Hot Sheet: Baseball's 20 Hottest Prospects From The Past Week (7/27/21)
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, 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.
1. Keibert Ruiz, C, Dodgers
Team: Triple-A Oklahoma City (West)
Why He’s Here: .500/.536/1.154 (13-for-26), 7 R, 5 2B, 4 HR, 10 RBIs, 1 BB, 3 SO
The Scoop: Ruiz extended his hitting streak to 10 games and continued his power surge with four more home runs last week, including a three-homer game against Sugar Land on July 23. Ruiz now has a career-high 17 home runs in only 57 games between Triple-A and the majors, surpassing his previous best of 12 homers in 101 games during the 2019 season. While it’s easy to dismiss Ruiz’s power spike as a product of playing in Triple-A West, formerly known as the Pacific Coast League, that’s not really the case. Oklahoma City is a pitchers’ park that has allowed the seventh-fewest home runs in all of Triple-A. Further, with the unbalanced regional schedules, Ruiz hasn’t played a single game in Las Vegas, Reno or Salt Lake and has played only one series each in Albuquerque and El Paso, the launching pads that fuel artificial power numbers. He has 12 home runs and a .746 slugging percentage in his home park, a promising sign that offseason improvements to his swing path and pitch selection have yielded real, tangible results. (KG)
2. Blake Walston, LHP, D-Backs
Team: High-A Hillsboro (West)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 2.08, 13 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 20 SO, 3 HR
The Scoop: After earning rave reviews at Low-A Visalia to start the season, Walston hasn’t missed a beat since being promoted to High-A Hillsboro late last month. The lanky lefthander pitched eight innings with only two hits and one run allowed, one walk and 11 strikeouts in a dominant performance at Eugene in his first start last week and followed with five innings, two earned runs allowed and nine strikeouts against Eugene again on Sunday. With a 91-94 mph fastball he powers downhill, a curveball that’s an out pitch in the strike zone, a slider that’s a chase pitch out of the zone and a changeup with late action that gets swings and misses, all combined with a good delivery and an aggressive, attacking mentality, Walston is rising quickly into the upper echelon of lefthanded pitching prospects. (KG).
3. Jhailyn Ortiz, OF, Phillies
Team: High-A Jersey Shore (East)
Why He’s Here: .407/.407/1.111 (11-for-27) 7 R, 1 2B, 6 HR, 12 RBIs, 0 BB, 6 SO.
The Scoop: Ortiz is repeating High-A, but if you’re going to repeat a level, it’s best that you dominate it. That’s exactly what Ortiz is doing. After getting into better shape this year, Ortiz is continuing to mash tape-measure home runs while also making more consistent contact. Ortiz’s 12 home runs this month are tied for the most in the minors. (JC)
4. Ezequiel Duran, 2B/SS, Yankees
Team: High-A Hudson Valley (East)
Why He’s Here: .385/.500/.962 (10-for-26), 9 R, 2 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 10 RBIs, 5 BB, 9 SO
The Scoop: Duran is part of the Yankees’ enviable pack of middle-infield prospects—which thinned somewhat with the trade of Diego Castillo and Hoy Park to Pittsburgh. An improved approach has helped Duran get the most out of his natural tools. His week also included hitting for the cycle on July 22. (JN)
5. M.J. Melendez, C, Royals
Team: Double-A Northwest Arkansas (Central)
Why He’s Here: .400/.407/.960 (10-for-25), 7 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 8 RBIs, 1 BB, 4 SO
The Scoop: Melendez has rebounded from one of the worst seasons in all the minor leagues in 2019 to experience a resurgence in 2021. For the first half of the season he was part of a pack of prospects thumping opponents nightly for Northwest Arkansas. After hitting 32 homers through his first three pro seasons, Melendez has 23 through just 67 games this year. (JN)
6. Ryan Murphy, RHP, Giants
Team: Low-A San Jose (West)
Why He’s Here: 0-1, 2.57, 1 GS, 7 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 HR, 0 BB, 12 SO.
The Scoop: The way Murphy struck out the side to begin his dismantling of the Stockton lineup was almost comical if it hadn’t been so effective. There was no subtlety to Murphy’s approach. He simply fed 94 mph fastball after 94 mph fastball to the upper edge of the strike zone, counting on his velocity and carry (helped by the pitch’s high spin rate) to blow away hitters. And that’s what it did, as he struck out the first three batters he faced including Tyler Soderstrom. In later innings he did break out a nasty breaking ball with power and 12-to-6 depth. Murphy has now struck out 10 or more in each of his past four starts. (JC)
7. Elehuris Montero, 3B, Rockies
Team: Double-A Hartford (Northeast)
Why He’s Here: .350/.423/.950 (7-for-20) 5 R, 4 HR, 8 RBIs, 4 BB, 5 SO.
