 57 games at Rookie-level Burlington in 2019. He’s on roughly the same home run pace with Quad Cities with 13 home runs in 61 games while walking (33) nearly as much as he strikes out (38). Pasquantino isn’t a top prospect, but sluggers who can make plenty of contact are worth keeping an eye on. (JC)
6. Jose Barrero, SS, Reds
Team: Triple-A Louisville (East)
Why He’s Here: .500/.633/.864 (11-for-22), 8 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBIs, 6 BB, 5 SO
The Scoop: Barrero didn’t show much with the bat in his big league debut in the 2020 season, but some added strength along the way and more developmental reps have led to big results in 2021. Barrero projects to stick at shortstop and is showing the makings of a hitter with a solid amount of power to match. In a system with Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo, Barrero leads the way for the position players. (JN)
7. Robert Hassell III, OF, Padres
Team: Low-A Lake Elsinore (West)
Why He’s Here: .500/.613/.625 (12-for-24), 9 R, 3 2B, 1 RBI, 7 BB, 4 SO, 1 SB, 1 CS
The Scoop: During draft week for 2021 draftees, it was a good week for several of the top picks of the 2020 first round. Veen and Hassell were compared frequently during the leadup to the 2020 draft. And much like Veen, Hassell has found another gear in July. Hassell is hitting .400/.487/.523 in July with five three-hit games. The center fielder hasn’t homered since June 12, but he’s racking up doubles in bunches with eight this month. (JC)
8. Austin Shenton, 3B, Mariners
Team: Double-A Arkansas (Central)
Why He’s Here: .526/.609/1.211 (10-for-21), 7 R, 5 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBIs, 4 BB, 1 SO
The Scoop: Shenton is one of those players who hits, hits and hits some more. He did just that through the first half of the season with High-A Everett, then earned a promotion to Double-A Arkansas. Can you guess what he did in his first game at the new level? He got two hits. Two days later, he got three more. In 60 games this season, Shenton has gone hitless 10 times. He’s collected two or more hits 22 times. (JN)
9. Kevin Smith, SS, Blue Jays
Team: Triple-A Buffalo (East)
Why He’s Here: .500/.538/1.042 (12-for-24), 5 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 9 RBIs, 2 BB, 5 SO.
The Scoop: One of the breakout stars in 2018, Smith’s 2019 season quickly fell apart and the canceled 2020 season meant he didn’t get to prove that his 2018 dominance was more his speed than the 2019 struggles. But here he is halfway through 2021 and his Triple-A numbers look a lot like they did when he was bashing home runs in 2018. Smith is tied for third in the Triple-A East with 15 home runs and is fourth in slugging (.583). (JC)
10. Jose De La Cruz, OF, Tigers
Team: Rookie-level Florida Complex
Why He’s Here: .524/.583/.904 (11-for-21), 5 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 2 BB, 6 SO, 1 SB, 1 CS
The Scoop: The Tigers discovered that De La Cruz is not ready for Low-A. His time at Lakeland (.127/.209/.183) is best forgotten. But De La Cruz is more than ready for the Florida Complex League. He has an eight-game hitting streak and just finished a streak of six straight multi-hit games, capped by a 4-for-5 day against the FCL Yankees. (JC).
11. M.J. Melendez, C, Royals
Team: Double-A Northwest Arkansas (Central)
Why He’s Here: .391/.440/.870 (9-for-23), 7 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 6 RBIs, 2 BB, 5 SO
The Scoop: Now that Bobby Witt Jr. and Nick Pratto have been promoted to Triple-A Omaha, Melendez can stand out as the centerpiece of the Naturals’ lineup. Along with Pratto, Melendez dealt with a rough season at High-A Wilmington in 2019. This year, both have been resurgent. In particular, Melendez’s 19 home runs this year are tied with the Angels’ Jo Adell for the most in the minors among 22-year-olds. (JN)
12. Marco Luciano, SS, Giants
Team: Low-A San Jose (West)
Why He’s Here: .435/.552/.652 (10-for-23), 9 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 6 RBIs, 6 BB, 7 SO
The Scoop: Luciano is one of just two players in the minors who are 19 years old or younger and have hit 15 or more homers. His OPS (.928) is fifth among that group as well, and his isolated power (.271) is third among his peers in their final teenage year. (JN)
13. Nolan Gorman, 3B, Cardinals
Team: Triple-A Memphis (West)
Why He’s Here: .375/.464/.917 (9-for-24), 6 R, 1 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 10 RBIs, 4 BB, 4 SO
The Scoop: Even with a season lost to the pandemic, Gorman has zoomed to Triple-A. He reached the level in just 231 games. That’s faster than any high schooler from the first five rounds of the 2018 draft class other than Mariners prospect Jarred Kelenic. So far, so good for Gorman at the minors’ highest level. He’s already collected a pair of three-hit games with Memphis, and four of his first 13 hits have left the yard. (JN)
Baseball America Prospect Report — July 30, 2021
Orelvis Martinez goes yard again, a Yankees draft pick pops up and more in today's prospect report.
14. Jordan Balazovic, RHP, Twins
Team: Double-A Wichita (Central)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 1 GS, 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 11 SO.