The Scoop: Montero has been on fire this week, but he’s been just as impressive all month. Montero’s .420 average in July is third best among full-season minor league players. Montero slipped significantly at the plate in 2019, so the fact that he’s back to mashing again in 2021 is a very encouraging development for the Rockies. (JC)
8. Brandon Valenzuela, C, Padres
Team: Low-A Lake Elsinore (West)
Why He’s Here: .429/.467/.607 (12-for-28), 5 R, 3 2B, 1 3B, 3 RBIs, 2 BB, 6 SO.
The Scoop: Valenzuela entered the year known for his defensive acumen but has shown he can handle the bat, too. The switch-hitting backstop is now batting .301/.382/.439 after his latest big week and is riding a nine-game hitting streak. He is a true switch-hitter who can hit from both the right (.311 AVG, .803 OPS) and left (.290, 838 OPS) sides of the plate as opposed to being only a threat from one side, and has shown a knack for barreling balls while showing advanced strike-zone discipline. (KG)
9. Drey Jameson, RHP, D-backs
Team: High-A Hillsboro (West)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.50, 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 11 SO
The Scoop: Since returning from injury, Jameson, Arizona’s supplemental third-round pick in 2019 out of Ball State, has been nails. In that time, the fireballing righty has whiffed 32 against seven walks in 25.1 innings. With Jameson, Brandon Pfaadt, Slade Cecconi and Blake Walston, the Hillsboro rotation has been quite formidable. (JN)
10. Adley Rutschman, C, Orioles
Team: Double-A Bowie (Northeast)
Why He’s Here: .409/.552/.955 (9-for-22), 7 R, 3 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 11 RBIs, 7 BB, 4 SO
The Scoop: The top catching prospect in the minors just continues impressing for Bowie. In addition to handling one of the most talented groups of pitchers in the sport, Rutschman has been a force at the plate as well. He’s walked more times (51) than he’s struck out (49) this season, a solid mark of an advanced hitter. (JN)
11. Cody Bradford, RHP, Rangers
Team: High-A Hickory (East)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.50, 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 14 SO
The Scoop: In his outing on July 22, Bradford, the Rangers’ sixth-rounder out of Baylor in 2019, put together his first game with double-digit strikeouts. But he didn’t stop at 10. Instead, the righthander zoomed all the way to 14, continuing a strong July. So far this month, Bradford has gone 2-0, 3.10 with 33 strikeouts against just four walks in 20.1 innings. (JN)
12. Blake Sabol, OF, Pirates
Team: High-A Greensboro (East)
Why He’s Here: .526/.625/1.158 (10-for-19), 5 R, 3 2B, 3 HR, 5 RBIs, 5 BB, 6 SO, 2 SB.
The Scoop: Sabol hasn’t played a lot this year, but whenever he has and wherever he’s gone, the Southern California 2019 seventh-round pick has mashed. Sabol has six hitless games this year and three three-hit games. Sabol has always had solid tools and covers ground in the outfield, so if this is a real step forward, he’s yet another bat to add to a Pirates farm system that is now quite deep. (JC)
13. Hector Yan, RHP
Team: High-A Tri-City
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 1.00, 1 GS, 9 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 HR, 1 HBP, 2 BB, 7 SO.
The Scoop: What Yan did this week has become as rare as a no-hitter. Yan threw a true nine-inning complete game. He’s the second High-A pitcher to do so all year and only the fifth pitcher to go nine in the entirety of the minors this season. Yan was impressively efficient—he needed only 94 pitches to retire 27 Spokane batters. (JC)
14. Slade Cecconi, RHP, D-Backs
Team: High-A Hillsboro (West)
Why He’s Here: 0-0, 1.29, 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 10 SO
The Scoop: Like fellow Hot Sheeter Drey Jameson, Cecconi has had an excellent month carving up the opposition out of the Hillsboro rotation. The Miami alum and 2020 supplemental first-rounder also used this most recent series to notch his first game with 10 or more strikeouts, and for the month has whiffed 28 against just four walks. (JN)
15. Jose Miranda, 3B, Twins
Team: Triple-A St. Paul (East)
Why He’s Here: .321/.345/.714 (9-for-28), 9 R, 2 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 6 RBIs, 1 BB, 4 SO.