The Scoop: Balazovic sat out the first month of the minor league season rehabbing a back injury. Since returning, he’s shown few ill effects. He’s rattled off three straight scoreless starts, compiling an 18.2-inning scoreless streak. Balazovic started that streak by holding Amarillo hitless for 5.2 innings. This week he held Tulsa to one hit in seven innings while striking out 11. That’s tied for his second-most strikeouts ever and are the most he’s recorded this year. (JC)
15. Jo Adell, OF, Angels
Team: Triple-A Salt Lake (West)
Why He’s Here: .429/.538/.762 (9-for-21), 5 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 6 RBIs, 5 BB, 6 SO, 2 SB.
The Scoop: It’s hard to know what to make of Adell’s 2021 season. In many ways, it’s excellent. He leads Triple-A West with 19 home runs and shares the league lead with four triples. But there’s still a nagging concern that the high strikeout rate (29.5%) and low walk rate (6.8%) he’s showing this year means that if he came back up to the big leagues, he’d struggle the way he did in 2020. It’s notable that the Angels called up Brandon Marsh instead of Adell this week, even though Marsh’s Triple-A numbers were overall less impressive. Adell has cut his strikeout rate and improved his walk rate this month while hitting .359/.417/.594. If he keeps that up those concerns about a repeat of his 2020 struggles should fade to the background. (JC)
16. Jose Miranda, 2B, Twins
Team: Triple-A St. Paul (East)
Why He’s Here: .385/.448/.692 (10-for-26), 4 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBIs, 3 BB, 3 SO.
The Scoop: So how do you follow-up one of the best debuts a player will ever have? By just going out and getting hit after hit. Miranda is working on a seven-game hitting streak. He has six multi-hit games in just 18 Triple-A games. Sure, it’s nothing like his three-home run debut with St. Paul, but it’s still more of what he’s done all year. His stats with St. Paul are nearly identical to what he was doing at Double-A Wichita. His defensive questions remain, but he’s playing first, second and third. (JC)
17. Josh Lowe, OF, Rays
Team: Triple-A Durham (East)
Why He’s Here: .300/.360/1.000 (6-for-20), 6 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 9 RBIs, 3 BB, 8 SO
The Scoop: Even with Wander Franco, Vidal Brujan and Taylor Walls in the big leagues, the Durham Bulls still have plenty of prospect power. Lowe leads the way in the lineup with his combination of power and speed. He lashed four home runs this week, including a massive blast off the brick batter’s eye just to the left of dead center field. He is the only player in Triple-A with 13 or more stolen bases and 13 or more home runs. (JN)
18. Ryne Nelson, RHP, D-Backs
Team: Double-A Amarillo
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 1.69, 2 GS, 10.2 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 HR, 6 BB, 16 SO.
The Scoop: Nelson couldn’t make starting work in college as Oregon scrapped the experiment after just four outings as a junior. He’s making a better go of it in pro ball. Nelson pitched his way out of High-A Hillsboro and is adjusting to Double-A. His first start of this week was only OK, but he held Midland to two hits in six scoreless innings with eight strikeouts in his second start against them. (JC)
19. Josh Mears, OF, Padres
Team: Low-A Lake Elsinore (West)
Why He’s Here: .480/.567/.920 (12-for-25), 4 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 13 RBIs, 4 BB, 5 SO
The Scoop: Mears’ game is power, power and more power. He hits balls harder than most everybody in the minors, and this past week was particularly hazardous to pitchers. His 12 home runs are third in the Padres’ system and the best among players at the lower levels. There’s a ton of swing and miss there as well (he’s striking out at a 35.8% clip and has a system-worst 17% swinging-strike rate) but has also produced a .402 on-base percentage. (JN)
20. Brent Rooker, 1B, Twins
Team: Triple-A St. Paul (East)
Why He’s Here: .304/.393/1.000 (7-for-23) 9 R, 1 2B, 5 HR, 13 RBIs, 3 BB, 9 SO.
The Scoop: The good news is Rooker is the Triple-A East home run leader. The bad news for Rooker is that in a year where the injury-ravaged Twins have played nine different players in left field with the big league club, Rooker has spent almost the entire season back at Triple-A. His lack of defensive versatility is a big hurdle for him to overcome, but he can mash Triple-A pitching while he figures that out. (JC).
Baron Radcliff, OF, Phillies
A fifth-round pick out of Georgia Tech last year, Radcliff is currently hitting .197 at Low-A Clearwater. It may seem odd to indicate that a player with college experience hitting under .200 in Low-A is in an upward ascent, but there is more to Radcliff than meets the eye. Radcliff does have a .414 on-base percentage, which is remarkable considering his batting average. But this is the land of robo-umps (automated ball-strike calling), so Radcliff’s OBP actually ranks 11th among Low-A Southeast hitters with 100 or more plate appearances. What makes Radcliff even more notable is how hard he hits the ball. Radcliff’s 112.8 mph exit velocity on a home run is tied for the fourth-hardest hit ball in play measured in the Low-A Southeast league this year. His median exit velocity of 95.45 mph is fourth best in the league as well. (JC)