The Scoop: One of the year’s biggest breakout prospects, Miranda has hit at least .300 with a .900 OPS in every month of the season and is solidifying himself as part of the Twins’ future plans. He has shown impressive command of the strike zone, easy power, an all-fields approach and a sound swing that has evaluators believing he will continue to hit in the majors. He’ll have to hit enough to overcome his below-average defense at third base, but there is a growing belief he will. (KG)
Prospect Report: Blake Walston Spins Six Scoreless Innings
Walston and Mata turned in strong starts, Coby Mayo had two extra-base hits and more.
16. A.J. Block, LHP, Royals
Team: High-A Quad Cities (Central)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 3.27, 11 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 17 SO, 2 HR
The Scoop: Block’s success this year has come as a 2019 college draft pick in the lower levels, leading to understandable skepticism whether he will maintain it moving forward. But with each start, Block keeps gaining more believers. The 6-foot-5 lefthander struck out seven batters in his first start last week and 10 more batters in his second, giving him 84 strikeouts in only 59.2 innings this year. He has shown plus command and control and the ability to manipulate the shape of his slider to get both lefties and righties swinging over it. His slider alone is enough to carry him at the higher levels, and his 92-94 mph sinker and potentially average changeup are good enough to give him a chance to be a back-of-the-rotation starter. (KG)
17. Lawrence Butler, 1B/OF, Athletics
Team: Low-A Stockton (West)
Why He’s Here: .400/.444/.800 (10-for-25), 6 R, 1 2B, 3 HR, 11 RBIs, 2 BB, 12 SO, 1-for-1 SB
The Scoop: Butler has displayed special power throughout the season, hitting massive home runs and producing exit velocities upwards of 110 mph. He hit three more home runs last week at cavernous San Jose and continues to produce loud, heavy contact to all fields when he connects. Butler is also sneaky quick on the bases and has 16 steals in 17 attempts this year despite a bigger, bulkier frame. His power and speed combination has made him one of the more intriguing low-level prospects in the A’s system, but he has to cut down his 35% strikeout rate. (KG)
18. Anthony Volpe, SS, Yankees
Team: High-A Hudson Valley (East)
Why He’s Here: .381/.519/.952 (8-for-21), 10 R, 3 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 6 RBIs, 4 BB, 7 SO
The Scoop: Volpe has put together a loud season from the first “Play Ball” of Opening Day. He spent the first portion of his season tearing up the Low-A Southeast, but has not skipped a beat since moving to High-A. He’s already had four multi-hit games with his new club and is tied with Josh Breaux for the second-most homers in the organization, with 15. (JN)
19. Jordan Balazovic, RHP, Twins
Team: Double-A Wichita
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 2.25, 2 GS, 12 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 HR, 6 BB, 10 SO.
The Scoop: Balazovic’s second outing of the week was only OK, but in his first start this week, he allowed no runs for a fourth straight start as he extended his scoreless streak to 25 innings. In those four starts, Balazovic worked at least 5.2 innings every time and twice went seven innings. (JC)
20. Prelander Berroa, RHP, Giants
Team: Low-A San Jose (West)
Why He’s Here: 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 SO
The Scoop: The Giants’ Low-A affiliate is tons of fun. Even beyond its most touted prospects, there are plenty of intriguing guys lurking in all corners of the roster. Berroa, whom the Giants acquired from the Twins in 2019, has spent July being hotter than … well … July. He’s gone 2-0, 1.57 this month and has rung up 34 in 28.2 innings while allowing just five earned runs. (JN)
Michael Stefanic, 2B, Angels
A nondrafted free agent signing out of NAIA Westmont (Calif.) in 2018, Stefanic is following the Mike Brosseau path of an NDFA who was supposed to be an organizational roster filler but instead hits his way to the majors. Stefanic is currently on a 15-game hitting streak for Triple-A Salt Lake and overall is batting .331/.406/.473. He has shown exceptional barrel control, rarely swings and misses, doesn’t chase out of the strike zone and has shown growing power, impressing even in the context of his hitter-friendly environment. Stefanic needs to improve his lateral mobility to stay on the infield and have a position, but his bat alone has put him on the cusp of the majors. (KG)